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The Saudi Arabia Drone Attacks Have Changed Global Warfare
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The devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities by drones and missiles not only transforms the balance of military power in the Middle East, but marks a change in the nature of warfare globally.

On the morning of 14 September, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles – all cheap and unsophisticated compared to modern military aircraft – disabled half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production and raised the world price of oil by 20 per cent.

This happened despite the Saudis spending $67.6bn (£54bn) on their defence budget last year, much of it on vastly expensive aircraft and air defence systems, which notably failed to stop the attack. The US defence budget stands at $750bn (£600.2bn), and its intelligence budget at $85bn (£68bn), but the US forces in the Gulf did not know what was happening until it was all over.

Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected. Such explanations sound pathetic when set against the proud boasts of the arms manufacturers and military commanders about the effectiveness of their weapons systems.

Debate is ongoing about whether it was the Iranians or the Houthis who carried out the attack, the likely answer being a combination of the two, but perhaps with Iran orchestrating the operation and supplying the equipment. But over-focus on responsibility diverts attention from a much more important development: a middle ranking power like Iran, under sanctions and with limited resources and expertise, acting alone or through allies, has inflicted crippling damage on theoretically much better-armed Saudi Arabia which is supposedly defended by the US, the world’s greatest military super-power.

If the US and Saudi Arabia are particularly hesitant to retaliate against Iran it is because they know now, contrary to what they might have believed a year ago, that a counter-attack will not be a cost-free exercise. What happened before can happen again: not for nothing has Iran been called a “drone superpower”. Oil production facilities and the desalination plants providing much of the fresh water in Saudi Arabia are conveniently concentrated targets for drones and small missiles.

In other words, the military playing field will be a lot more level in future in a conflict between a country with a sophisticated air force and air defence system and one without. The trump card for the US, Nato powers and Israel has long been their overwhelming superiority in airpower over any likely enemy. Suddenly this calculus has been undermined because almost anybody can be a player on the cheap when it comes to airpower.

Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, succinctly sums up the importance of this change, writing that “the strikes on Saudi Arabia provide a clear strategic warning that the US era of air supremacy in the Gulf, and the near US monopoly on precision strike capability, is rapidly fading.” He explains that a new generation of drones, cruise missiles, and precision strike ballistic missiles are entering the Iranian inventories and have begun to spread to the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Similar turning points in military history have occurred when the deployment of an easily produced weapon suddenly checkmates the use of a more complicated one.

A good example of this was the attack on 11 November 1940, on five Italian battleships, moored at their base at Taranto by 20 slow moving but sturdy British Swordfish biplanes, armed with torpedoes and launched from an aircraft carrier. At the end of the day, three of the battleships had been sunk or badly damaged while only two of the British planes were missing. The enormity of the victory achieved at such minimal cost ended the era when battleships ruled the sea and replaced them with one in which aircraft carriers with torpedo/bomber were supreme. It was a lesson noted by the Japanese navy which attacked Pearl Harbour in similar fashion a year after Taranto.

The Saudis showed off the wreckage of the drones and missiles to assembled diplomats and journalists this week in a bid to convince them that the Iranians were behind the air raid. But the most significant feature of the broken drone and missile parts was that, in full working order, the weapons that had just rocked the world economy would not have cost a lot. By way of contrast, the US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, the main air defence of Saudi Arabia that were so useless last Saturday, cost $3m (£2.4bn) apiece.

Cost and simplicity are important because they mean that Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and almost any country can produce drones and missiles in numbers large enough to overwhelm any defences they are likely to meet.

Compare the cost of the drone which would be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to the $122m (£97.6m) price of a single F-35 fighter, so expensive that it can only be purchased in limited numbers. As they take on board the meaning of what happened at Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, governments around the world will be demanding that their air force chiefs explain why they need to spend so much money when cheap but effective alternatives are available. Going by past precedent, the air chiefs and arms manufacturers will fight to their last breath for grossly inflated budgets to purchase weapons of dubious utility in a real war.

The attack on Saudi Arabia reinforces a trend in warfare in which inexpensive easily acquired weapons come out on top. Consider the track record of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), usually made out of easily available fertiliser, detonated by a command wire, and planted in or beside a road. These were used with devastating effect by the IRA in South Armagh, forcing the British Army off the roads and into helicopters.

ORDER IT NOW

IEDs were used in great numbers and with great effect against US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Immense resources were deployed by the US military into finding a counter to this deadly device, which included spending no less than $40bn (£32bn) on 27,000 heavily armoured vehicles called MRAPs. A subsequent army study revealed that that the number of US servicemen killed and wounded in an attack on an MRAP was exactly the same as in the vehicles which they had replaced.

It is unthinkable that American, British and Saudi military chiefs will accept that they command expensive, technically advanced forces that are obsolete in practice. This means they are stuck with arms that suck up resources but are, in practical terms, out of date. The Japanese, soon after they had demonstrated at Pearl Harbour the vulnerability of battleships, commissioned the world’s largest battleship, the Yamato, which fired its guns only once and was sunk in 1945 by US torpedo aircraft and bombers operating from aircraft carriers.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iran, Saudi Arabia 
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  1. unit472 says:

    Its ridiculous to imagine ‘The Houthis”, who cannot even provide clean water or sanitation, built the missiles they are launching so Iran is FULLY responsible as the US would be if the Mojahedin-e Khalq claimed to be behind a cruise missile attack on Tehran.

    That said it is clear, the days of manned fighter bombers are coming to an end. Besides the cost, the risk of pilots falling into the hands of barbaric regimes is politically unacceptable. Missiles are cheaper and can overwhelm expensive SAM systems. Ironically, at sea, something like the battleship might make a comeback. As far back as the Falklands war it was noted that while a carrier could be disabled by an Exocet sea skimming missile, a battleship would only have to repaint the scorch marks where an Exocet hit its armor belt and could launch a salvo of missiles against the unarmored cities and factories of the nation that attacked it.

  2. Mr. Grey says:

    I’m glad Patrick Coburn has taken time out from panicking about Brexit to write about something he is a little more knowledgeable about, the Middle East.

  3. Tom Verso says:

    “The attack on Saudi Arabia reinforces a trend in warfare in which inexpensive easily acquired weapons come out on top.”

    This I think is true, however I believe you over generalize. The Russians have been very successful in defending against jihadist drones and American cruise missiles in Syria. The main lesson here is that the Russian air defense weapons are superior to American. Which explains why countries like Turkey, China, India, etc. are lining up to buy them. If the Saudis had a Russian air defense system they would not have suffered the loses they did.

  4. @unit472

    I’m doubtful of your apparent certainty.

  5. Expensive doesn’t always mean effective e.g. lowbows against French knights.

    In Iraq, Russia’s El Cheapo RPG-29 “Vampir” has been lethal against M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 tanks.

    Elsewhere an IKEA submarine “defeated” the mighty U.S. Navy.

  6. Paul says:

    “If the US and Saudi Arabia are particularly hesitant to retaliate against Iran it is because they know now, contrary to what they might have believed a year ago, that a counter-attack will not be a cost-free exercise.”

    It would be cost-free were the choice to be made to nuke ’em. Do that and it’s game over. But the economic choke hold on Iran is already in place.

  7. Paul says:

    Relatively inexpensive stinger missiles did prove effective against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

    • Replies: @Per/Norway
  8. Let me guess: you’re only vaguely aware where Yemen is, you wouldn’t know a Houthi if you saw one, and the existence, let alone expertise, of the Yemeni missile forces are unknown to you.

    • Replies: @Miggle
  9. It would be cost-free were the choice to be made to nuke ’em. Do that and it’s game over.

    YES, Alex Jones is providing iodine as an antidote to radiation poisoning .
    It is not free but it is an acceptable price to pay and continue waging terror against humanity.

    • Replies: @anno nimus
  10. Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected.

    Actually, the simplest explanation for why US made air defenses were useless is that the incoming drones were squawking NATO or local area IFF codes and were therefore ignored by systems set up to only alert when a threat is detected and to ignore friendlies so as not to clutter the air defense information and tracking systems with non-threats.

    • LOL: Parfois1
  11. Gordo says:

    It’s asymmetric warfare, can’t see how it relates to Taranto.

  12. @unit472

    There are only two types of sea going vessels, submarines and targets.

    Anything that floats is an expensive coffin containing future corpses. Anyone stupid enough to be aboard a military vessel, regardless of how unsinkable they think it is, is deluding themselves.

    The entire concept of a ‘Navy’ is completely outdated. Aircraft carriers ‘project power’, it is said. That’s rubbish. The only reason the Navy gets away with such nonsense is because no one has decided to take one out yet. That day is rapidly approaching as foreign leaders are getting more and more annoyed by the US’s constant interference in their part of the world. Some day, probably soon, a US aircraft carrier will be sunk by relatively inexpensive missiles.

    Laser weapons and missiles are the future, not aircraft and ships. All the money currently spent on the military is money completely wasted.

    • Agree: Carroll Price
    • Replies: @Realist
    , @Bill Jones
  13. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog”. The Viet Cong, Iranian resistance fighters, Hezbollah, the Mujahedeen, all proved it true.

  14. PJ London says:
    @Paul

    ‘Do that and it’s game over. ‘
    Quite simply the dumbest comment of the year.
    “Nuclear” weapons are scary but not terribly effective.
    US used millions of toms of explosives in Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam and N Korea, such that the countries were flattened. Hanoi absorbed the equivalent of 100 atomic bombs yet they came out of their shelters and carried on fighting. The US lost the wars.
    The only reason that the Japanese example is used is that the Japanese had already surrendered and were discussing terms to be announced when the bombs were dropped.
    If you think that there would be no “payback” think of Iraq and Afghanistan. Total US domination of the cities and 18 years on they are still losing.

    • Replies: @Paul
  15. Realist says:
    @RoatanBill

    Laser weapons and missiles are the future, not aircraft and ships. All the money currently spent on the military is money completely wasted.

    Agreed, the US will suffer a huge defeat, in both people and cost, when an aircraft carrier is sunk, along with other ships.

    • Replies: @RoatanBill
  16. PJ London says:

    The truth is that I could make a balsa wood and canvas (Plastic?) drone in my garage, with a second hand 70cc Honda engine that I could fly 1600 miles on a simple tank of petrol and carry 100 lbs of Sarin or equivalent.
    Radio controlled by Cellphone GPS and I can track it from anywhere in the world including getting internet pictures.
    Over the target a single ‘roaming ‘ call and the Sarin is released.
    Total cost excluding Sarin, about $600.
    Invisible to Radar, unheard and unseen no way you would stop it.

  17. Realist says:
    @Paul

    I

    t would be cost-free were the choice to be made to nuke ’em. Do that and it’s game over.

    Au contraire, there would be a huge price for a nuclear attack on Iran. Russia and China would have to consider how to deal with a country that would nuke a non nuclear country. Not to mention condemnation.

    • Replies: @houston 1992
    , @Paul
  18. @Realist

    The entire MIC is one giant bluff and swindle. The powers that SHOULDN’T be know damned well that their newest aircraft are junk, their surface ships are completely vulnerable to swarm attack and the folks in charge are hoping to retire before an incident reveals that the emperor is naked.

    The folks in the Navy, in particular, are malingerers relying on pure bluff and decades of history of no one shooting at them to chance that the future will be like the past and they can spend 20 years floating around doing absolutely nothing useful and then retiring. I’m afraid those on ships now are going to be in for a surprise real soon, but their shock and awe will only last long enough for them to drown as their vessel sinks beneath them.

    Hubris eventually demands compensation.

    • Agree: Stonehands
    • Replies: @Realist
  19. A123 says:

    The commonly accepted understanding before the attack was, “Nearby enemies can destroy vulnerable targets.” The Iranian first-strike did not change the balance of power. It should be seen as an affirmation of that understanding, whether launched from Iran, Yemen, or special forces that snuck over the border into SA.

    The Saudis, at a time of their choosing, will respond to the Iranian first-strike. Iran and SA are both large countries with limited numbers of AA systems. Iran can concentrate those defenses around certain unique assets such as their nuclear weapons development labs, but they cannot protect everything.

    So, the ball is in Iran’s court. Will Ayatollah Khameni escalate to war with SA, resulting in de-industrialization on both sides as their infrastructure is destroyed? And, will the Iranian military refuse to follow suicidal orders if they are given?

    PEACE

    • Replies: @Alfred
  20. Realist says:
    @RoatanBill

    I’m afraid those on ships now are going to be in for a surprise real soon, but their shock and awe will only last long enough for them to drown as their vessel sinks beneath them.

    Yes, they are doomed as is this country.

    • Replies: @unit472
  21. @Realist

    Realist: you are correct that there is no feasible option for using nuclear weapons in the ME against Iran etc US use of a nuclear weapon would be a sign of weakness , and pf desperation–not of strength.
    It would be viewed as genocidal and the US would be rated liable for the medical care and resettlement of the refugees from that event, and its fallout.

    Russia is just across the Caspian from Iran, and RU would not take kindly to such weapons being used near them.

    • Replies: @Realist
  22. @Paul

    now do vietnam and imperial losses by Russian SAM mr wokester..

    • Replies: @Paul
  23. Speaking of Pearl harbor, it was US economic strangulation of Japan that caused it to retaliate. Today, the US wages a war of economic strangulation on Iran.

    • Replies: @anon
  24. Everyone is making a bigger deal out of this attack (assuming it wasn’t a false flag) than it really is. Warfare has not been revolutionized.

    Small drones like this can be brought down with shotguns, or even simple jamming devices.

    If a fancy solution is desired, CIWS works.

    • Replies: @yakushimaru
  25. Mr Cockburn, when claiming that

    A subsequent army study revealed that that the number of US servicemen killed and wounded in an attack on an MRAP was exactly the same as in the vehicles which they had replaced.

    you ought to link to it.

    If you refer to the Chris rolfe and Ryan Sullivan Foreign Affairs article of April 2012, then it is to be noted that it was not an “army study”, but done under the auspices of the navy; that it said that MRAPs were too expensive, and that they were unweildy; that casualties had occurred because of rollovers, and that logistically they were vulnerable to greater downtime. But it didn’t say what you claim: that a vehicle hit by an IUD produced “exactly the same” killed and wounded, whether it was a Humvee or an MRAP.

  26. Altai says:

    I’ve been genuinely confused why such attacks using ordinary consumer drones haven’t happened before. Seems like a very effective targeted weapon for assassinations and general mass casualty attacks. Lends credence to the greater false flag theory of Islamic terrorism in the West. Authorities seem capable of turning it off and on like a spigot.

    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
  27. @RoatanBill

    Not all the money is wasted. Green collar welfare keeps a lot of violent marginals off US streets (and on the streets of Germany, Japan, Korea etc etc.)

    • Replies: @DCThrowback
  28. Questions of the day: Why do (almost exclusively) men fight in the first place? What do they fight for any longer? Control of natural resources? Spurious ideological reasons? Control of trade routes? Control of banking and financial interests? Control by one or two classes of human society over all the other classes? Reduction of the excess population in certain areas? One generalization proffered 60 years ago by an anthropology student may provide a point of departure for all of us: The human species is just one of Mother Nature’s uncountable evolutionary experiments and a very recent one at that. We shall see what we shall see…the outcome doesn’t look particularly propitious at this point in time.

  29. I had to look up ‘green collar’ to discover it refers to environmental jobs, so I don’t understand your point as I was referring to what I call the M&M’s – Murderers & Malingerers in the US military. The M&M’s encompass 100% of their ranks.

    As far as offloading the violent filth in the US population on to other countries, I can’t support that.

  30. I have said for years that the US aircraft carrier is only good against third world countries, but the attack on Saudi Arabia has changed my mind. A mass attack by cheap drones on an aircraft carrier might not sink the carrier, but just one hit on the flight deck could cause the loss of ten or twenty aircraft.

  31. Bianca says:
    @Paul

    I am confused about this casual belief that “nuking” is a simple solution. Nuke how? Iran’s air defense is better, that is, the likelihood of a heavy bomber or a nuclear tipped missile — ballistic or cruise — will be intercepted and exploded over somebody else’s territory. Nuclear fallout will affect many countries. Drinking water and soul permanently poisoned.

    And such objects flying into Iran’s direction will be tracked by Russia — and they DO track cruise missiles — as this is close to Russian territory Why would Russia risk overshooting? Why would China risk its major energy supply from Caspian region in Turkmenistan? I can see a great number of actors tracking anything in the air to prevent “accidental” cowboy style zealotry.

    To bring nukes into conversation is — insane. But it seems to me that public has been conditioned to think of nukes as just some super-weapons we have to use to win!

    Retaliation can be serious problem. Considering that we do not have adequate anti-missile defence and not even rudimentary anti-drone defense, is it wise to get too cocky? Russia’s anti drone system — just one of many — called electronic countermeasures, has according to a US general “capabilities that are eye watering Lessons from this event are not likely to be learned if we swiftly switch the focus on whose fault it is. Strangely enough this should not be the problem finding out unless radars were asleep.

    • Replies: @Paul
  32. Dale says:

    Some really excellent responses to an enlightening article.

    The technology in the public sphere has now been weaponized in an unanticipated manner and most are caught unawares.

  33. anonymous[191] • Disclaimer says:

    If one wants to determine who sent the drones to destroy the Saudi Arabian oil refineries, one only needs to see who has been calling for war with Iran the most. There are loud lobbies in the US calling for the US to attack but there is only one nation that wants war with Iran, and that’s Israel. Israel wants war with Iran but wants the US to be the antagonist and the one that pays for it. All the propaganda about the Houthis and the Iranians helping them is preposterous. Why would Iran want a war with the United States or Israel for that matter, such a war would end up with half of their country being destroyed. Who would win? Nobody. Israel thinks that they can have the US destroy Iran before the Iranians can get their missiles out to hit Israel. I wouldn’t bet on that, Iran is an extremely mountainous country and is smart enough to have missiles hidden in places where US satellites can’t see them. Is Israel willing to take the chance that perhaps 10 percent of Iranian missiles could get launched and perhaps hitting Dimona and Tel Aviv to spread radiation all over the country? Iran is 80 times the size of Israel so just a few missiles hitting Israel would destroy the country but not Iran.

  34. Realist says:
    @houston 1992

    Russia is just across the Caspian from Iran, and RU would not take kindly to such weapons being used near them.

    Yes, plus it would really piss off Iran and its allies. The US navy would take a beating…probably sinking of aircraft carriers and other ships..

  35. Patrick Cockburn’s sentence should have stated ” Debate is ongoing about whether the Iranians or the Houtis or the Israelis were behind the attacks …” See for example Aangirfan ” Israel attacked Saudis to blame Iran “. Another false flag attack ?

  36. DrDog says:

    For most of the article I agree with the premise. Excepting the missiles used, the deployment of the drones were such that the ‘launch site’ was within driving distance of the target. Why is that important? Simply put the cost to reach a target rises at the square of the distance to get to the target. The longer the ‘legs’ of a system its cost go up exponentially. That is part of the reason that NATO systems are so expensive, they have to reach deep to hit staging areas in the enemy rear. A fact that the Chinese have recognized well enough to develop a doctrine of Area Denial.

    Air combat of the future will be automatic. Manned aircraft have limits imposed by the pilot to survive maneuvers that drones do not. That and drones do not require all the biological support systems to keep the driver alive further reducing costs. There is a cascade effect on design once the pilot is no longer in the system itself.

    So long as there is access to the region the target sits in, then drone tech is truly a game changer. Denied that easy access then the costs escalate rapidly. It is as clear as the cost of a Reaper vs Global Hawk.

  37. @Paul

    Iran is selling its oil to China and India. Rupees and yuan can be used to buy anything you want or need.
    U.S. sanctions have failed because the U.S. can no longer enforce them. Iranian sanctions are a hollow threat and induce laughter among those in the know.
    The American Empire, founded in 1945 on the ashes of the British, French and Dutch, is crumbling. Rapidly. Time for Plan B.

    • Replies: @A123
  38. Alfred says:
    @unit472

    the risk of pilots falling into the hands of barbaric regimes is politically unacceptable

    Thank you for that. You made me laugh.

  39. Republic says:

    Good for freedom, but bad for the bloated military contractors. David won this round

  40. unit472 says:
    @Realist

    That plenty of other nations want aircraft carriers suggests they are not quite as useless as some might think. China is working hard to develop its own carriers. Japan wants its large flat deck “destroyers” to be equipped with F-35’s. The UK has built two large deck carriers and India and France also operate carriers.

    Short of having airbases all over the world, the carrier is the only practical method of bringing military power to bear against a distant adversary short of long range bombers or ICBMs (which have never been salvo launched for obvious reasons) That mobility also makes it difficult to attack. A carrier can make 30 knots so an enemy has to be able to track its location in real time. Sinking one is going to require multiple hits by large munitions too. Forrestal survived multiple (friendly) bomb explosions on its deck and while knocked out of action it did survive. Carriers that were sunk in WW2 were much smaller and still required many hits by attacking aircraft.

    • Replies: @Begemot
    , @peterAUS
    , @Realist
  41. Alfred says:
    @A123

    The Saudis, at a time of their choosing, will respond to the Iranian first-strike

    Do you mean the Saudis will send some Sudanese mercenaries to settle accounts with Iran?

    My dear sir, you have absolutely no understanding of the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia is not a country. It is called after the grandfather of this half-Turkish idiot MBS.

    It is a collection of tribes that has been using slaves and near-slaves for centuries. Iran is an entirely different country. They are a heck of a lot smarter and more patriotic. They have been around for millennia.

  42. A123 says:
    @steinbergfeldwitzcohen

    Iran is selling its oil to China and India.

    Iran held Indian citizens hostage. The crew of the Stena Impero. India is not buying Iranian oil after that provocation.

    Some Iran-China smuggling is occurring. Tanker loading facilities seem a likely target when the Saudis retaliate against Iran. Especially if they can hit an empty tanker or two waiting to load.

    … yuan can be used to buy anything you want or need.

    China keeps devaluing the Yuan. Iran has no other choices, but spending Yuan on anything other than Chinese made goods is quite problematic. No is willing to be stuck in a Yuan denominated contract with China manipulating the value.

    PEACE

    • Replies: @Herald
  43. Begemot says:
    @unit472

    A carrier that is out of action is almost as good as one sunk as far as its ability to further participate in a battle or even a war (depending on duration). It takes less effort to render these ships hors de combat than to sink so one strike may be all that is needed.

  44. A123 says:

    That plenty of other nations want aircraft carriers suggests they are not quite as useless as some might think. China is working hard to develop its own carriers. Japan wants its large flat deck “destroyers” to be equipped with F-35’s. The UK has built two large deck carriers and India and France also operate carriers.

    Precisely correct.

    Would China be building a super carrier if they thought it would be useless?

    If the U.S. allowed Iran to trap a super carrier in the Persian Gulf, could Iran damage or sink it? Possibly. If the U.S. keeps the carrier in the Arabian Sea / northern Indian Ocean Iran has very few options.

    Could U.S. carriers force open the South China Sea, immediately adjacent to 80%+ of the China’s anti-ship capability? Probably not. Could those same carrier task forces operate well away from land? Yes. China has similar vulnerabilities to 1940’s Germany. There are a number things it must import to keep its military equipment supplied and repaired. And, the U.S. can operate against Chinese shipping through the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

    PEACE

  45. Herald says:
    @A123

    Your cluelessness knows no bounds.

    Fact – Saudi Arabia couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag and it would never dare launch a direct attack on Iran. The Saudis, our special friends, are good at shooting up school buses in the desert, but for anything else forget it.

    The next attack in the drone war will likely again be from the Houthis and it will once more wreak major havoc on Saudi oil installations. The US and the Saudis will again say it was Iran and then will sit on their hands, as they both know that both Saudi Arabia and dozens of US bases/ships will be destroyed in any large scale exchange of fire with Iran.

    The coalition of the barbaric and the almost unbelievably stupid have only one real option and that is to negotiate a comprehensive peace settlement, which will leave Iran unimpeded and free of sanctions in the small print. The US can then declare victory and everyone else will cheer loudly, while sniggering away behind its back.

    • Replies: @A123
    , @Commentator Mike
  46. A123 says:
    @Herald

    Fact – Saudi Arabia couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag

    FACT — You are misinformed, delusional, or most likely both. So, you have much in common with your paymaster Ayatollah Killmania.

    The Saudis have a great deal of empty desert and very little urban area. The forces they have, quite logically, emphasize mechanized warfare and not street to street urban infantry combat. Blowing up immobile and vulnerable facilities such as oil loading ports, docked ships, and pipelines are well within Saudi capabilities.

    If you want to question the Saudi long term staying power in an extended conflict, that is an issue. Tanks that should have been fixed in the field wind up on transporters back to base so they can be fixed in garage conditions. This is easier and probably cheaper, but not training crews on how to get tanks and APC’s back into the the fight is a good way to lose equipment.

    The real back breaker is that Sunnis outnumber Shia by around 5:1. As both sides run out of equipment, warfare goes back to more primitive forms where sheer numerical advantage is decisive. The fact that your overlord is detached from reality, opens the door for Iran to start a war by mistake. And, history shows that those who start wars by accident also lose them.

    There is hope though. The rather capitalistic, not particularly revolutionary, Guards Corp in Iran makes its money by owning businesses. They have a rational understanding of what their troops face, and are unlikely to suicide because a religious zealot tells them to do so.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @Prof Watson
  47. peterAUS says:
    @unit472

    Pretty much.

    Plus controlling the seas. World commerce, in fact.
    Related to sanctions, in Iran’s case.

    “Anti-carrier” thing is the local “Team Russia” invention.
    Makes them feel good.

    • Replies: @A123
  48. Realist says:
    @unit472

    That plenty of other nations want aircraft carriers suggests they are not quite as useless as some might think.

    There is no accounting for stupidity.

    Short of having airbases all over the world, the carrier is the only practical method of bringing military power to bear against a distant adversary short of long range bombers or ICBMs (which have never been salvo launched for obvious reasons)

    The US has both. Your “bringing military power ” is pure war mongering hegemony.

    Sinking one is going to require multiple hits by large munitions too. Forrestal survived multiple (friendly) bomb explosions on its deck and while knocked out of action it did survive.

    Bombs exploding on the deck of an aircraft carrier is much different than one just below the water line.
    At any rate, the way those that control this country are conducting themselves, we will probably find out soon.

    • Replies: @unit472
  49. A123 says:
    @peterAUS

    “Anti-carrier” thing is the local “Team Russia” invention.
    Makes them feel good.

    It’s more of a general anti-US thing. “Team Iran” and “Team China” are much more fearful and hand wringing about carriers than “Team Russia”.

    The Team Russia folks realize that the Baltic would be a death trap, so no major carrier force would mount serious operations there. It’s a good place to train though, and some smaller helo carriers could exploit the cramped conditions.

    PEACE

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  50. JamesD says:

    Not very incisive. If you want to defend against cruise missiles you have to have your air defense up and running, which means any aircraft in the area will be destroyed. That’s because you have less than a minute. Saudi Arabia is not going to do that in fear of shooting down passenger planes. Furthermore the missiles have to be launched and controlled from somewhere.

    Point being, in a war with Iran their launch sites and air defenses would be taken out first. They have the same problems that the Saudi’s had: they can’t keep their air dense active unless they want to shoot down everything that flies.

    The bigger point is the geopolitics. The second Vietnam War (after 1963) could have been won in a few weeks by carpet bombing North Vietnam, destroying their dams, and mining their harbors. Why didn’t we do that? Taking out Iran is not particularly difficult (lot’s of oil and gas infrastructure), but then you’d have a problem with Russia and China.

    So yes drones and missiles do change things, but these missiles have been around for a long time (the naphtha tanks were taken out be missiles from the photos). The pin point accuracy with GPS is new, I’ll grant that.

  51. peterAUS says:
    @A123

    It’s more of a general anti-US thing.

    Yes.

    “Team Iran” and “Team China” are much more fearful and hand wringing about carriers than “Team Russia”.

    True. In that order and with a very good reason.

    The Team Russia folks realize that the Baltic ….

    Sorry, always stop at such a moment. THE WAR between USA and Russia.

    My train of thought is simple there. It does cut all that wanking about “who has better this or that” chat so popular in places as this. This aircraft, that missile, blah…blah….

    See, as soon as I register “that war” thing I think, for around 10 seconds, about ..say….this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_independently_targetable_reentry_vehicle…five seconds
    and
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon another five seconds…..
    Just visualize a thing or two and then change the topic.

    • Replies: @A123
  52. @A123

    20% of the population of KSA is made up of traitorous Shia that can do sabotage to oil industry. MbS made enemies of the families of the people he tortured to get their money. They are active, like the Shia.

  53. A123 says:
    @peterAUS

    Sorry, always stop at such a moment. THE WAR between USA and Russia.

    He he. OK.

    The point I was indirectly approaching is that there are some quite rational and approachable “Team Russia” people. Russia and the U.S. are Christian nations and in many ways natural allies if the old Cold War dogma can be buried. The U.S. deep state and the Russian equivalent hate this, of course. Heading off better U.S.-Russia relations is why they pushed the Mueller investigation for over a year after there was sufficient evidence to dismiss the allegation.
    _____

    I have yet to see anything vaguely resembling rational behaviour from the “Team Iran” posters here. Most of them simply lie. Then, when they are caught lying they go to childish name calling and trolling.

    Everyone should readily see that is if Iran starts a war with SA, it will result in near 100% infrastructure elimination on both sides and most likely several other smaller Gulf states. In the aftermath, it will be quite difficult to tell the winner from the loser.

    It’s really quite sad when the “Team Iran” crazies state that Russia and China will come to rescue Iran from military folly. Are they actually so far into self deception that they believe anyone will rescue Iran?

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  54. peterAUS says:
    @A123

    Russia and the U.S. are Christian nations and in many ways natural allies if the old Cold War dogma can be buried….

    Let’s say some people, including me, believe the animosity, even hatred, lies much deeper and goes way back. Let’s skip that chat here.

    ….if Iran starts a war with SA, it will result in near 100% infrastructure elimination on both sides…

    Possibly. Worse on the Iranian side, I think.

    ….the “Team Iran” crazies state that Russia and China will come to rescue Iran ….

    They will not, IMHO.

    They haven’t done shit to prevent the effects of all those sanctions. What happened to the multipolar world, Russia-China economic alliance, having a border with Russia for fuck’s sake> What..not enough ships on Caspian Sea?!
    They didn’t do that and we are to believe they’d do something when missiles start flying? Idiots.

  55. Paul says:
    @PJ London

    Ready to surrender? Your ignorance is appalling! It took TWO atomic bombs to get them to surrender.

    • Replies: @PJ London
  56. DCThrowback says: • Website
    @Bill Jones

    No. The IQ floor of the armed services (around 95) means that while it’s welfare, these are people who can be productive in regular society as well (at lower wages most likely).

  57. @Proud_Srbin

    whi needs iodine when there is duct tape? seal the doors and windows and duck under the table.

  58. PJ London says:
    @Paul

    I understand that you don’t know history.

    “There is contentious debate among scholars about why Japan surrendered in World War II. Some believe the Aug. 15, 1945, declaration was the result of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    It’s possible that these finally pushed Emperor Hirohito (posthumously called Emperor Showa) to break the deadlock in the Supreme War Council and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration for unconditional surrender issued by the Allied leaders on July 26, 1945. In that declaration, there was a promise of “prompt and utter destruction” if the armed forces of Japan didn’t surrender.”

    So while the Potsdam agreement was still being discussed and finalised the USA decided to “see what happens when we drop Nuclear bombs.”

    “Gar Alperovitz, professor of Political Economy at University of Maryland College Park, believes that the United States dropped the bombs in order to intimidate the Soviet Union. Dropping the bombs demonstrated the sheer difference in power between the United States and the rest of the world, and was particularly daunting to the Soviets.

    Defeating Japan was crucial in intimidating and combating the influence of the Soviets”

    Normally I do not drop to ad hominems, however in light of your comment …
    It is nice to see so many hardworking people :

    “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” —
    Benjamin Franklin

    • Replies: @Paul
  59. unit472 says:
    @Realist

    I don’t disagree that the US is putting too much money into big carriers. Do we really need 10 big ones when you can operate F-35s off of much smaller amphibious assault ships? Yes if you can hit a carrier with enough torpedoes it will sink but diesel electric subs can’t keep up with a carrier and torpedoes are not long range weapons. Carriers operate with ASW escorts too so it won’t be easy to sneak up on a carrier in war time. Possible but not easy.

    • Replies: @Realist
  60. Realist says:
    @unit472

    Yes if you can hit a carrier with enough torpedoes it will sink but diesel electric subs can’t keep up with a carrier and torpedoes are not long range weapons. Carriers operate with ASW escorts too so it won’t be easy to sneak up on a carrier in war time. Possible but not easy.

    Perhaps we’ll see.

  61. anon[117] • Disclaimer says:
    @Robert Anderson

    Same crime committed few times here and there and talked about repeating here and there after a while loses the emotional shock value and rawness and the flavor of the illegality . But is still illegal.

  62. Hmmm…

    Something tells me that the infinite number of EXPERTS ON EVERYTHING who frequent Unz.com will weigh in on this matter with all of their ACKNOWLEDGED MILITARY EXPERTISE (half of which they got from reading shit on the internet, with the other half being pulled out of their ass).

    The fun part comes—as it always does—when this endless parade of self-sure EXPERTS can’t agree on a damned thing.

    In the next thread, all of these MILITARY EXPERTS will magically transform into whatever type of EXPERT is require to strut in that context.

    You’re all as full of crap as the day is long. Get over yourselves, dum-dums.

  63. Mike says:
    @unit472

    During the invasion of the Phillipines, a group of Japanese battleships snuck into the landing area.
    The US Fleet was off chasing wild geese. I’ll have to refresh my memory but they were attacked by at least 450 maybe more US Aircraft. Granted, they were CAS types to support the landing. But they did no damage and were repulsed by the mass of AA on the Japanese ships.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  64. peterAUS says:
    @Mike

    Well…how to put it: you are so wrong there it boggles the mind.
    It’s O.K.

    Interested parties can take a look at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Leyte_Gulf
    Kurita group in particular. Plenty of related material on the Internet.
    Plenty.

    Oh, BTW, really not into discussing that. After, say, 20 times, becomes boring.
    Sorry about that…………

  65. @Thorfinnsson

    Or, drone-fighting drones (not now, maybe).

    But still, the nature of war probably changed a bit. The small weaker guys can now punch, quite effectively.

    It’s also kind of like AR-15 in US. A sufficiently lethal weapon that is relatively easily available.

    Kind of like Bin Laden’s 911 attack was revolutionary. It changed things around commercial airlines quite a bit.

    The argument is not that there, see, an invincible weapon. The argument is that, look, the old calculations are a bit off now.

  66. Paul says:
    @Realist

    Good opportunity to discuss Russian and Chinese behavior. 😉

    • Replies: @Realist
  67. Paul says:
    @Per/Norway

    Let’s talk about Norwegian collaboration with the Nazis.

  68. Paul says:
    @PJ London

    “There is contentious debate among scholars about why Japan surrendered in World War II.”

    Not a serious one. It took TWO atom bombs to get Japan to surrender. Try to pay attention. Your ignorance is appalling!

    • Replies: @PJ London
  69. Paul says:
    @Bianca

    “Iran’s air defense is better, that is, the likelihood of a heavy bomber or a nuclear tipped missile — ballistic or cruise — will be intercepted and exploded over somebody else’s territory.”

    There is nobody else’s territory between Iran and the Persian Gulf. And missiles can be MIRVed.

  70. J says: • Website

    Dirt cheap drones do not change the nature of war not negate sophisticated expensive weapons. Already the Romans had noted that any determined person can take a kitchen knife and kill someone or two in the forum. It is possible that there is no specific answer to these kinds of attacks. There is an effective answer which is: immediate, certain, immoderate, excessive damage to the attacker and its family, tribe, village, followed by forty years of pending revenge. That is the conventional, traditional policy that keeps the peace in the Middle East. We Israelis were forced by reality to learn it. That is why I am so surprised by the silence and indifference that followed the drone attack. Normally, the Saudis would have promised to behead the attackers, sell their children as slaves and so on. But nothing happened. Like the Hound of the Baskerville’s that did not bark. A mystery.

  71. PJ London says:
    @Paul

    You troll everyone and insult each. You are merely a nasty little ‘thing’ living in a basement and with fear of actually meeting a real person, as like they did in school, a real person will slap the Cr*p out of you.

  72. Realist says:
    @Paul

    Good opportunity to discuss Russian and Chinese behavior. 😉

    Go for it.

  73. iffen says:

    We need to nuke North Korea and then extend an invitationn to Iran to come to Washington for talks.

    • Replies: @nymom
  74. nymom says:
    @iffen

    Shouldn’t it be just the opposite.

    I actually see North Korea (as exampled by South Korea) as someday being a prosperous, somewhat democratic member of the world order…whereas Iran (as exampled by every other Muslim country currently in existence) never changing…

    So I think you might have that backwards…

    • Replies: @iffen
  75. @Herald

    The next attack in the drone war will likely again be from the Houthis and it will once more wreak major havoc on Saudi oil installations. The US and the Saudis will again say it was Iran and then will sit on their hands, as they both know that both Saudi Arabia and dozens of US bases/ships will be destroyed in any large scale exchange of fire with Iran.

    Quite possible. However, the US may retaliate against the Houthis themselves by launching some cruise missile attacks against them. But, considering the long distances Houthi missiles covered and the precision with which they struck, the Americans must be calculating the odds of survival of any of their ships and bases within range of a subsequent Houthi response should they attack them. Iranians can quite comfortably wage a war by proxy against US forces in the region using the Houthis. Especially given that the Partiots are useless at defending from Houthis. The Somali gangs did quite well against US intervention but these Houthis are in quite a different class. Yes, like you say, the Yanks will do nothing, but if they do something they may have to quickly move all their military bases and ships out of the range of Houthi missiles. Bombing Houthis using long range bombers is only an option provided there are no US targets within range of the Houthis missile force. Still Houthis need resources and supply lines to build their missiles. And provided they are truly capable and behind this latest attack which some have cast doubts on. Landing US special forces in Yemen may be another option but it is all fraught with great risks. The Houthis have threatened to ignite the entire region and strike cities in UEA and elsewhere unless they’re left alone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they and Iran haven’t developed armed submersible drones for off-shore operations that could be launched from fishing vessels if need be. Envisage a shoal of submersible drones heading for navy ships.

  76. iffen says:
    @nymom

    someday being a prosperous, somewhat democratic member of the world order

    Fantasy thinking like this, and trying to hurry it along, is a major reason we are in so much trouble in the ME and elsewhere.

  77. TX says:

    Carriers aren’t useless.

    And wartime ASW is vastly different from maritime ASW.

    The most dangerous place to be in a war is in a submarine as everyone is hunting you and when they find you, they will kill you. You cannot outrun the surface ships.

    In exercises, these Stirling diesel-electrics can sneak up on anyone…once the war is on, they will be actively hunted and killed. Nobody will care about the sonar damage to whales or marine life.

    Submarines are not a magic bullet.

    Low flying, slow drones are currently a blind spot in SAM systems. The Russians are as we speak trying to get Pantsirs to be able to effectively target them. As of now, only their TOR systems are very much efficient against drone threats.

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