As Iran’s jihadist government presses its pursuit of nuclear technology, the U.S. defense establishment is developing plans for conflict with that Alaska-sized country.
The Army, Marine Corps and allied land forces are currently stretched thin with difficult missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and numerous other locations across the globe. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld have thus far resisted calls to increase the size of U.S. ground forces, and being the stubborn leaders that they are, no one expects an about-face in their final two years in office.
So what to do about Iran? It is an ancient maxim that diplomacy has a greater chance of success when backed with credible military power. The threat of a military attack did not work on the Iraqi Baathists, though it appears to have had a “bank shot” impact on Colonel Qaddafi, who abandoned his WMD projects the same month American soldiers pulled Saddam Hussein from his spider hole near Tikrit. It also appears to be keeping the Syrian Baathists from dabbling in WMD.
Before unleashing the full force of American and allied land and air power, we have other options that can demonstrate our resolve with Iran. The U.S. Navy in particular brings an impressive array of capabilities: Single ship deployments, sovereign basing, deep strike capabilities, and movements of entire battle fleets can dial American military power up and down the threat spectrum without any one else’s permission or cooperation, as necessary.
Iran is surrounded by U.S. forces and allies. It also has 1500 miles of coastline. A concerted American or coalition exercise in the vicinity of that nation could increase the pressures on the Iranian leadership to deal more seriously with United Nations efforts to end its nuclear program.
The Navy could sortie an Aegis missile defense ship with Standard Missiles into the Persian Gulf to reinforce our ability to defend allies there like the United Arab Republic. It could also gather a large concentration of aircraft carrier battle groups, with SEALs and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, in the Arabian Sea to conduct operations testing and probing the coastline and air space around Iran. Part or all of this powerful force could sail through the Straight of Hormuz. Other U.S. and coalition aircraft could participate from bases in the region.
This exercise would be reminiscent of the Reagan-Lehman maritime strategy of the early 1980s that clearly showed the Soviet leadership the long reach and massive firepower the U.S. Navy had in the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
At present American naval assets are decentralized and not playing heavily in the terror war. But concentrated carrier and amphibious power could deliver a big operational punch for an Iranian contingency, especially in concert with long range Air Force strike assets like B-2 bombers.
This proposal would give the nation and the world a range of options to shape the calculations of Iranian leaders. Like the Libyans, they might be dissuaded, especially as the current American President has a record of backing up his words with actions.
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