Archive for the 'Iran' Tag
Matt, Chris, and Grant are joined by Scott Cheney-Peters for a CIMSEC party on the China ADIZ, corvettes, procurement, and Iran. Grant checks out because he’s has a sub-par phone. Remember to subscribe to us on Itunes, Xbox Music, and Stitcher Stream Radio. Without further ado, here is Sea Control 11: Sand Pebbles.
Also, as promised in the podcast, a link to some international law-y goodness: “Limits in the Seas, No. 114.”
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Jim Kramer, madman behind CNBC’s Mad Money, always says, “where’s the pin-action?” or rather, “what are the wide-ranging domino effects of events.” The deal announced this weekend over Iran’s nuclear program is the axis of a massive strategic wheel which, if the deal is successful, will begin to turn. This article is not a debate on the durability of the coalescing Iran deal, but rather on its wide-ranging diplomatic, military, and economic effects if executed satisfactorily.
Reviewing the Facebook Friends List
In order to counter Iranian influence in the Gulf, the United States has unfortunately had to shackle itself with Saudi Arabia, of whom FDR may have well said, “may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” Unfortunately, this particular SOB isn’t an SOB to just the enemy. While purportedly a significant source of intelligence aid and support in the GWOT, entities in Saudi Arabia are also suspected of providing significant funding to Al-Qaeda associates, and the country is often a very clear human rights nightmare. Walking the diplomacy, human rights, military operations, and public image line is difficult enough before adding “balancing” Iran with folks who act like the Saudis to the mix. Any working deal with Iran frees the US’s hands to play a tougher game with Saudi Arabia, who is terrified of being left out in the cold of increased Iranian influence in the region.
Standards and Practices/ Money, Money, Money
Iran continues to be a severe problem in areas of conflict outside the nuclear weapons question, like in Syria and in material of terrorism, as in the case of Hezbollah. Israel still rightfully worries about their non-nuclear activites. However, any practitioner of negotiation would tell you that you can’t get everything you want from the beginning. You need a starting point. If played correctly, the un-freezing of funds and potential increased business relationships/profits from opening trade based on good continuing behavior may create a virtuous cycle. With the potential strategic calculus of the new leadership, Iran may be discouraged from it’s bad behaviors in those far-flung arenas. The opportunity to develop domestically and fulfill the failed economic promises of a decade will hopefully pull attention away from more destructive enterprises and towards the domestic infrastructure programs Iranians have been calling for. Perhaps the US has facilitated Iran’s “Burma Moment.”
Oh, did I mention long-term lower oil prices adding a boon to a stagnating global economy that no longer needs to fear Iranian nuclear weapons or conflict in the gulf?
A Real Pivot
In a time of sequestration, resources are going to be stretched thin. Facility development in Qatar, Dubai, Bahrain, etc… in response to Iranian threats and the massive project of ballistic missile defense will in the immediate term continue to be important, but if successful in changing Iran’s strategic calculus from military to economic success, those efforts can give way to the bigger projects of presence in Asia and projection in Africa. Decreased threats from Iran will help lighten regional carrier presence calculations, for example. Imagine, the resources spent to move the fleet of Cyclone-class PC’s to Bahrain spent elsewhere (PC’s to Singapore, perhaps) if the Iranian threat didn’t loom so large. Lightening that demand signal will give the U.S. military important freedom and flexibility to meet future goals.It is a simple and intuitive point, but one with massive impact.
Verify, then Trust
Ronald Reagan is often known for saying the Russian proverb, “trust, but verify.” In the case of Iran, there is no extended relationship of engagement upon which to base any trust, “verify, THEN trust.” Any deal, as stated by the President and Secretary Kerry, will need to be heavily monitored and enforced by the united front of negotiating parties. Skepticism is an important part of a deal being a success. That said, the perils are many, but the benefit are huge. It’s a long shot, but so worth a shot.
By Jeong Lee
Five months after the much-dreaded sequestration went into effect, many defense analysts and military officials alike are worried about the negative repercussions of the drastic budget cuts on military readiness. In his latest commentary, the rightwing commentator Alan Caruba declared that “The U.S. military is on life support.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also argued in his Statement on Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) that “sequester-level cuts would ‘break’ some parts of the strategy, no matter how the cuts were made [since] our military options and flexibility will be severely constrained.”
To its credit, the SCMR seemed to hint at operational and structural adjustments underway by offering two options—trading “size for high-end capacity” versus trading modernization plans “for a larger force better able to project power.” Nevertheless, one important question which went unasked was whether or not the US Armed Forces alone should continue to play GloboCop.
The current geostrategic environment has become fluid and fraught with uncertainties. As Zhang Yunan avers, China as a “moderate revisionist” will not likely replace the United States as the undisputed global champion due to myriad factors. As for the United States, in the aftermath of a decade-long war on terror and the ongoing recession, we can no longer say with certainty that the United States will still retain its unipolar hegemony in the years or decades to come.
By Jeong Lee
General Joseph Dunford, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander, has recently told the New York Times that America’s “presence post-2014 is necessary for the gains we have made to date to be sustainable.” His reasoning was that although the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are bearing the brunt of fighting, “at the end of 2014, [they] won’t be completely independent” operationally and logistically.
In the wake of Hassan Rowhani’s landslide victory as Iran’s new president, some foreign policy mavens now believe that Rowhani’s presidency may augur a positive shift in Iran’s hitherto hostile policy towards the West. However, despite a glimmer of hope that Rowhani’s election may translate into moderate policies towards the West, others have “adopted a cautious ‘wait-and-see’ posture,” citing Rowhani’s past affiliation with the Ayatollah.
For East Asian experts, Rowhani’s election warrants attention because it remains to be seen whether Iran will retain its current alliance with Kim Jŏng-ŭn even if it chooses to reconcile with the West. After all, some have alleged that Iran has played a major role in the DPRK’s successful testing of its Ŭnha-3 rocket last December. More importantly, Rowhani’s future stance towards the West deserves attention because it may determine whether or not the United States must revise its strategy to adapt to new geostrategic realities. Indeed, it can be argued that the aforementioned factors are not mutually exclusive but intricately intertwined.
Last week, 600 activists aboard six ships attempted to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza. IDF commandos stormed the ships 68 miles off the coast of Israel, killing almost of dozen activists in a botched raid. In the aftermath of the raid, both Turkey and Iran Revolutionary Guard (IRC) have proposed sending armed escorts to protect a future flotilla to Gaza. However, few believe either Turkey or the IRC will follow through on their rhetoric and run the Gaza blockade.
However, now it looks like another faction in Iran might try. Today, the head of the Iranian Red Cross (not to be confused with the ICRC), Abdolrauf Adibzadeh, announced on Press TV that Iran is sending two ships with humanitarian supplies and a “Navy hospital ship” to Gaza at the end of this week. I do not know of any Iranian hospital ships, but that is likely besides the point. If true, this sets Iran and Israel to face off in the largest naval confrontation in recent years.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to a Financial Times reporter about Iran’s appetite for small boats. The story, dealing with the saga of the “Bradstone Challenger“, a Bladerunner 51 speedboat, just hit the press today (and it got some love from Drudge (bottom middle column), so…good times). (.pdf here)
I noted Iran’s interest in the Ice Marine’s Bladerunner back in early 2009–in fact, I reported that the Commerce Department’s “stop order”, coming on January 22, was one of the Obama Administration’s first actions taken after the inauguration. But, sadly, bureaucracy intervened–South Africa mislaid the order, sending the boat off in the “Iranian Diplomat.”
“The loading went ahead because, said one source, no one saw the US notice sent by fax over a weekend. US special forces were ready to intercept the Iranian merchant vessel but the operation was called off, the source said”
So now the vessel has, reportedly, been militarized (or, more likely, is being reverse-engineered).
(I won’t bore you with this story’s nitty-gritty details–as fascinating as they are. If you are interested, go read the full post at NEXTNAVY.COM–it’s a rollicking story of international intrigue, politics and…Italian speedboats!)
But for now, let’s focus on the strategic question…Iran’s apatite for small boats aside, just how big a danger are Iran’s little boats? Should the U.S. worry?
Outside of surprise (a la the USS Cole), the small boat “record” since World War II fails to live up to the modern-day hype. Certainly, small boats are not things to completely disregard, but I do have serious doubts about the danger a swarm poses to a prepared US vessel. And, in the article, I said so:
“Though the US Navy is very concerned a swarm of small boats can overwhelm and sink a large warship, the hypothesis is untested. It has never been done,” Mr Hooper told the FT. “A small, fast boat navy is nothing more than a surprise strike and harassment force. Every time small, fast boats run into helicopters, the helicopters win.”
The proof just ain’t there. Once a fast boat swarm is identified as “hostile,” those small boats tend to lead relatively short, exciting lives.
In 1987, U.S. helicopters made quick work of Boghammar speedboats, and during the 1991 Bubiyan Turkey Shoot, helicopters helped sink or damage 143 small Iraqi naval vessels.
The trick, of course, is avoiding any losses as a “swarm” transforms from “traffic” to a swarming “attacker”…
And that might be a tad difficult.
Or…maybe not. Discuss!
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(UPDATE: Looks like the story is getting walked back a bit…the AP’s source, “A Western military official in Saudi Arabia” is being contradicted by Pentagon spokespersons–who say there was no launch of any kind.)
How, exactly, does one test a “submarine-launched ballistic missile” from Saudi territory?
“The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.
The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
Was this missile fired from a land-sharkesque Sand Sub? Did we ship a missile over for a launch from a Saudi facility? Or fire it from a sub elsewhere?
I mean, while this may explain why some Tehran IP addresses have been, ah, oh, rather avid consumers of my home-blog, NextNavy.com, I really wonder what is going on here.
What an odd story….If this missile launched from the Saudi’s sandy seas, at a Saudi launch facility, then…I must ask: Do we really want to export this kind of strike platform? There?
We need to know more.
A lot more–Did America conduct an unprecedented Persian Gulf/Red Sea/Indian Ocean launch….for a missile defense test? Or is this the new face of Prompt Global Strike–a little project you can read more about in April’s USNI Proceedings)?
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(*) Estimated. H/T: Warisboring.com
Last month Iran unveiled a new long-range missile, the Simorgh, as a follow-on to the Safir SLV. Putatively identified as a space launch vehicle, it bears strong familial ties to the TD-2 prototype SLV/ICBM launched last April (2009). Since then, some analysts have noted that while the airframe has made an appearance sooner than the NIE’s from 2008/2009 suggested, much still remains to be put in place for the program to reach flight test stage. Chief among those items would be a launch site as something of this size requires a much larger complex for support than the Safir.
According to press reports over the weekend, it appears that too is well underway and sooner than many had expected:
Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. The new launcher, constructed near an existing rocket base in the Semnan province east of Tehran, is visible in satellite imagery, according to the report. The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes. Both the missile and the launch pad, which according to Jane’s is large enough to accommodate it, point to cooperation from Pyongyang. (Jerusalem Post, 6 March 2010)
Firing up GE, we locate the site fairly quickly:
We are about one-third of the way through Iran’s annual “Ten Days of Dawn” observation which celebrates the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The occasion serves as a platform for Iran to boast about progress under the Islamic Republic and demonstrate military, scientific and technical prowess. This, despite the West’s attempts to limit technology transfer in key areas, such as missile technology.
Day 3 of the celebration is set-aside as “Space Day” and yesterday, Iran’s President Ahmedenejad had three items of note/accomplishment to announce that:
- Iran had launched a payload of animal specimens (a mouse, turtles and worms) into space and recovered them on a new research rocket named Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3);
Three new satellites were unveiled: the Tolou (Sunrise), the Mesbah 2 (Lantern 2), and the Navid (Promising Sign) and
A new space launch vehicle, Simorgh-3, which will serve as the launch vehicle for those satellites.
- Simorgh SLV
Of these announcements, the last is the most interesting and perhaps, troubling. With the ability to loft 220 lbs into a 310 mile earth orbit (if it indeed works), that would move Iran into a new capability category with a nascent ICBM. The implications for the US and allies would be the impact on the European PAA and near term planning for the global BMDS, all of which (along with the BMDR) were predicated on a slower timeline for Iran to develop an ICBM capability, 2015 or ‘mid-decade.’ Tied with Iran’s continued intransigence on the nuclear front (aided and abetted by China’s continued refusal to support a sanctions regime) this is one announcement that has little upside to it. Russia, at least, is coming into alignment with the US:
“Mutual understanding between Russia and its international partners on additional sanctions has clearly improved,” Kosachyov said in an interview with state broadcaster Rossiya 24 today. “The situation is beginning to alarm us increasingly.”
A successful launch will likely bring pressure to bear on the US to step up the rate of deployment and development of both the sea- and land-based elements of the European PAA, leveraging increased deployment time on units that are already HDLD in nature and turning up the burner on the SM-3 Blk IIa program. It may also cause a reassessment of the plans for the ground-based BMD system to see if it still serves as a hedge in its current configuration as per the BMDR.
The continued advancement of Iran’s missile programs stands in defiance of the MTCR, a voluntary consortium of 39 countries regarding the export controls on technologies central to missile development. Of course, neither China nor North Korea are members and they are among the worst of the serial proliferators, North Korea especially so in the case of cooperative ventures with Iran. Also neither China, North Korea or Iran are parties to the follow-on regime, the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. The enablement of this unholy alliance of proliferators brings us to the Simorgh. Below are two images, one of the boost stage of the Safir-2, which placed a small satellite into earth orbit last year. The second image is what is presumed to be the business end of the Simorgh’s first stage — a cluster of four liquid-propelled rockets.
Again, clearly it seems the Iran’s indigenous program is well underway in spite of these regimes.
The leading question then becomes, given the historical record of cooperative effort between North Korea and Iran, how related is/will be the Simorgh to the TD-2:
. . . and that, as the saying goes, is the $64,000 question.
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com