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What if? Saddam really did have nuclear weapons

Discussion in 'History & Military Discussion' started by the atom, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. the atom

    the atom SV's Resident Bad Boy

    Location:
    Comfortably numb
    Suppose that, shortly after 9/11, Saddam reveals that the non-cooperation with UN inspectors was not a bluff, and that the Iraqi military is in possession of both a small stockpile of nuclear weapons and the ability to produce more.

    How does this change U.S. policy in the region?
     
  2. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Depends on the delivery mechanisms available to him, ie if they fit on a SCUD or similar.
     
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  3. obssesednuker

    obssesednuker Commander of 10 Million Men

    Quite. It's far more of a deterrence if their actually deliverable then if their a bunch of multi-ton super-land mines.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
  4. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    The potential to drop a tacnuke on forces preparing in Saudi Arabia, or launch a "Fuck-You-All!" last strike across the region even as the regime falls would very much change the complexion of the conflict.
     
  5. Providing a further justification for American adventurism would probably affect the region more than a small nuclear weapon.

    I mean, if Iraq hadn't been eviscerated we likely wouldn't have the refugee crisis that drove immigration-based tensions in Europe. It'd be quite different to poor old North Korea, however, because Iraq and its practical strike area includes valuable resources.

    I'd expect we'd simply see earlier testing for ABM technologies and even more CIA funded activities in the region. It'd almost certainly speed detente with Iran. Saudi Arabia could continue to paint itself as a victim and its support for extremist organisations could continue to be ignored in the west.
     
  6. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    Not only that, but because Iraq only needs to launch it into immediate or near-immediate neighbors, a lot of the range considerations in play for the type of nuke IRBMs the Soviet Union and the US would field suddenly disappear and the developmental challenge thresholds suddenly go way down (particularly since they already implemented at least one range solution, the "Al Saddam" which was just a SCUD with a lighter warhead as a super-cheap exchange for being able to hit Tehran with it - and when I say Tehran I mean in the literal, Tehran in its most general sense as it suffered an accuracy penalty in the process). This is technically true of North Korea too if they wanted to hit targets in South Korea or even Japan, but because they're also obsessed with hitting even something that can be called sovereign US territory that isn't just the American Embassy in Seoul they end up putting up with a lot of self-imposed challenges and roadblocks.

    This is why the WMD inspection programs were of such importance - but that doesn't necessarily mean that Dubya's decision to unilaterally or near-unilaterally invade Iraq was the right call, by far. In fact from what I vaguely recall reading from some time sufficiently afterwards such that it can be called hindsight, the inspection programs were actually working hence Saddam's lack of WMDs after the fact. Rocket science, as it turns out, is easy as long as you're not picky about where the warhead lands and especially if it's a contact-fused warhead to begin with. It's the whole nuclear physics thing that's hard. There's a reason why even after exploding the bomb, North Korea's nuclear weapons program is agonizingly slow (or it would be agonizing if the world isn't all the better the slower progress they make) and why there's considered to be little credible evidence that Iran even has anything remotely resembling a nuclear warhead.

    I really wouldn't call ordering around tens if not hundreds of thousands of troops to march around and start the whole breaking things and killing people routine and have thousands of them die in the process "adventurism" but your sentiment is shared all the same.

    In fact given that you've brought up the North Korean example, it's possible there'd simply be no war. Nuclear weapons, good or bad, can have as much of a stabilizing effect as they do a destabilizing one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  7. Apocal

    Apocal Alpha Technoblack Moderator

    Location:
    California
    Iraq coming apart in 2003 and 2004 didn't cause the refugee crisis. It was Libya getting dumpstered.
     
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  8. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Iraq did feed in to the Syria situation, which is the main driver of the refugee streams from the Middle-East, with Libya primarily opening wide the routes from Africa.
     
  9. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    I think that's by far the most likely result. If there was any real suspicion he had nuclear weapons there would have been no war. Plenty of people have noticed the pattern that it's the nations without nuclear weapons that get "regime changed".
     
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  10. the atom

    the atom SV's Resident Bad Boy

    Location:
    Comfortably numb
    If the U.S. never invaded, what would Iraq's regional foreign policy look like? And how stable would the regime be in the long run?
     
  11. Jemnite

    Jemnite Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.

    It'd probably still be somewhat of a pariah state. After the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was essentially treated to an international Sanction courtesy of the UN Security Council, that wasn't lifted until the US removed Saddam from power. It was more or less internally stable though, Saddam genociding certain minority populations aside, considering how tightly his secret police had a hold of things. I'd say, maybe a state similar to North Korea? Except actually being able to exert some presence on world affairs with its military at least.
     
  12. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    He might also be referring to ISIL's dominance in Iraq in the post-Saddam era. There might be shaky cause-and-effect between the two but the media tends to report on both in such a way that I can see such an association being easily made.

    I'd say so. There's not a lot North Korea can do; sure they're protected from "regime change" but they know even with nuclear weapons the conventional forces alone in the region are more than capable of destroying any trace evidence of North Korea ever being a separate political entity. Besides rightly getting ire from the UN for the whole "my favorite hobby is genocide" thing, Saddam really screwed the pooch with the whole "my other favorite hobby is declaring random neighboring countries to be rogue provinces" thing. If Saddam could simply control his greed and ambition and see the bigger picture and consequences with invading Kuwait, we'd probably be all "Saddam who?" today. That's far from saying he's a nicer guy than we think of today (oh trust me, he still absolutely was a genocidal, murderous scumbag) but remember until the practical minute Iraqi armor started rolling into Kuwait, he was a nominal ally of the US (and Kuwait, for that matter) who received quite a bit of financial backing from the US (and Kuwait, for that matter - in fact Saddam's whole casus belli of the invasion was repayment of Iran-Iraq War related debts Kuwait had supposedly defaulted on).
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  13. Avernus

    Avernus Abomination

    One possibility is that the Syrian democracy movement isn't destroyed thanks to the Iraq war not serving as a giant propaganda talking point for "Democracy is Evil" like it did in the real world. No telling how that would have worked out.

    Not very. As I recall he was the variety of dictator who tries to protect his position by making the entire system dependent on him. And he was neither young nor immortal.
     
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  14. obssesednuker

    obssesednuker Commander of 10 Million Men

    I rather doubt Kuwait would be so willing to be the forward base for the US invasion if they knew that the consequence would be their country going up in a radioactive fireball...
     
  15. the atom

    the atom SV's Resident Bad Boy

    Location:
    Comfortably numb
    I believe he meant that the U.S. would ramp up it's activities in the Middle East overall, not invade Iraq itself.
     
  16. Apocal

    Apocal Alpha Technoblack Moderator

    Location:
    California
    Iraq would be fucked in terms of stability in terms of a post-Saddam Ba'athist regime. His sons (and presumptive heirs, as far as I was told) were basically a pair of Joffreys who inspired about as much loyalty as a stagnant pool of water.

    I think Syria would have boiled over anyway; food prices increasing while earnings fall -- not the fault of Iraq, although it certainly didn't fucking help.

    ...ISIL wasn't dominant in the post-Saddam era. They had a brief fling with controlling portions of Anbar and an even briefer period of control over the city of Fallujah, but by the end, they'd been evicted from the country and only resurged in civil war Syria.
     
  17. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    I can find several articles referring to fighting ISIS/ISIL in Iraq particularly the apparently continuing/ongoing fight to retake Mosul from ISIS/ISIL so I will have to request you qualify that statement further.
     
  18. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
  19. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    So are the articles I linked to simply mistaking another combatant force as ISIS/ISIL then?
     
  20. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Just different sections of a timeline. The precursors of what's now ISIL were kicked out of Iraq by the Sahwa Militias in 2005-2007 or so, forcing them to retreat across the border into Syria. Maliki then reneged on promises to said Sunni militias in 2009, which meant a lot of the people who'd formerly expelled ISIL then allowed them to come back, and/or joined up with them, in the last few years.
     
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  21. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    Ok, I think that definitely aids in clarifying that point then, thank you.
     
  22. That's just simply not true. The number of refugees fleeing Libya is tiny (something like 5-50,000), and while instability has made it easier for refugees/migrants from Africa to use Libya as a route, Ghadaffi didn't do much to stop that flow either (he would hold migrant flows hostage to get money/political support from Italy), and people smuggling and alternate migrant routes through other parts of North Africa still operated.

    The vast majority of refugees have come from Syria and Iraq, as a result of the Syrian Civil War. While the 2003 Iraq War didn't help the situation, the Arab Spring and SCW were the result of a fundamental lack of legitimacy for the dictatorial regimes, extreme corruption, economic stagnation, and the violent repression of even normal expressions of political islam. Had the invasion of Iraq not happened, Iraq would have been caught up in the revolutions, and likely would have ended up in a civil war like Syria
     
  23. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    That does beg the question if the re-entering of insurgent elements from Syria into Iraq and forming and organizing into ISIS/ISIL is inevitable, but in which case at least without the cost and blood of US intervention.
     
  24. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    While Saddam's sons weren't exactly standouts, it's fairly likely someone in the al-Tikriti clan could have clung on to power in the wake of Saddam's death. The Syrian Alawites and Iraqi Sunnis shared something of the same political niche, as broadly secular minorities seeking to dominate a majority of another sect, lest that majority do the same to them.
     
  25. The violent repression of political islam that all of the revolutionary arab nationalist states undertook would have still eventually boiled over into some form of the Arab Spring. The elder Assad destroyed an entire city and killed 20,000 people to put down a Muslim Brotherhood uprising, one of Nasser's early acts was to ban the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Aside from general ideological distaste for political religion among these groups (the academic term for these states is Bureaucratic-Revolutionary), the various Arab Nationalist political parties were for a while the only mass political movement in the Middle East, something that gave those regimes an enormous amount of legitimacy. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a popular contender would be a serious threat to any of those regimes, and thus they heavily repressed all forms of Political Islam.

    Iraq would also likely fall into a civil war because, like Syria, it had an unpopular and brutal dictator, significant minority groups (way worse than Syria's problem), longlasting economic issues, etc. The only advantage Iraq would have over Syria is its oil reserves, but those themselves are concentrated in Shiite and Kurdish areas, making them unreliable at best for the regime. Once those uprisings/protests/whatever started, all of the same issues that let the SCW get so out of control would still be in place:

    1. Proxy conflicts: Essentially all of the same actors that were interested in the Syrian conflict would be interested in the Iraqi conflict. Turkey hates Assad and views northern Iraq as an area of deep interest for economic and political reasons. The prospect of an Kurdish state stretching from Erbil to Manbij would be extremely worrisome, and Turkey would be interested, if nothing else, to make sure that friendly Kurdish groups were the ones taking this territory instead of the PKK. Iran has longstanding alliances with Syria and shiite groups in Iraq, and both conflicts would be the number one foreign policy problem for Iran immediately. The Saudis and GCC hate both Assad and Saddam, and would be extremely concerned about Iranian influence in the region. Russia would intervene on the Syrian side, and might provide support to the Iranians in Iraq to gain cooperation on Syrian issues. Finally, the US hated Saddam and wasn't a fan of Assad, and the US would want to support its allies. Not to mention human rights: both Assad and Saddam had significant chemical weapons stockpiles that they used on civilians, and a less noninterventionist President than Obama, coupled by a lack of the scars of Iraq, would lead to greater willingness for an intervention on humanitarian lines

    2. Sectarianism: Both Syria and Iraq have deep sectarian divides, and with minority groups being associated with the regime (shiites in Syria, sunnis in Iraq) or advocating for independence/autonomy (kurds), the conflict would very quickly devolve along sectarian lines, especially because most of the foreign actors involved are also sectarian to some extent

    3. Protracted conflict: Both the Syrian and Iraqi armies faced the same severe deficiencies that led to the conflict in Syria now essentially being fought by militias with foreign air support. The Syrian and Iraqi armies were led by minorities chosen for loyalty to the regime and nothing else. They had a reliance on heavy tank formations along the Soviet model, but no longer had active military and financial support from the Soviets to effectively maintain or use those formations (the Syrians had more support, the Iraqis had more money to buy from the soviets). The average soldier was a poorly treated, trained, and paid conscript, often from sectarian populations that generally opposed the regime. The regime in both cases lacked money to properly maintain the equipment they did have. Neither country had a winning military record to instill confidence and breed competent commanders. Assad and Saddam would both likely destroy their already shaky armies by tactical incompetence (like Assad mounting unsupported tank attacks into urban areas in 2013). And the resistance forces would not have access to domestic airpower or heavy weapons. So, like Syria, the Iraqi civil war would be fought by untrained sectarian militias and will both be bloody and protracted
     
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