Archive for the 'Iran' Category



U.S. Foreign Policy and Syria: What is Best for the U.S.?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 7 months ago

Syria today is a text book conundrum for the Left.

Obama and the Left have a strange habit of embracing authoritarian and dictatorial foreign leaders among whom Bashir Assad is only one of many: Hugo Chavez, Vladmir Putin, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro and Saudi King Abdullah.  When these authoritarians, however, let their security forces run amok and kill too many civilians with the gumption to call for individual liberty (too many for even the Left’s media to ignore), they tie themselves in knots trying to figure out a response.

So we have the recent publication by the left-leaning think tank, Center for New American Security (CNAS), Marc Lynch, “Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Prinipled Policy Towards Syria.”

Lynch’s paper is a classic example of the Left desperately seeking a rationale and a non-military approach to the recurrent problem of 21st Century dictators– terror-sponsoring ones at that– who must use increasingly bloody means to suppress the natural– dare we say God-given?– desire for freedom of common people.

Consider this summary of the problem presented by Lynch:

U.S. and other Western officials assert frequently that the collapse of the Asad regime is only a matter of time. Indeed, President Obama stated on February 6 that Asad’s fall “is not going to be a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when.”4 But Asad’s fall could take a long time. In the interim, many Syrians will die, and the conflict could evolve into an extended regional proxy war that victimizes the Syrian people.

A drawn out internal war could shatter the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria and reverberate across the region. Within Syria, a civil war could entrench sectarian identities, shatter communities and stoke a desire for revenge that makes reconciliation after Asad impossible. A civil war would also destabilize Syria’s neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and the political instability and movement of people and arms could create new security risks for both Israel and Iran. It might also create opportunities for jihadist groups to establish a foothold in Syria, a danger that U.S. intelligence fears is already beginning to materialize. 5 If the peaceful Syrian uprising transforms into an insurgency backed and armed by outside powers against a ruthless but still viable regime, Syria could replicate Lebanon of the 1980s, on steroids.

Beyond these strategic concerns, there is a humanitarian imperative to help the Syrian people. The horrifying evidence of massacres and regime brutality make it difficult – and wrong – for the world to avert its gaze. Some critics accuse the United States of double standards and hypocrisy for focusing on Syria while turning a blind eye to abuses in Bahrain or defending Israel against international pressure, but these accusations ring hollow given irrefutable evidence of massive human rights violations and the use of deadly force against thousands of civilians. The United States has a real interest in preventing atrocities, especially since the outcome in Syria will inevitably either strengthen or badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect and other more limited efforts to establish regional and international norms against impunity for those who commit atrocities against civilians.6

[Emphasis added].

When I read this recitation of justifications for intervention, it is the case of the dog that did not bark.   Notice what is entirely missing from all of the reasons highlighted above for U.S. involvement in Syria  (Hint: it is the same element missing from the Obama Administration’s justification for intervening in Libya): a vital, U.S. national interest.

It is almost inconceivable to me that any analysis of a foreign intervention of any kind does not start and largely end with a careful consideration of vital U.S. interests at stake.   Lynch cannot even bother himself to mouth the words, “vital U.S. interest.”   Instead, Lynch writes that the United States merely “has a real interest in preventing atrocities…”   A “real” interest?  What does that even mean?  Is that in contrast with a “feigned” interest?  An “imagined” interest?  A “concocted” interest?

Furthermore, this “real interest” is supposedly strengthened because a failure to prevent atrocities would “badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect.”   What is this?   Lynch helpfully explains in a footnote  that:

The Responsibility to Protect is a relatively new international legal doctrine which gives the international community the obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians. Key documents explaining this doctrine are available at http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index. php/about-rtop/core-rtop-documents

Whatever the good intentions or noble purposes of this doctrine may be, it is clear that creating an international “obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians” is the proverbial Pandora’s Box to any number of unintended consequences and unforeseen disasters.  It is one thing to oppose the wanton killing of civilians by, for example, the Iranian Regime, and consider whether and what action to take.   It is a far different and potentially ruinous thing to create an international obligation to act.   To throw out just one example: what would stop the ever-enlightened U.N. from determining that innocent civilians were being killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan (or Yemen, or Somalia, or Afghanistan) thus creating an international obligation to prevent such “atrocities” ?  Such “action” would not likely take military form (although who can foresee a future China or Russia emboldened by deteriorating U.S. military capabilities), but it very well might take the form of sanctions, trade embargoes, freezing of assets abroad, etc…

In essence, then, the Left cannot bring themselves to posit a vital U.S. interest in anything.   Syria is proof of that.   Lynch cites humanitarian concerns and “regional proxy wars” that boil down to more human suffering, but he never reaches the point of articulating why, precisely any of these events necessarily threaten or enhance vital U.S. interests.

My theory is that the Left cannot make the argument because, in the final analysis, they do not believe that there is any, such thing as a U.S. interest insofar as such a thing might conflict with or run counter to international interests.  This type of internationalista thinking is based almost exclusively on emotional appeals to humanitarian concerns and is highly selective.  Where was this urgent, moral imperative, for instance, when the democracy movement in Iran was being beaten, killed, tortured and raped on a massive scale in 2009 and 2010?  Assad and his father before him were torturing and killing civilians all along, but not only did the Left not call for intervention, Obama rewarded Assad with an ambassador and monikers such as “reformer.”

But U.S. interests can and very often do run counter to the interests of other nations and even international agendas.   Any analysis of Syria, then, must start with the U.S. interest in Syria and what is best for the United States of America, not Bashar Assad, not the holy grail of “regional stability” and not even the Syrian people no matter how innocent they may be.

Using Mr. Lynch’s own criteria for intervention, we get an entirely different view of Syria than the internationalista approach.

For instance, Lynch (and the internationalistas as a whole) never asks the question of whether U.S. interests are better served by the status quo ante bellum or in the current state of civil war.   In fact, Lynch assumes without question that Syrian civil war is not in the interests of the U.S. and is something that should and must be stopped.   Furthermore, Obama and his acolytes were more than happy to accommodate the Dictator Assad prior to the civil unrest in 2011.  For the Left, stability with a dictator who views the U.S. as an enemy and is allied with arch-enemy Iran is preferable to instability.

If , however, we examine the Syrian civil war purely from U.S. interests, the conclusion is surely that, despite the current, deplorable suffering of the Syrian people, the uprising by Syrian civilians, to the extent it is a genuine attempt at democratic reform, must be seen as an enormous opportunity to further vital U.S. interests in a critical area of the world for U.S. energy supplies and national security.

An Assad Regime that is battling for its life is no longer an effective state sponsor of terrorism and Iranian cat’s paw.  The fact that Iran and Russia are investing heavily in resources, rhetoric and military units is ample evidence of the value of Assad in power and the perceived loss should he be toppled.   Even assuming that the Regime is not toppled any time soon, anything that keeps the Regime preoccupied with internal strife and in a perpetual state of unrest is a great, immediate benefit to the U.S. and its allies in the region.   Though it sounds Machiavellian to say, in the case of Syria, civil war at the moment is a good thing for the U.S.

Unlike Lynch, our analysis does not stop with whether the civil war in Syria is beneficial to the U.S. or not.  Lynch assumes ipso facto that the civil war in Syria is a bad thing for the U.S. and, a fortiori, intervention by the U.S. must occur in some form.  In our analysis, however, we see that the civil war is actually beneficial for the U.S. (at least for now and in its present form).   The U.S. could well be justified in allowing the civil war to take its course and weaken the Syrian Regime as much as possible.   But a foreign policy based on U.S. interests asks the further questions:  would intervention in Syria further benefit the U.S. and, if so, what form might that intervention take?

U.S. foreign policy cannot be dictated by logarithms of civilian casualties.   Instead, the U.S. must enter into a complicated calculus of risks and benefits in seeking to topple Assad and the methods necessary and appropriate to the task.

On the benefits side of the equation, the outright removal of the Assad Regime, would strike an enormous blow to the chief enemies of the West in the Middle East: Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Syria is a kind of linchpin for all three of these Islamist terror groups and it is questionable whether Hezbollah and Hamas could obtain anything like the Syrian support from either Egypt or Turkey.   Beyond severely wounding these groups, the removal of Assad opens up at least the possibility of a resurrection of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon which has been increasingly strangled by Syrian-sponsored Hezbollah.   Lebanon has great potential to be a second pro-Western bulwark alongside Israel, a huge, net gain for the U.S.   This seems to be the key to assessing Syria: what can the U.S. hope to gain?  What is the potential payoff?  If the game is not worth the prize, best not to play the game at all.

This marks a real difference between Syria and Libya.  Even in hindsight, it is difficult to envision much of a benefit to the U.S. from Qaddafi’s removal.  Qaddafi ceased to be a national security threat to the U.S. in 2004 when he willingly abandoned his WMD programs.   Qaddafi himself was more of a circus act, useful for entertainment at the U.N., but of no international consequence.  He was not even using Libyan oil production as a weapon.   So the removal of Qaddafi and his replacement by even a pro-Western government does not seem to yield much of any benefit to the U.S. in contrast to the central importance of Syria in the Iranian terror web.

On the risk side of the equation, people like Marc Lynch and the Left make much of the dangers of “civil war” in Syria if the U.S. were to support the armed opposition, the so-called Free Syrian Army.   While it is true enough that civil war is brutal for those going through it, we have already seen that, for U.S. national interests, even a civil war is better than having Assad free to do the bidding of Tehran and cultivate Hamas and Hezbollah.  In any event, Syria is already in a state of civil war with the population increasingly arming itself and attacking the Assad Regime.   As even Lynch points out, faced with a murderous regime, the civilian population is going to find a supplier of weapons somewhere and the potential for Militant Islamists (as well as Salafist Saudi Arabia) to provide the weaponry and reap the inevitable loyalty is a very real danger.

Another risk, a more substantial one in my view, surprisingly not cited by Lynch, is the potential for Militant Islamists to come to power, as seems to be happening in Egypt and Tunisia, a bitter fruit of the Arab Spring.  Might the U.S. be repeating the mistakes made in Egypt by backing armed opposition to Assad?

Can we guarantee who will wind up governing Syria once Assad is gone?  Of course not.  But from a strategic point of view, Assad is already, in many ways, the worst case scenario.  It is difficult to imagine an Al-Qaeda Syria, for instance.    That is not their style, for one, and would open them up to the kind of U.S. power that they studiously avoid at all costs by hiding within a State.  What about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power (as they seem poised to do in Egypt) ?  This is a real concern, of course, but not one that should leave the U.S. in paralysis.

First, it is unlikely that Syrian can be controlled by the MB in anything like the way that the Assads have controlled Syria.  Without the complete, police-state control of the Assad Regime, the MB will not have anything like the free hand that Assad enjoyed to enforce Tehran’s will in the region.  While the MB may be popular to even a large segment of the population, they would be quite unpopular with other, large segments.   Even if we could imagine an Egypt-like, worst-case scenario in which the MB gains overwhelming control of an eventual Syrian government, that is merely a possible eventuality and by no means, at this point, grounds for doing nothing.  Such thinking is taking the counsel of our fears (something at which the Obama Administration excels it seems).  If anything, the prospect of a MB government in Syria should be positive grounds to do something now, while we still can, to prevent it.

Having wrestled with the benefits and risks, it would seem that there is a clear balance in favor of intervening in some fashion.  But how?

Marc Lynch spends the better part of his paper advocating a diplomatic approach.  Granted, he wants a “forceful diplomacy”, more energetic and better coordinated, but, in the end, it is diplomacy.   Worse, it is diplomacy that has no chance of succeeding.  It is perfectly clear that the Assad Regime (and its backers in Tehran and Moscow) are not going to let go of power without a long, bloody fight.  No amount of sanctions or international condemnations are going to do anything to dislodge Assad from power for the simple reason that his backers will do what it takes to evade, veto, defeat and otherwise de-fang anything that the international community can wield diplomatically.   This is the point that the Left and the internationalistas cannot bring themselves to admit: for many problems in this fallen world, there is no peaceful solution no matter how sincere or well-intentioned the advocates may be.

Lynch does consider various military options being proposed: a no-fly zone; limited air strikes (a la Libya); civilian safe havens protected by some kind of military force; armed observers, and; arming the opposition.   He dismisses each one in turn but, again, for reasons that are steeped in humanitarian concern rather than blunt, U.S. interests.

So what form of action might U.S. intervention take, one that is founded acutely upon U.S. interests?

There is no, one right answer but an incremental approach that starts with providing at least covert, military assistance to some, select opposition fighters promises the best chance for advancing U.S. interests in Syria.

What does Lynch say, specifically, about arming the Syrian opposition?

Providing arms to the FSA might hasten Asad’s fall, but at the cost of a far bloodier conflict, greater divisions among the opposition groups and a more difficult transition if Asad falls from power. First, the regime would respond by quickly escalating its attacks, and would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. It is unlikely that arms will give rebels enough power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it, given the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces. It would also be very difficult to stop Russia, Iran or others from supplying fresh arms and aid to Asad once the opposition’s backers are openly doing so. Providing arms to a relatively weak opposition will not necessarily close the military gap – it might simply lead to a bloodier conflict.

Second, this option would likely further divide the different opposition groups, rather than encouraging their cooperation. The Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized and highly localized. The FSA remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, but remain deeply divided.15 However, providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.

Third, arming the opposition also would radically reduce the prospects for a “soft landing” if and when Asad falls. It could further frighten Syrians who – fearing large scale sectarian violence – continue to support the regime, and make them less likely to switch sides. Arming the weaker side in a civil war is a recipe for protracted, violent conflict, and it would be foolish to assume that an insurgency once launched can be easily controlled.16 If Asad does fall from power, the armed opposition groups are unlikely to demobilize or disarm quickly. Instead, these armed groups would operate in a political and security vacuum amid accumulated fears and rage, with every possibility of reprisal killings and clashing militias.

However, if arming the opposition fails to solve the crisis relatively quickly, which is likely, there will inevitably be calls to conduct the airstrikes discussed above. In other words, what appears to be an alternative to military intervention is actually more likely to be a step towards military intervention. Arming the opposition is therefore a misguided, risky and potentially disastrous option. That said, arms are likely to flood the country if the civil war continues, regardless of U.S. preferences. That flow of arms into Syria will increasingly work at cross-purposes with diplomatic and political efforts to find a managed transition that avoids the worst outcomes.

None of Lynch’s arguments are persuasive.   Some, in fact, point towards arming the opposition.  Lynch’s three main arguments consist of reducing bloodshed, preventing the rise of factions (particularly ethnic/sectarian factions) among the opposition, and preserving the possibility for a smooth, post-Assad transition of power.

As to bloodshed, the blood is flowing quite freely right now and, tragically, it is all on the side of innocent civilians.  To argue that arming the opposition will only result in greater bloodshed may be strictly true, but amounts to the comforting notion that the opposition can bleed to death slowly rather than quickly.  If this rationale prevailed, French support for the American Revolution was wrong as well.  Lynch resorts to the ridiculous notion that no amount of arms can overcome the military advantage enjoyed by Assad’s forces.  Tell that to the mujaheddin who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980′s (or, for that matter, the Taliban who seem to be driving the U.S. out of Afghanistan with primitive explosives and small arms).   Equally absurd is his notion that Iran and Russia will supply even more weapons to Assad if the opposition starts receiving weapons.  A civil war is never about who is supplied with more weaponry but, rather, who will crack first.  As long as Assad’s thugs can shoot civilians with relative impunity, they will never desert him.   Once helicopters are being shot down, tanks are being destroyed and columns are being effectively ambushed, the regime’s soldiers will quickly re-think their loyalties.   Some already have.

As to the second argument that arming the opposition will lead to factions and potential sectarian warfare, Lynch again departs from an analysis of what is best for the United States.  In fact, he makes an extremely effective argument in favor of arming the opposition when he writes, “providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.”

Exactly.  This is precisely what the U.S. should be counting upon when it decides which opposition militias it decides to support with weapons, training and intelligence.  Lynch and others assume that arming the opposition somehow requires a weapons free-for-all or that the U.S. is completely incapable of figuring out which groups to support and which to work against.  The U.S. should seek to pick winners in the Syrian conflict.   The U.S. should always seek to support those who favor a pro-Western policy (or, at the very least, a policy that is counter to Militant Islamists).   If that means arming the Kurds against the salafist Sunnis, then so be it.   The U.S. policy in arming the opposition must ensure that all militias recognize that those who side with the U.S. or against the Islamists are going to be the best armed, best trained and best resourced fighters, period.   The U.S. can never lose sight of its ultimate objective which is not the toppling of Assad per se but the disabling and destruction of the Iranian/Islamist threat.  If that means a prolonged civil war in Syria, so long as Syria is neutralized in the war with Militant Islam, vital U.S. interests are served.  Lynch’s reference to the Sons of Iraq in 2006 is perhaps the best example in favor of arming the Syrian opposition as it forced the Sunni tribes to decide whether they would continue to support Al Qaeda or support the U.S.   The result was an overwhelming success for the U.S. in eliminating Al Qaeda, particularly in Anbar Province.

Lynch’s third argument about a “soft landing” after the fall of Assad has been addressed above.  In short, for U.S. interests, we do not want any “soft landing” if that involves giving any power to salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood.   The notion that a unity government that is heavily influenced by or under the control of the MB is a good thing must be denounced.  Far better to see Syria split up into ethnic or sectarian regions than to see a MB government in power.

In summary, when an influential think tank like CNAS produces a paper that is almost wholly inimical to U.S. interests, it is time to look at the leadership in our country and demand that they (Democrat or Republican) reaffirm the primacy of U.S. interests in the making of foreign policy.   What is best for our country should always be the first and foremost consideration.  No other nation on earth plays by any, other rules.

War With Iran Likely

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

The so-called “experts” are coming to the same conclusion I reached years ago.

Officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear programme, and believe that the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.

The president has made clear in public, and in private to Israel, that he is determined to give sufficient time for recent measures, such as the financial blockade and the looming European oil embargo, to bite deeper into Iran’s already battered economy before retreating from its principal strategy to pressure Tehran.

But there is a strong current of opinion within the administration – including in the Pentagon and the state department – that believes sanctions are doomed to fail, and that their principal use now is in delaying Israeli military action, as well as reassuring Europe that an attack will only come after other means have been tested.

“The White House wants to see sanctions work. This is not the Bush White House. It does not need another conflict,” said an official knowledgeable on Middle East policy. “Its problem is that the guys in Tehran are behaving like sanctions don’t matter, like their economy isn’t collapsing, like Israel isn’t going to do anything.

“Sanctions are all we’ve got to throw at the problem. If they fail then it’s hard to see how we don’t move to the ‘in extremis’ option.”

Shocked!  Shocked, they are, that sanctions aren’t working.  It’s as if the Obama administration sees things only through Western, secular eyes, and the Mullahs in Iran see things through religious, apocalyptic and eschatological eyes.  It’s as if the Mullahs don’t place the same importance on things that the “experts” in the administration do, you know, the issue of self preservation, survival of the nation-state, and so on.  It’s as if the Mullahs are willing to sacrifice Iran to bring about the global apocalypse necessary to usher in the Caliphate.

Sanction are all we’ve got to throw at the problem.  Good grief.  We’ve got many more things than that.  While the Obama administration may not need a war, as they said, Iran has been at war with the U.S. for thirty years.  Whether he knew it or not, Obama entered office while at war with Iran.  If his advisers didn’t explain that to him, well then, they aren’t the real experts at all.

As I have advocated, we should have engaged Iran in the covert war they are waging against us.  Recall that I have called for reversing executive order 12333 and assassinating general Suleimani.  I have called for supporting the Green movement, I have called for a program of targeted assassinations of high level Quds force commanders, and I have called for fomenting an insurgency inside of Iran.  Regime change is the order of the day.

But we chose to believe that negotiations, talks, letters, videos to the Iranian people, and everything else on earth would suffice for engagement of Iran as an enemy.  Now, we are out of time, and we (and/or Israel) will pay the price for it.  My way was easier and involved covert warfare.  We chose to ignore the easy way, and so now we will go it the hard way, with overt warfare.

Iranian Boats Shadow U.S. Aircraft Carrier

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Currently in the Persian Gulf.

The American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has passed through the Strait of Hormuz, shadowed by Iranian patrol boats.

But there were no incidents on Tuesday as the Lincoln’s battle group crossed through the narrow strait, which Iran has threatened to close in retaliation for tighter Western sanctions.

Several U.S. choppers flanked the carrier group throughout the voyage from the Gulf. Radar operators also picked up an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter in Iran’s airspace near the strait, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Oman.

Make no mistake about it.  These boats are a threat to U.S. sea craft.  And consider what I have reported before.

… consider what happened (I have reported this before) with the 26th MEU in 2008.  The USS Iwo Jima was in vicinity of the very subject of our discussion (somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz), and an Iranian helicopter virtually landed aboard the ship.  The Marines at that time judged a threat and prepared to engage the enemy, but Navy officers, not wanting an incident, of course, ensured that the Marines didn’t respond.

An Iranian aircraft virtually landed on board the USS Iwo Jima, hovering above the deck for minutes.  The U.S. Navy did nothing.  And you can rest assured that the Navy will do nothing concerning Iranian sea-borne threats either.

Concerning Iran, the U.S., and the Strait of Hormuz

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

We’re all aware of the recent boasting over how Iran can shut down the Strait of Hormuz.  We also know all about the pipelines being constructed by the UAE in an attempt to circumvent the Persian Gulf and thereby defang Iran in its hegemony over the region, at least as regards its threats over the waterways.

There is also – as usual – the bluster about how Iran won’t possibly make good on its promises, and how the U.S. Navy issued threats of its own.  But rest assured that if the U.S. or Israel launches a strike against the Iranian nuclear program, given the radical Mullahs apocalyptic and eschatological view of reality, they will hold nothing back from their retaliation.

And don’t rest so comfortably in the blustering of of the U.S. Navy.  Their fear of shore to ship missile technology has been the basis for their demurral to define any role at all in what they want so desperately to have a role in, i.e., littoral combat.  They won’t tread any closer than 20 miles to shore, the “beyond the horizon” distance.

As for anecdotal data, consider what happened (I have reported this before) with the 26th MEU in 2008.  The USS Iwo Jima was in vicinity of the very subject of our discussion (somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz), and an Iranian helicopter virtually landed aboard the ship.  The Marines at that time judged a threat and prepared to engage the enemy, but Navy officers, not wanting an incident, of course, ensured that the Marines didn’t respond.

The incident of Iran filming a U.S. Aircraft Carrier rather pales in comparison to an Iranian helicopter hovering just over the deck of the USS Iwo Jima, does it not?  I have no confidence whatsoever in the willingness of the US Navy to engage Iran on any level at all.

Feels Like 1939 All Over Again: Painful Choices with Iran

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

The Washington Times runs a piece today that serves as a useful, historical lesson.

There are no, particularly surprising or revealing facts reported.   In this respect, the article is a bit of a re-hash of stories that emphasize the costs of taking direct, military action against the Iranian Regime:

Iran is contemplating violently shutting down shipping in the Persian Gulf as one of several counterattack options if Israel strikes its nuclear facilities, regional and intelligence analysts say.

Such attacks would present the Obama administration with the option of undertaking a limited war against Iran by striking its warships and shore-based anti-ship missiles to keep the Gulf open for business.

Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson said Iran has enough firepower to effectively close the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all the world’s oil moves.

“One of the things that Iran has exercised, has the capability to do, is shut down the Persian Gulf,” Mr. Johnson said. “The best-case scenario is they shut it down for a week. The worst case is they shut it down for three to four months.”

He said Iran could unleash small boats laden with explosives “that we don’t have adequate covers for. Add to that the ability to fire multiple missiles. Our naval force will try to stop it, and that’s the hope.”

Mr. Johnson, now a consultant on counterterrorism, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has orchestrated attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, also likely would hit targets in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

“I think we would be looking at a significant wave of terrorist retaliation by them,” he said.

What makes this article worthwhile is what it says about the point we find ourselves in at this juncture of our struggle against Islamofascism.   As all the news accounts indicate, stirred by the recent IAEA report, Iran is much closer to developing a nuclear arsenal.   There is a sudden panic among policymakers to head off Iran’s nuclear program.   We are, evidently, at the eleventh hour and The Washington Times article duly recites the serious consequences of any attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuke program by overt military action.

The sad fact is that the West is facing yet another instance of weakness in the face of tyranny.

As Winston Churchill noted in his brilliant history of World War II, The Gathering Storm, Vol. I, p. 218 (Mariner Books Ed.):

Mr. Chamberlain was imbued with a sense of a special and personal mission to come to friendly terms with the Dictators of Italy and Germany, and he conceived himself capable of achieving this relationship.  To Mussolini he wished to accord recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia as a prelude to a general settlement of differences.  To Hitler he was prepared to offer colonial concessions.

Does Chamberlain remind you of any, current political figure who believes in their own, personal charm and powers of persuasion?  Someone who is willing to cede concessions to dictators in the hopes of currying their favor and cooperation?

Here is the heart of the matter.  The historical parallels are astounding.   Churchill summarizes the state of things as Adolph Hitler threatened Poland with invasion in 1939:

In this sad tale of wrong judgments formed by well-meaning and capable people we now reach our climax… Look back and see what we had successively accepted or thrown away: a Germany disarmed by solemn treaty; a Germany rearmed in violation of a solemn treaty; air superiority or even air parity cast away; the Rhineland forcibly occupied and the Siegfried Line built or building; the Berlin-Rome Axis established; Austria devoured and digested by the Reich; Czechoslovakia deserted and ruined by the Munich Pact, its fortress line in German hands, its mighty arsenal of Skoda henceforward making muitions for the German armies; President Roosevelt’s attempts to [intervene] waved aside with one hand, and Soviet Russia’s undoubted willingness to join the Western Powers and go all lengths to save Czechoslovakia ignored on the other; the services of thirty-five Czech divisions against the still unripened German Army cast away, when Great Britain could herself supply only two to strengthen the front in France; all gone with the wind.

***
… There was sense in fighting for Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the German Army could scarcely put half a dozen trained divisions on the Western Front, when the French  with nearly sixty or seventy divisions could most certainly have rollend forward across the Rhine or into the Ruhr.  But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality…. History… may be scoured and ransacked to find a parallel to the sudden and complete reversal of five or six years’ policy of easy-going placatory appeasement, and its transformation almost overnight into a readiness to accept an obviously imminent war on far worse conditions and on the greatest scale.

This is the situation now facing us with Iran, but the indictment is far greater for us.    We have thrown away decades of advantage on “placatory appeasement” with Iran, refusing to confront their repeated attacks and declared ambitions to do us further harm.   “Death to the American Satan” was not just an idle slogans for the Regime in Tehran.

There were decades when the U.S. could have unseated the Regime.   From the very beginning in 1979 when the terror masters invaded our embassy and took our diplomats and Marines hostage, the U.S. had ample cause to take down the Regime.   But we had Jimmy Carter at the helm and he refused to act.   Reagan, George H. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush all failed to take down the Regime despite clear provocations and at a time when the power of the Regime to retaliate was far weaker.  During this time, “regime change” was the stated and official U.S. policy.

Now it falls to this pitiful Administration to make the hard choice.   We refused to take action when action would have been comparatively easy.   Churchill’s words echo:  this was judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality.    Now we are forced to confront a Regime that is far better armed, with weapons and means to inflict serious injury to our economy and well-being.

Here again Churchill speaks directly to us:

Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.  There may even be a worse case.  You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.

The U.S. has certainly passed the first stage and the second stage.   Fighting now will certainly be costly, but hopefully not “precarious.”   Yet.  We dare not delay any longer.   If an Islamofascist Iran obtains a store of nuclear weapons  (assuming that they do not already have at least a few), things begin to look increasingly precarious.   May we never reach that stage.

Attacking Iran: The Ultimate Election Year Distraction?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about whether Israel is contemplating an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.   One article on the subject is found at Commentary Magazine’s online blog, “Contentions.”

Jonathan Tobin does a very good job of looking at the big picture and discussing the geopolitical aspects of an attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but the long odds facing such an operation by Israel seem simply prohibitive.

But what if all of the public debate about an Israeli strike against Iran was not just conjecture or the case of Israeli politicians leaking information to the press, but, rather, an intentional gambit by Israel to push President Obama to take stiffer action against Iran than the ineffective sanctions route?  What if the Israelis know something about Obama that tells them that not only is Obama receptive to attacking Iran but he is looking for an excuse to do so?   Could this President be just crazy enough to try to pull off a missile and air strike against Iran’s nuclear program?   Ordinarily the idea is absurd.   But these are not ordinary times.   Obama’s presidency is failing fast and he is thrashing around like a drowning man.

Fasten your seatbelts for a little rampant speculation and see if there isn’t a grain of sense in all of this.

First, let’s get inside the Obama White House.   Imagine the increasing frenzy.   Obama has tried everything to resurrect his sinking popularity but nothing has worked so far.   Killing Bin Laden?  A temporary bounce that has long since fizzled.  Killing Qaddafi?  Nothing doing.   Yanking the troops out of Iraq post haste?  No one seems to care.   Another $500 billion, Son of Stimulus spending spree packaged as a “Jobs Bill” is going nowhere fast.  The public has figured out that Obama does not spend our tax dollars but, rather, throws most of it out the window of Air Force One while the rest goes to his political cronies like unions and Democrat campaigns.

He needs something big.  Really big.  Domestic policy is not an option because the Republicans have a choke hold on the House of Representatives for the remainder of his term.

Could Iran be the ticket?

As crazy as it sounds, there are a number of factors that might line up in Obama’s mind and convince him to green light an attack.

For one, an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities is exactly the kind of wargaming that Obama enjoys the most:  remote, relatively low-risk, no ground troops involved, short duration, odds stacked highly in our favor.   Missiles, drones, stealth bombers, stealth fighters.  Maybe some Special Ops going in to blow up a thing or two.   No long-term commitment and largely out of his hands once the decision is made to proceed.

Another factor Obama may find attractive in a strike against Iran is the revenge factor.  More than one commentator has observed that Obama does not like to be snubbed or insulted.   He has extraordinarily thin skin.   And the Iranians have insulted and maligned him like no other on the international stage.   This must be especially galling to Obama given the way he has scraped and bowed to the Iranian Regime, offered the so-called “open hand,” and the only response has been the back of their hand across Obama’s face.  Pure speculation here, but it must eat at his sizable ego to think of Ahmadinnerjacket and the mullahs laughing at him.   He must want to get even very badly.   So there is ample motivation for him.

Still another argument in favor of striking Iran would be its effect upon Israel.   Whether it is all the anti-Semitic rants he absorbed for 20 years in Jeremiah Wright’s Chicago church or the Leftist obsession for the “plight of Palestinians,” President Obama seems to harbor a deep dislike for the Jewish State and, perhaps especially, for Prime Minister Netanyahu.  There is no doubt that Israeli officials have been making it clear to the Administration that they will act if Obama does not.   The thought that Netanyahu might show himself to be a decisive leader while Obama dithers is unbearable to The One.   This may be the very game that Netanyahu is playing on Obama right now.   And Obama may that he will be in a strong position to demand huge concessions from Netanyahu if Obama takes out Iran’s nukes, enough to seal the deal on a peace plan that could net Obama a second Nobel prize and the international acclaim he constantly craves.

But perhaps the most appealing aspect must be the political angle and its effect on his chances of re-election.  Americans have a hard time resisting a war-time President.  As long as hostilities do not go one for too long and they are seen as relatively successful (and the Leftist Media will make sure that no one knows whether it has been successful until long after the 2012 Elections), it is highly likely that his approval ratings will take a large jump.    It will also make Republican arguments that Obama is incompetent much harder to sell.

Will it be enough to drown out the terrible economy and lousy job market and skyrocketing deficits and rising prices?   Maybe not.  But that only makes it all the more imperative for him to try something as mad and desperate as this.   Add to this the calculus of the slowly widening scandals that threaten to engulf this Administration.   So far the Leftist Media has been able to hold back the floods on Solyndra (where it appears that more than half a billion dollars were railroaded to a failing company headed by a close ally and financial contributor of Obama) and the “Fast and Furious”  (where we are nowhere close to getting the truth and extent of the malfeasance).   If it appears that either or both of these scandals will take off in the public’s consciousness, Obama will be extremely tempted to pull a Bill Clinton-Lewinsky-Missile Strike distraction operation.    Attacking Iran with stand-off weapons would be the ultimate distraction that would assure zero coverage of either of these political scandals.

Do I really think that President Obama would launch a surprise strike on Iran?   No, not really.

But sometimes, when a politician lacking in scruples and dedicated to the idea that nothing is off limits in the quest for continued power is cornered, even the unthinkable may just be possible.   In this light, the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Iraq next month actually eliminates one of the easiest targets for the Iranians to go after as a counter-strike.   Coincidence?  Almost certainly.  But convenient nonetheless.

And consider this article in The Guardian that discusses the preparations that Great Britain is making to support a U.S. attack on Iran:

Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya.

They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election.

But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.

Hawks in the US are likely to seize on next week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran.

The Guardian has been told that the IAEA’s bulletin could be “a game changer” which will provide unprecedented details of the research and experiments being undertaken by the regime.

***

Another Whitehall official, with knowledge of Britain’s military planning, said that within the next 12 months Iran may have hidden all the material it needs to continue a covert weapons programme inside fortified bunkers. He said this had necessitated the UK’s planning being taken to a new level.

“Beyond [12 months], we couldn’t be sure our missiles could reach them,” the source said. “So the window is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning. The US could do this on their own but they won’t.

“So we need to anticipate being asked to contribute. We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure.

“President Obama has a big decision to make in the coming months because he won’t want to do anything just before an election.”

Another source added there was “no acceleration towards military action by the US, but that could change”. Next spring could be a key decision-making period, the source said. The MoD has a specific team considering the military options against Iran.

Since when do the British start making contingency plans to support a U.S. attack on Iran?   Very suspicious.  No doubt that President Obama will try to avoid anything so drastic as an attack on Iran for as long as possible, but this article indicates that the decision may well come to a head in the next several months.   As I say, it is probably crazy talk, but if the economy continues to stagnate, unemployment remains high, a scandal starts to gain traction and Obama’s approval numbers stay in the tank, do not be shocked if we start to hear increasingly tough language out of the Administration’s mouthpieces as a prelude.

As the saying goes, stay tuned.

News So Bad It Has To Be True: Iran Already Has Nukes (Time for Plan B)

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

On occasion someone will say, “That news is too good to be true.”   You won the lottery without even playing.    McDonald’s Big Macs have been discovered to lead to weight loss and longer life.   Obama wakes up one day and realizes that Leftist policies are killing this country.

Conversely, there ought to be a saying that some news is just so bad, it has to be true.   The opinion piece printed the other day in The Washington Times falls into this category:  so bad it has to be true.

Afterall, would anyone who has kept up with the pathetic Kabuki dance of anti-proliferation involving Iran since 2000 have any reason to doubt that Iran not only has The Bomb but has had The Bomb for quite awhile now and is simply working on expanding their stockpile?

I suppose we must always take a pseudonymous writer with a grain of salt, so this opinion piece by Reza Khalili must bear an asterisk, however small.   But I submit that, even if we were to exclude what Khalili says in his article about his days with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the remaining portions of his account that do not depend upon his inside information are plenty persuasive.

Here is the bad news:

The pressure the United States and the West is bringing to bear on Iran to keep it from acquiring nuclear weapons is all for naught. Not only does the Islamic Republic already have nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union, but it has enough enriched uranium for more. What’s worse, it has a delivery system.

The West for nearly a decade has worried about Iran’s uranium enhancement, believing Iran is working on a nuclear bomb, though the government maintains its uranium is only for peaceful purposes.

When Iran began its nuclear program in the mid-1980s, I was working as a spy for the CIA within the Revolutionary Guards. The Guards‘ intelligence at that time had learned of Saddam Hussein’s attempt to buy a nuclear bomb for Iraq. Guard commanders concluded that they needed a nuclear bomb because if Saddam were to get his own, he would use it against Iran. At that time, the two countries were at war.

Mohsen Rezaei, then-chief commander of the Guards, received permission from the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to start a covert program to obtain nuclear weapons, so the Guards contacted Pakistani generals and Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist.

Commander Ali Shamkhani traveled to Pakistan, offering billions of dollars for a bomb, but ended up with a blueprint and centrifuges instead. The first centrifuge was transferred to Iran on Khomeini’s personal plane.

This is pretty damning stuff.  But even if we disregard what Khalili says about his days as a C.I.A. agent, the rest of his allegations are more than sufficient:

In a second but parallel attempt to amass nuclear weapons, Iran turned to the former Soviet republics. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1990, Iran coveted thousands of tactical nuclear warheads that had been dispersed in the former republics.

In the early 1990s, the CIA asked me to find an Iranian scientist who would testify that Iran had the bomb. The CIA had learned that Iranian intelligence agents were visiting nuclear installations throughout the former Soviet Union, with particular interest in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, which had a significant portion of the Soviet arsenal and is predominately Muslim, was courted by Muslim Iran with offers of hundreds of millions of dollars for the bomb. Reports soon surfaced that three nuclear warheads were missing. This was corroborated by Russian Gen. Victor Samoilov, who handled the disarmament issues for the general staff. He admitted that the three were missing from Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Paul Muenstermann, then vice president of the German Federal Intelligence Service, said Iran had received two of the three nuclear warheads and medium-range nuclear delivery systems from Kazakhstan. It also was reported that Iran had purchased four 152 mm nuclear shells from the former Soviet Union, which were reportedly stolen and sold by former Red Army officers.

To make matters worse, several years later, Russian officials stated that when comparing documents in transferring nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia, there was a discrepancy of 250 nuclear weapons.

Last week, Mathew Nasuti, a former U.S. Air Force captain who was at one point hired by the State Department as an adviser to one of its provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq, said that in March 2008, during a briefing on Iran at the State Department, the department’s Middle East expert told the group that it was “common knowledge” that Iran had acquired tactical nuclear weapons from one or more of the former Soviet republics.

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, an experienced intelligence officer and recipient of a Bronze Star, told me that his sources say Iran has two workable nuclear warheads.

An editorial in Kayhan, the Iranian newspaper directly under the supervision of the Office of the Supreme Leader, last year warned that if Iran were attacked, there would be nuclear blasts in American cities.

When you stop to think about it, this just makes too much sense to not be true.

It perfectly explains the behavior of every U.S. administration since the time that Iran allegedly gained possession of the nuclear weapons in the 1990′s.   From Clinton to Bush to Obama, all have almost robotically stated that it was “unacceptable” for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.   But not one of these administrations did anything concrete about it.

Think about this for a moment.   When the U.S. declares something to be “unacceptable,” one would naturally believe that the U.S. is going to act accordingly.    So when the Soviets began installing nuclear missile sites in Cuba, the U.S. imposed a blockade on the island and dared the Soviet Union to try to break it.    When the U.S. declared that a communist South Vietnam was unacceptable, the U.S. invested over half a million soldiers to prevent the takeover.   In more recent history, in the case of Bill Clinton, he refused to put up with the Serbian ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and launched a unilateral air war to stop it.   President Bush took bold military action to dislodge Al Qaeda from Afghanistan after 9/11 and remove Saddam Hussein.   Obama has gone on a drone strike frenzy since he took office, all in order to kill leaders who have not yet shown any ability to launch any sort of large-scale strike against the U.S.

But, strangely enough, when Iran pursues nuclear weapons– a regime whose fanatically religious leadership has universally pledged itself to the utter destruction of the U.S. and its allies in a way that Cuba, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, China, Serbia and even Iraq never did– the U.S. does what?  All these presidents who have used the U.S. military on numerous occasions did nothing to halt Iran’s progress.   (And I am confident in the sophisticated readers of TCJ that no one will even think of the sanctions as real action).

Is there something about Iran’s conventional forces that is so menacing and so advanced that the success of any U.S. action against Iran would be in doubt?   Of course not.   Yes, Iran is always threatening that they will turn the Persian Gulf into a lake of bloody fiery oily fiery blood, or something to that effect.   But beyond an initial ability to cause havoc in the shipping lanes, it is bluster.   The U.S. has more than enough capabilities to ensure sufficient safe transit through the Straits of Hormuz, particularly after Iran’s military is reduced to ashes.   (Think of the Kuwaiti “Highway of Death”).

To my mind, the only thing that can account for the pusillanimous treatment of Iran by the U.S. is the certainty, in those secret briefings that new presidents always get, that Iran already has The Bomb and, furthermore, has the capacity to use them in at least some fashion that a president would find extremely unpleasant.   So, each administration has been putting on a brave face and declaring that the U.S. will not allow Iran to get The Bomb, all the while knowing that they have it and the most that we can do is try to slow down, interrupt, forestall or complicate their tireless efforts to expand their stock of bombs and delivery systems.

Cold comfort, that.

Khalili’s closing thoughts are chilling:

“History suggests that we may already be too late to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb. Why do we suppose Iran cannot accomplish in 20 years of trying – with access to vast amounts of unclassified data on nuclear-weapons design and equipped with 21st-century technology – what the U.S. accomplished in three years during the 1940s with the Manhattan Project?” asks nuclear weapons expert Peter Vincent Pry, who served in the CIA and on the EMP Commission, and is now president of EMPact America.

Mr. Pry concludes that Iran only needs a single nuclear weapon to destroy the United States. A nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures that sustain the lives of 310 million Americans.

Are we ready to finally realize what the goals and the ideology of the jihadists in Tehran are and take appropriate action against them? The Iranian people themselves, who oppose the dictatorial mullahs, for years have asked us to do so. Thousands of them have lost their lives to show us the true nature of this regime. We must act before it’s too late.

But isn’t it already too late?  What can be done at this point?  Isn’t the game over?

Assuming that Khalili’s article is correct, it may be over in the sense of preventing the Regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, but that does not mean that the U.S. must accede to a Regime that continues to enhance and expand its nuclear capabilities.   Presumably this is the intent and aim of the Regime: an ongoing capability to manufacture a large number of nuclear weapons, something that the Regime presently lacks.

The goal may now have changed from prevention to neutralization, i.e. regime change.   Afterall, if it is already too late to take the nukes away from the Regime, the only option may be to take the Regime away from the nukes.   There is much, much more that the U.S. could be doing to ensure the downfall of the Regime and the rise of a pro-Western democracy in Iran.

This is not nation-building and this is not containment.   This is good, old fashioned covert operations and insurgency tactics designed to take out critical infrastructure like oil facilities, refineries and the electrical grid with plausible deniability.   The Iranian economy already teeters on the edge of ruin with high rates of inflation, massive corruption across every industry and a population that is seething for change.   The U.S. and its allies need to do everything possible to push the Iranian economy over the edge and support to the fullest extent those segments of the Green Movement that favor a pro-Western policy.   We need to push the buttons on Iran that fatally weaken them– the 1,000 cuts– without giving the Regime the excuse to launch a major terror attack.   At the same time, if the U.S. is smart, it will be doing everything possible to increase domestic production of oil and natural gas as a buffer against the predictable rise in oil prices as Iranian exports plunge due to disrupted drilling, sabotaged pipelines and industrial accidents.

An Iran with a limited number of nuclear weapons is not yet a hopeless situation.  In a nuclear age, possessing nukes is not enough.   A nation must possess a sufficient quantity to convince an opponent that any attack against it will result in a counter-strike of apocalyptic proportions.   When facing a regime like the one in Tehran with a so far, very limited stockpile of nukes, it is, ironically, the one who launches first who loses.   Iran lacks a large stockpile of nukes with which to threaten the U.S., so it cannot afford to initiate any type of nuclear attack.   If it does, it invites certain annihilation from the U.S. stockpile.   Strategically, Iran’s nukes, at this stage, only serve as a deterrent against conventional attack.   Like a bee with a very large stinger, the Regime’s nukes raise the cost of directly attacking it, but cannot, in the long run, serve as an absolute deterrent or prevail.

Instead, the Regime likely would welcome a direct attack and then claim such an attack as justification to use its small number of nukes as its only, real means of defense while counting on the international community’s protection after the fact and the sympathy generated by the initial attack launched by the U.S. (or Israel, perhaps).   The U.S. cannot fall into that trap.   By using covert means, the U.S. can work to eliminate the Regime and ensure that a democratic Iran emerges, one which will either relinquish the nuclear weapons or pose no more threat to the West than Israel or France.  The U.S. must find a way to become adept at the use of proxies even as the Regime has used Hezbollah and Hamas as its cat’s paw against Israel.

Whether the U.S. can find an elected leader with the courage and determination to pursue such a course is another matter altogether.   The current occupant of the White House is not going to do it.   It is hard to know at this point whether any of the current GOP candidates are up to the task, either.  One thing is clear, if we assume as a worst-case scenario that Iran already has at least a few, working nuclear devices and the means of delivery, every year that the Regime stays in power allows them to expand their nuclear capabilities and stockpile to the point where even covert action would be too risky.  That, to my mind, would be the very definition of “too late.”

Exit From Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 12 months ago

So this is the way it comes to an end?

Throughout the summer and autumn, as talks on a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq foundered, President Barack Obama and his point man on Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden, remained aloof from the process, not even phoning top Iraqi officials to help reach a deal, according to logs released by the U.S. Embassy here.

The omission is an unusual one, given the high priority that U.S. officials had given to achieving an agreement for some sort of residual U.S. presence in Iraq after the Dec. 31 pullout deadline set in a 2008 pact between the two countries. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other senior Pentagon officials spoke often about the need for an agreement in a pivotal country in a volatile region and insisted talks were continuing up until Friday, when Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be coming home before the end of December.

A listing of direct conversations provided by the embassy — drawn, the embassy said, from the White House website — indicates that Obama had no direct contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki between Feb. 13, when he telephoned the prime minister, until Friday, when he called al-Maliki to tell him U.S. troops would be withdrawn by Dec. 31.

Also absent for nearly the entire year was Biden. According to the official listing, Biden telephoned al-Maliki on Dec. 21, the day al-Maliki formed a new government, and visited here Jan. 18, but had no direct contact after that date, according to the official listing.

U.S. Embassy officials, asked in July whether Biden was coming to help secure the deal, which military officers said needed to be concluded by July 31 for planning purposes, said the vice president was too busy trying to end the donnybrook in Congress over raising the national debt ceiling to visit Iraq.

On Tuesday, a White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, denied that Obama and Biden had not talked to al-Maliki during the negotiations. But he did not respond to a request for the dates of conversations between the president and al-Maliki.

So I decided to hop on over to Abu Muqawama’s place at CNAS (for the first time in about a year) and see if he had anything to say about Iraq.  He had this to say.  “Having pretty carefully considered the arguments for and against leaving troops in Iraq beyond this year, I ultimately found Doug Ollivant’s argument to be the most persuasive. So I support the president’s decision to end U.S. military involvement in the war in Iraq.”  Douglas Ollivant had this to say.

Let me be clear. The United States should have no — zero — troops in Iraq on Jan. 1, 2012, when the Status of Forces Agreement signed between the two countries requires a complete withdrawal (this number excepts, of course, a small military presence at the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation — a presence that exists in almost every embassy worldwide). This is not about delivering on an Obama campaign promise or saving money. This is about doing the right thing for both the United States and Iraq. Although the White House’s proposal to keep approximately 3,000 troops in Iraq is better than the rumored 17,000 desired by the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, maintaining any American presence is simply the wrong decision for both parties.

Despite having both a political problem and a terrorism problem, Iraq is now a reasonably stable country that must have the opportunity to chart its own course.

Now that Ollivant has been “clear,” let me also be clear.  Maliki’s puppet-masters are the Mullah’s in Iran.  Regardless of what one thinks of OIF1, OIF2 and OIF3 were necessary.  And a certain Marine and I had a conversation the other day about the 100+ foreign fighters flowing across the Syrian border per month and Iraq as a terrorist haven in 2007 during the height of the surge (when he deployed to Fallujah).  He also remarked to me about the poverty he witnessed, and the wealth that it takes to arm a society.

“As little money as I make, I am rich compared to most Iraqis,” he said.  “Yet they had AKs, handguns, explosive ordnance, and RPGs.  The RPG is an EFP device.  Do you know how much it costs to make and deploy one of those?  The weapons came in from Iran.  Typical Iraqis could not possibly have had the size caches we seized of those weapons after combat ops.  Thousands upon thousands – just in our AO.  You just can’t imagine the scope.  The money doesn’t exist.  These people don’t have it, and neither did the foreign fighters we killed, although the foreign fighters had better equipment than we did.”

He continued, “So do you think we finished the job?”  “No,” I said.  “We are leaving Iran empowered.  We could have enjoined the covert war they declared against the U.S., but we refused to do it.”  “I agree,” he replied, somewhat wistfully.  And we continued to discuss the possibilities that even a small force in Iraq could accomplish with the will to do it at the senior administration level.

And now I find that the President is busy printing and spending trillions upon trillions of dollars and throwing it away on worthless projects, while the Vice President is busy attempting to raise the debt ceiling so that our children and children’s children can be impoverished and bankrupt, while we ignored Iraq and Iran, refusing even to invite the PM for a visit so that we could strong arm him and negotiate a new SOFA.

Children.  Children in the White House, being led by a senior child, surrounded by children for policy advisers, being advised by children at think tanks who have absolutely no idea whatsoever of the ramifications of their counsel forward in time ( and who quote even more childish and un-serious think tanks for their sources).

Please, dear God, please, send someone serious to help these people.  Gravitas, please?

U.S. Warning to Iran

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

From The Washington Post:

The United States will continue to support Iraq as it moves toward democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday as she wrapped up a weeklong overseas trip.

Without mentioning Iran by name, Clinton warned Iraq’s neighbors against meddling and said the U.S. and Iraq would remain close allies.

“As we open this new chapter in a relationship with sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy,” she said.

“And to countries in the region, especially Iraqi’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests.”

She said the United States would have a “robust, continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region.”

The problem with Iran began more than a quarter century ago, and for Operation Iraqi Freedom, even before the campaign began.  We could have addressed the present problem, at least in part, when Maliki’s rule was hanging by a thread and Iraqi lawmakers were waiting to see who the U.S. would support.  While I argued for support of Allawi, the U.S. policy-makers decided to support the Iranian apparatchik Maliki.  At that point we may as well have withdrawn troops, and afterward a downward spiral took effect in Iraq, from a poor status of forces agreement to increased Iranian hegemony.

To be sure, the Obama administration could have projected strength, but did not and will not, and hence Maliki feels even more emboldened to follow the dictates of his puppet masters in Iran.  While the Obama administration did nothing whatsoever to help the situation, the problem began years ago with our refusal to engage Iran in the war that they declared on us.

I haven’t recommended full scale conventional warfare with Iran.  That’s clearly not necessary.  But what is necessary – support for the Green movement, a campaign of assassinations against Quds commanders, fomenting an insurgency within Iran, and robust covert warfare against Iranian forces around the Middle East, from Quds forces in Iraq, to Hezbollah in Lebanon – will not happen because neither the Obama administration nor the Bush administration has or had the stomach for winning the global war on terrorism.

The Iranian Mullahs know that.  We don’t even have the sway left in Iraq to have gotten a renewed status of forces agreement that prevents our Soldiers from being held on charges in Iraqi courts, much less to prevent the expansion of Iranian power in the Middle East.

Thus, this warning to Iran must seem like the silliest, most self-delusional piece of propaganda ever to be issued from the offices of the State Department.  We have sunk to a new low.  We now traffic in complete lies without  the slightest concern over the fact that not even the enemy believes us any more.

Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years ago

I just want to know.

General Petraeus.  Once you get settled in over at the C.I.A., can you check around the closets or under the desks at Langley and see if there are any covert ops people left?   I know we are too high-tech for that sort of thing nowadays, but every so often a job comes up that just can’t be done by the drones or the snooping satellites or wire intercepts.

The Washington Post publishes this article concerning the rising numbers of Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition:

WADI KHALED, Lebanon — A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement.

For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions, a Facebook page and a relatively small number of defected soldiers and officers who have taken refuge on the borderlands of Turkey and Lebanon or among civilians in Syria’s cities.

Many of its claims appear exaggerated or fanciful, such as its boasts to have shot down a helicopter near Damascus this month and to have mustered a force of 10,000 to take on the Syrian military.

But it is clear that defections from the Syrian military have been accelerating in recent weeks, as have levels of violence in those areas where the defections have occurred.

“It is the beginning of armed rebellion,” said Gen. Riad Asaad, the dissident army’s leader, who defected from the air force in July and took refuge in Turkey.

The article goes to great lengths to point out that the group does not have much clout at the moment but also notes:

There are nonetheless signs that the Free Syrian Army is expanding and organizing as reports of violent encounters increase. The group has announced the formation of 12 battalions around the country that regularly post claims on the group’s Facebook page, including bombings against military buses and ambushes at checkpoints.

This type of reporting is to be taken with more than a grain of salt, particularly in light of the lack of any reporters inside of Syria verifying the claims  (Calling Geraldo:  report to your choice of border crossings into Syria).  At the same time, it is only natural that protesters who are regularly attacked, beaten, tortured and killed will want to take up arms and at least try to defend themselves.   Given that the Assad Regime has been a major supplier of insurgents and armaments into Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and actively does the bidding of Iran in Lebanon, the U.S. has a keen interest in seeing him toppled.

What perfect justice for the U.S. to return the favor to Assad tenfold by infiltrating weapons into Syria from western Iraq.

But does the U.S. even have that capability?  And if we do, would this Administration actually follow through?

How does the U.S. influence the future of Syria?  At some point, when the Assad Regime continues to kill and torture its citizens, the U.S. must do more than just offer a rhetorical bone to the opposition.    Connections are made and relationships formed by providing material assistance (even if covert) to the opposition groups in Syria who at least have a willingness to work with the U.S.   How do we know that we will not be supplying weapons and training to Islamist militants?

That requires actual intelligence officers and human sources inside Syria.

General Petraeus, do you have anyone like that around the office?


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