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War Plan: Consequences
STRATFOR | Mar 18, 2003 | Staff

Posted on 03/18/2003 12:29:36 PM PST by Axion

War Plan: Consequences
Mar 18, 2003


All wars have consequences. Some are intended, some are unintended. Some wars, such as the Kosovo war, give rise only to local consequences. Some wars have global consequences, but only for a short time, like the 1956 British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt. Other wars reshape the world so profoundly that everything that comes after is in some way a consequence of that war; World War II is an obvious example. Some wars are really only battles -- part of a much broader and longer conflict -- and cannot be defined in any other way. The Korean War appeared to be a freestanding event, but it was really simply an episode in a much longer, very complex Cold War.

In our view, Iraq has more in common with Korea than with other wars. It is a campaign, not a war. It will be remembered as an episode in the global war between the United States and radical Islam. That does not mean that the war cannot be consequential, but it does mean that the war is embedded in a sequence of events and cannot be understood outside of this context.

The intended consequences of each side are well understood, from our point of view, and we have discussed them extensively in this series. The United States has a series of goals that boil down to three:

1. Shifting the psychology of the region through a decisive victory.
2. Eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
3. Using Iraq as a base for follow-on operations in the region.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's strategic goal is simple:

1. Survival

In our view, the United States is likely to achieve its military goals, and Hussein will fail to achieve his. The campaign might take longer than hoped, and casualties potentially might be higher than desired, but the outcome ought to be a U.S. victory. Therefore, the issue is what the consequences -- intended or unintended -- will be in the Iraq campaign.

Consequences Within Iraq

The United States and its coalition partners will occupy Iraq. In effect, this means occupation by the United States. It is not clear, however, that the United States will occupy all of Iraq. Events in Turkey have created both a military and a political question mark.

The Turkish army has operated in northern Iraq for a long time. It has three interests there: securing its frontiers against events in Iraq, preventing the formation of a Kurdish state and managing Kurdish behavior near its borders, and controlling oil fields around Mosul and Kirkuk that represent a critical supply for Turkey. One of the reasons for Ankara's reluctance to permit U.S. troops in the region is that this would limit Turkey's own ability to act on these three interests directly.

Depending on how the war evolves, Turkish intervention in northern Iraq is highly likely. Turkish forces are already in Iraqi territory, pursuing Ankara's first goal. Turkey, once in Iraq, has two interests. First, its forces will seek to take control of the Mosul oil fields and, if possible, the oil fields in Kirkuk. It is highly likely that the Kurdish forces in the northeast also will move on Kirkuk, since that is an old Kurdish city as well as an oil center. The likelihood of combat between Turkish and Kurdish forces is high. Indeed, Turkey might intend to use this conflict to settle matters with the Kurds.

This Turkish action does not challenge any fundamental U.S. interests. In executing precursor operations, the Turks will have to engage some of the Iraqi formations. In effect, if Turkish troops move in, they will be doing some of the heavy lifting that the 4th Infantry Division was supposed to do; in terms of defeating Iraq, this is more than a satisfactory conclusion. Nor will a Turkish occupation of the line from Mosul to Kirkuk pose a challenge to U.S. strategic plans. The basic geography of Iraq will still permit U.S. power projection throughout the region.

The challenge that the Turkish presence poses is to U.S. postwar reconstruction plans. The United States is relying on the sale of Iraqi oil to fund those plans in the long run. If it does not control the northern oil fields and their output is diverted to Turkish uses, the amount of oil available will decline substantially. This will pose a challenge to reconstruction. Therefore, the United States will have to reach some sort of accommodation with Turkey and will have relatively few levers with which to do so. It cannot go to war with Turkey, and Turkey clearly is not indebted to the United States.

Moreover, a Turkish-Kurdish war is likely to result in disaster for the Kurds. The United States has a poor record of keeping its promises to the Kurds, and one of the fundamental issues in this campaign is U.S. reliability. Countries like Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are watching this dynamic carefully. From a tactical point of view, the fate of the Kurds is a matter of little consequence. From a strategic point of view, the treatment of the Kurds has substantial significance.

The United States will have to deal with the Turks on their role in Iraq. That will be one of the first items on any postwar agenda. Accompanying this will be the need to deal with Iran, which has been supporting a number of Shiite groups in the north and south. Iranian-sponsored forces already have entered Iraqi territory in the north, and Iranian operatives are working in the south. U.S. relations with Iran are poor, and officials in Tehran have said they believe the country is the next target in the region. The United States will have to control Iran's behavior in Iraq.

Therefore, there is a serious question as to just what parts of Iraq the United States will control. It certainly will control the bulk of the country, but it may not control all of it directly or in practical terms. This means that the United States will have to devote substantial forces to the protection of its perimeters in Iraq, as well as additional forces for controlling Iraq itself.

As in Afghanistan, the United States will create a puppet government. If the government actually were to function as Washington has advertised -- as a representative of all Iraqi ethnic groups -- it would tear itself apart in a week. But since no one has elected anyone, and all of these puppets are handpicked by the United States, it misses the point that these ethnic groups are fragmented along several lines. A genuinely function government is a long way away. It does not mean that U.S. forces cannot invent and govern through a puppet entity -- pretending, as in Afghanistan, that it has legitimacy. Over time, it might actually gain some.

The primary burden for reconstructing Iraq will fall on the U.S. military, its contractors and that segment of the Iraqi technocracy that remains intact. Obviously, British, Australian and other coalition partners will be able to participate. The extent of destruction will depend on the nature of the war. If there is an early collapse of the Iraqi army and no destruction of the oil fields, reconstruction should not be the issue. The primary issue will be new construction, particularly expanding the capacity of the oil fields.

However, it is Hussein's intention to conduct a campaign that must, as an inevitable side effect, lead to massive destruction. The torching of oil fields makes military sense, as we have pointed out. The strategy of delay and attrition will lead to massive damage to the civilian infrastructure as well as to major civilian casualties. Thus, if Hussein is successful in resisting to any degree, the requirements of reconstruction can be massive.

The most difficult and immediate problem will be in Baghdad itself. Cities the size of Baghdad cannot survive for any period of time without water, sanitation, food deliveries and, as the basic enabler, electricity. Intense combat in Baghdad will create an immediate humanitarian crisis that, if left unmitigated, will lead to deaths in a matter of days. Thirst doesn't wait, and water from unsanitary sources leads rapidly to disease.

The manner in which the United States handles the crisis of Baghdad -- if such a crisis occurs -- will condition the entire atmosphere of postwar Iraq. One-quarter of Iraq's population lives inside of Baghdad proper, and perhaps half live in the densely populated region south of it. Disaster will come quickly here.

The United States has extensive experience in relief efforts in non-urban areas; it is much less experienced in emergency relief in large metropolitan areas. The ability of individuals to cope in cities is much lower than in the countryside. The city is a system of systems that does not tolerate failure well. Massive, rapid repairs to major facilities will be difficult, particularly if intermittent combat continues.

Iraq has massive centrifugal forces. The Hussein regime was not an accident: Brutal dictatorship was a political solution for a fractious nation. The United States has the ability to impose its will on the nation. It has the ability to create a council under its authority. It can, if it wishes, pretend that that council represents the will of the Iraqi people. Nevertheless, withdrawing from Iraq will require either a major evolution in Iraqi national identity, a very sophisticated and complex arrangement among parties that deeply distrust each other, or a new dictator.

U.S. forces will be in Iraq for a long time. It is not only a matter of strategic desirability, it is also a matter of necessity. Chaos in Iraq is inconsistent with the psychological goals of the campaign. It also would create dangers to U.S. deployments there. The United States will, from the moment the occupation begins, be forced to assume responsibility for the governance of Iraq. Whether it creates an indigenous council or tries to hand off control to the United Nations, the United States will remain in Iraq for a generation and will be responsible for the nation's well-being.

Regional Consequences

The primary purpose of the Iraq campaign will, of course, be to influence and reshape the region. Al Qaeda has support throughout the Middle East, and most governments are either complicit or unwilling to incur the political costs of disrupting al Qaeda and similar groups at home. The purpose of this campaign is, first and foremost, to create a politico-military environment that persuades countries in the region to redefine their behavior. To put it more brutally and honestly, it is to bring massive military forces to bear on countries in the region in order to compel them to cooperate, or failing that, carry out future military confrontations.

There will be two dimensions to this. The first will be to redefine the atmosphere of the Middle East. Washington now accepts as a given that it bears the deep animosity of the region. Officials do not see any opportunity for a short-term solution to this problem, and the problem presented by al Qaeda is immediate. If the United States cannot be loved, the second best outcome is to be feared. A victory in Iraq would demonstrate both American will and power. If it can be coupled with a successful and relatively prosperous occupation, fear can be coupled with respect.

The second dimension is politico-military. Following the war, the United States not only would be an occupying power but also would field a force that is in effect indigenous to the region, at least from a military point of view. The presence of a massive, mobile force, permanently based in the region, without depending on the permission of others, would redefine the region dramatically. The United States expects to be able to use that force to its ends.

From the U.S. point of view, three countries are particular post-campaign targets: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Washington's eyes, all three are, in different ways and with different intentions, facilitators of al Qaeda. Since the United States has little confidence in its ability to destroy al Qaeda directly, the U.S. focus is on enabling countries -- whether the enablement is part of government policy, an unintended consequence of other internal problems or the result of fear.

Once Iraq is occupied, U.S. forces will have two missions. The first will be the occupation, pacification and reconstruction of Iraq. The second will be to pose a direct military threat two these countries. The United States certainly has no intention or desire to invade any of these countries. At the same time, the United States takes the view that it is only the threat of direct military action that will compel them to cooperate in destroying al Qaeda. A threat has no meaning if it is not serious. Therefore, in order to be effective, the United States will have to be prepared to carry out follow-on campaigns.

Each of these countries is in a different position.

· Syria maintains a complex policy of hidden accommodations over Lebanon with countries like Israel, and equally hidden support for paramilitary groups. As with other countries, its primary interest is in regime survival, with a secondary interest in the absorption of Lebanon. Following the war in Iraq, the Syrians would be completely surrounded by potential enemies: the United States, Israel and Turkey. The U.S. 6th Fleet will be offshore in the Mediterranean. At that point, Damascus' room for maneuver will be sharply curtailed. Hussein was an enemy but was not particularly interested in the internal affairs of Syria. The United States will be in Iraq because it is interested in Syria, and that government's ability to resist redefinition of its policies will be extremely limited.

· Saudi Arabia's internal politics are far too complex to deal with here. Suffice it to say that there are elements in Saudi Arabia that have supported al Qaeda, at least according to the United States, and that the Saudis have lacked the ability or the will to dismantle that apparatus. Saudi Arabia is a country with deep internal divisions and serious financial problems. From Iraq, the United States would be able to manipulate these internal contradictions directly. Moreover, it would have a tremendous lever over Saudi policy. If the United States controls Iraq's oil, it will be in a position to put severe pressure on oil prices. Riyadh needs a relatively high price of oil, despite the kingdom's low production costs; its debts need to be serviced through the cash flow that oil produces. Between the manipulation of Saudi Arabia's internal political system, the potential ability to manipulate oil prices and the presence of U.S. forces on its borders, the United States is assuming that it can force Riyadh to reshape its behavior.

· Iran represents the most serious regional challenge for the United States. Unlike Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran is a substantial national entity which, though deeply divided, might well present a united front against the United States. The correlation of forces between the United States and Syria or Saudi Arabia vastly favors the United States. The correlation of forces with Iran is not nearly so favorable, however, and therefore the U.S. military threat is not nearly so credible. At the same time, U.S. leaders have noted that Iran has a substantial nuclear weapons program that in many ways is more sophisticated than Iraq's. Iran also has maintained complex and murky relationships with al Qaeda since January 2002. Even though the United States technically poses a two-front threat to Iran (Iraq and Afghanistan), Washington does not have a deep appetite for war with Iran. At the same time, it must, in some way, reach accommodation with Iran or force Tehran to change its behavior.

We expect Iran to be the next major confrontation in the region. The Saudis already are adjusting their position, allowing U.S. forces into the kingdom. The Syrians have little room for maneuver. The Iranians -- who already claim that they are the next target of the United States -- are by far the most formidable challengers to U.S. regional hegemony. So long as Iran keeps its distance from al Qaeda and related groups, Washington is prepared to avoid confrontation. However, the extraordinarily complex internal political struggle between reformers and conservatives creates situations in which challenging the United States and aligning with al Qaeda benefits some groups. The central government is divided and therefore will become an arena in which confrontation will be generated. We expect emerging issues between the United States and Iran in the wake of the Iraq campaign.

Global Consequences

The fundamental threat to the United States from al Qaeda will not be reduced by the campaign in Iraq. But it is our view that a successful campaign will cause the threat to lessen more than if the United States had not gone to war. One of al Qaeda's recruiting arguments has been that the United States intends to make war on all Islamic countries; the other has been that the struggle against the United States is not hopeless because the superpower is weak and corrupt -- unable to wage war and therefore vulnerable to dedicated paramilitary groups. Since one of the foundations of revolutionary groups is hope -- the belief that sacrifice can lead to victory -- any action that undermines that hope limits recruiting. Now, this in no way implies that the threat declines. Al Qaeda will carry out attacks as intensely as it can over time. But in the long run, destroying its infrastructure in host countries and undermining the sense of hope might have some limiting effect. At any rate, we believe the Iraqi campaign will not increase the total quantity of attacks on the United States, but it might move the distribution of attacks forward, increasing the tempo of operations at the present time.

There is also a fundamental shift in the global alignment. It is noteworthy that France and the United States treated each other as enemies during the U.N. diplomatic process. That is to say that France did not simply express its objection to U.S. aims -- rather, Paris used its resources aggressively to block American ambitions.

France's motives in this were two-fold:

· It saw the Iraqi issue as an opportunity to generate momentum in Europe for a unified foreign policy designed to balance U.S. power. French leaders understood that the nation, by itself, could not hope to counterbalance U.S. power. Therefore, they saw Europe, coalesced around a Franco-German axis, as the counterbalance; they saw France as the dominant power in this European entity.
· France has long had ambitions to be a major player in the Middle East. It has historical roots there and current interests in a range of commercial entities. France has long felt hindered by U.S. policies and presence in the region. Paris sought to supplant the United States by establishing closer relations with Arab countries than the United States did. It sought to use its defense of Iraq as a trigger for greater regional influence.

French hopes have been shattered on both fronts. In Europe, the reaction to a French-designed European foreign policy has been overwhelmingly negative. Apart from Germany, only Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg have signed on to the French program. Paris' influence, particularly in the east, has suffered severe blows. In the Middle East, France has been shown to be incapable of controlling the United States and therefore to be an unreliable ally.

The Franco-American confrontation has generated precisely the opposite effect than what Paris had intended. Out of fear of France, much of Europe aligned with the United States. Out of appearance of weakness, France has lost tremendous credibility in the Middle East. The United States will press home this advantage. Washington in essence has demonstrated that it cannot be blocked and that it will not allow international institutions to control its actions. This, of course, has bred great resentment. It also has created a situation in which European powers, including Russia and potentially Germany, will have to re-evaluate their behavior toward the United States.

If the Iraq war goes well -- if it ends quickly, with relatively few casualties and with an effective and benign occupation -- the United States will emerge from the war with substantially enhanced power globally. The issue for the United States is not whether it is liked; the issue is whether the cost of resistance to U.S. policies is high enough that challengers will be deterred.

It follows that the United States will not reconcile with France. Rather, Washington will seek to make an example of the consequences of active attempts to thwart American policies. Russia and Germany opposed but did not devote nearly the resources that France did to defeating U.S. ambitions. Opposing and working actively to block U.S. policies is the distinction -- and from the U.S. point of view, France crossed the line. Washington will have one policy for the rest of Europe, another policy for Germany and Russia and a third policy especially for France. U.S. policy in the Middle East and in Europe will be constructed around this, not simply out of anger at France -- although this should not be dismissed -- but as an exercise in power and a lesson in consequences.


The Iraq campaign will not transform the world, but it will be far from a trivial event. It obviously will change life dramatically in Iraq -- with the proviso that in this very ancient land, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Another conqueror always changes things, but life goes on. On a global scale, if the war is successful from Washington's viewpoint and the United States is able to reconstruct Iraq rapidly, U.S. power will simply grow. Public opinion is volatile. Rome was never loved; it was admired.

It will be on the regional level that things will change the most. We will make a bold assertion: The region bordering Iraq will see the most dramatic changes since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Sykes-Picot Agreements that created the modern Middle East. The insertion of American power into the middle of this region will redefine the behavior of the entire region. It is crucial, however, to understand that the Iraq war is no more a war than Guadalcanal was a war. It is a campaign that will be followed by other campaigns.

All of this depends on the course of the war. Four outcomes are possible now: Hussein's abdication and a peaceful U.S. entrance; a rapid U.S. victory; a more difficult victory; an inconclusive war ending in an inconclusive cease-fire. It would appear to us that the likely outcomes rest somewhere between the second and third choices.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: warlist

1 posted on 03/18/2003 12:29:49 PM PST by Axion
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To: *war_list; Ernest_at_the_Beach
2 posted on 03/18/2003 12:46:40 PM PST by Free the USA (Stooge for the Rich)
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To: Free the USA; 11th_VA; Libertarianize the GOP; knak; MadIvan; PhiKapMom; cavtrooper21; ...
3 posted on 03/18/2003 12:48:12 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Nuke Saddam ( Bush is thinking about it ) and then what about Germany and France?)
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To: Axion
A trifle speculative, but stimulating.
4 posted on 03/18/2003 1:12:18 PM PST by headsonpikes
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To: Axion
ping for later reading.
5 posted on 03/18/2003 1:27:37 PM PST by CPT Clay
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To: Axion
When the Turks arrive in Kirkuk they will find US troops on the ground managing the Kurdish control of the region. That's why we have had troops in the region for 6 months and are waiting for our helicopters to fly in a command structure and sufficient armed personel to convince the Turks that their presence is welcomed but not essential.

This issue is the principal reason for the fan dance at the UN that lent plausible denial for our delays in logistics.

6 posted on 03/18/2003 1:36:30 PM PST by Amerigomag
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To: Amerigomag
Washington will have one policy for the rest of Europe, another policy for Germany and Russia and a third policy especially for France.

If we are not now, we should be hard at work penetrating French intelligence services. I wouldn't put it past the French to covertly aid Iraq in some way during this war, simply because of damaged pride.

7 posted on 03/18/2003 2:00:44 PM PST by Zack Nguyen
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To: Zack Nguyen
Ollie North alleged today that the word on the Arab street is that French Intelligence is busy helping the Ba'thists destroy all records of France's recent involvement in Saddam's weapons programs.

Many fear Iraq will torch it's petroleum infrastructure but I suggest that it's business records will be the bigger bonfire.

8 posted on 03/18/2003 2:14:37 PM PST by Amerigomag
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To: Amerigomag
That is very interesting. We should act to stop that if possible.
9 posted on 03/18/2003 5:34:46 PM PST by Zack Nguyen
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