Donít Believe All the Baloney About Iranís Threat
by Eric Margolis: Politicians
Want War With Iran
of defense could Iran actually mount against an attack on its nuclear
and military infrastructure by Israel and/or the United States?
First of all,
discount all the TV pictures of Iranian missiles being fired and
troops marching in review. They are designed to boost civilian morale
at home. Ironically, Western media has used them to trumpet Iranís
alleged military threat. One major US TV network, NBC, even has
a fixed logo on its reports from Iran: "Iran Threat."
Iran, in spite of its 71 million population and oil wealth, is militarily
quite weak. Islamic Iran has been under punishing US-led military
and economic sanctions since its 1979 revolution, joining other
sanctions targets North Korea and Cuba.
As a result,
Iran has been unable to modernize most of its 1960ís/1970ís vintage
military arsenal, much of which was supplied by the US and Britain
to the Shah. Iranís decrepit civilian aircraft fleet has also been
punished by US-led embargos, resulting in numerous crashes due to
worn-out equipment and lack of spare parts.
45-50% of Iranís small, obsolete air force is grounded by lack of
spare parts or repairs. Iranís pilots, who last saw action during
the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, have critically little flying time.
Iranís air force lacks modern radars, communications or electronic
of Iranís air force remains about 60 ancient US-built F-14 naval
fighters, F-4 Phantom strike aircraft dating from the Vietnam era,
and some old US F-5 trainers. Iran also has a grab bag of some 25
Soviet/Russian Mig-29ís, a similar number of capable SU-24 strike
aircraft, and some 20 Chinese outdated F-7 fighters. The US-supplied
aircraft all suffer from metal fatigue and are more of a danger
to their hapless pilots than an enemy.
navy has a few small frigates and three modern Russian Kilo-class
submarines that are effective in shallow coastal waters. Iranís
sizeable numbers of Chinese anti-ship missiles on shore, at sea
and carried by aircraft might score a few lucky hits on the mighty
US Navy or oil tankers, as could its ample supply of magnetic mines.
But any US
assault of Iran, would open by surprise attacks from waves of cruise
missiles and stealth aircraft against Iranian air bases, ports and
communications hubs. Most of Iranís air force and navy would be
destroyed. Iranís obsolete air defenses would be put out of action
by missile and cyber-warfare attacks.
method of counter-attacking would consist of commando raids against
US bases in the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and, possibly, on Saudi
oil installations. But no such attacks would prove decisive or alter
the course of the conflict. Iran would be pounded until its attackers
decided to cease fire.
last week that it might launch pre-emptive attacks on potential
attackers is not credible. Iran simply lacks any effective, long-range
offensive capability to attack either Israel or put US bases in
the region out of action. Its shorter ranged missiles could inflict
some damage on US bases in the Gulf.
Shahab-3 missile, of which Tehran is said to have a score, has offensive
capability Ė but only if armed with a nuclear warhead, which US
intelligence says Iran does not possess. Shrinking a nuclear device
into Shahabís small nosecone and ensuring it will survive violent
g-forces and heat is a major technological challenge believed beyond
Iranís current capability.
nuclear warheads, the not very accurate Shahabís are of little more
use than Saddam Husseinís laughably ineffective Scuds in 2003. Firing
a few at Israel would immediately be picked up by the US early-alert
satellite system, into which Israel is linked, and run the risk
of triggering possible nuclear strikes by Israel.
Who knows if
an incoming missile has a conventional or nuclear warhead? Israel
might just believe its own propaganda about Iranís alleged nuclear
put up fierce resistance to a US-led ground invasion, but the Pentagon
makes clear it has no such intention after the debacles in Afghanistan
and Iraq. US air power will wage this conflict, if it comes.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
Best of Eric Margolis