October is looming larger than ever as the likely date for an attack on Iran.
Some weeks ago, the Saudis became convinced that Israel would stage an attack on Iran in early October, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 547 reported on June 29. (A Movable Timetable: Saudis Preparing for US to Strike Iran in October)
This week, we can report that this certainty is shared by US President Barack Obama, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who visited Israel Wednesday, August 1, CIA Director David Petraeus, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
None of them were taken in by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement Tuesday, July 31, that he hadn’t yet reached a decision about an attack on Iran. They are convinced that he has.
By early August, the inevitability of hostilities breaking out by the first week of October had stirred up American military bases in the Middle East and Persian Gulf as well as at military command centers in the US and Europe with roles to play in the approaching conflict. Secretary Panetta was fully briefed on the preparations during his Middle East tour this week.
In Washington, The Obama administration went to work on evaluations postulating how each of the nations directly involved – the US, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia – would emerge from the armed conflict with Iran.
Taken into account too was its occurrence in the middle of an undecided civil war in Syria.
Touching off a comprehensive Mid East war
The duration of the clash of arms with Iran cannot be forecast, but certain nations, Kuwait, Jordan, the UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, are bound to suffer knock-on effects, according to those evaluations.
In other words, Washington appreciates that an Israeli attack on Iran may well ignite the flames of a comprehensive Middle East war.
As to the estimated scale of damage, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington sources report the administration counts on the Israeli attack halting Iranian nuclear activity for eighteen months – both as a result of bomb damage and because the mountainous fortifications thrown up by Iran (see the preceding item) make some nuclear facilities inaccessible to staff.
Iran will therefore have to put its nuclear program on hold until the summer of 2014, say White House analysts. Resumption of work may be delayed for another year if its nuclear facilities continue to be battered by follow-up strikes.
These US scenarios forecast Iranian ballistic missile reprisals against American military targets in the Gulf, Israel, Saudi Arabia, possibly also Kuwait, where British naval, air and ground forces participating in the war are based, and the United Arab Emirates, which hosts the French naval, air and ground forces gathering there for weeks.
An Iranian missile counter-offensive will draw the United States into the war for a number of weighty tasks.
US warplanes and missiles will undertake to smash the Iranian missile batteries while the Israeli air force is otherwise engaged in bombing Iranian nuclear sites.
US intelligence estimates that Iran’s ballistic missile campaign cannot be sustained for long because of its small stock – no more than 30-40 Shehab-3 missiles with ranges of 1,200 to 1,500 kilometers – and their multiple targets. The damage they can cause to each target is therefore limited, American war planners calculate.
If Bashar Assad is drawn into throwing Syrian missiles into the fray, the US Air Force would destroy them too.
The Americans will take responsibility for defending the Strait of Hormuz waterway and reopening it to the passage of Gulf oil exports if the Iranians try to close it with underwater mines or sending commando speedboats to sink big ships.
US forces will also help defend Saudi oil fields, export terminals and refineries. American military planners fear the danger of Iranian attacks on the Saudi oil industry is greater than the total closure of the Strait of Hormuz.
It has already been agreed between Washington and Riyadh, according to our Gulf intelligence sources, that in the first moments of an attack on Iran by the US or Israel, Saudi Arabia will stop pumping oil and shut down its export terminals on both its Gulf and Red Sea coasts to wind down traffic.
In their talks, the Americans and Saudis concurred that the shutdown of the kingdom’s oil production and exports would cause hardly a ripple on world markets because enough stocks are in hand by now to sustain world consumption for 6-8 months without major upheavals or impact on prices.
Since the US military and intelligence branches began treating an imminent war on Iran as a realistic prospect and completed their preparations, they turned intense focus on intelligence gathering in and around Iran.
To this end, President Obama recently approved the relocation of American manpower and resources from the North Korea and China sectors to the Persian Gulf and Middle East.