Wargaming for Iran

A possible conflict with Iran is the subject of a high level wargaming exercise.

Amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran over the future of Iran’s nuclear program, the Pentagon is planning a war game in July so officials can explore options for a crisis involving Iran. The July 18 exercise at National Defense University’s National Strategic Gaming Center will include members of Congress and top officials from military and civilian agencies. It was scheduled in August, before the latest escalation in the conflict, university spokesman Dave Thomas said.

It’s the latest example of how otherwise routine operations are helping the United States prepare for a possible military confrontation with Iran. On Tuesday, President Bush refused to rule out military action — even a nuclear strike — to stop Iran’s nuclear program. “All options are on the table,” Bush said in the Rose Garden.

The exercise is one of five scheduled this year, including others envisioning an avian influenza pandemic and a crisis in Pakistan. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started the exercises involving members of Congress in 2002 to help the legislative and executive branches discuss policy options. Such exercises do not involve military members simulating combat. Instead, officials gather for a daylong conference and discuss how to react to various events presented in a fictional scenario.


July’s war game will be the first on Iran to involve members of Congress, but several other military exercises have focused on Iran. Last week, for example, the British military confirmed a London newspaper’s report that it joined the United States in a July 2004 war game involving Iran at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. A report in The Guardian said U.S. and British officers played out a scenario involving a fictitious country called “Korona” with borders and military capabilities corresponding with Iran’s. Similarly, a 2003 Marine Corps planning document envisioned a conflict in 2015 with Korona, again a country corresponding to Iran. A 2004 war game coordinated by the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command featured an invasion of “Nair,” another Iran equivalent.

The inclusion of Members of Congress in these exercises is a brilliant stroke; it’s the kind of outside-the-box thinking for which Rumsfeld seldom gets credit.

And, clearly, the military took it seriously when the commander-in-chief designated Iran as one third of the infamous “Axis of Evil.” Good.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. We used to do a lot of this sort of thing with regards to Iraq in the late 90’s/early 2000’s (pre 9/11), too. I was personally at an excercise in 2000 that was essentially a routine training wargame, but used simulations of Iraqi borders and military as the basis of the training. I was actually working on some computer stuff for the “Red Team” (bad guys) air force (whose job, as Colonel Wagner explained to me, was basically “to die”).

    The US military is pretty good about taking in what seem to be the most likely future campaigns and training for them. Doesn’t mean they won’t miss something if we got into a conflict completely unexpectedly (say, Uruguay declared war on us tomorrow). But they like to plan as much as they can for the stuff that actually seems likely.

  2. Muslim Unity says:

    All these things won’t help the Pentagon. Iran is a very strong country. The best option for them would be to NOT attack and commit a huge mistake.

  3. McGehee says:

    The best option for Iran would be to quit playing with matches.

  4. anjin-san says:

    Don’t play with matches. Thats good advice for everyone. Look how Bush got us burned in Iraq…

  5. Blah, blah, blah. I remember Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings all predicting “between 20,000 and 30,000 deaths” before Baghdad fell.

    We were all still ready to go in with these “men of truth” giving us such grave figures — figures not contested by any high-ranking figure of our government.

  6. LJD says:

    Iran does have the resources for terrorist style attacks, to include suicide missions.

    However, in a conventional fight, they will lose even more horribly than Saddam. If they show their tanks, planes, AA radars, they will see what ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ is all about.