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1980: United States vs Iran

 
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1980: United States vs Iran - 9/26/2019 2:42:30 AM   
HalfLifeExpert


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Hello all, I finally got the next issue of Modern War magazine in the mail (this issue https://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW44M) and read the main cover article, which basically examines Operation Eagle Claw.

However, I'd like to discuss the realistic possibilities from a US-Iranian War as a result of the Hostage Crisis.

I think this could provide some interesting scenario material, which I hope someone will come up with ideas for, due to my still novice capabilities, despite doing some scenario building.


Anyways, let's assume that the decision is made by the US to embark on military action against Iran as a result of the Hostage Crisis. This is far more than just an effort to rescue the hostages, which would likely be part of such action.

What would have been the likely match up? Who, if anyone, would be on ether the side of the US or Iran?
(We'll assume that hostilities break out before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War on Sept. 22 1980.)

How do you think the rest of the world would have reacted, especially NATO countries, the Islamic World, and the USSR?

In broad thinking, how do you think the war could have gone for ether side?

Discuss!

< Message edited by HalfLifeExpert -- 9/26/2019 2:45:41 AM >
Post #: 1
RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/26/2019 1:52:15 PM   
SeaQueen


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quote:

However, I'd like to discuss the realistic possibilities from a US-Iranian War as a result of the Hostage Crisis... Anyways, let's assume that the decision is made by the US to embark on military action against Iran as a result of the Hostage Crisis. This is far more than just an effort to rescue the hostages, which would likely be part of such action.


Start off and make a list of what the US might be attempting to accomplish in such a war. Likewise do the same for Iran. Understand that what victory looks like for one side, might not look the same for the other. The list could be something like this:

US
1.  Rescue the hostages.
2.  Other thing 'A.'
3.  Other thing 'B.'
...

Iran
1.  Damage the perception of the US and allied nations as the guarantors of regional security.
2.  Other thing 'A.'
3.  Other thing 'B.'
...


Fill in the blanks for "Other thing 'A', 'B', 'C', etc." keep it pretty broad at first. "Other thing 'A'" might be "Safeguard the flow of oil through from the Gulf of Oman (GOO) through the Straits of Hormuz (SOH) into Kuwait in the North Arabian Sea (NAS)." Also try to keep the list fairly short. You should need to be more than five things.

Next, ask yourself which of those things the military can actually accomplish and how. Keep in mind, the military can only really do two things: attack and defend. For example:

US
1. Rescue the hostages.
   a. Locate the hostages.
   b. Establish temporary local air dominance in the vicinity of the hostage site.
   c. Execute a raid at the the location at which the hostages are being held.


1a. Would probably be a scenario in its own right using a SR-71 or U-2 aircraft, along with supporting assets. If they can't locate them, then there's no raid. Keep in mind, other things which aren't taken into account in C:MANO might participate in that effort. Certainly there would be some sort of other intelligence operation employing other things besides airplanes. If they succeed, then they might decide to go attempt 1b and 1c.

1b and 1c could probably be smushed together and make a second scenario because once the President says, "Go!" that kind of raid would proceed very quickly with both a SOF component and a conventional ground component following behind the SEAD and fighters who would carve out a path for the SOF aircraft to fly through. They might employ amphibious forces or airborne assault. It all depends. Remember, though, it's a raid, not forcible entry, so they need to be able to quickly reconstitute and get out as well.

In the case of Iran, it might look something like this:

Iran
1.  Damage the credibility of the US and allied nations as guarantors of regional security.
    a.  Repel any attempt at rescuing the hostages.
    b.  Establish maritime superiority in the Persian Gulf region.
    c.  Establish air superiority over the Persian Gulf region.


In the case of Iran, this would need to be further fleshed out to arrive at C:MANO scenarios. 1a, would suggest defending the area specifically surrounding the hostage site with SAMs, AAA, ground forces (IRGC, regular Army or both?). This would be paired with the American 1a scenario.

1b, would suggest combined attacks on tankers and other commercial ships with warships, small boats, aircraft and land based cruise missiles (Styx?). That's another (separate) good scenario. It would also suggest confronting a group of US warships if they were strong enough.

1c, would suggest a combination of defensive counter air, and attacking allied airbases or even a carrier in an attempt at contesting American and allied air power. Attacking an airbase Iranian style is another good scenario.

quote:


I think this could provide some interesting scenario material, which I hope someone will come up with ideas for, due to my still novice capabilities, despite doing some scenario building.


I think so too. The trick to a good scenario is keep it scoped down, in my opinion. That doesn't mean it can't be large in terms of the numbers of forces involved (that just depends, and after a certain point, it gets unwieldy). But rather, keep the objectives of the scenario small in number and well defined.

quote:


What would have been the likely match up? Who, if anyone, would be on ether the side of the US or Iran?
(We'll assume that hostilities break out before the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War on Sept. 22 1980.)


During the Cold War it was always the usual suspects. If the Iranians were against the United States the Soviets would be helping them in some capacity. That might not necessarily mean it's overt support, though. Maybe it's just intelligence sharing or some other way of exercising national power. Keep in mind, the Iranians were a theocracy, and the Soviets were officially atheists in accordance with Marxist-Leninist dogma. So, for them to support a theocracy overtly was politically awkward.

quote:

How do you think the rest of the world would have reacted, especially NATO countries, the Islamic World, and the USSR?


Part of the answer to that is above. I'm sure that NATO nations would have supported the US if the Iranians took American hostages, and especially if other Western nationals were taken hostage as well. It would not be out of character for the Iranians to target UK citizens, French, Israelis, or citizens of any other US ally as well.

quote:


In broad thinking, how do you think the war could have gone for ether side?


It depends on the list of broad goals it was trying to achieve. If it was to depose the government, probably not so good. Look at how Iraq went. If it was something more limited, maybe it'd be better. Even then, though, Operation Eagle Claw didn't go well, even though it was conceptually similar to the Son Tay raid (Operation Ivory Coast).

< Message edited by SeaQueen -- 9/26/2019 7:21:53 PM >

(in reply to HalfLifeExpert)
Post #: 2
RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/26/2019 9:23:18 PM   
kevinkins


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If an all out war was started, or something a bit more than the covert operation that was attempted, wouldn't the hostages have been killed by Iran? The strategic situation would then revert to the same before the US embassy was seized except 52 non-combatants would be dead. That is, the US just keeping the oil flow going. This idea has a lot of merit. But I think some fictional monkey wrench has to be thrown into the mix. Maybe Israel and/or Russia. Something to keep the hostages alive as a bargaining tool. If they were killed, the US could have flatten Iran unless of fear of Soviet intervention. But I am not sure if that intervention would have been within the true focus of Command. That is Soviet nuclear or ground forces. Great topic.

Kevin



< Message edited by kevinkins -- 9/27/2019 1:26:17 PM >


_____________________________

“The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.”
― Alfred Thayer Mahan


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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/27/2019 1:35:07 PM   
FrangibleCover

 

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No, the hostages would not all have been murdered immediately because a) the Iranians are not animals and b) if they murdered all of the hostages then the US would flatten them. What is the imaginable benefit of killing them? Disperse them in ones and twos, use them as human shields for your facilities and keep on bleeding the US until the failure to rescue them becomes too much of a political embarrassment to bear.

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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/28/2019 5:29:19 PM   
Zaslon

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: FrangibleCover

No, the hostages would not all have been murdered immediately because a) the Iranians are not animals and b) if they murdered all of the hostages then the US would flatten them. What is the imaginable benefit of killing them? Disperse them in ones and twos, use them as human shields for your facilities and keep on bleeding the US until the failure to rescue them becomes too much of a political embarrassment to bear.

Yeap. I Agree.

_____________________________


Kids think about Iran and Amateurs think about Russia, but professionals think about China

(in reply to FrangibleCover)
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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/28/2019 6:45:26 PM   
guanotwozero

 

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I'd suggest that the hostages were so valuable as bargaining chips that they wouldn't have been used as human shields, even apart from the humanitarian aspect. AFAIK Iran didn't even use human shields in the Iran-Iraq war even though Iraq did so with Iranian captives.

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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/30/2019 11:12:18 AM   
Gunner98

 

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From: The Great White North!
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quote:

No, the hostages would not all have been murdered immediately because a) the Iranians are not animals and b) if they murdered all of the hostages then the US would flatten them. What is the imaginable benefit of killing them? Disperse them in ones and twos, use them as human shields for your facilities and keep on bleeding the US until the failure to rescue them becomes too much of a political embarrassment to bear.


Agree, perhaps one or two would be publicly executed to show resolve but not more. This factor would/could lead to a phased scenario or group of scenarios - Recon as mentioned above - then a covert attempt to seize the hostages followed by two branches A) Successful rescue = a fairly standard FON through he Straits or retributive strike type scenario - or - B) Failed rescue = a hot war with hostages in about a dozen places, lots of restricted targets and some fairly blatant raids to rescue them.

You could create both branches or simply the final scenario based on whichever background you want. In my mind the scenario after a failed rescue would be much more difficult and interesting.

B

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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/30/2019 7:34:51 PM   
HalfLifeExpert


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My apologies for taking a while to reply.

I think it is an interesting point of discussion as to whether the Iranians would have actually gone through with executing the hostages, I honestly think it could have gone ether way.

As for the question of the USSR, I think there is some interesting things here.

Would the USSR have been keen to intervene on behalf of Iran? I'm not sure. The ideology/government that took over in the Revolution would not necessarily have been non-threatening to communism, especially with the large numbers of Muslim peoples living in the USSR.

I know this sounds like fantasy, but I can't help but wonder if the Iranian Revolution could have proved a catalyst for some kind of US-USSR Cooperation, given the latter being in a much better position to strike at Iran's capital, and even make a dash for the hostages.

(in reply to Gunner98)
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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/30/2019 8:00:40 PM   
Coiler12

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: HalfLifeExpert
I know this sounds like fantasy, but I can't help but wonder if the Iranian Revolution could have proved a catalyst for some kind of US-USSR Cooperation, given the latter being in a much better position to strike at Iran's capital, and even make a dash for the hostages.


Very doubtful. No one would want to give the Soviets an excuse to move in and prop up their supporters.

(in reply to HalfLifeExpert)
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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 9/30/2019 11:03:34 PM   
kevinkins


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Like I said above ... this is a very interesting discussion. But like I said, I don't see how the hostages would have survived given an all out attack to overthrow the Iranian Revolution during the Carter years. Which is why a third party, like a nuclear USSR, would have to intervene making the proposed scenario a bit more interesting so that the hostages would have lingering value. As history played out, the hostages had no perceived value once Carter was replaced by Reagan. Iran's leaders were between a rock and hard place and decided to release the the hostages or suffer otherwise. By not going in hell bent for glory, the US saved the hostages but delivered the geopolitical situation we face today.

_____________________________

“The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.”
― Alfred Thayer Mahan


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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 10/4/2019 2:46:41 PM   
Coiler12

 

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Found a declassified CIA document theorizing on Soviet capabilities and desires for intervention right after the revolution. Felt it might make for an interesting read.

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RE: 1980: United States vs Iran - 10/5/2019 1:10:50 PM   
stilesw


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quote:

Found a declassified CIA document theorizing on Soviet capabilities and desires for intervention right after the revolution. Felt it might make for an interesting read.

Colin,

Thanks for this reference. I've added it to CMANO's unofficial Dropbox reference library.

Unofficial - i.e. not sponsored by WarefareSims, MatrixGames, Slitherine, their employees, relatives, pets or ancestors.

As always, any forum member can have access to this Dropbox resource. Just PM me with your email address.


-Wayne Stiles

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