5 June 2007

Iran Vows Large-Scale Retaliation if U.S. Attacks

If U.S. forces strike Iranian nuclear facilities, Iranian officials say Tehran will respond by triggering all-out regional war.
“Ballistic missiles would be fired in masses against targets in Arab gulf states and Israel,” one Foreign Ministry official said. “The objective would be to overwhelm U.S. missile defense systems with dozens and maybe hundreds of missiles fired simultaneously at specific targets.”
Tehran’s primary targets would be U.S. military installations and strategic targets in U.S.-allied Arabian Gulf states, including oil depots, refineries, power plants and desalination facilities. U.S. warships would also face waves of surface-to-surface cruise missiles sent to overwhelm their countermeasures, said several senior Iranian officials whose comments reflect the official line but who could not obtain permission to speak on the record at short notice.
“The name of the game is simply to saturate strategic targets with missile firepower in order to render the Patriots and other defenses useless,” said Hassan Fahs, a journalist and political analyst based here.
One Iranian official with knowledge of the leadership’s national-security discussions said his country’s leaders anticipate that U.S. forces will strike with no warning against the military’s command-and-control network, and have ordered ballistic- and cruise-missile battery crews to launch the retaliation plan within an hour after a U.S. attack begins.
“The U.S. will be as surprised with Iranian military capabilities as the Israelis were with Hizbollah in last summer’s war in Lebanon,” he said. “Most of our people are confident we would give the Americans hell and likely emerge victorious.”
Special targets would include Arabian Gulf states that help Washington to justify a strike, said Adm. Ali Shamkhani, a former Iranian defense minister. Sham-khani runs the Center of Strategic Studies, a think tank comprised of former senior foreign, defense and interior ministers who advise Ayatollah Ali Khameni, the country’s supreme leader.
“Allegations by some Arab gulf states that the Iranian nuclear program poses an environmental threat to the area and that it would spark a nuclear arms race are aimed at helping the U.S. establish legitimacy for its anticipated aggression against Iran,” Shamkhani said.
U.S. military action threatens Iran’s existence, he said, “but most of those who speak about the war option are well aware that Iran has the capability to face this choice.”
Tehran would also allow al-Qaida and other Islamic terrorist groups free passage across its borders from Afghanistan and Asia into the Middle East, Iranian officials said.
“Iran will open a freeway for terrorists from Afghanistan all the way to Lebanon, enabling the terrorists to strike in almost every country in the Middle East,” said the official with knowledge of national-security discussions. He added that Iran currently bans such transits from Afghanistan, forcing them to take longer routes and risk capture in other countries. “This positive action would not continue if Iran is attacked by the U.S.”
One Kuwaiti analyst said Iran-backed terror attacks are expected if war breaks out.
“Most Arab gulf states expect to face a series of terrorist attacks in their major cities carried out by either Iranian sleeper cells or al-Qaida members in case of a war with Iran,” said Sami Al-Faraj, head of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.
All this tough talk makes some Iranian analysts nervous.
“Iran regards itself as a regional superpower who is conducting a Cold War-style confrontation with the U.S.,” said one. “The risks involved in playing such a dangerous game with a world superpower are so big that many Iranian officials are anxious about the hardline policies of the current leadership in Tehran, and are pressing for political engagement and de-escalation of tension with the U.S.”
Info Campaign
Iranian military officials are providing data to local think tanks and journalists to show that leaders, aware of U.S. intentions and capabilities, are prepared to overpower them.
“The Iranian street is now more aware of the threat of war than it used to be a year ago, but authorities here are raising the morale and assuring the people by showing they were a step ahead of the Americans,” Fahs said.
In the past few months, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has shown off new weapons in testing or deployment: ballistic missiles such as Scud variants and the Shihab-3, anti-ship cruise missiles such as the Chinese C-802 and Silkworm, a new high-speed torpedo and spying drones. Guards troops displayed several of the weapons in war games in the past few months, and broadcast on local TV channels and some government-run Web sites what it called UAV-shot footage of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier.
“This was to tell the Iranian people that we know where the Americans are and what they are up to, and we can strike them any time,” Fahs said.
The public release of information is a marked change for the often secretive Iranian military, which has widely distributed claims that it has put a spy satellite in orbit, acquired advanced S-300 high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, built stealth drones that cannot be picked up on American radars, and deployed missiles that cannot be defeated by the U.S. Navy.
Shamkhani said Tehran has blocked U.S. moves in many parts of the region, boosting Iran’s regional influence, especially in relatively unstable Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.
This puts “Iran today in control of about 70 percent of the U.S. game in the region,” he said.
Iranian officials held talks with U.S. officials in Baghdad on May 28 on the security situation there and offered to help reduce tension in Lebanon.
Shamkhani and other Iranian officials denied U.S. charges Iran is building nuclear weapons and inciting sectarian violence in Iraq.
“All the talk about a Sunni-Shiite divide and Iranian expansionist or hegemonic ambitions are lies spread by the U.S. and Israel to rally regional support and justify a military attack on Iran,” he said. “All the troubles in the region are caused by the U.S. military presence and Israel.” •
E-mail: rkahwaji@defensenews.com.

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