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Friday, March 6, 2015

How effective are the Armed Forces of the Persian Gulf? (Part I)

Links A. Global Firepower Ranks the Armed Forces of the World
          B. World's Largest Armies, According to Global Security
          C. Business Insider's 35 Most Powerful Militaries

Now this is the kind of post I love to write.  I've been an armchair General since I could stand on my own two feet.  I grew up in a U.S. Army family stationed in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, and a number of other lovely towns.  My older brother (and sister, on occasion) were always playing soldier.  By the time I reached eight years old, my brother and I had accumulated a truly unbelievable collection of soldiers and tanks.  In those days, you could mail-order military figures from the last page of Sgt. Rock, the Haunted Tank, The Unknown Soldier, or my favorite, Weird Wars comic books.  We had Romans, Greeks and Persians, fully equipped with Trebuchets, Ballistas and Catapults (usually hand-carved by my father), and we had Red Coats and Blue Coats from the American Revolution.  Because we were in Europe, it was difficult to obtain soldiers from the war for Texas Independence or the Civil Wart, but we more than made up for it with Napoleon's Imperial Guard and Wellington's Cavalry.  But my brother and I spent most of our time re-living the battles of World War II.  My father (a bit of an occasional participant, when the adults weren't looking) built a huge battlefield for us to use.  It must have been six foot by six foot.  I started life as a pine wood crate, but all we needed was one complete side (for the bottom) and about six inches (high) of pine barrier all along the edge.  My father filled this with dirt and then added trees and rocks.  The villages and rivers could be easily added as required.  To complete this young boy's dream, I must have had one hundred same-scale little German tanks, and my brother, of course, had the same number of American (being older, he was always the good guys).  Christmas and Birthdays weren't that difficult for my folks.  Just go to the German toy store downtown, and buy Second World War-era soldiers and tanks. I had Tiger I and Tiger II tanks, Panthers, mobile artillery, half tracks, regular artillery, bridge-building Engineers, EVERYTHING! My father spent years, and my parents probably a fortune, turning our basement into the most amazing, easy-to-convert, battlefield.  Needless to say, the neighborhood boys flocked to our basement.  We fought Rommel vs. Montgomery in North Africa, the Battle of the Bulge, Stalingrad, Kursk, Anzio, you name it.  Today, kids still fight the same battles, but everything is done with computer graphics.  Blah.  Give me my die-cast armor and by rubber bands as weapons any day over "Call of Duty".  My siblings and I were very fortunate children.  My folks worked diligently at perfecting the balance between discipline and responsibility, and they sacrificed to give us every opportunity in life.  I still consider the important decisions of my life using the same variables that I was taught as a child.  Any success that I've had is a direct reflection of my parents.

By now you've grown used accustomed to my minor digressions, so lets move forward.  I'm fascinated by the subject of military strength, especially as it relates to the hot spots of today's world.  Over the next week, utilizing all the data I can access through the web and my personal library, I hope to provide a clear perception of the state of military affairs in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe, the Indian sub-continent, and the Far East.  The war gaming of my youth was without air and naval elements, which are a necessity in today's conflicts.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Middle East.  For the sake of our discussion, we will include in our "Middle East", the nations of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman.  As for the Gulf States, which will be the (eventual) subjects of this post, I have selected Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Yemen and Iraq.  The world's major suppliers of weapons have offices in every large city.  The United States has traditionally supplied weapons to and assisted training of the Saudi Royal Armed Forces (all branches), Kuwait Royal Armed Forces (all branches), and Bahrain.  The French provide Qatar with a handful of tanks, a few naval craft, and Mirage fighters.  The UAE, Iraq, Iran and Yemen have been more flexible with weapons purchases, and therefore field an interesting variety.  Oman continues to cultivate close military links to the United Kingdom, and by convenience, the United States.  Iraq and Iran are caught in a similar predicament.  Iraq has a veritable butt-load of old Russian tanks, from T-55s to T-72s.  Some of Iraq's armor has been rebuilt , not by the Russians, but by American and Iraqi techs. God Bless the USA.  The Iraqi Air Force is flying Apache Helicopters, and its my understanding that some of the ancient MIGS have been cleaned up.  During both Gulf Wars, the Iraqi Air Force attempted to save its own ass by flying to various airbases in the region and asking for asylum.  Most of those fighter jets never returned, although its my understanding that Jordan has recently returned a few.  I can't help but be entertained by the Iranians, who IMMEDIATELY painted the Iraqi MIGS that sought refuge in Tehran, in Iranian Air Force livery and started training pilots.  The Iraqi Army carries both AK-47s and M-16s, and has been vigorously re-trained by the U.S.  It has had a handful of high profile victories, but way too many defeats.  The Shi'a militia has helped, but Iraqi Society itself lives everyday in the midst of a schism.  The Sunni and The Shi'a not only lack trust in one another, they despise each other.  This issue has always crippled the Iraqi military and times haven't changed.  The tiny Iraqi Navy consists of a few craft donated by the United States, to allow the Iraqi's to conduct customs inspections. 

Iran has a very large military, with the Army alone consisting of various different elements.  It reminds me of National Socialist Germany before 1939, when Hitler could rely on the SA, the SD, the Gestapo, and the regular army.  You see, the religious leaders who sit in Qom and pray all day, don't trust the secular traditions of the regular Iranian Army.  So alongside the regular army, Iran has the massive Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC), and numerous smaller groups, including the Badr Corps, that have been active in Iraq and are tasked with protecting sacred Shi'a sites.  The Iranian regular army is well-trained, equipped, and disciplined.  I can't speak for the IRGC, but if the Iraq/Iran War is any indication, they will have no problem sacrificing their lives for the Islamic Revolution.  The problem faced by the Iranian army is one of armor.  The Iranians are obliged to continue using T-55s and T-72s, and even a few ancient British Chieftains.  Iran has the capacity and the know-how to create an indigenous heavy battle tank, and the fact that this weakness has not been addressed is hard to understand.  The Iranian Air Force is in the same predicament.  The most modern and effective elements of the Iranian Air Force are the Iraqi fighters that fled to Iranian airports to avoid contact with U.S. fighters.  This includes a number of Russian Sukhois and MIGS. The Iranians are also still flying U.S.-made F-4s.  Why haven't the Iranians gone shopping in Russia for a new Air Force?  Iran has an active, noisy, but relatively weak navy.  In fact, the Iranian army is the only factor that allows Iran to remain an active participant in the current mess that is Iraq.  Recently, the Iranian Air Force attempted to support offensive actions being taken by Shi'a militia in Iraq.  The results were less than stellar.  The Iranian government (both of them...the one in Qom and the one in Tehran) has been horrified by the advances made by the Islamic State (IS) in the Iraq/Iran border province of Diyala.  If the United States had an effective diplomatic corps, they would have recognized this fact, and used it to pressure the Iranians to join the fight against the IS and to negotiate the nuclear issue in good faith.  Instead, the United States had no reaction whatsoever.  I would bet my last Dinar that John Kerry couldn't find Diyala Province on a map for a million bucks.  But I digress...again.  If the Iranian government felt sufficiently threatened, they could effect 100% mobilization, invade Iraq, and crush the IS in a month or less.  The United States, Turkey, and possibly even Saudi Arabia have the capacity to destroy the IS in a ground campaign.  But a military campaign of that size and commitment would also expose Iran's military weaknesses to the world, so it must be avoided.  Perception is everything, the man said.


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