Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Coming Gaza War


Both Little Satan and Hamas claim not to want another battle, but both are getting gussied up for one.

Gaza has yet to recover from the destruction of the last war with Israel in the summer of 2014, when more than 178,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, which makes any upcoming war between Israel and the Palestinians seem too early and premature.

After a flurry of contentious statements in February, the situation calmed in March as both Hamas and Israel stopped talking about a possible fourth Israeli-Gaza war, and both showed a desire to quiet their people and reassure them that no confrontation would break out anytime soon.

The Israeli plan for a potential war against Hamas in Gaza received wide media coverage in the Palestinian and Israeli press. It calls for each Israeli battalion to kill as many Hamas members as possible and thwart the movement’s moves and goals. The IDF has developed a strong defense and attack system capable of protecting the Gaza envelope and minimizing the threat of mortar shells, while the Israeli air force would launch an extraordinary and efficient offensive.

Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Al-Monitor, “The resistance in Gaza is preparing itself for the worst in its upcoming confrontation with the Israeli army. We take the IDF threats to launch a new war against Gaza very seriously. We have growing speculations that the Israeli enemy has begun the countdown for a new aggression against Gaza, and the resistance is getting prepared around the clock in order not to give the Israeli army a chance to launch a sudden attack.”

A Palestinian security official in Gaza told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "Hamas’ and Israel’s declaration of their unwillingness to go into a military confrontation anytime soon might face three factors that may eventually lead to an outbreak of this confrontation.

The first is the misunderstanding from both parties due to their field efforts on the Gaza-Israel borders; the second is the increased escalation in the West Bank, most recently the operation in Jerusalem on April 18, which wounded 20 Israelis; and the third is the resistance in Gaza feeling that the blockade is tightening with no alleviation initiatives in sight.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The End Of A Saudi Alliance?


Is Great Satan's Allied Hook Up with Whahabbi Arabia dang near null and void?

These days, when the United States and Saudi Arabia look at the region, they see two completely different landscapes and conflicting sets of interests. Riyadh sees a series of conflicts that the United States must resolve and a series of failing states that it must rehabilitate. The Saudis would like a commitment from Obama to defang Iran, change the balance of power in the Syrian civil war to the detriment of Bashar Assad and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

How did the U.S.-Saudi relationship go so badly astray? It wasn’t that great to begin with. There has always been something incongruous about an alliance between a liberal democracy and a traditional monarchy relying on austere Islam and petrodollars to sustain itself. During the Cold War, the two sides’ antipathy toward the Soviet Union concealed all these differences.


In the post-Cold War period, the Saudis’ massive oil reserves and the need to deal with Saddam Hussein deflected attention from the core contradictions that long bedeviled this relationship. The September 11th tragedy, and the revelation that 15 out of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, jolted the relationship once again, but that too was soon forgotten with America’s renewed focus on Iraq, as the long insurgency and reconstitution of post-Saddam Iraq took front page.

Today, the administration does not see an adversary whose containment requires Saudi support. Iran once would have filled that role, but Washington is preoccupied with sustaining its arms control agreement with Tehran. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once caused the United States to seek out Arab stakeholders, but such lofty ambitions no longer obsess Washington as they once did. And as the global energy markets change, the United States grows more energy independent, and Saudi oil becomes a less relevant staple crop, the lure of petroleum is increasingly not enough to sustain an alliance always built on a shaky foundation.

Moreover, suspicions that the Saudis have been two-faced in the fight against terrorism—especially over the kingdom’s alleged support of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist terrorists—are once again in the forefront.

Nor should the Saudis take any comfort from the idea that changing the occupant of the White House early next year will change this serious misalignment of interests, or substantially alter America’s policies.

As the Middle East undergoes another vulnerable and violent transition, it will do so largely without America. It remains to be seen whether the 21st century will be an American century anywhere else in the world, but it’s not going to be one in the Middle East. U.S. politicians on both sides are tired of expending precious resources to stabilize a region coming undone.
44's making a futile trip. The United States and Saudi Arabia no longer see anything the same way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

44's New Syrian Plan


44 unveiled new plans for handling a leisurely uptick versus ISIL

The decision to increase the number of Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria was made this month. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced an additional 200 troops for Iraq during a visit to Baghdad last week.

44 also has authorized U.S. commanders in Iraq to use Apache attack helicopters and deploy American advisers with lower-level Iraqi units to assist local troops in a future offensive to reclaim the city of Mosul. U.S. officials think those measures will enhance the effectiveness of Iraqi troops, but they also will expose U.S. forces to greater risk.

The increase is part of an overall acceleration in the fight against the Islamic State. Despite a string of what the administration has described as successes — including territory reclaimed from the militants in Iraq and Syria and the severing of supply and communication lines between Islamic State forces in the two countries — some aspects of the conflict have gone more slowly, or have been less successful, than anticipated.

Although Iraqi military forces, backed by U.S. air power and other enhancements, retook the city of Ramadi early this year, plans to move toward Mosul, in northern Iraq, have dragged as the Baghdad government contends with economic and political difficulties, and the melding of Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish military forces into a unified offensive force has proved problematic.

The Iraqi military also continues to struggle with issues of morale, leadership and logistics.

Monday, April 25, 2016

ISIS: The End of the Begining?


Just as the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS is making real progress on the ground, political chaos in Iraq is threatening to undermine those hard-fought gains.

Iraq’s ongoing political crisis is reaching another turning point. This week, several ministries are under siege in Baghdad by demonstrators who are trying to break into the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the American embassy and the Iraqi national government. Iraq now has a divided parliament with two speakers; one is supported by Shiite demonstrators, the other backed by Sunnis and Kurds.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are trying to maintain recent momentum. On Monday in Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced the deployment of 200 additional U.S. Special Forces to Iraq. He also added Apache helicopters and financial support of $400 million to fund the Iraqi Kurds. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Baghdad a week ago that ISIS’s days are numbered.

The U.S. has spent nearly $7 billion of taxpayer money and launched more than 11,000 air raids against ISIS over the past twenty months. ISIS has lost almost every major battle it fought in Iraq and Syria in the last year. The overall effect of these losses on the group’s funding, leadership, arms, propaganda communications and manpower is immense.

We are seeing not only a shift in the dynamic and the momentum of the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS; it is quite possibly the beginning of the end for the group as a state-based actor.

According to an IHS Jane’s report, about 25,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since the U.S.-led campaign started. The C.I.A. estimates that ISIS currently has 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers, the lowest force level since the end of 2014. The loss of land, people and oil have led to a drop of its monthly revenues from $80 million to $56 million.

Meanwhile, the campaign to hunt down ISIS leadership continues. Last month, two top ISIS leaders were killed in Syria by U.S. air raids -- Abu Ala al-Afri, the ISIS second in command, and the Georgian-born Abu Omar al-Shishani, ISIS’s top military commander. (Both men were erroneously reported dead previously.)

Even ISIS’s massive propaganda operation has been weakened. Twitter announced on February that it has closed about 125,000 pro-ISIS accounts in the last seven months. A George Washington University study on extremism found that there are about 1000 pro-ISIS accounts that actively tweet in English. ISIS’s videos, which were always available on YouTube, are being vigorously removed.

Despite the great progress made in the last few months, two worrisome developments in Syria and Iraq threaten to reverse all that has been achieved so far. In Iraq, the weak government of Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi is facing resistance on multiple fronts: one organized by the Shiite half of the Iraqi members of parliament who toppled the speaker, Muqtada al-Sadr, and the liberal and leftist activists who have been demonstrating against corruption for several months. If Iraq sinks further into political chaos, the security apparatus will be helpless against ISIS attacks.

In Syria, the ceasefire brokered by the U.S. and Russia is collapsing . If the fragile ceasefire -- which allowed the government and the rebels to focus on fighting ISIS instead of each other -- is completely abandoned, ISIS could retake what it has lost. In fact, this chain of events might have already started in the Turkish–Syrian border area. The  administration is said to have a backup plan that involves arming the Syrian rebels heavily if and when the ceasefire collapses.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

WoW!

WoW - the Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse.

Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers.

Thusly sans further adieu (or a don"t)

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners



See you next week!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Devil We Know

Should Great Satan cut her ties to Saudi Arabia? The question emerges amid fresh controversies and 44's recent visit to the kingdom. 

Saudi Arabia has created a monster in the world of Islam, a Frankenstein monster that threatens Saudi Arabia as much as the West.
In the 1950s, Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi version of Islam, a product of nomadic desert culture, was practiced by a tiny minority of Muslims — perhaps 1 to 2 percent. Then came the oil boom, and Saudi Arabia — flush with cash — spread these ideas throughout the Muslim world.
This globalized Wahhabism has destroyed much of the diversity within Islam, snuffing out liberal and pluralistic interpretations of the religion in favor of an arid, intolerant one. In the 1980s, as the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union was infused with religious fervor, doctrines of jihad flourished. In many cases, Islamic fundamentalism turned into Islamic terrorism.
In the years after 9/11, after much defensiveness and many denials, the Saudis began to reverse course, shutting down government funding for Islamic extremist movements. David Petraeus once told me that the most significant strategic shift during his time in uniform was that Saudi Arabia went from being a tacit supporter to an aggressive foe of jihadi groups. Today Saudi intelligence is a major ally in fighting al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other groups.
Yet Saudi funding of Islamic extremism has not ended, and its pernicious effects can be seen from Pakistan to Indonesia. These funds come from individuals, not the government. Still, it is hard to imagine that the Saudi monarchy cannot turn off the pipeline of money to extremists abroad and at home.
Saudi Arabia remains reluctant to take on its religious extremists for fear of backlash. Hard-line religious leaders and ideologues have significant sway in Saudi society. The kingdom is known for its vast and growing social media. Less known is that its biggest stars are Wahhabi preachers and extremist ideologues who are now spreading anti-Shiite doctrines as part of the struggle against Iran.

The central dilemma remains:

Were the Saudi monarchy to fall, it might be replaced not by a group of liberals and democrats but rather by Islamists and reactionaries. Having watched this movie in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria, it may be time to be cautious about destabilizing a regime that is in many areas — defense, oil, finance — a stable ally.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bad To Worse

Yessir, it's true - the world wasn't perfect on Inauguration Day 2009. It's also true thanks to 44 - it's went like from bad to worse...

44 hailed the military campaign in Libya that toppled Moammar Khadafy as one of the foreign policy triumphs of his presidency. Today he calls Libya his worst mistake. But though he may have changed his grade from an A to an F, his commitment to “leading from behind” — a euphemism for American passivity and abdication — hasn’t budged.

On the day Khadafy was killed, in October 2011, 44 took a victory lap. “Our brave pilots have flown in Libya’s skies, our sailors have provided support off Libya’s shores, and our leadership at NATO has helped guide our coalition,” he declared. “Without putting a single US service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.”

He was wrong. Libya soon imploded into chaos and violence. It became a terrorist badlands, where more than 10,000 people have been murdered — including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues, killed by Islamists in Benghazi just 11 months after 44’s “mission accomplished” moment in the Rose Garden.

The president acknowledges now that his policy in Libya ended in disaster and confessed his negligence in “failing to plan for the day after” the dictator was overthrown.

In other interviews, 44 has pinned the blame for the Libya debacle less on his own lack of preparation for a post-Khadafy transition than on Europe’s failure to stay engaged. “When I go back, and I ask myself what went wrong, there’s room for criticism,” he recently told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.” But when the United States heads for the exits, its allies are apt to follow suit. And 44, who had agreed only reluctantly to intervene in Libya in the first place, had no interest in sticking around.

It didn’t take long for Libya to drop off the White House radar screen. “The inattention was not just neglect. It was policy,” concluded The New York Times in a lengthy review of the Libyan fiasco earlier this year. The administration imposed “fierce limits” on any US role in Libya’s metamorphosis — conditions so strict that America in effect washed its hands of responsibility for the country’s fate. Not surprisingly, that fate has been ghastly.

It may seem astonishing that 44, who so harshly condemned his predecessor in Iraq, would wind up repeating the gravest of those blunders in Libya — namely, not being ready for the instability and insurgency that would follow Western intervention. As military historian Max Boot remarks, by 2011 “it was not exactly a secret that bad things happen if the United States and its allies overthrow a strongman without having a plan for what comes next.”

44 is better at deploring other people’s foreign policy messes than at learning from them. The lesson he takes away from the Iraq war was that the United States has no business intervening militarily in the Middle East — and that the greater the intervention, the greater the resulting fiasco. The facts haven’t borne out that conclusion. But 44 won’t be budged.

When 43 announced in January 2007 that he intended to “surge” additional troops to Iraq and implement a new counterinsurgency strategy, the then-Senator was scornful: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” In the event, of course, 43’s surge proved a remarkable success. By the time 44 took office, Al Qaeda in Iraq was crippled, attacks were down 90 percent, and Iraq was being governed by democratically elected politicians. The new commander in chief was happy to take political credit for victory in Iraq, which Vice President Biden trumpeted early on as “one of the great achievements” of the administration.

But none of that led 44 to question the wisdom of pulling all US forces out of Iraq, or to heed warnings that the swift disappearance of tens of thousands of American peacekeepers would leave a catastrophic vacuum that the region’s deadliest forces would rush to exploit. Obama’s determined disengagement wrecked what had so painstakingly been won in Iraq. Without America’s restraining presence, Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government grew ruthlessly authoritarian, Iran’s influence intensified, and ISIS began its horrific reign of terror.

More “leading from behind” followed in Syria. 44 issued tough threats of chemical weapons “red lines” and demanded Bashar al-Assad resign, but the bristling words were never backed up with deeds. As America’s credibility diminished, predictable consequences ensued: soaring death tolls, vast refugee floods, and the emboldening of antidemocratic regimes from Moscow to Beijing.

Yet even now, 44 cannot see that a doctrine premised on avoiding American involvement in the world’s conflicts is bound to fail. A policy built around US disengagement only intensifies global disorder. The president concedes that he should have had a better “day-after” plan in Libya — but still maintains that the calamity his approach caused shows he was right all along.

In Goldberg’s words, “Libya proved to 44 that the Middle East was best avoided.” It reinforced his subsequent decision to do nothing about Syria. He has no regrets about abandoning his red line — he says now that he is “very proud” he decided not to stop Assad’s horror show. To this day, 44 has not altered the mindset he started with: that American power cannot fix what ails the planet’s bad neighborhoods, and will likely make them worse.

44's foreign policy stewardship teaches a very different lesson. Since 2009, America’s credibility has been badly eroded and the world has become far more dangerous and unstable. The price of American retreat has been terrible, made all the worse by a president too rigid to change his mind.