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OPLAN 1002-04 - The Khuzestan Gambit?

Forward presence of US forces in Iraq cements US credibility, strengthens deterrence, and facilitates transition from peace to war. Although ground forces provide the bulk of the long-term forward presence in Iraq, access to ports and airfields is essential to project other forces into the area. The continued presence of US forces in Iraq sends a strong visible message of the US commitment to defend this region. Presence is enhanced through on-going military-to-military interaction, cooperative defense measures, and prepositioning of equipment and supplies critical to US responsiveness and warfighting flexibility.

The term gambit comes from the Italian word gambetto, which was used for a tricky manoeuvre in wrestling. A chess gambit is a exotic way to enjoy a chess game -- there is a touch of recklessness necessarily to become a gambiteer. The term gambit applies to the opening of the game, involving an early sacrifice to achieve later superior attacking chances. The sacrifice is usually speculative, but hard to refuse.

During the Cold War there was speculation that the Soviet Union's war planning included the Hamburg Gambit, in which the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany would seize the port city of Hamburg, and then use this hostage in war-termination negotiations.

OPLAN 1002-04 has probably been revised to reflect the American occupation of Iraq, and the power projection opportunities this provides against Iran. The Zagros Mountains form a natural pallisade defending Iran from incursions from Iraq. The Iranian province of Khuzestan is the one large piece of flat Iranian terrain to the west of the Zagros Mountains. American heavy forces could swiftly occupy Khuzestan, and in doing so seize control of most of Iran's oil resources, and non-trivial portions of the country's water supply and electrical generating capacity.

Khuzestan [Khouzestan] is the most important pivot of Iran's economy. The existence of such huge resources as oil, gas and water in Khuzestan have changed the economic appearance of Iran. Oil first erupted from a well in the Massjed e Soleyman area, located in the southern Khuzestan province.

The two principal mountain ranges, the Zagros and the Elburz, diverge from a point of intersection in the Caucasus mountains; the former crosses Iran in a south-easterly direction toward the Persian Gulf.

Abadan is a large (pop. 308,000) oil-refinery boomtown, located at the junction of the Karun and Arvandrud rivers. It was largely destroyed during the Iran-Iraq War. Before the war, Abadan had a fairly good museum, but little else worth seeing; now it has even less. It is located 420 mi/675 km south-southwest of Tehran. Like Abadan, Ahvaz is a commercial city (pop. 580,000) that was heavily bombed during the Iran-Iraq War. The city's main attraction is its proximity to several historic sites: Choga Zambil (Elamite ruins and well-preserved ziggerat), Haft Tappe (ruins) and Shush 70 mi/115 km north of Abadan. Once Iran's largest port, Khorramshahr was almost destroyed during the Iran-Iraq War and is being rebuilt. The port, which lies near the Iraqi border on the Karun waterway, dates from ancient times (Alexander the Great founded a city nearby).

Khuzestan was home to one of the oldest human civilizations dating back at least 6000 years to Shoosh (Susa). In ancient tiems, such people as the Uxians (who gave their name to Khuzestan in southern Iran) were part of the Caucasic race of people. In the 17th century, in spite of their general poverty and rejection from public life, there were still a good number of Zoroastrians left throughout Persia, from Ahwaz in Khuzestan, to Kandehar in the east. Hautboy is occasionally used in Ashura ceremony in some provinces such as Khuzestan and Khorassan.

Generally, the Iranians whose mother tongue is Persian is estimated at more half of the total population of the country. Close to a quarter of the population speaks languages and dialects connected with the Persan one and which form part of the Iranian languages (guilaki, lori, mazandarani, Kurdish, baloutche). Another quarter of the Turkish languages (Azeri, turkmene, qashqha). There is also a minority Arabic-speaking person (less than 2 % of the population) living mainly in the province of Khuzestan and the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf.

The vast majority of Iran's crude oil reserves are located in giant onshore fields in the southwestern Khuzestan region near the Iraqi border and the Persian Gulf. Iran has 32 producing oil fields, of which 25 are onshore and 7 offshore. Major onshore fields include the following: Ahwaz-Asmari (700,000 bbl/d); Bangestan (around 245,000 bbl/d current production, with plans to increase to 550,000 bbl/d), Marun (520,000 bbl/d), Gachsaran (560,000 bbl/d), Agha Jari (200,000 bbl/d), Karanj-Parsi (200,000 bbl/d); Rag-e-Safid (180,000 bbl/d); Bibi Hakimeh (130,000 bbl/d), and Pazanan (70,000 bbl/d). Major offshore fields include: Dorood (130,000 bbl/d); Salman (130,000 bbl/d); Abuzar (125,000 bbl/d); Sirri A&E (95,000 bbl/d); and Soroush/Nowruz (60,000 bbl/d).

According to the Oil and Gas Journal (1/1/04), Iran holds 125.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, roughly 10% of the world's total, up from 90 billion barrels in 2003. In October 1999, Iran announced that it had made its biggest oil discovery in 30 years, a giant onshore field called Azadegan located in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, a few miles east of the border with Iraq. Reportedly, the Azadegan field contains proven crude oil reserves of 26 billion barrels. In July 2004, Iran's oil minister stated that the country's proven oil reserves had increased again, to 132 billion barrels, following new discoveries in the Kushk and Hosseineih fields in Khuzestan province.

Iran's energy generation capacity has risen to about 26,000 megawatts. The share of Khuzestan in total amount of energy produced in the country was 3,800 mega watts. The figure is expected to increase following operationing of three dams in Khuzestan province. Water resources are unevenly spread; 30 percent of surface water resources are concentrated in one province (Khuzestan), while many other populated provinces fully exploit their scarce available resources.

Following the downfall of the Shah, the new government in Iran used the army and other military forces to put down the movements of national minorities in Kurdistan, Turkman Sahra and the Arabs of Khuzestan province.

The main thrust of Iraq's attack on 22 September 1980, was in the south, where five armored and mechanized divisions invaded Khuzestan on two axes, one crossing over the Shatt al Arab near Basra, which led to the siege and eventual occupation of Khorramshahr, and the second heading for Susangerd, which had Ahvaz, the major military base in Khuzestan, as its objective. Iraqi armored units easily crossed the Shatt al Arab waterway and entered the Iranian province of Khuzestan. Dehloran and several other towns were targeted and were rapidly occupied to prevent reinforcement from Bakhtaran and from Tehran. By mid-October 1980, a full division advanced through Khuzestan headed for Khorramshahr and Abadan and the strategic oil fields nearby. Other divisions headed toward Ahvaz, the provincial capital and site of an air base. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the troops made a rapid and significant advance--almost eighty kilometers in the first few days. In the battle for Dezful in Khuzestan, where a major air base is located, the local Iranian army commander requested air support in order to avoid a defeat. President Bani Sadr, therefore, authorized the release from jail of many pilots, some of whom were suspected of still being loyal to the shah. With the increased use of the Iranian air force, the Iraqi progress was somewhat curtailed.

 
Page last modified: 29-04-2021 11:32:54 Zulu