Fear the Iranian Air Show

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Steve Sailer crunches the numbers and discovers that Iran's military, on air and on land, is… incredibly sad. Excerpt:

The theoretical bulk of the Iranian air force (520 planes) is made up of F4s, which first flew in 1958, and F5s, which first flew in 1959. So they've got 6 good MiG-29s and 35 pretty good Chinese planes. In contrast, Israel has "555 combat aircraft (90 probably stored)."

If you use this metric, and only this metric, it's not fair to dub Ahmednejad "the Hitler of our time." Maybe the Ion Antonescu of our time? I think that title's open.

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  1. I recall that Iran received a shipment of F-something-or-others at about the same time the Shah fell. The US Def. Dept. people who delivered the planes left the planes with the Iranians, but kept all the instruction manuals and spare parts. As I remember, those planes haven’t moved in 28 years. Now, they’re probably not capable of flight. Do we count those in the Arsenal of Evil?

  2. How about their squadron of hot-air ballons?

  3. Or Miklos Horthy? Gotta love a guy who holds the rank of “Vice Admiral” in a totally landlocked country.

  4. Maybe someone should point that out to Ahmednejad: “Say, are you aware of the difference between American military might and your piddling little forces? Technically speaking, the National Guard of Rhode Island could probably defeat you.” Maybe their intelligence confused the U.S. with the United Arab Emirates or something.

    I see from the article that the Iraqi gift of fighters in the first Gulf War didn’t amount to very much. Too bad.

  5. “I recall that Iran received a shipment of F-something-or-others at about the same time the Shah fell.”

    Those would be F-14 interceptors. The Iranians have amazingly managed to keep some of them operational, although as Sailer’s piece notes in the table they probably no longer have any missiles for them.

  6. Maybe their intelligence confused the U.S. with the United Arab Emirates or something.

    No, I suspect Iranian intelligence has made a very accurate assessment of the U.S. as a lacking the political will to do anything with its overwhelming military superiority.

  7. “If you use this metric, and only this metric, it’s not fair to dub Ahmednejad “the Hitler of our time.””

    The great equalizer with Iran is (potentially) a nuclear weapon. Amadenijad’s apparent craziness (i.e. his apparent willingness to use one) can be seen as something of a force multiplier.

  8. Oh, I don’t know about that, R.C. Hussein probably made that same erroneous assessment before the last invasion. Otherwise, why tempt us with the possibility that he was messing with WMDs (assuming for the sake of discussion that there weren’t significant amounts of them being held or produced)? Occupation aside, the conquest of Iraq was pretty easy.

    Taking all of that into account, Iran has to have some worries about what we might do. Bush could very well be waiting for the November elections before attacking Iran. Maybe the change in the reserve call-ups for the Marines is related to his master plans? Who knows? We’re crazy here in North America. We might even nuke the Moon–watch out!

  9. Not to say that Iran isn’t puffing their military “capabilities”.

    But the very note of the discussion that somehow determining who will win a hypothetical (or imminent) war with Iran is solely to be determined by Military hardware numbers is both naive and ignorant of history.

    It is like concluding that a V-6 Mustang and a V-6 BMW M3 are comparable automobiles since they both have 6 cylinders.

    The Hezzbollah-Israel conflict, the American-British war of independence, battle of Marathon all demonstrate that wars, especially in a political sense is NOT predictable by simple military calculations.

    Iran has effectively won control of Iraq, especially the British Controlled south. Right under coalition noses and has the support of the people of its former arch-foe Iraq.

    Let me absolutely clear, I don’t think there is anything more noble that to overthrow the tyrannically bloodthirsty, and monumentally incompotent regime of the clergy of Iran. However, I see an alarming “bring it on” attitude being repeated. Do not underestimate Iran like Israel underestimated hezzbollah.

    Iran is a closed society with rich mullah baron’s who’ve been busy buying every weapon they can get their hands on. US assessment of Iranian military is at best incomplete and at worst guesstimates based on “reports” from informants who are glad to take American tax payer money from CIA and tell them whatever they want to hear. And with an administration that will happily change history to fit current events to support their narrative of how the world events are transpiring, I’m confident that we don’t know what the hell we’re getting ourselves into.

    All I know is that the Iranian Populace by and large looks very favorably towards America, turning them against us by another piss-poor planned military operation is the biggest opportunity lost in our generation. I hope intelligent not faith-based heads will prevail. And I hope they’re not bullshitting about WMD’s again…

  10. “But the very note of the discussion that somehow determining who will win a hypothetical (or imminent) war with Iran is solely to be determined by Military hardware numbers is both naive and ignorant of history.”

    Sailer’s point is that the claim that Iran is going to be launch any sort of meaningful offensive is overblown. Based on his past writings, I’m quite sure he’s apprehensive over the possibilities for the Iranians to resist an American invasion (which is a very different sort of military campaign).

  11. Gear is totally irrelevant when fighting an insurgency. Which is what would happen if we invaded Iran. AK-47s, RPGs, IEDs, and an endless supply of cannon fodder can work wonders.

    Internet war nerds don’t seem to get this. Except War Nerd does.

    I don’t think we’ll invade Iran though because there’s no way Bush can pronouce “Ahmednejad”, making it a tough sell to declare him this month’s Hitler. (I stole that idea from someone).

  12. Occupation aside, the conquest of Iraq was pretty easy.

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

  13. It’s nice to hear the phrase “Steve Sailer crunches the numbers” precede something other than a rant about how brown-skinned people are dumber, lazier, more criminal, and all-around less desirable than white people.

  14. SR wrote

    “Or Miklos Horthy? Gotta love a guy who holds the rank of “Vice Admiral” in a totally landlocked country.”

    You’ll hear the same thing said of Austrian Naval Captain Von Trapp from “The Sound Of Music”.
    Sorry SR, and not wanting to be a nit-picker, but both these individuals were originally officers in the old Austro-Hungarian Navy prior to 1918. Austria-Hungary was most assuredly not landlocked, incorporating the northern half of the Eastern Adriatic coast and had a reasonable Navy (in size at least, if not necessarily quality) during World War I. I do love off-topic pedantry…

  15. Bazil,

    You make very good points. This has got to be one of the dumbest Hit and Run posts ever. Ignoring for a moment the fact that nuclear weapons act as a pretty good equalizer, if there is one lesson of the last 50 years it is that you don’t have to have a huge conventional force to cause a lot of problems. What is this supposed to mean? Does Weigel really think that anyone beleives that Iran is going to invade the U.S.? Last I heard people were worried about a nuclear Iran being suicidal and nuking Israel or using the threat of nuclear war to sponsor terrorists and murder its own citizens with impunity.

  16. “Sorry SR, and not wanting to be a nit-picker, but both these individuals were originally officers in the old Austro-Hungarian Navy prior to 1918. Austria-Hungary was most assuredly not landlocked, incorporating the northern half of the Eastern Adriatic coast and had a reasonable Navy (in size at least, if not necessarily quality) during World War I.”

    Yes, I know that. What’s the likelihood that an individual would mention Miklos Horthy by name and not know that? (I also know that while there are several individuals who served as generals in both WWI and WWII, Carl Mannerheim has the distinction of being the only individual to serve as a general in both conflicts but for two different countries — lieutenant general in the Russian army, field marshall in the Finnish army. Any other obscure trivia you’d like me to demonstrate my knowledge of?) It’s still inherently comedic for someone to hold the title “Vice Admiral” while being leader of a country that has no coastline.

  17. I didn’t read it and dont plan on it. Did he determine that the Iranians belong to an inferior race of people?

  18. Tim, my point was that if it’s just a matter of taking out a government that we don’t like, we can do it. As for installing a liberal republic in the Middle East, well, that’s something altogether different. We aren’t on a campaign of global conquest–at least, I don’t think we are–so long-term occupation isn’t necessarily required. I don’t think leaving a so-called “power vacuum” automatically results in a Somalia, and I fail to see any evidence that the civil war going on today would have been that much worse if we’d just picked up and left (perhaps issuing dire warnings to Iran about intervening as we packed our bags).

    I’d prefer that we hadn’t gotten so deeply involved in Middle Eastern politics in the first place, of course. Whether or not I think we have the military capability to do so, I’d much rather not see the U.S. intervene except in really critical situations. I remain okay with the action against Afghanistan, but Iraq strikes me as a mistake. And we’d gain little in an invasion of Iran that we couldn’t gain with a little more saber rattling and tough talk. The Iranians are doubtlessly aware that there’s a point where we’re going to stop backing down. And I think they know that we’re getting really worried about the precedent we set with North Korea–and are continuing with Iran–of letting a nation get a better seat at the bargaining table by threatening to build nukes. That fear of continuing a bad precedent increases the danger that the U.S. will find the need to blow up stuff in Iran.

    I don’t want to ruin my mildly hawkish (seagullish?) statements above with peace talk, but I’m not fond of slaughtering a lot of people for nebulous political ends. Or even for clear ends. The best thing we can do is stop interfering so much. Draw a line in the sand about what sort of nonsense we’ll tolerate, then don’t worry about things on the other side of the line. If they cross it, then blow something up.

  19. Cavanaugh gets to the heart of the point: Why the fuck does any potential foe of the US need a big military?

    1) Blend in to the population
    2) Blow shit up and kill people with Al Jazeera in tow for prime video of the carnage.
    3) Wait for US public opinion to crumble.

    They were excellent pupils of the Viet Cong, and “beta-tested” these tactics with the Russkies in Afghanistan…

  20. Good lord, what hubris. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll war with Iran, and it certainly won’t be easy. Have you forgotten the fact that their air-defense system functions? Or the thousands of anti-ship missles? Or the tens of thousands of batshit crazy Revolutionary Guards?

  21. That reminds me I was watching Fox a few days ago and they had footage of Iranian war games.

    The most terrifying part of their arsenal looked just like this, although it was a desert tan color:

    http://www.hobby-lobby.com/telemaster40.htm

  22. Ah, Captain Von Trapp. My role model for parenting. Before the nun and the singing, that is.

  23. “Good lord, what hubris. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll war with Iran, and it certainly won’t be easy. Have you forgotten the fact that their air-defense system functions?”

    Jesus H. Christ on a mutha’ effin’ pogo-stick. Will you people RTFA before spouting off? From Sailer’s second paragraph:

    If Iran is really out to conquer the region, it would need tanks, lots and lots of tanks, plus air cover, since tank armadas are dead ducks in the open desert. So, is Iran building up its tank fleet and air force preparatory to its upcoming blitzkriegs?

    Sailer is not talking about the ability of Iran to resist an invasion, he’s talking about Iran’s ability to aggress against its neighbors.

  24. If the Iranians get nuclear weapons in ten or twenty years … then those will affect things.

    As it is, the Iranians have three deterrents: (1) guerrilla warfare in Iran. (2) guerrilla warfare in Iraq. (3) mines and/or anti-shipping missiles in the straits of Hormuz, possibly nailing some oil tankers and keeping the remaining tankers away until American forces clear hidden missiles from every single inch of that coastline.

  25. Sailer is not talking about the ability of Iran to resist an invasion, he’s talking about Iran’s ability to aggress against its neighbors.

    And for that, they may need little more than Allah.

  26. “Ah, Captain Von Trapp. My role model for parenting. Before the nun and the singing, that is.”

    Thanks for that Pro Libertate. I was afraid that I had made myself look like a complete jerk with my very first post here. Still, it’s better than being ignored, I guess. Seriously SR, didn’t mean to offend you and if I did, my apologies.

  27. “Seriously SR, didn’t mean to offend you and if I did, my apologies.”

    Sorry, I’m overly sensitive on that issue.

  28. If Iran is really out to conquer the region, it would need tanks, lots and lots of tanks, plus air cover

    Why do they need tanks? All they need are sympathetic and suicidal Shiite jihadis armed with small arms to have a heck of a fifth column. Nobody thinks Iran going to charge across borders in a motorized blitzkrieg. It’s war by proxy, terror, threats, subversion and PR.

    And if any of you history buffs are ever in Vienna, be sure to visit the military museum there, where you can see an Austro-Hungarian submarine and the Archduke’s bloody uniform, among many items of interest.

  29. Pro Libertate writes: “Technically speaking, the National Guard of Rhode Island could probably defeat you.”

    Technically, the National Guard of the United States has been stalemated in Iraq. Our objectives are unobtainable.

    So I don’t know why you’re bragging.

    Iran’s not going to fight the war you want to fight, the one at which they’re at greatest disadvantage. They’re going to fight using every American weakness that has been probed in the years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    They *know* what works against us.

  30. SR – good catch, but even then I question the relevance of all this. If Iran isn’t up to ’80s military standards, I’m pretty sure their response will be to not fight a Fulda Gap war.

    The recent success of the Iranian-advized Hezbollah indicates that they’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to neutralize air superiority, and they’ve come up with answers good enough that they were able to conduct a major campaign quite literally in plain sight of a military that unquestionably controlled the whole region’s airspace. Now, move the battlefield closer to the Iranian homeland and you’re gonna need different tactics, but how much you wanna bet they’ve been thinking even harder about those?

    Since it seems to be Historical Analogies of Questionable Applicability Week (er, Year?) here at Hit & Run, I’ll pull out the naval situation in the two World Wars – Britain had the most powerful navy in history, no one had a serious chance to challenge its rule over the seas. So Germany built U-boats, and ruled under the seas.

  31. Look, I’m no militarist, but there’s reality and there’s not reality. If you want to argue about whether we could defeat and unseat the government of Iran, well, I’d say you have little to back your position. They are not a significant power compared to the U.S.

    If you want to argue that we’d get bloodied in a prolonged occupation, then I’m not arguing with you. Of course we would. I’m not bragging or advocating a war, I’m just saying that from the Iranian government’s perspective, provoking the U.S. too far is a really bad idea. It’s all well and good to talk about people power, but it isn’t really “the people” we’re worried about defeating. Just the current government. And I can assure you that that government cares about being knocked out of power, whether you do or not.

    Now, if you want to talk about the political problems with a militaristic approach to Iran, I’m all ears. We’d encounter some major frowning from Russia and China if we actually invaded Iran, and, although I think Europe might back us on this one, they’d not be too pleased with further U.S. aggression, either. Nor would everyone here be exactly thrilled with more killing and more deaths among our troops. There’s also the quite valid argument that we have a lot of Iranian allies among the people there who might very well turn against us in the event of an invasion.

    If it were up to me, we’d stop using force quite as often or as quickly as we’ve grown prone to doing. Doing something about aggression against us, our direct interests, or our close allies is one thing, but getting involved in these unwinnable affairs is something else. We’re becoming too much the focus of the world’s attention for the wrong reasons. I’d rather people in other countries just bought our stuff, conformed somewhat to our political and economic culture, and left us alone. As we’d leave them alone.

  32. Thanks to SR for actually reading the post and explaining that I was documenting that Iran has virtually no _offensive_ capability to invade and seize territory against the will of the resident population.

  33. Sorry for my role in taking this thread off topic. I understood the point of the referenced article–Iran ain’t much of a true military threat to its neighbors–but it’s hard to resist commenting on the foolishness of going too far in provoking the U.S. If I were running things here, I don’t know that such provocation would matter, short of Iran actually building nuclear bombs, perhaps, but we’re not quite as predictable as we’ve been in the past.

  34. Can’t we find a couple of pro-Shah refugees, trained as snipers in the U.S. army, and who have terminal diseases, to infiltrate and pop a few of the bad guys?


  35. a V-6 BMW M3

    BMW has never produced a damnable V-6

  36. Pro Libertate: you’re trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, we must invade Iran because the government is trying to get nuclear weapons and will use them because they’re fanatics and don’t care whether or not they live or die. On the other hand, it’s okay to bully them because maybe we can’t successfully occupy their country but we can defeat their government and they’re rational enough not to want that.

    If the Iranians really are as suicidal as everyone says, it’s just possible they don’t need a nuclear weapon. They only need to provoke the US into an invasion that would be, by all accounts, three times as disastrous as the Iraq occupation. I mean, that’s really it, isn’t it? If they’re prepared to self-destruct just so long as they can take us with them, they have a lot better chance doing so by fighting a guerrilla war rather than a nuclear one.

    For my part, I predict airstrikes, but no invasion. Rising oil prices will follow, despite great care taken not to damage any oil production or shipping facilities, and there will be some fallout in Iraq, worsening the situation there without an all-out collapse. Because, at this point, a collapse would be too easy. We could move on from that. We aren’t going to be that lucky.

  37. I don’t think we have to invade Iran. My main point was that the Iranians are playing with fire. Given Iran’s willingness to support some terror operations and intervention in other states, a nuclear Iran is a little too likely to share the nuclear wealth. That’s the real threat, not an Iranian missile flying over to Israel. A real threat that may or may not be something that we could directly hang on the Iranians–“Oops, rogue scientist gave a bomb away–so sorry, we’ll execute him for you”.

    We’re certainly the author of some of our woes with Iran–from back in the 70s and from our invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan, for that matter–“we’re” now Iran’s neighbors on either side). I’d prefer that we start talking directly to them and try really hard to get back to some sort of reasonable relations. I’m a firm believer that a more or less moderate Iran will emerge in the next decade or so, which means that we’re better off finding a nonmilitary solution. I don’t think the entire Iranian government is nuts, so there are allies of a sort on the other side of the fence for reaching a solution reasonable to both sides. They all know we’re not going to allow them to go nuclear.

  38. If Iran is really out to conquer the region, it would need tanks, lots and lots of tanks, plus air cover

    Unlike Sailer, I suspect that there may be other ways Iran could end up dominating the Gulf region than rolling into it with lots of tanks, Guderian-stylee. But then, unlike Sailer, I have read the Middle East news from time to time, instead of spending the last three years in a deep, dark cave.

  39. Pro Libertate writes: “Technically speaking, the National Guard of Rhode Island could probably defeat you.”

    Technically, the National Guard of the United States has been stalemated in Iraq. Our objectives are unobtainable.

    So I don’t know why you’re bragging.

    Iran’s not going to fight the war you want to fight, the one at which they’re at greatest disadvantage. They’re going to fight using every American weakness that has been probed in the years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    They *know* what works against us.

    I call BS. Our National Guard has NOT been stalemated in Iraq as a military force. As a Police Force with no military objectives, neither the Guard nor the regular forces have done all that well; but that is the result of a POLITICAL decision to limit the ROE to essentially those of a PD rather than logical ROE for miltary action.

    No US unit in the field has been defeated by Iraqi or Afghani regulars or irregulars in military action; and none would be defeated by Iranians.

  40. Charlie: ah, yes…the old dodge. No US military unit was “defeated” in Vietnam, either. But that didn’t stop us from losing the war. Nearly every engagement between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army resulted in a lopsided exchange ratio in favor of the Germans, but that didn’t stop the Russians from occupying Berlin, did it? The British beat the crap out of the Continental Army whenever they met, Napolean’s troops crushed the Spaniards whenever they showed themselves, and the Soviets never “lost” an engagement in Afghanistan. Didn’t make a damned bit of difference.

    A victory is a battle in which you achieve your objective. No more, no less. Since the insurgents have the limited objective of inflicting casualties on the US to wear them down, they are winning a whole hell of a lot of engagements. This is a war of attrition. The US has the objective of killing the enemy faster than they can replace their losses. Which means they are losing a lot of engagements, because the number of insurgents has remained stable.

    If the US gets drawn into a war of attrition in Iran, we will lose spectacularly and apologists will be claiming, as we flee the region, that we were never defeated. What is it about the threatmongers that they are so eager to fight a war on terms that are so grossly favorable to the enemy?

  41. It’s like trying to get honey from honey bees. They die when they sting you and you usually don’t get killed, but after getting stung enough times, you decide it’s not worth it. Likewise, the oil in the Hormuz Straight is not worth the loss of too many American service men and women.

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