Friday, December 11, 2015

Nuclear Strike of the Month (December 2015): Target Dabiq


Daesh and the Apocalyptic Battle at Dabiq

Note on the Nuclear Strike of the Month Series: In this series I want to illustrate various ways attacks using nuclear weapons can play out.  I will be using Dr. Alex Wellerstein's online NUKEMAP tool to generate the estimates of the blast and follow-on effects and we'll be turning to concepts found in Nuclear Emergencies to help evaluate consequences.

My rationale is to show a wide range of nuclear attack scenarios short of all-out thermonuclear war. The idea is to give readers a feel for the destructive power of nuclear weapons, provide scenarios as thought experiments for your own planning, and to discuss what nuclear weapons can and (sometimes more importantly) what nuclear weapons can't do.

For a variety of reasons, it is my opinion we will see nuclear weapons used in warfare sometime between now and 2030. We might as well brush up on the basics. 


Nuclear Strike of the Month:  Dabiq

This scenario takes Daesh at its word and envisions a battle centering on the town of Dabiq. In this scenario, Daesh forces have assembled in the area for a major showdown with the forces of "Rome".  In this instance, one or more of the nuclear powers involved in the conflict in "Syria" and "Iraq" come to the conclusion that detonating a nuclear warhead over the site is warranted.

In this scenario we are making an assumption that the various players in the multi-sided conflict in "Syria" and "Iraq" actually want to see Daesh defeated, or at least the nuclear powers have decided it is time.

The Scenario

After taking Aleppo, Russian and Syrian forces loyal to Assad shifted focus to the south, rolling up various groups while holding a line extending to Raqqa. A new U.S. administration backs away from its support for the proposed Qatari pipeline through Syria and begins aiding Iraqi and Iranian-backed forces in Iraq substantially as well as coordinating closely with Russian forces, leading to a slaughter in Ramadi and a bloodbath in Mosul, which puts Daesh on the run.

The roll-up of Daesh continued up and until the fall of Raqqa. Where an historic photo captures a U.S. Special Forces officer shaking hands with a Russian Spetznas officer over the dead body of an ISIS commander. 

Daesh forces retreat for a death-or-glory battle in Dabiq. In addition, sleeper cells in Russia, the U.S., the U.K., and France, conduct a series of near-simultaneous terrorist strikes against soft targets. Shopping malls, football stadiums, markets, and tourist hotels are targeted. The deaths number in the thousands.

The Attack 

After joint consultation between the leaders of the four countries, including observers from China and India, the United States launches an SLBM armed with a W88 warhead and detonates it over Dabiq.



Air Burst Over Dabiq

Not much to see in terms of this kind of attack modeling. The destruction would be vast. An air burst would allow for forces to move in post-detonation, though one would expect to give it a week or so just to minimize contamination.

For an alternative view, here is what the detonation footprint and fallout pattern look like for a ground burst:
Ground Burst at Dabiq

Ground Burst at Dabiq, regional view
As a ground burst would foul the headwaters of the Euphrates as well as deposit radionuclides in lakes and reservoirs Turkey depends upon, one would need to be very angry with Turkey (and Iraq to a degree) to contemplate a ground burst here. 

The Aftermath

I'll let you think about what an attack on what, to some of the Salafists, is the equivalent of Megiddo (that is, Armageddon) in their world view. The potential blowback in places like Saudi Arabia or Turkey could be immense.

Thoughts and Plans

My thoughts on this one are that while we continue to regard the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear opponent as unlikely, I wish to continue to remind you that when we make these historical phase changes - the U.S. in 1860, Europe in 1939, the USSR in 1991 - the "rules" the various elites have fashioned to help control situations in the old order go out the window.

There is another thought for you to ponder as well, and that is, as we've seen over the course of the Nuclear Strike of the Month series this year, nuclear weapons are extremely blunt instruments. The damage and slaughter they can do is immense, but there are many other factors in fighting a war than body counts.

NOTE: This is the final installment in the Nuclear Strike of the Month series. While I do expect to continue to blog on this topic, we have covered plenty of ground over the past year in terms of scenarios. Future work is expected to drill more deeply into specifics of handling a post-nuclear war environment or analyzing current events which might lead to an exchange.

Clown Show Disclaimer 

Due to the subject matter of this post, it will be necessary to provide the following disclaimer. Blog posts like this tend to bring out comment trolls ready to gin up the Clown Show of name-calling, knee-jerk willful misinterpretation, and angry discourse generating much sound and fury, but which in the end, signifies nothing. Such comments will be deleted. 

I am not promoting nuclear war. I am not attempting to wish such an attack upon any population anywhere.  I am attempting to provide a plausible scenario which might lead to the use of nuclear weapons. My expectation is that you will use this scenario to war game whatever plans you may be putting into place to deal with this new era we find ourselves in and see if you are as ready as you hope.

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