Walkabout In The Weminuche Wilderness

Herschel Smith · 05 Aug 2018 · 41 Comments

"There are no socialists in the bush" - HPS All of my physical training only barely prepared me for the difficulty of the Weminuche Wilderness (pronounced with the "e" silent).  It's National Forest land, not National Park.  The Department of Agriculture no longer prints maps of the area, so we relied on NatGeo for the map, and it's good, but not perfect. We have a lot of ground to cover, including traveling with firearms, the modification I made to one of my guns for the trip, the actors…… [read more]

Baitullah Mehsud

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

We have provided analysis of Baitullah Mehsud, the center of gravity of the globalist jihad movement in the Taliban controlled areas of Pakistan, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) and more powerful by far than al Qaeda.  The Guardian has an exposé on Baitullah that is so good and extensive that several quotes will be provided below (the entire article is recommended reading), followed by brief analysis.

… after five years of germination, the disparate forces behind most of these attacks formally merged into the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) under the leadership of an illiterate 35-year-old commander, Baitullah Mehsud, confirming western suspicions that the epicentre of global jihad had shifted. Soon militias allied to the new grouping had permeated all of Pakistan’s border regions, even the northern ski slopes and trout streams of the former tourist haven of Swat …

“From the 26 suicide attacks where we recovered a head in 2007, we made a startling discovery,” says the Sig analyst. “The vast majority [of suicide bombers] came from just one tribe, the Mehsuds of central Waziristan, all boys aged 16 to 20.” Until the Sig team analysed the 2007 bombings, no one realised how successful the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been in recruiting his extended clan to the martyrdom business …

The officer found out more when a few Mehsud boys, who escaped a suicide training camp, recently contacted him. “They told me, ‘We have nothing. Simple things would make a difference. We are fond of football. Give us a ball and we won’t bomb.’ ” The officer is working to recruit informers, but tentatively. Those who resist Baitullah Mehsud have been brutally dealt with – like the 600 elders who spoke out against him in 2005 and were, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, each sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own shrouds; all of them were then killed

“The suicide bombers would be nothing without the bomb makers,” says Pervez, describing how men in caves and cowsheds, operating with a generator, a soldering iron and a pair of pliers, have become eminently adaptable. What the Sig proved was the axiom that today’s Islamic war zones inter-relate, how advice is passed down the line, in knapsacks and saddlebags, in encrypted computer files, in postcards and even in love letters. After insurgents in Iraq began to use mobile phones to detonate roadside bombs in the summer of 2003, the same technique emerged in Pakistan, deployed in one of the two assassination attempts on Musharraf in December. However, as western intelligence agencies caught up, developing high-frequency jammers to block the phone signals, the bombers changed tactics. Pervez says: “In Pakistan they returned to older techniques, using a 300-rupee [£2.50] wireless doorbell to send a low-frequency signal for which no one had thought to make a jammer” …

In the 80s, when Pervez was a young officer, the military and ISI had established hundreds of Sunni madrasas in southern Punjab that were aligned to a strict revivalist sect, the Deobandis, similar to the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. On graduation, most of these students were funnelled by the ISI into the secret war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, used to target Pakistan’s minority Shia population or infiltrated Indian Kashmir. “All the groups we are familiar with today came out of this process, and by the late 90s these men had had more consistent exposure to war than most officers in premier league armies in Europe” …

The closer you get to Baitullah Mehsud, the more of his strategy you can see. He is estimated to need one billion rupees (£8.6m) a year to keep his operations going. “It’s Jihadi Inc out here,” one senior police officer says. Among the Pakistan Taliban’s most recent recruits are a serial killer and two criminal dons, all of whom have been invited to become commanders. The officer says: “Mehsud’s Talibs now act like criminals, too, mounting a protection racket, charging road tolls, stealing fuel at gunpoint, blackmailing communities.”

They reach out across Pakistan. After arresting Qasim Toori, a wanted villain, in Shah Latif town, southeast Karachi, in January 2008, police learned he had been sent by Baitullah with 19 Taliban fighters to begin a crime wave. In Toori’s most successful raid, on October 30 2007, he held up the Bank al-Habib and stole 5m rupees (£43,000), money that was used to buy arms from al-Qaida. Baitullah’s men simultaneously began kidnapping …

Commentary & Analysis

When behind-the-times television analysts refer to al Qaeda who is being given safe haven in Pakistan, they fundamentally miss the point.  The globalist jihad movement of al Qaeda has been absorbed into the TTP of Pakistan.  The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Baitullah Mehsud is not only the unchallenged master of the Tehrik-i-Taliban movement in Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan, and he is essentially the head of not only a terror state, but also of a criminal enterprise worth 1E9 rupees annually (21 million dollars annually).

The group he leads is adaptive and improvisational with regards to their tactics, techniques and procedures.  They are even more experienced in war than the Pakistan Army, and certainly more so than most of the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

As for their global vision, Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

Baitullah Mehsud and the Tehrik-i-Taliban are not just dangerous; concerning the future of global jihad and the security of the West, they are – without rival – enemy #1.

Prior:

Pakistan Declares Baitullah Mehsud Patriot

Kidnapping: The Taliban’s New Source of Income

Tehrik-i-Taliban and al Qaeda Linked

Baitullah Mehsud: The Making of a Terror State

U.S. Marines Find Iraq Tactics Don’t Work in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

Before The Captain’s Journal is a strategy blog, we are first and foremost a logistics and tactical blog (logistics and tactics, techniques and procedures – TTP – is our first interest).  We are also a Marine blog, and so naturally, when McClatchy published their article (U.S. Marines find Iraq Tactics don’t work in Afghanistan), we were interested.  Several money quotes are given below, followed by commentary and analysis.

DELARAM, Afghanistan — On a sunset patrol here in late December, U.S. Marines spotted a Taliban unit trying to steal Afghan police vehicles at a checkpoint. In a flash, the Marines turned to pursue, driving off the main road and toward the gunfire coming from the mountain a half mile away.

But their six-ton vehicles were no match for the Taliban pickups. The mine-resistant vehicles and heavily armored Humvees bucked and swerved as drivers tried to maneuver them across fields that the Taliban vehicles raced across. The Afghan police trailed behind in unarmored pick-up trucks, impatient about their allies’ weighty pace.

The Marines, weighted down with 60 pounds of body armor each, struggled to climb up Saradaka Mountain. Once at the top, it was clear to everyone that the Taliban would get away. Second Lt. Phil Gilreath, 23, of Kingwood, La., called off the mission.

“It would be a ghost chase, and we would run the risk of the vehicles breaking down again,” Gilreath said. The Marines spent the next hour trying to find their way back to the paved road.

The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here — and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.

Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan’s unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.

Body armor is critical to warding off snipers in Iraq, where Sunni Muslim insurgents once made video of American soldiers falling to well-placed sniper shots a staple of recruiting efforts. But the added weight makes Marines awkward and slow when they have to dismount to chase after Taliban gunmen in Afghanistan’s rough terrain.

Even the Humvees, finally carrying heavy armor after years of complaints that they did little to mitigate the impact of roadside explosives in Iraq, are proving a liability. Marines say the heavy armor added for protection in Iraq is too rough on the vehicles’ transmissions in Afghanistan’s much hillier terrain, and the vehicles frequently break down — so often in fact that before every patrol Marine units here designate one Humvee as the tow vehicle.

The Marines have found other differences:

In Iraq, American forces could win over remote farmlands by swaying urban centers. In Afghanistan, there’s little connection between the farmlands and the mudhut villages that pass for towns.

In Iraq, armored vehicles could travel on both the roads and the desert. Here, the paved roads are mostly for outsiders – travelers, truckers and foreign troops; to reach the populace, American forces must find unmapped caravan routes that run through treacherous terrain, routes not designed for their modern military vehicles.

In Iraq, a half-hour firefight was considered a long engagement; here, Marines have fought battles that have lasted as long as eight hours against an enemy whose attacking forces have grown from platoon-size to company-size.

U.S. military leaders recognize that they need to make adjustments. During a Christmas Eve visit here, Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway told the troops that the Defense Department is studying how to reconfigure the bottom of its MRAPs to handle Afghanistan’s rougher terrain. And Col. Duffy White, the commander of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, said he anticipates that Marines will be wearing less armor by spring, when fighting season begins again.

Commentary & Analysis

As regular readers know from our body armor coverage and analysis, we have been preaching the virtues of weight reduction in body armor for months, and even years (focusing on the weight of SAPI plates).  Further, the Marine Corps was lethargic to react to known problems with troop transport, abandoning an urgent request for MRAPs in 2005.  The Marines had chosen to run Amphibious Assault Vehicles across desert terrain, and one particularly brutal example of the consequences of this choice was the loss of fourteen Marines near Haditha in August 2005.

Marine Commandant Conway has lamented the heaviness of the force now, and if there is a need for lighter, faster-moving all-terrain vehicles, then the Corps cannot be as slow to react as it was in Anbar.  We have also commented that some TTPs (such as satellite patrols) won’t have the same value in the rural terrain of Afghanistan versus the urban terrain of Iraq.  Having said that, the lectures of the Marines will stop and the analysis will start.

First of all, the Marines do not carry “60 pounds of body armor each.”  Someone has misled the journalist, or the journalist has simply gotten the wrong data, and unfortunately the misinformation has made it’s way into print.

The Modular Tactical Vest, the outer tactical vest in lieu of what the Army uses (Interceptor Body Armor vest) carries the same front, rear and side SAPI plates as the Army, and although the Marine MTV consists of slightly more soft panel protection than the IBA which adds a couple of pounds, the weight of all body armor fielded for the Army and Marines equals roughly 32 pounds, give or take a few ounces.

The balance of the weight to which the journalist refers is a hydration system, ammunition, weapon (which is hooked to the vest by a carabiner) and other odds and ends (e.g., ballistic glasses, gloves, tools, etc.).  These things would be carried by the Marine whether there was body armor or not.  So roughly half of the weight is non-negotiable.  Further, a backpack adds much more weight to the system.

Second, the McClatchy reporter says the following: “The Afghan police trailed behind in unarmored pick-up trucks, impatient about their allies’ weighty pace,” as if the U.S. Marines were holding up the Afghan police.  This is embarrassing for McClatchy, even if they aren’t embarrassed.  The notion of the Afghan police being anything but rife with corruption is absurd, and there was a reason that the police didn’t go out ahead of the Marines.  It’s the same reason that of the nine dead and twenty seven wounded in the Battle of Wanat, not a single one was Afghan Army.  They were all U.S. Army.  There wasn’t a chance in hell that the police would have gone it alone without the Marines, and they likely wouldn’t have even contributed to the fight.

Third, this example shows the need to adapt, and adapt the Marines will.  But Marines who have to chase the Taliban through the hills need more Marines.  Counterinsurgency will require more force projection, this being done in the rural rather than urban areas (the McClatchy article does have this right).  Intelligence-driven raids and kinetic operations will ensue upon adequate contact with the population, with the Marines providing them the security they need from the Taliban.

The real fight will start when the Marines are waiting for the Taliban in their mountain lairs because of what the people have told them.  Or, when the Taliban can’t come out of their caves because the Marines own the terrain.  Dismounted patrols will suffice just fine with enough Marines, and the question of all-terrain vehicles won’t be such a weighty issue.

Corporal William Ash, a squad leader from 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), along with a stray dog lead a patrol through a city in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. When the platoon moved into the area, they found two stray dogs, and each time the Marines head out on patrol the dogs are right at the Marines’ side.

The Marines will ramp up force projection in Afghanistan, and McClatchy reports like the one above won’t take on the importance they do with minimal forces.  The Marines will adapt, improvise and overcome.  McClatchy, on the other hand, should do a much better job of understanding Tactics, Techniques and Procedures.  And in order to have any respectability whatsoever, they need to get the data right concerning simple things like body armor weight.

Afghans Wary of Militia Plan

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

The tribal awakening in Ramadi, Iraq, was unique in that Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was able to lead a council of tribal elders, mostly who believed approximately the same things and who saw themselves as part of a coherent Anbar province, to work with the U.S. Marines providing intelligence and policing to assist in expelling al Qaeda in Iraq from the Anbar Province.

There are those, Amir Teheri among them, who believe that part of the U.S. difficulty in Afghanistan has to do with the forced imposition of a centralized power structure in Afghanistan.  But the detractors of such an arrangement have their history as well to which they can point.  There is a dubious past concerning tribal militias that gives the population concerns over the proposed awakening in Afghanistan.

A US-backed plan to form local forces to fight insurgents, like those that had some success in Iraq, has met with alarm in Afghanistan where memories are fresh of the 1990s war between local factions.

The plan, still in a pilot phase, is officially being developed at the request of the government of President Hamid Karzai as a way to empower villagers to protect themselves amid an upsurge in insurgent violence.

But it is being pushed by the United States, Afghanistan’s key ally, with US ambassador to Kabul William Wood saying in late December that there were simply not enough Afghan or international troops to deploy into all villages.

Under the programme, the United States would give members of certain local communities training, clothing and other supplies to “restore their own capacity to protect themselves”, Wood said.

They would be linked into military back-up but the United States would not provide them with weapons, he said, careful to stress that “this is not a recreation of tribal militias or any other kind of militia.”

“We are trying to strengthen the villages, we are trying to strengthen the tribes,” he said, calling these new groups “community guards”.

These groups would likely have weapons. But officials have been vague about who would supply them, with some saying it would be the interior ministry and also insisting the groups could not be called “militias” as they would fall under government supervision.

The guards would be chosen by local-level traditional councils, said Barna Karimi, deputy director of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) set up by Karzai more than a year ago.

The directorate is tasked with reviving these councils, called “shuras”, which fell into disarray during Afghanistan’s three decades of war.

It is starting its work in Logar and Wardak provinces, Karimi told AFP.

Security has plummeted in these two strategic areas, close to the capital and criss-crossed by important roads that are regularly attacked by insurgents and common criminals.

Some of the 20,000-30,000 extra US soldiers due to be in place by summer, in Afghanistan’s own Iraq-style “surge”, are expected to head to these provinces.

Official insistence that the plans for “community guards” do not amount to the establishment of militias has done little to allay public fears amid warnings it could lead to factional warfare like that seen in the 1990s.

Even Karzai, whom the United States has said requested help to create the guards, said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune newspaper last month that the creation of tribal militias would be a bad idea.

“If we create militias again, we will be ruining this country further,” he said. “That is not what I want.”

The communist government of the 1980s poured money into tribal forces because its own security structures were unable to defeat an Afghan uprising against the 1979 Soviet invasion.

Some of these factions grew into powerful forces that later battled each other for control of the government in a devastating civil war that ended only with the Taliban’s seizure of power in 1996.

Observers said it would be better to reinforce the Afghan police and army than set up militias that the government one day might not be able to control.

“We are concerned,” said Nader Nadery from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

“We have tried to disarm groups for many years now, and this means to rearm some people,” he said, referring to a UN-backed government programme to persuade the country’s myriad armed factions to hand in their weapons.

Lawmaker Ahmad Joyenda was more emphatic.

“I am totally against militias. They will end up fighting again,” he said.

The government could not even control its own police force, added Joyenda, referring to police corruption.

This analysis suffers from being a bit clunky and simplistic.  The Russian mistake, among other things, was in not conducting counterinsurgency in the rural areas, restricting their presence to the urban population centers.  This is a mistake that the U.S. is currently making in the campaign due to lack of troops.

Yet the account does have dire warnings for the U.S. plan.  The U.S. is currently searching for a plan that doesn’t involve large increases in troop presence, and because none is forthcoming, the only viable option seen is to engineer an awakening on the scale and of the type of the Anbar revolt against al Qaeda.

Yet the problem is just that – this awakening would be engineered rather than natural, and if it’s not a natural fit, then it will fail.  Either way, U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan for a protracted period of time, and force projection will be necessary until a natural solution floats to the top among the flotsam of the wreck that is Afghanistan.

One of our Marine Chaplains

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

One of our Marine Chaplains.

Lt. Cmdr. James L. Johnson, chaplain, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, kneels before a lighted cross before an evening prayer service in Sahl Sinjar, Iraq. Johnson said his job as chaplain is to assist the Marines and be a counsel for them wherever they go.

Johnson delivers a service to Marines of Company C, 1st LAR Bn. in the field in an area south of Mosul, Iraq. Johnson said he is impressed by how the battalion’s Marines bring all their skills together to do many different types of jobs in order to get their mission accomplished.

U.S. Attempts to Undermine the Iranian Nuclear Program

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

The New York Times has an analysis of U.S. rejection of aid and Iraq-flyover permission for Israel in a possible air raid against Iranian nuclear installations.  Most of this was previously known, but the real revelation concerns other U.S. attempts to undermine the Iranian nuclear program in lieu of a sign-off for Israeli operations.

The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

Instead, Mr. Bush embraced more intensive covert operations actions aimed at Iran, the interviews show, having concluded that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies were failing to slow the uranium enrichment efforts …

The covert American program, started in early 2008, includes renewed American efforts to penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies. It is aimed at delaying the day that Iran can produce the weapons-grade fuel and designs it needs to produce a workable nuclear weapon …

Late last year, international inspectors estimated that Iran had 3,800 centrifuges spinning, but American intelligence officials now estimate that the figure is 4,000 to 5,000, enough to produce about one weapon’s worth of uranium every eight months or so.

While declining to be specific, one American official dismissed the latest covert operations against Iran as “science experiments.” One senior intelligence official argued that as Mr. Bush prepared to leave office, the Iranians were already so close to achieving a weapons capacity that they were unlikely to be stopped …

There were two specific objectives: to slow progress at Natanz and other known and suspected nuclear facilities, and keep the pressure on a little-known Iranian professor named Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a scientist described in classified portions of American intelligence reports as deeply involved in an effort to design a nuclear warhead for Iran.

Past American-led efforts aimed at Natanz had yielded little result. Several years ago, foreign intelligence services tinkered with individual power units that Iran bought in Turkey to drive its centrifuges, the floor-to-ceiling silvery tubes that spin at the speed of sound, enriching uranium for use in power stations or, with additional enrichment, nuclear weapons.

A number of centrifuges blew up, prompting public declarations of sabotage by Iranian officials. An engineer in Switzerland, who worked with the Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan, had been “turned” by American intelligence officials and helped them slip faulty technology into parts bought by the Iranians.

What Mr. Bush authorized, and informed a narrow group of Congressional leaders about, was a far broader effort, aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program. Some of the efforts focused on ways to destabilize the centrifuges. The details are closely held, for obvious reasons, by American officials. One official, however, said, “It was not until the last year that they got really imaginative about what one could do to screw up the system.”

Analysis & Commentary

We understand Gates’ concern over the fanning of existing fires in the Middle East by launching air operations against Iranian nuclear facilities.  However, expulsion of IAEA inspectors would be a meaningless loss, since they provide almost no useful or actionable information as it is.  Further, the presence of “inspectors” has no deleterious affect at all on the Iranian nuclear program.  Gates, for one who believes that Iran is hell bent on obtaining nuclear weapons, gives us no viable options to prevent such an outcome if inspectors are his main deterrence.

As for the attempts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program, we agree with the assessment by one intelligence officer: these are just science experiments.  They aren’t serious implements of strategy.  Rather, they are a testimony to the juvenile belief that the current regime can be tricked, dealt with, bargained with, negotiated with, nuanced, lawyered and inspected out of being a danger to the balance of the world.  These technological tricks are temporary at the very best, and at the worst they may be a complete waste of time and effort.

There are those who believe we can live with a nuclear Iran.

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Reports: In contrast to U.S. officials who have consistently called a nuclear Iran unthinkable, former CENTCOM commander John Abizaid told reporters Monday that he believes the United States could live with a nuclear Iran.

“There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran,” Abizaid said.  “I believe we have the power to deter Iran if they go nuclear” he said, just as we deterred the Soviet Union and China.  “Iran is not a suicidal nation.  Nuclear deterrence would work with Iran.”

We believe that Abizaid fundamentally misjudges the nature of the radical Mullahs who rule Iran.  But the regional rulers weren’t so naive as Abizaid (even in 2007).

Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.

“The rules have changed,” King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Everybody’s going for nuclear programs.”

The Middle East states say they only want atomic power. Some probably do. But United States government and private analysts say they believe that the rush of activity is also intended to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.

By nature, the underlying technologies of nuclear power can make electricity or, with more effort, warheads, as nations have demonstrated over the decades by turning ostensibly civilian programs into sources of bomb fuel. Iran’s uneasy neighbors, analysts say, may be positioning themselves to do the same.

“One danger of Iran going nuclear has always been that it might provoke others,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an arms analysis group in London. “So when you see the development of nuclear power elsewhere in the region, it’s a cause for some concern.”

The people who are most intimate with the Persian threat are the very ones who want a deterrent.  In addition to the potential that Iran would use the weapon against its enemies, there is the corollary threat of the entire Middle East engulfed in a race for nuclear weapons.

The possibility of air assaults against Iranian nuclear facilities must be a viable and considered option.  But if the U.S. wishes to avoid this last resort, regime change in Iran is the penultimate target.  We have already discussed the budding insurgency in Western Iran, as well as the strong student rejection of the schemes of the radical Mullahs.  With the U.S. reluctant even to speak with authority to support democracy efforts within Iran, it’s as if official policy is forcing us towards military confrontation – or a nuclear Iran.

Of Marines, Counterinsurgency, Widows and Cows

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

U.S. Marine Maj. Gen John Kelly, the top U.S. commander in Anbar Province, is seen before the start of a handover ceremony at the government headquarters in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, in Iraq Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. Progress is proceeding apace in Anbar, and the Marines are leaving the Fallujah area of operations headed mainly for Camp Baharia and Al Asad Air Base.

We have observed before that it is the responsibility of the people and government of Iraq to progress on reconciliation, and that the Marines can help only marginally in this endeavor and certainly don’t belong in the middle of internecine struggles at this point in the counterinsurgency and reconstruction effort.  Maj. Gen. Kelly regrets, though, the lack of progress in sectarian reconciliation, saying that “the Shiite-led government should have poured reconstruction money into the Sunni region after Sunni fighters joined forces with U.S. troops to chase al-Qaida out of the western province.

Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly told The Associated Press that his greatest “mission failure” was his inability to bring together the government in Baghdad and the Sunnis in Anbar to take advantage of the steep decline in violence … Although Kelly said his mission did not include asking the central government for more money for the Sunni province, he was clearly frustrated by the lack of progress — a schism that stems from decades of brutal oppression of Shiites under Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime.”

In a time in our nation when the reflexive tendency is to avoid responsibility for things assigned to your responsible charge, the U.S. Marines still accept responsibility for things they weren’t assigned.  It’s a still sure and reliable sign that the phrase semper fidelis is more than mere words – it’s a code by which the Marines live.

The adaptability, wisdom and scholarly approach to the campaign in Anbar is a testimony to the character of the Marines and their leadership.  It hasn’t ended, and the example provided to the government of Iraq even recently by the Marines couldn’t be more stark.  Rather than “close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver,” the Marines are making sure that they have done their very best to ensure that there is no enemy, once again at the direction of Maj. Gen. Kelly.

As American forces work to revive Iraq’s tattered farming economy, they seem to have found an effective new weapon.

Cows.

At the suggestion of an Iraqi women’s group, the Marine Corps recently bought 50 cows for 50 Iraqi widows in the farm belt around Fallouja, once the insurgent capital of war-torn Anbar province.

The cow purchase is seen as a small step toward reestablishing Iraq’s once-thriving dairy industry, as well as a way to help women and children hurt by the frequent failure of the Iraqi government to provide the pensions that Iraqi law promises to widows.

The early sign is that the program is working. Widows, many with no other income, have a marketable item to sell, as well as milk for their children. Although Iraqis, particularly women, are often reluctant to participate in an American effort, the cows were immediately popular.

“It was an easy sell,” said Maj. Meredith Brown, assigned to the Marines’ outreach program for Iraqi women.

The idea, proposed by members of the Women’s Cultural Center in Fallouja, at first met with resistance from U.S. military officers and civilian officials involved in aid programs for Anbar. Nothing in their training provided guidance in haggling for livestock.

But those objections quickly evaporated when Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine in Iraq, signaled his support, Brown said. The Iraqis now refer to their animals as Kelly’s Cows.

Though Kelly’s support may have been based on gut instinct, the need to beef up Iraq’s badly broken dairy industry was argued in a Nov. 25 report by Land O’Lakes Inc.

The Minnesota cheese-and-butter company was hired by the Marine Corps to examine the Iraqi dairy industry. Its 38-page report, based on field research in the fall by two Land O’Lakes dairy specialists, concluded that there was enormous growth potential for the industry in a milk-drinking, cheese-eating nation that can locally produce enough milk to satisfy only 5% of the demand.

The study also pointed out that, even in Iraqi farm families with able-bodied adult males, much of the work is left to women: “Women milk the cows, bring feed and fodder to the animals and are supported by their children.”

In Anbar, two factors drew the Marines to the cow purchase: It was small-scale and it was suggested by the Iraqis. The Marines have learned that big-ticket projects, or those imposed by the U.S. on the Iraqis without local support, start with two strikes.

The Marines began buying cows in November at a livestock market at Saqlawiyah. Of the 50 cows, 35 were pregnant and 10 already had calves, which went along with their mothers. The five others were taken to a laboratory for artificial insemination. Brown put the program cost so far at $58,000.

To qualify for a free cow, each widow had to sign an agreement not to slaughter or sell the animal and instead to use the milk as a marketable item or for the family.

The project is not entirely altruistic. The Marines believe that widows with at least some economic resources are less likely to join Al Qaeda to carry out suicide attacks in exchange for a promise that their children will be cared for after the women are gone.

“If she’s desperate enough, she just might put on that [suicide] vest or drive that truck” full of explosives, Maj. Brown said.

Rather than being in the middle of internecine struggles, the Marines have led by example.  This is counterinsurgency at its very best, and represents the closing of an era in Anbar.  It’s the final phase of the campaign, and while troops will remain in Iraq for some time to help ensure border sovereignty, proper training of Iraqi Security Forces and robust actions against remaining hard core al Qaeda in Iraq fighters, General Kelly has every reason to be proud of his Marines and his own effort.  Mission accomplished.

False Comparisons of U.S. with Russian Afghan Campaign

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

Here is yet another commentary opposing the notion of a troop increase for Afghanistan.  Listen to the logic.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s visit to Afghanistan this month — even before President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration — will underscore the new administration’s priority to ending the war there. But their planned “surge first, then negotiate” strategy isn’t likely to work.

The Obama-Biden team wants to weaken the Taliban militarily then strike a political deal with the enemy from a position of strength. This echoes what the Bush administration did in Iraq, where it used a surge largely as a show of force to buy off Sunni tribal leaders and other local chieftains. Current Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen has already announced a near-doubling of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, to up to 63,000, by mid-2009.

Sending more forces into Afghanistan is a losing strategy. The Soviets couldn’t tame the country with more than 100,000 troops.

So that’s the logic.  100,000 troops didn’t work for the Soviets, so a troop increase won’t work for the U.S.  But this is a non sequitur, and the author either knows it and wrote it anyway and is thus a liar, or doesn’t know it and shouldn’t be writing commentaries for anyone, especially the Wall Street Journal.

The comparison is void because of differences in the campaigns.  Many of NATO forces are unable to fight in offensive operations due to restrictive rules of engagement from their countries of origin.  Many of the countries whose forces are in Afghanistan aren’t practicing counterinsurgency, but rather are confined to Forward Operating Bases doing force protection.  Finally, there aren’t enough troops in general to contact the population and provide security, and thus the countryside is being lost.

This last point is critical.  Russian military strategy focused on urban population centers rather than rural terrain, and this was the determinative error made in their campaign.  To the extent that NATO and the U.S. forces are duplicating this error, we will lose.  The practice of counterinsurgency requires constant contact with the population, and not just in urban centers.

There is a variant of the criticism of a troop increase, and it is more sophisticated.  It comes from Amir Taheri.

On advice from Karzai, Khalilzad, and a number of other Afghan exiles, the Bush administration, which had little knowledge of Afghanistan, was sucked into a project founded on a number of illusions. The chief illusion was that Afghanistan could develop a system of highly centralized government headed by a U.S.-style president and a strong executive branch. That scheme ignored Afghanistan’s historical and geographical realities. Afghanistan emerged as a loosely knit independent state in the 18th century and was accepted as a buffer setting the limits of the Tsarist, Persian, and British empires in Central Asia. A patchwork of ethnic and religious communities, Afghanistan developed a system of rule in which tribal chiefs and Muslim clerics enjoyed a great measure of autonomy under the nominal suzerainty of a distant king who never tried to impose his will throughout his realm by force. The idea that Afghanistan is a land of unruly tribes was generally recognized in the Muslim world. It was not for nothing that Muslims always referred to Afghanistan as Taghistan (“The Land of Insolence”).

The Taliban knew all that and never tried to impose central control over the country. They preferred to secure the allegiance of local tribal and religious leaders with a mixture of bribery and deference. It is well known that the Taliban conquered more land with Samsonites full of crisp U.S. dollar notes than with Soviet-style AK rifles.

The best structure for Afghanistan is that of a loose federation in which its 18 ethnic and religious communities enjoy full economic, cultural, and administrative autonomy. Yet the system developed in Afghanistan since 2002 has gone in the exact opposite direction. The Afghan president today has powers that no Afghan king ever dreamt of. The problem is that these powers cannot be used without provoking violent resistance from a majority of Afghans — and such violence cannot be dealt with except by force. President Karzai, a member of a minor Pashtun (Pathan) tribe who lacks a constituency of his own, cannot master the force needed to impose central-government control throughout his unruly land. He has been trying to do so by relying on American power. The result is that the U.S. has been sucked into Afghan politics as another tribe, albeit one that has greater firepower than the rest.

So be it, and I am not disputing Taheri’s account of one of the failings of the campaign thus far.  But if Taheri doesn’t like the trajectory of our actions thus far in Afghanistan, I don’t like the trajectory of his critique.

It may never be known how bad and unworkable is the notion of a centralized government and how bad the security situation would have been if we had conducted counterinsurgency from the start.  Taheri’s recommendations are likely better than what we have been pursuing, but that misses the point in Afghanistan.

The point thus far is that there have been too few troops and too loose a coalition of forces with lack of central oversight committed to a singular strategy to conduct classical counterinsurgency.  That means that rather than counterinsurgency, we have conducted counterterrorism – a special operations campaign against high value targets.  Kill a mid-level Taliban commander, it takes two weeks for another to rise in his place, and for two weeks you have quiet human and physical terrain.  In two weeks all hell breaks loose again.  Kill the next commander, and the cycle repeats itself.

I have heard this cycle directly from SOF field grade officers from Afghanistan, these officers implementing the strategy even though they knew it would only succeed for a short duration.  We can implement Taheri’s strategy today, and it wouldn’t be able to be effected by the number of troops currently in Afghanistan because security cannot be provided for the population.  Neither, for that matter, can the tribes provide security in provinces such as Helmand where it is projected that there are between 8000 – 20,000 hard core Taliban fighters.

A re-visitation of the strategy will be necessary in 2009, and maybe Taheri’s approach is the correct one to take.  But no strategy will succeed without more troops.

New Afghan Supply Route Through Russia Likely

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

Adding to our coverage and analysis of the logistics for Operation Enduring Freedom, it appears that negotiations are all but finished for a new supply route through Russia.

A NATO official says talks on setting up an alternate supply route to Afghanistan are at an advanced stage — an issue of growing urgency because of intensifying attacks by pro-Taliban forces on convoys in Pakistan.

The official who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter says diplomatic efforts are nearing conclusion on the new route for military supplies that will pass through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Moscow agreed last year to let the alliance use its territory to resupply the 62,000 Western troops in landlocked Afghanistan.

Some individual NATO members already use the so-called northern route to supply their forces in Afghanistan. But the alliance as a whole still relies on the route from Pakistan’s port of Karachi.

But we have also pointed out the alternative to Russia via Georgia.  Harder and more time consuming though it would be, it removes Russia as the center of gravity in the plan.  With supply to U.S. troops in Afghanistan being dependent upon Russian good will, it remains to be seen how much pressure relations with the Ukraine and Georgia will sustain.  For instance, without Russian cooperation in consideration, would the U.S. support membership in NATO for these two countries?

Russia is even now proving itself to be a recalcitrant neighbor.

Europeans likely didn’t need much more evidence of how unreliable a partner Russia can be, but this week the Kremlin gave them definitive proof.

In a pricing dispute with Ukraine, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered supplies of natural gas to Europe shut off, just as most of the continent was at the coldest point of what has been an unusually cold winter.

Europe relies on Russia for 25 percent to 40 percent of its natural gas, and 80 percent of that is shipped through pipelines that cross Ukraine. The cutoff was felt from Turkey to France and was particularly acute in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, where several countries declared states of emergency.

Russia claims that Ukraine is behind in its payments for gas and is seeking $600 million in late fees plus a higher price for future shipments.

In any reasonable part of the world, this dispute might be settled by mutually agreed-upon international arbitration. Whatever culpability Ukraine has in this dispute, Russia has motives other than financial. It resents Ukraine’s successful experiment with democracy, its support for Georgia in the recent conflict and especially its plans to join NATO.

All this comes as Russia is reeling from a financial crisis brought by the collapse of oil and gas prices and by the Kremlin’s custom of appropriating foreign-owned firms once they become profitable.

For the Europeans, Russian natural gas is the most readily available, but as long as the Kremlin uses price and availability as blunt instruments of foreign policy, they’d be foolish to rely on it.

This is a wake-up call for Europe to search for alternative sources delivered through more secure routes.

Is this a wake-up call that should have been heard in the office of the Secretary of Defense as well?

Reuters-Come-Lately to Khyber Pass and Georgia Story

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

In addition to original reporting, sometimes blogs owners contribute to review and analysis of existing data and information that isn’t otherwise performed within the main stream media.  Myra MacDonald with Reuters has landed on the story of the Khyper Pass and the potential strategic partnership between the U.S. and Russia (while still not discussing the alternative via Georgia) to create new logistical lines of supply to Afghanistan.

She links to some well worn articles with the Washington Post, New York Times, IHT, a Robert Gates commentary for Foreign Affairs, and several other sources, and then asks some salient questions about the price of the partnership with Russia to provide a line of supply into Afghanistan, concluding with the following promise: “This is one I’m going to watch closely and I would appreciate comments and links to stories that illuminate the subject both before and after Jan 20.”

In addition to the commentary we have already provided on Gates’ article for Foreign Affairs, Myra misses the point that Google is our friend.  A word search on “Torkham crossing” or “Georgia strategic partnership” yields articles by The Captain’s Journal at the very top of the first page.

While the U.S. Army was claiming that there wouldn’t be a spring offensive in Afghanistan, we said approximately one year ago that there would be a two prong asymmetric offensive, one in Pakistan and the other in Afghanistan, with the focus of both being lines of logistical supply, and even providing a simple diagram of the strategic approach.  We have followed this problem through not only the potential for adverse consequences to Europe from the alleged thaw in relations with Russia, but the alternative to Russia, the Georgian supply route.

While Myra has been reading the New York Times, I have been having detailed discussions with Steve Schippert over logistics and consequences that go far beyond what the MSM has analyzed.  Don’t misunderstand – it’s a good thing that Myra has landed on this story when so many in the media are making a laughingstock of themselves by being focused on what clothing the political candidates are wearing at the moment.

But by ignoring the first of a kind, news-breaking, easy-to-find and more detailed analyses of the more serious Milbloggers such as Steve and me, Myra, like most in the MSM, has handicapped herself in the timeliness and depth of her analysis.  My analysis of the Khyber Pass / Torkham Crossing situation came even before the first Jamestown Foundation analysis of record I can find.

Sometimes blogs exist merely as a symbiont with the main stream media, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Occasionally though, there is innovative, ground-breaking analysis and research performed by authors other than in the main stream media, however hard this may be for the MSM to accept.

Prior:

U.S-Georgia Strategic Partnership

The Logistical Battle: New Lines of Supply to Afghanistan

The Search for Alternate Supply Routes to Afghanistan

Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

More on Lines of Logistics for Afghanistan

How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?

Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Interdiction of U.S. Supplies in Khyber Pass

The Torkham Crossing

Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

“Clearly, logistics is the hard part of fighting a war.”
– Lt. Gen. E. T. Cook, USMC, November 1990

“Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”
– Gen. George S. Patton, USA

“Bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible.”
– ADM Hyman Rickover, USN

“There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war.”
– Carl von Clausevitz

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…”
– Sun Tzu

The Role of Palestine in the War with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 11 months ago

While supporting Israel’s right to a robust self defense, The Captain’s Journal has also questioned both the strategic and operational goals of the current Israeli offensive, especially since it is being run by the more leftist administration currently in power in Israel.  But there are deeper questions still about the operation, ones that drive to the heart of the matter.

Robert Kaplan discusses the larger war in which Israel is engaged.

Israel has just embarked on a land invasion of the Gaza Strip after a week of aerial bombing. Gaza is bordered by Egypt, and was under Egyptian military control from 1949 through 1967. And yet in a startling rebuke to geography and recent history—and in testimony to the sheer power of audacity and of ideas—the mullahs in Teheran hold more sway in Gaza today than does the tired, Brezhnevite regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Gaza constitutes the western edge of Iran’s veritable new empire, cartographically akin to the ancient Persian one, that now stretches all the way to western Afghanistan, where Kabul holds no sway and which is under Iranian economic domination.

Israel’s attack on Gaza is, in effect, an attack on Iran’s empire, the first since its offensive on Iranian-backed Hezbollah in 2006. That attack failed for a number of reasons, not least of which was Israel’s poor intelligence on Hezbollah: historically, its intelligence on the Palestinians has been much better. Moreover, this attack seems more deliberately planned, with narrower, publicly stated aims – all in all, a more professional job. But there is a fundamental problem with what Israel is doing that goes to the heart of the postmodern beast that the Iranian empire represents.

To start with, Hamas does not have to win this war. It can lose and still win. As long as no other political group can replace it in power, even as some of its diehards can continue to lob missiles, however ineffectually, into Israel, it achieves a moral victory of sorts. Moreover, if Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement tries to replace Hamas in power, Fatah will forever be tagged with the label of Israeli stooge, and in the eyes of Palestinians will have little moral legitimacy. Israel’s dilemma is that it is not fighting a state but an ideology, the postmodern glue that holds together Greater Iran.

This is similar to the view espoused by Dr. Ely Karmon, namely that “The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context. Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors — Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas — which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades … Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.”

In The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, The Captain’s Journal pointed out that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al Qaeda leadership had heretofore rejected participation in jihad with Hamas because of its acceptance of nationalism and democracy, two things al Qaeda hates most.  Global jihad (and hence, al Qaeda) doesn’t recognize borders or the legitimacy of states.  But we also pointed out that radical Salafist schools were developing across Palestine – including Gaza – financed by Saudi money and producing young radicals accepting of a more global and even less tolerant perspective.

Adding to this narrative is an analysis by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Both Hamas and the Gazan jihadist groups share a desire to destroy Israel and impose sharia, but Hamas focuses on local interests limited to the Palestinian arena. Hamas, therefore, directs its energy largely at Israel, while these groups target foreigners as well. The Salafi-jihadist groups espouse an ideology of “pure resistance,” within which there is no room for ceasefires or temporary halts in attacks against the enemy. Some of their members were therefore especially motivated to continue attacks following Hamas’s agreement to a tahdiyah, or lull …

Although these groups do not aim to usurp Hamas’s control of Gaza, the expansion of their power and popularity poses an ideological and practical challenge for Hamas and emphasizes the dichotomy in the movement; on one hand, Hamas is a resistance movement siding with an ongoing jihadist struggle, on the other, it is a sovereign power that is required to compromise on daily governance issues. Hamas is worried that this phenomenon will gain popularity among the young generation, since it represents “pure resistance.” Confronting this phenomenon not only endangers Hamas’s image on the street, but also forces the organization to confront one of the cornerstones of its identity: the ideological adherence to jihad as a way to achieve its goals. This very dilemma may go a long way toward explaining why Hamas allowed the tahdiyah to erode; attacks from time to time allow Hamas to explain that it remains committed to resistance.

In the wake of the current crisis, Hamas may choose to ease its crackdown on these jihadist groups, causing repercussions beyond Gaza. Strengthened Salafi-jihadist groups in Gaza could ultimately pose a threat not only to Hamas, but also, as the various attacks and foiled plots over the past several years illustrate, to Israeli and Western interests as well.

Al Qaeda’s inability to utilize differing sects in its global struggle, e.g., the nationalistic Hamas, is not a mistake made by the Persian empire which, while Shi’a, has no problems working with the Sunni Hamas.  Al Qaeda may look on with envy at the empire carefully constructed by Iran, but in the main Israel is surrounded by Iranian proxies.  True, there are allegations and counter-allegations over the role of al Qaeda in Lebanon (page 5).

There is no official consensus in Lebanon on whether al-Qa`ida has a presence in the country. Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, all politics in Lebanon has been polarized. It is on the threat of terrorism where the gap is arguably most pronounced. On the one hand, the anti-Syrian political coalition, led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri, believes that al-Qa`ida does not have an indigenous presence in Lebanon. What the country faces instead is a fabricated threat by Damascus and its intelligence services that is intended to destabilize Lebanon and restore Syrian hegemony. On the other hand, the pro-Syrian alliance, spearheaded by Hizb Allah (also spelled Hezbollah) and the Free Patriotic Party of Michel Aoun, judges that al-Qa`ida exists in Lebanon and poses a real threat to national security. For them, the rise of al-Qa`ida in the country is largely attributed to a devilish pact between Lebanese Sunni politicians and extremist Islamic factions in the north, the purpose of which is to counter-balance the perceived ascending power of Shi`a Hizb Allah. The Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), an institution that is perceived to be fairly loyal to Siniora—in addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential regional patrons of the anti-Syrian coalition—are also accused by the pro-Syrian alliance of having a hand in financing and arming these terrorist groups.

But the argument itself is evidence of the paltry presence of al Qaeda, or strongly Sunni anti-Persian elements.  Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran, orders it immediately relays to Hassan Nasrallah who governs Hezbollah, which is itself Iran’s troops deployed in Lebanon.  Hamas, like Hezbollah but still following in its footsteps, serves the interests of Iran.

Michael Ledeen makes a strong case that Iran has turned Hamas loose to lose if necessary, a sort of cowardly betrayal of the Hamas leadership.  Further, argues Ledeen, there is rot inside of Iran.  Indeed, there is a budding insurgency in Western Iran, one that we have argued that should be aided in fomenting a full blown insurgency and regime change inside of Iran.

Caroline Glick makes a similar argument to Ledeen, but ends with a stern warning.

ALAS, THERE is another possible explanation for Iran’s apparent decision to abandon a vassal it incited to open a war. On Sunday, Iranian analyst Amir Taheri reported the conclusions of a bipartisan French parliamentary report on the status of Iran’s nuclear program in Asharq Alawsat. The report which was submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy late last month concluded that unless something changes, Iran will have passed the nuclear threshold by the end of 2009 and will become a nuclear power no later than 2011. The report is notable because it is based entirely on open-sourced material whose accuracy has been acknowledged by the Iranian regime.

The report asserts that this year will be the world’s final opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And, as Taheri hints strongly, the only way of doing that effectively is by attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

In light of this new report, which contradicts earlier US intelligence assessments that claimed it would be years before Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza for the same reason it launched its war in 2006: to divert international attention away from its nuclear program.

It is possible that Iran prefers to run down US President George W. Bush’s last two weeks in office with the White House and the rest of the world focused on Gaza, than risk the chance that during these two weeks, the White House (or Israel) might read the French parliament’s report and decide to do something about it.

So too, its apparent decision not to have Hizbullah join in this round of fighting might have more to do with Iran’s desire to preserve its Lebanese delivery systems for any nuclear devices than its desire to save pennies in a tight economy.

And if this is the case, then even if Israel beats Hamas (and I eat my hat), we could still lose the larger war by again having allowed Iran to get us to take our eyes away from the prize.

Whatever their strategy, unless Israel is willing to follow through with these current operations and the U.S. is willing not only to implement democracy programs in Iran but also to pursue regime change, the entire Middle East might be dealing in the near future with a nuclear Persia, leading not only to mortal danger for Israel but also to a nuclear Egypt, Jorgan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Thus we haven’t questioned the role of Iran in the war with Palestine, for that would be to miss the point.  The real question is the role of Palestine in the war with Iran, and whether the larger strategic picture is being kept in sight.

Further Reading:

Robert D. Kaplan, Iran’s Postmodern Beast in Gaza, a “must-read” from the author of the remarkable Imperial Grunts.

Michael Ledeen, Is Iran in Trouble?

Caroline Glick, Iran’s Gaza Diversion

Yoram Cohen, Jihadist Groups in Gaza: A Developing Threat

Syed Saleem Shahza, Al Qaeda Sniffs Opportunity in Gaza.  Saleem purveys fantasy when he says that there has been a slight resurgence of AQ in Anbar, and has to be read through the lens of someone who shills for both AQ and the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  Nonetheless, his prose is interesting and if you’re able to discern fact and analysis from propaganda, is usually useful.

Charles Levinson, Israel’s Ground Assault Marks Shift in Strategy

Victor Davis Hanson, Gazan Calculations

James Lyons, Gaza Distraction

Even if the current Hamas leadership and infrastructure are destroyed, nothing will change as long as the Ali Khamenei regime remains in power with continued support of terrorist groups to act as their proxies to further their political agenda.

While we have proof positive of Iran’s direct involvement in terrorist activities over the last almost 30 years, which has resulted in thousands of U.S. military and civilian casualties, they have never been made to suffer the consequences of their cowardly acts or held accountable. The ultimate solution is to change the power structure in Iran preferably by a form of a “yellow revolution” in which Iranians who desire a better life are able to free themselves from their current medieval theocratic regime. The odds of a popular uprising are slim unless supported by a variety of actions led by the United States.

Lyons’ commentary is analogous to the arguments made at TCJ for the last two years.


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