Archive for June 22, 2019

If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran 

June 22, 2019

Source: If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

If war breaks out between the US and Iran, and their respective allies, how will Iran and its proxies stack up?

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 JUNE 21, 2019 01:16
If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran

Iran showcased its impressive military capabilities on Thursday by downing a sophisticated US drone.

It says it used its “3rd Khordad” system, which is supposed to replicate the S-300’s capabilities. Iran has also been highlighting other defense capabilities recently, including precision ballistic missiles, rockets, drones, submarines, limpet mines and cruise missiles.

Tehran’s defense technology is impressive. Most of its neighbors have not developed their own indigenous weapons systems, nor are they particularly innovative when it comes to using the technologies they do have, which are supplied by the US and Western powers.

This leads to the question, if war breaks out between the US and Iran, and their respective allies, how will Iran and its proxies stack up?

When we look at how Iran and its allies have waged war in the past, it is clear Iran doesn’t wage massive wars.

Iran has a regular army and navy, called Artesh. These armed forces are potentially quite large in a country of 80 million. It has 530,000 men under arms, but according to the Middle East Institute, they are poorly equipped.

Since Iran’s last land war was its 1980-1988 conflict with Iraq, it is “hard to provide an accurate assessment of their real fighting capabilities.” The war with Iraq saw Iran use human wave attacks on a battlefield that sometimes resembled more World War I than a war of maneuver and technology. Even though Saddam Hussein’s army fought the Iranians to a standstill, it was no match for the US military in the 1991 Gulf War and it was easily destroyed.

Iran doesn’t spend much on its army. Around $16 billion in 2017, compared to an Israeli defense budget of up to $19b. Saudi Arabia plows through $76b., and the Americans spend $600b.

This then tells us Iran’s conventional army is no match for the US in a real war. But Iran doesn’t fight large conventional wars. Its strategy is based on its alliance system involving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates, allies and proxies, including Houthi rebels in Yemen, Iraqi paramilitaries, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza.

The IRGC has a variety of forces, including its own 100,000 soldiers, as well as a Basij militia of another 600,000 or so, according to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US. The IRGC has its own navy, which is larger than Iran’s regular navy, and its own air force. It also has a cyber force. This puts the IRGC at the forefront of Iran’s technical knowhow. It is the IRGC that set up bases in Syria, and managed relationships with allies.

Iran has transferred precision guidance technology to Hezbollah for its rockets. In March, the IRGC stated that all of Israel is within range of the Lebanese terrorist group’s missiles.

Hezbollah’s massive rocket arsenal of more than 150,000 rockets pose a major threat. These include long-range rockets such as the Zelzal, Fateh 110 and the Fajr, as well as shorter range such as Katyushas. The Fateh 110 has a range of several hundred kilometers.

Hezbollah has an assortment of other weapons; it has deployed anti-ship missiles in the past and has anti-air systems such as the SA-7, which Iran used to fire at a US Reaper drone on June 13.

Iran likes to showcase its missile abilities. In September 2018 it fired seven Fateh 110s at dissidents in Koya in northern Iraq.

They stuck precisely at the room where the dissidents were meeting. It has used its Zulfiqar and Qiam ballistic missiles against ISIS in Syria. It is thought that these missiles can fly 800 km. Iran has also developed a line of Shehab missiles since the 1990s.

It is not clear how well they function, but they allegedly have a range up to 2,000 km. Iran also says it put guided warheads on a missile called the Khoramshahr. It said in February this missile carries a 1,800 kg. warhead.

In February, Iran also showed off a new long range cruise missile, which it claimed has a range of 1,300 km. Called the Hoveizeh, it’s part of a larger Soumar family of cruise missiles. Iran’s Press TV said the Houthi rebels used a cruise missile against Saudi Arabia in the last several days.

There is no end to Iran’s seemingly endless list of new technology. Submarines with cruise missiles were also unveiled in February. Iran also has a new destroyer, and tested armed drones in March. Iran often copies and improves other country’s weapons, and copied a US Sentinel drone it captured. It may have used North Korean expertise on its rockets. Afterwards, Iran transfers technology to its allies. The Houthis offer a battlefield testing ground for its rockets.

But none of these rockets are a game changer in a real war. Israel, for instance, has built a multi-layered defense system to stop missiles. This includes the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow-3. And Israel and the US have done missile defense drills with the THAAD system for high altitude air defense. Israel also has Patriot batteries, and is more than capable of thwarting a missile threat.

The US Navy, including the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Force in the Gulf of Oman, is also equipped with enough firepower to bring the Iranian navy and air force to heel. This would not be a great competition, if the US wanted to do it.

The way Iran fights wars, though, is asymmetrically. It doesn’t want a conventional war. That is why Iran also uses other allies, such as the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias called the PMU. These have 100,000 men under arms and possess missiles, rockets and armored vehicles. They helped defeat ISIS, and some of them have fought the Americans in the past. The US army in Iraq today is there solely to train Iraqi security forces against ISIS, not to fight Iran. In the last week, there have been four rocket and mortar attacks near US forces. Iran knows that in each case, if its allies harass the US, the US will not likely retaliate but will call on the Iraqi army to respond.

In Syria, Iranian-backed militias have tested the US near Tanf and Deir Ezzor in recent years. In each case, the US struck at the harassers. These included mercenaries who attacked a US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces post in February 2018. Any Iranian harassment of US forces in Syria would be met with force. And the US has the forces to deal that blow, including several thousand personnel and air force assets.

The question for the US and its allies when dealing with Iran is that in each case, the US and its allies – including Saudi Arabia and Israel – are capable of fighting, and have already been fighting, Iranian-backed groups. Israel has dealt with thousands of rockets fired from Gaza. Riyadh has dealt with drone attacks and ballistic missiles. Israel has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes in Syria over five years, according to reports.

If a conflict develops between the US and Iran, the US and her allies are more than a match for every part of the Iranian octopus of militias and proxies. The question is whether each front-line will erupt at once and the complexity of facing off against these asymmetric forces in a major conflict. Ideally, neither Iran nor the US want that conflict, and neither do their allies.

 

If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran

June 22, 2019

Source: If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

If war breaks out between the US and Iran, and their respective allies, how will Iran and its proxies stack up?

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 JUNE 21, 2019 01:16
If there is a war: This is how U.S. and allies stack up to Iran

Iran showcased its impressive military capabilities on Thursday by downing a sophisticated US drone.

It says it used its “3rd Khordad” system, which is supposed to replicate the S-300’s capabilities. Iran has also been highlighting other defense capabilities recently, including precision ballistic missiles, rockets, drones, submarines, limpet mines and cruise missiles.

Tehran’s defense technology is impressive. Most of its neighbors have not developed their own indigenous weapons systems, nor are they particularly innovative when it comes to using the technologies they do have, which are supplied by the US and Western powers.

This leads to the question, if war breaks out between the US and Iran, and their respective allies, how will Iran and its proxies stack up?

When we look at how Iran and its allies have waged war in the past, it is clear Iran doesn’t wage massive wars.

Iran has a regular army and navy, called Artesh. These armed forces are potentially quite large in a country of 80 million. It has 530,000 men under arms, but according to the Middle East Institute, they are poorly equipped.

Since Iran’s last land war was its 1980-1988 conflict with Iraq, it is “hard to provide an accurate assessment of their real fighting capabilities.” The war with Iraq saw Iran use human wave attacks on a battlefield that sometimes resembled more World War I than a war of maneuver and technology. Even though Saddam Hussein’s army fought the Iranians to a standstill, it was no match for the US military in the 1991 Gulf War and it was easily destroyed.

Iran doesn’t spend much on its army. Around $16 billion in 2017, compared to an Israeli defense budget of up to $19b. Saudi Arabia plows through $76b., and the Americans spend $600b.

This then tells us Iran’s conventional army is no match for the US in a real war. But Iran doesn’t fight large conventional wars. Its strategy is based on its alliance system involving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates, allies and proxies, including Houthi rebels in Yemen, Iraqi paramilitaries, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza.

The IRGC has a variety of forces, including its own 100,000 soldiers, as well as a Basij militia of another 600,000 or so, according to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US. The IRGC has its own navy, which is larger than Iran’s regular navy, and its own air force. It also has a cyber force. This puts the IRGC at the forefront of Iran’s technical knowhow. It is the IRGC that set up bases in Syria, and managed relationships with allies.

Iran has transferred precision guidance technology to Hezbollah for its rockets. In March, the IRGC stated that all of Israel is within range of the Lebanese terrorist group’s missiles.

Hezbollah’s massive rocket arsenal of more than 150,000 rockets pose a major threat. These include long-range rockets such as the Zelzal, Fateh 110 and the Fajr, as well as shorter range such as Katyushas. The Fateh 110 has a range of several hundred kilometers.

Hezbollah has an assortment of other weapons; it has deployed anti-ship missiles in the past and has anti-air systems such as the SA-7, which Iran used to fire at a US Reaper drone on June 13.

Iran likes to showcase its missile abilities. In September 2018 it fired seven Fateh 110s at dissidents in Koya in northern Iraq.

They stuck precisely at the room where the dissidents were meeting. It has used its Zulfiqar and Qiam ballistic missiles against ISIS in Syria. It is thought that these missiles can fly 800 km. Iran has also developed a line of Shehab missiles since the 1990s.

It is not clear how well they function, but they allegedly have a range up to 2,000 km. Iran also says it put guided warheads on a missile called the Khoramshahr. It said in February this missile carries a 1,800 kg. warhead.

In February, Iran also showed off a new long range cruise missile, which it claimed has a range of 1,300 km. Called the Hoveizeh, it’s part of a larger Soumar family of cruise missiles. Iran’s Press TV said the Houthi rebels used a cruise missile against Saudi Arabia in the last several days.

There is no end to Iran’s seemingly endless list of new technology. Submarines with cruise missiles were also unveiled in February. Iran also has a new destroyer, and tested armed drones in March. Iran often copies and improves other country’s weapons, and copied a US Sentinel drone it captured. It may have used North Korean expertise on its rockets. Afterwards, Iran transfers technology to its allies. The Houthis offer a battlefield testing ground for its rockets.

But none of these rockets are a game changer in a real war. Israel, for instance, has built a multi-layered defense system to stop missiles. This includes the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow-3. And Israel and the US have done missile defense drills with the THAAD system for high altitude air defense. Israel also has Patriot batteries, and is more than capable of thwarting a missile threat.

The US Navy, including the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Force in the Gulf of Oman, is also equipped with enough firepower to bring the Iranian navy and air force to heel. This would not be a great competition, if the US wanted to do it.

The way Iran fights wars, though, is asymmetrically. It doesn’t want a conventional war. That is why Iran also uses other allies, such as the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias called the PMU. These have 100,000 men under arms and possess missiles, rockets and armored vehicles. They helped defeat ISIS, and some of them have fought the Americans in the past. The US army in Iraq today is there solely to train Iraqi security forces against ISIS, not to fight Iran. In the last week, there have been four rocket and mortar attacks near US forces. Iran knows that in each case, if its allies harass the US, the US will not likely retaliate but will call on the Iraqi army to respond.

In Syria, Iranian-backed militias have tested the US near Tanf and Deir Ezzor in recent years. In each case, the US struck at the harassers. These included mercenaries who attacked a US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces post in February 2018. Any Iranian harassment of US forces in Syria would be met with force. And the US has the forces to deal that blow, including several thousand personnel and air force assets.

The question for the US and its allies when dealing with Iran is that in each case, the US and its allies – including Saudi Arabia and Israel – are capable of fighting, and have already been fighting, Iranian-backed groups. Israel has dealt with thousands of rockets fired from Gaza. Riyadh has dealt with drone attacks and ballistic missiles. Israel has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes in Syria over five years, according to reports.

If a conflict develops between the US and Iran, the US and her allies are more than a match for every part of the Iranian octopus of militias and proxies. The question is whether each front-line will erupt at once and the complexity of facing off against these asymmetric forces in a major conflict. Ideally, neither Iran nor the US want that conflict, and neither do their allies.

 

Trump says doesn’t want war with Iran but there’ll be ‘obliteration’ if there is

June 22, 2019

Source: Trump says doesn’t want war with Iran but there’ll be ‘obliteration’ if there is | The Times of Israel

US president says no preconditions for talks with Tehran but won’t allow them to have nuclear weapons; US military was ‘cocked and loaded’ to retaliate for downing of drone

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump said Friday that he went to war with Iran there would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

In an interview with NBC, the president then added: “But I’m not looking to do that.”

Trump also said there would be no preconditions for any talks with Tehran.

“You can’t have nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.”

Excerpts from the interview were released hours after Trump said the US was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran, but canceled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die.

Trump’s tweeted statement raised important questions, including why he learned about possible deaths only at the last minute.

His stance was the latest example of the president showing some reluctance to escalate tensions with Iran into open military conflict.

He did not rule out a future strike but said in a TV interview that the likelihood of casualties from the Thursday night plan to attack three sites in Iran did not seem like the correct response to shooting down an unmanned drone earlier in the day in the Strait of Hormuz.

“I didn’t think it was proportionate,” he said in the interview.

The aborted attack was the closest the US has come to a direct military strike on Iran in the year since the administration pulled out of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb the Iranian nuclear program and launched a campaign of increasing economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.

Trump told NBC News that he never gave a final order to launch the strikes — planes were not yet in the air but would have been “pretty soon.”

He said military officials came to him about 30 minutes before the strikes were to be launched and asked him for his final approval. Before signing off, he said he asked how many Iranians would be killed and was told approximately 150.

“I thought about it for a second and I said, ‘You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane — whatever you want to call it — and here we are sitting with 150 dead people.’ That would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate.”

Trump tweeted Friday that the US was ready to “retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die.” He said a general told him 150 people, and he canceled the strikes as “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump tweeted that the US will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But he said he’s in no hurry to respond to the downing of the US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

He said US sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and that more are being added.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….Death to America. I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!….

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not….

The United States abruptly called off preparations for a military strike against Iran over the downing of a US surveillance drone, a US official said, while Iran claimed Friday it had issued several warnings before shooting down the drone over what it said was Iranian territory.

A US official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the targets would have included radars and missile batteries.

The swift reversal was a reminder of the serious risk of military conflict between US and Iranian forces as the Trump administration combines a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region. As tensions mounted in recent weeks, there have been growing fears that either side could make a dire miscalculation that led to war .

On Friday, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division told Iranian state television that Iran had given repeated warnings before launching a missile at the US military surveillance drone.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, standing in front of what Iranian authorities described as pieces of the US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk drone, told state TV that Iranians gave the warnings over radio frequencies that are routinely monitored by drone pilots and the US military. “Unfortunately, they did not answer,” he said.

Head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh looks at debris from what the division describes as the US drone which was shot down on Thursday, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 21, 2019.(Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via AP)

He also said that Iran could have downed a manned a P-8 American plane, but did not.

He added Iran collected the debris from its territorial waters. The US military says that the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz when it was shot down.

However, the New York Times quoted a senior administration  official as saying that there was some doubt whether either of the US aircraft did violate Iranian airspace at some point. The official said the doubt was one of the reasons Trump called off the strike, according to the Times, which said that it could under international norms be viewed as an act of war.

The paper also reported that planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down.

Trump’s initial comments on the attack were succinct. He declared in a tweet that “Iran made a very big mistake!” But he also suggested that shooting down the drone — which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 — was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation, suggesting he may have been looking for some way to avoid a crisis.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said at the White House. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

Trump, who has said he wants to avoid war and negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, cast the shootdown as “a new wrinkle … a new fly in the ointment.” Yet he also said “this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”

He said the American drone was unarmed and unmanned and “clearly over international waters.” It would have “made a big, big difference” if someone had been inside, he said.

But fears of open conflict shadowed much of the discourse in Washington. As the day wore on, Trump summoned his top national security advisers and congressional leaders to the White House for an hour-long briefing in the Situation Room. Attendees included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Army Secretary Mark Esper, whom Trump has said he’ll nominate as Pentagon chief.

In this February 13, 2018, photo released by the US Air Force, an RQ-4 Global Hawk is seen on the tarmac of Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning/US Air Force via AP)

Democratic leaders in particular urged the president to work with US allies and stressed the need for caution to avoid any unintended escalation. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he told Trump that conflicts have a way of escalating and “we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war.”

Pompeo and Bolton have advocated hardline policies against Iran, but Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said “the president certainly was listening” when congressional leaders at the meeting urged him to be cautious and not escalate the already tense situation.

Some lawmakers insisted the White House must consult with Congress before taking any actions.

 

Off Topic:  Why Herman Wouk Will Achieve an Immortality Unlike Any Other Jewish Cultural Figure of His Time 

June 22, 2019

Source: Why Herman Wouk Will Achieve an Immortality Unlike Any Other Jewish Cultural Figure of His Time » Mosaic

American Jewry produced many great literary figures in the 20th century, but only one, notes Meir Soloveichik, remained a devoutly observant Jew for his entire life except for a brief interval in his youth. This was Herman Wouk, who died last month at the age of one-hundred-three. In addition to numerous novels, Wouk also wrote a bold—and best-selling—apologia for Orthodox Judaism, This Is My God. Reflecting on what Wouk himself termed the “mystery” of the Jewish people, Soloveichik writes:

To journalists and literati, [Wouk’s piety] was a paradox. Wouk, Time magazine argued, “seems like an enigmatic character in search of an author. He is a devout Orthodox Jew who has achieved worldly success in worldly-wise Manhattan while adhering to the dietary prohibitions and traditional rituals which many of his fellow Jews find embarrassing.” But it is not a paradox at all. A novelist like Wouk knew a great story when he saw one, and he was surely struck by the fact that those very same American Jews who avidly read his novels seemed to ignore the most interesting plot of all.

Wouk’s own countercultural observance . . . heralded the resurgence of Orthodoxy in America, one that few in the 1950s would have predicted. But Wouk also offers an example of what American Orthodoxy so sorely needs today: those with the ambition and ability to defend, passionately and eloquently, Judaism’s vision to the world. Should they emerge, they may find an audience far surpassing Wouk’s, hungering for truth in an age of rank relativism and cultural decay, waiting for a gifted writer to fulfill once again words uttered by Moses millennia ago: “This is my God and I will beautify Him; the God of my father that I shall glorify.”

For decades, Wouk seemed superhuman, living to be over one-hundred years of age and writing lucidly late into his nineties. In this he appeared to embody the immortality of the people that he so exquisitely described. . . . Now his own remarkable story has come to an end. . . . But it hasn’t, not really.

Individually, every man is mortal; Herman Wouk was a man, and even he would ultimately die. But precisely because of his faith, a faith that seemed paradoxical but which actually made so much sense, Wouk will achieve an immortality unlike any other Jewish cultural figure of his time. He will live, first and foremost, not in his movies, or novels, but in the extraordinary endurance of Orthodoxy in America, and through the eternal people who cling stubbornly, with love, to Herman Wouk’s God.