I have been reading all sorts of stuff about the threat that Iran poses to the United States and Israel today. On the other hand, I am also reading all sorts of stuff about how Iran is NOT a threat to world peace today, and will be even less so if they obtain nuclear weapons. This point of view of Iran not being a threat misses the point of Iran’s history of exporting violence since the current government obtained power in 1979.
Iran began by committing an act of war against the U.S. by seizing our embassy in Tehran in the fall of that first year. Iran has been meddling in neighboring countries internal affairs since then. For decades now, Iran has been supporting armed Islamic groups throughout the region. Iran has been working closely with Syria in this same effort. Iran was and still is involved heavily in Iraq and was directly aiding our enemies there. Iran basically has been waging covert warfare against the U.S. and Israel since 1979. To believe that Iran is not a threat in anyway to United States interests in the Middle East is ridiculous. On the other hand, to believe that Iran will attack the United States with nuclear weapons after they were able to obtain them is to ignore Iran’s history of covert warfare. And Iran is no pushover.
Iraq was a piece of cake compared with a potential conventional war against Iran. Iraq is predominately desert. Desert is the most ideal terrain on earth (Except the oceans) for mechanized warfare. This is the type of war that the U.S. military excels at. The terrain of Iran is vastly different from Iraq: A rugged, mountainous rim; A high, central basin with desert and mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts. Mountain terrain is the worst environment in the world for a conventional force to engage in battle. The population of Iran is more than 3 times that of Iraq. These factors would demand a great deal more troops to be used in subduing Iran than Iraq. Today, the U.S. just does not have the armed troops that would be required to do the job well. We DO have the manpower. The problem is that they are in civilian clothes.
Without massive outside assistance, the U.S. would have to begin the draft in order to obtain the troop levels required to subdue Iran. Even then, this would require time. In order to expand the army this much, we would have to withdraw many experienced officers from active units to serve as cadres for the new units being formed. A large expansion would hurt many existing units’ abilities. The experienced men would help teach the new personnel their jobs in the newly forming units. These new units would take months to form and even longer to reach the level where they are ready to be committed to combat. It can take up to a full year to form a new combat ready division from scratch. In other words, Iran is already somewhat safe from a direct invasion from the U.S. military. It can be done, but it would take far more political will than any war in recent memory. If this is the case, why does Iran need nuclear weapons?
Iran would not need to deploy any nuclear weapons once they obtain them. What Iran will be enabled to do is step up it’s overt activities against us. The recent plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is a good example. Assassination of an ambassador on U.S. soil IS an overt act of war. Even if Iran had pulled it off, would it have been worth waging war over? What if Iran has nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them? If war would be a very expensive price to pay for the assassination of an ambassador, just think about how much more expensive NUCLEAR warfare would be. In other words, Iran can become much more aggressive with any action they take with the knowledge that it is not worth waging nuclear warfare as a result of any serious reaction. Of course, Iran will have limits. For example, Iran would be foolish to launch a bunch of nuclear weapons from it’s own territory at Israel or U.S. allies. But Iran would be enabled to be much more overt about it’s activities in this war that it is already engaged in. This is where the threat index is much higher than if Iran is unable to develop or obtain nuclear weapons.
* Note: I have left out the possibility that Iran could supply some Islamic group with nuclear capability that could be deployed where Iran could deny it’s own involvement. This possibility alone raises the threat simply because it is more likely than a direct nuclear attack from Iranian territory. This is to say nothing about the potential for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.