Skip to comments.Missiles of Illusion
Posted on 08/09/2008 2:50:55 PM PDT by nuconvert
Missiles of Illusion
Remember al-Qaher and al-Zafer? You don't? Well, what about al-Hussein and al-Abbas? No, again?
The first two were the names of missiles that the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser relied upon as "secret weapons" in his promised "Battle of Destiny" in 1967. The other two were names of Saddam Hussein's missiles that were supposed to secure him victory in his "Mother of Battles" in 1991.
We now have to learn the names of two other missiles, Shahab and Zelzeleh presented by Iran's Khomeinist rulers as in what they regard as an inevitable war against the United States and, possibly, Israel.
In a surprisingly frank analysis delivered in a speech in Tehran last Sunday, General Muhammad-Ali Jaafari, Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's parallel army, put the Khomeinist regime's arsenal of missiles at the centre of its strategy for the coming war. He said Iran's armament industry has been put into high gear to mass-produce all types of missiles as quickly as possible.
Jaafari described a defense doctrine based on three key assumptions.
The first is that the principal theatres of battle will be in the Gulf, especially the Strait of Hormuz. He said his forces had established the plans needed to close the strait "with relative ease." Because the Gulf is a shallow body of water the depth of which never exceeds 90 metres, the US navy's large vessels, including aircraft carriers, would be unable to make large maneuvers and thus would become vulnerable to suicide attacks by small high-speed boats coming at them in large numbers. According to Jaafari, this is a tactic known as "hojum ezdehami" (overcrowding attack) in which big American ships would resemble large whales being swarmed upon by thousands of small but deadly fish.
Jaafari's second assumption is that the Islamic Republic manages to keep fighting for a few weeks, world public opinion, especially the peace movement in the United States, would come to its rescue and force Washington to stop the war before winning a complete victory. Such an outcome would then be hailed in Iran as a great victory for the Khomeinist revolution. We witnessed a similar event two years ago during the war between Israel and Iran (via the Lebanese branchy of Hezbollah). By all classical measures, Iran's Lebanese units suffered a crushing defeat. They lost control of territory in southern Lebanon, saw their network of missile-launching pads dismantled, and left a quarter of their fighters dead on the battlefield while and hundreds more captured. And, yet, the overall perception even today is that Iran-Hezbollah won that round hands down.
Jaafari's third assumption is that his forces would be able both to fight a war against the United States for several weeks or if needed, months while also protecting the regime against its numerous internal enemies who might seize the opportunity to try to overthrow it.
General Jaafari, who has made his reputation as an expert in asymmetric warfare, was promoted Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC precisely because he has always argued that the Khomeinist regime could win against a self-doubting, internally divided, and utterly confused United States. Jafari's optimism is in sharp contrast with the pessimism expressed by his predecessor General Yahya Rahim Safavi who, in a blunt speech just weeks before his dismissal, warned that the Islamic Republic lacked the equipment for fighting a much-better armed adversary.
Under Jaafari, the IRGC ha decentralized its command-and-control structures by creating 31 autonomous headquarters covering all of Iran's 30 provinces plus the capital Tehran. He has also replaced most of the key IRGC commanders in the biggest purge of the force in more than 25 years. Almost all the "fat cat" generals who spent more on their various business enterprises than their military careers have been sent home.
There is no doubt that Jaafari has done all an IRGC commander could. However, as Clemenceau observed, war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals. Although it contains a high dose of military action, war is primarily a political matter. This is why it requires a political strategy, as opposed to the tactical scenario that t Jaafari has depicted.
Seen from that angle, things might not be as simple as Jaafari seems to assume.
The first question that Tehran's leadership must ask is: what would be the goal of an American or Israeli military attack against the Islamic Republic?
The routine assumption is that the goal would be the destruction of the nuclear project that the West claims is designed to make atomic bombs.
If that is the case, Jaafari's plans to sink American warships, close the Strait of Hormuz, and destroy oilfields in Arab countries and possibly launch a few missiles against Israel as well, might prove counter-productive. Such plans would escalate the conflict and provide the pretext for a "regime change" exercise.
In 1991, the goal of the US-led coalition was to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Once that was achieved, there was no pretext for transforming the war into a "regime change" campaign. Had Saddam Hussein attacked the coalition or fired missiles at US, and its allies, after the coalition had achieved its objective, he would have provided a pretext for prolonging the war until the end of his regime.
Obviously, it is not up to Jaafari to guess the ultimate goal of the US, or anyone else that might want to attack the Islamic Republic at this time. The answer must come from the political leadership, that is to say "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only that answer could provide Jaafari and other military planners with the guideline needed to devise a strategy. For the time being, Jaafari is providing a solution to a problem that has not yet been defined. Like Don Quixote who fought the windmills taking them for giants, the general is firing missiles of illusion at phantom ships sailing through a fog of assumptions.
The new general’s first assumption about a swarm attack of small boats against single, large target, not quickly maneuverable US Navy ships, does not make that much sense.
To my understanding, USN vessels all have radar, can spot incoming vessels from any direction, and can fire against them. Sure, if dozens of such vessels converge on an aircraft carrier, it will take some effort. But not so much as would permit serious damage or destruction to a USN vessel.
I am wrong? This new and optimistic Iranian general is dangerous if he things a swarm attack of small speed boats is a match for a USN cruiser, destroyer or aircraft carrier. He is thinking of the USS Cole, which was moored at port, not expecting an attack. None of those assumptions hold in the Straight of Hormuz during war.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that carriers operate with a screen of defensive cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Not to mention their own aircraft. It would take a lot of suicide boats to penetrate the protective screen. This guy is blowing smoke.
Iranians used swarm attacks (by deploying children) to cross mine fields in the Iran/Iraq war during the 80s.
They have little regard for their soldiers’ lives. That is why I do not think he is blowing smoke, necessarily. They would take this seriously, sending 1000s of innocent sailors to their death in a futile effort against the Big Satan. That is why I think this guy is more than bluff, he believes his own c**p.
Carrier Battle groups typically change from a screen formation into a line depending on how narrow a channel is. (Since the Iranians have watched us do this for years I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets.) The Straits of Hormuz are fairly narrow so there is some risk.
But the ships would be fairly easy to defend.
However, they Iranians would only get one chance. Because after any such attack we would easily destroy all their port facilities.
Why would we position our ships in the straits? Seems to me that’s placing our assets at risk when we can stand off and still attack and destroy anything the Iranians send out.
.......Why would we position our ships in the straits?.....
We must defend the straits to assure passage of shipping. The Gulf States live by seaborne transport......in and out.
‘Under Jaafari, the IRGC ha decentralized its command-and-control structures by creating 31 autonomous headquarters covering all of Iran’s 30 provinces plus the capital Tehran’
He is getting ready for an invasion. Decentraliized command would allow such units to continue to resist invasion even when central command is destroyed - which would be one of the first targets in a planned invasion.
We would not “position” them in the Straits.
They have to go through the Straits to get to the Gulf. Carrier Battle Groups (as well as Amphibious groups) generally spend several month in the Gulf and then they return home and let another Battle Group take their place.
And if the Iranians start to threaten shipping in and out of the Gulf we would end up providing convoy escorts. Carriers wouldn’t do that.. of course.
Also, I think it is very unlikely that WE will start any shooting with Iran. If Israel doesn’t strike them first, the most likely scenario would be THEM attacking us.
The Phalanx gattling gun is designed to take out swarms of incoming cruise missiles. I suspect speed boats are not muoh of a challenge (to understate it by about a thousand miles).
Trying to overwhelm our systems with speed boats is just silly, kind of like trying to swarm a machine gun position in slow motion.
I don't see this very often on FR.
Easy, destroy everything that moves north of the strait.