Most terrorism experts say a direct face-to-face confrontation between Iran and the United states is not in the best interests of Iran. They say what is most likely is a mixture of global, terrorist inspired attacks.
Several experts we consulted with said Iran would order or ask a vast network of followers and sympathizers to take action against America and Israel. Hezbollah might step up its action against Israel from Lebanon, for example, and "sleeper" terrorists already inside the U.S. might come to life and commit terror acts in the U.S. There are also known or suspected "sleeper" terror groups in other countries such as Canada and in Europe.
Despite sanctions against Iran that prevent U.S. companies from sending support and parts for Iranian aircraft, Iran still can assemble a credible air strike, most probably against Israel. But many of Iran's pilots have deteriorated flight training credentials and many could be shot down in an engagement.
President Ahmadinejad also has a corps of highly capable special operations forces from the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) militias, and the highly specialized and extremely deadly Qods Force. These troops could be used to infiltrate Iraq and attack high priority Iraqi targets like the oil infrastructure and/or U.S. facilities and troops.
Russia today announced that it "resisted" any use of force between Iran and "neighboring powers." This has been seen by diplomats and consultants as a warning to both Israel and the U.S., but most with experience in such matters believe that Russia is not prepared to participate in any conflict militarily itself. Instead, Russia might beef up support to Iran in a number of sectors.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, "I hope the actual actions would be based on international law. And international law clearly protects Iran's and anyone else's territorial integrity."
Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson discussed this issue of a possible Iranian retaliation at some length in an article today. Among the experts he spoke to is Magnus Ranstorp at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.
"One very important issue from a US intelligence perspective, [the Iranian reaction] is probably more unpredictable than the Al Qaeda threat,"- said Ranstorp.
"I doubt very much our ability to manage some of the consequences,"- said Ranstorp.
"If you attack Iran you are unleashing a firestorm of reaction internally that will only strengthen revolutionary forces, and externally in the region,"- Ranstorp told Mr. Peterson. "It's a nightmare scenario for any contingency planner, and I think you really enter the twilight zone if you strike Iran."-
If the United States becomes involved with Iran militarily we might expect a strong anti-U.S. denunciation from the United Nations. Many member nations enjoy the prospect of annoying the U.S. and most feel burned or lied to by the U.S. ever since Colin Powell, while President Bush's first term Secretary of State, gave a long justification for the war in Iraq.
Then there is the internal politics of Iran itself to consider. As Barry Artiste points out in the comments below, Mr. Ahmadinejad's rule in no longer as widely applauded in Iran as it once was. Therefore, we might expect him to act with more judicious use of language and action than he has in the past.
But Israel will never forget that Mr. Ahmadjinedad did famously say that Israel should be "wiped from the map."
"The United States does not need permanent enemies, we have permanent friends," Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said addressing the Council for Foreign Relations on Thursday evening.
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