Category ►►► Iran Matters

January 7, 2012

Does Social Santorum Trump Fiscal Santorum?

Abortion Distortion , Confusticated Conservatives , Fed Spending: to Infinity and Beyond! , Iran Matters , ¡ Rabanos Radiactivos!
Hatched by Dafydd

It's not an easy question for a non-conservative anti-liberal like myself to answer. First, I enthusiastically support some of Rick Santorum's social positions -- he promotes a more robust civil society; supports restricting legal marriage to traditional, one man-one woman; and he has offered bills to expand funding of adult stem-cell research and application.

But I recoil in horror from others, notably his demand that schools teach the "scientific alternative" to evolutionary biology (by which he means the thoroughly un-scientific and misnamed "intelligent design"); and he is completely opposed to embryonic stem-cell research funding, without consideration that such research can probably be done without destroying the embryos. (I'm using Wikipedia's list of some of his positions, though I did backtrack as much as possible to the primary-source interviews and Santorum's own site.)

But considering the second part of the question -- whether his positions on social issues are so extreme as to drive me away, despite his fairly good fiscal and foreign policies (which are at least somewhat better than Romney's) -- I'm on firmer ground. Santorum supports House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI, 96%) spending-cut plan and pushes for moderate reforms to Medicare and Social Security, but nothing spectacular like privatization (too bad). On the foreign-policy front, he supports the War Against Radical Islamism (WARI) and wants to bomb Iran's nuclear sites (good if he can pull it off, bad if he tries and fails).

So which side wins? Although I am appalled by what a friend of mine refers to as Santorum's "Flat-Earth Catholicism," I just don't think it would ever come up in a Rick Santorum presidency, not substantively. I doubt any state is going to attempt to outlaw "sodomy," adultery, or contraception; and even if it tried, surely the opinion of the POTUS would matter little if any in the ensuing court fight.

Where the social stances might really matter, however, is in the election itself. I'm not worried that President Santorum would install a "Nehemiah Scudder" style prophetic theocracy (though 2012 is the very year the Rev. Scudder takes over, according to Robert Heinlein's "future history" timeline!); but a great many voters might fear just that. Irrational, yes; but elections rarely turn on rational and logical cogitation alone. Would Santorum's goofier social stances so frighten away voters not on the religious right?

Yes, probably some. But how many? Fortunately, most of Santorum's apostasies from the norms of modern thought are fairly technical in nature, such as the distinction between science and so-called "intelligent design," which looms very large indeed within the real scientific community but likely induces nothing from the mass of voters but a puzzled "Eh?" Most of the social positions will just zoom along below the electoral radar.

I believe the biggest danger would be Santorum's suggestion that, contrary to the Supreme Court's decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, Americans have no fundamental right to privacy. Such a stance may make sense in a technical, legal sense, at least as the Court clumsily expressed the thought in the case in question; but the vast majority of Americans passionately believe that there exists a fundamental core of individual liberty, inside of which government may not legislate.

The Court shouldn't have called it "privacy;" and it certainly shouldn't have concluded (in Roe v. Wade) that the right of "privacy" includes the right to abort zygotes, foetuses, and even babies within minutes of being fully born. (Actually, I believe that last position is an abomination even under Roe; my, what progress we have made!) Ne'theless, nearly everybody agrees that there is an irreducible shell of personal liberty surrounding every man and woman that protects him from a totalitarian government run amok.

I can prove my case with a single example: Does anybody believe that it would be constitutional for a state to enact a law proscribing how many times per week a husband and wife are allowed to make love in their own home?

If you answer No, then you necessarily believe that (a) such a law breaches that fundamental core of individual liberty, the irreducible shell; and (b) there are inviolable limits to federal and state government beyond those explicitly written into the Constitiution.

To the extent that voters believe Rick Santorum's dismissal of a "right to privacy" means he rejects the irreducible shell of personal liberty described above, said voters will be very likely to vote for Barack H. Obama over the "theocratic" Rick Santorum.

Santorum's vital task, then, is to reassure Americans that his thinking on what most people envision when they hear the word "privacy" is still aligned within the mainstream of modern thought; that he does not advocate government control over aspects of life that the huge majority believe belong to the conscience of the individual, not the diktats of a Council of Experts.

If Santorum can assure voters -- including the arrogant author of this post -- that he is not a "Flat-Earther" on any social issue that really counts, then we might be persuaded to support him more than Mitt Romney. That is, until and unless Santorum's campaign collapses like all the other not-romneys before him.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2012, at the time of 3:10 AM | Comments (3)

November 30, 2010

Stuxnet Speculations and Wild Guesses

Iran Matters , ¡ Rabanos Radiactivos!
Hatched by Dafydd

I have no access to any information beyond unclassified media reports about the Stuxnet supervirus/superworm that has infected and largely frozen Iran's nuclear-enrichment program; but that won't stop me from making intelligent (?), semi-informed speculations and wild leaps of faith, in service to the science-fiction spirit embodied in this attack upon our greatest enemy by the world's first fully weaponized malware.

~

First of all, I am completely convinced (by discussions mostly here) that the malware was systematically developed by a black-ops skunk works that is part of some government... not by a lone-wolf genius, not by hackers, and not by a multinational corporation (unless it was working for some intelligence agency).

That reduces the source down to the usual targets. Iran claims it was attacked by Israel and the United States, and I think they're absolutely right. The other countries that might, might have the know-how to pull it off -- Russia, China -- have no plausible motive for doing so; while those countries that would be overjoyed to see such computational destruction of Iranian nuclear plans (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Eurostates, maybe India) really don't have the ability to weaponize malware to this extent. At least that's my opinion, take it for what it's worth.

~

Looking at the timeline, I see that the code was first discovered in Iran's enrichment hardware in June 2010. It must have been kicking around in less secure systems for many months before that, propagating and "adapt[ing] like the Borg," as commenter TimesDisliker in that Patterico comment thread put it; Symantec checked their archives and found a sample of Stuxnet going back a full year to June 2009. Symantec estimated that the actual development of the code would have taken about six months (early January, 2009); but they added the following disclaimer that pushes it back even further:

We estimate the core team was five to ten people and they developed Stuxnet over six months. The development was in all likelihood highly organized and thus this estimate doesn’t include the quality assurance and management resources needed to organize the development as well as a probable host of other resources required, such as people to setup test systems to mirror the target environment and maintain the command and control server.

Considering the blazing speed that characterizes military, bureaucratic, and administrative planning sessions and operational set-up, it's hard to imagine the total development process, from "Gee, wouldn't it be great if..." to a Stuxnet supervirus ready to be unleashed upon a hapless Ahmadinejad, taking less than a year's time -- at least back to June 2008, assuming that 2009 sample from Symantec wasn't already months old before they stumbled across it, and assuming the development didn't take longer than a year (including "bureaucratic standard time"). Therefore, the project must have started in the waning months of the George W. Bush administration, if not even earlier in Bush's second term.

~

Minor sub-thought: I was just on the phone with a friend, maintaining that, while Bush may or may not have known about it, I believe President Barack H. Obama was completely ignorant of Stuxnet; I think he was kept totally out of the loop for reasons that seem obvious to me: No one would trust the Obamacle or his minions with such intel because it would have been sent straight to Eric Lichtblau at the New York Times (or to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks), denounced as yet another Bush-era "crime against humanity;" or at least the Stuxnet developers would worry that it might. (Can we say Barack Manning? If you don't get that snark, look up "Bradley Manning" on Wikipedia.)

My phone conversationalist argued that Obama would have to have known, since he would have to have approved the project, would have been briefed on it by his subordinates and reports, and would have to be kept inside the loop. But the fact that the project likely started during the Bush administration removes those objections: Obama didn't need to approve it because it was already approved and funded by George W. Bush. Obama wouldn't have been briefed, because the outgoing administration probably never told the leftist, ideological, Iran kow-towning political appointees of the incoming about the ultra, code-word classified virus for fear it would be "Lichtblaued" the next week.

Barack Obama not only could have been kept out of the operational or even reporting loop, he should have been kept out. His national-security appointments alone reveal his unseriousness and fecklessness on the subject of the War Against Radical Islamism:

  • Consider Janet Napolitano as our joke Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Leon Panetta as our hapless Director of the Central Intelligence Agency;
  • Hillary Clinton as our ersatz Secretary of State;
  • Bob Gates, who has become the "Les Aspin" of the twenty-first century, loving the military but afraid to play with it lest it get broken;
  • Gen. James Jones, outgoing National Security Advisor, who spent his tenure alternating between being ignored by the president and crushing on Hillary;
  • Counselor Thomas E. Donilon, incoming National Security Advisor, whose major qualification for the post appears to be that he served as lawyer lobbyist for Fannie Mae;
  • And Attorney General Eric Holder, who has his own, personal defintion of "black ops."

Nobody on that list could ever have pulled the trigger; thus nobody in his right senses would hand over the keys to the Stuxnet program to the gang who couldn't shoot, straight or otherwise. Hence I seriously doubt that the Obamacle knew thing-one about this mission.

~

If we did collaborate with Israel on this project, which makes sense, I have an inkling of how that partnership shook out: I'll bet we supplied the ultimate software -- we're the chaps with the technological sophistication -- while the Israelis supplied the real-time infiltration and implantation of the supervirus.

We know to a near certainty that Mossad agents and local Iranians ideologically turned or bribed by Israel have penetrated the Uranium-enrichment program and other elements of Iran's nuclearization; where else would Israel have gotten all the targeting information for Iranian nuclear reactors and development sites, from Osirak in 1981 to Natanz and other sites today? Israel has a much more urgent motivation and better personnel to infiltrate Iran... native-born Iranian Jews working undercover in Tehran, for example.

In my fevered brain, I envison one Mossad agent, working with the CIA, discovers the Stuxnet malware he has been awaiting in that Belarusian company computer, having finally slithered its way into Iran, modifying and improving its code as it crawled. The agent arranges to be called in to eliminate the infestation. He cleanses every trace of it from the firmware -- but not before downloading the evolved version of Stuxnet into a thumbdrive.

He passes it through a series of cutouts to another Mossad agent, this one working at one of the major nuclear facilities -- perhaps in the same capacity as the evildoer Bradley Manning (I won't dignify him with his former, and obviously disregarded rank in the United States Army... and if you followed instructions above, you know by now who Bradley Manning is!) But instead of downloading classified documents to hurt his own country, this Mossad hero uploads the Stuxnet malware to Iran's nuclear computers to protect his real country, Israel, from nuclear annihilation.

(Note that even the anti-Bush CIA would probably love the Stuxnet project. Their vigorous and subversive objection to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stem from the CIA's parent entity, the State Department: Like State, CIA has a penchant for diplomacy and spycraft, not belligerency and warcraft. But this sort of thing is right up their traditional alley... more akin to the sneaky and precious moral ambiguity of John Le Carre than the straightforward fighting of David Petraeus.)

~

Finally, Iran would love to retaliate against us in the same way we attacked them (as I believe we did, and thank heavens!) -- with a rewritten version of Stuxnet that will attack our computers at the Air Force Global Strike Command or somesuch. But I don't think they have anywhere near the technological capability even to understand the fractal complexity and Borg-like adaptability of Stuxnet, let alone monkey with it to produce a counter worm. They're not very good at high tech; they even have to buy their missile technology from North Korea, roundabout from China.

But they're absolute wizards at creating jihadist cells, sneaking bombs into Western countries (including the United States), and inducing radical Islamists in Hamas or Hezbollah to blow themselves up in "martyrdom operations"... and that is how I believe they will strike back at us for this cyberattack, not with bytes but with bombs. Moreover, if I were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I would plan an attack not in New York or Los Angeles, nor Chicago nor Washington, D.C., but rather in America's heartland, the Midwest. In particular, I'm very nervous about an attempt to bomb, shoot up, or otherwise attack the largest shopping mall in the United States, in Bloomington, Minnesota: the temptingly named "Mall of America."

Great Caesar's ghost, but I hope local and federal lawn-forcement officials tremendously beef up security there, as well as other malls, sports stadiums, concert arenas, amusement parks, and tourist sites. If Iran flies into a rage and decides to kill Americans in as great a number as possible, I strongly suspect they will strike at the everyday lives of American civilians next time, not the well-guarded military and government elites, and not at Wall Street financiers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2010, at the time of 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2010

Is He Is, or Is He Ain't, Mahmoud's BFF?

Iran Matters , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

Speculation abounds that President Barack H. Obama plans to personally meet with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Gen James Jones, has indicated the President may be prepared to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if the regime resumed negotiations over its nuclear programme....

However, the President’s national security adviser said there would be “no point in a theatrical meeting.” It is unlikely that the Iranians will agree to the American’s demands as the regime has repeatedly circumvented previous attempts to rein in its nuclear programme.

Of course, if all that Ahmadinejad need do is agree to resume negotiations, or even have his team attend a couple of minor meet & greets, then perhaps the diminutive Iranian muppet could "negotiate" just long enough to get his tête-à-tête with the Obamunist, then drop him like a used Kleenex.

But the big money is already pouring in on a much more important "is he is or is he ain't" wager: Assuming they do meet -- will Obama bow to Ahmadinejad?

Recalling bad press of bows past, and mindful of his reelection campiaign in 2012, Obama may well go into the meeting bound and determined not to bow to the terrorist leader. But as such things often go, he may focus so much on not bowing, the subject of bowing rattling round his brain like a trite song you can't shake loose, that he walks firmly up to Ahmadinejad -- I will not bow to the little creep! -- sticks out a hand... and bows deeply at the waist.

If he does, it will of course be (you knew this was coming) a Freudian dip.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 12, 2010, at the time of 9:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2010

Obamic Shocker of the Day: U.S. Ships Sent Through Suez Canal, Evidently to Aid Israel Against Iranian Flotilla

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Egypt has allowed a mini-fleet of twelve warships -- eleven American and one Israeli -- to pass south through the Suez Canal, transitioning from the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The fleet includes the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz class supercarrier with 90 aircraft, both fixed-wing and helos.



Suez Canal

The Suez Canal cuts through Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea

The only viable route for the Iranian flotilla is down the Persian Gulf, southwest around Oman and Yemen, up the Red Sea, and north through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean; thus the U.S./Israel fleet is forward-positioning itself in between the Iranian ships and the canal:

International agreements require Egypt to keep the Suez open even for warships, but the armada, led by the USS Truman with 5,000 sailors and marines, was the largest in years. Egypt closed the canal to fishing and other boats as the armada moved through the strategic passageway that connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas.

Despite Egypt’s reported refusal to block the canal to Iranian boats, the clearance for the American-Israeli fleet may be a warning to Iran it may face military opposition if the Iranian Red Crescent ship continues on course to Gaza.

I'm somewhat amazed that Barack H. Obama has evidently decided to side with the Israelis against the Iranians; but certainly it's a welcome shift. Although a shooting war is unlikely, the Israeli and American ships could board the Iranian vessels and search them. One hopes that this time, they won't bring paintball guns to a bludgeon fight.

In another strike obviously orchestrated by Iran, one or two Lebanese vessels have set out to attempt to break the Israeli blockade; the ships are doubtless controlled by Hezbollah, Iran's pet terrorist organization that also infests Syria, and through them Lebanon -- though of course Lebanon denies there are any Hezbollah aboard:

Israel has warned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Israel will use force, if necessary, to stop the boats, one of which is carrying approximately 70 women passengers and crew organized by Hizbullah support Samar al-Hajj. Her husband is one of several jailed suspects involved in the assassination for former Lebanese anti-Syrian Prime Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah has denied it is connected with the Lebanese flotilla, but it has been reported that Al Hajj met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month.

As Matt Drudge likes to say, "developing..."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 20, 2010, at the time of 1:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 7, 2010

Bring It On, Mullah-Boy

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

My favorite blogger on my favorite blog posted a short squib about a bizarre threat from Iran against Israel, emanating from the penumbra of the New York Times:

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are ready to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday.

"Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities," Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative inside the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

John Hinderaker noted that, "[t]he prospect of a Revolutionary Guards escort tells you all you need to know about the "peace and freedom convoys." But I think we can go farther than that: If the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy carries through on its threat, it would be the most catastrophic military blunder in the Middle East since Saddam Hussein's defiance.

At the moment, the Islamists in Turkey and Iran are squeezing some bad PR out of Israel by encouraging terrorists and their allies to send "peaceful" convoys of "peace activists" to break the Gaza blockade... in reality, to provoke some intemperate Israeli response to add another whiney complaint to the EU/U.N. grievance parade. It annoys Israel and could lead to some serious problems if, for example, Egypt decides to lift its side of the blockade along the Egypt-Gaza border.

But the bad PR depends upon the half-believable fantasty that Israel uses "disproportionate force" in attacking pacifist priests, politicians, and imams. While the videotape of the enforcement of the blockade belies this fiction, the left-stream media can always ignore the feed and tendentiously redefine reality:

Last Monday Israeli troops killed nine activists on board one ship in a convoy trying to deliver aid to Gaza, sparking international outrage, especially in Muslim countries.

But if the Iranian navy itself tries to run the blockade, guns blazing and missiles flying, that turns the entire world-view upside-down: No longer will it be a case of Israel the bully slaughtering a bunch of non-violent "peace activists;" now it will clearly be a brazen military attack by Iran upon another country, hundreds of miles away. Not even the Times could spin that as Israel again responding with "disproportionate force!"

But that's not all; consider the assault itself. Iran's last significant military encounter was the Iran-Iraq war -- which ended in stalemate a generation ago. Millions were immolated in both Iran and Iraq to no strategic purpose whatsoever; both countries still struggle to recover. Since 1988, Iran's primary military activity has been infiltration of the Qods Force here and there (mostly in Iraq) and financing terrorism by Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and of course Hezbollah.

Contrariwise, Israel has fought actual wars several times since then, primarily in Lebanon and Gaza; that's a lot of recent combat experience. Too, Israel's economy is in better shape than Iran's, which is almost entirely state-run.

I'm fairly certain that in a real shooting war so close to Israel, the Israeli navy and air force would swiftly send the Iranian fleet to Ali Jones' locker.

Such a defeat would shatter Iran's claim to be the "strong horse" in the Middle East. If the world gets a lucky break, the international embarassment of the almighty ayatollahs might foment uprisings against them, perhaps even the overthrow of the "revolutionary," theocratic government -- a faint hope, I'll grant, but pleasant to contemplate.

And the likely scenario just keeps getting better and better: In addition to the humiliation of Iran, Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's hand would be dramatically strengthened at home and abroad:

  • A direct attack by Iran upon the Israeli fleet would drive even the putative peaceniks in Israel to support Likud's strong defense policy, and away from the usual paeans for the "peace process." Support for the Israeli Labor and Kadima parties would plummet, and Likud might control the Knesset for a generation.
  • Supporters of the Palestinians, the Islamist Turks, and Iran would be emasculated, either by the attack itself -- proving that the "peace activists" were either dupes or the original aggressors -- or at the very least by the mortifying defeat of the Revolutionary Guard fleet at the hands of a bunch of Israelis. The strong horse/weak horse dynamic of Arabia and Persia would drive them to pull back in disarray, curbing imperial dreams for a long time.

I believe war between Israel and Iran is inevitable anyway; it's best to bring it on now, prematurely for the Iranians, rather than hold off and wait until Iran's economy improves and it becomes a full-fledged nuclear power.

So go ahead, Mullah-Boy; send your fleet to try to crack the Israeli blockade. It would be the best possible move you could make... for Israel, the United States, and the rest of the West, that is.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 7, 2010, at the time of 2:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 1, 2010

The Shape of Stings to Come

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Missile Muscle , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Dafydd

AP just can't bring itself to refer to either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization. It's an open question, mustn't prejudge!

The strongest that the Associated Press can muster is to refer to Hamas "militants" and "fighters" from PIJ. And of course, the "news" agency uncritically repeats claims by Islamist Moslem nations and traditional Israel-haters in France that the Israelis violated "international law" with their "massacre" of innocents in the flotilla of "peace activists":

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [of Turkey], an outspoken critic of Israel, told lawmakers Tuesday that the Israeli raid was an attack "on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace."

"This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," he said, demanding that Israel immediately halt its "inhumane" blockade of Gaza.

Turkey demanded that the U.S. condemn the raid. The White House has reacted cautiously, calling for disclosure of all the facts.

Timidly would be the better word.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn the unspecified "use of force" and violent "acts;" the United States has veto authority within the Security Council, but the Barack H. Obama administration refused to exercise that right, instead pushing only for a wishy-washy, "on the one hand, on the other hand" statement that found guilt without deciding which side was guilty, or in what proportions:

“The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza,” the statement said, adding that the 15-member body “in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss” of lives.

The wording seemed designed to dilute demands for condemnation exclusively of Israel, which argues that its soldiers acted in self-defense in response to violent resistance to their interception of the vessels from passengers on board.

Unwilling to let the crisis go to waste, the Security Council also demanded -- with American acquiescence, probably passive -- that Israel essentially lift the blockade and allow the "sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza":

“The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel,” the United Nations statement said, calling for “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”

It also said the situation in Gaza, under blockade by Israel, was “not sustainable” and called for a “sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza, as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.”

On the broader Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, the Security Council renewed calls for a two-state solution and voiced concern that the raid on the flotilla took place while United States-sponsored so-called “proximity talks” were under way.

Presumably, the Israelis should allow any number of ships to pass directly to Gaza "unimpeded" for however long it takes for our "proximity talks" to bring about the desired "two-state solution." That is, so long as the Palestinians remain intransigent, Israel should not be allowed to defend itself; as soon as the Palestinians come to their senses and stop trying to exterminate all Jews, then Israel will be allowed to enforce its (then-unnecessary) blockade.

It's a position that makes perfect sense in the Era of Obamunism!

Two significant events occurred today: First, Egypt unexpectedly decided to lift its own land blockade of the border crossings between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, at least for a few days, allowing virtually unfettered movement of men and materials back and forth; there is no indication the Egyptian security officials are even making sure Iranian missiles are kept out of Gaza. They claim this is for humanitarian purposes, but I think it clear it's really designed to punish Israel.

Second, the peace activists of the religion of peace sent out another boat to try to run the blockade. Their plan should be clear by now:

  • Three or four more "unarmed" vessels full of peaceniks (recreationally chanting "kill the Jews") will assail the blockade.
  • Each attempt will provoke more "violence," other "massacres," more "raids." (And since when does enforcing a publicly announced blockade constitute a raid?)
  • Every such use of "disproportionate force" will ratchet up world demand for an end to the blockade.
  • Eventually (this part is mere wishful thinking on the part of Hamas and its sponsor, Iran -- I hope!) Israel will be forced by mounting world fury to withdraw its sea-based defense.
  • Once that happens -- the next humanitarian aid ship to Gaza will transport thousands of advanced Scud missiles, the same type that Iran and Syria have been openly shipping to Hezbollah in recent months.
  • Then all of Israel, including every major Israeli city, will fall within range of Hezbollah or Hamas missile attacks.

The U.N. should be pleased if Israel no longer commands disproportionate force but is matched by exterminationist terrorist organizations -- pardon me, I meant "militant" groups of "fighters." The endless series of complaints against Israel will have achieved their ultimate aim; when the inevitable, Iran-led, fourth holy war begins, no country will dare stand up for the Jews... lest Iran decide to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, blockading much of the world's oil.

Say -- perhaps StratFor's traditional conclusion that "doom is nigh" will turn out to be accurate after all!

Thank goodness we have such a strong Commander in Chief, such a great admirer of Israel; otherwise, we might have to worry that America may no longer exercise its veto authority in the UNSC to protect the Jewish state -- and might even join the world-wide movement to force Israel into a suicide-pact "peace treaty" with next-door neighbors who want nothing more than the obliteration of world Jewry and will not even take the most basic step of renouncing terrorism and jihad against Israel. We might pressure our beleagured, erstwhile ally into the existential error of "a treaty at any cost."

But I'm sure we can rely upon the strength of character and excellent primal instincts of President Barack Hussein Obama II to rescue us from such a fate. He saved us from health care, didn't he?

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 1, 2010, at the time of 3:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 21, 2010

Russia Yanks the Football Away

Iran Matters , Missile Muscle , Russkie Resurgence
Hatched by Dafydd

Examples of President Barack H. Obama's brilliant, inspired foreign policy just keep a-comin'...

A draft U.N. resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran, including limits on global arms transfers, will not block the controversial transfer of Russian S-300 missiles to the Iranian military, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

The Obama administration had opposed the S-300 sale because the system is highly effective against aircraft and some missiles. The CIA has said the S-300 missiles, which have been contracted by Tehran but not delivered, will be used to defend Iranian nuclear facilities.

Whoops! Somehow, the Obamacle seems not to have forseen that the Soviet Union Russian Republic would once again pull the football away just as Barack "Charlie Brown" Obama tries to kick it. But what clever trick, what devious ploy, what occult conspiracy did they employ to flummox our genius president this time?

A key provision in the resolution made public this week states that all U.N. member states will agree to block sales or transfers of weapons. It lists tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft, warships and "missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms."

A close reading of the missile section of the register defines those included in the ban as missiles and launchers for guided rockets, and ballistic and cruise missiles, and missile-equipped remotely piloted vehicles. However, the register states that the missile system category "does not include ground-to-air missiles," such as anti-aircraft missiles and anti-missile interceptors like the S-300.

Whew, that was sneaky; can't blame Team Obamarama for missing that one! Who on Earth would think of actually reading the U.N. Register that defined exactly which weapons were prohibited by the new sanctions regime?

In any event, the Russians assured B.O. that they would continue to "show 'vigilance and restraint' on arms sales;" so what's to worry? I'm sure they won't send the S-300s to their client state/proxy in the Middle East: That would give the Russia-Iran Axis an unfair advantage over all the other oil-producing nations in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

But there's another point that seems a touch worrisome. Mull on this:

Yevgeni Khorishko, a Russian Embassy spokesman, said his government is aware that the draft resolution does not ban sales of air-defense systems. "The S-300s is not prohibited," he said. "It is not on the list of prohibited items."

Mr. Khorishko said that for unspecific "technical reasons" the S-300 contract will not be implemented at this time.

"At this time." Let's put a few facts on the table and see if anyone salutes them:

  1. Obama and the Russians just negotiated the New! Improved! Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, cleverly titled New START.
  2. One of Russia's major demands was that we scrap the Europe-based anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. George W. Bush initiated the program to emplace a radar installation in the Czech Republic and ten interceptors in Poland, in order to stymie Iran, should it get a nuclear-missile arsenal after all.
  3. After threats from Russia, Obama canceled that version last September, replacing it with a similar though imaginary land-and-sea program. (I don't believe he has gotten as far as picking fictitious sites for the imaginary radar or interceptors yet.)
  4. Buoyed by their previous success, the Russians wanted us to kill the new program, too; but B.O. refused to cancel it outright. Russia is very, very unhappy about the prospect of an ABM system to protect us and what few allies we have left from Iranian nuclear threats.
  5. Along come the Iran sanctions... and for some odd reason, Obama agrees to a regime that does not prohibit Russia from selling one of its most advanced ABM systems to Iran, a system that would make it virtually impossible to take out said Iranian nuclear arsenal.
  6. But the Russkies don't deliver it right away; instead, they say that "technical reasons" are holding things up. "At this time," that is; for the future, who can tell?
  7. So we haven't deployed our ABM system in Europe yet... and the Russians haven't yet deployed theirs in Iran.

Is it just barely possible that Russia might, you know, offer a "deal?" And that Obama might accept the swap -- we kill ours if they kill theirs -- and then crow to the American people this November that he got the Russians to "back down" on arming Iran with an ABM system?

Wait a minute... who yanked away that football anyway... President Dmitry Medvedev, or President Barack Obama? I don't know, but I sure feel like we're the ones lying flat on our backs.

 



Charlie Brown and the Football

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 21, 2010, at the time of 1:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2010

Going Wobbly

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

One reason I've never been able to warm up to Stratfor is the persistent gloominess and despondency it exudes. George Friedman and his mopy men must have published an optimistic analysis of some world event somewhere, somewhen; but danged if I can recollect any. For the most part, any Stratfor paper can be reduced to the following abstract: Doom is nigh!

Victory is never an option

Lately, however, the entire organization appears to be in utter despair. Take today; Friedman was a guest on Dennis Prager's radio show, and he made the following points:

  1. We cannot possibly stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons; it's inevitable.
  2. Even without nukes, Iran's conventional forces mean it can dominate the entire Middle East at will.
  3. If we were even to try to take out Iran's nuclear sites, it would mine the entire Strait of Hormuz; this would stop 25% of the world's oil market from flowing, which would raise oil prices beyond $400 or $500 a barrel... which would utterly destroy all Western economies, including our own.
  4. There is nothing Israel can do in response to a Hezbollah chemical attack except hunker down and hope that some of Israel's population survives. Hezbollah probably cannot kill every Israel; some would surely remain.

From these "realistic" (that is, terminally pessimistic) assessments and analyses, Friedman made the following recommendation, near as I can recall. This is of course my own phrasing, not Friedman's; but I believe it amounts to a reasonably fair summary of what it appeared to me Friedman proposed:

Since the United States is pulling out its troops, we have no power at all in the Middle East anymore. Israel cannot help us, and we cannot help Israel. Therefore, the only course of action available to us is to cut a deal with Iran.

Since we have no power to threaten Iran, we'll have to accept whatever terms Iran dictates. We will have to recognize and acknowledge Iran as the ruling player in the Middle East; if we're contrite enough, Iran may allow us to have the oil we need to survive.

As for Israel, it must cut the best deal it can with Hezbollah and hope that some Israelis will be allowed to depart in peace. America's moment is passed; the Young Turks (and Persians) will be the new masters of the world.

Friedman went on to predict, following a second question from Prager, that the European Union was fated to shatter apart. Most of Europe will sink into the State of Nature described in Hobbes' Leviathan, where those few remaining lead lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." However, some countries will do very well: Germany will probably prosper; but the biggest winner will be Russia, which will end up ruling all of Europe, eastern and western.

We must cut a deal with the Russian bear as well. But see, at least we get a choice: America can become a client state of either Russia or Iran!

Needless to say, I find such despair mongering less than convincing. I note that George Friedman left a number of circumstances out of his calculations.

Iran's deathgrip on the world's oil supply

First, he never once mentioned the staggering oil wealth we ourselves have, right here in our own backyard. Besides the Gulf of Mexico, the Santa Barbara coast, and ANWR -- which by itself comprises nearly as much oil as in all of Iran, and not counting the 20 billion barrels of oil (bbl) we already have at our disposal (should we ever choose to dispose of them) -- we also have something in great abundance that most members of OPEC have scantily or completely lack: oil-shale deposits.

The four largest oil-shale reserves are in the United States; combined, they're the equivalent of more than two trillion bbl. By way of comparison, the combined liquid oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, Venezuela, Russia, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Algeria, Brazil, and Mexico are less than 1.2 trillion bbl.

So a better way to phrase Friedman's point 3 above is that, if we take out Iran's nukes, then inexplicably allow them to mine the Strait of Hormuz without a fight, we would be forced to begin drilling in our own vast territory -- and selling oil to our allies, who could no longer travel to the Persian Gulf. (Of course, that means we would get those trillions of petrodollars, instead of Iran; what a shame!) And if the price indeed rose sufficiently, it would spur us to begin extracting oil from shale, inventing whatever techniques are necessary to make it practical and profitable.

Not to mention giving us a real incentive to develop high-temperature ceramic engines to burn gasoline much more efficiently, something I've been writing about since the halcyon days at Patterico's Pomposifications, half a decade ago.

Then there's coal liquifaction, nuclear fission, solar-power satellites, and many other energy sources that don't require us to kow-tow to our enemies, begging them to supply us with oil. The current system is untenable anyway: Why entrust our entire economy to countries that would as soon see us dead as the proverbial clam?

Instead of using our energy fragility as an excuse for doing nothing in the face of threats and provocations, murders of our troops and aiding and abetting our enemies... why not use our weakness as a spur towards complete energy self-sufficiency? That's the American way of responding to an impossible situation: change the rules of the game to allow us to win!

Rather than being a deal killer, Iran's threat can turn out to be an utter game changer... pushing the United States to a much stronger position of world leadership even than we enjoy today. It's not a setback, it's a challenge.

Military muscle

Likewise, Friedman's burbling threnody of despair assumes that if Iran decides to mine the Strait, there's nothing we can do about it. If we try to attack Iran's missile and nuclear sites, we'll fail. If Hezbollah shoots Scuds with chemical warheads at Israel, the Jewish state can only cower in the dark and wait for Armageddon.

He seems to have little faith in American, Israeli, and in general Western fighting spirit. I have greater.

Some years ago, I discussed a military strategy for use against Iran that I dubbed the Herman Option, after historian Arthur Herman, who wrote about it. Here is an extensive excerpt from that 2007 post...

~

Take a moment to look at this map of the Persian Gulf:



Persian Gulf

Iran: Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz

The narrow pinch of the Strait of Hormuz on the far right of the Gulf -- about 20 miles wide, with two 1-mile wide sea lanes for tanker traffic -- controls delivery of about a quarter of the entire world's daily oil production. It is staggeringly important to the entire world.

The biggest fear about Iran is that, in response to an attack on their nuclear development sites, they might strike back with a catastrophic terrorist attack in the strait: Iran, Hezbollah, or both could attack an oil supertanker at the narrowest part of the strait, sinking the huge ship and sealing the passage for perhaps years... and as a serendipitous side effect, causing the worst environmental disaster in human history (I'm sure the Iranian mullahs lose sleep over that one).

There is reason to fear this option: the Iranians themselves have practically boasted about it. In Arthur Herman's Commentary piece linked above, he notes this quite matter of factly:

In April of this year, as if to drive the point home, Iranian armed forces staged elaborate war games in the Gulf, test-firing a series of new anti-ship missiles capable of devastating any tanker or unwary warship. In the boast of one Iranian admiral, April’s “Holy Prophet war games” showed what could be expected by anyone daring to violate Iran’s interests in the Gulf. A further demonstration of resolve occurred in August, when Iran fired on and then occupied a Rumanian-owned oil platform ostensibly in a dispute over ownership rights; in truth, the action was intended to show Western companies—including Halliburton, which had won a contract for constructing facilities in the Gulf—exactly which power is in charge there.

A 30-page document said to issue from the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy (NDAJA), and drawn up in September or October of last year, features a contingency plan for closing the Hormuz Straits through a combination of anti-ship missiles, coastal artillery, and submarine attacks. The plan calls for the use of Chinese-made mines, Chinese-built missile boats, and more than 1,000 explosive-packed suicide motor boats to decimate any U.S. invasion force before it can so much as enter the Gulf. Iran’s missile units, manned by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, would be under instruction to take out more than 100 targets around the Gulf rim, including Saudi production and export centers.

As Herman notes, "contingency" plans are just that, and may never come to fruition; but clearly, Iran is thinking along these lines. And why not? How could they more seriously hurt the West than to shut off the black gold (Teheran tea) that we depend upon? (I'm sure the mullahs have followed with great glee the GOP's bootless efforts to open up a teensy-tiny fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to clean, modern oil extraction... along with the Gulf of Mexico and the California coast; the efforts were of course thwarted by the then-minority Democrats, who were rewarded for their intransigence by being voted into the majority.)

But on the other hand, as the saying goes, "a plan betrayed is a plan denied." The Persian Gulf is a two-edged scimitar. Herman again:

Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.

But -- and herein lies a fruitful irony -- so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs’ oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran’s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran’s power -- and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country’s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.

On a nutshell, Iran thinks of the PG as the lever by which it will move the world; but in reality, to a truly modern nation such as the United States, the Gulf is the lever by which the rest of the world will move Iran.

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

~

While it's clear Iran threatens to mine the Strait if we attack, it's by no means a sure bet that it will succeed; in fact, we have a very good counterstrategy at our fingerends, the Herman Option. In addition, Iran would be cutting its own throat -- which means the very threat itself may be nothing more than a monumental bluff.

There is yet another George Friedman dog in the night that doesn't bark. When discussing Hezbollah and its chemical-tipped Scuds, why did he never even mention the possibility of missile defense? For heaven's sake, has anyone thought that it might possibly have occurred to Israel that Syrian Hezbollah could shoot missiles at them from Lebanese territory?

I strongly suspect that Israel has invested a lot of time and treasure in developing anti-missile systems, particularly for fast, short-distance use -- from Lebanon to Tel Aviv, for example. What logic in assuming that all or even most of the missiles will successfully strike their targets?

But beyond missile defense, would Syria really risk such an aggressive move into all-out, existential war, knowing that in such a dire circumstance, Israel would not make any distinction whatsoever between Hezbollah terrorist targets in Lebanon -- and Syrian military, C3I, and political targets in Damascus?

Deterrence still deters, especially when dealing with a non-jihadist, eminently practical king such as Bashar Assad.

Knowing what is at stake -- that is, what will be at stake, when we have a new Commander in Chief in 2013 -- I believe Iran's and Syria's deeds will not quite live up to their invective. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks a great fight.

George Friedman obviously knows all of this; but his interlocutor, Dennis Prager, probably does not, nor does most of Dennis' audience. Shouldn't Friedman have mentioned the positive side of the ledger? Alas, he did not; he limned only the gloomy, pessimistic part of the painting. It's hard not to conclude that he has an agenda... and a good understanding of the whole picture would just get in the way of "the fierce urgency of now."

It all boils down (as oft it doth) not to some technical measure of strength or military might, but rather to our will to fight. And it's exactly that "will to fight" that despairing, defeatist analyses directly attack: If we think we can't win, defeat becomes a self-fulfilling default position.

"Fear is the mind killer."

"Fear is failure and the forerunner of failure."

Fear is a living thing: Feed it, stroke it, heed it, and it grows; starve it and it weakens and dies. Honestly, we need more Petraeuses and a lot fewer George Friedmans; I'm afraid the one of the latter we have plays directly into the hands of our Cowardly Lyin' president.

Expect the exeptional

All this whining and whimpering like whipped dogs is unbecoming the world's only hyperpower. Such despair is not only illogical, not only plays into our enemies' hands, but most important, it's unAmerican. Only those who voluntarily surrender can be ultimately defeated; that is the deepest secret. So long as we stand and fight our fate, Fate is unbound.

Should we go gentle into that bad night? Or should we burn and rave at close of day? If you're an American, there's no need to ask; when the time comes, we'll know what to do. And it will never include signing a suicide pact with Iran to buy us a few more years of subjugation.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 18, 2010, at the time of 1:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 19, 2010

Emptying My Thimble

Domestic Terrorism , Iran Matters , Movie Madness and Fractured Flickers , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities , Tea Leaves , ¡ Rabanos Radiactivos!
Hatched by Dafydd

Over on my favorite blog, Power Line, Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk has a series of posts called something like "emptying my spindle." The phrase, for those of you younger than Scott (i.e., born after 1907), a spindle is a vicious spike sticking up out of a flat base; the idea -- horrific even to imagine in today's Nerfworld -- is to take important memos (printed on paper!) in one's hand and jam them onto the spike with a lusty whack, where they will stick... along with your hand, if your aim be unsteady. Having been "dealt with," said memos are promptly forgotten until until Doomsday.

To empty or clear one's spindle is thus to go through one's old business and respond belatedly to urgent matters that should have been taken care of months ago. Scott uses the phrase to mean going back through his voluminous file of posts he meant to make but didn't, and write some quick and pithy abstract of his thoughts on the subject, jamming two or three hundred essays into a single post, like a fossil-rich sediment layer.

Well, I don't have a spindle-full of such ancient pith, but I think I can scrape together at least a thimble-full of comtemporary stories about which I have a milliliter or so of fresh pith. So here goes nothing!

A man, a plan, a genocide -- Ahmadinejad!

Secretary of Defense and Bush leftover Robert Gates says President Barack H. Obama has no plan for what to do when Iran gets its nukes. Doesn't that make your chest swell with ideological pride?

A memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the White House warned that the United States lacks a nimble long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program, according to a published report.

Gates wrote the three-page memo in January and it set off efforts in the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies to come up with new options, including the use of the military, The New York Times said in its Sunday editions, quoting unnamed government officials.

But of course, now that Obama's own SecDef has called attention to the gaping hole in our nuclear policy -- whoops, forgot all about that Iran thing -- surely the White House is rushing to rework our strategic posture to take into account this fairly likely scenario, yes? Well, not exactly:

White House officials Saturday night strongly disagreed with the comments that the memo caused a reconsideration of the administration's approach to Iran.

"It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told The Associated Press. "This administration has been planning for all contingencies regarding Iran for many months."

Ah, contingencies. So what contingencies are in place to deal with a nuclear Iran?

One senior official described the memo as "a wake-up call," the paper reported. But the recipient of the document, Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, told the newspaper in an interview that the administration has a plan that "anticipates the full range of contingencies."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, who did not confirm the memo Saturday night, said the White House has reviewed many Iran options.

"The secretary believes the president and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran," Morrell said.

Well, that certainly clears the air!

This is one area where President Obama actually has an opinion beyond voting "present." The man is so pure and adamant in his hatred of nuclear weapons that he refuses -- on principle, one must surmise -- to think about them... even to the extent of how to respond if the world's most beligerent and most anti-democratic, and most Jew-hating regime on the planet perfects them. To plan a response is to accept the existence of atoms, which is anathema to the Obamacle.

Rather, the administration's policy appears to be cajole, beg, threaten... wash, rinse, and repeat, ad infinitum. And if Iran doesn't listen?

Gates and other senior members of the administration have issued increasingly stern warnings to Iran that its nuclear program is costing it friends and options worldwide, while sticking to the long-held view that a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be counterproductive.

See? "Stern warnings": They do have a plan after all.

Renewing his bows

Speaking of the One Himself, Barack Obama has been bowing recently to all and sundry. From the Heisei emperor of Japan, Akihito, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to President Hu Jintao of China, Obama has groveled to them all.

This chaps my hide. What's next... will our president crawl on his hands and knees, scourging and debasing himself (or more likely George W. Bush) in penance for America's sins?

But I tell you this: The day Obama bows to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, I will forever refer to the Windy City community oorganizer as "President Hussein."

You may think it petty; I see it as symbolic... let the world know that he will have chosen up sides.

The mad tea-bash

Bill Clinton, in a fit of retro triangulation cleverly timed to remind us why we really don't miss that administration, has just equated tea-party rallies to the Oklahoma City bombing:

"What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold - but that the words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious [read: Democrats] and the delirious [Republicans] alike. They fall on the connected [liberals] and the unhinged [neo-conservative running-dog imperialists] alike," he said.

He warns the country against that lunatic fringe of "tea partiers" who hurl incendiary rhetoric like "Taxed Enough Already" and "repeal the bill." But here's the point missed by throwback leftists such as Mr. C.:

"I'm glad they're fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think that all you have to do is read the paper every day to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled," he said.

He also alluded to the anti-government tea party movement, which held protests in several states Thursday. At the Washington rally, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota railed against "gangster government."

Clinton argued that the Boston Tea Party was in response to taxation without representation. The current protesters, he said, are challenging taxation by elected officials, and the demonstrators have the power to vote them out of office.

No, actually, they don't; at least in most states, voters cannot recall their U.S. senators and representatives willy nilly as they please (nor do I wish they could). To set the record straight, we have the power to vote some of them out of office six months from now... but not right now.

Alas, in the upcoming demi-year, the Progressivist supermajority can do incalculable and irreversible damage to the United States of America. And we haven't even mentioned the horror that will attend the lame-duck session following the election, when scores of Democrats will know that their careers are ruined anyway... so why not be hanged for an entire abattoir of swine as be hanged for a single sheep?

Clinton says he isn't asking for us to censor ourselves, just tone down the demands; but freedom of speech includes not only the right to present the case for fiscal sanity, but also the right to do so colorfully and dramatically.

When the Left regularly drops F-bombs and N-words, plays the race card like a permanent joker, flashes its get out of jail free card to be exempt from all consequences of its actions and its own violent rhetoric, and encourages its members to confabulate wild, unsubstantiated urban legends for no reason other than to paint Republicans as ogres and cannibals... then why should the anti-Left be restricted to mild, hesitant argumentation, accompanied by much apology and forelock tugging?

I say, unconstrain your rhetoric, so long as you target the real culprits. Let the Left start responding with rational and logical debate, instead of special pleading and threats. Let a thousand points of light bloom. That may not be the Chicago way, but it's the American way.

Frame by frame

I had a fascinating revelation yesterday, what I shall call an "utterly obvious profundity."

Sachi and I were driving through an old section of town, one that was more or less intact from the twenties and thirties. As I looked at the buildings, I abruptly realized something: That world really was just as colorful and three-dimensional as today's. It's just that our only visual window into that world -- movies -- has a narrow aperature and happens to be in black and white.

While Cagney and Bogie and all the rest pursue their violent courses within a noir world of shadow, the real inhabitants of that spacetime locus wandered through the same colors, more or less, as we do today. (By the same token, when Enrico Casuso sang, his voice was not scratchy and drowned out by vinyl or wax hiss; that is simply an artifact of the recording medium.)

Perhaps this just proves my own banality; but I believe more people than myself subconsciously envison yesteryear as we've always seen it on late-night TV: grainy, black and white, occasionally silent, always narrowly constrained to the TV's dimensions... and constantly interrupted by adverts for Cal Worthington and his dog Spot.

My thimble is empty. Tally ho.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2010, at the time of 5:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 25, 2010

Why the Rush to Blame Mossad - Other Than Anti-Israel Paranoia?

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Terrorist Attacks , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The world still roils over the assassination of Hamas senior commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai; perhaps a better word would be "hyperventilates":

Last week, Israel's ambassador to Britain was called in for an official reprimand by the Foreign Office. In Dubai, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of police for the emirate, has said he is "99 percent" sure that operatives of the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, killed Mr. al-Mabhouh.

But I still haven't seen a single shred of evidence that Mossad, Israel's premier agency for intelligence, covert ops, and counter-terrorism, was behind the bizarre scheme... and several tantalizing bits indicating that they weren't:

  • In general, the hit job was too elaborate, too complex, too Byzantine. Gas? Guns? Electrocutions? This is silly.
  • The 26-member hit squad was far too large for the job; that scrum was almost guaranteed to be found out!
  • The killers were clumsy enough to be caught on surveillance video, which seems very unlike the highly professional Mossad.
  • They stole the identities of real Israeli citizens. Far from pointing the finger at Mossad, I believe this curious fact points firmly away from that agency; why would they intentionally implicate their own citizens?
  • And a new piece of intel I'd not seen until today: According to Dubai intelligence, one of the best in the Middle East, two of the assassins chose a peculiar refuge to flee after the hit:

    Nonetheless, some details have emerged that do not track with traditional Israeli intelligence tradecraft. The Dubai authorities this week said two of the operatives fled to Iran.

Let's do a little detecting. We need a suspect group that (a) kills Hamas members; (b) doesn't mind implicating Israel; and (c) has some sort of affinity with Iran. Hm... that's a toughie; unless, just possibly, the hit was actually carried out by Hezbollah.

  1. Hezbollah is fighting Hamas for control of Gaza and the West Bank; they have ample reason to want to assassinate al-Mabhouh.
  2. Hezbollah takes its cue from Iran, and no country on Earth hates Israel more than Iran. Killing al-Mabhouh -- and ensuring that Israel would get the blame in the international community, which is always eager to blame the Jews for everything bad in the world, anyway -- would send a tingle down Hassan Nasrallah's leg.
  3. Hezbollah is Iran's private terrorist group, which they send out to other countries and regions, notably Syria and the Palestinian Authority, to enforce Iran's will. It makes perfect sense for Hezbollah assassins to flee to Iran for sanctuary.

To my thoughts, all signs point to Hezbollah, not Mossad, as the author of this plot. It seems that even the Devil can do a good deed now and again, albeit for his own nefarious reasons.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 25, 2010, at the time of 2:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2010

Were Iraq Election Candidates Blocked by Iran?

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Gen. Ray Odierno, our top military commander in Iraq, has made a disturbing accusation that clarifies the previously inexplicable action by Iraq's Accountability and Justice Commission. In January, the AJC barred more than 350 Sunni candidates from the March 7th parliamentary elections, claiming they had "ties" to Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.

While some of the banned candidates were high-ranking members, thus should be preventing from running, most were minor funcitonaries; during the reign of the Baathists, it was virtually impossible for Sunnis to serve in the government without joining, or at least having close ties to, the Baath Party... just as anyone wishing to progress in German politics under Hitler would have to be Nazi Party member or associate. By banning everyone who was in any way connected with the Baath Party, the AJC in effect banned every viable Sunni candidate from the election, a blatant political attack on the Sunni bloc.

Many Iraq-watchers were taken by surprise, because the action puts the entire election in jeopardy. Why would Iraqis want to throw a monkey wrench into their own political future? Gen. Odierno believes he has the answer; from the Washington Times article:

The Iraqi official in charge of a commission that blocked more than 300 politicians from running in next month's elections is working closely with Iran's Quds Force, prompting the top U.S. general in Iraq to voice concerns about Tehran's meddling in Iraq's fragile democracy.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, in a speech, accused Ali Faisal al-Lami, the executive director of the Accountability and Justice Commission along with Ahmad Chalabi, the panel's chairman, of being "clearly influenced by Iran."

Gen. Odierno said both men, according to intelligence reports, were in close contact with Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, the top Iraqi adviser to Iran's Quds Force commander. The Quds Force comprises Iran's unconventional military units, which have orchestrated anti-U.S. paramilitary and political operations in Iraq.

Ahmad Chalabi is working for Iran? Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle River Cruise tonight! But it's a grave turn of events that al-Qods is also working hand-in-sock-puppet with the Accountability and Justice Commission, who are running the election. As Odierno says, "It is disappointing that someone like [al-Lami] is put in charge of the de-Ba'athification commission."

Odierno says intelligence reports indicate that al-Lami, the AJC executive director, even planned an attack on American forces and Iraqi military and civilian officials in Sadr City.. which by strange coincidence happens to be the stronghold of Iranian minion Muqtada Sadr and his mighty "Mahdi Militia."

Here we see the dazzling genius of President Barack H. Obama's decision to pull troops out of Iraq according to a pre-determined timeline, regardless of facts on the ground: Iran's agents know that if they can ride out the next few months, America will quit the field. Iran will have a free hand to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs to their black heart's content.

Unless, of course, the Obamacle suddenly finds the huevos to stand up to Iran... as he has clearly shown so often in the past year.

But a military crisis may be about to overwhelm the Obamatrons; for Gen. Odierno plans to "re-evaluate the pace of troop reductions in Iraq within 60 days after the March 7 elections in Iraq." One presumes this will include a written report, the terms of which are sure to leak out.

If, as seems likely, Odierno recommends slowing the withdrawal and doing more to fight against al-Qods and other Iranian incursions into Iraq, then what will B.O. do? Will he cave, as he has so far on closing Guantanamo Bay, thus enraging the Left? Or will be be compelled by mounting leftist frustration to draw his foot in the sand, going ahead with the original withdrawal plan regardless of what his own top general says -- thus further eroding voters' respect for his military acumen and leadership (such as they are)?

Either horn of that particular dilemma will damage his political standing. But then, actions -- and particularly inactions -- have consequences. In an ironic twist, Barack Obama may soon be forced to announce that the Obama who insisted upon a firm withdrawal date... is not the Obama he knew.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 17, 2010, at the time of 3:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 18, 2009

Oil Follies - and a Gentle Suggestion

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Iran sent troops into Iraqi territory and seized one of Iraq's oil wells.

This is nothing new; it evidently happens several times every year:

The field is about 500 metres (yards) from an Iranian border fort and about 1 kilometre from an Iraqi border fort, US Colonel Peter Newell said, adding that it falls on the Iraqi side of a border agreed between the two countries.

There are five other similar fields that also fall into disputed territory, he said. [The territory is only "disputed" because Iran covets it. -- DaH]

"What happens is, periodically, about every three or four months, the oil ministry guys from Iraq will go ... to fix something or do some maintenance. They'll paint it in Iraqi colours and throw an Iraqi flag up.

"They'll hang out there for a while, until they get tired, and as soon as they go away, the Iranians come down the hill and paint it Iranian colours and raise an Iranian flag. It happened about three months ago and it will probably happen again."

In keeping with the absurdity of Obamunism, everyone -- Americans and Iraqis alike -- is desperate for a "diplomatic" solution:

"There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran," a US military spokesman told AFP at Contingency Operating Base Adder, just outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

"The oil field is in disputed territory in between Iranian and Iraqi border forts," he said, adding that such incidents occur quite frequently.

To which I respond, "Well there's yer problem right there!"

Nations always have disputes between them... but territorial integrity is the first and most basic component of sovereignty: If a country cannot hang onto its own territory, it may as well hang it up; it's not really a nation.

(And before anyone starts shouting about immigration, yes I believe that a country must be able to control who crosses its borders; but no, we are not being "invaded" by Mexicans. Immigrants are not invaders; they're guests. They may be unwelcome and unwanted guests, but that doesn't make families the equivalent of heavily armed Iranian soldiers.)

Iraq has been entirely too complacent for entirely too long about so-called "disputed" territory; worse, this lackadaisical attitude, in the Age of Barack H. Obama, has even infected the American military forces in Iraq. This is unacceptable; it's primitivism. And rather than enable it, we should help the Iraqis stamp it out and shift to a modernist conception of sovereign territory.

(The same could be said, by the way, about Japan's complacency when South Korea declares the island of Takeshima part of the Republic of Korea, or when Russia plants its flag on the four disputed islands in the Kuril Island chain, in violation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951.)

So I have a suggestion; it should be familiar to our Commander in Chief, coming from Chicago... but it appears he has never heard of such a thing, so I'll enlighten him:

  1. For right now, send a combined U.S. and Iraqi force into the area; the Iranians will amble on out, smirking. We linger at the border for a few weeks, then withdraw. (This step is necessary to feign weakness and set the Iranians up for step 3.)
  2. Inform Iran that this is the last time they will enter the Abu Gharb oil field, the Iraqi side of the al-Fakkah field, or any other Iraqi oil field... but don't tell them what will happen if they do. We keep troops fairly nearby but not close enough to keep the Iranians from doing what comes naturally.
  3. Within a few months, Iran will do it again; we know they will, because we deliberately signalled weakness with step 1. This is the trigger for which we will be waiting: Our troops move into the region; the Iranians withdraw. But instead of stopping at the border, American troops move into Iranian territory, seize some of their oil wells (on the pretext that they are "disputed territory")... and sit on them.
  4. We invite Iraqi oil workers in to start pumping the oil from these wells and driving it back to Iraq. The idea is not just to chase Iran out of Iraq but to force them to serve penance for their sins.
  5. We hold the wells for six months; then we tell Iran that this seizure was their one warning: The next time Iran invades any portion of Iraq, these wells and unspecified other assets will be annexed to Iraq... permanently.

If we are to introduce Iraq into the community of civilized nations, we must first induce them to break from their bad, old Arab traditions that turn nationalism on its head and keep them a backwards, "third world" nation with a few trappings of modernity. Until they think of themselves as a sovereign nation, nationalism will never trump tribalism.

Such a jump is impossible in Afghanistan, at least anytime in the forseeable future; all we can do there is maintain a more or less "tribal-democratic" government (where each tribe gets a vote -- in the form of each person voting) and keep the Taliban and their ilk out of power. But Iraq can be so much more; they can be a powerful American ally in the Middle East into the future. But we must encourage them to stop thinking like their neighbors and start thinking like us.

We cannot allow them to revert to their former ways; the danger to the United States would be dire.

Alas, this is all fantasy: Barack Obama cannot "feign" weakness because he is weak, and only the strong dare such pretense to draw an attack -- an expected attack -- and turn it back on the enemy. Perhaps someday Iran will school Obama on what it means to act from strength, not submission.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 18, 2009, at the time of 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Plus Future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Afghan Astonishments , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show dropping a couple of political bombshells:

  1. First, Kristol now believes for the first time that President Barack H. Obama is paving the groundwork for rejecting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation of a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, including increasing troop levels.

Note that it was the Obamacle Himself who appointed McChrystal to head up his present commands, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), just three months ago; and he it was who ordered McChrystal to undertake a complete review of the Afghanistan policy.

I suspect Obama expected McChrystal to recommend declaring defeat and pulling out. But in response to Obama's order, McChrystal released a 66-page report to continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that called for significantly increasing troop levels there and redeploying the force in a counterinsurgency mode, similar to Iraq.

Ever since, as several bloggers have argued (notably John Hinderaker at Power Line), Obama has acted like a man who deeply regrets having picked an actual fighting general in the first place -- and who wants to prepare the American people for the complete rejection of his own appointee's report, in favor of a phased withdrawal from "the war we should be fighting," as some guy named Barack Obama called it during the campaign (in contrast to Iraq, the war we were supposed to lose, one presumes).

  1. Second, and far more shocking, is some political intel that Kristol received from a person who is in "cose contact" with top Defense officials: That holdover George W. Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be asked by Obama to step down at the end of the year... and that Obama plans to name former senator Chuck Hagel, who never met a war he didn't want us to withdraw from, as his new Secretary of Retreat and Defeat.

Hagel was an infantry grunt in Vietnam for two years, leaving shortly after the Tet Offensive; that experience seems to have colored his attitude towards all subsequent conflicts: He sometimes votes for them (as for example the Iraq war); but as soon as the going gets tough, Hagel demands an immediate and aggressive surrender.

  • He was one of only four Republicans in July 2007 who voted in favor of cloture on a bill to force withdrawal from Iraq starting 120 days from that vote; the other three were Olympia Snowe (ME, 12%), Susan Collins (ME, 20%), and Gordon Smith of Oregon, liberals all.
  • In railing against the Iraq COIN strategy of Gen. David Petraeus, Hagel called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." (I don't recall Hagel ever issuing an apology, or even a statement, after the Petraeus strategy proved decisive in our victory in Iraq.)
  • Speaking about Israeli's incursion into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks on their northern cities, Hagel blurted out:

    "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now.... President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."...

    "How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yes, the perfect man to defend America -- Barack Obama style. I can just picture the furious and manly letters of strong disapproval Hagel will shoot off whenever some dictator funds and gives safe haven to a terrorist group while they blow up another American embassy.

Currently, Chuck Hagel is Chairman of the Board of the Atlantic Council, a foreign-policy think tank cum policy advocacy group that appears to lean heavily towards diplomacy above everything -- talking loudly and forgetting to bring any stick at all, big or small. (E.g., its International Advisory Board is headed by Brent Scowcroft and includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Edelman, Lawrence H. Summers, and a huge inflation of bankers and CEOs of vast multinational corporations.)

Hagel replaced outgoing Chairman Jim Jones, who was tapped to serve as Obama's National Security Advisor; Jones was last seen offering what we called "the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic."

Since the Jim Jones appointment as security sock puppet worked out so well for Obama, it certainly seems plausible that he would go back to the same well to draw out a bucketful of Defense Secretary. Admittedly, Kristol just lost his father, Irving Kristol; but it was hardly the sort of shocking or unanticipated demise that might throw William Kristol into a blue funk and darken his normal optimism.

The threatened appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be catastrophic for the war efforts, all of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, intelligence gathering, interrogations, dealing with Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia... and of course, Hagel would be a disaster for Israel, as he would almost certainly back Obama to the hilt in the latter's quest to force Israel back to the indefensible borders of the pre-Six Day War era. (In exchange for the Palestinian's promise that they might seriously consider deciding whether or not to recognize Israel sometime in the distant and not very likely future.)

Appointing Hagel would seriously diminish our ability to protect our allies or even defend ourselves, and in general would signal the end of American power and leadership in the world, at least for a while (say until 2013). Therefore, I conclude that Obama is already plotting to make the appointment.

I must also conclude that the Senate will swiftly approve the nominee; Hagel was once one of them... therefore, "comity of the Senate" and all that, Republicans will probably support him, though he rarely supported them while in that august body.

And there you have it, your recommended minimum daily allowance of political pessimism and national-defense despair.

Cross-posted (of course) to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2009, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 28, 2009

Backyard Barbecue

Iran Matters , Southern Exposure
Hatched by Dafydd

Okay, this is the story:

Venezuela's science and technology minister said his country is working with Russia to detect deposits of uranium but withdrew an earlier denial that the country was also working with Iran....

Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Friday Iran is helping Venezuela to detect uranium deposits and that initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant. His announcement was made the same day world leaders criticized the Islamic republic for secretly building a uranium-enrichment plant that could be used to make an atomic bomb.

Sanz declined to respond to reporters when questioned Saturday about Chacon's remarks. President Hugo Chavez said only that Venezuela "has a lot of uranium."

Oogo + Putin + Ahmadinejad, all cozying up in our own backyard. What could possibly go wrong?

Asked about how Venezuela will use its uranium reserves, Chacon said that they would be exploited to develop "nuclear energy for medicinal purposes, for peaceful purposes."

Huh, there's that dad-burned déjà vu feeling again.

Asked about how Venezuela will use its uranium reserves, Chacon said that they would be exploited to develop "nuclear energy for medicinal purposes, for peaceful purposes."

Huh, there's that dad-burned déjà vu feeling again.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly has said U.S. officials have "concerns" about the possible exchange of nuclear material between Venezuela and Iran. But analysts say Iran, which has its own uranium deposits, doesn't have any immediate need to import the metal.

Ah... am I the only one who thinks that Yahoo News is missing the point here? No danger, Iran's already got plenty of uranium; they don't need to import yellowcake from Venezuela to fuel their nuclear technology.

But has nobody in the Department of Neutralizing Hillary thought that maybe, just maybe, the arrow of causality is pointing in the opposite direction? That rather than Venezuela exporting uranium to Iran, Iran and Russia might be interested in exporting nuclear technology to Venezuela, to exploit Oogo's already existing stockpiles of nuclear materials? Cargo ships do travel both directions across the Atlantic, to the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, to the Arabian Sea, around Yemen and Oman, and into the Persian Gulf.

Of course, none dare suggest that the next time there is a serious conflict between the goals of an American president and the aspirations of President for Life Oogo Chavez, a nuclear armed Venezuela might threaten to barbecue us. True, we wouldn't have any ballistic-missile defense to protect us; but if he ever tried such a thing, then after some American city was incinerated, we could retaliate and really hurt Venezuela right back!

Fortunately, Venezuela doesn't really have the technology to exploit its own uranium and thorium reserves. Yet. They wouldn't be able to develop it for years and years. Venezuela is just too backwards a country. Unless, I don't know, they got help or something.

Chavez's project remains in its planning stages and still faces a host of practical hurdles, likely requiring billions of dollars, as well as technology and expertise that Venezuela lacks.

Russia has offered to help bridge that gap, but Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom, has said there are no concrete projects and that any joint mining of uranium or the radioactive metal thorium is still a long way off.

Any joint mining or transfer of nuclear technology is a long way off. So what could possibly go wrong?

Huh, there's that dad-burned déjà vu feeling again.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2009, at the time of 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obamic Record-Setting Achievement

Iran Matters , North Korea Nastiness , Southern Exposure
Hatched by Dafydd

In the early days of the presidency of George W. Bush, shortly after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan a month later, Friend Lee and I speculated how many vile "thugocracies" Bush would manage to overthrow, by hook or by crook -- or at least leash -- during his presidency.

The final count was six, as I recall: Afghanistan (under the Taliban) and Iraq (Saddam Hussein) were invaded and dismantled as terrorist states; Libya was cowed further (building on the hide-tanning that Reagan administered after the Lockerbie terrorist bombing); Syria was muzzled; Iran was kept nervous and fairly quiet -- though they actively participated in killing American soldiers and Marines in Iraq, we also seized a number of Qods Force personnel; and North Korea was pretty much stymied, unable to get extortion negotiations off the ground.

Not too shabby for a supposedly "failed" presidency.

Now we have a new president... and I propose a new game: By the end of Barack H. Obama's (single) term in office, how many thug nations will he have un-leashed? That is, appeased, allowed to go nuclear, and/or let alone to threaten, extort, and even "assimilate" (in a Borg sense) Western nations and allies.

I think B.O. already has George W. Bush "beat" hands down -- and hands up, and hands middle. Consider...

  1. Afghanistan: Obama is dragging his heels deciding whether to accede to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's urgent request to switch to a COIN operation there, and his request for a significant troop increase; if Obama fails to approve this plan, McChrystal more or less says we'll lose the war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban will return in force -- along with al-Qaeda.

    (Recall that this is the war all the Democrats have been saying we should be fighting, instead of Iraq, ever since -- well, since 2003.)

    As Power Line's John Hinderaker concludes, "The moral of the story seems pretty clear: when President Obama announces that he doesn't intend to accept General McChrystal's recommendation, we will all understand that this is the prudent course advocated by most knowledgeable military and civilian leaders" (meaning Obama's own political staff, of course).

  2. Costa Rica: See Honduras.
  3. Georgia: See Russia.
  4. Honduras: If the One has his way, Honduras will cease to be a democratic state and will instead become a "Chavezian" despotic dictatorship, run by delusional socialist thug Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. Costa Rica is already trending that way, as are several other Latin American nations. We'll just stick with these two.
  5. Iran: Obama has strongly signaled to the mullahs and President Ahmadinejad that we not only intend to do nothing to stop them getting nuclear weapons capability, we will eagerly seek their input in what to do with Iraq; we will release all Qods Force operatives captured in Iraq under the Bush "regime;" and our president will crawl on his hands and knees, if that is what it takes to get a desperately desired face-to-face meeting, in order for Obama to appear "presidential" before 2012.
  6. Iraq: Obama still wants a quick pull-out, before the country and its fledgling government is secured against a hostile merger by Iran..
  7. Israel: It seems increasingly clear that Obama, swimming in a sea of Jew hatred since he was a young adult, has decisively sided with the Arabs who call themselves "Palestinians" and against the Jews of Israel.

    He is allowing himself to be pushed by his top Middle-East foreign policy advisors -- the antisemites Samantha Power (of the National Security Council) and former President Jimmy Carter (antisemitic qualifications too numerous to enumerate here), along with such "luminaries" as antisemite Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), who "supervised" the Durbin Jew-bashing hatefest in 2001.

    If they have their way, Israel would be pushed into a catastrophic "peace" treaty with Iran-financed Hamas; this could even lead to the destruction of Israel... an event that would be wildly celebrated by a disturbingly large percentage of Democrats, liberals, and members of the Obama administration.

  8. Lebanon: See Syria.
  9. North Korea: Like Iran, Obama is busy sending signals, communiques, and "gestures" that he has accepted the "inevitability" of a nuclear DPRK. I'm sure the denizens of South Korea are ecstatic.
  10. Russia: As the bear surges under Prime Minister (formerly President) Vlad "the Impaler" Putin, Obama has reneged on the the ballistic missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    This signals the Soviet Union Russia that we have lost all interest in defending the hard-fought freedom of those two countries, along with other border countries that were once utterly dominated by the USSR but became free after the collapse of Russian Communism, including Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Khazakhstan, Uzbekistan -- and perhaps even Hungary, eastern Germany, and Finland. In the interests of brevity, let's just call this a serious threat to the two countries that Russia has invaded or blockaded recently: Georgia and Ukraine.

  11. Syria: President Obama has made it clear we will not pursue the persistent claims and stubborn facts that point to Syria being behind the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Such discretion is a green light informing Syrian "king" (in all but formal title) Bashar Assad that he has carte blanche to retake Lebanon.
  12. Ukraine: See Russia.
  13. The United States of America: The economy; energy production; health care; taxes; federal regulatory regimes; rule by "Czar," with no meaningful congressional oversight; permanent taxpayer funding of partisan leftist advocates; nationalization of banking, automobile manufacturing, newspapers; federal control of all executive salaries in the United States; a return of Woodrow Wilson's Sedition Act and the criminalization of dissent -- with the eager cooperation of those who dissented against George Bush.

    'Nuff said.

This coven of cravenness is a rather impressive, even remarkable beginning for a community organizer who has only been in office for eight months and eight days. Keep plugging, man! You may yet eclipse the record set by your idol, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who with the stroke of a pen at Yalta consigned hundreds of millions to the famines, tortures, and gulags of the Evil Empire.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 28, 2009, at the time of 1:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 20, 2009

Obama Proves Unable to Walk and Chew Missiles at the Same Time

Iran Matters , Missile Muscle
Hatched by Dafydd

National Security Advisor (and former Marine Corps General) Jim Jones has just offered the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic:

White House National Security Adviser James L. Jones says President Obama's decision to abandon a long-range missile defense site in Eastern Europe was driven by U.S. intelligence concerns that Iran is further along than previously thought in developing medium-range missiles that could strike Western Europe and the Middle East with nuclear warheads.

"We think they are heading toward weaponiz[ing] these missiles, which obviously we want to dissuade them from doing," the retired four-star Marine general told The Washington Times, explaining why U.S. officials dramatically shifted from years of focus on guarding against longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)....

In a wide-ranging interview Friday afternoon in his West Wing office, Gen. Jones said the government's top national security leaders met about 50 times since March before unanimously agreeing to scrap a 2006 Bush administration plan to put 10 long-range, ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a related radar tracking site in the Czech Republic. They are to be replaced by ship-based radar and interceptors better able to protect Europe from shorter-range missiles, he said.

Note that "the government's top national security leaders" actually means Barack H. Obama's top national-security appointees, so it's hardly of cosmic significance that they were in unanimous agreement. But I digress...

The key driver, he said, was intelligence showing that Iran is stressing development of medium- and intermediate- range missiles that could reach the Middle East or Western Europe and is focusing less on ICBMs with ranges greater than 3,500 miles that might one day reach the United States.

"We concluded, the intelligence community concluded and recommended that the previous threat estimates about Iran's capabilities, vis-a-vis an ICBM, were not as imminent as we thought, which is to say the capability is further out," Gen. Jones said.

"The intermediate-range capability of Iranian technology is higher than we thought, which puts Europe at risk and many of our friends in the Gulf at risk," he said.

By painting the decision as an "either-or," Gen. Jones thus confesses that the Obama administration cannot pursue two BMD programs at the same time; I wonder if he felt acute embarassment making such an admission?

But the most astonishing aspect of this conundrum is that the Navy Aegis BMD system, which is what he says they plan to use instead of the land-based system, has been operational and widely deployed for years! It's so common now that we're even selling and installing such systems on the ships of our allies.

All it takes to deploy it is to station the appropriate cruisers and destroyers in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Why on earth should this preclude us pursuing defense against long-range missiles as well? It's like saying we must kill development of the Joint Strike Fighter because intelligence reveals that the most imminent enemy air threat can be countered by deploying our existing F/A-18 Hornets... and by golly, we can't do both.

Worse, as the Washington Times notes, we have not had notable success estimating how advanced are the missile designs of our enemies:

The report [by the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center] said Iran could have an ICBM by 2015.

However, two administration officials said the new intelligence is outlined in a May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iran would not have a long-range missile before 2020.

U.S. estimates of missile threats have been of mixed reliability. In 1998, an intelligence assessment gauged that no nation outside the established nuclear powers would have a long-range missile by 2015. Shortly after the assessment, in August 1998, North Korea test-fired its first intercontinental-range Taepodong missiles....

Efforts by Iran to develop longer-range missiles would be detected, [Gen. Jones] said. "There's not much the Iranians can do in terms of developing an ICBM that we won't know about," he said. "It just requires testing, and you can tell when they get into that envelope."

So the new policy, which the National Security Advisor evidently agrees with, is that we should cease developing a defense against Iranian (and Russian) ICBMs and instead deploy Aegis BMD ships -- which we can of course deploy whenever we want, whether or not we build the interceptor site -- because Iran won't have long-range missiles until 2020... unless they have them sooner. And we'll "detect" the fact that Iran has developed long-range missiles when they test them!

(What if they don't develop ICBMS... but buy them instead from Russia, China, or North Korea? Gen. Jones doesn't even hint at how that would affect our defensive policy.)

Brilliant.

Um... is there perhaps a more plausible explanation? I'm intrigued by this throw-away from Gen. Jones:

Less-capable radar will be deployed some place in the Caucasus region to replace the planned high-powered radar in the Czech Republic, which was troubled by a "public opinion problem," Gen. Jones said.

"Public opinion problem?" I've strained my brain, and I cannot recall any wave of public sentiment against building a purely defensive radar site to allow us to intercept long-range missiles (with or without nuclear warheads) being fired at us by Iran. Or by Russia. Well -- no wave of American public sentiment, I mean, or even mass protests in Europe; I can well imagine public opinion (likely manufactured) running strong in Iran and Russia against the program.

The surreality continues. The Times reports a "subsequent phase" of missile defense, in which we deploy land-based versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) in Poland, then future versions of the SM-3 that can hit long-range missiles, "over the next ten years":

The new plan means that defenses against Iranian missiles can be in place throughout Europe six or seven years sooner than under the abandoned European plan, Gen. Jones said.

But again, we can do this whether or not we build the long-range radar site in Poland and the Czech Republic; the policies are independent of one another (unless... see below). We're just talking about deploying missiles we already have and continuing the SM-3 developments that are already under way.

This entire explanation is one long, bizarre non-sequitur... unless the Obamacle has other plans in mind that would preclude our being able to deploy the old system and develop the new system at the same time. Does the Jones explanation mean that Obama plans a wholesale slashing of military funding, so that we really will have to choose between what soon will be two mutually exclusive policies -- deploying and developing? Is that the broad hint that Gen. James Jones is giving us?

There is no longer any question (Gen. Jones admits it) that one major purpose of this policy change is to appease the Russian bear, in the hopes that he will feel so grateful and magnanimous that he reciprocates by leaning on Iran to quit developing a nuclear bomb. But since we have already given Russia everything it wants, we must rely upon its centuries-long history of good will towards all, especially Eastern Europe.

And in fact, there is another weak link in this chain of Obamic "diplomacy": Who's to say Iran would scrap plans to become a nuclear power even if Russia commands them to? What is Vladimir Putin going to do -- invade Iran? Bomb them? Aid and abet Israel?

More gravely, Obama appears to have politicized the intelligence to get the diplomatic overture he wants:

  • The missile report from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center said Iran could deploy a long-range missile by 2015; that's five years before we estimate we could deploy advanced SM-3s to intercept them.
  • According to Eric Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy in the Bush administration who ran the Bush BMD program, Barack Obama promised that we would continue the long-range, ground-based interceptor plan "unless the [intelligence] assessment changed."
  • Lo! A new National Intelligence Estimate sprang forth in May of this year, like Athena from Zeus' brow. It was presumably shepherded by Obama's CIA Director Leon Panetta -- who has no intelligence experience whatsoever but is a long-time liberal Democratic House member... along with the presumed connivance of Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano -- who has no intelligence or military experience whatsoever but is a former liberal Democratic governor and Anita Hill's attorney during l'affaire Clarence Thomas. (Of course, she popularized the new phrase "man-caused disaster" to take the place of "terrorism," so she must know something.)
  • The new NIE changed the intelligence assessment to suggest that Iran cannot develop long-range missiles until 2020... exactly the right time frame for us to have those new, improved SM-3s in place. What a stroke of luck!

It seems impossible not to draw the obvious conclusion of intel-tampering, unless one really, really works at it.

Oh, and this little tidbit is simply delicious:

Politically, the abandonment of the Europe site also set the stage for progress in reaching a new strategic arms agreement with Russia. Moscow vehemently opposed the European missile site as posing a threat to its strategic missile capability and had made canceling the program a precondition for arms talks.

So much for the One's plan to hold summit meetings "without preconditions." I reckon he must have meant only that we would not impose any preconditions ourselves; not that we wouldn't kow-tow to preconditions imposed by other countries!

This series of unfortunate events brings the Obamic national-security policy into sharp focus: Our new defense "posture" will evidently be the foetal position.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2009, at the time of 2:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 30, 2009

Fun With Dick and Arthur

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

My fave at my fave still doesn't quite seem to get a critical point. John Hinderaker, discussing Dick Cheney's support for military action against Iran's nuclear capability, concludes thus:

At the time, it seemed to me that we had our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan and military conflict with Iran was not a serious possibility. It will be interesting to see how Cheney rebuts that premise.

While he's a bit ambiguous, it sure seems to me as if John mistakenly imagines a military invasion of Iran, à la Iraq, or at least Afghanistan: That is, he's thinking of tens of thousands of troops, airlifted tanks, and a prolongued campaign, with armored cavalry regiments battling their way from Baghdad and Kabul across mountain and desert to Teheran.

But that sort of military action was never in the cards. Rather, the most likely strike, and the only one likely to succeed (given the political reality John himself enunciates), is what I call the Herman Option, after military historian Arthur Herman, who enunciated it in an article in Commentary magazine:

I reprint below the guts of the Herman Option...

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:

  1. Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.

Whether this would have worked or not -- and I was (and am!) an optimist about its chances -- it would not have involved the sort of military committment that the Iraq or even the Afghanistan war did. It would be a surgical strike, with only a small number of Special Forces at risk, along with a general blockade of the Strait of Hormuz using the Navy.

My second greatest disappointment of the Bush era is that he did not "go out with a bang," by decapitating the third head of the jihadist ogre, Iran.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 30, 2009, at the time of 1:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 22, 2009

Civil War in the Infertile Crescent

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Most folks see the rioting throughout Iran as a revolution brewing, as if 1979 met 1776. But I'm very skeptical... mainly because in my opinion, and despite the take of most commentators, the two major players are not actually current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh, the other major candidate in the election: Rather, the two players in this game are in fact Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's wealthiest man, the moneybags behind Mousavi, and the man that Ahmadinejad "defeated" in 2005 in an election that was likely just as dirty, corrupt, and stolen as the one this year.

We've tracked the increasingly bellicose and violent schism between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani for a number of years now:

It appears to me that what is unfolding in Iran is not a revolution... it's really a civil war by proxy.

Ahmadinejad is not himself a politically powerful cleric, like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, or his successor and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has a "guardian angel" among the mullahs: Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi of Qom. Mesbah-Yazdi is a member of the Assembly of Experts, the group that elects the Supreme Leader -- perhaps the foremost proponent of the so-called Qom school of Shiism, which preaches absolute rule by the mullahs.

He is also Ahmadinejad's spiritual guru, preaching that the return of the Twelfth (or Hidden) Imam and the dawn of the Islamic era is imminent and can be triggered by a military conflagration, even one started by Iran itself.

Wolf Howling reports that there is a split within the clerics of Qom, with some following the Najaf school of Shiism, as personified by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, and in Iran by former Khomeinist Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. These clerics, both tremendously more respected throughout Iran as spiritual leaders than current Supreme Leader Khamenei, teach that clerics should only set the religious rules, but not control the government. I don't think this "faultline," as GW calls it, enters into the present distress; we all know where Ahmadinejad stands on the question of whether mullahs or the people should rule Iran; and I don't recall Rafsanjani ever calling for Montazeri-style freedom, civil rights, human rights, and women's rights.

By contrast with Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani needs no "guardian angel;" he is himself the leader of the Assembly of Experts, and a strong candidate to eventually succeed Khamenei. In the last elections, Rafsanjani received more votes than any other Ayatollah for the Assembly -- 1,564,197; Mesbah-Yazdi received less than half that total at 726,498 votes.

Rafsanjani appears to have greater backing from Khamenei; but it's probably more a strategic chess move to keep Ahmadinejad in check than any deep affection between Khamenei and Rafsanjani: I suspect Ahmadinejad just scares the bejesus out of Khamenei; the president is (or was, before the current troubles) consolidating power among the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Barring a major political shakeup, it mightn't be long before Ahmadinejad decides he needs a promotion... say, to Supreme Leader. Alternatively, if Khamenei should die (due to natural causes: "It's only natural he would die after such causes"), Ahmadinejad could engineer the elevation of Mesbah-Yazdi to Supreme Leader. It would be an open question then which would be the other's puppet.

Ahmadinejad has religious fanaticism on his side, but Rafsanjani's strength is more in the line of old-fashioned corruption, the lifeblood of the Islamic world -- think Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, the PA, and so forth. It's Millenarianism vs. Kleptocracy, even more exciting than Alien vs. Predator!

But the irony is that Iran, Persia, is a dying land. It may end, not with a bang, but with the silent lack of enough whimpers.

In a Steynian twist, Iran has the lowest fertility rate of any Moslem majority country, and I believe any country in the Middle east, including Israel (compiled from CIA World Factbook).

Fertility rate is the mean number of children born per female in her lifetime. Bare population replacement rate is about 2.1 children per mother (the extra .1 accounts for children who die before they can have children of their own). A country with a fertility rate far above 2.1, such as Somalia, is growing rapidly; a country with just about 2.1 is holding steady (the United States, for example); and a country with a fertility rate significantly below 2.1... is dying... think of Europe, Australia, Thailand, Cuba, and Canada.

Here are the countries of the Arab League, plus Israel and Iran, in order of fertility rate:

Fertility rate of Arab League, Israel, and Iran
Country Fertility rate/strong>
Somalia 6.60
Yemen 6.41
Mauritania 5.69
Oman 5.62
Gaza 5.19
Djibouti 5.14
Comoros 4.90
Sudan 4.58
Iraq 3.97
Saudi Arabia 3.89
West Bank 3.31
Syria 3.21
Libya 3.15
Kuwait 2.81
Israel 2.77
Egypt 2.72
Morocco 2.57
Bahrain 2.53
Qatar 2.43
Jordan 2.47
UAE 2.47
Lebanon 1.87
Algeria 1.82
Tunisia 1.73
Iran 1.71

No Moslem-majority country has a lower fertility rate than Iran. To put their dire dilemma into perspective, Iran has a lower fertility rate than...

Iran losing the baby war to these countries
Country Fertility rate/strong>
Afghanistan 6.58
Pakistan 3.73
United States 2.10
France 1.98
Turkey 1.87
Ireland 1.85
Norway 1.78
Luxembourg 1.78
Denmark 1.74
Finland 1.73

Iran is about as infertile as...

Iran is on a par with these dying countries
Country Fertility rate/strong>
Sweden 1.67
Netherlands 1.66
United Kingdom 1.66
Belgium 1.66

So what's happening in Iran, right as we're sitting here now? First, a huge number of Iranians -- Persians -- are desperate for freedom and sick and tired of thirty years of theocracy, madness, and horror. Alas, they have fixed their wagon to a supposed "reformer," who is actually a stalking horse for Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Mousavi's only good quality, compared to the current lunatic president, is that he is probably not a "Twelver."

But the underlying reality belies the combination of superficial reporting by the antique media, wishful thinking by those of us who long for the mullahs to be overturned by a 1776-style revolution, and manipulation by Iranians desperate to move the mugwump leader of the free world off his fence and into helping true democracy spread to our bitterest enemy in the world. This "underlying reality" comprises a pair of despicable despots, a madman and a thief, neither with a clue how to defeat the fate decreed by demography, fighting a proxy civil war in the streets of Iran over who will preside over the dying earth.

Persia has a long and great (though I would not say "honorable") history, and its people deserve better; sadly, they need extraordinary outside aid, which the One They Will Continue to Wait For has no intention of ever offering, since he is on the side of the "established order" in Teheran.

I don't think the Persian people will get the "better" they deserve. They may get different; they may trade back King Stork for King Log. And perhaps they'll be satisfied with that.

Meanwhile, the American Hamlet sends out press releases and, like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark, furiously tinkles his bell. Is this one of those tests that Joe Biden warned us to expect -- and warned us that Barack "Lucky Lefty" Obama would be seen to flunk?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 22, 2009, at the time of 2:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 4, 2009

Sacrificial Lamb: Obamacle Sets Up Israel as Fall Guy

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

This was so unexpected, so out of the blue, that when I read it, you could have knocked me over with a 2,000-lb anvil:

Israel is concerned about remarks White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made during a closed-door meeting Sunday with 300 major donors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

While expressing unwavering U.S. support for Israel, Israeli media reported that Emanuel also said confronting Iran depends on making progress in negotiations seeking to create a Palestinian state.

Does Emanuel believe that such an implied threat will actually cause Israel to reverse course, with newly elected (for the second time) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly transmaugrifying into former Prime Minister Ehud Barak? No; say what you will about Rahm Emanuel, he is not one of the pie-eyed fantasists with which the president has surrounded himself.

Nor does anyone else expect such a result... not even CBS:

Israel's hawkish new government flatly rejects that linkage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to the existence of the State of Israel -- a separate and far more pressing threat than that of the Palestinians. Netanyahu will make that clear when he meets President Obama in two weeks at the White House....

Netanyahu has also said "Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons -- with all the implications." In other words, Israel would consider a unilateral, preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort.

And the citizens of the state of Israel would never permit Netanyahu to go "wobbly" on them; they elected Likud over Kadima's Tzipi Livni for precisely that reason:

The Israeli public at large is also skeptical about U.S. talks with Iran. A poll by Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv shows that, while 60 percent of Israelis have a favorable opinion of President Obama, only 32 percent approve of his policy regarding Israel.

So what on earth is going on here? Why does the Chief of Staff to President Barack H. Obama make such a point of publicly linking the two issues? I can think of only one reason: Emanuel believes that his boss' attempt to bully Israel into caving to Palestinian demands (pushed not only by Obama but also the raft of brazenly anti-Israel and antisemitic members of his administration) is doomed to failure... so Rahm Emanuel is already setting Israel up as the scapegoat.

When talks to create a "two-state solution" collapse again -- as they invariably do, given that only one side has any interest at all in there being two sovereign states west of the Jordan River -- the administration plans to blame Israel for Barack Obama's failure. The One the Palestinians and Eurolefties Have Been Waiting For may even lead a crusade against Israel in the court of world opinion, perhaps even refusing to veto some of the continuous anti-Israel resolutions that splash into the U.N. like sewage into a septic-tank.

That will serve three purposes:

  • It will overjoy the Jew-hating Left in both the United States and in Europe, leading to an outpouring of money and electoral support for B.O.;
  • It will make it easier for Obama to hold his unconditional-appeasement talks with Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda;
  • And it will give the president someone to point his finger at in respose to all the bloody horrors that will befall the Middle East (and the rest of the world) when Iran tests its first working nuclear missile.

With one cold-blooded, narcissistic set up, Emanuel could bring about a Middle-East war the likes of which the world has never seen before, possibly resulting in the complete destruction of Israel and the energy and economic collapse of the rest of us. Interesting, considering the Chief of Staff's last name.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 4, 2009, at the time of 7:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 12, 2009

Time to Fish or Get Off the Pot

Iran Matters , Missile Muscle , North Korea Nastiness , Obama Nation , Russkie Resurgence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

While President Barack H. Obama tries to make up his mind how to respond to the Somalian pirates (the larger group, not just the ones who were holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage), he's not wasting any time... he's simultaneously dithering about how to respond to a Somalian Islamist "extremist" group, al-Shabab, that is allied with al-Qaeda. Neither dilemma appears close to resolution; in fact, the paralysis and refusal to use swift retaliatory force reminds me more and more of the 444 days of national humilitation in Jimmy Carter's first term in office.

His second term -- under his standby, Barack Obama -- seems no more decisive on the foreign-policy front than the first term, back in the late 1970s. This stands in bizarre contrast to Obama's firm resolve in his domestic agenda to remake America as a socialist country.

But why not launch a massive attack on the pirates in their lair, to punish them for having attacked an American vessel in the first place? We note with some interest that the entire "community" of Somalis in that modern-day Tortuga (the eighteenth-century pirate island) appears to be on the side of the pirates:

Talks to free [Capt. Phillips] began Thursday with the captain of the USS Bainbridge talking to the pirates under instruction from FBI hostage negotiators on board the U.S. destroyer. The pirates had threatened to kill Phillips if attacked....

Before Phillips was freed, a pirate who said he was associated with the gang that held Phillips, Ahmed Mohamed Nur, told The Associated Press that the pirates had reported that "helicopters continue to fly over their heads in the daylight and in the night they are under the focus of a spotlight from a warship."

He spoke by satellite phone from Harardhere, a port and pirate stronghold where a fisherman said helicopters flew over the town Sunday morning and a warship was looming on the horizon. The fisherman, Abdi Sheikh Muse, said that could be an indication the lifeboat may be near to shore.

The district commissioner of the central Mudug region said talks went on all day Saturday, with clan elders from his area talking by satellite telephone and through a translator with Americans, but collapsed late Saturday night.

"The negotiations between the elders and American officials have broken down. The reason is American officials wanted to arrest the pirates in Puntland and elders refused the arrest of the pirates," said the commissioner, Abdi Aziz Aw Yusuf. He said he organized initial contacts between the elders and the Americans.

Two other Somalis, one involved in the negotiations and another in contact with the pirates, also said the talks collapsed because of the U.S. insistence that the pirates be arrested and brought to justice.

Fine; then the "clan elders" of "the central Mudug region," which contains that "port and pirate stronghold" of Harardhere, are clearly not with us... they are with the pirates. So what is to stop us from launching a series of devastating retaliatory strikes against these strongholds? Nothing, evidently, but Barack Obama's infamous inability to make a decision. (This disability applies even to ongoing wars; in Iraq and Afghanistan, he simply decided not to decide, accepting the Bush doctrine in both theaters by default.)

In fact, Obama is so indecisive that he's not even sure he's ready to commit to criminal charges yet:

U.S. officials said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat during the rescue was in military custody. FBI spokesman John Miller said that would change as the situation became "more of a criminal issue than a military issue."

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said prosecutors were looking at "evidence and other issues" to determine whether to bring a case in the United States. The pirate could face a life sentence if convicted, officials said.

Well, that will certainly put the fear of the Judeo-Christian God into Long John Somali!

But back to the problem of al-Shabab. It appears that Obama is not only unwilling to attack pirates, he's also unsure whether we should attack militant Islamist terrorists in Somalia; from the Washington Post article:

Al-Shabab, whose fighters have battled Ethiopian occupiers and the tenuous Somali government, poses a dilemma for the administration, according to several senior national security officials who outlined the debate only on the condition of anonymity.

The organization's rapid expansion, ties between its leaders and al-Qaeda, and the presence of Americans and Europeans in its camps have raised the question of whether a preemptive strike is warranted. Yet the group's objectives have thus far been domestic, and officials say that U.S. intelligence has no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia.

An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration's first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones. The White House discussions highlight the challenges facing the Obama team as it attempts to distance itself from the Bush administration, which conducted at least five military strikes in Somalia. The new administration is still defining its rationale for undertaking sensitive operations in countries where the United States is not at war.

Yes, that's a toughie that would stump even a leader as decisive as Carter, let alone our current President Hamlet; it's especially tough when the president acts as if there never was any discussion in the previous administration about the rationale for launching strikes against terrorists -- and when the most important criterion of the brand new Obamaic rationale is whether such an attack would make the current administration look too much like the Bush administration.

In the meantime, a decision must be made, and the clock is ticking: Do we attack a terrorist group allied with al-Qaeda, which runs terrorist training camps full of domestic and foreign Moloch worshippers (including Europeans and Americans, who could presumably fly under the radar into the United States), which is trying to violently overthrow the current Somali government that we helped install (by supporting the Ethiopian invasion that overthrew the previous, al-Qaeda-friendly government), because we have "no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia?"

Of course, neither did the Taliban; they isolated themselves, completely fixating upon Afghanistan and Pakistan. But they also leased their country to the demonic Ayman Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, offering them safe haven from which they could launch the September 11th attacks, and aiding and abetting them in other, more tangible ways. Somalia looks ready to do exactly the same... for exactly the same group. And say what you will, bin Laden is not an isolationist.

I suppose the alternative course under consideration is to make it "more of a criminal issue" and "determine whether to bring a case in the United States." We might even file an indictment with the International Criminal Court at the Hague... though we'd probably have to agree to give them jurisdiction over American citizens as well.

(No matter -- the ICC's first action against Americans would doubtless be to put George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Douglas Feith, John Yoo, Mark Steyn, Rush Limbaugh, and a cast of thousands on trial for crimes against humanity, such as advocating war against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, spying on al-Qaeda without a world search warrant, and lowering taxes on the rich. What's not to like?)

What is the argument against striking at al-Shabab? Primarily that other countries in the world might object:

Some in the Defense Department have been frustrated by what they see as a failure to act. Many other national security officials say an ill-considered strike would have negative diplomatic and political consequences far beyond the Horn of Africa. Other options under consideration are increased financial pressure and diplomatic activity, including stepped-up efforts to resolve the larger political turmoil in Somalia.

That is, all those heads of government who praised Obama to the heavens at the G-20 might instead accuse him of being just like George Bush, and the president's self image would be shattered. Not that those same leaders respected him enough to acquiesce to any of the three major policies he wanted them to implement -- stronger sanctions against Iran and North Korea, stimulus spending, or enlarging the NATO commitment to Afghanistan; but at least they said really nice things about Obama personally.

The most recent discussion of the issue took place early this week, just before the unrelated seizure of a U.S. commercial ship in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who [were] holding the American captain of the vessel hostage for ransom.

But are these two questions -- what to do about al-Shabab and what to do about the Somalian pirates -- truly "unrelated," as the Post declares? And even if they are discrete today, how long will they remain so? It stands to reason that terrorists, who oppose the new government of Somalia for being insufficiently Islamist, and pirates, who oppose it for cracking down on piracy, may very well make common cause against their shared enemy.

Barack Obama already fumbled his first test on foreign policy -- the debacle in London at the meeting of the G-20. He appears to have flunked on every measure except cordiality (the leaders all liked him as a person, so long as he kow-towed to China, Russia, the Arab countries, and Europe). I suggest that how we respond to the two Somalian threats represents Obama's first big military-policy test: If he cannot even muster up a military response to pirates and terrorists in the Horn of Africa, then how will he ever respond to the subtler but far deadlier perils of Iran's centrifuges, North Korea's missiles, the Palestinians' pratfalls, Red China's increasing economic dominance, and a resurgent "Soviet Union?"

The answer, I fear, will be even grimmer, and the damage even longer lasting, than his response to the economic crisis.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2009, at the time of 5:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 6, 2009

Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child

Commies , Iran Matters , Israel Matters , North Korea Nastiness , Obama Nation , Russkie Resurgence , ¡ Rabanos Radiactivos!
Hatched by Dafydd

Well, I think we all knew, somewhere in the back of our collective minds, that Barack H. Obama was planning it; most of us just thought it was so ludicrous, so retro, that he would never really propose it.

But now he has. Great leaping horny toads, it's Dr. Helen Caldicott's unilateral nuclear disarmament all over again:

Just hours after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, President Barack Obama called for "a world without nuclear weapons" and said the United States has a “moral responsibility ” to lead the way, as the only nation ever to use them....

The president directly addressed the Cold War history of this former Soviet bloc city, calling the remaining nuclear weapons “the most dangerous legacy” of that era.
He again pointed to history to say that America must lead. “As a nuclear power -- as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon -- the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” he said.

Obama proposed doing so by reducing America’s arsenal, if not altogether eliminating it; hosting a summit on nuclear security; seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and pursuing a new agreement aimed at stopping the production of fissile materials.

Also, he proposes gathering up all vulnerable nuclear material -- or “loose nukes” -- within four years. That’s an issue Obama also worked on in the Senate, with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).

As we all know, the only reason that Russia, Red China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and soon to be North Korea and Iran have nuclear weapons is self defense against the United States... and if only we would unilaterally eliminate our nuclear arsenal -- ¡ Si, su puede! -- these other countries would no longer fear us -- and they will surely follow suit. As the New York Times succinctly sums up the theory:

Mr. Obama said that his administration would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons” in its national security strategy, and would urge other countries to do the same. He pointed to the agreement he reached last week with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia to begin negotiations on reducing warheads and stockpiles, and said the two countries would try to reach an agreement by the end of the year. He also promised to aggressively pursue American ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which in the past has faced strong opposition in Congress.

It is a strategy based on the idea that if the United States shows it is willing to greatly shrink the size of its atomic arsenal, ban nuclear testing and cut off the worldwide production of bomb material, reluctant allies and partners around the world will be more likely to rewrite nuclear treaties and enforce sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

That is, if America weakens itself by unilaterally dumping its nuclear weapons, then other nations will feel more empowered to aggressively enforce already existing sanctions against rogue nations. But why? By definition, "already existing sanctions" already exist; if our allies are not willing to enforce them now, why would they be more willing if we become weaker? Does Obama truly believe that the world defies us because we're too powerful? Does he believe that we're evil, imperialist warmongers oppressing the world, causing them to resist us the way that the Jedi knights resisted the imperial storm troopers of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader?

This is magical thinking at its most emblematic: There is no obvious connection between the United States eliminating its nuclear arsenal and Pakistan following suit -- the latter is far more concerned about India (and vice versa) than about us -- or North Korea and Iran abandoning their own nuke hunt; they see nuclear weapons as their route to power in their own regions or protection against their own enemies. It's silly storytelling, jaw-dropping narcissism, and childish "wishing on a star" to imagine that every other country in the world that has or wants nuclear weapons is only driven by fear of America's nuclear arsenal.

But if there is any other reason why they want to be members of the nuclear club, then our reduction or even complete nuclear disarmament will have no effect upon them at all... except perhaps to encourage them tenfold: It's easy for third-world countries to believe that if they have nukes and we don't, they will no longer be third world -- they will be the first world; they will be the masters!

The childishness of this Obamic policy betokens an equally childish worldview, full of good guys (who are always good) and bad guys (eternally bad), superficial understandings, a view of history based more upon melodrama than reality, and magical thinking.

Heroes and villains as world actors

The One is the Lightbringer, whose devoted acolytes are trying to spread the "good news" around the globe (America alone is too small a stage). There is no "in-between," only a vast sea of unenlightened souls awaiting but a touch, a glance from the Obamacle to fall into the rapture.

The Bad Guy in Chief is George W. Bush, of course; and all Republicans are his henchmen. We are consciously evil, in that we sit around and cackle about our latest evil plans, perhaps chewing on the odd pinky or two. (Note that there is another shadowy group of conspirators who may be the real villains in this piece, "working the machinations behind the scenes," as Louis Farrakhan put it; we'll get to them in a moment.)

The great advantage of such hero-villain thinking is that it forces an automatic devaluing of opposing viewpoints: Of course you don't think government should take over the economy... you're a Republican! You want to kill and eat the poor anyway.

Superficiality as a guiding principle

Obamunism is centrally focused on a series of superficial and (upon analysis) meaningless catch phrases, slogans, and jingoisms: hope, change, the One we have been waiting for, audacity, coming together, post-partisan, post-racial, diplomacy, an end to torture, and so forth. While each of these words or phrases could impart meaning in other contexts, as Barack Obama and his apostles use them, we have no earthly idea what he means. Hope for what? Change from what to what? The One we have been waiting for -- to do what?

Even "diplomacy" is an empty concept by itself: Gandhi practiced diplomacy; so did Hitler.

Bear in mind, the more superficial a policy, the more ill-defined and vague, the less able critics are to attack it. It assumes radically different dimensions in the mind of each person who hears about it... and each tends to envision it in a way that resonates with him, personally, satisfying that specific individual's wish-fulfillment fantasies. It's very, very tough to tell someone that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable; he tends to react emotionally -- and sometimes violently.

The heroic epic as public policy

When Obama and his fellow Democrats recount history (particularly the economic history of the United States and the history of the conflict in the Middle East), it's clear their "understanding" is based not upon what actually happened but upon what should have happened to make things more coherent and plot-driven, like a novel.

We didn't have a financial crash because of foolhardy (and bipartisan) government policy to encourage poor people to buy houses they couldn't afford, regulation and oversight that was badly written by Congress and poorly implemented by several administrations, and increasingly complex financial instruments that few people understand, including those who invented them. No, it's much more gripping if there is a vast banking conspiracy -- or as a disturbingly large number of Obama appointees would see it, a vast Jew-banker conspiracy). The conspiracy (or "lobby") controls everything behind the scenes, like a bad John Grisham melodrama (sorry for the redundancy).

This reductionism is signalled by the use of capitalized terms beginning with "Big," personalizing the enemy without actually naming them: Big Tobacco, Big Carbon, Big Business, Big Money.

And the continual conflict among Arab countries is not driven by a religious interpretation of Islam that demands constant "jihad;" that's boring... and it smacks of racism, too. But if everything bad in the entire region is driven by a single rogue villain (Israel) which causes all the problems for the sole purpose of "taking over" -- an alien presence that exploits the traditional peoples of the region -- well then we have an enemy we can focus upon, a much tighter plot to follow, somebody we can actually defeat!

Conspiracy mongering is always based, at core, on a sense that the universe should really be more coherent, more linear, and more dramatic than it actually is. It should follow literary rules of plot development, causality, a climax, and a satisfying denoument. Here is where Obama's man-crush on Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers becomes the synecdoche of his worldview. It's not very satisfying if blacks are doing badly because they have a lousy culture, or if kids aren't being educated because they have egregious work habits and have never enjoyed thinking. It's much more thrilling if Republican big business has busily been suppressing children's education because they need more worker-drones for capitalist imperialism -- and Whitey has been holding down "people of color" for a thousand years.

(By a curious coincidence, among much of Obama's inner circle, it appears that both plots have the same conspirators, the same villains: Jews. As antisemitism rises across the rest of the globe, it now finds a sympathetic ear at the highest levels of the American government.)

The Childe Left hate and fear complexity and constructive chaos more than anything in the world (just as literal children do); they also project this fear onto the Right, pretending that it is conservatives who embody "black and white" thinking, and liberals are the ones who understand shades of gray... but the Left's actions and policies belie the proclamations of maturity and wisdom.

Waiting for a miracle as grand strategy

Obamunism, and its larger parent New Leftism, deeply believe in the "magic bullet" theory of governance: For every intractable problem, there is a single, simple solution that will solve everything -- which has been missed by generations of previous, unenlightened souls, leaving its discovery to the hero of the saga. Some hitherto unsuspected connection exists between (seemingly unrelated) events A and B; Doing A will, as if by miracle, bring about B:

  • Many times in our past, and currently in the rest of the world, governments tightly control the economy via wage and price controls, overtaxation, heavy-handed regulation, union boosterism, and "five-year plans." This has never resulted in an economic renaissance, but generally recession and depression. But wait -- that's because it wasn't done by the One! This time, under the encyclical circulated by Barack Obama, when the government seizes control of the economy, it will cause the greatest economic boom in American, nay world, history... and the world will forever revere Obama as its champion eternal. (Don't ask how; it just will. And of course you're skeptical... you're a capitalist.)
  • Unlike all previous diplomatic overtures, when the great man just sits down and talks to his fellow world leaders (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Raul Castro, Ayman Zawahiri) -- when he explains to them that, unlike the previous regime, the current administration doesn't want to conquer and annex their lands, kill their children, and violate their women -- then the light from his heart will shine through, and these national leaders will realize that they need fear America no longer. They will all fall into each other's arms (in a manly way, I mean), have a good cry and a wonderful laugh, and all will be well. Nuclear warheads will be beaten into solar-power plants, war will be obsolete, the Jews will be driven into the sea, and all will live happily ever after. "And guns and swords and uniforms lay scattered on the ground." Barack Hussein Obama is, quite simply, the One that Ahmadinejad has been waiting for.
  • Due to stubborn resistance and ignorance, generations have closed their ears and stopped their eyes to the deadly, global peril of man-made climate change. But as soon as Congress enacts the divine vision of the Obamacle -- instantly, the world will cool, the seas will subside, the harvest will be bountiful, and disease and famine will be driven into the void. The word of the king is the blood of the land. We won't even have to wait for the policies to take effect... directly the word is uttered, the Earth will shake, the sky will brighten, and peace and plenty will rain upon all -- equally -- like manna from heaven.

Achievement without effort; success without setback or disappointment; like a Michael Jackson video, Captain Eo points his finger and a bolt of lightning obliterates the bad guy in a puff of CGI. It's magic!

Obamunism - through the eyes of a lizard

It took me a while to realize it, but it's the childishness of Obamunism that irritates me more than any other element... its reduction to heroes and villains, its soap-bubble superficiality, its melodramatic story telling, and the magical thinking that underpins all the rest. Our country is ruled by the inmates of an excessively permissive and progressive preschool.

The entire Obama administration needs a long time-out. Alas, what we're more likely to see is a time-out from history for the entire country... followed by a very rude and deadly awakening.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2009, at the time of 2:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 11, 2008

OPEC Threatens America, America Laughs - or, the Ultimate Political X-Prize

Future of Energy Production , Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a bizarre, subtextual threat, the Secretary-General of OPEC, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, essentially said that if the United States attacks Iran, or even if we defend ourselves when Iran attacks us or Israel, OPEC will ensure that the price of oil skyrockets to an "unlimited" level:

In recent weeks, the price of oil has risen higher on speculation that Israel could be preparing to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The saber-rattling intensified this week with missile tests by Iran. That has further shaken oil markets because of concerns that any conflict with Iran could disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf region.

"The prices would go unlimited," Badri said during the interview, referring to the effect of a military conflict. "I can't give you a number."

But of course, El-Badri is thinking about an Iraq-style invasion of Iran, which would be bad for several reasons (and is certainly not in the cards):

  • We simply haven't the troops; we're already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the hundred or more low-level engagements we have around the world in what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "non-integrated gap" nations.

    We still have not recovered from Bill Clinton ransacking the Department of Defense to find his "peace dividend," which he used for more social-welfare programs in the first couple of years of his presidency.

  • The American public would not stand for another invasion/occupation; they're already more than half convinced (demographically) that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, even if we win. Of course, if we do clearly win, then many of those saying "it wasn't worth it" will change their minds... that's how such things work. But certainly most people would freak at the thought of invading and occupying Iran in the next few months.
  • We might have a hard time pacifying Iran in the remainder of George W. Bush's presidency; and if Barack H. Obama is elected -- which would probably be more likely, given an invasion/occupation of Iran -- that would be the end of it. Bush would just be handing Obama yet another venue in which the latter could surrender to lawlessness and the world caliphate.
  • A protracted and bloody invasion would turn the entire Iranian population against us and send them scurrying to support the mad mullahs. I haven't seen anyone dispute this point -- and it's a deal-killer all by itself.
  • And most important to this anaylsis, such a force on force struggle would give those selfsame mullahs ample time to torch their own oil fields... leading to a disruption in the world oil supply that would indeed, as El-Badri suggested, lead to an "unlimited" rise in the price of oil: Our economy would absolutely tank, and I'm not willing to trade pacifying Iran for a complete collapse of the American economy. I don't think I'm alone in this.

Fortunately, we have a much better scenario available, which we've already talked about... the Herman Option, named after military historian Arthur Herman. Here is how we described it back in January of 2007:

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:

  1. Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.

This is the take-away point: "Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able 'to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.'" That means, among other things, that since we would control their offshore platforms, we could keep that oil flowing. After crippling the Iranian armed forces by cutting off their supplies of gasoline, we could also stroll into their land-based oil fields and take control... keeping that oil flowing too.

And here's the kicker: We could put all the money from the oil into an escrow account... and announce to the world that the Iranians will get all that money back -- when they have removed the mullahs from power and set up a free and democratic society... which is what the younger Iranians want to do anyway.

I'm sure the Moslem world would scream and rave; but it's a bit hard to accuse us of stealing Iran's oil, when we're putting every last rial into a transparent escrow account; and we offer to hand it over to the Iranian people, as soon as they put paid to the Persian carpetbaggers who have run their country into the ground. Think of it as the ultimate geopolitical X-prize!

While the price might skyrocket at first, as soon as it becomes clear that we're deliberately keeping the oil lines open, and that Iran is probably headed for democracy (like their two next-door neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan), I forsee oil prices dropping markedly, as the mad mullahs will no longer be figured into the pricing equation.

So to Abdalla Salem El-Badri, I will say this (quoting yet another great American Democrat): "Go ahead... make my day!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2008, at the time of 2:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 19, 2008

It's Not the Crime, It's the Cover Up: NYT Still Shielding Obama On "No Preconditions"

Iran Matters , Media Madness , Mysterious Orient , Southern Exposure
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, even AP admits that Barack Obama did indeed say that he would hold summit meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Venezuelan President Oogo Chavez, and North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il "without precondition"... the very policy that prompts many in the GOP (including Big Lizards!) to dub Obama an "appeaser."

(Actually, Obama is even more feckless than Neville Chamberlain: Great Britain had no military to speak of in 1938; they used the eleven months between the dissection of Czechoslovakia -- "peace for our time" -- and Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in a massive mobilization and buildup for a long war. Obama has no such easy excuse.)

Yet amazingly, the New York Times continues to run interference. Even today, they still pretend that what's at issue is meeting with our enemies at all, rather than meeting with them at a presidential level without any prior agreement to moderate their behavior.

Here is the Times blog the Caucus on the dustup today between John McCain and Barack Obama:

Mr. McCain, who was in Mr. Obama’s hometown to address the National Restaurant Association, diverged from prepared remarks on economic issues to get in his jab at Mr. Obama.

Believing keeping the focus on national security is advantageous to Mr. McCain, his campaign has been continuing to try to make hay over Mr. Obama’s stated willingness to sit down with the leaders of rogue nations.

The Caucus follows this bare-faced mischaracterization of the nature of the dispute with a spirited defense of Obama, just in case any readers were still confused which side was "right":

Arguing for engagement with the country’s foes, Mr. Obama said in a speech on Sunday that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”

“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet.”

He went on to argue that Iran spends “one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.”

To which, according to the Caucus, John McCain had no answer and was reduced to impotent harumphing...

Mr. McCain seized upon those comments today, his voice stern and dripping with contempt: “Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.”

How weak! How embarassing! Things certainly look bleak for McCain's chances, when even a wimp like Obama can spank McCain like a stripper at a stockholder's meeting.

By the way, just to correct the record: Reagan certainly did not, as Obama claimed, talk to Gorbachev when the Soviet Union was saying "we’re going to wipe you off the planet." It was Nikita Kruschev who said "we will bury you" in 1956, three decades before Reagan's summit. The whole point of that meeting was that General Secretary Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev had already drastically reformed the Soviet Union -- remember perestroika and glasnost? -- long before Reagan agreed to that summit.

This summit represents the polar opposite of what Obama actually proposed, and which the Times continues to work overtime to suppress: You won't read a word about Obama's promise to hold summits "without precondition" in this article... nothing.

By contrast, here is AP's version of that same exchange:

Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama of inexperience and reckless judgment for saying Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did in its day. McCain made the attack Monday in Chicago, Obama's home turf.

"Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess," McCain said in an appearance at the restaurant industry's annual meeting....

McCain listed the dangers he sees from Iran: It provides deadly explosive devices used to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, sponsors terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and is committed to the destruction of Israel.

"The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny," McCain said.

AP goes on to characterize -- correctly, we note -- the nature of the dispute:

At the heart of the dispute between the candidates is Obama's assertion that, as president, he would meet with leaders of these rogue countries without preconditions. Obama insists that direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.

McCain strongly disagrees with Obama's position; he argues such a meeting would lend international prestige to U.S. foes.

"A summit meeting with the president of the United States, which is what Senator Obama is proposing, is the most prestigious card we have to play in international diplomacy," McCain said.

"An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically, when he is very unpopular among the Iranian people," McCain said.

As to Obama's assertion (as paraphrased by AP) that "direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall," I refer you to our earlier post, Appease Porridge Hot, Appease Porridge Cold: There's engagement (Kennedy style), and then there's engagement (Reagan style).

Back to the Times. The Caucus takes no judicial note of the about-face Obama took after McCain called him out. Responding to McCain, Obama today denied he had said Iran posed no threat to us:

Speaking during a town hall meeting in Billings, Mont., Senator Obama fired back at Senator McCain. “Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.” But the Soviet Union posed a bigger threat, he said.

A grave threat? "Grave," in the sense used here, means "fraught with danger or harm," "portending future disaster," "involving or resulting in serious consequences : likely to produce real harm or damage," "very serious : dangerous to life." But here is what Obama said over the weekend, while he was still trying to defend his promise to meet "without precondition" with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea by pretending that was a commonplace diplomatic act in which U.S. presidents always engage:

“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us."

He didn't say "they don't pose as serious a threat," he said "they don't pose a serious threat." But maybe he just misspoke. He's a Democrat; he has a license to flub. But what about the overarching point?

Suppose Iran completes development of its nuclear warhead. Then suppose it passes a couple of nukes to Hamas, which passes one to al-Qaeda, which smuggles it into a busy American port and detonates it. (Hamas uses its other nuke on Tel Aviv.)

Wouldn't that be far "graver" than anything the Soviet Union actually did to us? Remember, in one sense, the threat from the Soviets was weaker: Unlike Islamist "martyrs," the Soviet Union wanted to live. We deterred them by threatening nuclear retaliation... a strategy we called "mutually assured destruction," or MAD.

Iran could make retaliation unlikely by putting several cutouts between itself and the nuclear bomb; and al-Qaeda or other apocalyptic, human-sacrificing death cults cannot be deterred by threats of retaliation, because they long to die in the blast anyway, believing that's an express ticket to paradise and the 72 virgins and 72 wives (or perhaps chilled raisins instead).

But evidently, none of this has occurred to the first-term senator from Chicago. He cannot conceive any way in which Iran could pose a serious threat to the United States. Except that he simultaneously believes that it constitutes a "grave threat!"

And the Times doesn't notice any contradiction. This raises an interesting thought... Given the New York Times' inability to stay afloat financially, and given their clear ideological leanings -- maybe it would make more sense for them simply to disband the company and reorganize themselves as the Democratic Party of the Times Square District.

I think they would be a lot more financially secure with a piece of Barack Obama's fundraising action than they are now trying to peddle their "newspapers."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2008, at the time of 3:46 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 15, 2008

Appease Porridge Hot, Appease Porridge Cold

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

In a brilliant speech before the Knesset today, President George W. Bush said the following (you can read the complete speech by clicking the Slither On):

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Almost immediately, Barack Obama reacted with volcanic fury, leaping to the conclusion that the warning against "appeasement" was aimed squarely at him:

By tradition, partisan politics comes to a halt when a U.S. president is on foreign soil, and Bush's remarks led Obama to quickly cry foul. The first-term Illinois senator responded to the comments as if they were criticism of his position that as president he would be willing to personally meet with Iran's leaders and those of other regimes the United States has deemed rogue.

"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said in a statement his aides distributed. "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel." [Actually, if they help keep Obama out of the Oval Office, then I think they do a tremendous lot to secure the American people and our stalwart ally Israel!]

Let's ponder that exchange for a moment. I see three fascinating dynamics at play in the fields of the Obamessiah...

Dynamic 1: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth"

Bush attacked appeasement -- and Obama instantly recognized himself, reacting angrily and defensively. So even Obama realizes that his proposed unconditional dialoging with Mahmoud, Jong-Il, Raul, and Oogo skirts perilously close to appeasement.

But since Obama sees America -- not Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Venezuela -- as the cause of all the world's ills, he truculently believes that it's up to us to "make amends." We must meet with those we have "wronged" by our "cowboy diplomacy" all these years -- which wrongs created a patriotic backlash that takes the form of groups we falsely label as "terrorists" (that would be Hamas, Hezbollah, even al-Qaeda). We must meet with our victims and humble ourselves before them; then they will forgive us and stop all the attacks against us... which were all based on a GOP-inspired misunderstanding anyway.

(Obama likely learned this attitude from two decades of listening to Jeremiah Wright's sermons.)

But he knows he can never say such a thing out loud: He would never be elected. In his own mind, he probably imagines this is because Americans are afraid the face the truth; but for whatever reason, this attitude is a secret he's trying desperately to hide.

Thus Obama's guilty start when he hears that very thing trip from the not so agile lips of George W. Bush. Since it's so overwhelmingly obvious to Barack Obama that Bush meant to single him out, he probably didn't even notice that his name never came up.

Dynamic 2: "If you know who I mean -- and I think you do!"

But in reality, I think it is patently obvious that Bush had Obama directly in mind... and that he knew everyone in the country (and especially Obama himself) would "get it." The presidential spokeschick had a quip all ready to run once Obama plunged into the trap as everyone in the Bush (and McCain) teams expected:

In turn, White House press secretary Dana Perino denied that the Knesset remark was aimed at Obama. In fact, the language is fairly typical for Bush speeches, and Gordon Johndroe, a national security spokesman for the president, said Bush was referring to "a wide range of people who have talked to or suggested we talk to Hamas, Hezbollah or their state sponsors" over a long period of time.

One such person most recently was former President Carter, who held talks with Hamas leaders, leading to criticism from Bush officials as well as Obama and McCain.

Even as the White House said Bush meant no dig at the Democrat, Perino couldn't resist the opportunity to get in a small one.

"I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case," she said.

"Um... thank you, Ma'am. May I have my eggs back again now?"

Barack Obama looks a fool, not only for instantly leaping to the conclusion that "appeaser" must mean himself -- but then for being so outraged and offended, getting all het up, when in fact nobody even mentioned him. It makes him seem not only guilty but narcissistic.

This was a sly and very effective nudge-nudge wink-wink attack on the New Kid by the president.

Dynamic 3: The "left-handed monkey wrench"

And boy, did it work like a charm!

There is a tradition in many fields that when the New Kid first shows up to work, he is given a number of bootless errands and impossible tasks to perform, things that a more experienced worker would instantly recognize as senseless; the stereotypical version is sending the new hire on the assembly line in search of a "left-handed monkey wrench."

The trick is based upon ignorance and inexperience... and that is just what Barack Obama evinced in this humiliating exchange.

Any experienced politician would immediately recognize the offer of Fool's Mate -- and would decline. Consider this response, had the theoretical target been, say, Bill Clinton...

George W. Bush: "We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

(Bill waits for a question at his current campaign stop)

Reporter: "Mr. President, what do you think of the line about appeasers in the speech by that fascist guy illegally occupying Al Gore's and John Kerry's White House?"

Bill Clinton: "Well, heck, I listened to that speech -- and I couldn't agree more. The president was sure right about that: We can never 'negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,' and I'm glad he understands that. I just wish he would understand that there are some people, heads of state, that you just gotta talk to. I mean, heck, when I was president, I always --" [We skip forty minutes of self praise.]

See, the trick only works if the target publicly recognizes himself as the butt of the speech. If instead he pretends not to notice, then what is the president going to do? He can't out and out say, "and I mean you, Bubba!" because then the target could rightly be outraged.

But Obama was such a green hayseed that he ran pell mell right into the bear trap, flapping his arms and caterwauling like to wake the dead; nobody in America could fail to notice when his leg was grabbed by the steel jaws.

Once the voters notice, they will laugh, because he just made himself look like such a buffoon.

"You can't make a silk purse out of a pig's breakfast"

But when they finish laughing, many undecided Americans will stop to ponder a couple of points:

  • The connection between Barack Obama's grandiose foreign-policy schemes and appeasement (and by extension, the fecklessness of the entire Democratic Party)... sure, maybe he doesn't call for dialog with Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah; but he calls for dialog with Nasrallah's boss, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Which is worse?
  • The poor judgment and cranky attitude exhibited by Obama accusing the president of "launch[ing] a false political attack." It's like the old coot all the kids love to torment, because they know will always get apoplectic and scream, "You kids get outa my yard!"

I cannot guarantee this will immediately show up in the polls; gaffes do their best work in the weeks leading up to the election, as the accumulated weight of a hundred stupid miscommunications come back to haunt the nominee. But I strongly suspect this will raise serious doubts in the minds of more than a few undecided voters about entrusting the presidency at this time to an entry-level candidate.

(If you don't feel like jumping to the White House website, the full speech by the president is just below.)

President Bush Addresses the Israeli Knesset - May 15th, 2008

President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It's also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles -- shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the "elimination" of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant "Death to Israel, Death to America!" That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that "the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties." And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.

The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.

That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.

Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.

This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America's closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.

Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.

Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar -- the key to the Zion Gate -- and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, "Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day." Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: "I accept this key in the name of my people."

Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2008, at the time of 8:00 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Bombs and Bombast

Afghan Astonishments , Future of Warfare , Immigration Immolations , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , On the Border , Pakistan Perplexities
Hatched by Dafydd

In a post today, Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics gleefully reports that the "virtual fence" program hasn't worked well so far:

Keith Epstein of Businessweek reports that the "virtual fence" all the candidates kept referring to (especially the GOP ones) as the cornerstone of border security turned out to be a miserable failure....

Doesn't this hurt McCain, given that the virtual fence was one of the tools he was counting on to help deliver his promise of "certifying" the security of the border? Will he have commit to building the real "g**damn fence" now?

No, it shouldn't hurt McCain... any more than the early failures of the ballistic missile defense system seriously hurt the BMD program. It just means we have to keep building the physical fence -- while continuing to work on the virtual one.

For some reason, the idea of a virtual fence became the focal point of the ire of immigration-absolutists during the debate last year over McCain-Kennedy. It became vital to anti-plea-bargain conservatives to "debunk" the virtual fence, presumably on the grounds that only a real fence -- three hundred feet high and sixty feet thick, dotted with machine-gun emplacements and sporting a minefield -- could keep out the illegal Mexicans.

They saw the virtual fence as a heavily watered drink some cheapskate bartender was trying to foist on them.

Do I sound a bit caustic? Sorry, I tend to get that way when Republicans act-out like Democrats. In particular, the reflexive bias against technology has always set my teeth on fire.

Democrats in the 1980s became hysterical at the thought of a technological shield against incoming nuclear missiles; and now the conservative wing of the GOP is running around like a chicken with its legs cut off over the possibility of a technological shield against illegal immigration.

I can only conclude that they believe even breathing the words "virtual fence" amounts to "surrender" and "amnesty," as if it were always just a ruse to avoid building a real fence. But the areas suggested for the virtual fence are precisely those that have such rugged terrain that (a) there are hardly any illegal crossings, and (b) it's extremely difficult (if not impossible) to build a "real" fence in the first place.

So that those areas would not be left totally unguarded, various people proposed a network of radar installations, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, and a computer system tying it all together... modeled roughly on the Aegis combat system that protects many of our cruisers and destroyers.

Regardless of whether or not this particular version of a virtual fence has worked, we absolutely need one. Believe it or not, keeping out Mexicans is not the only problem we have that requires some sort of barrier:

  • The border with Canada is vastly bigger than the southern border, and it would take a long, long time to toss a fence across it;
  • And then, of course, there's the Gulf of Mexico; terrorists can boat up the Gulf and hop out onto the beach;
  • And there are the Iraqi borders with Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran;
  • And don't forget the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and (naturally) Iran;
  • Not to mention borders between our allies and their enemiess;
  • Finally, any physical fence that can be built -- can be breached; cf. the fence that used to separate Gaza from Egypt. Even if we could literally build fences separating us from all potential enemies, those fences can be tunneled under, flown over, or blown up.

We need to keep working on the virtual fence because we are soon going to need it -- desperately, and in many, many places. Similarly, it's a darned good thing that we kept working on BMD, despite early failures of the components of the original Strategic Defense Initiative (particle-beam technology, railgun ground launchers, nuclear-powered pulse weapons)... because now we really, really need it for a completely unforseen adversary. Thank goodness we have it.

It's quite reasonable to argue that the virtual fence technology is not yet good enough to rely upon, so we need to build a physical barrier. But it's wrong -- one of those few actions that are always wrong -- to heap scorn upon a technological program because the early alpha-tests weren't entirely successful. Worse than wrong, it's foolish, Luddite, and short-sighted.

By all means, build the physical double-fencing along the southern border with Mexico; but don't delude yourselves that that's all we need. Or that we'll never need the virtual fence. Or even that we'll actually be able to build an effective physical fence everywhere that we need to stop people from coming... or even along the entire southern border itself.

The physical fence is a stopgap; we urgently need to do two things. As Caiaphas says in Jesus Christ Super Star, "We need a more permanent solution to our problem":

  1. Perfect the virtual-fence, smart-card, and employer verification technologies;
  2. Reform our own legal immigration system so that it is rational, just, and above all, predictable, to take the pressure of millions off the wall.

When law-abiding, eager-to-assimilate immigrants see a system that tells them what they need do to be granted residency or citizenship, they will follow the legal brick road. Contrariwise, if they see a system that arbitrarily excludes them, while welcoming much less assimilable immigrants with open arms, the pressure to just give up and sneak into the country, making a better life for their wives and chilren, becomes overwhelming.

(Imagine that you go through four or five years of university, passing all classes and tests; but at the end, somebody hands you a pair of dice... and you only get your diploma if you roll ten or higher.)

Until these two problems are solved, a physical fence is just a very wide target for bombs -- and bombast.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 25, 2008, at the time of 10:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Hoodwinkers and Their Codependents: In Search of Intelligent Intelligence on Iran

Iran Matters , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

British intelligence evidently reads Big Lizards; the first paragraph of this Telegraph story says it all:

British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran.

In our first post (six days ago) on the subject of the New! Revised! National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!, we suggested the possibilty that the "new evidence" upon which the National Intelligence Council cobbled up its new NIE could have been part of a "disinformation campaign" by the Iranians:

[Washington Times reporters Jon Ward and Bill] Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.

"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.

So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.

Whether or not that "new evidence" was accurate or a ruse, it was uncritically seized upon by three principal authors of the 2007 Iran NIE -- Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- who already held a quasi-religious faith in diplomacy, not "saber rattling," to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapons crisis.

In our second post on the New! Possibly Fabricated! NIE, Of Course We Trust This Journal That Just Fell Into Our Hands..., we called your attention to a Los Angeles Times article (free registration required) that elucidated the provenance of that "new evidence". It came first from intercepted phone conversations among Iranian nuclear-weapons developers; and second, from a "journal," ostensibly kept by one of those weapons developers and stuffed full of what would be highly classified intelligence, that was handed to U.S. intelligence officers by a person about whom we have been told... exactly nothing.

Acting on nought but my own uninformed analysis, here is what I noted after discovering what new evidence Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill (and others in the CIA and State Department) found so persuasive:

To my admittedly untrained and non-authoritative mind, if I wanted to convince the CIA that I'd stopped my nuclear weapons program and persuade them to bang the gong for a massive incentive program for my country -- I think I would have various government officials discuss this terrible secret in a not-so-secure environment; and I think I would accidentally drop a journal where it would be sure to be found.

Spinning yarns for stretched ears and handing over a notebook that contains exactly what your audience wants to read is just about the best method of duping your foes. It's intelligence jujitsu.

Critical analysis is what we do at Big Lizards. We're not news reporters; we're secondary sources, reading "the first draft of history" (as Philip Graham called journalism) and using our brains to sort out what ought to be, perhaps, the second draft... after a good editor has gone through, making connections missed in the heat of a deadline -- and tossing out what "20-20 hindsight" shows is obvious nonsense. (Actually, hindsight is never better than 20-100; but it doesn't have as big an astigmatism as the twisted view of contemporaneous observation.)

And now, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, we have this satisfying confirmation that other analysts, ones with actual knowledge of the intelligence in question, have the same qualms:

A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.

The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. "We are sceptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on the basis of the defector [former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari]? Was it on the basis of the intercept material? They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.

"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq."

That last line is very disturbing; first, because it implies that British intelligence believes the CIA is simply swinging widly, like an out of control pendulum, between overestimating and underestimating WMD capabilities... and second, because British intelligence is probably right.

Under previous administrations (Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton), we slashed our committment to "humint," or human intelligence -- actual spies -- to a doleful level, preferring to rely almost exclusively on "sigint," signals intelligence: satellite photos, cell-phone intercepts, electromagnetic tracking of electrical-cable traffic, and so forth.

Sigint is great for showing movement of physical objects, how a country's emergency-alert electrical grid operates, and clandestinely surveilling conversations. Sigint will tell us the state and condition of the enemy's means to carry out its intentions; but it simply cannot tell us what those intentions are in the first place. Sigint cannot tell us what he intends to do next; we only learn what he says -- over phone lines he knows are probably compromised -- he's going to do next.

In order to have a good read on actual intentions, you need physical human beings, actually loyal to the United States (not just turned or bribed double-agents), infiltrating the enemy's institutions and getting right up inside his OODA loop. Preferably someone who has lived and worked in the target country for years, perhaps decades, and actually understands the culture, the de facto decision-making heirarchy (which may differ from the heirarchy on paper), the language in all its nuances; a person who can judge the actual intensity of the enemy's goals and plans... how determined are they really?

In other words, exactly what Great Britain -- and Israel -- have focused on obsessively for decades (centuries, in the UK's case). The Brits because they had to control a global empire... and the Israelis because the "Great Game" to them is literally existential: If Israel guesses wrong, it could be "wiped from the map," in the piquant phrasing of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fingar, Van Diepen, Brill, and their posse are saying that our sigint tell us that Iran paused their nuclear weapons program (NWP) in 2003. The Brits and the Israelis are saying that their humint tells them that the Iranians are playing us like a Stradivarius.

I don't know about you, but we here at lizard central would like to see some further analysis on this point by the National Intelligence Council, leading to a resolution we can trust. It would be a tragedy if we bought Iranian disinformation and released the pressure on them -- only to see Ahmadinejad (or Hezbollah) with a nuke in two years.

Even some American spies share the British and Israeli concerns:

A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004," the official said.

Why 2004? Well, in January of that year, the Guardian Council in Iran went on a tear, banning nearly all well-known Reformist candidates from the Majlis (legislature) election. In the vote on February 20th and the runoff on May 7th, the Conservatives, led by Teheran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the year before he was elected President of Iran, won an absolute majority in the Majlis, ousting the Reformist Party of former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and others.

Evidently, nearly all of our sources in Iran were Iranian informers, not American spies; and they must have nearly all been Reformists (which makes sense). Thus when they were booted from power in 2004, American intelligence was blinded at the same time. This is one reason among many for infiltrating Americans into countries like Iran and North Korea, not relying solely upon defectors, traitors, and informers within the target countries; another reason is the inability to trust people who have proven themselves untrustworthy by betraying their own former allegiance.

(Rafsanjani later lost to Ahmadinejad for president; but he has since ascended to the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts, which will elect the next Supreme Leader -- possibly Rafsanjani himself -- when the current Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei dies or is retired.)

The Israelis and the British focus on placing Israelis and Brits into Iran, and they lose a lot of good men and women to assassination when they're discovered. We focus on bribing Iranians to rat out their country... and we focus on sigint. All three intelligence sources have their uses; but through short-sighted political daintiness and an aversion to dissembling on behalf of our country -- Democrats never seem to mind dissembling on behalf of their own careers -- we have cut ourselves off from the most useful and believable source of learning the intentions of our enemies: well-informed, long-term American spies.

These are desperate times, and they demand desperate measures. I don't believe the American public has any doubt that we need actual human spies infiltrating Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and every other country that is an avowed enemy of the United States... and I doubt there would be much objection from the voters if we also sent spies into China, Russia, the 'Stans, other Latin American countries, flakey Asian countries... oh heck, why not just everywhere we can?

The qualms are all on the part of elected officials -- Democratic elected officials and perhaps a few RINOs, those overly fastidious "senoritos" who jump on a chair, hike their skirts, and scream at the very thought of a ruthless American spy working his way up the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards for purposes of stealing intelligence and committing sabotage... and ready to kill to protect his secret identity.

If there ever was a time to allow the faint of heart to craft our intelligence policies, that time has long passed. Give us some stout-hearted men and women -- and prepare yourselves for many, many more black stars going up on the wall of heroes in the lobby of CIA headquarters at Langley.

America had a long and honorable tradition of infiltrating our own "unlawful combatants" into enemy territory; it's time to return to those days. In fact, it's long overdue.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2007, at the time of 8:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 6, 2007

Of Course We Trust This Journal That Just Fell Into Our Hands...

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The Los Angeles Times claims to have ferreted out the "new evidence" that completely flipped the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran -- that they were "determined" to develop a nuclear bomb -- into the 2007 NIE on Iran: that they had suspended their nuclear weapons program, NWP, in 2003, two years before the last NIE:

According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the information that surfaced this summer included intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program, as well as a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut it down. [Well, those certainly sound authoritative...]

"When we first got some of this stuff, the fact that we got it was exciting," said a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the subject. He said the information was obtained as part of a stepped-up effort targeting Iran that President Bush had ordered in 2005, but the problem with it "was digesting it to know what we had."

The information triggered a cascade of recalculations across the 16 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, the official said. Analysts at the CIA and elsewhere began to revisit classified reports that they had scrutinized repeatedly in recent years. As they did so, officials said, they saw details that added up to the new conclusion.

Bear in mind: At best, analyzing intelligence is like playing "connect the dots" -- without any numbers. You can draw any of a large number of "pictures" by connecting dots in different ways. What the National Intelligence Council (NIC) is saying is that in 2005, they connected the dots to draw a picture of Iranian intransigence to a "high degree of confidence." But now, they connect the same dots (plus a couple of others) to create a new picture of Iranian compliance... again with a "high degree of confidence."

I can see how that would be perfectly convincing -- to anyone already deeply invested in finding that Iran has complied, so it's time to reward them. Like, you know, "Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."

But the NIC also has another strong argument for the reversal; from the L.A. Times again:

Intelligence officials said that process of reevaluation was guided by lessons from the prewar intelligence on Iraq. In the months leading up to the war, the intelligence community in just 19 days put together an estimate that concluded that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. They didn't take the usual time to challenge their assumptions or sources, which later proved to be off-base.

Translation: We grossly underestimated Iraq's WMD stores in 1990; then we grossly overestimated them in 2002. Then we grossly underestimated Iran's nuclear ambitions prior to 2004. We assume we must then have grossly overestimated them in 2005.

So now, of course, it's time to grossly underestimate them again!

All of the "red teams" taking contrary positions and trying to defend them are meaningless, because the final decision was still made by Fingar to Van Diepen to Brill. As those three between them passed judgment on which pretty dot-connect pictures made sense and which did not, all argument, evidence, and debate was simply filtered through the reality-net of those who believe, in their souls, that George W. Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei; people who complain that we haven't offered enough incentives to Iran; career State Department weenies, at least one of whom (Brill) was so far out of the mainstream that Secretary of State Colin Powell fired him (Brill was rehired by the first Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte).

Which way did anyone think they were going to fall?

Even the former counselor of the State Department (and executive director of the 9/11 Commission) questions whether this NIE is just another wild overcorrection to the previous one:

Philip Zelikow, a former senior aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is an advocate of diplomacy with Iran, but he said the report understates the threat. The wording of the document "appears to be a reaction to the wording of past estimates," Zelikow said, calling it the latest example of a "pendulum of analytic momentum that swings between highlighting risks and understating risks."

The big complaint voiced by many "Persianists" within the intelligence and State apparatuses was that in 2002, the intelligence community allowed policy-makers to write the analysis. But it appears that an even worse situation has eventuated from the oversteer today: We now have unelected intelligence analysts creating policy. Without oversight, of course; they simply present the completed dot-picture to the president... and if he won't accept it, they will casually leak it to the Washington Post or the New York Times. They're quite familiar with that route.

The 2007 NIE clearly sinks deep into a policy-making role that is utterly foreign to the National Intelligence Council, and for which they have neither the expertise nor access to all available information (such as how other countries will react to an NIE that seems, naively, to be saying that everything's all right now, Iran is making nice, nothing to see here). (Hat tip to Power Line.)

As the New York Sun notes (link directly above):

The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran.

One could call all this revenge of the bureaucrats. Vann Van Diepen, one of the estimate's main authors, has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium. Mr. Van Diepen no doubt reckons that in helping push the estimate through the system, he has succeeded in influencing the policy debate in Washington. The bureaucrats may even think they are stopping another war.

It's a dangerous game that may boomerang, making a war with Iran more likely. Our diplomats, after all, hoped to seal this month a deal to pass a third Security Council resolution against Iran. Already on Monday the Chinese delegation at Turtle Bay has started making noises about dropping their tepid support for such a document. Call it the Van Diepen Demarche, since the Chinese camarilla can boast that even America's intelligence estimate concludes the mullahs shuttered their nuclear weapons program more than four years ago.

So much for diplomatic pressure in the run up before the mullahs have their bomb. And so the options for preventing the Islamic Republic from going nuclear get progressively more narrow. What it means is that when the historians look back on this period, they will see that by sabotaging our diplomacy, our intelligence analysts have clarified the choice before the free world -- appeasement or war.

Getting back to the "new evidence," the New York Times goes into somewhat more detail about what, exactly, convinced our intrepid Three Persianeers that the Iranians gave up on their NWP in 2003:

The notes included conversations and deliberations in which some of the military officials complained bitterly about what they termed a decision by their superiors in late 2003 to shut down a complex engineering effort to design nuclear weapons, including a warhead that could fit atop Iranian missiles....

Ultimately, the notes and deliberations were corroborated by other intelligence, the officials said, including intercepted conversations among Iranian officials, collected in recent months. It is not clear if those conversations involved the same officers and others whose deliberations were recounted in the notes, or if they included their superiors.

To my admittedly untrained and non-authoritative mind, if I wanted to convince the CIA that I'd stopped my nuclear weapons program and persuade them to bang the gong for a massive incentive program for my country -- I think I would have various government officials discuss this terrible secret in a not-so-secure environment; and I think I would accidentally drop a journal where it would be sure to be found.

But then, what do I know? The intel community assures us that they're probably ("moderate confidence") not just being spun by the Iranians, despite the Iranians' well-known penchant for deception:

[American officials who briefed the media on the NIE] said that the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies had organized a “red team” to determine if the new information might have been part of an elaborate disinformation campaign mounted by Iran to derail the effort to impose sanctions against it.

In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

“It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.

Oh. Well then. Who can argue with that?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2007, at the time of 4:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

Something to See Here: WSJ Dishes the Dirt on the NIE

Iran Matters , Terrorism Intelligence , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

The Wall Street Journal, following Big Lizards' lead, has weighed in on the questionable provenance of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program (NWP). (And if I have to mention it again, the Wall Street Journal will henceforth be the WSJ -- just to increase the alphabet soup aspect of this post. Maybe I can come up with a few more BL acronyms, while I'm at it.)

In today's editorial -- subscription (for actual money) required to read more than the first paragraph and part of the second -- they argue that the very fact that this NIE reverses the NIE of just two years ago itself casts doubt on the reliabilty of any NIE at all:

As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates" -- the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies -- are conducted and accorded gospel status.

What monumental change occurred in the last two years to completely flip our thinking on whether Iran is currently pursuing an NWP? Is it really, as Bill Gertz and Jon Ward allege, the testimony of one supposed Iranian defector -- former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari -- who we have not even interviewed ourselves?

The WSJ (there! -- see?) also echoes another point of our previous post... the provenance of the NIE (where it came from):

Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull -- .'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

The Journal agrees with us that the only major "pressure" on Iran in 2003 was our invasion of Iraq, the deposing of Saddam Hussein, de-Baathification of Iraq, and the start of the insurgency... and particularly our response to it: American forces dug in and fought back, rather than the Bush-41/Clinton style of staying but a few weeks, then withdrawing -- while congratulating ourselves for a job well done -- and leaving a chaotic mess behind into which Iran could move. So shouldn't we see the suspension of Iran's NWP in respose to the Iraq war (if true) as a tremendous victory for the Bush policy?

But contrariwise, the NIE claims the turnabout was due to "international pressure," which I don't believe they ever actually specify. What international (non-American) pressure was put on Iran in 2003? We were still in the process of trying to persuade the Europeans to start dealing with Iran on the issue of their NWP. I suppose it's possible that the Iranian mullahs glanced back at Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia and started quaking in their Persian slippers; just as it's possible that I am actually Marie of Romania... but very unlikely.

The WSJ drops a bombshell; at least, I hadn't heard this before, and I tend to follow the news more carefully than I think do most non-bloggers:

In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale -- that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.

The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.

This new NIE will surely make it more difficult to gain international support for further sanctions against Iran and against companies doing business with Iran ("Nothing to see here, folks!")... which, perversely enough, may actually make it easier for Iran to produce an actual nuclear bomb -- which will make it much more likely that we attack Iran just prior to that point.

I wonder whether the appeasement camp within the State Department -- that which spawned Messrs. Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill -- has ever given serious consideration to its strategy and whether it will achieve the desired goal... or its opposite. Is this a rational war against Bush, based upon actual tussling over policy? Or merely because, as does Jonathon Chait, they hate the way he walks and talks?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 5, 2007, at the time of 6:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 4, 2007

Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!

CIA CYA , Iran Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

If you believe the Democrats, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear-weapons program shows that there never was anything to worry about in the first place, so we must immediately stop all this "saber rattling" (Hillary's term) and tough talk -- and get down to the business of offering Iran incentives for promising to refrain in future from doing things that threaten us (which in civilian criminal terms is usually called "extortion").

In reality, a close look at the NIE -- if it's true and accurate -- demonstrates four points:

  • The Iranians absolutely had a nuclear-weapons program (NWP) that they built after extensive contact with Pakistan's proliferation-happy nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan; see the discussion below of the Bill Gertz story in today's Washington Times.
  • The Iranians suspended (not shut down) their NWP in late 2003 in direct response to President Bush's saber-rattling, and by my own conclusion, almost certainly in response to our invasion of next-door Iraq.

    The suspension (if it really occurred) was in "fall 2003," which is not only after we invaded Iraq and overthrew the Baathist regime, but also around the time al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Iraq, the Iranians were arming Shiite militias in Iran, and we were fighting both sides. Thus, they knew not only that we had swiftly overthrown Saddam Hussein, but also that we were not backing down, as many had predicted, but were fighting back hard against both insurgencies. This was a marked departure from what both Iran and the Arab nations believed about American resolve.

    Since our occupation of Iraq cannot possibly have made Teheran feel more secure, they must have suspended work on their NWP (if indeed they did) because they felt less secure; which can only mean they were worried that Bush might decide to invade or bomb the next target on the "axis of evil."

  • Iran continues its uranium-enrichment program, still striving for weapons-grade fissile materiel;
  • They can restart the NWP any time American and international pressure subsides... say, when either Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) is elected president.

Note that Israeli intelligence agrees that Iran shut down its NWP in 2003... but they believe they restarted it later (hat tip to Hugh Hewitt):

In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.

"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."

In my opinion, if the NIE is true and accurate, the Iranians essentially suspended their NWP during the tenure of George W. Bush; but if any of the current Democratic candidates is elected in 2008 and carries through on the Democratic plan, to which all the candidates have agreed, to start making nice with Iran -- inviting them into Iraq to help "stabilize" the country, offering incentives instead of sanctions and threats of attack, backing away from the demand for an intrusive inspections regime -- then the mullahs will order Iran's NWP back into full operation.

As the NIE states, they have not dismantled the program, and they have continued to enrich uranium all this time: They retain the knowledge to restart. They're just waiting out the vigilant Bush administration, praying for a changing of the guard.

The reason I keep saying about the NIE "if it's true and accurate" is that Kenneth Timmerman believes that this NIE was, in fact, cooked up to drive policy... fabricated by the appeasement arm of the State Department. The article was carried on Newsmax, which ordinarily would make me skeptical; but Timmerman has been investigating Iran's nuclear and CBW weapons program since at least 1990, in his book Poison Gas Connection: Western Suppliers of Unconventional Weapons and Technologies to Iraq and Iran. More recently, he has published two books that explore Iran, its drive for nukes, and the CIA's near-complicity in allowing it to do so, plus one book that touches on the subject:

I have found Timmerman to be a very substantive critic of the appeasement approach by the CIA and its parent, the State Department, to resolving the Iranian NWP crisis: He certainly has a bias on this issue; but he has also proven himself a reliable reporter on this issue in the past. So I take his claims now -- primarily drawn from his current book Shadow Warriors -- very seriously:

A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts -- not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.

Its most dramatic conclusion -- that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure -- is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.

Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for "a deliberate disinformation campaign" cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.

Timmerman writes that the new NIE was pushed by the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, who appears to be a classical "Persianist," a neologism I just invented to parallel the well-known cadre of Arabists in the State Department, most of whom long ago "went native," and now seem to be beguiled by their erstwhile extremist targets in Arab countries. If Fingar fell for Iranian disinformation, it would be because he was predisposed to think the mullahs were serious in their diplomatic discussions -- and because, like far too many entrenched commisars in the Department of State, he was predisposed to think George W. Bush was a greater threat to national security than Iranian nuclear weapons.

Timmerman pegs Fingar as a career State Department intelligence analyst and a long-time Democratic critic of the Bush administration; Fingar helped Democrats coordinate their successful spiking of John Bolton's appointment as permanent representative to the United Nations. Fingar has consistently fired or threatened to fire other intelligence analysts at State or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whenever those analysts conclude that Iran is a threat to the United States, that Iran is allied with Venezuela and Oogo Chavez, or that Chavez is allied with Fidel Castro's Cuba.

If true, this indicates that, far from being a disinterested analyst reporting "just the facts and [the] assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers," Fingar and his proteges -- Kenneth Brill, director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation -- started with the policy they were pushing and cobbled up an NIE that would support that policy.

This is an astonishing and deeply troubling charge. It's bad enough that anti-war, anti-Bush appeasers at the CIA and State have repeatedly leaked classified information in ways that will damage the administration. If they have now graduated to fabricating National Intelligence Estimates to the benefit of our most active enemy, then that drifts perilously close to the T-word that Big Lizards has been very reluctant to sling around. Such actions cross a very bright danger line... and demand action on the part of the president.

Timmerman references this article by the Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz; Gertz suggests that the likely source of the "new evidence" that caused the reversal of the 2005 assessment was former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected in February of this year. From Timmerman:

Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran's nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.

Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.

"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.

So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.

We desperately need to get to the bottom of this: What, exactly, is the new source of evidence that led Fingar to reverse the finding of intransigence of the earlier NIE... was is Asgari? If so, has the United States interviewed him? If not, why not?

If it turns out this NIE is purely political, a snow job by the Persianist wing of the State Department... then what is the president going to do to restore some sense of mission to the National Intelligence Council?

To Democrats, of course, this NIE "vindicates" what they have said all along... that we need to "walk softly and carry a big carrot":

"They should have stopped the saber rattling, should never have started it," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Bush "should seize this opportunity." But she also said it was clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect - a point disputed by rival Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware....

Bush said he did not know about the new findings until he was briefed last week - a point challenged by some.

"The president knew, even as he was saying 'World War III' and all that kind of stuff," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. "He knew. He knew, he had been briefed...."

"President Bush has lost all credibility with the American people," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "We were misled on Iraq, now it's Iran. We need to get to the truth so our foreign policy is not only tough but smart."

In fact, as Gertz notes, the new NIE is even more adamant than the 2005 estimate that Iran had (or still has) an NWP, which they have consistently denied and continue to deny to this day, and it emphasizes that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a speed unchecked by the supposed suspension of that program. In addition, even the current NIE says that it was pressure exerted by Bush and his European allies that drove Iran to suspend its NWP, the same pressure the Democrats now want to eliminate.

This is like a person who has blocked aortic arteries; he gets a bypass operation and feels much better. So much better that Democrats say this proves the operation was a wild overreaction!

Even if this estimate turns out to be true, it simply means that President Bush's response to Iran and his prosecution of the Iraq war worked. If the suspension claim is accurate, it means that Iran, like Libya, saw the writing on the Babylonian wall and decided to put everything on hold -- at least until a Democrat is elected president.

I don't exactly see how this helps Obama, Edwards, or Hillary. But on the other hand, if we're relying upon the GOP to do an effective job communicating this to the American voters... well, then we may be in trouble after all.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 4, 2007, at the time of 6:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

Mother of Mohammed! Is this the end of Mahmoud?

Iran Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

The title alludes, as I'm sure you all know, to the last line spoken by Edward G. Robinson in his revolutionary movie Little Caesar -- which, along with James Cagney's The Public Enemy, started the 1930s-40s trend of gangster biopics and may have been an early progenitor of film noir. The Hollywood gangster line eventually led to such classics as the Godfather movies and the more recent Goodfellas.

The original line in Little Caesar, is, of course "Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" (But in the original 1929 novel by the incomparable W. R. Burnett, the line reads, "Mother of God! Is this the end of Rico?")

I raise the question "is this the end of Mahmoud" because, in a stunning turn of events, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now accused his critics of being traitors to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Those critics include former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which will select the next Supreme Leader of Iran... and is himself a likely pick for that very post when the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dies.

Hm.

That verbal assault may be akin to waiting until Vladimir Lenin is on his deathbed to accuse Josef Stalin of being a counter-revolutionary.

Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council, which is supposed to resolve differences between the two branches of the Iranian legislature (the Majlis and the Guardian Council); the Expediency Council also directly advises the Supreme Leader. All of which is to note that Rafsanjani is probably the second most powerful cleric in Iran... and Ahmadinejad just called him and several of his close associates traitors:

One of Iran's most powerful cleric-politicians, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, issued a veiled criticism of Ahmadinejad last week, saying officials must "avoid immaturity and not cause trouble for the people."

Ahmadinejad warned Monday that he would expose his critics, saying, "They are traitors."

"If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."

Hm2.

Rafsanjani's great rival on the Assembly of Experts is Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who happens, by sheerest chance, to be President Ahmadinejad's guru. And by another strand of "the lattice of coincidence the lies on top of everything," when Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, his only serious rival was -- wait for it -- Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Small world, ain't it?

Ahmadinejad skirted as close to actually naming one of Rafsanjani's closest advisors as he possibly could:

He accused critics of regularly providing "the enemy" with "information from within the ruling system...."

The president said one official has already been arrested for espionage and accused his critics of pressuring the courts to acquit him.

"But I announce here that the Iranian nation won't allow these persons and groups to use political and economic influence to save criminals from the clutches of justice," he said.

Ahmadinejad did not name the official. But Hossein Mousavian -- a Rafsanjani ally who served as top nuclear negotiator under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami -- was briefly detained this year. Authorities have not said what charges he faces, but the semiofficial Fars news agency has reported that the charges were likely related to espionage.

So let's review the bidding...

  • Ahmadinejad has called a "traitor" anyone within Iran who disagrees with his absolutist stance on nuclear-weapons development;
  • Further, Ahmadinejad threatens to "expose" all those he has dubbed "traitors" very soon now;
  • Everyone in power in Iran understands that Ahmadinejad really means Rafsanjani and his posse, and they're all waiting for the other shoe to grind;
  • Rafsanjani is likely the second-most powerful man in Iran... and his duties allow him to speak to the most powerful man in Iran, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- probably every day;
  • If Ahmadinejad tumbles from power, this will also strike a powerful blow against Rafsanjani's bitterest and strongest rival on the Assembly of Experts, and another top contender for the position of Supreme Leader when Khamenei drops his turban.

I don't know about the CIA and the State Department, but to me, this sounds like Ahmadinejad has declared all-out war against Hashemi Rafsanjani... and that he has bitten off considerably more than he can chew.

Add to that the widespread dissatisfaction with and even resentment against Ahmadinejad for his inability to fix the economy, for his repeated violent crackdowns on the population for "un-Islamic" activities (such as not having proper beards), and for his taunting of Western powers that has brought sanctions and might bring military destruction raining down upon Iran... and I think we have the makings of a Molotov Cocktail for Mahmoud.

Not that Rafsanjani is all that great a guy himself; he is an Iranian mullah, for Pete's sake. But to return to our gangster-movie theme, Rafsanjani is like Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), the local Luccese family capo in Goodfellas... but Ahmadinejad is like Joe Pesci's character Tommy DeVito, the mobster who was too wild to live. (You'll have to watch this wonderful movie to find out how that all works out; but it's quite apropos.)

Rajsanjani really has only two choices:

  1. Ignore the accusation, thereby making himself appear weak just when he most needs to be strong;
  2. Or use the accusation as a bludgeon to beat Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like an ornery camel.

Let's hope that Rafsanjani decides enough is enough and institutes steps through the proper channels to kick Rumplestiltskin out on his teeny posterior.

Let Ahmadinejad go back to being mayor of Teheran. Or heck -- maybe he could take "Red Ken" Livingstone's place as mayor of London; that might actually be an international improvement!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2007, at the time of 6:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 12, 2007

The Shia Awaken

Elections , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

We've talked about this in previous posts -- for example, in The "Don't Make Waves!" Theory of Iraqi Politics -- but it occurred to me as soon as I began hearing about the "Anbar awakening" that the same dynamic would apply to the Shiite areas of Iraq: In short order, the Shiite militias were sure to go overboard in their thuggish, homicidal zeal, and begin brutalizing the Shia... just as al-Qaeda in Iraq did against the Sunni. At that moment, time would be ripe for a "Shia awakening," where Iraqi shia would turn on the militias that presume to speak for them.

Surprise, it's starting to happen... and even the New York Times has sat up and taken note:

In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

The Times does a remarkable job (for the elite media) of fairly and in unbiased fashion describing the mechanism of Shiite discontent (apologies for the long quotation):

In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites....

The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.

Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.

Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

“Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.

“People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”

A mouthpiece for Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr carefully explained that all of the Mahdi Militia members committing criminal violence against Iraqis are actually -- by that very act -- not members of the Mahdi Militia... a useful and fluid redefinition that allows the militia to slough off all accountability for the violence that continues, albeit at a much slower rate.

And as Sachi has argued many times in this blog, when Sadr does return from Iran (like the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Muqtada Sadr was withdrawn to his host country Iran for "further consultations"), he will not only find that the remnants of the Mahdi Militia don't want him or any of his "loyal lieutenants" back, but that there's no more militia to return to anyway.

I may as well go public with a bold prediction I have privately made to several friends: Big Lizards predicts that the Iraq insurgency is going to collapse much faster than anyone has publicly dared suggest. First AQI dangles at the end of its rope (there's a nice visual); now the Shia turn on the Mahdi and Badr militias. So who's minding the insurgency?

The collapse of the insurgency would have happened much earlier, in my opinion, were it not for the intervention of foreign forces. No, I don't mean the United States and the Coalition... I mean Iran's aggressive warmongering and the foreign hirabis from central al-Qaeda. Both Iran and al-Qaeda -- the latter may be funded by the former -- saw a national or ideological interest in fomenting a civil war in Iraq.

However, because of the essentially tribal -- not sectarian -- nature of Iraq, coupled with a cohesive Iraqi identity binding the tribes together, both Iran and al-Qaeda were unsuccessful; there never was a real civil war in Iraq... not even in 2006, after AQI blew up the golden-domed al-Askiri Mosque in Samarra on February 22nd. Both sects carried out a long wave of gangland massacres; but neither fielded armies or set up shadow governments.

As it becomes clear that there never will be a civil war, and that the Iraqis have turned against the joint insurgencies (Sunni against al-Qaeda and Shia against Iran), rather than being driven by fear into the arms of their Islamist "saviors," I strongly believe the principals will pull back. In the long run, neither has the resources to remain engaged in a losing war.

This will happen months before the November elections; and the victory in Iraq will play a major role. Simply put, the Democrats have some small nits against the GOP, but they're old chestnuts such as abortion and tax cuts; the only major new argument was over Iraq. In the 2006 elections, the Iraq war appeared to be a loser -- and so too were the Republicans. But they didn't lose as much as the Democrats had predicted; many voters took a "wait and see" attitude.

And good thing they did. If the war goes as I predict, and the very significant drop in violence we've seen continues, accompanied by a significant drop in the level of U.S. forces in Iraq (possibly to as low as 75,000) and a concommitent drop in American casualties, Iraq will increasingly and correctly be seen as a historic American victory.

Bear in mind, this is no guarantee that the voters will reward the Republicans: A Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, and a Democratic Congress entered into World War I in 1917, won it handily in 1918... and in that same year, the GOP captured both houses of Congress. Two years later, Republicans solidified their congressional gains and added the presidency, all in a landslide. Even so, it's surely better for the sane party if Iraq is considered a victory, not a defeat.

Let's invite the Times to pen the Mahdi Militia's epitaph:

Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 12, 2007, at the time of 11:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 4, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

Iran Matters , Untied Nations
Hatched by Dafydd

Iran has evidently been emboldened by our lack of significant response to its peddling explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Iraqi insurgents; so now, per the Telegraph (and a great, big, sloppy-wet hat tip to John at Power Line), Iran has begun doing the same for the Taliban:

Iran is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with the same bomb-making equipment it provides to insurgents in Iraq, according to British military intelligence officers.

US Army General Dan McNeill, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, said that the discovery of more than 50 roadside bombs and timers in lorries crossing the border from Iran last month proves that Iran's Quds Revolutionary Guards are actively supporting the Taliban.

The allegation will add to fears that the escalating war of words between Iran and the West could end in armed conflict between the two.

I don't mean to be persnickety, but if Iran is FedExing munitions to its catspaws and stalking horses left and right -- by which I mean in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively -- then aren't we already in armed conflict?

It's time for President Bush to fish or get off the pot. I have a suggestion...

Let him call an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell then give a joint presentation to the Big 5, meticulously going over every piece of evidence proving that Iran has repeatedly conspired to attack United States soldiers and Marines, our Coalition allies, and the Army, police, and civilians in the Iraq (as that Miss Teen Whatever calls it).

They really take their time, making sure no stone is left unthrown. Then they start in on the evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, or trying, at least. They use the evidence compiled by the IAEA and its Director-General Mohamed ElBaredei, along with intelligence from France, Israel, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Again, don't rush through it: The two secretaries should do a thorough job.

Finally, the last third of the presentation would be a legal case against Iran for violation of the prohibition, under "international law" (for those who believe in such chimeras), against incitement to genocide. When that is done, they take deep breaths and make the case that Iran is an admitted sponsor of groups already adjudged terrorist organizations... including Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.

At the end, when the presentation is finished, Secretary Gates should conclude with these words:

Thank you, gentlemen, for your time and consideration of these grave events. We have only one more important point to make.

As this meeting began, a large but unspecified number of Coalition attack jets took off from bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. These forces were not just American but included British and French airplanes.

As we sat here, chatting so amiably, those planes have already carried out airstrikes destroying all known Iranian nuclear research sites -- and we know a lot more than we have ever let on -- as well as all Qods Force units we have identified, all known or suspected stockpiles of or factories for producing EFPs, major Hezbollah training camps and barracks, and all other units known or suspected to be involved in the criminal supply of munitions to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan for use against Coalition troops.

In addition, I am reliably informed -- though of course, we have no operational control over this event -- that the Israelis have by now launched similar raids against Hezbollah strongholds in Syria and Lebanon... in Damascus, along the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, and so forth. They have also destroyed targets in the Syrian military associated with the transhipment of rockets and missiles from Iran to terrorist organizations.

In fact, I believe that the Israelis, just to make sure, have also attacked any military unit emplaced in Syria within fifty miles of the Israeli border or the Lebanese border.

Or so they tell me; we have nothing to do with it -- except, perhaps, allowing them to use our satellites and AWACs for look-down fire-control radar, air-traffic control, friend-or-foe identification of nearby aircraft, EA-6B electronic countermeasure aircraft, in-flight refueling, and 3-D targeting information. Other than that, we are not involved.

We do not ask permission of this August body; we never surrendered our authority to retaliate to military attack... and neither did the rest of you. And in any event, the die is cast, the deed is done. This purpose of this presentation was not to gain your approval; it was to explain why we have done what we have done, and what Iran and Syria must refrain from doing in the future to avoid another, more severe lesson in poking sleeping giants.

We thank you for a very pleasant evening. Cocktails and caviar will be served in the lounge, along with a special screening of the Right Stuff. Good evening.

Ah, me. A fantasy, I know... but must it remain so?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 4, 2007, at the time of 1:02 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Iranian President Supports Bush Argument on Iraq

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a surprising development, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today endorsed a key argument made by George W. Bush for maintaining the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq:

"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq. "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."

President Bush has repeatedly argued, and Democrats have just as frequently rejected the point, that if American forces were to pull out of Iraq, Iran would swoop in and try to seize control, both of a country with many sophisticated weapons systems and of the huge oil reserves in Iraq. Now, with Ahmadinejad confirming that his plans do indeed include invading and taking over Iraq as soon as the inconvenient Americans are gone, Democrats must be wondering what they did to deserve such a betrayal.

The candid admission by Ahmadinejad wrong-footed the Democrats. Ever since the counterinsurgency strategy (which they call the "surge," as if it were nothing more than a few extra troops tossed into the bucket) began producing demonstrable progress, Democratic leaders have scrambled to find a way to applaud the counterinsurgency and the troops fighting the war, while denouncing the war itself. Their current rhetorical tactic is to pretend that they had been saying all along that military victory was inevitable, and focus instead on the lack of political progress at the national level in Iraq:

For Democratic congressional leaders, the dog days of August are looking anything but quiet. Having failed twice to crack GOP opposition and force a major change in war policy, Democrats risk further alienating their restive supporters if the September showdown again ends in stalemate. House Democratic leaders held an early morning conference call yesterday with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), honing a new message: Of course an influx of U.S. troops has improved security in Iraq, but without any progress on political reconciliation, the sweat and blood of American forces has been for naught.

Big Lizards argued in a previous post that political progress is occurring; but it's happening at levels below that of the national parliament and slowly trickling upward, rather than being mandated by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and propagating downward. But Democrats remain focused on ousting Maliki, seeing him as the weak link in Bush's argument. From the AP story that started this ruckus:

Bush and the U.S. ambassador in Iraq have given blunt assessments of political stagnation in Baghdad, and Bush has said it is up to the Iraqi people to decide if their government deserved to be replaced.

But key Democratic politicians, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have called for al-Maliki to be replaced because his Shiite-dominated government has been unable to forge national unity....

Ousting al-Maliki, a longtime Shiite political activist, would require a majority vote in the 275-member Iraqi parliament. As long as the Kurdish parties and the main Shiite bloc back al-Maliki, his opponents lack the votes for that.

In a peculiarly cruel twist of fate, the Democratic elite finds itself unfairly disenfranchised in Iraq, unable even to vote Maliki out of office without somehow involving the pesky Iraqis.

(Ahmadinejad backstabbed his erstwhile allies even on this point: "'They rudely say (the Iraqi) prime minister and the constitution must change,' Ahmadinejad said of U.S. critics. 'Who are you? Who has given you the right' to ask for such a change, he added.")

We'll just have to wait to see the Democratic gameplan, how they'll praise Gen. David Petraeus, applaud his stunning progress in Iraq, and then call for a troop withdrawal according to a definite timetable. I doubt even the Democrats yet know how they're going to pull that one off.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 29, 2007, at the time of 3:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 2, 2007

Media Breakthrough: Finally Admits We're In Proxy War With Iran

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I believe we're starting to see the first cracks in the media dike.

This New York Times story about the announcement by Multinational Force - Iraq today, directly tying Iran to the January attack on American troops in Karbala, is remarkable... Not for the accusation itself, which every reader of this blog or any other in the dextrosphere already knows about; but for the simple, straightforward way it is reported -- without evasion, defeat-mongering, or snideness:

In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing.

When the Karbala attack was carried out on January 20 this year, American and Iraqi officials said that it appeared to be meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards and wore American-style uniforms.

One American died at the start of the raid, but the rest of the American soldiers were abducted before they were killed.

Some officials speculated at the time that the aim of the raid might have been to capture a group of American soldiers who could have been exchanged for Iranian officials that American forces detained in Iraq on suspicion of supporting Shiite militants there.

But while Americans officials wondered about an indirect Iranian role in the Karbala raid, until today they stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack.

Even the headline is non-evasive: "U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack."

The story is not written with the certainty that the elite media reserves for discussions of the guilt of Republicans charged but not yet convicted of crimes; but it's still a couple of parsecs away from the usual reportage, where this story would be titled "Iranians Refute 'Wild Accusations' of Complicity in Attack." A month ago, this story would have begun and ended with a large number of quotations from unnamed "Middle-East experts," who would mock the American claims as the pathetic flopping of a landed fish; and would abruptly shift on paragraph four to a lengthy recitation of every American soldier or Iraqi civilian who had died, been wounded, been frightened, or had a sprained nose in the previous 24 hours... what I call the Generic Litany of Defeat.

Rather, the Times reports neutrally, giving the evidence a fair shake; they devote a couple of paragraphs to the pro-forma Iranian denial, but again report it with verbal neutrality... and the paper even interrupts the Iranian pish-toshing to lob another accusation:

Previously, Iranian officials have said that the United States is fabricating evidence to back up its accusation that Iran is sending bombs and weapons into Iraq. Some critics have cast doubt on the American military statements about the penetrator bombs, saying the evidence linking them to Iran was circumstantial and inferential.

In remarks that were reported over the weekend, Iran’s defense minister, Mohammad Najar, denied American claims of Iran’s “military interference” in Iraq. “We have many times announced that we are ready to cooperate with the Iraqi government so to restore security and stability to that country,” Mr. Najar was quoted as saying in a July 1 report by the Iranian student news agency, ISNA. It did not make clear which remarks he was responding to. Today’s assertions by the American military spokesman, which were presented at a news briefing here, marked the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.

I believe we're near a tipping point, though I'm not sure which side of we're on yet. Here is the other coverage of this American charge against Iran that I've found...

Assocated Press:

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.

"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a Baghdad news conference. He said it would be "hard to imagine" that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not know about the activity.

The AP story still includes the Litany; but this time, readers must read all the way to the end to find it. And when they do, they also discover this buried nugget:

An American soldier was killed Monday by an explosion in Salahuddin province, a center for Sunni insurgents northwest of Baghdad. The U.S. military also reported the deaths of five U.S. service members killed in fighting a day earlier, in attacks in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

But violence appeared sharply down in Baghdad and other parts of the country, amid an intensified U.S. security sweep aimed at uprooting Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias in the capital and areas to the northeast and south.

Reuters:

Bergner said the Qods Force was involved in a brazen attack in the city of Kerbala in January when gunmen disguised as Americans made their way into a government compound and killed one U.S. soldier and seized four others whom they later killed.

Washington has long accused the Qods Force of arming and training Shi'ite militants who attack U.S. and Iraqi soldiers but previously it said it was not clear whether these actions were carried out with the full knowledge of Iran's leadership....

"Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a news conference. "We also understand that senior Iraqi leaders have expressed their concerns to the Iranian government about the activities."

Reuters includes the Litany, but it's short and shoved to the very bottom of the story.

Washington Post:

The briefing by U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner laid out what he described as an extensive program coordinated by Iran's elite Quds Force, the militant wing of the Revolutionary Guard, to provide armor-piercing weapons, funnel up to $3 million a month to extremist groups and train Shiite militiamen in three camps near Tehran.

While U.S. officials have repeatedly alleged that sophisticated Iranian-made weapons are killing Americans in Iraq, and that the Quds force is complicit in the violence, today's briefing offered the most specific accusations to date of direct Iranian involvement in specific attacks against U.S. forces.

The general also drew a new link with Hezbollah, saying an operative arrested in March had spent the previous 10 months worked [sic] with the Quds force to train Iraqis after years of commanding a Hezbollah special operations group.

The Post does not include either the Litany or even any specific denials from Iran.

Could the elite media finally have concluded that the state of permanent denial of global terrorist threats, coupled with nakedly partisan assaults on the president, the military, and all Republicans and cheerleading for the Democrats, are the major culprits in the catastrophic drop in readership of American newspapers? If so, it would see they have also finally concluded that their own survival as media institutions is more important that solidarity with the leaders of the Democratic Party -- the Harry "Pinky" Reids and Nancy Pelosis of Congress, the Democratic presidential candidates, and most important... the screaming meemies in the sinister side of the blogosphere.

Elements of the bigfoot media at last admit that:

  • Iran is fighting a proxy war against America in Iraq;
  • That Iran and Hezbollah are intimately connected in a mini-Axis of Middle-East Evil;
  • And that there has been a tremendous reduction in civilian deaths as we have shifted from chasing terrorists to protecting the Iraqi population per counterintelligence strategy.

Can an admission be long coming that the Iraq war is also an intense battle in the war against al-Qaeda?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 2, 2007, at the time of 3:05 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

Shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Heroes of the Revolution , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Sachi

In January this year, terrorists pretending to be American troops got through Iraqi security in the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center (Karbala JCC), managing to kill one US soldier and kidnap four. All four soldiers' bodies were eventually recovered; there was no sign of torture or post-mortem mutilation, which ruled out al-Qaeda.

The sophisticated nature of the operation clearly implied that perpatrators were Iranian Qods Force; but it seemed odd that they would kidnap soldiers from the center and then kill them, instead of either keeping them for interrogation and to try to trade for the al-Qods members we're holding -- or else just killing them outright at the Karbala JCC without attempting a difficult kidnapping.

But when Iranian forces directly kidnapped British sailors, all became clear: The first attempt was indeed intended to take American prisoners... but the Americans fought back; and the Iranians -- unable to transport them -- finally had to kill them. The Brits were a second-best choice; but they were more willing to give Iran the propaganda coup it so desperately wanted. And most important, the British sailors could be counted upon not to fight for their freedom, as Americans always do.

To paraphrase the Lord of the Rings, open war was upon us, whether we risk it or no.

Now, according to Bill Rogio, satellite imagery has discovered a mockup of the Karbala JCC inside Iran... conclusively proving that the murderous assault upon American soldiers was planned and carefully executed by the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force and with full knowledge and approval of the ruling mullahs (reparagraphed for easier reading):

The January 20 attack the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center by the Iranian backed Qazali Network, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers, has long been known to be a Iranian planned and sponsored strike.

While Iran has insulated itself with its cutouts in the Qazali Network, Multinational Forces Iraq has captured members of the network as well as found documentation which proved Iran's complicity in the attack.

And now it has satellite imagery as well. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in the June 4 edition that Iran build a mockup of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center inside its borders, which was used to train the attackers. The "training center" was discovered by a U.S. spy satellite surveying Iran.

The Qazali Network exists -- existed -- within Iraq; a part of a larger, Iranian-controlled Iraqi network, Qazali was set up to receive money, arms, and training from Qods Force. But we have broken it since the Karbala JCC attack:

On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Dullaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack. In March, U.S. forces captured Qais Qazali, the network's leader, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members.

Multinational Forces Iraq has been heavily targeting the Qazali Network's "secret terror cells" as well as those of the Sheibani Network. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed 26 members of this network and captured 71 since April 27, 2007. Three more members of the "secret cell" were captured and another killed today.

The Sheibani Network the overarching organization that receives support, weapons, advice and targeting from Iran's Qods Force. Senior members of the Qazali and Sheibani Networks are members of Iran's Qods Force.

We don't know for sure, of course; but it seems likely that these satellite pictures were part of the evidence that persuaded Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) to call for the Pentagon to draft plans to attack Iran:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," the Connecticut independent said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

There is no question but that Lieberman is right about one thing: We are currently in a hot war with Iran -- and we are fighting back hard against Iranian proxy forces in Iraq. The only question is whether we should expand the fight into Iran itself, giving the mullahs a taste of the whip themselves in their home turf.

Other Democrats still don't get it; they live in a perpetual September 10th world. But Lieberman has the right idea, and I wish we had him on our side:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said sanctions are the most effective tool against the Iranian regime.

"I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them," he said during an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition." "Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities."

Mr. Lieberman said he would leave any such strategy to military generals, but that it could be accomplished through an air campaign. He said failure to stand up to Iranian aggression would further weaken the U.S. position in Iraq and raise the likelihood of acts of domestic terrorism.

"We cannot let them get away with it," he said. "If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home."

There is nothing wrong with economic sanctions and "disinvestment policy"... as an economic attack concommitent to a physical (air) attack.

Regardless of the risk -- such escalation would enrage the Iranians and might even serve to drive the Persian people closer to their mullah masters; Hezbollah could strike inside the United States; Iran could launch a massive attack against Israel -- we cannot sit idly by and allow a sovereign nation to attack the United States without directly retaliating.

So we support the rest of Lieberman's call as well... once again, we're forced to say, go, Joe!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 13, 2007

The War: Plus Ça Change, Plus Ce N'est Pas la Même Chose

Afghan Astonishments , Future of Warfare , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Much ado is made of a point -- a cliche, in fact -- that I thought should be fairly obvious: The longer we fight, the more -- and the faster -- the enemy adapts to our methods; but so too, the more and faster we adapt to the enemy's adaptations.

Some Democrats appear to find great cause for rejoicing in the first part of this truism; they hope it signals imminent defeat, allowing them to get on with the urgent task of capturing more seats in Congress and electing a Democratic president. However, by ignoring the second part of the truism, they set themselves up for the catastrophic possibility of America winning.

Let's take a single example: When the enemy realized that we mostly moved soldiers around the battlefield on Humvees, they began attacking them with great effectiveness; IEDs account for most of the 3,300 deaths of our servicemen in Iraq. We responded by switching to the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) Stryker at the end of 2003 (and by "up-armoring" the Humvee, but that was never particularly satisfactory). The Strykers proved extraordinarily resistant to rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and even to the small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had killed so many Humvees during the months following the rise of the insurgency in late 2003.

There is no question that the Stryker offered far more protection than the Humvee and troop-transport trucks; and since it was never intended to replace M1 main battle tanks or M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, it's counterproductive to compare them. Alas, by late 2006/early 2007, the insurgents in Iraq -- with much help from Iran -- started effectively killing Strykers (and sometimes the men inside) in a number of ambushes. They had learned to buried heavy explosives, shaped charges, and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), which the Strykers were never designed to repel:

A string of heavy losses from powerful roadside bombs has raised new questions about the vulnerability of the Stryker, the Army's troop-carrying vehicle hailed by supporters as the key to a leaner, more mobile force.

Since the Strykers went into action in violent Diyala province north of Baghdad two months ago, losses of the vehicles have been rising steadily, U.S. officials said.

A single infantry company in Diyala lost five Strykers this month in less than a week, according to soldiers familiar with the losses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release the information. The overall number of Strykers lost recently is classified.

Clearly, the enemy has "gotten the Strykers' number," at least if he has a chance to prepare a big enough bomb in advance and plant it deep enough not to be spotted: The Stryker's undercarriage is not heavily armored, and its flat surface makes it an ideal target for EFPs.

The insurgents also apparently are becoming better at hiding the devices - the IED that killed the six soldiers and the journalist was believed hidden in a sewer line. To add potency, insurgents surrounded the device with cement to channel the blast force up into the tank, according to soldiers familiar with the investigation.

Supporters of the Strykers say all that proves that it's the lethality of bombs in Iraq - not the Strykers themselves - that are the problem: The bombs are now so powerful that even Abrams main battle tanks are vulnerable to some of them.

The natural tendency for proponents of tracked vehicles is to point to the Stryker's wheels and say, "Well there's yer problem right there, lady!" Unfortunately, the Abrams MBT and the Bradley have also been killed at somewhat disturbing rates lately; we're fighting a completely different kind of warfare than the Gulf War, during which those two tracked vehicles received their baptism of fire. I honestly think the wheels vs. tracks controversy is a false herring.

The real problem is simply that the most common method of attacking any vehicle in Iraq today -- and in Afghanistan tomorrow, I'm sure -- is from below; and until very recently, no American combat vehicle was specifically designed to counter such attacks... which are not very common in "force on force" warfare. (This is another instance where counterinsurgency strategy differs from the strategy when opposing an enemy army.)

There simply is no way to put enough armor on the undercarriage of a Stryker (or Humvee, Abrams, or Bradley) to prevent a big enough EFP punching through it; the culprit is the flat surface of the undercarriage itself... it's like smashing a wall with a battering ram: Hit hard enough, and you're going to punch right through, because there's nowhere else for the force to go. (It helps that the EFP is also white hot, melting the steel enough to reduce material strength.)

But don't forget the second half of the truism above; the enemy had his inning, and now it's ours...

Enter the MRAP: the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected class of vehicles. The Marines and the Army have more or less settled on the Couger H-series of MRAP and the Buffalo H-series of Mine Protected Route Clearance (MPCV) vehicles, both manufactured by Force Protection Inc... the latter being a somewhat larger version of the Cougar, equipped with a fork-toothed arm for explosive ordnance disposal (the Buffalo's nickname is "the Claw"):



Couger H-series MRAP    Buffalo H-series MPCV

Couger H-series MRAP (L) and Buffalo H-series MPCV (R)

The great innovation of the MRAP is to redesign the undercarriage itself... and to correct the flaw that made our earlier combat vehicles so vulnerable: their underbelly flatness. MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that channels blast effect to the sides of the vehicle, graphically demonstrated here. Even EFPs have trouble penetrating the undercarriage of an MRAP:



MRAP taking blast

MRAP taking blast; explosive force is redirected to sides of vehicle

The design of the MRAP actually dates back more than three decades to counterinsurgency operations in South Africa. The basic idea of a V-shaped hull to channel radiant energy is even older, being the same principle used in "radar-deflecting" airplane hulls, which have been in development at Lockheed's "Skunk Works" since the early 1970s (they won the actual contract for development of the F117A stealth attack aircraft in 1978); and in a sense, the very idea of the prow of a boat being "pointy" is the same principle in action on the surface of the water.

The Army and Marines have currently ordered 7,774 Cougers, and the program has the very enthusiastic support of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

Well, I think the first thing that caught my attention, as is often the case, was a newspaper article that indicated that, out of something like 300 incidents involving IEDs, where these MRAP vehicles were involved, no Marines had been killed. And that certainly got my attention.

But the actual buy will likely be much higher, as Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, has ordered the entire fleet of Humvees in Iraq to be replaced by MRAPs over the next two years, according to the Army Times:

Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren confirmed today that the Army is set to substantially increase the number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles it had planned to buy, replacing within two years the 17,700 Humvees now in Iraq....

The Marine Corps already has more than 100 MRAPs on the ground in Iraq, and the Army will field the first of its 2,500 MRAPs in Iraq beginning in August, 700 of which are already in hand, Geren said.

The MRAP program has moved quickly and is a joint procurement effort between the Army and Marine Corps.

What has held back fielding of more MRAPs is not a "hidebound" military culture or the unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Like upgrading personal body armor for soldiers, the real roadblock is that there aren't enough assembly lines to turn out MRAPs at the speed we need them. That will be the biggest hurdle we'll have to overcome to completely replace the fleet of Humvees (and possibly even Strykers) in the timeframe demanded:

As of July 2006, more than 200 Buffalo and Cougar vehicles were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan without a fatality, despite more than 1,000 mine detonations and IED attacks (see DefenseTech for an especially hilarious example). With more orders in the pipeline from American, Iraqi, and now British customers, meeting production demand has become a challenge for a firm that had just 12 employees at the beginning of 2004.

Force Protection, Inc. hired its 500th employee in July 2006, and a July 17, 2006 release noted that they are engaged in efforts to triple their internal manufacturing capacity. A second and third Cougar production line is being put in place following $41 million of equity financing, and production of its Buffalo variant is also slated to double.

Despite a bit of a slow start, the point carries, I believe. The second half of our cliche above continues to hold true: The enemy adapted to our Humvees and started killing them; we responded by up-armoring them and introducing Strykers. Then the insurgents figured out how to attack our vehicles from below with heavy explosive force... and again we responded, this time with a whole new (for us) class of vehicles, the MRAPs.

In the innovation race, we have the choice to place our money on the United States military and the militaries of our allies -- or on a bunch of Iranian fanatics and their flying monkeys in the Mahdi Militia.

I know where my bet is going.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2007, at the time of 11:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 9, 2007

We Found the "Moslem Methodists!"

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Moslem Miscellany , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The day after the debut of Big Lizards, we published a post titled "Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?"; we weren't actually seeking some bizarre Christian-Moslem hybrid -- we sought an Islamist alternative to militancy... something like the Quietism school of Shiism, historically associated with the scholars of Najaf, in Iraq. Quietist ayatollahs, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, stand in stark contrast to the radical Shia who follow Khomeiniism (which is more associated with the holy city of Qom in Iran).

I described what I would call a "moderate" Moslem: This is a person who does not believe force should be used to enforce sharia law and who does not support violent jihad against others, merely because they are "infidels." The acid test of a "moderate" Moslem would be this: Even if he hates the Jews, he cannot support terrorism against them. That is not the only criterion, but it's clearly the hardest!

The problem, I argued, is that, while most Moslems are "moderate" as I defined the term in that earlier post, nearly all Moslem organizations in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas are radicalized, strident, and militant; this is true of secular as well as religious organizations:

I don't have data on this; but my gut feeling is that the majority of Moslems are moderate as I have described it... but nearly all national or international Moslem organizations, whether overtly religious (like a mosque) or more secular in purpose (like CAIR), are strongly inclined towards militant Islamism and therefore dangerously tolerant of Islamic terrorism. If all that a moderate Moslem sees around him as the public face of Islam are groups that call for jihad, either overtly or slyly, he may well feel that there must be something wrong with him not to feel that same rage and hate. He'll probably fall silent, afraid to object, both because of physical threat, and more important, fear of social shunning....

Maybe if moderate Moslems would concentrate on creating Islamic organizations that give a sense of solidarity to "Moslem Methodists," showing them they're not alone, the natural tendency toward laziness would take over: hating is hot, hard work.

I think I was onto something.

It turns out, however, that this has already been done; there are a number of moderate Islamic organizations... including one Indonesian whopper of a group called Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which claims a membership of around 40 million, but is more likely closer to 30 million... which still makes it the largest Moslem organization in the world.

What amazes me about NU -- mostly because we hear so little about it here in the United States and evidently Europe as well -- is that this very conservative Sunni Moslem organization is pro-Israel, pro-West, and totally opposed to Islamic terrorism against anybody. In fact, the more I read about it, the more convinced I become that NU holds the key to actually winning the war against global jihadism: demonstrating how to be a strong, conservative, religious Sunni without having to slaughter women and children... or even Jews. From the Wall Street Journal opionion piece by Bret Stephens linked above:

Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.

In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all -- which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.

I think everybody reading these words would agree that we're never going to win the war against global jihadism unless we engage Islamism, not only with military muscle, not only with diplomacy and economics... but in the realm of ideology: We must convince militant Moslems (red) to become more moderate (pink) and convince "moderate" Moslems to join the fight on our side (white). If we fail to convert red to pink and pink to white, the war will go on and on ad infinitum; Americans will not be safe in the Middle East, in Europe, or even here in America (remember the soldiers at Fort Dix).

I deliberately invoke the counterinsurgency strategy of Col. Galula and Gen. Petraeus, because it's the same core idea: You win by converting enemies to neutrals and neutrals to friends. But how do we go about doing that? You can't beat something with nothing, and we can't beat militant Islamism with a pocketful of secular humanism.

I have seen many people argue that Islam is inherently violent, intolerant, bigoted, and completely incompatible with democratic ideals. But Robert Spencer notwithstanding, the mere existence of the powerful voices of Quietism among the Shia, the colossal NU within conservative Sunnism, and the democracy-ready Kurdish versions of Shafi-Sunnism, Shiism, and Sufism prove that there is nothing inherent in Islam -- or even Islamism -- that demands militancy.

We desperately need a great communicator who can speak to America about the need for moderation among Moslems. And we need a great Islamic communicator, one who can reach those Moslems who do not support jihad and sharia (except as personal goals within their own souls)... but who feel alone and threatened by the militant groups they see all around them.

None of this can possibly come from the Bush administration, I am convinced; but one advantage of the accelerated campaign schedule is that President George W. Bush will very shortly cease to be the loudest voice of the Republican Party. He will be supplanted by Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and possibly others who will jump in... and possibly shoot past these three.

This is very good, because each of the big three (and several second-tier GOP candidates) is a far better communicator than the current president. I just hope that they all realize -- and soon -- that our national conversation about Islam and democracy is long overdue. Our counterinsurgency strategy depends upon it, as does much of our diplomacy and even our military posture in the war against global jihad.

We have the arguments; we even have powerful allies. All we have lacked for is the voice. Speak up, Republicans... let yourselves be heard! If the (small-d) democratic majority stays silent long enough, it will cease to be a majority.

And that, as we're now starting to see, would be all the more tragic because it is so avoidable.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2007, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 7, 2007

"Fighting Back Was Not an Option" - Correction

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

CORRECTION: See below.

From the press conference given by the freed 15 British hostages on Friday:

"From the outset, it was very apparent that fighting back was not an option," Marine Captain Chris Air said of their capture in the Gulf on March 23.

How nice. Dean Barnett, in a post on Hugh Hewitt's blog, wonders whether this will be "the epitaph of the Western World."

I don't think so, and my counter-example is by way of a thought experiment...

It's September 11th, 2001; the World Trade Centers have just been hit. The New York Fire Department arrives, takes one look at the buildings, and say, "they're too dangerous and unstable; we can't risk the lives of our fire fighters. Rescue is not an option."

Then they leave. Dig, if the NYFD had chosen this wise course, 343 of their members would not have died when the buildings collapsed... just a few thousand more civilians, instead.

But can anybody reading this post even imagine the fire department making such a decision?

The decision of the Brits that "fighting back was not an option" is an anomaly in the history of the Western World, a statistical blip confined to some parts of western Europe. That sentiment is not found in America, Australia, or even very much in eastern Europe -- which is now largely part of "the Western World," in the sense that Dean means it. (Doesn't anyone remember a Polish hostage attacking his al-Qaeda captors, shouting "I'll show you how a Pole dies" -- ? They managed to kill him, but he prevented the videotape being used as a propaganda tool; we found it during a raid on an al-Qaeda not-so-safehouse in Iraq.)

Correction: Bostonian and Piraticalbob note that this incident involved an Italian, not Polish hostage: Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who tore off his hood and shouted "Now I will show you how an Italian dies!" I believe there was also an instance of a Polish hostage who fought back, but he's not known to have shouted anything.

Pole or Italian, the message is the same: Fighting back is always an option.

In fact, I believe that the Danes and other Vikings would have fought back against capture, as would most other British sailors and marines... and even French and Italian soldiers, I'd wager. The British admiralty should investigate and not be afraid to blame the victims (those who are blameworthy).

The Iranians lucked out: They picked on a bad lot with a bad captain on HMS Cornwall, who got bum advice from a bad Minister of Defense and foolishly obeyed it. The British government just haven't been the same since they removed Margaret Thatcher in a palace coup.

So no, Dean, I do not believe that will be the epitaph of the West. Instead, I believe the other motto you cite in your Townhall.com column will be the rallying cry, once the sleeping giant finally rouses.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2007, at the time of 2:52 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Where Are the Squeals From the Squeaker?

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Continuing with the issue we first raised yesterday in Britannia No Longer Rules the Waves, regarding Iran's seizure of fifteen British sailors and marines on Friday and the subsequent treatment of those hostages... well, what about those violations of the Geneva Conventions, Mr. and Ms. Lefty?

On Friday, March 23rd, while British Royal Marines and sailors were inspecting a fishing boat for contraband in Iraqi waters, "a number of Iranian boats" swarmed up and kidnapped the British military personnel. Iranians "interrogated" the uniformed sailors and marines (violating the Geneva Conventions) and are currently holding them hostage. Iran has just released propaganda video of the hostages, in which they are coerced to confess and to praise their kidnappers (more violations of the Geneva Conventions).

Needless to say, the Brits were not "unlawful combatants," and there is no question that the Geneva Conventions cover them.

Today on Hugh Hewitt's show, Mark Steyn asked the same question: Where is all the weeping and geshreying and genashing of teeth from all those who screamed, protested, rallied, and attempted to hijack American war policy over dubious allegations of "violations of the Geneva Conventions" that supposedly occured at our military base at Guantánamo Bay and at the Abu Ghraib prison?

  • Where are the shrill, denunciatory, hectoring voices of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%) and John McCain (R-AZ, 65%)?
  • How about from Democratic candidates (or coy flirts), including Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%), John Edwards, and Al Gore?
  • Where is the finger-wagging of Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC? Where are the protesters who turned out to express their bitter hatred of America for "violating the Geneva conventions?" Where are the rallies, embassy sit-ins, and candlelight vigils for the fifteen British sailors and marines?
  • Where are the international demands that Iran release their hostages? Why hasn't the U.N. Human Rights Council demanded release? If they have, they've sure been powerful quiet about it.
  • And what about the further indignities inflicted upon Leading Seaman Faye Turney -- being forced into a burkha and head-covering, forced to "confess" that the British were in Iranian waters (when they clearly and undeniably were in Iraqi waters), and then forced to "write" a letter demanding that the UK withdraw from Iraq? Shouldn't the same folks above have been even more galvanized by this personalized assault upon a woman?
  • Where are the demands that we freeze all Iranian bank accounts? I haven't heard a word from the usual suspects. Has any of you heard anything? How about calls for boycotts, divestiture, expulsions of Iranian diplomatic missions, shunning, and even (close your eyes, quick!) regime change?

You won't see any, and for a very simple reason: While the Geneva Conventions once were important to restrain the great powers during war between each other, in recent years, they have metamorphosed into nothing but a truncheon used by the Left to bash Western, democratic nations -- in defense of the indefensible.

In fact, "violations of the Geneva Conventions" by Western nations are invariably used to sanctify and grant absolution to evil: Sure, maybe al-Qaeda butchers people by the tens of thousands, wants to enslave all non-Wahhabis, wants to institute sharia law across the entire world, throw the Jew down the well, brutalize women, and round up gays and put them into death camps; but hey, look at what America did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed... they denied him his constitutional right to an attorney!

What can we say about the Geneva Conventions today?

  1. They are rigidly followed by all civilized nations, whom we will never fight... and who would adhere to them even in combat with (2) below;
  2. They are completely ignored by all barbarous nations and transnational groups in the Non-Integrating Gap, who are the enemies with whom we actually have a chance of ending up in open war;
  3. Therefore, the Geneva Conventions are in a state of complete and utter desuetude.

Hence I repeat myself (my favorite source!)... the Geneva Conventions are past their sell-by date; the United States and all civilized nations should withdraw from them and create a new law of war... one that recognizes the distinction between nations in the Functioning Core and those in the Non-Integrating Gap.

A treaty honored in full by both sides brings peace; but a "treaty" that is honored by only one side is a non-sequitur.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2007, at the time of 4:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

Britannia No Longer Rules the Waves

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

On Friday, March 23rd, while British Royal Marines and sailors were inspecting a fishing boat for contraband in Iraqi waters, "a number of Iranian boats" swarmed up and kidnapped the British military personnel. Iranians "interrogated" the uniformed sailors and marines (violating the Geneva Conventions) and are currently holding them hostage. Iran has just released propaganda video of the hostages, in which they are coerced to confess and to praise their kidnappers (more violations of the Geneva Conventions).

Needless to say, the Brits were not "unlawful combatants," and there is no question that the Geneva Conventions cover them.

The sailors and marines were on inflatable boats -- similar to Zodiacs -- that had been dispatched from HMS Cornwall, a Type 22 Corwall class frigate. Thus, here is the first question that should be answered at the inquiry -- the one where the captain of the Cornwall stands in the dock in a maritime court of inquiry:

Captain So-and-so... the Cornwall has excellent radar and surveillance systems. For God's sake, why didn't they detect those Iranian gunboats closing in on their position?

What if it had been a suicide attack instead of a kidnapping? How close would those little boats have gotten to HMS Cornwall herself before you noticed them? Was it... was it tea time?

The Iranian boats should never have been allowed to approach the dispatched boarding party without a fight. The moment the Cornwall detected them, they should have sent the Lynx helo aloft and radioed for air support. The ship was about 50 km from Basra, where the British have a sizeable contingent -- including Harriers.

At a relatively sedate 360 knots (667 km/hr), well within the Harrier's operational range, it would take a squadron about 4.5 minutes flight time. Add in 10 minutes to scramble (they should actually be faster, if they're doing their jobs right)... and a quick radio call when the Iranians first entered Iraqi waters would have gotten air support overhead before the Iranians even reached the marines and sailors.

When the Iranians began firing guns and threatening the British sailors and marines, it would have been child's play for three or four Harriers to sink the Iranian vessels in Iraqi waters. (What would the Iranians try to claim -- that the Brits actually sank those patrol boats in Iranian waters, then airlifted the wrecks two nautical miles to the Iraqi coast?)

Thus, question 2:

Captain So-and-so... with air support just minutes away, why in God's name didn't you call for backup?

But what about the Cornwall herself? Please click on the HMS Cornwall link above; look at the right sidebar, scan down to "armaments" and "aircraft." The Cornwall can sink any ship in the Iranian navy.

Also, at 32 knots capability, it can catch any ship in the Iranian navy except for their "Karman class missile boats," which certainly were not the vessels that attacked. From witness descriptions, the Brits were intercepted by Iranian coastal-patrol vessels, the equivalent of our Vietnam-era Swift Boats, and probably max out at 25 knots.

Such boats could easily be caught and disabled by the Lynx helo that the Cornwall carries on her flight deck, or even the Cornwall herself, even if they fled into Iranian waters: Entering territorial waters of a country in hot pursuit of a military unit from that same country which has just attacked you has always been allowed under the laws of war.

If Iranian Qods Force units attacked us directly in Iraq, then fled back into Iran with us right on their tail, we would be perfectly justified in entering Iran and destroying the unit that attacked us. (It might be unwise, if we suspected a trap; but we would have "international law" on our side, to the extent that such a thing exists.)

The "hot pursuit" rule doesn't cover a third-party attacker; so when al-Qaeda attacks us out of Syria, we cannot simply follow them into Syria... that's a more complicated case. But in the present circumstance, an Iranian naval unit attacked a British naval unit, then fled to Iranian waters; so "hot pursuit" applies.

Thus question three:

Captain So-and-so, when you realized what was happening, why in God's name didn't you order the Cornwall herself into pursuit and at least put up a fight?

And why didn't your men being kidnapped fight back? Self-defense is always a legitimate defense, under any rules of engagement, except one: Fighting is never allowed by troops in the process of surrendering.

So Captain... at what point in this engagement did the Royal Navy surrender? Was it before the first Iranian shot was fired?

Unless the captain of the Cornwall can show a maritime court that he was under secret orders to allow the kidnapping to take place -- in other words, that the sailors and marines were actually spies from MI-6, and this is an intelligence operation, which I highly doubt -- he should be cashiered.

Any person up the chain who promulgated ROEs that led to this humiliation should be sacked. The ROEs should immediately be changed, and Great Britain and the United States should blockade Iranian ports and overfly Teheran -- flying very low at supersonic speeds -- until all the hostages are released unharmed. If Iran wants to fight... well, then it's time to implement the Herman Option.

And the British sailors and Royal Marines themselves should not be lauded as heroes when they return; they should have to face inquiry themselves about why they surrendered to a tin-pot, third-world dictator like Ahmadinejad without even the faintest semblance of resistance.

Evidently, Britons ever, ever, ever shall be slaves.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 28, 2007, at the time of 2:38 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

The Contranomics of Global Jihad

Econ. 101 , Iran Matters , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

So the burning (sorry) question is -- can Iran actually be brought low by mere economics?

The answer is not yet known for certain; but a new wrinkle in the ongoing crisis about Iran's development of nuclear weapons makes the answer to the riddle above seem more and more like "Yes, it can."

What am I talking about? (Does anybody really know what I'm ever talking about?) Yesterday, Russia announced that it was suspending its shipment of low-grade enriched Uranium fuel to Iran -- ostensibly on the grounds that Iran has missed two payments of $25 million to Russia. However, sources say the real reason is that Iran refuses to stop enriching the low-grade fuel at its centrifuge complex at Natanz:

Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say....

For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.

Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.

“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves -- and that’s not all bad.”

I maintain that it's impossible to separate the "commercial and political motives," because each drives the other: Russia has a political interest in stopping Iran from being nuclear armed; but that is also an economic interest, because a nuclear Iran would force Russia to deploy more military power to the region to prevent itself being bullied and extorted by Iran. Force projection costs money, especially for a country with inadequate access to the open sea.

Similarly, the better Iran gets at enrichment, the less enrichment it must buy from Russia. Already, the United States has dangled a proposition for Russia to do all the Uranium enrichment for Iran -- at a staggering charge.

But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.

Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.

Iran is desperate to develop the ability to enrich their own Uranium in part because they can't afford the fee to have Russia do it... at least not if Iran keeps pouring money down a pair of rat-holes...

  • Why hasn't Iran paid the $50 million in bills it owes Russia? (Iran denies this, but nobody believes them or cares what they say.) They haven't paid because their economy is currently broken -- and headed like the Titanic towards the iceberg.
  • Why is Iran's economy broken? Because they've been spending so much money on two things: nuclear enrichment at Natanz... and global jihadism.

Force projection is dreadfully expensive, even if you call it global jihadism: Iran is supporting Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, the Qods Force in Iraq, a war against Israel a few months ago, assassins all over the world, and Shiite revolutionary movements from Malaysia to Venezuela. But at the same time, the drain on their resources from trying to develop a nuclear "Qods bomb" and buy a delivery system from North Korea, Russia, or Red China has caused Iran to stop investing in its oil infrastructure.

Not investing in oil extraction and gasoline refining is crippling Iran; they must import between 40% and 60% (depending on who is making the estimate) of their gasoline from third-party countries -- who, not surprisingly, charge Iran an arm and a leg and an arm, since they have the mullahs over an oil barrel.

But for the Iranians to return to investing in maintenance and expansion of their oil economy, they would have to cut back on both WMD development and on global jihadism... which their religiously driven ideology won't allow them to do!

It's the ultimate Catch-22... and it illuminates the central conundrum:

  1. Only those nations with vibrant economies can afford to both develop new weapons technology and also to project force around the world.
  2. Only those nations with capitalist financial systems will have a vibrant economy.
  3. But nations with capitalist financial systems must, of necessity, be free and open, connected with the rest of the world, democratic, and operate under a transparent rule of law: in other words, members of what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the Functioning Core.
  4. But if a nation is in the Functioning Core, it is not a national security concern if they develop nuclear weapons; attacking the West is the farthest thing from their minds. Aside from the United States, Core countries spend much less money either developing new weapons technology or projecting their force (yet another instance of American exceptionalism). When we try to get them to do so -- for example, in Afghanistan or Iraq -- it's like pulling fingernails.

Thus, Iran appears to be imploding due to the built-in contradiction of wanting to be a super-power -- and simultaneously wanting to be a closed society run by fanatical religious totalitarians. They will only be able to afford military technological development and serious force projection when they transform themselves into a society that has no interest in military technological development and serious force projection.

It looks more and more like Iran will be defeated, not by military invasion, not even by missile attack, but by the economic realities of Western style capitalism. (The irony is so thick, you could cut it with a sword.)

Econ. 101: It's not just a good idea; it's the natural law of the universe.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2007, at the time of 6:54 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 8, 2007

Former Top Iranian Defense Official Defects

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a stunning blow to the mullahs of Iran, former Defense Minister Ali Rez Asgari has defected to the West, according to U.S. officials:

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

(Hat tip to Power Line, who got it from their Blog of the Week for Life Jules Crittenden.)

Asgari is a very, very big fish, despite having been out of office for the past couple of years:

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Israel's parliament, said he believes Asgari defected to the West. "He is very high-caliber," Yatom said. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards" there.

Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran's efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. The State Department lists the Shiite Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.

"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," Igra told Israeli state radio. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."

Not much more to say about this story. Consider this a heads-up for tomorrow's news -- and next week's hysteria in Teheran.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 8, 2007, at the time of 5:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

Another Amazing Coincidence...

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Far be it from me to tell anybody what to think. I can barely articulate what I think (assuming whatever it is I do can pass as "thinking").

But I can at least note a few dots that cry out to be connected:

  1. Muqtada Sadr flees to Iran in advance of the strategic change of course in Iraq;
  2. He orders the top Mahdi Militia killers to do a quick fade to Iran as well; all the capos of Mahdi are now alibied up the wazoo. (What is a wazoo anyway? A kazoo from Waziristan?)
  3. From a safe distance, Sadr seemingly orders the Mahdi Militia to stand down, pulling all the black-clad death squads off the streets;
  4. By an amazing coincidence, a series of high-profile car bombs -- and one "building bomb" aimed at assassinating the Shiite vice president of Iraq, Adel Abdul-Mahdi -- all explode in Shiite areas of Baghdad;
  5. Sadr issues a statement crowing that the "occupiers" have been unable to stop the "Sunni" attacks on the Shia, despite the security crackdown: "Here we are, watching car bombs continue to explode to harvest thousands of innocent lives from our beloved people in the middle of a security plan controlled by an occupier."

    (Of course, it's not "thousands" of lives; it's less than a hundred. And we're not "in the middle" of the new strategy; we're barely at the beginning, only 12 days in -- and only one new brigade, about 20% of the additional troops, has arrived so far. While I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, it appears as though Muqtada Sadr may have exaggerated some critical facts for rhetorical effect.)

  6. Finally, Sadr, Iran, and the American drive-by media all agree that this completely refutes any notion that the security operation will resolve the situation in Iraq. May as well just cut it off at the knees. Avoid the rush -- redeploy before the plan even comes fully online!

Note how subtlely AP hints at this conclusion:

The statement - read in Baghdad by an aide to al-Sadr - nearly coincided with a suicide bombing that killed at least 42 people at a mostly Shiite business college. Al-Sadr's sharply worded comments could signal serious strains ahead for the security effort.

Let's take a step back and look at the big picture. The number bandied about earlier was that Sunni and Shiite terrorists combined were killing about 100 Iraqi civilians every day; over the twelve days of crackdown, that means the baseline would have been about 1,200 horrific murders.

But there was not anything like 1,200 murders. In fact, since the beginning of the security operation, combining everything, I doubt there has been even as many as 250 killings. This means that the rate of butchery in Iraq has dropped by about 80% since the operation began... and we're still just getting started. I don't like to go out on a limb, but that does seem at least a little better than a "miserable failure," as Dick Gephardt used to say about, well, virtually everything related to George W. Bush's presidency.

But yesterday and today, a few bombs blew up in Shiite areas, just as Sadr was announcing that the Americans couldn't provide security like the Mahdi Militia did. What a fortuitous turn of events for those who want to force American troops out of Iraq!

Either Sadr's luckstone is working overtime... or else -- dare we imagine it? -- perhaps it was something other than pure random chance that caused those bombs to go off at a time and place that couldn't have been better for Sadr if he had planned it himself.

I note without necessarily drawing any conclusions that Sunnis are not the only sect who can put explosives in an automobile.

Of course, such dark imaginings are absurd. It would require Sadr and the Mahdi Militia to be willing to kill their own people, the Shia, just to further their own power and kick out the American forces. Surely they would have more patriotism towards their own countrymen than that, wouldn't they?

And would they really try to assassinate Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi? (There is also a Sunni vice president.) Abdul-Mahdi is one of them, isn't he?

Well... not exactly. According to Wikipedia, Adel Abdul Mahdi is a member of the SCIRI. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, widely rumored to be a close ally of Sadr, if not Sadr's puppet (as Sadr is Iran's puppet), is a deputy chief of the Islamic Dawa Party.

The SCIRI and Dawa are like the Crips and the Bloods: they both appeal to the same demographic (religious Shiite Iraqis), but they are the bitterest of rivals. The SCIRI is more powerful, but Dawa has the prime minister -- and Sadr controls the prime minister, as well.

Abdel-Mahdi is a leader of the powerful Shi'a party the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI. Long based in neighboring Iran, the group opposed a United States administration but holds close ties with the other U.S.-backed groups that opposed Saddam Hussein, including the Kurds and the Iraqi National Congress.

In other words, Sadr is currently working through Dawa... but the vice president who was nearly assassinated was a top official of Dawa's political competitors, the SCIRI -- coincidentally enough.

I wonder why we haven't found even a trace of these elusive "Sunni terrorists." And how could "Sunnis" maneuver car bombs and truck bombs through the narrow streets of Sadr City and other Shiite slums in Baghdad -- without being spotted by any of the Shia, who are constantly on the lookout for just such incursions?

But heavens, I wouldn't want to imply anything underhanded here; I don't intend to cast Persians at Muqtada Sadr. Perhaps I've just read too many Tom Clancy novels.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 26, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 15, 2007

Parsing Pelosi

Constitutional Maunderings , Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Here is today's lesson in political rhetoric. Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is quoted by MyWay News as making the following constitutional analysis in an interview "down the hall from the House chamber":

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq.

Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Bush consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran "and I take him at his word."

At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran."

All right... but what does "go into Iran" mean? It's certainly not a legal term, and neither is "invade," the characterization used by MyWay: We say "you're invading my space" and "the Mexican invasion" to mean actions other than a literal army invading enemy territory.

Several interesting points about Ms. Pelosi's maunderings:

  • Of course President Bush -- and President Clinton, and every other president past and yet to come -- has the "authority" to order our military to "invade" another country without prior congressional approval; we know this because a great many of them have done so without being impeached or losing any court fights over it.

The speaker ought to do some reading instead. The 1973 War Powers Resolution addresses the very question she pronounces upon:

The War Powers Resolution (P.L. 93-148) was passed over the veto of President Nixon on November 7, 1973, to provide procedures for Congress and the President to participate in decisions to send U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. Section 4(a)(1) requires the President to report to Congress any introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities. When such a report is submitted, or is required to be submitted, section 5(b) requires that the use of forces must be terminated within 60 to 90 days unless Congress authorizes such use or extends the time period. Section 3 requires that the "President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing" U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities.

Thus, even if the War Powers Resolution is itself constitutional, the president can do pretty much anything he wants without congressional approval, so long as he reports to Congress within 60 days and so long as he is finished within 90 days. (It's unclear -- I doubt it has ever been tested in court, as much of the War Powers Resolution has not -- whether the president can continue for 60-90 days if Congress explicitly votes against a particular military action within that timeframe... presumably overriding the president's veto.)

And of course, if the War Powers Resolution is held by the Court to be unconstitutional, then there is no legal limitation at all on the power of the president to send troops into any hostilities he chooses.

  • Speaker Pelosi is remarkably selective in her pacifist outrage.

She was first elected in 1987, so she was certainly in Congress in 1999, when Clinton sent U.S. ground troops into then Yugoslavia, right into the middle of the four-part civil war in Bosnia. Honestly, I do not recall her taking to the airwaves and newspapers to argue that he had no such authority. In fact, she supported the war, and she led the fight for it when it finally reached Congress (long after we'd already invaded).

So despite saying "any president," she clearly does not mean exactly that. But does she actually believe that only Republican presidents lack this authority? Or is her analysis specific to Bush himself?

The answer appears to be the former, because she made the same "illegal" argument against Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, when he created and sent a coalition of forces into Kuwait -- also without prior congressional approval:

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Pelosi adamantly opposed military action, lamenting that George H.W. Bush was "resorting to militarization in order to solve a conflict." The war, she said, was an "ill-conceived policy of violence;" Bush, she argued, was acting "illegally."

Thus, Ms. Pelosi begins to come into focus: she believes that Republican presidents lack authority to start wars, but Democratic presidents must act strongly in times of great danger. (Say, I used to play this game, Conjugation, in junior high: "I am steadfast, you are stubborn, he-she-it is a recalcitrant jackass.")

  • Finally, I find her words to be uncharacteristically carefully parsed; she sounds almost Clintonian, in fact.

Consider what she said and did not say: She said he did not have authority to "go into Iran." But what about merely attacking Iran -- say by air and missile bombardment? Does that count?

Why didn't she simply use the more common phrase "attack Iran?" That would have made clear that she claims he has no power to initiated any hostilities at all, of any kind, without prior congressional approval.

But that would also be legal nonsense that would be tossed out of court. In fact, even the lawsuit against Clinton's Bosnian adventure filed by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA, 100%) lost in court; the courts have been remarkably (but properly) reluctant to declare any military action to be in violation of the Constitution. While I think it was foolish for President Clinton to engage us in that war, it certainly was not unconstitutional; he was the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, he has wide latitude in how he can use them.

But Pelosi made a point of restricting her pronouncement to "go[ing] into Iran," which even MyWay interpolated as "invad[ing] Iran." Surely the most obvious way to interpret that is as an actual land-invasion by our armed forces of Iran, à la what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But who in the administration is talking about that? I haven't even seen anyone go so far as to agree with me that we should implement the Herman Option... which involves only aerial attacks on Iran (no "invasion") -- plus the seizure of offshore oil facilities, many of which are arguably in international waters.

Even more puzzling: Who is Nancy Pelosi arguing with? In the only two instances in the Bush Administration's six-year history where we actually did send the Army and Marine Corps rolling into a sovereign nation -- Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 -- the Bush administration sought and received prior congressional approval. Evidently, in that respect, George Bush agrees with Nancy Pelosi (as a matter of good form, if not as a matter of law). He demonstrated that agreement in practice.

So Speaker Pelosi pointedly used a term that seemingly applied only to a situation nobody is proposing; she avoided using a more general term; she avoided claiming that Bush disagreed with her analysis. This careful parsing allows her to look really, really tough and manly, while avoiding saying anything that might lead to a debate -- which Ms. Pelosi would lose, either in court or on a congressional vote (note that "Congress" is not synonymous with "the House of Representatives").

Has this sort of tendentious and absurdly precise parsing of language become endemic within the Democratic Party since 1992? Is the ability to split hairpieces about "what the meaning of 'is' is" now formally required in order to achieve leadership position in Congress?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 15, 2007, at the time of 5:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 13, 2007

Red Rover, Red Rover, Let Sadr Come Over!

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd
"Ladies and gentlemen -- Elvis either has or has not left the building."

A few weeks ago, Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr may have fled Iraq... straight to Tehran:

Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fled Iraq for Iran ahead of a security crackdown in Baghdad and the arrival of 21,500 U.S. troops sent by President Bush to quell sectarian violence, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

Al-Sadr left his Baghdad stronghold some weeks ago, the official said, and is believed to be in Tehran, where he has family. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. monitoring activities, said fractures in al-Sadr's political and militia operations may be part of the reason for his departure. The move is not believed to be permanent, the official said.

Or else, he may not have:

Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday that the radical Shiite cleric was still in Iraq, denying a report that he fled to Iran ahead of a security crackdown targeting his militia.

An Iraqi government official said al-Sadr was in the Shiite holy city of Najaf Tuesday night, when he received delegates from several government departments. The official, who is familiar with one of those meetings, spoke on condition of anonymity because he has no authority to disclose information on his department's activities.

UPDATE 5:13 am PST:

"Tag, you're it!"

The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday that Muqtada al-Sadr has left the country and is believed to be in Iran, despite denials from the radical Shiite cleric's supporters.

The most likely scenario (to me, at least) is that Sadr did in fact flee Iraq to Iran a few weeks ago; but then he decided to return, possibly because he feared he was losing control of the Mahdi Militia and thought that his direct presence would frighten some of his gangland rivals: it's hard to run a terrorist organization by remote control.

(The real question is, did Sadr leave voluntarily... or was he Marcotted?)

In any event, Sadr is in trouble, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Two of his top lieutenants were "gunned down" last week; five others were either killed or captured by Coalition forces. So many of his top aides have been removed that there is a serious question now whether Muqtada Sadr is even still in command.

Asharq Alawsat -- an English-language Arabic daily newspaper -- has more about the two Sadrites who just went to Paradise to get their box of 72 raisins:

Two key members of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political and military organization were gunned down just days before the U.S. and Iraqi forces planned to open a massive security drive in Baghdad.

Ali Khazim, who ran al-Sadr's political organization in volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, was killed Sunday by U.S. forces at his home in Howaider village, 12 miles east of Baqouba, Saleh al-Ageili, a spokesman for the Sadr Movement's parliamentary bloc, said on Monday. Provincial police confirmed al-Ageili's account....

The second official, Khalil al-Maliki [probably no relation to the Iraq prime minister - the Mgt.], a key figure in al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Basra, was killed by three gunmen in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in the southern city of Basra, police reported. He survived an assassination attempt in the city last year.

As many as seven key figures in the al-Sadr organization have been killed or captured in the past two months, at least three of them by U.S. forces, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, dropped his protection for the organization -- a crucial backer in his rise to power.

We seem to have a multi-part Baghdadi fire drill in progress:

  • Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has withdrawn his protection from Sadr and the Mahdi Militia;
  • Sadr probably fled Iraq to Iran;
  • Sadr probably returned from Iran to Iraq;
  • Sadr probably fretted that he could not command his troops from Tehran;
  • Somebody or somebodies unknown are bumping off top Sadrites;
  • Coalition troops are also killing and capturing Sadr's top lieutenants at an alarming rate;
  • Coalition troops are also killing and capturing Iranian "Qods Force" soldiers inside Iraq.

The strategic change of course in Iraq hasn't really even started yet, but already it appears to be paying dividends.

On the Sunni terrorist front, a new "umbrella organization," Islamic State in Iraq, which has now absorbed al-Qaeda in Iraq, has been beavering away at shooting down American helos. Upon further investigation, the Marines now say that the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter that went down with all hands a week ago was indeed shot down; it was not mechanical failure, as they thought at first.

ISI has circulated a video supposedly showing the helo being splashed. I haven't watched it (and won't; I don't watch enemy propaganda); but with the Marine Corps' admission that the Sea Knight was actually shot down, we'll probably have to conclude that the video is genuine.

So we have some action items on our agenda:

  1. Find out for sure where Muqtada Sadr is lurking;
  2. If he's outside the country -- don't let him back in!
  3. If he's in Najaf, consider deporting him;
  4. Continue capturing and killing his lieutenants; make it an unpopular job title;
  5. Strike hard at Islamic State in Iraq; umbrellas can be folded up.

I would love for the putative "surge" to bear sweet fruit... right after the Democrats pass a resolution, largely along party lines, to support the troops but condemn everything they're doing.

Let's see the Democrats get out of that one.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2007, at the time of 11:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

We've Got the Goods on Qods

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

In a dramatic, fact-filled presentation today, military and intelligence analysts presented overwhelming evidence that Iran has been arming the Shiite militias in Iraq and killing American servicemen since June of 2004. Congressional Democrats and their unindicted co-conspirators in the press were underwhelmed... but forced to make concessions:

[Senior United States military officials] spread out on two small tables during a news briefing an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. But by far the most potent item on display was a squat canister designed to explode and spit out a molten ball of copper that cuts through armor. That bomb is perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.

Never before displayed in public, the canister, called an explosively formed penetrator, or E.F.P., arrives in Iraq in what the officials described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts, like a strangely shaped, concave lid that folds into the ball while hurtling toward its target.

This presentation represents just the tip of the iceberg; I am convinced that this is going to be the next "shot heard round the world;" and that, far from being a one-off PR stunt, this briefing is the prelude to much more dramatic action against Iran... either diplomatically or militarily, depending upon the reactions of our competitors at the U.N.

Bill Roggio, as usual, has more details:

"Iran is involved in supplying explosively formed projectiles or EFPs and other material," such as "explosive charges, booby traps, mortar shells of different calibers and remote controls" to detonate IEDs to "multiple" insurgent groups...."

"We have evidence that Iran provided insurgents with explosive devices and trained them to use these weapons, produced between 2004 and 2006," Said MG Caldwell....

Evidence was also unveiled that Iranian agents are actively planting explosive. MG Caldwell displayed identification cards of Iranians captured while "involved in acts of violence...."

"We assess that these activities are coming from the senior levels of the Iranian government," the defense official said, "noting that the Al-Qods brigade reports to Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei...."

The Irbil raid in early January netted the most significant evidence, as well as a senior member of the Iranian Qods Force. Six Iranians were detained in Irbil, including Mohsin Chizari, the operational commander of the Qods Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps specialized force that is equivalent to U.S. Special Forces.

Evidently, we have been accumulating the evidence since June of 2004, when the first U.S. soldier was killed by an Iranian manufactured EFP; the total now is 120 American soldiers and Marines killed by Iranian forces in Iraq. But until now, we have kept the actual evidence under wraps, leaking only rumors and hints. So why call a press conference and do an info-dump now?

I've been mulling that question for a couple of days now... and I believe President Bush is setting up an ultimatum he plans to deliver... to Europe: either they handle the situation by allowing heavy, meaningful, biting sanctions to be imposed against Iran -- or else we'll handle the situation with our military.

No further discussion, no need to get a permission slip from the U.N., and no veto authority for France, Russia, or China. This won't be a U.N. operation, nor even a NATO incursion: I think we're talking about a Kosovo-style air war.

But the danger is that it might be more like Operation Desert Fox, in which we bombed Iraq intensively for 70 hours in 1998, but succeeded only in "hardening" the Hussein regime and convincing top Baathist leaders that they could survive the worst that America could dish out.

Derided at the time as a "Wag the Dog bombing," the attacks were neither intensive enough nor widespread enough to seriously threaten Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq. According to an interesting analysis by Dr. Mark J. Conversino of the Air Force's Air War College...

In the end, DESERT FOX was a militarily effective use of airpower. Terminating the already very brief operation short of a change in either Iraqi behavior or leadership, and limiting targets to a relative handful, however, was a political decision. Yet the lure of achieving a bloodless yet devastating military victory while making a rapid exit possible, if necessary -- what Eliot Cohen called "gratification without commitment" -- ultimately, perhaps inevitably, led to the misapplication and abuse of airpower. Many airpower theorists had long cautioned against using airpower in penny-packets or in hyper-constrained political environments. "When presidents use it," Cohen wrote, "they should either hurl it with devastating lethality against a few targets (say, a full-scale meeting of an enemy war cabinet or senior-level military staff) or extensively enough to cause sharp and lasting pain to a military and a society." The 70-hour operation became what Cohen cautioned against: an attack on Saddam with a "sprinkling" of air strikes that would merely "harden him without hurting him and deprive the United States of an intangible strategic asset", an asset that Cohen called the post-Gulf War "mystique of American airpower...." [emphasis added]

Moreover, DESERT FOX lacked clear political goals, an omission for which no amount of firepower could compensate [emphasis in original].

We need to have those "clear political goals," as Dr. Conversino argues, fully worked out before striking Iran; and the strikes themselves should be designed to further those goals. At a minimum, those goals should include the following:

  • Either an end to Iran's nuclear weapons research, or at the very least, setting Iran back by a number of years;
  • A complete cessation of Iranian interference in Iraq, either directly (Qods Force) or by proxy (Muqtada Sadr and the Mahdi Militia, the Badr Organization, etc.); we cannot compromise on this one -- Iran must draw a bloody stump back from Iraq;
  • A continuing threat to Iran's energy supply by U.S. control of Iranian gasoline imports and destruction of Iran's domestic gasoline refinery capacity;
  • Severing of the ties between Iran and Syria by giving the former a more urgent goal to worry about and the latter a taste of what might be in store for the Baathists in Damascus;
  • A clear signal to the rest of the Middle East that the days when we would indulge the ludicrous and dangerous global ambitions of failed oppressor states are gone, and the new world order includes no room for nations exploiting the chaos of the "Non-Integrating Gap" to wage terrorist war against the "Functioning Core," to use Thomas P.M. Barnett's phraseology.

If we sustain the bombing and missile campaign until all known nuke sites are obliterated, and if we carry through the rest of the plan, and -- this is the biggie -- if we move quickly to exploit the diplomatic opening that such a devastating blow naturally creates, we can have a very different and very much better world by the time of the 2008 elections. This would be grand, not only for Americans but also for the rest of the world... especially that large portion of it that must live in the Non-Integrating Gap.

Meanwhile, in a separate briefing, a major general dropped another bombshell: that dreadful string of American helicopters being shot down recently was not the result of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, as many had speculated, but from small-arms fire instead:

The military command in Baghdad denied, however, that any newly smuggled Iranian weapons were behind the five U.S. military helicopter crashes since Jan. 20 - four that were shot out of the sky by insurgent gunfire.

A fifth crash has tentatively been blamed on mechanical failure. In the same period, two private security company helicopters also have crashed but the cause was unclear....

In a separate briefing, Maj. Gen. Jim Simmons, deputy commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, said that since December 2004, U.S. helicopter pilots have been shot at on average about 100 times a month and been hit on an average of 17 times in the same period....

The major general said Iraqi militants are known to have SA-7, SA-14 and SA-16 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles but none of the most recent five military crashes were caused by those weapons. He said some previous crashes had been a result of such missiles but would not elaborate.

Once again, it's always a good idea to measure six times before you leap.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 12, 2007, at the time of 6:19 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Iran Strategies 7: Is the Game Afoot?

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The left-wing U.K. Guardian newspaper -- formerly the Manchester Guardian -- is banging pots and pans, warning that U.S. plans to attack Iran are "well advanced;" and that even if we don't attack, our military posture could cause us to drift into "accidental war."

Please, let it be true!

Our previous posts in this series examining our options anent Iran are:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
  4. Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
  5. Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack
  6. Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?"

The last link above is the most important, as it details the strategy whose components we appear to have emplaced already (as soon as the carrier battle group of the USS John Stennis arrives in the Persian Gulf).

Let's serious consider the Guardian's factual claims, while not succumbing to their existential angst over the dreadful idea that we might actually strike back at an enemy that has attacked us repeatedly and has been threatening us with death and destruction since the Iranian revolution.

The Guardian is desperately trying awaken us, Paul Revere-like, to the terrible danger that President Bush may order a strike against Iran. But to me, at least, the screeching has the opposite impact: I rest easier in my sleep, knowing we may go to war against Iran sooner, when they are weak, rather than later, when they are strong:

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Certainly we have casus belli; there now appears to be no dissent among the intelligence agencies that Iran is at the very least supplying Shiite death squads in Iraq "the most lethal weapon" in their arsenal... and that Iran knows this explosive, manufactured in Iran and sold or given to the Shiite militias, is killing American troops:

The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete....

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

But I don't think many people even dispute Iran's role helping the anti-democracy forces in Iraq; I'm more interested in what we're going to do about it... so back to the Guardian!

The paper (which is very leftist, anti-American, anti-Iraq War, and even more stridently anti-war against Iran) claims that there is a split within the Bush administration, with the Pentagon and the State Department opposed to any attack on Iran, while the vice president and the "neo-conservatives" supporting just such an attack.

But this distinction seems particularly facile in light of their similar description of the recent strategic change of course in Iraq, which they portray thus:

One of the main driving forces behind war, apart from the vice-president's office, is the AEI [American Enterprise Institute], headquarters of the neo-conservatives. A member of the AEI coined the slogan "axis of evil" that originally lumped Iran in with Iraq and North Korea. Its influence on the White House appeared to be in decline last year amid endless bad news from Iraq, for which it had been a cheerleader. But in the face of opposition from Congress, the Pentagon and state department, Mr Bush opted last month for an AEI plan to send more troops to Iraq. Will he support calls from within the AEI for a strike on Iran?

As readers of Big Lizards (or any other decently competent center-right blog) already know, the new strategy is not simply "to send more troops to Iraq" but a complete change of course. And the Pentagon was not uniformly against the inaptly named "surge;" some top generals were against it, others were for it.

The actual plan was substantially based upon the new official Army counterinsurgency manual that written by then-Lt.Gen. David Petraeus while he served as commanding general of Fort Leavenworth -- which manual itself was based upon strategies and tactics that Petraeus developed fighting in Mosul, when he commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.

Petraeus, who takes over from Gen. George Casey as Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, and Adm. William Fallon, who takes command of Central Command from Gen. John Abizaid, represent one faction within the Pentagon; Casey and Abizaid represent another; and there are other factions as well (including, I suppose, a very small faction that just wants to declare defeat and go home). But to say "the Pentagon" opposed the strategic change of course is as simplistic as saying "Congress" did; in both bodies, some opposed while others supported the president's decision.

Thus, I don't take it very seriously when the same newspaper says that...

The state department and the Pentagon are opposed [to striking Iran], as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

More properly, as with the Iraq changes, some but not all members of the State Department and some but not all Pentagon officials likely oppose an Iran strike. About the only thing we can state with certainty is that the Guardian itself is opposed:

But Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst, shared the sources' assessment that Pentagon planning was well under way. "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place."

He added: "We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous."

I would say precisely the opposite: what's "incredibly dangerous" is not to plan for a war, but simply to blunder into one... or be dragged, kicking and screaming, by the enemy, as in 1941. Rather than sit around with mouths agape, waiting for Iran to launch the full-scale war, we must plot it very carefully. And if we decide that war is ultimately inevitable, then we should start it ourselves -- at a time and place of our choosing, not Ahmadinejad's.

Where the Guardian article gets really peculiar is when the journalists try to psychoanalyze President Bush, presumably hoping to tap into the traditional leftist meme that Republican "warmongers" are mentally disturbed as well as stupid:

Mr Bush is part of the American generation that refuses to forgive Iran for the 1979-81 hostage crisis. He leaves office in January 2009 and has said repeatedly that he does not want a legacy in which Iran has achieved superpower status in the region and come close to acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. The logic of this is that if diplomatic efforts fail to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment then the only alternative left is to turn to the military.

In fact, President Bush is of the generation that recognizes that Iran declared war on us in 1979 -- and they have been fighting that war as strongly as they can for the last 28 years. They certainly struck a horrific blow against us in Beirut in 1983, when they killed 241 American Marines, 58 French paratroopers, a Lebanese custodian, and the wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor (the infamous Beirut barracks terrorist bombing).

Iran's current bloody-handed actions in Iraq are further proof that they consider themselves at war against us, even if we haven't yet accepted that we are at war against them:

  • Sending arms and explosives to the anti-democratic forces, both Shia and Sunni;
  • Giving advanced military training to Shiite terrorists, in order to attack Americans and Iraqi government forces;
  • Supporting Muqtada Sadr during the period he was actually fighting against American troops in Najaf and in Sadr City;
  • Sending actual members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards into Iraq (Qods Force) to launch direct attacks on American and coalition forces;
  • And green-lighting Hezbollah to attack our ally Israel, unprovoked, to draw them into a war in Lebanon.

Iran has been threatening us with horrific retaliation if we do attack; but realistically, there is little they can do. Their most effective response would be to use mines to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a huge percentage of the world's oil passes; but that is precisely what the "Herman Option" is designed to prevent. And in fact, two British minesweeping ships have already been dispatched to the Gulf, along with American submarines.

(Via the Discovery Channel show FutureWeapons, we also have some very new and strikingly good anti-mine technology available to us now; see Krakatoa.)

The Guardian article concludes on what must, for them, be a very sober note:

If it does come to war, [Josh Muravchik, a Middle East specialist at the AEI] said Iran would retaliate, but that on balance it would be worth it to stop a country that he said had "Death to America" as its official slogan.

"We have to gird our loins and prepare to absorb the counter-shock," he said.

Unlike the guardians of the Left -- including the Guardian -- I don't believe that "counter-shock" is going to be anywhere near as bad as we have suffered in Iraq, for the simple reason that we will not invade Iran; that is, we will not send troops to occupy the country and force regime change, as we did in Iraq. That part would be up to the Iranian people themselves, who by all accounts detest the ruling mullahs and hate how they are trying to push modern Persia back into the 7th century.

The strike will be primarily an airstrike against the nuclear targets, and also (if we implement the full Herman Option) against Iran's gasoline refineries and docks, shutting off their supply of fuel. Since we will not have tens of thousands of soldiers in Iran as convenient targets, it will be next to impossible for Iran to retaliate other than by terrorism... and I'm absolutely certain that if they had the capability to strike us via Hezbollah (or some other proxy), they would already have done so: Iran is not exactly scrupulous about international norms of behavior.

But if we wait until Iran is much stronger, especially if they have functioning nuclear weapons, then the specter of retaliation becomes vastly larger. It would be a strategic blunder of colossal enormity to dither until such an attack as the Herman Option becomes impossible, because we're too afraid that a Hezbollah nuclear suicide-boat attack will, e.g., sink one of the two carriers we have in the Gulf, the USS Eisenhower or the USS Stennis, killing 6,000 American sailors and Marines -- and projecting a $5 billion force-projection platform to the bottom of the sea.

If we are ever going to strike, the time to do so is sooner rather than later. And I hope that we strike sooner than "just before Mr Bush leaves office," as the Guardian rather snidely predicts.

Just as it would be wildly irresponsible for Bush not to do something about Iran before he leaves office, it would be cowardly, I believe, to wait until just before leaving... thus saddling Bush's successor, Democrat or Republican, with the consequences of his decision, rather than accepting them himself.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 10, 2007, at the time of 7:44 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 8, 2007

A Moddish Proposal...

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

President George W. Bush
Personal and confidential
The White House - West Wing
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington D.C. 20500

February 8th, 2007

Dear President Bush;

The next time Russia threatens to sell TOR-M1 SAM systems to Iran -- or tanks, fighter jets, attack aircraft, submarines, AK-47 rifles, nuclear technology, or caviar -- can't we please just outbid them?

I mean, we can use the missiles as targets for our frequent Patriot II and Aegis anti-missile system tests. We can fly Su-33s, SU-35s, MiG-29s, and MiG-31s at Top Gun and Red Flag, to give our pilots and flight officers practice shooting them down. And God knows, we can always use more tracked-vehicle targets for advanced infantry and Special-Forces training.

I think the $700 million would be a lot cheaper than dealing with the consequences of more surface-to-air missiles under the mullahs' thumb. Thumbs? Thumb, whatever.

I'd even be willing to kick in $100.00 to get the ball rolling, if I got to watch an Aegis test live from the deck of a U.S. Navy destroyer or frigate. Will you take a post-dated check? We get paid on Friday.

Other than that (and the whole Gratz/Grutter thing), you're doing great. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Dafydd ab Hugh, Big Lizards lesser half

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 8, 2007, at the time of 5:02 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 7, 2007

Putin Wants Nuclear Armed Iran; Sanity Questioned

Iran Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In another bizarre and unfathomable maneuver, Soviet Communist Party Chairman Vladimir Putin -- I'm sorry, I meant Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course -- has completed the delivery to Iran of 29 advanced TOR-M1 air-defense missile systems, despite American and even U.N. protest; and now the Iranians have tested them and integrated them into their air-defense strategy:

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have successfully test-fired a new Russian-made air defence missile system, whose delivery last month sparked bitter US criticism....

"We have successfully test-fired the new modern TOR-M1 defence system, within the framework of the Revolutionary Guards defence doctrine based on a military strategy of deterrence," Revolutionary Guards air force commander Hossein Salami was quoted as telling the ISNA news agency.

"The Iranian armed forces have added the new missile system to its defences to consolidate its defence capabilities," he said.

Why would Russia carge full-steam ahead with this very aggressive delivery, knowing that in the end, taking out Iran's nuclear weapons factories may be the sole viable alternative to nuclear mullahs? The only plausible explanation is that Russia wants to remove the capability of either Israel or the United States to extirpate Iran's budding nuclear arsenal.

Thus, President Putin wants Moslem extremist, terror-supporting Iran to go nuclear.

The odd thing is that Russia has a much more serious Islamism problem than does the West; Russia a pair of horrific, bloody wars with violent jihadists in Chechnya, with attendant violence that has dragged on now for a dozen years and resulted in likely tens of thousands of Russian deaths (including movie patrons in Moscow and shoolchildren in Beslan).

In 2000, Russia reinstalled a puppet government in Grozny; but there is no guarantee that the separatist war won't start up again -- especially if Iran begins funding that terrorist movement, as they fund Hezbollah, Hamas, and many others.

Does Russia think that by selling Iran an air-defense system, they will innoculate themselves against Iranian imperial and jihadist ambitions? If so, then Putin has utterly lost his mind.

Under President Bill Clinton, the United States actually went to war on behalf of Moslem groups against Christians -- twice, once in Bosnia and again in Kosovo. No good deed goes unpunished: Two years later, jihadists struck us on 9/11. Osama bin Laden, in a rambling, anti-American jeremiad, made no reference to our help to the Moslem separatist cause in the former Yugoslavia. (He did, however, castigate us for defending Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against the secular Saddam Hussein.)

The truly interesting question is whether Russians will actually be manning the missile batteries. The deal includes a "service contract," which presumably means spare parts and repairs; but does it also include trained Russian soldiers to operate the system?

If so, then Russia is truly aligning itself against America. But is it aligning itself with Europe? Perhaps the European Union has quietly signalled Russia that it would appreciate them continuing to upgrade Iran's air defenses, so as deliberately to make it more dangerous for the United States to attack Iranian nuclear sites -- a policy that frightens the EU, which prefers the strategy of bribing the Islamists not to attack -- a policy Europe in which Europeans have much more practice.

That would be a sad, shortsighted, and extremely foolish strategy: Not just Russia but the European continent as well has much more to fear from an ascendant, nuclear Iran than do we. (I wonder how much personal animosity between French President Jacques Chirac and President George W. Bush plays into this?)

I doubt the new air defenses will make any difference. If we decide to strike Iran, we may lose a couple more planes; but I don't believe that an extra 29 TOR-M1 batteries can slow us down, let alone stop us. (We would likely take them out with B-2 stealth bombers before even sending in the other planes.) But it does signal that Russia, at least, and probably the rest of Europe, are even less reliable than we imagined in the war on global jihadism.

I think Bush needs to relook Putin in the eyes and update his judgment.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 7, 2007, at the time of 8:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 5, 2007

Mahdi Mania - a "Stealth Rewrite" by the New York Times

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

This is a funny story that suddenly got much funnier.

I was all set to write about a New York Times story that took 27 paragraphs to tell us that 9 out of 10 Sadrites prefer the Mahdi Militia to the United States Army; the story began thus:

Naeem Al-Kaabi, Baghdad’s deputy mayor, nodded toward the gunfire outside his seventh floor office, a few hundred yards from the market where a one-ton truck bomb killed at least 130 people on Saturday and wounded hundreds more. The shots, he said, signaled another body -- another son, another daughter -- being carried from the rubble. [Note the description of Naeem Al-Kaabi as simply "Badhdad's deputy mayor."]

“The terrorists chose this spot three months ago and again yesterday so they could kill as many people as possible,” said Mr. Kaabi, a Shiite from Sadr City. “Trucks are not even allowed in the small alleys of the market. I wonder how the truck made it in.”

It was a question that traveled through much of Baghdad today, in the wake of the deadliest single bomb blast since the American invasion in 2003. Shiites in particular came prepared with an answer. They said the looming American-Iraqi security plan for Baghdad had weakened the Mahdi army, the Shiite militia loyal to the militant cleric Moktada Al-Sadr, emasculating the Shiites’ only reliable source of security.

The story meandered along these lines for quite some time. While reading it, I noticed something peculiar -- and quite humorous: every, single person quoted as lamenting the loss of the Mahdi Militia -- "the Shiites' only reliable source of security!" -- was subsequently identified as a follower of Muqtada Sadr or a longtime supporter of the Mahdi Militia itself.

That's not a tyop: the New York Times published a piece extolling the virtures of the primary source of Shiite death squads, the Mahdi Militia, and its Iranian-puppet leader, the slimy Sadr... and its sources were almost entirely Mahdi Militia supporters. This after literally months of the drive-by media whining that we weren't going after Shiite death squads and only focusing our attacks on Sunni terrorists.

Here are some more excerpts:

While the American military put out a statement saying that an Iraqi Army unit and members of an Iraqi police brigade had secured the bomb site, the area closest to the bomb crater was controlled by the Mahdi Army. About 8 to 15 men dressed in black, carrying AK-47s, waved reporters away this morning and again in the afternoon.

When two American Humvees and an Iraqi patrol passed just after 1 p.m. local time, one of the Iraqi men in black called the soldiers “apes and cowards.”

“They’re the ones who brought us the catastrophe,” one of the Iraqis said. “If they were not here, such a thing wouldn’t happen to us.”

And again:

“The Jaish al-Mehdi are like protectors, but with the announcement of the start of the security plan the Americans really chased them, so they withdrew from these places and now we don’t see them,” he said. “They don’t want to confront the Americans.”

And at last, in the final two paragraphs, the Times dropped the other Persian slipper about Deputy Mayor of Baghdad Naeem Al-Kaabi:

Mr. Kaabi , the deputy mayor and a senior Sadr official, said the American military, with the approval of the Iraqi government, has made an enemy of a group that could have been a partner. Nearly three years after bloody battles against Americans in the southern city of Najaf, the Mahdi Army no longer wanted to fight, he said. They simply wanted to defend and control their own sect’s areas.

“If the Mahdi were given the freedom to move, they could have coordinated with the Iraqi Army and the police,” Mr. Kaabi said. “They could have made it safe.”

Heh. I think it is just exactly that sort of "coordination" between the Iraqi National Police and the Mahdi Militia -- following the February, 2006, destruction by al-Qaeda of the Al-Askari "Golden Dome" Mosque in Samarra -- that most directly contributed to the huge surge of violence in Baghdad last year.

The headline of the piece was After Deadly Blast in Iraq, Shiites Assail U.S. Policy; I was set to note that the article would actually be perfectly fine if they simply changed the head to something more descriptive... such as, After Deadly Blast in Iraq, Mahdi Militia Supporters Support Mahdi Militia.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the presidential palace: when I took another look at the link... I didn't even recognize what I was reading.

This was not a brain seizure on my part: it turns out that the Times had made a small, er, "stealth correction." Well, the more accurate term would be a complete stealth rewrite... the New York Times had quite simply jacked up the URL and rolled an entirely different story underneath it.

It starts with the headline -- which has transformed into: Iraqis Fault Delayed U.S. Plan in Attack. And so you can see what I'm talking about, I'll put corresponding paragraphs (discussing similar topics, I mean) side by side in a table, starting with the two ledes:








Side by side comparison: original vs. stealth rewrite
Original story Stealth rewrite
Naeem Al-Kaabi, Baghdad’s deputy mayor, nodded toward the gunfire outside his seventh floor office, a few hundred yards from the market where a one-ton truck bomb killed at least 130 people on Saturday and wounded hundreds more. The shots, he said, signaled another body -- another son, another daughter -- being carried from the rubble. A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that slowness in completing the vaunted new American security plan has made Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

Instead of making the city safer, they said, recent American efforts have opened Shiite areas to bombs that have left more than 450 dead since Jan. 16.

“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said today. “But so far there security has only deteriorated.”

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders are either in hiding or under arrest. With no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market in central Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb.

“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said Sunday. “But so far security has only deteriorated.”

While the American military put out a statement saying that an Iraqi Army unit and members of an Iraqi police brigade had secured the bomb site, the area closest to the bomb crater was controlled by the Mahdi Army. About 8 to 15 men dressed in black, carrying AK-47s, waved reporters away this morning and again in the afternoon.

When two American Humvees and an Iraqi patrol passed just after 1 p.m. local time, one of the Iraqi men in black called the soldiers “apes and cowards.”

“They’re the ones who brought us the catastrophe,” one of the Iraqis said. “If they were not here, such a thing wouldn’t happen to us.” [This scene was pushed to the second page and has a couple of new paragraphs inserted, changing it to the new "plan delayed" focus.]

With much of Baghdad devolving further into chaos, many Iraqis have begun to question whether the security plan has ambled along too slowly, setting up a situation in which American and Iraqi troops will be greeted with hostility rather than welcomed as protectors.

Also, they made another change. Remember how, in the original story, Naeem Al-Kaabi -- who bemoaned the loss of the security provided by the Mahdi Militia -- was described (in the lede graf) only as Baghdad's deputy mayor? It was only in the penultimate paragraph that we found out he was also "a senior [Muatada] Sadr official."

Evidently, somebody had a come-to-Jesus meeting with the writers; in fact, this may be the explanation of what on Earth happened to the story. In the rewritten version, this is how Al-Kaabi is described in the lone paragraph that cites him:

Iraqi and American military officials said the command structure of the Iraqi side had still not been resolved, although the plan is supposed to move forward this coming week. Naeem al-Kabbi, the deputy mayor of Baghdad and a senior official loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric who leads the Mahdi Army, said he believed the plan had been delayed “because the Iraqi army is not ready.”

(His name has also changed from Kaabi to Kabbi, but that could be a typo.)

I wonder if the original story, which probably went out with the early-morning print run of the Times, was finally read by somebody who noticed that it was virtually a paean to the glorious Mahdi Militia, complaining about the fact that, as part of our security crackdown in the capital, we have driven the militia out of totalitarian control of Sadr City and other Shiite sections of Baghdad (and out of Najaf in the south, as well). Some grownup may have read the original story... and after his secretary peeled him off the ceiling with a spatula, he may have called up the writers (Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel, jr.) and asked them if they knew anything about Sadr and the Mahdi Militia other than what they have been told by their Shiite stringers.

Pirouetting on a dinar, the writers seem to have shifted the focus -- from "the criminal Bush drove the only reliable defenders of Shia out of control, so the violence is all our fault" to "the criminal Bush announced the strategic change of course nearly a month ago, but we haven't even sent all of the 21,500 troops in yet... so the violence is all our fault."

I'll bet it changed by the later edition. Perhaps somebody with access to both the actual, physical dead-tree products can check and see.

I must say, the new story is somewhat better than the old; its upshot is (if one were really to think about it) that we should accelerate the new strategy... and not undercut it by frivolous and insulting non-binding resolutions sending our troops out with a firm "you're going to lose" behind them.

And in some news, the first cloture vote on the Warner-Levin-Hagel resolution (which combined Surrender Slow with Surrender Swift to produce Surrender Synthesis) has failed miserably.

The Senate Democrats and the cringe-wing of the Republican Party needed 60 votes to progress. They got 49 -- 11 votes short. The only two Republican senators to vote for cloture were Norm Coleman (MN, 64%) and Susan Collins (ME, 32%). In a breathtaking act of political betrayal of their followers, original sponsoring GOP senators John Warner (VA, 88%) and Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%) hung their two colleagues out to dry, voting against their own sponsored resolution!

I wonder... did they call the role alphabetically? Were Coleman and Collins unaware, when they cast their votes, that the two Republican sponsors planned to yank the Persian carpet out from under their frozen feet?

Might this make the two pie-in-the-face victims a little reluctant to support any such resolutions in the future? Too bad; but as Larry Niven says, "not responsible for advice not taken."

One hopes so. Just as one hopes that the humiliation of the New York Times having to regurgitate a rewrite the runs the gamut from soup to nuts might make them somewhat reluctant to force such a quandry again... by not cheerleading for terrorists in the first place. Contrary to what seems the central core of liberalism, the enemy of my enemy (George W. Bush) is not necessarily my brother.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 5, 2007, at the time of 4:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

The Little Generals - 535 of Them

Congressional Calamities , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a burst of audacity and ingenuity that one wishes were aimed at America's enemies instead of the president, congressional Democrats now assert the sweeping authority to be co-Commanders in Chief; and in the case of one constitutional-law "expert," to dictate strategic and tactical military policy to the president, who in this scenario must simply salute and say "Yes sir."

This goes far beyond what they did during their successful effort to turn the Vietnam victory into defeat; in that shameful episode, Congress merely utilized the power of the purse, which everyone (even George W. Bush) agrees they have. Nay, one must go all the way back to the Civil War, when Congress routinely issued marching and battle orders to Union generals, to find a comparable moment of hubris in congressional history.

The first shot across the bow comes from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began laying the constitutional groundwork today for an effort to block President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq and place new limits on the conduct of the war there, perhaps forcing a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

They were joined by Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led the panel for the last two years, in asserting that Mr. Bush cannot simply ignore Congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

“I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider,” Mr. Specter said. “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility.”

Back a few days ago, in our previous post None Dare Call It Cowardice, I pegged Specter as likely to join the efforts to seize command of the military away from the president:

[T]he only other Republican senator who scores lower than the top of this liberal group (Voinovich, 68%) is Sen. Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)...

(In this case, I based my semi-prediction not only on Specter's liberalness but also upon his vanity and tendency to preen before an audience.)

But what exactly is Specter saying here? Nobody denies that Congress is the "decider" when it comes to funding the military; the president's power is entirely negative: he can veto the funding legislation. And Bush's "decider" remark -- actually, he said "decision maker" in the most recent incarnation -- was very clear about what he was deciding: he said he was the decision-maker about implementing the plan, not funding it.

Thus, when Specter says “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility," he is literally saying that Congress has as much say as the Commander in Chief over determining the rules of engagement, repositioning the troops within Iraq, and sending U.S. forces from point A to point B. If Congress had any role at all in those types of decisions, it was whether to authorize the use of military force in the first place... which they did in 2002, with no time limit and no restrictions about exactly how they could be used in the upcoming war (though such restrictions would probably have been unconstitutional anyway).

Specter is not unaware of the enormity he's trying to pull off; he knows this is not our traditional understanding of the relationship between the branches... he is very much aware that he is trying to seize the most important power of a republic, the strategic and tactical specifics of waging war, away from the president and into Congress:

Mr. Specter said he considered a clash over constitutional powers to be “imminent.”

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) is behaving more honorably than Specter: he is brazenly trying to cut off all funding for the war, which is at least a bona-fide congressional power. But even he is drunk on Congressional power, at the expense of the presidency, that goes beyond unseemly to the realm of the imperial:

Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who acted as chairman for the hearing, said he would soon introduce a resolution that would go much further. It would end all financing for the deployment of American military forces in Iraq after six months, other than a limited number working on counterterrorism operations or training the Iraqi army and police. In effect, it would call for all other American forces to be withdrawn by the six-month deadline.

“Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policy in Iraq, Congress has a duty to stand up and prevent him,” Mr. Feingold said.

Mr. Feingold was joined by only two other Democrats at the hearing, Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, perhaps reflecting the wariness in the party’s caucus about any direct attempt to thwart the president’s strategy.

When did they inherit this duty? I see nothing in the Constitution to justify it: Congress has these powers anent war:

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8

By contrast, the president has the following powers:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.

U.S. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 2

I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, but I'd have to say that being "commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" trumps any congressional wartime power on the narrow issue of who gets to move around the pieces on the chessboard.

It's important to realize that not all Republicans are involved in trying to sabotage our efforts in Iraq; so far, the effort is still limited to a subset of the group we listed in None Dare Call It Cowardice:

  1. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%)
  2. Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
  3. Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
  4. Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
  5. Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%)
  6. George Voinovich (OH, 68%)
  7. Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
  8. John Warner (VA, 88%)

Not even Specter has come out and said he will support the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution; and Hagel was the only Republican to support the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution. At the moment, the only GOP supporters of Surrender Slow, according to Daily Kos, are Hagel, Collins, Smith, Coleman, and Warner.

But Specter and Feingold have come as close as one could imagine to coming right out and saying that Congress, not the president, is the "decider":

Mr. Specter read the results of a survey of service members conducted by The Military Times, which found that only 35 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war. The senator suggested that in that light, the military might be “appreciative of questions being raised by Congress.” [Yes, I'm quite sure the military appreciates being told they're on a fool's errand and are destined to be defeated by the terrorists.]

Mr. Feingold insisted that his resolution would “not hurt our troops in any way” because they would all continue to be paid, supplied, equipped and trained as usual -- just not in Iraq.

I'm quite certain that Feingold is blissfully ignorant of how offensive this comment really is to servicemen and servicewomen: he sees our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as nothing more than contractors whose only concern is that they get paid; Sen. Feingold is unequipped by nature to understand how important is the mission itself, success and victory, to the military.

The most breathtaking power-grab came not from a senator but from an "expert" in constitutional law. (And let's all guess which side called him to testify!) If this doesn't make your mouth gape, you have no astonishment left in you:

Other experts testifying at the hearing said that Congress had the power not only to declare war, but to make major strategic and policy decisions about its conduct. Louis Fisher, a specialist in constitutional law for the Library of Congress, said, “I don’t know of any ground for a belief that the president has any more special expertise in whether to continue a war than do the members of Congress.”

He said that the title of “commander in chief” was meant by the framers to emphasize unity of command and civilian control over the military. “The same duty commanders have to the president, the president has to the elected representatives.”

"The same duty" would be the duty to obey orders, no matter what he thinks of them. I'm virtually certain that Mr. Fisher was called by Russell Feingold (who served as acting chair for Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT, 100% during this hearing). But I wonder whether Arlen Specter didn't have at least the faint trace of a Cheshire-Cat smile on his lips, as he envisioned future Congresses issuing marching orders to future Subcommanders in Subchief. (And by the way... when did the president cease being considered an "elected representative?")

Naturally, the subject slopped over from Iraq to Iran; the Democrats simply couldn't contain themselves, any more than a monkey can stop itself from dropping one handful of nuts to grab another:

Even as the panel discussed issues from past conflicts, Senator Kennedy used the session to focus on a possible future conflict, asking the panel about what authority Mr. Bush would have to attack Iran. The panel’s members agreed that he had the power to take what actions he saw fit to deal with any short-term threat that Iran might pose to American troops in Iraq, but that he would need some form of Congressional authorization to begin any large-scale or long-term conflict.

(Of course, under the War Powers Act, President Bush has even more power than that: he can attack Iran, so long as the entire engagement lasts 60 days or less; then he has to report to Congress. This means that the "Herman Option" is easily within the authority of the president to order without bothering to gain permission from (or even consult) Arlen Specter, Russell Feingold, or Nancy Pelosi. Or Nancy Sinatra, for that matter.)

Sticking with Iran, the Democrats also harangued the president on his refusal to kowtow to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the Baker-Hamilton ISG report recommended:

Republican and Democratic senators warned Tuesday against a drift toward war with an emboldened Iran and suggested the Bush administration was missing a chance to engage its longtime adversary in potentially helpful talks over next-door Iraq.

"What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches, without the American people understanding exactly what's taking place," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told John Negroponte, who is in line to become the nation's No. 2 diplomat as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy.

It's hard not to laugh at the spectacle of Barack Obama (100%) -- a fellow who has served as a U.S. senator for two whole years -- lecturing John Negroponte, a man who has spent his entire adult life, since before Obama was even born, working his way up the State Department's ladder of responsibility (except for the two years he served as the first Director of National Intelligence) on the basics of diplomacy and negotiation. I wonder... did Obama tap his head during this speech, as if urging Negroponte to think it through?

At least in this case, so far no Republican has hurled himself against the barracades, bringing about the very intervention by Iran that he professes to be trying to stop. This time, even GOP mavericks wisely left that job to the Democrats, who have more experience at anti-Americanism. This is the absolute juiciest that AP can muster:

Senators including Hagel, George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., sounded frustrated with the administration's decision not to engage Iran and fellow outcast Syria in efforts to reduce sectarian violence in Iraq.

Even so, we appear, as in the 1860s, to have 535 spare generals on Capitol Hill, each of them having his headquarters in his congressional seat. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (R-IL, 100%), they appear to have their headquarters where their hindquarters ought to be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 30, 2007, at the time of 8:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

200, 250, 350, 400, 470, and Counting...

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

Before the "surge" has even begun, Iraqi and the US troops are taking it up a notch, engaging in fierce battles near Baghdad. The battles reveal Iranian influences on both Sunni insurgents and Shiia militia -- and show that under the right circumstances, the two groups can work hand in hand to oppose peace and democracy.

We have long suspected that the long arm of Iran was behind much of the violence in Iraq; but until last fall, the American military downplayed their influence, possibly in the vain hope that the threat of exposure might be a lever to use against Iran. But starting sometime between July and September, we became more willing to expose the Iranian connection... which probably means that we have given up the idea that Iran cares what the world thinks of it.

So let's start with some good news over the weekend in Baghdad. (As usual, AP larded up the story of a huge victory against a murderous cult with a maze of irrelevant and unrelated bad news; the New York Times did the same today -- we'll get to it in a minute -- but so amusingly, you almost want to let them get away with it.)

U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on Sunday attacked insurgents allegedly plotting to kill pilgrims at a major Shiite Muslim religious festival, and Iraqi officials estimated some 250 militants died in the daylong battle near Najaf.... [That estimate has been superceded by several higher counts.]

Authorities said Iraqi soldiers supported by U.S. aircraft [and ground troops] fought all day with a large group of insurgents in the Zaraq area, about 12 miles northeast of the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Col. Ali Nomas, spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Najaf, said more than 250 corpses had been found. Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi also spoke of 250 dead but said an exact number would not be released until Monday. He said 10 gunmen had been captured, including one Sudanese.

Provincial Gov. Assad Sultan Abu Kilel said the assault was launched because the insurgents planned to attack Shiite pilgrims and clerics during ceremonies marking Ashoura, the holiest day in the Shiite calendar commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussein. The celebration culminates Tuesday in huge public processions in Karbala and other Shiite cities.

Officials were unclear about the religious affiliation of the militants.

"Unclear" means that the group, Soldiers of Paradise (or Heaven), seems to have had both Shia and Sunni members; all were willing to butcher thousands of Shia pilgrims, if they could.

On Monday, Bill Roggio reported that the total number of insurgents killed was actually 350; they appear to be a mix of Sunni and Shia and included some foreign fighters. They were remarkably well-equipped and organzied, having at least two anti-aircraft Stinger-type missiles and some heavy machine guns.

Early reports indicated there were both Sunni terrorists and Shia cultist involved in the fighting. "Governor Asaad Abu Gilel as saying that the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussain."

Today, the New York Times has more information. This stupendous victory -- as many as 470 terrorists slain (!), ten captured, and only 25 Iraqi security forces killed, for a kill ratio of nearly 19 to 1 -- is of course presented by the Times as raising "troubling questions" about the Iraqi forces. (Perhaps the Times is disappointed that we just missed a 20 to 1 kill ratio):

Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.

They said American ground troops -- and not just air support as reported Sunday -- were mobilized to help the Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia, which calls itself the Soldiers of Heaven and had amassed hundreds of heavily armed fighters.

Iraqi government officials said the group apparently was preparing to storm Najaf, a holy city dear to Shiite Islam, occupy the sacred Imam Ali mosque and assassinate the religious hierarchy there, including the revered leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a Shiite holiday when many pilgrims visit....

The Iraqis and Americans eventually prevailed in the battle. But the Iraqi security forces’ miscalculations about the group’s strength and intentions raised troubling questions about their ability to recognize and deal with a threat.

I'd hate to see what the Times would write if we had lost the battle! Maybe if we wait long enough, it will turn out that we killed more terrorists in Najaf than the total number of protesters who showed up for the D.C. anti-war rally.

In any event, surely the Times and Congress are at cross-purposes: Congress says we should pull our troops out and leave the war to the Iraqis; but the Times says they're all a bunch of miserable incompetents who can't do anything without American help. I wish the anti-war Left would just pick one story and stick to it; these goalposts are walking around on chicken-legs, like Baba Yaga's hut.

This battle reminds me of ealier incident in Kabala, where terrorists disguised as American troops managed to fool Iraqi security forces. They got close enough to the Americans, who were conducting a meeting with locals, that twelve terrorists killed one American and kidnapped four, all of whom were later found dead.

The sophisticated nature of these attacks suggests highly trained and deadly terrorist forces; and that in turn suggests Iran's infamous "Qod's Force."

In fact, Iran has been operating in Iraq for years. They have aided, armed, and trained both Sunni jihadis and Shiite militias. A recent document we found during a raid of Iranian forces lays out their plan to cause absolute chaos in Iraq. So much for the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group's charming notion that Iran did not want to see civil war in Iraq.

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force -- the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads -- is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna. [And so much for the equally charming notion that Shia and Sunni terrorists would never work together.]

Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a "smoking gun." "We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to," the official said.

It turns out Iran had its own "Iraqi Study Group" which came up with this "recommendation" to foment a civil war, if possible, in Iraq. Ironically, on Monday, Iran announced a plan to "help" Iraq:

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, an area of failure on the part of the United States since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago. [Here, the Times uses "failure" in its little-known alternate definition to mean "wild success."

“We have experience of reconstruction after war,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis.”

Mr. Qumi also acknowledged, for the first time, that two Iranians seized and later released by American forces last month were security officials, as the United States had claimed. But he said that they were engaged in legitimate discussions with the Iraqi government and should not have been detained.

So Iran has very kindly offered to supplant the United States and Coalition forces to provide both security and reconstruction in Iraq. How selfless of them; we cannot imagine any ulterior motive on the part of the ruling mullahs.

Here is an alternative take: Because Americans are now blatantly accusing Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs, Iran is feeling the pressure. They know that once Americans level an accusation (as with our we--founded accusation that Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by Syria), we will not just back down, like the Europeans do. Thus, Iran must come up with some plausible explanation why their intelligence officers are in Iran.

Since they cannot do so, this is the best they can manage.

This tells me that Iran will never negotiate in good faith. The Baker-Hamilton recommendation is revealed as the idiocy the blogosphere has called it from the very beginning.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 30, 2007, at the time of 5:02 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Congressional Resolutions vs. Presidential Resolution

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In contrast to the vapid congressional resolutions of irresolution floating around the Dome today -- which can only hurt the war effort -- this sort of talk can only help:

George W. Bush on Friday sought to deny widespread rumours his administration was preparing some kind of military action against Iran. Mr Bush confirmed a report in Friday’s Washington Post that he had authorised US troops to shoot and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq, but denied this was a prelude to stronger action.

“We believe we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically,” said the US president. “It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them.”

But the US president’s relatively emollient comments are unlikely to quell speculation about the reasons behind the recent escalation of White House rhetoric towards Iran.

I love this meme for several reasons:

  1. Note the "non-denial denial" from the Big Boss: he believes that we can resolve our problems diplomatically; but he pointedly refused to promise that we will not attack Iran.
  2. The Commander in Chief's actions -- setting up a sufficient force in the Persian Gulf to execute the Herman Option -- are orthogonal to his words; the mullahs have got to be sweating beneath their turbins.

Already there is some nervousness in the fundamentalist Iranian ranks. From a recent post on MEMRI (and I deep tip of the hat to Friend Lee):

In a January 9, 2007 editorial, the conservative daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is close to the religious seminaries in Qom, attacked Ahmadinejad's handling of the nuclear dossier, and called upon him to let the professionals handle the dossier and to cut back to a minimum his incendiary statements on the issue. The daily also criticized his incorrect assessment of the impact of the sanctions, and called upon him to use greater prudence and not to hide their true effects from the people....

~

Referring to the increasing U.S. pressure on Iran, and noting that because of it there was a need for a sane and measured policy so as not to play into the hands of the U.S., Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, said: "America is trying to provoke Iran so that Iran will respond forcefully. But [now], unlike in the past, we are not adventure-seekers. This time, we must act reasonably and at the same time prevent America from accomplishing its goals - one of which is to block our progress..." [3] On another occasion, Rezai said: "We must not make concessions to the enemy for no reason, but [at the same time] we must not underestimate the enemy's [strength]... Statesmanship in Iran requires reason, wisdom and steadfastness..." [elipses in original]

Further, in a January 17, 2007 editorial titled "[Hassan] Rouhani [chief nuclear negotiator under former Iranian president Khatami] or Ahmadinejad - Who Is to Blame?" the Baztab website, which is affiliated with Mohsen Rezai, analyzed the nuclear crisis. The editorial pointed out that it was deviation from the policy of wise steadfastness, dictated by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the failure to maintain any diplomatic process with the West, that had led Iran to the direst strategic situation it had ever known....

~

In an interview for the conservative news agency Aftab, Expediency Council Member Mohammed Hashemi of the reformist Kargozaran party said that since he assumed power, Ahmadinejad had been unable to thwart U.S. plans regarding Iran....

"In the past year, during which the current government has taken charge [of the nuclear dossier], we saw the [sanctions] resolution passed [by the Security Council]. I believe that with its next steps, America will realize all its aspirations [with respect to Iran]. Therefore, we need skilled, experienced and moderate individuals to save our country from crisis..." [elipses in original]

Note that the Expediency Council serves as sort of a supreme court in Iran, mediating conflicts between the Council of Guardians -- the religious body that elects the Supreme Leader (currently Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) -- and the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. It's a very powerful body controlled by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has no love for current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who beat him in the election of June 24th, 2005. Each member is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader himself.

I take the expression "moderate individuals" above to mean non-Twelvers, Iranians who do not believe in the imminent appearance of the Twelfth (Hidden) Imam -- in other words, not somebody like Ahmadinejad and his "Self-Sacrificers."

Twelvers in Iran are millenarians who believe the End of Days is nigh, and that the best way to wake up the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, is to precipitate the final war of Dar el-Islam (the realm of peace, Moslemland) and Dar el-Harb (the realm of strife, the rest of the world outside Moslemland).

Ahmadinejad seems to believe this will happen within the next year or two; and I think a number of "conservative" commentators -- the word here means fundamentalist Shiism of the Qom school in Iran, the pro-mullah faction, as opposed to the "reformers" -- are growing increasingly uncomfortable with President Ahmadinejad's combative and truculent tone... and increasingly worried about the "Western" (read: American) response.

(The Qom school of Shiism believes that the religious authorities trump the secular authorities and should rule, as with the mullahs in Iran. By contrast, the Najaf (or sometimes Quietist) school -- exemplified by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- believes that religious leaders should not wield secular power. Najaf has a much longer tradition of Shiite leadership than Qom, but Qom has the force of Iran behind it now.)

  1. It's always better, in my opinion, to leave your enemies in a state of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) than to let them know what is actually going to happen... even if what is going to happen is an attack. Uncertainty whether you will be attacked is actually more stressful than certain knowledge you will be attacked.

Bush's mebbie-we-will, mebbie-we-won't has got to be nerve-wracking to the mullahs, most of whom are emminently practical about their delusions: they prefer to systematically go about seizing all power in the Middle East (as a stepping stone to, you know, ruling the world; and no, I'm not joking).

Ahmadinejad, by contrast, literally believes that Allah will send the Twelfth Imam and the heavenly host to fight on the side of Iran against America... thus, the greater the foe, the greater the glory! He really does want a war with the United States; I suspect he is "enraptured" by the idea -- and I choose my words with clarity and precision.

The "conservatives" seem unamused by his monkey-like caperings (Ahmadinejad's nickname in Iran is, in fact, "the Monkey"): Either he's mad as a March hatter, in which case Iran would be destroyed to no purpose; or else the supernatural hand of Allah really will reach down from Paradise, in which case we're on the wrong end of the point-spread anyway, and Ahmadinejad's brazen tauntings won't be necessary.

Either way, it's a very, very good play to keep the Iranians off-balance about what we're going to do. Let them stew and suffer.

So bravo to Bush; his cageyness on the quesion of attacking Iran will have far more of an impact on our most dangerous enemies than will the buffoonery of Congress. Which is good, because as foolish as the antics of the Cowards Corps are, that's how brilliant the president's game is.

I was going to say "I sure wouldn't want to play poker against George W. Bush;" but then I realized that the chance to meet him is certainly worth the price of my bankroll!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 26, 2007, at the time of 7:26 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Eat Or Be Eaten

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Democrats have charged that President Bush changed his mind about how well the war was going in Iraq after -- and in response to -- the November election losses. But now it seems that one of the most important changes, the new rules of engagement (ROEs, or new "rule-sets," as Thomas P.M. Barnett would have it), was actually made before that dreadful event... raising the specter that the "decider" might actually have made the decision on its merits, not because of crass political calculation.

Thus it might have come from the military, as Bush said -- not from Karl Rove, as the Democrats say. Great Scott!

As long ago as last fall, the Bush administration authorized our forces to kill or capture any Iranian intelligence agents or members of the Revolutionary Guards sent into Iraq (Qods Force):

The move, approved last fall, is aimed at weakening Iran's influence in the region and forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear program that the West believes is for nuclear weapons and not energy, the newspaper said, citing the unidentified officials.

For more than a year, U.S. forces have held dozens of Iranians for a few days, taking DNA samples from some as well as photographs and fingerprints from all those captured, the report said [DNA samples allow easy and exact identification of remains after missile strikes -- a delicious prospect].

Several Iranian officials have been detained in three U.S. raids over the last month. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters on Wednesday that details of accusations against them would be made public in the coming days.

This coincides with Bush's decision to send two carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf, to pack a bunch of ABM missiles into friendly countries in the area (such as the United Arab Emirates), and to arm-twist the Brits into sending a pair of minesweeping ships there as well.

I like these moves. In the face of aggressive posturing by Iran and Syria, I have always believed we're far better off confronting and escalating -- reraising the bluffer -- than folding -- withdrawing, apologizing, or trying to come to some diplomatic accomodation ("how about if you only take half of Iraq, and we'll call it even?")

Hezbollah is currently threatening the elected Lebanese government; the proper response is for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to escalate to the brink of civil war, knowing that if Hezbollah "calls," there is at least a 50-50 chance Hezbollah will be destroyed (especially if the Israelis return, this time under new management); but if Siniora sits back and lets Hezbollah set the pace, then the Lebanese government will assuredly be destroyed and Siniora himself killed, no matter what promises Bashar Assad makes.

Syria has also been representing that it's about to pour across the border again; the United States should call that bluff by overflying the Syrian-Lebanese border with warplanes, making it plain that we're not going to allow Syria to roll south, as they did in the late 1970s: Damascus is not immune, and Teheran cannot protect them from American air power.

We did not destroy the Soviet Union by pulling back when they threatened, or by passively letting them seize more territory; we destroyed them by constant confrontation, containment, and a relentless pro-freedom, pro-liberty propaganda campaign waged through the 1980s.

And that is exactly how we can first contain, then roll back global jihadism: confrontation, coupled with alleviating the conditions that spawn people eager to become martyrs for jihad -- "shrinking the Gap." (Barnett's main thesis.)

You win a war by aggression, not passivity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 26, 2007, at the time of 2:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

The Gathering Swarm

Iran Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In our previous post Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?", we introduced a well thought out line of attack against Iran that was discussed in a November Commentary column by Arthur Herman, titled Getting Serious About Iran: A Military Option.

Herman describes the prepositioning for the attack:

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

In our previous post linked above, we reported that there were now two carrier battle groups (CVBGs) in the Persian Gulf, or perhaps split between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean: the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Assuming the normal support complement of a CVBG, that means we already had the following in the PiG:

  • 2 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers;
  • 4 Ægis-equipped guided-missile cruisers;
  • 4-6 Ægis-equipped guided-missile destroyers;
  • 2 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates;
  • 4 Los Angeles class fast-attack submarines;
  • 180 aircraft (counting fixed- and rotary-wing), split between fighters, attackers, ASW, and assault helos that can carry Special Forces.
  • An "air defence battalion equipped with Patriot missile batteries to protect America’s Gulf Arab allies from possible air attack from Iran."

And today, the UK Times Online announced that Great Britain is sending two minesweepers to the PiG:

Britain’s contribution is two minehunters HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey, which will remain in the Gulf for an unusually-long two-year mission to keep shipping routes open in the event that Iran attempts to block oil exports.

The White House has insisted that it has no plans to take military action against Iran. But Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the build up as an evolving strategy to confront Iran’s “destabilising behaviour”.

We described Herman's scenario thus in our previous post linked above:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Continue the campaign to destroy all of Iran's gasoline refineries;
  7. Finally, American Special Forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island.

The beauty of the plan is that we kill very few Iranian civilians and destroy few civilian facilities, which means we do not turn the pro-American youth away from us; but we end up with the ability to turn Iranian oil exports and gasoline imports on and off at will -- which means we can turn everything off now; and then, if the current regime of mullahs is overthrown and a more acceptable regime replaces it, we can turn it back on again.

The Times consults an "Iranian expert," Dr Ali Ansari, who warns that such an aggressive build-up could "accidentally" provoke a war between the West and Iran:

“There is a distinct possibility that the current cold war could turn hot,” he said. “This is an accidental war waiting to happen. Even with the best will in the world crises are not easily managed. Before you know it you can lose control of the situation.”

Can the UK Times be as dense as their American counterparts in New York and Los Angeles? We have just committed to the Gulf every element necessary for the Herman Option, or some similar attack. Does the UK Times really believe we haven't considered the possibility that the Iranians might decide to attack us first?

It has not escaped Big Lizards' notice that, were the Iranians to attack our ships in the Gulf, we would have carte blanche to respond... and nobody, not even the Democratic Congress, could muster much of an argument against it. (We can, of course, use the very plan we'd already developed.)

The scenario seems not to have escaped the Iranians' attention either: all of a sudden, they want to make nice with us. President Ahmadinejad -- and supposedly Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei as well, though they may have had to bring Bob Woodward in to commune with the dead or comatose -- just sent a letter to Saudi Arabia begging the Sunni kingdom to try to smooth things over between Shiite Iran and the Judeo-Christian United States of America:

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani delivered letters to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah from Iranian leaders, Saudi media said on Monday, in a visit which comes amid rising tension over Iraq and Tehran’s nuclear programme....

Larijani delivered the king a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and key royal diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

A Saudi official said Iran wanted Saudi leaders to relay a goodwill message to Washington on a desire for cooperation, but gave no more details. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive for talks in Riyadh on Monday and Tuesday.

At the moment -- or as soon as the Blyth and the Ramsey arrive on patrol -- we will have every necessary piece in play; all we need do is launch the attack, either pre-emptively or in response to Iranian aggression.

We may end up in a fast and decisive hot war with Iran sooner than we realize; in fact, by the time we heard it had started, it would be all over but the shouting and screaming and worldwide faux horror... masking a global sigh of relief.

Oh, and it goes without saying [not that that's ever stopped me before] that all credible threats to Iran -- such as a couple of CVBGs in the PiG -- improve the chances that the change of course on our Iraq strategy will actually succeed, bringing us to victory there. Even if we don't get the chance to exercise the Herman Option.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 16, 2007, at the time of 5:06 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Building a Case for Casus Belli

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

It's a sad fact that in today's world, no good deed goes unpunished. America is the most generous of all countries, not just of our treasure but our blood: no other country on earth would have led a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein when it was so much easier just to mass troops along Iraq's border and threaten war -- in order to extort a huge oil-lease jackpot, like everyone else was doing.

No other country contributed as much to Tsunami relief as did we. No country has done as much to help the poor around the world. No other country has stood up to tyranny and injustice as we have. And what do we get in exchange? Faugh.

Yes, I said "faugh," and I meant it to sting!

Now we have the ludicrous situation where Iran is frantically trying to develop nuclear weapons; Iran controls the largest terrorist organization on the planet; Iran repeatedly -- incessantly -- nakedly threatens to obliterate another nation, wiping Israel from the map; Iran has been caught red-handed shipping high explosives into Iraq to kill Americans... yet we still would become world outcasts were we to attack Iran without iron-clad evidence that they had declared war on us first.

Unfortunately, we cannot live without international commerce; the days of Fortress America are long gone, if they ever existed at all. Therefore, before actually doing anything about Iran -- the "Herman Option," for example -- we must build the case for casus belli.

Fortunately, it shouldn't be a hard case to build... and even more fortunately, we have a president who seems determined to lay out exactly such a case. Thus, today we raided an Iranian government building in Irbil (not a consulate, as has been erroneously reported) and captured six Iranians:

The forces entered the building about 3 a.m., detaining the Iranians and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled northern part of Iraq, 220 miles from Baghdad.

A resident living near the building said the troops used stun bombs and brought down an Iranian flag from the roof. As the operation went on, two helicopters flew overhead, the resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. military official said the building was not a consulate and did not have any diplomatic status. The six Iranians were taken in a "cordon-and-knock" operation, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

I'm not sure why, but the extraordinarily ungrateful Kurds seem to be hopping mad. But the Iranians are showing a great deal of restraint... the kind one shows when one has been caught with his hand in the milk bottle:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run radio the raid was "against a diplomatic mission" since the "presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal." Hosseini claimed the action by coalition forces reflected a "continuation of pressure" on Iran, aiming to "create tension" between Iraq and its neighbors.

Note the tortured logic to imply what they seem wary of saying out loud, lest they be called up on to prove it: they do not actually claim that those in the building have "diplomatic immunity," but boy do they try to imply it! Evidently, any Iranian in Iraq legally is, therefore, on a "diplomatic mission." What does that say about those Iranians in Iraq illegally... such as those four we caught in December? We're still holding two of them; the other two actually did have diplomatic immunity -- which shows the Iranians are not shy about asserting it when they can prove their case.

And what about this minor incident? Do the Iranians think we've forgotten that we seized from Iraqi Shiite militia members a batch of Iranian-made weapons and munitions -- with a manufacturer's date of 2006?

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official....

Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.

Each of these incidents is just another brick in the wall; but when the wall has enough bricks, I believe we're actually going to drop it on someone: something along the lines of the "Herman Option;" and in Bush's speech announcing it (while it's already going on), I believe he will lay out each piece, brick after brick, until even the Democrats will be stymied.

After all, what will they argue: that we should announce to the world that it's open season on Americans?

In his most recent Mullings (the January 11th, 2007 edition), Rich Galen notes an interesting conundrum for those Democrats who have come out hard and angry against President Bush's new strategy:

  • If the change in strategy works, and we make measurable and unambiguous progress in the Iraq War, then the bitching and moaning Democrats will look like cowardly, defeatist, un-American dolts;
  • If the change in strategy fails, then what are they going to say? "See, we told you America was finished!"

Americans love a winner; but even if we lose -- and everyone has to lose now and again -- they still love a man who goes down swinging, rather than one who won't even step up to the plate, because he knows he's going to strike out anyway.

So let's give George the bat and get the hell out of his way.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 11, 2007, at the time of 11:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 9, 2007

Casual Casualties

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Just to keep things in perspective, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, as of today, a total of 3,015 American soldiers have been killed during the entire Iraq campaign; to be perfectly internationalist about it, not counting Iraqis themselves, a grand total of 3,266 members of the multinational Iraq Coalition have died over the last 1,392 days.

According to the Persian Journal:

Air pollution has killed more than 3,000 people during one month in the Iranian capital, Tehran, according to a local official. "Pollution has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of 3,600 people in the month of Aban [October 23 to November 23]," Mohammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, director of Tehran's clean air committee, said.

Heydarzadeh goes on to note that 80% of fatal heart problems in Tehran are pollution related, and adds this chilling assessment:

"It is a very serious and lethal crisis, a collective suicide," he said.

Remember, this is in the Islamic paradise of Tehran, where Sharia is "not just a good idea." Evidently, Mohammed had little to say about smog.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 9, 2007, at the time of 10:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 4, 2007

Is Iranian "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei Dead?

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE AND BUMP: No new information, but something just occurred: if we were aware that Ayatollah Khamenei was (or is still) in "grave condition," i.e., either one foot (or perhaps now both feet) in the grave, that may be another reason why we're pumping military force into the Persian Gulf, as we discussed here. In fact, it might be an excellent time to strike Iran -- if we're already prepared -- during the chaos that will inevitably ensue when Khamenei does die... whenever that is.

Pajamas Media is reporting that he might be, though an update casts some doubt on the question.

We have no further information on this, but we'll keep an eye out. It's not yet being reported by any news agency that I've seen.

Hugh Hewitt worries that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "religious guru," Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi -- far more radical than the (current or recently deceased) Supreme Leader Khamenei -- might be voted by the Assembly of Experts as the next Supreme Leader; but I think this is unlikely, given the results of the recent election: Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a "reformer" (in Iranian terms) who shares Khamenei's dislike of Mesbah-Yazdi, was the top vote getter; he would be more likely to be voted Supreme Leader when Khamenei dies (if he isn't dead already) than would Mesbah-Yazdi.

As Drudge likes to say, "developing..."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 4, 2007, at the time of 5:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?"

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

We haven't had an installment of this popular (hah) series since April. (And I haven't noticed anyone screaming for its return...) But with the publication in November's Commentary of an article by historian Arthur Herman describing a new strategy for settling Iran's hash, I decided it was a good time to dust off the concept.

Our previous posts in the series are:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
  4. Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
  5. Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack

Today, Reuters reports that the Navy has just sent a second carrier battle group (CBG), the USS John Stennis, into "the Gulf," presumably the Persian Gulf. This CBG joins that of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which entered the PG last month.

Reuters notes:

The second carrier, while adding relatively few service members to the region, is valuable as a symbol of America's increased presence in the Gulf, military analysts said.

...But they miss the point like Emily Litella. It's not the number of "service members" that counts, but the fact that between those two CBGs, we've added 180 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft to the Persian Gulf.

Take a moment to look at this map of the Persian Gulf:



Persian Gulf

Iran: Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz

The narrow pinch of the Strait of Hormuz on the far right of the Gulf -- about 20 miles wide, with two 1-mile wide sea lanes for tanker traffic -- controls delivery of about a quarter of the entire world's daily oil production. It is staggeringly important to the entire world.

The biggest fear about Iran is that, in response to an attack on their nuclear development sites, they might strike back with a catastrophic terrorist attack in the strait: Iran, Hezbollah, or both could attack an oil supertanker at the narrowest part of the strait, sinking the huge ship and sealing the passage for perhaps years... and as a serendipitous side effect, causing the worst environmental disaster in human history (I'm sure the Iranian mullahs lose sleep over that one).

There is reason to fear this option: the Iranians themselves have practically boasted about it. In Arthur Herman's Commentary piece linked above, he notes this quite matter of factly:

In April of this year, as if to drive the point home, Iranian armed forces staged elaborate war games in the Gulf, test-firing a series of new anti-ship missiles capable of devastating any tanker or unwary warship. In the boast of one Iranian admiral, April’s “Holy Prophet war games” showed what could be expected by anyone daring to violate Iran’s interests in the Gulf. A further demonstration of resolve occurred in August, when Iran fired on and then occupied a Rumanian-owned oil platform ostensibly in a dispute over ownership rights; in truth, the action was intended to show Western companies—including Halliburton, which had won a contract for constructing facilities in the Gulf—exactly which power is in charge there.

A 30-page document said to issue from the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy (NDAJA), and drawn up in September or October of last year, features a contingency plan for closing the Hormuz Straits through a combination of anti-ship missiles, coastal artillery, and submarine attacks. The plan calls for the use of Chinese-made mines, Chinese-built missile boats, and more than 1,000 explosive-packed suicide motor boats to decimate any U.S. invasion force before it can so much as enter the Gulf. Iran’s missile units, manned by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards, would be under instruction to take out more than 100 targets around the Gulf rim, including Saudi production and export centers.

As Herman notes, "contingency" plans are just that, and may never come to fruition; but clearly, Iran is thinking along these lines. And why not? How could they more seriously hurt the West than to shut off the black gold (Teheran tea) that we depend upon? (I'm sure the mullahs have followed with great glee the GOP's bootless efforts to open up a teensy-tiny fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to clean, modern oil extraction... along with the Gulf of Mexico and the California coast; the efforts were of course thwarted by the then-minority Democrats, who were rewarded for their intransigence by being voted into the majority.)

But on the other hand, as the saying goes, "a plan betrayed is a plan denied." The Persian Gulf is a two-edged scimitar. Herman again:

Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.

But -- and herein lies a fruitful irony -- so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs’ oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran’s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran’s power -- and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country’s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.

On a nutshell, Iran thinks of the PG as the lever by which it will move the world; but in reality, to a truly modern nation such as the United States, the Gulf is the lever by which the rest of the world will move Iran.

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:

  1. Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.

(This assumes, of course, that we can get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to stop quaking in his boots long enough to actually order a serious air attack. But against what, exactly? If I may quote myself from last April:

Israel strikes the primary Hezbollah incarnations: both in Gaza and also in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which snuggles up between the Lebanon Mountains and Syria. Not in Iran; they're too dispersed... it would be needless bombing of civilian targets to no military purpose. But Hezbollah outside Iran, which represents the bigger threat anyway.

Now back to the Reuters story. The first signal that we're prepared to "go for it" would be moving one or two CBGs to the Gulf... which according to Reuters, is exactly what we have done. The next step would be for us to shift anti-submarine, anti-ballistic-missile, and anti-mine forces -- but we likely wouldn't hear about that, since it's too much "into the weeds" for the drive-by media to interest itself in reporting.

But the next step, Phase 1 of the Herman plan, would be very visible indeed: a loud announcement that we intend to defend the Strait of Hormuz against any aggressor, by any means necessary. If that happens, believe me: we'll know about it!

The nice thing about the Herman Option, even as modified by Big Lizards, is that absolutely none of this needs any congressional approval; the president, in his capacity as Commander in Chief, simply orders the forces where he wants them... and under the War Powers Act, he, all by himself, can order them to commence bombing, too. And he can send in the Marines and SF to seize the wells, too.

The benefits would be enormous:

  • Iran's economy, already teetering on the brink, might collapse completely;
  • This could trigger a widespread rebellion against the mullahs: despite a surge of nationalistic feelings immediately Iran is attacked, when reality sets in -- Iran at the mercy of the Great Satan -- the rage will likely turn against the idiots whose stupid policies got them into this mess;
  • Without Iranian money and weaponry, how long will Bashar Assad sit easy on the throne of Syria?
  • Without Iranian support, how long can Hezbollah hold out... especially if it was just hammered by Israeli air strikes?
  • Without money and munitions from his paymasters in Teheran, how long can Muqtada Sadr remain kingmaker in Iraq?
  • If the United States succeeds, in just a few short years, in taking down the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party in Iraq, and finally the ruling mullahs of the most dangerous Moslem country in the world, Iran... this would seriously frighten and dishearten potential jihadis, killing recruitment of terrorists.

Islam is a very "strength" oriented culture: remember Osama bin Laden's parable about backing the "strong horse" over the "weak horse" (it's the complete opposite in Christendom, where Westerners have an inbred impulse to take the part of the underdog in a fight). [Yeah, yeah, I know: "not plane, nor bird, nor even frog -- 'tis only I... Underdog!"] By shining a light upon the pathetic weakness of even the strongest nations in the ummah when up against the liberal democratic West, we can do more to slash interest in jihad than any imaginable amount of international aid, community relations, or Euro-style appeasement.

This is something we could do; as to whether we will do it... well, that's a horse of the second water. But it sure would be nice if Bush would tidy up before leaving, tying up all the loose nuts.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 4, 2007, at the time of 4:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 30, 2006

Iran Disputes Call: Takes Ball, Goes Home

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Now that the UN Security Council has voted weak-tea sanctions on Iran for its pell-mell sprint for nuclear weapons, Iran has reacted in the professional, adult manner we've come to expect from President Ahmadinejad and his mullah-masters: they have threatened to "accelerate the country's peaceful nuclear program [!] and revise its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on national interests":

Iran's parliament voted Wednesday to urge the government to re-examine its ties with the U.N. nuclear agency following a Security Council decision to impose sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

The move signaled that Iran was likely to reduce its cooperation with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. Iranian state radio predicted that once the bill came into effect, "the agency will become an ineffective and weak body...." [For all those who imagined that until now, the IAEA was a powerful and respected organization before which tyrants trembled in awe.]

"The bill gives a free hand to the government to decide on a range of reactions - from leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to remaining in the International Atomic Energy Agency and negotiating," [Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel] said during the debate in parliament, which was broadcast live on state radio.

Even the French were gobsmacked by this one; the sanctions were so minor, so trivial -- because of opposition by China, Russia, and France to anything stronger -- that everyone expected Iran simply to accept them and move ahead. Thus, their actual reaction, as if someone had come along and filched their favorite toy, had even la Belle France groping for words:

France criticized the move, saying it was "not what we expected from Iran." French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said the Security Council resolution requires Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA.

"We therefore renew our call for Iran to respect its commitments and obligations and cooperate actively with the IAEA," Simonneau said. [And we shall follow your future career with great interest...]

Meanwhile, we learn from the New York Times (none of you ever imagined this, I'm sure) that Iran is simultaneously seeking to expand its influence into Afghanistan. I know this is shocking, but don't turn into a mob, please!

The rise of Hezbollah, with Iran's support, has demonstrated the extent of Tehran's sway in Lebanon, and the American toppling of Saddam Hussein has allowed it to expand its influence in Iraq. Iran has been making inroads into Afghanistan, as well. During the tumultuous 1980s and '90s, Iran shipped money and arms to groups fighting first the Soviet occupation and later the Taliban government. But since the United States and its allies ousted the Taliban in 2001, Iran has taken advantage of the central government's weakness to pursue a more nuanced strategy: part reconstruction, part education and part propaganda.

Iran has distributed its largess, more than $200 million in all, mostly here in the west but also in the capital, Kabul. It has set up border posts against the heroin trade, and next year will begin work on new road and construction projects and a rail line linking the countries. In Kabul, its projects include a new medical center and a water testing laboratory....

Still, there are indications of other motives. Iranian radio stations are broadcasting anti-American propaganda into Afghanistan. Moderate Shiite leaders in Afghanistan say Tehran is funneling money to conservative Shiite religious schools and former warlords with longstanding ties to Iranian intelligence agencies.

And as the dispute over Iran's nuclear program has escalated [leading the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran on Dec. 23], Iranian intelligence activity has increased across Afghanistan, American and Afghan officials say. This has included not just surveillance and information collection but the recruitment of a network of pro-Iranian operatives who could attack American targets in Afghanistan. [On Dec. 20 in London, British officials charged the interpreter for NATO's commanding general in Afghanistan with passing secrets to Iran.]

(I only read the first page of the story; it's too long and boring for my mayfly-like attention span. But you're welcome to pore over the rest and report back if there's anything of interest on, say, page 4.)

However, as we noted earlier, much of this "largess" is dependent upon an oil industry that is beginning to crumble. Simply put, the Iranians are so obsessed with getting nukes and building ever more labyrinthian layers of welfare-statism, that they have failed to invest in oil exploration and extraction: the fact that the entire country has just a handful of gasoline refineries is the synecdoche of the problem... such a simple stupidity with such widespread consequences is hard to fathom.

They could still turn it around; but that would require reassessing their national priorities, rather than reassessing their cooperation with the IAEA. If they stay their present course, the money to buy happiness in Afghanistan will dry up, as will the friendly relations: that corner of the globe (if globes can have corners) has never been known for its gratitude.

The collapse of the Iranian oil industry is also something that is well within our power to affect: as historian Arthur Herman wrote in Commentary last month, we could and probably should strike Iran where it would hurt the most... right in their assets:

  1. Deploy anti-submarine, anti-suicide-boat forces throughout the Strait of Hormuz; this will prevent Iran from sinking ships in the strait (though which most of everyone's oil passes) and stopping the engine of the world;
  2. Followed by a "comprehensive air campaign" to destroy Iran's air defenses;
  3. Next, continue the attacks to Iran's nuclear facilities, including infrastructure that supports them (roads, power generators, etc.);
  4. Destroy Iran's gasoline refineries and reserves: they already import 40% of their gasoline, having so little refinery space themselves;
  5. Deploy SF to seize Iran's offshore oil wells and docks fit for off-loading gasoline from ships.

This would bottle up Iran and put them at our mercy (for a change!) -- we could cut off their gasoline supply at a moment's notice. Keep this scenario in mind, as it plays a role in all to follow.

The Iranians are also, of course, trying to "influence" Iraq -- by sending "senior military officials" into Iraq to attack Iraqi forces, American forces, and to funnel weapons to radical Shiite militias:

In its first official confirmation of last week’s raids, the military said it had confiscated maps, videos, photographs and documents in one of the raids on a site in Baghdad. The military confirmed the arrests of five Iranians, and said three of them had been released.

The Bush administration has described the two Iranians still being held Tuesday night as senior military officials. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for the American command, said the military, in the raid, had “gathered specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities against Iraqi civilians, security forces and coalition force personnel.”

Big Lizards translation: Iranians are coming across the border into Iraq and killing American soldiers. To my mind, that is casus belli... especially when coupled with the persistent successes Iran has had in the last couple of years smuggling factory-built bombs (can't really call them "I" EDs anymore, can we?) to pro-Iranian factions within Iraq:

How are these EFPs ["explosively-formed penetrator"] coming into Iraq? Again, to quote the briefer: "Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has established smuggling routes to transport men and supplies into Iraq." Who is using them to kill and wound Americans and other coalition troops? "Iran's Revolutionary Guard has a network in Iraq headed by Abu Mustapha al-Sheibani to commit violence against Coalition forces." That doesn't sound like a nation that has any interest in democracy and stability in Iraq.

Here's another long, boring article you can read about Abu Mustapha [or Mustafa] al-Sheibani, since I'm sure none of you has any cool New Year's Eve parties to attend (I know I don't!)

But again, all of these extracurricular activities depend upon Iran having a huge and reliable cash flow from the oil; were something to happen to that -- especially if that "something" is helped along by the United States -- I suspect the mullahs would abruptly pull the Persian carpet out from under al-Shebang, if that really is his name, as swiftly as they'd withdraw military support from Lebanon's Hezbollah.

So I think we have a pretty clear idea of what we need to do, and it shouldn't even be that difficult. In fact, the tensest moments will be trying to persuade Congress that we cannot win the war on jihadism without doing something about Iran... and that does not mean negotiating our surrender to them!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 30, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 26, 2006

The Way the Future Wasn't

Civics 101 , Econ. 101 , Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Talk about "the biter bit," or perhaps people getting their "just desserts" -- Iran appears to be running out of oil, or more accurately, running out of oil revenues:

Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10 to 12 percent annually. In less than five years, exports could be halved, and they could disappear by 2015, Stern predicted. [Roger Stern is "an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University."]

The problem is that they're pouring so much of their revenue into their military, into terrorist groups like Hezbollah (and now Hamas), and into nuclear research -- that they have neglected to reinvest in oil exploration and extraction technologies.

Surprise, surprise... another socialist economy that lives in the present and ignores the future. In this case, it allows us to refine our thesis.

We've known for some time that atheism is both a symptom of, and the cause of a lack of belief in the future; when one doesn't believe in the future, one lives for today, and to hell with tomorrow. (Think of Europe, as Mark Steyn notes, where birthrates have plummeted to about half replacement-rate in countries like Spain; a society that does not envision a future does not have children, and vice versa.)

But evidently, there are also some religions that care only about amassing power today and do not think about tomorrow... those religions whose god is concerned more about obeisance to sterile, mindless rituals than about creating a just and decent life for Mankind on Earth (see the comments in Jihadis With Yarmulkes for my definition of "sterile rituals").

They may obsess about "the end times," but not about next year -- and certainly not about 2015! Ahmadinejad doubtless believes that the Twelfth Imam will have returned long before then, so the oil revenues won't matter a whit: Allah will provide for Iran from the treasures of the shattered infidels and dhimmi.

Once again, we see the intimate relationship between what Dennis Prager calls "ethical monotheism" and what we call "futurism," the belief that there is a future that will be controlled by humans for a long time; and that therefore, we had better think very carefully about how our behavior today affects our options in that anthropogenic future.

Note that neither James Watt nor Ronald Reagan ever said that it doesn't matter how many trees we cut down, because Jesus is coming back soon. That supposed quotation is in fact a fabrication of the secular Left. Neither did they believe that, because they believed -- this is integral to the faith of the vast majority of evangelicals -- that since no man knows when Jesus will return (or for Jews, when the messiah will come for the first time), we must therefore create a just and decent society today, and one that will sustain into the undetermined future.

Thus does it appear that the social belief in ethical monotheism is essential for a society to be capitalist, individualist, and to provide liberty.

This is true even if some individual agnostics or atheists are perfectly capable of supporting capitalism, individualism, or liberty themselves (though that's not the betting line): such folks are exceptional... but society needs belief to enforce due consideration of tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow: you cannot build a self-sustaining culture out of the exceptions.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 26, 2006, at the time of 2:22 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

December 22, 2006

Ahmadinejad and the Rope: A Lad Insane

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

This is our last word about the Iranian elections -- but with a swing (no pun intended; and if you believe that....) Our previous two posts on the Iranian local elections and the elections for members of the "Assembly of Experts" are here:

So which do you want first -- the good news, or the better news? The good news? All right, we'll save the better for later in the post.

There was no sudden reversal at the end. In other words, the ruling mullahs (via the Council of Guardians -- wasn't Rupert Giles a member of that?) did not abruptly yank the rug out from under the "moderate conservatives" or even the "reformers" (bear in mind that those words have entirely different meanings in Iran than in any other country). Ahmadinejad's allies, his "self sacrificers," deserted him in his hour of need. This led to a very significant loss of power for his faction at the local level and denied him his anticipated power boost in the Assembly of Experts:

Moderate conservatives opposed to Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats in Friday's elections followed by reformists who were suppressed by hard-liners in 2004, according to final results announced by the Interior Ministry.

The final results also represented a partial comeback for reformists, who were crushed over the past five years by hard-liners who drove them out of the local councils, parliament and the presidency. The reformists favor closer ties with the West and further loosening of social and political restrictions under the Islamic government.

In Tehran, the capital, candidates supporting Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative, won seven of the 15 council seats. Reformists won four, while Ahmadinejad's allies won three. The last seat went to wrestling champion Ali Reza Dabir, who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is considered an independent.

Final results for the rest of the country also showed a heavy defeat for Ahmadinejad supporters, and analysts said his allies won less than 20 percent of local council seats nationwide. None of his candidates won seats on the councils in the cities of Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Sari, Zanjan, Rasht, Ilam, Sanandaj and Kerman. Many councils in other cities were divided along similar proportions as Tehran's.

His faction was likewise pretty roughed up in the election for the Assembly of Experts -- which, while less important over the long haul, is of more immediate moment:

Similar anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment was visible in the final results of a parallel election held to select members of the Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of 86 senior clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor....

[Former President Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who supports dialogue with the United States, received the most votes of any Tehran candidate to win re-election to the assembly. Also re-elected was Hasan Rowhani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator whom Ahmadinejad has repeatedly accused of making too many concessions to the Europeans.

(AP doesn't report whether Ahmadinejad's "religious guru," Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi was reelected, but we must assume he was.)

So the original prediction from the Saudi government's house newspaper, the Arab Times, turned out to be incorrect in only one detail: they failed to predict the sheer magnitude of Ahmadinejad's failure at the polls. While none of this affects the occult gnome's de facto and de jure power as President of Iran, it shows something that is far more important for long-term prospects in the war on jihadism: the "people" on whom Mahmoud Ahmadinejad relies for his power (he is a Socialst as well as a Shiite jihadi) now recoil from his belligerence, his monomania, and his utter incompetence in the nuts-and-berries aspects of the presidency:

  • His challenges to America have become increasingly hysterical and insistent, and most Iranians (a very well educated group) are well aware that a war with the "Great Satan" would be catastrophic for Iran;
  • I believe many Iranians must be terrified of Ahmadinejad's obsession with both the destruction of Israel and getting nuclear weapons... put the two together, and anybody with two rials of rationality to rub together must know that if Ahmadinejad manages to frighten Israel enough -- Israel will respond with its own nukes, which everybody has long known it has (I do not believe for one second that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "slip of the tongue" about nuclear weapons was any sort of mistake... it was a calculated and deliberate act, a threat that cannot be ignored);
  • The Iranian economy is in a shambles, since they made the mistake of embracing the idiotic ecnomic system that has never failed to fail wherever it has been tried. Mohammed may have been a general and a prophet, but he certainly was not a market economist.

When quality of life plummets at the same time that national fear and uncertainty rises, and both are attributable to the powers that be; when expectations rise at the same time that results crash; when the middle class, on whose shoulders every country ultimately rides, begins to fear for its very existence... that is the season when revolution ripens.

And in Persia, the vanguard of revolution in all directions, since at least the early 1960s, has been the student class. Certainly, they helped overthrow Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran in 1979; students were the backbone of the Khomeinist revolution and the most ardent and fanatic proponents of Ayatollah Khomeini's Shiite Islamist revolution. The seizure of the U.S. embassy, though ultimately embraced (and taken over) by Teheran, began with students.

Of all people in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must understand that; he was one of them that day in November 1979. Thus, the new Shah Mahmoud must feel the icy finger of destiny clutching his bowels, now that violent student protests against Ahmadinejad himself have surged (this is the "better news" I warned about uppost):

The student movement, which planned the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy from the same university, Amir Kabir, is reawakening from its recent slumber and may even be spearheading a widespread resistance against Mr. Ahmadinejad. This time the catalysts were academic and personal freedom.

“It is not that simple to break up a president’s speech,” said Alireza Siassirad, a former student political organizer, explaining that an event of that magnitude takes meticulous planning. “I think what happened at Amir Kabir is a very important and a dangerous sign. Students are definitely becoming active again.”

The New York Times article by Nazila Fathi makes the same basic points that Big Lizards has made since before the elections:

The protest, punctuated by shouts of “Death to the dictator,” was the first widely publicized outcry against Mr. Ahmadinejad, one that was reflected Friday in local elections, where voters turned out in droves to vote for his opponents.

The students’ complaints largely mirrored public frustrations over the president’s crackdown on civil liberties, his blundering economic policies and his harsh oratory against the West, which they fear will isolate the country....

The students also complain about the president’s failure to deliver economic growth and jobs. At last week’s protest, which coincided with a now infamous Holocaust conference held by the Foreign Ministry, students chanted, “Forget the Holocaust — do something for us.”

The reaction of Ahmadinejad was equally enlightening: he panicked and fled. He was in such a rush that his convoy "collided several times as they tried to leave." All the while, enraged students were attacking the cars, calling him a Fascist, and trying to smash the windows.

I don't believe most people realize just how serious this combination of loss of political face and a rising anti-government student movement can be. Bear in mind, half of the population of Iran is below the age of 25. (By contrast, the median age in America is almost 37.)

I hope President Bush is paying attention: the time is riper now than ever before for us to make overtures to the "radicals" in Iran... radicals now rebelling against the peculiarly totalitarian brand of Shiite fundamentalism practiced in that country since the 1979 revolution. Were we to make common cause with the students and the populace who are bloody sick and tired of being told what to do and how to do it every second of every day, and watching their economy tank while a devastating war with America and Israel becomes every likelier, we could give not just Ahmadinejad but also the ayatollahs a lot more personally important things to concern them than mucking about in Iraq.

  • We could start by openly asking the Iranian leaders -- in some forum where the people of Iran were sure to see it -- why they believe that Persians, one of the oldest and greatest cultures in the world, are too stupid to be trusted with the democracy that their next-door neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan now enjoy, and which their near neighbor Turkey has successfully exercised for decades.
  • Ask why the Iranian people cannot choose to run their own lives.
  • Ask why university freedoms granted under President Mohammad Khatami have been revoked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the ruling mullahs' own choice.
  • And ask why the presidential election was rigged by systematically excluding all reformers from the contest. Are the ayatollahs afraid of their own people?

America should pointedly announce that we support freedom and democracy everywhere, even when the democratic vote goes against our interests -- and point to the Palestinian Authority as proof of that. Announce that our support is not only moral but also practical: we will move swiftly to recognize and economically help via trade agreements any new, more democratic government in Iran that takes the place of the undemocratic theocracy.

And say it all in Farsi and Arabic as well as English.

The ayatollahs do well to fear their own subjects: the expression "government by the consent of the governed" is not just a good idea; it's natural law. All governments rule only by the consent of the governed, because every government is vastly outnumbered: Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci's idea of "hegemony," which I define as "perceived fitness to rule," holds precisely that without such overt or covert consent (silence signifies that consent in totalitarian regimes), any government would fall.

The ruler's only inalienable right is the right to issue orders; but with every order, the order-hearer must decide anew whether to be an order-obeyer. If enough choose not to do so... well, you have Romania, Poland, and East Germany in 1989, the USSR in 1991, and of course Iran in 1979.

If indeed we decide (as I think we should) to bomb all of Iran's terrorist training camps, the factories where they make the inappropriately named "IEDs" that are now being used against us in Iraq by Shiite terrorists, and all the nuclear sites (especially Natanz, which should be bombed many times to get at the mass field of Uranium-enriching centrifuges buried deep underground) -- we should first alert the anti-government forces in Iran so they will be ready. Nothing specific, for there will be many government spies within that group. But we should at least ensure that the forces for "democracy" -- not Jeffersonian but at least Ataturkian -- will be ready to strike when the government forces are at their weakest. Especially if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has died, as he is expected to do sooner rather than later.

At that moment, we must actually aid them, rather than abandon them to defeat, as George H.W. Bush did to the Kurds and Shia when they rebelled against Saddam... and as President John F. Kennedy did to the brave freedom fighters who landed at the Bay of Pigs and tried to overthrow Stalinist dictator Fidel Castro in 1961.

We must understand that Iran is an origami tiger: we cannot make the mistake of agreeing with Ahmadinejad that Iran's rise and the West's decline is inevitable, irreversible, and ordained by Fate. They are far weaker than they let on -- and far weaker than the antique media will let us believe. These elections and student protests prove it.

Let us strike while the nail is hot, not sit around fiddling while freedom-fervor cools.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2006, at the time of 4:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 18, 2006

Ahmadinejad's Rope Pulls Taut

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Those two Iranian elections we discussed in our last post on the subject (Ahmadinejad At the End of His Rope?) -- for local leaders and members of the absurdly-named Assembly of Experts -- appear so far to be going just the way that this Arab News story predicted (I found out that the site is owned and maintained by the government of Saudi Arabia, Iran's greatest rival in the area).

From our previous post:

Ahmadinejad expected his faction to win a majority of these [local offices]: he counted on a low turnout (ca. 15%), which always favors the radicals (here too!); and he thought the Self-Sacrificers would all ally together, while the anti-Khomeinists would call for boycotts... meaning the less radical voters would stay home, clearing the decks for the foam-flecked slavering jihadis to take power.

Alas for him, what happened was precisely the opposite: the conservatives have called for full participation in the elections, while many of the Self-Sacrificers are sitting it out; and it was the conservative candidates who banded together... as opposed to the radicals, who couldn't agree with each other or put personal animosity aside (perhaps because they were too caught up sacrificing each other).

Now from the Reuters story, first on the turnout numbers:

The Iranian news agency quoted officials citing turnout of around 60 percent of the 46.5 million eligible voters, higher than previous council and assembly votes. Iran's press said the turnout was a blow to Iran's "enemies".

Next, regarding the council members from Teheran, the most important of the local elections: according to Reuters, in the 2003 local elections, Ahmadinejad's allies -- called the "Self Sacrificers" -- nabbed 14 of the 15 Teheran City Council seats, while the reformers had none. But this time, the fotunes of the Self-Sacrifices have begun a decided ebb:

The Tehran City Council race was the main battleground, where Ahmadinejad's supporters competed against backers of another conservative, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf [he took the place of Ahmadinejad when Ahmadinejad jumped from the Teheran mayorality to president of Iran], and reformists seeking a political comeback.

No official results have been announced but the semi-official Mehr news agency said Qalibaf's backers would get eight Tehran City Council seats, Ahmadinejad's backers four and reformists three. Mehr did not give a source.

So Ahmadinejad's bloc dropped from 14 of 15 seats to 4 of 15 seats... that's a plunge of over 70% of the Self-Sacrificers' power. Other local elections look to be going about the same way.

Finally, there is the election in the Assembly of Experts, which can hire and fire the Supreme Boy Sprout (current occupant: Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei). Here, President Ahmadinejad and his faction expected major movement. From our earlier post:

On the Assembly of Experts front, Ahmadinejad was hoping to pull off a virtual coup d'état: he expected to see elected a number of mullahs who support Ahmadinejad's "theological guru" (yes, that's the term the article uses, funnily enough), Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. The idea would be that the Assembly would be assembled of a bunch of Yazdiites, who would then impeach and remove from office the current Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died.

Here is what the Arab News predicted (on December 9th this year):

Ahmadinejad's plan to win control of the assembly hit two big snags.

The first was the refusal of the Council of Guardians of the Constitution, a 12-mullah body that must approve all candidates, to allow many of Ahmadinejad's friends to stand for election....

All this means that the council, almost certainly acting under instructions from Khamenehi has arranged things in such a way that no substantial change in the assembly's majority is now possible. By most account only 17 new members may eventually enter the assembly, not enough to upset its pro-Khamenehi majority.

Khamenehi has even allowed Rafsanjani to stand as a candidate, thus indicating a desire to clip Ahmadinejad's wings.

That last line is really amusing, because it turns out that Rafsanjani actually got twice as many votes than did Mesbah-Yazdi. From a later story on Reuters:

In Tehran former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a staunch critic of the president who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential vote, easily topped the vote. Political analysts said it was a significant comeback for Iran's arch pragmatist powerbroker.

Firebrand cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a vocal backer of Ahmadinejad, trailed in sixth place with almost half the votes of Rafsanjani but enough to retain his assembly seat. Several other clerics allied to the president and Mesbah-Yazdi failed to win seats.

So far, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be batting zero: a loss of political power in the local arenas; the inability to get his own supporters into key positions on the Assembly of Experts; and a personal slap in the face when Rafsanjani was handily elected to the Assemly... but Mesbah-Yazdi is fighting for his political life!

Let's hope this is a trend and not just an exciting but one-time event: it would be a tremendous boon to the West generally, and to America and Israel in particular, if Ahmadinejad got his nose clipped.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 18, 2006, at the time of 11:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

President Bush's Way Forward

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I heard a strange rumor a couple of days ago, but I couldn't find any substantiation, so I didn't blog on it. But of a sudden, it has burst forth in the form of an article on Yahoo by a couple of AP stringers, Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra. (I Googled them, but they appear to be run-of-the-mill reporters; I didn't see anything weird or suspicious about either reporter.)

It appears that there is now a serious push, backed (and possibly fomented) by the Bush Administration, to oust the incompetent Nouri al-Maliki, number-two in the (Shiite) Islamic Dawa Party, from his position as Iraqi prime minister. The ouster would be entirely legal, in the form of a vote of no confidence, which requires only a simple majority of the members of parliament.

I suspect replacing Maliki is one of the "new directions in Iraq" Bush has had in mind for some time, hence his own version of "the way forward," to counter the "diplomatic offensive" and draw-down recommended by the Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton commission).

(Captain Ed blogged about this earlier, but I didn't see his post until after I wrote this. Still, we tackle different aspects of the same story; both are worth reading!)

The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence.

The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim [of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI] , who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying above the grinding day-to-day running of the country.

A key figure in the proposed alliance, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab [of the Iraqi Islamic Party], left for Washington on Sunday for a meeting with Bush at least three weeks ahead of schedule.

For those keeping score, that's two of the top politicians in the bloc both meeting with President Bush within a week of each other: there is no question but that the Bush administration is at least closely involved with the attempt to oust Maliki.

Maliki has long been unable -- or unwilling -- to do anything to rein in the murderous Mahdi Militia; which is hardly surprising, since that militant death squad is led by Maliki's own master (and Iranian puppet), Muqtada Sadr. Sadr has almost single-handedly kept Maliki in power, having planted him on the petal throne last May. And so long as the Mahdi continues to murder Iraqis by the thousands, its rivals among the Sunni tribes (including both al-Qaeda and renegade former Baathists) and even among other Shiite groups (include the Badr Brigades, now called the Badr Organization, of SCIRI) will refuse to stand down.

Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia is believed to be responsible for the majority of the internecine butchery in Iraq; if they were to lose power, perhaps along with Maliki's Dawa Party, it would be a strong blow to Iran, Sadr's patron: while SCIRI too has some ties to Iran, they are nowhere near as deep as Dawa's... whose leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the former and equally incompetent prime minister (Maliki is merely the deputy leader, even though he is the current PM).

Both Dawa and SCIRI were based in Teheran during the Iran-Iraq war, and both received support from Iran; but SCIRI has no equivalent to the Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr... who, while not being a member of any established party, has forged a very close working relationship with Maliki, serving as Iran's conduit into the heart of the Iraqi government.

This is certainly not a done deal yet; there is a major hurdle to overcome:

The groups engaged in talks have yet to agree on a leader, said lawmaker Hameed Maalah, a senior official of al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

One likely candidate for prime minister, however, was said to be Iraq's other vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite who was al-Hakim's choice for the prime minister's job before al-Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate and won.

Sadr, Maliki, and everyone who still profits from the chaos of Iraq will of course fight viciously to retain the status quo, especially as they are hopeful that, with the Democrats controlling Congress, America's defeat and withdrawal is just around the corner. (I don't believe it is; but what matters is what Sadr believes, not I.) Still, the bloc of Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia hoping to replace Maliki claims that it has the 138 votes out of 275 that it needs to prevail:

Al-Maliki's government, under the Iraqi constitution, could be ousted if a simple majority of parliament's 275 members opposed it in a vote of confidence. Parties in the talks expressed confidence they had enough votes.

"The question of confidence in this government must be reconsidered," Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, told legislators Sunday. "Why should we continue to support it? For its failure?"

If Maliki were to be removed in favor of a new prime minister from SCIRI, Sadr would lose a large portion of his power. If the new government moved decisively against the militias (and disbanded the Badr Organization), as is expected -- Maliki's failure to do so is the driving force behind the attempt to remove him -- it would be a stunning breakthrough in "winning the peace" in Iraq.

Bush could absolutely point to this as tremendous progress in Iraq, and the body count would plummet. If they could sustain this progress for a year or so, we could begin cautiously withdrawing American troops from that country, while still maintaining enough force to stop any attempt by Sadr (or Iran directly) to seize control again.

(Not surprisingly, James Baker's ISG did not so much as suggest "regime change" in Iraq as part of the plan to win, even perfectly legal regime change. Baker's "Realism" philosophy always prefers negotiating with the devil it knows to dealing with the unknown.)

Let's hope that they are indeed powerful enough, perhaps with Bush's help, to force a vote of no confidence in Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, causing his government to fall and a new one, based upon this bloc, to be formed. This probably represents our best chance for palpable movement towards victory in Iraq.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 11, 2006, at the time of 3:48 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 10, 2006

Ahmadinejad At the End of His Rope?

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

A fascinating article on the website of Arab News -- which I've never heard of before, but then, I'd never heard of NUMB3RS until a couple of weeks ago, so what do I know? -- dated 19, Dhul Qa'dah, 1427 (which was yesterday, as you know) claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be on the brink of a pair of rabbit punches to the gut (via Drudge).

(I should mention that the date is not certain, and could also be 18 Dhu l'Qa'dah, depending on which of 8 different Moslem calendars one uses.)

There are a couple of elections bubbling up, both to be held Friday (24 or 25, Dhu l'Qa'dah, one presumes, or the 15th of December):

  • Local elections around Iran -- mayors, town councils, city aldermen, and village wiseguys;
  • Elections for the Assembly of Experts, 86 sages, luminaries, soothsayers, and all-around viziers -- the guys who get to pick the Grand Poobah, or the Master Cylinder, or whatever the top man calls himself (I forget).

Ahmadinejad expected his proxies and toadies to win each of these two elections. In the first election, he wanted his band of radicals, the "Self-Sacrificers," to seize majority control of the local power centers:

At present, the various radical Khomeinist factions that supported Ahmadinejad in the last presidential election control only a third of all local government authorities. The more conservative and business-connected factions, led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, control a further 25 percent while the rest have majorities of independents and/or regional groupings that are always open to new alliances.

Ahmadinejad expected his faction to win a majority of these seats: he counted on a low turnout (ca. 15%), which always favors the radicals (here too!); and he thought the Self-Sacrificers would all ally together, while the anti-Khomeinists would call for boycotts... meaning the less radical voters would stay home, clearing the decks for the foam-flecked slavering jihadis to take power.

Alas for him, what happened was precisely the opposite: the conservatives have called for full participation in the elections, while many of the Self-Sacrificers are sitting it out; and it was the conservative candidates who banded together... as opposed to the radicals, who couldn't agree with each other or put personal animosity aside (perhaps because they were too caught up sacrificing each other):

With just days before polling, however, both of Ahmadinejad's calculations appear in doubt. The conservative and moderate groups have abandoned an earlier strategy to boycott the election and presented lists of candidates in more than half of the constituencies. The opposition groups acting outside the regime have also toned down their calls for boycott. Thus, the turnout may be higher than Ahmadinejad had hoped. A higher turnout could mean more middle class voters going to the polls to counterbalance the peasants and the urban poor who constitute the president's electoral base....

Even worse news for him is the failure of the Itharis (Self-sacrificers) group that forms the hard core of his support to form alliances with other radical Khomeinist groups and factions.

On the Assembly of Experts front, Ahmadinejad was hoping to pull off a virtual coup d'état: he expected to see elected a number of mullahs who support Ahmadinejad's "theological guru" (yes, that's the term the article uses, funnily enough), Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. The idea would be that the Assembly would be assembled of a bunch of Yazdiites, who would then impeach and remove from office the current Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died.

This would have cleared the path for Mesbah-Yazdi to be declared the new Supreme Scout. Ahmadinejad calculated that with the wind of his guru at his back and Legions of Terror at his feet to obey his every command, Ahmadinejad would wield supreme power in the universe, and would be able to name some months after himself.

But evidently, Ayatollah Khamenei got wind of this scheme and set about to ruin it. It seems that you can't be a candidate for the Assembly of Experts until you first pass muster with the Council of Guardians.

(Does anybody else have a hard time taking seriously a country that is run by an Assembly of Experts under the control of a Council of Guardians, commanded by the Supreme Guide, with the advice of Scoutmaster Allan opening the path, and the muscle of the Self-Sacrificers backing them up? Somehow, it reminds me of a bad episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

The Council of Guardians of the Constitution, as everyone knows, comprises 12 grumpy, old men; they are under the de facto command of the Extremely Altitudinous Panjandrum, Ayatollah Khamenei. He appears, upon close examination, to have ruled out of order some of Ahmadinejad's Experts -- and all of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani's Experts (though he allowed Rafsanjani himself to run; go figure). But the net effect will be that there will be little if any change in the Assembly: meet the new Experts; same as the old Experts.

If this article is accurate, and not just the juvenile prank of some bored office girl with a vivid imagination (which is an accurate description of my first three college love affairs), then one must conclude that Khamenei has decided he doesn't really like Ahmadinejad that much anymore, and he wanted to rattle his cheese. ("The nail that stands up gets the grease," as the Finns say.)

And even if Khamenei kicks it, as some are saying may be about to happen (I'll believe it when I believe it), the current president of Iran won't have any greased pole to power, and may well end up on the losing side of a party power struggle.

Either way, you've got to admit that roasted chestnuts are looking might good around now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2006, at the time of 5:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 7, 2006

Does Robert Kaplan Read Big Lizards?

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Robert Kaplan, author of the seminal book Imperial Grunts, completely agrees with the Big Lizards take on the ISG report.

He agrees on both the good, such as the fact that many of the 79 recommendations are Bush policies that the Democrats have been fighting for years; and the bad, such as James Baker's peculiar belief that we can talk the Iranians into helping stabilize Iraq as a democracy because, after all, "the Humungus is a reasonable man."

In fact, Kaplan agrees so much about the report -- even using nearly identical phrases to describe it -- that were it not for my firm conviction that we're a flea on the hair on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea compared to someone like Robert Kaplan, I would wonder whether he had actually read our two posts!

But we are, so he didn't. Ne'ertheless, he still agrees; two thoughts with but a single mind between them, or however that expression goes. And if you don't believe me, just read the transcript of Kaplan's interview on Hugh Hewitt, whenever Duane puts it up on Hugh's transcript archive page.

That that, Hugh.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2006, at the time of 4:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Important Readers Note

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards analyzed the entire James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group report in a pair of posts yesterday:

  1. Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno
  2. Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei

It's important that we make clear the purpose of our posts. Many people deride the report on the grounds that the ISG really want us to withdraw, but they were too craven to call for it outright... so they instead (this theory goes) recommended "withdrawal lite."

Maybe, maybe not. Big Lizards could not care less what the commission thought it was doing.

I approached this analysis entirely, ah, analytically: given the facts on the ground and in D.C., the political reality that the voters will demand that President Bush accept most (if not all) of the ISG's 79 recommendations, can he do so while still fighting for true victory in Iraq?

And the answer I came up with was: yes he can.

Mind, I consider most of the ISG's recommendations silly and unworldly. Jed Babbin, whom I mostly disagree with, hit the nail with a needle:

The ISG report has all the attributes -- and all of the failings -- of an academic study. It is both theoretically sound and thoroughly inapplicable outside the laboratories of the schools of diplomacy.

The great majority of the 79 Commandments, including the entire "diplomatic offensive," by which we're going to persuade Iran to act against its own interests and help us stabilize Iraq as a democracy, is nought but a big time waster.

But since it only wastes the time of people whose time I consider valueless -- diplomats, even good ones like John Bolton -- I brush that aside. Besides, if properly construed, even the "diplomatic offensive" could conceivably be of some use... if we send someone like Bolton, who would use it as an opportunity to issue a series of ultimata to Iran and its organ-grinder's monkey, Syria.

In fewer words, Bush can take these recommendations and run with them. Most recapitulate what he's been trying to do anyway; and with the extra "bottom," or gravitas that the ISG adds, he will better be able to counter the Democratic floccillation, as they try to pick off this or that vital national-security program.

So take the analysis for what it is: not an examination into the motives or ultimate goal of the commission members, but rather as an examination of whether there are any underwater mines in the ISG report that will blow the Iraq war -- hence the larger GWOT -- out of the water.

And the answer is no, if President Bush chooses not to let it. Everything the report proposes can be squared with winning the war and standing up a stable, functioning democracy in Iraq (which, as a irrelevant aside, is clearly what the entire operative second section of the ISG report assumes is the ultimate goal).

Bush can accept the document and make frequent reference to it, even as he takes the upcoming Pentagon assessment as his actual lodestone. He might even get a little mileage out of it, in terms of holding the Democrats' noses to the fire on some of Bush's policies.

So everyone stop kvetching and bellyaching, and let's get back to our regularly scheduled war!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2006, at the time of 2:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 6, 2006

Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Zwei

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

This is the continuation of the previous post about the Iraq Study Group's final report....

(The report itself, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, can be found here.)

Watcha gonna do about me?

Or us, actually; by "us," I mean "US," of course... what is the U.S.'s role in creating "national reconciliation" in Iraq? Here is how the commission steps into the fray:

The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is a key topic of interest in a national reconciliation dialogue. The point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose. The point is for the United States and Iraq to make clear their shared interest in the orderly departure of U.S. forces as Iraqi forces take on the security mission. A successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.

Again, not bad as a principle; implementing it won't be a piece of pudding, however, as we have to balance the effects on all the different groups in Iraq of a United States threat to leave: such a threat might be effective on moderate Sunni and Shiite groups, who understand the fragility of the newborn democracy; but Sunni terrorists and Shiite militias would both love for us to leave -- for the former, because of the chaos this would cause, allowing Iraq to become like Sudan; and for the latter, because they could embark upon a Hitlerian "final solution" to the Sunni question.

I don't agree with the second part of recommendation 35; here is the explanation that precedes it (the recommendation itself is just to implement this explanation):

Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a highlevel American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders. The United Nations can help facilitate contacts.

I believe that here, James Baker has allowed his Realist bias towards negotiation -- which always requires at least two negotiating partners -- to cloud the obvious (to me) judgment that Muqtada Sadr is no more a negotiating partner than was Yassir Arafat, or than is al-Qaeda today; the actual recommendation specifically excludes talking with al-Qaeda... I would do the same for Sadr. In addition to being a bloodthirsty butcher who has nothing constructive to add to any "national reconciliation," he is also a paid agent of Iran; in other words, he is a traitor to his country and the catspaw of Teheran.

Instead of talking to him, we should simply kill him and the entire inner cadre of the Mahdi Militia.

Killing Sadr (and his butt monkeys) would go a long way towards ending Iran's easy access to the Iraqi parliament; it would send a message to the mullahs (the only kind they understand); and once the dust settles, it would dramatically improve chances of a true national reconciliation.

After that point, it would make sense to "talk directly... to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders." To quote the thoroughly unquotable Arafat, "of course you make peace with your enemies; you can't make peace with your friends. With my friends, I make business!"

Recommendation 38 -- that we allow "neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" -- is a sin; but it's a venial one. They will of course interfere with necessary military action, but I doubt they can interfere very much.

Withdrawal from fancies of withdrawal

The most important thing in the ISG report is the thing that wasn't in the ISG report, the dog that didn't bark, as Sherlock Holmes noted: the complete lack of any demand for any significant immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

-- Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur, "Silver Blaze," the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1893.

Originally, a couple of months ago, the Democrats were jubilant (and many conservatives bitter and despairing) at the widely reported claim that the ISG report was going to call for a phased withdrawal of troops to begin immediately, lending an air of authority to the Democrats' campaign promise. But when we read the actual report itself, we discover that once again, the Democrats have been betrayed by their own supposed informants on the committee (mostly likely Lee Hamilton and Leon Panetta). In the end, this is what the report says:

While [the national reconciliation] process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.

Most of this is straight out of the Bush administration's playbook. The ISG recommends embeds in all Iraqi Army units, all the way down to company level. How many soldiers do they envision doing this?

Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role. This increase in imbedded troops could be carried out without an aggregate increase over time in the total number of troops in Iraq by making a corresponding decrease in troops assigned to U.S. combat brigades.

The Pentagon report is likely to recommend something substantially similar, though they may also want to use U.S. troops more directly to disrupt violence in places like Anbar and Baghdad provinces... a possibilty that the ISG report itself raises, if done on a temporary basis. (Everything is "on a temporary basis;" Bush certainly doesn't contemplate leaving 150,000 troops in Iraq for the next thirty years!)

The report does, of course, recommend an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces; but that too has been our policy from the very beginning; this is nothing new. The ISG is looking at a timeframe of about a year and a half:

While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

About the only thing the Democrats get out of this is a little bit of face saving: they can say to their constituents, "see? We did get at least some defeatism into the thing... don't hate us!"

As far as capping overall force level, Newsweek reports today that the man incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) appointed as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%), wants to significantly increase the level of American troops in Iraq to squash the militias, and has explicitly allied himself with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 80%) on this issue:

In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias.”

Given that Silvestre echos the views of "experts" that the Democrats themselves trotted out during the election, such as Gen. Eric Shinseki, it will be very easy for Bush to accept the recommendation of more embeds -- but to do so via an increase of the force level, rather than holding it steady, as the ISG suggested.

Even the ISG itself recognizes the possible need for a short-term "surge" of U.S. forces to stabilize Iraq:

We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.

(Pulling together the views of Rep. Silvestre, Gen. Shinseki, Gen. Pace, and the unanimous report of the Iraq Survey Group, President Bush can call the troop increase an act of "national reconciliation" for the United States!)

And what will the slow, steady reduction of forces, which has been the policy of the Bush administration from the very beginning, leave us in the region? From the ISG report:

At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue [oh, is that all?]. Intelligence and support efforts would continue [ah, there we go -- the last two components!]. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan.

By the way, for those who thought the ISG would demand we hand Iraq over to Iran and Syria, the report envisions four "missions" for the remaining U.S. forces; three are just what you would expect -- but here is number four:

Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.

Sounds good to me!

There follows a long list of recommendations for the repair and maintenance of equipment (and troops) as they return from Iraq, and for continued training of U.S. forces back home. I have no objection.

The police are there to preserve disorder!"

Much of the foregoing has been acceptable but not particularly helpful (not unhelpful either); its only utility is in the many cases of a Bush-administration policy that Congress was loathe to fund, but whose prospects will rise now that Bush can wave the ISG report in their faces and threaten to denounce them as refusing to follow it (that's a congressional disincentive).

But here's a suggestion that I think is actually innovative and a great idea: the ISG recommends that the Iraqi National Police and the Border Police shift from the Interior Ministry to Defense.

The Ministry of the Interior is riddled with corruption and Shiite sectarianism, and its has repeatedly been accused -- with a great deal of justification -- of running death squads out of police stations and filling the police ranks with boatloads of Mahdi Militia and Badr Brigades members. Contrariwise, the Defense Ministry has done a much better job with the Iraqi Army, which the police agencies would thus join as paramilitaries.

Most Sunnis trust the army far more than they trust the police; and even the Shia admit that the army has been fair, even when it fights against the militias. Removing the national cops from the dreaded Ministry of the Interior is an inspired stroke which can only have come from the mind of commissioner Ed Meese.

Left to Interior would be control of local (not national) police, prosecutions and investigations, and payroll for all the police, including those transferred to the operational control of the Ministry of Defense.

Other than this one new idea, the ISG proposes only that current Bush administration programs to train, embed with, reform, and improve the technological capabilities of the Iraqi police forces should continue, harder and faster.

The last 18 of the total 79 recommendations are technical suggestions relating to the Oil Ministry, to American intelligence collection and analysis (such as hiring more people who speak Arabic and retaining analysts who have studied the Iraq insurgency, terrorist groups, and militias), and to budgeting for the war; you're not particularly interested in any of them. (And if you really are, they start on page 83 of the document, 101 of the PDF.)

Hey, Big Lizards reads these things so you don't have to!

"And in conclusion..." whereupon thunderous applause spontaneously erupts

The most important point I want to make is the one that I suspect nobody else will make: the tone of the report. There is very little hectoring in the second section; it's all confined to the first one, which is why I opined (all right, a bit tongue in cheek) that the Assessment section was the one written by the Democrats.

In fact, throughout the operative section, the Way Forward, the ISG assumes that the purpose of the report is to suggest ways to win in Iraq... if by "win" we mean establishing a stable democracy in Iraq that has the military, police, and judicial strength to crush al-Qaeda, disband the militias, and pull together as a coherent national unit.

Even when they drift into Realist fancies and follies, such as the useless blathering on and on about "regional conferences" and "international dialogs" and "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings," it's quite clear that the ultimate purpose is not to transition Iraq to a dictatorship with "our own guy" planted on the throne, as I was afraid it might be, given James Baker's political leanings.

This ISG report will never be mistaken for something Henry Kissinger could have written.

It recommends an initial period of no reductions in force, but a shifting of priorities in the direction that the Bush administration has said all along it wants to go, but which it hasn't really done enough of yet. Even there, the report itself recognizes that there might be advantages -- political as well as military -- to a temporary bump, or "surge," of American muscle... a sentiment that is shared by powerful voices as diverse as the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the former Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Thus, the defeatist Democrats will almost certainly be stymied in their long dream of an immediate "redeployment" of U.S. troops to next-door Okinawa.

There are a few recommendations that are actually interesting, notably the notion that the Iraqi national cops be shifted from Interior to Defense and made a part of the Iraqi Army. And a lot of technical recommendations that look good, and which the Bush administration has tried to get for a long time now, but which the parsimonious (when it comes to defense and intelligence) Democrats have thwarted -- including more spending on reconstruction, on the military, and on the clandestine agencies, and an almost Rumsfeldian reorganization of the latter.

The focus on useless diplomacy will eat up a lot of the brainpower and company time of the liberals and internationalists, while the rest of the country gets on with the business of winning the war and rebuilding Iraq in a stable, functioning democracy.

All in all, if you can ignore the smarmy and offensive lecturing at the beginning -- think of it as a very extended forward; the actual meat of the document isn't bad at all. Certainly the president can easily follow all of its recommendations as part of his own adamantine intention to fight this war to victory and not bring the troops home except as victors.

...No matter what Hugh Hewitt, Bill Kristol, and Christopher Hitchens say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2006, at the time of 8:05 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Skip the Dicta; Read the Recommendations - Part Uno

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Ah, I think I know how the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Survey Group managed to get unanimous agreement for a report that is, on the whole, nowhere near as bad or dangerous as we were led to believe. The members clearly cut a deal between themselves:

  • The Democrats on the panel got to write all the nasty, Bush-bashing spin and hype of the introductory "Assessment" section of the report (and script the press conference) -- which was the role they relished and had demanded from the git go;
  • The Republicans wrote the actual recommendations in section II, "the Way Forward" -- that is, the operational part of the report.

(In legal terms, the Democrats wrote the dicta, but the GOP wrote the holdings.)

Thus, the first part is full of snide and arrogant analysis of how "bleak" and "dire" the situation is, which will allow perpetually backward-looking Democrats to spend the next two years rattling on about how terrible it was to invade Iraq in the first place. But the fairly open-ended and helpful recommendations in Section II are not too onerous on their face, and many are readily adaptable to the strategy of winning in Iraq that will come from the Pentagon group headed by Gen. Peter Pace, Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I leave the discussion of dicta to others (since that part really irritates me anyway); I'm more interested in what the ISG considers "the way forward," and how it can be achieved only through victory, not by the Democrats' dream of defeat, defeat, and more defeat.

A note on structure: as this post got very long (I read the entire report and discuss most of it), I'm splitting it into two posts that will be posted more or less simultaneously. This is Part Uno, as you have doubtless already gathered.

Part Zwei will follow. Again, this is unlikely to shock many of you.

"Buckle your seat belts, gentlemen; it's going to be a bumpy night!"

The "diplomatic offensive"

Let's start with recommendation 1 of the Iraq Study Group's report (actually, the first two, since the second is really part of the first), just to get a flavor of what we're dealing with and how we can work with it for victory. (Don't worry, Big Lizards is not going to plough rigidly and lugubriously through every, last one of the 79 recommendations.)

RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:

i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.

ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.

iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.

iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.

v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.

vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.

vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.

viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.

x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.

Admittedly, this is mostly nonsense on stilts; neither Iran nor Syria has any interest in any of these specific initiatives. But the ISG is correct that Iran has its own problems with disunity: the Arab, Azeri, and Kurdish populations of Iran are always in danger of trying to break away... and that, of course, is a good example of a "disincentive" we can offer Iran to get them to back off from supporting Muqtada Sadr and other Iraqi Shia: we let them know that if they continue trying to destabilize Iraq, perhaps we should begin helping Kurds and Azeri in Iran that are interested in learning more about democracy, freedom -- and independence. (You'll read about "disincentives" later in this post; just keep this one in mind.)

But of course, all depends upon who, exactly, is tasked on the American side to deal with these negotiations. As this is a special envoy, not a permanent position, it's important to remember that the appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Thus, since one of our finest ambassadors is currently at liberty, I strongly urge that the head of the diplomatic "offensive" be Ambassador John Bolton. As we certainly also need someone with extensive military experience in the region, Bolton's chief military attaché could be Gen. John Abizaid or Gen. Casey, both of whom are near the end of their current tours, and each of whom needs a political tour in order to burnish his credentials for an eventual shot at being the next Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

With the negotiations in the hands of Bolton (or someone like him), I would not worry about this "diplomatic offensive."

"Dealing" with Iran (oh, and Syria)

We skip many recommendations, all of which center on sundry "groups" that we can set up so that Bolton (or whoever) doesn't have to shuttle between different cities to carry out these negotiations. Let's jump right to the first really controversial one: "dealing with Iran and Syria," as the report puts it.

(Dealing? As in, Monty Hall and Let's Make a Deal? I doubt that's in the cards.)

Here is the first part that you're not likely to hear from talk radio and maybe not even on some other blogs:

The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.

What is a "disincentive?" Well, the dictionary says it's "something that prevents or discourages action; a deterrent." That is, we say to Iran, "if you continue supplying men, material, munitions, and training to Iraqi Shia, we're going to do the following horrible things: A, B, C..."

(For example, do you recall that bit -- I warned you it would be on the test -- about us threatening to encourage Arab, Azeri, or Kurdish minorities within Iran to break away if the Iranians continue their assault on Iraq? That is a perfect example of the kind of "disincentives" we can use.)

I'll bet you hadn't heard that that was in the report, did you? Not if all you did was listen to talk radio and read most other blogs.

From the sentence structure, it's quite clear that the ISG expects disincentives, not incentives, to be the default mode: they caution President Bush not to use disincentives alone... hey, look, here are some incentives you can also use!

Whether or not that's what the ISG had in mind, that is what they wrote: and it's perfectly reasonable for Bush to take it that way and say, "look, here I am doing just what the commission recommended: giving a disincentivizing ultimatum to Iran and Syria."

The list of specific steps that Iran can take aren't bad:

  • "Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq."
  • "Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government."
  • "Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation."
  • "Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq."

Only the last one is problematical; and even there, the weasel-words "right circumstances" allows Bush to put that last one off until the right circumstances prevail: that is, until Iran has become a democratic state like Iraq.

F--- the Jews

Naturally, the ISG being co-charied by James Baker, due deference must be paid to Baker's "poor King Charles' head," his bête noir: Israel.

The title of this section of the post refers to Baker's infamous (alleged) comment to "a colleague" -- later identified as Jack Kemp, I believe -- during a conversation about Israel while Baker was George Herbert Walker Bush's secretary of state: "f--- the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway!" Baker denies he ever said it.

This entire section is imminently ignorable, as the five recommendations it contains all boil down to nothing beyond "the unconditional calling and holding of meetings."

Hear hear! Have some more meetings. Have as many meetings as we can stuff into a fiscal year. If the Palestinians and the Syrians remain intrasigent, refusing to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah, then Bush (and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- say, shouldn't Israel pass a law barring anyone named "Ehud" from holding public office?) can legitimately and honorably say "we followed those B-H recommendations to the letter: we unconditionally called and held several meetings, by gum.

Now can we get on with it?

Afghanistan

The ISG says to send more troops and money, amounts unspecified. Any objections?

Iraq milestones and suchlike

Note the great specificity of the next set of recommendations for Iraq itself to achieve:

  • Recommendation 19: "[T]there must be action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones.... [T]the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed."
  • Recommendation 20: If Iraq "demonstrates political will" and "substantial progress" towards these unspecified milestones, we should "continue political, military, and economic support for the Iraqi government."
  • Recommendation 21: If they blow us off, we should "reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government."
  • Recommendation 22: Ritual formula: we should say we don't "seek" military bases in Iraq; but if they ask us to keep a presence there permanently, we should consider it, just as we would "in the case of any other government." (In other words, they have to ask; we can only nudge them, not order them.)
  • Recommendation 23: "The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil."

While the ISG didn't enunciate its own set of milestones, it more or less accepts (recommendation 25) the milestones suggested by Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself. It's a laundry list, some elements of which are easily achievable ("approval of the Provincial Election Law and setting an election date"); others are ambitious but possible ("provincial elections" by June); while some are dubious, to say the least ("Iraqi control of provinces" by September). You can read them for yourself; they're on page 63 of the report (page 81 in the PDF).

Come together

The longest non-diplomatic subsection of the operative section is all about achieving "national reconciliation" in Iraq; this is divided into what the Iraqis need to do, and what we need to do. Most of the recommendations here are obvious, common-sense stuff. But here are a few that might provoke some interest...

Right off, the commission makes another bold and unexpected statement, sparking great rejoicing:

U.S. forces can help provide stability for a time to enable Iraqi leaders to negotiate political solutions, but they cannot stop the violence -- or even contain it -- if there is no underlying political agreement among Iraqis about the future of their country.

Um... okay.

Recommendation 27 says that de-Baathification has gone far enough; with the exception of top Saddam Hussein officials, Iraq should start letting people back into low levels of government even if they were members of the Baath Party under Hussein.

I actually have no problem with this; Hussein completely controlled Iraq for 24 years, and the Baathists ran the joint for the previous 16 years before that. Thus, for forty years, the only way to get ahead in Iraq was to join the Baath Party, which was the only legal political party anyway. It's hardly surprising that scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, policemen, and military personnel became "Baathists."

To permanently and forever exclude these people from participating in the recreation of Iraq is unjust; but much more important, it's profoundly foolish ("it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder," as Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe said of the execution of the Duc d'Enghien). Heck, if we could put ex-Nazi Wernher von Braun in charge of the United States rocket and missile program, then surely the Iraqis can allow ex-Baathist scientists to work in the Ministry of Technology, or whatever they call the thing.

I'm glad the Republican Guards dispersed, and I wish we had done so in a more systematic way with the national police. But that was then, this is now: many members of the New Iraqi Army are military veterans, and many cops were cops before. Some of these people cause problems, especially in the police, which were never properly purged... but that's the price you pay for revolution, especially when externally applied.

(The ISG actually has a really interesting idea for the Iraqi national police forces; but that has its own subhead in the next post.)

The reality is that the Iraqis need certain people, even if they were Baathists in another life. An excellent step to make this process much less threatening would be to carry out the execution of Saddam Hussein as expected in January; since Hussein was the Baath Party from 1979 onward, and is thus the only embodiment of the party that most ex-Baathists can remember, Hussein's execution will make him "the death of the party."

Recommendation 28 warns against distributing oil revenues by "region," which is code for religious sect: if revenues were disbursed according to region, then the Kurds and Shia would get it all, and the Sunni -- in the middle region, which has no oil fields -- would get bubkes. That's hardly the way to bring Sunnis into the fold! Again, I think we all agree that cutting the Sunnis out of all oil revenue is a prescription for civil war.

To be continued next post...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2006, at the time of 8:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 5, 2006

XVOA

Cultures and Contortions , Future of Civilization , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In the last two posts on Big Lizards, we discussed demography, democracy, and Americanism:

  • Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians
    Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.
  • Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism:

    Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.

All right, we know what to do and why we need to do it; but how do we do it? How can we "shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world?"

Let's start with the fundamentals. I have always thought that the best way to teach any subject, from civics to calculus, is to take a historical approach: things happen for reasons; seeing the historical progression makes it a lot easier to understand what we do and why it works (or doesn't work).

Take affirmative action. You can't understand why it's a controversy, why we're even talking about it, without knowing about Jim Crow laws; and you can't understand those without first learning about Reconstruction; and for that, you need to know about the Civil War; and understanding the Civil War requires an examination of slavery; and that takes us all the way back to the Constitutional Convention and the great compromise.

What do foreigners learn about us by this? They learn that we really take seriously the concept of all people being equal under the law; that we have struggled to lift everyone up; that sometimes we go to far trying to help the underdog and need to get back to first principles. And in subtext, it shows how freedom of speech really works, that we're free to criticize the government, and how a real dialog can develop because of this freedom.

In other words, to show the truth about America -- hence Americanism -- we must teach American history to the rest of the world... most of which is woefully ignorant of the subject. (So are most Americans; but believe me, as little as our citizens know about our own history, people in Japan and Italy -- let alone in Iraq and Yemen -- know even less.)

But how can we teach American history to people who live in foreign countries? Must we invade and conquer their school systems, assuming they even have any? Fortunately, there is an easier way...

Television has become the universal language of the world. Even villages in remote locations often have access to a television (perhaps only one in the chief's hut); and certainly most people who live in cities, even in Islamic countries, have TVs. So the idea here would be for the United States to disseminate programming that teaches American history.

Often, the real history is very much at odds with what jihadist or totalitarian governments tell their people about the "Great Satan;" so why would any of these countries allow such broadcasts? The answer is that they wouldn't... so we do it without their consent -- and if they don't like it, too damn bad. Part of fighting a war of ideas is that we cannot be fastidious about the "sovereign right" of nations to malign us and suppress the truth about America's astonishing contribution to the world.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, a reader of the Anniston Star wrote this in a letter to the editor:

The next time you feel doubts about the direction of this country, remember this:

The only two defining forces that have ever been willing to die for you are: (1) Jesus Christ and (2) the American soldier! One died for your soul and the other for your freedom -- even to read this!

I don't know if this is original with James W. Anderson from Talladega, Alabama (Vietnam 1967-68), or if he heard or read it somewhere; but I'm happy to give him credit until another claimant comes along. It's an amazing insight, no matter who originated it... and one that virtually nobody outside the United States really understands. So no pussyfooting.

There are several nuts-and-bolts considerations for this project:

  • The shows themselves cannot be dry, academic productions; we can make a signal available, but we obviously cannot force people to watch it.

Now, there's no way that a documentary produced by the State Department could be anything but video death... so we need to hire real professional writers, directors, and producers instead. Better yet, a wealth of such shows has already been produced, from documentaries like the Day the Universe Changed and the Adams Chronicles to movies like Gettysburg and the Patriot. We could go a long way just broadcasting these excellent productions.

  • We cannot rely on people speaking English well enough to be able to follow such movies and television series; they must be translated and dubbed.

And by translated, I mean into every language necessary to spread Americanism throughout the world, from Polish to Croatian to Arabic to Pashtun to Farsi to Nubian, and so forth. This must be treated as a major national-security program -- with money and manpower to match. I'd like to see the XVOA (eXtreme Voice of America) funded as well as NASA is ($20 billion), or at least the National Science Foundation ($5½ billion).

In addition, we need to find native speakers of each of these languages, preferably with acting experience, for dubbing. For obscure languages that are hard to find here (not that many, with the number of immigrants we have from everywhere!) we may need to find native speakers and train them to act. As with Bullwinkle and Rocky, each actor may need to play multiple voices.

And we need to pay top dollar... so that aspiring actors are attracted to this project even with the competition.

  • We need to put people on the task of finding every possible way to disseminate these dubbed programs everywhere in the world.

Buying a channel (or several) on every satellite TV system is just the beginning; we also need to find a way around governments that go around smashing satellite receivers and jamming transmissions. If necessary (and I think it often is), we should take out jamming stations in enemy countries with cruise missiles. Let 'em scream... what are they going to do about it, declare war on us?

What we're talking about is not just Voice of America, but a super-sized, hyperthyroid, 24/7 American history and propaganda machine. Our biggest worry is the Democrats, who may decide this is the perfect venue to spread anti-Americanism faster than ever before; for this reason, I suggest keeping the XVOA in the hands of the Administration, which is much less likely than Congress to be overtly hostile to the country, even if a Democrat is elected.

Every aspect of American history illuminates one or more elements of Americanism, showing where we came from, what we've gone through, and who we really are. This would do far more for our image in the world (including the ummah) than sending billions to Bangladesh the next time they have a flood (that would be next rainy season) or to Thailand the next time they have a Tsunami (that would be next earthquake season): even when we do that, the local governments lie to the people and tell them all the rescue efforts and food and medical aid came from themselves, not from us.

It would do much more to spread Americanism than would tens of billions spent on foreign aid -- nearly all of which goes to dictators who, again, disburse it as if it came from their own pockets.

And it would be far more effective countering jihadism than the haphazard mix of "American" soft-core porn movies and TV jiggle shows -- from American Pie to Baywatch to Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold -- that inundate the world, showing the worst aspects of America exaggerated beyond all reason by Hollywood's addiction to sensationalism. (At least, it would show them that we have a better side.)

Visual imagery is powerful, and movies already influence people everywhere. Why shouldn't America, which invented motion pictures and is the most relentless purveyor of them, be able to use them more effectively than jihadis to "sell" our ideology?

This is just the first cut; does any of you have other ideas for spreading the ideology of individualism, freedom, and capitalism?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 5, 2006, at the time of 5:16 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 4, 2006

Borg Culture: Steyn, Jihad, and the End of Predestinarianism

Cultures and Contortions , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

A commenter on our previous post, Robert Schwartz, quoted a fellow who writes at the Asia Times online under the improbable name of "Spengler" (I cannot find out his full name):

The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord's Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims.

But is this really true? We all know Moslems who do not believe in or practice jihad as the terrorists believe in it and practice it. Besides my personal acquaintances, which it may not be fair to cite (since you don't know them), there are also well known people like the fellows at Iraq the Model, as well as those not well known but whose existence everyone knows about: Moslem American soldiers, CIA officers, policemen, firemen, doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers -- who don't, as a rule, advocate or support jihad as the Taliban or the Iranian mullahs do.

So it is possible, even though jihadism is a very powerful ideology that has taken control of a large portion of the ummah. Isn't there some ideology that can infect Islam as thoroughly as has jihadism, a "counter-ideology" that is positive and life-affirming, not a death cult, and which does not require Moslems to convert to Christianity?

Yes, there is... and we all know it, even if we rarely think of it in those terms.

Transforming jihad

The most important point to bear in mind is that such questions as the actual meaning of jihad are answered by cultural, not religious force: I don't believe that the jihadis in Iraq or Gaza believe in militant jihad because they've been religously persuaded by theological argument -- but because all their neighbors believe it.

The way to change that belief is to create swaths of territory (real estate) in which the cultural belief is that jihad is an individual inner struggle against sin, rather than an external war against sinners; a struggle that each individual must freely choose, or it's meaningless; and most important, one that can have immediate material benefits to each individual person, rather than nothing but the promise of eventual "paradise" in the afterlife.

We must create a large territory within the ummah where everyone is surrounded by others who believe the same thing... thus, by the natural human desire to avoid cognitive dissonance, the psychological pressure will be towards sanity.

Ideology and counter-ideology

But how do you get those core swaths in the first place? You must beat down militant jihadism with that counter-ideology I mentioned above; and that requires a very powerful, adaptable, and cohesive counter-ideology; we must directly counter jihadism with an equally strong (or superior) ideology which does as good a job of promoting a sense of community and pulling together as jihadism does.

This is difficult to find but not impossible. In fact, we already have just such a counter-ideology:

  • Individualism, as contrary as it may sound, is part of that ideology, as we've seen in our own country. By vigorously supporting the rights of the individual -- which Europe, Japan, and Canada don't support -- America has become the most cohesive and communal country in Christendom. This despite frequent denunciations of individualism by, e.g., the pope and other European religious leaders of Christianity.
  • Freedom is another component of that counter-ideology; and again, we find more of that in the United States than in any other country.
  • Finally, capitalism, which is the greatest engine of wealth creation ever invented, is absolutely critical... because the hope of wealth by individual effort -- capitalism -- as opposed to wealth by tribal or political affiliation (socialism), is vital in any war that hopes to defeat "holy warriors," who primarily appeal to the poor by saying, in effect, "join our tribe and we will support you."

Individualism plus freedom plus capitalism... we already have a catchy name for that ideology, which has served as a counter-ideology for 230 years against jihadism, against Communism, against Fascism and Naziism, against imperialism, and again monarchism: we call it Americanism.

Ideological synthesis: Americanism

Note that Americanism is neither religious nor secular but can exist in both kinds of subculture: evangelical Christians here still believe in Americanism, as do people like myself who are not religious at all, and in fact come from a non-Christian cultural background as well. And so do American Moslems; Americanism does not require giving up Islam in favor of Christianity (pace, Ann Coulter!)

The rest of the "West" -- Europe, Canada, Japan, and Israel -- have no unique ideology that binds them together as a people the way the combination of freedom, individual rights, and capitalism do here; the French have nothing to counter jihadism when it comes a-courtin'.

So our first great task is to convert our allies to Americanism (which will probably require a different name!); that alone would likely give them enough hope for the future that they start breeding again, which is an excellent start for our cultural defense. But it has a more immediate effect: Americanism is confident enough to believe that it can convert those who immigrate here, what we call "assimilation." But assimilation is a two-way function: American culture is Borg culture. We add bits and pieces of new cultures to American culture, and in return, we Americanize new immigrants.

What else can we say about the power of Americanism?

  • America is far richer with a more robust economy than any other Western country;
  • We as a culture (despite tolerating individuals who don't fit that profile) retain a vigorous warrior spirit that leads us to savagely defend what we see to be ours;
  • We remain intensely curious and pursue science and techological improvement more than any other nation on the planet;
  • We think of ourselves as Americans first, everything else second... even liberals who are in fact internationalists still must do ritual obeisance to calling themselves Americans ("hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue");
  • We are the most religiously free country on the planet -- the First Amendment guarantees it -- as well as the most religous free country on the planet (that is, we have more churchgoers than any other country that does not compel religious observance);
  • And we at least breed at the replacement level -- though not evenly: even there, it's precisely those areas that most exemplify Americanism (individualism + freedom + capitalism), the so-called "red" states and "red" communities, that breed at significantly more than replacement rate; and it's the "blue" areas that are the least Americanist and the most Europeanist that don't really hold up their end.

These are all unmistakable signs of a vibrant, confident, and growing cultural identity -- which can only be explained by the planetary success of the ideology we're calling Americanism. There is no other explanation: we have the same language as countries that are not so successful (Great Britain, Canada, Grenada); we have the same religions as other failed countries (Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandanavia); and we have a hodge-podge of many races living here, along with polyglot millions for whom English is a second language.

We have the same democratic government -- though with a uniquely American flavor, a constitutional republic as opposed to a parliamentary democracy -- as the entire rest of the West; but even there, the ideology came first and propelled our Founding Fathers to create the first democracy in an era of kings as a representative, constitutional republic. Those democracies that followed (leave England out for a moment) tended to organize themselves along the lines of the French Revolution... which has turned out to be far less successful a model than ours.

(England's Parliament goes all the way back to the nobles who wrested some control from the king in Magna Carta, the "great charter;" it is, like the American system, sui generis. However, it's still too close to the continental model and has proven less able to maintain its distinct cultural identity than Americanism. Propinquity may play a role here: we were protected from the European cultural decline by a great ocean.)

The distinctions between America and the world are nontrivial and nonrandom:

  • We are the most capitalistic nation on the planet, and we're the richest;
  • We are the freest country, and we're the country with the most immigration;
  • We have the most religious freedom of any country, yet we have the most freely embraced religion;
  • We are the most individualist country -- and the country with the greatest percent of citizens ready and willing to defend it.

That last point is not a contradiction, though most throughout the world would think so: individualism leads to a greater sense of community than does collectivism... it's not a contradiction, but it is a paradox. For example, the more individualist a community, the more charitable are the individuals in it... because they see charity as the duty of individuals, not the State.

This extends upward: even when government action is required, real Americans prefer that action be conducted at the lowest possible level of government, where we have the most control: city instead of county, county instead of state, state instead of national... and always national over international. Americanism is the ideology of self-control, self-governance, and self-sufficiency. It is ultimately empowering, while jihadism is ultimately infantalizing.

American culture as Borg culture: resistance is futile

Many anti-immigrant politicians (such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO, 100%) and pseudo-politicians (like Pat Buchanan) push the false meme that Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants "don't assimilate." This is complete nonsense. There is always a loud and angry fringe element that marches in the streets waving Mexican flags... but look at the numbers: in the biggest rally against the House bill that made illegal immigration illegal (I'm being unfair here just for a giggle), they got a few hundred thousand people -- most of whom were not waving Mexican flags.

This in a county that has literally millions of Hispanics, most either directly or ancestrally from Mexico. The population of Los Angeles County is about 10 million; there are 4.65 million Hispanics and only 3 million non-Hispanic whites. So for the first rally, which the Aztlan separatists successfully portrayed as just anti-bill, not anti-American, they still only got 10% of the Hispanic population (at most) to show up and march.

Subsequent marches, after the anti-Americanism of the march leaders was made clear, drew far fewer participants, closer to 1%. And even there, we're just talking about marching; how many Hispanic separatist terrorists are there? Answer: zero.

Our immigrants assimilate, and they partially assimilate (change) the culture; that confidence in our own ideology is one of the things that makes us strong: in Osama's terms, we act like the strong horse, we have confidence that we're the strong horse, therefore we are the strong horse... even with the Democratic Party weighing us down.

There are always exceptions, and of course, some immigrants never Americanize. But unlike in Europe, even if the immigrants themselves resist -- resistance is ultimately futile, because their children belong to us. In France, the children of Algerian Moslem immigrants are much more anti-France and jihadist than their parents (it's the kids leading the French intifada, not the parents); but in America, it works just the opposite: each succeeding generation is more American and less inclined towards the "old country" than the previous.

Expand that outward: there is nothing magical about our mountains, our rivers, or our plains that is any different that the geographical features of other countries; the thing that converts Irish and Italians, Canadians and Cambodians, Nicaraguans and Nigereans is the ideology of Americanism... and the ideology can be exported.

The exception proves the pudding: Americanism, by whatever name, is the only ideology ready to hand that we can export to counter the death-cult of militant jihadism and win the war for the soul of the world. We mustn't be afraid to shove raw, naked Americanism down the throats of the rest of the world... it's the physic for the pathogen of jihad.

The way forward

This is the way forward, to borrow a phrase that will probably permeate the Baker-Hamilton report (and already trips from the lips of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley almost every time he goes on a Sunday yak show): export the "stronger horse," Americanism, to the rest of the world -- starting with our new allies in Eastern Europe and moving to our old allies in Western Europe, thence beyond the pale to Africa, Araby, and the Orient. Americanism comes ready to adapt to any other culture, any other country: you can have a capitalist, free, and individualist Frenchism, Germanism, Britishism, and even Iraqism, if we but try.

We have right now one of the most Americanist presidents of recent years; George W. Bush isn't as good a communicator as Ronald Reagan, but he's every bit as Americanist. By contrast, BIll Clinton and George H.W. Bush, as well as Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and of course Jimmy Carter, were more Europeanist: they all looked to Europe for a lead; they truly believed international organizations (the U.N. or even NATO) were the wave of the future; and I can't imagine any of them believing that "America is the greatest nation on God's green Earth," to rip a phrase from Michael Medved.

But I'm utterly certain that both Reagan and Bush-43 believe (and believed) exactly that, deep in their souls. That, ultimately, is why I do not fear that Bush will use the ISG report as a fig leaf to cover retreat from Iraq, or even from the mission to democratize that country: for George W. Bush, renouncing that policy would be the same as renouncing his religious faith and becoming an atheist.

And that he will not do... no matter how much "pressure" the Democrats bring to bear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 4, 2006, at the time of 5:54 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Reading Between the Steyns: Little Endians and Big Endians

Cultures and Contortions , Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The Discordians were (are?) a crazy bunch of weirdos who had some truly great ideas. Led by Malaclypse the Younger (usually Gregory Hill) and Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (typically Kerry Thornley), and later joined by science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson (usually writing as Mordecai Malignatus), they invented a whole new religion disguised as an elaborate joke disguised as a religion.

They also invented the Law of Fives, the Sacred Chao (a "chao" -- pronounced cow -- is a single unit of chaos) with its associated Hodge and Podge, and the myth of Eris and the golden apple. (Well, they didn't actually invent the last; the ancient Greeks did. But the Discordians pontificated about it a lot.)

They also invented a great game called Po that I've used endlessly to my amusement and enlightenment (and to my neighbors' annoyance and reporting to the authorities). The idea is that you take two contradictory concepts, say "fire" and "water." Then you write them in a line with the word "po" in between.

Po stands for some relationship: this begins the game, which is to find what relationship the po stands for and what is the result of the equation. In this case, we have "fire po water," and the most obvious answer is that po =
"heats," and the solution is "steam." You could say this game of po gave us the industrial age, when humans realized that by superheating water, they could produce steam that would drive steam engines.

(The Discordians would point out that po could also equal "puts out," and the result of "fire po water" would be a soggy campfire. Some solutions are more useful than others.)

Well, the past is prologue. (And what follows is epilogue, since there is no actual content to this post, at least nothing worth reading.) I have been metaphorically devouring Mark Steyn's book America Alone: the End of the World as We Know It; and I have also just read the New York Times' breathless speculation about what will be in the Baker-Hamilton report from the Iraq Study Group and how the president will respond to it.

Steyn, the demography predestinarian, believes that the plummeting birthrate of the West (minus the United States) will inevitably (or at least barring a miracle) lead to the countries of continental Europe being denuded of Europeans, who will be replaced by Moslems, bringing Europe fully into the ummah.

The Times is jazzed about its own prediction -- based upon leaks to them from "commission members" and "officials familiar with" the report (excuse our presumption in assuming that those commission members willing to leak to the New York Times are probably in Lee Hamilton's group of Democrats, rather than James Baker's cabal of "Realist" Republicans).

These leaks to the Times indicate the ISG will recommend we abandon the idea of democratizing the Middle East and withdraw to the "Realist" position (now apparently shared by some of the lads at Power Line) of sitting in our Iraq-based Fortress of Solitude, striking at al-Qaeda when they mass together, and otherwise allowing Iraq to turn into a Shiite dictatorship... but an America-friendly dictatorship (hah). I don't know that the ISG will suggest this course, but they may well.

I know this post is jumping around like a liberal ducking facts, but I'm actually going somewhere with this. Using the game of Po, the secret to my widespread failure, I get this: "Steyn po ISG." The po in this case is "eats," and the result anent Iraq is this very interesting formulation:

In the long run of the war on jihadism, planting a stable democracy in Iraq is far more important than defeating al-Qaeda.

Take a moment and think about that: it's the exact opposite of the Power Line position, which has become the mainstream position: that our only legitimate interest in Iraq is stomping al-Qaeda in Iraq; promoting stable democracy -- or even stopping the gangland war between militias and death squads -- is an irrelevant conceit that we must abandon, in our Realist way, for the good, old-fashioned, .time-honored, and extraordinarily successful tactic of allying with certain dictators against other dictators.

I think I can prove it. Suppose we succeed in destroying the organization formerly led by Musab Zarqawi and now by Hamza Muhajir, but we allow the bloody massacres to continue until the Sunni of Iraq flee into Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. This would leave nothing but Kurdistan in the north -- and in central and south Iraq, a Shia-dominated Iraqi government under the thumb of Muqtada Sadr, hence under the grandthumb of Hezbollah and the great-grandthumb of Iran. Haven't we just jumped out of the pot and into the kettle?

In the short view, if southern Iraq simply becomes part of Greater Iran, we have just helped our greatest non-Communist enemy to become vastly stronger.

But in the long view, it's even worse. If Steyn is right that Europe is committing societal suicide, and white Christian Europeans are abdicating sovereignty over the continent to the influx of Moslems... then how can we stop it? There are only two ways:

  • We could possibly find some inducement for Europeans to have more babies. This is true terra incognita: the problem is not physical impotence but the loss of belief in the future, which leads (Steyn argues persuasively) to a turning inward towards the present, towards pure narcissism: live for today, and damn tomorrow!
  • Alternatively, we could go the American route (which seems to be working here): rather than stop the substitution of Moslems for Christians in Europe, we could try to create a new Moslem ideology to compete with Islamism and jihad. So far as I can think, the only ideology that could prove strong enough is freedom, individualism, and true capitalism.

This way, as Moslems sweep into control in Europe, they will have effectively been Westernized: this is Islam shorn of its totalitarianism, its tribalism, and its worship of death over life.

What difference does it make to drive al-Qaeda out of Iraq if they just regenerate in Sudan, Pakistan/Kashmir, or Saudi Arabia? For that matter, so what even if we wipe al-Qaeda out of existence entirely -- if that just cleans the docks for Iranian-Hezbollah jihadis instead? As Caiaphas sings in Jesus Christ, Superstar, "we need a more permanent solution to our problem."

Al-Qaeda is a symptom; the symptom is itself dangerous and must be treated... but we'll never be safe, in the Middle East, Europe, or here in America, unless we likewise cure the disease itself. And the disease is a death-cult ideology that is sweeping the fastest-growing and most aggressive culture on the planet.

We need to introduce anti-jihadism leukocytes into Islam's circulatory system. I have actually been arguing this point since long before Big Lizards began, during a long-running discussion, "Are We There Yet?," in the Heinlein Journal in the 1990s; and I continued this discussion in the first week of this blog in my post Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?

Simply put, we need to break the link between Islam and jihad. Just as Christendom finally broke the link between Christianity, crusades, and combustion of heretics, the ummah must do the same -- or World War IV will dwarf its three predecessors, each of which has been more horrific than the last.

We would probably win; but what world would we inherit as our prize? Would enough people survive to maintain civilization? Alternatively, the Moslems could "win" -- but the cost would be even greater, as it's only the science, medicine, technology, and creativity of the Western world that keeps Islam afloat. There are 1.2 billion Moslems today; but during Islam's "Golden Age" (A.D. 700-1400 -- and yes, the irony of the dating is delicious), the entire human population of the earth never exceeded 300 million, which is about all that a pre-technological planet can sustain.

Thus, even if the jihadis succeeded in converting everyone to a Taliban-style Islam, the cost would be the destruction of 75% of all Moslems on Earth. The ummah would consist of scattered, disconnected villages dotting the otherwise unpeopled wilderness. Oh, joy.

Regardless of the Realists and liberals at the Iraq Study Group -- and the forest-missing microwarriors and isolationists now populating the conservative movement -- defeating al-Qaeda is an important but very minor goal. The true war for survival of the West, the GWOT, will be vision battling vision for the soul of Mankind: and either Islam or Individualism will win.

We need to turn our attention to that war; and for that reason, Mark Steyn (whether he realizes it or not) makes a wonderful case for the expansive goal of President Bush to plant a functioning democracy in the heart of the Arab-Moslem-jihadi Middle East.

Nothing less will save our children's children's children.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 4, 2006, at the time of 4:30 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Hostile Takeover

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Syrian Slitherings , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been thinking about Iraq lately.

All right, all right; I rarely think about anything but Iraq lately, unless it's to think about Iran. Or Syria. Or the GWOT in general. A few days discussing the principles behind police raids was a welcome respite. But here I am again, like a junkie, back in Iraq (mentally).

Yep, I'm goin' to Mes'potamia in my mind.

The Iraq war was really two main phases. Some folks split it finer, but that's more detail than I want at the moment. Broadly speaking, we had the kick-out-the-Baathists phase I -- which was a screaming success -- and the build-up-a-stable-democracy phase II... which has been less than a screaming success. I wouldn't say phase II was a failure; but it was sure going a lot better a year ago than it is today.

For some reason, this reminded me of the classic example of a start-up technology company: they often have an incredible first two or three years; they introduce radical and highly profitable technological advances, allowing them to capture a small but still significant market share... but then they tend to stagnate.

Suddenly, they can't do anything right: they mismanage their IPO; they start having labor problems; QC becomes a big problem, and they're swamped with help-desk calls. They promote their smartest engineers to head up the European division, and within six months they're hopelessly mired in regulatory purgatory. They drop a bundle on TV advertising -- and sales actually go down, rather than up!

The Midas touch has turned to a black thumb. What's going on? How did they go from gold to grunge in such a short time?

Often the very person who made them such a success at the very beginning -- the entrepeneur who started the company and whose vision has been guiding it all along -- is precisely the reason they fail later. The successful engineer is not only creative and innovative, he is easily bored by the mundane reality of running a middling large company. Of course he is; if he weren't, then he probably would have continued working where he was before starting his own company!

The very act of starting a new company implies the entrepeneur prefers to roll the dice than slog through the day-to-day quagmire of corporate shenanigans. But when a company reaches a certain size, it needs an innovator at the helm far less than it needs a steady and experienced player who knows how to work the machine and where all the metaphors are buried.

Innovation is essential; but it's less essential than really knowing how to get a payroll out, how to mollify the workers and (if necessary) deal with the unions, and yes, how to grease the skids of foreign regulatory systems: who you must pay off to get certified for retail sales in Upper Iguana.

The company no longer needs an entrepeneur at the helm: it needs a CEO.

But the founder will rarely leave his baby voluntarily; thus, unless the board of directors ousts him and hires an actual corporate-manager CEO, the company will probably founder, becoming yet another failed start-up.

I think you may see where I'm going with this...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been one of the most innovative SecDefs in American history; a recent article or blogpost I read about him said he had initiated over one hundred major reforms at the Pentagon. His "snowflakes" (Post-It notes asking tough questions or suggesting alternative ways to think about some problem) are legendary.

And he had a tremendous impact on the American military, probably moreso than any SecDef in the last forty years.

But Rumsfeld has also antagonized the hell out of the E-ring of that five-sided building. He has become the lightning rod for everybody who hates American hegemony. He has been subject to scurrilous and vicious attacks by former generals, foreign defense ministers, the U.N., NATO, and many other representatives of "the military industrial complex" around the world.

In other words, Rumsfeld, like the classic entrepeneur with a cool start-up, has been long (very long) on innovation but quite short on management and people-relations. For a good, long while, that was exactly what we needed.

But now that the Iraq war has shifted into a new state -- call it phase II.V, if you want -- where what it needs is finesse, management, diplomacy (to drag in more coalition allies and make them actually fight), diplomacy (to wheedle a reluctant Democratic Congress aboard), diplomacy (to sooth the ruffled feathers of the brass and hold their hands while the reforms creak slowly forward), and above all, diplomacy (to do a better job explaining to the American voters what the heck we're doing)... well, I think maybe it's time for the entrepeneur to step aside in favor of the experienced CEO.

Robert Gates may be just the fellow:

  • He's a career bureaucrat who rose up the ranks of the CIA from a mere analyst to the Director of Central Intelligence... probably the only man ever to do that; so he knows how to play a bureaucracy probably better than anyone currently in government. (In that respect, the Pentagon is likely little different from Langley.)
  • He has served in the White Houses of five different presidents, both Democratic and Republican; so he knows how to talk to both sides of the aisle and cajole them into doing what the current president needs to have done.
  • He worked closely with James Baker -- and with Ronald Reagan.
  • He can convincingly peddle the line that he had nothing to do with getting us into Iraq... but now that we're there, we'd bloody well better win, not lose.
  • He has credentials both as a "neocon hawk" (with Reagan against the Soviet Union) and as a "moderate realist" with Baker and Scowcroft... so he will probably get along better with various factions within the GOP.
  • And he might turn out to be better at communicating with everyone that Rumsfeld was -- which frankly wouldn't be hard, as the current SecDef is notoriously prickly and closemouthed.

The reforms that Rumsfeld initiated have become part of the system; the best person to shepherd them through now is probably someone who is part of that system, not an outsider imposing it from above. Such monomaniacal brilliance was necessary to kick-start reform in the first place; the insiders were too comfortable endlessly refighting World War II. But now that the bureaucratic reform ball is a-roll, I suspect we need a bureaucrat (who isn't afraid of innovation) to keep it rolling in the right direction.

The entrepeneur vs. the CEO; I have always suspected that the larger a corporation, the more it resembles government. I think we're about to see just how far that analogy applies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 5:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

Sadr Off!

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line makes a good point about the efficacy of putting Muqtada Sadr down. But it started a flock of seagulls in my brain.

Jack Kelly, national-security writer for the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, penned (phosphored?) a column forthrightly titled "We must get rid of al-Sadr." First, I must note that I'm very, very unimpressed by both the writing and thinking of Mr. Kelly. His column is written about at the level of a typical blog (Power Line is far more literate); it's conclusory and dismissive and drips with such sweeping opinion-mongering as "and people wonder why U.S. policy in Iraq is failing," and "it will be embarrassing for President Bush to admit the failure of the Iraqi government."

(Generally, Kelly thinks very little of the Iraq government; I certainly get the sense he thinks we'd all be better off if Iraq were our colony, much as the Congo belonged to France and Belgium.)

What's more, the only source he cites for anything is an anonymous "Army sergeant in a Baghdad intelligence unit," who e-mailed -- not Jack Kelly -- but the WSJ's James Taranto! Presumably, Kelly doesn't even know himself who the sergeant is or how qualified he is to make observations. Mr. Sergeant says just what Kelly longs to hear; to nobody's amazement, Kelly quotes Mr. Sergeant.

Nevertheless, the idea that we should kill Sadr is a good one. But I really wish I didn't have Mr. Kelly on my side, for he makes no particular argument at all how killing Sadr would help anyone -- nor does he consider any consequences other than Bush's "embarassing" admission of putative failure and a glib reference to an "uprising," as if that were of no consequence.

Paul has noticed this lack as well:

I wonder whether bringing down a given milita and/or its leader would make much difference at this point. My understanding is that the Shia militias exist mainly to inflict harm upon, and do battle with, the Sunnis. Given the "demand" for such units, it's questionable whether we can cut off the supply.

So let me fill in the missing argument that Mr. Kelly could not seem to articulate.

First, on the basic level, Paul is correct: killing Sadr would not put the Mahdi Militia out of existence. Actually, I would suggest killing not just Sadr, but the number two and number three guys, all more or less simultaneously (within a few days of each other). This would leave the lower tier people wondering which of them would become the new leader.

Let 'em fight it out.

Second, Paul asserts that there is a fixed "demand" on the part of Shia for killing Sunnis; but I'm not persuaded. Iraq has always been more tribal than sectarian. Many of the biggest tribes include both Sunni and Shiite members; and until Saddam came along and set the two sects at each other's throats (quite deliberately), they knocked together quite decently in Iraq.

I don't think the war between Shia and Sunni has gone on long enough in Iraq to have become the new norm. I don't even think the Shia thought of Saddam's as a "Sunni" dictatorship... more likely as the dictatorship of the Tikriti tribe, which included Shia, Sunni, and even a prominent Christian (Tariq Aziz).

I don't see this "demand" for continued butchery among most Iraqis... else we'd see Baghdad levels of sectarian slayings in the rest of the country. Were such demand universal, we would see armies of tens of thousands of Shia (and Sunni) fanning out across the country; it would be an actual civil war, not a tit for tat series of spree killings.

Rather, I suspect the killing continues because a small but very determined group of people thinks the gang-war is "winnable," and each person sees himself as the victor. It's less like the Civil War and more like the Mafia wars of mid-20th-century New York City: those, too, went on for decades... yet at no time could one say that the Italian population of that city "demanded" such killings.

If the leadership of that small cadre which is carrying out the slaughters were to be removed (by any means necessary), I cannot imagine that the Shia and Sunni residents of Baghdad would pine for the good old days of death squads committing 100 murders a day.

But what other effects would there be? Kelly casually mentions an "uprising" that would follow us snuffing Sadr; but he doesn't seem to lose any sleep over it:

If we act against Mr. Sadr, there will be an uprising. It will be bloody. But continued inaction pretty much guarantees slow motion defeat.

Well, yeah; but nobody is calling for "continued inaction." The Bush administration is not inactive; it's just active doing things other than what Mr. Kelly wants them to do.

But would there really be an uprising? Why? And who would lead it? Sadr, whatever his deficiencies in intelligence and theological knowledge (and they seem to be legion), has an immense personal charisma... obviously, otherwise that fat, unlettered slob wouldn't be the head of the strongest militia in Iraq. The Mahdi Militia gives all the appearance of being a cult of personality revolving around Muqtada Sadr's head.

By the same reasoning, Musab Zarqawi must have been astonishingly charismatic (it's a local function; he might not have impressed a gathering of Elks in Minnetonka). Zarqawi led al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in two major uprisings in Fallujah... yet when we killed him, I recall no massive uprising in his honor or memory.

Uprisings rarely happen sponteneously; riots happen spontaneously, but uprisings need leadership. The Badr Brigades are not going to mourn the passing of Sadr; nor will the Shia, and the Kurds won't care. The secularists under Iyad Allawi will be glad to see the back of him. So the only group we must fret over is the specific sect of Shiite militiamen who owe allegiance to Muqtada Sadr himself.

I'm sure some of them may try to take revenge; but if the Badr Brigades are doing their job, as soon as they realize Sadr has been whacked, they will launch an attack on their greatest enemy -- meaning those Iraqis closest to them in belief, custom, and history, the Mighty Mahdi Militia. What with the external attack and the War of the Roses going on to decide succession to Sadr, I doubt anybody in al-Mahdi will have much energy to devote to attacking Americans for a while.

But I still haven't articulated the good that would come of this... that is, aside from the sheer schadenfreude of seeing Sadr's earthly remains. First and foremost, Sadr is Iran's toehold in Iraq: he is Iran's go-to guy. Of course they would get someone else; but it would take time, they would be in disarray until they did, and he would not likely be as powerful and charismatic as Sadr.

But here is the hidden charm. I believe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would actually like to see the militias disarmed. Not because he's a good guy; don't mistake my point. Rather, I think Maliki reasons thus:

  1. I am the titular tribal warlord of Iraq.
  2. Yet I control no personal forces: the army and police belong to the state, not me personally; and I control none of the large militias.
  3. Now that I'm on top, it's time to blow the whistle and end the game. If the militias would all just "softly and suddenly vanish away," then there would be nobody who could challenge my military authority (except the infidels, and they don't really care anyway).
  4. But I cannot actually go after the militias... because that would require me to crack down on Moqtada Sadr, and I desperately need his voting bloc to stay in power.

Kelly referred vaguely and in passing to this point:

To maintain this fiction [of the Iraqi government], we won't take actions Mr. Maliki doesn't approve of. But he depends upon the 28 votes Mr. Sadr controls in the Iraqi parliament in order to maintain his tenuous grasp on power. Prodding from the United States has so far been insufficient to get him to give them up. Mr. Maliki has declared which side he's on, and it isn't ours.

True; but it's not Sadr's side, either. Maliki is on one and only one side: his own.

If Sadr were killed, and if Maliki were clearly not involved, then what would the "28" do? I can't see them allying with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), for they control the Badr Brigades. And they're certainly not going to support a Sunni or a Kurd.

This leaves the Dawa Party as the only other powerful Shiite political party. The head of Dawa is Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and his principal deputy is (ta da!) Nouri al-Maliki. Jaafari cannot be prime minister again; he was the one chucked out last time and is completely unacceptable to SCIRI, to the Sunnis, to the Kurds, and to the secularists.

So the only choice left for the 28 seats currently controlled by Sadr, in the event of his untimely demise, would be to continue supporting Maliki, as they have been doing all along.

Thus, were the Coalition to kill off Sadr, Maliki would still have the 28 votes of Sadr... but no Sadr sticking his hand up Maliki's badonkadonk (eew) to work the PM's mouth. Not only that, but with Mahdi in such distress, Maliki would have the green light to crack down hard on the Badr Brigades... the other Shiite party's militia. After all, Mahdi would be out of commission for a while.

So we would get a "twofer" -- the Mahdi Militia would be bereft of its leadership, leaving it to flop around like a beheaded snake; and the government of Iraq would likely move heavily against the Badr Brigades... and maybe even against the Mahdi Militia, once Maliki is sure of his power base in the absence of Muqtada Sadr.

Sometimes, when a situation has crystalized in a very unuseful position, the best thing we can do is vigorously shake the box: whatever we end up with will probably be better than what we have now.

I think this is one of those times. Rolling my eyes at the rest of Mr. Kelly's column, I second his call for us to put Sadr down.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 30, 2006, at the time of 3:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 5, 2006

Sadr and Masri: the Final Embrace

Good News! , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Sachi

Excuse me, does anybody remember that there's a war on?

There is a lot to talk about in Iraq. So let's not lose focus; there is a lot more serious stuff going on than some stupid Republican creep and a bunch of Democratic political creeps.

It may be noble for us to keep our moral standard high (to the point of absurdity). But the bottom line is, if we lose this election, we will lose the war. It is just that simple; the Democrats have promised us a shameful defeat if they're elected, and this is one Democratic promise I believe!

Now, the important news. As Dafydd pointed out yesterday on Iraqi Police Bust Iraqi Police Brigade , there are several operations going on to clean out the militias. Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail reports that Coalition forces -- "CF" -- are finally cracking down on Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi "army" in the city of Diwaniyah, outside of Baghdad.

While much of the public's perceptions of the efforts against Sadr are shaped by operations in Sadr City in Baghdad, the Coalition and Iraqi government are chipping away at his power base outside of Baghdad. The series of raids and clashes, often masked as efforts against “criminals,” “thugs,” “death squads,” and “kidnappers,” are being conducted against the extreme elements of Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The goal is to remove Sadr from a position of influence, either by force or his surrender, and split his power base. Sadr's lieutenants are being systematically targeted, which will drive him to either fight or withdraw.

A window into these operations is available in the city of Diwaniyah. A joint U.S. and Iraqi operation, dubbed Constant Solidarity has been announced at the end of September. The operation is made up of elements of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, supported the soldiers of the Fires Brigade (artillery), 4th Infantry Division. The purpose is to “weed out more than 2,000 terrorists in and around the city of Diwaniyah.” Diwaniyah is a Sadr stronghold, the “terrorists” being referred to here are the Madhi Army. To demonstrate the seriousness of the operation, the U.S. has deployed MLRS launchers (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) in the region to hit back at the Madhi Army.

The operation, Constant Solidarity, has been going on since the beginning of September. But the first battle with the Mahdi army occurred on August 27th and 28th, when Iraqi Army forces killed 50 Sadrites, with a loss of only 20 of their own soldiers. Since then, CF has conducted various raids, including raiding the office of one of Sadr's top clerics.

In another action, according to Roggio, Operation Wilderness captured 32 of Sadr's death-squad terrorists. "On the 21st, another raid netted 'Salah al-Obeidi, a close colleague of firebrand Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, [who] was picked up from his home in Najaf along with cleric Bassim al-Ghuraifi,' according to Sadr's own office."

All this is designed to paint Sadr into a hole (as Dafydd says), and it is working: Sadr and his close allies are now calling for a "peaceful fight." Obivously, Sadr wants to survive politically; but I'm not so sure his militia members agree. They didn't join up for peace and reconciliation; they just want to kill Sunnis on behalf of Iran.

I have heard that Muqtada Sadr is losing control of his Mahdi milita. Without Sadr's Iranian connection, the rest of the militia won't have access to all the logistic help they need (intelligence) to conduct death-squad operations. That is a good thing -- for the good guys; but the Mahdi killers, none of whom have much chance of ending up in the government themselves, are seeing their happy, little excuse for serial torture and murder floundering... and they're not obeying Sadr's orders to quit fighting and start supporting his political ambitions instead.

Meanwhile, back at the al-Qaeda chicken ranch, CENTCOM's press release announced that "Coalition forces detained a former driver and personal assistant of Abu Ayyub al-Masri [the current leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq] along with 31 others during a series of 11 raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq activities in the Baghdad area Sept. 28":

This is the second close associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri captured in September, also believed to have been one of his personal drivers. Intelligence indicates his participation in the 2005 bombings of the Sheraton and the Al Hamra hotels in Baghdad that killed a total of 16 people and injured 65 others.

Three days after this operation, the Iraqi government released a video of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader, instructing terrorists on how to build vehicle borne improvised explosive devices from the inside of a tanker truck. Intelligence indicates the suspected terrorist captured was working directly for Abu Ayyub al-Masri when the video was created.

Now, the game is afoot in the hunt for al-Masri himself. There was an earlier unconfirmed report on al-Arabiya TV, which the U.S. never bought, that al-Masri was killed during a raid; but subsequent DNA testing showed it was not he. However, just as with Musab Zarqawi -- who was finally killed after a series of his subordinates were captured and turned into singing canaries -- Masri's days on Earth can be measured in very small numbers.

So, folks, let's keep at it. Things are looking up. But we still have a lot to do in Iraq; this is no time to get distracted by the Foley Bergere.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 5, 2006, at the time of 5:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 25, 2006

Run Silent, Run Kosher

Future of Warfare , Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

MAJOR UPDATE: Commenter Jay Tea of WhizBang notes that the German Dolphin submarines are not boomers at all but fast-attack subs; they can fire torpedo-tube launched Popeye Turbo cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. So ignore all the poetic gunk about boomers (which I don't want to delete, as I kind of like it); but the rest of the post, including the point about nuclear second-strike capability, still stands, I believe!

Israel, alone among all the civilized nations in really taking Iran as seriously as it deserves, has just ordered two more nuclear-capable Dolphin submarines from the Germans.

I do not except even the United States. I believe that George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld truly take Iran as seriously as they ought; but they're not the whole government or even the whole of the Executive. In particular, Congress does not really grasp the enormity of the threat from Iran. And since we are not a dictatorship, the president cannot simply decree an appropriate response.

But Israel lies under such immediate and obvious existential threat, that there is likely not a single member of the Israeli cabinet who does not feel Persian fear in the pit of his stomach. They may disagree over what to do, but that is for the same reason that different bomb-squad members may disagree over which wire to cut: everybody understands how dangerous a bomb is, but nobody wants to snip the wrong wire.

However, there are some things everyone in Israel can agree upon; and one of those is that they desperately need a "second strike" capability. To the extent that the Iranians have any rational survival instinct left, if they believe they would be wiped out by Israeli retaliation, they might think a second time about launching a first nuclear strike, should they manage to obtain (by cyclotron or A.Q. Khan) nuclear weapons.

Hence the Dolphins. You will hear a lot about the "first strike" capability of the German subs; but that's not important. The Israelis already have a first-strike ability via land-based missiles. But under an Iranian nuclear strike, all known or even vaguely suspected Israeli missile silos will be hit many times.

Now the "temple weapons" are buried deep and hard; but it's still possible that several nuclear warheads dropped atop them would crack or seal off the top of the silos, rendering the Israeli weapons completely useless. In fact, it doesn't even need to be true: it's a catastrophe even if the Iranians just falsely think it's true.

But even the most powerful nuclear weapon, hundreds of megatons, has one terrible flaw that spoils everything: you must have at least some idea of where your target is in order to shoot at it! That, of course, is precisely the point of a nuclear submarine.

Subs come in two basic flavors: fast-attack and boomers. The former are tactical weapons: you use them to attack surface shipping, other subs, and maybe even aircraft, depending on their armament. They move quickly, and they spend a lot of time at the surface.

A boomer has but one mission: to get lost. It finds a nice, shady, well-protected spot, then sinks to the ocean floor... and stays there, silent, still, waiting with a terrible patience for the end of the world.

Every so often, it will raise a wire antenna just far enough to be able to communicate in short burst-transmissions with the high command, to find out if they still exist. If they do, off to Davy Jones' locker goes the boomer once more, hibernating until the next contact.

If contact is lost, the captain of the sub has to make a decision that spells life or death not just for the sub (a trivial concern) but for potentially hundreds of thousands or millions of other people.

God forbid a captain guesses wrong -- in either direction.

While the rest of the world plays diplomatic footsie with the mad mullahs, Israel, at least, is trying to drag them forward in time. Not to the present; nobody thinks the Iranians are ready for a twenty-first century world. But at least into the era of modernity... the days of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, the geomilitary theory which prevented the West and the Soviet Bloc (and later Red China) from engaging in actual nuclear warfare.

MAD is a deterrant strategy: no bloc can launch a nuclear attack against any of the others, because the attack is certain not to be 100% successful... and the survivors will still have a robust and functional retaliatory capability. Thus, the only certainty is that the attacker will be counterattacked by nukes from a country he just nuked. A country which has already suffered the worst has no reason to shrink from killing tens of millions of the enemy... including as many of the Dear Leaders as they can get.

But MAD is also a quintessentially 20th century strategy; thus, a secondary effect of Israel's move towards a fleet of boomers is that Iran may be dragged, against the will of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his sock puppet, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at least into the last century... which would be a heck of an improvement from its current 7th-century worldview.

(That has always been my biggest objection to the term "Islamofascist": it fools us into believing the jihadis are more sophisticated than they really are, mistaking them for a 20th-century socialist perversion. We mislead ourselves into thinking that they think like we, when in fact they think like bloodthirsty satraps from the Dark Ages.

(The error may be fatal to our civilization. After "know thyself," the second most important dictum in warfare is "know thine enemy like thyself.")

Let's hope the Israelis have the right idea, and that Persia can be delivered, headfirst and screaming, into modernity, like a squawling newborn shoved from the dark womb into the bright light of the outside world. If so, that's more than half the battle -- because we already know how to deal with a modern, totalitarian dictatorship.

Oh, for the good old days of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 25, 2006, at the time of 6:03 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

The "Curious Omission" Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Media Madness , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Three days ago, we noted a curious omission from the New York Times and the Associated Press stories about Israel's commando raid deep into the Bekaa Valley Saturday: while both of those two media sources, as well as the Reuters account, all found occasion to quote chief U.N. envoy to Beirut Terje Roed-Larsen pronouncing Israel's raid "a clear violation of the ceasefire," only Reuters added a second quotation from Mr. Roed-Larsen: that if it were true, as the evidence clearly demonstrates, that Hezbollah were attempting to rearm in Lebanon... then that too would be a violation:

Israel said the operation, in which commandos were airlifted into the area by helicopter, was defensive and was designed to disrupt weapons supplies to Hizbollah from Syria and Iran.

It denied it had violated the resolution, which allows it to act in self-defense, and accused Hizbollah of doing so by smuggling weapons. Roed-Larsen said that if the guerrilla group was [sic] found to have smuggled weapons, it would indeed be in breach of the truce.

Well, here it is, 72 hours later... and now it appears that even Reuters has forgotten that vital piece of information. In a new article, Reuters -- perhaps having been teased unmercifully by its playmates for its unseemly faux pas -- repeats the point that the UN condemned Israel's raid as a violation... but they make no reference whatsoever to the fact that the same UN representative likewise condemned Hezbollah's provocation. Exhibit A:

"From Israel, we expect a renewed effort, this time truly binding, to respect the ceasefire," [Italian] Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told La Repubblica newspaper.

"It's fair to expect that Hizbollah put down their weapons, but we cannot send our troops to Lebanon if the (Israeli) army keeps shooting."

The U.N.-backed truce was shaken by an Israeli commando raid in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Saturday, which the U.N. deemed a ceasefire violation.

Exhibit B:

Israel says Saturday's raid was a defensive action and, as such, does not constitute a breach of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which brought the war to an end.

The Jewish state has accused Hizbollah of violating the resolution by smuggling arms from Syria and has said its jets need to fly over Lebanon to counter such activities.

So on the left hand, we have the fact that "the U.N. deemed" Israel's raid violated the ceasefire; while on the right hand, we are told only that "Israel says" they were responding to an earlier violation by Hezbollah, which is merely an "assus[ation]" by (of course) "the Jewish state." Darn those Jews! Cheating again!

But on the third hand, Reuters itself, in the earlier article, admitted that it was not just Israel that considered rearming a violation; the U.N. itself agreed (conditionally), in the person of the rude Mr. Larsen -- I'm sorry, I meant Mr. Roed-Larsen -- an official U.N. spokesman. (The condition was that if Hezbollah tried to rearm, then that would be a violation; Roed-Larsen had not personally investigated whether that was true or not.)

As Sgt. Garcia says in yet another episode of Zorro -- see what I mean about that television show being the font of all wisdom? -- "have you not heard it said, never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing?"

(Cpl. Reyes: My left hand isn't doing anything.

Sgt. Garcia: Neither is your head, baboso!)

So the omission just got, to quote Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, "curiouser and curiouser."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2006, at the time of 3:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Tally Ho

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Avoiding the patriotic chest-thumping of the Bush administration; dismissing the self-serving doubletalk of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz; brushing off the triumphalist squawking of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah; and shunning the tantrum of defeatism by Jed Babbin and his ilk, let's take a moment to tally up, in as unbiased a fashion as we can, who won, who lost, and in what ways, in the recent dustup between Israel and Hezbollah.

Alas, much of the result is opaque, depending still on future events. But I'll try my best to make predictions.

Let's go through each player in turn, starting with...

Israel and Hezbollah

The war clearly was not a "win" for Israel; but that does not necessarily mean it was a "loss," either.

The Israeli hostages: Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev remain as hostages in Hezbollah's hands, though securing their release was a major reason that Israel went to war in the first place (not the major reason; that was to decimate -- not obliterate -- the threat posed to Israel by Hezbollah's proximity to the Blue Line border). On this goal, Israel was utterly thwarted.

However, Hezbollah itself was also thwarted on this issue. When Hezbollah sent an 80-man raiding party into Israel to kill some Israeli soldiers and capture hostages, they were slightly successful: they only netted two "bargaining chips," despite a very strong incursion; two, however, is better for Hezbollah than none, so this has to be accounted a minor victory.

However, they didn't seize the hostages simply for fun. They intended to exchange them for duly convicted Hezbollah criminals serving their sentences in Israeli jails for various horrific crimes against Israelis. And on that larger goal, so far Hezbollah appears to have lost, and lost badly.

During the upcoming prisoner exchange, there is every indication that Israel will only offer some of the high muckety-mucks of Hezbollah captured during the war, which isn't at all what Hassan Nasrallah had in mind when he ordered Israeli soldiers grabbed in the first place. In fact, at the end of the war, Israel holds considerably more Hezbollah prisoners of war than Hezbollah holds hostages.

On this issue, far from being a big win for Hezbollah, the terrorists lost big time: they managed to capture two Israeli IDF members, but only at the cost of a much larger number of higher ranking Hezbollah members. I would have to rate this issue either a draw or, if anything, a slight advantage to Israel (I'll discuss the PR damage later).

The Katyusha and other rocket forces: not enough were destroyed, and too many (nearly 4,000) were launched into Israel; Israel did not shoot down any of these missiles; they were never able to stop the launches.

On the other hand, the rockets proved far more effective at scaring Israelis than killing them. On the whole, Hezbollah achieved a minor victory on this issue.

Actual combat at arms: Israel won hands down. At the beginning of the war, there was a boatload of chatter about how much tougher and stronger Hezbollah was than anyone had anticipated. Iran had heavily trained Hezbollah -- the forward-deployed SpecOps branch of the mullah's military -- and they were armed with much more effective anti-personnel, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft weapons. The implication was clear: this time, the Israelis would blunt their swords against the stone wall of Hezbollah resistance.

In reality, Hezbollah was beaten like a bass drum in every face-to-face encounter with Israel. On those few occasions where Olmert actually consented to allow the IDF to fight, they killed the highly trained Hezbollah "soldiers" at a ratio of about 7:1 or 8:1, sometimes much higher. Many of the IDF deaths resulted from sniper fire and rocketry; remove those, and the overall ratio of kills is probably more than 6:1 in Israel's favor.

Hezbollah killed a few Israeli Merkava tanks; but Israel overran numerous Hezbollah "strongholds" and destroyed many rocket launchers (not enough of the latter, however). And Hezbollah, for all its fighting and Israel's hesitation, was nevertheless driven back relentlessly.

Israel gets points for their actual combat victories on the ground.

Hezbollah proximity to the border: prior to the war, Hezbollah enjoyed clear and unchallenged control of all Lebanese territory from somewhat north of the Litani River all the way down to the border, plus the entirety of the Bekaa Valley and large portions of Beirut. To Israel, the most immediately threatening Hezbollah position was that between the Litani and the Blue Line (the internationally accepted border between Israel and Lebanon).

At the moment, Hezbollah no longer controls that portion of Lebanon; but their hold over the rest of their territory further north is undiminished. For Hezbollah to reclaim south Lebanon, the Lebanese Army and the UNIFIL force would both have to abdicate their joint central mission. While that is certainly not outside the realm of possibility, it hasn't happened yet.

And it's unlikely to happen in the next couple of months; as we've said a number of times on Big Lizards, a lot can happen in that time -- including perhaps the collapse of Olmert's Monster and the election of a more stable government with a prime minister and defense minister who will actually fight next time (see infra).

At this point, I must take the data as they currently exist, not a blind guess about what might happen months from now. At the moment, Israel succeeded in pushing Hezbollah back by and large across the Litani. Those ten Katyushas that were fired at Israeli forces last night were fired from central Lebanon -- north of the Litani -- not from the south. This is a major military victory for Israel.

Public relations: this is the point on which Hezbollah achieved its greatest victory, accompanied by Israel's most substantial loss. The world -- not just the Arab world -- is not looking at this war in the nuanced fashion found on this site: they see only that "tiny" Hezbollah stood up to "giant" Israel, toe to toe... and that it was Israel who blinked and begged for a ceasefire.

It's not true' but Hezbollah has been as brilliant at spinning straw into gold as Rumplestiltskin. The world has bought into Nasrallah's fantasy.

Of course, it's the outcome that most of the world (including most of antisemitic Europe) desperately wanted to see; and it's arguable that no matter what happened on the ground, that's the result that Hezbollah would declare and much of the world would believe: Israel could have slaughtered 9,000 Hezbollah fighters and driven the organization all the way back up into Syria, and Nasrallah would still have declared a historic victory while the ummah cheered and shot fireworks.

Nevertheless, Israel badly lost the PR war. The loss was inevitable; but Israel managed to lose it worse than they needed to do.

Political fallout: the stature of Hezbollah has been dramatically enhanced, not only throughout Lebanon but the entire ummah.

But in Lebanon in particular, Hezbollah went from being distrusted invaders from Iran and Syria -- to being national heroes of Lebanese sovereignty and religious heroes of rising Islamic power. If elections are held anytime soon in Lebanon, Hezbollah will surely do much better than they did in the May-June 2005 elections.

In the 2005 race, the Rafik Hariri Martyr List won a clear majority of 72 of the 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament; Hezbollah won 14 seats and were offered two positions in the cabinet. However, if elections were held today, it would not be surprising if Hezbollah nearly reversed that result.

Of course, the Hariri bloc will do everything it can to prevent elections from being held anytime soon; and given a cooling-off period -- and especially if the war resumes later with more positive results for Israel in round two -- it's probable that Hezbollah's actual electoral gains will be kept to a minimum.

Still, I cannot see a situation where they would not pick up seats, no matter how long the ruling bloc manages to delay. Thus, it's a political victory for Hezbollah, but not as much as many might expect.

Contrariwise, the war was little short of electoral disaster for the Olmert government. Already shaky -- a weak coalition between Kadima and Labor with a lot of minor parties needed to make even a bare majority of the Knesset -- the conduct of the war by the two coalition partners, Prime Minister Olmert of Kadima and Defense Minister Peretz, the head of Labor, is widely seen by Israelis across the political spectrum as incompetent to the point of imbecility.

The Israeli Defense Force, the only universally respected institution in Israel, has become open and vocal in their scorn for the political "leadership." I do not see how Olmert's Monster can survive the next few months; a quick vote of no-confidence, followed by general elections 90 days later, will completely change the scene in Israel, one way or another.

Likud is likely the big political winner: they came in only fourth in the last election, running not only behind Kadima and Labor but also the radical Sephardic religious party Shas. Over the next couple of months, I suspect anger at both Kadima and Labor will only deepen, as will the fear of terrorism and Hezbollah on the part of Israeli citizens, no matter what their party. If new elections are held in the next four months, I predict that Likud will win an outright majority, or at least so close to one that they need only ally with other right-leaning parties and can exclude Labor and the Israeli Left altogether.

Kadima will not survive this political catastrophe; I think everyone in Israel now understands that it was a creature entirely of Ariel Sharon, and it should have died with his his permanent incapacitation.

But Likud's victory does not necessarily mean Binyamin Netanyahu's victory. It's hard to tell. Netanyahu may manage to resuscitate a career that many had written off as dead, but it's not certain. I suspect it will definitely lead to the restoration of Shaul Mofaz, demoted to make way for Peretz, to his previous position as Defense Minister (unless he becomes PM).

So the political winners will be Hezbollah in Lebanon and Likud in Israel -- and Israel itself, in my opinion, because I have always hated Labor and I never believed in Kadima's existence for a moment; the losers are the Hariri bloc in Lebanon and Kadima and Labor in Israel.

Iran and Syria

Iran fomented a war between Israel and Hezbollah ("let's you and him fight!"), gained in international prestige as the only Moslem power to successful stand up to Israel, briefly distracted some attention from its own nuclear program, and managed to damage the "Little Satan"... all this while paying only a very small price:

  • Iran was not directly attacked;
  • Its catspaw Syria was not directly attacked;
  • Iran's Hezbollah was cut up some; but the mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad don't care if Hezbollah members are captured or even killed.

    They're like the cockroach army eternally battling Fat Freddy's Cat in the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers underground comic: break another 1,221,785 soldiers out of egg storage!

The only price they paid was in the poor performance of Hezbollah in the field; this casts much doubt on Hezbollah's ability to serve as a devastating counterattack in the event the United States attacks Iran.

On balance, Iran is a winner in this conflict, as is its sock puppet, Syria, but not huge winners.

The United States

The United States demonstrated that it is willing to give Israel every opportunity to defeat our common enemies; the fact that Israel squandered that opportunity doesn't turn us into losers.

We showed that we could negotiate an agreement through the UN that was considerably more pro-Israel than such agreements usually end up being. UNSCR 1701 clearly ascribed blame for starting the war entirely to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is held to much harsher terms than is Israel. The agreement is supposed to lock in a number of gains made by Israel -- though whether it will succeed in doing so is doubtful (because of the toothless nature of the United Nations).

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Ambassador John Bolton proved in particular considerably more adroit than previous diplomats (Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright) at eliciting pro-Israeli clauses and killing off anti-Israeli, pro-terrorist clauses; they work very well as a team, and Condi showed that she was neither a lightweight nor an "Arabist."

From what I can tell, Israelis recognize the extraordinary latitude President Bush gave to Olmert, and they are very grateful; their anger seems to be directed entirely at Olmert and Peretz -- and, per Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Dan Halutz of the Israeli Air Force -- for not taking advantage of America's defense to press the offensive and really chew up Hezbollah -- Israelis don't blame us for Olmert's ineptness.

On the whole, except insofar as the entire civilized world loses whenever barbarity is not soundly trounced, the United States probably won slightly in this conflict: we proved we had the willingness and the ability to guard the backs of our friends.

The Big Picture

This is why I say that overall, neither Hezbollah nor Israel won this war; both lost. Hezbollah lost the actual ground war worse than Israel did; but Israel lost the PR war worse than did Hezbollah. Iran/Syria and the United States both had slight wins; and Europe showed itself to be, once again, feckless and unreliable.

The result will probably be an emboldened Hezbollah and an increase in morale for radical Islam, but a turn by Israel towards the right and a hardening of attitudes by the Israeli citizenry. Hezbollah's power within the government of Lebanon will probably increase, while Likud will rise quickly within Israel.

Round two of the Clash of the Titans will probably come before the year is out.

I agree that Israel did not do anywhere near as well as it could have, had it a different government. But it's just plain irresponsible to don sackcloth, roll in ashes, and proclaim a total and complete victory by the forces of darkness. For heaven's sake, results were mixed on all sides.

Let's all just get a grip, evaluate all aspects of the war results, and rationally decide on a future course of action.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 15, 2006, at the time of 3:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 8, 2006

Fortnight to Apocalypse: the Moslem Millennium

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Professor Bernard Lewis, who knows more about Islam than any other Westerner (and likely more than virtually any Moslem), paints a chilling portrait of Iranian MAD-ness in today's Wall Street Journal. Alas, it lies behind the iron subscription; but not to worry, Big Lizards shall tell you all you need to know about it. "Never first, always final!"

Professor Lewis contrasts the Soviets, India and Pakistan, and other fairly civilized countries -- nations with every intention of surviving beyond the lifespan of their current leaders -- with the apocalyptic and nihilist worldview of Iran. Against the former, the military concept of "mutual assured destruction," or MAD, actually deterred; the Soviets did not attack us with nukes, because they knew we would respond in kind, and both countries would be utterly annihilated. Thus, the aggressors were stymied in using their most potent weapons.

But Iran has no such fear -- for the Iranian leaders, from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through the ruling mullahs down to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believe in an imminent Moslem millenarianism: that any day now, the final, momentous struggle between good and evil will culminate in armageddon.

A great battle will ensue, during which the forces of evil (that's us) will drive the faithful back and back. And as they teeter on the brink of oblivion, driven there by us "world devourers," as the late Ayatollah Khomeini called the infidels, that will trigger the return of the Twelfth Imam, the "Hidden Imam" whom Allah has hidden from the world until that moment arrives. This Muhammed al-Mahdi will personally lead the armies of Islam against the faithless (that is, everybody who isn't a Moslem), defeat and destroy them, and the entire world will be one shining Islamic crescent on a hill.

This version of apocalypse is, of course, no more silly than any other form of millenarianism. The difference is that this millennial group has an army, and air force, a missile force, and will soon have nuclear warheads to fulfill their eschatonian fantasies.

Earlier, I said the Iranian leaders believe this could happen "any day now;" but in fact, there is one date in particular that stands out, both because of historical significance within Islam and also because Ahmadinejad himself has made cryptic references to it: August 22nd by our calendar. In his dry, understated, British way, Prof. Lewis explains:

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time -- Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

But what does this mean for us? The leaders of Iran (not necessarily the youthful Persian population) see war, not as a horrible event to be avoided, but rather as the natural state of this world: Islam divides the earth into two spheres, the ummah or "Moslemdom" (the abode of peace), and the sphere of the infidel, which is the abode of strife or war.

Nor do they see even catastrophic losses as defeat, for what matters to them is entirely what happens in the next world, not in this one. Back to Lewis:

In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead -- hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

That last sentence contains a variation on the line that Ralph Peters uses in nearly every column, but which appears to have originated with Cal Thomas:

While we argue about the place of God in U.S. society, our enemies are not so conflicted. They believe their god wants us dead. No amount of munitions, money and Marines is going to stay these fanatics from their ordained rounds. To them, death is victory. To us, it is tragedy. They are counting on us not wanting to die. They welcome death as a promotion. They believe we will cut and run if they can spill enough of our blood. We regard our blood as precious. They see theirs as the currency of martyrdom.

August 22nd is but a fortnight away; if the Iranians do not have nuclear weapons today, they will not have them in two weeks, either. But we know they have missiles capable of reaching Israel; and after all, nukes are not the only form that weapons of mass destruction can take.

Will Iran precipitate a conflagration, the final holocaust that will bring back the Hidden Imam and usher in the Moslem Millennium? Since we do not know, we must prepare for the worst: we must be ready with policy in case Iran directly attacks Israel on that date, thus widening a local war into a regional superwar... which could become a hyperwar -- call it the Tenth Crusade -- of Christendom (joined, perhaps, by Atheistan) against the Ummah.

We cannot allow ourselves to be sucker-punched again, as we were on September 11th. This time, we must make it clear that we're well aware of Iran's aspirations, and we're prepared to offer martyrdom to as many jihadis as want it, all to protect our own "abode."

Just a few minutes ago, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney (ret), speaking on Hugh Hewitt (which will be the Jed Babbin Show for the next two weeks... is Hugh hiding in the mountains until after August 22nd?), stated that the Israelis have finally decided, as Big Lizards predicted they would, to widen the war: they are sending in a lot more troops under the command of their "number two" directly under Danny Halutz -- by which I presume McInerney means Deputy Chief of the General Staff Moshe Kaplinsky -- with orders to occupy everything south of the Litani River.

McInerney also discussed the multinational force (MNF) that would be required to truly replace the Israelis as a buffer to keep Hezbollah far enough away that they could not restart the war as soon as they were tanned, rested, and ready to resume their march to the apocalypse. Such a force (he envisions French, Italian, and Turkish troops) would have to comprise:

  • One and a half to two divisions;
  • Enough cavalry (armor) to forcibly disarm, per UNSCR 1559, Hezbollah in despite of Iranian anti-tank missiles;
  • Air power;
  • A command and control structure of its own;
  • Rules of engagement that allow not simply defensive response but pursuit and maybe even pre-emptive attacks;
  • And a long committment... years and years.

McInerney recognizes the slim chance of such a force materializing; but he still says (and I agree) that Israel should not even consider withdrawing from Lebanon until either such a force is actually called into operation and ready to deploy... or until Hezbollah is annihilated in Lebanon.

In fact, Israel will have plenty of time: even if nations enough agree to participate in such an MNF, it will literally take months for it to come together, arm, train up, and actually assume positions. During this time, Israel must stay in southern Lebanon, else Hezbollah will flood right back to where they were, and the MNF could not assume its duties (they would be peace-keepers, not peace-makers).

But the first test might come in a scant two weeks; we may be only a fortnight from the "apocalypse." Let's hope not, but we'll know before the month is out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 8, 2006, at the time of 5:59 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Newsflash: Israel Commits Near War Crime, Almost, Except They Didn't. Quite.

Hezbollah Horrors , Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

This is a staggering charge that should, if there is a God, swiftly turn American public opinion against the Israelis, who have shown themselves to be such oppressors and aggressors against peaceful Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon. The headline from AP says it all:

Israeli Strike Kills 13 Near Mourners
by Ahmed Mantash [evidently his usual parther in fair and balanced reporting, Moshe Pippik, was unavailable for this effort]

Mourners in a funeral procession for Israeli airstrike victims scattered in panic Tuesday as warplanes again unleashed missiles that hit buildings and killed 13 people, witnesses and officials said.

The first missile struck a building about five minutes after the march by about 1,500 people had passed by, killing one person and wounding five.

In this almost war crime, which would have been an atrocity if the Israelis had actually struck the funeral procession, and was averted only by their underhanded trick of not actually striking the funeral procession, the Israelis had the temerity to strike a building some time after a funeral procession had passed by, frightening the mourners -- who imagined that they must have been the targets, and the Israelis were simply too dilatory and missed them.

Horrors!

To see how terrified these near-martyrs were, who almost suffered what would have been a crime against humanity (if the Israelis had actually done it, that is), just read their terror-stricken response:

The blast was close enough to send mourners screaming, "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" Some broke away from the procession, while others continued on.

I hope we all see how evil and horrific those Israelis are: if they had actually committed the despicable act that they didn't commit, targeting innocent mourners in a funeral procession (whose first reaction to being frightened is to scream "Allahu akbar!"), then they would have been obviously evil and horrific; are we going to let them slide from this just charge, merely on the flimsy excuse that they did not, in fact, do it?

I think not. Let heads roll! Let revulsion sweep the world! The Associated Press is absolutely correct to highlight would could have been a ghastly and brutal attack on unarmed mourners, except that they didn't quite attack them. Their obviously concocted claim should not save them from the world's ignominy and opprobrium:

Witnesses said one of the destroyed houses belonged to Sheik Mustafa Khalifeh, a cleric linked to Hezbollah, but it was unclear if he was among the casualties. Most Hezbollah officials have left their homes and offices since the offensive began nearly a month ago.

Ghaziyeh has been targeted several times, but the attacks Monday and Tuesday were the heaviest. The town was overflowing with displaced people, who have swelled its population to 23,000.

After all, besides having the gall to attack a city that contained some displaced people, Israel is holding up the peace process by not agreeing to withdraw completely and trust the word of the hitherto thoroughly compromised Lebanese government that they will, in fact, take up the slack and prevent Hezbollah from returning. In fact, even Hezbollah itself has embraced this plan... which must prove they want only peace:

Lebanon put its offers on the table: pledging up to 15,000 troops to a possible peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon and saying Hezbollah's days of running a state within a state would end. The military plan had added significance since it was backed by the two Hezbollah members on Lebanon's Cabinet - apparently showing a willingness for a lasting pact by the Islamic militants and their main sponsors, Iran and Syria.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora on Tuesday praised Hezbollah's resistance, but said it was time for Lebanon to "impose its full control, authority and presence" over the war-weary country.

"There will be no authority, no one in command, no weapons other than those of the Lebanese state," he said on Al-Arabiya television.

Since it is clear to all with eyes to see that the Lebanese government is not in any way beholden to or even connected with Hezbollah, whose representatives sit not only in parliament but in the cabinet itself, surely such oral assurances should satisfy Israel. What more could they demand?

After all, the world knows that Israel has already been crushed in this war they started; AP has announced ever since Israel rolled into Lebanon that the war was a quagmire and could never be won by the oppressors. I mean, the Israelis. After all, how long can they go on accepting such losses as this?

Some of the fiercest skirmishes broke out around the village of Bint Jbail, a Hezbollah stronghold that Israeli has tried to capture for weeks. An Israeli solider and 25 Hezbollah guerrillas were killed, the Israeli military said.

Hezbollah TV also reported pre-dawn attacks on Israeli forces near the Mediterranean town of Naqoura, about 2 1/2 miles north of the border. The Israeli military said two reserve soldiers were killed in the area.

The latest casualties brought the number of people killed in Lebanon to at least 684, while the Israeli death toll was 100.

And after all, what have the Israelis to fear from this wonderful peace peace proposal, supported unanimously by the foreign ministers of the member states of the Arab League -- a group that is well known to harbor only friendly feelings towards Israel? Lebanon has pledged to ensure their coalition partner Hezbollah has no control over southern Lebanon, which currently dominates the Lebanese Army by superior force of arms, supplied by their patron Iran transshipped through their other patron, Syria (which controlled Lebanon absolutely for 29 years):

Saniora's government voted unanimously to send 15,000 troops to stand between Israel and Hezbollah should a cease-fire take hold and Israeli forces withdraw.

The move was an attempt to show that Lebanon has the will and ability to assert control over its south, where Hezbollah rules with near autonomy bolstered by channels of aid and weapons from Iran and Syria. Lebanon has avoided any attempt to implement a two-year-old U.N. resolution calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah, fearing it could touch off civil unrest....

Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani warned of "a civil war in Lebanon" between Hezbollah and government forces if the Security Council does not make changes to the U.S.-French draft resolution [that is, if Hezbollah does not get its way]. "Lebanon won't bear it," he told Al-Jazeera.

With such ironclad assurances, surely even Israel must give way at last to world public opinion! After all, the full weight of international condemnation is about to fall across the Israelis' necks, and it must surely destroy them, the way they nearly tried to almost destroy those innocent pallbearers and mourners in what might have been a crime against humanity, if only Israel had actually done it. For lo! see how the quagmire thickens:

In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council said it plans to convene a special session this week to consider taking action against Israel for its Lebanon offensive.

Against such force and power arrayed, what aggressor dare stand against?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 8, 2006, at the time of 1:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 6, 2006

Yet Another "18½ Minute Gap"

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Way Back on May 30th, 2005, I posted on Patterico's Pontifications an article titled The 18½ Minute Gap, which I subsequently reposted here on Big Lizards a year later as a "Scaley Classic."

This was the central conceit of that post:

It does little good to point out what nobody now denies: that Hussein had many ongoing programs to develop such chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; they just weren't as advanced as we were afraid they were. Given how little intelligence we had about that secretive country, the choice was to trust in Saddam Hussein's restraint and good judgment, or trust in the United States military. "You should have just waited a few more months," the lib invariably intones; "maybe a year. Then we would have known for sure."

In other words, they wanted us to wait until two minutes to midnight. Then we could have moved... unless it turned out our watch was slow.... [Emphasis added, as the BL style has changed in the last year and a quarter.]

Had we waited just a few more months -- waited until two minutes before midnight -- even more high officials in Security-Council governments would have been corrupted; it's entirely possible that, in the end, even Britain would have bowed to international pressure and pulled out of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Would we still have gone to war, then? I don't think anyone can really say for sure.

So the Left is actually right, for a change: we miserably failed to wait until two minutes to midnight to strike against the tyrant. We struck at twenty till, instead. Maybe even twenty and a half minutes before the witching hour.

Which would make it the second time in history that an 18½ minute gap saved the presidency... and this time, possibly the entire Global War on Terrorism as well.

The surreal argument advanced by Democrats -- now including nearly all of them, other than the soon to be unemployed Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT, 80%) -- is that we should have waited until the last, possible moment before the invasion window closed, just on the off chance that it was all a terrible mistake: that there were no WMD programs, that Saddam Hussein was really a nice guy, and all things black and ugly we thought we knew about him were just lies, spread by his competitors.

And indeed, the Left seized upon as vindication the supposed "failure" to find WMD, which was actually a deliberate decision by the CIA -- which had always opposed the invasion -- to refuse to label as "WMD" any program, device, chemical, or biological sample that had any conceivable non-war purpose, no matter how implausible or even ludicrous.

Thus, 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin sitting in camouflaged bunkers near empty chemical rocket shells were not chemical-warfare tools; perhaps the Iraqis were simply obsessed with having aphid-free ammo dumps.

And those mobile labs that were described so accurately by Iraqi defectors who had worked on them, and who also described their use in developing chemical and biological munitions, were dismissed by the CIA as "mobile hydrogen-production factilities"... despite the fact that Iraq, being an oil-drililng and refining country, would routinely make tens of thousands of liters of hydrogen commercially and store it in tanks that were a fraction of the weight of those labs -- and of course were already ready for use.

Perhaps, on the very eve of the Coalition invasion, Saddam Hussein was simply focused like a laser beam on protecting Iraq's critical supply of weather balloons.

Rather than acting with alacrity in invading that country when we were pretty sure -- as we are now, especially with the wealth of new finds of the progress of creating WMD and the possible stockpiles moved to Syria -- the Left wanted us to wait until we could prove that Hussein was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (In fact, it was more like what Patterico wants the standard to be in death-penalty cases: "guilty beyond all possible doubt.")

As this standard would have put the possibility of military action forever out of range under any circumstances, since intelligence gathering is never as certain as all that, accepting it amounts to saying that no matter how serious the threat to the United States, we can never go to war -- even if the bad guys attack us first -- so long as they refuse to admit it was they.

I called that the 18½ Minute Gap; and now we have another example: the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in pursuit of Hezbollah.

As it turns out, Israel (along with most of the rest of us, certainly including myself) thought they dominated that terrorist group so completely that the war would be quick and decisive. And perhaps it would have been, had Israel attacked with the seriousness of purpose of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 (their last invasion of Lebanon, against Yassir Arafat's PLO, in which Manachem Begin used nine divisions and 800 tanks)... rather than the limp-wristed response of Ehud Barak in 2000: Barak jerked the troops out of Lebanon in such a panicky way that he simulated a rout following a military defeat, which had never actually happened.

For whatever reason, Israel has now discovered that Hezbollah is far stronger than anyone imagined; and the victories Israel has achieved -- and there are several important ones -- are neither decisive nor persuasive. Contrariwise, Israel is in the process of inadvertently convincing the Arab that Israel is a paper camel who can be defeated.

Democrats are triumphant: the hated Zionist entity is being battered, giving leftists the enormous satisfaction of a great, big, fat, wet I told you so! The Left wags its finger in Israel's face, like Mom after you almost shoot your eye out with that BB-gun you finally got, and says, in essence, see? look at all the trouble you bought for yourself by refusing to listen to us... you should have left well enough alone.

But this argument boils down to the question of what is "well enough." Had Israel simply done nothing -- or worked through the "international diplomatic community," which amounts to the same thing -- would they really have been better off than they are right at this very moment?

I say no, they would have been far worse off... even if they end up losing this war. To imagine they'd have been better off, a Democrat must think that this war was avoidable, that it need never have happened. That if Israel hadn't attacked Hezbollah and just suffered the missiles and kidnappings in stoic silence, they would have so impressed the terrorists with their sang froid that the latter would have written a letter like the one Sean Connery (Mulay Achmed Mohammed el-Raisuli the Magnificent, Lord of the Riff, Sultan to the Berbers, Last of the Barbary Pirates) wrote to Brian Keith (Teddy Roosevelt), telling TR that he was the wind to the Raisuli's lion), then bow out of any future conflict with Israel.

But that is errant nonsense. Hezbollah, the "Party of God," believes it has a holy mission to annihilate the Jews. Hezbollah is not a stand-alone terrorist group; in reality, it is nothing less than the third branch of Iran's armed forces -- their forward-deployed special-operations unit. Both Hezbollah and Iran are singing from the same hymnal (er... perhaps I could have chosen a better expression) anent the obliteration of Israel and driving the Jews into the Mediterranean.

Nor are they slackers or fulyaks about it: Iran's frantic effort to develop nuclear warheads for their intermediate-range ballistic missiles raises at least the strong possibility that the purpose of their soon-to-be nukes is not simply to "extort" the rest of the world, but also to set in motion the holocaust that will bring the advent of the "Twelfth imam," Muhammad al-Mahdi, whom Shi'a believe has been hidden from the world by God and will reappear at the end of the reign of the tyrants (non-Moslems), forcing (Shiite) Islam upon the entire world as the global religion.

And Hezbollah's pace of attack on Israel has grown steadily year after year since the 2000 pullout from Lebanon; there is no reason to believe they would abruptly stop or even level off.

The greatest probability is that this war was actually inevitable, not "evitable;" and that if the Israelis hadn't forced it now, the other side would have forced it later... at a time and place and in a manner of their own choosing, when they were even stronger, relative to Israel, than they are today.

Thank God the Israelis responded to Hezbollah's provocation by launching even the limited war that they did at 20 minutes to midnight; because if they had waited until two minutes to midnight, as the Left demanded they should have -- or even two minutes after midnight, as the Left actually believes -- then as bad as it is right now, it would have been a hundred times worse.

In their hearts, I believe most Democrats, liberals, and lefties know this; which means it's not an argument about the means, when and how Israel should have struck, but rather about the end itself: who wins? The Left collectively wants the jihadist savages to win and hated Western civilization to lose.

As to why they want that... well, that's a psychodrama for another day.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 6, 2006, at the time of 1:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 2, 2006

Airport Blogging: At Last!

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

Having missed our plane out of Buffalo to La Guardia (customs, navigational difficulties, don't ask), we've got plenty of time to blog while we wait for the next flight.

At long last, the Israelis have done what they should have done in the first place: a solid invasion force of one full division into Lebanon. (Actually, I'd rather see two divisions; but I never spent even one day in the Army, and my Navy experience is less than nothing in a situation like this... so what do I know?)

Israel pressed the first full day of a massive new ground attack, sending 8,000 troops into southern Lebanon on Wednesday and seizing five people it said were Hezbollah fighters in a dramatic airborne raid on a northeastern town. Hezbollah retaliated with its deepest strikes yet into Israel, firing a record number of more than 160 rockets.

Many moons ago, when I blogged on the Gaza pullout (it was back on Captain's Quarters); a, I supported it... but not on the silly grounds that all the other supporters cited. I never had any illusions about a "peace process." Rather, I saw the pullout as an opportunity to make clear that Gaza -- well, the entire Palestinian Authority (PA) -- was a separate country... and as such would be held to the same standards as any other sovereign nation.

In particular, if they engaged in the "normal" sort of terrorist attacks against Israel, the Jewish state would no longer be constrained by the peculiarity of being an occupier; they could respond with the full force of a nation responding to violent attack by another nation... with a war.

Now I was always opposed to the pullout from Lebanon, since Israel never claimed to be or acted as an occupier; it held only a security zone, and only to prevent Hezbollah from getting close enough to attack Israel. They ignored my advice (oddly enough) and pulled out under Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000... worse, Barak kept accelerating the pullout until at the end, it resembled a panicked rout -- despite the fact that Israel never suffered any military defeat.

Ne'ertheless, they departed so precipitously that they left armor behind. They actually had to send Israeli helicopters back into Lebanon to destroy the abandoned Israeli tanks, so as not to hand them over to the Party of God (Hezbollah).

It was the most inexplicable rout in military history, and it set the stage for the current conflict: Hezbollah, not being very bright, concluded from the panicky withdrawal that they must somehow have "defeated the Zionist entity"... and that primed them to attack again, while Israel's attention (they thought) was occupied by Hamas, which had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Whew! Thus endeth the history lesson.

The point of this dreary recounting is that, even though I opposed the Lebanon pullout, the same logic that applies in Gaza applies in Lebanon: since Israel departed six years ago, they should have no hesitation treating an attack from Hezbollah (in Lebanon) as an attack from a separate, sovereign country (which technically Lebanon was even before the pullout)... and they can respond with a full-scale invasion.

It took them a long time dithering. Paul Mirengoff over at Power Line basically predicted that the Israelis would not so respond; and for a while, I began to fear he was right. Ehud Olmert, despite being a former Likudnik before helping Ariel Sharon found Kadima, engaged his country in a perfect Kabuki dance of what I would call "pussyfooting": he accepted the advice of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over that of the Israeli Army (IDF) that Israel could achieve its aim against Hezbollah merely by bombing them sufficiently.

(Yoni the Blogger believes that Olmert is escalating as fast as he thinks the Israeli public will accept... though Yoni wishes it were faster, as do I.)

But Olmert appears, at long last, to have realized that only boots on the ground -- and enough of them -- will be able to "disarm" (that is, kill, mutilate, and destroy) Hezbollah fighters, annihilate the rocket launchers, and drive any survivors across into Syria, where they can fester until such time as that slithery nation becomes enough of a problem that either Israel from the west or American forces from the East makes Syria an offer it cannot refuse.

In addition to simply sending in a division of the IDF, Israel has also sent a commando raid into the Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah's main stronghold in Lebanon, into the town of Baalbek, and seized five specific Hezbollah commanders they wanted:

Israeli commandos flew in by helicopter before dawn into the northern town of Baalbek, on the border with Syria, capturing five Hezbollah guerrillas and killing at least 10, said Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.

Witnesses said Israeli forces partially destroyed the Dar al-Hikma hospital in Baalbek, where chief Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahal said fierce fighting raged for more than one hour.

Israel has not yet released the identity of those captured. When asked by The Associated Press whether any were "big fish," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "They are tasty fishes...."

Olmert said that, although the scene of the fighting is called a hospital, "there are no patients there and there is no hospital, this is a base of the Hezbollah in disguise."

Interestingly, Hezbollah admits that last fact -- albeit between the lines:

A Hezbollah official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements to the media, said that Israeli troops captured "four or five" people, but not at the hospital.

He denied they were Hezbollah fighters, saying one was a 60-year-old grocery store owner and two relatives who work in construction.

The hospital, which residents said is financed by an Iranian charity that is close to Hezbollah, was empty of patients at the time of the raid, the guerrilla group said.

AP reports 540 "Lebanese" killed since all the fighting began; but they don't break this down into Hezbollah fighters, Hezbollah supporters (a huge number of Lebanese Shia in southern Lebanon actively support Hezbollah, which they see as their "tribe"), and ordinary Lebanese patriots, whether Moslem or Christian, who oppose Hezbollah (and still continue to give the Israelis intelligence information); the latter constitute a majority in that country, and they were the impetus behind the "Cedar Revolution" that drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon. As usual, the antique media is less than useless: they're actively helping the terrorists by reprinting their propaganda as if it were verified news.

According to Haaretz, at least nine Hezbollah fighters have been killed Wednesday alone (what a wonderful world we live in, where a war that kills a few hundred people is treated as a "massive" conflict!)

Keep watching the skies; I suspect that this latest escalation to a division is just the first. We shall see...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 2, 2006, at the time of 11:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

Putting On My "Robert Novak" Hat

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

We've never seen Big Lizards as a primary news source, or a newspaper, or anything of that ilk. We're not journalists, and we don't engage in reporting. Rather, we like to analyze news and current events, trends and motives, often days after the fact. (Our egocentric motto: "Never first, always final!")

But occasionally I like to put two and two together in a sort of predictive way. Mind, this is all wild speculation, and a substantial part of it comes from a somewhat untrustworthy source, NewsMax.com.

First, we have this:

Hizbullah steps up attacks: Hizbullah steps up attacks: For the first time since the fighting in the north began 17 days ago, Hizbullah launched five Fajr-5 missiles at Israel Friday afternoon. Police officials said that long-range missiles of this type can carry a larger amount of explosives than the rockets that had been fired at Israel so far. A short while later, the IDF reported it had destroyed the rocket launcher used for firing the missiles.

The missiles landed in open areas between Afula and the Beit Shean Valley, causing no injuries.

Wikipedia says that the Fajr-5 missile has a range "75 kilometers, or 50 miles," but this is probably an overestimate (especially as 75 km is actually 46.6 miles, not 50). GlobalSecurity.org gives it a range of only 45 miles (72 km). Still, this is a substantial jump over the 10,000 Soviet/Iranian Katyusha rockets (13 mile range) and the handful of Fajr-3s (25 miles) that Hezbollah has been using; they nearly double their range with the Fajr-5s.

(Additionally, Breitbart reports that Hezbollah has fired a rocket they call a Khaibar-1 -- a made-up name taken from a famous battle at an oasis where Mohammed attacked a settlement of Jews and enslaved them. I can't find out anything about the "Khaibar-1," but it may just be Hezbollah's name for the Fajr-5; the range seems to match up, more or less.)

The point is that Hezbollah is increasing the range and payload of their rockets and missiles. Clearly, their aim is to bring all of Israel into missile range -- especially Tel Aviv, the second largest city in Israel, with a population of 380,000 (Jerusalem's population is 725,000; Haifa has only 278,000).

I'm not sure what range Hezbollah would need to target Tel Aviv, because it depends where they're firing from. According to this distance-calculating website, the distance from Beirut to Tel Aviv is 134 miles (215 km)... so they still need a substantial increase in range, between two and three times what they have now, in order to seriously threaten that city.

But clearly, the Iranians are upping Hezbollah's arsenal; and Iran has many missiles that have a longer range than 150 miles: the oldest Shahab-3, for example, has a range that exceeds 1,300 km (808 miles), and that dates back to 2003; newer models have much longer ranges. It also packs a warhead that masses over 1,000 kg. (The Shahab-3 is derived from the North Korean NoDong-1.)

I suspect it's not a question of "if" but "when" will Hezbollah be able to directly attack Tel Aviv... and it's hard to imagine them having that capability and deciding not to use it. Which brings up the third point. From NewsMax.com (which I again caution is not exactly reliable; but I do believe this piece):

Additionally, Israeli sources say a line in the sand has been drawn: If Hezbollah is "stupid" enough to attack Tel Aviv or its suburbs, "then all bets are off."

While refusing to provide more details, the Israeli warned that if Hezbollah attacked Tel Aviv then the IDF will no longer have any restraints on prospective responses.

While recent Hezbollah attacks have rocketed cities south of the port of Haifa, all have fallen far short of Tel Aviv and its environs ... for now.

U.S. diplomats had no comment.

I do not have a window into the minds of the members of Israel's security cabinet, of course; but I suspect that "all bets are off" and no "restraint on prospective responses" means that if Tel Aviv is struck, the Israeli security cabinet would vote to extend the war directly to Syria, which they just refused to do yesterday. They would also likely vote to authorize close-air support, which they've been reluctant to do due to the probability of large numbers of "civilian" casualties and the PR-hit Israel would take.

This is pure speculation on my part; but I strongly believe that if Hezbollah missiles or rockets struck Tel Aviv, the Israeli people would absolutely demand a direct attack on Syria, which is allowing such trans-shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. If the Olmert government refused, the Olmert government would likely be history, and new snap-elections would put a Likud-centered coalition back in power.

Rather than risk that, I suspect Olmert -- a former Likudnik before helping Ariel Sharon to form Kadima -- would push such an expansion through the security cabinet.

So, to recap (oops, I sound just like a Glenn Greenwald sock puppet!):

  • Hezbollah is improving its arsenal, nearly doubling the range of its missiles within the last two weeks;
  • The new missiles come from Iran, most likely trans-shipped through Syria;
  • They may soon get missiles from their patron, Iran, that have sufficient range to strike Tel Aviv;
  • If they get such missiles, Tel Aviv's safety will rely only upon the forbearance and restraint of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah (thought to be currently hiding in the Iranian embassy in Damascus, according to the Jerusalem Post). If such forbearance and restraint is as noticibly lacking as it has been since 1992, Tel Aviv will be struck;
  • If Tel Aviv is struck, the security cabinet is likely to vote to expand the war directly to Syria (the sourcing for this is iffy, but it's certainly not an extraordinary claim).

Thus, I would expect the expansion of the war to include Syria will occur if and only if Syria (or anyone else) allows Hezbollah to receive missiles with ranges sufficient to attack Tel Aviv. This could, of course, occur at any time, since Iran does indeed have such missiles and has shown no reluctance in the past to supply Hezbollah with weaponry to attack Israel -- a country that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmaninejad has said must be "wiped off the map," which is also a long-term policy of the ruling mullahs.

As I said, I think the expansion is a question of when, not if. The only worry is that Israel may come to its senses too late, for Syria is already preparing itself for a likely war.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2006, at the time of 3:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 27, 2006

Der Spiegel Und der Baradei

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

RealClearPolitics pointed to an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel of Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tom Bevan at RCP Blog noted rather cryptically that it was "a rather frightening interview."

Reading the interview itself removed all mystery. Here are some of the lowlights:

SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of an immediate deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops with a "robust" mandate in southern Lebanon?

ElBaradei: That is the only solution. The bloodbath must be stopped quickly and a cease-fire must be brought about without delay. But what's even more important is a comprehensive solution to the underlying problem. The Palestinian question is the elephant in the room. One cannot constantly treat only the symptoms. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been living under an occupying regime for 39 years now. We should not be satisfied with drafting one road map after the next and merely looking on as they fail.

[You would think that even as insular an organization as the UN would have heard something about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza!]

~

SPIEGEL: A stabilization force would have to create a buffer zone, which would mean disarming Hezbollah. Is the UN capable of doing this?

ElBaradei: Lebanon will inevitably descend into civil war as long there is no cease-fire. That's why the most important thing is for open combat to stop. And then the force would need a robust mandate. The UN can disarm militias and reduce tensions. The long-term solution, however, is political and not military.

[If the UN can "disarm militias," why haven't they? What are they waiting for?]

~

SPIEGEL: The Israelis have a legitimate need for security. They see their massive attacks as a way to destroy Hezbollah once and for all.

ElBaradei: The more violence they commit, the more they radicalize their enemies..

[Note that he never answers the question. Or even responds to the cockamamie idea that "Israel has a legitimate need for security."]

~

SPIEGEL: But it was the Iranian regime that clearly lied and deceived the West in recent years when it came to its nuclear program. Doesn't Tehran have to accept the offer without conditions and stop its uranium enrichment activities?

ElBaradei: There is no other choice. To our knowledge, however, the Iranians have not accelerated their nuclear research program, which would be a sign of their developing a nuclear program for military use. There are apparently competing political directions in Tehran. And there are many shades of gray....

[About Iran, yes; about Israel, El Baradei doesn't appear to see greyscale.]

There was, however, one highlight at the end of the tunnel. I did like this exchange, right at the end:

SPIEGEL: You have just come from the G-8 summit, where, in addition to the Middle East, energy issues were the main topic of discussion. With the exception of Germany, everyone seems to be betting on new nuclear power plants. Is this the right approach?

ElBaradei: Every state has the right to choose its own approach, just as Germany is doing. In your country, a few nuclear power plants will be in operation for another 20 years, at least according to current plans. Perhaps the Germans will change their views within this period of time, and perhaps they'll decide to extend it. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly experiencing a renaissance. Environmentally friendly nuclear power will play a role in energy policy worldwide. 1.6 billion people, or a quarter of the world's population, have no access to electricity. They'll have no future without affordable energy.

That statement, at least, cannot be logically disputed. Perhaps Mohammed ElBaradei should ceasing heading up the IAEA and instead be offered a new position as United Nations Secretary of Energy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 27, 2006, at the time of 8:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

More Proportionalities Than You Can Shake a Snake At

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats' argument that Israel's response is "disproportionate" can mean one of only two things:

  • That it's disproportionate to the attack;
  • Or that it's disproportionate to the attacker.

The first possibility is easily rebutted: Israel has been attacked by Hezbollah for years and years and years, losing hundreds of citizens to an insane terrorist campaign, Hezbollah's holy pledge to "drive the Jews into the sea."

Arguably, since it was Hezbollah who pioneered (in the Middle East) the tactic of suicide bombings, a tactic later aped by Palestinian groups, the thousands of deaths of innocent Israelis by Hamas, et al, can also be laid to Hezbollah's doorstop.

So the only real chance for the Democrats to make stick a "disproportionality" argument against Israel's assault is to complain that it's just not fair for that big bully to beat up on that little bully. Is that a valid complaint, that Israel's assault is like a trained heavyweight boxer beating up a schoolgirl? If so, that would certainly be a gross disproportionality.

To the extent that liberals make this argument, in their relentless quest to find moral equivalence between Israeli Jews and Hezbollah terrorists (or even to assign the bulk of the guilt to the former), they either foolishly or mendaciously ignore a glaring point: Hezbollah does not act alone or on its own volition.

The organization was created in 1982, by and large by Iran, and they have been a creature of that theocracy ever since. Iran finances and controls Hezbollah in Lebanon through Iran's cat's-paw, Syria -- which comprises an Alawite-Shiite elite class, the Baath Party, ruling over an oppressed Sunni majority.

Thus, in comparing the relative sizes of the dogs in the fight, the real comparison is not Israel to Hezbollah... it's Israel vs. Iran and Syria in a proxy war that happens to be taking place in Lebanon. It's not just that Hezbollah receives its weapons from Iran; Iran also finances it, trains it, directs it, and indeed, Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been found throughout Hezbollah forces, firing missiles and directing the action.

Hezbollah is not Israel's real enemy: it's nothing more than the Iranian and Syrian "Foreign Legion."

So let's take a look at Iran and Syria compared to Israel; I rely upon the CIA World Factbook for these simple statistics:

Iran and Syria vs. Israel
Resource Iran Syria Israel
Population (millions) 69 19 6
Economy (billions purchasing power) 562 72 155
Economy (official exchange rate) 181 26 114
Available military manpower (millions) 15.7 3.5 1.3

As clearly seen, Israel certainly does not overmatch her two real opponents in this war; in fact, it's the other way around: even just Iran alone is larger, richer, and has a much greater available manpower. While Israel has nuclear weapons that still elude Iran (we hope!), Iran boasts a much more robust military than any country or combination of countries Israel has ever faced before.

Hezbollah is just the tip of the oilberg... make no mistake, Israel faces her deadliest test ever. And if there is any "disproportionality," it's much more accurate to say Israeli forces are disproportionately small compared to the enemies they face.

Israel is the "David" facing the "Goliath" of the Ayatollahs, and no amount of Democratic rewrite can obscure that fact.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 27, 2006, at the time of 5:36 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

The "Proportionality" Fallacy

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Logical Lacunae , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been pondering and mulling for many days now the charge, absurd on its face, that Israel's response to the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah is "disproportionate." What has puzzled me all this time is where the silly meme of "proportionality" came from in the first place.

I understand proportionality in, say, criminal sentencing: if a person stole some cash from the church poorbox, it's grossly disproportionate to punish him by cutting off his hand; the severity of the punishment vastly exceeds the mendacity of the crime.

And I understand proportionality in civil lawsuits: if a company produced a dangerously defective product, then tried to cover it up, and if a victim of that product is injured thereby... then it makes perfect sense for that victim not only to receive compensatory damages in the lawsuit (damages to make him whole again, or as much so as possible), but also punitive damages.

Even so, if the company has an annual income of $10 million, it's grossly disproportionate for a jury to award the victim $60 billion in punitive damages.

But how does any of this relate to warfare? The question has baffled me for a long time now, from even before the present ruckus in Lebanon and Gaza. How did a theory of criminal punishment get tacked onto the "law of war?"

And just now, the answer I'd been seeking struck me like a load of hay: those critics squealing about Israel's "disproportionate" response think war is how Israel "punishes" the Arabs.

All of a sudden, other paralogical incongruities fell into place: the Left believes war is not waged in order to gain national-security advantages for one's country; they see it entirely as an extension of the criminal justice system... a tit-for-tat revenge taken against countries that have criminally assaulted one's own. Thus, the Left cannot even understand the conservative argument that terrorism "cannot be defeated by a criminal-justice response but must be treated as an act of war."

To them, all war is a criminal-justice program. Why should the war on jihadi terrorism be any different?

And because they think war in general is a punitive action designed to punish transgressors, they also believe:

  • It's wrong to punish countries disproportionately to their "crimes," such as killing more of their soldiers than they killed of yours... it's too much "tat" in the tit-for-tat equation;
  • It's wrong to "collectively punish" the people living in the enemy nation by, e.g., dropping bombs;
  • In fact, killing enemy combatants is wrong in general, because we're against capital punishment;
  • It's wrong to "punish" a country for the actions of a terrorist group within that country;
  • It's horrifically wrong to "punish" a country before it has actually committed the crime or even taken steps to commit the crime (pre-emption); that would be the same as putting someone in prison because you thought he might commit a crime in the future;
  • It's wrong to go to war without first holding a criminal investigation and finding the enemy country guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the transgression;
  • Captured unlawful enemy combatants must be tried in civilian courts (presumably for "conspiracy") with all the protections afforded ordinary criminal defendants;
  • Captured unlawful enemy combatants may not be interrogated unless they have a lawyer present, and they cannot be interrogated at all if they "take the Fifth;"
  • Once combatants have "served their sentences," which must be "proportionate to the crime they committed," they must be released, even if there is a chance they will return to the front lines and "commit more crimes;" after all, they've paid their debt to society.

As suspicious as I am of any general "Theory of Everything," this revelation (well, to me, anyway) does seem to explain an awful lot about liberal squeamishness anent the Israeli war on Hezbollah, the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and other attempts by the civilized world to defend itself against the forces of Islamist barbarity.

(It doesn't explain why liberals supported the carpet bombing of Serbs in Kosovo; but then, they also gave Bill Clinton a pass on a lot of other actual criminal behavior, too. To explain this, we must invoke a different thesis: the Theory of the Charmed Charmer, the lovable rogue who can do no wrong.)

It also explains why the American Left is increasingly bitter and hateful towards Israel: they look at Israel and they see a country that persistently violates the "liberal law of war" by treating warfare as if it were some means of defending the country from attack, instead of a police action.

Thus, to the liberal mind, Israel is like a "rogue cop" who commits serial acts of "police brutality." The Left's reflexive hatred of "the pigs" or "the Man" kicks in, and Ehud Olmert morphs into Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, with Lebanon as the new Democratic National Convention of 1968. "Israel is not there to cause disorder... Israel is there to preserve disorder!"

Arabs (and Persians, to the extent that liberals even know there is a difference) are the long-suffering poor who are always getting shafted by the Man; we need a healthy dose of "social justice," man, to redress the historical imbalances. Power to the people, man! Off the pigs! Free Mumia!

(In fact, wouldn't Arab suicide bombers be seen as heroic followers of Mumia Abu Jamal, giving their lives -- well, the real Mumia hasn't given it yet, alas -- to fight the inherent injustice of the Israeli neocon lobby establishment? Right on, man!)

I believe every Democratic candidate in 2006 and 2008 should be given a hot seat (I don't mean Old Sparky) and asked this question: if terrorists kill 3,000 Americans, how many terrorists will you allow us to kill before you decide our response is "disproportionate?"

Watch 'em squirm.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 25, 2006, at the time of 2:28 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

Resupply Is a Two-Way Street

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

It's been plastered all over the news recently that Israel has caught Syria resupplying Hezbollah missiles (or trying to, at any rate); see the previous post for our reaction to that news on the Syrian front. But as Gary Larson used to say in the Far Side, "two can play at that game, Hoskins!"

Word has now been leaked (by anonymous "American officials") that we've sent an emergency shipment of precision-guided bombs to Israel in order to allow them to continue the campaign:

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

(A Reader's Digest condensed version of the Times article can be found on Reuters, just in case the Times link stops working.)

This is for those readers here who have been led to believe (by the antique media) that Bush isn't doing anything to help Israel other than chatting them up. We're doing the best things of all: leaning heavily on Syria -- and making sure that Israel has all the precision munitions they need to really grind Hezbollah's face into the offal.

So keep it up, Israel; with the weapons we're supplying you, taking out the entire top Hezbollah leadership should be as easy as shooting drunks in a barrel.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 24, 2006, at the time of 5:17 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

A Tale of Two Madams and One Mister

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Syrian Slitherings , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Dafydd

No, not that kind of madam! I mean a pair of "Madam Secretaries of State," Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.

The first Madam Secretary, appointed by Bill Clinton for no reason other than to be the first president to appoint a woman as secretary of state, was an unmitigated disaster. Albright embraced Yassir Arafat, was bamboozled by Kim Jong-Il, tricked by Iran, cozened by Saddam, and turned a blind eye to Osama bin Laden while he and al-Qaeda prepared the most massive terrorist attack ever to occur on American soil. A magnificent and enviable record of failure and disachievement!

But let's contrast "Madam," as she insisted upon being called, with the other Madam Secretary, Condoleezza Rice. Here is Secretary Rice today, discussing her upcoming trip to the Middle East:

In her briefing for reporters on her trip, Rice said the United States was committed to ending the bloodshed, but didn't want to do it before certain conditions were met.

The United States has said all along that Hezbollah must first turn over the two Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles into Israel.

"We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the root causes of that violence," she said. "A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo."

Rice said that it was important to deal with the "root cause" of the violence, echoing what has been the U.S. position since last week.

And what is that "root cause?" Everybody uses the phrase, but each means a different thing. Most people in Europe and most Democrats in D.C., when they say "root cause of Mid-East violence," mean the presence of Jews in the ummah... which could easily be corrected.

If Israel would just do the manly thing and commit national suicide, then the world would think well of the Jews... briefly. But what does Condi mean by "root cause?"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out a quick "false promise" cease-fire in the Middle East Friday and defended her decision not to meet with either Syrian or Hezbollah leaders in her upcoming visit to the region.

"Syria knows what it needs to do and Hezbollah is the source of the problem," Rice said at the State Department as she previewed her trip, which begins on Sunday with a first stop in Israel.

What a rare moment of truth and candor from the Department of State! Of course, with John Bolton at the U.N., such moments are starting to come as thick and as fast as oysters. How I'm going to miss this president when his term expires.

(Oh, and notice where her Mid-East trip begins: Israel. In the previous administration, it would have begun with a quick obeisance in Ramallah, some backhanding in Damascus, and an apology-trip to Sabra and Shatila, where Madam would have laid a wreath and danced a foxtrot with Sheikh Nasrallah.)

But here is my favorite statement, and why I still hope that someday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice changes her mind and decides to run for public office:

Resisting calls from the United Nations, Europe and the Arab world, she said an immediate ceasefire would produce a "false promise" that would allow Hizbollah to re-emerge in the future to attack Israel, the top U.S. ally in the region.

"An immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense," she said.

"If you simply look for a ceasefire... we will be back here in six months again," she added. "What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a ceasefire that I know isn't going to last."

I've been scratching my brains for days now, wondering exactly what a "ceasefire" means when one party is a terrorist group. And for more clarity on that point, listen to Ambassador Bolton (it's from an press conference outside the UN Security Council in Foggy Bottom, New York City; I have paragraphed it, so I can refer to Bolton's specific points; via Power Line):

Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah.

How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained.

The government of Israel, everybody says, has the right to exercise the right of self-defense, which even if there are criticisms of Israeli actions by some, they recognize the fundamental right to self-defense. That’s a legitimate right.

Are there any activities that Hezbollah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of its activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire.

This is like demanding a "ceasefire" between the United States government on the one hand -- and the Salvadoran drug gang Mara Salvatrucha. What the heck is that supposed to mean? Do they negotiate exactly how many kilos of cocaine MS-13 is allowed to smuggle into the country?

You know in a democratically elected government, the theory is that the people ultimately can hold the government accountable when it [agrees to] something and doesn’t live up to it.

How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire?

Say, that is a good question, isn't it? So how come nobody else seems to be asking it besides John and Condi? And here's another good question:

What does a terrorist group think a "ceasefire" is?

Does it really understand a ceasefire as a cessation of hostilities, to be followed by honest negotiation to settle the differences that led to the war in the first place? I think it more likely Hezbollah's understanding of ceasefire is "a pause to reload;" and the ceasefire will last as long as it takes for them to obtain replacements from Iran, through Syria, for all the missiles that Israel destroyed... maybe "six months," as Secretary Rice suggested.

Finally, Bolton finishes his answer with a nice summation of the main point:

These are - you can use the words “cessation of hostilities” or “truce” or "ceasefire.” Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire.

Those are all good questions, and here's another: if Israel were to ink such a ceasefire with Hezbollah... wouldn't that elevate the terrorist group to the level of a sovereign nation? What would be the next demand -- that Israel negotiate a trade agreement with Hezbollah? Perhaps an agreed-upon procedure for releasing Hezbollah killers promptly upon the kidnapping of future IDF soldiers, to avoid all the brouhaha in the future?

Or would Hezbollah be admitted to the United Nations (and probably invited to join the new UN Human Rights Council)?

Israelis should get on their knees and thank the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that at this critical turning point in their existence, their greatest ally has such clear-sighted and morally decent appointees running the United States Department of State. And Americans should thank whatever God we hold dear that we have an Israel that is finally willing to stand up to Hezbollah and Hamas: maybe President Bush can start listening to Israel, Condi, and John; then he himself can begin treating those Iranian-controlled terrorists the way he treats terrorists in al-Qaeda.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 21, 2006, at the time of 1:45 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

One Out of One Newspaper Agrees - With Big Lizards!

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

It's nice to see the antique media finally catching up to the dextrosphere:

Israel is in the best position militarily in its history to mount air strikes against Iran, after a decade of buying U.S.-produced long-range aircraft, penetrating bombs and aerial refueling tankers.

We're a bit late to the table on this one, which should hardly be a surprise. (Our new motto, as soon as I get industrious enough to add it to the logo -- probably later rather than sooner -- is "Never first, always final!") Power Line has already mentioned it briefly, though for some odd reason, they missed the most critically important point: that the Washington Times agrees with Big Lizards.

So let's delve a bit deeper. Here is what Israel has recently purchased:

  • 25 F-15I (the I stands for Israel) "Ra'am" attack jets, the Israeli version of the American long-range attack jet, the F-15E "Strike Eagle":

    The F-15E Strike Eagle is a modern United States all-weather strike fighter, designed for long-range interdiction of enemy ground targets deep behind enemy lines....

    The only significant difference remaining between the F-15I and the F-15E is that the F-15Is were delivered without Radar Warning Receivers. Israel installed its own electronic warfare equipment in its F-15s. The F-15Is' missing electronics have been replaced by the Israeli Elisra SPS-2110 Integrated Electronic Warfare System. A central computer and embedded GPS/INS system have also been fitted. All of the aircraft's sensors can be slaved to a helmet-mounted sight, giving both crew members an efficient targeting mechanism that the F-15E does not possess.

    The Ra'am's advanced systems include an APG-70 radar with terrain mapping capability. The sharp picture that the APG-70 provides, regardless of weather conditions and light, makes it possible to locate targets that are otherwise very hard to find - i.e. missile batteries, tanks and structures - even under such adverse conditions as complete fog cover, heavy rain or moonless nights.

  • 102 F-16I "Sufa" fighter/attack jets (60 in hand), a modified F-16 "Fighting Falcon", a.k.a. Viper:

    The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a modern multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed in the United States. Designed as a lightweight fighter, it evolved into a successful multi-role aircraft....

    Block 50/52 Plus for Israeli Defense Force - Air Force, with significant Israeli avionics replacing that of American firms (Such as Israeli Aerial Towed Decoy replacing the ALE-50). The addition of Israeli built autonomous aerial combat maneuvering instrumentation systems enables the training exercises to be conducted without the dependence on the ground instrumentation systems, and the helmet mounted sight is also a standard equipment. The F-16I also has the Israeli built removable conformal fuel tanks added.

  • 500 U.S. BLU-109 "bunker buster" bombs:

    The BLU-109/B is a hardened penetration bomb used by United States military aircraft. (BLU is an acronym for Bomb Live Unit.) It is intended to smash through concrete shelters and other hardened structures before exploding.

    The Washington Times notes that a BLU-109 "could penetrate the concrete protection around some of Iran's underground facilities, such as the uranium enrichment site at Natanz."

  • A fleet of Boeing 707 in-flight "boom and receptacle" refuelers.

The Washington Times interviews Air Force Lt.Gen. Thomas McInerney, who is also a frequent Fox News Channel military analyst (it's fair to call Gen. McInerney "conservative leaning"):

"They have the capability to strike Iran," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, a former fighter pilot who has trained with Israelis. "It would be limited, though. They could do 30 to 40 'aim points' in the array. I'm not worried about them hitting the targets. They will suffer losses, but they are capable of doing it."

He said Israeli fighter pilots are "the best in the world. I've flown against them. They train better. They get more flying time."

(That last comment got a testy reply from Power Line reader Tom "Duke" Beattie, a light colonel in the US Air Force; he complained that American pilots were actually better than Israelis. And I was totally on board -- until I came to this last line of his: "In today's world rankings, I'd probably rate the IAF # 3, right behind the USAF, # 1 and the US Navy/Marines, # 2."

I think it's all that skiing they do in Aspen in between classes at the Academy; it goes to their heads.

(When the Air Force starts landing on a 320-foot runway surrounded by seawater as it pitches and rolls in the waves, catching a trap and jerking to a halt in just 1.5 seconds... then maybe they'll be entitled to claim to be at least equal in skill to our Navy and Marine pilots. Feh.)

But here is where the Washington Times falls short of the imagination mark. They (and Gen. McInerney) all assume the planes must launch from Israel, then return there when they finish their bombing runs. This misses the possibility of TDYing the Israeli jets to Iraq for long enough to really do a good job -- possibly fighting alongside American jets, but perhaps doing it entirely on their own as well (though I don't know what would be the advantage to the United States of being passive here; our enemies won't be fooled and our friends will be disappointed).

It would be very tricky diplomatically -- assuming Iran had not done something in the meanwhile to make itself even more a pariah than it is now. But I think it very likely they will: they seem quite determined to escalate all the conflicts they've started recently into apocalyptic, existential confrontations. As I said before, they will surely attack Iraq directly before they'll attack Israel directly.

By that point, depending what Iran has done, the Iraqis may be overjoyed to let Israelis use their land to crush the mullahs.

The "peace process" has had plenty of innings, and it hasn't gotten a single run on the board. All I am saying is give war a chance.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2006, at the time of 4:17 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 18, 2006

Arabs Abandoning "Party of God"

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Sachi

In any discussion about Moslem terrorists, many people -- both defenders of Islam and also those urging military response against the terrorists -- often object to extremists like Tom "Bomb Mecca" Tancredo by saying, "not all Moselems are like that, those are just extremists." But then the question becomes, where are these "non-extremist," moderate moslems? Or as Dafydd put it, where are all the Moslem Methodists?

Well, New York Sun columnist Youssef Ibrahim has found them. And the silent majority is finally speaking out. (Hat tip M. Simon)

Rarely have I seen such an uprising, indeed an intifada, against those little turbaned, bearded men across the Muslim landscape as the one that took place last week. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, received a resounding "no" to pulling 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel on his clerical coattails.

The collective "nyet" was spoken by presidents, emirs, and kings at the highest level of government in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and at the Arab League's meeting of 22 foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. But it was even louder from pundits and ordinary people.

Perhaps the most remarkable and unexpected reaction came from Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said bluntly and publicly that Hezbollah's decision to cross the Lebanese border, attack Israel, and kidnap its soldiers has left the Shiite group on its own to face Israel. The unspoken message here was, "We hope they blow you away."

The Arab League put it succinctly in its final communique in Cairo, declaring that "behavior undertaken by some groups [read: Hezbollah and Hamas] in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests, allowing Israel and other parties from outside the Arab world [read: Iran] to wreck havoc with the security and safety of all Arab countries."

There are more remarkable statements from Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya --

"We have lost most of our causes and the largest portions of our lands following fiery speeches and empty promises of struggle coupled with hallucinating, drug-induced political fantasies."

-- and from Tariq Alhomayed:

Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, stuck the dagger in deeper: "Mr. Nasrallah bombastically announced he consulted no one when he decided to attack Israel, nor did he measure Lebanon's need for security, prosperity, and the safety of its people. He said he needs no one's help but God's to fight the fight." Mr. Alhomayed's punch line was, in so many words: Go with God, Sheik Nasrallah, but count the rest of us out.

Ibrahim does acknowledge that much of the refusal to take the part of Hezbollah (despite it being the "Party of God") is Sunni fear of "an ascendant Shiite 'arc of menace' rising out of Iran and peddled in the Sunni world by Syria." But no Moslem nation is jumping to defend Sunni Hamas in the Gaza strip, either.

I don't believe there has been any sea-change in Moslem attitudes towards Jews. This is just belated recognition that the Arab nations (even with Iran added) cannot defeat Israel or even prevent it from scoring military victory wherever it wants in the Middle East.

I guess there's a limit to how many times Arabs must get slashed by the claws of the lion before they finally decide to stop poking it with a stick.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 18, 2006, at the time of 2:46 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

The Word On the "Street"

Blogomania , Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Syrian Slitherings
Hatched by Sachi

From Dafydd: N.Z. Bear, he of the Truth-Laid Bear fame, has a marvelous aggregator page of bloggers from all across the Middle East, plus some important and powerful bloggers right here in the United States -- movers and shakers, opinion-mongers, and "pundants" (such as Big Lizards): Crisis In the Middle East. This page is a must-view.

~

For many years now, Moslem dictators have used the same old trick: whenever their domestic policies hit a wall, they turn around and point a finger at the nearest Jew.

"It is not the time to squabble amongst Moslems. We need to unite against the Israeli aggression. We need to mobilize for freedom. We need to focus on defense." Never mind the economy is in a shambles due to the corruption, incompetence, and stupid policies of the Arab leadership. A quarter of their citizens unemployed and starving, bandits and police working hand in hand intimidating citizens to extort money and favors. That's not the issue; that’s not important. The urgent task is to defeat the Zionist Jews.

The tactic has worked for decades; it still does, to a certain degree. But, more and more Moslems across the world are getting weary of this same old excuse.

They hardly ever see any Jews; how could the Jews be responsible for their misery? They don’t even know what Israelis do, except fight against Palestinians, which concerns nobody. Nobody likes, respects, or cares about the Palestinians as anything other than a political stick to bash the "Zionist entity."

But even the Moslems who are critical of the Israeli “occupation” have strong words for the Palestinians. After all, Israel had, until quite recently, already left Gaza. The most obvious and immediate effect of the twin attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah was to bring the Jews back!

Saudi columnist Yusuf Nasir Al-Suweidan made a prediction on June 25, 2006. At that time, Israelis had not yet invaded Gaza; but he correctly prophecied that Hamas' attack on Israeli would bring about a far worse situation for Palestinians than the status quo... because, he said, this time Israel would not “react like 'harmless lambs.'”

[T]his time, a new reality will be created in the Gaza Strip in which all talk about 'back to square one' will be nothing but wild optimism -- since the [situation] will regress [far beyond that], to a level where it is possible to talk of a plan of deportation [of Palestinians] and demographic change in Gaza, and this [plan] might even be implemented soon. This will turn the Palestinian dream of an independent state into a thing of the past....

The main mistake lies in the fact that the Palestinian organizations did not respond correctly to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza... and its consequences. Instead of beating their swords into plowshares, pens, and other things that are needed for the development of Palestinian society -- in terms of the economy, society, culture, and so on -- most of them read the developments incorrectly and immaturely. This was exploited by the terrorist networks, that are funded and run by the regimes of the ayatollahs in Tehran and the Ba'th [party] in Syria, and [people] have been taken in by delusions and empty slogans like 'liberation from the river to the sea' [that are heard] among the poor, hungry, and desperate Palestinian masses. At present, what [these masses] need most is food, medicines, clothing, and other essentials _ not explosive belts, car bombs, and the slogan, "Congratulations, oh Martyr, the black-eyed virgin awaits you."

Attacks from Hamas against Israel are nothing new. However illogical, we cannot expect too much from Hamas. But what about the attack from Hezbollah? Israel left Lebanon in the year 2000. Since then, all has been quiet on the northern front. Why should Hezbollah arouse Israel now?

In Lebanon, after Syrian forces left, the power of Hezbollah began to weaken. The pressure to disarm the Hezbollah military wing gets stronger every day. Hezbollah was desperate to do something; they needed to divert the Lebanese citizens attention to somewhere else. But where? Why, the Jews, of course. They had to show the Lebanese that they still "needed" Syrian troops to protect from "Israeli aggression."

But, for some odd reason, this time, the Lebanese are not buying it. As their houses are being bombed, they are not necessarily blaming Israel; as Dafydd said, the public opinion of the Arab and Persian Moslems is up for grabs.

A Lebanese blogger, Fouad, has this to say.

We are ALL guilty. ALL OF US. Emergency hiwar watani session??? I am not sure if I should laugh or puke my guts out on the table. Let it be known to all. We are scared, our lives are on the line, our country is history, but it's all our fault. Each and every one of us. These are the people we elected, these are the people we let freely thrive in their little haven of hatred and murderous ideals, and this is us, scared and incapacitated, failing but to point fingers and complain. Well let me tell you this folks, we pulled our pants down and stuck our naked asses out, and now that we're ******, we really don't have jack **** to complain about.

Now, don’t get me wrong; as Fouad says, "there is no love lost between the lebanese people and the israeli leadership." Fouad and others have plenty to say about Israel’s aggression.

Under the circumstance, I cannot blame them. However, a blogger like Fouad correctly realizes it's Hezbollah who brought this to Lebanon. Israel is simply reacting to terrorist incursion.

Another Lebanese blogger Bob says:

And tomorrow when I will see the destroyed bridge linking my home town of Saida to Beirut, I will only say from the bottom of my heart: Enough! Enough wars, death and destruction! Curse you Hezbollah to hell and back! For all this destruction, for all this death! No it is not Israel fault; it is your own. Curse you!

Even though Hezbollah is hiding among the Lebanese, it is Iran -- and it's client state Syria -- which is behind the attacks. I wish Israel could bypass Lebanon and attack Syria directly. What do Syrian bloggers think of this?

Ammar Abdulhamid, who is Syrian but now lives in Maryland with his wife, has this to say:

[T]he national discourse and the constant calls for mobilization against a declared enemy were at best a diversionary measure meant to postpone any serious consideration of our developmental problems and our ruling regimes’ corruption and inherent authoritarian predilections.

For this reason, I never really believed in the conflict against Israel….

[T]he issue ahead of us if that of Hezbollah and Hamas being wielded as instruments of provocation by Syria and Iran to stir up another national liberation conflict and mobilize us all for the march to hell, with many of us applauding all the way.

All wishful thinking aside, I just don’t think that Israel is going to lose this round, and I think that the going-ons in Lebanon are only a prelude for the eventual and now inevitable confrontation with Syria, with all sorts of disastrous implications and consequences for our people.

I don't think Hamas or Hezbollah -- let alone Syria and Iran -- ever considered the "disastrous implications and consequences" of their acts of war against Israel. They only wanted to remind people of the Jewish threat and convince them they still needed the terrorist armies to protect them from Israel.

Instead, they brought the fury of Israel down upon them like fiery manna from Sheol. This was not in their plan; in fact, they are stunned by Israeli's reaction:

Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's response.

When they dreamed up this plan in January, they thought the Israelis would respond as usual: bomb a few Hezbollah positions on the border, and perhaps attack Palestinian militant camps. They were not expecting the attack to occur at this fragile time with the Palestinians.

Instead, the Israelis massively destroyed Lebanese infrastructure. Bridges throughout South Lebanon have been destroyed. Almost the entire South is without power.

If Hezbollah looked at reality instead of believing their own propaganda, they could have guessed this was going to happen... especialy after they saw what was already going on in Gaza at the precise moment they attacked Israel and kidnapped two soldiers.

True story: when Dafydd and I hiked in Yosemite, we were told not to cook near the camp ground. The smell, the rangers said, will attract bears. Despite all the warnings, some retardo decided to cook a whole mess of sausages on a grill he set up -- right next to his tent, right near our own tent (in Camp Curry).

That night, two black bears came roaring down to the camp ground and scared the heck out of the campers (we were already leaving that night for the Wawona Lodge). Fortunately no human was hurt; but one bear had to be shot by the "danger rangers."

Sure, the bears were the critters directly threatening our lives. But ultimately, the guy who cooked food and drew them down from the mountains should be held more responsible than the bears. The bears were just being bears; this dull-witted chef was being a dangerous fool.

Will the people in the Middle East ever hold their leadership responsible? Will they ever understand who lured the bears into camp? The jury is still out. But at least this time, the opinion of the infamous "Arab street" is up for grabs.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 17, 2006, at the time of 4:17 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Adolf Who?

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

So he says -- I mean Ahmadinejad -- he says,

"The Zionists think that they are victims of Hitler, but they act like Hitler and behave worse than Genghis Khan," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday. He was quoted by the Iranian News Agency.

Wait, I'm sorry, but I'm not following this... they act like who? Who is this Hitler fellow? Isn't he the one that Mr. Ahmadinejad doesn't believe existed? Or at least, that he doesn't believe did anything particularly blameworthy -- that it's all a Zionist lie.

But now Ahmadinejad says that the Jews are acting like Hitler -- and that makes them worse than Genghis Khan. Why, he couldn't be accusing the "Zionists" of carrying out a Holocaust, could he?

(I wonder if Ahmadinejad pronounced "Genghis Khan" like a certain senator from Beacon Hill does...)

I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, but it's beginning to look as though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran might have been somewhat inconsistent. But we wouldn't want to condemn the entire antisemitic program just because of a single slip-up. Perhaps an aide will issue a "clarification" later.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 17, 2006, at the time of 1:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Can Israel Strike Iran? Answer: Yup.

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Over on Power Line, my favorite blog, Steven den Beste holds forth on the logistical and military nightmare of Israel trying to launch a direct attack on Iran. While den Beste is certainly accurate as far as he goes, his analysis is limited by the fact that he didn't "think outside the box."

...Which happens to be a Big Lizards specialty: so here is how Israel can, indeed, bomb the bejesus out of Iran.

Ground Rules

First, we have to set the stage. Israel isn't going to directly strike Iran just for the heck of it; they would only be driven to that extreme by a massive attack by Iran against Israel. We don't mean just a little plinking with Katyushas or even those C-802 cruise missiles; not just a few casualties in Haifa or even a good hit on an Israeli naval vessel in the Med, even with video footage of Iranian Revolutionary Guards firing the missile.

The only thing that would provoke Israel into making a direct attack on Iran is a massive "Oh My God" strike by Iran directly on Israel -- let's say a missile fired from offshore or the West Bank into Tel Aviv that somehow manages to collapse an office building and kill 10,000 Israelis... something on that order.

Now, such a massive attack would mean all the normal "rules and limits" are off, and the U.S. is willing to help Israel out as much as necessary. Up to but not including (we assume for this exercise) making the attack ourselves. But we'll do anything short of that.

Why would Iran launch such a terrible attack on Israel? Let's take them at their word: Israel is still likely to attack Syria, as that is the nearest nexus from which Hezbollah and Hamas are controlled; and Iranian President Ahmadinejad has threatened that if Israel attacks Syria, Iran will attack Israel. Thus, we take as our working assumption that Iran is retaliating for a major Israeli attack on Syria.

Get Outside the Box

Steven den Beste is utterly correct that Israel isn't likely to order attack jets to take off from Tel Nof, fly to Iran, drop their payloads, fly back, and taxi to the line. They must start from somewhere much closer.

Looking at a map, we notice two countries that directly abut Iran that stand out for some reason: Iraq and Afghanistan. It would actually be much easier to bomb Iran starting from either of these two venues than from Israel.

Most of the WMD research sites in Iran, at least those we know of, are in the west; that is fortunate, because to get to Afghanistan, Israel would have to fly over Iran itself -- which is suboptimal. Thus, we have our first two steps:

  1. Get a large number of Israeli attack jets to Baghdad.
  2. Disperse them north and south, to Mosul and to Basra.

This does require overflying Syria; but recall that Israel will have already attacked Syria. As part of that attack, the very first thing any respectable air force would do is take out the air defenses. This means that by the time Israel is gearing up to attack Iran, Syria will be blind and deaf as far as tracking aircraft overflying its airspace.

(If they're not already, the Israel should attack them just for that purpose.)

Staying entirely over Syria and then Iraq, the flight distance from the Israeli north to Baghdad appears to be somewhere around 750 miles or less... well within the single-tank range of an F-16I Sufa, the backbone of the Israeli Air Force. Thus, it is possible for Israel to transfer a large number of F-16s to Baghdad -- thence to Mosul and Basra -- without being particularly noticible and without having to use in-flight refueling.

  1. Disguise the Israeli planes to look like American planes, just to confuse any watchers.

I suggest they would temporarily paint American markings over the Israeli ones; and once approaching Iraq, the Israeli planes would squawk American IFF frequencies.

A Hop, Skip, and a Jump

Now that the main problem is solved, there are a myriad of excellent targets within range of Israeli F-16s flying out of Mosul in the north, Baghdad in the center, and Basra down south. In-flight refuel would not be necessary, as planes would return to Iraq after each sortie.

The Israelis would remove the temporary US marking from their planes and make no bones about where they're from.

  1. Bomb the targets in Iran; the Israelis can take as long as they wish... no hurry to return to Israel.
  2. Use targeting downlinks from American AWACs and American and Israeli intelligence on WMD sites in Iran: take those puppies out.

The only serious problem is political: certainly, Iraq is going to be very, very unhappy about Israeli warplanes flying out of Iraq to attack Iran. But again, we're assuming a hugely aggressive Iran that is actually willing to openly attack Israel... which means they're almost certainly launching huge terrorist and military assaults on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq, as well.

Iraq may already by this time have declared war on Iran. But even if they haven't, they will be a lot less squeamish about Israeli jets attacking Iran than they would be, say, today or yesterday -- when there is no overwhelming reason to do so. Finally, if they get totally recalcitrant, what the heck are they going to do about it? It's not like they have their own air force that could stand up to the Israelis or Americans.

Would They? Could They?

Remember, our baseline assumption is an Israel more grim and determined on vengeance than we were in October 2001. When people are that embittered, they're willing to slog through any number of hells to deal death and destruction to the dastards who did the dirt. That in mind, a ferrying trip from Israel to Baghdad, spreading out within Iraq, and then attacking western Iranian targets doesn't seem that implausible to me.

All we needed to show was that it was practical -- not that it was going to happen next Thursday after lunch. And I believe we have demonstrated quod erat demonstrandum.

(It would still make more sense for the United States to carry out the strike ourselves, since we're already there on both sides, as well as along the Persian Gulf in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. And Iran has given us ample casus belli by attacking our troops in Iraq. But that's outside the specific challenge we address here.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 16, 2006, at the time of 1:18 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

July 15, 2006

Israeli Warship Hit By Chinese/Iranian Cruise Missile

Iran Matters , Israel Matters , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Dafydd

This is exactly the danger the United States has been warning about ever since 9/11: that rogue states like Iran may begin transferring modern military weaponry to terrorist groups:

In another development, an Israeli military official claimed that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were involved on some level in a missile strike that badly damaged an Israeli naval boat off Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Friday, killing one Israeli sailor and leaving three missing.

The official said the exact role of the Revolutionary Guards was not clear, but the Iranian forces were working closely with Hezbollah in Lebanon, as they have for more than two decades.

Israel’s military initially said that the ship was hit by an unmanned drone aircraft packed with explosives. But the military revised its assessment on Saturday, saying the ship was hit by a radar-guided, C802 missile fired from the Lebanese shore. The missile came from Iran, the military said.

The C-802 -- a.k.a. Ying-Ji-802 or YJ-2, a.k.a. the SACCADE -- is a cruise missile developed by China from the earlier YJ-1 model; the YJ-2 has a turbojet rather than the rocket engine burning solid fuel, as used by the YJ-1.

The weight of the subsonic (0.9 Mach) Yingji-802 is reduced from 815 kilograms to 715 kilograms, but its range is increased from 42 kilometers to 120 kilometers. The 165 kg. (363 lb.) warhead is just as powerful as the earlier version. Since the missile has a small radar reflectivity and is only about five to seven meters above the sea surface when it attacks the target, and since its guidance equipment has strong anti-jamming capability, target ships have a very low success rate in intercepting the missile. The hit probability of the Yingji-802 is estimated to be as high as 98 percent. The Yingji-802 can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles, and is considered along with the US "Harpoon" as among the best anti-ship missiles of the present-day world.

China was to have sold about 150 YJ-2s to Iran following the Gulf War; but when President Bill Clinton's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. John Shalikashivili, complained to the People's Liberation Army of China (a major Clinton campaign donor) that this was destabilizing, the PLA agreed to stop the sales after shipping only 75 of the missiles.

However, Chinese client state North Korea seems to have taken up the slack with Iran -- yet another Clintonian diplomatic success story:

In early 2000 it was reported that North Korea and Iran were jointly developing an advanced version of the C-802 cruise missile. These missiles initially acquired by Iran were not equipped with advanced systems, and the missiles acquired by Iran were rather outdated. Iran turned to North Korea for missile system technology, and the two countries are jointly developing an upgraded version with improved accuracy. ["N. Korea, Iran Jointly Develop Missile: Report" Korea Times February 17, 2000]

Yet another example of President George W. Bush's prescience in noting an "axis of evil" that included not only Iraq and Iran but also the Democratic People's Republic of Korea... a claim widely ridiculed by Democrats (and even some Republicans of the Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft "realist" school of thought) shortly after Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address.

The reported missile-technology cooperation between North Korea and Iran occurred before 9/11... in fact, before George W. Bush was even elected. The "Axis of Evil" exists and predates Bush; he was simply the first to recognize it.

If Israel is indeed correct that their ship was struck by an Iranian C-802, and there is no reason to doubt either their accuracy or their veracity, then that raises a profound question, none of whose answers bode well: who fired the missile?

There are only two possibilities:

  1. Hezbollah fired the missile, which means that Iran has transferred some of its precious ASCMs (anti-ship cruise missiles) to their pet terrorist group.

    I find it unlikely in the extreme that Iran would do that if they only have 75 -- 15 of which are attached to patrol boats; if this is the case, then that lends some credence to the story that China actually sold far more YJ-2s to Iran than it ever admitted, or they've manufactured many more themselves;

  2. Iran itself fired the missile, either from a Revolutionary Guard missile battery in Lebanon, equipped with Chinese-supplied YJ-2s, or perhaps from indigenous Iranian YJ-2 knock-offs which North Korea helped them develop. In this case, Iran has openly entered into war with Israel, and Israel must respond in kind.

The latter instance puts us on the horns of a pickle: if Israel retaliates against Iran, the mullahcracy will still blame us, since they believe Israel is our sock puppet which would not act without orders from America. This is preposterous; Israel has many times done things we wish they wouldn't (not that an attack on Iran would necessarily fall into that category); but that is what Iran believes, so they will hold the United States responsible and attempt to retaliate against us the only way they can: by a massive terrorist attack.

If in fact Israel declares war on Iran and attacks them, I think it's best for us to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: if Iran will counterattack against us anyway, we may as well join with the Israelis and make a good job of the attack.

If we hurt Iran badly enough, they may be reluctant or even unable to transfer the large amounts of money, weaponry, and logistics necessary for Hezbollah to be able to pull off an effective terrorist attack. Cripple Iran's ability to use Hezbollah (or Hamas) as a proxy, and you cripple Iran's retaliatory capability... because they certainly will not initiate a missile exchange with a country that has thousands more missiles than they -- and a working ballistic missile defense to boot.

In an upcoming post, Sachi will discuss the amazing Arab reaction to the Israeli-Lebanon-Hezbollah-Hamas war; suffice to say Arab public opinion is up for grabs, unlike in times past, where the mere hint of involvement of Israel would send every Arab Moslem in the world into a frothing frenzy of Jew hatred. Perhaps the trick doesn't work anymore.

Given that new reality, now may be the time to resolve our Iranian problems... at least for a number of years, until they can reconstitute their WMD programs -- if a future president lets them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 15, 2006, at the time of 2:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Here's a How-De-Do

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Some Israelis now believe that the rocket attack on Haifa today was not carried out by Hezbollah; they think it might actually have been Iranian Revolutionary Guards themselves manning Katyusha rocket batteries in Lebanon.

I don't know if this will prove to be true; but let's assume it for sake of argument. In that case, Israel would have been directly attacked by Iran... not just via a proxy or cut-out. They would probably decide they had to retaliate: Israel certainly cannot sit still and let Iran attack them with impunity, heh?

Alternatively, suppose Israel decides (as they might well soon decide) to take the fight directly to Damascus; and suppose Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes good his threat today to attack Israel if Israel attacked Syria:

Israeli analysts warned that Syria, which supports Hezbollah and plays host to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal, could be Israel's next target.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said any Israeli attack against Syria would be an aggression on the whole Islamic world and warned of a harsh reaction, the official Iranian news agency reported Friday.

Again, Israel might end up at war with Iran.

But the United States has a mutual-defense alliance with Israel. And regardless of the legalisms of when we are and are not obliged to ride to their defense, American presidents have for decades assured Israel (and Americans) that we would defend that country, were it directly attacked by another country.

So the question is, if Israel declared war on Iran and moved against them -- would we sit and twiddle our toes? Or would we live up to our moral and legal obligations, as we would if, say, Taiwan or South Korea were attacked?

Consider: Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan -- all countries where we have good military relationships and a huge bunch of soldiers. We surround southern Iran in a "crescent of embrace." We could very well end up in a shootin' war with the mad mullahs... in a matter of days, not months.

So... should we? Would we? Or will we just hum loudly and eat our green eggs and ham?

I hope the Bush administration and Congress have been thinking about this; I'd sure rather we have a plan, rather than having to scramble after being blindsided.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 13, 2006, at the time of 7:09 PM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

June 30, 2006

Mahdi Militia + Iranians = Big Fat Target

Good News! , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Here is an interesting story to wake up to yesterday morning:

Iraqi and U.S. troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said U.S. helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding there.

Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which a sniper shot dead the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two of his men. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

Let's run through the points of interest:

  • Iraqi Security Forces (police) fighting side by side with Coalition (American) troops. Well, not too interesting; such cooperation has become so routine, it's almost blasé.
  • ...Fighting against a Shiite militia: in fact, Muqtada Sadr's mighty al-Mahdi "Army."

Now that's worth some attention: one of the most urgent tasks facing the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, under Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has been to persuade Sunni semi-rejectionists that even though the prime minister and the interior minister are both Shia, the country's police forces will still confront the Shiite militias that have terrorized and butchered so many Sunni.

We know that the Iraqi Army and the Interior-Ministry police forces are willing to go toe-to-toe with the Sunni terrorists; but until the ordinary Iraqi Sunni -- like, for example, Mohammed and Omar at Iraq the Model -- can be persuaded that the government cares about their lives, too, it will be very hard to reel in the Sunni hardliners.

This battle will go a long way towards reassuring the Sunni that the police are not just militias with uniforms.

  • And among the militiamen captured were a number of Iranian fighters. This is a very important discovery, since it's clear evidence that Iran is meddling with its neighbor to the west... and also more evidence that Muqtada Sadr, regardless of his denials, is in fact in the Ayatollah's pocket.

This is really great news, as the Iranian deception is coming unraveled. With every passing month, it becomes clearer that Iran is directly trying to seize control of the Shiite areas of Iraq... and harder for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to pretend otherwise, even to "impartial" European observers.

The story exhibits hallmarks of slovenly writing and muddled thinking:

[The Interior Ministry forces] did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

Uh... perhaps because they spoke Arabic with a Persian accent and were carrying Iranian identification cards? Really, doesn't Reuters suspect that Iraqi Arabs can identify Persians in their midst? They really are very different in language, culture, and even food.

The United States and Britain have accused Shi'ite Iran of meddling in Iraq's affairs and providing military assistance to Iraq's pro-government Shi'ite militias. However, there have been few instances of Iranians actually being captured inside Iraq.

Some Iraqis, particularly Sunnis, are quick to label Shi'ite fighters as Iranian agents. And among the militants are Iraqis who grew up in refugee camps in Iran, speak Iranian-accented Arabic and, in some cases, carry Iranian identity papers.

If they grew up in Iran, speak Persian (Farsi) as their native language, and have Iranian idenfication cards... then what the heck makes them Iraqi? Their ancestory? It's amazing to see the mainstream media embrace the racist position that one's nationality is completely determined by one's blood, not one's allegiance. These fighters are Iranian in outlook, language, and citizenship... but Reuters clearly thinks of them as "Iraqis" because that is the nationality of their progenitors!

Does that mean that my nationality is actually Polish, German, and Welsh, instead of American? With this attitude, it's no wonder that so many lefties are resurrecting the old libel about Jews having "divided loyalties." "The blood is the key!" as a mad scientist in some old horror movie said (I should ask Brad Linaweaver which flick).

If it looks, quacks, and smells like a duck, it's probably not a lampshade.

And of course, this being the antique media, the Ubiquitous Invisible Analyst makes an appearance:

Many analysts are skeptical of the feasibility of disarming large paramilitary groups linked to the most powerful political parties. Without that, however, persuading the Sunni minority to lay down their arms will also be difficult.

And these analysts' names are...? Whoops, sorry, can't reveal our anonymous sources. That's an important secret that we'll never reveal. But we have a great deal on some classified intelligence information!

But the big story is the cooperation between Americans and Iraqis under the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry duking it out with Shiite militiamen -- and capturing Iranian infiltrators in the bargain. All else is dicta.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 30, 2006, at the time of 6:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 13, 2006

Mahmoud, Son of Xerox

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

While listening to all the huffing and puffing Iran has been doing lately, how they're going to drive us into the sea if we attack them, a thought just occurred me.

One of the reasons we were so certain that Saddam Hussein had "large stockpiles of WMD" is that the correspondence we obtained, both before and even after the March, 2003 invasion, described those stockpiles in loving detail. Every general was completely convinced -- that some other unit had the CBW rockets and artillery shells.

This is why we were so puzzled when we removed the Baath Party and its petulant leader but then couldn't find any such stockpiles. Oh, we found a great deal of WMD, typically in the form of 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin pesticide hidden in camouflaged ammunition bunkers near empty chemical munitions (which the Iraq Survey Group -- created by and under the control of the CIA -- refused to count as WMD). But nothing like the vast piles and heaps we expected to find.

Most Iraq watchers today concede that there were no such "stockpiles" since the Gulf War; when we first inspected Iraq's weaponry back in 1991, we were startled by how much he had; we destroyed everything we found over the next few years... and then, twelve years later, we were equally startled by how little he had compared to what his own secret paperwork intimated.

The programs had continued and were poised to recreate the entire arsenal of 1991 as soon as the sanctions were lifted (which, absent the war, would have happened by now). But it turns out that those programs were far less successful and productive than the Republican Guard thought -- which means far less than Saddam himself thought, for he had no reason to trick his own Army into thinking it was stronger than it was.

Which can only mean that Saddam's own scientists were lying to him all along, pretending signficantly greater progress than the reality.

They'd had little success in the nuclear arena, and they were afraid to tell him. They'd had just as little success finding a way to reconstitute their CBW without the inspectors finding out -- and they were afraid to tell him that, too. Instead, they fed Saddam fairy fancies that made him think he was sitting atop the ummah's greatest WMD arsenal outside of Pakistan... when in fact he had bupkis, nothing beyond pesticides in chemical shells (which is so 1980s -- still dangerous to his peers but not particularly to us).

I have described it thus: we thought we were striking Saddam at two minutes to midnight; but in fact, it was twenty minutes to midnight. (I originally used this metaphor on Patterico's Pontifications nearly a year ago; but I think I'll repost it here as a Scaley Classic, immediately following this post.)

That certainly doesn't mean we were wrong; it's actually much better to take out such arsenals while they're still in embryo. It just makes it harder to convince those determined not be convinced.

I have been trying to square what I know about the staggering advances in American military training, tactics, and technology with the grandiose claims of the Iranian military and political leadership... and it suddenly occurred to me that exactly the same dynamic is in place in Iran as Iraq:

  • A ruthless dictatorship determined to conquer first the region, then the world;
  • A crash program to develop WMD, which are given the highest priority by the rulling mullahs;
  • The refusal to accept failure, coupled with impatience for progress;
  • And the well-founded suspicion among scientists that reporting slow or no progress might be a quick route to the torture chambers or a beheading.

Is it not likely that the same dynamic produces the same result: that the Iranian scientists are lying in their teeth to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about the state of Iran's non-traditional weaponry? Is it possible Iran is actually as unarmed -- and unknowing -- as Iraq was?

Obviously, we cannot rely upon this in our planning; but we must at least plan for it, in case we should strike Iran and the anticipated WMD attacks not forthcome. We must ask, if they suddenly discover they don't have the weapons they thought, what is the second thing they'll do (after first executing all the scientists)?

Let's bear this possibility in mind: all of Iran's bragging and blowing may be, as MacBeth put it, "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 13, 2006, at the time of 6:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 25, 2006

Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

This is a modification of Iran Strategies 0: Re-examining the "Default Assault". The first four Iran Strategies (in order of posting) were:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
  4. Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike

In Iran Strategies 3, we discussed "an all-out attack on all known and suspected nuclear sites, in an effort to utterly destroy Iran's entire nuclear program." Iran Strategies 5 is an "add-on" to this approach.

We start with the premise that Iran will surely retaliate for any strike on them (of any magnitude) with everything they have. Fortunately, they don't have much... not yet; the longer we dither, the more they will have available to strike back. Therefore, we must preemptively take out their retaliatory capability at the same time we take out their nuclear sites.

There is very little chance for Iran to attack us militarily. Although there are a bunch of Americans just across their border with Iraq and just across their border with Afghanistan, it would be suicidal (in the non-martyrdom-operation sense) for Iran to send its regular army streaming across either of those two borders.

Presumably, we ourselves would know that we ourselves were about to attack, and we would put our own troops on the absolute highest alert: Iran would have to send its tanks and APCs into the teeth of full-blown American and British resistance, under an airspace that we would totally dominate. It's unlikely that any Iranian armor columns full of old Soviet tanks would survive, and any warplane they sent into the region would be swiftly shot down.

(They do have a monstrous strategy utilizing the Basij: suicide attacks against enemy forces that may include masses of children strapped with bombs charging directly at us. They count on Americans being so sentimental about children -- as quite evidently the Iranian mullahs are not -- that we would find ourselves unable to shoot at them, even knowing that they will blow us all up -- along with themselves.

(But I frankly doubt we would be so self-destructive. If we shoot them, they might die; if we fail to shoot them, they will assuredly die, along with us. I believe our military would grit its collective teeth and open fire.)

So what is left? The only tactic Iran has available by which they might realistically expect to hurt us is terrorism. Although they are connected with several terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, their primary terrorist arm is Hezbollah, which was created by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1982 to fight the Israelis in Lebanon... and also as an internal parasecurity organization to enforce strict Islamic law. Hezbollah is completely in the pocket of Iran and Syria and would be expected to retaliate anywhere in the world that they could against America, the "Great Satan," in the event we strike Iran's nuclear sites.

But they will also "retaliate" against the "Little Satan," Israel, regardless of whether Israel was involved in the attack. They will strike at Israel just on general principles: they're Jews; they're American allies; they're Jews; they stand in the way of Iranian hegemony over the region; they're a free democracy; and they're Jews.

In other words, Israel will be struck in retaliation if they join us -- and also if they don't. Therefore, there really is no downside to joining us... and potentially a lot of upside.

This points the way to a joint-strike strategy. Simply put:

  • America strikes at all of Iran's nuclear sites, those that we know and those we only suspect, in an effort to cripple or destroy their entire program;
  • Israel strikes the primary Hezbollah incarnations: both in Gaza and also in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which snuggles up between the Lebanon Mountains and Syria. Not in Iran; they're too dispersed... it would be needless bombing of civilian targets to no military purpose. But Hezbollah outside Iran, which represents the bigger threat anyway;
  • These attacks must be conducted simultaneously; the blow to Iran (and Syria) must be staggering.

The idea, of course, is not only to take out Iran's nuclear capability -- but also cripple its terrorism retaliatory capability. Of course, they wouldn't even be able to complain to the UN about that part of the attack, since officially, they don't admit that Hezbollah in Lebanon or in Gaza has anything to do with them... although in reality, they control it through Syria. (They'll complain plenty about the main strike, though; so whining about Hezbollah won't even be missed!)

Syria won't be able to complain, because officially, they've already pulled out of Lebanon. Anyone left behind is simply a Lebanese citizen with no connection to Syria... and it's just an amazing coincidence that Hezbollah in the Bekaa seems to do exactly what Syria wishes they would do.

Lebanon itself will probably hollar, since it's their own homeland getting bombed; but it will be a sotto voce scream: the new Democrats of the Cedar Revolution will not be crying into the beer they're not supposed to drink at death and destruction being rained down upon the heads of their bitterest enemies, Hezbollah. As a value-added inducement, Israel's attack there will probably also kill scores of Syrian intelligence agents who are hiding out among Hezbollah, waiting for the right time to usher into Lebanon a new "protective engagement" by Syria.

We kill two birds with one stone. (Alternatively, we flush... well, let's skip that metaphor.)

Would the Israelis go along with it? Under Sharon, the answer would have been "absolutely." Alas, I'm not 100% sure of Ehud Olmert, particularly since he plans to name former "firebrand" militant unionista Amir Peretz as Minister of Defense. Still, I suspect that Israel is not going to change its official line that Hezbollah and Iran represent an "existential threat" to the nation of Israel.

So I do believe they would go along with it. The United States Congress would not be involved, as this would be an airstrike ordered by President Bush in his capacity as Commander in Chief -- Congress doesn't come into play... though like the Iranians, they'll scream bloody, blue murder once it's over. They may even try to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bush (we can always hope!)

It might be a good idea not even to warn Congress that we're about to do it, for fear that the Democrats will rush to leak the upcoming operation to the press, so that Iran can do a better job of defending itself. They would argue, "so that, once we see the operation will be futile, we'll call off this attack which clearly violates international law." I'm quite sure that John Kerry would defend such a leak (they would be leaking something that was "true")... as would Kate Martin, one presumes. Let's be charitable and not put temptation in Jay Rockefeller's way.

I wonder if we've even broached this possibility to the Israelis? I sure as heck hope they've at least kicked this can around.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 25, 2006, at the time of 8:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Persian Flippers

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, the Scotsman newspaper published an article triumphantly announcing that Tony Blair's Britain will refuse to join any military action against Iran. But what I find fascinating is how the stated rationale for the refusal hinges on the crackpot idea that Iran can be negotiated into democracy by clever diplomats:

While the sense of crisis over Iran has been escalated by the fiery rhetoric between Tehran and the West - particularly Washington - many within the British government are now convinced that the impasse can be resolved by repeating the same sort of painstaking diplomatic activity that returned Libya to the international fold.

But would such "painstaking diplomatic activity" have had any effect at all, absent the invasion and overthrow of Baathist-occupied Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein? Do these diplomats recall that those events only occurred because the United States defied the same international diplomatic bodies that object just as vehemently today to a strike against Iran?

Yes, Col. Muammar Qaddafi did finally agree to give up his nuclear weapons programs, after the United States and Great Britain conducted secret talks with Qaddafi beginning in March of 2003; but those talks were going nowhere until December 19th of that year. Not-so-coincidentally, American troops had captured Saddam Hussein just six days earlier.

But the connection between the overthrow and occupation of Iraq, and especially of the capture of Hussein himself, and Libya's surprise announcement seems to have fallen down the rabbit hole, as far as Tony Blair's "favourite think-tank," the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), is concerned:

"The only long-term solution to Iran's problems is democracy," said Alex Bigham, co-author of the FPC report. "But it cannot be dictated, Iraq-style, or it will backfire. Iran may seem superficially like Iraq but we need to treat Iran more like Libya. Diplomatic engagement must be allowed to run its course. There need to be bigger carrots as well as bigger sticks."

Bigger sticks? Since, in the same breath, the FPC takes all possible "bigger sticks" off the table in favor of negotiations alone, what they actually appear to suggest is a massive bribing of Iran -- a policy former President Bill Clinton followed to rather unfortunate effect.

It is not, I suspect, purely coincidental that four liberals in the U.S. Senate -- Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Dick Lugar (R-IN), the last being chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading RINO in the Senate -- chose this moment to issue a call for the United States to reject the military option, cease demanding sanctions, stop saying nasty things about serial assassin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... and instead to initiate bilateral talks between the Iranians and us [free registration required to read the Los Angeles Times story].

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and three Democratic colleagues called for direct U.S. talks with Iran to defuse political tension about its nuclear capability and address global concerns about energy supplies.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut also endorsed talks.

Ever since the Clinton administration, "bilateral talks" has been considered code for offering Iran monetary and political concessions in exchange for the promise to cease nuclear-weapons research. But such agreements from Iran, as from North Korea, are "pie-crust promises," as Mary Poppins might say: "easily made and easily broken." (The Israelis could tell us something about that approach.)

It appears to be a full-court press: liberal American senators urge us to drop everything and offer bribes to Iran for the promise of peace; while at the same time, our best allies in the world, the British, tell us that we're on our own; they won't aid an attack on Iran in any way.

Despite all the forces arrayed against us, and unlike the guys at Power Line, I believe we will attack Iran's nuclear sites if it becomes clear that the internationales have no intention of stopping Iran by any other means. We have three great advantages that cannot be neutralized: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and President George W. Bush.

Time is on the Iran's side, but the "tide in the affairs of men" is on ours. Let us take that tide at the flood.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 5:43 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 11, 2006

Israeli Gears

Iran Matters , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Everytime I hear Fred and Mort, or Michael Medved, or any of (it seems) an endless parade of "pundents" opine that we don't need to go after Iran ourselves, because we can just leave it to Israel to take out those pesky nukes... all right, I cringe. I admit it.

This is what I call the Magical Israel Syndrome: the quasi-spiritualist belief in the godlike, supernatural power of the tiny nation of Israel. All they need do is wave a magic yarmulke or toot a mystical shofar, and send the Persian walls a-tumblin' down!

The reality is that the United States is probably the only country in the world that has a chance of hitting nearly all Iran's nuclear research and development sites -- admittedly with intelligence help from the Jewish state. Only we can damage them enough to set them back a few years.

Such a strike requires a coordinated air attack of hundreds of planes and missiles over several days: some to knock out the air defenses, some to jam enemy communications, others to look down upon the battlefield and coordinate the attacks, to engage and destroy enemy fighters, to assess damage after it's over... wait, I'm forgetting something; oh yes -- and actual bombers to drop bombs, since no way would a missile barrage be sufficient. (Necessary but not sufficient.)

It would be much larger than Clinton's 1998 bombing of Iraq (Operation Desert Fox), which used Navy and Marine Corps planes flying off the USS Enterprise, Air Force fighters and B-52 heavy bombers, and a British contingent. The Iran strike will probably be similar in size to the air attacks that preceded the Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Israel has absolutely no experience doing any of this. When was the last time they were at war with a nation that had relatively sophisticated air defenses -- the Yom Kippur War of 1973? They certainly don't have to think about any such coordinated attacks when they shoot a Hellfire missile at the operational leader du jour of Hamas or PIJ. Nor did they use any significant air power when they swept through the West Bank a few years ago, or when they move into Gaza these days.

Israel's 1981 bombing of Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor consisted of eight F-16 Fighting Falcons (a total of sixteen one-tonne bombs) and six F-15 Strike Eagles; it just wasn't in the same universe as what we're talking about against Iran, where there are a score of sites that have publicly been revealed -- plus (I've heard) potentially hundreds of other facilities that should be hit at the same time, else they would simply move the nuclear development to one of them.

We are the only country on the planet with recent experience in such massive attacks; I don't think Great Britain's experience in Dresden (or the Falklands) would be much help.

Israel got its "magical" reputation because of the War of Independence, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War; but the most recent of those was 33 years ago. Besides, those were primarily ground-force battles with troops and tanks. The Israeli Air Force did destroy the Egyptian airfields at the start of the Six Day War, to prevent the handful of Egyptian [Soviet] Badgers from obliterating entire Israeli tank divisions with their huge 20,000-pounders; but Egypt had few sophisticated air defenses... and I believe what they had, they had turned off for some reason.

Folks, Israel is not some gigantic war machine that can just grind through Iranian air defenses and do our dirty work for us. Israel will be invaluable in such an assult; their large number of human spies on the ground in Iran can give us targeting information that we couldn't get any other way, along with alerting us to facilities we might never have known existed. But we will have to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.

Forget Magical Israel Syndrome. If anyone is to attack the Iranian nuclear sites -- it will have to be the United States of America, possibly with British backup, fighter escort, and other ancillary aid. We cannot shuffle our battles off onto the Israelis.

It's like in To Kill a Mockingbird: when the time comes, Atticus Finch has to shoot down the mad dog himself. He can't call the cops or ask Scout to do it for him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 11:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Clams Got Legs! Well... Maybe Not

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

This is one of the few times I cannot legitimately add this post to the category "Media Madness," because on this occasion, the antique media has actually done a pretty creditable job.

The first point to note is that the glib simplification "Iran's gone nuclear!" misses a critical mass of distinctions. What Iran announced today is that they have enriched Uranium Hexafluoride gas (Hex) to about 3.5%.

Yet it is a setback for President Bush, who declared on Monday that one of his goals was to make sure that Iran never obtained the knowledge of how to enrich uranium, even at research-scale levels. They appear to have already passed that point. And if the Iranians have achieved what they said, they clearly would eventually be able to expand the process on an industrial scale and, if they were determined to do so, enrich the uranium to levels that could produce an atomic weapon.

But so far the quanitities that the country has produced appear to be miniscule, and the enrichment level they announced today — 3.5 percent — is far short of what would be required for a weapon.

As we discussed before, there are two kinds of Uranium, only one of which -- 235U -- is really useful in a bomb (because it's less stable). To make a useful bomb (or nuclear power plant), you have to increase the percent of 235U in the sample from its natural level of 0.72% to some higher percentage. Typically, a reactor uses nuclear fuel enriched to 3% - 5%, and a modern-day nuclear weapon uses fuel enriched to 85% - 90%. It is possible, however, to make a "quick and dirty" nuclear bomb that will explode with only slightly more than 20% enrichment -- the threshold for Highly Enriched Uranium.

(Between 2% and 20% is considerered Low Enriched; 0.9% to 2% is Slightly Enriched; and below 0.9% is Natural Uranium.)

The other component of Uranium is 238U; the little, superscripted number to the left refers to the isotope's atomic weight. Since 238U is slightly heavier than 235U, they are often separated by putting the Hex into a cylinder and spinning it really fast; some of the heavier 238U will separate from the lighter isotope. The device that does this is called a gas centrifuge... and the more you have, the faster you can enrich Uranium.

Typically, a country will use many gas centrifuges, and will run the enriched gas through the separation cycle again and again, leading to higher and higher levels of enrichment. This is called a "cascade," at which Iran has been beavering away for at least the last seven years, and probably since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

If Iran is telling the truth about their level of enrichment, what it has gotten now is a very small amount of Uranium enriched to reactor level... but far below bomb level. That is, however, a big "if." Since Iran has repeatedly lied throughout this crisis -- and since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows very well that admitting to enrichment any greater than 3% - 3.5% would force the entire world to admit that Iran was headed for nuclear weapons -- he would likely say "3.5%" whether it was really 3.5% or really 7.5%.

So Iran may be a lot closer to bomb-grade Uranium than they're willing to admit.

Even so, it seems highly doubtful they could possibly be anywhere near even the 20% enrichment necessary for a crappy nuke, let alone the 85% needed for a more effective, modern bomb. Still, this announcement makes it very clear there's no stopping them... at least not diplomatically. We had better be prepared for military action -- and sooner rather than later:

Mr. Ahmadinejad also said that Iran was treading a path for the production of industrial fuel and that the country's nuclear activities have been "under complete, unprecedented" supervision by the I.A.E.A.

"Today we are interested to operate under I.A.E.A. supervision what has been achieved. And what is going to be achieved in the future is within the framework of the rights of the nation."

Translating from Ahmadinejad-ese, I think he is asserting that Iran has the right to do whatever it wants within its own borders. Which might be a reasonable argument -- if this were a question of "rights" (of nations or otherwise). But we're less concerned about what "rights" Iran may have than we are with our own national security; one way or another, President Bush will not allow Iran to "go nuclear" (in the nuclear-bomb sense) on his watch:

President Bush on Monday repeated his determination to block Iran from gaining the kind of technical expertise from small-scale enrichment that could become the basis for a larger program capable of producing weapons. "We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon," he said.

We're not the only ones worrying about this, of course. But the international bodies that could actually do something effective about the problem (short of a military strike) -- if they had the will -- are yet again trapped by their own internal tug-of-angst, just as they were anent Iraq....

On Wednesday night, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, is scheduled to arrive in Tehran to make another appeal for the country to halt its enrichment program and avoid a confrontation with the West. Iranian officials said that Mr. ElBaradei would face a changed situation, and American officials say they suspect that Iran's strategy is to portray its effort as a fait accompli that cannot be reversed.

Here is the situation on a nutshell, as Big Lizards sees it:

  1. Iran admits they have a working gas-centrifuge cascade that can enrich Uranium;
  2. However, they only admit to the 164 centrifuges at their Natanz Research Facility (aboveground);

The latest on this point came from former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani:

Earlier in the day, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who is the head of an important national security council, told the Kuwait News Agency that Iran's nuclear scientists had enriched uranium using a cascade of 164 centrifuges.

An official at the I.A.E.A., who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the announcements appeared to refer to an older cascade at the nuclear center at Natanz. That cascade would be able to enrich uranium by the small amount needed for use as fuel in a nuclear reactor, but producing weapons-grade uranium would require a far larger installation, he said.

Rafsanjani, however, is not the final word; we have reason to believe the Iranians are lying about this, too.

  1. The United States and the United Kingdom, contrariwise, believe that the Iranians are working on a much larger, belowground facility at Natanz, one that houses as many as 4,000 gas centrifuges.

This disturbing claim comes via to the left-wing Guardian newspaper of Great Britain (what used to be the Manchester Guardian):

Meanwhile, it was claimed today that Iran had secretly manufactured around 4,000 centrifuges capable of weapons grade uranium enrichment - 25 times the quantity it has admitted to the UN.

If true, this completely changes all the calculations about how fast Iran could actually spin-up their Hex to actual weapons-grade Uranium.

  1. The Iranians admit to enriching only up to reactor-grade, 3.5%;
  2. But since negotiations began in earnest in 1998, the Iranians have consistently lied, been caught, admitted the lie, and then lied again -- often about the very subject they just got caught lying about last time. We cannot trust any of their claims;
  3. However, we probably have a reasonably good idea ourselves (or through intel from Israel, which has a lot more spies in Iran than they ever had in Iraq) of how much enrichment Iran has actually achieved;

Since John Bolton, our representative to the United Nations, is not literally running around with his hair on fire, which he would be if Iran had achieved anything close to 20% -- well, all right... metaphorically on fire -- I think it safe to conclude that it's somewhere between 3.5% and, say, 7% - 8%. Probably on the lower side of that divide (maybe 5%?)

Still, there is absolutely no doubt about it: it's toll the tocsin time. I sure as heck hope the reports are accurate that we have "advanced plans" for attacking Iran... because at this pace, we're gonna need 'em within months, not years.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 5, 2006

Big Lizards' Iranian Skepticism Confirmed!

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

A couple of days ago, in I'll Believe It When I Believe It, we were very skeptical about Iran's claims of a whole series of "super new weapons" (now expanded to include an invisible "flying boat" -- hmm... could that refer to a hovercraft, you think? Like the one Sachi and I took to cross the English Channel ten years ago? Or maybe just a low-flying, ground-effect airplane?)

We're very please to see that ThreatsWatch now confirms our skepticism.

If you were wondering what that "Fajr-3 missile" was -- the one "which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads," as AP breathlessly quoted (quoting a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards) -- it turns out it wasn't exactly what we thought. We wrote:

And this "supermissile" they're talking about sounds remarkably like a 1960s or 70s era cruise missile... either from Russia or France.

In fact, it was less than that. The Pentagon has determined that it was a Soviet Scud-C, developed in 1965. From ThreatsWatch:

Last week, it was noted that there was no word from NORAD nor the US Military in-theater of a ‘ballistic’ missile launch detection in Iran. Today, we get that word. The Pentagon is saying now that Iran tested an older version of the Scud missile family last week and not any new ICBM development. What was launched in last week’s much publicized Iranian media event was, in fact, a Shahab-2 with a range of 310 miles. The Shahab-2 is the Iranian designation for the Scud-C variant of the Russian design.

Oh, and that super-torpedo, the one that would make all defensive shipborne measures obsolete?

Here's what we wrote:

Let's try it another way: the most plausible explanation is that Russia has given Iran some older Shkvals, and the Iranians repainted them.

This has not yet been verified; but the claimed speed of the Iranian Hoot torpedo -- 223 mph -- is almost exactly the speed clocked by the Russian Shkval: 230 mph. This is far too close a match to be coincidence, especially as they both use the same boutique technique, supercaviation, to achieve those speeds... at the sacrifice of both range and maneuverability: they cannot be steered once fired, so their effective range is much less than the raw range of 7,000 m. The Soviets played around with them from the 1960s through the 90s but finally gave them up as relatively worthless in combat.

So we repeat our final point from last time:

If ever the elite media can stop quaking in their Birkenstocks, perhaps they can interview some American experts on Iran's missile force as to what these missiles likely are, where they came from, and whether we have techniques for dealing with them.

Unless, that is, such facts won't fit the story the media has already drafted.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves!

The "story" the antique media prefers is that America has met its match, bitten off more than it can chew, and is going to be humbled. The Third World powers are using asymmetrical warfare to stymie the great American imperialist warmongers, and that will show that darned President Bush! Anything that undercuts the story is a bigger threat than a Hoot missile and must be suppressed.

Don't look for AP to correct its mistakes; they never retract the really big ones.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2006, at the time of 6:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 3, 2006

I'll Believe It When I Believe It

Future of Warfare , Iran Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Let's see... the Iranian regime -- known far and wide to be liars and braggarts ("wipe Israel off the map," indeed) -- now claim to have developed, in a scant six years, a super missile that is invisible to any radar and also a super torpedo that can destroy any American warship with a single shot and is as fast as the fastest torpedo ever created, the Russian Shkva.

Note, however, the provenance of all these frightening claims:

Iran conducted its second major test of a new missile within days on Sunday, firing a high-speed torpedo it said no submarine or warship can escape at a time of increased tensions with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The tests came during war games that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday.

On the maneuvers' first day, Iran said it successfully tested the Fajr-3 missile, which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads.

"Iran said." All this information comes from only one source: from the Revolutionary Guards missile-force spokesmen; not from any unbiased, third-party expert. The Guard tells AP, and AP tells the world.

And we're supposed to believe this? We're supposed to believe that, although we can evade Russian and Chinese radar, and our subs can evade detection by all the civilized nations of the world, nevertheless, a third-world basket case with a military technology borrowed from Russia, Red China, and NoKo, has out-innovated the United States, by golly.

A country that is years behind even Pakistan at developing a nuclear weapon says it's now the preeminent designer of missile and torpedo technology that renders obsolete all current countermeasures: jamming, evading, and intercepting. Mirabile dictu!

Sure. I'll buy this when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei eats a BLT for brunch.

This all comes at a time when Iran knows we're gearing up for a major strike against them, which would necessarily involve maneuvering our warships into the Gulf of Oman, through the Strait of Hormuz, and into the Persian Gulf (almost certainly with support from the United Arab Emirates, just across the strait from Iran -- assuming we haven't angered them too much between now and the attack by systematically squashing every potential commercial contract with them for anything).

Do you think Iran might possibly have a national interest in making the world, and in particular the United States and Israel, believe that they have developed superweapons that would prevent any such attack?

The new "Iranian" torpedo has a speed almost exactly that of a decade-old Russian fish (flying fish, actually):

The Hoot's speed would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world's fastest known underwater missile, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.

Let's try it another way: the most plausible explanation is that Russia has given Iran some older Shkvals, and the Iranians repainted them. And this "supermissile" they're talking about sounds remarkably like a 1960s or 70s era cruise missile... either from Russia or France.

The VA-111 Shkval was developed by Russia primarily for use as an anti-torpedo torpedo, or more properly, anti-torpedo underwater missile: the Shkval ("squall") gets its tremendous speed by using supercavitation:

Supercavitation is the use of cavitation effects to create a large bubble of gas inside a liquid, allowing an object to travel at great speed through the liquid by being wholly enveloped by the bubble. The cavity (i.e., the bubble) reduces the drag on the object and precisely this makes supercavitation an attractive technology: drag is normally about 1,000 times greater in water than in air.

In 1977, Soviet engineers developed the first projectile to use supercavitation: the VA-111 Shkval ("Squall") torpedo. This can travel at 230 mph (100 m/s) underwater, compared to the top speed of about 80 mph (35 m/s) for conventional aquatic craft, but it is reportedly not steerable. Even faster speeds of about 310 mph (ca. 140 m/s) and higher have also been rumored. News of the device reached the West in the 1990s.

Here is the point, though: not being steerable, you only get one shot: the Soviets, then the Russians, meant to use it against an enemy torpedo, or failing that, an enemy submarine. Since many torpedoes use a trailing wire to steer towards the target, forcing the enemy sub to swerve and move would probably sever the wire, making the enemy torpedo easy to dodge.

But such advanced techology requires an equally advanced submarine force, crews that spend months honing their skill in real-world simulations... as we routinely do with sea-based missile interceptors, for example. Even if Russia has shipped some Shkvals to the mullahs (or China has, since they also have a bunch, and they have even more reason to arm Teheran against America than Russia does), they're not likely to have sent entire sub crews along as part of the deal... especially given the terrible consequences of being caught. Advisors, yes; actual crews, I doubt the heck out that.

And that means the Iranians with Shkvals are like gang bangers with AK-47s: they're likely more dangerous to bystanders than the intended target.

But we should look for several more such announcements in the next few months, each one eagerly lapped up by the ghouls at the antique media, eager for the exciting possibility of sunken US warships and a crippled and humbled United States. Maybe we'll hear some of these claims:

  • A new super-synthetic-aperature radar that can easily spot any of our "stealth" aircraft;
  • An anti-missile shield that will destroy the birds while they're still halfway out of their ship-based launch tubes;
  • Particle-beam technology that will disintegrate entire carrier battle groups in a few seconds -- the scene in Mars Attacks! was actually footage from a real Iranian test that the mullahs graciously allowed Tim Burton to use;
  • Corner-turning bullets;
  • Hezbollah cyborgs;
  • Several real, live Djinns from bottles dredged up in the Persian Gulf;
  • And of course, get ready for the Iranians to inform the American news media that they've developed nuclear "doomsday" weapons, which have been secretly buried under every major city in the United States. "Touch one single centrifuge at Natanz," President Ahmadinejad will warn, "and all your base are belong to us!"

If ever the elite media can stop quaking in their Birkenstocks, perhaps they can interview some American experts on Iran's missile force as to what these missiles likely are, where they came from, and whether we have techniques for dealing with them.

Unless, that is, such facts won't fit the story the media has already drafted.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Mullahlogging

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line frets that our talks with Iran about Iraq can only spell trouble:

My sense is that such talks are a bad idea. Iran is involved in Iraq because it perceives an interest in supporting our enemies there. To talk Iran into changing course, we would have to offer it an incentive larger than the one that's pushing it to cause trouble now. The only such incentive I can imagine is backing away from our efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

I can think of another. I suspect our talks are more along the lines of Marshall Matt Dillon "talking" with the latest boozed up, sadistic outlaw who thinks he and his gang of five or six dissolute drifters can take over Dodge and do bad things to Miss Kitty... and the "incentive" Bush is offering is the mullahs' continuing residence in this world, rather than the next.

Why, after five years of a president whose fault has more often been talkin' too Texan than crawling on his belly, do worried conservatives still think that any moment now, George W. Bush is going to turn into Neville Ehud Clinton?

This is a very bad habit of the Right (note that I don't mean Paul here; my focus now shifts to the hysterics in the sliver of the Antique Media that leans conservative): they spent so many years in the wilderness, they've homesteaded defeat. The spasm of Right-wing media despair that precedes every election is wearying, and it can prove a self-fulfilling prophecy if allowed to go too far.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2006, at the time of 2:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 6, 2006

Casus Belli Against Iran!

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Via Scott Johnson at Power Line (hat tip to Big Lizards commenter MTF), ABC World News Tonight is reporting that American troops have intercepted heavy-duty bombs being smuggled into Iraq... directly from known a bombmaking factory in Iran.

If true, then as John Hinderaker notes, this is clearly an act of war by Iran against the United States.

And, the lizards respond, the perfect casus belli whenever we choose to launch a military assault on that awful country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 6, 2006, at the time of 7:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Al-Jaafari Must Step Down to Unify Iraq

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), is the leading candidate for next Iraqi Prime Minister; but he is stirring up a hornet's nest across Iraq: the Kurds don’t like him; the Sunnis hate him; and secular Iraqis fear him. Even the top Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- a strong proponent of a unified Iraq -- is suggesting al-Jaafari step aside.

Now that Iraq transitional President Jalal Talabani has decided to call the newly elected permanent parliament into session, starting the countdown for forming the government, the UIA has only a short period of time to decide whether to fight to install al-Jaafari over the objections of everyone else or compromise with al-Jaafari's rival, current Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who is widely acceptable among the various sects in Iraq.

Iraq's president said Monday he would convene the new parliament for the first time next week, beginning a 60-day countdown for lawmakers to elect a new head of state and sign off on a prime minister and Cabinet.

After nightfall, nine key Shiite parliamentarians rushed to an emergency meeting at President Jalal Talabani's Baghdad home to try to change his mind about forcing a showdown in the deepening political crisis and further inflaming sectarian tensions.

Talabani openly opposes al-Jaafari's nomination and is likely forcing the Shia's hand, hoping they will blink.

Talabani, a Kurd, said al-Jaafari was too divisive a figure.

"We want a prime minister who can gather all the political blocs around him, so that the government would be one of national unity," he told a news briefing in Baghdad.

Many believe al-Jaafari is behind a series of killings targeting prominent Sunni clerics and former Baath members, under the guise of the Interior Ministry’s Security Forces, which are infested with Iranian influenced militiamen. Al-Jaafari, of the Islamic Dawa Party (within the UIA coalition), was strongly backed in the Shiite caucus by militia leader Muqtada Sadr, the anti-American militant who occupied Najaf, Sadr City, and Basra during a failed "uprising" in March of 2004, timed to coincide with a similar surge of violence in Sunni Fallujah.

Sadr opposed the Iraqi constitution, supports a "sharia" state, and has consistently been connected with Iran -- and just as persistently, his spokesmen have denied it. However, less than a month ago, Sadr threatened another uprising if the U.S. were to attack Iran:

"If America attacks Iran, there will be a reaction in Iraq, and also if America stays in Iraq, there will be another uprising," he warned.

This does not prove that al-Jaafari follows Iran's lead, of course. And as Omar of Iraq the Model notes, even the main rival Shiite party within the UIA, the SCIRI, has a strong Iranian connection:

I'm not sure if you're familiar with this but did you know the internal charter of the SCIRI states that the party reports to the Murshid, who currently is Khamena'i?

"Khamena'i" refers to Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. This isn't exactly surprising, as the SCIRI was formed in 1982 under exile in Iran, where the Iranians recognized it as the "legitimate" rulers of Iraq during the war with Iran. For more than twenty years, the SCIRI was based in Teheran.

Yet despite that, secular Shiia prefer the SCIRI candidate, Abdul-Mahdi; he is equally strong within the Shiite caucus as al-Jaafari but not connected to the notorious Muqtada Sadr.

Abdul-Mahdi lost in the Shiite caucus by one vote to al-Jaafari, who won with the support of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Abdul-Mahdi is backed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a powerful Shiite leader who is frequently at odds politically with al-Sadr. Both have strong militias behind them.

Underlining the divisions within the Alliance, some Shiite leaders are troubled by al-Jaafari's ties to the radical and openly anti-American al-Sadr.

And the most influential Shia in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has indicated (through an anonymous spokesman, to distance the cleric from the political nature of the announcement) that he would prefer it if al-Jaafari voluntarily withdraw his candidacy:

Two lawmakers from al-Jaafari's Dawa Party hinted Saturday that they got an endorsement for their leader during a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.

But a senior al-Sistani aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the dispute, said Sunday that the spiritual leader indirectly suggested al-Jaafari step aside.

Abdul-Mahdi may well be a better man to be prime minsiter than al-Jaafari, despite belonging to the SCIRI: although he was exiled from Baathist Iraq, it was in 1969, thirteen years before the SCIRI was formed; and he spent his exile in France, not revolutionary Iran. France is not exactly friendly to American interests; in fact, Ayatollah Khomeini himself was exiled in France before the 1979 Iranian revolution brought him back to rule his home country. But Socialist France is certainly less radical than the Iranian mullahcracy.

The SCIRI is controlled by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; and the entire al-Hakim family hates Muqtada Sadr (and his followers, including al-Jaafari). Because of the pre-existing rivalry, some of them hold Sadr responsible, or at least complicit, in the 2003 assassination of al-Hakim's brother, the revered Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, who ran the SCIRI until his death.

(The U.S., on the other hand, believes the massive car-bomb was actually planted by Musab Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda In Iraq; the Iraqis claim that Zarqawi's bombmaker -- Abu Omar al-Kurdi -- has confessed to the bombing while in U.S. custody since January 2005.)

Regardless, Adel Abdul-Mahdi opposes Sadr, supports a unified Iraq and the Iraqi constitution, and is more friendly to America than Ibrahim al-Jaafari. I believe many Iraqi politicians are members of political factions based more upon tribal connections than actual ideological agreement; Abdul-Mahdi is probably closer in philosophy to al-Dawa, and al-Jaafari would probably feel more at home in the SCIRI -- sort of like Zell Miller vs. Lincoln Chafee.

Of course, the UIA does not have the two thirds majority in the incoming Iraqi parliament required to push their candidate through; they would need votes from Kurds, Sunnis, and secular Shia (who themselves would likely prefer Achmed Chalabi -- who has also been connected with Sadr, and who also denies it). Even so, the UIA so far seems quite determined to try, and that frets many people, including Omar:

What really worries me here is that the UIA knows this mechanism which is stated in the constitution yet they refuse to change their mind which makes one suspect they have no intention to compromise and they want to do some arm-twisting telling the others to 'either accept Jafari or face the danger of halting the entire political process'. [Emphasis added]

They're playing a very dangerous game that only those who don't care for the unity of the country would dare play.

If the UIA withdraws al-Jaafari and substitutes Abdul-Mahdi, he would likely sail through with little opposition. This would unify Iraq behind the nascent government, surely the best response to the bombing of the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra -- likely engineered by Zarqawi in order to shove Iraq into civil war. Zarqawi has already failed in the civil war plan: if the bombing of the Golden Mosque didn't do it, then neither will anything else that Zarqawi can do. But still, it would be a wonderful blow to the Iraq-War doubters were the Shia to put together a respected and widely accepted government that unified the country and was even pro-America.

Contrariwise, a candidate like al-Jaafari, who divides Iraq into nearly hysterical opposing camps, is very, very bad not only for Iraq but for America's plan to democratize the Middle East.

The UIA is quite open about preferring Sharia to secular law, though they also insist they do not want Iraq to be controlled by Iran. But do they support a unified Iraq? Omar worries that they may be planning for a country divided along sectarian grounds:

The UIA have made it clear that what they want is to either rule the whole country in the way like or rule part of Iraq in the way they like; more precisely in the way their religious references in Najaf and Tehran.

Omar is concerned that the UIA would be perfectly willing to break Iraq into a Shiite sector, a Kurdish sector, and then a weak and economically crippled "Saddamist" sector in the middle -- Omar notes that the UIA uses "Saddamists" the same way they use "Shia," implying that all Sunnis are Baathists.

Now that the power of foreign terrorists is waning in Iraq, Iraninan influenced domestic militias are becoming a more serious problem for Iraq and America. Just as there are Baathist Sunni "bitter enders," who really do want Saddam back, there are also Iraqi Shia who want to see a Teheran-style regime enforcing Shiite sharia on everyone... and they may be willing to settle for a piece of Iraq under sharia rather than the whole under a secular government.

We are going to have to clean up the Interior Ministry and their Security Forces very soon now; we need a "come to Jesus" meeting with the Shia in Iraq. And of course, we must get rid of the vile Muqtada Sadr by any means necessary.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 6, 2006, at the time of 5:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike

Iran Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

This is actually the fourth entry in the Big Lizards strategic series, Iran Strategies. The first three (in order of posting) were:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"

(Yes, I know it's confusing that 1 and 2 come before 0; deal with it!)

As you might guess from the title, this strategic suggestion focuses on Iran's economy. I think of it as sort of "super economic sanctions." Like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and most other oil-producing Middle-Eastern states, Iran's primary economy is oil export. As the CIA's World Factbook notes,

Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President KHATAMI has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $40 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.

This suggests a soft spot that we should be able to hit with our eyes closed: Iran runs on oil exports; oil exports need a port out of which to ex-; and ports are big, fragile, easily disrupted things. IS3 would function best when combined with IS0, the default strike on the WMD sites: we remove their nuclear development centers and also deny them the resources to reconstitute them anytime soon.

There is no need to hit the oil wells themselves -- which is good, as that could create an ecological catastrophe not only for Iran but for every state in the region. It is enough, I suspect, to lob a few cruise missiles into the port facilities on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The object here is not to wipe them out; if there is a revolution that ousts the mullahs, the young people of Iran will need those to recover and fuel (literally) a nascent democracy. Rather, the idea is to render them inoperable for the moment -- and then keep hitting the ports whenever Iran comes close to reopening them.

But that is not enough; we also need to take care of that large "$40 billion in foreign exchange reserves" which Iran could use to purchase necessary food, reconstruction services, and other infrastructure repair and improvements... to "tide them over" until they can restore oil export operations. And that means a "blockade" at both ends.

We can use the Navy to blockade their Persian Gulf ports; but we have no forces on the Caspian, obviously, since it is landlocked. Alas, we need to more or less close Iran's northern shore; it doesn't need to be 100% sealed, just enough to prevent Russia from transshipping materials via the Caspian Sea.

This would be the hardest "backdoor" to close, mostly because of the geopolitical consequences. Fortunately, there is currently no operational pipeline between Iran and Russia; we don't need to create the world's largest oil spill (again!) Any major shipment into Iran must come by cargo vessel (which needs a port) or by rail.

There are two major Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea: Neka (Nekka) and Bandar Anzali. We would likely have already targeted Neka as part of IS0, since it is a suspected nuclear weapons research facility. But the major Iranian port on the Caspian Sea is Bandar Anzali, off in the northwestern corner of Iran, hard up against Azerbaijan. Anzali would have to be on the target list.

This is not a "blockade," of course, but an attack. However, if our strikes were surgical, we could prevent port ops that might include oil export without hurting the fishing industry there... thus (one hopes) not enraging the citizens of Iran any more than would result from any attack at all.

I don't think we need to worry too much about the roads and rail that cross Iran's borders. Iran is surrounded by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan -- and of course Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which last three would be right out, of course. Iran has reasonably good relations with its northwestern neighbors, but none except Turkey has the industrial capacity to supply Iran with what it needs to sustain a technological society... and we have been courting Turkey assiduously, via Condoleezza Rice and several other officials, to get them to go along with air strikes on Iran (and Syria) -- or at least sit still for them.

Clearly, Turkey is looking more towards the West than Iran:

In the event that talks fail, Turkey is the only country in Iran's vicinity on which the US has prepositioned tactical nuclear weapons (an estimated 90) that it could deploy against Iranian facilities.

The veritable who's who of US and Israeli officials who processed through Turkey in recent weeks for consultations may be a reflection of this.

First came US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, followed by Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller. Porter Goss, the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, also visited, just days before the arrival of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary general, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

Finally, Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz held discussions with the head of the Turkish military, General Hilmi Ozkok, and Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer. The leading left-nationalist daily, the Cumhuriyet, reported that talks centered on how to deal with Iran.

I doubt that Iran can count on any aid or help from Turkey, in defiance of an American blockade and attack.

The most serious potential consequences are (a) Russia's reaction, and (b) the world oil market reaction. If the Saudis and other Arabian OPEC countries decide to side with their Persian Islamic "brothers" in Iran and embargo oil to the U.S., that could be very hard. We have reconstituted our strategic petroleum reserves, thanks to George W. Bush (President Clinton had substantially depleted them artificially holding down the price of crude); but that would only last us two to three years. I doubt an embargo could last that long -- but it would cause widespread economic instability and dislocation within the U.S.

But if OPEC remains with us, they could pump and export enough extra oil to make up for Iran. The price need not even rise, as there is excess capacity, or "slack," in the world oil market (OPEC artificially limits oil production to maintain high prices).

The reaction of Russia is definitely dicier. Iran and Russia have been cooperating on a number of projects lately, and the ex-Soviets have shown themselves, when push comes to kick, to be closer to Iran than the United States. Still, I'm not sure what they could do to us. They've got problems of their own in Chechnya and Ukraine; they have a lot of economic deals with the West; and they're still in dire need of industrial modernization. I cannot imagine they want to stick their noses into a shootin' war with the United States -- especially not on behalf of a bunch of Moslem extremists!

As I said, I think IS3 should be undertaken along with the strike on the nuke sites, IS0; under those circumstances, Russia would probably scream and yell in the Security Council... but they really have no power actually to do anything, and they know that.

Clearly, IS3 would be an escalation even over IS0; but it would sure hamper Iran's ability to rebuild its nuclear program following American air and missile strikes. For this reason, it should at least be considered as a "value add-on." It's worth discussing, if anyone here wants to discuss it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 6, 2006, at the time of 4:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

It Ain't Even the Quarter

Iran Matters , Scaley Classics
Hatched by Dafydd

The following is the follow-up post to our previous Scaley Classic, this one posted on Captain's Quarters on July 5th, 2005.

A few days ago, when July was fresh and new, I argued in That Ain't the Half of It that it really doesn't matter whether Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was or was not a leader of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran, because the enormity of his undisputed post-revolutionary career as an assassin for the Revolutionary Guard -- during which he murdered hundreds of Iranian dissidents living abroad -- simply overwhelmed the question of whether he was also a student radical.

The only objection that could reasonably be raised (apart from dredging up some evidence to contradict the biography at GlobalSecurity.org) is that Ahmadinejad's homidical vocation, as horrific as it was, was not directed at us, and that we should only be concerned with attacks on America -- which moves the embassy-seizure question back to front and center.

Now I argue that if that is your standard, then again, there are far more serious attacks that Iran has committed against the United States... including the murder of 2,985 people on American soil (mostly Americans) in the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.

Wait -- hold on -- don't turn into a mob! Yes, of course I know that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, which is primarily a Sunni organization, not Shi'ite, like Iran. But I thoroughly support the judgment of the president himself when he said:

And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

Evidence has begun to emerge that the violent and secretive regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran not only applauded the 9/11 attacks, not only gave safe haven to terrorists, but actively collaborated with al-Qaeda on the attacks themselves.

Granted, none of this implicates Mr. Ahmadinejad; but his new boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is involved right up to his turbin.

Some of this evidence is detailed in the new book by Kenneth Timmerman, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown With Iran, which I have just begun reading.

Fair warning: If you are one of those -- and I know you're out there -- who reject anything written by Timmerman or any other "right wing" author, then gird yourself; I'm going to be discussing several things from this book in future posts as well. Forwarned is four-armed!

Timmerman begins the bombshells in the very first chapter, in which he discusses the testimony from an Iranian defector, Hamid Reza Zakeri, who says he gave (or tried to give) critical information to the CIA, back in July of 2001, of an impending terrorist attack on the United States in September... an attack in which Iran had been closely involved with al-Qaeda in the planning phase. Timmerman says that the CIA refused to listen and did not pass the intel up the chain.

Now of course, much of this is he-said, she-said; you are either with Timmerman, or you are with the CIA. But given the track record of the latter, as thoroughly deconstructed by the 9/11 Commission Report on the intelligence failures that led up to 9/11, I know where I'm placing my flutter.

Bear one important note in mind: this entire chapter derives from several interviews that Timmerman conducted with Zakeri. Wherever possible, when Zakeri gave specific information -- such as the descriptions of various top-secret facilities in Iran, the presence of certain personnel in Iran at specific times, and specific documents that Zakeri claimed to have smuggled out of Iran -- Timmerman tested the claims against all publicly available and classified information he was able to obtain, including with American and foreign intelligence agents, with other Iranian defectors, with document examiners, and with prosecutors in Germany who evaluated Zakeri for a terrorism case in which they called him as witness. In each case that Timmerman checked up on Zakeri's specific claims, they were borne out; not a single claim made to Timmerman by Zakeri was contradicted by any specific counter-evidence.

The central claim of this chapter is, in Timmerman's words:

The 9/11 hijackers and al-Qaeda planners had been in constant contact with senior Iranian officials and intelligence officers before September 11. It was not a casual relationship or a chance encounter here and there, but a steady stream of contacts.

These "contacts" began in January 2001, when Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Osama bin Laden's personal physician, and widely regarded as the number-two man in al-Qaeda, journeyed from Afghanistan to Iran with several other al-Qaeda capos. Zakeri's connection was that he was in charge of the security detail protecting the visitors; he picked them up at the airport and conveyed them to the meeting at a "mountain guesthouse near the town of Varamin, just sough of Tehran", which normally was used by senior officials of Iran.

According to what an Iranian official present at the meeting told his friend Zakeri, Zawahiri was in Iran to seek equipment, forged travel documents, and help in laundering money. I am presuming this meant money collected by various Islamic charities, then laundered to al-Qaeda, a practice we have established, through many successful prosecutions, was the normal way that AQ was funded.

One of Zawahiri's men present was Saif al-Adel, who had worked in the past with Lebanese-born Imad Fayez Mugniyeh. Mugniyeh was a high-ranking official with the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force, which controlled foreign terrorist operations... and a man well-known personally to Zakeri. Al-Adel and eleven other AQ members stayed on after the meeting to continue working with the Iranians.

The Iranians present were not low-level flunkies, either. The Iranian delegation to this conference included Hojjat-ol eslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, the chief inspector of the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), a clandestine intelligence organization that reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who was at the time (and still is) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Also present, Ali Akbar Parvaresh, one of the top officers in Section 43 of MOIS; Section 43 is in charge of terrorist operations outside the Middle East and also runs the Varamin safe house. Parvaresh was wanted by the Argentinian government for a bombing in 1994 that killed eighty-six people. Mugniyeh was also in attendance, which is how Zakeri found out what was discussed.

A few months later, in May 2001, another delegation arrived from al-Qaeda... this one led by none other than Osama bin Laden's eldest son, Saad. Saad bin Laden met with all of the members of the Iranian leadership, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani (head of the Expediency Council), Mohammed Yazdi (head of the Guardians Council), Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi (chief of Judiciary), and Ali Meshkini (head of the Assembly of Experts).

Zakeri believes it was at this meeting, on May 4, 2001, that Iran's leaders learned the specifics of bon Laden's plans for the September 11 attack and decided to provide operational assistance. "Everything changed after this," he told me.

Nateq-Nouri subsequently sent a memo to Mustafa Pourghanad, the director of Section 43, conveying Khamenei's orders for "joint operations" with al-Qaeda; this is one of the memos that Zakeri carried with him from Iran when he defected.

Timmerman closes the chapter with the CIA's reaction to all this information from Zakeri:

A female intelligence officer returned my call with a shaking voice. "This man is a serial fabricator," she said, more nervous than indignant. "I have to warn you off of this story."

A few hours later, I received another call, this one from a higher-ranking official. When I asked him to comment on the veracity of Zakeri's warning, he replied angrily, "We have no record that he made any such claim. And he is a fabricator of monumental proportions." But when I asked him whether Zaker was lying about meeting with U.S. officials in Baku on July 26, 2001, this senior official pointedly refused to answer.

Now of course, I can certainly understand the CIA refusing to comment upon the specifics of CIA meetings with defectors from hostile powers. But on the other hand, they repeatedly characterized Zakeri as a "fabricator," yet never once pointed Timmerman to any sources, even public sources, that would tend to discredit Zakeri. So take it for what you will.

But at the very least, the Iranian connection to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attack -- and whether the CIA dropped this particular ball in 2001 -- deserves at least as much exploration as that other well-known ball they dropped: the extent of Saddam Hussein's own interaction with al-Qaeda, which the CIA refused to admit for literally years, but which is now thoroughly documented in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the intelligence failures in Iraq, as well as by recent revelations from Jordan about another high-level Zawahiri meeting, this one in Baghdad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 27, 2006, at the time of 5:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That Ain't the Half of It

Iran Matters , Scaley Classics
Hat