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Thursday, May 20, 2010


Read this nice peaceful talk of a
non-aggressor nation.

***Just one factual mistake by the author:
The planning-session for the Afghanistan
invasion happend before 9/11!

Published 21:24 20.05.10

HAARETZ -- Buzzing Iran

He was at the Pentagon when it was hit on
9/11, and later headed the USAF. A
conversation with Michael Moseley, who helped
run America's aerial war over Iraq and
Afghanistan, about what might be involved in
taking on the Islamic Republic

By Amir Oren

A fine September morning welcomed U.S. Air
Force Lt. Gen. Charles Wald when he arrived
at the Pentagon, where he had come from Shaw
Air Force Base in South Carolina to continue
his transition talks with a colleague, Maj.
Gen Michael Moseley. Wald's nickname was
Chuck. Moseley was known to his friends as
Buzz, in the flyboy tradition of the comic
strip hero Buz Sawyer, astronaut Edwin "Buzz"
Aldrin and Buzz Lightyear in the Disney-Pixar
film "Toy Story."

In two months, Wald was to advance to
four-star rank as the deputy commander (and
de-facto chief ) of the U.S. European
Command, which has jurisdiction over Israel,
too. Moseley, the air force's congressional
liaison, would get his third star in the job
Wald held, leading Central Command's air
forces (CENTAF ) and the 9th Air Force,
headquartered at Shaw. In that capacity, he
would in contingencies come under U.S. Army
Gen. Tommy Franks of CENTCOM. But no such
contingency was foreseen, though it was
generally known that President George W. Bush
was spoiling for a re-run of 1991 with Saddam

But it was September 11, 2001, and at 9:37
that morning the world turned upside down.
The Pentagon's sturdy premises shook, and
smoke rose from the section of the giant
structure that had been struck by a Boeing
757 - American Airlines Flight 77, en route
from Washington Dulles airport to Los
Angeles. The jet had been commandeered by
five hijackers who killed themselves, the 64
passengers and crew aboard, together with 125
military personnel and civilians within the

At that very moment, the job of CENTAF chief
became all-important, and in short order
Moseley was to successfully supervise two air
wars, for which he was rewarded with an
appointment as USAF chief of staff, a
position he held from 2005 to 2008.

Wald and Moseley were in Israel last week for
a seminar held by the Fisher Institute for
Air and Space Strategic Studies, an Israeli
organization that advocates the strategic
benefits of air and missile power. Both are
retired now, but they have not set aside
their insights, lessons learned and

Wald has gone public with his reasoned
conviction that "there is a military option
on Iran," contrary to the fears voiced by
commentators who warn that bombing Iranian
nuclear facilities could only be partially
effective, with the ultimate costs
outweighing the benefits. In a conversation
with Haaretz at the Fisher Institute's
Herzliya office, Moseley was more cryptic,
not wishing to appear as being either for or
against an American or Israeli operation, but
his message did come through. Or so it seems.

Gen. Moseley is an expert on the promises and
limitations of airpower, from Afghanistan to
Iraq and beyond, perhaps including Iran,
though he would rather speak "generically,"
as if Serbia and Kosovo, Mogadishu and the
Asian wars have a common denominator. Some of
the work could be done from the air, some
must be done from the ground, and in any
event, it is better done by a superpower
leading a coalition. Based on the two Iraq
wars, plus Afghanistan, one also infers from
him that for political and diplomatic
reasons, a major provocation - even an
outrageous event - must precede a major
allied aerial offensive or invasion.


"When we began [planning after*** 9/11] we sat
in a room, looked at a map of Afghanistan,
and essentially said, Wow! How do we
overthrow the Taliban regime, which helped
Al-Qaida kill 3,000? It's a very long way to
get there. How do we do this, and sustain the
operations, and in a way that leaves people
there, children, better off for their

In a term used aboard the U.S. Navy's
aircraft carriers, whose air wings also came
under Moseley for the fight, he was the "Air
Boss." He also had some Marine and army
aviation, along with help from NATO -
British, French, Dutch, Spanish, several Gulf
countries, "and various players who still
don't want to be named."

Landlocked Afghanistan "is a big place,
remote, 600 miles from targets inside it to
the [carriers in] the North Arabian Sea or [a
base in] Kyrgyzstan. From the island of Diego
Garcia, it's the same distance as from Tampa,
Florida, to Alaska - and back, of course." If
Afghanistan is "huge," military-wise, Iran is
even larger - two and a half times larger.
This can work to the benefit of the attacker
or the defender, depending on their
preparations, some of which start years, even
decades, before.

"Organize, Equip, Train": These are the
tenets that to Moseley's mind enable the U.S.
Air Force, as well as Israel's, to excel. He
should know, having served at Nellis Air
Force Base outside Las Vegas, where Red Flag
exercises take place, which include "going
over all combinations and permutations" in
advance of the real deal.

Then there was Iraq, which can also serve as
"a model template" for Iran, should one wish
to simulate an operation. In the '90s,
Moseley took part in enforcing the no-fly
zones imposed by the U.S. and its allies on
Saddam Hussein - "to protect innocents and
villages" fearing his retribution following
the 1991 war. The northern part of that
operation, an air patrol umbrella over the
Kurds, was mostly flown out of Turkey, which
from 2003 on, under the leadership of Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was to turn a
cold shoulder toward the West. In southern
Iraq, too, Shi'ites were protected by
coalition airpower.

Can one apply this technique to a post-war
Iran? Only with caveats. In Iraq, there were
UN resolutions, after a war supported by the
likes of Syria and Egypt. The airstrikes were
aimed at certain overt activities. And they
were not risk-free. The aircraft and their
crews came under fire, although none -
Moseley retroactively knocks on wood - were

In the run-up to 2003, Moseley secretly ran
Operation Southern Focus, aimed at degrading
Iraq's command-and-control and air-defense
infrastructures. If anyone is now conducting
a similar exercise vis-a-vis Iran in a
clandestine way, by cyber-methods or by
sabotage, it may be known only after a war.

Moseley teamed with CENTCOM's Franks and land
forces chief David McKiernan to plan
Operation Iraqi Freedom. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld
and felt no loyalty to the victorious
generals, would later ease out both McKiernan
(as Afghanistan commander ) and Moseley (as
USAF chief ). Hitting the regime

Moseley is an articulate and nuanced
proponent of airpower. It is best used, he
says, "to deter and dissuade" an enemy, and
should that enemy threaten or actually
mobilize forces and a political decision has
been made, the air force (joined, if desired,
by naval aviation ) is the weapon of choice
for instilling "strategic and operational
paralysis." In Iraq, this meant hitting the
regime, separating it from its main
formations in the field and weakening the
eight presumably elite divisions of the
Republican and Special Republican Guard. The
army and Marines, meanwhile, "are excellent
for tactical effects."

One important lesson of Iraq, which brings
Iran to mind, is that the decision to go to
war was Saddam's (for the future one may read
Khamenei ). Had he acted otherwise, the
political decision-makers in Washington would
have reacted in another, non-warlike fashion.
As for the belief that Iraq had weapons of
mass destruction - in this case, chemical and
biological - it was no idle speculation.
Planning and execution alike took the
possibility extremely seriously. Moseley's
air and ground crews prepared "for a couple
of weeks in chemical suits." They were
cumbersome and hot, especially as
temperatures rose in the Gulf - but better
hot and alive than cool and dead.

On Iran, "any decision will have to be
political, by the president or your prime
minister or whomever." Moseley was privy to
discussions at the highest level as a member
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listening and
contributing to exchanges involving Bush,
vice president Dick Cheney and other
officials. He is now "one and a half years
removed," and doesn't have access to the
all-important current secret intelligence.
However, the profession of using arms, and
aircraft, has not changed that much in the

Thus, the points to ponder as one plans an
operation, presumably to take nuclear targets
out of commission for some three to five
years, and stay around for a sanctions or a
sort of a no-fly zone regime, are: "Ranges,
distances both to the targets and between
them, what confidence do you have in the
location of the targets, the ability to
sustain and regenerate sorties? Are they
dispersed, buried, and if so how deep,
protected? What is the proximity to
population centers, schools? How do you
mitigate collateral damage, how many times do
you have to go back? Can it be done quickly?
How many weapons do you need? What happens
after the first day, the second day, the
first week, second week, third week, what is
the international picture, what is the
overall balance? What is the likely

The former USAF chief has "the highest
regard" for his brothers-in-arms in the
Israeli military, most especially in the air
force, whom he first got to know as a young
pilot. The relationship "is very open and
warm, an assumed partnership, [there is] a
very strong bond established between our
militaries." He values his friendship with
current IAF chief Ido Nehoshtan, with his
predecessors Dan Halutz and especially
Eliezer Shkedy, with whom he met in the past
- and now again - several times.

Moseley: "I gave [Shkedy] my handshake, that
as long as I'm chief I'll make the
relationship good, will exchange pilots,
maintenance officers and senior NCOs, have
school slots for the IAF. We have a special
relationship with several countries around
the world. Israel is certainly one of them."

Moseley clashed with his second boss, Gates,
over several issues. One had to do with
Gates' fondness for unmanned combat air
vehicles, with Moseley playing the role of
the out-of-date fighter jock. Isn't he
nicknamed Buzz, after all?

Gates dumped Moseley and brought in Norton A.
Schwartz, the first Jewish air force chief
(the Navy had one in the '90s ), a transport
pilot. Did that decision have anything to do
with envy by a non-flying junior intelligence
officer (something Gates was in the air force
in the mid-'60s ) vis-a-vis an old pilot?
"You've done your homework," is all Moseley
would say.

He believes the manned versus unmanned
argument was oversimplified. "The emotions
are not clinical. This is not
technology-driven." Curiously, no one
suggests fielding unmanned ships, submarines,
tanks, artillery or trucks. The manpower
savings in unmanned aviation are illusory, in
Moseley's view, as except for the pilot all
others around the system remain, and the
pilot now flies the UCAV from afar.

"I am a big fan of unmanned. As 57th Wing
commander, I was the first to operate them. I
hung bombs on them, missiles on them. I've
got the T-shirt. Okay, here's the bottom line
from the man who used them: There are only
two reasons to prefer unmanned over manned;
One is a threat so severe you're afraid to
lose much of your force. There has never been
a threat we could not penetrate. The more
important factor is persistence. We are
indeed limited by the pilots' endurance, for
instance in the U-2 plane, where they wear
space suits and must land after 11 to 12
hours, while the unmanned Global Hawk can fly
for 24. Down the road, we may marry manned
and unmanned. We're not there yet."

Which brings Moseley to the crucial decision
facing Israel regarding a fifth-generation
fighter, namely the up-and-coming F-35, to
replace the current F-15 and F-16. The F-35
it must be, since the only other "fifth gen,"
the F-22, is too expensive and has no export
version. Air forces, over and above the other
services, need a technological edge to
fulfill their missions - "to deter and
dissuade" opponents, so as to avoid the
costly climb up the "escalation ladder" and,
should they be unfazed by this swift and
terrible sword, to operate within their
airspace, achieve that strategic paralysis by
rendering their capability inoperative and
break their will to go on fighting.

For that, a fourth-generation fighter, such
as an F-15 or F-16, will no longer do,
because the adversary is "a check away" from
buying anti-air missiles and radars
off-the-shelf. And for certain countries and
organizations, money's no object.

At 60, with a solid career behind him -
though one that ended on a sour note - Buzz
Moseley does not sound vindictive. His
beloved F-15, which the Israel Air Force by
coincidence nicknamed "Buzz", is flown by his
son-in-law, while his son flies the F-22. The
air force is really his family. It is not for
him to indicate in a foreign country that he
wishes for certain personnel changes at the
top of the Pentagon. "Sure, a change in
person or in perspective could have an
effect" on policy, he says, for instance on

One presumes that after the November mid-term
elections, when Gates gets to the four-year
mark, the Obama administration could be in
for some interesting times.

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