Looking at the civil war in Iraq, it’s hard to imagine what would (will) happen if (when) George W. Bush turns his talents on Iran. If we think we’ve got problems now — and we do — going into Iran would make the bombs bursting in Baghdad seem like firecrackers at a football game.
Sam Gardiner has put together a fascinating and chilling report talking about what will happen once Bush and the Republicans turn their military sights and lack of planning on Iran. According to his official bio, Gardiner is a "retired U.S. Air Force colonel who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College, and Naval War College". He also did some war gaming on Iran, which James Fallows covered for the Atlantic Monthly.
In a new report for the Century Foundation, Gardiner lays out what’s going to happen and how it will unfold, which I outline in the rest of this post. No, that’s not exactly right, because it’s already unfolding. But it’s not like Iraq, with Wolfowitz and Perle filling Georgie’s little head full of delusions of being greeted as the liberator of Iraq. This time the delusions are straight from Dubya.
…And on top of all of those pressures–pressure from Israel, pressure from those worried about a nuclear Iran, Iran in Iraq, and Iran in the war on terrorism–is another decisive piece of the puzzle: President George W. Bush. The argument takes several forms: the president is said to see himself as being like Winston Churchill, and to believe that the world will only appreciate him after he leaves office; he talks about the Middle East in messianic terms; he is said to have told those close to him that he has got to attack Iran because even if a Republican succeeds him in the White House, he will not have the same freedom of action that Bush enjoys. Most recently, someone high in the administration told a reporter that the president believes that he is the only one who can "do the right thing" with respect to Iran. One thing is clear: a major source of the pressure for a military strike emanates from the very man who will ultimately make the decision over whether to authorize such a strike–the president. And these various accounts of his motivations and rationales have in common that the president will not allow does-not-make-sense arguments to stand in the way of a good idea.
The first important tactic, according to Gardiner, is to stay "below the CNN Line". It was the advice given to the Air Component Commander, General Mike Mosley, during the classified secret air strikes that took place in Iraq in July 2002. You remember, it was right after Bush came home from Europe to say, "I have no war plans on my desk."
As for what happens when we decide to go above the CNN line, it starts with sanctions. But we all know these won’t work, so the next step will be obvious and meant to look as if the Bush administration tried their best to follow a diplomatic path. When sanctions don’t work, air strikes are to follow. Here are the targets, as Gardiner sees them: nuclear facilities; military air bases; air defense command and control; terrorist training camps; chemical facilities; medium-range ballistic missiles; 23rd Command Division; Gulf-threatening assets: submarines, anti-ship missiles, naval ships, small boats. He goes on talking about follow-on strikes.
Oh, and it will be an American operation. But you likely already figured that one out.
As Gardiner stipulates, not even the experts know how Iran will react. But you can sure make educated guesses at some of the consequences of Bush striking Iran. Gardiner does just that and none of it’s good, because there are no good military options on this one.
The Iranians would likely look to target Israel as a response to a U.S. strike, using Hezbollah as the primary vehicle for retaliation. …
Moqtada al-Sadr has said publicly that if the United States were to attack Iran, he would target U.S. forces in Iraq.
Iran could channel more individuals and weapons into Iraq. …
Moqtada al-Sadr controls the large Facilities Protection Service forces in Iraq. Some estimates put this force as large as 140,000. … read on …
There is a lot at stake right now, but the trouble is, according to Gardiner, the game has already begun. I wonder how many people in Congress know?