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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tehran's Plans in case of hostile strikes

The Iranian Navy prepares its attacks using suicide boats against the American fleet.

"Tehran's Plans in case of hostile strikes"
Le Figaro, 16 September 2008
By: Georges Malbrunot

A "pack attack, like wolves" against American ships: this is the clear military tactic clarified by the Iranian Navy in the waters of the Persian Gulf, in response to an American strike on Teheran's nuclear installations. Piloted by the fanatic "Guardians of the Revolution," about 20 of these small boats regularly patrol and give the impression they will sink Western warships crossing in international waters. These suicide strikes "leave no possibility of escape from the enemy" says Ali Shirazi, representative of the supreme rulers of this ideological military force, which threatens to strike Tel Aviv and the American fleet in the Gulf, in case of an attack on Iran.

"With their patrol boats and their fast boats armed with rocket launchers, the Iranians could cause serious damage to Western ships," admits a senior official in the Ministry of Defense in Paris, who tracks Iranian movements in the Gulf.20

Other than three Soviet-era Kilo submarines and a dozen or so mini-submarines, which can deliver teams of special forces troops, Teheran has, in total, about 1,000 small armed boats, including several hundred high-speed fast boats, ready for kamikaze missions. "Their furtive approach and the determination of their teams, leaves them particularly dangerous" estimates Hubert Britsch, former French military attaché in Teheran.

The Gulf Arab countries, helpless, on the other side of the Gulf fear an aerial-maritime guerrilla action. At the end of August, naval units of the various monarchies reported a "hardening" of activity of the Iranian special forces in international waters. Is Teheran bluffing or not? Each time, as was the case last January, the time of the last known incident, everybody fears a false step could lead to hostilities.

Contradictory Signals

Without giving the impression of preparing to launch, which Teheran states it does not intend to do, the Iranians continue just the same to proceed to a new test of the Raad, an anti-warship missile with a range of 180 miles. They would have also focused on a new medium submarine, the Ghaem, capable of launching torpedoes. Even if Teheran is a master at subterfuge or exaggeration of its military power in the Gulf, its "nuisance capacity" should be no less under estimated in the naval realm than its operational coordination between the Revolutionary forces and the l'Artesh , the regular army. The first can threaten aerial surveillance aircraft (notably the American Orion) capable of spotting hostile silent submarines -- a concern among the Western military staffs.

Will the Iranians go so far as to mine the Straits of Hormuz, and close that narrow passageway, which lets them export petrol, so precious to their economy? During the past few months, Teheran had given contradictory signals on this subject.

One thing appears certain: no military installation or American policy in the Golf is sheltered from the effects of retaliatory Iranian strikes. But in the sea, as in the air, the Iranians will have to take control of "space." At a certain time, their missile strikes would have to be sufficiently numerous to pass through an aerial defense, and finally strike their targets. This has already been defined. From the American base at al-Udeid au Qatar, to the Saudi petroleum facilities, there is no lack of targets. And Iran has already sent a message to the Arab states, asking them not to authorize the Americans to use their territory to attack the Islamic Republic.

Across from the United Arab Emirates, the Iranians have installed ground-to-ground CR8 Silwan missiles on the islands of Tomb and Abou Moussa, which are claimed by Abu Dhabi. In all, Teheran would have at its disposal about 1,000 ballistic and tactical missiles, which can be fired from mobile launchers located anywhere in Iran. Even if their guidance systems l eave something to be desired, "stationing them in dispersed locations camouflaged as civilian trailers," would always remain an option. Hubert Britch adds that chemical warheads are also an option.

With a range of between 95 and 275 miles, their 450 ground-to-ground missiles (CSS-8, Shahab 1 and 2) could strike all American bases in the Gulf. But the most dangerous are the roughly 20 Shahab 3 missiles capable of striking Israel because of their range of 600 to 800 miles. Recent missile firing exercises during military maneuvers, give a "clear signal" of Teheran's determination. But one of the missiles was obviously "tampered" with. Is that about a modified Shahab 3, or of a longer range missile, the result of a credible technological program, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead? The mystery continues.

If Teheran is able to react directly to an attack, it is certainly not through this type of action, with its disastrous consequences, that Iran would react, according to a majority of the experts. Given its cells in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, in the Gulf, even in Africa, the Islamic Republic will rather choose the unconventional.

Alliances of Convenience

In its neighbor Iraq, the Guardians of the Revolution would increase their pressure on the Shiite militias that it has supported since 2003 (the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Badr Army). The 140,000 American soldiers would be special targets. In case of an attack on its territory, Teheran would no longer have any reason to restrain its nuisance capacity, as it does currently in Iraq.

In Afghanistan, Iran would not hesitate at all to tie up an alliance of convenience with its Taliban Sunni enemies. Arms and explosive devices have already been delivered to the Taliban there. In its Afghan dossier, Iran estimates that it has been well compensated for its "positive neutrality" adopted after the attacks of September 11, 2001: George Bush cited, just afterwards, the mullah's regime as an axis of evil.

Following the same pragmatic approach, temporary support to Al Queda cannot be excluded. Teheran is strong believed to be protecting certain parts of that terrorist organization. Despite the hatred that they express towards each other, Al Queda has never hit Iran. Is there truly a risk here?

In Lebanon, Iran's ally, Hezbollah, seems actually to be authorized to deploy its most sophisticated arms against Israel. Experts estimate that in effect the rearmament of the Shiite militia, since the war of the summer of 2006 against Israel, had been under the condition that Hezbolla would not use these arms except against Israel. It appears to be the same in Palestine with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, who have succeeded in increasing the range of their missiles these past few years.

Finally, among the monarchies of the Gulf, Iran would be able to support the Shiite minority, often victims of discrimina tion on the part of the Sunni regimes in place. Be it Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Bahrein, where the Shiites who are in the majority begin to demonstrate violently. Certain members of the clergy would be able to mobilize them into large demonstrations. In the past, Shiites in those states committed assassinations inspired by Teheran, notable in 1996, against the petroleum site of a'al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia.

Given these conditions, one can better understand why Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of a "catastrophe," as he did last week in Damascus, of the consequences of an Israeli strike against Iran.

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