This Iranian nuke deal keeps getting better and better!

Via Politico.


No specifics, nothing written, perhaps not even anything that Iran and the international negotiating partners say as one—that’s the most to expect out of the nuclear talks now running up against the deadline in Switzerland, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Friday.

But even concluding this round of talks with that level of ambiguity, Hammond said, would count as a significant success. And he thinks they’ll get it.

H/T to Ace, who also has this terrific post about France even recognizing what a shit sandwich Obama is telling them to take a bite of.

In the comments yesterday, Bill asked a question:

I’m curious to hear XBRADTC, your reason for seeing Iran as any real threat to us.

Reasons for Iran BEING a regional power:
1. More people
2. More industrial capacity
3. A culture that goes MUCH further than “a bunch of nomadic shepherds in the Desert”
4. a Solid national Identity which WASN’T carved out of the carcass of the Ottoman Empire.

Reasons Against:
1. They say ugly things all the time to gin up domestic and regional support.
2. They are actively engaged in supplanting Shia’a Islam as the dominant creed in the region over Sunni Islam. (The Islam that DAESH and Al Quaeda support).
3. They REALLY don’t like the USA. (Big surprise, we REALLY don’t like them either).
4: They ACT like a regional power. (Kinda like the US did with Mexico).
5. (the big one) They have the capacity to build a nuclear weapon and there is not a damn thing we can do to stop that short of nuclear genocide or an invasion and occupation of a fiercely nationalist country with 77 million people who will ALL hate us.

If I were in charge of Iran, I WOULD WANT A NUKE TOO. Because it’s the ONE guarantor of territorial and national sovereignty that even the USA cannot afford to ignore. Saddam didn’t have one. And if he HAD, and had the means to deliver it to NYC, I doubt Operation Iraqi Freedom would have happened.

So what are your alternatives? Short of an invasion that would take every asset in our inventory to deal with and probably require a draft for manpower to deal with the rest of our obligations? I’m open to suggestions. I have no more love of the Mullahs than you do. But I’d like to hear a clear, specific and detailed counter-strategy to limited containment.

I think Iran should be a regional power, for the very reasons Bill listed. I would love to see a stable, productive Iran as a positive influence on stability in the region.  I’m not even terribly concerned with their status as a theocracy. We’ve managed to get along reasonably well with other theocratic states. Indeed, if the 1979 capture of our embassy and the hostage taking of our personnel were a one time incident, I’d be prepared to forgive, if not forget.

But Iran has a thirty plus year record of using terror against any and all who are not its vassals. They blew up a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Ares! They are also, of course, the force behind Hezbollah, which itself has a long history of violence against Americans and our interests.  And as Esli noted in his response to Bill’s question, there’s an awful lot of American blood on Iranian hands. For instance, as up-armored Humvees in Iraq were able to defeat simple IEDs, Iranian supplied Explosively Formed Penetrators were used to kill our troops.

As to Iranian desire to have nuclear weapons, I’m against proliferation just on general grounds. Regarding Iran specifically, the deterrent effect of an Iranian weapon would certainly allow them to be far more obnoxious on the international stage than they already  are. Worse still, it will lead to further proliferation. The only question becomes, who would be the next country to have nuclear arms, with Saudi Arabia the likely winner of that race. They would probably simply purchase them from Pakistan. If you proliferate enough, the probability of someone actually using nuclear weapons begins to approach 1. That is not to say that New York or Los Angeles would be the target, but one problem with nuclear wargaming has always been shown to be entanglement and escalation. Once one weapon has been used, it is a virtual certainty others will be, and who knows where that will end? While my first concern is always for the safety and well being of the United States and her people, I also would generally like to not see any major metropolitan area vanish in a brilliant flash of light. Not even our enemy’s.

As to what we can do, let’s start with what we shouldn’t have done. We shouldn’t have legitimized Iran’s nuclear program by negotiating with them, particularly since the “goals” of this program are farcical.

Aside from that, there is a wide array of options we could have, and can still undertake. First, we should have provided at least moral support during the Green Revolution of 2009. It would have been nice if the average Iranian could have heard (via VOA or other information sources) that the United States supported them and was not their enemy.

Other non-kinetic options include an array of economic sanctions. The sanction regime until recently in place was surprisingly effective.  Competent diplomacy could have made them even more effective, even to the point of being draconian.

Were we really interested in turning up the heat, we would have vastly increased our domestic oil production, enacted legislation allowing the export of oil, and then imposed an embargo, or even blockade, on Iranian oil exports.

We could also have undertaken covert actions to undermine the ayatollah’s regime through funding of internal dissidents.

Finally, we could undertake military action to deny Iran its nuclear program. Even short of an invasion and occupation, quite a bit could be done to thwart the Iranian’s progress. There is quite a bit of infrastructure that is quite vulnerable, even if major portions of their program is at hardened sites. Electrical generation and transmission, critical to centrifuge operation, is difficult to harden.  Targeting key personnel in the program is another option.

While I’ve listed options as a spectrum, a truly effective effort to deny Iran would fuse these elements together.

Instead, we’re bullying our allies into joining an agreement that isn’t even worth the paper it won’t be written down on!

On Tactics and Strategy

Many people have heard the terms tactics and strategy but don’t know exactly what the difference is. In fact, there’s even a level in between that most people haven’t heard of, the “operational art”.

Several folks have asked me to explain why some of the armies of the past have fought on the ground they did and why and how they moved. To understand, we need to understand the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of thinking. We’ll also have later posts that explore geography and terrain from the grunts point of view and from the generals point of view. defines strategy as it pertains to war in part as:

1. In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the utilization, during both peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory. Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.

That’s a pretty good definition, but what does it mean in the real world? In the Global War on Terror, our strategy has been to attempt to change the political landscape of the Middle East to introduce democracy, removing the impetus for oppressed people to resort to terrorism. We’ve seen tools such as war, diplomacy, trade, intelligence sharing and information operations used to advance this goal. That’s the strategic arena that the Army is working in.

When the decision was made to invade Iraq, that was executed at the operational level of the art of warfare. Decisions about how to defeat the enemy included plans to form a giant pincer movement with a force to the south of Iraq driving north through the Tigris Euphrates River valley, and forces in the north attacking out of Turkey to trap the Iraqi forces and prevent them from fleeing. That’s the operational level at work. In the end, Turkey denied US forces the ability to attack from the north, meaning the attack had to proceed on a single main axis. Military operations at the operational level are influence by factors such as local political climate (see Turkey above), logistics ( you have to be able to supply your forces), and local terrain (the desert is wide open, but there are relatively few routes that are actually passable to vehicles.

The movement of formations to fulfill the operational objective are tactical. As a rule of thumb, anything done by a Corps or below, is tactical. In fact, when you get to the smaller units such as companies, platoons and squads, they tend to fall under the heading of “tactics, techniques and procedures”, or for a “canned” response to a situation that pops up, a “battle drill”.

A prime example of a tactic is the Holding Attack. If you can do a holding attack, you’ve mastered about 90% of tactics. And a holding attack is pretty simple. One unit pins the enemy in place (this is called the “base of fire”) while another moves to attack the enemy in the flank.

In Desert Storm, we saw a massive Holding Attack. The Marines and most of the Arab allied units attacked from Saudi Arabia straight north into Kuwait, pinning the Iraqi Army in place (it’s hard to run when people are shooting at you). While they were pinned in place, the VII Corps of the Army swung wide out to the west in what GEN Schwarzkopf called “The Hail Mary”. In fact, it was just a huge flank attack.

Here’s the elegant thing- much like a Russian matrushka doll, inside this giant holding attack, each unit was making it’s own holding attack. If you look in the south, the Arab allies pinned the frontline Iraqi forces in place while the Marines made a shallow flanking movement to the west to hit the first set of reserves. This “attack inside an attack” can go all the way down to the squad level.

And it doesn’t just work in the attack. A good defense would work the same way, with one element slowing the enemy in a position while a second attack from the flank. The Battle of the Bulge saw this when Patton’s Third Army came north and attacked the souther German flank.

Now you know the basic levels of military theory, and have a firm grasp of tactics. Unfortunately, this is all easier said than done, or we’d all be generals. I’m working on giving a lesson or two on terrain soon, just as soon as I can find a map.