Archive for the 'Assassinations' Category



Drones and the War Against Militant Islam: Useful Tool or Game Changer?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 6 months ago

One of my favorite historians and conservative thinkers, Victor Davis Hanson, published a provocative article over at NRO, “The Predator-in-Chief.”

In this article, Hanson basically observes the irony that President Obama, who roundly criticized Bush 43 for his resort to force of arms, has turned out to be the unquestioned champion of UAV/drone strikes against high-value targets in both Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and even Somalia.

But Hanson attempts to do far more than merely observe Obama’s unbridled use of drones.   He argues that the development, use and continuing refinement of drones has “turned the tide” in the war against militant Islam.

For example:

Even when [the United States] adjusted well to the 9/11 tactics, there were new threats, such as suicide bombers and roadside improvised explosive devices that seemed to nullify American technological and material advantages.

But America is once again getting the upper hand in this long war against Middle Eastern terrorists, with the use of Predator-drone targeted assassinations to which the terrorists have not yet developed an answer. In systematically deadly fashion, Predators are picking off the top echelon of al-Qaeda and its affiliates from the Hindu Kush to Yemen to the Horn of Africa.

New models of drones seem almost unstoppable. They are uncannily accurate in delivering missiles in a way even precision aircraft-bombing cannot. Compared to the cost of a new jet or infantry division, Predators are incredibly cheap. And they do not endanger American lives — at least as long as terrorists cannot get at hidden runaways abroad or video-control consoles at home.

The pilotless aircraft are nearly invisible and, without warning, can deliver instant death from thousands of feet away in the airspace above. Foreign governments often give us permission to cross borders with Predators in a way they would not with loud, manned aircraft.

Moreover, drones are constantly evolving. They now stay in the air far longer and are far more accurate and far more deadly than when they first appeared in force shortly after 9/11. Suddenly it is a lot harder for a terrorist to bomb a train station in the West than it is for a Predator to target that same would-be terrorist’s home in South Waziristan.

Notwithstanding my admiration for his work, I cannot sign onto this particular piece.  Perhaps I am once again blinded by my antipathy for the current Administration, leading me to reject anything that reflects well on Obama, a kind of cognitive dissonance that finds fault where there is none.  On the other hand, it may be that Herschel Smith (and other folks like Tim Lynch, Michael Ledeen and Michael Yon) educated me too well to fall into facile thinking about a war won with drone attacks.   I am surprised to hear Professor Hanson saying anything to this effect.

What support is there for Hanson’s statement that drones have facilitated “getting the upper hand in the long war against Middle Eastern terrorists” ?

I certainly do not deny that drones have proven to be exceedingly useful tools on the battlefield and adept at decapitation operations, but Hanson seems to make way too much out of the effect of drones.  Yes, many al-Qaeda and affiliated terror group leaders have been killed and their accumulated expertise, leadership and inspiration denied to their followers.   But, as we have seen again and again in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, Iran and Somalia, merely ridding terror groups of their top leadership provides at best a respite until new leadership fills in the vacated posts.   Capabilities can be blunted at times with this tactic but the larger struggle continues unabated.   In short, no one has yet proven that decapitation operations are winning the war.

And I posit that no one can prove this point because to argue this is to mistake the very nature of the war itself.

Has the killing of Bin Laden and others really “turned the tide” in our favor as Hanson claims?  It could be argued that Al Qaeda as an organization was already dead or dying, discredited by their humiliating defeat in Iraq and their failure to launch any new attacks against the U.S. homeland.  In this sense, Al Qaeda leadership has been sitting around waiting to be picked off.   Very simply put, the game has changed dramatically since 9-11 and Al Qaeda and its cohorts are no longer all that relevant.   The ball has been taken up by other larger forces and by events that no one could foresee in 2001 or even 2009.   The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the so-called Arab Spring.   These are all actors and events that are well beyond the reach of Drones and will have the most to say about winning or losing the war against militant Islam.

This is the problem with incorrectly identifying the enemy and the nature of our war.  It is far larger than any one terror group or 2,200 disembodied radicals.  The enemy is an ideology that is antithetical to Western civilization.  Like it or not, we are in a civlizational war with militant Islam.  If it makes us feel better to kill off 2,200 bad guys in Pakistan or Yemen or wherever, fine.

This explains, by the way, the strange attraction of Drones for Obama.  It is a cheap, easy and politically potent tool, giving him something concrete he can point to and say, “See what I’ve done to defeat terror?”

In the meantime, the ideology is not defeated.  To the contrary, it grows and metastasizes throughout the Middle East.  Iran.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gaza (and Syria?).  Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Islamists in Libya.  The U.S. has done nothing to counter the Islamist ideology or strengthen the hands of those in the Middle East who share our values but need strong support to make their case to the people.  We blandly ignore the protests in Iran and Syria as internal matters, allowing the Islamists to gain the upper hand.  We have wasted 10 years in Afghanistan with futile attempts to impose an 18th century notion of democratic rule on a 9th century nation that sees little need to change.  But let’s celebrate those drone strikes.  The ground in the entire Middle East is shifting right under our feet, but, boy, did we blast those bad guys to bits in those remote villages and caves.

Drones are not the answer to any of this.   If only they were.   We cannot win this war with technology.   We have to defeat militant Islam the same way that we defeated fascism and communism:  by showing that they are bankrupt and evil ideologies.   Drones cannot save us.    Sorry Professor Hanson.

Iran Busy Inside of Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

More from Wikileaks (courtesy of WSJ):

Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables provide new details on the U.S. assessment of how Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has promoted Tehran’s influence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The demise of archenemy Saddam Hussein, with whom Tehran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, presented the Iranians with an unprecedented opportunity, and they appear to have exploited it from Day One.

The leadership of the Qods Force—the Guards’ paramilitary and espionage arm—”took advantage of the vacuum” in the aftermath of the fall of Mr. Hussein’s regime to begin sending operatives into Iraq when “little attention was focused on Iran,” according to an April 2009 dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The cable was part of a trove of classified U.S. diplomatic communications made public this week by WikiLeaks.

Early priorities for the Iranian operatives included assassinating former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, according to a December 2009 dispatch from Baghdad. As of the end of last year 180 pilots had been killed, according to the report.

But Iran’s broader goals have been the establishment of “an economically dependent and politically subservient Iraq” and the undermining of rivals, in part through paramilitary means, the cables suggest.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaie-Far denied in a recent interview that Iran was meddling in Iraq’s affairs or supporting militias.

Since 2003, Qods Force commander Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani has been “the point man directing the formulation and implementation” of the Iranian government’s Iraq policy “with authority second only” to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to another dispatch from Baghdad dated November 2009.

Through his officers and “Iraqi proxies,” Gen. Soleimani “employs the full range of diplomatic, security, intelligence, and economic tools to influence allies and detractors in order to shape a more pro-Iran regime in Baghdad and the provinces,” according to the same dispatch.

Some Qods Force operatives have entered Iraq under the guise of charities or the Iranian Red Crescent—the Islamic version of the Red Cross—according to an October 2008 dispatch from America’s Iran Regional Presence Office based in the Gulf Arab emirate of Dubai.

The cable, which cites an “Iranian with detailed knowledge of the country’s Red Crescent” as a source, says the organization contracted companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards to build clinics in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra, Hilla, Karbala and Najaf to the south. The clinics were used “for treatment but also as warehouses for military equipment or military bases if needed.”

Other Iranian operatives came in as diplomats, including some allegedly as senior as Tehran’s former ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who is described as “an associate” of the Qods Force in the November 2009 dispatch. His successor, Mr. Danaie-Far, was a naval commander in the Revolutionary Guards.

In addition to training, funding and arming Shiite militias in Iraq involved in attacking U.S. interests, Gen. Soleimani has overseen economic development assistance to Iraq and the promotion of bilateral trade that reached an annual level of almost $4 billion by the end of 2009. He also oversaw the furthering of Iranian “soft power” through activities such as the renovation of Iraq’s revered Shiite shrines by Revolutionary Guards-owned companies, according to several dispatches.

The Iranian commander also “enjoys longstanding close ties” with several top Iraqi officials such as President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a dispatch from Baghdad.

The November 2009 cable says Iran hands out cash payments to “Iraqi surrogates,” which include some of the political parties currently in power. It says while exact figures are unknown, Tehran’s financial assistance is estimated in the cables at $100 million to $200 million a year, with an estimated $70 million going to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) party, which was based in Iran before Mr. Hussein’s fall.

In one cable, U.S. diplomats in Baghdad say sensitivity by Iraqi leaders toward being seen as “Iranian lackeys” will ultimately constrain Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Even though both countries are majority Shiite Muslim, they embrace opposing clerical traditions. Iraq’s revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is Iranian-born but rejects Iran’s clerical rule.

One dispatch that followed a visit by U.S. diplomats to Mr. Sistani’s base in Najaf last year said the reclusive cleric personally prohibited the enrollment of Iranian students at seminaries in the city in order to prevent infiltration by the Revolutionary Guards.

Right.  Like Iranian meddling inside of Iraq is some sort of newly-discovered fact.  It was known years ago.  Take careful note.  I have been watching this man General Qassem Suleimani, and have specifically called for his assassination.  It would have been better for Iraq had this man been dead long ago.  Note also that I have more recently called for more assassinations of Iranians in key places within the Quds forces.

This follows a rich tradition here at The Captain’s Journal, where I called for the assassination of Moqtada al Sadr.  It’s simple.  Reverse executive order 12,333 prohibiting assassinations.  It’s way past time to wield this simple but effective tool.

Concerning the assassination of Iranian nuclear physicists which I applauded just recently, the New York Post has taken what I perceive to be a very significant step.  They have endorsed the same thing.

Who is killing the great nuclear scientists of Iran?

Who cares?

That is, as long as enough of them are offed to stymie development of a deliverable Iranian nuke.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he knows who’s behind the recent drive-by bombings of the scientists. He sees “the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments” — by which he means Israel and the United States.

Maybe. (The answer will no doubt be in the next WikiLeaks dump.)

According to news reports, unidentified assailants riding motorcycles carried out two bombings in Tehran on Monday, attaching explosives to the scientists’ cars and detonating them remotely.

One attack killed Majid Shahriari, manager of a “major project” for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and an expert in neutron transport — a key stage in the chain reactions behind nuclear weapons.

The other bomb seriously injured Fereydoon Abbasi, a senior Ministry of Defense scientist who’s said to work closely with the notorious Revolutionary Guard and reportedly is believed by Western intelligence to be a key figure in Iran’s drive to build nukes.

As one unnamed US official told the Times: “They’re [both] bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to design a bomb.”

Israel, of course, has been warning about an Iranian nuclear arsenal for some time now — and is believed to have been behind last summer’s Stuxnet computer-worm attack, which reportedly sent Iran’s nuclear centrifuges out of control.

If the US government has finally come to realize that a more hands-on approach is needed — and, as the latest WikiLeaks disclosures show, Washington is being pressed hard by a clearly terrified Arab world — that’s all to the good.

Not so significant for a Military Blogger.  Monumentally significant for a main stream news organization, even one which leans more conservative.  To the New York Post: welcome.  My position actually cost me readers (I know because of demands to remove e-mails from my auto-distribution).  I suspect that it will for you as well.  But I’m not in this to max out my readers.  I have a stake in what we do in this transnational insurgency in which we unfortunately find ourselves.  I suspect you feel that you do as well.


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