Thursday, September 13, 2007

Iran War "Rollout" Roils Blogosphere

Since my original post passing on an unverified but troubling report that Vice-President Cheney's office had asked neo-conservative institutions for help creating political support for an attack on Iran, this nugget has been batting around the internet like any good conspiracy theory.

I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories. Anyone who works on Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan has to reject a dozen a day just to keep in shape. But if you don't want to be constantly surprised, you also have to learn from the Red Queen and "believe six impossible things before breakfast." With experience you get better at keeping the balance right.

Conspiracy theories are easy targets for deflation, since, almost by definition, they lack evidence to support them. Sure enough, right-wing writers (I won't say "conservative," since I have a hard time imagining Edmund Burke or Michael Oakeshott going down this road) have rolled out an attack on this report. I may illustrate the common pattern of these attacks by reference to Eli Lake's September 10 column in the New York Sun. The argument (omitting a few flagrant misrepresentations of what I wrote, which are just distractions) is pretty simple:
  1. It's typical left-wing conspiracy theory to imagine that Cheney's office would instruct neo-conservatives to campaign for war with Iran.
  2. Neo-conservatives are campaigning for war with Iran because they sincerely support such a war, not because anyone told them to do it.
  3. They're right to support such a war, because the Iranian mad-mullah regime is already at war with the U.S. and is making nuclear bombs right now in order to destroy Israel, the U.S., and the entire global order.
Somehow I don't find this line of argument reassuring.

Another warning I have received is not to rely on Alex Debat, whom I have never met or spoken to. (Update: the Weekly Standard just asked me if Debat was my source.) Reports are now circulating that he is a fabulist. I have no idea if he is or not. I cited an article in the Sunday Times of London in which he is quoted by the reporter as providing a detailed description of U.S. preparations for war with Iran.

A tall tale? Maybe. Or maybe Debat got an advance look at this 80-page study by Dr. Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. They summarize their principal findings:
The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran’s WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.

• Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, leave President Bush open to the charge of using too little force and leave the regime intact.

• US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.

• US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan can devastate Iranian forces, the regime and the state at short notice.

• Some form of low level US and possibly UK military action as well as armed popular resistance appear underway inside the Iranian provinces or ethnic areas of the Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan. Iran was unable to prevent sabotage of its offshore-to-shore crude oil pipelines in 2005.
In case this turns out to be accurate, Iran has prepared to respond. Tehran Times reports:
Commander of the IRGC, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari here on Tuesday said that any attack against Iran would spark a crushing response from the country.

Iran has boosted its defense capabilities based on the weak points of the enemies, which occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, General Jafari said on Tuesday.

The newly appointed commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that the IRGC is more than ready to defend Iran's against all security, political, cultural, and social threats.

Such preparations make a "provocation," which Reuel Marc Gerecht of AEI thinks is the most likely cause of war, more likely. In any case, General David Petraeus has told Congress that Iran has already launched such provocations. The National Review helpfully summarized them in order to savage Ambassador Ryan Crocker for supporting an “Iraq at peace with its neighbors.” Appeasement! Here is Petraeus' bill of particulars:

We have also disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran’s activities in Iraq.

Foreign and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran fuel that violence.

In the ensuing months, our forces and our Iraqi counterparts have focused on improving security, especially in Baghdad and the areas around it, wresting sanctuaries from al Qaeda control, and disrupting the efforts of the Iranian-supported militia extremists.

In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps’ Qods Force. These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran, and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the International Zone and elsewhere. It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

The recommendations I provided were informed by operational and strategic considerations. The operational considerations include recognition that … success against Al Qaeda-Iraq and Iranian-supported militia extremists requires conventional forces as well as special operations forces[.]

[O]n a less encouraging note, none of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern.

[Our] assessment is supported by the findings of a 16 August Defense Intelligence Agency report on the implications of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Summarizing it in an unclassified fashion, it concludes that a rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including … exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.

The weblog of Foreign Policy magazine originally adhered to the prescribed role of "moderates" in the rollout script by explaining "Why you should discount all the bomb Iran talk." Of course the administration was just engaging in coercive diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program in order to stiffen the backs of the Europeans. Clever negotiating tactic!

But this item from Fox News gave them second thoughts:

Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind. Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.

Consequently, according to a well-placed Bush administration source, "everyone in town" is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

The discussions are now focused on two basic options: less invasive scenarios under which the U.S. might blockade Iranian imports of gasoline or exports of oil, actions generally thought to exact too high a cost on the Iranian people but not enough on the regime in Tehran; and full-scale aerial bombardment.

This could not be discounted as the ravings of the liberal blogosphere (even if Rupert Murdoch did give a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton). So today Foreign Policy warns:

Next thing you know, you'll start hearing folks at AEI saying that Iran was responsible for 9/11. Wait a minute, that's already happening, as Peter Beinart pointed out in Sunday's New York Times. "It's the 2007 equivalent of the claims made in 2002 and 2003 about Iraq," Beinart noted. "The years between 9/11 and the Iraq war gave rise to a cottage industry ... charging that Saddam Hussein was the hidden mastermind behind a decade of jihadist terror. While refuted by the 9/11 Commission and mainstream terror experts, these claims had a political effect."

Looks like it's time to stop the epidemic of denial that has the foreign-policy community convinced that an attack on Iran is out of the question. Before it's too late.

I once wrote a book about early warning and conflict prevention. There are two kinds of errors in early warning (as in statistical inference): believing something that ain't so and disbelieving something that is. You have to weigh the likelihood and the cost of each kind of error. That's the calculus behind Vice-President Cheney's One Percent Doctrine: the risk of not acting on a warning of nuclear terrorism is so great, that you have to treat a one percent possibility as a certainty.

I set the bar a bit higher than one percent. But in view of the record of this administration, including what its leaders and supporters have said themselves, the cost of not acting on these warnings is too great. The cost of acting (for me anyway) is being attacked by the New York Sun and the National Review and being supported by a few conspiracy theorists. I can live with it.

Update: In his speech yesterday in Clinton, Iowa, Senator Barack Obama said:
We hear eerie echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq in the way that the President and Vice President talk about Iran. They conflate Iran and al Qaeda. They issue veiled threats. They suggest that the time for diplomacy and pressure is running out when we haven't even tried direct diplomacy. Well George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear - loud and clear - from the American people and the Congress: you don't have our support, and you don't have our authorization for another war.
Let's hear from other candidates and members of Congress.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Rubin,

This was the quote that caught my attention crossposted at DKos:
"They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."

So far, your contact once removed appears to be wrong, at least in timing. Have you been able to get any more info from this source?

Second, I would think that tonights speech by Bush should be pretty telling one way or the other. --LJ

eurofrank said...

Dear Dr Rubin

I suspect you need to look slightly further afield to find evidence of something being cooked up.

Josh Landis has been trying to find out what on earth got bombed in Syria last week. Apparently John Bolton is off the leash again.

The fallout (sorry but I can't think of a better word) has reached the status of a minor headline in today's Washington Post.

It has all the classic ingredients of a potboiler, including North Koreans with a secret stash of Nuclear thingumies, Iranians and Hizb Allah smuggling arms to Lebanon via the Iraqi frontier, Russian radards and SAM.

All it needs now is Freddie Forsythe and the interepid Major Martin of the SAS to do a HALO insertion to mark the target for the Israeli Air Force.

Did you notice Plesch paper talking about some people who wanted to Nuke Saddams WMD sites in 2003.

Both Adolf and the Kaiser rolled out last ditch throws when the game was nearly up.

We can expect no less from the Leader of the Western World.

Say a prayer for Admiral Fallon, one of the sensible people in the Middle East, this evening.

Anonymous said...

We've not heard from Robert Gates in the Pentagon since his press conference of July 13th. Two months! Rummy would never let this happen--he'd be in the limelight with Iran stories, as well as pushing the administration line on Iraq. Very mysterious. Is he AWOL? Send out the MP's.

Ramadan just started. Does that mean anything regarding an attack?

Anonymous said...

"You have to weigh the likelihood and the cost of each kind of error. That's the calculus behind Vice-President Cheney's One Percent Doctrine: the risk of not acting on a warning of nuclear terrorism is so great, that you have to treat a one percent possibility as a certainty."

Funny how this doctrine never seems to apply to global warming.

Anonymous said...

The propaganda and PR may be pervasive, but it's all hot air; for all the "fuss" to mean anything there has to be a "physical" component that can actually "impact" in the real world. The physical component that would be required to actualise all this talk of bombing Iran is absent, which means that all the talk of plans is currently vapour.

Think back to the 1991 Gulf War, the 6 US aircraft carrier groups deployed, the 2500 US aircraft deployed, the UNSC resolutions, the carte-blanche use of airspace and facilities, the global alliance, the well-defined and limited objective of the campaign and apply to Iran, only factoring in the reality that Iran is MUCH bigger, MUCH better-armed, in a tactically and strategically strong - even formidable - position, has forces and proxies already positioned behind US lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Gulf sheikhdoms, is prepared to fight, occupies the moral high ground as the victim, not the aggressor, and, above all, has a polity that is not hampered by concerns of disloyalty to the state emanating from within the armed forces.

If you go back to Petraeus's testimony this week, when asked about taking the fight to Iran to further his objectives in Iraq he quite pointedly confined his operational remit to within Iraq and asserted that this was an issue for those upstairs at Centcom; ie for Petraeus this is the operational domain of Fallon, who is known to be Iran-war averse.

For those of us who have been paying attention, there has been a sustained and consistent pattern of demurral of military action against Iran coming from the JCS since the Spring of 2005.

A good example is the April 2005 statement by Renuart, the JCS Director of Planning, reported in the Daily Telegraph but never mentioned by the US media, that there was no military solution to Iran and that diplomacy had to be made to work. This is the consensus position within the US military and similar statements have been made by Abizaid, Pace, Fallon, Lute, Gates and others.

Without Rumsfeld at the Pentagon helm - and even he was going wobbly on this prior to his departure - the bureaucratic obstacles to any direct, overt military campaign against Iran remain phenomenally high.

Pere Ubu said...

Dr. Rubin:

I've compiled a list, in my own non-professional way, of recent indicators from just the last few days which I see as leaning towards an attack on Iran. Our two lists are pretty much alike, though (no offense) I noted the latest unhelpful comment from Ahmadinejad and speculated how it's going to feed into the propaganda effort.

As far as the generals not wanting to attack - good point, but if their Commander-in-Chief tells them to, they will. If they haven't revolted en masse yet over Iraq, I hardly think they will over Iran, until it's too late. As Ken Silverstein points out in the article I link to, the one branch of the military that isn't stretched to breaking point is the Air Force - which is exactly the branch they're looking at for the attack.

Anonymous said...

The Commander-in-Chief is not bound by the niceties of military chain of command. We can see that currently; why is Admiral Fallon publicly invisible in the briefings on the Iraq situation while his subordinate, General Petraeus, occupies the limelight? Obviously President Bush does not feel constrained in his self-defined war-making powers by any level of command beneath him.

The pre-offensive military configuration of 2003 was in considerable part geared to operational preparation of the environment for a ground invasion. There is more than enough firepower in place to deliver the air strikes against Iran that war planners believe would be adequate.

Congressional controls on war-making have largely been given up. Serious and thoroughgoing diplomacy has not been attempted. International bodies are disrespected. The best hope of heading off a calamitous offensive against Iran may lie in a crescendo of attention to the serious humanitarian situations in the region, which would only grow worse after a new military offensive.

Anonymous said...


I think 10,000 targets is vastly more than planned for. I could be wrong, but 1,000-1,200 sounds more correct to me. At least, if we assume a fairly large scale strike at nuclear/military targets.


Given the strike would be largely air only and probably extend over several days... Well, we pretty much have the assets in place.

The Truman and Nimitz CSG that were out of the gulf, are now heading there to bring us back up to three again. Assuming is right anyway.


Anonymous said...

Pere Ubu

I think that you underestimate the bureaucratic obstacles that the Bush administration faces in this regard and the gap between having a plan, and the assumptions they entail, and operationalising said plan.

Bush can instruct the military to develop plans all he wants to, but he has to be able to fulfill certain conditions to make the plans viable. These obstacles lie on the diplomatic plane.

So the military is going to tell Bush that they need to use airbases and airspace in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Turkey and elsewhere in the region to act as a launchpad for any bombing campaign, as contrary to popular belief the US air force does not possess Q-like powers that enable it to dematerialise its aircraft over Iran and allows relatively short-range naval aviation to fly deep into Iran ( and back ) without refuelling. This is going to be a tad difficult - all the Gulf states have normalised political, diplomatic, commercial and cultural relations with Iran, and Turkey - deeply pissed-off with the US as is - is in a de facto tactical alliance with Iran to combat Kurdish irredentism.

Whilst it's tempting - from the Bush administration perspective - to view other countries as purely instrumental, with no actual interests of their own, this tends to obscure the reality that assisting any US military action against Iran is going to be deleterious to both the health and the wider political and economic interests of the Gulf sheikhs. It should be clear by now that the diplomatic charm offensive to garner the necessary permissions for an attack on Iran collapsed about 2 years ago - hence the chatter about nuclear options instead. If the Bush administration cannot deliver key requirements from third parties that enable military action - and it cannot - then it is going to have major difficulties with its planning.


If you look at the Centcom air power summaries you'll notice that the US air force is already flying about 300 sorties ( transport, refuelling, ISR, CAS ) per day, every day. This is already tying up pretty much every non-carrier aviation asset at their disposal in the region.


Debka is geographically challenged - the Nimitz has moved from the Bay of Bengal into the South China sea, which, in my world, means it is heading in the opposite direction to the Persian Gulf and is actually homeward bound - not exactly surprising as it left its home port more than 5 months ago. The Truman isn't on deployment at all - although it's probably going to deploy later in the year.

The US hasn't even a fraction of the assets in place to do anything other than get themselves deeper into a very, very nasty hole.

Barnett R. Rubin said...

Thanks for the discussion. But I want to go back to the point about early warning. I am not asserting with certainty that the administration will attack Iran. I am noting that there are signs that the likelihood is increasing. Given a reasonable (even if low) probability of a catastrophic event, we should try to prevent it, as through Senator Obama's statement (for starters). I am trying to show that there is a reasonable danger, not a certainty. I have not devoted much attention to trying to show that the results would be catastrophic, as that seems quite obvious to me, and anyone who does not agree will not be moved to action against it by evidence that it is becoming more likely. Uncertainty about military movements, secret decisions, and future intentions is a given. The question is, given that uncertainty, do we assume or hope for the best, or try to prevent the worst?

eurofrank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eurofrank said...

Dear Dr Rubin

The Washington Post continues the Innuendo about Syria.

Good Old A.Q. Khan puts in a guest appearance today, maybe as a middleman for North Korean missile parts.

Gremlins and Ghoulies and things that go bump in the night

Do you think Jimmy Hoffa was busried in Syria by the Iranian Special Forces?

Anonymous said...

Hello Dan,
The US has three huge air bases in Iraq and Afghnistan--it doesn't need Qatar or even one carrier group. Carrier groups are obsolete, anyhow, because they are vulnerable to cruise missiles particularly in confined waters like the Gulf. They work fine on the little defenseless countries the US usually picks on, but Iran isn't that.

Hello pere ubu,
re: President Ahmadinejad: For a guy with an "ignorant piehole" he sure has the USofA over the proverbial barrel, doesn't he, what with his new friendly neighbors in Baghdad and US military results headed south on either side of him, plus friends in China and Russia.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Rubin

For the signs that the likelihood is increasing three signposts will have to be pointing in the same direction: the propaganda signpost, the diplomatic signpost, and the military signpost. (It's tempting to add economic/fiscal and "energy" signposts to the list - but these are now so out of whack with the necessary conditions for a war with Iran that they cannot be turned during the remainder of the Bush administration's tenure).

The propaganda signpost is pointing one way, but the other two are still pointing in the opposite direction.

That said, it is important to keep the pressure on to prevent the other signposts from being turned into alignment.

It's also worth noting that the Democrats have a very useful, all-purpose ace up their sleeves - the debt ceiling - which was breached again earlier this month ( USG is bleeding cash at the rate of at least $45 billion per month at present ). If they have the good sense to play this card and limit the increase to no more than $300 billion, they can keep the administration on a very tight leash.

Anonymous said...


Bagram airbase is what would usually be described as "austere" - ie forget about launching any strategic bombers from there; a lot of the CAS in Afghanistan is undertaken by aircraft flying from Oman or a carrier in the Arabian Sea, and then flying a thousand kilometers across Pakistan to get to Southern Afghanistan ( and back ) - if Bagram were such a good location why would the USAF be flying the most inefficient way possible?. There's also the sticky issue of Karzai's predilection for holding hands with Ahmadinejad and the awkward fact that it's a near 4000km round trip from Bagram to anywhere worth bombing in Iran bar Mashad.

Whilst Balad is a better location, it's not exactly a massive airbase and the same political considerations apply. Then again, it only takes one missile hit on the runways, which are less than 200km from the Iranian border, and the whole air campaign comes to a glorious fizzle for a day or two.

Anonymous said...

I'd say there is more than enough airfield capacity for whatever the airforce wants to do, in addition to navy capability from carrier groups. What Karzai and Maliki think about it doesn't really matter, does it.

Afghanistan: Bagram Airbase (3500 airmen) is located in the Parvan Province approximately 11 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of the city of Charikar and 47 Kilometers (27 miles) north of Kabul. It is served by a 10,000 foot runway built in 1976 capable of landing large cargo and bomber aircraft. Bagram Airbase has three large hangars, a control tower, and numerous support buildings. There are over 32 acres of ramp space. There are five aircraft dispersal areas with a total of over 110 revettments. F-15 and A-10 aircraft based at Bagram provide close air support for ground troops. Distance Kabul--Tehran 945 mi, 1520 km

Iraq: Over forty military airfields including:

Balad Airbase is located in Northern Iraq approximately 68 kilometers North of Baghdad. Balad Airbase is one of the largest Airbases in Iraq. The airfield is served by two runways 11,300 and 11,200 feet long respectively. Balad occupies a 25 square kilometer site and is protected by a 20 kilometers security perimeter. F-16 and A-10 fighters based at Balad provide close air support for ground troops. Balad is the busiest single runway operation in DOD and second in the world only to London's Heathrow airport (not bad for "not exactly a massive airbase"). Distance Baghdad--Tehran 774 mi, 1245 km

Al Asad Airfield, the second largest airbase in Iraq, is located in northern Iraq approximately 180 kilometers West of Baghdad and 12 kilometers Southwest of the Euphrates River. The airfield is served by two main runways measuring 14,000 and 13,000 feet. Al Asad, like other military airbases across Iraq, has numerous hardened shelters and hangars with multiple runways and taxiways.

F-15 fighter Range: 3,450 miles
F-16 fighter Range over 2,000 miles
A-10 CAS Range: 800 miles

also 18 Boeing B-1s and B-52s operating from Diego Garcia in the Indian Oceanspkme

Anonymous said...

Attention to humanitarian problems concentrates foremost on provision of food, clean water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care (including disease prevention measures such as vaccination). I hope that the consequences of forced displacement don't get overlooked. Persons displaced from their homes in Iraq aren't likely to accept that partition, whether de facto or by compact, eliminates their property and financial claims. Children and youth growing up in refugee situations are likely to develop very strong political opinions, and some militancy should not be surprising. Analyses by social scientists, journalists, and historians, and anecdotal accounts of displaced persons, can keep the image of the USA tarnished for a long time. All of that would be bad enough even if there is no catastrophe such as an epidemic or a terror attack in a refugee zone.

Religious freedom, while addressed in Iraq's Constitution, is not available to the citizens of Iraq. The fresh State Department report on religious freedom cites many instances of persecution or violence.

The humanitarian, ethnic/sectarian cleansing, and religious freedom issues have a fair amount of resonance in the public. They deserve more attention on their own merit, but taken together (they are all related) they are an issue set that should not be easy to dodge. Sadly, inserting the issue set into discussions of military and political objectives makes one a potential target to accusations of using a bleeding heart pose to advance a political position. Nonetheless, it should be made plain to those who want to attack Iran that current problems resulting from the invasion and occupation of Iraq are not being adequately addressed.

Pere Ubu said...

The question is, given that uncertainty, do we assume or hope for the best, or try to prevent the worst?

I think, given the stakes, we take a page from the "One Percent Doctrine" and assume the worst.

At worst we're totally wrong and look like yet another silly Very Unserious liberals; at best, we manage to prod someone into action that could forestall World War 3.

Sometimes it IS better to just go ahead and cry wolf, especially if you've heard something howling at the moon lately.

eurofrank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eurofrank said...

Dear Dr Rubin

A crook unmasked

The Guardian takes a certain amount of delight in the unmasking of Alex Debat.

Never mind Stratfor got caught by Michael Leeden's story that Khamenei was dead last year.

Bomb the Victim

They do however keep the worry levels at a pitch to keep us chewing the fingernails down to the elbows.

Anonymous said...

Sitting here in Iran and reading all this I keep thinking all the discussions are founded on the assumption that Bush and Cheney and Co. are not war criminals, which they have proven to be.

Here is a link to sober you all up and question your assumptions:

'We Are Going To
Hit Iran...Bigtime'

Anonymous said...


At the risk of devolving into pedantry, Heathrow manages about 1300 ( fixed-wing ) aircraft movements per day - this is double the movements for the entire Centcom theatre as per their daily reports. There are a number of US airports that are busier still, so I suspect that you'd find a similar profile for at least 4-5 civilian airports in the US, Paris, Frankfurt and elsewhere.

Even if you take into account the large number of helicopter movements that are being run out of Balad - and these aren't strategic bombers - then Balad is generating - at most - maybe 1/4 the aircraft movements of a major civilian airport such as Heathrow. I'd also note that this is the kind of volume required to just keep things going in Iraq and Afghanistan - using these airbases to attack Iran would necessitate the cessation of current US air operations, and it would still require the extensive utilisation of airpower from other regional bases and naval carriers.

None of this alters the reality that air operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq are being supplemented by aircraft flying from Oman, Qatar and carriers. The B1's were moved from Diego Garcia a good while back as the distances to Iraq and Afghanistan are simply too great for sustained operational efficiency, and it also helps to keep the aviation fuel bill down - you'll note that they're not flying from within those countries, which would make sense if it could be done, because the airbases cannot sustain high-end strategic bombers such as B1's or B2's.

I presume that you understand that modern combat aircraft require hefty maintenance to keep them going, and that Bagram, for example, can put maybe 30-40 combat aircraft into the air per day for local combat/ISR support missions.

Kian said...

Voice of America and Fiasco at Persian Service.

As a native born Iranian, I would like to suggest that there is no need to attack Iran militarily if the Bush administration pays attention to those who know the situation and use the awesome power of publicity instead of military.
Millions of dollars are spent in Persian Service of Voice of America but the end result is nothing but scandalous way of management and programming.
It is hard to believe but the Persian Service which supposed to be an organization to convey the policy of the U.S. has become a free platform for hard-line terrorist group of communists who attack the United Sates!
I have the documents in writings to prove that these were done with the knowledge of the management.
I used to work there and as I said before, I have all the documents in writings.
The manager is a woman called Sheila Gandji who can not read and write Persian. Therefore, in order to hide this shortcoming from the higher management, she has hired an eighty something man called Kambiz Mahmoudi who has a lengthy background as crook and charlatanism.
Don’t think that this is a personal vendetta.
Let me quote you a view from another media:
"The Iran Steering group concluded that much of the anti-American perspective that is broadcast is the result of decisions made by station managers in Washington D.C. and Prague. Sheila Gandji, the manager of Persian service has faced sharp criticism, particularly for her decision to stop VOA shortwave radio program in July, 2006 in order to focus on television broadcasts, which are more susceptible to censorship, since the government regularly confiscates satellites dishes in order to prevent the infiltration of foreign broadcasts."
The bizarre situation at the Persian Service of Voice of America caused the Republican Senator Coburn to write a long letter to President Bush about the fiasco there.
It is only in America where the government pays to be insulted.
Do you want more information? Write me:

Anonymous said...


First, you seem pretty well informed about various movements ala CSGs and such. Can you share where you get this info? All I find via google seems out of date...

Second, thanks for keeping this from being an echo chamber. I am not sure I agree with your premise that the military is not relatively ready for a Iran strike... But you provide some good food for thought.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for passing on what you were told. Don't let anyone tell you that you in any way did anything wrong.

I did a post-Debat analysis of the Plesch/Butcher report to see what sources of information might have been compromised by Murdoch media and other suspect sources. Debat is, as far as I could see, not cited for any of their analysis. Murdoch media were cited as evidence that Israel, not the US, was planning an attack on Iran.

One element in my belief that an attack on Iran is planned is the silence in Ha'aretz. They have to deal with a military censor. One would have expected discussion in what is ordinarily a fairly lively press. Another is that, as Seymour Hersh has documented, we have launched warlike actions against Iran-- flyovers, assassinations, and so on.

I do have to say that Plesch has been wrong before, but that's part of the open source intelligence game. The US is certainly supplying the provocations, and seems to be hoping that Iran will supply the war.

Charles of MercuryRusing

eurofrank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eurofrank said...

Dear Professor Rubin

I suspect some of your readers will enjoy the interview with Sir Michael Quinlan linked to from this site.

Hard Talk

Note his reference to the conditions for a just war, which is also referred to by Paddy Ashdown in his recent book. If you arent familiar with the theology of this grap a passing Cardinal (not the baseball players)

The interview is all worthwhile but if you dont want to spend the full 25 minutes on it then it starts to talk about Iran about 12 minutes in.

Sir Michael teaches at Kings College London.

Ian said...

What do you think about this very well argued article?

Salon-Why Bush Won't Attack Iran

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