AR-15 Ammunition And Barrel Twist Rate

Herschel Smith · 19 Feb 2017 · 0 Comments

There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s.  So why am I writing one?  Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong.  Additionally, this closes out comment threads we've had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I've had with readers, and personal conversations I've had with shooters and friends about this subject.  It's natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information.  Or you may not benefit at…… [read more]

More Confusion on Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

We have covered rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, both at the micro- and macroscopic levels, i.e., from room clearing operations to the use of munitions delivered from air.  In this coverage we have challenged not only the written rules, but the in-situ application and communication of them.  Rather than using MSM reports, we have done original investigative reporting, conveying the stories of at least two NCOs who were recently in Iraq.  We have received thousands of visits to these articles from military network domains, including CENTCOM, the Pentagon, NCTC, Army, Marines and others.  There was a promise by the administration to revise the ‘overly-restrictive’ rules of engagement upon announcement of “the surge.”  Yet there continues to be obvious indecision and confusion regarding both the application and communication of ROE, the most recent instances of which involved kinetic operations in a Mosque and university in Baghdad.

As a contextual background to the most recent issues, in Rules of Engagement and Indecision we discussed the ~200 Taliban, in formation for a funeral, and who escaped without being engaged by a predator drone because of bureaucracy and indecision on rules of engagement.

Every airstrike, whether from a manned aircraft or a Predator, must be at least approved by commanders at the regional Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC. If an intended target is particularly sensitive, the decision could go all the way up to a general officer serving as top combat commander … The current rules of engagement, likely developed by senior Pentagon officials, do not rule out an attack on religious gathering but do generally prohibit an attack on a religious site such as a cemetery or mosque, military analyst and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs told MSNBC TV.

Ramadi combat action has seen U.S. forces finally engage insurgent fire coming from Mosques, after “Militants inside the Al Qadir Al Kilami mosque fired small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at U.S. forces.”  In this instance, there was hesitation, and it took direct attacks against U.S. forces from the Mosque to provoke engagement by the U.S.

In the recent security operations, Maliki has allegedly directed robust action against the tactics of using Mosques as defense by the insurgents.  “We are full of hope. We have no other choice but to use force and any place where we receive fire will not be safe even if it is a school, a mosque, a political party office or home,” he said. “There will be no safe place in Iraq for terrorists.”

The U.S. has indeed recently raided Mosques in kinetic operations.

Two suspects were detained when members of the 10th Mountain Division “Commandos” conducted a search of the Khashab mosque in western Baghdad on Jan. 12 aimed at capturing insurgents believed responsible for assassinating the governor of Baghdad. Insurgent propaganda was found in the mosque.

The search was planned based on intelligence gathered from numerous citizens in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, officials said. Residents witnessed insurgents leaving from the mosque then fleeing to the mosque after the assassination.

There is even more recent action inside Mosques, followed on by a confused statement from the Multi-National Force:

Coalition forces detained three suspected terrorists during a raid in Baghdad Sunday morning.
The targeted suspected terrorist, who was detained on the scene, is reported to be involved in the procurement and distribution of weapons, including explosives to conduct improvised explosive devices attacks against Iraqi citizens and Coalition Forces.
While conducting the raid, Coalition Forces entered a mosque where the targeted suspect was hiding.  Coalition Forces detained the targeted suspect along with two other suspected terrorists.
During the operation, one local Iraqi woman received wounds to her thigh and head.  Coalition medical personnel treated her onsite and she was transported to a local hospital for further care.
“Coalition forces soldiers respect the sanctity and holiness of all places of worship and exercise the utmost restraint when planning for and considering the conduct of operations in and around mosques,? said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson.
“We do not enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force.  Mosque entries occur only as a last resort, and only when substantial and credible evidence shows insurgent activity is occurring there – i.e., meetings, storage of weapons, harboring of insurgent leaders,? he said.

Lt. Col. Garver states unequivocally that the U.S. does not enter Mosques for the “sole purpuse of disrupting insurgent activities” (causing us to question what conditions would warrant entry if not disrupting insurgent activities), and then proceeds to outline conditions that warrant entry into a Mosque, including but not limited to evidence that entry might disrupt insurgent activities.

Based on such a statement, it is not obvious that the mistake of allowing ~200 Taliban to escape from a funeral would not be repeated either in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we may even be devolving from a context where ROE is spoken of to one where we speak of RUF, or rules for the use of force.  A recent instance at a university in Baghdad shows that, given U.S. rules of engagement and avoidance of collateral damage, police in riot gear might have been more appropriate to the circumstances (more here):

Students at Baghdad’s Mustansariya University frustrated a US raid on Thursday with a large protest, Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.

“The American forces tried this morning to raid Mustansiriya University in the East of Baghdad, but the students made a massive demonstration protesting the trespassing of these forces on the university campus,” a student told the news agency, adding that the action “forced these forces to withdraw from the university.”

No one wants to see innocent students (if indeed they are innocent) come under fire.  But if student protests can back down U.S. kinetic operations, then the entire paradigm for twenty first century combat must be re-formulated (by Western nations, that is, since the terrorists have no rules).  While U.S. soldiers get backed down by university students, a senior JAG officer says that in his opinion, U.S. troops “use self-defense too much in order to escape liability.”  Since there is no other reason for someone to use self-defense than to “escape liability,” the JAG has engaged in tautology.  He should have his Juris Doctor rescinded, pick up a rifle and stand a post where he has to defend himself.

The same concerns over RUF have manifested themselves at the U.S. border recently, with border guards afraid for their lives because of the nature of the current threat.

Violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is undergoing what U.S. law-enforcement authorities call “an unprecedented surge,” some of it fueled by weapons and ammunition purchased or stolen in the United States.

Federal, state and local law-enforcement officials from Texas to California, concerned about the impact of illegally imported weapons into Mexico, say they already are outmanned and outgunned by ruthless gangs that collect millions of dollars in profits by smuggling aliens and drugs into this country.

“These gangs have the weapons and the will to protect their lucrative cargoes,” said Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., the sheriff of Zapata County, Texas, who founded and served as the first president of the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition. “With automatic weapons, grenades and grenade launchers, they pose a significant danger.”

Last month, Mexican military officials in Matamoros, just south of Brownsville, Texas, stopped a tractor-trailer containing weapons and ammunition, along with a pickup truck fitted with armor and bulletproof glass.

The weapons included 18 M-16 assault rifles, one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher. Also seized were several M-4 carbines, 17 handguns of various calibers, 200 magazines for different weapons, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories.

The awful Tennessee versus Garner SCOTUS decision will ensure that the U.S. border becomes even more violent, and we find it likely that in the future it will be difficult to staff the ranks with border guards due to the danger (prior coverage in Guardsmen Attacked and Overrun at U.S. Border).

In summary, we enter Mosques when we feel that there is no other option, but in fact, contrary to this we respect religious sanctuary and do not enter Mosques for the purpose of disrupting insurgent activities, according to Lt. Col. Garver.  We enter Mosques but we don’t, and then we feel the need to explain to the world that we enter Mosques but we don’t.  Students at a University in Baghdad can back down armed U.S. forces, and U.S. border guards receive fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers at the border with Mexico.  Because the ROE prevents U.S. forces from protecting property, the looters stole the Baghdad museum empty, thus demonstrating in the worst possible picture display that U.S. forces could not or would not protect the property of Iraqis.  Rather than speak of “rules of engagement,” since it appears that the U.S. military is conducting a gigantic police campaign in Iraq, “rules for the use of force” might be more appropriate.  Thus have ex-Mahdi army members returned to the streets in Baghdad for the protection of their neighborhoods.



Iran Poised to Strike as the Intelligence Community Wonders

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

In Critical Errors in Assessing Iran as we have done previously, we pointed out that Iran is currently engaging in covert war with the U.S., both inside and outside the borders of Iraq.  The U.S. intelligence community has had difficulty with this idea, questioning on the one hand whether the so-called “highest levels” of Iranian power knew and approved of the activities of al Quds, and on the other hand even taking the view early on that Iran actually sought and desired a stable and secure Iraq.

At a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence … the outgoing director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, said the old view was that Iran does not want a civil war in Iraq. But he said this assessment was changing.

“One has to wonder why it is that they have increased their supply of these kinds of lethal weapons to extremist Shia groups in Iraq, provoking violence, attacks on coalition forces, and others. And one wonders if their policy towards Iraq may not have shifted to a more aggressive posture than it has been in the past,” he said.

Concerning the most recent meeting in Baghdad, it is not clear what if anything would be accomplished, because the U.S. has met discretely with Iran for years.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we discussed the Iranian al Quds forces, and later in The Covert War with Iran we detailed some of the Iranian activities inside Iraq.  Yet there is even more current evidence against Iran concerning weapons in the southern portion of Iraq, and specifically Basra.  Data on Iranian involvement in Basra attacks against British forces has been compiled.

The Sun, 5 March – British troops in Iraq are being bombarded by new rockets and mortars supplied by Iran.

The missiles have caused 30 casualties so far at one large base in Basra alone.

The Sun has seen remnants and duds from the giant cache that prove they could NOT have been made in Iraq.

They are freshly painted, dated “2006? and have been scrubbed clean to hide any markings.

Shi’ite Muslim extremists are also slipping over the border for Iranian-funded training in how to use them, senior officers say.

The new explosives began to rain down on Basra three months ago. They include 107mm Katyusha-style rockets and 81mm and 60mm mortars.

Basra Palace — home to the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles’ Battle Group — has taken almost 90 strikes, wounding 30. Previously rebels used old stocks from raided Iraqi army bases.

But no heavy calibre munitions have been made in Iraq since 2003.

Rifles’ Intelligence Officer Lt Matt Birbeck said: “A lot of work has been done on this by us and the Americans and we think the new projectiles are being supplied by Iran.

“But they are being clever about it, hiding their tracks.?

Iranian involvement doesn’t stop at Iraq, however.  There are regional implications for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Sunday Telegraph, 4 March – Iran has trained secret networks of agents across the Gulf states to attack Western interests and incite civil unrest in the event of a military strike against its nuclear programme, a former Iranian diplomat has told The Sunday Telegraph.

Spies working as teachers, doctors and nurses at Iranian-owned schools and hospitals have formed sleeper cells ready to be “unleashed” at the first sign of any serious threat to Teheran, it is claimed.

Trained by Iranian intelligence services, they are also said to be recruiting fellow Shias in the region, whose communities have traditionally been marginalised by the Gulf’s ruling Sunni Arab clans.

Were America or Israel to attack Iran, such cells would be instructed to foment long-dormant sectarian grievances and attack the extensive American and European business interests in wealthy states such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Such a scenario would bring chaos to the Gulf, one of the few areas of the Middle East that remains prosperous and has largely pro-Western governments.

The claims have been made by Adel Assadinia, a former career diplomat who was Iran’s consul-general in Dubai and an adviser to the Iranian foreign ministry.

Here at TCJ we have not wondered about Iran as has the international IC.  Rather, we have wondered about an international IC that wonders about Iran.

Michael Fumento Takes on Boosterism

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

In Michael Fumento’s latest post he takes on boosterism.

A lot of people like AEI Scholar Robert Kagan’s reports on Iraq because he says what they want to hear. He’s a booster. Thus, for example, he writes in his latest column in the Sunday Washington Post that “NBC’s Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure.” Actually, I’ve seen that Ramadi is safer than it had been. Alas, it has no airport. It hasn’t since the war began. It has landing zones for helicopters but not even a strip of runway on which C-130s can land. Brian Williams, having been to Ramadi would know that and indeed a search of his writings turn up no mention of any Ramadi airport.

Okay, so Kagan committed a faux pas. But it doesn’t enhance one’s credibility to say a place that doesn’t exist is “more secure.” Nor does it help his overall theme as expressed in the title of his column “The ‘Surge’ Is Succeeding.” It’s way to early to make any such pronouncements. What we’ve seen so far is that as American forces increased, Sadr apparently just slipped across the border to a safe haven in Iran and has clearly told his men to lay low for the duration of the “surge.” When the tide ebbs, he plans to reclaim the beach. It is a good plan, which isn’t to say it will work. Our best hope is that his men can’t take it anymore and defy Sadr, giving us the chance to kill and capture them. But that clearly hasn’t happened yet and it may never.

Defeatism certainly doesn’t help anything, but boosterism is just a temporary feel-good shot in the arm. It did not help that in May of 2005 Vice-President Cheney claimed the insurgency is “in it’s last throes.” It did not help that Karl Zinsmeister, than also with AEI (and somebody who actually has been to Iraq), published an article in his own magazine a month later declaring “The War is Over, and We Won.” Only realistic assessments of the war will lead to realistic actions, and only realistic actions can lead to salvaging something resembling victory out of this war.

At the AEI I closely follow only Michael Ledeen (and to some  lesser extent Michael Rubin), so I cannot claim to know anything about Robert Kagan.  But I would still like to offer up a few comments on Michael’s main thesis.  Michael Fumento is always clear-headed and sensible, and I admire not only his prose, but his powers of analysis.  I do not consider myself to be a ‘rah rah’ blogger.  There are enough of those, and in my opinion they hurt the war effort almost as much as the biased and highly negative reports from the MSM.

From the very beginning of my short career in blogging, I have called out what I believe to be the more manifest errors of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including inadequate force size, overly-restrictive rules of engagement, open borders with Jordan, Syria and Iran, failing to see the larger implications of the regional war that is occurring, failure of the State Department and the entire administration to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for funding some of the terrorist activities inside Iraq, and imposition of a foreign political system into the Iraqi way of life, the very system itself (parliamentary) creating the inability to hold its largest voting bloc accountable.

There is incredible bravery in Iraq, and just as incredible cowardice at home.  There are victories on the battlefield and terrible losses in hospitals in Iraq and back in the states, with awful costs to our young men such as traumatic brain injury.  There have been huge successes in OIF, with counterinsurgency failures that have been just as stunning in OIF2 and OIF3 as the victories were in OIF1.  I operate under the philosophy that the truth is always the best thing to purvey to the readers.  So does Michael Fumento, who writes on a grander scale than I.

Regional Wars in the Middle East

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

There are insurgencies and counterinsurgencies taking place throughout the region of the Middle East, focusing first on Iraq.  In “The Surge” and Coming Operations in Iraq, we discussed no less than eight significant wars occurring in and near Iraq, involving the Shi’a Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, foreign fighters flowing in from Syria, AQI and AAS, suicide bombers or jihadists, Iran, Syria, and finally internecine warfare among the Anbar tribes.

Not only are Syria and Iran meddling in Iraq, but it has become clear that Jordan and especially Saudi Arabia are as well, and this has directly involved U.S. deaths.

What the American authorities are reluctant to admit, however, is that there are signs that the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and their allies – including Jordan – have been equipping and training Sunni extremists in Iraq for some time now. Critically, not all the weaponry and munitions have been used against the militants’ Shia and Kurdish Iraqi enemies. Some of them – including lethal roadside bombs – have been aimed at US forces.  “The growth of the official and unofficial Saudi and Jordanian support for the militants is one of the most worrying developments,” a senior British officer said privately after a visit to Iraq.

Conventional combat operations also have the potential to increase dramatically in the coming months.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1, we observed:

Israel has asked the U.S. for permission to use Iraqi air space in an over-flight to target Iranian nuclear facilities.  Note well that Israel requested permission from the U.S., not Iraq.  The U.S. is under what the U.N. security council calls a ‘security partnership‘ with Iraq.  Sovereignty over the air space is questionable at this point if we have regard for the U.N. resolution (a position which I am not advocating).  But Israel, assuming that the U.S. will grant the permission, is on the clock.  They know that the troops will be coming home, and then there is no appeal.  The Iraqi government will not grant access to attack Iran.  In fact, they will warn Iran of the impending strike.  The current administration is in power for two more years, and Israel will not wait until after they leave office.  Olmert has likened Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon to a second holocaust, and he is relatively dovish compared to his possible successor Netanyahu.

We continue to believe that this position has merit, and we will stand by our prediction.  While time may be ebbing away for the erstwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu ever to be such again, it doesn’t matter.  Even the dovish Olmert understands the stakes, and Israel will not, in our opinion, let the matter of a nuclear Iran slip into the next U.S. administration.  Israel may not have an ally in the next U.S. administration, and that may spell doom for Israel should she tarry.  The world has a window of opportunity of less than two years to avert catastrophy, with the powderkeg of the Middle East exploding with ramifications into the rest of the world.  An air war may be avoidable, and Netanyahu made an apperance on FNC to plead for economic boycotts of Iran by the world markets.  We agree with Netanyahu, though, when he said “if your enemy is implacable and in possession of mad ideologies, whether you talk to him is a secondary issue.  The first issue is how much pressure you bring to bear.”

True to this counsel, the intelligence wars are heating up in the Middle East, with Iraq directly in the middle of the Middle East.  In Important Undercurrents in Iraq, we cited the explosive DEBKAfile report which exposed the disappearance of high ranking Iranian Defense Minister until 2005, with the report strongly hinting that the DEBKAfile believes that he was kidnapped:

Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 – and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Alireza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asquari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

Other reports were soon issued that hinted to the contrary, saying that a defection was possible, and pointing to cracks in an Iranian intelligence network in such a condition that would allow something like this to happen without their knowledge.  In fact, it has been suggested that Israel is responsible for the defection of the Iranian general, and this has caused Israel to go on worldwide alert for all of their foreign installations in preparation for possible retribution by Iran.  The Washington Post has directly reported that the Iranian general defected, pointing to an intelligence coup resulting from the information he has divulged.

So the Sunni fight the Sunni in Anbar depending upon which tribe they are in, the Shi’a fight the Sunni and vice versa, the Kurds fight the Iranians and Turks, the Iranians, Syrians and Saudis foment violence in Iraq, AQI and AAS snipe from behind women and children, and jihadist suicide bombers blow up people in the marketplace, while al Quds, CIA, Israeli and other international intelligence forces from around the world battle it out on Iraqi soil and nearby, and all the while Israel studies how to bomb Iranian nuclear sites fearing for her very survival.

Important Undercurrents in Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

In Sand Berms Around Haditha and Security and WHAM: Getting the Order Right, we discussed in some detail the methodology that had been enacted to win back Haditha.  It involved strong leadership, limitations on movement, and complete cuttoff from the infiltration of the rogue foreign fighters from Syria by means of sand berms.  Subsequent to our articles, Stars and Stripes published a very similar article entitled Unit sees efforts stabilize city, drive back insurgents.  In the dangerous land that is Anbar, security is paramount, and without it, “winning the hearts and minds” of the population has proven to be next to impossible.

Also in Hope and Brutality in Anbar, we reiterated that the primary procedure used by AQI, AAS and the foreign fighters has been threats, torment, torture and houses of horror.  The threat made by the terrorists is that without cooperation of the people of Anbar, there will be no security since retaliation is a mainstay of the terrorist strategy.  Without conscience, the insurgents are willing to carry out their threats in houses of horror.  This tactic, in addition to scaring some of the population into submission, also has as its very nature a tenuous balance, where the very tactic itself is seen by the population as a lack of security.

The counterinsurgency continues, and with coalition forces unwilling to relent, the acts of holding women and children hostage during gunbattles, hiding in the people’s houses during combat operations (only to invite a direct hit by a JDAM), bullets flying freely through the streets due to sniper operation, and innocent people dying in torture sessions can turn the tide against the insurgents.  In fact, this is happening with greater regularity.

The tactics have not changed, and yet another torture house was recently discovered and shut down near Fallujah.  But tiring of such things, the tribes are reacting against the brutality.  Azzaman reports:

Some Arab tribes in the central and western parts of the country seem to have been fed up with the violence Al-Qaeda operatives are causing in Iraq.

At least one chieftain of the powerful Dulaimi tribe in northern Baghdad has decided to wage an open battle against al-Qaeda.

Mahmoud al-Fahdawi, head of Dulaimis in Tarmiya, Dhaloiya, Balad and Taji, some of the most violent areas in Iraq, is reported to have ordered his tribesmen to wage war on Qaeda.

Fahdawi’s men have captured three Saudi Nationals who reached the area a month ago and started setting up Islamic courts.

“The Saudi nationals sentenced innocent people to death on the pretext of cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi troops,? Fahdawi said.

He said he surrendered the three Saudis to U.S. troops when it became clear that they were Qaeda members.

It is the first time an Iraqi tribal leader in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where most of violence takes place, speaks out against Qaeda and delivers its operatives to U.S. troops.

Previously, many tribes were afraid to take on Qaeda in their areas and several tribal leaders have been killed for opposing its presence in their areas.

It is not clear whether Fahdawi’s move is part of wide resentment of Qaeda particularly in Dulaimi areas.

The Dulaimi tribe is present in central and western parts of the country. It is one the largest and most powerful tribes in Iraq and its members are said to have been leading the fight against U.S. troops in the Anbar Province, their main stronghold and where most of U.S. casualties are incurred.

“The tribes in the areas north and west of Baghdad launched attacks on several strongholds of gunmen and managed to kill and capture scores of them,? Fahdawi said.

He said the tribes were emboldened by a new council the government has set up to rid the Province of Anbar of gunmen.

It is a complicated matter, where there isn’t some point that security is fully implemented, any more than the murders in Chicago suddenly stop.  And there isn’t some point at which winning the hearts and minds of the people suddenly becomes necessary, prior to which it didn’t matter.  But of the most important issues associated with winning the hearts and minds, security comes first.  It is a tried and tested formula.

Important Undercurrents in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago


The Arab League has called on the United Nations Security Council to set a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.  Continuing with the demands, in a request that might be humorous if it weren’t so sad, “the list also includes a call for the fair distribution of wealth and the disbanding of all militias.”

The fair distribution of wealth is certainly a laudable goal, and one that might help in bringing some stability to the government.  It is the next demand that catches the eye: “disbanding all militias” – as if the U.N. was capable of causing such a thing to happen.  As we have noted before, Coalition Forces (primarily U.S.) are finally targeting Sadr City in the security sweeps, but still mainly engaging the so-called death squads and assumed rogue elements of the Madhi army.  But by attacking the “rogue” elements, the U.S. may be tacitly admitting defeat before the surge becomes fully engaged.

The Iraqi security forces and police are heavily infiltrated with Sadrist elements, and there is no question at the moment who controls Baghdad.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city’s population and the front line of al-Sadr’s campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr’s militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they’ve trained and armed.

“Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,” said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia’s Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. “People (in America) think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory” …

“All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the `Day of Death’ or something like that,” said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. “They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.”

“Honestly, within six months of us leaving, the way Iranian clerics run the country behind the scenes, it’ll be the same way here with Sadr,” said Quinn, 25, of Cleveland. “He already runs our side of the river.”

We have previously noted the necessity to defang the Mahdi army and kill or capture Moqtada al Sadr, or at least, prevent his return to Iraq.  The strengthening of the radical Shi’ites and Iran is not at all a trivial concern, and the connection between the Mahdi army and Iran is not accidental any more than Sadr’s presence in Iran during the “surge” is accidental.  Iran is still training the Mahdi army, with some recent “deployments” of the Mahdi army directly from Iranian training camps.

500 members of the Mahdi Army have allegedly returned to Iraq during the last two days after receiving training in neighboring Iran, the Haqq Agency reports. Unnamed sources told the agency that several hundred Mahdi Army militiamen have been training in Iranian camps in areas bordering the Maysan Governorate, south of Iraq, for the last three months.

We have discussed the need to view OIF as a regional conflict, along with recommending full engagement in the covert war with Iran.  There seems to be significant action on this front.

Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 – and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Alireza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asquari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

The Turkish foreign ministry said only: “It is a very sensitive intelligence matter and the Interior Ministry is dealing with this issue.?

BAZTAB speaks for the faction associated with Mohsein Rezai, former Revolutionary Guards commander, deputy head of Iran’s most powerful governing council and a man very close to top intelligence circles in Tehran

The Iranian general’s arrival at Ataturk international airport on a flight from Damascus is recorded at border control, but he never reached the hotel.

Instead, he booked himself into the more modest and cheaper Hotel Ghilan. He left his luggage in the room, walked out of the hotel – and vanished.

A police official in Istanbul said: “We are trying to find out whether he left or was taken. Clearly the reservation made for him at the luxurious Ceylan Hotel was made to mislead. Tehran’s application to Interpol, which has issued a yellow bulletin, means that the Iranians are not treating Asquari’s disappearance as a defection but as involuntary.

DEBKAfile adds: Tehran sees the hand of US undercover agencies or contract gunmen and believes Washington has stepped up its war against Iranian officers running Tehran’s clandestine operations in Iraq. The kidnapping of an Iranian general outside Iraq would expand President Bush’s permission for the capture or killing of Iranian agents helping Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda murder Americans in Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly 288 reported on Feb. 2 that the gunmen who abducted the American soldiers in Karbala – and then shot them dead execution-style – belonged to a special commando team of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, which was sent to Iraq especially for this mission.

DEBKAfile continues by describing the Iranian action that led up to this.

The team was made up of intelligence officers who speak American English and were trained to masquerade as US troops, kidnap US soldiers and hold them as hostages for bargaining.

These officers are from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries, who studied in the US and can talk like Americans – even in the idiom of US troops. Teams of these masqueraders roam at large in Iraq, clad in American uniforms, armed with US weapons and driving stolen American vehicles.

Tehran’s plan was to snatch a group of US soldiers and hold them hostage against the release of the 8 Revolutionary Guards paratroops in American custody. However, according to our intelligence sources, the plan went awry for some unknown reason and the Iranian commandos decided to execute their captives before making a fast getaway from the Karbala region.

Tehran views this operation as a fiasco because it did not achieve its goal. At the same time, Iranian intelligence has not been put off its plan to take American soldiers hostage in Iraq. Its chiefs are determined to do whatever it takes to obtain the release of the third top man of the Revolutionary Guards al Quds division, Col. Fars Hassami, who DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports is not the only high-profile Iranian officer in American hands. Another is Mohammad Jaafari Sahra-Rudi, who was the kingpin of Iran’s terrorist operations in large parts of Iraq. His long record includes leading the Iranian death squad which assassinated Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party leader Dr. Abdol-Rahman Qasemlou in Vienna in 1989.

Austrian security services caught the assassin but sent him back to Iran as part of a secret transaction between the two countries.

Qasemlou operated in Iraq under his real identity and even met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani just a few days before he was captured in the American raid of the Iranian “liaison office? in Irbil Jan 11.

The Iranians have explored every channel they can think of to break the agents out of American custody. When they realized that the United States was adamant about holding on to them, the heads of the Revolutionary Guards decided to go ahead with their campaign of abductions against US troops in Iraq. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approved.

While this engagement in the covert war with Iran might be too little, too late, it is certainly warranted.  Engagement with Iran must take multiple forms, including the Mullah’s proxy fighters in Iraq.  But it is a mistake to believe that seeing this as a regional war means only that areas outside the Iraqi borders are included.

Sadr’s organization, while symbiotic and idealogically connected to Iran, has now become a dangerous and more self-sufficient group than they were even a few months ago, and should be seen in international terms.  It is no less idealogically driven than al Qaeda, and given the diminution of AQI’s capabilities in Iraq, probably poses a more significant threat to region stability and is just as unlikely as AQI to work towards an Iraq that is a U.S. ally in the global war on terror.  Remember that it was Sadr who organized the pro-Hezballah rally where tens of thousands of supporters shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”  Final peace in Iraq with the Sadrists will come at the price of U.S. withdrawal and further ethnic cleansing.  But final peace will never be negotiated with those who seek our destruction because of religious beliefs.

**** UPDATE ****

The always informative and clear-headed Omar Fadhil at Pajamas Media gives us a view of the Baghdad security operations, and this excerpt discusses the role of the Mahdi army:

The Mehdi army is not responding to the raids with fire, but they are trying to undermine the security plan by spreading rumors about alleged crimes committed by US soldiers, specifically against the Shia. The latest of these rumors was a ridiculous one I heard yesterday from a taxi driver from Sadr city. His story, quite similar to one told by a Sadr city council member, is that US soldiers are raiding Shia homes, arresting innocent civilians, and then dumping them at night near strongholds of Sunni insurgents, blindfolded and handcuffed so that the insurgents would find them defenseless and slaughter them!

The Mahdi army knows that they cannot win a toe-to-toe fight with the U.S., and neither do they want to deplete their men, munitions or equipment.  Rather, they will do as we have predicted and just wait out the surge, saving their forces for later, all the while undermining the security effort.  They are undermining the security effort for one simple reason: they do not want security for Baghdad.  They want to continue their mission of ethnic cleansing and to retain control over Baghdad and beyond.

Reports that the Mahdi army is being divided into those elements that are reconcilable versus those who aren’t, are profoundly unimpressive and even troubling.  This strategy amounts to “kicking the can down the road.”  The Mahdi army has made it clear where they stand, and they stand opposed to a unified and reconciled Iraq, regardless of what some of them say to representatives of the MNF.

Intelligence Bulletin #2

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 11 months ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the second entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #2 covers the following subjects: [1] victories and violence in Sunni areas, [2] Baghdad security operations: promise and problems, [3] Iraq awash in munitions, [4] distributed operations and snipers on the roof tops, [5] HUMINT and information warfare in Iraq, [6] update on Austrian sniper rifles in Iraq, [7] U.S. military preparedness degraded (special ops to grow?), [8] hard times at Walter Reed and the VA, [9] U.S. funding Iranian insurgency, and [10] update on international legal war against the CIA.

Victories and Violence in Sunni Areas

There is indication that AQI — and those who have chosen to align with them — may be wearing out their welcome in Iraq.  On Wednesday there was significant combat action near Fallujah, and the remarkable thing about this action was that it didn’t involve U.S. forces.

Iraqi security forces killed dozens of al Qaeda militants who attacked a village in western Anbar province on Wednesday, during fierce clashes that lasted much of the day, police officials said on Thursday …

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said foreign Arabs and Afghans were among some 80 militants killed and 50 captured in the clashes in Amiriyat al Falluja, an Anbar village where local tribes had opposed al Qaeda.

A police official in the area, Ahmed al-Falluji, put the number of militants killed at 70, with three police officers killed. There was no immediate verification of the numbers.

A U.S. military spokesman in the nearby city of Falluja, Major Jeff Pool, said U.S. forces were not involved in the battle but had received reports from Iraqi police that it lasted most of Wednesday. He could not confirm the number killed.

Another police source in Falluja put the figure at dozens.

“Because it was so many killed we can’t give an exact number for the death toll,” the police source told Reuters.

Witnesses said dozens of al Qaeda members attacked the village, prompting residents to flee and seek help from Iraqi security forces, who sent in police and soldiers.

Stars and Stripes gives us a similar recent report on population involvement in defeating the insurgency in the Sunni town of Hawijah.  It is so significant that large portions are reproduced below.

… even for a city with a “roughneck? reputation, the insurgent attack on Feb. 14 was ambitious.

Insurgents targeted five locations in the city and an American base nearby, destroying an Iraqi police station in the process.

“It was the first time we had seen such a large attack,? said 1st Lt. Gerald Lozauskas of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry. “Hawijah is violent, to say the least, but usually it’s very simple attacks. (Insurgents) were trying to take back the city.?

The assault backfired, U.S. military leaders said. Residents of Hawijah, who had been ardently anti-American, turned on the insurgents, to the shock of American forces.

“I have never seen anything like that before,? said 1st Lt. Nathanael Joslyn.

Hawijah is overshadowed in most ways by the more prosperous and strategically important Kurdish-led enclave of Kirkuk, about 43 miles to the northeast. But Hawijah has outstripped its neighbor in one dubious respect: the number of American casualties. The Hawaii-based 2-27 has lost 12 soldiers in seven months.

Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, the unit’s commander, has shaped many of the changes in Hawijah. But even for a commander who exudes tough assertiveness and confidence, there were moments when he wondered if the town was beyond repair.

“You begin to question almost immediately once you start losing soldiers if you will ever see success,? he said.

Hawijah is almost exclusively Sunni Arab, the ousted ruling class of the former regime, and residents took their fall from grace hard.

“The people were bitter,? Meyerowich said. “We were seen as occupiers.?

U.S. officials estimate coalition forces saw somewhere between 70 to 80 roadside bombs a month.

“There was a general mistrust,? Lozauskas said. “The city was such a hotbed.? Because of that, U.S. soldiers did a lot of “kicking in doors and tossing houses? when they first arrived.

But they shifted tactics and emphasized intelligence operations and humanitarian aid to win over residents. Residents received food and fuel along with messages that troops were there to help.

“That’s how this war has to be fought,? Lozauskas said. U.S. leaders also pushed the Iraqi army to take a more active role, stationing them on McHenry. The collaboration has not always been easy.

“All a U.S. soldier knows is to take the lead, take charge,? Lozauskas said. “It’s hard to understand that Iraqis need to be in the lead.?

Slowly results trickled in. Attacks once directed at U.S. troops shifted toward the Iraqis. Whether or not insurgents believed in the viability of the Iraqi army, it was clear that U.S. forces were determined to have them share the risks of policing Hawijah.

The culmination was a drive for police recruits that attracted more than 400 men, more than double the number expected.

Apparently, insurgents also had taken notice. The recruiting drive took place on Feb. 14.

When the first wave of attacks occurred that day, the would-be police officers had already left for the training academy in Kirkuk. “The insurgents didn’t know that,? Lozauskas said.

The article goes on to describe the battle scene, and then observes:

Their havoc complete, the insurgents began to melt away. Three attackers fled by car west out of the city with a U.S. helicopter close behind. A mile outside the city, they continued by foot and ran for the reeds.

The helicopter pilots later reported that while in pursuit, they noticed a crowd of 20 to 30 Iraqis gathering. Some men in the crowd had taken their shirts off and waved them in the air to attract the attention of the aircraft.

The crowd, their arms extended in unison, pointed to the reeds. Not content to just point out the men, however, the crowd took matters into their own hands. Armed with only sticks and their fists, they went after the insurgents and managed to drag one of the fugitives out, while the other two slipped away.

The crowd clubbed and tied the man until American forces arrived to take custody.

Rich Lowry’s ‘Pentagon Intel Guy’ notes the transition occurring in Anbar:

The recent bombings in ANBAR demonstrate red on red kinetic operations. Something which has been rare until the last few months. More and more Sunni tribes are pledging fealty to the Iraqi government and the Coalition and turning their back on the insurgents/AQI. This has caused them to be targeted.

We have seen the enemy bomb police recruitment drives, and now mosques of “apostate” Imams and Sheikhs who have sided with the Americans. This has happened twice in the last week. While the mainstream media considers this more proof of failure- it is actually a sign of the precarious position the terrorists are in. They need the Sunni population to protect them and shelter them. If they are now butchering them like everyone else- this could be a turning point in the relationship. This is crucial to watch. We need to protect the tribal leaders who have come over to us- and AQI knows that it is a death sentence for them if they can’t stop it.

Since the battle in Sunni areas is one for the heart and soul of Iraq by AQI and AAS, just as we have observed in the past, there will be an increase in the terror and brutality against the Sunnis who have aligned with the government, since brutality is the primary weapon of AQI.  There has also been an increase in U.S. casualties over the past couple of months, attributable directly to the end-battle with AQI.

So there are positive aspects to the operations in Anbar, but AQI is still in existence and will fight furiously for survival.  In Ramadi, there are still snipers everywhere, and Anbar is still the most dangerous place on earth.

Baghdad Security Operations: Promise and Problems

There has previously been action taken against the Sadrists, but no concerted effort to clear the Shi’ite neighborhoods of the rogue elements.  This is all changing.  The Baghdad security plan shifts into fourth gear in the coming weeks, targeting not only AQI, but Sadr City as well.

U.S. and Iraqi troops will soon launch a major sweep in the Shi’ite militia bastion of Sadr City, military officials said on Thursday, a pivotal moment for the make-or-break security crackdown in Baghdad.

American-led forces have conducted targeted raids in the Mehdi Army militia stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr aimed at death squad leaders, but have so far held off from a concerted push into the teeming slum.

In the new campaign, U.S. and Iraqi troops will set up joint checkpoints in Sadr City and conduct large-scale door-to-door operations on houses and buildings, a significant escalation in a plan regarded as the last chance to avert sectarian civil war …

“We have conducted special operations in Sadr City for some months but this will be the first time we will launch full-scale operations there and the first time we will have a permanent presence there,” said Colonel Billy Don Farris, coalition forces commander for Sadr City and Adhamiya neighborhoods.

“There will be no sanctuaries in Iraq. We are going to go to every building and every house and incrementally clear the area. We will target any group that attacks Iraqi and U.S. troops,” he told Reuters.

But this is still primarily a U.S. operation.  Many of the Iraqi troops deployed to Baghdad are no-shows, and the some of the ones who have shown up are Kurds who face a language and culture barrier.  Ralph Peters has a slightly optimistic but still sober assessment of the current Baghdad situation.  But here at TCJ, we believe that the most important question remaining to be answered is not whether temporary security can be brought to Baghdad.  With enough effort Baghdad can be pacified.  The real question is whether it will remain this way after “the surge,” and in order to answer that question, we must first answer the question “will Sadr be allowed to return?”  If the answer is “no,” then permanent security may result from these operations, assuming that the Sunni insurgency is quieted.  If the answer is “yes,” then in our assessment it is a strategic blunder of epic proportions to continue to expend American lives and resources to pacify Baghdad.  If Sadr returns, the ethnic purging will continue when the U.S. stands down and the surge has ended.  After that, Iraq will be tightly allied to Iran and thus the U.S. will not have Iraq as an ally in the global war on terror.  This result is not worth another American life.

Iraq Awash in Munitions

Within the past couple of weeks, the Multi-National Force web site has focused a dizzying amount of attention on weapons caches, including (but not limited to) the following six press releases:

This is of course partially a result of the increased kinetic action as part of the security plan.  But the weapons, in addition to being shipped in from Syria and Iran, were there under the previous regime.

Four years after the Iraq war began, the country remains awash in Saddam-era munitions that provide key ingredients for homemade bombs used against U.S. troops, according to administration documents and military officials.

More than $1 billion has been spent to clear about 15,000 sites of the unsecured weapons. To clear the remaining 3,391 sites, the Pentagon says it needs part of a $1.2 billion request for items to protect U.S. troops in Iraq …

More than 400,000 tons of weapons have been destroyed, and another 19,000 tons have been set aside for the Iraqi army, he said.

“There’s no telling how many soldiers and Iraqi civilians that we’ve saved by the amount of stuff we’re taking off the streets,” Sargent said.

In yet another reminder of the effects of inadequate force size, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Army officer, said there weren’t enough U.S. troops in Iraq to destroy the weapons.  Here at TCJ we agree with that assessment.

This is why the Small Wars Manual recommends increasing force size until no longer necessary and disarming the population, counsel that wasn’t followed after OIF1.

Distributed Operations and Snipers on the Roof Tops

We have been a proponent of the robust use of non-conventional assets in the counterinsurgency in Iraq, and this is not intended to point to the use of Special Operations Forces.  In Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops and Unleash the Snipers! (where it was recommended that Marines use their rifle skills as snipers, augmenting or adding to the teams of snipers) we proposed a method for addressing the sniper threat in Anbar that should be seen in the light of a recent entry at the Strategy Page on distributed operations:

SOCOM (Special Operations Command), the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are trying to come up with a working version of “distributed operations.” What they are looking for is a way to let many small (from 10-30) groups of infantry operate out of sight (and thus mutual support of) each other. This is nothing new. It’s actually an ancient practice, and the troops doing it have come to be called “light infantry.” That term has also come to mean infantry who don’t operate out of armored vehicles, but just ignore that one for now. Classic light infantry were used to harass the enemy, or just keep an eye on the opposing troops. Light infantry were just that, light, and not capable of standing up to the advance of regular infantry.

Ever since the 1920s, generals have tried to develop a modern version of classic light infantry, one that could use distant artillery, or warplanes overhead, to handle just about anything. By the 1960s, the concept finally found a way to work, in the form of elite recon or Special Forces troops. These small teams (usually less than dozen men) had radios and knew how to call in air or artillery strikes. These guys also knew how to stay out of sight, and evade contact with enemy troops. This last skill was essential, even more so than it always has been for light infantry.

While SOCOM has lots of troops who can do this sort of thing, the marines and the army do not, and they want to change that. The marines and the army do have long range recon units, who can handle this modern “light infantry” sort of thing, but the LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) troops are not supposed to be calling in firepower, but mainly collecting information. The problem with training more modern light infantry is just that, it requires lots of additional skills. That takes more time, and only a fraction of current infantry could absorb all those new skills. That’s why there are so few Special Forces and LRRP troops.

This kind of thinking is seen as risky partly because it is, but also because it does not comport with the doctrine of force protection.  But rather than see the danger in this type of tactic, we recommend seeing it as crucial to the success of OIF.  In fact, it is being currently implemented in the Baghdad security plan by the use of snipers:

While some areas of Baghdad are calm, house-to-house searching and deadly attacks continue in others. American forces conducted several raids in Baghdad al-Jadida. In the Sha’ab area, IEDs are a particular danger, even though the US is patrolling for them. US forces have stationed snipers on many buildings in the area.

Distributed operations.  Just so. 

HUMINT and Information Warfare in Iraq

The Guardian and Aljazeera published the same report several days ago, where a bomb was alleged to have killed eighteen children at a playground.  Here at TCJ, we saw this story as being dubious from the beginning for reasons to lengthy to detail here.  As it turns out, Stars and Stripes (and other news outlets) gives us the real story behind this incident:

RAMADI, Iraq — When it comes to the fog of war, things don’t get any clearer when viewed through the Internet’s deadline-a-minute news cycle. At least that’s the conclusion some may draw from a recent blizzard of confusing reports on an explosion in Ramadi’s violent downtown Tuesday evening.

One widespread report — that 16 children were killed by a car bomb while playing soccer in downtown Ramadi — was offered up by Iraqi police sources and local tribal leaders. According the U.S. military, it is entirely false.

While insurgents have repeatedly used car bombs to kill Ramadi officials and civilians (15 people, mostly adults, died in a car bomb blast Monday), the U.S. military said no car bombings occurred in southeast Ramadi at the time of the reported soccer field bombing.

What did happen, they said, was that 31 men, women and children were injured when U.S. bomb disposal technicians conducted a “controlled detonation? of seized explosives and propane tanks and misjudged the size of the blast. The blast occurred around 5:30 p.m., and all but one of the injured were civilians.

“The blast was much larger than expected, shattering glass in surrounding buildings and injuring the civilians,? a U.S. news release read. The victims were struck by flying glass and debris; none of the injuries appeared to be life threatening.

Despite the fact that no soccer field bombing occurred, media across the globe seized on the story. Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times carried quotes from the offices of President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemning the bombing. Maliki blamed “criminal gangs? for the “crime against children in their innocent playgrounds.?

At best, the confusion was the result of simple coincidence. Tuesday’s controlled blast by U.S. forces occurred after the discovery of a dump truck containing explosives. Experts disabled the truck bomb and searched for more ordnance, discovering 15 rice bags filled with a substance that appeared to be explosives as well as a dozen propane tanks.

The story is important not just because of its own merit, but also in that it shows that information warfare is occurring in Iraq.  This specific example is the first tier, but there is a higher tier that is even more important, and it involves human intelligence.  At a recent symposium on Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, the following viewpoint was expressed:

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 28, 2007 – The United States should approach the global war on terrorism as it would an insurgency, a senior military official said today at the 18th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium here.

“If we look at is as terrorism, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to kill or capture all the terrorists. That’s a never-ending process,? Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support, said.

“We’ll never be successful, we’ll never get there, if we think that’s the primary solution,? he said. “But if we approach it from the perspective of an insurgency, we use the seven elements of national power.?

The general defined the seven elements of national power as diplomacy, military, economy, finance, law enforcement, information and intelligence. Focusing on the latter two elements in a keynote speech here, Boykin first discussed the shortcomings of the U.S.’s information capability.

“In the information age,? he said, “information should be something we’re good at, … and I do not believe that to be the case.

For the Defense Department, human intelligence is “much broader than clandestine operations,? Boykin said. “Interrogations and debriefings, the things our attaches do, two guys in a spider hole putting eyes on a target is human intelligence? …

Boykin said the Defense Department has been working “hand in glove with the CIA? on rebuilding DoD’s HUMINT capabilities. “Now that we’re in an insurgency, there’s nothing more important than human intelligence,? he said. “We need to leverage every HUMINT capability.

Here at TCJ we agree wholeheartedly with this opinion.  HUMINT — and the means to develop it — was eviscerated in the Clinton years, and rebuilding it has been difficult.  The article cited above goes on to argue for the centralization of HUMINT resources, a position that we do not necessarily advocate.  But we do concur with the need for resourcing and cooperation in order to maximize the value of the information upon which we act.  We especially like the notion of “two guys in a spider whole putting eyes on a target” as being the best intelligence.

Update on Austrian Sniper Rifles in Iraq

In Intelligence Bulletin #1, we covered the issue of the Austrian sniper rifles, eight hundred of them, ordered by Iran, with one hundred of them said to be recently captured inside Iraq.  We are still following this story, but it is noteworthy that IraqSlogger has posted an article questioning the accuracy of the report (perhaps to the point of excoriating the Telegraph article).  We believe that IraqSlogger was too hard on the Telegraph, and may not be privy to the evidence they possess or sources they use.  However, more significant in our opinion is the interesting Stratfor article on the same subject, amended with the following editorial note at the beginning of the article:

Editor’s Note: In our ongoing investigation of the presence of Steyr HS.50 sniper rifles in Iraq, we have been unable to confirm an initial report that any of the specific weapons referred to in the following analysis have, in fact, turned up in the country. We will continue to examine this issue.

One source indicates to me that the number of rifles captured (at one hundred) is likely highly inflated.  We will continue to follow this story and report on what we learn.

U.S. Military Readiness Degraded

We have earlier noted that a confluence of things has caused a degradation in the military readiness and the ability to conduct concurrent campaigns, including (what we believe to be) over-commitments of troops and resources in the Far East and Europe, and the effect of more than four years of warfare in the Middle East on men, morale and equipment.  The so-called “surge” has had troubling ramifications for men and equipment as shown by recent testimony before the Congress:

Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said.

The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties, according to Army and Marine Corps leaders.

“The response would be slower than we might like, we would not have all of the equipment sets that ordinarily would be the case, and there is certainly risk associated with that,? the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, told the House Armed Services Committee last week.

President Bush’s plan to send five additional U.S. combat brigades into Iraq has left the Army and Marines scrambling to ensure that the troops could be supported with the necessary armored vehicles, jamming devices, radios and other gear, as well as lodging and other logistics.

Trucks are in particularly short supply. For example, the Army would need 1,500 specially outfitted — known as “up-armored? — 2 1/2 -ton and five-ton trucks in Iraq for the incoming units, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for force development.

“We don’t have the [armor] kits, and we don’t have the trucks,? Speakes said in an interview. He said it will take the Army months, probably until summer, to supply and outfit the additional trucks. As a result, he said, combat units flowing into Iraq would have to share the trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance.

General Peter Pace has made it even clearer that the warfighting capability of the U.S. armed forces is eroding:

Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace’s review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Pace’s report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

The review grades the military’s ability to meet the demands of the nation’s military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Cuba or China.

The debacle concerning readiness didn’t come about ex nihilo.  It has been years in the making.  As stated by one officer,

The politicians mentally went to war with the Army built by Reagan when in actuality they went to war with the Army which was decimated by Bush 41/Clinton.

More here.  Also, concerning special operations, Major Cliff Gilmore sends us notification of the first aniversary of Marines special forces, and sends us to the MARSOC web site.  In an attempt to elicit a reaction, several years ago we asked a marine if there were marine special operations, and he replied, “sir, we are special.”  Indeed.  Major Gilmore has worked hard to convince us of the rationale for MARSOC, while we still politely question whether the idea of recon that has to be “attached” to a unit really comports with the doctrine of the self-contained expeditionary force that trains together.  But Major Gilmore reminds us that there is a difference between “special,” and “specialized.”  Major Gilmore informs us that the work has paid dividends, and there are currently small units of Marine special ops already deployed and active.

Concerning special operations, there is expected to be a growth in the size of special operations in the future.  But Michael Fumento has a good reality-check of this idea, and his article is recommended reading.

Hard Times at Walter Reed and the VA

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was troubled by reports a few weeks ago concering out-patient care of wounded veterans, and the threats started:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday branded the outpatient care of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan “unacceptable” and promised officials would be held accountable for the failings.

The Bush administration has scrambled to address problems at the flagship Walter Reed Army Medical Center after newspaper reports showed wounded troops were living in shoddy conditions and struggling with bureaucratic procedures.

“After the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable,” Gates said on a visit to the hospital, making his first public comments on the issue.

The stunning and troubling exposé done by Bob Woodruff on traumatic brain injury — and the lack of readiness to deal with out-patient care even at this late date — probably didn’t help matters.  It appears that when Bob Gates threatens, he is not merely engaging in chest-pounding.  The head of Walter Reed Medical Center has been sacked:

The Army on Thursday fired the general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, saying he was the wrong person to fix embarrassing failures in the treatment of war-injured soldiers that have soiled the institution’s reputation as a first-class hospital.

Less than a week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Walter Reed and said those responsible would be “held accountable,” the Army announced it had relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman of command. He is a physician who had headed the hospital for only six months.

In defense of Weightman, six months is probably not long enough to get the lay of the land, and the Woodruff story on TBI showed the hard work by Walter Reed, as opposed to the awful state of affairs with out-patient care back home after discharge by Walter Reed.  It doesn’t matter now: Weightman is sacked.  And for the foreseeable future, there will likely be some blood-letting at Walter Reed and the VA.  On the issue of out-patient care of veterans suffering from TBI, there is absolutely no excuse for loss of paperwork with veterans sitting at home unable to get care.  None.  Look for a very much needed revamping of the procedures and protocol for out-patient care.

U.S. Funding Iranian Insurgency

As we discussed in The Covert War with Iran, there is significant Iranian activity inside of Iraq, and currently Iran is actively recruiting Shi’ite elements in Iraq for their insurgency.

Iran has recruited its own network of Iraqi Shi’ite extremists to use armor-piercing weapons against U.S. and coalition forces rather than against Sunni rivals, current and former intelligence officials say.

The secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has circumvented Shi’ite organizations like the Mehdi Army to enlist individual militants and train them in the use of explosively formed penetrators, the officials said.

The weapons, known as EFPs, have killed 170 U.S.-led coalition troops, according to the Pentagon. U.S. officials have said these weapons have come into greater use over the past year.

“The purpose appears not to be to shore up Iran’s political partners in Iraq against the Sunnis, but to cause problems for American troops,” said a former intelligence official who closely monitors events in the Middle East.

There may be dual motives in the Iranian-fueled insurgency.  Continuing:

Some experts believe Iran has supplied traceable weapons to show the United States what ground troops might face in any military intervention.

“Tensions between these two countries have escalated dramatically since 2003, and everybody has suspected for a long time that Iraq could become a battlefield,” said Vali Nasr, Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School.

“I’m sure these (munitions) have been used to let it be known that the Iranians have these capabilities in Iraq.”

Added an intelligence source: “They could be saying, ‘This is the merest taste of what you would face if you came across the border or bombed us or knocked out our nuclear reactors’.”

Iran is under pressure to abandon enrichment activities that Washington believes are aimed at developing nuclear arms, a charge Tehran denies. Bush has said repeatedly the United States is not planning a war and the administration this week opened the door to dialogue with Iran and Syria over Iraq.

But combative U.S. rhetoric and America’s military build-up in the Gulf have fueled worries about a U.S. attack.

Others believe the increasing use of EFPs may be linked to Tehran’s suspicions of covert U.S. and British operations inside Iran, where tensions among minority Arabs, Kurds and others have led to violence.

Former intelligence officials who monitor the Middle East said a covert Pentagon operation set up by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used ethnic separatists as U.S. proxies in Iran.

“Incidents, particularly among the Arab minority inside Iran, have caused the Iranians some problems,” said one former official. “Speculation is that this is their tit-for-tat.”

Seymour Hersh has recently reported that the U.S. is funding radical Sunni groups to counter the Shi’ite groups backed by Iran (note that Hersh routinely writes without sourcing his articles, and we question the main thesis of this one).  When asked whether the Shi’ite police in Iraq were being trained, Hersh responded:

Well — the Shia police, no. Here’s the wonderful irony of it, of course, is that after 9/11, after we invaded Iraq, the neoconservatives in Washington wanted nothing to do with the Baathist party — that’s Saddam’s party, most of them were Sunnis — disbanded the Baathist party, disbanded the military — a lot of Sunnis, a lot of Shia in the military, too, of course — and threw in our weight with the Shia.

Within months, the American intelligence community was raising a lot of questions internally. I was talking to people about this by the late spring of ’03. They were trying to tell the White House: you guys are making a big mistake, because Iran is the big winner of this war, particularly when we began to see signs of the insurgency, and the Shia are going to support Iran. The Shia are going to go with the Shia of Iran over you.

And the neocon mantra — there had been a war between Iran and Iraq for eight years during the 1980s, a very, very devastating war, thousands killed in any one set-piece battle. They would just rush each other. And the assumption of the neoconservatives was that the Iraqi Shiites, having fought the Iranian Shiites for so long and so brutally, would be loyal to Iraq.

Well, it turned out the Shia tie, particularly when the occupation began and the American troops began, like all occupiers, became hated, I don’t think there was much we could do. We certainly — our activities and the bombing and the violence didn’t help, but no matter how we behave, occupiers historically are always hated. And so, once that happened, and we became — the Americans became essentially the 200-octane fuel that drove the resistance, once that began, the Shiite immediately began to work with the Iranians much more. And all of this was ignored by the White House for years, because it didn’t fit in with their preconceptions.

We thoroughly disagree with Hersh’s absurd description of the U.S. as the “200-octane fuel that drove the resistance,” and it seems that Hersch is as biased as he accuses the “neocons” of being.  Furthermore, there have been serious questions raised as to the journalistic merit of Hersh’s article.  But it is of interest that the American IC saw this early on — or at least, so says Hersh.  If true, this is one more way in which proper planning for the war after the war was not done, adding to the already long list including IEDs, the sniper threat, the lack of State Department involvement in Iraq reconstruction, and the lack of troop size to provide a blanket of security in Iraq so that politics could have a chance to take root.

Update on International Legal War Against the CIA

In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we covered the legal action against CIA agents in both Germany and Italy, the wet blanket that this type of thing throws over the international intelligence community, and the possibility that extradition of these agents would be requested.  As a brief followup to this, it should be noted that recent indications are that the “war” against the CIA might be active in the legal communities but not in the seats of power.

The United States will refuse any Italian extradition request for CIA agents indicted in the alleged abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

“We’ve not got an extradition request from Italy. If we got an extradition request from Italy, we would not extradite U.S. officials to Italy,” John Bellinger, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told journalists after meeting legal advisers to EU governments.

Milan prosecutors want the Italian government to forward to Washington their request for the extradition of the 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents. The previous government of Silvio Berlusconi refused, and Premier Romano Prodi’s center-left government has indicated it would not press Washington on the issue.

The 26 are accused in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in 2003.

Nasr allegedly was taken to Aviano Air Base near Venice, Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany, and then to Egypt, where he was held for four years and, according to his lawyer, tortured. He has been freed by an Egyptian court that ruled his detention was “unfounded.”

In a newspaper interview earlier this month, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella suggested the government would not seek the Americans’ extradition, saying that the friendship with Washington needed to be safeguarded.

The decision on whether or not to forward an extradition request would normally be made by the Justice Ministry. But in this case, Mastella has said the decision will be made by the whole government because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Still holding true, however, is our earlier observation that the careers of the CIA agents in question essentially become straight-jacketed.  They cannot enter countries that have extradition treaties with the Italy.  It is one thing for Italy not to force extradition from the U.S.; it is entirely another for the rest of the world.

Critical Errors in Assessing Iran

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 12 months ago

There is a growing chorus of voices urging talks with Iran to stop interference in Iraq and the rush to the status of world nuclear power, and the U.S. has recently agreed to high level talks with Syria and Iran concerning the future of Iraq.  When assessing these things, there is a real danger in framing the problem within the context of our own worldview — where the boundary conditions for our conclusions (incorrectly) become our own cultural, historical and religious heritage.  This is a critical error in judgment, and as one means of avoiding it, there is utility in listening to the enemy.

In the Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2007, Volume XIV, Number 1, Ali Alfoneh has written an excellent assessment of the meteoric rise to prominence of the Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha-ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz), an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank that has been instrumental in promulgating the formation of suicide brigades in Iran.

Its director, Hassan Abbasi, has embraced the utility of suicide terrorism … He announced that approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers) were ready to carry out suicide operations against “twenty-nine identified Western targets” should the U.S. military strike Iranian nuclear installations.

Such threats are not new. According to an interview with Iran’s Fars News Agency released on Abbasi’s weblog, he has propagated haras-e moghaddas (sacred terror) at least since 2004. “The front of unbelief,” Abbasi wrote, “is the front of the enemies of God and Muslims. Any deed which might instigate terror and horror among them is sacred and honorable.”  On June 5, 2004, he spoke of how suicide operations could overcome superior military force: “In ‘deo-centric’ thought, there is no need for military parity to face the enemy … Deo-centric man prepares himself for martyrdom while humanist man struggles to kill.”

Alfoneh continues by pointing to the formalization of these ideas within the context of the Iranian intelligence forces and using religion as the backdrop.

The organization’s prominence continued to grow throughout the year. On June 5, 2004, the reformist daily Shargh granted Mohammad-Ali Samadi, Headquarters’ spokesman, a front page interview.  Samadi has a pedigree of hard-line revolutionary credentials. He is a member of the editorial boards of Shalamche and Bahar magazines, affiliated with the hard-line Ansar-e Hezbollah (Followers of the Party of God) vigilante group, as well as the newspaper Jomhouri-ye Eslami, considered the voice of the intelligence ministry.  Samadi said he had registered 2,000 volunteers for suicide operations at a seminar the previous day.  Copies of the registration forms  show that the “martyrdom-seekers” could volunteer for suicide operations against three targets: operations against U.S. forces in the Shi‘ite holy cities in Iraq; against Israelis in Jerusalem; and against Rushdie. The registration forms also quote Khomeini’s declaration that “if the enemy assaults the lands of the Muslims and its frontiers, it is mandatory for all Muslims to defend it by all means possible [be it by] offering life or property,” and current supreme leader Ali Khamene’i’s remarks that “[m]artyrdom-seeking operations mark the highest point of the greatness of a nation and the peak of [its] epic. A man, a youth, a boy, and a girl who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the interests of the nation and their religion is the [symbol of the] greatest pride, courage, and bravery.”  According to press reports, a number of senior regime officials have attended the Headquarters’ seminars.  The Iranian officials appeared true to their word. During a September 2004 speech in Bushehr, home of Iran’s declared nuclear reactor, Samadi announced the formation of a “martyrdom-seeking” unit from Bushehr while Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the official daily Keyhan, called the United States military “our hostage in Iraq,” and bragged that “martyrdom-operations constitute a tactical capability in the world of Islam.”

In The Covert War with Iran we briefly detailed some of the Iranian activities inside Iraq.  In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we discussed the Quds Forces regarding the obvious equivocation of the U.S. intelligence community in assigning responsibility for their actions to Iran’s leaders.  But regardless of the loosely coupled nodal power structure in Iran, the Mullahs are at the top of the organization chart.  The evidence for al Quds activity continues to accumulate, most recently with the arrest of a Pasdaran commander inside Iraq.  Giving us some of the more statistical and useful data, Strategy Page has a recent commentary on Quds, assigning them the role of special forces of Iran.

Iran has its own Special Forces, the secretive al Quds Force, which belongs to the IRGC (the Iranian Republican Guard Corps.) Also known as the Pasdaran, the IRGC is a paramilitary force of about 100,000 full timers that insures (sic) that any anti-government activity is quickly eliminated. To assist the Pasdaran, there is a part-time, volunteer force, several hundred thousand Basej, which can provide additional manpower when street muscle is required. The Basej are usually young, Islamic conservative men, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. If opponents to the government stage a large demonstration, it will often be broken up by Basej, in civilian clubs, using fists and clubs.

The Quds Force is a full time operation, of men trained to spread the Islamic revolution outside Iran. The Quds force has a major problem in that they are spreading a Shia Islamic revolution, while only 15 percent of Moslems are Shia. Most of the rest are Sunni, and many of those consider Shia heretics. In several countries, there is constant violence between Shia and Sunni conservatives. This has been going on long before the clerics took control of Iran in 1979 ( al Qaeda showed up in the 1990s).

The core operatives of the Quds force comprises only a few thousand people. But many of them are highly educated, most speak foreign languages, and all are Islamic radicals. They are on a mission from God to convert the world to Shia Islam, and the rule of Shia clergy. The Quds Force has been around since the 1980s, and their biggest success has been in Lebanon, where they helped local Shia (who comprise about a third of the population) form the Hizbollah organization.

The control that the Mullahs exhibit over Iran is firm and fixed, and international conversation has been a strategic tool used by the religious rulers for thirty years.  The appearance of vacillation and irresolution has been used as tactical leverage as part of this international conversation, and this behavior should not be seen as an actual willingness to forego a nuclear weapons program or relinquish their aims of regional domination.  Their ally, Moqtada al Sadr, is an analogous example of this tactic.  In Just How Long is Haifa Street?, we pressed the question of al Sadr, asking if the Baghdad security plan went directly to the doorsteps of Sadr’s house?  Al Sadr is currently believed to be in Iran, and the security crackdown in Baghdad is targeting rogue elements of the Mahdi army (the so-called death squads, although it should also be noted that the protracted period of time between the announcement of the crackdown and the implementation of it has reportedly allowed many members of the death squads to escape or melt away into the population).

Speculation on inside jobs and so-called house cleaning of insubordinate elements of the Mahdi army should not cause a loss of focus regarding the questions ‘who is al Sadr? and ‘what are his aims?’  Al Sadr has come out strongly against the Baghdad security plan, admonishing his followers to distance themselves from it, and saying that since it is being implemented by “occupying enemies” it is doomed to fail.  Not allowing the opportunity to escape, al Sadr’s aid recently opined that poor Sadr was misunderstood, and didn’t really mean what he seemed to say.

Since Iran is actively spreading terror across the globe, their special forces should be and are capable of functioning not just as military or paramilitary fighters, but as terrorists.  The New York Police Department has been concerned for several years about the possibility of Iranian terrorism within their city.

NYPD officials have worried about possible Iranian-sponsored attacks since a series of incidents involving officials of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. In November 2003, Ahmad Safari and Alireaza Safi, described as Iranian Mission “security” personnel, were detained by transit cops when they were seen videotaping subway tracks from Queens to Manhattan at 1:10 in the morning. The men later left New York. “We’re concerned that Iranian agents were engaged in reconnaissance that might be used in an attack against New York City at some future date,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told NEWSWEEK.

As we discussed before concerning negotiations with enemies, we are not opposed to talking about Iraq with other countries, even Syria or Iran.  But the proper thought-framework must bound the discussions and expectations.  Romantic notions of international behavior changes that will make the radical clerics willing to change their vision don’t account for the fundamental religious differences that divide Iran with the rest of the world.  Expectations of dismantling the suicide and terror brigades don’t account for how deeply embedded the cult of death is in this radical thinking.

Conversely, Wes Clark’s approach, posing the question “cannot the world’s most powerful nation deign speak to the resentful and scheming regional power that is Iran?,” is to trifle with a dangerous movement, this movement being sponsored and promulgaged by a dangerous and powerful country.  Neither romantic notions of friendship nor insulting trivialization is helpful.

Talk if we must, be remember that talk is precisely what the Iranians want.  While many in the U.S. believe it to be the solution, Iran trusts in this and uses it as a strategic tool of their vision.  In the end, the real question will not be whether war with Iran is inevitable.  Rather, it will be how we engage the Iranians.  They are already at war with us.

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