There is bold talk by some in Congress that WAR with IRAN is a solution if the nuclear talks don't work out. This reminds me of the loose talk before the Iraq invasion when I was a terrorism analyst, the lone voice in the wilderness opposing it at the time.
However, we DO have evidence of what a short conflict with Iran would look like - and how it would end. Ugly, very ugly.
A 2002 military exercise simulating a "War with IRAN" took place. Result? America's worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor. The military stopped it after we lost 16 ships including an aircraft carrier! We could lose more people in 5 minutes than we lost in Iraq in over 10 years!
Before we convince ourselves to kick open yet another Pandora's Box, read the following--because some of the Senators and Congress reps urging a military solution don't even know that Tehran has been the capitol of Iran for thousands of years--that's how little they know about the real world (sad to say, but I have more global negotiating experience than the entire current GOP Presidential field!).
Below is a description of the exercise and results of a realistic war game called Millennium Challenge.
(It's a warning not to believe rosy predictions of easy victory -- like we heard before the Iraq invasion that created ISIS and cost us over $6 TRILLION dollars and countless lives ruined). Pass it on!
"During the summer of 2002, in the run-up to President Bush's invasion of Iraq, the US military staged the most elaborate and expensive war games ever conceived. Operation Millennium Challenge, as it was called, cost some $250 million, and required two years of planning ... it was set in the Persian Gulf, and simulated a conflict with a hypothetical rogue state. The "war" involved heavy use of computers, and was also played out in the field by 13,500 US troops, at 17 different locations and 9 live-force training sites. All of the services participated under a single joint command, known as JOINTFOR. The US forces were designated as 'Force Blue', and the enemy as OPFOR, or 'Force Red'. The 'war' lasted three weeks and ended with the overthrow of the dictatorial regime on August 15."
"At any rate, that was the official outcome. What actually happened was quite different, and ought to serve up a warning about the grave peril the world will face if the US should become embroiled in a widening conflict in the region ..."
This is not the first time that the American high command has fudged the results of a war gaming exercise because the real results would be very embarrassing to all U.S. leadership, from the White House down to the Pentagon. In the early years of the Clinton Administration, America's top guns -- her elite fighter pilots -- engaged in an war gaming exercise with Israeli pilots. The American aces were humiliated, so much so that the Pentagon discreetly asked the Israeli government not to publicize the results! The story I read was very small and buried deeply in our local paper.
Now, let us return to this news story. The American officer leading the "enemy" -- the "Force Red" team -- was "the straight-talking Marine commander who had been brought out of retirement to lead Force Red. His name was Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, and he had played the role of the crazed but cunning leader of the hypothetical rogue state ... In the first days of the 'war', Van Riper's Force Red sent most of the US fleet to the bottom of the Persian Gulf." (Ibid.)
The tactics adopted by this Marine Corps general were astounding and they produced "The Worst US Naval Disaster Since Pearl Harbor".
"The war game was described as 'free play', meaning that both sides were unconstrained, free to pursue any tactic in the book of war in the service of victory ... Much of the action was computer-generated. But representative military units in the field also acted out the various moves and countermoves. The comparison to a chess match is not inaccurate. The vastly superior US armada consisted of the standard carrier battle group with its full supporting cast of ships and planes. Van Riper had at his disposal a much weaker flotilla of smaller vessels, many of them civilian craft, and numerous assets typical of a Third World country." (Ibid.)
"But Van Riper made the most of weakness. Instead of trying to compete directly with Force Blue, he utilized ingenious low-tech alternatives. Crucially, he prevented the stronger US force from eavesdropping on his communications by foregoing the use of radio transmissions. Van Riper relied on couriers instead to stay in touch with his field officers ... At every turn, the wily Van Riper did the unexpected. And in the process he managed to achieve an asymmetric advantage ... Astutely and very covertly, Van Riper armed his civilian marine craft and deployed them near the US fleet, which never expected an attack from small pleasure boats ... Force Red's prop-driven aircraft suddenly were swarming around the US warships, making Kamikaze dives. Some of the pleasure boats made suicide attacks. Others fired Silkworm cruise missiles from close range, and sunk a carrier, the largest ship in the US fleet, along with two helicopter-carriers loaded with marines ... the Navy was unprepared. When it was over, most of the US fleet had been destroyed. Sixteen US warships lay on the bottom, and the rest were in disarray. Thousands of American sailors were dead, dying, or wounded.
"If the games had been real, it would have been the worst US naval defeat since Pearl Harbor." (Ibid.)
Clearly, this war games disaster was something the Pentagon could not have foreseen. Publicly, Pentagon spokesmen admitted of no disaster, since, in war gaming, destroyed equipment and dead sailors can be "resurrected" at the touch of a keyboard. At the end, the government of the rogue state was overthrown and victory achieved -- but only after General Van Riper quit in disgust. Oh, yes, and the Pentagon did not admit that they had anything to learn and insisted there was nothing they needed to change.
But, you may argue, surely they knew better internally and were working madly to change tactics so they would not have this kind of real disaster, from a real enemy, who can really kill our sailors and marines. You may be right, except for the fact that most of the reasons for this disaster are systemic and cannot be easily or quickly corrected. How can this be?
The first problem is that the Navy has heavily invested in equipment which does not work effectively in close-in places like the Persian Gulf. In other words, our Navy was created, and equipped, to fight a blue-water enemy out in the open ocean, and is very vulnerable to a determined close-in enemy using unconventional tactics. Listen as this article explains this terrible reality.
"... instead of being over the horizon like the Navy would normally fight, and at stand-off ranges that would enable their protective systems to be employed, now they're sitting right off the shore ... where you're looking at them. I mean, the models and simulation that we put together, it couldn't make a distinction (between enemy vessels vs friendly) ... all of a sudden, whoops, there they are. And that's about the time he attacked ..."
"Gen. Kernan's nuanced defense was that the simulation had necessarily been conducted in the vicinity of busy sea lanes, hence, in the presence of live commercial shipping; and this required the Navy to 'turn off' some of its defenses, which it would not have done in a real wartime situation. All of which is probably true, but the general's remark that in a real Gulf war the fleet would be deployed differently, in a stand-off manner, with its over-the-horizon defenses fully operable, was a misrepresentation of the actual situation in the Persian Gulf, today. The US Navy's biggest problem operating in Gulf waters are the constraints that the region's confined spaces impose on US naval defenses, which were designed for the open sea. The Persian Gulf is nothing but a large lake, after all, and in such an environment the Navy's over-the-horizon defenses are seriously compromised. Nor can the Navy withdraw to a safe distance, so long as its close-in presence is required to support the US occupation forces in Iraq. The serious implications of this simple fact for a possible future conflict, for instance, involving Iran, have never, to my knowledge, been discussed in the US press." (Ibid.)
As the interview with General Kernan continued, he kept talking about the Navy operating "over-the-horizon", which is fine if you are fighting the blue-water Russian navy in the open ocean; however, if the US Navy is fighting an Iranian force of quick, mobile fighting ships and boats, and aircraft, all of which are equipped with Russian-made supersonic missiles, losses are likely to be staggering, just as this war simulation demonstrated.
General Kernan should not have been surprised, because earlier studies had reported that these kind of problems existed, and were not reserved just for the Iranians.
"As recently as 1997 some forty different nations possessed these awesome weapons (anti-ship cruise missiles). By 2000 the number had jumped to 70, with at least 100 different types identified, and a dozen different nations actively pursuing their own production and research/development programs ... why are anti-ship cruise missiles so attractive? The answer is that they are relatively simple to develop, especially in comparison with ballistic missiles. Cruise missiles can be constructed from many of the same readily available parts and components used in commercial aviation. They are also reliable and effective, easy to deploy and use, and are relatively inexpensive. Even poor nations can afford them. One cruise missile represents but a tiny fraction of the immense expenditure of capital the US has invested in each of its 300 active warships. Yet, a single cruise missile can sink or severely disable any ship in the US Navy."
Now, listen carefully to this next revelation, for it validates a fact Cutting Edge reported several years ago, when we posted an article entitled, "Has Russian Technology Just Doomed The U.S. Naval Fleet?", NEWS1449. A key factor which rendered the American fleet so vulnerable to these Russian supersonic anti-ship missiles was that they flew so quickly, American protective radars could not react quickly enough to track the incoming missile, plot a solution, and fire the defensive gattling guns. This next revelation validates our concerns, and the source is highly believable, for it is the U.S. Congressional (Government) Accounting Office.
"According to the GAO (Government Accounting Office) report, 'the key to defeating cruise missile threats is in gaining additional reaction time', so that ships can detect, identify and destroy the attacking missiles. The thorny problem, as I've pointed out, is that the Navy's long-range AWAC's and intermediate-range Aegis radar defense systems are significantly less effective in littoral (or coastal) environments, the Persian Gulf being the prime example." (Ibid.)
Here we have two distinctively different problems, which combine to produce a very fatal result.
1) American anti-ship missile protective radar cannot reach a solution quickly enough to fire the protective guns fast enough to kill the incoming supersonic missiles flying at 1,700 miles per hour.
2) American radar systems were not designed for coastal situations, where an enemy can hide and pop out to fire quickly at a passing ship and then get out of harm's way. No, U.S. radar is designed to track an enemy vessel "over the horizon", plot a solution, fire the missile, and kill the enemy ship without ever physically seeing it. Smaller vessels firing a variety of close-in weaponry -- including the supersonic ship killers -- can get in under this American radar, and score the kill.
You just do not change this kind of wrong weaponry problem overnight. Meanwhile, the Russians are proceeding quickly to make their ship-killers even more deadly.
"The other important factor is that cruise missile technology itself is racing ahead. The GAO report warned that the next generation of anti-ship missiles that will begin to appear by 2007 will be faster and stealthier, and will also be equipped with advanced target-seekers, i.e., advanced guidance systems. In fact, one of these advanced anti-ship cruise missiles is already available: the Russian-made Yakhonts missile. It flies at close to Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound), can hit a squirrel in the eye, and has a range of 185 miles: enough range to target the entire Persian Gulf (from Iran), shredding Gen. Kernan's glib remark that in a real war the US expeditionary force will stand-off in safety 'over the horizon' while mounting an amphibious attack. Nonsense. Henceforth, in a real Gulf war situation there will be no standing off in safety. The Yakhonts missile has already erased the concept of the horizon, at least, within the Persian Gulf, and it has done so without ever having been fired in combat---yet ... By their own admission the Russians developed the Yakhonts missile for export. No doubt, it was high on Iran's shopping list." (Ibid.)
The concluding information is truly sobering.
"... for a variety of reasons the Navy's forecasts for upgrading US ship defenses against cruise missile attack are overly optimistic. The Navy's own data shows that there will be no silver bullet. The technology gap is structural, and will not be overcome for many years, if at all. US warships will be vulnerable to cruise missile attack into the foreseeable future, perhaps increasingly so ... the most vulnerable ship in the US fleet is none other than the flagship itself, the big Nimitz-class carriers."
The knowledge that our mighty carriers are extremely vulnerable to these anti-ship missiles is not new information, nor is it limited to naval experts. During the early days of the Iraq invasion (March - April, 2003), I talked at length with a family friend who had recently retired from the Army as a Major. He gave me much good advice, including the status of our aircraft carriers if they faced a determined enemy equipped with modern missiles. He said that our carriers were "just sitting ducks". Yet, most Americans still believe that the safest place to be stationed during a battle is on a carrier.
The author of this article then concludes his assessment.
"Just think: If Van Riper could accomplish what he did with Silkworms, the lowly scuds of the cruise missile family, imagine what could happen if the US Navy, sitting in the Gulf like so many ducks, should face a massed-attack of supersonic Yakhonts missiles, a weapon that may well be unstoppable?"