Not long ago, I pointed CONTENTIONS readers to a study explaining how Iran might fight a war against the U.S. in the Gulf. It is, I wrote, “A useful study for those wanting to explain, when the time comes, why the West hesitated to confront Iran, and how it lost the battle over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” The bottom line: “the Islamic Republic holds the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz–the world’s oil lifeline–in its grip.”
Robert Kaplan, of the Atlantic, takes this argument one step further (Kaplan also quotes the study I wrote about):
Iran is bringing 21st century warfare to the seas by planning small-boat suicide attacks that would resemble in some ways the aerial and naval suicide missions launched by Imperial Japan during its last desperate days in the Second World War. At the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the Japanese mixed unconventional and conventional tactics to kill 12,000 Americans and wound more than 33,000. Iran, by contrast, is threatening a purely unconventional naval war, including attacks on U.S. military targets and on international maritime traffic. Oil prices would spike, and Iran would enjoy a long-term profit, even if it temporarily could not export its own oil.
Kaplan assures his readers that the U.S. is “not defenseless against kamikaze warfare:”
“We have been preparing for it for a number of years with changes in training and equipment,” said Vice Admiral (ret.) Kevin Cosgriff, former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. . . . But Cosgriff cautions that the IRGCN represents an “evolving, thinking adversary” who may employ not only simple swarming tactics but also attacks by fewer platforms that come armed with more sophisticated weapons, like anti-ship missiles and long-range torpedoes.
The conclusion, though, is quite clear:
Some of the promoters of a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities have sold the strike as a high-tech, airborne surgical attack. But a look at the naval environment indicates that like the Iraq invasion, what starts surgically could end very messily indeed.
As I said: useful for those wanting to explain, when the time comes, why the West hesitated.