Blast from the Past

On this page you will find the following articles:

The Chips Are Down
Four Day War
War from a business perspective

Four Day War

A number of analysts believe that Iran will reach a critical stage in its pursuit of nuclear capability sometime within the next few months. This is a terrifying new development, far more worrisome than the wars and uprisings that have plagued the Middle East to date.

Indeed, as Ray Takeyh, director of studies at the Near East and South Asia Center at the National Defense University, said at a recent Washington conference, Iran may have already passed the point of “political no return” in its bid for nuclear competence. If the Islamic republic has already passed that political landmark, then the actual point of no return cannot be far away.

Iran’s urge to join the elite “nuclear club” has been encouraged by a number of patrons who would like to see a second Islamic nation, after Pakistan, develop a nuclear weapon to counter Israel’s atomic arsenal. Takeyh believes that if Iran has not crossed the threshold, it is “awfully close.”

Stressing the Islamic republic’s objective, last June Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi asked that his nation be recognized as a member of the nuclear club. “This is an irreversible path,” Kharrazi stated. He went on to reveal that his country is now able to operate the full nuclear fuel cycle. Then, in a tentative reassurance to the West, added that Iran is “not now enriching uranium.” Not yet—but intelligence analysts believe it will soon begin processing this vital nuclear component.

Iran has long wanted to be recognized as a regional superpower, a desire that began under the shah, if not earlier, possibly as far back as 580 B.C. with Cyrus the Great. The country’s mutation from an imperial dynasty to an Islamic theocracy did little to alter Iran’s visions of regional grandeur. From their perspective, Iranians feel they have good reason to want nuclear deterrence.

First, the United States’ invasion of Iraq served as a reminder to autocracies around the world of their need to be strong enough to deter potential U.S. intervention. If nothing else, Iraq’s invasion served as the poster child for nuclear deterrence against unilateral military action from the world’s remaining superpower. Repeated threats of regime change by the Bush administration have only increased Iran’s fears that they could be next in line. President George W. Bush’s campaign promise about “finishing the job,” if re-elected in November, is a slogan that must keep more than one ayatollah awake at night—and pushing for nuclear deterrence.

Immediately following the 1991 Gulf War, India’s then chief of staff was asked privately what strategic lessons should be drawn from the rapid and overwhelming U.S. victory over Iraq. “Make sure you have your own atomic bomb before you challenge the United States,” he replied.

Second, Iran cannot predict how a highly unstable Iraq—a longtime foe—will turn out once this initial post-Saddam chaotic phase passes. And third, some members of Tehran’s ruling theocracy believe that if Israel is permitted nuclear weapons, why not Iran? Being lumped into the “Axis of Evil” has helped justify a level of paranoia.

While the United States is keeping an eye on Iran’s nuclear progress, there is another country watching even more closely. Israel, feeling the most threatened by Iran’s march towards nuclear competency, is reportedly preparing a repeat of its 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak. With about 140,000 American troops in neighboring Iraq, chances that the U.S. will intervene militarily are slim, making it all the more probable that Israel will feel it has to act unilaterally.

According to a recent report, Israel has built replicas of Iran’s nuclear facilities in the Negev Desert, where their fighter-bombers have been practicing test runs for months. Israel realizes it has a small window of opportunity if it is to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities before they go “hot” and leakage from an attack causes harmful exposure to tens of thousands of civilians caught by radiation forced into the atmosphere by such a raid.

Israel is unlikely to accept Iran’s word that its nuclear program is meant solely for peaceful purposes and aimed at developing commercial energy. The possibility of decisive military action is, indeed, high.

What follows is the unfolding of a worst-case scenario, an imaginary yet all-too-possible depiction of how events might develop if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Day One: Wednesday

In a pre-dawn raid, undisclosed numbers of Israeli warplanes, taking off from military airbases in the Negev, destroy Iran’s main nuclear facility at Bushehr. Israel’s armed forces have released no details, but it is believed the planes flew over parts of Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, refueling in mid-air before reaching their target. Military analysts speculate that the planes must have refueled somewhere over Iraq.

During the one-hour raid, Iran claims to have shot down “several” Israeli fighters. Television images show pilots being lynched by furious mobs before Iranian authorities could reach them. The after-effects of the raid shake the Arab and Islamic world. Millions take to the streets demanding immediate action against Israel.

In planning the attack, Israel weighed the threats of Arab and Muslim reaction. The only other nuclear threat, and a possible danger to Israel, is Pakistan. Israel considered striking Pakistan’s nuclear sites, too, but Indian intelligence reports that Pakistan lacks long-distance delivery for its warheads. Bombay is the farthest they can reach. Additional reassurance from American intelligence convinced Israel that as long as Musharraf remains in power, Pakistan does not represent an imminent threat. The decision was made not to hit Pakistan.

Day Two: Thursday

Believing that Israel would never undertake such actions without U.S. approval, or at least a tacit nod from the American administration, Iran retaliates. Thousands of Revolutionary Guards are dispatched across the border into Iraq with orders to inflict as many casualties on American troops as possible. Fierce clashes erupt between coalition forces and Iranians. Within hours, more than 400 U.S. troops are killed, and many more wounded in heavy fighting. Iranian sleeper agents, who have infiltrated Iraq since the downfall of Saddam, urge Iraqi Shi’ites into action. They cut major highways and harass coalition troops, preventing reinforcements from reaching units under attack. Several helicopters are shot down.

Tehran orders the Lebanese Shi’ite movement, Hezbollah, into action against northern Israel. Hezbollah launches scores of rockets and mortars against kibbutzim, towns, and settlements. Israel retaliates. Casualties are high on both sides of the frontier. Tension in the Middle East reaches a boiling point. In Washington, the Cabinet convenes in an emergency session.

Massive demonstrations erupt all over the Arab and Islamic world. Crowds of gigantic proportions take to the streets, ransacking Israeli embassies in Cairo, Amman, and Ankara. American embassies in a number of other cities are burned. With police overwhelmed, the military is called in. Armies open fire, killing hundreds, adding to the outrage.

Day Three: Friday

Following Friday prayers across the Islamic world, crowds incited by fiery sermons in mosques from Casablanca to Karachi take to the streets in the worst protests yet. Government buildings are ransacked, and clashes with security forces result in greater casualties. Martial law is declared, and curfew imposed, but this fails to prevent further mayhem and rioting. Islamist groups call for the overthrow of governments and for immediate military action against Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, Islamist militants engage in open gun battles with security forces in several cities. The whereabouts of the Saudi royal family are unknown. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, and a dozen other countries, crowds continue to run amok, demanding war on Israel.

Day Four: Saturday

A longstanding plan to overthrow Musharraf is carried out by senior Pakistani army officers loyal to the Islamic fundamentalists and with close ties to bin Laden. The coup is carried out in utmost secrecy.

Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI—a long-time supporter of the fundamentalists—in agreement with the plotters, takes control of the country’s nuclear arsenal and its codes. Within hours, and before news of the coup leaks out, Pakistan, now run by pro-bin Laden fundamentalists, loads two nuclear weapons aboard executive Lear jets that take off from a remote military airfield, headed for Tel Aviv and Ashdod. Detouring and refueling in east Africa, they approach Israel from the south. The crafts identify themselves as South African. Their tail markings match the given identification.

The two planes with their deadly cargo are flown by suicide pilots who, armed with false flight plans and posing as business executives, follow the flight path given to them by Israeli air traffic control. At the last moment, however, the planes veer away from the airfield, soar into the sky and dive into the outskirts of the two cities, detonating their nuclear devices in the process.

The rest of this scenario can unfold in a number of ways. Take your pick; none are encouraging.

Israel retaliates against Pakistan, killing millions in the process. Arab governments fall. Following days of violence, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt succumb to Islamist rebels who vow open warfare with Israel. The Middle East regresses into war, with the fighting claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. A much-weakened Israel, now struggling for its very survival, deploys more nuclear weapons, targeting multiple Arab capitals. The Middle East is in complete mayhem, as the United States desperately tries to arrange a cease-fire.

This was all a bad dream, or rather one writer’s dark vision of what might happen if the current situation is allowed to continue unchecked. What precisely are the chances of any of this coming to pass? The probability of Israel striking Iran is very real. That could happen at any moment. As for the rest, there is really no way to know what will ensue once the demons are unleashed. Events could unfold as described above, or they could develop a bit differently, give or take a nuke or two. Whatever the outcome, it will not be good.

The solution is far from evident. Takeyh, the professor of national security studies, notes that in the past where there have been cases of “nuclear reversal,” such as in South Africa, it has happened due to a change in the region’s strategic environment.

The Middle East hardly falls into that category. Iran is unlikely to give up its nuclear deterrence as long as Israel remains a nuclear power. Israel is unlikely to cede its nuclear capability as long as it feels threatened by the Arab/Islamic world and as long as Pakistan holds on to its bomb. Pakistan, of course, points to India, also a nuclear power. India looks at Pakistan and across the Himalayas and sees nuclear-armed China and says it would never give up its cherished membership to the elite nuclear club.

In his campaign stops, President Bush keeps reiterating that the world is a safer place because of his actions. Yet looking at the state of world affairs it is very difficult to agree with him. The dead-ended Mideast peace talks, Saudi Arabia’s internal turmoil, continuing Islamist terrorist threats, the vulnerability of American troops in Iraq, and the question of Iran’s nukes all contribute to maintaining tensions at an all-time high.

Barring a solid and lasting peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the countries of the Middle East are far from nuclear disarmament. If anything, nuclear proliferation is only likely to increase as states like Saudi Arabia find that they, too, need to defend themselves against a nuclear-armed Iran. Recent reports have indicated that Saudi Arabia is looking to lease Pakistan’s nukes. The arms race of the Cold War may be dead, but the race for hot weapons has never been so alive.

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Claude Salhani is foreign editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington.

The Chips Are Down

By Claude Salhani

August 27, 2007

In this galaxy, in the not too distant future . . .

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan demanded that the U.S. military focus its attention—and much of its research and development—on how best to respond to low-tech threats such as primitive improvised explosive devices. While the IEDs proved to be deadly for the troops of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq—the majority of casualties suffered were from exploding roadside bombs—the long-term effect they had on the American military was far more consequential. The real impact was felt only a few years later when the United States became involved in its next major conflict—with China.

The two wars in the Middle East were, from a scientific perspective, low-tech engagements in which conventional military forces fought urban guerrillas. Following a sweeping victory that brought the U.S. military from the Kuwaiti border right up to Baghdad and beyond in record time, the administration believed that victory had been attained and prematurely declared the end of major combat operations. As we were to find out, this was far from the case. American soldiers and Marines—and the 60,000-odd contract workers supporting the U.S. military—soon had to grapple with a new problem: roadside bombs detonated by remote control. Lethal as they were, these homemade gadgets were rudimentary. They were relatively easy to assemble, hide, transport, place along the roads where coalition troops were bound to pass by, and detonate remotely. At one point, U.S. soldiers found that a simple remote control sold with $50 battery-operated toy cars at Radio Shack allowed American troops to preempt the IEDs by detonating the insurgents’ bombs ahead of American convoys.

As the casualty toll from the IEDs began to grow, the military focused on countermeasures. Resources from the military’s own research groups and defense contractors across the country became absorbed by the problem. As could be expected, the resistance and the jihadi fighters answered by creating more sophisticated bombs, for example, building the casing out of plastic to avoid detection by mine sweepers. This only prompted the military to keep looking for ways to thwart newer generations of IEDs. And the deadly cycle continued until the end of the war in October 2017—or at least the end of the war for the United States.

American engagement in Iraq officially ended when a detachment of Navy Seals—the last group of U.S. Special Forces—were extracted out of Anbar Province in the middle of the night. Al-Qaeda fighters, having learned from an informer of the U.S. evacuation plan, attempted to ambush them. They began firing on the 16 Seals—divided into two teams of eight—as they hooked harnesses onto cables attached to the underbellies of two large CH-47 Sea Knight Marine helicopters. The gunmen missed the Seals for the most part. Three Marine Cobra attack helicopters providing cover fire quickly silenced the attackers.

Between the time the first American soldier set foot on Iraqi soil in 2003 and the last of the Navy Seals commandos left the country in 2017, and while the U.S. military remained preoccupied in countering threats emanating from low-tech devices in an asymmetrical war, halfway around the globe the Chinese did not remain idle. Aware that the day would come when the People’s Liberation Army might have to face the American Army in battle, China began looking toward the place that conflict might be conducted. Their conclusion: the one who controlled space was guaranteed victory.

The Chinese leadership was fully aware that the PLA could never stand up to the U.S. military in a conventional war, despite China’s superior number of troops—one million under arms. The U.S. war machine is made up of the most fantastic pieces of armament ever incorporated into any fighting force in the history of man.

From the main battle tank, the Abrams M1A1, to Cobra attack helicopters, to Marine vertical take-off and landing Harrier jump jets, to the U.S. Air Force’s crown jewel, the B1 stealth bomber, to the magnificent armadas that the U.S. Navy can deploy with its nuclear powered aircraft carriers, attack submarines, and destroyers anywhere on the face of the globe, the Chinese military leadership had reason to worry.

Its war planners projected that the day would come when they would have to face America’s military in a standoff, most likely over the island of Taiwan, seen by China as a breakaway province and considered by the United States to be a friend and ally. They began to plan accordingly.

While the U.S. military was occupied developing simple solutions to counter low-tech threats in the Middle East, Beijing quietly went about developing high-tech systems to place aboard dozens of “communication” satellites that were developed, tested, and launched into space. Today, the Chinese have 56 satellites in space.

On Jan. 11, 2007, a missile was launched from the Chinese mainland to an altitude of 537 miles, slamming straight into its target—an obsolete Chinese weather satellite. The target was instantly destroyed, reportedly producing almost 900 trackable pieces of space debris. At that time, the U.S. military was far too preoccupied with what was happening in Iraq to worry about Chinese missiles. It proved to be an oversight—a major one.

China made good use of this oblivion. Along with its space-launched missile defense initiative, the Chinese busied themselves with finding ways to immobilize America’s far superior tanks, warplanes, and battleships and render the U.S. military’s computers and their communication and command-and-control systems useless. The Chinese knew that time was limited and that once the U.S. began to disengage from Iraq and Afghanistan, its military would regroup and reassess new threats and move to counter them.

The conflict began pretty much like most conflicts do: gradual escalation and exchanges of strongly worded communiqués, culminating with threats, followed by military action.

Beijing announced that if the newly elected government in Taiwan declared independence, China would intervene militarily. The United States responded by dispatching two carrier task forces attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Ronald Reagan. Besides the usual high-tech armament, including ship-to-shore missiles, ship-to-air missiles, and ship-to-ship missiles, and 400-odd warplanes aboard the carriers, the combined task force also included two Battalion Landing Teams, some 4,000 Marines.

The Chinese had nowhere near as many warships, planes, or tanks, but they had 350,000 men aboard transport ships—and they had a secret weapon in orbit.

As the Chinese expeditionary force approached Taiwan, they crossed an imaginary red line drawn across a Pentagon map, breaching the point American generals estimated would be one from which the Chinese would not turn back.

From his command post aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Adm. Anthony S. Samuelson picked up a secure telephone connecting him directly to the Pentagon and to the office of the secretary of defense. The secretary picked up on the first ring.

“Tell me it’s good news, admiral.”

“Wish I could, sir. They are now in firing range and are not about to turn around. It looks like this is it.”

The secretary of defense asked the admiral to stand by. He picked up a burgundy phone on his desk.

The president answered instantly. “Madame President,” said the secretary, “You must order the attack. If we are to proceed, it must be now.”

The president scanned the room, moving her eyes around the Oval Office where her national security advisers were gathered. Each in turn nodded his head, indicating a silent “yes.” The president of the United States put the phone to her ear and told her secretary of defense to proceed. With a heavy heart, Chelsea Clinton placed the receiver back in its cradle.

As the first Chinese soldier set foot on the beaches of Taiwan, the order was received from Adm. Samuelson’s headquarters to open fire.

Minutes before the order was given, some 300 miles up in space, a Chinese scientific satellite released a burst of electro-magnetic energy aimed at American and Taiwanese forces. Other similar satellites positioned strategically around the Earth released a number of similar bursts directed at strategic U.S. missile silos in the continental United States, Korea, and Australia.

Total confusion followed. Not one order issued electronically by U.S. command-and-control centers reached its target. Missiles fired from the ships of the Seventh Fleet went straight into space and exploded harmlessly above the earth. The Abrams M1A1 tanks started to turn around in circles like demented prehistoric dogs trying to bite their tails. The few planes that managed to take off from the carriers crashed into the South China Sea. Search-and-rescue helicopters were unable to even start their engines.

The Chinese were able to walk ashore and take Taiwan without firing a single shot.

Thankfully, the battle for Taiwan unfolded only in this author’s imagination. But the scenario is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. It is time to finish the war in Iraq and hand the Iraqis responsibility for their land and their own future. It is also time to look ahead. Our competitors are.

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Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington,

War from a business perspective

VIENNA, March 8 (UPI) — If the looming war on Iraq was structured purely as a business initiative, would you invest in it? Would it be a financially-viable business venture? What would its assets and liabilities entail? And what would be the likely risks from an investment perspective?For starters, the corporation, let’s call it War on Iraq Inc., would enter the market with huge assets. It is backed, after all, by the Treasury of the United States of America, the Bank of England, Kuwait’s ruling al-Sabah family and their petro-dollars, the emir of Qatar and a few other mega-businesses in corporate America such as Exxon, Mobil Oil, Northrup Aviation, Boeing and Raytheon — the makers of Patriot missiles — and others.How could it go awry, you could well ask? Fair enough, but what are the liabilities involved in such a joint venture?Well, two of the corporation’s largest assets, oil and stability, risk being lost to sabotage and internal dissent. One of the principals in the venture, Iraq, has a prior history of destroying oil fields, as it did in 1992 in Kuwait, which can affect the future earnings of the corporation. Not to mention the ill effects such an act would have on the ecology, which would cost millions of dollars, and could take years to clean up.Furthermore, according to some energy analysts, the price of oil, currently hovering around $35 per barrel, could shoot up beyond $50.If such a thing were to occur, the corporation would likely lose some of its principal collateral, and investors would stand to lose much of their investments.

Let’s look at some of the assets and liabilities.

Asset: Liberating a land from tyranny and installing a democracy friendly to big business.

Liability: If one was to judge by prior and similar types of ventures, such as Desert Storm Ltd., a principal was indeed liberated from a very hostile takeover, but democracy has yet to materialize. Kuwait still has not implemented all the steps it promised to take after liberation. Women, for example, still have no voice in running the government.

Asset: In the northern part of the corporation lives a people yearning to enjoy a free market economy, yet the company’s history, again, shows this has failed to materialize, and that Free Kurdistan Inc. time and again, has failed to win approval of all board members.

Asset: A liberated Free Iraq Inc., would offer enormous business opportunities to investors. Companies such as Coca Cola, Nike, MacDonald’s and the Intel Corp. would do brisk business in a country such as Iraq, once it becomes democratized.

Liability: The country has no prior record or experience in dealing with democracy, nor do any of its neighbors for that matter. The dangers of the investors being forced to remain in-country, and hands-on for an extended period of time in order to guarantee their initial investment could outweigh the investment cost/return factor.

Asset: Removing potential weapons of mass destruction from the hands of a fanatic dictator with a prior history of attempting hostile takeovers.

Liability: Initiating a potential new wave of terrorism on the investors. Certain individuals opposed to the concept of War on Iraq Inc., such as Fanatical Islam Ltd., could unleash a counter program aimed at disrupting War on Iraq Inc.’s business plans. Attacks similar to, or even surpassing those of Sept. 11, 2001, could occur with devastating effect on the economies of participant member countries.

Bottom line: If you had to invest your savings and/or risk your company’s investments in such a hazardous venture, what would your vote be?

From a business perspective, it is indeed a difficult call. The White House and the Pentagon — two of the majority shareholders — refuse to divulge the complete business plan, or even put forward financial estimates for the venture. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in fact the chief operating officer in the War on Iraq Inc. project, refuses to advance figures. Says Rumsfeld, “The cost of the war is impossible to predict due to a number of variables.”

In fact, there is still no properly formulated business plan for the post hostile takeover period. It remains unclear if local directors will be identified to replace the current proprietor, or if War on Iraq Inc. plans to name a director from outside the company’s norms and customs.

Then, there is always the risk of the company’s breakup into several smaller competing corporations. For example, the Shiites in the South & Co. do battle with the Sunnis in the Middle Corp., while Kurds in the North Ltd. try to establish a rival corporation using some of the oil assets as operating funds. A move to establish itself as an independent entity by the Kurds in the North Ltd., would be negatively received by neighboring Turkey, who could attempt a hostile takeover of its own.

In short, all this could lead to a huge plunge in the corporation’s stocks and end up with unforeseen problems for its shareholders.

For more information, write to:


War on Iraq Inc.

G. W. Bush, chairman and chief executive officer

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC

Bush@Whitehouse.gov


Iraq Ltd.

Saddam Hussein, proprietor (temporary)

One of 16 Presidential Palaces

Baghdad, Iraq

Saddam@WMD.org

(Claude Salhani is a senior editor at United Press International)

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