Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

US Central Command wargames war with Iran

According to today’s New York Times, US Central Command recently conducted a wargame to explore the effects of an Israeli strike against Iran that escalates to involve the United States:

The two-week war game, called “Internal Look,” played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by launching its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

(“Internal Look” is actually an annual CENTCOM wargame, held since the 1980s. The topic changes from year to year.)

The initial Israeli attack was assessed to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year, and the subsequent American strikes did not slow the Iranian nuclear program by more than an additional two years. However, other Pentagon planners have said that America’s arsenal of long-range bombers, refueling aircraft and precision missiles could do far more damage to the Iranian nuclear program — if President Obama were to decide on a full-scale retaliation.

By “other Pentagon planners” I suspect that they mean “US Air Force planners.” After all, who wants to admit that with an annual air force budget of $170 billion doesn’t buy you certainty?

According to the New York Times account, “In the end, the war game reinforced to military officials the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of a strike by Israel, and a counterstrike by Iran, the officials said.”

The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first-strike would likely have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.

I’ll added this to the ever-growing Israel vs Iran wargame compendium over at the Wargaming Connection blog.

h/t Brian Train

2 responses to “US Central Command wargames war with Iran

  1. Rex Brynen 20/03/2012 at 2:42 pm

    Quite right! Anything you want to expand into a short blog post for us, Stephen?

  2. Stephen Downes-Martin 20/03/2012 at 8:42 am

    I find the principle expressed in the fourth to last paragraph all too often ignored by consumers of wargames, and was delighted to see it expressed in the NT Times report:

    “Their analysis … is informed by the awareness that even the most detailed war games cannot predict how nations and their leaders will react in the heat of conflict.”

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