The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iran's “Mini-Invasion” of Iraq

December 20, 2009, Sunday, 5:15 PM

Iran's “Mini-Invasion” of Iraq

On the Strategic Forecasting service (STRATFOR) Friday, it was reported that Iran entered Iraqi territory and occupied an oil well (No. 4) at Faqua, in the extreme east of Iraq. Looking at the OPERATION ARTAGENES game study set-up map, it is quite striking geography that lends itself to several advantages for an Iranian incursion. The mini-invasion itself, of as an yet undetermined nature in terms of political policy, took place on the northern extremes of the great marshland in southern Iraq, around which the cities of Basra and al-Faw are the main cities, at the southern edge of the largely Shi'a-inhabited southern region of Iraq. To the front of Iran's incursion sits the Tigris river which flows from the northwest to southeast, forming the eastern edge of the Mesopotamian corridor running through the length of Iraq (the Euphrates River forms the western corridor of the fertile Mesopotamia).

As an isolated, safe, area in which to send a political message through military means and, in terms of what this Iranian incursion really is/was, i.e. an invasion, even if temporary, the Iranians choose the terrain well in which to make the statement. The swampland on the Iranian right and rear protects the left flank, and secures an easier avenue of withdrawal. Of course, the river in the front, if necessary, forms a defensible barrier against Iraq or US-Multi-National Coalition(I) counter-attack. This area under question, while providing broader geographic implications for both political policy and military strategy, was the scene of eight years of stalemated trench and chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war from late 1980 until 1988.

As of today, December 20th, there is some discrepancy as to whether the Iranians have withdrawn completely (hence the “is/was/”an invasion). I don't think most of the public in the US have heard of this incident, as a sampling the last three days has shown that the public is unaware. Either way, this is not a very pleasant situation and it possesses extreme danger for the US policy in the Greater Persian Gulf, as it complicates the position of a post-occupation Iraq; the Iranian action, not as irrational as may seem, also complicates the 5+1 talks two days from this writing on Iran's nuclear program, intended to define further action or sanction. Furthermore, STRATFOR today believes the incursion also meant to send a message to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to not form a separate political coalition for the March 2010 elections that separates itself from the coalition led by the Iranian-supported Islamic Supreme Council for Iraq (ISCI), a pan-Shi'a Muslim organization.

Cepia Club's first opinion on December 18th, (Friday, which was two days ago) hypothesized that the incursion might have been committed by a rogue commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). If the incursion into Faqua was directed by Iran's central authorities (either the theocratic-political Shi'a revolutionary council, which holds power over the domestic AND foreign and security policies of the country OR its civilian president, Ahmadinejad), Iran would not necessarily disavow the move. It does send an undeniable message of toughness and some certain unpredictable recklessness to the United States Government as the pronounced deadline approaches for Iran to begin dismantling its nuclear program or face further penalties.

If it was a rogue military action, Iran would most likely decline to admit it for two reasons: It would signify a lack of control over its military and, second, that its Islamic radical IRGC was forcing the government and theocracy toward confrontation in the interest of the IRGC.

The move by Iran in Faqua shows some interesting military advantages, which were partially revealed by Cepia Club's Project 6 game study (January to April 2008) called OPERATION SCIMITAR. In the SCIMITAR model simulation game (MSG), Iran launched an invasion into the same area, but as a flank protection on the swamp, around which an armored army group pivoted from the northeast (due east of Baghdad) southwest and then south, originating from the from the foothills of mountains abutting the Iran-Iraq border. In SCIMITAR, the Iranians fought a holding action to stave off an US Marine/US Army attack into the area in Iran east of Basra, through the Abadan oil production region. Iran's most critical developed oil fields are located in the Abadan region. The Iranian armored army group in the game had launched a preemptive invasion of Iraq in response to a US & British effort to gain Abadan as leverage for a cease-fire. At the same time, the US/MNC(I) attacked with air bombardment and light infantry/SOF air assault against nuclear facilities in the Zagros Mountains that run from the northwest and southeast of Tehran.

In the SCIMITAR study game, several things were clear on any preemptive Iranian invasion of Iraq as a response to a US or-other-powers' attempt to disarm Iran. First, the deployment of light infantry and IRGC special operating forces (SOF) units in the Abadan region, on the southern portion of Iran's western border with Iraq, would be sound as a means of a fighting retreat throughout the marshland area; the deployments would also facilitate and directly support a guerrilla or unconventional insurgency in Iraq's Shi'a-dominated marshland region north of Kuwait, around Basra and up into the southern portions of the Mesopotamian corridor. Such means of fighting by Iran's regular military and Iraqi Shi'a militia would threaten US & Multi-National Coalition (Iraq) lines of communication, requiring substantial rear-guard protection for US and other allied front-line operations. The dissipation of force removes the concentration for an in-depth, long-distance counter-offensive into Iran following any preemptive invasion of Iraq by Iran.

Second, with Iran's armored forces concentrated in the Zagros Mountain range southwest of Tehran, close to the Iraq border and on an axis due east of Baghdad, the armored concentration could, theoretically, withstand air attack in prepared, protective lagers long enough in the difficult terrain along the road networks of the mountains to be a factor in any political-military confrontation. It would be subject to travel interdiction by cluster-dropped mines or other obstacles, however the invasion of Iraq by the armored group was nearly useless in the game due to US air-bombardment in the plain northeast of the Tigris boundary. But the armored concentration was determined to be more useful under the following conditions, which is under testing in the OPERATION ARTAGNES game study underway now. A) If nothing else, it threatened to either be directed west toward Baghdad (“a threat-in-being” which would not have to be used). B) Toward the south to take an invasion of Iran's Abadan oil region in the flank. C) To the southeast from its position in the Zagros to protect nuclear facilities (able to use the mountains to screen movement from air interdiction and bombardment attrition). D) To turn north to repel an invasion by the Russians from Azerbaijan. E) To screen and escort a friendly Russian military intervention on behalf of defending Iran into the parts west and south of Tehran. F) Or to turn and move east to Tehran to support the theocracy against a coup, or to remove by coup, any Iranian government.

Again, relevant to the incursion of Iran into Iraq at Faqua, which is where the armored army group invaded Iraq in SCIMITAR, the game study showed it would be easier for Iran to await an invasion from the US-MNC(I) into the area north of the marshland—trading space for power; which would be necessary (to some degree) for the support of an American flank to the north of an invasion of Abadan from the axis of Basra. Presumably, a US Marine air-sea maneuver would also be involved as a southern flank protection of such an invasion from the coastal area north of Busher. Incidentally, Busher is also the located of a major Iranian nuclear research reactor built on contract by Russia. Holding Abadan and its oil production and shipment capability is still, according to Project 6 findings, the only feasible way to force Iran to give up any real desire to acquire nuclear weapons. The financial-societal squeeze of holding Abadan could overwhelm Iran's resistance to demands for decommissioning its nuclear program.

In this entire line of thinking, even if Iran has actually withdrawn or will withdraw from Faqua, –and regardless of any political message Tehran is trying to send to Washington, Tel Aviv or Baghdad itself—Iran's occupation of Faqua would work quite well as a trap. Iran has come across the border. If Iraq or US-MNC(I) retaliates or launches a preventive war to stop Iran's nuclear program, Faqua would be a very teasing bait to draw in the head of any invading force, to be scythed off. Beware misreading Faqua.

US Responses to the Iranian Incursion

On Saturday, December 19th, there has been, as mentioned, little media or public mention or reaction about Iran's mini-invasion into Iraq and occupation of Oil Well No. 4 in the vicinity of Faqua, Iraq. It was reported by STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) that Iraq had deployed a unit to the area of Faqua but was holding back on further action. There were also contradicting reports on whether or not Iran had withdrawn back behind its border. Despite the fog-cloud of information on Iran's withdrawal, one of the most notable pieces of news on Saturday was the complete lack of reaction to be found emanating from Washington, D.C., or any other US official except for the commanding general of US-MNC(I), Gen. Ray Odierno. The statements made by the US general leave open a wide gap between Iranian actions and US policy toward Iran on any other issue.

Gen. Odierno said that Iran's incursion into Iraq was an issue between Iran and Iraq, and that the US would remain uninvolved. On the other hand, Gen. Odierno made explicit in the statement reported that Iran continued to provide arms, infiltration routes, money and personnel for terror units inside Iraq fighting the occupation. The general made only partially implicit in the tone of the report that such activity might correlate with the increased terror acts against occupation forces in Iraq following the end-game of the US “surge” strategy and the redeployment of the US military to locations outside Iraq's urban centers.


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