War with Iran: The biggest pile of corpses since 1945

The Iran-Iraq war was horrifically brutal. At least a million Iranians and  a quarter of a million Iraqis died and Iranians continue to die as a result of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. It dragged on for 8 long years. You do not conquer Iran or subjugate Iranians easily.

Yet some neocon fantasists in the US are planning something like that, as Sunny Hundal highlights. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic predicts what will happens if the US doesn’t take action against Iran, quite simply the Israelis will instead:

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.

This is a nightmare scenario.

First of all, the economic consequences of a war with Iran will be horrendous as Matthew Yglesias points out the world is in no shape to deal with an energy shock, the early 1970s were relatively benign before 1973’s Oil Shock. The immediate effect of temporarily prying Iran out of the global economy – through naval blockade, trade embargo, bombing of its infrastructure, crushing of its industries and a diversion of its remaining production into tanks and planes – will probably be a massive negative shock to a fragile world economy. That is just one of two things which will definitely happen.

The other thing which will definitely happen is the US losing.

As reported in the the New Zealand Herald, US Generals have run War Games simulating war against Iran and concluded they cannot win by any means other than all out nuclear war. To avoid any doubt, US Generals are not suggesting just targeting military installations, they know Tehran will not be forced to surrender by anything other than massive attrition of its civilian population. They aren’t being callous, they must consider all avenues, and it is only down this murderous avenue (predicted death toll 5-10million) that is possible to see Tehran surrendering.

It is little wonder they have concluded thus.

There are 80 million Iranians many of which hate the current regime. However, they are a patriotic country and will almost certainly unite against any invading force. That united Iran would command an army of 450,000 men from day one, but which may swell to the close to one million mobilised for the Iran-Iraq war. Iran is 4 times the size of Iraq and heavily mountainous, it is also sandwiched between Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and as we have learned, this is not a pleasant place to go to war.

The only viable option for Israel, Iran, the US, all the nations on the earth is some kind of grudging peace. Careful diplomacy, a credible commitment to self defence and not a whiff of belligerence are not macho options, but there  are no other options which do not involve the biggest pile of corpses since 1945.

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5 thoughts on “War with Iran: The biggest pile of corpses since 1945

  1. Thank you for the article but you do not mention the millions that would die of famine in the third world if the price of oil spiked. The prices of oil and food are linked. In the summer of 2008 when the price of oil went up to 147 dollars a barrel, food prices also spiked and the third world began to starve. Due to the economic collapse the oil price dropped along with food prices. In spite of the obvious linkage the lesson about starvation and oil price spikes was not learned. There is no question that bombing Iran would kill millions of poor people in Africa, Asia and South America. Bombing Iran could be the most heinous and bloody single act in the history of the planet.

    1. Good call Theo.

      I’m not sure how causal the link is between oil and food prices but the logic is sound and the correlation appears to be there.

      Our economy and food production (fertilisers) is so reliant on oil that it would be madness to invade Iran.

      I really cannot emphasise how bad an idea I think war with Iran would be. It scares me in a way war with Iraq or Afghanistan did not.

  2. I think you are a little misleading here: 

    As reported in the the New Zealand Herald, US Generals have run War Games simulating war against Iran and concluded they cannot win by any means other than all out nuclear war.

    The US generals have not stated they can’t win, nor that they will need to use nuclear weapons to secure a victory, this is just the theory of one expert. They said that they had run war game scenarios for an invasion, that’s all. 

    However, they are a patriotic country and will almost certainly unite against any invading force.

    Similar things were said about Iraq, pre-invasion. Iraq had a well trained, veteran army and it was made clear that invading was not going to be a walk in the park. Yet it was a walk in the park. Patriotism goes out the window when the bullets start flying and the harder and more hated the regime, the quicker the army surrenders – in droves. When the fighting starts, soldiers fight for their comrades, their friends, and their officers, not for patriotism. The Iranians conscripts, which make up most of the army, barely have any training, and will most likely give up right away. 

    The Revolutionary Guard, like the Republican guard before them, are meant to be the elite force, and so will hide, try and get others to fight for them, before no doubt dispersing to organise the resistance! 

    That united Iran would command an army of 450,000 men from day one, but which may swell to the close to one million mobilised for the Iran-Iraq war.

    As above they are mainly conscripts, the actual army numbers just 200,000 men. You’re correct in that it may swell, massively, as it did in the Iran-Iraq war, but those ‘soldiers’ which included women and children were just used as cannon fodder and suicide bombers. 

    Iran is 4 times the size of Iraq and heavily mountainous, it is also sandwiched between Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and as we have learned, this is not a pleasant place to go to war.

    True, but I think that you are looking at it backwards, Iran is surrounded by two huge US troop build-ups and two puppet regimes that are strong US allies (both of whom Iran has tried to bring down) and Pakistan is no real friend to Iran. If anything it is Iran that is vulnerable and surrounded. 

    All that being said, I think that the main point of your post is correct, about the US reluctance to become involved, and unlikely to ‘win’, just not for the same reasons. The US can win quite easily militarily in Iran, the question is do they have the stomach for it? The Iranians, and other naive outsiders can claim that Iranian patriotic fervour will win the war, just like it did in Vietnam, but the US lost just 57,000 men in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese army lost 3 million. So you may correct in your point about the corpses, but have no doubt they will be 99% Iranian.

    The fact is that militarily, Iran is vastly over matched and any war will be very one-sided. But any war with Iran is likely to be  un-winnable politically. 

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