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Decebmer 3, 2009
Notes from the Pentagon

Iranian naval threats
A report by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) states that Iran could use its naval forces to cut off oil shipments through the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where almost a third of all the world's oil supplies pass.

The report, "Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerrilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy," stated that blocking ships from passing through the 90-mile Strait would cause Iran "tremendous economic damage" and that, thus, Tehran would not "undertake a closure lightly."

"However, given the importance of the Strait, disrupting traffic flow or even threatening to do so may be an effective tool for Iran," the report, dated fall 2009, said.

The report said Iran could use its Chinese-made C-801/802 anti-ship cruise missiles to "target any point within the Strait of Hormuz and much of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman."

  • PDF download: "Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerrilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy"

    Economically, closure of the Strait would cause major economic disruption throughout the world due to greatly reduced supplies of crude oil, petroleum products and liquid natural gas, the report said.

    A spokesman for the Navy's Fifth Fleet, which has as one of its priorities maintaining the free passage of shipping through the Persian Gulf, had no comment on the threat to the Strait.

    Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by reporters last year about Iranian threats to close the Strait. He said, "The analysis that I have certainly indicates that they have capabilities which could certainly hazard the Straits of Hormuz."

    But he added: "I believe that the ability to sustain that is not there."

    The ONI report noted that Iran has been building up its naval forces for the past decade with submarines and warships. In a conflict, the Iranians would engage in asymmetric warfare tactics that include the use of conventional weapons in unconventional ways, such as using small boats to lay mines and fire missiles, the report said.

    Iran's navy has deployed large numbers of fast patrol and attack boats imported from North Korea and China and equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles. It also has torpedo-equipped semisubmersible craft purchased from North Korea in 2002, along with Kilo submarines from Russia.

    Additionally, since the late 1990s, Iran's navy has purchased fast boats from the Italian speedboat manufacturer Fabio Buzzi Design, which builds racing boats.

    "Besides purchasing a number of models, which are based on record-breaking racing boats, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy] reverse engineered the boats and began indigenously producing them," the report said.

    Rumsfeld on Obama
    Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has broken his silence since stepping down in 2006 to challenge a statement made at West Point by President Obama that he did not respond to troop requests from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan.

    Mr. Rumsfeld in a statement took issue with Mr. Obama's claim that commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the growing Taliban threat but "these reinforcements did not arrive."

    "Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response," said Mr. Rumsfeld, who headed the Pentagon from 2001 to 2006.

    "I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006," he said. "If any such requests occurred, 'repeated' or not, the White House should promptly make them public. The president's assertion does a disservice to the truth and, in particular, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served and sacrificed in Afghanistan."

    Mr. Rumsfeld said he would like Congress to review Mr. Obama's assertion and "determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied."

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to comment on the criticism.

    "You go to war with the secretary of defense you have," Mr. Gibbs said, paraphrasing Mr. Rumsfeld's comments in response to critics who said the Pentagon had failed to provide resources to forces in Afghanistan.

    U.S.-Japan exercise
    The commander of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific said U.S. and Japanese army forces are set to conduct a major military exercise on the northern island of Hokkaido.

    "The scenario is one that involves major combat operations," Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin R."Randy" Mixon, commanding general of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, told Inside the Ring.

    The exercise "reinforces the commitment we have in our defense relationship with the Japanese military," he said in a telephone interview from his headquarters at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Gen. Mixon soon will travel to Japan to take part in the exercise in Hokkaido.

    The war-game scenarios for the exercise will include battling a regional threat that includes missile defenses, air defense and ground-forces operations, he said.

    U.S. and Japanese forces will cooperate in dealing with missile threats because "naturally there is a missile threat that exists within the region," he said, referring indirectly to North Korea.

    The exercise, involving some 5,000 U.S. Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force troops, will kick off on Dec. 7 - the date marking the anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

    The exercise, dubbed Yama Sakura or Mountain Cherry Blossom, will be held at Camp Hagashi Chitose on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost large island, and will involve ballistic missile defense training against an attack, an Army spokeswoman said.

    Although it is held annually, this year's exercise is the first training deployment for the Japan-based I Corps Forward, a base of about 3,500 U.S. Army troops located at Camp Zama, about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, that was set up in 2007.

    The forward unit is a "small deployable command post force" that is part of U.S. efforts to bolster defenses throughout Asia, Gen. Mixon said. The unit would work with Japan's Central Readiness Force, which can be deployed for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

    Gen. Mixon said Japanese army forces are "very, very good."

    "They are certainly focused on their No. 1 mission, which by their constitution is limited to internally in Japan."

    Japan's military has been actively developing its anti-missile defenses in cooperation with the United States. It currently has deployed Patriot PAC-3 missile defenses at several locations and also has two sea-based Aegis-equipped Kongo-class warships with anti-missile interceptors.

    Japanese warships were set to shoot down a long-range North Korean missile during a test in May, if the missile went off course and headed toward Japan.

    Army officials would not discuss the details of the exercise and said only that it will involve a fictitious foreign power.

    "We're going to focus on getting some very good training for both the forces, but at the end of the day this about demonstrating a solid commitment to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force by the Army forces that are here in the Pacific," Gen. Mixon said.

    The I Corps Forward unit grew out of the storied I Corps based at Fort Lewis, Wash. It is part of several strategic moves by the U.S. military designed to better position forces and alliances in Asia that the Pentagon has dubbed a "hedge strategy" of preparing for the possible emergence of a hostile China.

    Other steps included shifting an aircraft carrier strike group from the Atlantic to the Pacific, additional deployments of attack submarines to Guam, along with strategic bombers.

    Taiwan's jet request
    The Obama administration is continuing to delay its response to Taiwan's request to buy an additional 66 F-16 jet fighters.

    A senior Taiwan defense official said the jets are urgently needed to replace aging F-5 fighters. The air force has lost 10 pilots in training crashes because of the old jets. "Our pilots don't mind dying in combat, but they don't want to die in training accidents because their aircraft are too old," the defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

    Taiwan purchased 150 F-16s in the late 1990s and also some French-made Mirage 2000 jets.

    The request for 66 more F-16s is worth an estimated $3.1 billion and was made in 2006. At the time, the Bush administration said it would not allow the sale by Lockheed Martin to go through.

    The defense officials said Taiwan's government has continued to press for the additional F-16s, noting that it has no other suppliers and that the Mirage has proved too difficult and costly to maintain.

    "We're not asking for the F-35," the official said. "But we need the F-16s." The official noted that Taiwan's military is concerned that if the sale is not approved, the production line for the jet could close. A spokesman for Lockheed Martin, the jet's manufacturer, had no immediate comment.

    The official noted that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act states specifically that the United States is permitted to sell defensive arms to Taiwan in quantities needed to allow the island to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

    The Obama administration, however, fears that selling the new jets to Taiwan will trigger another disruption in military relations with China, which cut off such ties in October 2008 after the Bush administration announced it would sell $6.5 billion in arms, not including the F-16s, to Taiwan.

    The defense official said that in addition to the jets, Taiwan has requested Blackhawk helicopters and two additional brigades of Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems. Four brigades were approved in the October 2008 arms package.

    A senior White House National Security Council official declined to say when a decision on the F-16 jet sale request to Taiwan would be made.

    Ledeen on Iran
    Former White House and State Department official and Iran specialist Michael Ledeen is warning in a new book that the United States is failing to recognize that the Iranian regime is a force for evil in the modern world.

    His new book, "Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West," argues that ignoring the threat from Iran is similar to the failure before World War II to correctly identify the threat posed by Nazism.

    "The refusal to see evil, and the deliberate denial of its existence, are very common, whether among policy makers, intellectuals or reporters," Mr. Ledeen wrote.

    Mr. Ledeen said that during the Bush administration, policy officials tried to hide information showing that Iran was assisting insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, notably through the exportation to Iraq of deadly explosively formed projectile bombs that can penetrate armored vehicles during roadside bombings.

    He also criticizes the Western news media for failing to accurately investigate the Iranian regime.

    "From surprisingly positive coverage of Iran's tyrannical leaders, to 'reporting' designed to thwart any American inclination to support Iranian dissidents, American readers ... are unlikely to realize that Iran's leaders are committed to the domination or destruction of the United States, Israel, the Jewish people, and indeed Western civilization," said Mr. Ledeen, a scholar with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

    To defeat the Iranian regime, Mr. Ledeen advocates a popular revolution, like what was beginning to happen earlier this year after outbreak of unrest following disputed presidential elections. "Iran today fulfills all the necessary conditions for revolution," he said. "The existing system is widely condemned as a failure; the standard of living is dropping; the rulers are accurately viewed as evil and incompetent; and the once-dominant ideology is rejected by most Iranians."

    According to Mr. Ledeen, he has become a target of the Iranian regime. He stated that one state-run news outlet, Kayhan, accused former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami of "carrying out the instructions of Michael Ledeen." Also, Iranian defendants in ongoing show trials stemming from the post-election unrest have been asked by Tehran prosecutors if they were "sent by Michael Ledeen."

    Mr. Ledeen was the only American who took part in 1985 talks between Israelis and Iranians that led to the Iran-Contra affair, which involved selling Iran anti-tank missiles and transferring the proceeds to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.

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