Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat

Promises we can’t keep.

Two to three years ago, the United States Department of Defense had enough military forces on station in, or readily deployable to, the Persian Gulf region (the “CENTCOM AOR” – area of responsibility – or Southwest Asia, as it is called in the military) to execute a limited strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without asking Congress for special funding.  The military could have performed such an operation “out of hide,” as quickly and seamlessly as the president wanted it to.

Four to five years ago, moreover, the U.S. had the regional political capital to use our bases in the local nations (e.g., Qatar and Bahrain) to launch and direct such a strike campaign.

Both of these conditions have now changed.  I wrote about the political shift in December of 2010, after the Persian Gulf nations executed a flurry of bilateral defense agreements with Iran, and Bahrain, in particular, announced that the U.S. would not be able to use Bahraini territory for launching military operations against Iran.  Even a subtle shift in these nations’ postures means that the U.S. will have less discretion in what we propose to do against Iran.  U.S. military actions that are so limited as to leave Iran able to retaliate against her neighbors may not be acceptable to our hosts.

Mounting a limited strike campaign using only U.S. Navy assets and the Air Force’s global strike bombers (which don’t need the Persian Gulf bases) has remained a fall-back option.  But as of 2013, with the funding issues inherent in the long-term budget stand-off, that option can no longer be performed out of hide.  The Navy has already had to cancel a carrier strike group deployment that it couldn’t project being able to pay for, and we can no longer assume that the Air Force will have the ready aircraft and aircrew – not to mention the fuel – to perform a bomber campaign against Iran.

The central reason is that the military doesn’t know whether or when it will get more operating funds.  There isn’t a federal budget, and the recurring fiscal showdowns between Obama and the House Republicans make all future military funding a big question mark.  There is no end-point beyond which the military knows how much money it will have.  This isn’t a question of pinching pennies for a while until the money kicks in on a date certain.  DOD doesn’t know what its future operating picture will be, beyond the next couple of months.

Worst case is that the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on.  In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR.  Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.

A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs.  In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off.  The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

For completeness, I note that the Truman deployment, even if it had gone on as scheduled, would have left a gap of more than two months in the two-carrier presence in CENTCOM.  There has been one carrier strike group in CENTCOM, that of USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), since USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) left the AOR in late November (returning to Norfolk, VA in December).  A gap isn’t unprecedented, in the years since the two-carrier presence was factored into carrier scheduling (although gaps are typically much shorter).  But now an actual degradation in our force posture has been announced.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is scrambling to scope out the impact of the sequestration cuts on its operations.  Big Blue foresees having to cut flying hours for the rest of the year by a third and cancel some scheduled squadron deployments overseas, both of which measures will, within months, affect force posture and readiness in CENTCOM.  So will the impending decision to further defer depot-level maintenance on overdue aircraft.  Some squadrons in the U.S. would run out of flying-hour funds by mid-May 2013, with no prospect of a new infusion of funds.  If additional squadrons were to be forward deployed to CENTCOM for a strike on Iran – and the fuel for such a massive operation set aside – much of the Air Force would have to stop flying altogether until more funds were provided.

The global-airpower bombers – the B-2 and B-52 – would take big hits from the sequestration cuts scheduled for 2013, and that’s bad news for DOD’s readiness to perform a strike campaign against Iran.  If the local nations around the Persian Gulf don’t allow U.S. forces to launch from our bases there to conduct such a strike, a conventional strike is impossible without sufficient long-range bombers and Navy carrier air wings.  The sequestration cuts, assuming they occur, will eliminate that package of options.

The cuts – and budget uncertainty in general – will also raise the cost of expending resources on a strike against Iran.  Replacements for some Tomahawk missiles or Air Force C-ALCM missiles may simply not be manufactured, for example, as procurement orders decline.  If USS Harry S Truman has to be rushed to the Persian Gulf for a rapid response – the readiness promise made when her deployment was cancelled – the dent that that will put in her nuclear-reactor life will be an important problem in the future, especially considering that the reactor recoring for her sister ship, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) has already been delayed indefinitely.  Overuse and deferred maintenance cascade into big availability shortfalls down the line, a problem for all the services’ major weapon systems.

We are already having to make decisions that will produce shortfalls in the future.  What has been less discussed is the shortfall our decisions today are creating for potential nearer-term requirements.  Assuming the sequestration cuts go through, it will not be an “ops normal” action, from the standpoint of force use, to conduct a strike campaign against Iran.  Even three years ago, at this time in 2010, it could have been done on that basis.  That is no longer the case.

The hands that are tied by this reality are Obama’s as commander-in-chief.  He can’t just order the strike.  He’ll have to ask Congress for additional funding just to get extra forces to the theater – and that’s before funding the strike itself, which will be very fuel-intensive.  He will have to consider, moreover, the force-wide impact of putting the funds into a strike on Iran.  What will he have to give up in U.S. force readiness in the Pacific, the theater to which he says we are shifting emphasis?  What about defense of the continental United States? – the fighter-interceptors on alert, the ground-based ballistic-missile interceptors in Alaska and California, both of which defense systems the Air Force foresees shortfalls in operating, if the sequester kicks in?  What about Afghanistan, where we still have tens of thousands of troops on the ground?

These are the questions raised by a Times of Israel report from today (which, of course, may or may not be valid).  Quoting a TV segment from Monday, it says that the Obama administration will tell Israel next month that it is gearing up for a “window of opportunity” to strike Iran in June.

Gearing up with what?  The carrier that isn’t deployed?  The Air Force aircraft that will run out of flying hours in May?

We don’t have the forces deployed to conduct this strike campaign, nor can they be deployed – assuming the sequester kicks in, and/or that there is no comprehensive continuing resolution agreed to in the next couple of months – without Obama making a big political noise, by running the whole plan through Congress and asking specifically for money to fund it.  What are the chances Obama is going to do that?

I’m betting Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t think he will.  If the quoted claim really did come from the Obama administration, it is an egregious instance of promising to do something we obviously are making no preparations to do.  (I am reminded – painfully – of a press interview Obama did almost exactly a year ago, when he said, on the topic of the Iran nuclear threat: “As president of the United States, I don’t bluff.”)

Even if the claim about the U.S. administration’s intentions in Israel is invalid, the TOI report is as good a pretext as any for making it clear to the American people that our defense situation has already changed.  We cannot do today what we could have done three years ago.  As long as Obama makes no provision for conducting a crippling strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the threat of doing so carries no weight.  That is today’s reality – and it is Obama’s legacy.

I note that the sequester threat is not the only thing at work here.  It is, rather, the precipitating factor, at the end of a long period without a federal budget.  The uncertainty about defense funding could hardly be more comprehensive at this point.

It was stupid of the Republicans to allow themselves to be set up for the current stand-off, in which they have to trade national-security capabilities – at precisely the wrong moment in history – for the party’s survival as a credible political opponent.  The GOP’s credibility must survive this showdown; John Boehner isn’t wrong about that.  The Republicans in Congress must be able to stop Obama’s spending plans, or at least slow them down, for the next four years.  The “sequester” framework, foreordained when it was cobbled together in November of 2011, means that the Republicans’ hope of doing that now lies in a willingness to let the sequester happen.

But it is unconscionable of Obama to handle the sequestration threat the way he has.  The sequester was, we should remember, Obama’s ideaRepublicans have offered him flexibility in tailoring the cuts to minimize the worst impacts on defense, and Obama has rejected the proposal.  The president also declined in September 2012 to meet the sequestration plan’s deadline for reporting out on how the cuts would be taken in the federal departments.  According to official testimony in July 2012, DOD had been given no directive to plan for the cuts imposed by the sequester.  This was months after Leon Panetta described the sequestration cuts, in November 2011, as “devastating” to the military – suggesting a minimal competence question, at the very least, regarding the Obama administration.

But even aside from the sequester itself, the military’s readiness is being leached away by continuing-resolution budgeting.  Uncertainty serves quite as well as cuts signed off on, to delay or cancel operations and maintenance.

The lack of a budget since fiscal year 2010 means that there has been no ordered, unifying declaration of national strategy or priorities since then.  A budget is a political accountability document as much as anything else; the lack of one is a boon to anyone who wants to spend without accountability, and that’s what Obama and his Congresses have been doing.  The Obama plan for DOD, in the years since 2009 (when the 2010 budget was passed), might as well have been little Brittany’s Christmas wish list, for all the accountability there is in reconciling it with the continuing resolutions.

Do the funds actually allocated in those years track the defense priorities outlined in the Obama administration’s budget proposals for 2011, 2012, and 2013?  There has been no mechanism to guarantee that.  It’s not certain that we can tell.  What we do know is that an aircraft carrier’s nuclear recore has now been deferred indefinitely, and that our force posture in CENTCOM has now been reduced below the level at which the president can order a strike on Iran without asking for emergency funds from Congress.

The president has had the authority all along to guard the defense capabilities he considers most important, and Congress has offered to bolster – even expand – that authority.  If the ability to credibly threaten Iran is not one of those priorities, I don’t know what is.  No one wants to attack Iran, but a key component of the strategy to avoid doing it is to ensure that the threat is credible.  Today, it’s not.  Obama is playing too many games of “chicken” – and he hasn’t been guarding defense capabilities.  What that means is that at the moment, vis-à-vis Iran, he’s not carrying a big stick.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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38 thoughts on “Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat”

  1. So, let me see if I am getting this right…

    The President no longer has the capability of launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities because the sequestration cuts to the military that he put in place to blackmail Congress with, particularly the republicans, won’t allow it.

    Well, damn it all to hell, GOOD! If we get the government we deserve, then our president surely deserves the government that he so creatively comes up with. Besides, he has little or no intentions of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities or doing anything significant to stop Iran’s nuclear aspirations, sequestration “cuts” or not. Oh, and before I forget, he does bluff. Fact is, all he does is bluff. Bluff, bluff, bluff. As the GOP might find out if they ever get enough gonads to call him on anything.

    Ahhh, well…this too will be Bush’s fault…

    Also, “A budget is a political accountability document as much as anything else”, you say. Hmmm, perhaps that’s the main reason we don’t have one…?

    OK, so, before the local dung beetles start in on this, let me give you yet another version of what I think might be going on.

    We don’t have enough money to threaten Iran’s nuclear ambitions in a credible fashion because we spend most of our money and debt in entitlement goodies that insure that those that come up with them stay in power. OK. But, after all, let’s be honest, isn’t the principal responsibility of Congress precisely that, to stay in power…?


    1. Of course, the problem here is that we end up stuck with a nuclear Iran. That will mean more and more nations subject to chaos and tyranny in the region, just as a nuclear Soviet Union made it more likely, not less, that Marxists would be emboldened to attack third parties through the political process — in nations ike Cuba.

      A nuclear Iran will be immune from retaliation when it foments insurrection in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia…and beyond. The feeding frenzy this will spark will squeeze the US out of the Middle East, and impoverish and weaken America. This is not something to look forward to. I don’t know that Obama cares; my concern is not what he gets stuck with, but what America gets stuck with.

      1. “the problem here is that we end up stuck with a nuclear Iran. That will mean more and more nations subject to chaos and tyranny in the region”

        The ‘problem’ will extend far beyond “more and more nations subject to chaos” and, tyranny there already is in abundance.

        The consequences of a nuclear Iran will be:

        Islamic jihadist nation-states across the region.

        A real possibility that a nuclear Iran will seize control of the Strait of Hormuz creating a huge upsurge in world oil prices.

        Nuclear proliferation into unstable third-world jihadist states.

        Terrorist groups getting their hands on nukes and using them.

    2. The President does not lack the capability of launching an effective attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, he lacks the will. As you so indicate.

      “isn’t the principal responsibility of Congress precisely that, to stay in power…? “

      You mistake responsibility for desire.

      In addition, the majority of the American public have not awoken to the true nature of the Islamic threat, nor will they if the left has its way. Even after we lose a major city, they will do their best to obstruct an effective response.

      1. I mistake nothing of the sort, my friend. I was using irony, satire, sarcasm, mockery, etc. to underline my guttural disgust towards Washington these days.

        We have created and promoted a political monster that is eating us up while we dance in the streets and beg for more of the same. “Thank you, Sir. May we have another?” seems to be the rule of the day as far as our declining graces political system goes.

        The American public continually pretends tyo hate kings, monarchs, dictators or any other ruthless exploiters of humanity’s and, yet, that same public seems to insist on willingly crowning those same so-called fallacies one after the other. And before any misunderstanding takes flight, I am not referring to any one of our “rulers” in particular but to all of them in general, specially those that make up the rotten gears in DC from both parties.

        Those same publicly elected rulers will keep right on dancing while America burns. They will do that in full knowledge that they can get away with practically anything in a system that lacks any real accountability at all, where hiding their multiple inefficiencies and/or dishonesties is the game of the day and where personal or political responsibility is totally absent any official function they might chose to perform.


  2. Again in the spirit of debate, raw speculation follows, well it is the internet after all 🙂

    It would seem that with Iraqi and now Afghan wind downs; plus the obvious decision to significantly cut defense spending/capability, re-prioritizing (a euphemism for publicly acknowledging a reduction of of our global commitments) is in order, since it is already a fait accompli.

    Objectively, under what grounds would we have carried out a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities four to five years ago anyway? And had it been carried out, what would have been the geopolitical ramifications in the region? And lest we forget, I believe the Afghanistan retrea err redeployment, must precede an Iran strike. Unless we wish to risk stranding the remaining troops in “Injun country” due to tenuous Central Asian and vulnerable Pakistani supply corridors. Haven’t we learned to close one can of worms before we open another yet?

    Some comments in regard to Iran strategy. The United States has a positive relationship with neither Russia nor China concerning Iran, the two powers theoretically capable of dominating the Eurasian land mass and dominating Iran, ergo the Iranians are unconcerned with the noise coming from DC. They’ve (Iran) played the game almost as well as Tallyrand’s isolated and defeated France (so far) at the Congress of Vienna… with a defense budget of under 8bn mind you. I gotta give them, or geography, credit for that. Only after a change in the position of Russia or China concerning Iran will Teheran negotiate seriously. Unless, they can get a better deal from the West (we have a tendency to forget we are dealing with Persians here, they invented the word bazaar). For their part, the Russian and Chinese positions supporting Iran have hardened, what is being attempted in Syria is part of what prompted this. The Russians (and Chinese), either smell blood in the water, or are preparing to defend their interests, depends on your point of view.

    Teheran will not capitulate even after a massive strike against her nuclear and military facilities, not today, tomorrow, or four years ago. nor will she take any bait and set a pretext to enable such an attack. If totally back into a corner she’ll find a way to take down the Sunni gulf monarchies with her.

    Only the “special-interest inspired” foreign policy of the United States could have achieved the result where the opposing interests of Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and India could have converged to tacitly support the Mullah’s in Teheran, instead of said powers being at each others throats. These powers never, never agreed amongst themselves on any major issue between them before.

    To eventually prevent a nuclear Iran run by the mullahs you don’t need blundering Bibi, Wahabi Saudis, or two Carrier Strike Groups in the Indian ocean….you need Russia (primarily), or Turkey. Otherwise you need the willingness to risk plunging the Nation into a serious confrontation on several Asian (and possibly European) fronts that will raise the possibility of a nuclear exchange by the actors. Obviously a path we have not chosen because, popping off a few tomahawks won’t be the end of that story.

    If the Israelis want to take out Iran, let’em, but they do it alone and at their own risk. If Bibi ends up nuking the Iranians, because that’s the only real clout he has to stop the program, that’s his business, let him live with the consequences. I won’t trade New York for Tel Aviv, nor do I think any President of the United States will. Especially if it was the Israelis who initiated a nuclear strike.

    Even after a hypothetical minor “surgical” Israeli attack, Iran will have no choice, she’ll be driven totally into Russia’s arms, agreeing to pay Russia’s price for protection, however high. (Unless, the attack is coupled with regime change of course. Which in and of itself is no guarantee that it won’t lead to other regional problems.potential worse than the mullahs) Conversely, the price Russia will extract to abandon her geopolitical victory will be prohibitively high, maybe non-negotiable, since the old dream, the drive to open warm water, will have been achieved. Not through force of Russian arms mind you, but someone’s miscalculation. Don’t believe that the Indians are adverse to this outcome either, not for a minute.

    Dealing with Iran “unilaterally” (another euphemism for being bled dry by playing the world’s flatfoot) only means we are isolating ourselves while others urge us on to exhaustion from the sidelines.
    Bibi, the Northeast Asians, Europeans and Chinese are all doing energy deals with Mother Russia. The Sub-Continent and Turkey do energy deals with Iran. Russians, Europeans and Turks drill in Iraq. China will mine out Afghanistan, courtesy of America. What are we getting out of this?

    Fin de siecle. A sarcastic “thanks” to all our politicians left and right who have made this possible.

    I love this blog


    1. “Objectively, under what grounds would we have carried out a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities four to five years ago anyway?”

      Self-defense. Iran is a clear and present danger to our national security. Anyone who disputes that is either a fool or operating out of an agenda.

      “And had it been carried out, what would have been the geopolitical ramifications in the region?”

      Severe but not as severe as the price we shall pay for appeasement and denial.

      “And lest we forget, I believe the Afghanistan retrea err redeployment, must precede an Iran strike.”

      We’ve about run out of time. Iran gaining nuclear weapons capability is a geopolitical game changer with extremely grave consequences and a tipping point into regional nuclear proliferation.

      “Haven’t we learned to close one can of worms before we open another yet?”

      No, we haven’t because civilian politicians are exquisitely sensitive to public sentiment. Public sentiment has and is being manipulated by the left in pursuit of its own agenda.

      Neither Russia nor China is going to change their position concerning Iran. That would not be consistent with their long-term strategic interests.

      Russian and Chinese positions supporting Iran only appear to have hardened. They are merely revealing, to a greater degree than before, their actual support for Iran. That support is clearly not ideological but strategic resistance to American influence.

      It is not necessary that Teheran capitulate in her nuclear ambitions. Only that she be prevented from realizing those ambitions. At this point, only massive strikes against her nuclear and military facilities can derail those ambitions. That is of course not going to happen under Obama.

      Neither Russia nor Turkey will move to prevent Iranian nuclear ambitions.

      The choice is and has been either risking plunging the Nation into a serious confrontation on several fronts or future nuclear terrorist attacks against US cities.

      There is zero possibility of a nuclear exchange by Russia, China, or Pakistan with the US. Iran is not an ally, nor a vital national interest for any of those actors. Iran is a pawn in the geo-political maneuvering by Russia and China.

      “I won’t trade New York for Tel Aviv”

      And that is why we shall lose both. The situation is exactly comparable to Nazi Germany and Britain over the Sudetenland; “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.” W. Churchill

      “Iran will have no choice, she’ll be driven totally into Russia’s arms”

      Not going to happen, no matter what the provocation or circumstance. Iran will never surrender its national sovereignty to Russia.

      ” What are we getting out of this?”

      The illusion of a fragile stability, which is most certainly temporary.

      The embrace of that illusion is entirely due to our refusal to squarely face reality, which is due to a lack of societal consensus, even in the face of a clear threat, which is the result and goal of machinations by the left.

      1. Preemptive self defense GB? Sounds a little too Japanese for my tastes.

        How ‘severe’ plays out is a hypothetical.


        On Russia and China, given the proper carrots, I would beg to differ . No one has an interest in being annihilated.. It is American influence that is waning

        I’m not going to through the massive strikes against Iran thing again, I previous explained why I think it’s a bad idea, if done “unilaterally’.

        Not without the proper incentives of course.

        I disagree totally with that dilemma.

        Nuclear exchanges have a life all of their own. The escalation and geographic extent cannot be predicted or controlled.

        Many errors and miscalculations were made prior to the events that lead to Munich. All in all, both the Great War and WWII lead to to the suicide of the West, in addition to the death of the British empire. I would be very careful in using these historical events as an analogy.

        Depends on how hard she is driven to capitulate to Bibi.

        I am in almost total agreement with you last.

        I love this blog

        1. Preemptive self defense is the only effective defense against nuclear terrorism. Jack Ryan is an imaginary character.

          Hypothetical? Only in regard to the specifics. That denial and avoidance lead to greater severity is certain.

          Russia and China have no fear of being annihilated. Islam lacks the logistical resources to accomplish that and America lacks the will. The only incentive for Russia and China that could be large enough, would be capitulation. Yes, American influence is waning, when did I indicate otherwise?

          Massive unilateral strikes against Iran are a bad idea, unfortunately we’ve run out of other options and allowing Iran to gain nukes is the worst idea of all.

          Turkey hasn’t the means, neither militarily or politically to prevent Iranian ambitions. Erdogan supports Iran and would only ‘change sides’ if offered a real chance at hegemonic control of the middle east, something beyond our ability to offer.

          Russia’s long term facilitation of Iran’s nuclear program demonstrates strategic commitment. What could we offer Russia? Absent Putin and his supporters removal it appears that there is zero likelihood of change.

          We shall have to agree to disagree, as always, time will tell whose view is the more accurate. I sincerely pray that I am mistaken.

          True, nuclear exchanges cannot be reliably predicted or controlled. The nature of nuclear exchanges however, guarantees a much higher threshold for their use, at least among stable societies.

          Analogies are analogies, rarely are they exact in all parameters. History may not repeat itself exactly but human nature remains immutable. The reaction of Europe’s intelligentsia to the Great War and WWII led to the suicide of Europe, not the U.S. The left’s seduction of America’s intelligentsia, which had little to do with the two world wars, has led to our present condition.

          Iran will not capitulate to ‘Bibi’ because the Israeli public does not support demanding that capitulation, even if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities. An eventuality greatly in doubt. Israel lacks the conventional resources to successfully attack Iran and a nuclear first strike is a political non-starter.

          I too value this blog.

      2. You’re points, as always, are well taken GB.
        I differ on some, but I’m not going to take it further.
        One thing we can definitely agree on is, by hook or by crook, Iran must not possess nuclear weapons.

        1. As are yours jgets. We do differ but it’s as much a matter of emphasis as substantive disagreement. I do hope yours is the more accurate view.

          We do agree that Iran must not obtain nukes but it seems certain they will because Obama advocates containment as his policy for dealing with a nuclear Iran (given away by Hagel). While Israel lacks the politically acceptable means to stop Iran.

          If I’m right about that and I certainly hope I’m not, then its just a matter of time till we lose American cities to nuclear terrorist attacks because Islamic jihadists won’t stop with only attacking the “little Satan”.

    2. The point isn’t whether we would have had a pretext for attacking Iran, but whether the THREAT of such an attack was credible or not. It was, 4-5 years ago. GB has laid out the case for why we might have wanted to preempt Iran, but my point remains that the credibility of the THREAT is gone today.

      This matters, because preventing Iran from wielding nukes for intimidation, while avoiding the necessity of attacking Iran, requires precisely a threat that is credible. There is no substitute for the credible threat. Credible threats do change the course of history, warding off both disaster and the need to apply force.

      Right now, the president does, in fact. lack the capability to make a credible threat. That is, in a proximate sense, more important than whether the US could literally mount an attack against Iran. Following a series of “ifs,” assuming the answer to each was positive, the US could bring to bear the assets to mount this attack. But it’s those “ifs,” to which the current answer is unknown, that fatally undermine our credibility.

      If Obama had to outline his strategy in detail and ask Congress to pay for it, step by step, would it be possible to get it paid for and underway? That is a gigantic question mark. Understand this: Obama can’t just move the assets for a strike to the theater now. Repeat as necessary until understood. He has to ask Congress for the money to pay for that. There are multiple steps in the process at which he could be stymied — even if he truly wanted to threaten Iran.

      The Iranian mullahs are no more stupid than the rest of the region. They can deduce these things. It doesn’t pay them to be conrontational now; they will want to present a relatively congenial front and keep stringing the US and EU along, because the main thing they need is time. Obama has handed them big chunks of it, by setting up an inadequate force posture for a credible threat from the US.

      1. Your point is well taken J.E. but an important additional point needs to be made. Even had we the economic means to easily pay for whatever level of threatened force was deemed appropriate, the credibility factor would remain because the reasons for America’s lack of credibility extend far beyond the ability to pay for a military attack.

        Nor am I referring to Obama alone in discussing this factor. Bush made his public threats and no doubt did so though private channels as well. Yet they had no more effect than Obama’s. It’s certain that the Iranians know that Obama’s threats are bluster but the reason that Bush’s threats were no more credible is because the Iranians know that the American public lacks consensus on both the Iranian threat as well as the Islamic threat.

        Iran’s leaders clearly understand two things about America; a President’s foreign policies must have a substantive majority of the public’s support, as Bush demonstrated. And, America is still far from identifying Islam itself as the ideological source of the animosity that Islamic societies exhibit.

        Bush’s characterization of Islam as a “religion of peace”, the focus upon Islamic ‘radicals’ while allowing Saudi Arabia to fund jihadist activities and many other indications, only increased under Obama, all these make a compelling case to Islamic jihadists that America refuses to face reality squarely.

        What all this boils down to is that Iran has known all along that we are blustering and that no military threat is credible. And that only a credible military threat from America can stop them.

        There’s simply no reason to stop their drive to get nukes, they’ve got America’s number.

        1. GB, I agree with you that we lack other factors for credibility. But it is a supremely important point that we now lack the physical-capability factor. If we lack it on a relevant timeline, we lack it, period. And on a relevant timeline is exactly how we lack it today.

          1. We, the US, have been watching this particular “Iranian threat” train coming at us for years and all we have done is sit on the track and talk about how dangerous the situation is getting and how close we are to reaching the “point of no return” or some other foolishness like that. But the truth of the matter is that not much has been done that has had any positive (for us) effect on things there.

            There has been not one ounce of real will to stop the Iranians from getting the bomb. At some point in time, the reasons why this is so should cease to have any real interest for us and only the actuall reality and the lack of results should matter. In fact, in the end, that will be the only thing that will matter.

            If we were to straight-line project the actual results of our “efforts” to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, we would have to conclude that they will, in the end, get those weapons. It is as simple as that. We can sit here and parse all sorts of alternative strategies, all of which will continue to be ignored, of course, but none of that is really on the official table. Our government is not so stupid that they don’t actually know how to get ‘er done. They simply lack the will to do so and no amount of livingroom strategizing and quarterbacking will matter one iota in the end.

            But the back and forth has been quite interesting to read. TMF’s history of our conflict with Iran was quite interesting, for instance. But, he did omit one very inrteresting issue. The Sha was ignored by the West although he was pro West. Even his entering into the US for health reasons was denied to him when he came down with cancer. The driving reason was that he was a strong ruler and did not support a democratic government in Iran. Well, we have a (somewhat) democratic government in Iran now and the Sha is gone, gone, gone. Happy days, huh…?

            What’s incredible is that we are falling for that same idiocy in Egypt and other Middle Eastern states that are now in turmoil. The pro democracy Arab Spring promises to become a nightmare. But, here is my question, do you all think that the leaders of the free world are all THAT stupid???


            1. Rafa,

              The Shah wasn’t ignored, he was deposed and exiled largely due to the efforts of one, James Earl “Don’t call me James Earl, call me Jimmy it sounds classier to my ears…” Carter, Jr. and our “friends” the French.

              Again with Democrat perfidy… They really are psychopaths, you know.


              1. The perfidy Carter and the French exibited was cloaked with the unexplainable love affair that the socialist West has with democracy, not necesarily with democrats.

                But you knew that would be my answer. 🙂


      2. OK for arguments sake, the credible threat today is lacking, for whatever reason. That’s true unilaterally, but not multilaterally.
        Let’s assume that a nuclear Iran is neither in the interest of the USA or Russia I know GB will disagree but most would not. What would be a more credible threat than DC/Moscow presenting a united front, jointly stating that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is totally unacceptable under any circumstances? Of course there will be some horse trading to arrive at this position.

        After the mandatory long drawn out negotiations typical of diplomacy with states such as Iran it will all (roughly) boil down to:

        Offering the Iranians what they want. A lifting of sanctions, end of diplomatic isolation, peaceful use of nuclear energy under the NPT and bi-lateral ties with the US after a settlement of the Embassy/Hostage issue. In exchange Iran will renouncing the development of nuclear weapons.

        Agree, or Iran will suffer the consequences. Consequences being something along the following lines

        “Operation Countenance II”, the sequel.

        The Mullahs will see the light

        1. Meaning nothing will happen, the Mullahs will get their “bombs”, the Russians will quietly threaten them with annihilation if they use any bombs on them. The Chinese will do the same – and maybe add the threat of a land based human wave attack that would swamp Iran.

          So the mullahs will turn their murderous attentions to the only nation-states and alliances likely to do exactly ZERO, if they play their nuclear blackmail game. We don’t occasionally call him O-Zero for nothing, do we?

          O-Zero’s mom-jeans are down around his angles, and his grannie undies are showing.

          We are in serious trouble, and are still too worried about the Duchess of York’s baby bump, and that Taylor Swift seems to be the girlfriend from hell.

          [leaves room shaking head, looking down, and waving]

        2. “it will all (roughly) boil down to:

          “Offering the Iranians what they want. ”

          But, of course, what the Iranians want is not the checklist you lay out. What the Iranians want is the bomb. If they wanted the things on your list, they would already have them, and we’d all be singing Kumbaya.

          We can’t offer the Iranians what they want. We can only try to prevent them from getting it.

          1. What one wants and what one can have are two different things.

            I cannot guarantee Iran won’t get the bomb someday, anymore than I can guarantee Japan won’t. In all honesty, no one can.

            Prevention is my objective as well. I’m open to ideas.

            Realistically, under the current circumstances, how would we “unilaterally” prevent the development of an Iranian nuclear device, other than preemptive bombing of Iranian facilities on a regular basis, or, preemptively annihilating the country, just to be on the safe side?

            If they don’t like the checklist, and they insist on nuclear weapons capability, fine, we can implement the aforementioned policy at a moment notice.. If we choose to do so.

            The Iranians may interpret that we lack a credible threat, but we are certainly capable of low intensity round-the-clock bombings of Iranian targets at a moments notice, and can then gear up. We can incinerate them ten times over if they dare threaten our territory.

            Forgive my ignorance, what is the urgency? Have they successfully detonated a nuclear device? Are they assembling bombs now as we speak? Has is got something to do with an imminent breakthrough in their defense capabilities rendering our weaponry useless? Have they been secretly developing a “Strangelovian doomsday device”?

            No Optcon. I realize this isn’t about sitting around sing kumbaya. I’m searching for a solution best suited to the interests of the United States. And I’m all ears

            1. Just so that you realize… (I am positive that you do… but I am, as they say, just sayin…)

              If the Japanese wanted the bomb, they’d have it by the end of the month. It would be flawless, expertly built, and stunningly reliable.

              My guess is that eventually Japan will have to field a small arsenal of nuclear weapons on various platforms… They are just too unstable and unpredictable situation…

              As to the Iranians and a nuclear device… just so that you understand, the uranium gun bomb (Little Boy) was assembled using off the shelf components -except for the U-235, a few custom touches, and all calculated with slide rules and mechanical calculators. Its first test was over the center of Hiroshima.

              An old nuclear engineer once told me. BOOM! is simple.. it’s making the stuff goes BOOM! that’s the hard part.

              If the Norks can do it, the Iranians are well on their way to doing it too.

              Sort of a “the world is a spheroid” sort of thing. Whether you like it or not, agree with it or not… believe in it or not… it is..

              Like I said… Events more often than not are unpleasant things.


  3. I have sort of laid back and watched a wonderful discussion between GB and JGets…

    Their conclusions (or understandable lack thereof), agreements, and disagreements just about perfectly frame the entire conundrum when discussing the ME, and especially that special evil cancer Iran… (when has Persia ever not been a serious problem?)

    Our options are limited by our current position, this has always been the case. In the first phase of the Iranian War on us (1979-1993) we were in an difficult position due to the odd combination of our early military/political weakness. The first decade was us facing down the Soviets, and rebuilding a hollowed out force, and finding the political will to do it. The second five years had more to do with the transition away from the Cold War bipolar world, and the related rise of the various trouble makers.

    Iran has been at war with us since 1979, either by proxy, or by direct contact (though we have willfully refused to admit that). We have been able to tolerate a certain level of abuse only due to our physical ability to put an end to the tormentor, if we so chose. We no longer realistically have that option short of an all out nuclear strike.

    The second phase of the war, which is defined by the first attack on the World Trade Center, and then our helter-skelter premature withdrawl from Iraq. (add to that our feckless and ineffective policy in Afghanistan – Bush administration had the exact right policy for both political entities in place and functioning by 2006/7. Full engagement and strong guidance in Iraq, combined with a light hand, and cagy covert operations in Afghanistan)

    This purposeful stance effectively boxed in Iran for the next phase of the war which would have been containment and eventual regime change; which would have required both covert and overt operations. The covert operations were supposed to destabilize the mullah’s regime, and the overt would have been a three to four phased military action designed to separate Iran from it’s oil wealth, shut down it’s airspace, and systematically destroy it’s nuclear, conventional arms, and C-cubed assets. This was only possible with ground, air, and naval bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The resulting collapsing and undermining pressure would have also improved our leverage with a rapidly Islamicizing Turkey… (or so the analysts hoped, anyway). The throttling and containment of an aggressive, oil rich Iran would also begin to dry up its funding and operational support for Hezbollah and Hamas.. and we wouldn’t have had to invade completely.

    Well, The One Regime destroyed that plan, and substituted its ties and dependencies with the Muslim Brotherhood in some willfully blind effort to cajole, or appease its way into some rough form of “stability”. Of course no one in The Regime much cares for what Israel thinks, says, or wants. There are, as of this latest round of nominations and confirmations, few if any friends of Israel in the Cabinet and National Security departments. The Regime has propped up a Sunni/Salafist Terrorist organization in the false hopes that it will counterbalance the Shiite Iranian faction. Sort of like feeding one hyena in an effort to cajole it into controlling the pack.

    So, due to our current feckless but murderous administration (drones, folks, are robots, and robots killing humans is a souless activity that usually spurs a reaction from the victims.)

    We should have done something about Iran. We should have done it in 1979, when our embassy was attacked… We should have done it again, shortly after we caught them arming Terrorist groups… and our last chance evaporated after two chances between 1990 and 2005.

    We have thrown away our leverage. We are now at the mercy of events. “Events” are rarely pleasant.

    r/John – The Mighty Fahvaag

  4. In keeping with the ” this is what should have happened ” motif of the comments section, I would like to offer a simple strategy without any historical context or worries about current political fallout.
    The United States should co-operate closely with Israel concerning intelligence ( they have it, we don’t), command and control, and logistics for a military strike (by the United States) on Iran.
    The entire operation would consist of two parts carried out simultaneously by Israel and the US.
    The US would strike all targets ( with follow up strikes to make sure targets are degraded properly) that are connected to the Iranian Nuclear program and of course hard military targets that threaten US Air Force Assets.
    The strikes should also be directed at Iranian Govt officials both military and civilian. This portion would depend on real time intelligence obviously.
    The IDF and the IAF should strike Iranian proxy military, terrorists, and all hard targets utilized by said organizations. This should last days or weeks, not hours.
    There will be innocent people killed. There will be massive destruction. There will be world outcry from every coward that would like to see the Iranians taken down.
    We should only be ruthless enough to complete the job. Nothing more

    1. Yes, that is what we should do but of course won’t. Obama advocates containment of a nuclear Iran, inadvertently confirmed in his testimony by Obama’s nominee for SecDef, Hagel.

      There will be consequences both directly, in regards to Iran and most significantly with greatly increased nuclear proliferation across the region. Egypt, Turkey and the Saudi’s will now go nuclear.

      Supposition by Obama, that containment is even possible, much less likely of a nuclear capable terrorist supporting state, indeed the foremost one is an obscene dereliction of duty and, given the predictable consequences, arguably a crime against all of humanity.

      The loss of Tel Aviv and New York will be just the beginning of what Obama and his supporters, who are culpable in his idiotic mendacity, will have wrought.

      “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25 New International Version (NIV)

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