World Tribune: Iranian Air Force to conduct combat exercise with unnamed neighbor

WorldTribune.com is one of the best sources for information on the Iranian threat on the web. The folks over there cover this topic regularly–and it is a topic that the so-called mainstream media seems to relish ignoring.

World Tribune’s latest report indicates that the Iranians will soon conduct air combat maneuver exercises with a neighboring nation, though no one is saying who that neighbor might be.

We can speculate some about who it might be though because Iran doesn’t have all that many neighbors. There are a few possibilities, limited by geography:

• Iraq

We seriously doubt Iraq would be holding exercises with the Iranian Air Force right now. For one thing, the Iraqi Air Force has next to no combat aircraft and they are currently organizing primarily with the advice and assistance of US Air Force personnel. We’re not saying that the Iraqi regime wouldn’t hold joint exercises with Iran in the future, but we doubt that they could or would hold air combat exercises with Iran now.

• Kuwait

This is almost certainly not the answer. The Kuwaitis feel threatened by Iran and their air force has close ties to the US. Still, there are plenty of Islamist Kuwaitis who hate America and cooperating with Iran is not entirely out of the question. But, officially, the Kuwaitis are not yet at a place where they would likely hold joint exercises with Iran.

• Bahrain

This might be the least likely neighbor to hold exercises with Iran. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is said to be active in supporting Shia unrest and rioting in Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni regime. The Shia-Sunni divide alone would not be enough to dismiss the possibility of cooperation, but in the case of Bahrain, that divide clearly involves meddling and hostility from the Iranians, who, for a variety of reasons, would like to see the ruling regime in Bahrain fall. One reason is that Bahrain is very close to the US and hosts the headquarters for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

• United Arab Emirates

Now, we could be getting warmer. The UAE have been playing a double game when it comes to Iran for years, if not centuries. Dubai has long been considered a primary smuggling point into and out of Iran and that has manifested itself in recent years with lax security surrounding the illicit import of prohibited items into Iran–items that could potentially be used as components in various weapon systems. All the while, UAE officials profess to being vigilant, but the reports of smuggling are too numerous and persistent for it to be happening without someone in the bureaucracy or halls of power being involved. At the same time, the UAE is scared to death of Iran’s nuclear program and their reaction has been to take on the role of battered spouse, attempting to warm up to Tehran. So, it would not surprise us if the UAE were to conduct exercises with Iran. Still, they’re not the most likely suspect.

• Qatar

Qatar might be one of our more likely suspects. They have previously conducted some non-combat naval exercises with Iran and, like the UAE, they have been playing a double game when it comes to Iran for some time. On the con side, Qatar is the site of US Central Command facilities and such close relations with the US military would seem to preclude their conducting air combat exercises with Iran. It would certainly be disturbing if it did end up being Qatar. We doubt it’s Qatar.

• Oman

Oman has always been wary of Iran and friendly with the West. They even let Delta Force rehearse and stage out of their airfields before the ill-fated hostage rescue attempt in Iran in 1980. We highly doubt that Oman is the neighbor in question.

• Turkmenistan

A likely suspect, highly likely in fact. Turkmenistan, Iran’s neighbor to the north and northeast has a small air force that flies MiG-29s, Su-25s and a few other aircraft. Turkmenistan also obtains arms from Iran, in addition to Russia and China, Iran’s two main foreign arms suppliers.

• Afghanistan

Not a chance. The Afghans have no fixed wing combat aircraft. Moreover, exercises with the Iranians would be pretty outrageous at this point given the large US military presence in Afghanistan and the fact that Iran supports the Taliban.

• Pakistan

If the neighbor that Iran ended up holding air combat exercises with ended up being Pakistan, it would be a near-worst case scenario. Close military relations between these two nations is one of the last things the world needs to see. Luckily, there is no indication that the neighbor in question is Pakistan. Given Saudi public hostility toward Iran and the fact that the Saudis bankroll a lot of what goes on in Pakistan, it is unlikely that Pakistan would hold air combat exercises with Iran. On the other hand, if there are two more treacherous, two-faced nations on earth than Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, we don’t know which ones those would be. Under the theory that anything is possible, we won’t rule out that the neighbor is Pakistan, but we doubt it–and hope that it is not.

• Saudi Arabia

Very similar to Pakistan, except that the Saudis are extremely worried about Iran on a lot of levels, so we doubt they’d hold air combat exercises with Iran under any circumstances. At some point, if the Saudis see that the West is not heading off Iran’s nuclear program, don’t be surprised if the Saudis start to warm up to the Iranians in an attempt to bribe them to keep them from causing trouble in the kingdom.

• Azerbaijan

Not beyond the realm of possibility, though relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are best described as “mixed.” The two countries have cordial relations, but Azerbaijan has been publicly supportive of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Meanwhile, there are reports that Iran supports opposition parties in Azerbaijan. If the undisclosed neighbor does end up being Azerbaijan, which has a fairly modern and large air force by regional standards, it could signal a distinct warming of relations, something we would not want to see.

• Armenia

Armenia has a small air force made up of just a handful of ground attack aircraft. Their relations with Iran are fairly warm and it is certainly possible that they would hold air exercises with Iran. Such a development would in fact possibly be worrying for the West because currently Russia provides Armenia with air defense. This means that air exercises between Armenia and Iran could in fact cloak air exercises involving Russian and Iranian air forces. That would be disturbing to be sure.

• Turkey

It’s certainly not Turkey, but given the trajectory of politics in Turkey, don’t be surprised to see something along these lines in the next decade or so.

Read more at World Tribune:

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2011/me_iran1095_09_01.asp

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