A Couple of Things Washington May Want to Consider Before Attacking Iran

As previously discussed, Washington seems to be hell-bent on ratcheting up tensions with Iran as far as possible and hoping to provoke a reaction that can then be used as a casus belli.

But before Washington continues with its reckless actions, if there are any clear heads left anywhere near the White House, they might want to consider two things.

The first is the fact that the version of the S300 system that Iran received from Russia in 2016, may have been effectively an S400 but without official acknowledgment. As reported by Military Watch Magazine last year:

In April 2016 Russia began delivery of the S-300 system to Iran, and delivery was confirmed by both parties to be complete in October of that year. What was notable about the delivery was that Iran received a heavily customised variant of the missile system with unknown capabilities. While Russia and Iran both confirmed the fulfilment of a contract to deliver the S-300 to Iran, no further details were given regarding the variant Iran had acquired or the weapons system’s capabilities. What was delivered to Iran could well have had capabilities comparable to the more advanced S-400, in some respects an S-400 in all but name, and such a delivery would have served both Iranian and Russian strategic interests. For an indication as to how this could be achieved, an analysis of the S-400 and its differences from the S-300 system is invaluable.

Over 20 variants of the S-300 have been produced by Russia since the system’s first induction into service in 1978. These have fallen into three main categories, the S-300P family of conventional land based systems, the S-300F family which were developed for naval use, and the S-300V family which feature enhanced anti ballistic and anti cruise missile capabilities and superior mobility. While Iran is known to have acquired a missile system from the S-300P family, all of which are near identical in their external appearance, which system was acquired remains a mystery. The S-300PMU-2 entered service in 1997 as the most advanced variant of the missile system at the time, and was set to be superseded by the S-300PMU-3 in 2007. To improve the weapons system’s export sales and distinguish it from previous variants however, the PMU-3 variant of the S-300 was given the designation S-400. Thus the S-400 is in fact a more advanced member of the S-300PMU family of systems, and should Russia have sold Iran a missile system dubbed ’S-300PMU-2 advanced’ or ’S-300PMU-3’ its capabilities could well be highly similar to those of the S-400. Russia could in this way have provided Iran’s armed forces with an air defence system with far more sophisticated capabilities than the basic S-300PMU-2 design widely suspected to have been transferred. One indication of this are the reports that Iran’s air defence batteries are equipped with surface to air missiles with a 250km range – the range of the 48N6DM/48N6E3 hypersonic surface to air missile. While the basic S-300PMU-2 is usually restricted to a 200km engagement range using the shorter ranged 48N6E2, the 48N6E3 was for a long time the longest ranged missile deployed by the S-400 system – until the later introduction of the heavier 40N6E with a 400km range. The fact that Iran’s customised S-300 variant is equipped with these missiles is a strong indication of capabilities above those of a standard S-300PMU-2 system. 

This theory, as the author points out, is also buttressed by the fact that Iran has not requested the S400 system even though adversaries in its neighborhood (e.g. Saudi Arabia) have pursued purchase of it.

If, in fact, Iran does have capabilities equivalent to the S400, this significantly changes the calculus of the effectiveness of a U.S. attack on Iran as the U.S. is heavily reliant on airpower in its military strategy. As the author sums up:

The U.S. military and civilian leadership upon the S-300’s delivery stressed that their ability to deploy advanced stealth aircraft, at the time including the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and F-22 Raptor, would allow the U.S. Air Force to neutralise Iran’s air defences if required. Should Iran field a system as sophisticated as the S-400 with advanced anti stealth systems however such an operation would be considerably more difficult – effectively sealing off Iranian airspace to Western military aircraft and forcing the U.S. to resort to costly standoff attacks.

In my previous post, I also mentioned China’s interest in preventing or countering an attack on Iran. This leads to the second point that Washington may want to consider. As James Kennedy, an expert in rare earth materials and political consultant, has recently explained, the U.S. military machine is heavily dependent upon rare earth materials, metal and alloys. Having long ago gutted our own mining and industrial capacity to be self-reliant in this area, guess which country the U.S. is 100 percent dependent upon for these materials? China.

Having already stirred up bad blood economically by pursuing a trade war, China will be in a position to potentially grab Washington by the short hairs should it attack Iran. As Kennedy states:

A US war with Iran now will turn China’s already powerful rare earth trade-weapon into a terminal nuclear strike. Withholding these materials would not just neuter our military during a conflict, it would shut down every automobile and aircraft manufacturer in the US The shutdowns would extend to what remains of our electronics and green technology industries. It would be pink-slips from coast to coast. China would fill the global demand gap. In short, it would snuff out the few remaining embers of our already crippled economy.

If you are thinking that the US has “strategic stockpiles” of these materials – think again. The US sold off all of these materials in 1996. After repeated warnings Congress authorized the repurchase of a few rare earth oxides and dysprosium metal, none of which are directly useful to our defense industry. A 2016 Government Accounting Office report stated that these materials would need to pass through a value chain “outside the United States” before they could be utilized by our defense industry (read: China). In an earlier report the GAO estimated that it could take 15 years for the US to build a domestic rare earth value chain.

It appears to me that Russia and China’s strategy in dealing with Washington’s insanity involves the old adage, “Give them enough rope…”

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