Ehsan Ahrari / Asia Times & Agence France Presse – 2006-08-24 22:32:56
Tehran Sharpens Its Sword
Ehsan Ahrari / Asia Times Online
(August 23, 2006) — Iran is continuing its “war of nerves” against the United States and Israel in the form of war games. The timing of the games, which include testing “precision and intelligent weapons”, is perfect from Iran’s perspective — soon after the cessation of the war in Lebanon.
Israel is licking its wounds from the embarrassment, if not humiliation, of not being able to “eradicate” Hezbollah, as its leaders declared at the beginning of hostilities. Consequently, the US had to start its own propaganda war, with President George W Bush initiated a campaign for the global community insisting that Israel was the real victor.
Further, as regards timing, Iran was due to give its decision regarding its uranium-enrichment program on Tuesday. By conducting the war games, and by forewarning the global community that it might not stop that program as a precondition for negotiating with the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council plus one (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China plus Germany), Iran wants its adversaries to know that a potential military action against it may be a non-starter.
The timing of the war games can be viewed as a signal that the Islamic Republic is prepared for any eventuality. They started on Saturday and are expected to last several weeks in 14 of Iran’s 30 provinces.
The government made sure that its mass media fully reported that it had test-fired several short-range missiles (Saegheh or “lightning,” with a range of 80-250 kilometers) during the exercises.
Iran knows the United States both as a friend and as a foe. It dealt with the US for a good part of the 20th century. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran fell out with the US, but it never stopped learning what the “Great Satan” was up to. Being oblivious to the US and its intentions always carried dangerous potential repercussions for Iran.
Iran is thus fully aware of the thinking of Bush and his coterie of neo-conservatives. It knows that they are only biding time, even when they talk of “multilateralism” or the use of diplomacy to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium-enrichment program. It is against Iran that Bush has cavalierly and often stated that “all options are on the table”.
Thus it seems that Iran has decided that, while its enemy is regularly thinking of war, why not present a limited picture of what Iran can do if attacked by demonstrating its own military capabilities?
Even the name given to the war games carries enormous symbolic meaning, for both the US and the world of Islam. They are depicted as “Blow of Zulfiqar”. Zulfiqar was the name of the sword of Imam Ali, who was the first imam of the Shi’ite sect and the son-in-law and first cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.
Zulfiqar is a highly revered phrase among the entire Muslim community as a symbol used for the protection and promulgation of Islam. The message to the US is quite unambiguous: if threatened by military action, the Islamic Republic is ready to strike a blow against the lone superpower and its client, Israel.
Iran has seen what US military power accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has no doubt about those capabilities. It only wants to signal Washington that an invasion of Iran would not be a cakewalk. There would be no showering of rose petals and rice, and no welcoming crowds. Nor would there be any toppling of the statue of a dictator (as with Saddam Hussein’s) as a moment dramatizing the change of regime. What awaits potential American invaders is a lot more of what they are experiencing in Iraq. That is the essence of the message the war games are expected to communicate to Washington.
Iran’s message to Israel was conveyed during the Lebanon war, through the military performance of Hezbollah fighters, some of whom were trained and armed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The most overlooked aspect of their performance was their zeal for a fight. That also reminded the Israelis and the Americans what to expect in Lebanon if that country were to be occupied.
After all, the suicide bombers of Palestine are only the latest manifestations of a phenomenon that the Shi’ites of Lebanon established. Lebanese Shi’ites were the original suicide bombers of the early 1980s. That might be one reason the Israeli army did not show much enthusiasm about occupying much of Lebanese territory. That might also be why France has decided against sending a large peacekeeping force to Lebanon.
Iran is aware that the Lebanese conflict is far from over. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is desperately looking for victory of some sort. That is why Israel violated the ceasefire over the weekend by sending its paratroopers into Lebanon. The apparent purpose was to capture or kill Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, who has emerged as the new hero of the Arab world, a hero who might have acquired greater respect and attention than the late Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt did in 1956 when he challenged the combined forces of Britain, France and Israel during the Suez crisis.
Israel’s quest for victory may be one reason it is also claiming that Iran has restarted supplying weapons to Hezbollah. Those reports have not been proved by other sources. However, in all likelihood they are not entirely baseless. Iran has every intention of keeping alive what it perceives as the “tide of victory” stemming from the respectable military performance of Hezbollah during the Lebanon war.
Iran’s use of missiles in its war games is probably the most important signal that it wants to convey to the US, in a number of ways.
First, it reminds Washington of the missiles that Iran supplied to Hezbollah. Even though they were less than precise, still they caused an enormous amount of terror inside Israel.
Second, Iran wants the US to know that it has a considerably more sophisticated inventory of missiles, which it would use in the event of invasion of its territory.
Third, Iran wishes to remind the US that in a repeat of the fighting techniques used by Hezbollah against Israel, the strategy of a weak power is very much alive, if it were to face the overwhelming military prowess of the superpower. That strategy entails creating chaos, mayhem and destruction.
Finally, and most important, Iran knows the significance of the Persian Gulf as a source of energy to Japan, Europe and China.
The uppermost question US military planners must be asking, as they watch Iran’s war games from neighboring areas, is how far Iran will go in terms of blocking the passage of energy supplies in the Persian Gulf — and if this happens, what countermeasures they must take to minimize a disastrous outcome. That variable alone might be sobering enough to put a damper on the ostensibly uncompromising wish of the neo-conservatives to take military action against Iran.
There is little doubt that Iran made its point, through the war games, about how it would defend itself if attacked. What is not clear is whether the Bush administration understands that message and will take necessary action to avoid a military conflict, without getting the wrong sense that avoidance of war is a sign of weakness.
Ehsan Ahrari is the CEO of Strategic Paradigms, an Alexandria, Virginia-based defense consultancy. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns appear regularly in Asia Times Online. His website: www.ehsanahrari.com.
Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd.M.
Iran Stages Massive Military War Games
Agence France Presse
TEHERAN (August 19, 2006) — Iranian armed forces held a massive military maneuver to test new weapons and tactics against a potential enemy, state television reported.
The first stage of “Zolfaghar Blow” commenced in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. The maneuvers will continue in 15 other provinces in northeastern, northwestern, western and southern Iran.
“Zolfaghar” was the two-point sword of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and is a revered figure in Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran.
The chief commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Army said that the country should be ready for possible attacks by the United States and Israel.
“The enemy has gone insane because of the capabilities of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. And given the insane enemy’s history, we should always be prepared,” Major General Ataollah Salehi was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
Since the ceasefire in Lebanon on August 14, top Iranian officials have been praising the the Shiite militant group for their resistance.
“The main objective of this operation is to adopt up-to-date tactics and use new equipment to be able to respond to possible threats, enabling us to confront the enemy in several fronts in the country,” Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari said.
According to the report, the maneuver tests a new anti-aircraft strategy to “make the air space insecure for the enemy,” while using different types of helicopters, fighter planes and land forces warfare.
“We have been alert and watching the world’s (war) developments and we have invested in both modern tactics and equipment,” Heydari noted.
In April, the Islamic republic unveiled a wide range of weaponry such as multiple-head missiles, high-speed torpedoes and radar-evading anti-ship missiles in a week of military exercises in the strategic Gulf waters to the south.
The latest operations come amid rising tensions with the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, under suspicion to be a cover for developing an atomic bomb.
Iran has two bodies of armed forces, the traditional army and the elite Revolutionary Guards, an ideological army, equipped with terrestrial, naval and air units. All are under the command of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse
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