View Full Version : Game Theory: Iran's Preemptive War

07-28-06, 02:37 PM
Hezbollah rocket hits Israeli hospital (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4079027.html)
July 28, 2006 (AP)
"Hezbollah said it fired a new kind of rocket, which landed deeper inside Israel than hundreds of other strikes in 17 days of fighting."
If you've been following the trail of arms from Iran to Hezbollah (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5587728) and from China and North Korea to Iran (http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iran/Missile/1788_4967.html), you should not be surprised by reports of a series of "new kinds of rockets" hitting Israel from Hezbollah forces based in Lebanon. For a full inventory of Iran's missiles, and thus what is likely available to Hezbollah, see GlobalSecurity.org (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/mrl-iran.htm).

Is it possible that Hezbollah possess missiles that can reach Israel with nuclear capability? Consider a credible potential source: the departing corrupt ex-leaders of post-Soviet Ukraine.

The off-the-shelf story (http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Ukraine/index_2157.html) is:
"Ukraine inherited a considerable number of nuclear warheads, missiles, and missile production facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed. In its first decade of independence, Ukraine transferred all nuclear warheads to Russia and eliminated missiles, missile silos, and strategic bombers on its territory."
However, a report by professor (http://www.ualberta.ca/%7Ecius/stasiuk/st-articles/an-iraq-ukraine.htm)David Marples (http://www.ualberta.ca/%7Ecius/stasiuk/st-articles/an-iraq-ukraine.htm) at the University of Alberta stated in April 2002:
"Taras Kuzio, a Toronto-based researcher on Ukraine’s arms industry, has noted that Ukraine has carried out only one official inquiry into the illicit arms trade, which took place in 1998. It noted that in 1992, military stocks in the country were valued at $89 billion, but over the six years, $32 billion worth were stolen and sold abroad. No political repercussions followed this investigation."
In November 2004, the Washington Post reported (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57465-2004Nov17.html):
"The United States has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday."

"I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems. . . . You don't have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon," Powell told reporters traveling with him to Chile for an Asia-Pacific economic summit. "I'm not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I'm talking about what one does with a warhead."
Meaning Powell had information that Iran already possessed nuclear warheads and were busy trying to get them fitted onto missiles. February 2, 2005, Radio Free Europe (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/02/cd6facb4-991b-495b-9c69-96fdf30dfeed.html) reported:
"An ongoing investigation by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has revealed that in 2002, officials of the SBU, along with high-ranking members of the Ukrainian military and the state arms-sales company UkrSpetzExport, sold at least six cruise missiles each to Iran and China."
The same day, MissileThreat.com reported (http://www.missilethreat.com/news/200502020231.html):
"Ukrainian lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko recently wrote a letter to newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko claiming that the government of Yushchenko’s predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, in collaboration with members of the military and the state arms company UkrSpetzExport sold some 20 air-launched Kh-55 and Kh-55M cruise missiles, which had the capability to carry nuclear weapons. Of these, six were sent to Iran and six to China, all between 1999 and 2001. The transfers, if true, would violate various non-proliferation agreements. Kuchma’s government is also believed to have sold advanced radar systems to Iraq in 2002, despite UN sanctions to the contrary. An American embassy spokesman in Kiev was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the United States was 'aware of the reports' of such sales and took them 'very seriously.'

"The Kh-55 cruise missile has a range of 3,000 kilometers, is capable of carrying a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead, and was developed for use on Russian Tupolev long-range bombers. In June 2004, Russia tested an air-launched Kh-55 which may well have been the Kh-55."

That still leaves 14 cruise missiles missing. March 4, 2006, The Russian News and Information Agency site NOVOSTI (http://en.rian.ru/russia/20060403/45107320.html) reported:
"The chief of Russia's General Staff said Monday he could neither confirm nor deny reports that Ukraine had sold 250 nuclear warheads to Iran."
On April 3, 2006 the Russian journal Novaia Gazeta (http://blog.kievukraine.info/2006/04/did-ukraine-sell-iran-nuclear-warheads.html) reported that: "...250 nuclear warheads with a total yield of 20 megatons were not returned by Ukraine to Russia."

There is still no offical position from Russian authorities on the report.

Let's play What If? game theory. What if at least some of the 250 nuclear warheads in question were indeed sold by Ukraine to third parties, that Iran purchased at least a few, that Iran indeed has three of the 20 missing cruise missiles, and that between the year 2000 and June 2006 they figured out how to get some of these warheads deliverable via these the cruise missiles, as Powell appears to be warning back in 2004. If that's the case, Iran now has a weapon that can destroy Israel as Iran's leaders have recently repeatedly promised to do (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2281184,00.html).

The problem with a nuclear cruise missile is that it has a return address. The US and its allies have far more nuclear weapons, so Iran needs a deterrent in order to make their weapon a useful bargaining chip else a retaliatory nuclear strike that destroys Iran makes it useless. So, let's say that since 2000 some of those 250 apparently missing 20 megatons of Ukrainian nuclear warheads were smuggled into western countries by Iran and its allies, into the US, UK, France, and so on, nations that Iran's leadership considers its enemies.

This is starting to sound like a bad Hollywood disaster movie, but bear with me; the script of the real 9/11 would have been thrown out by every movie studio for implausibility before the actual event happened. I'm trying to understand the timing of Iran's abrupt change of behavior in June of this year; they started to get very cocky and I'm guessing this is because they got an operational plan in place in which they have high confidence. I'll go on.

What if Iran detonates one of these nuclear weapons in a country that is allied with the West but one which no western country is willing to defend with a nuclear counter strike on Iran because the relationship of this country with the West is non-strategic and has a relatively small population, in other words, is a country that is too small to justify the risk of counter-attack on a larger and more significant population target in the West. Further, assume Iran does not take direct credit, leaving the source ambiguous, making the nuclear counter-attack decision on Iran even more difficult to justify politically or militarily, although everyone will know by process of elimination and the context of recent events that Iran is behind it.

Beginning negotiations, Iran will say that it knows where the remaining warheads are located in the cities of various western countries and will provide information as to their location. In return, Iran will demand that the US and its allies withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and the entire population of Israel will be permitted to leave Arab lands unharmed. If these conditions are not met, Iran cannot guarantee that more weapons will not be detonated one by one in western cities. If after a deadline on a period of negotiation has passed and they do not get a firm "yes" they will annihilate Israel and all of the nuclear weapons in the West will be detonated.

The start of this will result in a mad scramble by western intelligence agencies to locate the warheads, but Iran will not give the West much time, and the time it might take to locate these weapons is likely a forcing function of the length of the negotiation period. The whole scenario plays out over a few days or at most a week. They will negotiate only with the US.

This scenario is part Iran's version of "preemptive war," part Cuban Missile Crisis. This may not be the plan, but you can be fairly sure there is a plan of some kind, and the plan is not likely to be to sit around and allow Israel to destroy Hezbollah, Iran's front line army, and thus the elimination of the means Iran has carefully developed since 1984 to get what they say they want: the infidel off Arab lands and to become The superpower of the Middle East.

In this scenario, Hezbollah take some punches now in Lebanon from Israel without a much of a counter response other than to fire increasingly more sophisticated missiles. We are re-assured that this is because they lack the means. However, in the proposed scenario, as each Israeli bomb kills another group of women and children, Hezbollah gathers further political support across the Arab world:

As The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/29/AR2006072900633.html) reported July 30, 2006: "Hezbollah's fight with Israel, viewed widely here as a battle between the militia's David and the Jewish state's Goliath, has solidified support for the militant group and left U.S. credibility, already at an all-time low, in tatters. The conflict has highlighted how far apart the United States and the majority of Arabs stand on the most visceral conflict in the Middle East."

At the same time, Hezbollah ratchet up the range and quality of missiles in their possession until the time is appropriate to reveal the weapons that may explain their apparent confidence in achieving their goal: God's army has plans to run the whole Middle East (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2281184,00.html): "Hezbollah, the group at the heart of the Lebanese conflict, is the spearhead of Iran’s ambitions to be a superpower, says Iranian commentator Amir Taheri."

This What If scenario is pure speculation. It is intended to get some discussion going on this because I don't see anyone paying attention to the possibility that some of the reports coming out of Russia that missing nukes and cruise missiles are in Iran's possession, and that if true this fact may explain Iran's change in behavior in June and Hezbollah's attack in July.

Why bother with trying to understand what Iran is really up to? Because the reports we're getting are that iran may be behind the initial Hezbollah attacks but that their intention is to do nothing more than create a diversion from scrutiny of their nuclear technology development projects. The Israeli Ambassador to the US Daniel Ayalon yesterday compared Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's recent speeches to Saddam Hussein's after the US invasion of Iraq, before he went into hiding in a whole in the ground. Maybe, but while Saddam Hussein seemed completely unprepared for the US invasion, Nasrallah and Hezbollah appear not only well prepared but better prepared than the Israeli army has in its conduct of the invasion of Lebanon to rout Hezbollah. Hezbollah appears to be continuing to take the initiative, and comments like Ayalon's only undermine confidence that Israel and the US have accurately estimated the capabilities of the enemy.

Nothing has happened to improve confidence in the ability of current US leadership to protect the US from a well planned attack. There has been no apparent improvement in intelligence capabilities between the time current US leadership failed to predict and protect the US from 9/11, the recent failure to predict the outcome of the Palastinian elections, and the sudden outbreak of war between Israel and the Hezbollah.

It's clear that if we want to prepare ourselves for the most likely outcome of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, we are going to have to at least try to develop some scenarios ourselves, assign probabilities to them, and decide appropriate preparations, even though the limited information we have means a lot of speculation is required to fill in the gaps.

07-28-06, 06:26 PM
first, i fervently hope you are wrong in your hypotheses. i think it adequate to explain iran's behavior as the product of ever clearer support from russia and china. this is coupled with iran trying to achieve maximum advantage for its shiite clients in iraq.