Category Archives: Iran


The National Security Forum presents


 Power and Violence in Iran, Syria & Beyond


With Eliot Assoudeh

PhD Candidate, University of Nevada, Reno

The Ramada, Thursday, January 9, at 9:00 am

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) maintains a major role not only in Iran’s politico-military areas, but is a dominant factor in the economy as well. The Revolutionary Guards oversee the Quds force and its activities in neighboring countries, directs the Basij in domestic oppression, conducts religious indoctrination internally, and owns a significant part of the Iranian economy—including the agro, industrial and military sectors.

How powerful is the IRGC in Iranian politics? Can they sabotage the temporary agreement with the West halting the Iranian nuclear weapons program?  It would seem that while the Guards are enormously powerful, and indeed oppose the nuclear agreement, President Rouhani seems to have the overwhelming support of the populace who want relief from the impact of sanctions, from the incessant propaganda, and from the “national fatigue” after eight years of rule by Mahmoud Ahmandinejad. Can the IRGC and its allies continue to hold the “commanding heights”? Can the U.S. influence events in Iran?

Iranian born Eliot Assoudeh is focusing his research as a PhD candidate on the structures of Iranian political, religious and military elites.

Assoudeh will analyze the current role of the IRGC in Iranian society, the economy, intelligence agencies and the politico-military sectors. A key question will also revolve around the relationships between the IRGC and President Rouhani, and more importantly with the Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Kindly RSVP on our website by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email We are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.


Colonel Pick’s Presentation on “Iran Under Rouhani”




Colonel Dino Pick gave one of the most insightful and riveting talks to our National Security Forum last Friday, entitled, “Iran Under Rouhani: Implications of the Election of the new Iranian President for U.S. Policy Toward Iran”.

The election of a relative moderate to succeed Ahmadinejad as President of Iran has created a torrent of advice for American and Western policy makers. Does Rouhani’s impressive victory signify that Iran may demonstrate more flexibility on the nuclear weapons issue and on supporting global terrorism? Or will this veteran of Tehran’s political establishment serve only as eye wash for a regime dominated by the Mullahs and the Military, one that won’t adopt any significant policy changes?

COL Pick noted that US-Iranian relations are at a crossroads. Some experts believe that the election of Rouhani will bring fundamental change within Iran and consequently with respect to its foreign relations. Certainly what we have seen come out of the President’s office recently is encouraging. At the same time, we know that the power of the ruling Mullahs, along with the military and the Revolutionary Guards, remains very entrenched. Should the US and the West seek a secret channel with Rouhani? Should the US/West be prepared to relax sanctions in exchange for tangible changes in Iranian nuclear and domestic policies?

COL Pick’s presentation is attached. I am sure you will find it both insightful and informative.


Click here:  Colonel Pick on Iran Under Rouhani

September 13 Meeting Announcement


 The National Security Forum presents








 The Ramada, Friday, September 13 at 9:00 am

The election of a relative moderate to succeed Ahmadinejad as President of Iran has created a torrent of advice for American and Western policy makers. Does Rouhani’s impressive victory signify that Iran may demonstrate more flexibility on the nuclear weapons issue and on supporting global terrorism? Or will this veteran of Tehran’s political establishment serve only as eye wash for a regime dominated by the Mullahs and the Military, one that won’t adopt any significant policy changes?

COL Dino Pick was a national security affairs fellow for 2009–2010 at the Hoover Institution. Before arriving at Hoover, he served as a special adviser to General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO and US Forces in Afghanistan. Pick’s military experience includes service with the 3/66 Armor Battalion in Desert Storm and the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He holds a BA from the University of Washington and an MA from Princeton in Near Eastern Studies, and has served on the OSD policy staff.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Kindly RSVP by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email twcobb@aol.comWe are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.


Military Strike on Iran Should Be Last Resort

Nevada’s Washington Watch

Military Strike On Iran Should Be Last Resort
By Tyrus W. Cobb
Reno resident and former Special Assistant to President Reagan for
National Security Affairs

Does everyone believe that Tehran is hell-bent to develop and field a nuclear weapons arsenal? Many experts don’t. The Director of National Intelligence,  General James Clapper, testified that “We don’t believe they’ve actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon”. CIA Director David Petraeus nodded concurrence.

Others note that the Iranian program is still under the supervision of IAEA inspectors and Iran has not moved toward “breaking out” and producing weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium. They add that Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it has not violated. By contrast, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and has refused to provide any access to its nuclear facilities to the IAEA. Israel probably has 200+ nuclear weapons, and three means to deliver them, and nothing is controlled by any international treaty.

This does not mean that we should not worry about Iran having nuclear weapons. As President Obama has clearly warned, “The risks of an Iranian nuclear weapon falling into the hands of a terrorist organization are profound”.  So if sanctions and diplomacy fail, then a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program could spare the region and relieve the world of a very real threat.

And we should have no illusions about the nature of the regime in Tehran. Iran is the major sponsor of global terrorism, and seeks hegemony in the Middle East. A nuclear Iran could intimidate its neighbors, and probably compel them to develop nuclear weapons themselves, Tehran might disperse nuclear devices to terrorist organizations, apart from any actions against Israel. Thousands of American soldiers have been killed or maimed by incendiary devices manufactured in Iran. The regime is an avowed enemy not only of Israel, but of the U.S.

Still, we must be extremely cautious about rushing toward a military strike on Iran. Many experts believe that the economic and financial sanctions that have been imposed on Iran, as well as covert actions, have had a very significant impact and caused severe degradation to the Iranian economy. This has weakened the position of the Mullahs and led to internal strife within the government’s top leadership. Thus, some argue, given time, the sanctions will force the Iranians to negotiate or abandon any nuclear weapons program.

How successful would an Israeli strike against Iran be?

Despite these words of caution, many anticipate that an Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities will occur soon. If so, how successful would such an attack be?

Most experts believe that any conceivable air campaign would at best only delay and damage the program. They point out that Iran has withered the attack by the Stuxnet virus, the assassinations of some of its nuclear scientists, and economic sanctions, and are now installing advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges. The elements of the program—principally the centrifuges– are being placed deep underground, too deep for any bunker busting bomb to penetrate.

An air campaign would stretch the Israeli air forces capabilities to the maximum. The key targets are located at the furthest range of its fighter-bombers. And the pilots would have to violate the airspace of at least Iraq, if not Jordan, Turley or Saudi Arabia. While it is not militarily a challenge now to fly over Iraq (Iraq does not have any air defense capability to speak of), it would, of course, further drive the Iraqi populace closer to a tighter relationship with Tehran.

American military experts have also pointed out that there is no such thing as a “surgical strike”, but warn that any conflict would involve extensive civilian casualties and be very messy. Former Vice-Chairman of the JCS James Cartwright testified that any strike would also “solidify domestic support for the regime”. He also agreed that the only way to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapons program was “to occupy the country”.

What would the Iranian response be? Perhaps it would encourage the Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch some of the thousands of rockets it has in the inventory, and push its new partner, Hamas in Gaza, to conduct incursions against Israel. It may take actions to close the vital Hormuz straits, through which flow much of the world’s oil supplies. And sensing that the U.S. is complicit, Iran would certainly send out swarms of its Swift boats against the U.S. Navy presence in the Gulf and likely employ numerous mini-drones to hamper U.S. activities.

Such an attack would at a minimum disrupt global oil markets and lead to a rapid escalation of petroleum prices and a global economic downturn.

What is unknown is what the global repercussions will be? Will this further drive China, and possibly Russia, into greater support for Iran? Would such a strike please the Saudis, or will it cause anger in the Muslim world? These questions also must be addressed.

The military option should not be taken off the table, but it must be the last resort should sanctions fail. This is what our professional Intelligence and Military leaders are saying—advice we should heed!

Tyrus W. Cobb, a Reno resident, served as a Special Assistant to President Reagan for national security affairs.


Military Assessments of the Implications of a Strike on Iran

Colleagues: Two articles today dealing with the controversial issue of how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, both expressing caution. The first reports on the result of a war game conducted by the Pentagon which graphically concluded that an attack on Iran by Israel would likely draw the U.S. in, would not stop the Iranian program, would lead to economic downturn, and would involve many casualties. The second is a strong piece by retired Marine General Joe Hoar asking why professional military advice on this issue is not being heeded. Ty

NYT, March 19, 2012

U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran


WASHINGTON — A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.

The officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for American military action — and they emphasized that the exercise’s results were not the only possible outcome of a real-world conflict.

But the game has raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said. In the debate among policy makers over the consequences of any Israeli attack, that reaction may give stronger voice to those in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community who have warned that a strike could prove perilous for the United States.

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 be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.

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 carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

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.

The exercise was designed specifically to test internal military communications and coordination among battle staffs in the Pentagon, Tampa, Fla., where the headquarters of the Central Command is located, and in the Persian Gulf in the aftermath of an Israeli strike. But the exercise was written to assess a pressing, potential, real-world situation.

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.

American and Israeli intelligence services broadly agree on the progress Iran has made to enrich uranium. But they disagree on how much time there would be to prevent Iran from building a weapon if leaders in Tehran decided to go ahead with one.

With the Israelis saying publicly that the window to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb is closing, American officials see an Israeli attack on Iran within the next year as a possibility. They have said privately that they believe that Israel would probably give the United States little or no warning should Israeli officials make the decision to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

Officials said that, under the chain of events in the war game, Iran believed that Israel and the United States were partners in any strike against Iranian nuclear sites and therefore considered American military forces in the Persian Gulf as complicit in the attack. Iranian jets chased Israeli warplanes after the attack, and Iranians launched missiles at an American warship in the Persian Gulf, viewed as an act of war that allowed an American retaliation.

Many experts have predicted that Iran would try to carefully manage the escalation after an Israeli first strike in order to avoid giving the United States a rationale for attacking with its far superior forces. Thus, it might use proxies to set off car bombs in world capitals or funnel high explosives to insurgents in Afghanistan to attack American and NATO troops.

While using surrogates might, in the end, not be enough to hide Iran’s instigation of these attacks, the government in Tehran could at least publicly deny all responsibility.

Some military specialists in the United States and in Israel who have assessed the potential ramifications of an Israeli attack believe that the last thing Iran would want is a full-scale war on its territory. Thus, they argue that Iran would not directly strike American military targets, whether warships in the Persian Gulf or bases in the region.

Their analysis, however, also includes the broad caveat that it is impossible to know the internal thinking of the senior Iranian leadership, and 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.

Yet these specialists continue their work, saying that any insight on how the Iranians will react to an attack will help determine whether the Israelis carry out a strike — and what the American position will be if they do.

Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices.

“A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”


Posted: Philly.Com, Tue, Mar. 20, 2012, 3:00 AM

Heeding the experts on Iran

By GEN Joseph Hoar (USMC-Ret)

It’s become a cliche of presidential debates: Facing any question about Afghanistan or other national security issues, the candidates declare that they would heed the advice of their “commanders in the field.” It is striking, then, how willing they are to dismiss outright the opinions of America’s national security professionals when it comes to Iran.

At a recent conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican candidates played a game of rhetorical one-upmanship in expressing their willingness to take America to war in Iran. By contrast, virtually all of America’s most experienced national security leaders have advised caution.

While our best intelligence shows that Iran is developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons, military professionals report that it has not decided to actually do so. They warn that an attack will at best delay Iran’s nuclear program, and at worst will encourage it to acquire nuclear weapons to deter further attacks.

The candidates’ willingness to ignore the Pentagon’s strategic advice is surprising. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said that while intelligence shows Iran is “developing a nuclear capability,” it also “makes clear that they haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon.” But Christian Whiton, a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich, accused Panetta of not “telling the truth” about Iran’s nuclear program.

Yet Panetta’s views are echoed by his immediate predecessor, Robert Gates, who cautioned that simplistic talk of military strikes is counterproductive: “This is, I think, one of the toughest foreign-policy problems I have ever seen since entering the government 45 years ago, and I think to talk about it loosely or as though these are easy choices … is irresponsible.”

In congressional testimony in January, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence and a retired lieutenant general, said that while U.S. officials believe Iran is preserving its options, there is no evidence that it’s making a concerted push to build a nuclear weapon. Former Gen. David Petraeus, the CIA director, concurred.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) proved as willing as the presidential aspirants to contradict the security professionals. He told Clapper in a subsequent hearing, “I’m very convinced that they’re going down the road of developing a nuclear weapon.” Is Graham ignoring the best intelligence of the U.S. government?

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that because the Iranian regime is a “rational actor,” the current U.S. approach “is the most prudent.” But Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum all dismissed his view.

The current policy of careful diplomacy and steady expansion of international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program has its roots in the Bush administration and in long-term assessments of the best way forward. Gen. Michael Hayden, who was CIA director under George W. Bush, summarized the view of that administration’s intelligence team by saying “the consensus was that would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.”

We can agree that the Iranian nuclear program represents a major challenge. But overheated rhetoric and glib threats of military action aren’t likely to help us address it. Before we launch another major Middle Eastern war, we’d better listen to the advice of our commanders and intelligence professionals.

Gen. Joseph P. Hoar is a former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East.