More on Potential Iranian Reax To Military Strike

Via Mondoweiss, Juan Cole’s excellent Informed Comment site is currently carrying an analysis by Middle East and terror expert Mahan Abedin that explores Iran’s likely options and fallout should the United States use bombers to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Eli addressed this scenario last week using Patrick Disney’s analysis, and this latest attempt at gazing into the crystal ball is no less sobering.

Abedin writes:

A top priority for the IRGC high command is to respond so harshly and decisively so as to deter the Americans from a second set of strikes at a future point. The idea here is to avoid what happened to Iraq in the period , when the former Baathist regime was so weakened by sanctions and repeated small-scale military attacks that it quickly collapsed in the face of American and British invading armies.

The range of predictable responses available to the IRGC high command include dramatic hit ad run attacks against military and commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the use of mid-range ballistic missiles against American bases in the region and Israel and a direct assault on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these options are likely to be used within 48 hours of the start of hostilities.

What is less predictable is the response of the IRGC Qods Force, which is likely to be at the forefront of the Pasdaran’s counter-attack. One possible response by the Qods force is spectacular terrorist-style attacks against American intelligence bases and assets throughout the region. The IRGC Qods Force is believed to have identified every key component of the American intelligence apparatus in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are likely to put this information to good use, especially since the Qods Force suspects that the CIA had a hand in last October’s Jundullah-organised suicide bombing targeting IRGC commanders in Iran’s volatile Sistan va Baluchistan province.

The IRGC navy will also play a key asymmetrical role in the conflict by organising maritime suicide bombings on an industrial scale. By manning its fleet of speedboats with suicide bombers and ramming them into American warships and even neutral commercial shipping, the Pasdaran will hope to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 40 percent of world crude oil supplies pass.

The combination of these asymmetrical forms of warfare with more conventional style missile and even ground force attacks on American bases in the region will likely result in thousands of American military casualties in the space of a few weeks. The IRGC has both the will and wherewithal to inflict a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.

Even if the United States manages to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and much of the country’s military assets, the IRGC can still claim victory by claiming to have given the Americans a bloody nose and producing an outcome not dissimilar from the Israeli-Hezbollah military engagement in the summer of 2006.

The political effect of this will likely be even more explosive than the actual fighting. Not only will it awaken the sleeping giant of Iranian nationalism, thus aligning the broad mass of the people with the regime, it will also shore up Iran’s image in the region and prove once and for all that the Islamic Republic is prepared to fight to the death to uphold its principles. Suddenly Iran’s allies in the region – particularly non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas – would stand ten feet tall.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. That U.S./Israel would finally get its “comeupance” seems a little optimistic to me, but I suppose there is always hope.

  2. Iran is likely in such an aggressive strike to demonstrate that the U.S.-Israeli missile defense is another Maginot Line. In any case, Iran is not going to allow any attack to go unanswered. It will be the beginning of the American and Israeli recognition that they cannot intimidate the nations of the world.

  3. Again, I think the most telling commentary on this is the US military’s own drills on this. We couldn’t defeat the “red” team without limiting them to Napoleonic warfare. I wish someone would find that retired general. I wish someone would dig up that story. Either you or Glenn Greenwald does it, or it won’t happen. Sadly, neither you nor Greenwald matter. Your message isn’t “ready” for prime time (propaganda)

  4. As an Iranian that has lived in Iran for the past ten years and 30 years prior to that in the United States what is very clear to me is that if there is a military confrontation 70,000,000 million Iranians will become sworn enemies of America and at least two million of them will volunteer for suicide missions. Does the American empire really want to create such a situation?

    Even if Iran is flattened Iranians will fight on for not years but for decades.

    As for Israel; they simply need to stop being so scared and paranoid and face the reality that those that are constantly barking nonsense are a very small minority and 95% of Iranians don’t care less for Hezbollah and Hamas and consider the whole thing a problem between Arabs and Jews.

    War is not option. The only option is peace. Let’s work for that, which may be harder to do but the results would benefit our grandchildren.

  5. Scott has it right. The US spent 250 million dollars in 2002 war gaming an attack on Iran. ‘That general’ and his red team destroyed the American fleet in 48 hours. Most of it in 24 hours. Destroyed. Time out was called, the ships ‘refloated’, thousands of dead sailors resurrected, and the red team limited to such and extent that the general in charge of it withdrew from the games. A scandal really.

    One assumes something was learned from this. But when Hezbollah can with two anti-ship missiles disable an Israeli frigate, narrowly miss another but sink a passing merchant ship behind it on cue during a speech by Nasrallah one wonders. Hezbollah?

    In all the commentary on Iran and war and its consequences the only reference I have seen to the Millenium Challenge war games was Scott’s. He is absolutely right. Someone needs to find Van Ripper and cover – extensively cover – what happened in 2002, and how that should inform our thinking now.

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