It is the nature of men that when faced with an impending doom, they will do something, anything, to avert it, even if that brings doom down upon themselves sooner and more surely then if they had done nothing. Such was the case in ancient Greek tragedies. So it was with the World War Two Nazis and Imperial Japanese. So it is now with Iran's Mullahocracy in their "spoiling attack" on America in Iraq.
Dan Darling, Michael Ledeen, and Wretchard of Belmont Club (here and here) have all recently gone on documenting at length the size and scope of the Iranian and Iranian hired Syrian attacks in Iraq, and in Ledeen's case what needs to be done about it. What they haven't done is explain the wider pattern in terms of the Iranian objectives for their spoiling attack.
A spoiling attack in military terms is when one side attacks the other while it is preparing to launch an offensive in hopes that its attack will disrupt and or permanently delay the inevitable. Spoiling attacks are normally aimed at major boundaries between units or forces as this causes the most confusion due to separate chains of command stepping all over each other trying to coordinate their superior forces to deal with the attack.
Napoleon was famous for winning this way over over. A modern and less successful example was World War Two's Battle of the Bulge, wherein Hitler intended to separate the British from their American allies and take back the major seaport of Antwerp. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor exploited the "unit boundary" split in America's Pacific chain of command between the Army and the Navy over the defense of Hawaii, and let them run wild for six months in the Pacific.
In Iraq we are seeing multiple "unit boundaries" struck by the Iranian inspired attacks at once. America's Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Bulgarian, and Italian allies have all been struck by either the Ba'athist remnants or the Sadr militia with the result being that the Spanish Socialist government is cutting and running. Many private military corporations have been hit with K.B.R., for example, suffering 30 dead, missing, or captured for future 'snuff video' production.
The ultimate "unit boundary" that the Iranians are striking isn't tactical, operational or even in Iraq. It is strategic - the "unit boundary" between American Presidential Administrations.
The Mullahs' Goal
Iran's Mullahocracy has been America's enemy since 1979. They have learned that America alternates between weak/malleable and strong/bold executive leadership, having faced both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The former President it held hostage for over a year while the latter President traded arms for hostages, then turned around and broke the Mullah's will to fight against Iraq with a "secret" naval war, the downing of an Iranian Airbus by an Aegis cruiser and intelligence assistance for Saddam's reconquest of the Iranian Al Faw peninsula with chemical weapons.
The one thing the Mullahs have leaned in all of this is that American Presidential Administrations have an extremely difficult time doing new foreign policy or national security policy an election year or during the first six months of a new Administration. They are now taking advantage of this to strike, and hopefully cripple, the Bush Administration's reelection chances or failing that make America abandon its plan to democratize Iraq and destabilize their theocracy.
As Amir Taheri notes in the New York Post:
"The Iranian analysis is simple: The Americans do not have the political stamina to stay the course in Iraq. Negative polls could force President Bush to withdraw his troops into bases in the Iraqi desert, allowing the cities to fall under the control of Iraqi armed groups.
In such a scenario, pro Saddam groups would seize control of the so called Sunni Triangle while Shiite groups beholden to Iran would dominate central and southern Iraq, leaving the Kurds cantoned in their two mountainous enclaves.
The Tehran leadership is also certain that John Kerry, if elected, will abandon Bush's plans for a "democratic" Middle East. "The United States has become vulnerable," Rafsanjani told his cheering audience in Tehran. "The Americans do not know which way to turn."
Behind the scenes of revolt in parts of Iraq lies the broader picture of the war that various brands of Islamism have waged against the United States for almost a quarter of a century.
Tehran leaders believe that the U.S. defeat in Vietnam enabled China to establish itself as the rising power in Asia. They hope that a U.S. defeat in Iraq will give the Islamic Republic a similar opportunity to become what Rafsanjani calls "the regional superpower."
The Khomeinist mullahs believe that an American defeat in Iraq will destabilize all Arab regimes, leaving the Islamic Republic as the only power around which a new status quo could be built in the region. "Here is our opportunity to teach the Americans a lesson," Rafsanjani said."
In short, the Iranians mean to defeat America, "Lebanonize" Iraq and dominate its various factions. Al Sadr was only the first Iranian sock puppet. There will be many others. Iraq cannot be pacified as long as terrorists attack us from secure bases in Iran, and the mullahs are both providing those and funding terrorists against us, including Al Qaeda as well as Al Sadr.
4th Generation Warfare
As Joe's piece on "Iran's Great Game" noted, the mullahs correctly believe they have to do this to retain power in Iran. America's goal of creating a successful democracy in mostly Shiite Iraq means the end of the mullahs' rule in Iran - they can't keep their own people from making religious pilgrimages to Shiite holy sites in Iraq, which means they can't stop the effects on their own unsettled population. Democracy next door is an immediate threat to tyranny. Russia's former Communist regime created the Iron Curtain to block freedom in Western Europe from menacing their Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe.
Joe Katzman and a number of others have made much of "4th Generation Warfare" and "asymmetric attack" as a way for the weak to defeat the strong. The key thing about the concept is that the stronger party has to submit to the ground rules of the weaker party in order to be defeated.
America does not have to play by those rules if it doesn't want to, so why are we?
First, Kerry and the Democrats want to believe that 9/11/2001 didn't happen and that everything wrong in the world is Bush's fault. They are worse than useless in facing up to the Iranians.
Bush on the other hand is playing the part of the Wizard of Oz, telling us not to see the Iranian Mullah behind the Iraqi curtain until after the election. When it comes to political choices about the war and the Presidential election, a friend of mine put it this way:
"Given a choice between a f*** up whose heart is in the right place and a Hamlet who hasn't got a program, Americans are gonna go with the f*** up."
So where does that leave the rest of us? Demanding "Faster, Please" will not cut it.
More than Iraq is at stake here there are other players, notably Israel.
Iran's mullahs are developing nuclear weapons, which they view as a magic shield against America and a sword to destroy the Jewish state. They have made overt threats to nuke Israel as soon as they have nuclear weapons, and said they believe Iran would survive any exchange of nukes with Israel. The mullahs do not at all understand that their inflammatory rhetoric intended for domestic political effect has a whole new meaning for other countries when backed up with nuclear weapons.
This brings up the following question:
Does anyone doubt for a moment that Israel will, absolutely, positively WILL preemptively destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, with nukes if necessary, to prevent another holocaust?
Since Iran has taken steps to see that an Israeli conventional air attack, such as that against Osirak, Iraq http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iraq/facility/osiraq.htm can't work, Israel must use nuclear ground bursts, producing highly radioactive short term fallout, against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities.
But it won't be just against those. The remorseless logic of nuclear conflict with an irrational opponent will force Israel to eliminate Iran as a strategic threat for the long term. That entails hitting more targets than just those currently known to be working on Iranian nuclear weapons.
A Democratic President would create this worst of all possible worlds, where pre-emptive nuclear attack is used as a tool of state policy. It is not a world we want to live in.
Iranian casualties (@10 - 20% will be dead) would range from several hundred thousand to several million, depending on the target set, weapons selection and local weather patterns. In short, welcome to the world of Wretchard's "Three Conjectures." The EMP from this attack (high altitude bursts to disrupt Iranian C3I) will affect American forces in the area, including in Iraq, and devastate Persian Gulf oil production.
It is therefore unlikely that the USA will let this happen by doing nothing. A friend I spoke to thinks that Iran will have domestic nuclear weapon production capability by spring 2006. I agree. He is also in print that nuclear weapons will be used in anger by 1 Jan 2006 unless we invade Iran first. The only way I can see to prevent this future from coming to pass is with the near term conquest of Iran.
Bush will do this in time, if reelected. Kerry won't. Even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recognizes the willingness of Bush foreign policy to destroy unacceptable status quos.
Given the certainty of Israel's nuclear preemptive attack on Iran, I don't see America waiting for an Iranian revolution. We will do it ourselves no later than my friend's fall/winter 2005 prediction. We both feel that the deal between Sharon and Bush on this has already been made. If a successful Iranian revolution makes the invasion unnecessary, fine, but we won't take the risk of delay.
Iran is at war with us whether or not we want to be at war with them. Nukes are on the table now, and they are not our nukes. We are on a count down to invasion to keep the nuclear genie from escaping.
Much more is at stake in November's presidential election than President Bush is willing to admit.