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March 30, 2007

OPERATION BITE: More Than We Can Chew?
Posted by Jeremy Broussard

A recent article on the Israeli-based DebkaFile reports that a third carrier group, the USS Nimitz, is steaming out of San Diego for the Persian Gulf next week to join the John C. Stennis and Eisenhower carrier groups already in the Gulf.  The possibility of a third carrier deployment was first reported in Newsweek over a month ago.  If the Eisenhower does not rotate back to the States--and many have speculated that it won't--this will represent the largest U.S. naval air presence in the Gulf since the 1991 Gulf War I. 

Many have speculated that the current captive/hostage standoff between Iran and the U.K. might be the spark that ignites a conflict between the U.S./U.K. and Iran.  While a limited air campaign might ostensibly be over freeing hostages (how this accomplishes that is anyone's guess), more than likely it would be used to 1) degrade Iran's uranium enrichment production; 2) destroy its ballistic missile sites; and 3) and destroy or disrupt Iran's command and control over its Qods Force and other paramilitaries operating in Iraq.  According to several media sources quoting a Russian military intelligence source, this air campaign is code-named Operation Bite and is scheduled to begin sometime around April 6 (Good Friday . . . **sigh**, what a way to bring in Easter Season).

This might not be the first U.S.-Iranian head-to-head confrontation, as this week's Time reports on a still-classified skirmish between U.S. and Iranian forces on the border with Iraq six months ago.

But, as we used to say in the Army, the enemy gets a vote too.  So how would Iran respond?  We've already seen crude oil prices spike in the past few days over the hostage standoff.  What if Iran intentionally limited the supply of crude, either through reducing production or taking military action in the Strait of Hormuz?  What if it responded by ballistic missile attack against Israel or Baghdad?  What if it just amped up the paramilitary support in Iraq, or launched terrorism and sabotage missions in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere? 

In other words, what is our desired goal in this proposed airstrike and does it outweigh the potential costs?


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How about also mentioning the fact that an airstrike of the sort that is being described, in the present context, would kill thousands of people, and would clearly be a barbarous act, illegal under any civilized standard governing the just use of force?

Some other items to chew on:

Iran has three Kilo class subs. They are currently refitted to carried the Club-S sub launched anti-shipping missiles. The missiles are a direct threat to U.S. aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea. Iran claims to fire world's fastest underwater torpedo--221 mph, but the threat is questionable.

Over the past several years, Iran has purchased Sunburn, C-801 and C-802 Silkworm antiship cruise missiles, fast attack missile boats and naval mine warfare capabilities.

The Sunburn anti-ship missile can deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear payload, or a 750-pound conventional warhead within a range of 100 miles, more than twice the range of the Exocet. The Sunburn combines a Mach 2.1 speed (two times the speed of sound) with a flight pattern that hugs the deck and includes "violent end maneuvers" to elude enemy defenses. The missile was specifically designed to defeat the US Aegis radar defense system.

The C-801 anti-ship cruise missile is a Chinese version of the popular French made EXOCET anti-ship cruise missile, the second generation of antiship missiles developed by China. The C-801 can be air-launched and is carried on missile speedboats, submarines, escort boats, and destroyers, and is used to attack destroyers or escort boats.

The C-802 “Silkworm” missile was used against the United States escort vessel U.S.S. Stark, causing the death of 37 sailors. It was recently used by Hezbollah in the Israeli-Lebanon war to cripple the Israeli missile boat Hanit in the Meditarranean Sea. The high-tech, anti-ship missile is tough to shoot down, partly because it flies only 20 feet above the water, making it hard to spot by radar.

Iran has sophisticated EM-53 bottom-tethered mines, which it purchased from China in the 1990s. The EM-53 presents a serious threat to major U.S. surface vessels, since its rocket-propelled charge is capable of hitting the hull of its target at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour.

Iran also has a new Russian-made TOR M-1 surface-to-air defense shield which has a 12 km range (could be increased to 20 km). It is capable of rapidly tracing down 48 targets and engaging with eight, including cruise missiles, simultaneously.

Bon appetit!

Fifth Fleet SOPs require 2 carriers on station. The Ike is due to be relieved. Ominous timing or more opportunistic material?

"airstrike of the sort that is being described, in the present context, would kill thousands of people, and would clearly be a barbarous act, illegal under any civilized standard governing the just use of force"

Nope, cos according to this site, the US has 'ideals' that are adored by citizens of other countries.

So if the US decides to slaughter civilians in pursuit of those 'ideals' then it doesn't really matter.Ditto if the US sets up secret torture camps around the world. Or invades countries on fake intelligence. Or its military rapes people , or takes hostages or beats prisoners to death.

Cos the US has 'ideals'.........

Not like those dirty foreigners


Cos we're special, don't you know. Ever since the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, Americans have been the chosen ones. It's in the Bible somewhere. It gave our ancestors license to eradicate those pesky native Americans, and it continues on, only now it has fancy names like "peacekeeping" and "exemplarism" and "city on the hill" and "global war on terror". And they can't understand that it's wrong.

To quote Dan Kervick: "They are always willing to accept that all manner of mistakes have been made, but they refuse to examine the violent, greedy and systematic ugliness beneath it all. Their "exceptionalist" self-image, and impossibly rosy and fanciful view of American history and motives, render them incapable of formulating a realistic critique of US society and foreign policy. And since they don't understand the world, they cannot devise a compelling strategy for changing it."

Without intending it, Dan was describing Matt and his whole mangy melange of mediocre manipulators.

The capability of Iranian Kilo's and/or sub and air launched anti ship missiles does not reside in the listed range from Jane's or some other source. Certainly Iran has some specific military capabilities that we need to be concerned about- most especially the threat of modern naval mines. However, the context of any potential conflict will be a very strong indication of what Iran could do.

If the US were to engage in an air campaign against Iran one might well assume things little things like the Iranian Navy will be destroyed in an hour or two just like they were destroyed in the Tanker War in 1989.

The morality, legality, and political need for any strike is of course a matter of debate. To state any such strike would be a mistake on a variety of levels would not be a difficult argument- even if one were to hold an alternate position. To argue against military action based on a conventional military response by Iran is an impossible position given the military realities. That said it is the less conventional military threats that potentially are Iran's main military cards of which we should be very concerned.

Iran's Kilo's and the rest of it's naval forces, including shore based anti ship missile batteries, are much more in the category of target than threat. A small warehouse of naval mines one can emplace from what appears to be a fishing boat is however something to be more concerned about.

To raise the possibility of a US strike on Iran is perfectly valid but to speculate based on a the movement of one or more carrier groups is problematic. How many heavy bombers are on Diego Garcia and what if any gulf states have given permission to operate from them will be more indicative. If you hear a sqdn of F-22's is heading to the mideast that will tell you the US might be preparing- as would a hundred other indications as well.

Finally Iran imports gasoline. They lack refinery capacity. Were Iran to be attacked they probably would make some effort to cripple all oil exports from the Gulf seriously disrupting supply and spiking prices. However, and perhaps paradoxically, they could potentially be the most damaged by this form of economic warfare. Very little gets the blood up in third world oil exporting nations than raising the highly subsidized gasoline price. Losing all your gasoline imports and perhaps your limited refinery capacity as well is probably the greatest threat to the survival of the regime. Economic warfare need not be one sided.

If the iranians were to damage one of our carriers -- if a missile did get through -- that would be the beginning of the end for them. Every nation would beef up its anti-ship missile forces, because once there's proof that our carriers can be hit then everybody will want to be ready to hit them.

The morality, legality, and political need for any strike is of course a matter of debate.

This is kind of like saying the morality, legality, and political need for government graft is a matter for debate. Or like saying the great accomplishments of the Bush administration are a matter for debate. Sheesh.

I have a practical concern -- if we "win", what do we get from it? Will the rest of the world be so afraid of us that they agree to do what we want? Or will they be so upset about starving iranians with no gasoline etc that they decide to do something about us?

I'm concerned about that last possibility. The rest of the world couldn't enforce an embargo against us -- we control the oceans. If they tried to enforce an oil embargo against us we could just confiscate the oil tankers sent elsewhere -- nobody else has a navy that could stop us. But if they did declare an embargo it would hurt our prestige considerably. And if they, say, declared all our loans and investments and patents in other countries void and unpayable, it would be kind of disruptive.

The problem isn't iran, the problem is we don't need any *more* enemies just now.

In other words, what is our desired goal in this proposed airstrike and does it outweigh the potential costs?

The obvious goal is to give the US public something to pay attention to other than Bush administration scandals.

Cost? Why would it cost anything? There's nothing like a shooting war to rally the base. That's worth more than any possible cost in mobilising the opposition.

Where is the outrage at Iran for torturing and pressuring the hostages. Is it nit illegal to parade them on television! You are all just abunch of appeasers and cowards like the little wimp Jimmy Carter!! Its always Americas fault. Just abunch of america hating cowards. And no I am not even American but it is easy to see what kind of people you are. So you will negotiate with the terrorists, probably give away several billion dollars in a deal in exchange for Irans good behaviour. Its no wonder countries like Iran behave the way the do!! I probably would to knowing that the other side has no balls!!

BLAH BLAH BLAH. (most of you) if the Iranians have nukes, life as we know it is finished.

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