[the following is posted quickly due to bleary eyes... brain awake, body not.. will amend as necessary later, but the *idea* is important]
Well, from my readings around and about, I have noticed a few things here and there. First off is that the leadership in Iran does not use its military nor police force overmuch to control its population, depending upon its more 'Elite' or Revolutionary guard units and, if indications are true, mercenaries. Chechen mercenaries for the most, though various other ethnicities from the area willing to work for hire and that have no ties to Iran.
This speaks of two things. First is that the police and regular army may not be up to snuff or highly trustworthy to the leadership. Second, that the very young age of the population, coupled with modern electronics is causing *something* beneath the surface. While they still have their Friday Night Hate of Death to just about everyone they don't like, one does begin to wonder how much of that is like the members of the Communist Party in the old USSR. Members in name to get things done, but not committed.
Another reference point is the real lack of young faces *anywhere* near the leadership. As in people 30 to 50. Scarce to non-existant. So the push to get nuclear capability is really no surprise as the Leadership cannot stand election results, has purged itself a number of times and has disenchanted the general population with wanting to step into their shoes after they are gone.
On the other side of the coin are the Wizard Warriors. The modern US military has put together a very fast training and spin-up cycle using lessons learned from returning troops. Add in mandatory classes in the local languages, peoples and customs and the much touted idea of 'Occupiers' is being replaced by one of disbelief when their own government does foolish things, not the military. Also the US Military has been so effective and capable that they are truly seen as nearly wizards for doing things that a regular Middle Eastern Army, save Israel, could never do. And as the New Iraqi Army picks up these ways and studies them and works with them and integrates them, they become very effective. All of the recent uproar after the Golden Mosque bombing was handled by almost 100% Iraqi troops and police.
Afghanistan and early OIF point the way of the future of NetWar. Networked Warfare as an integrated and seamless operation from lone individual spotting targets to fast moving armored infantry and heavy armor units. Add in stealth wizardry and GPS and inertial guidance in case of jamming, along with brand new weapons and equipment, and the military itself is undergoing an on-the-fly transformation.
To those armchair retired generals, may I point out that the last two conflicts were nothing as was expected? No Soviet style invasion in Afghanistan and not Viet Nam in Iraq. Afghanistan saw NetWar version 0.75, with light infantry to back it up. As the Taliban could barely understand the equipment they had and had so little training to make them effective, a barely more effective Northern Alliance with a modern Air Force won the day. When more effective US units arrived it was a clean-up operation, by and large, and is now one of keeping the bandits at bay until Afghanistan can stand for itself. A small and undernourished and poor country, but it is doing so with the help of Wizards teaching them how to fight fiercely and live with what they have.
OIF was Net War version 0.85, but with capable US and Coalition forces able to move quickly. Our detection and adjustment loop has dropped from days, before the First Gulf War to that of *minutes* to an hour at worse. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with long linger times used for damn near everything from nearly squad level all the way up to Theater level ops. In full fledged NetWar seeing a target will be its doom, and we are coming close to that now. And to get a good layout of defenses we now infiltrate Special Forces weeks or months in advance to understand the terrain and activities going on within it. Way back in the 20th century the idea of a nearly impregnable *permanent* emplacement was a wonderful idea! Today it is just a high list target for a penetrator.
Also seen in OIF was the entire logistics train moving with the troops. When stopped everyone and everything was refreshed, in an hour or so it was on the move again. With what can be carried and kept on board vehicles and by putting infantry onto fully mobile platforms we have done better than the Israeli 15 minute stop per hour for water in the desert. The advance units move at the fastest rate possible with heavier attack units to meet resistance, and continuous air support and oversight to keep threats located. Sand and dust storms are still a problem, but some combined optics units are now even piercing that veil, although another few years may be needed to actually *field* them.
OIF also did *not* see a long, pummeling aerial assault. The reason for this is the ability to continuously track targets. Permanent emplacements now have a high casualty rate, mobile ones are a bit less if not a modern Army unit and can be picked up the second or third time through as the troops are advancing. So long as the enemy is not a NetWar capable enemy, they are not a problem.
Now, as for garrisoning and keeping things stable, the amount predicted for Afghanistan was... well... Soviet in size. Much more has been done with less and with local troops to help while a real National Army stands up. The idea was not to conquer Afghanistan, but to allow it to be self-ruling and accountable. This little change means that at some point early on locals are told to go talk with the locals in charge of things. Now Iraq actually did need a much larger force to do these things and building them up has taken much longer than expected. That said the old Army ceased to exist by the time Saddam's statue had fallen. It had *disintegrated* and turned into civilians shedding uniforms. So there was no way to easily figure out what to do, other than to train and train and adjust and train and adjust and slowly bring the brand-spanking new Iraqi Army and Police up to speed. And it should be pointed out that they have fought fiercely and with a dedication that only people looking to free their nation can have.
And so we come to Iran. What can be expected? Well, if anyone trying to make a prediction has not carefully examined and thought over the events since 9/11, then they will be wrong about whatever they predict. Also, large civilian casualties are not to be expected as the modern NetWar cares more about protecting civilians and decapitating armies than the other way around. The paradigm of 20th century Total War is nearly gone when NetWar militaries face off against Industrial militaries. And there is no need for saturation bombing as Afghanistan and Iraq have shown. The worst bombings done in Iraq are by Transnational Terrorists, not the US or Iraqi Armed Forces.
So when does this conflict begin? It already *has* begun.
The following is speculation, take of it what you will.
Iranian War: NetWar version 0.90
First Special Forces are already in-country using local assistance garnered through Iraqi families and commercial contacts in Iran. Terrorist deployment sites, munitions production sites for IEDs and similar and the mercenary sites should be pretty well mapped out by now and thoroughly so in six more months.
Second, stealth UAVs are already overflying all of Iran and giving more coverage than we know what to do with. This may be some older generation stuff, but it still has life and if it is shot down then newer equipment will loiter in from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Offensive operations begin in about 6 months. Why then? The New Iraqi Army uses the same capability adjustment system and training the US does. The US and Coalition forces use logistics and skill to help out, but the majority of in-country fighting is done by Iraqis. US Armed Forces not directly involved in combat are now lending some logistical know-how, rebuilding infrastructure and studying the Iranian information and giving informed overview on what is going on there. In 6 months the Iraqi Army will be fully double the size of Coalition forces and smaller Coalition units will replace the US units for logistics and expertise. The majority of the 130,000 man US Forces in Iraq will be available starting then. Similarly another 10,000 or so will be available from Afghanistan if Pakistan is serious on its Talibani crackdown. Third, I expect the Kurds are itching to send about 5,000 men in to help free their brethren in norhern Iran. This force is enough to defeat anything Iran can muster, including waves of suicide bombers.
Not that they will get a chance to actually *use* those.
First attack wave will be via Stealth and UCAVs, with targets on the air defensese, command and control sites and communications facilities. But we actually do not want *all* of that taken down. The regular Army *must* be isolated and cut-off and a tacit understanding that if you are fool enough to attack us, we will wipe your country off the face of the planet. I believe that any traditional General in the regular Army will understand what that will mean. This first wave will cut the Terrorists off from communications links and transport into the heart of Iran will be interdicted from the air. The 'Kill Box' will return but be monitored by UAV's with fast back-up from carrier aircraft in the south and aircraft from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the West. The roads into Iraq will be A-10 death traps.
Once the light bombing has gone through, within a few minutes the first heavy bombs will fall. Why then? The US is going to add psychological operations into the mix on this one. The leadership will be contacting the mercenaries, and we will want them to hear the screams of them before the lights go out. For go out, they will, with non-destructive bombs to take out power plants. Some of that Wizard War stuff... fine fibers that we can clean out quickly, but that regular cleaning will take forever to get out. Regular laser and video guided bombs for the mercenaries.
US Armed forces will already know where to head to clean up the Terrorist enclaves and stop the production of more bombs. Mercenaries will be handled similarly. The Iranian regular Army will be kept at bay with some demonstrations of power and maybe some Wizardry to disable their equipment and make them an all foot-power military. With command and control gone and using Iraqis that have knowledge about Iran for help, we can almost certainly assure the Iranian regular Army that they will be saved, respected and rewarded if they keep out of the way.
The Elite units? So few and so juicy. Strip them on the first wave of command and control strikes, and maybe remove power from them. For those near the border, use A-10s and Apache Helicopters. Otherwise I am sure a B-52 can pockmark them heavily with small diameter bombs laid out in a regular pattern. Call it an instant controlled kill zone.
The Kurds with some help on logistics and air cover will basically do like they did at home. They are good at it. Give them all the help they ask for and keep a bit in reserve, just in case. Do not dishonor them by thinking them to be uncapable just because they are not NetWar fighters. In the west it will be move, hit, and continue moving and moving *fast*. Very fast. With help from the native population in Afghanistan and some Special Forces pre-prep and on the ground spotting, one would expect a fast moving wave of bombs followed by light and fast ground forces. By the time any opposition knows what has hit them, they will be isolated, disabled and over-run. Roar through cities, but only fight if necessary. This is a grand desert sweep to totally cut off the south from the north, and the Special forces can do a bit of mop-up for awhile with bombing in the north until the cut is made. The entire operation moves south and is the fast moving force of the hammer for the anvil in place in the south.
Iranian police will be in the delightful position of being orderd out to face a NetWar army and realizing that they are *it*. If they actually try to follow orders and fight, they will be killed. And if they hear of *any* regular Army units changing sides or just sitting it out, my bet is that they will not want to fight their leader's war for them. This is a strange war to cut off the center yet leave the periphery in semi-good contact with each other. We want news to travel *laterally* around the center. The leadership must either stay where they are, in which case they will be found, or move, in which case they become targets on the road.
Traffic in and out of the center will be killed. So will civilians but I think most of those will not be trying to get out of the way as the *lateral* news will let them hear of US units bypassing them and negotiating with local Army and Police. As we go we will put together an ad-hoc command and control infrastructure to units agreeing to help FREE THEIR COUNTRY.
Who will keep the peace in Iran? Iranians will.
The very units that do not want to kill their own people will most likely agree to keep the peace, albeit in a rough fashion, while their leadership is killed.
Why will they do this?
The leadership is one man deep at all levels. It is a thin scum on top of Iranian society. Once it is pierced it will start to disintegrate it. The hardest thing to do will be to keep a damned revolution from starting. That will cause untold bloodshed and must be averted until calmer heads can start talking to each other.
Oh, and the nuclear facilities? Cut off but not targeted. We need the evidence to shut up the critics.
Welcome to NetWar.
I am sure my predictions are worthless. But I can guarantee it will *not* be a quagmire, nor a Viet Nam, nor anything like OIF. We no longer do 'One Size Fits All' warfare. Everything is now custom fit to work together *just right*. It will not be perfect and people will still die. It is War.
Just not Total War.
Reductio ad Absurdism is over for the US. We keep the blunderbus big ones in case of a true catastrophe, but everything else is made to order. Mass custimization, not mass production.
If you cannot understand that shift, you are *still* in the 20th century.
12 March 2006
[the following is posted quickly due to bleary eyes... brain awake, body not.. will amend as necessary later, but the *idea* is important]