If you’ve been following the news coming from the Middle East, you are aware that a week ago an Israeli-owned oil tanker, the Mercer Street, was attacked by drones while sailing in the Arabian Sea in international waters off the coast of Oman.
Every new administration must find its footing with our adversaries. Amongst those adversaries today are China, Russia, and Iran.
Our new administration is struggling to find its own bearings at the same time. This is not only normal, but it is also confusing because the positions of the new admin are radically different versus its predecessor.
This normal transition, the unusually aggressive posture of China, Russia, and Iran taken together with the internal policy confusion makes for a fine kettle of fish.
China and Iran have just cozied up to each other with a 25-year alliance.
The other day, the Iranian navy decided it was a good idea to harass six American warships (US Navy and US Coast Guard ships) in the Straits of Hormuz. Huh?
Eleven armed Iranian vessels — some looking like cabin cruisers with mounted .50 caliber machine guns — from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGDN) came as close as thirty feet from the US Coast Guard cutter Maui. This required the Maui to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
In global affairs, Power–Risk–Leverage are a three-legged stool whereby nations (both friend and foe) evaluate whether and how they should relate to and work with each other.
Countries do not have friends; they have alliances which are driven by changing relationships amongst Power–Risk–Leverage.
Consider the relationship between the United States and Iran as an example.
During the Obama administration:
1. The nation of Iran believed it had little risk of the United States taking any kind of military action against it. They mocked the US and chanted, “Death to America!”
They seized US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. They supported terrorists who targeted Americans. They impudently conducted their terror affairs in the open. They maimed and killed US soldiers with their EFPs (explosively formed penetrators), shaped charges that cast molten copper to destroy vehicles and to maim soldiers’ limbs.
EFPs are the size of a coffee can and can fire copper slugs at the speed of Mach 6 — 2000 meters per second — which can penetrate armor and cut soldiers’s arms, hands, legs, feet off. The Iranians made them for deployment inside Iraq. More than 600 Americans were killed by EFPs and more than 1200 were wounded.
2. Iran believed they had considerable leverage because they had been on the verge of nuclear breakout with a nuclear weapon and the world valued that capability as an enormous risk, thereby attaching considerable value to forestalling it.
3. Iran had control of the Straits of Hormuz, and,
4. Iran had closed the Iranian Crescent (the land bridge from Iran through Iraq, through Syria, to Lebanon and the West Bank thereby exerting leverage over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel).
The world fanned the Iranian self-assessment by entering into the infamous Iran Nuclear Deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We, the US, led the world in allowing Iran to think they punched way above their weight class.
Good friend of mine sends me an email, says, “Hey, amigo, you know all that military crap. Are we going to get slapped around by Iran? Poke the sleeping bear meme real? Are all the baristas at Starbucks going to get drafted?”
I laughed, called him, and said, “Where do you get this crap? Let me lay some facts on you.”
If the Iranians decide to retaliate for the US’s hit on Soleimani, the confrontation will likely degenerate into an air campaign from the American side.
Why? We don’t want to put ground troops into Iran. Make sense?
The Iranian Air Force
The Iranian Air Force has the following mixed bag of combat aircraft:
Russian MiG 29 multirole (fighter/bomber) aircraft — 20
Russian Su-17/20/22 attack aircraft — 10
Russian Su-24 attack aircraft — 23
US F-4 Phantom II fighter bomber aircraft — 63 (16 unarmed, recon only)
US F-5E fighter aircraft — 20 (includes some reverse engineered derivatives)
US F-14A/AM Tomcat fighter interceptor aircraft — 26
French Mirage F1 fighter aircraft — 9 (from Iraq when fleeing Desert Storm)
Iranian HESA Kowsar fighter aircraft — 7 (good avionics based on F-5 airframe)
Chinese F-7 fighter aircraft — 17 (built by Iran under license from China based on MiG-21)
No man, with the possible exception of General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower, has ever been ready to become President of the United States on day one.
The job is bigger than any man, more complex than any man’s experience, throws him into a malestrom of competing voices and opinions while uniquely challenging its holder to make life-and-death decisions beginning day one. Looking at that sentence, I believe that Ike was ready to go right after the Inauguration.
The Middle East is on the verge of an explosion precipitated by a spiral of Iranian provocative behavior. Your Big Red Car would like to calmly discuss what has transpired to bring the world to this point. We need to know the history of the region and Iran.
In 1979, the Shah of Iran — an American ally of some long standing — fled and the resulting leadership void was filled by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a religious exile of some fifteen years. The son of a religious scholar, the Shiite cleric was said to have memorized the Qur’an as a youth.
The Shah — Mohammed Reza of the family of Pahlavi — had been put into power in 1941 by the Russians and the British (when they attacked and seized Iran in World War II to safeguard supply lines to Russia) and was considered to have been only the second “modern” Shah. As Shah, Reza was pro-Western. He spoke English, French, German, and Persian (Farsi), but was at his core a playboy.
Reza, as Shah, launched the White Revolution in the mid-1960s. His advancement of the Iranian culture was extraordinary as was the growth of the standard of living amongst the Iranian people and womens’ rights. It is important to note that the Shah “reigned” and, ultimately, “ruled.” The big driver was oil wealth of gargantuan proportions. In many ways, he was ahead of his time in the westernization of Iran.
While I recognize that you are engaged in evaluating the debates and probably don’t have time for anything else, I want to slip in a few comments about judgment.
What brings this to the fore in my V8 is the matter of President Trump deciding not to strike Iran in retaliation for having downed a US Air Force drone.
Here is a picture of the drone, a RQ-4A Global Hawk that is flown by three remote pilots, has the wingspan of a 737, flies at 500 MPH, carries ooooodles of tech gear to listen to and look at our enemies, and typically operates at 65,000 feet altitude.
[Big question — WTF was the Global Hawk doing operating at 22,000 feet over the Straits of Hormuz? That is within the capabilities of Iranian SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) to reach while if they had been at 65,000 feet, the Iranians could not have reached that altitude. Why?] Continue reading