In an effort to intimidate Iran, the Bush administration has regularly placed two aircraft carrier group formations in the Persian Gulf, LINK. The size and timing of possible U.S. military attacks on Iran's nuclear and/or military facilities, will influence the speed and scale of an Iranian response. Iran's response will predictably result in a military escalation that culminates in Iran using its arsenal of anti-ship cruise missiles on the U.S. Fifth Fleet and closing off the Strait of Hormuz to all shipping. Iran's ability to hide and launch cruise missiles from mountainous positions all along the Persian Gulf will make all Fifth Fleet ships in the Persian Gulf vulnerable. The Fifth Fleet would be trapped and unable to escape to safer waters. The Millennium Challenge war games in 2002 witnessed the sinking of most of the Fifth fleet.
If an attack on Iran were to occur before the end of 2007, it would lead to the destruction of the USS Enterprise with its complement of 5000 personnel on board. Further losses in terms of support ships and other Fifth Fleet naval forces in the Persian Gulf would be catastrophic. An Iranian cruise missile attack would replicate losses at Pearl Harbor where the sinking of five ships, destruction of 188 aircraft and deaths of 2,333 quickly led to a declaration of total war against Imperial Japan by the U.S. Congress.
The declaration of total war against Iran by the U.S. Congress would lead to a sustained bombing campaign and eventual military invasion to bring about regime change in Iran. Military conscription would occur in order to provide personnel for the invasion of Iran, and to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that would come under greater pressure. Tensions would rapidly escalate with other major powers such as Russia and China who have supplied Iran with sophisticated weapons systems that could be used against U.S. military assets. The closing of the Strait of Hormuz to all shipping and total war conditions in the U.S. would lead to a collapse of the world economy, and further erosion of civil liberties in a U.S. engaged in total war.
The above scenario is very plausible given the military capacities of Iran's anti-ship cruise missiles and the U.S. Navy's vulnerability to these while operating in the Persian Gulf. The Bush administration has hidden from the American public the full extent of the Fifth Fleet's vulnerability, and how it could be trapped and destroyed in a full scale conflict with Iran. This is best evidenced by the controversial decision to downplay the real results of the Millennium Challenge war games and the dissenting views of Lt. General Van Riper over the lessons to be learned. This culminated in General Van Riper joining a group of retired generals in calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. LINK.
Neo-conservatives within the Bush administration are fully aware of the vulnerability of the Fifth Fleet, yet have at times tried to place up to three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf which would only augment U.S. losses in any war with Iran. Yet the Bush administration has still attempted to move forward with plans for nuclear, conventional and/or covert attacks on Iran which would precipitate much of the terrible scenario described above.
A reasonable conclusion to draw is that neoconservatives within the Bush administration are willing to sacrifice much or all of the U.S. Fifth Fleet by militarily provoking Iran to launch its anti-ship cruise missile arsenal in order to justify 'total war' against Iran, and force regime change. A new Pearl Harbor can be averted by making accountable Bush administration officials willing to sacrifice the Fifth Fleet in pursuit of a neoconservative agenda.