US Plans for a Major Regional Contingency in Southwest Asia
The US planners developing contingency plans for Southwest Asia learned two important lessons from the "Tanker War" of 1987-1988, and the Gulf War. They learned that the US could fight effectively in coalitions with Southern Gulf forces, and obtain great benefits from the Southern Gulf states in basing, logistics, support and infrastructure. They also learned that the prepositioning and rapid deployment arrangements the US originally made to deal with the Soviet threat were of equal value in dealing with the threat from Iran and Iraq.
US planners could also take into account the military results of the Iran- Iraq War and Gulf War. They could base their calculations on the fact that Iran had lost nearly 50% of its inventory of major land weapons in its climactic defeats by Iraq in 1988, and had not had major new deliveries of high technology weapons since the fall of the Shah. Further, they could take account of Iraq's massive losses during the Gulf War, and the fact Iraq could not obtain major military resupply until UN sanctions were lifted.
At the same time, the US planners working on Gulf contingencies at the time of the Bottom Up Review felt they were dealing with two hostile regimes whose conduct was unpredictable, which might take actions that could escalate to major conflicts, and which would rebuild their military capabilities as soon as they were given the opportunity to do so. They also felt they had to plan to deal with both current and future Iranian and Iraq capabilities, rather than intentions. As a result, US planners concluded that the only way to deter Iran and Iraq was to maintain a US military presence in the Gulf, develop the ability to rapidly deploy massive amounts of US air power and substantial amounts of US armor, and find ways of strengthening Southern Gulf forces as much as possible.
In the case of Iran, the US saw the primary mid-term threats as an Iranian airborne or amphibious intervention in the case of a revolt or upheaval in a Southern Gulf state, Iranian attempts to become the dominant naval and air power in the Gulf and to use this power to influence