As tensions rise in the Persian Gulf, American commanders are pondering the strength of the Iranian military and U.S. options if battle comes.
The prospect of war with Iran is a local issue in the Pikes Peak region, which has more than 4,000 Fort Carson soldiers in the region with the post’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, a heavily armored unit equipped with M-1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Those few ground troops are now backed by a Marine contingent and massive air power flown to the region in recent days to back a Navy task force centered on a carrier.
Several news outlets say the Pentagon is bracing for a far larger commitment to the region with 120,000 troops or more heading overseas to counter Iranian threats. President Donald Trump dubbed reports of Pentagon war plans “fake news” on Tuesday but also issued a statement that sent shock waves to Tehran.
“If we did it, we would send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” Trump said.
So, what’s going on? There are probably real threats. But the tension between Iran and the U.S. has also made for good politics on both sides.
Trump campaigned on a platform that included getting tough with Tehran. He withdrew from a nuclear arms treaty and slammed down heavy sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Saber rattling has been popular with Trump’s base and has pushed the Mueller report out of headlines.
In Tehran, the government is seeing unrest at a level unseen since the 1979 overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Students are rioting, and so are residents of outlying provinces. The criticism of the Tehran regime ranges from mismanagement of resources to its totalitarian reliance on Sharia.
What kicked off the showdown? The Trump administration has released few specifics and Tehran has claimed innocence, but issues between the U.S. and Iran have been building for nearly 20 years.
So, what happens if a war kicks off?
Both sides are hiding their cards, but some things are evident.
The U.S. has a massive advantage in the air and at sea, and given time will have one on the ground. Given Trump’s dislike of America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, though, a ground campaign isn’t a top option. That leaves the U.S. to strike Iran with bombs, missiles and computer warfare.
Iran is on the losing side in a conventional fight, even with more than 500,000 troops. It’s air Force and navy are built with mainly cast-offs and antiques. It has plenty of missiles, but the U.S. has plenty of ways to shoot them down. That leaves Iran with one of its few advantages: terrorism. And that’s an option that could see attacks far from the Persian Gulf.
Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster explained the options for nations like Iran during a speech in Colorado Springs a few years ago.
“There are two ways to fight the U.S. military — asymmetrically or stupid,” he said. “Our enemies will interact with us in ways to evade our strength and attack what they see as our vulnerabilities.”
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx