• ssu
    However, Trump's experience as a bully maybe why he doesn't attack Iran. A bully instinctively knows you only prey on those who can't fight back; Iran can offer a fight, so it just doesn't make any sense to attack them, why risk it?boethius
    If we think the only time when Trump did fire the cruise missiles, while eating a lovely chocolate cake with the Chinese leader, the strike had all over it written "Plan of the generals". Or then, plan of Mattis. First, the Russians were notified about the attack in order to prevent an escalatory response. Second, the strike was quite theatrical yet not strategically logical: one air base was attacked by tens of cruise missiles. Yet it was confined to one airbase, not a strike against the Syrian Air Defence system's command structure. Hence basically it was a show of force, a tit-for-tat warning, similar which the Israelis typically do now and then. So I guess Trump still listens to his military.

    You are correct that Trump is a genuine bully. Not some person that has long term plans or an ideology behind his actions. Those guys are even worse, because they will go through the ranks to find the general that is willing to execute their bold utopian plans. And let's not forget last Marine general Trump has started his interaction with the Trump administration with openly going against Steve Bannon's schemes to put him out of the loop and still is present when Bannon is long gone: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

    The last Marine general still working with Trump on the right:

    If he resigns from active duty, the only thing a general can do when he doesn't want to follow the Commander-in-Chiefs orders, then hit the panic button.
  • fishfry
    Today Trump said that he believes some rogue Iranian general made a mistake or did something stupid in shooting down the drone. It seems to me that this is conciliatory rhetoric, designed to justify NOT starting a major war.

    Trump is the only one in Washington holding the line on peace today. Senator Lindsey Graham wants us to sink Iran's navy and bomb their oil fields. Trump's not doing that. He's saying he believes the drone shooting was not a provocative act requiring a deadly response.

    Perhaps he'll blow up an oil field or two to placate the hawks. But what I see today is Trump remembering that he ran on a platform of opposing the stupid Middle East wars. I would say today is one day, and this is one moment, when even the diehard Trump haters should take a moment to reflect and to hope that Trump actually does have the coolest head in Washington right now.

    I will agree with those who say he was wrong to abrogate Obama's nuclear treaty with Iran. That was a provocative act. But it doesn't mean Trump wants to start WWIII. Lindsay Graham does. I have no doubt Pompeo and Bolton do. But Trump, I think, is on the side of peace today. And I hope all the Trump-haters out there realize this; or at the very least, are hoping for the best.

    Would Hillary be slow on the trigger? Her three-decade track record on militarism is appalling. You know that. So Trump was the peace candidate in the miserable choice we were given in the 2016 election. Trump called out Jeb and implicitly Bush 43 on Iraq. That's not nothing. It was unheard of at that time for a Republican to speak forcefully against the Iraq war.

    I'm for peace. If you're for peace too, this would be a good moment to be on Donald Trump's side tonight as he talks down the generals.
  • boethius
    Let's discuss this in detail, if you are interested.ssu

    Yes, it's a very interesting topic; if these systems do work it changes the global power dynamic.

    First the S-300/S-400 systems are technically very challenging to operate. [...]
    Hence we would have learned by now if Russia would have sent the operators too with the missile systems. Now Iranians aren't bad in tech: they have kept flying the F-14's even after a long war with Iraq and have had the ability to add to their fleet the Iraqi aircraft that defected to Iran (during operation Desert Storm).

    Well, I assume Russia did send operators to train the Iranians. However, more importantly, in my view, is that Russians can send in a team to fix the system. And if the Russians would really would want to be hands-off in downing American planes, Iranian teams can keep going to Russia for training. Iran is not a standard dictatorship where the army is mostly afraid of the population, nor is Iran intellectually oppressive and unable to both foster in their society and attract into their army intellectuals that can manage these systems effectively.

    Now, maybe not effective enough or maybe the system simply doesn't work, but I wouldn't assume these things can be taken out simply due to incompetence.

    The second issue is that the system has low combat survivability in the modern battlefield.ssu

    Well, this is what we would find out if the Americans attacked Iran with stealth planes.

    However, the photos you posted don't give an accurate impression.

    The system is modular and all the components can be separated by some distance and have backups.

    A truck seems really easy to spot if it's in the middle of the Siberian tundra, but you can easily put a box over it and make it look like a normal truck and drive it around civilian roads, or keep moving it around at night and setting up camouflage during the day; again, an army has a lot of trucks it's moving around all the time. It can also be one of several launch trucks and far from the radar and command and control stations and maybe you can have individual launch tubes that are even harder to spot.

    It cannot move easily, a missile battery is a big observable target (especially when it puts it's radars on). In fact the S-300 (and the S-400 too) have to have their own air defence as we have seen from the Russian deployment of the systems to Syria.ssu

    Yes, radars can be easily seen, but the radar components can be far from the actual missiles which are far from the command and control and there can be backup radars. Attackers may have to actually look for the other components or then just bomb everything that might be something in the area, but then need to contend with shorter range systems.

    Generally, S-300/400 refers to the long range system which is part of a layered defense including shorter range anti-air. If one of these systems was being attacked, it would probably launch longer range and then medium range missiles and then turn off. Shorter range systems would then turn on (that can see stealth aircraft due to the short distance).

    Of course, you can then bomb these shorter range systems and once all anti-air is defeated just keep bombing things.

    The question is not that the system can be defeated, but how many planes and other air-assets are lost during this process.

    Critically, if it's not a ground invasion but just a bombing campaign, the Iranians can salvage whatever equipment survived, get replacements and setup somewhere else.

    Also keep in mind, that the Iranians can keep this system off until the Americans are bombing something, then turn it on and fire a bunch missiles at a bunch of planes and then disperse the system into hiding (with lot's of decoys around as well). To inflict any significant damage on the Iranian military, you need to send a lot of planes and a lot of bombs, and the Iranians can just wait. If the Americans decide to wait too ... well then there's no bombing campaign.

    My basic point is that, if stealth doesn't really work, then the Libya strategy of bombing things into a failed state and calling it a day can't work without continuous air losses. The air losses might simply be too high to reach failed state status; you have to bomb a lot of things to exceed a population's ability to cope and repair things.

    Hence, the conclusion becomes a land invasion is the only route to regime change, but we know that this results in casualties even with total freedom in the skies as well as dealing with the 2 decade "quagmire" afterwards.
  • boethius
    Hence basically it was a show of force, a tit-for-tat warning, similar which the Israelis typically do now and then. So I guess Trump still listens to his military.ssu

    The difference is that the Syrians couldn't retaliate anyways. So vis-a-vis the Americans, it's not tit-for-tat, it's just tit.

    With the Iranians, any small retaliation can create genuine tit-for-tat that keeps escalating. The Iranians can tat to your tit, so it's not just a theatrical performance for the home audience, there maybe real consequences to sending a dozen cruise missiles to blow something up in Iran. Iran blows something up too, then what, where does it go?

    It goes straight to Iran doing everything possible to develop nuclear weapons during this tit-for-tatting process. Then one day they test a nuke. What happens then?

    Again, the invariable conclusion that emerges is a ground invasion is necessary if you don't want Iran to have nukes nor do you want a deal.

    Now, Trump may genuinely not care if Iran develops nukes or not, but there's the rest of the world.

    Rest of the world may just keep to the Iran deal. This makes a mockery of American power. What happens then?

    For sure the talking heads will be spinning in their swivel chairs, I guarantee you that.
  • Michael
    Did you write this before the report came out that Trump ordered strikes (before cancelling)?
  • boethius
    the report came out that Trump ordered strikesMichael

    Damn, I talked up a storm for nothing.

    From this moment forth you may call me: Storm Talker.

    (before cancelling)Michael

    Until this moment.
  • ssu
    Did you write this before the report came out that Trump ordered strikes (before cancelling)?Michael
    Fishfry is suffering from Reverse Trump Derangement Syndrome.
  • ssu
    Now, maybe not effective enough or maybe the system simply doesn't work, but I wouldn't assume these things can be taken out simply due to incompetence.boethius
    Yet competence is a factor that has to be taken into consideration. We (as armchair generals) tend to look just at the performance charts of these systems. You do need a lot of technically trained people. In order for an Air Defence network to operate one needs a functioning command and communications network and an efficient Electronic Warfare capability, which isn't actually so easy to do. Just to give an example of the neighbouring state Iraq (which of course isn't Iran): During Desert Storm the Coalition Forces captured intact an Iraqi Electronic Warfare System loaded on trucks. They took it back and assembled and tried the system in an NATO excersize in Germany and the NATO communications in that excersize went haywire. Thus if the Iraqis would have used the system in the defence of Kuwait, the US and Coalition forces would have had a far more difficult time.

    Or take a different example, just to show that this is a problem of Western countries too. Start of the civil war in Syria Turkey asked NATO countries to give support to it and Germany deployed Patriot SAM units into Turkey. Once in Turkey, the Germans noticed that many of the missile systems were broken.

    Yes, radars can be easily seen, but the radar components can be far from the actual missiles which are far from the command and control and there can be backup radars.boethius
    Yet without the radars both the S-300 and S-400 systems are quite harmless.

    The question is not that the system can be defeated, but how many planes and other air-assets are lost during this process.boethius
    Or more precisely, what is the most effective asymmetric way to respond to get to the US? A mine or a barge filled with explosive in a harbour where a US Navy vessel is might be most efficient way to do it.

    Trying to outmatch the US with a conventional build up is very stupid. Just look at how the Taleban is fighting the US: Americans are looking for people that are moving fertilizer in Afghanistan. The mine/IED approach to limiting US operations is one low-key yet highly combat survivable strategy. First and foremost, Iran has to have the ability to survive a US 'pre-emptive' or retaliatory attack.

    And then there is the tale of the Millennium Challenge excersize 2002, where another Marine general, Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, played the OPFOR (basically the Iranians) and basically won... by sinking an US Carrier Battle Group on the first day of the excersize. Even if the Blue Force was respawned, knowing the actually timid culture of the military, the message was heard.

    When the Blue Forces issued a surrender ultimatum, Van Riper, commanding the Red Forces, turned them down. Since the Bush Doctrine of the period included preemptive strikes against perceived enemies, Van Riper knew the Blue Forces would be coming for him. And they did.

    But the three-star general didn't spend 41 years in the Marine Corps by being timid. As soon as the Navy was beyond the point of no return, he hit them and hit them hard. Missiles from land-based units, civilian boats, and low-flying planes tore through the fleet as explosive-ladened speedboats decimated the Navy using suicide tactics. His code to initiate the attack was a coded message sent from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer.

    In less than ten minutes, the whole thing was over and Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper was victorious.

    (USS Enterprise after an accident with a Zuni-rocket during the Vietnam War. These kind of images would send political shock waves even if the US Navy wouldn't suffer tactically a huge setback. Such incidents would dent the image of the US armed forces very dramatically.)

    What leads Trump or any US President to think twice about these issues is the following: what is the downside if things go bad? Thus attacking Afghanistan or Sudan or Yemen or anywhere you are opposed with poor rag-tag people with antiquated weapons is a safe bet. Not attacking Iran or North Korea.

    As we have seen again and again.
  • Fooloso4

    Are you auditioning for Sarah Huckabee Sanders' job?
  • boethius
    Yet competence is a factor that has to be taken into consideration. We (as armchair generals) tend to look just at the performance charts of these systems. You do need a lot of technically trained people. In order for an Air Defence network to operate one needs a functioning command and communications network and an efficient Electronic Warfare capability, which isn't actually so easy to do.ssu

    Your points are very relevant in a situation like a ground invasion (as you mention in Iraq), where things are being bombed all over the place, chaos is erupting, enemy troops are advancing towards the capital.

    Absent a ground invasion, you don't really need much integration and coordination and training (you still need enough, but not nearly as much as using these systems in the context of a ground invasion).

    You can rely on other radar for early warning and / or just wait until you're being bombed, then turn on the S-300/400, fire a whole bunch of missiles, turn it off and try to skedaddle or just let the visible parts of the system (radar transmitters and launch vehicles) get destroyed and replace them later. If you go searching for the other components (command and control, radar receivers, spare missiles) or just "drop a lot of bombs" in the area, now you have to contend with a bunch of cheaper and shorter range sam systems.

    Maybe Americans can play this game all week without losing a single plane. Maybe not.

    Now, I'm not saying the American arms manufacturers are incompetent, but I'm also saying the Russian arms manufacturers are likewise not incompetent. The proposed methodology for taking out modern sam sites is sending a bunch of stealth air-craft which fire a bunch of missiles at stuff using advanced signal analysis. Maybe this will work. But if it doesn't, a bunch of aircraft got committed and are shot down.

    The reason I'm stressing on this is because the US military posture just made a massive commitment to stealth technology with the F-35 and various stealth drone programs. Usually, this sort of "does it actually work" doesn't actually matter because the kind of conflict where it would be tested doesn't arise. However, this Iran situation is exactly the opportunity you'd want if you were eager to show how your 5th gen multi-roll fighters are great at taking out sam sites. So not doing it says something, doing it and failing would say something much louder.

    In the not doing it case; well you can always blame something else. Allies that toe-the-line will still buy the planes. But in the doing and failing case, it's going to be really, really hard to keep up the pretense the F-35 program is a success; not even the US military and congress are able to brush off a trillion dollar waste.

    The reason for developing this argument is that it seems at first glance any military conflict would be good for the US arms industry, but this particular stand-off actually has potentially huge downsides and embarrassments if you do send in the stealth fighters and they get shot down. So it's a very unusual situation.

    A full ground invasion solves the problem ... but is that really a reasonable way to solve the "stealth doesn't work problem". Doing nothing ... well already at this part of the conversation, Russia is sitting pretty to sell a lot more S-400 systems; what happens when they're all over the world and keep piling up and keep getting cheaper and easier to use, if stealth doesn't work, all the American carrier groups full of stealth aircraft become ocean ornaments.
  • boethius
    Also, key point, the US military massive commitment to stealth wasn't stupid.

    It made sense in a world without the neo-con driven Ukrainian conflict to ... I guess they wanted to spank the Russians by taking their Naval base in Crimea away, nor the neo-con re-igniting the cold war rhetoric, nor Trump taking American diplomatic capital, standing in the middle of oval office, letting it smash to pieces on the floor and then continuing to grind the pieces to dust every time he or a neo-con passes through.

    In a world minus all that, sure the Russians can probably down stealth air-craft but they wouldn't be just handing out such systems to Syria, China, Iran, India, Turkey to provoke the Americans.

    So, if other nations are decades behind Russian sam technology, then a huge investment in stealth makes sense. If the goal isn't to full scale war with Russia, then it's just a question of preventing Russians from selling their sam technology.

    American soft power could easily stop such a proliferation of advanced Russian sams, by treating Russia with a minimum of respect due a country with thousands of nuclear weapons and having cards to play like sanctions and toppling allies like Syria and so on and applying other forms of diplomatic pressure through allies.

    Problem today is all those neo-con "new cold war dream cards" have been played and there's zero disincentive for Russians to sell their system to whoever wants to buy it. The neo-cons started the process, but Trump is accelerating it resulting in potential for stealth to be obsolete decades ahead of schedule.

    This would be a major policy disaster for the US military global posture, and one (of many) geopolitical issues at play in this Iran situation.

    Edit: Neo-cons of course haven't learned anything from their schemes failing (it's Obamas fault), which is why they are starting to buzz about the need to be using tactical nuclear weapons.
  • Willyfaust
    The US air force largest, US navy air force second largest, US arm air force third largest air force in the world. Israel has 70 to 80 nukes. War implies struggle between opponents. Any struggle will see a quick end to true struggle. This is not a war game, this is a game of war.
  • boethius
    The US air force largest, US navy air force second largest, US arm air force third largest air force in the world.Willyfaust

    The question is not whether the US has a lot of planes.

    The question is how useful these planes will be in a world where there is a proliferation of advanced sam systems the Russians are now selling to everyone.

    I am going to go out on a limb and predict that we'll eventually find out what the real reason for the canceled attack was. And by eventually, I mean as early as next week when Trump tells us at one of his rallies. He will say that, yes, one reason was to spare Iranian lives, but another reason was that (and not very many people know this) sam systems were clearly tracking the planes and could have shot them down, so the mission was canceled; that he had said "do it, but don't lose any planes".

    Any struggle will see a quick end to true struggle.Willyfaust

    I have no idea what this means, please elaborate.

    As for nukes, sure Isreal or the US could nuke Iran.
  • Mephist
    I just read this, reported to be a tweet from Trump:
    ""...On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone..""

    Well, the question is obvious: how many people are the equivalent of an unmanned drone?
  • Fooloso4
    So why did Trump decide to call off the attack? Could it be because the evidence that Trump said is "documented scientifically" was after all, just words? In that case the planned attack would be an act of war. So at what point did Trump blink? His story about being informed only minutes before the launch that there would be causalities if true demonstrates his incompetence and inability to control his compulsiveness by his unwillingness to consult with the military ahead of time. If he is lying to cover up his real reasons then he still sends the message the he is incompetent and compulsive.
  • Mephist
    But he said that his decision was based on the number of people that will die in the attack. Does anybody believe this?
  • Tzeentch

    I'll wager an educated guess.

    Scenario 1: The proposed retaliation was never meant to take place, but the threat of it was a way to gauge international response to a possible attack on Iran.

    Scenario 2: After the retaliation was announced, Trump received word that the attack would provoke an unwanted reaction from some other international power. As to which, I dare not speculate.

    Scenario 3: After the retaliation was announced, it became clear there simply was not enough support either domestically or internationally. The narrative wasn't believed, so the attack was called off to avoid reputation damage.

    I think it stands beyond reasonable doubt that the drone was flying in Iranian airspace with the precise intention of getting shot down.

    Judging it an accident by either Iran (firing at something not in their air space) or the US (flying into a country's air space by accident) deserves no mention.

    Furthermore, the MQ-4C Triton drone is practically defenseless against modern air defense systems, so any reaction by Iran would be almost guaranteed to result in a destroyed drone. This must have been calculated beforehand.

    Finally, I find it unlikely that Iran's response of firing at the invading drone came as a surprise to the US. It is exactly what one expects to happen when invading an enemy's air space.
  • Fooloso4

    I am sure there are some who do and some who may not but will still defend Trump's indecisiveness on that basis. I doubt that he was only informed at the last minute as to estimated causalities, if in fact that was the estimate and not just something Trump pulled out of his ass to cover up whatever forced his hand.
  • Baden
    Trump is trying to transform weaknesses (no long game on Iran) into magnanimity. It's not a bad strategy. But, yes, the whole story may fall apart within a few leaks.
  • Mephist
    Evidently he thinks that Iran will not respond to an attack starting a war. Otherwise it doesn't make much difference how many people you kill with the first bombs.
  • Fooloso4

    All three scenarios seem plausible. Here is another one, more in line with his schoolboy mentality: show that he is tough by preparing to attack and then that although he is ready and capable of doing this he won't, that he is the bigger man in control of his strength.
  • Tzeentch
    I sense that your dislike of Trump causes you to seek explanations that confirm he is stupid or childish. Personally I think that is rather naive. The United States was full of people who underestimated him, and he walked all over them.
  • Fooloso4

    I think that is backwards. I think that it is because he is stupid and childish and narcissistic and vindictive that he does what he does. He is completely unprepared and unsuited for statesmanship.

    What people underestimated was his electability. The one thing I will give him credit for his skill as a self-promoting conman. There is ample evidence of his failures as a businessman. Despite his father's bankrolling him with millions of dollars to start and many millions more along the way, he filed for bankruptcy six times. U.S. banks refused to lend him money. Along the way he defrauded the IRS and left many contractors and workers without payment in full. Then and now he has over and over again demonstrated a pathological need to lie. Now as president he has alienated our enemies and courted dictatorial enemies.
  • Fooloso4
    Trump's elaborated version according to the New York Times:

    Mr. Trump offered a more detailed version of events later in the day, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” that he had not given a final go-ahead when military officials checked with him a half-hour before the strikes were scheduled to launch.

    "So they came and they said, ‘Sir, we’re ready to go. We’d like a decision.’ I said, ‘I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed, in this case Iranians?’ ” Mr. Trump told Mr. Todd.

    The president said that the officials said they needed to get back to him, but eventually said that “approximately 150” Iranians might die.

    Mr. Trump challenged reports that planes were already in the air when he called off the strike, adding: “I didn’t think it was proportionate."

    So he would have us believe that up until that point the issue of how many people would be killed had not occurred to anyone involved, not Trump, not the unnamed General, and not the other unidentified military officials who "had to get back to him".

    In addition, what does it say about a president who is poised to strike but does not consider the question of proportionate response until half an hour before they were scheduled to launch?
  • ernestm
    So why did Trump decide to call off the attack?Fooloso4

    At the same time as Trump called the attack, the senate was debating on his sale of weapons to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other countries neighboring Iran. Just after the GOP made a rare move against Trump and blocked the sale, he called off the attack.


    No news media agency has noticed the timing.

    It was likely the arms sales to its neighbors that caused Iran to get more aggressive in the first place, and unless Trump tries to veto the bill blocking the sales he negotiated, or retaliates, its likely to be the end of any Iranian military action. But if the sales had been approved, Trump would probably have carried through with the attack.

    So thats what actually has been going on in all likelihood.
  • Fooloso4
    At the same time as Trump called the attack, the senate was debating on his sale of weapons to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other countries neighboring Iran. Just after the GOP made a rare move against Trump and blocked the sale, he called off the attack.ernestm

    If I remember correctly I read about the vote to block the sale in the afternoon, hours before Trump called off the attack. I don't know the timeline of when he ordered the attacks and when he learned of the Senate's blocking the sale, but I don't think he only learned of the Senate's opposition minutes before he called it off. It may be that he ordered the attack before learning the sale was blocked, and it may be his decision to call it off had something to do with his fear that they might not back him, but calling off the attack with minutes to spare still seems suspicious. A show business cliffhanger with him saving the day.
  • ernestm
    Whatever the case on trump, I'd be surprised if there's further violence from iran. Triump can claim its because of him and everyone will seem happy

    Im sure he was not expecting the senate to block his arms sales though and he will be very angry about that, although he wouldnt say so publicly, hes going to be chastising his party for a few days now.

    For myself Im very surprised the gop actually stood up against him and Im less fearful of a nuclear war in the next 9 months, but in the end I dont think even the senate will be able to stop it.
  • Fooloso4
    I'd be surprised if there's further violence from iran.ernestm

    It would not surprise me, but as Trump is fond of saying: we'll see.
  • boethius

    You both seem to want to make things both simpler and more complicated than I would argue is plausible.

    First, Trump has definitely proven that he imagines what sounds best and then jumps to just saying that, regardless of whether it makes any sense or is in consistent with what he's being saying so far.

    "Sparing Iranian lives" is obviously what sounds best as a reason for not responding militarily to a military attack on a military asset.

    These things happen, the US has always responded to these sorts of events, with or without casualties. The US has military planners, has generals, has analysts, has intel, and has always multiple plans and options available, and people can always go make more. If the concern was casualties, there was certainly a plan available that creates no casualties.

    Also, the US has always responded based on their version of events and completely dismissing anyone else's version.

    So, taking essentially anything Trump says as meaningful insight into what happened -- that he sent the generals to do something and only found out later there would be causalities, and there's no plan B of striking without casualties, so he called it off -- is buying into the oversimplification not just of Trump's incoherent speech, but the shallow analysis that is found in the media.

    However, that there might be a connection to the congress vote to block the Saudi Arabia arms deal is way over complicating things. Trump can veto this legislation that's trying to veto his approval of the arms sale to Russia, and it's generally agreed there are not enough Republicans that would vote against to veto Trump's veto; in other words, this vote against the arms sale is only symbolic and doesn't prevent it.

    Also, other theories like "sending Iran a threatening message" by attacking and the cancelling are also over complicating things. That's not how you send that kind of message.

    The only message sent here is that you can blow up a US asset and the US is unwilling to respond in kind.

    If they really do know that the drone was in Iran airspace and that was the reason, then they would say something like "oh, in reviewing our logs, something, something, maybe drone crossed the line to avoid a potential collision with another aircraft" or some excuse like this. But they haven't, so imagining that they've used some over-complex logic of this sort based on maybe there's other evidence out there is very implausible; they would just dismiss any other evidence even if it came to light. And, anything reasoning like this doesn't stack up to the mission being nearly launched and then cancelled.

    Now, it's possible it's only due to Trump's unpredictable personality. But I feel if this was the case there would be moaning and groaning from the neocons ... well, which there is, but I feel there would be more of it, and especially a lot of focus that it makes US look weak to not respond at least in some way (both from leaks with very angry planners, generals, analysts, as well as pundits picking up on it).

    My theory I believe explains things much better. They wanted to blow of anti-air sites; well if it looks like those air defenses will be in some way effective (dozens or even hundreds of ground-to-air missiles could be launched), then the answer is to send more planes, but there would be losses: even for blowing up something without casualties (Iranians can't know the target and even if they did may defend their airspace anyways). As I mentioned in my previous post, American commanders themselves may not know the effectiveness of their anti-anti-air equipment and methods.
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