July 08, 2008

Map Quest

"...a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Such were the famous words of Shakespeare's MacBeth, though they apply equally well to empty Iranian threats against U.S. Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf in case of conflict between our nations.

The simple fact of the matter is that should tensions escalate, U.S. capital ships have no need to be in the Persian Gulf to control the Iranian shoreline and the Straits of Hormuz.

The image above, pulled from Google Maps, shows, small body of water on the left is the Persian Gulf. The large body on the right is the Gulf of Oman, outlet to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean (larger map).

U.S. carriers, amphibious assault ships, and larger surface ships can easily leave the Persian Gulf via the Straits of Hormuz if a strike on Iran is imminent, far removing them from the range of Iranian surface ships, aircraft, and radar stations. This negates the threat of Iranian anti-ship missiles, and turns the threat of blindly-fired ballistic missiles into irrelevancies splashing down in empty seas.

Iran would retain the ability to strike Israel, and could no doubt stir up trouble in Iraq via it's terror cells there, or even an open but suicidal direct assault against American forces in Iraq and elsewhere on land throughout the Gulf region, but the threats of a Iranian counterstrike against U.S. Naval forces is little more than bluster.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 8, 2008 08:38 AM

The quote is from Hamlet when he was contemplating suicide.

My favorite quote from MacBeth was near the end when he says "Oh, those who lie like truth."

Posted by: Merv Benson at July 8, 2008 11:02 AM

U.S. carriers, amphibious assault ships, and larger surface ships can easily leave the Persian Gulf via the Straits of Hormuz if a strike on Iran is imminent

Unfortunately, Iran is not Helen Keller, nor are they complete idiots. Any unusual exodus will not go unnoticed.

By now they've certainly developed a profile of what a "normal" US disposition is. Any significant downward deviation is likely to provoke preemptive strikes and mine laying activity against any shipping activity in the strait.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 8, 2008 11:13 AM

I doubt Bush or the Israelis will attach ..

Shiites believe the reappearance of the 12th Imam will bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world. They believe he will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos. It is believed the chaos will start in Afghanistan and then move into Iraq, where there will be blood and destruction everywhere (already in the works) and from there to the world with burning dark clouds (nuclear war). The 12th Imam will then come to destroy the “Dajjal,” the False Messiah, free the world from oppression and aggression, and then bring justice where it will be heaven on earth for many years to come. It is said Jesus will reappear at the same time and fight alongside Mahdi.

If I read this right, the Iranians predict Obama, the “Dajjal” (AKA the False Messiah), will win, but will be destroyed by Mahdi, the 12th imam.
No wonder that Obama, the “Dajjal”, is so big on “service”. Charlie Rangel may finally get that draft he has been trying to get for years now.

So much for peace in our time.

Posted by: Neo at July 8, 2008 12:01 PM

Operation Praying Mantis. Are the Iranians really that interested in a repeat?

Posted by: Education Guy at July 8, 2008 02:21 PM

So, if our ships start to leave the Gulf, the Iranians are going to fire on them?

That's not very smart of them.....

Posted by: Techie at July 8, 2008 04:22 PM


The queen, my lord, is dead.


She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Act V, Scene V

Posted by: Techie at July 8, 2008 04:24 PM

I just read somewhere that the US has placed a carrier in the gulf of oman instead of the persian gulf. Attack imminent?

Posted by: davod at July 8, 2008 05:07 PM


I wouldn't think so. I think they're moving that one to support Afghan ops.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 8, 2008 05:15 PM

So, if our ships start to leave the Gulf, the Iranians are going to fire on them?

If they believe those ships leaving is prelude to an attack, they'd be foolish to not fire on them and sink other commercial shipping in the strait.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 8, 2008 06:15 PM

Like Iran firing on our navy for LEAVING the Gulf wouldn't prompt a 400+ House vote for a declaration of war?

Its a no-win situation for the mullahs.

Posted by: Techie at July 8, 2008 06:37 PM

Techie, the thing is, the mullahs may not truly comprehend that.

It's at least plausible that the Mullahs are relying on the C-N-N version of America, and think that anti-war zealots are really in the majority. If that is so, they may think--erroneously, I am convinced--that if they attack the "weak, decadent Americans" won't do anything to them.

Perhaps the mullahs might have learned the lesson of 9/11, but history shows otherwise. After Pearl Harbor, some might have thought that no one would ever try a sneak attack on US soil again, but they were proven wrong on one September morning.

Also, it's quite possible that the mullahs aren't what we in America would call "reasonable." I mean, people who strap bombs to themselves and detonate in the hopes of taking a few "infidels" with them into the grave aren't exactly rational people, nor are those who send out such people.

All in all, I'd say that at best, it's an even-money bet whether or not the mullahs understand that pissing off America is a Bad Idea.

Posted by: C-C-G at July 8, 2008 09:33 PM

"If they believe those ships leaving is prelude to an attack, they'd be foolish to not fire on them and attempt to sink other commercial shipping in the strait."

There . . . fixed it for you.

If the Iranians attempted to attack American -- and now other -- shipping in the straits they would get their heads handed to them. Someone else has already referenced Operation Preying Mantis. Although it has been two decades since then, I doubt the Iranians have forgotten it.

If they have, we will provide a remedial eductation.

And if they did make the attempt, it would solve a lot of problems. The Iranians know it, too. So they won't even try until January 21, 2009, and then only if John McCain is not President.

But they will bluster. Boy will they bluster. They will even fool some of the more gullible with their bluster, too.

Posted by: Mark L at July 9, 2008 08:22 AM

The Nour Rocket has a range of 200km and can apparently now be mounted to helicopters, extending their range even farther. From the map you supply that seems more than enough to cover the entire Gulf of Oman and even extend a tiny bit out into the Indian ocean proper.

Of course, their real threat is to distribute these and similar missiles to terrorist/militant groups around the world who can take pit shots at any US naval vessels who get close to their shores. I personally have always believed that was the threat behind Hezbollah's use of them in 2006.

Posted by: libarbarian at July 9, 2008 03:59 PM


The problem with the Noor (a supposed variant of the Chinese C-802) is that the launching helicopter has to get to within 200 KM -- 125 miles -- of U.S. ships to launch an attack. Considering the U.S.'s unquestioned air superiority and Iran's antiquated Air Force, I think that is rather unlikely.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 9, 2008 04:14 PM


Yes, but it has to be both seen and identified as hostile - not just Iranian but as having hostile intent. The latter depends on several factors including the amount of non-hostile air traffic around into which an attacking copter could try to blend.

I believe during the Iran-Iraq war one of our ships got hit by an Iraqi sunburst missile. The ship saw the plane on radar but didn't respond because it turned around at a "safe" distance - we didn't see it had fired a missile until right before it plowed into the ship. Hell, they might just throw more at us than we can shoot down in time.

Even if we won the total exchange, sinking a single US capital ship would be a big deal. Besides the effect it would have on the Navy brass, almost NOTHING will do more to "embolden" people to buck the US than to see a US capital ship be destroyed. I think it would be worse than 9/11 for the US reputation because that was a surprise terrorist attack on an undefended civilian target whereas sinking a US capital ship, however, would be taking down a potent symbol of US military power. Simply establishing that it can be done (for cost much less than the ship itself) would prove the concept to other nations and probably inspire other nations to imitate it.

I'm not an expert in this and I well know our advantages, but I never felt comfortable listening to people sit around talking about how we would whoop so-and-so's ass, especially when its accompanied by references to fights from 20 years ago without any discussion of how the other party adapted their arsenal and doctrine in the intervening decades.

Posted by: libarbarian at July 9, 2008 05:03 PM

Is it a threat? Yes, that is how it is intended, and that is how it is.

Even if a two foot tall midget (sorry little person) says he is going to kick the snot out of a 6 foot five 300 pound linebacker, it is a threat, and must be met with appropriate force.

Now! Yes we do retain supremacy via land sea and air. But knowing that this missile type can be launched from that distance, and knowing that the Phalanx cannon can only engage XX number of targets at 9 km in xx amount of time, and knowing that the Noor drops to a height of 3 to five meters above sealevel at that range, I feel safe in saying that if you dump enough missiles at a tug, you could do significant damage to her. Now that does not mean that we would not have birds in the air, before during and shortly there after that would blow said badguy's birds out of the sky before they could turn around and go home. This also does not say that such an attack would be successful as our tugs have more countermeasures than you can shake a stick at, but it does mean that a determined attacker could accomplish his set goal.

Personally, it is BS posturing, and when have we ever ran away from a fight?

Posted by: Matt at July 9, 2008 08:27 PM

". . .when have we ever ran away from a fight?"

Ooh! Ooh! I know! When Carter and Clinton were President.

Posted by: Mark L at July 10, 2008 08:09 AM