Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Ahmed S. Hashim | Go to book overview

12
Conventional Warfighting Options
and Policy Implications
There is no easy way to summarize Iran's conventional war fighting options. They involve a complex mix of strengths and weaknesses, and Iran's capabilities do not lend themselves to a simple order of battle comparison with the forces of other states, or a simple emphasis on a major regional conflict.In broad terms, the preceding analysis of Iran's land, air, and naval forces indicates that it will be some years before Iran can become a major conventional military threat to its Southern Gulf neighbors, and that it has no near term prospect of being able to challenge the combined conventional war fighting capabilities of the West and the Southern Gulf states directly. Geography alone makes Iran different from Iraq. Iran can only launch a massive land attack by crossing through Iraq, making it much more dependent on naval, air, and power projection forces in exerting power in the Gulf.The previous analysis has also shown, however, that direct conventional warfighting threats to the Southern Gulf are only part of the story. Iran can pose a wide variety of other kinds of threats to the Southern Gulf, and it is not possible to dismiss the risk of another round of fighting between Iran and Iraq. Iran can use a wide range of combinations of conventional military force, unconventional military force, terrorism, and proxies to attack, threaten, or intimidate its neighbors. It can also apply such mixes of force in a wide range of contingencies. These include:
Intervention in a civil war or military upheaval in Iraq involving religious issues, or a situation where Iraq appears vulnerable.
A military response to Iraqi incursions into Iran, or attacks on People's Mujahideen forces and camps based in Iraq.
Intervention in a Kurdish uprising in Iraq, suppression of a Kurdish uprising in Iran, or a military response to the spillover of the Kurdish conflicts in Turkey or Iraq.

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