Preface: This post of mine is from a previous blog and was actually originally posted in February 2012.
@cryptoastronaut 's analysis of a US vs. Iran war and a WW3 scenario.
February 11, 2012 at 2:15 PM
The point of this essay is to estimate which side would technically "win" (even in war, winners lose as well). The idea for this essay arose after reading all the news articles lately, displaying the hostilities between these two nations- especially in 2012, with Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, and the U.S. acknowledging that it wouldn't allow this to happen and would respond with force if necessary.
All of the following will be hypothetical conjecturing, and none of it is to be taken as a "prediction of the future", only a possible future.
I will attempt to be as completely unbiased as possible; however, considering that I'm an American, and pro-American, this will be hard to achieve.
The United States and Iran have been traditional enemies, dating back for decades. In the 1970s there were hostage incidents, and in the past decade, since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (you won't see me typing this too much, henceforth referred to as "the Iranian President") has been in power, he has made vocal outbursts against the United States and its ally, Israel. In 2011-2012, Iran has been suspected by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) of developing/researching Nuclear Weapons. Iran states that it is only developing nuclear technology for power purposes. Because of its refusal to allow inspectors into the country to investigate, it has incited economic sanctions against its country and central bank by various European Union nations and the United States. Typically, depending on Iran's cooperation, if it were to continue developing Nuclear technology, it could be susceptible to pre-emptive strikes by Israel or the United States... most likely in the form of air-strikes against its military/industrial complexes. Alternatively, Iran could incite a war in the form of striking the U.S. or allied Naval ships in the Persian Gulf.
As of February 11th, 2012 (the date of this writing), the BBC reports that the President of Iran made a state speech at a rally in the nation's capital, Tehran, and made various statements such as that Iran would "never yield to the West" and that it would continue to enrich uranium. Similarly, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has stated that the U.S. would be working in "lockstep" with Israel to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He has also stated in 2011, that the U.S. would attack Iran no later than Fall 2012 unless the Iranians halted their nuclear program.
Israel, in particular, is very adamant in pursuing a military engagement with Iran, as the general sentiment between Iranians and Israelis is very negative, and religiously/racially based. The President of Iran has boldly made various anti-semitic statements and has publicly and vocally shown his disdain and disgust for the Jewish state.
Hypothetical Engagement Scenarios:
There are so many possibilities here, that I will have to break them down into 3 major possibilities and discuss them individually.
Situation A :
The first is small-scale engagement, with a very short period of warfare, a very quick conclusion and a peace treaty, with limited nations involved. Little destruction/loss of life.
The second is a medium-scale engagement, with a prolonged period of warfare, involving several nations, with an unclear path to peace. Medium destruction/significant loss of life.
The third is a worst-case scenario. This involves all-out warfare, total destruction, involves the majority of the world's nations, and may even include nuclear strikes causing major destruction and the lives of millions of military personnel and civilians.
Nations involved: United States/Israel vs. Iran
This situation has two sub-scenarios, and I will describe them both.
Sub-scenario AA: Iran refuses to acknowledge U.S. demands (Defcon 4), and an air-strike is made against suspected uranium enrichment facility, resulting in minimal loss of life. Iran does not counterattack, in awe of the U.S.'s military strength (unlikely) and capitulates. Iran subsequently reaches an agreement with "the West" to halt its nuclear endeavors. Less than 100 lives lost.
Sub-scenario AB: Iran refuses to acknowledge U.S. demands (Defcon 3), and """"^^. Iran does show initial resistance, mobilizing its military and calling for war against the United States/Israel. Limited land/naval/air engagements may occur, mostly "threat" scenarios and "scares", and possibly may occur over a period of several months before a treaty is made that favors both sides. Less than 1000 lives lost.
Principal Nations involved: United States/Israel vs. Iran
U.S. allies involved: the United Kingdom, EU states: (France, Germany, Italy)
Iranian allies involved: China, Russia
This scenario also offers two sub-scenarios, both of which I will describe.
Sub-scenario BA: War has already started, in the sense of Sub-scenario AB, however, no treaty is every reached, and the hostilities escalate to the point that allied nations become involved. After the U.S. air-strike, Iran counterattacks with its submarines/torpedoes and sinks a U.S. aircraft carrier, taking with it 5,000 American lives. The United States goes into Defcon 2, mobilizing the majority of its military, possibly even re-instituting the draft. The United Kingdom and EU nations offer support in the form of naval/air support. The U.S. plans an invasion, like the previous war in Iraq. China/Russia vote against an invasion and threaten to defend Iran. The U.S. invades anyway, but China/Russia was bluffing, and the Iranian government is quickly overthrown. Less than 100,000 lives are lost.
Sub-scenario BB: Everything happens according to Sub-scenario BA, except that China/Russia are not bluffing, and put troops/tanks on the ground in Iran. Various dogfights between Jet aircraft occur, bombing with conventional missiles take place, urban warfare in populated cities.
The outcome of such a war favors the United States but it's hard to calculate.
U.S. alliance analysis:
I suspect that the EU nations (France/Germany) would not deploy that much manpower, perhaps providing limited support, choosing to remain "in the background". The UK would deploy alongside U.S. troops, and be right in the front-lines with them. The advantage of this alliance is that the UK/U.S. has a history of working together, mutual language and military models. Also, Israel would probably deploy right along the UK/US perhaps even pushing the assault forward. Other advantages for this side include superior technology and training, airpower, and naval power. The main disadvantage of this side is the distance from the region. All nations involved, with the exception of Israel, are thousands of miles away, and can only reach the region by sea/air.
Iran alliance analysis:
The only disadvantage here is I think such an alliance would generate mistrust, and Russia and China's armies would have trouble coordinating together to defend Iran. There are huge language barriers here, with Arabic/Russian/Chinese, none of which are even slightly similar in nature. There may be incidents of friendly fire, and they would have trouble unifying against the US/EU/UK alliance. The advantages include huge amounts of raw manpower and close proximity to the region, which can be reached by land. China, Russia, and Iran together outnumber the number of available men of military age, mostly thanks to China. Russia and China together have significant tank forces, mediocre air forces, and limited naval forces. Russia's technology is not quite on par with the U.S. but is enough to put up a resistance, and China is not far behind either.
Considering all variables here, this is a fairly even match, assuming that the U.S. doesn't simply "rain hell" with its superior air force causing decimation. This type of warfare is considered "cowardly" and the U.N. and world nations may protest against the resulting indiscriminate loss of life, and bombing raids may be restricted- resulting in a larger use of helicopters, of which the United States has many.
There is no clear path to peace here. This type of war could rage on for years, with mostly a deadlock situation occurring. Iranian alliance forces would probably hole up in Tehran/other cities, and battles would be waged over the control of these cities.
Three outcomes are likely:
A. U.S. alliance pulls out, no significant advances can be made to topple the enemy. Iran "wins".
B. China/Russia pull out of Iran, due to being unable to halt the U.S. advance, causing Iran to be overthrown quickly. U.S. "wins".
C. mutual peace is reached, all nations pull out, neither side loses, neither side "wins".
In this scenario, millions of lives are lost, but no nuclear weapons are deployed.
In this scenario, all previous factors from Situations A/B occur. I like to call this scenario the World War 3/Nuclear scenario. We have reached Defcon 1.
Additional alliance nations are added:
U.S. side: India, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Egypt (?)
Iranian side: Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela, various African/Latin/South American dictatorships.
This scenario is impossible to determine all factors and sub-scenarios. All that can be said is that the entire world is dragged into the conflict via proxy wars. A chain-reaction is set off, and all major and minor nations are forced to choose a "side". There is virtually no neutrality here, with the exception of Papua New Guinea! (Everyone deemed that their stone-age spears and loincloths were of no use to WW3!)
Central and South American dictatorships take sides with the Iranian alliance and mobilize their military forces, threatening the United States' southern borders, including its interests in the Caribbean. It's assumed that Mexico will join the U.S. side, and land battles will probably be fought here. Any naval battles will be fought in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic and South Pacific. This will cause strain on the U.S. efforts in the Middle East, and cause it to divert its resources to defending its own region.
African/Arabic nations that are hostile to the U.S. will join the Iranian alliance also. This will create additional strain as the U.S. alliance will be fighting a war in three directions (North: Russia, East: China) and now West.
The rest of the EU Nations, (not sure about Turkey) will become involved with the U.S. alliance, and will possibly invade Russia from the west.
At some point, the entire world will be fighting with one another, India and Pakistan will be fighting each other, and both have nuclear weapons. I would estimate that the first instance of a nuclear strike will probably occur between these two nations. After this, it would set off a chain reaction of nuclear warfare between all nations. Prior to this, hundreds of millions have already died.
The United States and Russia have the most significant arsenal of nuclear weapons, and if these were unleashed, it would cause total destruction of humanity, and civilization as we know it would cease to exist.
I don't need to go into details about the outcome of an all-out nuclear war. Its effects have been discussed thoroughly and it is well-known and common knowledge of the destruction it would cause. Billions of lives would be lost. Between 70-90% of humanity could be lost in a global thermonuclear war.
In the words of the great Albert Einstein, "I don't know what weapons World War 3 will be fought with, but I do know that World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones."
That concludes this essay.