Saturday, August 3, 2019

TheList 5062

The List 5062 TGB

To All,

Some weekend reads that relate to the current problem with Iran.



Thanks to THE Bear and Admiral Cox at NHHC.

Steve... you will enjoy this estimate and short history of Iran's fighting spirit... as the watch captain on Hill Street Blues cautioned the night shift of cops at the end of his brief, "Be careful out there."... Bear

Begin forwarded message:

From: Director of Naval History

To: Senior Navy Leadership

Due to recent events in the Middle East, I received several requests to reprise the H-gram pieces on the Iran-Iraq Tanker War, which occurred between 1981 and 1988, and included major events such as the mistaken Iraqi EXOCET missile attack on the USS STARK, the deliberate Iranian mining of the first U.S.-escorted Earnest Will convoy and of the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS, the significant U.S. versus Iran surface and air actions (the capture of the Iranian minelayer IRAN AJR and Operations Nimble Archer and Praying Mantis) and the accidental shootdown of an Iranian passenger jet by USS VINCENNES. (Please see attachments.)

There is a large cemetery in the Iranian capital of Tehran, which includes the grave of the Ayatollah Khomeini, with a very large section devoted to the many thousands of "martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq War. Within that cemetery is also a section and monument dedicated to those Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) officers and crewmen who were lost in action against the U.S. Navy during Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988. Atop the monument is a sculpture of the IRIN missile boat JOSHAN, sunk by U.S. Navy missile and gunfire during Praying Mantis. The Iranians use the monument as an inspirational example of an Iranian ship commander who went into battle against overwhelming odds and chose to fight bravely rather than to flee. Some would argue that the skipper of JOSHAN was foolhardy in ignoring repeated USN warnings to turn away or be fired upon. However, despite the U.S. threats, the skipper of JOSHAN continued undaunted with his assigned mission, stating that he was operating in international waters with every right to be there (a right that the U.S. regularly asserts for ourselves) and that he would take no provocative action. And, in fact, even when JOSHAN came within range of its one HARPOON anti-ship missile (provided to Iran by the US before the 1979 revolution) JOSHAN's skipper maintained discipline and did not fire. Only when there was no doubt that the U.S. Surface Action Group was about to fire on him did the skipper of JOSHAN seize the initiative and take the first shot, which luckily missed, barely. My point is that although neither the IRIN or IRGCN are ten feet tall, they are both capable of showing considerable courage, determination, willingness to sacrifice for the mission, and initiative, and the fact the HARPOON was still operational was a testament to Iranian ingenuity…which they also displayed in the mining of the BRIDGETON and SAMUEL B. ROBERTS.

The Iranians also don't quit. Time after time the Iraqis had the Iranians on the ropes, but like Rocky Balboa, the Iranians wouldn't stay down and kept coming back for more. In response to the Iraqi invasion, the Iranian counterattacks (after the regular Iranian Army had been decimated) were led by young boys clearing the way through minefields with their feet and bodies, followed by human wave attacks that were shot, shelled, bombed, gassed, and slaughtered by the thousands, yet still the Iranians kept coming, pushing the better equipped and trained Iraqi army back into Iraq and then some. For over eight years the Iranians fought on against the odds, and they would have continued were it not for the shootdown of the Iranian airliner by VINCENNES that convinced the Ayatollah Khomeini that the U.S. was intervening militarily on the side of Iraq. Like Emperor Hirohito in Japan at the end of WWII, only the Ayatollah had the real and moral authority to call a halt to the bloodshed. It should be noted that although there are many Iranians who are fed up with the current clerical revolutionary regime, in a country of 83 million there are still many millions who would willingly sacrifice their lives for that regime. It should also be noted that Iran has conducted attacks in unexpected places (Israeli Embassy and Jewish Community Center attacks in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 respectively, as well as in London, in retaliation for Israeli operations in South Lebanon.) There is no quick and easy solution to the Iranian problem.

Both the IRIN and IRGCN are significantly more capable and professional today than they were in the 1980's, with a midget submarine/torpedo capability almost the same as the North Korean midget submarine that sank the South Korean corvette CHEONAN in 2010. On the internet today you can find stories about the Iranian Navy's "losing streak," that make it sound like taking on the Iranians will be another "cakewalk." However, in any conflict with Iran a healthy respect for the adversary should be in order. At this point, I will resist the temptation to be an Intelligence Officer again and will just commend the Office of Naval Intelligence unclassified study on the Iranian Navy. (It's 29 MB so wouldn't recommend opening on a phone.)

Very respectfully,


Samuel J. Cox

RADM, USN (retired)

Director of Naval History

Curator for the Navy

Director, Naval History and Heritage Command



Nautilus submarine travels under North Pole


Thanks to Dutch

The Coming Middle Eastern Storm
The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will be a region-wide fight, with Iraq playing a key role

Aaron Kliegman - August 2, 2019 11:50 AM

Since 2013, Israel has attacked Iranian targets in Syria hundreds of times, killing soldiers and decimating equipment and facilities. Israel's aerial campaign led Iran, which seeks to establish another military front against the Jewish state, to move the bulk of its assets away from the Syrian-Israeli border to Iraq earlier this year. Since then, Iran has entrenched itself militarily in Iraq, where, according to Israel's intelligence assessment for 2019, "the domestic and international situation … created better opportunities for [Tehran] to prepare its regional plans" to dominate the Middle East. Specifically, Iran deployed more members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization, to bolster the two cornerstones of Iran's military entrenchment in Iraq: missile systems and Shiite militias that obey Tehran.

Media outlets previously reported that Iran set up missile launchers in Iraq and gave ballistic missiles to its Iraqi proxies, while developing the capacity to build more missiles there with the ranges to threaten both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Now Tehran is, according to Israeli intelligence, actually providing the militias with accurate missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel. Such intelligence appears to be why, just this week, the media reported Israeli airstrikes in Iraq for the first time since 1981, when Jerusalem destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor. This ongoing expansion of the conflict between Iran and Israel foreshadows a coming storm in the Middle East, one that could engulf the entire region.

Israel struck Iranian targets in Iraq twice in the last two weeks, according to Asharq al-Awsat, an Arabic newspaper based in London. Citing Western diplomatic sources, the publication reported Tuesday that the first attack occurred on July 19, when an Israeli F-35 fighter jet hit a base in the Saladin province, north of Baghdad. Arab media outlets reported separately that members of the IRGC and Hezbollah were killed, and that, shortly before the attack, Iranian ballistic missiles arrived covertly at the base. A state-run Iranian news agency appeared to corroborate these reports, announcing the death of a senior IRGC commander in an "Israeli-American" attack in Iraq on the same date.

Asharq al-Awsat also reported that Israel attacked another base in Iraq on Sunday, this one northeast of Baghdad and about 80 kilometers from the Iranian border, targeting Iranian advisers and a shipment of ballistic missiles from Iran.

The alleged strikes came after Israeli security officials warned that Iran was building storage sites in Iraq for missiles to be deployed to Syria or Lebanon to attack Israel. And just three days after the first strike, Israel's ruling Likud party reposted a clip of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to strike Iran anywhere to thwart its ambitions, including in Iraq.

If these reports are true, then Israel, which has neither confirmed nor denied the strikes, is signaling it is prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from achieving its goals in Iraq, as in Syria. Furthermore, the reported strikes are the latest indication that the Israeli-Iranian conflict is far from over, with Iraq emerging as a crucial battleground. But Israel faces complications carrying out strikes in Iraq that it does not face in Syria. First, many of the Iranian-backed militias are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMUs), an umbrella organization that the Iraqi government is integrating with its security forces. So striking militias risks escalating tensions with Baghdad. Second, while the Trump administration supports Israel's anti-Iranian efforts in Syria, it may be more hesitant to back Israeli strikes in Iraq. American forces deployed in Iraq work with the Iraqi security forces, and Israeli strikes could lead Shiite militias to retaliate by attacking those forces. Fear of such retaliation should under no circumstances dictate Washington's behavior, but it may nonetheless. President Trump, moreover, wants Iraq to become stable as soon as possible, especially after the collapse of the Islamic State's caliphate. Israeli military action could lead to escalation and spook foreign investors who want to rebuild Iraq.

But the greatest danger is that the Israeli-Iranian conflict spills into Lebanon, triggering another war between Israel and Hezbollah. This outcome is quite possible for several reasons. Iran's imperial expansion should generally be understood as part of its strategy to build a "land bridge" from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea (with Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in between), a continuous corridor of political and military control from which to exert influence across the Middle East, weaken America's role in the region, and, of course, destroy Israel. Because securing routes between Iraq and Syria is a crucial part of this effort, ongoing Iranian construction on a new border crossing, which may open in the next couple of months, is troubling. Among other purposes, Iran wants to use such crossings and the larger land bridge to traffic weapons to Hezbollah. In fact, ensuring a survivable pathway to Hezbollah is one of Iran's chief reasons for intervening in Syria—an objective that Israel is determined to thwart. Hezbollah also has thousands of fighters deployed in Iraq and Syria to support Iran's expansionism. In this strategic environment, it is all too easy to imagine Lebanon, which Hezbollah dominates both politically and militarily, becoming more directly involved in the fight.

A war between Israel and Hezbollah would be catastrophic, embroiling much of the Middle East and causing unimaginable destruction. Hezbollah has an estimated 130,000 rockets ready to fire at Israel, and because Israel is such a small country with few key strategic targets, Jerusalem would need to act immediately in a conflict with overwhelming force. The Israelis have learned from the last war in 2006, which was not the overwhelming success that Israel usually enjoys against Arab armies—they will not hold back this time. (Gabi Ashkenazi, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said that in the next war it will be forbidden to ask who won. Presumably the answer will be beyond any doubt.) Furthermore, the Lebanese military closely collaborates with Hezbollah. The two are effective allies, making it likely that Israel would need to regard the state's armed forces as hostile in a war.

Critically, such a war would not just include Hezbollah and its Iranian masters. For years, there have been growing signs that Iraq would be involved. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that a future war with Israel could draw thousands of fighters from Iraq. A commander of Iraq's PMUs warned earlier this year that the militias are ready to respond to Israeli acts of "hostility." Last year, the head of a powerful Iraqi Shiite militia pledged to stand alongside Hezbollah if a war breaks out with Israel, saying his group will fight with its Lebanese ally "in a single row, on a single front, just as we stood with them on a single front in Iraq or Syria." One key question is whether and to what extent the Iraqi government would get involved, as many of the Iranian-backed militias are part of Iraq's security apparatus. Regardless of Baghdad's role, however, Iran's recent military emphasis on Iraq, and the Israeli responses that it triggers, only makes it more likely that Iraq will be belligerent in a future conflict.

Beyond Iraq, Iran would bring in Shiite fighters from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and possibly Yemen (not to mention Iran itself) to fight Israel in the event of a third Lebanon war. And Iran could possibly coordinate with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two Palestinian terrorist organizations it supports, to barrage Israel with rockets from Gaza and the West Bank as the Jewish state is focused to the north, where it borders Syria and Lebanon. The regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad would also support the Iranian-led axis.

War between Israel and Hezbollah would be a perfect storm, and Israel's reported strikes in Iraq are a reminder of how far-reaching that conflict would be. Israel's clear willingness to use any and all means, including its immense military power, to counter Iran's goals has deterred Tehran, forcing the regime to alter its calculations. And a mutual understanding of how terrible a new war would be has prevented full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. But Israeli deterrence, while essential and potent, is no panacea. Here is where America can help.

If the United States wants to prevent a devastating war in the Middle East and support a critical strategic ally against their mutual enemies, then Washington needs to establish a level of credible military deterrence in Iraq and Syria, working with Israel to signal to the Iranian-led axis that acts of aggression will carry heavy—and perhaps deadly—costs. In other words, the United States needs to strike Iranian targets if necessary. Those who argue such actions are reckless and would trigger a war with Iran should be asked to explain how Israel has been striking these targets for years. The American military would only enhance Israel's deterrence.

There are many additional steps to be taken. One is to continue to impose sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah. Perhaps most important, however, the United States must provide Israel steadfast political and diplomatic support in the event of war and do everything in its power to push Western governments to do so as well. Hezbollah knows it cannot defeat Israel on the battlefield, so it embeds its forces and weapons throughout civilian areas to force Israel to kill innocents. The terrorist group used human shields in 2006 and, according to reports, plans to do so in a future fight. Israel does all it can to avoid killing civilians, but, in the fog of war, it is impossible to ensure zero civilian casualties. Nonetheless, Europe and the United Nations condemn Israel and effectively take the side of Israel's enemies, emboldening Hezbollah to be aggressive. The United States should not only support Israel's right to counter Iran and Hezbollah by any means necessary during a war, but also before one. Only through concerted, consistent action today is it possible to avoid catastrophe tomorrow.

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