Russian troop deployments in the south

On the move.

There are differing opinions about the exact nature of the reported deployment of Russian troops to Syria.  Some of the reporting appears to be circular, and Business Insider has picked apart the original language of a RIA Novosti report in Russian to conclude that the “Russian troops” amount to no more than an anti-terrorism security detachment for the Russian fleet tanker RFS Iman (a Black Sea-based ship deployed for support to Russia’s Horn of Africa antipiracy task force).

It’s hard to say: Iman by herself couldn’t transport very many troops into Syria (a detachment of infantry, maybe, if they were really miserable, sleeping on deck and in passageways, during the few days’ transit), but Iman is an unlikely platform for transporting Russian troops anyway.  If Russia puts a substantial number of troops in Syria, it’s likely to be done via airlift.

And that said, I don’t necessarily expect Russia to put big troop formations in Syria.  Russia doesn’t want to fight the Syrian civil war directly.  Arming Assad and letting his troops do the work is preferable.  In the past week, Assad’s army has ejected the rebel forces from Idlib in the north, and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour; Moscow probably is not alarmed that the Syrian army can’t handle the job.

Protecting Russian installations in Tartus, the Russian-operated port, is a priority – and so is reinforcing the impression that Russia is ready to defend Syria against a Western coalition.  Seen in that light, the most likely purposes of newly-arriving Russian military detachments, other than protecting Tartus, are intelligence and air defense.  And except for man-portable systems, much of their equipment would have to be transported separately anyway.

More troop movements in the Caucasus

But there is another report that the Russians have moved a huge number of troops in the last week.  According to media in the Caucasus, they moved between 20,000 and 25,000 troops from Chechnya to Dagestan (both autonomous republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States), reportedly for “anti-terrorism” operations.  (This movement comes in the wake of special forces deployments to the central Caucasus reported in January.)

The Caucasus; Wkimedia commons map (see Note)

That’s one heck of a lot of troops for anti-terrorism operations.  There is no question that Dagestan has seen a spate of assassinations and bombings in the last few months, but 20-25,000 troops represent nearly half of the total Russian forces stationed in Chechnya.  (Recent comments on the troop footprint in Chechnya put it at about 60,000; see the Jamestown Foundation article from this past week on the Dagestan deployment.)  The 20-25,000 is a very large number, particularly for anti-terrorism as opposed to conventional operations.

Even if the actual number is not that big, eyewitness reports suggest a very large movement of troops and equipment.  The “Rosbalt” website – used often by analysts at the Jamestown Foundation – cites statements from eyewitnesses in Dagestan that the military formation on the move was over 10 kilometers long and comprised 150-200 “units,” presumably troop transport vehicles.  (Commercial satellite imagery of the Russian base at Khankala suggests that this number of vehicles represents most of those present on the parking aprons.)    According to the Dagestani reporting, Russian forces rolled into campgrounds in the Karabudahkent District south of the capital of Makachkala, which sits on the Caspian coast.  Statements from locals also suggest that the Russian troops will be quartered in school buildings.  Reports like this confirm that this is not a small-footprint deployment.

A look at geography yields some interesting revelations about the deployment.  There are two significant perspectives.  One is general:  Dagestan lies on the west coast of the Caspian Sea; on Georgia’s eastern border; and on Azerbaijan’s northern border.


Geographic factors in Dagestan

The other is specific:  most of the terrorist incidents in Dagestan over the past several months have occurred between Makhachkala and Chechnya, or across the central “waist” of Dagestan.  As seen on the district map, however, the Russian troops have not deployed to that area, but past it, to a southeast position in the coastal district of Karabudahkent, and in the district immediately south of it, Sergokala.

The forests of Karabudahkent have been a perennial hiding place for Islamist terrorists, and some Dagestani hunters were found assassinated there in March.  A homicide bomber also attacked a post office in Karabudahkent on 6 March.  But these are the most recent in a long list of incidents, most of which have occurred to the northwest of the deployment area.  The size of the Russian deployment, and its geographic objective, appear to be tailored for more than this one, most recent security problem. 

Russia is concerned, for example, about all three of the general geographic factors.  Moving the troops from Chechnya to the coast puts them in a different position in relation to Georgia, and it’s not clear that the new position is less favorable than being in garrison in Khankala.  (In fact, it gives the Russians a second vector into Georgia with a large formation – an option they had maintained for a long time until late in 2011; see below.)  Russian troops are closer to Georgia in Chechnya, but some passages may be easier from Dagestan.  Vladimir Putin, in particular, has been assiduous about improving the road approaches to Georgia in Dagestan.

In 2008, at the end of his last term, Putin inaugurated road construction from Botlikh, Dagestan (see map), where Russia maintained a mountain infantry brigade, to the Georgian border (this in spite of the fact that Putin had ordered the border crossings between Dagestan and Georgia closed in 2006).  The Russians removed the infantry brigade from Botlikh in 2011. Besides the new troop deployment to Dagestan, however, 2012 has also seen a new allocation of funds for road construction.  There are already roads in Dagestan to the Georgian border; Putin-ordered maintenance on the Dagestani side, coupled with a massive troop deployment, cannot give Georgia a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Russian analysts suggest that concerns about Azerbaijan may be prompting the deployment as well.  Both Georgia and Azerbaijan represent roadblocks to Russian freedom of action on the southern flank – the paths to Syria and Iran – and both lie between Russia and Armenia, where Moscow maintains a military base with 5,000 troops, a tank unit, and a squadron of MiG-29s.  The military path through Azerbaijan is well laid and ready, with a major highway, Route 29, running from Dagestan into Azerbaijan near the coast.

The Russians also have a military radar facility in Azerbaijan, and the lease is about to expire.  Russian media claim that Baku is demanding $300 million annually to renew the lease, far in excess of the current amount (which is variously reflected as $7 million and $22 million).   Azerbaijani media seem to have offered no specific counter-claims, and may simply not know what negotiating figure is correct.

At any rate, the US has a military cooperation agreement with Azerbaijan, as does Israel.  The last two scheduled joint exercises involving the US and Azerbaijan have been cancelled by Baku, largely due to unease about Russia’s reaction, but the US has provided minor military hardware to Azerbaijan, and a few days ago Azerbaijan and NATO concluded an agreement to demine a large, Soviet-era military training facility, an activity that will bring NATO personnel into the country.

I don’t think any of Azerbaijan, Georgia, or the Caspian Sea – the most obvious geographic feature toward which the troops have been moved – is by itself the chief concern in Moscow.  Rather, the potential convergence of events in Central Asia has prompted the Russians to reevaluate their preparedness and the position of a major troop formation.

Shifting factors, shifting posture in Central Asia

Iran is the not the only factor in this thinking, but she may be at the top of the list.   A Monday editorial in The Moscow Times summarizes nicely the Russian perspective that Israel and the US are colluding to establish positions in the Caucasus and Central Asia from which to attack Iran.  The editorialist says this:

Stratfor wrote in a recent report: “It is difficult to believe that the United States and Israel are not coordinating their activities in the Caucasus. … It can be assumed that the United States has approved the initiatives.” …

Directly or indirectly, Russia and the United States have been bumping up against each other in the Caucasus region where Russia is resurgent.

The most recent “bump” would undoubtedly be exercise Agile Spirit, conducted in March by a detachment of 350 US Marines and the Georgian armed forces.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the exercise “provocative.”  Russia and Iran are also annoyed that the NATO missile defense radar in Turkey has become operational (Iran has been especially assiduous in recording objections to the radar site; e.g., here and here).

Moreover, an interesting emphasis in US military aid to the nations surrounding the Caspian Sea has caught Russian attention.  In the 875-page State Department document heralding the proposal, few American readers were likely to run across the naval assistance to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.  But regional analysts were paying attention, and highlighting the “concerted [US] effort to build naval capacity in the Caspian.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear American reactions along the lines of, “What are we doing that for?”  I suspect one of the reasons is simply that naval assistance is one of the main things the Caspian nations are requesting.  Another is the interest of our European NATO allies in bringing to fruition a trans-Caspian pipeline opposed by Russia and Iran.  With no declaration of strategic interest or specific US policy to frame these actions, however, they can look like sneaking US hardware into Russia’s back yard.  Why would we take this particular approach to Caspian Sea security?

There is an aspect to this of US interests being effectively declared for us by the priorities of our regional partners.  We care very much about the stability of Asia, the security of our Asian and European allies, the resistance of Asia to Islamist terrorism, and about the openness there to political liberalization, trade, and communication – but none of these interests requires building up navies in the Caspian Sea.

In any case, Russia is definitely concerned: the Russian armed forces have deployed their newest coastal missile system to the Caspian Sea, among other upgrades (see here, here, here, and here).  I wrote in January about a military exercise conducted by the Russian Federation’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Caspian Sea in 2011, in which the “threat” was a Western consortium.

The 2012 CSTO exercise will be conducted for the first time in Armenia (in September).  The all-purpose “anti-terrorism” pretext is cited for holding the exercise there, but it is more likely that Russia’s concern is simply to have the troops there.  Visible demonstration of the troops’ activities will be another purpose, but declaring the exercise will justify deployments that could start whenever Moscow deems it necessary – and that, I think, is the principal consideration.

What will Russia do?

It’s a good question.  In both Syria and the Caucasus/Central Asia, I assess that Moscow’s immediate purpose is to consolidate territory and deter Western initiative (“Western” including Israel v. Iran).  I don’t think the Russians want to fight, and it’s not clear whether or how they would fight if it came to that.  I believe the position they envision falling back to, if Western nations launch attacks on either Syria or Iran, entails remaining able to supply their clients so that Syrians or Iranians could keep the fight going.  Moscow must also be concerned about stabilizing the Caucasus in the event of an attack on Iran, which is likely to serve as a goad to Islamist terrorism in the region.

(In the case of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, Russian air forces deployed to the Caucasus could conceivably attempt to warn off Israeli strike aircraft operating in northern Iran.)

Meanwhile, affecting Western calculations with the threat of military power increases Putin’s stature for leading a “peacekeeping” coalition – that is, an effort to avert or transition from outright conflict to negotiations of some kind, with an international protection force effectively under Russia’s aegis.  Seizing the reins of the foreign intervention in Libya was beyond Russia’s power last year, but with respect to the Syria problem, Russia has not only put together a joint posture with the Arab League but has backed Kofi Annan’s “UN” solution, and continues to block and shape Western multinational proposals.

Under these conditions, NATO reliance on Russia for logistic support to Afghanistan is an increasing vulnerability.  Russia naturally wants to retain her bargaining chip in this regard, but we need only look a few months back to find the last Russian threat to close down the “Northern Distribution Network,” as the logistic pipeline through Russia is called.  And with Russian troops redeployed pointedly around the Caucasus, independent NATO partners like Azerbaijan and Georgia will be less inclined to anger Moscow by offering us an alternative.

None of these problems is insurmountable, but they can only be addressed to our advantage from the perspective of a clear focus on US interests and a vigorously prosecuted strategy.  “Leading from behind” – merely lending our support to the plans of others, as in Libya – will serve to increase our troubles.

Note on maps:  Both maps are from the presentation “Land, Votes, and Violence: Political Effects on the Insecurity of Property Rights over Land in Dagestan,” by Yegor Lazarov.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

21 thoughts on “Russian troop deployments in the south”

  1. “I don’t think the Russians want to fight, and it’s not clear whether or how they would fight if it came to that. I believe the position they envision falling back to, if Western nations launch attacks on either Syria or Iran, entails remaining able to supply their clients so that Syrians or Iranians could keep the fight going.”

    Exactly. From the viewpoint of Russia’s larger strategic and geographic concerns, they’re in a geographic box from which they can’t escape. In order to challenge US naval influence, nothing substitutes for access to the Mediterranean and that, they cannot achieve without precipitating global conflict.

    The closest they ever came was when Tito held sway over the old Yugoslavia and Tito was smart enough to realize that his power would disappear the moment Russia gained access to the med through what is now Slovakia. No matter where you look on the map, there are far too many obstacles to Russia gaining access today.

    Blocked from access to the Med and thus prevented from developing a strong enough navy to conventionally challenge the US, all Russia can do is engage in covert aggression.

    Thus the build up and strengthening of rogue nations, facilitating nuclear proliferation among hostile rogue nations, with the end goal of nuclear confrontation between the West and those radical Islamic nations.

    That assessment of Russia’s end goal is predicated upon what Russia is actually doing and the undeniable premise that Russia’s active facilitation of nuclear proliferation and protection of rogue nations in the UN has to have a purpose. And, while protection of rogue nations is alone of worth in keeping US resources preoccupied with the Islamist threat, in order to make the risk worthwhile, facilitating nuclear proliferation must serve a larger purpose.

    That purpose is revealed by considering the inevitable consequence of Radical Islamic nations becoming armed with nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them (missiles and terrorist organizations), as those rogue nations will, sooner or later, attack the West with WMD’s.

    FBI: 100 Percent Chance of WMD Attack

    M.A.D. being of little deterrence to religious fanatics who view destruction of the ‘Great Satan’ as a necessary step in achieving wold-wide Islamic domination.

    “Islam is a revolutionary ideology and program which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the Earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam, regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it.” —Sayyed Abul Ala Maududi, founder of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, April, 1939

    Standing on the sidelines, Russia and China have a realistic probability of emerging unscathed. But in a nuclear confrontation, regardless of how decisively the US defeats radical Islam, the economic fallout will be devastating for the US and, China then ‘regretfully’ calling its ‘note’ due will collapse the US economic system.

    Allowing Russia and China to emerge as the unquestioned superpowers, with America psychologically reduced by nuclear war to a fearful, xenophobic society.

    “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  2. Russia has no need to send troops to Syria…….. Syria military/security has all the bodies it needs to face the VERY lightly-armed opposition.

    and Russia has little to gain by going overt. the veto cost them enough.

  3. —–(In the case of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, Russian air forces deployed to the Caucasus could conceivably attempt to warn off Israeli strike aircraft operating in northern Iran.)——-

    do you REALLY think that anything even near to likely?

    1. J.E. may have a somewhat different take but in the case of a (conventional) Israeli attack on Iran, Russia will do nothing but protest and then join any UN sanctions against Israel. Russia is not about to start a war with a nuclear armed Israel and, if Israel launches an attack, Russia will rightly judge that nothing less than open conflict would stop the Israeli attack.

      But as an Israeli nuclear preemptive attack is a political non-starter and Israel lacks the capability of stopping Iran with conventional weapons…while Obama has made known his absolute opposition to preemptive U.S. or Israeli military action, Israel is reduced to near impotence.

      Netanyahu is praying (as so should we all) that the Iranians will be unable to cross the nuclear threshold before the US Nov. elections. And that Obama will lose the election with Romney then committing to a preemptive conventional attack by US forces.

      Otherwise, Iran will get the bomb and nuclear proliferation will spiral out of control. Within 5 years the radical’s will control the ME and we will face a nuclear armed, radical Caliphate.

      1. no Geoffrey we will not face a radical, nuclear-armed caliphate in 5 years……things do not move at such pace.

        I hope like hell that Iran will be beaten down by sanctioning as I hate the prospect of that vile regime armed with nuclear weaponry, but would remind you that we’ve faced and contained and overcome a vastly stronger opponent in the form of the Soviets….

        Iran is a weak nation bidding for expansion, but I think their moment has already passed.

        1. And I hope like hell you’re right fuster. Nothing would please me more than to be proven wrong on this issue. Unfortunately, the facts, trends and geo-political dynamics don’t offer much support for that hope.

          5 years is a short time, so perhaps I should have said that we will be facing the emergence of a radical, nuclear armed Caliphate.

          Here are the observations and premises that lead me to the conclusions I’ve reached;

          Sanctions have and will continue to prove ineffective at stopping the Iranian drive toward nuclear weapons capability.

          As Obama will not resort to military confrontation and
          Israel lacks acceptable means to stop the Iranians, all that remains is continuing to do what hasn’t yet worked but hoping for different results.

          Once Iran gets the bomb, several direct and unavoidable consequences result; greatly increased prestige for Iran within the Muslim world and greatly increased nuclear proliferation throughout the region.

          It is reasonable to expect that Turkey and Saudi Arabia will quickly procure nuclear weapons. Turkey is becoming radically Islamic before our very eyes. The Saudi’s are far more vulnerable to a coup than most realize and, as the region continues to radicalize and gains the nuclear capacity to destroy Israel and challenge the US, radicals in Saudi Arabia who wish to overthrow the current Saudi regime will gain momentum in bringing others to their cause.

          If Syria stabilizes under Assad, an increasingly greater probability, Iran will, at some point, arm Syria with nukes.

          The Taliban are certain to regain control of Afghanistan and sympathetic elements to the Taliban in Pakistan are just waiting for the right moment to seize control in Pakistan. When they do, another nuclear armed radical Islamic foe will emerge.

          It’s just a matter of time before Iran and Iraq are aligned as allies. The prerequisites of population and shariah government are already in place in Iraq.

          Besides paranoiac self-defense, Iran wants the bomb so as to accomplish two objectives; give it the means to eventually destroy the ‘Great’ and ‘little’ Satan’s and increase its prestige within the Ummah to strengthen its bid to restore the Caliphate, a stated goal of the regime.

          The Sunni-Shia split is an obstacle to restoration of the Caliphate, not an insurmountable barrier. History proves that a Sunni/Shia Caliphate can in fact exist and the old Bedouin saying applies; “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers”

          In the still essentially tribal Middle East, the view that, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is never forgotten.

          That view is certainly shared by the Muslim Brotherhood which shall not be satisfied with just Egypt within its control.

          I believe only wishful thinking can support denial of the view that the radicals within the ME appear to be gaining the momentum needed to sweep the region into their embrace.

          All of these factors lead me to the prediction that we shall in 5-10 years face a radical, nuclear armed Caliphate that stretches from Egypt to Pakistan.

          IMHO, when the principle expressed in Occam’s Razor, that; “the hypotheses which makes the fewest assumptions and thereby offers the simplest explanation is most often correct” is considered, no other explanation of the facts, trends and geo-political dynamics in the ME withstands comparison to the one I offer. I deeply wish it were otherwise but simple denial won’t stop the coming train wreck.

          1. just for information purposes, Geoffrey, did you ever think that the US could stop, contain and watch crumble the Soviet Union?

            Did you ever believe that they and their allies and agents were not going to overwhelm us?


            There is indeed some truth that the end of the authoritarian regimes throughout the Middle east will cause us some pain and discomfort…….but they are disjointed and weak, all in all…….

            Quite possible Geoffrey that you and I will expire of natural causes without ever having been enslaved.

            1. I certainly aspire to expire from natural causes 😉

              As for them being disjointed and weak, that’s what many said just before 19 fanatics got on board airplanes with box cutters.

              Put some nukes on board some container ships, as few as three, and remote detonate them in major US ports and you fatally wound the US economy.

              I never doubted, not for one moment, that we would prevail over the Soviets.

              More than a few predicted that the Soviets couldn’t maintain the arms race without collapsing from the effort and, did so before the collapse. The real surprise was that it happened so quickly after perestroika was instituted.

        2. [I] “would remind you that we’ve faced and contained and overcome a vastly stronger opponent in the form of the Soviets….”

          “M.A.D. being of little deterrence to religious fanatics who view destruction of the ‘Great Satan’ as a necessary step in achieving wold-wide Islamic domination.”

          “A fanatic is someone who can’t change their mind and who won’t allow one to change the subject…” W. Churchill

          I don’t believe that Iran shall launch missiles at the US in a suicidal attempt to achieve the emergence of the 12th Imam.

          I do think that Iran will use its nukes as protection in closing the Strait of Hormuz, then reopening it under strict regulation that starts to economically strangle the West with greatly increased oil prices.

          I do think it will use its nukes to threaten Europe and other Middle Eastern countries to blackmail them into acquiescence with Iran’s policies and goals. Iran will use its nukes to cement perception of Iran as the ‘strong horse’ in the region, so greatly admired within the tribal cultures of the M.E. Then using its new prestige as the strong horse to encourage Muslim countries to join the new Iranian led alliance into the formation of a new Caliphate.

          I do think Iran will,at some point provide nukes to terrorist groups to attack Israel and the U.S. Though if they’re patient (at best, an uncertain trait) they’ll wait until that nuclear armed Caliphate emerges, so as to have greater deterrence against retaliation.

          1. how and when will Iran be able to close the Straits and keep them closed against the opposition of the entire world, GB?

            How would that possibly worK?

            1. First, the Iranians would be stupid to try to permanently close down shipping through the Strait, that might well start a war and, religious fanatics aren’t necessarily stupid in the pursuit of their goals. A much more effective strategy would be to tightly control passage through the Strait, the purpose being to drive world oil prices sharply higher. That would revive the Iranian economy and simultaneously put a stranglehold on the US economy.

              Secondly, the entire world won’t be in opposition to them. Many will be on the side of the Iranians, some for ideological reasons, some for financial reasons, some just because in their view anything which makes things harder for the US is to be applauded.

              It is entirely in Russia’s interest for the price of oil to rise dramatically. Russia would greatly benefit financially and Putin would welcome a struggling US economy. Plus, Russia’s one veto is all that is needed to block any suggested UN sanctions.

              Once Iran has nukes and dares anyone to prove they won’t use them, mining the Strait coupled with suicide attacks will effectively close down the Strait to unimpeded shipping and then allow the Iranians to dictate passage, while driving the cost of oil and insurance for the oil tankers to very high levels.

              $12.00 a gallon gasoline will drive the US economy to its knees.

              1. If you sorta concede that iran can’t close the Straits, how do you think that they can ” tightly control passage through the Strait” ?

                Would we and others not provide escort for all the tankers?

  4. Nice article , many thanks.

    “What will Russia do?”

    In regard to Syria, I agree.
    In regards to the Caucasus and Iran, there is a lot Russia can do, if her interests are not taken into account. If the West overplays its hand, the Russian objective will be to cut off or control the oil and gas supplies out of Azerbaijani pipelines, and by extension, in the future, Central Asia.. The turmoil this will create for the regional states and the significant effect to world energy supplies will more than compensate for any form of Western geopolitical regional mischief, (even building regional navies in the Caspian. Talk about building castles in the sand! Or talk about squandering US taxpayer money for that matter). In this Russia has many tactical and strategic options, provided, of course, the West supplies the proper pretext. And it looks like Israel and the US using Azerbaijan as a staging area to attack Iran (without Russian acquiescence), might be leading to just that.

  5. Reports that Israel and the US are using Azerbaijan as a staging area to attack Iran ignore Pres. Obama’s clear signals on the matter. It is a political certainty that he isn’t going agree to attack Iran before the Nov elections. Given his clear words and prior actions, its highly unlikely that he will ever pre-emptively attack Iran.

    Once Iran announces they have the bomb, no one can attack Iran without risking nuclear war.

    Just as “leopards don’t change their spots”, those such as Obama who are inclined toward appeasement, don’t suddenly gain intestinal fortitude.

    1. My apprehension here is more along the lines that Israel might inadvertently or deliberately provide a pretext in the Caucasus, prompting/provoking either an American or Russian response that would get out of hand in the immediate area or necessitating retaliation elsewhere. The Israelis and certain American interests are heavily involved in Azerbaijan. I don’t put it past them to overstep, sidestep or conveniently reinterpret stated official policy. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  6. “If you sorta concede that iran can’t close the Straits, how do you think that they can ” tightly control passage through the Strait” ?

    Would we and others not provide escort for all the tankers?”

    I’m not at all conceding that the Iranians can’t close the Strait. Barring outright war, they can certainly close the Strait. I’m also stating that once they have the bomb, it would be foolish of them to attempt to permanently close the Strait, as that would most probably precipitate outright war between Iran and the US. A conflict Iran cannot hope to win.

    But they don’t need to permanently close the Strait, just temporarily closing the Strait and then establishing tightly controlled passage through the Strait would accomplish their goal of using the Strait to economically strangle the U.S.

    They can control passage through a variety of means; mining the passage, small craft suicide attacks, cruise missile attacks and Iran’s submarines and Air Force would more than suffice.

    Iran subs poised to torpedo US warships in Gulf

    However, despite the Iranian’s claim to be ready to sink US naval vessels, it would be both foolish and unnecessary to attack our naval vessels. As, that too would precipitate war and because by solely targeting merchant vessels in violation of Iranian ‘permission’ they both tightly control passage and avoid providing the US with a sufficient provocation to declare war upon Iran.

    Once Iran has the bomb, the ‘level of provocation sufficient to declare war’ becomes much higher, because now direct military confrontation risks nuclear war.

    If the Iranians are smart, they realize that the goal is not to stop the flow of oil to the West, the goal is too make it much more expensive.

  7. fuster,

    Your avatar now identifies you as “mikefoxtrot” is that correct?

    If so, how can I now ‘fusterize’ you? 😉

    1. technical difficulties Geoffrey that I’m too ignorant too deal with … I shall again be fuster, I think, when using the other device.

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