US Army Unit in the Middle East. Photo US Army
The situation in the Middle East remains difficult. The likelihood of a full-blown conflict between the US and Iran remains. These countries have fundamental disagreements on a number of issues and do not seem to intend to seek a solution through diplomatic means. Nevertheless, Washington and Tehran are not in a hurry to fight, as preparation for the conflict and the conduct of hostilities will be associated with characteristic difficulties and risks.
Correlation of forces
Obviously, the US armed forces are many times greater than the Iranian army in terms of total strength, equipment and combat capabilities. In a direct clash "on paper" they turn out to be a clear favorite, capable of defeating the enemy without much difficulty. However, in practice, everything is much more complicated. A quick and simple victory for the United States or Iran is hindered by a number of objective factors.
The US Army has advantages in strength and equipment, as well as basing capabilities. Washington has several allies in the Middle East region, ready to provide bases for the deployment of various branches of the American troops. Also, a naval force represented by aircraft carrier strike groups will be required to participate in a full-scale operation.
U.S. troops in the region as of fall 2019
The joint work of the Air Force and Navy will allow the United States in several strikes to knock out the main elements of the Iranian defense, and then launch a ground attack. In a similar way, the US was able to deal with the Iraqi army in 2003, and the same strategy may prove useful in the war with Iran.
However, Iran, losing in numbers and equipment, also has significant advantages. In the event of an open conflict, he will have to fight on his territory or in the near abroad, which may be a positive factor. In addition, the armed forces of Iran have sufficiently developed strike systems that are capable of holding objects of the entire region on target.
Finally, ideological issues should be considered. The army and the Guardian Corps of the Islamic Revolution are well prepared, including on the ideological front. The high morale of the army as a whole and the presence of fighters with the makings of fanatics should not be underestimated. They, too, can play an important role in a major land conflict.
Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) of 5 fleet US Navy Responsible for the Gulf. Photos National Museum of US Navy
In terms of total strength, the US army is superior to Iran, but not all formations and units will be able to take part in battles in the Middle East. Most of the units are housed in the continental United States, the rest - at overseas bases. A certain contingent and fleet of equipment is present in the Middle East, but it is clearly not enough to immediately begin full-scale operations against Iran.
However, the Pentagon has already begun the transfer of additional forces. In the near future, the strengthening of the contingent in Saudi Arabia will be completed. In this country will work approx. 3 thousand US military. Together with the military, air defense systems, combat and auxiliary Aviation.
A few days ago, the transfer of personnel and equipment to Kuwait began. At the very beginning of the year, the first 700 fighters arrived in this country. Then the second stage of transportation started. In total, the Kuwaiti "garrison" of the United States has a population of approx. 4,2 thousand people. Its main part is made up of fighters of the 82nd Airborne Division with the corresponding material part.
The THAAD missile defense system is the main response of the US Middle East to the Iranian missile threat. Photo by US MDA
According to open sources, at the moment the total number of US troops in the Middle East reaches 53-55 thousand people. The largest groups are based in Qatar and Kuwait - about 13 thousand people. In Bahrain, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, 7000, 6000 and 5000 serve. Respectively. In Jordan and Saudi Arabia - 3 thousand each. Also, troops are present in Turkey, Syria and Oman.
There are several squadrons of tactical combat aircraft at the regional airbases. It is also possible to use long-range bombers from remote aerodromes, including in the continental United States. If necessary, the Pentagon's grouping in the region can be strengthened by warships - aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers with an aviation group and missiles for striking at ground targets. The transfer of the AUG to the Persian Gulf will take several days.
It is easy to see that the existing contingent of the US armed forces in the Middle East does not allow full-scale military operations against any country in the region. To start a military operation requires a significant strengthening of the group. The transfer of the required number of troops will take noticeable time and will require appropriate efforts. Without this, only individual operations of a limited scale with the same results are possible.
Iranian Army Day Parade 2016 Photo by Tasnimnews.com
A few days ago, Iran launched a missile attack on American targets in Iraq. By this, he confirmed the presence of ballistic missiles with sufficient characteristics, and also showed his intention to use them in case of armed conflict. It should be noted that at the beginning of a full-scale war, Iranian missiles can become an additional factor that can significantly affect the situation. In addition, these weapons can be a deterrent.
Iran has in service with ballistic missiles of almost all main classes, up to medium-range products. The most advanced Iranian-made ballistic missiles have a range of up to 2-2,5 thousand km. Also developed ground-based cruise missiles with a significant flight range. There is a large fleet of operational-tactical missile systems. All this can be used against the enemy in all strategic directions.
With the help of existing weapons, Iranian missile forces can attack various objects in several neighboring countries. Almost all US bases in the region fall into their area of responsibility. In addition, there is the possibility of striking Israel or Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s longtime geopolitical opponents.
Operational and tactical missile "Fateh-313". Photo Militaryedge.org
In fact, Iran has the ability to launch a massive missile strike against the targets of all potential opponents and significantly reduce their offensive capabilities. Not only the United States, but also its allies will have to participate in the conflict. However, the opportunity to settle accounts with all geopolitical opponents has its drawbacks: in this case, Iran will have to wage war against a real coalition.
It is important that the risk of a massive strike - an attack with fewer forces was demonstrated a few days ago - can be a deterrent. An open attack on Iran threatens with unpleasant consequences for several countries at once. And the theoretical ability to disarm or defeat the Iranian army does not compensate for the risks involved.
The war is canceled?
At the moment, in the context of relations between Iran and the United States, a very specific situation is observed. After recent events, the two countries are almost ready to fight with each other, but so far they are limited to only individual attacks on some targets - albeit with the most severe consequences - as well as aggressive statements.
BRMS "Khorramshahr" on a self-propelled launcher. Photo Tasnimnews.com
Recent actions of the two countries show their readiness to fight, but direct preparations for full-scale hostilities have not yet been observed. For example, the United States is increasing its contingent in the Middle East, however, even after additional troops are dispatched, it remains insufficient to wage war. Iran promised to take revenge on its potential adversary - and so far everything has been limited to one blow with mixed results.
Obviously, Tehran and Washington will not be able to find a common language and solve the accumulated problems in the framework of negotiations and mutually beneficial agreements. However, war is also not an acceptable solution. Both sides of the conflict face the most serious risks of all kinds - they hardly want these risks to turn into real damage.
The situation in the Middle East as a whole remains extremely difficult, and the confrontation between the United States and Iran only worsens the overall situation. Now there is another aggravation, the result of which has already become an exchange of blows. What will happen next is not yet clear. The risk of new attacks remains and the possibility of a war cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, the specifics of the confrontation is such that neither side will be able to solve its military-political tasks without unacceptable risks and losses. This fact is unlikely to make Tehran and Washington reconcile, but it is quite capable of preventing a war.