I've decided today to remove myself from the lofty confines of the Fortress of Solitude and go out to enjoy the day. The change of surroundings fascilitates a change of perceptions and stimulates the thought processes. Also, the peacocks roaming the Fortress' halls were driving me crazy. In my last post, I posited regime change for Iran, so I figured I'd explain my reasoning in this post.
First, this post in no way draws on any past experience I may or may not have had. It does not depend on any secure or classified documents, to which I have no access. I am merely an interested civilian with a penchant for military matters and a healthy imagination (also, I'm big on conspiracies). So if anyone should pass this document along to certain government organizations that shall remain nameless, I have plausible deniability on my side. (And if not, then look for reports of my demise by some innocuous means. I can't tell you the number of people made to "disappear" through seemingly stupid accidents; like I'd ever try to toast bread and take a bath at the same time. As if!)
Now that we've gotten the boilerplate out of the way, we can move on to the regime change. That this is the best option of Iran is clear. See, Iran is lead by fundamentalist mullahs who believe they're following the word of God. They believe that the time of the Hidden Imam (a sort of messianic figure) is approaching, and they can hasten this along by oh, say, incinerating Israel. Imagine, if you will, an America led by Fundamentalist Christians who believed they could force Christ to appear by shooting puppies in the head. That's the kind of people we're dealing with. Which is to say, when politics is married to religion, your options are sort of limited, and the leadership becomes less rational.
Now I don't know that all the mullahs in Iran believe their messianic "vision", but it is certainly a means for them to control the populace and justify their policies. As in "Allah told me to shoot you peaceful demonstrators in the head" and "I'm taking over this industry and all its profits in the name of Islam (and not for myself)". It's not like anyone can argue against you, and declaring your opponents as heretics pretty much ends all debate. So even if Iran's ruling body could be reasoned with, they've painted themselves in a corner with the religion. You can't call for the destruction of America in the name of God, then turn around and say "oops, my bad" after you've cut a deal with them. What I'm saying is, even if Iran's leadership isn't composed entirely of dead-enders, their rhetoric kind of paints them into that corner.
So negotiations are really not possible. I haven't even begun to consider the Iranian Republican Guard, or their elite Quds forces. Increasingly, the Republican Guard has gained not only political influence, but also economic might, as generals take over key positions in both arenas. So not only are we dealing with a theocracy, we're increasingly dealing with a military theocracy. Imagine the Knights Templar killing the Pope and taking over Rome, all in the name of God. Now give them The Bomb. So I think we can agree that the only "negotiations" we can have with Iran is through the barrel of a gun. Because these people are completely unspooled when it comes to religion (even if they don't quite believe everything they say).
Militarily speaking, taking out the numerous nuclear sites sprinkled around Iran would be difficult. And by "difficult" I mean "practically impossible." In addition to blowing up Natanz, you'd have to take out the SAM sites around Natanz, and the airfields from which pesky Iranian jets would take off in a counter-attack. Now multiply this by the number of actual nuclear sites we know about (five, so far? or is it six?). Tactically, you would have to take out all these sites simultaneously, so one could not warn the others; and you couldn't attack the airfields or SAM sites first, because that would tip your hand on the nuclear site attacks. (And you certainly can't attack them after the nuclear sites, since you're trying to limit the amount of casualties the Iranians inflict on the attacking planes). The kind of firepower required would make "shock and awe" (from Gulf War II, remember?) look like a fireworks display in your uncle Ken's backyard.
Next, even if we could take out every surface-to-air threat and the nuclear sites, the mullahs would simply unleash the truely insane killers in Hezbollah and Hamas. And not just on Israel. We'd have backpack bombs in every Starbucks in America, potentially. The Iranians have been reading from Von Clauswitz, The Scorched Earth edition.
But there is one way to eliminate the threat of a nuclear Iran. Regime change. Cut off the head of the snake. Get rid of the lunatic bozos who are directing the construction of the nuclear missile program.
There are quite a few things in our favor with this plan:
1) We just happen to have an army in Iraq, and one in Afganistan. Both are scheduled to leave soon. We could just have them leave their respective theaters of war. Through Iran. A two-front war sucks. Ask Hitler.
2) There appears to be a native opposition movement in Iran. Stealing the last presidential election has galvanized more Western-oriented elements in the country, particularly among the urbanized middle-class. I say "appears" because the leadership of this movement, the guy who had the election stolen from him, is really just a less-radical member of the Khomenist government. That's like saying Sean Hannity is less a rabid conservative than Rush Limbaugh, so I'm not sure rallying support to this guy is a good idea. But there is a thirst for change among Iran's population, and we could exploit that.
3) The Arab world has no love for the Persians. We can exploit the Sunni-Shia religious rift as well as the Arab-Persian political rift. Saudi Arabia does not want to see a resurgent Persian Empire dominating the region with nuclear warheads. The Saudis will keep the other Arab governments quiet (if not the Arab street).
How do we do this? Affect regime change? You send in a combined force of special ops guys and CIA guys. Tell them to roam around the country, being their own, charming selves. This is called "prepping the battlefield." The special ops guys are there to sow confusion and create rifts inside the country. Demonstrate that the government doesn't quite have the control it should. It's amazing what happens when you sabotage a few electrical power generating sites, and blow up a few bridges. Bonus points if they manage to tie up the Republican Guards in and around their barracks. There's a lot of land in which to hide in Iran, and those frequency-hopping burst transmitters are a bitch to find; which is to say, a light, lethal force could operate for awhile inside Iran with little outside support (or could simply hop over the border into Iraq). The CIA guys are there to spread around America's good will in the form of cash; we did this in Afganistan -- guys hopping out of airplanes with $24 million in cash in anodized briefcases to buy off the right people. They can also link up with the Iranian protest movement, and provide information and advice.
Once the Khomenists start with the infighting and hurling of accusations, once they start to lose control over the population (and perhaps a part of the military), we roll in with tanks. Or, just sit back and do nothing, while the locals tear the government apart on their own (which might be the easier option).
Not, of course, that any of this will happen. But it's certainly the better option.