Nobody Wants War

Journal Title: The Current Digest of the Russian Press

Issue Edition: Vol. 72, No. 1-2

Author: Pavel Felgengauer


By staff commentator Pavel Felgengauer. Novaya gazeta, Jan. 10, 2020, p. 5. Condensed text:

In response to Iran’s “retaliatory strike,” the US president chose to limit himself to announcing new, tougher sanctions.

On the night of Jan. 8, the missile forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a missile attack against US military targets in Iraq in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds force who was killed in a US Army drone strike on Jan. 3 near Baghdad International Airport on President Donald Trump’s order. . . .

Usually, to avoid direct retaliatory fire, Tehran uses all sorts of proxies – armed supporters abroad or terrorists. However, in this case the strike was delivered directly from Iran’s territory with Qiam 1 and Fateh 313-type tactical missiles with a range of over 500 kilometers. It is unknown exactly what kind of missiles the Iranians fired or how many. According to the IRGC, it was over 30, but the US military said it was less than 20.

The Fateh 313 is Iran’s newest solid-fueled tactical missile about which very little is known. The Qiam 1 is a liquid-fuel (heptyl [unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, UDMH]) missile, a North Korean (Hwasong 6) clone of the well-known Soviet R 17 missile with more than double the range and an upgraded, separable warhead. Locals found a discarded Qiam 1 engine assembly 20 km from the [US’s] Ain al Assad [air] base, took pictures of it with their cell phones and posted the images on the Web. There are unconfirmed reports that Iranian cruise missiles and (or) unmanned aerial vehicles with strike potential were also used in the assault.

The Qiam 1 has a 750 kilogam high explosive fragmentation warhead with a supersonic terminal velocity speed. It is a serious weapon system. IRGC representatives unofficially boast that the Qiam 1 and the Fateh 313 are precision-guided weapons and that the Qiam 1’s path can be changed midflight. Nevertheless, the IRGC’s Jan. 8 missile strike did not look very powerful. Many missiles missed their targets, and in Erbil, they failed to hit both the international airport and the US consulate. Not a single American was killed or injured either in Erbil or at the Ain al Assad base. But of course, the IRGC claimed that they had killed 80 Americans and injured 200. The number 80 has almost sacred significance for the Iranians today, since the Islamic republic’s population is precisely 80 million, so the number is used whenever possible. 

Washington was pleased that there were no casualties; the State Department and the White House made up a story that the Iranians purposely missed their targets so as not to kill anyone. Trump liked that version very much, happily announcing that neither US nor Iraqi service personnel were harmed, that “only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” that “Iran appears to be standing down” and that it is now possible to move on to diplomatic methods of resolving the conflict. [Now the US can] make a mutually beneficial deal with Tehran to lift sanctions in exchange for [Iran] abandoning its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its aggressive expansion of the Shiite version of Islam.

Such a deal with the Iranian leaders is a long-standing goal of Trump, who honestly does not understand why it is wrong to calmly cash in on natural gas and oil exports together while enjoying bikini beauty pageants at glamorous hotels. Trump announced that he will punish Iran only with new sanctions, at the same time taking potshots at both his predecessor, [former US president] Barack Obama, and the late Soleimani. A sigh of relief was felt throughout the world, [including] in governments and stock exchanges: The crisis was resolved without war.

As for [US] military bases suffering “only minimal damage,” Trump told a lie. Today, commercial satellites fly over the earth, capturing aerial imagery of its surface, and the desert province of Anbar is as clear as day. The Ain al Assad base sustained major damage, with buildings and hangars destroyed. Satellite photos show the missile strike was launched against the sprawling complex; the spread of hits was rather random, since the Qiam 1 has an accuracy of over 500 meters circular error probable. So no matter what Iranian propaganda might say, [the missile] is unfit for launching high-precision strikes. Without reliable and ongoing accurate satellite and aerial follow-up reconnaissance, the Iranians had simply no way of knowing exactly where US service personnel were located at launch to avoid hitting them. All of this is Washington’s fantasy resulting from a semi-intentional projection of its own military capabilities and decision-making protocols onto the adversary.

The Pentagon has a system of permanent satellite and aerial reconnaissance – both optical and radar-based. This is why the US military had advance warning of Iran’s missile assault; the missile attack early warning system in Ain al Assad worked as it should have, and service personnel took shelter in reinforced bunkers that the IRGC either knew nothing about or was unable to hit with its inaccurate missiles anyway. Word has it that the Iranians also notified friendly Iraqi groups about the imminent strike without indicating the exact location or time, and the Iraqis informed the Americans. However, by that time, the Yankees already knew everything from their own reconnaissance and missile attack early warning system. There were no attempts to intercept the Iranian missiles, since there is a shortage of Patriot and Avenger systems in the Middle East, and they were protecting other possible targets.

Following Soleimani’s killing, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution on the withdrawal of all foreign troops, including US and coalition forces, which had entered Iraq at the request of the Baghdad government to help fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (an organization banned in Russia – Ed.). However, a resolution is not a binding document but a recommendation with no deadlines or implementation mechanisms. Furthermore, there has been no full-fledged government in Baghdad since prime minister Abdul Mahdi resigned in early December after months of bloody antigovernment protests. Even though he continues to perform his duties, he cannot make a legitimate executive decision to expel foreign troops, so the Americans have no intention of leaving yet, especially considering that neither the Kurds nor the Sunnis supported the resolution.

Incidentally, the late Soleimani pushed for the US’s withdrawal from Iraq and eventually from the entire region. That is also the dream of his boss, the rahbar [the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Trans.]. So Trump was wrong when he said that Tehran is “standing down.” After the retaliatory strike, in which not a single American was killed, the rahbar and the IRGC look a little foolish. However, now they are likely to order their proxies in the Popular Mobilization Forces (Iranian-backed militia units, PMF) to spring into action – i.e., to create a “new Vietnam” for the US. After all, PMF fighters have to avenge their commander, [Abu Mahdi] al Muhandis [who was killed together with Soleimani – Trans.]. Meanwhile, the IRGC and the rahbar will pretend they have nothing to do with that or the US losses resulting from the people’s anger.

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