Moves toward War with Iran: In the Event of War ... Part 3

News Abroad

Mr. Polk was the member of the U.S. Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East from 1961 to 1965. Subsequently, he was professor of history and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago and later president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Author of many books on international affairs, world and Middle Eastern history, he recently wrote Understanding Iraq (HarperCollins, New York and London 2005 and 2006) and, together with former Senator George McGovern, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006).

Editor: This the third in a series: Part 1. Part 2.

The Iranians believe that American threats and moves are a bluff.  That is what I have been told authoritatively by a senior official of their government.  But, if they are wrong, something like the following will probably happen.

The first step, in fact, has already happened.  Unmanned drones and probably some manned aircraft have been identifying targets in Iran for at least the last year.  Allegedly also, reconnaissance teams have been operating on the ground.  While the information they have assembled, indeed even their existence, is secret, leaks to the press suggest that they have found upwards of 1,000 sites that have been selected for attack.

 As in Iraq, an attack would begin with a massive aerial bombardment.  In my previous article, I  described the scale of such an attack.  B2 and B52 bombers would converge on Iran from bases in America and the Indian Ocean.  Other aircraft would deploy from Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and Iraq.  Both planes and cruise missiles would be launched from the armadas built around the giant aircraft carriers Eisenhower and Enterprise.  Thousands of missiles and millions of kilograms of high explosives would rain down on the country.  Since many of the suspected nuclear sites are in urban areas, there would be considerable “collateral damage” in Tehran, Isfahan, and other cities.  But, probably not all the suspected sites would be destroyed since at least some are underground and others cannot be located.

Consequently, either during or immediately after bombardment, special forces teams would be  inserted into Iran.  Their task would be to go down into the underground nuclear installations to destroy what the aerial attack missed.  They are bound to meet some resistance even though the “shock and awe” of the bombardment would have at least disorganized Iran’s 850,000-man army.  Predictably, at least some of the special forces would be caught.  Others would fail to reach their objectives.  Thus,  although use of ground troops was not planned, some would have to drawn from Iraq or Afghanistan to go in and try to rescue them. That would begin the guerrilla warfare phase of the operation.

Iran has a 150,000-man national guard. During the 1980s war with Iraq, these forces showed their fanatical devotion to their country and almost certainly would do so again.  Iran is a large country and has several times the population of Iraq; so it could, and almost certainly would, fight a protracted guerrilla war. Preparing for it, Iran has for several years been building a stockpile of suitable equipment from armor-piercing rifles to night-vision goggles.

Scattered across the country’s cities, deserts and mountains, guerrillas would be an elusive target.  And, as in Iraq, they would be supported by the general population.   Although outside observers believe that the governing religious establishment is not popular, everyone agrees that the Iranians are firm nationalists. No more than the Iraqis in 2003 or the Cubans in the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 would Iranians be out in the streets with flowers in their hands welcoming foreign troops.   As in Iraq, they would be planting bombs and firing shots.  

Once begun, the guerrilla war would spread beyond Iran. From scores of  bases along the shore of the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, the Iranians would certainly fire their large arsenal of Russian,  Chinese and Iranian-made missiles on American bases in Qatar and Iraq and probably Afghanistan.  They would also launch attacks by speedboats on the American navy

At the same time, with or without Iranian help or guidance, it is almost certain that fellow members of their religious sect, the Shiis, would undertake violent actions in their support.  Iraq is now ruled by an American-sponsored Shia government and its 15 million Shiis have a special relationship Iran.  Attacks on American troops and installations could be expected to multiply.  Lebanon’s one million Shiis, led by the Hizbullah, would attack the only nearby target, Israel.  And, in Saudi Arabia, the 2 million Shiis who man the oil installations would, at least, disrupt the flow of oil.

Iranian oil production would stop.  That would take about 5% of the world’s oil off the market.  Disruption of Saudi production would have a  far more drastic impact.  And interdiction of tanker passage down the Gulf would affect something like 40% of the world’s oil flow.  The effects would be multiple.  The simplest would be a huge rise in the price of oil.  It went from about $11 a barrel in 1990 to a high of $80 this year and is now about $60.  Nobel prize economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University Professor Linda Bilmes have calculated that each dollar increase in the price of oil diminishes US national income by somewhat over $3 billion.  Thus, if oil rises from $60 to $120 a barrel, the cost to America would be about $210 billion.  And most oil experts believe it would rise far higher.  Some even talk about $300 a barrel.  Such a rise would plunge the world into depression.

Oil is not, of course, the only cost.  While the congressionally-allocated outlays for the Iraq war are not complete, they are expected to be as much as $500 billion.  This is only part of the cost.  Economists Stiglitz and Bilmes have estimated the over-all costs at between $1 and $2 trillion, depending on how fast America gets out of Iraq. With a population three times as large and a far more complex terrain, Iran would probably cost three or four times as much as Iraq.    To shield the public from the enormous cost of the Iraq war, the Bush administration borrowed the staggering sum of $540 billion during fiscal year 2004. Since much of borrowed money came from China, which opposes the attack on Iran and would suffer from it, that financial “cushion”  may not be available in fiscal year 2007.  Investment banker Felix Rohatyn predicted that such a course of action would be financially “unbearable.”

Nor is money the only cost.  Even if initially successful, the attack would surely result in far higher casualties.   So far at least 2,600 soldiers have been killed in Iraq and about 20,000 wounded.  Half are permanently disabled.  About 50,000 more suffer severe or multiple concussions that will result in memory loss, fuzzy thinking and severe headaches all of their lives.  About the same number will require extensive psychiatric treatment.  And an unknown number are likely to develop cancer from exposure to depleted uranium bombs.

Finally, the war would be both unwinnable and unstoppable.   It would plunge the world into a maelstrom.  The “long war” that the Neoconservatives have advocated has been estimated to cost about $15 trillion.  But this is only the easy part of the cost: the real cost would be the destruction of the world in which we live and the replacement of our civic, cultural and material “good life” with something like the nightmare George Orwell predicted in his novel 1984.

In my next article, I will lay out a plan to avoid this nightmare.


©  William R. Polk, October 11, 2006.

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Joseph R Dietrich - 11/20/2006

I know it's a little thing, but it made me cringe when I read it: there are no such things as "depleted uranium bombs." There are depleted uranium munitions, which are used in high-velocity cannons because of their armor-piercing qualities, but no bombs. It doesn't even make sense to use DU in a bomb.

Like I said, I know it's a little thing, but the little things count. Military fanboy types are going to read something like that and use it to make the blanket assertion Mr. Polk doesn't know what he is talking about.

Yehudi Amitz - 11/1/2006

Mr. Polk threatens us with an additional installment of his too long and badly documented serial. If you are really interested in an unbiased and interesting speech, please check this:


check also:


and click on "Listen Now" on the right side to listen to his speech

DeWayne Edward Benson - 11/1/2006

It is always a surprise to hear the stories of a historic era from different people.

I had always heard the Shaw was chosen for a purpose, because he was a weak leader, an example being the British who into the 50's was skimming most of Irans oil-prophets.

The story then went on that silly Iranian's voted the Shaw out of Office, electing a man who nationalized the Iran Oil Fields away from the Seven Sisters.

As I recall by this time America was dominant in the world, putting the Shaw back into Office, and helping set up a peace keeping agency called the SAVAK.

Next came 1978 when the Shaw was diagnosed with life threatening cancer, and in 1979 the Shaw and his wife (while still head of State) leaving by plane for a Western cancer cure.

It was in 1980 the Shaw died of cancer in Egypt, before which an Iran interim government had called in a religious leader.

Last was Rumsfeld looking up into Saddams glistening eyes while fondly holding his hand, making all kinds of wonderful promises, but that is another story.

DeWayne Edward Benson - 11/1/2006

There is always a possibility that the US government under the Bush Administration might attack Iran.

There would not be within any stretch of the imagination adequate reason for such an attack, and American citizens would surely rise up in potent protest, perhaps even demanding impeachment.

I worry about what might be imagined concerning what could be gotten away with, another undeclared war would very likely begin the dictatorship everyone is presently worrying about... here in America.

alireza lotfmanesh - 10/30/2006

why is it that the west and america don,t learn from their miscalculation like the one in 1979 in my country IRAN?
after what the west did to us for past 27 years by establishing evil islam in iran and looking after it i just can,t understand the logic behind this huge miscalculation .the only winner so far has been the EVIL ISLAM correct?any body disagree with me should just read this again:
The “long war” that the Neoconservatives have advocated has been estimated to cost about $15 trillion. But this is only the easy part of the cost: the real cost would be the destruction of the world in which we live and the replacement of our civic, cultural and material “good life

HERE is the only solution :ANJOMANE PADESHAHI IRAN with the leadership of DR FOROOD FOULADVAND.

We are going to put an end to this 1436 years of occupation and total misery and show the world that IRAN was the birthplace of civilization and prove to likes of EVIL CARTER and all the INTERNATIONAL GANGSTERS who wrote the famous scenario of Guadeloupe for IRAN:

A dangerous era has passed in Iran over the last 25 years. It is not that far away when the discussion about the ever increasing population of Iraq and Iran in particular, took place in Security Council of United Nations.

It is not too far back when Mohammad Reza Shah's government realized that high school levels and the graduates of the Iranian educational system in general, ranked below or fell behind every other industrialized nation in the world. Therefore, he thought of "Education Army" as part of his "White Revolution". Graduates, doctors, engineers, educators, dentists and specialists were deployed in every Iranian village as part of their military service, to teach and help to reduce the rate of illiteracy.

The religious fanatics under the influence of "mullahs" and/or ayatollahs, and in turn under British influence, opposed the Shah's land reform and disliked the education plan instigated by Shah for everyone. They were harbouring the belief that their religious teachings would be endangered. They preferred to draw a snake when teaching the word to an illiterate villager, rather than showing how to write it!!

The country was in the fast lane to progress and modernization; oil revenues were increasing rapidly, thanks to the Shah's guidelines and his oil minister JAMSHID Amouzegar's administrative ability . It was in the process of embarking upon modernization and industrialization that Amouzegar and some other OPEC oil ministers were taken hostage by an imaginary "Carlos", the international terrorist!

This incident was a wake-up call to Iran and other members of OPEC. At the time, no sacrifice was made by either the oil producers or the oil buyers. Both parties, each adhering to its own principles, were locked in a stalemate. The world watched Iran and other oil producing countries with distrust and became worried about the supply of crude oil in the years to come. Heads of states at the G-7 meeting in Guadeloupe came up with a suitable plan to avert unexpected possibilities in the times to come.

Shortly thereafter, in 1979, Khomeini's so called "Revolution" materialized as part of an International Conspiracy to weaken Iran. Financial institutions, factories, private properties were attacked and destroyed. Starting with NIOC employees, finally nation wide strikes paralyzed the country. The world under cruel influence of Britain was not interested in modern Iran, nor did they ever like the idea of "Petro-Dollar" and the link of crude oil price to the manufactured products from oil or other resources. The giant oil companies with their respective governments, could not tolerate the fast track of modernization and industrialization under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi II.

The scenario of "Mass Mess" of 1979, written for Iran and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi II, was put into play. 2500 years of Iranian monarchy was wiped out and was replaced by a puppet regime of Mullahs under the pretext of "Nation Building" program as forced by Britain, USA and their allies onto the people of Iran.
A backward glance will show that every moment of such movement was guided by Britain, thanks to BBC, watched by other allies and received support from USA. Britain has always well demonstrated her expertise in religious matters : experienced in India since 1906; helped the establishment of Islamic Republic of Pakistan in March 1956; flipped over the history book of oil and reviewed Lawrence of Arabia's diary, decided to highjack the trend and eventually Ruhollah Khomeini was suggested to replace the monarchy in 1979.
(For in detail information go to the bottom of the page and click on How a Plot Convulsed Iran 1953/1979)

The true compatriots started having serious questions about "Religion" in general and Islam in particular. In 1980 the employees of the American Embassy were taken hostages and the Ayatollahs were believed to have been negotiating the hostages' freedom against the delivery of the Imperial family to the new regime. That, obviously, was what propagators liked the public to see. The situation smelled of oil. Iranians did not have a choice other than becoming progressively involved in the "Mass Mess".

People were promised "free" oil at their door steps by Khomeini, a delusion that never materialized. People were left with an alternative between "Red" and "Green" ballots to choose "Islamic Republic". People had to vote under the watchful eyes of "Guardians of Revolution" Pasdaran surveillance. Following the establishment of Khomeini's regime, many high-ranking officers were executed: Prime Minister Hoveyda, Mrs, Farrokhroo Pardaa, Minister for education, Dr. Riyazi, speaker of Majles/ parliment, General Rahimi, General Pakravan, General Khosrow-daad, General Amin Afshaar, General Nassiri, General Neshaat, General Biglari, General Jahaanbaani, General Naaji, General Voshmgir General Aayat, General Malek, General Yazdi and many more. Many were assassinatedin exile: Prince Shahriar, the nephew of the Late Shah, Shapur Bakhtiar the last Prime Minister, General Oveisi, Dr. Ali Tabaatabaa'ei, Fereydoon Farrokhzaad the populare Iranian singer, Dr. Ghaasemloo, the leader of Kurish party etc. (for more detail please visit the other pages)

Why did the United States and western world tolerate a regime whose abhorrent attitude was proven by the terrorist act of hostage taking in 1980? One generous answer is the lack of reliable background intelligence about the religion and religious regimes. Another is the hope that United States fostered in believing the best about a new phenomenon called "Ayatollah", set forth by Berzhinski's (National Security adviser to Jimmy Carter at the time) doctrine as a "green belt" to block communism.

Nowadays, a quarter century after the event and in shadow of September 11, 2001 terrorist attack to New York City and Washington DC, even when the evidence suggested something very different, yet to a large extent, ignorance and hope covers the motivation.

Believing in Khatami and his famous "lie" about "dialogue of civilizations", or in a better word, many "buy-back agreements" in oil and other resources, prevented the USA and its allies to help the oppressed people of Iran, who have been crying for freedom and secular regime for over 27 years.

There are outstanding evidences that religions have ceased to demonstrate self-discipline or sense of responsibility among the civilizations. It is crystal clear that the Taliban, the Ayatollahs and other fanatics and fanatical movements in the world fail to exercise necessary prudence, foresight and responsibility. Living conditions have started deteriorating in the societies that have been ruled under theocratic regimes. This makes the curious minds remember the era of inquisitions in Europe for 12 centuries.

If the USA had a good knowledge of Islam , she would not have built trust in them and would have expected the unexpected illogical consequences. If Jimmy Carter had a good knowledge of Islam and the other religions, he would not have built trust in them and would have expected the unexpected illogical consequences.

"And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of God …." Baghara 207, "God purchased from believers their persons and their belongings to give the paradise in return. They fight in His cause and kill and are killed, a promise binding on Him in truth through the Old and New Testaments and the Kuran, and who is more faithful to his covenant than God? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the achievement supreme." Tobeh 111. With these teachings in the form of religion, retribution and revenge is a personal duty, clearly said and feasible.

If the United States would not have failed to study religions and the Koran in particular, which clearly stipulates the personal duties and responsibilities, perhaps would have saved lives, money and dignity. Emphases on religious training expunge the human reason and foresight, and person feels accountable to exchange his/her life with promised heaven. Devoting to such values and standards for that matter under any religious standards is no longer a prerequisite, it is a creed.

Religions, Mosques, Synagogues and Churches might have disciplined the believers and taught wise standards of behaviour that would have kept people out of trouble and might have been assets to both individuals and the community. But those are feasible and useful or necessary in daily life on the basis of possessing mental health. Since the arrival of Khomeini and Taliban, religion has relinquished the self-discipline and has issued license to kill as well as take one's own life. Khomeini and his followers, on behalf of God, unconditionally forgive those who participated in "Jihad" against Iraqis (other Muslims) and brainwash individuals to walk on mines in exchange for "heaven's key" (small plastic keys made in an East Asian country). Part of the conspiracy theory suggests that the mass killing in the 8 years of war between Iran and Iraq has been the result of United Nations' concern about the ever increasing young population in Iran.

Anwar Sadat's assassination by a religious group, the Algerian massacre, suicide attacks on Israeli towns, genocide in the separated states of former Yugoslavia, bombing the Pan Am air liner by the Iranians, September the 11th, Madrid bombings in 2004 and the recent London bombings are a few notable examples. The world must have learned enough from such religious concepts which have been manipulated to create unstable, inverted and clear psychological disorders, both in individuals and the community as a whole. Who has been behind those terrorist acts? I shall leave it to you to discover.
This is the good news for iranian and ultimately the world:this coming NOROOZ(iranian new year) is going to be the last one for EVIL ISLAM and it,s AGENTS (the terrorist regime) in IRAN.can,t wait.ALI REZA.