One of the claims made public in the recent Politico story on the negotiation of the Iran deal is the existence of a “red team” demanded by the President. Generally, a red team is a great idea, and is part of a strong decision-making process. A red team is a team designed to play the role of the enemy, to see if they can come up with good strategies for defeating your forces. The name comes from war games, where the American forces are always referred to as “Blues” and the enemy — in Cold War days — were the “Reds.” The naming convention continues today: when we see stories about “Green on Blue” killings, that is a military locution for allied forces (but not actual members of the US military) who kill Americans, as is a frequent problem in the Afghan conflict.
Commentary magazine asks about the findings of these red teams, and whether or not they were heeded.
Lakshmanan suggests Kerry had experts red-team possible breakout scenarios, but never names whom those experts were and the degree to which their recommendations were acknowledged. In the wake of the deal, many regional and technical experts pointed out numerous flaws. Kerry’s refusal to acknowledge the substance of critiques should never be allowed to suggest a lack of legitimacy to those critiques.
It is understandable that a red team’s membership would not be named, especially since the original article specifies that they were people with security clearances. However, they ask a good question about the acknowledgement of recommendations. Since the revelation of the terms of the deal, and its many surrenders by the administration, we can legitimately wonder to what degree the red team recommended anything like the final product.
At least part of the problem appears to be in the red team’s original warrant. We here at IranTruth have put together several “red team” findings on the dangers of the Iran deal. The series ran to five parts, and included everything from psychological warfare enabling a breakout to false-flag dirty bombs targeting American or Israeli cities.
Now, the Politico article does specify that Israeli experts were asked for “input and judgment,” and that they were “very helpful” according to the administration insider who is Lakshmanan’s source. However, it seems clear that they were only asked to consider a very narrow question: whether Iran could break out in less than a year under a specific set of restrictions.
The president insisted on a “red team” of internal and external nuclear experts with security clearances to test the assumptions of a one-year breakout time against the most demanding audience.
The most obvious difference between our red team approach and the President’s is the wider mandate to consider enemy strategies the deal enables or worsens. The red team would not have come up with the dirty bomb threat, for example, because it was outside that question. They were to consider only the breakout issue.
Does the deal prevent an Iranian breakout in less than a year, then? No, because it permits Iran to develop advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment that will cut that figure substantially. This is according to no less an authority than President Barack Obama himself. In his interview with NPR on the deal, he admits that it is a “reasonable fear” that as the advanced centrifuges permitted to Iran come online, “at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.” He is still satisfied because he believes that point to be a decade away.
This single-minded focus on a particular threat explains several astounding features of the deal, such as its concessions to Iran on ballistic missiles and heavy weapons, or its acceptance of Russian sales of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. It is remarkably short-sighted to focus on trying to ensure that you will have the same time period in which to respond in five years as in two, while allowing your enemy to pursue technologies that will rapidly limit your capacity to respond.
That would be true even if we were considering only Iranian improvements in defensive capacity, not the depth of strategic advantages that they are rapidly developing in concert with the Russians. Nor does it consider the effect of significant budget cuts for the US military being proposed by the administration and considered by Congress.
It would be worth red-teaming the question of how long we will have a credible military strike option against Iran, even given a year to prepare.