Iran’s army menace: The US cannot defend the whole lot on a regular basis

In an unique CNN interview on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan — the army adviser to Iran’s Supreme Chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — mentioned that Tehran’s response to the drone strike on Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad final week can be to hit again immediately on American “military sites.”

From Singapore to Djibouti and Bahrain to Brazil, in the present day the US operates about 800 army bases and logistical services exterior its sovereign territory — greater than every other nation. A whole lot of different installations, giant and small, exist on US territory.

Each US set up — even each soldier, sailor, airman or Marine — could possibly be a goal. Presumably that would additionally embody US Navy ships at sea, US Air Drive planes at airports or on the earth’s skies, and even US troops having fun with themselves off base and off obligation.


“There are many ways to hit US personnel, and you can’t protect them all,” mentioned Carl Schuster, a former director of operations on the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Middle.

Iranian-trained allies

The menace might come from Iranian forces themselves or proxies deeply tied to Tehran.


“Iran has a worldwide reach through their clandestine networks,” mentioned Christopher Costa, the previous senior director for counter-terrorism on the Nationwide Safety Council beneath the Trump administration who now heads the Worldwide Spy Museum in Washington.

A kind of proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon, is considered behind the assault on the US Marine Barracks at Beirut airport in 1983, a suicide truck bombing that killed 241 US service personnel together with 220 Marines. It stays the deadliest assault towards Marines because the battle of Iwo Jima within the Pacific throughout World Warfare II.
A Hezbollah group was additionally blamed for the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia of Khobar Towers, a US army housing complicated, that left 19 airmen useless.

And the group’s chief in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, mentioned Sunday it is able to mete out “just retribution” for Soleimani’s demise.

“The US military presence in the region, US military bases, US military vessels, every US officer and soldier in our region and in our countries and on our lands. The US military are the ones who killed (Soleimani) and they are the ones who will pay the price,” Nasrallah mentioned in a televised speech.

Hezbollah has attain throughout the Center East and into Africa, Schuster mentioned, together with in Kenya — the place three Individuals had been killed on the weekend in an assault by the al-Shabaab terror group.

Although al-Shabaab just isn’t allied with Hezbollah, Sunday’s assault at a distant airstrip close to a US army set up reveals simply how uncovered US forces might be to foes with hostile intent.

The naval menace

The US Navy has 293 deployable ships. Whereas solely a few third of these are at sea or primarily based in overseas ports at anybody time, every nonetheless presents a potential goal.

As an illustration, in October 2000, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole was attacked whereas in port in Aden, Yemen, for refueling.

The blast — from suicide bombers in a small boat laden with explosives — blew a gap within the facet of the 8,500-ton ship, killing 17 US sailors. Whereas these terrorists had been linked to al Qaeda, the assault confirmed the vulnerability of high-tech warships to a comparatively easy bomb.

Then-Protection Secretary William S. Cohen mentioned that with US drive safety measures on the time, the assault couldn’t have been prevented. Finally the Navy applied new measures to guard its ships in port, together with exclusion zones round US ships.

However Schuster mentioned that in overseas ports, safety is simply nearly as good because the host nation imposing it.

“It creates an international incident if we enforce it in someone else’s sovereign territory,” he mentioned.

Whereas the US has added safety measures, adversaries are evolving too.

Schuster mentioned Iran has thought to have developed expert divers who can swim beneath and round ships and fasten mines to their hulls, one thing that even the tightest safety can have difficultly detecting.

One other low-tech menace to US ships is mines, like an Iranian one that nearly broke a US frigate in half in 1988.

The USS Samuel B. Roberts struck the mine within the Persian Gulf, wounding 10 of its crew, blowing a 15-foot gap in its hull and breaking the frigate’s keel — harm that nearly at all times sends a ship to the underside. Nonetheless the crew of the Roberts was in a position to save the vessel, partly by utilizing heavy metal cables to tie cracked parts of the ship’s superstructure collectively.

Schuster mentioned that mine used World Warfare I expertise, easy explosives with a percussion detonator, and is probably going nonetheless within the Iranian arsenal to this present day.

Safety fatigue

Whereas the US army can be on heightened watch after the most recent Iranian threats, it is onerous to remain on fixed alert.

“Tight security tends to impede your operations,” Schuster mentioned, citing the necessity to resupply bases or ships and the motion of personnel in or out. “You can’t guard them all the time for a very long period of time.”

And Iran has the endurance for that second of weak spot to return, he mentioned. “They are waiting for someone to relax,” he added.

A California police chase in 2016 even illustrates how tough it’s to foretell each menace.

In that incident at Naval Air Station Lemoore, two individuals in a Jeep Cherokee fleeing a California Freeway Patrol cease traveled 7 miles (11 kilometers) inside the bottom and slammed right into a $60 million F/A-18 fighter jet.

Base officers mentioned that every one exit and entry factors had been correctly manned with safety personnel when the incident occurred. They didn’t reveal how the automobile nonetheless managed to get previous each them and limitations designed to stop such entries.

On the time, all homeland US army bases had been beneath what the Pentagon calls Drive Safety Situation Bravo, which is outlined as an “increased and predictable threat of terrorism” — the third-highest of the five-tier score.

The menace inside

Different kinds of threats linger in US homeland bases as nicely. Simply final month, shootings inside Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii left a complete of 5 individuals useless.

Each taking pictures suspects — a US Navy sailor at Pearl Harbor and a Saudi army officer coaching within the US at Pensacola — had been approved to be on the bases, and neither has been linked to terrorism.

However the shootings present the tough job of wanting into the minds and historical past of the hundreds of thousands of people that have entry to US army services worldwide.

“Tight security tends to impede your operations,” Schuster mentioned, citing the necessity to resupply bases or ships and the motion of personnel and contractors in or out. “You can’t guard them all the time for a very long period of time.”

And even when you might, he mentioned, it in all probability would not be sufficient.

“Iran is not deterred by tight security,” he mentioned. “What deters them is the probability of failure. They focus on success.”

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