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Thread: A war in the Gulf / Straits of Hormuz: the past and the future

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    Default Security Challenges and Threats in the Gulf

    Moderator's Note

    This is a new merged thread, reflecting the return of this issue and previously there were several threads on related issues:

    From 2006-2010: CSIS Reports on The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War
    From 2008: Straits of Hormuz Incident - The Iranian Small Boat Threat
    In 2010: AQ-Linked Group Claims Gulf Tanker Attack

    Obviously any conflict in this 'choke point' is related to the wider policy debate around relations with Iran over nuclear weapons, the international community (principally the west, Gulf states and buyers of oil) and the Israeli factor. Currently there is a principal thread 'Iran, Nukes, Diplomacy and other options:catch all thread 2011':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=14500

    There are several threads on a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities (currently locked) and a historical thread 'Observing Iran (catch all historical thread)':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7588

    Moderator's Note ends


    By Anthony Cordesman and Khalid Al-Rodhan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies - The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War.

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Bahrain
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Iran
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Iraq
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Kuwait
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Oman
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Qatar
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Saudi Arabia
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: United Arab Emirates
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006

    The Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric War: Yemen
    By Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rodhan
    July 28, 2006
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-28-2011 at 06:34 PM. Reason: Add Mod's note after merging

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    Default U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies

    28 July Washington Post - U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies by Robin Wright.

    The Bush administration will announce next week a series of arms deals worth at least $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Persian Gulf states as well as new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt, a move to shore up allies in the Middle East and counter Iran's rising influence, U.S. officials said yesterday.

    The arms deals, which include the sales of a variety of sophisticated weaponry, would be the largest negotiated by this administration. The military assistance agreements would provide $30 billion in new U.S. aid to Israel and $13 billion to Egypt over 10 years, the officials said. Both figures represent significant increases in military support.

    U.S. officials said the arms sales to Saudi Arabia are expected to include air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into "smart" precision-guided bombs. Most, but not all, of the arms sales to the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman -- will be defensive, the officials said...

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    Default U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia

    28 July NY Times - U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia by David Cloud.

    The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

    The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

    But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall...

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    ISN Security Watch, 31 Jul 07: US Escalates ME Arms Race
    ....The Bush administration's cash injection into allied Gulf state militaries, which is likely accompanied by strong behind-the-scenes diplomatic pressure, can also be seen as an effort to curb growing Russian and Chinese influence in the regional conventional arms trade, civilian infrastructure development and nuclear plans.

    The US package has been accepted as a fait accompli by the Israeli government in a fundamental reversal of past Israeli foreign policy.

    Israeli acquiescence was bought with a 25 percent boost in the annual US military aid grant to US$3 billion, and constitutes an Israeli recognition of a shift in US regional priorities away from the Israel-Palestinian crisis to protecting its strategic interests in the Gulf following the eventual withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

    While this is not stated publicly, Israel and US-allied Arab states have been drawn together by the perceived mutual threat of the growth of Iranian influence and by the efflorescence of Sunni militant groups, and related strengthening of political Islam in Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.....
    efflorescence?

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    Default Asymetric Strategies in the Middle East

    CSRC, 21 Sep 07: Asymetric Strategies in the Middle East
    Key Points

    * Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan see the Greater Middle East as one theatre of geopolitical competition. They are not pursuing a theatre-by theatre strategy. At the same time, they see US regional strategy as being driven by developments in individual theatres of operation.

    * Iran has taken advantage of the political situations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine to pursue a policy of compelling Washington make concessions to it in return for improvement of relations.

    * Saudi Arabia has been increasingly concerned about US support for the Iraqi government. For Saudi Arabia the key issue is containment of Iranian political power and reduction of Iranian influence across the region.

    * Arab states of the Middle East have become dependent on non-Arab powers Turkey, Iran, Israel and Pakistan for their own survival in the regional geopolitical competition.

    * Pakistan is emerging as a pivotal state in the region and its domestic stability and future geopolitical orientation are closely intertwined with the stability of the region.

    * Increasingly, Russia and China are exploiting this dynamic to further their own interests at the expense of the US. Neither power is willing to compartmentalize regional issues.
    Full 35 page paper at the link.

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    Default Straits of Hormuz Incident - The Iranian Small Boat Threat

    CNN and others are reporting the Iranian Navy, currently overseen (or commanded, I'm not 100% sure) by the Revolutionary Guard, "harassed" the Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Hopper, the Ticonderoga cruiser USS Port Royal, and the frigate USS Ingraham in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday, sailing within 200 yard of one ship, dropping "white boxes" in the water, and sending threatening radio messages.

    The Navy reports officers on one ship were "in the process of giving the order to fire" when an Iranian vessel was within 200 yards, but the Iranian vessel turned back before the US fired a shot.

    This seems to be a major provocation - and we were, by the Navy's own account, moments away from opening fire, with inevitable major consequences.

    Of course, CNN refers to the would-be attackers as "boats" and "ships" both in the report - so we have no idea what they were; they could be anything from a zodiac to frigates, though I'd bet on something approaching the former. . .

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/...avy/index.html

    What level of provocation do you think would have to occur for the US to take a Praying Mantis-level response?

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Default NYT Article

    here is the NYTs

    Says it was the IRGC again using five fast boats,

    U.S. Describes Confrontation With Iranian Boats
    THOM SHANKER and BRIAN KNOWLTON

    Published: January 8, 2008
    WASHINGTON — In a brief confrontation in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz on Sunday, five armed Iranian fastboats took aggressive actions around three United States Navy warships in international waters, according to a Pentagon spokesman, who called the moves “reckless and dangerous.”

    The incident, which ended uneventfully after about 20 minutes took place as the three American vessels were sailing into the Persian Gulf, according to Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. The American vessels were a destroyer, a frigate and a cruiser.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86
    What level of provocation do you think would have to occur for the US to take a Praying Mantis-level response?
    They would have to move beyond provocation to presenting an actual physical threat to our Naval Forces in the Gulf.

    The navies of the US and the USSR used to play provocative games with each other for decades - ranging from the occasional belligerent nonsense as described above to continual attempts (successful and not) at strategic probing of defenses.

    If you recall, Operation Praying Mantis was launced in retaliation for the Iranians mining the Gulf - which we discovered when the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine and blew a gaping hole in her hull. Three days later, payback. I don't believe they've forgotton that lesson.

    The current belligerance is, as you stated, mere provocation. And the intent is to elicit a disproportionate response. I don't think its necessary to lay out the potential negative effects of that type of incident.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    If you recall, Operation Praying Mantis was launced in retaliation for the Iranians mining the Gulf - which we discovered when the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine and blew a gaping hole in her hull. Three days later, payback. I don't believe they've forgotton that lesson.

    The current belligerance is, as you stated, mere provocation. And the intent is to elicit a disproportionate response. I don't think its necessary to lay out the potential negative effects of that type of incident.
    That's true, my example was disproportionate to the provocation here; nothing comparable to the Roberts incident. However, the Navy's own account claims that they were in the process of "giving the order to fire" when the IRGC fast-attack boats turned away at 200 yards - danger close. Even the firing of a couple .50MGs would have been a major escalation, and could have caused exactly the negative effects you're referring to. We sink a "fastboat" with .50cal fire, and what happens next?

    Granted, that's pure speculation, but the accounts indicate it was closer than would be comfortable.

    And I think the combination of geographical constraints in the Strait and Gulf, combined with the partial asymmetry of the threat - a Soviet blue-water fleet vs. IRGC fastboats, light warships, shore-based missiles, etc., makes this a more dangerous flashpoint.

    The old rule about ROE not relieving the commander of responsibility for his ship could lead to itchy trigger fingers, IMO. Especially with provocations and threats like this one.

    Maybe I'm overreacting. . .

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Default I'm not sure you are

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    Maybe I'm overreacting. . .

    Matt
    They obviously had underlying purpose behind their actions and it is almost doubtless they will continue doing so in some manner until it achieves whatever end they are seeking.

    Testing the lines.

    They've already shown what they will do with their actions concerning the Brit's

    Don't expect this to be the last thing we see.

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    Default the Iranian version of the Straits of Hormuz incident...

    via the BBC (video/audio link in the article).

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    Default aaand there's more

    US doubts over Iran boat 'threat'
    BBC News, Thursday, 10 January 2008, 20:49 GMT

    Iran has described the incident as an "ordinary occurrence"

    An alleged threat to blow up US warships "may not have come" from Iranian speedboats involved in a recent stand-off, the BBC has learned.
    The voice on a Pentagon tape could instead have come from another ship in the area or a transmitter on land, senior US Navy sources told the BBC.
    ---

    On a side note, a Brit working with the Omani navy/coastguard once told me that smugglers use swarming tactics too, overwhelming local patrols by making simultaneous runs with dozens of high speed boats (I'm not suggesting any connection whatsoever--just an interesting Straits of Hormuz tidbit!)

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    Default Bowling for Boghammars … 2008 Edition

    Bowling for Boghammars … 2008 Edition by Malcolm Nance at SWJ Blog.

    The tense encounter between a squadron of US Navy Warships and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Pasdaran) and Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IIRN) boats is not a new adventure by any stretch of the imagination. However, the most recent incident is neither an attempt to create a modern-day Gulf of Tonkin incident nor a move by the IRGC to a new tactic with which to harass passing ships. There is a long history of American and Iranian naval confrontation that spans over 20 years here. An accurate reading of what has happened and what could happen, should inform the reader of what most likely did happen...

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    Default Boghammer opens Swiss bank account

    Absolutely superb article by Malcolm Nance, supplying the context and details of this naval encounter.

    If such IRGC activity is a regular event I have two questions, do other navies have the problem (excluding Royal Navy) and is the activity ordered from the highest level of the Iranain government?

    I now suspect the encounter only became public knowledge as the now identifed external speaker intervened, but this only was known after the "spin" doctors and politicians got involved raising the temperature.

    davidbfpo

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    CSIS, 24 Jun 08: Conventional Armed Forces in the Gulf
    Conventional military strength is only one aspect of the trends in Gulf security, but it is important to understand how Gulf forces now compare and the mix of quantitative and qualitative strength that shapes national forces. This report summarizes the development of Gulf states’ conventional military strengths and weaknesses in force strength, force quality, capabilities and leadership.....

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    International Security, Summer 08:

    Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz
    ....could Iran close the Strait of Hormuz? What might provoke Iran to take an action so contrary to its own economic interests? Does Iran possess the military assets needed to engage in a campaign in the strait, and what might such a campaign look like? Perhaps more important, what would the U.S. military have to do to defend the strait in the event of Iranian interference there? What would be the likely cost, length, and outcome of such efforts?

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    While it would "suck" in the short term, one would hope the US would drag their feet just a little in responding in order to get some "quid pro quo" from those nations which benefit from the US as "globo-cop" when it comes to a free supply of middle east oil.

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    Default Security Challenges and Threats in the Gulf

    CSIS, 8 Sep 08: Security Challenges and Threats in the Gulf: A Net Assessment
    The next President and Congress will have to deal with all of the security issues that affect the Gulf, not just the Iraq War and Iranian proliferation. The attached briefing provides a summary overview of the issues that the US and its allies need to address, with supporting graphics and maps. Both Gulf and US policymakers need to reassess their priorities in dealing with the threats to the Gulf.

    Regardless of the outcome of the war in Iraq, the US, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and other US allies with interests in the Gulf will need to adapt their forces to deal with the real-world threats in the region, and to make more effective efforts at cooperation, creating forces that are focused on real-world needs for deterrence and defense, and that deal with the full range of threats and not the most obvious military and security issues.

    The Evolving Range of Threats

    The Gulf does not face abstract threats or abstract potential enemies. At this point in time, it faces seven very real security challenges:

    ■ Conventional Military Threats and the Lack of Unity and Mission Focus in the GCC

    ■ Asymmetric warfare and ―Wars of Intimidation

    ■ Iranian Missiles and Proliferation

    ■ Iraqi Instability

    ■ Energy and Critical Infrastructure

    ■ Terrorism
    o Region-wide impact of Neo-Salafi Islamist extremism. Franchising of Al Qa’ida, Sunni vs. Shi’ite tension, and its impact inside and outside the region
    o War in Afghanistan, potential destabilization of a nuclear Pakistan, and impact on proliferation and Islamist extremism in the Middle East
    ■ Demographics, Foreign Labor, and Social Change
    Complete 232-page pdf file at the link.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    CSIS, 8 Sep 08: Security Challenges and Threats in the Gulf: A Net Assessment

    Complete 232-page pdf file at the link.
    I need to order more hours in the day to keep up w/ all the relevant writings this site keeps making available.
    Reed

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    WINEP, 24 Sep 08: Iran's Asymmetric Naval Warfare
    This study sheds light on Iran’s naval intentions and capabilities by exploring the military geography of the Persian Gulf and Caspian regions, reviewing the historical evolution of Iran’s approach to asymmetric warfare, assessing its naval forces, and evaluating its plans for a possible war with the United States. The study ends with a quick overview of several possible scenarios.

    Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has invested substantially in developing its navy (particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy) along unconventional lines. The most important developments in this regard include the deployment of mobile coastal missile batteries, modern anti-ship missiles mounted on fast-attack craft, semi-submersibles, midget submarines, modern naval mines, unmanned aerial vehicles (possibly including “kamikaze” attack versions), and improved command, control, communications, and intelligence.

    This study concludes that despite Iran’s overall defensive posture in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it could take preemptive action in response to a perceived threat of imminent attack. And in the event of a U.S. attack, the scale of Iran’s response would likely be proportional to the scale of the damage inflicted on Iranian assets.
    Complete 40-page report at the link.

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