Defense Media Network

Lessons for Israel and Iran from “Persian Incursion”

Wargaming an Israeli attack

The jury’s still out on attacking the oil infrastructure instead of the nuke sites. Destroying 50 percent of the refining and terminal capacity will deprive the domestic economy of refined product and drastically reduce their supply of foreign cash, but those are hard events to model in a one-week game. Also, the long-term effects of a crippled oil industry are hard to reflect in a one-week period. Instead, we arbitrarily set the breaking point at 50 percent. Our thinking was, if the Israelis can make it 50 percent, they can probably go to 60 percent or even higher. It’s hard to model China’s reaction as well. Seeing one of its major sources of supply drying up, it might put pressure on the Iranians to sue for peace. Alternately, they could send Chinese units to defend the oil sites (not the nuclear installations, though).

Still, the oil network is there.


For the Iranian player

This is Israel’s game to win. All you have to do is not lose. Look at what Israel has to do (there’s more than one way) and then do whatever you can to frustrate his goals. You won’t be able to stop his air strikes, but you can make it a tactical victory instead of a decisive victory. Do that often enough and he’ll fall short of the finish line. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your air force, or your population’s one notch away from booting you out. Just keep it together until the last day and he has lost.

Don’t expect to win militarily. The ballistic missiles are not accurate enough, and the Palestinians aren’t strong enough to physically stop the Israel’s attacks. When making ballistic missile or terror attacks, go for what gets you the most political points, and don’t worry about any military results.

Sample Political Card

Sample political card.

Similarly, don’t expect your air defense to stop or even blunt an Israeli raid. Instead, use it as a way of generating political points by killing Israeli planes and pilots. That will mean unconventional tactics, and it will mean losing aircraft, and probably a lot of them, but there’s a reason only the Israeli player is penalized for losing aircraft. The Israeli player also doesn’t get any points for shooting you down.

Recognize that the Israelis have to go for a complete win in each strike. Their superiority is such that a conventional victory does not have enough of a psychological impact. If he doesn’t obliterate your facility, then he’ll either have to settle for a smaller win or re-strike to finish the job.

In the political arena, your two primary targets are Israeli domestic opinion and whoever is supporting the Israeli overflights. If you weaken Israeli domestic opinion enough, Israel has to play a conservative game, making sure that it doesn’t make the situation worse by losing pilots or failing to successfully destroy a target. If you change the supporter’s attitude enough, Israel can’t fly.

Save closing the Strait of Hormuz for the end game. It’s a defensive move, strategically, and the consequences of a backfire are so severe that it might cost you the game if you’re otherwise hanging on. On the other hand, if you’re on day five and the trends are against you, there’s not much to lose.


For Both Sides

Watch out for strategic events. They’re called “strategic” because they can be game-changers, literally. Look at the list and have a plan to deal with each one, or at least understand its effect.

Learn and work the maintenance rules for the aircraft you’re operating. Even if they’re not shot at, planes need care and attention.

Sample Aircraft Card

Sample aircraft card. Images courtesy of Clash of Arms Games

The Israelis are better off then the Iranians, certainly, but losing a few aircraft to maintenance gripes, or forgetting that you don’t have as many as the order of battle says you do, may find you in an unhappy place.

When choosing your upgrades, spend your points carefully. Does the Iranian player want to strengthen his pitifully weak air defenses (improved early warning, 40 points), or make the Israelis’ chance of success less (Improved air defense network, -2 on Suter table)? Getting GPS jammers reduces the hit chance of GPS-guided weapons, but the points will be wasted if the Israeli player takes the second-generation GPS-guidance upgrade.

The Israeli player may want to buy improved ballistic-missile defenses with upgrades to his Arrow and Iron Dome systems, but it’s a defensive move. The money could be spent on tankers, which are a limiter in how many squadrons can fly every day. Remember that tankers can break down, too.

To really know the benefits of the upgrades requires reading the rules and grasping the relationship between different military systems. This is about as non-political as it gets, but the key to Persian Incursion is that military results are transformed into political ones, and those are what will help you win or lose the game.

By the way, I’d love to hear about any games that you’ve played.

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    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-25124">
    Ulick mcEvaddy

    I agree with the strategy to hit hard and fast. The air defences are not formidable but should not be underestimated. Sanitise the air defences first before risking the strike package. Send multiple strikes in quick succession and miss no opportunity to deplete oil production refining capability as this depletes the domestic energy capability and takes a long period for restoration. Try to avoid as much population casualties as possible and the Iranian leaders may
    as you suggest realise they cannot win this war. Then they may realise the quest for a Nuclear
    capability is futile. The Sunni,such as Suudia Arabia can not afford a Shia nuclear bomb at their throats,so little chance of Sunni aggression against Israel. Bottom line is Israel can not afford to
    have Iran with a nuclear strike capability. The regime has handed Israel a ’cause belli’ as it’s President has declared he wants to wipe Israel from the map.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-25415">

    “Make sure your strike planners have studied the route …Learn and work the maintenance rules for the aircraft you’re operating…” I’m sorry, but that’s all you can come up with? These recommendations are ridiculous. Is this a strategic level war game or a middle school project?

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-25440">
    Shahbaz Minhas

    This Project ‘my foot’ should be left out in the “Elementary playground”. Dont bring it into the classroom, in case you teacher smacks your bottom with a 12-inch ruler.

    “Its a Complicated Subject” … sure it is.. you dont understand it.

    “Bang the Rocks together” … how long have you been simulating wargames ?

    I respect the Israeli Intelligence and their thorough planning … they are good !. For this to possibly succeed, its going to require not just ‘banging rocks together”, but a lot of smart heads working together and an even ‘a lot more luck’. I will be first to admit, how difficult this is.

    Nobody can predict the long-term outcome for the region, if the try and succeed and
    Nobody can predict the long-term outcome for the region, if the try and fail.

    It is already a powder-keg ,with an ‘open flame’ right there.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-25467">

    It surely is a complicated subject, but war gaming has a very, very long history of success in discovering the variables as well as determining some of the possible courses of action in any given scenario. It is a tool that has been used by militaries since the early 1800s, and a useful one.