Nuclear Mangos

This blog is intended to provide reliable technical analysis of nuclear issues with non-state actors and nuclear beginner states. Some technical issues have important policy implications that citizens in a democracy should be able to make informed decisions about. The motivation for the blog has been the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006. The blog title is to remind you constantly of the quality of minds in charge of our nuclear security today.

Location: MA

Until recently I was a physics professor at Harvard, where I taught the nuclear and particle physics course, among others. I've recently left that position to work as an R&D physicist in security applications. I have never done classified weapons work.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Red-Letter Day (updated)

Col. Sam Gardiner has marked out Oct. 21 as the date when U.S. forces will have finished assembling off the coast of Iran, and hostilities will be ready to commence.

There was recently a long diary at dailykos summarizing the capabilities and movements of U.S. armed forces in the region. The USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group has been deployed to the Persian Gulf. The USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group left port in Viriginia this past week, reportedly for a post in the Arabian Sea. "Expeditionary Strike Group Five", consisting of a cruiser and several destroyers (one AEGIS). ESG 5 looks to me like an amphibious assault group but this is difficult to confirm. It likely contains about 20,000 soldiers and marines.

The diary itself quotes from an long article. If I may quote, "That site is a gold mine of stupid." The article spends a lot of time discussing allied troop movements, but I think it is well agreed that there is exactly a zero percent chance of any allies aiding in an attack on Iran. It also discusses use of the Coast Guard but that also seems exceedingly unlikely. There's also a lot of discussion of oil pipelines which seem unlikely to be related to the impetus for war, which is driven primarily by Iran's nuclear program. It's also to be remembered that there is always a certain amount of turnover and movement among units into and out of war zones. It's not possible to establish a buildup without also accounting for the departing units, which is not done here. In fact, the Eisenhower is nominally replacing the Enterprise.

That said, the Enterprise has been ordered to extend its stay, a "highly unusual order" for dual deployment. I don't know enough to comment whether that order is in fact unusual. Some think so, others not so much.

Included in the comments was an interesting link to the Millenium Challenge Exercise of 2002, which simulated a naval engagement between the U.S. and an (originally) unidentified Middle Eastern Nation. It was intended as a test of Rumsfeld's transoformation policies. The Red Team (i.e. the Middle Eastern Nation) did unexpectedly large damage to the U.S. Navy, and the results were disallowed. That is, the DoD simply "re-floated" the U.S. ships "destroyed" in the exercise. It's an amazing little anecdote (I vaguely remember having read about it elsewhere) about how admirals in the field were told not to believe their lying eyes, but instead believe that the DoD "knew" the transformations would work. One of those commanders, Marine General Paul Van Riper, recently joined in the call for Rumsfeld's resignation. It's to be noted that it was eventually revealed that the Red Team was Israel, not Iraq or Iran. Israel's navy is widely considered much more capable than Iran's.

Also in the comments were observations of submarines leaving Connecticut on a long deployment, and some nice discussion of how a strike would be complicated by permissions.

I don't think this article adds very much to what we know, but it did shake loose a number of interesting comments. All that said, there are certainly military movements being made, and independently, Gardiner certainly knows what he's talking about and tends to agree that something is up.

Update: thanks to Henrik O in the comments for correcting the red team's identity. It was indeed Iran.


Anonymous Henrik O said...

Hello Andrew, greetings from Sweden. Great blog you've got started here, saw it through the 'wonk.

On the issue of Millenium Challenge Exercise 2002, you write; "[...] it was eventually revealed that the Red Team was Israel, not Iraq or Iran".

Do you have any source/info on this? The Army Times article ("War Games Rigged? --AT, August 16, 2002) includes quotes from participants that does seem to quite clearly spell out Red Force as either Iraqi or Iranian, with a heavy tendency towards the latter.

For example, the setting is given as the Persian Gulf, and Red Force nation's "morning prayers" from "minarets" are mentioned. The use of suicide sea-/aircraft does not fit Israel (though this could be an explanation for the 're-floating' if Israel was indeed RF). Another item that figures in many accounts of the wargame is the use of mc couriers to defeat EW: Iran is well known for the emphasis it puts on such vehicles (official pictorials/video from Iranian exercises/parades usually features MC-equipped troops).

And et cetera.

Any info at all on this would be much welcomed, and again, thanks for putting up a great blog.

-Henrik O

2:14 PM  
Blogger Andrew Foland said...

I'll go back looking for the source...

6:33 PM  
Blogger Andrew Foland said...

As you can see, I've updated the entry. I can't find the original article that said Israel, and a variety of authoritative places (a year and more after the exercise) specifically quote Pentagon officials as saying it was Iran. So either I spaced out or relied on a bad source in the first place. Thanks for catching it.

9:34 PM  

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