IN DEPTH: The Conquest of Persia – U.S military capabilities in a potential war with Iran

By Dmitry Semushin


By Dmitry Semushin – In this report  we will consider the potential of the United States in a military scenario against Iran. Of course, these potential opportunities do not mean that they will necessarily be realized.

Possible US military attack on Iran

1) Land invasion. The goal is a total crushing of the Islamic Republic of Iran with a temporary occupation, a change of political regime, the elimination of sovereignty and the actual partial dismemberment of state territory. All independent types of US forces are directly involved in military operations – Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, as well as parts of Special Operations Forces, Marine Corps and Reserve Command, including the National Guard. Direct analogy – the operation of the US Armed Forces and their British allies “Iraqi Freedom” in March-April 2003 against Iraq.

2) Air offensive.The goal is to destroy the Iranian military-industrial potential and, above all, the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction (primarily nuclear) and their means of delivery (ballistic missiles), destruction of infrastructure, intimidation of the leadership and population of the Islamic Republic of Iran to force it to an agreement. A limited version of this scenario is a pinpoint air attack on a limited number of targets related to Iran’s nuclear and missile program. The air offensive directly involved the Air Force, Navy, Air Force of the Ground Forces and the Marine Corps. Ground forces and others carry out deterrence of the enemy from active retaliatory actions. The analogy is the operation “Desert Fox” of December 1998 with an attack by aviation and rocket weapons on military and industrial sites in Iraq. Example of a point attack:

3) The war on the destruction of the Iranian “proxy”  – the Shiite militia in Iraq, the Iranian mercenary units in Syria, the units of “Hezbollah” in Syria and Lebanon. The Special Operations Forces and the Air Force units are directly involved. The ground forces and others are restraining Iran from direct intervention and resource support of its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The analogy is the operation “Unshakable determination” (Operation Inherent Resolve, OIR) of the United States and its allies against ISIS. After its actual completion, a part of the political and military leadership of the United States is tempted to throw deployed and coordinated OIR forces at the destruction of Iranian “proxies” – primarily in Iraq.

4) Iran’s naval blockade. It is being introduced into the development of a policy of economic sanctions for the complete or partial ban of Iranian exports along sea trade routes and control over Iranian imports. Directly involved ships of the Navy and the Coast Guard, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. Ground forces and others carry out deterrence from Iran’s military response. The analogy is the naval blockade of Cuba in October-November 1962.

Note . Here it is necessary to clarify the possibility of using the above-mentioned military scenarios against Iran individually or in various combinations. For example, in this sequence: the destruction of the Iranian “proxies”, the implementation of an air attack, the conduct of a land offensive, etc. The set of combinations may be different.

Theater of operations.If this or that US military operation against Iran is carried out, then the Center will be planning and directing it – the Central Command of the US Armed Forces, whose area of ​​responsibility is the Middle East with the countries of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, as well as the international waters of the Persian Gulf, the Red and Arabian seas, wider – the western part of Indian ocean. From the point of view of American military strategists, it is in this area of ​​the world that the global strategic center is located. And the Islamic Republic of Iran has been at the center of this global center since the 2000’s in the American strategic environment. In the series of Iraqi Wars (1991, 2003–2011, since 2014), of the Afghan war (2001–2014), the Americans equipped and prepared this theater of operations for their armed forces. Consider further along the arc the perimeter of the American strategic environment of Iran.

Iraq. With the operation of the US land invasion of Iran, the main front of the offensive falls on the southern and central regions of Iraq adjacent to the Iranian border. In the north are coming actions through the mountainous Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq is a natural road network leading to Iran. When defending against Iranian forces, Iraq is an American-controlled assumption or buffer. With the attack on Iran at the present time – it is a controlled area of ​​advanced deployment of the Americans. From Mesopotamia from Babylon to Persepolis or from Nineveh to Ecbatana, mostly through an open desert plain with excellent visibility – this has been a truly “historical” local theater of warfare that has been well studied by military historians since the time of Alexander the Great.

Now, in March 2019, in Iraq, in order of nine-month rotation, the Americans deployed their first-class elite unit of the US Land Forces – the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit has been trained in helicopter assault attacks. In the case of preparing a concentration of American troops in Iraq for an offensive against Iran, units of the 1st Brigade can easily take control of Iraqi airfields needed by the Americans and reliably protect American forces from Iraqi attacks by Shiite militias and other partisans.

Currently, the US military has five strongholds in Iraq — the US military bases — all are involved by US special operations forces in operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS.

– Al Asad airbase. Two runways with a length of 4 thousand meters. Two groups of shock drone MQ-1B Predator and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, a group of helicopters Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, performing rescue functions.

– Baghdad. The supply of the Iraqi antiterrorist grouping of the United States. The 160th Airborne Regiment of the Special Operations Forces is deployed on MH-47G Chinook and MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. There is a group of shock drone MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

– Bashur. A group of drone drone MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Squadron of Special Operations Forces on U-28A Pilatus.

– Camp “Taji”. Multi-purpose, transport, fire, reconnaissance helicopter support groups on AH-64D Apache, CH-47 ° F Chinook, UH-60A / M Black Hawk, HH-60M Black Hawk.

– Erbil. Iraqi Kurdistan. Logistics support point “Roberts”. 4000 m airspace. Multi-purpose, transport, fire, reconnaissance helicopter support groups on CV-22B Osprey, AH-64E Apache, CHinook, CH-47 ° F, MH-47G Chinook, MH-60M Black Hawk, UH-60A / M Black Hawk, HH-60M Black Hawk.

The situation in Iraq in March 2019 with the designation of American bases. Source: US Congress Reports


Note that since 2017, the Pentagon has stopped providing media information about the number of US military in Iraq. The latest expert report to Congress, dated March 26, 2019, states that there are about 5,000 American troops in Iraq now. This figure is completely correlated with the budget request item for 2020 for the maintenance of 7 thousand American troops in Syria and Iraq. Obviously, these forces are enough to control the advanced deployment area for military operations against Iran, but it is absolutely not enough for this when conducting military operations against Iranian “proxies” in Iraq or for controlling this territory during an air offensive against Iran.

Kuwait. If Iraq is an area of ​​forward deployment for an attack on Iran, then Kuwait serves as the gateway to Iraq for the Americans on the mainland.

Since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, about 13,500 US troops remain in Kuwait, which is more than a third of the total of 35,000 American soldiers in the Persian Gulf.

Since 2011, US troops permanently stationed in Kuwait have been designed to support Operation Spartan Shield, a mission to “contain regional aggression and stabilize countries in the region.” Operation Spartan Shield is not only a presence, but also a deterrent in the first place, obviously, Iran. US forces in Kuwait include not only support forces, but also combat units of the US Army, which gives the United States the opportunity to project its military force in the direction of Iraq and Iran. In March 2019, as part of a nine-month rotation, the 155th Armored Brigade (ABCT) of the US National Guard was established in Kuwait, replacing the 3rd Armored Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in the mission. Besides, within the framework of the operation Spartan Shield, on the basis of rotation in Kuwait, another divisional staff structure has been deployed – now it is the 28th Infantry Division. The deployed divisional structure allows, if necessary, to deploy at least three light infantry brigades here in Kuwait very quickly.

In accordance with the agreement on military cooperation with Kuwait, the Americans are keeping in Kuwait 2.2 thousand armored vehicles with mine protection (MRAP). These armored personnel carriers are just enough to put up to three light infantry brigades on them.

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The air supply center for American troops in Kuwait and Iraq is the Ali Al Salem airbase, while the naval (more important) supply is the Patriot camp, or the Kuwaiti naval base Mohammed al-Ahmed. In addition, it is also a prepared landing site for US Marine Corps units.

Camp Arifzhan in Kuwait is an advanced logistics base and repair depot, a transit point for the transfer of US troops and contractors to Iraq. It has one runway. The base employs up to 9 thousand people. In addition, here in Kuwait, in “Arifzhan”, is the headquarters of the US Marine Corps, the US Air Force, the US Navy and the US Coast Guard.

Camp “Buring”. This is an intermediate point for the passage of American troops in Iraq. It has a runway of 1590 meters. In 2017, it was expanded through the construction of new residential premises in the amount of $ 3.7 million.

Qatar. Here are the rear of the US Army for deployment in Iraq and Kuwait. On the American base in the camp “As-Siliyah” rear services of the US Ground Forces are located. There is a large number of warehouses with artificial climate. Armored vehicles are stored for one mechanized brigade. There is a repair base Stryker Damage Repair Service to restore Stryker armored personnel carriers damaged during the fighting.

Afghanistan. The Afghan war of 2001–2014 created the eastern front of Afghanistan in case of a US war against Iran. Iran appeared to be between two fires or in ticks between American troops located from the west – in Iraq – and from the east – from the side of Afghanistan.

Recently, the situation of a simultaneous war in Iraq and Afghanistan was especially dangerous for Iran from a strategic point of view. For example, in 2009, within the framework of the ISAF, the US Ground Forces held nine brigades of the Ground Forces in Afghanistan, including two airborne troops, one “striker”, four light infantry troops (including two National Guard), one airborne supply, plus one US Marine Corps Expeditionary Brigade. Such a combat group could well carry out a ground invasion of Iran from Afghanistan.

Now, after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the situation has changed. As of February 2019, the number of US troops in Afghanistan numbered 8,475, which is exactly half of the total NATO forces in the country. The following US units are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support: Aviation Assault Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, two logistics support brigades – 1st Infantry Division and 2nd Special Operations Logistics Brigade. The 2nd Brigade is busy training Afghan government troops. Its servicemen perform the function of military advisers. Also in Afghanistan, one divisional headquarters structure has been deployed – the 1st Cavalry Division. The last circumstance means

At the moment, it is absolutely clear that the American group deployed in Afghanistan in its current composition has neither the forces for an offensive on Iran, nor for the defense against serious offensive from Iran. What, for example, can happen to the Afghan group if the Americans conduct some operations against Iran, such as an air attack or attack on Iranian “proxies” in Iraq, and the Iranians in response in the first case attack their troops in Afghanistan and in the second will they send artillery and rocket weapons to the Taliban (organization banned in Russia) along with their military advisers? In general, the existing grouping in Afghanistan needs substantial strengthening if the Americans realize any of the listed military scenarios against Iran.

US Special Operations Forces on the ring surrounding Iran. A series of continuous US wars in the Middle East contributed to the intensive development of the US Special Operations Forces. If the above military scenarios against Iran are implemented, units of the Special Operations Forces will be involved in them. The nature of their actions will depend on the specific scenario. Currently, units of the US Special Operations Forces are deployed in Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and are conducting combat operations as part of the Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support operations. In this regard, despite the statement by President Donald Trump in December 2018, the withdrawal of US troops from Syria; in March 2019, the publication of The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, reported that the US military was preparing to leave up to 1,000 American troops in Syria. In significant numbers, these soldiers are in the Special Operations Forces. The budget financing of the Congress for 2020 provides for an article on the maintenance of 7 thousand US troops in Syria and Iraq. What is the number of special forces among them is unknown, but it is.

In the Iranian military perspective, it is necessary to pay attention to the preparation by the Americans in Iraqi Kurdistan of the local military militia of the Kurds, known as the Peshmerga. As part of the Iraqi Kurdish 30-thousand Peshmerghi, American instructors train Iranian Kurds, which periodically invade Iranian Kurdistan and have bloody clashes with counter-partisan and border divisions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In September 2018, Iranians even fired ballistic missiles at one of the military bases of the Kurdish Democratic Party (Iran) in Iraqi Kurdistan. There is no doubt that in the case of the implementation of the American military scenarios against Iran, troops of Iraqi and Iranian Kurds will invade from Iraqi Kurdistan to Iranian, where they will conduct military operations under the leadership and in cooperation with the US Special Operations Forces. The military capabilities of the Kurds are exaggerated. Kurdish militias can only attack with US air support, coordinated by US special forces. With possible military operations against Iran deployed in Afghanistan by US units of the Special Operations Forces, the latter can attract into their ranks “allies” – local Afghan Farsi carriers.

Another interesting question. In addition to the existing military bases, the US Special Operations Forces use in their work secret CIA stations and secret stations. Therefore, in the event of the start of hostilities against Iran, it can be quite expected that some small groups of the US Special Operations Forces will illegally invade its territory from the north – from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and even Armenia, in which, according to media reports, the US Embassy ranks second on the area the space of possessions of the State Department abroad after Germany . The numerous personnel of the US Embassy in Yerevan may well be military personnel of the Special Operations Forces.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the strained US relations with the Erdogan government call into question any American military capabilities against Iran from Turkey’s territory – again, again because of the Kurdish question and the future continuation of building independent Kurdistan – this time at the expense of Kurdish-populated areas Iran Recall that, for example, in 2003, the United States was denied the use of Turkish NATO bases in the war against Iraq.

Let’s sum up. In any variant of the US military operations against Iran, the Americans need additional deployment of their ground forces in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. At the same time, the scale and content of this deployment will indicate the nature of the impending military operation against Iran .

A New York Times report dated May 14, 2019 indicated that the Pentagon is considering the possibility of increasing its forces to 120 thousand people in the Middle East. Note that this amount of American troops is clearly not enough to conduct a land invasion operation on Iranian territory, but it will be quite enough to deter Iranian armed forces, other things listed possible military operations against this country. In this regard, the easiest thing for Americans would be to start building up their military forces against Iran in Iraq with a military conflict with Shiite militias in that country.

For an offensive operation of the land invasion and for the total crushing of Iran, a land force of at least 200 thousand people is needed. And maybe 300 thousand. In the United States for such a scale will require mobilization deployment with the call of reservists. Units from the organized reserve of the US Armed Forces – the National Guard will have to be sent to the Iranian front. Recall that at present the number of regular US Army (US Army) troops and the National Guard reserve are equal – 450 thousand each component – total 900 thousand. In the US Marine Corps there are 60 thousand military personnel.

To concentrate the 200,000-strong grouping of the invasion of Iran, as evidenced by the experience of the attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003, about five months of preparation. At the same time, more than 90% of transport logistics will come from shipping. At a sea transport speed of 12–15 knots, it takes 25–30 days to travel by sea from the eastern coast of the United States to the shores of the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, pessimists in the expert community of the United States generally believe that for a ground invasion of Iran it is necessary to create a grouping of 600 thousand people, i.e. send three quarters of the American regular army and the National Guard to war. It will take about a year to focus on its borders. Further, pessimists point out that with an area of ​​Iran of 1,648 square meters. km and a population of about 83 million people for its occupation and full control will require a group of 1.6 million troops. True, it is recognized that in the event of the refusal of the occupation of Iran and the withdrawal of American troops from it immediately after the victory in the country, the situation will arise Libya-style chaos, that is, it will turn out like in Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. But maybe it is precisely in this – the creation of zones of chaos, civil wars, waves of refugees from the “failed states” – is the real goal of the American strategy regarding the spaces of Eurasia?

However, we note that so far there are no signs of the preparation of a major US military operation to “conquer Persia”


translated by and for FRN



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