Despite Hawks’ Claim of Greatest Threat, Iran is Very Weak
The diplomacy with Iran is proceeding slowly in the days following the almost-handshake at the UN earlier this week. While skepticism is warranted, as I’ve written, there is a chorus of right-wing fear-mongers really upset about the prospect of detente with Iran. See, for example, this piece in the Washington Post by the neo-con Charles Krauthammer, whose basic point is that the Iranians are doggedly pursuing nuclear weapons and can never be negotiated with…ever.
For these naysayers, it would therefore seem that the only way forward is economic and/or actual warfare. That’s the only chance we have to eliminate this preeminent existential threat. Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Washington think-tank last year that he doesn’t “see any greater challenge than Iran.”
It is a peculiar feature of being the world’s military superpower that every bogeyman the national security state and its propagandists can conjure up becomes a dangerous existential threat, no matter how weak that rival is.
Back in July, I wrote a piece for The Washington Times arguing that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to the U.S. America, I wrote, “is a global military superpower that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Iran, by contrast, is a third-rate military power with an economy that is one forty-fifth the size of the U.S. economy.”
A post at the Center for Strategic International Studies provides more detail into just how comparatively weak Iran is. While Iran “has made major progress in creating naval forces for asymmetric warfare and developing naval missiles,” writes Anthony H. Cordesman,
…it has very limited air-sea and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (IS&R) capabilities. It lacks modern conventional land, air, air defense and sea power, has fallen far behind the Arab Gulf states in modern aircraft and ships, and its land forces are filled with obsolete and mediocre weapons that lack maneuver capability and sustainability outside Iran. Iran needs nuclear weapons to offset these facts.
Iran also “lacks any real amphibious capability force for entry,” Cordesman adds. “It is able to spend far less on military forces than the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and only a fraction of what they can spend on arms imports.” Iran’s short range rockets and missile forces “lack the accuracy and lethality to pose a major threat to any Gulf state but Kuwait – and Iran is far weaker in every warfighting dimension than a combination of U.S. and GCC forces.”
The CSIS report does argue that this inescapable comparative weakness does heavily incentivize Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but even if it can manage to “assemble some form of nuclear device and test,” which U.S. intelligence sources have said would take more than a year, Iran “will be years” away from having “significant nuclear forces” it has “no immediate prospect of creating missile defenses” to protect itself from attack.
Can you believe this is the country all of these macho tough guys in Washington fear monger about? This weak, impoverished, isolated nation and its pathetically insignificant military capabilities is America’s greatest threat that can only be subdued through war?
“It is a matter of faith among many American politicians that Iran is the greatest danger now facing the country,” writes Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But if that is true, then the United States can breathe easy: Iran is a weak military power.”