Archive for the ‘iraq’ Category

What is going on in Syria ?

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Rhodes

Our feckless president has been lecturing the US public about various topics he considers important but what has actually been going on ? We do know that a Navy SEAL named Charles Keating was killed in Iraq.

(CNN)When a team of less than a dozen U.S. military advisers came under attack in Iraq Tuesday from more than 100 ISIS fighters, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was part of the force sent in to rescue them.

All the advisers made it back. Keating, a decorated combat veteran and star athlete who decided to enlist after the 9/11 attacks, did not.
Providing new details Wednesday about the operation that took the life of the grandson of prominent financier and World War II pilot Charles Keating Jr., Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the clash between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces the advisers were assisting was “a big fight, one of the largest we’ve seen recently.”

That’s Iraq, where Obama pulled out all US forces but is now sneaking a few back in, hoping no one notices.

In Iran, Obama’s foreign policy “advisor” named Ben Rhodes, admits it was all a lie.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

From writing short stories, Rhodes now writes fiction as national policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Is the policy that Rhodes writes working ? Better not to know.

Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians. How is that working out ?

The Russians are back in Palmyra, which the ISIS types tried to destroy.

The orchestra played pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and two Russian composers, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin, in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people.

The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.

The Russians were so eager to make that point that they flew a group of reporters from Moscow to Syria and then bused them to Palmyra to see the performance. The production, attended by a heavily guarded V.I.P. guest list, was broadcast live on Russian state television.

Does Obama know about this ? Probably not. Ash Carter seems to be running foreign policy these days.

Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s [Iraq Study Group] conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.

One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob.

How is Iran, Obama and Rhodes ally, doing ?

They seem to be having trouble as they are recruiting child soldiers, as they did in the Iraq-Iran War.

Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.

After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces.

Children have been fighting in wars as long as there have been wars, but shoving them into the meat grinder in the 21st century is a war crime expressly prohibited and sometimes even punished by all civilized governments. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, for instance, convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of war crimes in 2012 for “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, and it’s commanded by the iron-fisted head of state, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s mostly used for internal repression and provided many of the shock troops who brutally suppressed non-violent demonstrations during the Green Revolution in 2009.

Why are they now going back to the tactics of 1988?

“Second,” he continued, “the war in Syria and keeping the dictator Bashar Assad in power is so crucial for the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that he is willing to pay any price for this objective. In February in a meeting with the families of the regime’s forces who were killed in Syria, Khamenei said that if we did not fight in Syria, we would have had to fight with our opposition in major Iranian cities. Resorting to the tactic of mobilizing teenagers only leads to one conclusion, the mullahs are facing a deadly impasse in Syria.

So, the Russians seem to be winning and the Iranians are losing and who does Obama ally with ?

Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented.

And some people think Trump will be a foreign policy disaster.

The Sunni war on America.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Angelo Codevilla, who has some of the most interesting things to say about America has a new column out in Asia Times.

For more than a quarter century, as Americans have suffered trouble from the Muslim world’s Sunni and Shia components and as the perennial quarrel between them has intensified, the US government has taken the side of the Sunni. This has not worked out well for us. It is past time for our government to sort out our own business, and to mind it aggressively.

To understand why hopes for help from the Sunni side are forlorn, we must be clear that jihadism in general and Daesh in particular are logical outgrowths of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s (and the Gulf monarchies’) official religion, about how they fit in the broader conflict between Sunni and Shia, as well as about how the US occupation of Iraq exposed America to the vagaries of intra-Muslim conflicts.

I have believed this for some time and am happy to see him agree with me. I spent an evening listening to him talk about our foreign policy and how the War on Terror became a war on Americans.

The U.S. government does not understand how to combat international terrorism or respond to its threats. In an exclusive interview with Ginni Thomas of The Daily Caller, Codevilla highlighted the failure of both administrations to understand the enemy, explaining that it makes national security decisions based on a flawed paradigm.

“After 9/11, the U.S. government instituted a system of homeland security based on the proposition that any American is as likely as anyone in the world to commit terrorist acts — and that therefore, all Americans must be screened and presumed to be terrorists until the screening clears them,” Codevilla said.

Certainly, the government has been engaged in a faux security system with the TSA that pretends it will stop an airline hijacking or bomb threat, while allowing 90% of false bombs and guns to escape surveillance.

“These people who attacked us had reasons, which are widely supported — in fact, vigorously promoted by the regimes from which they came,” Codevilla said. “The Saudi regime, which we count as an ally, does in fact harbor the most virulent strain of Islam, the Wahhabism. This movement inspired most of the hijackers in 9/11. The others, some of the leaders, were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which the Obama administration has been courting and favoring.”

Rather than confronting the movement of Islamic radicalization, Codevilla says that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush blamed acts of terrorism on the perpetrators themselves, instead of viewing them as the incarnations of a murderously ideological movement.

I am a little less conspiracy minded but I agree that we face a militant ideology that is as yet unacknowledged.

US foreign policy in the Middle East had moved to the Sunni side in 1979 after the Shia Islamic Republic’s overthrow of Iran’s secular Shah. For the previous quarter century, the Shah’s Iran had taken care of US interests in the region while muting its Persian Shia people’s perennial tensions with the Sunni Arab world.

But Iran’s Islamic Republic has been as aggressively Shia and Persian as it has been anti-American. Fatefully, rather than answering in kind the Islamic Republic’s warfare on America, all presidents since Jimmy Carter have searched the Sunni Arab world for counterweights to Iran, as well as for the kind of support that the Shah had given us.

This attempt to outsource America’s security concerns by entering into the Sunni-Shia conflict on the Sunni side has been counterproductive because the Sunni, 85% of the Muslim world, are also the nursery of its most contagious plagues — the Wahhabi sect and the Muslim Brotherhood. Above all, it has been disastrous because it has led the US government to lose sight of our own interests by confusing them with those of Sunni states and potentates.

Here, I agree completely. I think Bush’s attempt to see if an Arab country could rule itself was a reasonable thing to try. The disaster was turning the policy over to Arabist Paul Bremer who decided to become a viceroy and alienated the Sunnis of Iraq. Saddam began the crisis by invading Kuwait.

The main Sunni monarchies’ congenital worse-than-uselessness is why, in the decade after Iranian Islamic Republic’s establishment, US policymakers vigorously courted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who ruled mostly-Shia Iraq with a bloody hand through its Sunni minority. The US policymakers who helped Saddam prevail in his war against Iran believed that, by so doing, they could strike a blow at Iran while weaning Saddam away from his reliance on the Soviet Union.

Too clever. No sooner had Saddam established his power over the head of the Gulf than he used it to conquer Kuwait, after which the Gulf’s monarchs were helpless before his disciplined army and frightened by their own peoples’ support for Saddam. They asked the United States’ help.

I am a bit skeptical here but he might well be correct. What we have now is a president who has elected to join the Shia and Iranian side in this Muslim civil war.

But instead of choosing any version of America’s own interest, US statesmen confused that interest with the self-contradictory demands of the Saudis, etc. — the Sunni world’s weak reeds: Please, make war on Saddam, but not so hard as to break his Iraqi Sunni empire. This way we can all win without dealing with the consequences of victory. We can have our cake while eating it too.

Our bipartisan ruling class, from the Bush and Clinton families to the Dick Cheneys and Colin Powells to Washington’s think tanks considered this counsel to be sophistication, and themselves to be sophisticates for accepting it. Far too clever.

The ensuing bellum interruptus was meant to tweak the balance among the Mid-East’s Sunni forces. But the result was that Saddam, who’d not been an enemy of the United States, subsequently led the Muslim world to new heights of enmity to America. Few remember that the longest and most impassioned part of Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa which preceded the wave of anti-American terrorism that crested on 9/11 was a denunciation of America’s actions against Saddam’s Iraq.

Here I tend to agree with Codevilla. Clinton was not immune to this misapprehension of our interests. “Foreign Affairs,” a journal that I used to subscribe to, ran a cover story during Bill Clinton’s feckless presidency on “Foreign Policy as Social Work.”

the Sunni states — which had opposed the invasion strenuously — convinced Bush 43 to occupy Iraq indefinitely. That involved taking care of their business. He agreed to confuse others’ business with America’s despite having been elected in part by promising never to engage in “nation building.”

Bush promised to build “a united, democratic Iraq.” That was always an absurdity because, since Iraq’s constituent groups loathed and feared each other, Iraq’s unity could result only from one group’s despotism over the others, whereas “democracy” — i.e. the will of the people — meant that Iraqis would go their separate ways.

The occupation’s day-to-day practical objective however, was to hold the 83% of Iraqis who were not Sunni into a state structure in which the Sunni would salvage at least some of the privileges they had held under Saddam. That is what the Sunni states wanted, and that is what they had convinced the US government was in America’s interest as well. It was also impossible. Immediately, the occupation started a Sunni war on America that is yet to end.

This is an interesting point of view and could explain why Bush chose Bremer over the far more capable Jay Garner.

He has another installment coming this week. I will read it with interest.

Here is a section I agree with.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, chose to make his country the Islamic State’s indispensable logistical partner out of a welter of reasons and through a calculation of risks that make sense only to him. Erdogan, a Sunni Islamist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees support for Daesh/ISIS as serving his personal and sectarian opposition to Syria’s Bashar al Assad. This, along with his desire to reduce Kurdish enclaves on both sides of the Syria/Turkey border.

The kurds are our only friends, if any, in the middle east except Israel.

The Democrats seem to be choosing Islam as their theme.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Hillary

The Meet the Press program on November 22 seemed to set a new theme for the Democrats. First, Hillary this week declared, “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”

Then, Chuck Todd had a Muslim activist “American international human rights lawyer, Arsalan Iftikhar,” who bemoaned the Republicans “Islamophobia.”

Arsalan has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies at DePaul University and he is also a member of the Asian American Journalists Association –

He seems to be a professional Muslim. A few months ago, they had former basketball player Lew Alcindor, now named “Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” to make the same point about peaceful Muslims.

Abdul-Jabbar told host Chuck Todd that terrorists “do not represent the teachings of Islam” and that this misconception makes it “impossible for real Muslims to be understood.”

He continued by saying that he believes the majority of terrorists are a product of their environment, not their religion:

What is their environment ? What does the Koran say ? Another essay on Islam says something quite different.

The avoidance of analysis of Islam contrasts sharply with the excoriation accorded Christianity, Israel, and Western Civilization. The Catholic Church sex abuse crisis has received saturation coverage. Distinguished history professor Philip Jenkins, in a book published by Oxford University Press, claims that media coverage distorts the crisis and contributes to anti-Catholic bigotry. Israel’s very right to exist is questioned and, in high profile media, at times denied. Western Civilization is depicted as imperialist, racist, and Orientalist. This politically-correct selective outrage that lambastes the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western Civilization while emphasizing positive images of Muslims only serves further to inoculate Islam from critique.

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Stanley McChrystal

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Hugh Hewitt interviewed General Stanley McCrystal on his radio show yesterday and the interview is pretty interesting. McCrystal has a memoir out called “My Share of the Task, and a new book on leadership called, “Team of Teams.

The discussion is pretty interesting. First of all, McCrystal was fired by Obama after a reporter printed a story about McCrystal’s officers disrespecting Obama.

In a statement expressing praise for McChrystal yet certainty he had to go, Obama said he did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or “out of any sense of personal insult.” Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Rose Garden, he said: “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”

Of course, it was Obama’s petulance and sense of outrage that anyone would think him less than competent.

In the magazine article, McChrystal called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops “painful” and said the president appeared ready to hand him an “unsellable” position. McChrystal also said he was “betrayed” by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan.

He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so,'” McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.

McCrystal has emerged looking better and better and is obviously a great leader and general. Some of the interview’s insights into his leadership are worth repeating. I plan to read both books.

When I first took command, we were doing about four raids a month, or one a week, and we would take time to develop intelligence, rehearse the force, execute, and then try to digest it. By about two and a half years later, we were up to 300 raids a month or ten a night. And so for the force, it meant that most of the force fought every night. And so we would do the majority of operations at night, and then most of the force would go to bed about dawn. I would go to bed about dawn, wake up mid-morning, and then we’d spend that afternoon maturing intelligence, collecting, cross-leveling, making decisions on priorities, and then start to execute for that night. And then of course, there was a percentage of operations, because of emerging opportunities, that came during the day.

That was when he took over Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq.

On ISIS he has this to say.

I think the Islamic State is a threat that has to be taken seriously. But I think more broadly and more disturbingly, they’re a symptom. This is an organization with an unacceptable ideology, abhorrent behavior. They’re really not resonating with the vast majority of people in the region, but they’re holding terrain, they’re making progress, they’re frightening people, and that shouldn’t happen. It really, to me, symbolizes the incredible weakness of the Mid-East right now, and the weakness of developing a coalition. In better days, an organization like this ought to have a very short life, and it ought to be crushed quickly.

His conclusions are not very reassuring.

it appears that al Qaeda in Iraq now organized as the Islamic State or al Nusra in other places has increased their battle rhythm exponentially even as we’ve withdrawn from the field. Have you seen that from afar? Do you think they’re getting faster than they even were then? And by the way, kudos on the opening head fake second chapter in Team of Teams.
SM: Well Hugh, that’s exactly the conclusion I derive. What happened with al Qaeda in Iraq is they became a 21st Century organization not by intent, they just happened to grow during that period, and so they leveraged these. ISIS, I think, is a 21st Century manifestation of information technology. Think about their agility on the battlefield, and we see what they do, but think about how many people they influence every day with their information operations. They reach about 100 million people a day through various things. They only have recruit a tiny percentage of those to have a real impact.

HH: Do you think al-Baghdadi is as malevolent and as capable a character as al-Zarqawi, whom you hunted down and killed?
SM: Zarqawi was very good, and I’m not convinced that al-Baghdadi is. It seems to me he is more of an iconic figure. But he doesn’t have to run this thing. He doesn’t have to micromanage it. What he does is create the idea, create the environment, and then they operate in a very decentralized, rapid way that makes him very resilient.

They are growing and adapting rapidly. That is not good news.

As for Iran, he says this :

Are they as capable as our task force people are? Do you think the Iranians have this kind of adaptability that you’re talking about?

SM: I think that they do. They’re not as capable as we are in some of the technical systems. They’re not probably as well-trained in some of the small teams. But they have this extraordinary advantage of proximity. And I don’t mean physical proximity, I mean cultural proximity. They put people inside Iraq. They put people inside Syria. They allow their force to get close enough to have a really good feel for it. Of course, the leader, Soleimani, he’s around the battlefield, and he’s become an iconic, heroic figure, because he’s there and engaged.

China is less of an immediate concern.

SM: Well, I think the Chinese first are, they start with this growing economic power, which gives them a launch point to do things, to build aircraft carriers, to build cyber capacity. They’ve been spending an awful lot of money on their military now. They are not very overtly poking us in the eye around the world, in my view. What they are doing is raising the bar to the point where for the United States or even a coalition to shape China’s behavior either through containment or through threat, they’re raising the bar high enough where it’s going to be very difficult to do that, anti-ship missiles and other capabilities. So suddenly, they’re not in a position of being pushed around. I don’t think that they are posturing themselves, yet, for a confrontation, and they may never. I certainly wouldn’t claim to say that that’s their angle, but they want to be the middle kingdom. I mean, they had 200 bad years, but if you look at the sweep of history, that’s a pretty short period.

I agree. I think China is less of a threat than Russia right now and may never be. I plan to read his books.

Iran is over-reaching ? Is Assad about to fall ?

Monday, May 25th, 2015

map1

I have previously postulated that Iran my be getting too stretched.

The Saudis are also in trouble.

Is this good or bad for our interests ?

One might argue that president Obama really played a deep game from his first day in office, perhaps intending all along to single-handedly destroy the Islamic world by withdrawing from the region. But the refutation for this hypothesis surely lies in his single-minded determination to let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. What sense does it make to trap Iran in a corner then give them a bomb? Especially since the Saudis have made noises about buying their own nuke in turn?

More probably there was no deep calculation behind the events unleashed by administration. They simply blundered into the position they find themselves in now. As Daniel Halper notes, president Obama formally greeted the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia by the wrong name, getting the names of his ancestors wrong too. Hillary couldn’t even remember the name of the US ambassador on the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Incompetence, rather than deep genius, may be more important in history than we would like to admit.

Obama is a community organizer with all the talent that implies. What is going to happen now?

A more vivid description of BOP (Balance of Power) was provided by Michael Scheuer, former CIA head of the Bin Laden team in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4.

I think we should back away from the whole thing. The thing was ideal when IS was advancing on Baghdad because Sunnis were killing Shias. That’s exactly what we need. We’ve proven that we’re just militarily incompetent or that the military is so shackled by its political leaders, that it can’t defeat these people. But our best hope right now is to get the Sunnis and Shias fighting each other and let them bleed each other white. …

Mr Cameron and Mr Obama and most Western leaders seem to love the idea of us being bled to death by them, rather than the other way round. And we have the problems that have been created by multiculturalism and diversity in our own countries, in Europe more severely than ours but it’s coming our way too.

This is reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq War when Henry Kissinger famously said, “It is too bad both can’t lose.”

Of course, that is 4,000 American lives ago.

What now ? Why in the world is Obama proposing to let the Iranians have nuclear weapons ?

If Assad falls, China and Russia “lose” along with Iran.

The Russians and Chinese clearly understood that if this [Iranian expansion] had happened, the United States would have had an intense interest in undermining the Iranian sphere of influence — and would have had to devote massive resources to doing so. Russia and China benefitted greatly in the post-9/11 world, when the United States was obsessed with the Islamic world and had little interest or resources to devote to China and Russia. With the end of the Afghanistan war looming, this respite seemed likely to end. Underwriting Iranian hegemony over a region that would inevitably draw the United States’ attention was a low-cost, high-return strategy.

The Chinese primarily provided political cover, keeping the Russians from having to operate alone diplomatically. They devoted no resources to the Syrian conflict but did continue to oppose sanctions against Iran and provided trade opportunities for Iran. The Russians made a much larger commitment, providing material and political support to the al Assad regime.

But as Assad began to fold the wily Russians decided to cut their losses, leaving the Iranians holding the bag.

Again, why nuclear weapons ? And, of course, it is our fault Arabs are killing each other.

Muslim Lives Matter

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

black-lives-matter-1

The current trope on the left is that “Black Lives Matter.”

vietnam

The Democrats have an impressive record of genocide, beginning with the abandonment of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was begun by Democrats, specifically John F Kennedy, who agreed to the assassination of South Vietnam leader Ngo Dinh Diem, who was killed by Vietnamese generals with Kennedy’s agreement.

Now we are faced with a somewhat similar situation in the Middle East. To quote Richard Fernandez, who I have always found reliable,

The collapse in the Middle East feels like Black April, 1975, the month South Vietnam fell. And it should, because just as the collapse of Saigon did not happen in Black April, but in a political American decision to allow South Vietnam to fall after a “decent interval”, so also is the ongoing collapse rooted, not in the recent tactical mistakes of the White House, but in the grand strategic decision president Obama made when he assumed office.

We are about to witness the total collapse of any American influence in the Middle East.

The reason the press has been trying to corner interviewees into “admitting” that George Bush made an error in toppling Saddam Hussein is the need to reassure themselves that catastrophe in the Middle East isn’t really their fault. The constant need to be told it’s not their doing is a form of denial. The more certain they are of their blunder the more they will need to tell themselves that the sounds they hear aren’t the footfalls of doom.

Because the alternative is to admit the truth and accept that to reverse the tide, 20th century Western liberalism has to die or radically reform itself. None of the people who have built political and establishment media credentials want to hear that, but all the same …

We are on the verge of a massive human catastrophe, one that the world has not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union or, in terms of percentage, since the fall of Rome.

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Why Bush Invaded Iraq.

Friday, May 15th, 2015

usa-politics-bush

There is quite a series of Republican politicians declaring that they would not invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now. JEB Bush is not the only one. Ted Cruz has made Talking Points Memo happy with a similar declaration.

Earlier in the week, Kelly asked Bush if he would have authorized the invasion, and he said he would have. On Tuesday, Bush told Sean Hannity that he hadn’t heard the question correctly and wasn’t sure what he would have done. Cruz, on the other hand, said he knows what he would have done.

“Of course not,” Cruz said in response to Kelly asking if he would have authorized an invasion. “I mean, the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and they might use them.

Of course, the “WMD” argument is a more recent addition to the story. Nobody talks anymore about why Bush was forced to invade in 2003. WMD were a small part of it. That is forgotten, of course.

Mr Speaker, thank you for recalling Parliament to debate the best way to deal with the issue of the present leadership of Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Today we published a 50 page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

At the end of the Gulf War, the full extent of Saddam’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result, the UN passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.

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Is Iran entering a Vietnam-style Quagmire ?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

I have previously expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia was in a fight for its life.

The question is whether the Saudis will fall to their own Shiite population and whether the capture of Aden will allow Iran to block Saudi oil shipments.

“Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.”

Now, the Saudis take this war very seriously.

As for Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is waging the first war in its history. Yet with its small, weak and inexperienced army, it cannot commit ground troops to fight both the Shiite Houthis or the Sunni Jihadists, and is relying mainly on its air power that has, thus far, caused the death of many innocent civilians.

It also is blockading ports to prevent Iranian resupply of Yemeni clients.

The Saudi-led coalition that’s fighting against Shiite rebels in Yemen said it completed a blockade of the country’s ports and is ready to step up airstrikes.
Bombing missions are seeking to stop the Shiite Houthis from moving forces between Yemen’s cities, Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi military officer, told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. Coalition aircraft and warships targeted the rebels as they advanced toward Aden, the southern port that’s the last stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s ally in Yemen, President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. Shipping routes to and from the ports are under the coalition’s control, Asseri said.

The Egyptians are planning to help in Yemen. Even though Nasser’s campaign in Yeman was a disaster, that was in 1962 and run by Nasser, an incompetent.

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Going Rogue. Obama’s State Department.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

We have had a series of stories about the State Department lately, from Obama’s approach to Iran, to ridicule of Spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The latest is about the attack on the US ambassador to South Korea, Obama intimate Mark Lippert. He was attacked by a man with a razor just before giving a speech.

The attack may have been prompted by another Obama foreign policy initiative.

The attack comes amid growing anti-U.S. protests here over comments made last week by State Department official Wendy Sherman.

Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, angered many South Koreans with comments that seemed to tell the country to give up hardline nationalist policies toward North Korea and to seek closer ties with its neighbor.

The South Korean government issued a formal diplomatic protest to the State Department over the remarks, sources said.

“Nationalist feelings can still be exploited, and it’s not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy,” Sherman said Friday in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment, a think tank.

“But such provocations produce paralysis, not progress,” she said. “To move ahead, we have to see beyond what was to envision what might be. And in thinking about the possibilities, we don’t have to look far for a cautionary tale of a country that has allowed itself to be trapped by its own history.”

The comments were interpreted by critics here as criticism of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s hardline stance against North Korea.

Apparently, North Korea is next on Obama’s list of potential allies.

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Sanity about Terrorism, from of all places CNN

Friday, February 20th, 2015

blind

The recent ridiculous antics of Obama and his administration spokesidiots have been been somewhat amusing but still dangerous. Ms Harf is is the object of ridicule around the world.

Marie Harf, the embattled State Department deputy spokeswoman who insisted this week that helping ISIS jihadis find gainful employment was a better strategy than killing them, is not in line for a promotion when her boss moves to the White House on April 1, a State Department official said Thursday.
Harf said Monday night on MSNBC that ‘lack of opportunity for jobs’ in the Middle East should be America’s focus in the war against the ISIS terror army.
She refused to back down Tuesday night on CNN, insisting that the Obama administration should ‘get at the root causes’ of terrorism. ‘It might be too nuanced an argument for some,’ she sniped at her legions of critics.
Those mockworthy moments, a State Department official said Thursday, ‘are going to keep her from the top job.

Well, we are grateful for small favors. Obama shows in his ridiculous “summit” that she was describing his real policy.

A recent piece in the Atlantic does a pretty good job of explaining what they are all about.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

The entire article is well worth reading.

Today, CNN has a good piece on the nonsense about jobs and economic opportunity.

Kepel researched the 300 Islamist militants who were tried in the wake of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Around one in five were professionals such as engineers, a quarter worked as government employees, just under half were artisans or merchants, one in 10 were in the military or police, and only one in 10 were farmers or were unemployed. Of those who were students, around a third were studying in the elite fields of medicine and engineering.

This has been pretty typical of terror leaders since World War II and beyond. The Bolsheviks were middle class, even Stalin who had been a divinity student.

Religious motivation is denied at our own peril as we may think that educated people can’t be stupid enough to believe the medieval theology of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

The book, The Looming Tower is a first primer on what is going on. It has been out for years and should be a first step in understanding these people.

I am reading In the Shadow of the Sword, by Tom Holland which is about the origins of Islam and has gotten the author into some trouble with fanatics.

Austin Bay has some thoughts about their strategy, which are of value.

IS videos leverage al-Qaida’s dark psychological insight. Al-Qaida connected the Muslim world’s angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy seeks to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline.

Which leads to purpose two. Murdering helpless captives shocks, insults and angers civilized human beings. IS leaders, however, love to shock and insult. To shock and insult means to defy restrictions. In its war against infidels, IS recognizes no restrictions. If this sounds a bit like a 19th-century European anarchist political trope, indeed it is.

The ISIS leadership includes some experienced officers from Saddam’s army. That army was officered by Sunni Muslims and the soldiers were largely Shia. That is why it fell apart so quickly.

IS forces are probing Baghdad. Several IS leaders are Iraqi Sunnis with ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime; they definitely want to seize control of Iraq. Two former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonels hold high positions in the IS military hierarchy. Al-Baghdadi met them when they were imprisoned at the old Camp Bucca detention complex.

IS leaders have goals beyond Iraq. Civilized people may dismiss their goals as sociopathic delusions, but men like al-Baghdadi believe control of Iraq and Libya will position them to seize Egypt (population resources) and Saudi Arabia (dominating energy resources). This regional caliphate then goes global.

Nonsense about jobs and denying the religious ideology just adds danger.