Sunday, January 31, 2016


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, January 29, 2016

Rising Axis

There's a new sheriff in town in the Middle East -- and it's not the United States of America, who just spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of soldiers in two different wars in the region. The new hegemon in the Levant and the Fertile Crescent is a rising axis of Russian, Iranian, and Syrian power.

Russia and Iran is a natural marriage -- each needs the other in different ways. For one, Russia needs money, badly. Iran is about to come into a lot of it, as the Iran nuclear deal is implemented, an agreement that, by the way, Russia helped put in place. Western sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine, and the collapse in the price of crude oil, are devastating the Russian federal budget. Iran can help alleviate this lack of cash flow by buying a whole lot of Russian weapons.

Already Moscow is shipping Iran the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, and there is talk of Iran buying tanks from Russia to modernize its armor, which is antiquated and sorely lacking in capability. Analysts predict that if the price of oil stays in the $30 range, Russian foreign currency reserves could be depleted within two years, along with a significant devaluation of the ruble. Russia has also announced it will be assisting Iran with the development of nuclear power facilities in the near future. It is also likely that the Iranians are not driving as hard of a bargain as the Chinese when negotiating pricing with the Kremlin. Iran owes Russia for the coming sanctions relief, and is therefore negotiating from a position of weakness with Russia.

Hezbollah, Iran's proxy terrorist army in Lebanon, is now being armed by Russia as well. Russia has built large weapons depots in Syria and given Hezbollah free access in exchange for intelligence and targeting information for Russian airstrikes originating out of Latakia and other forward operating bases Moscow has constructed near rebel-held areas. For now, Hezbollah is training these weapons on the Syrian opposition; however, at some point, they will look south toward Israel.

Russia and Syria just this month announced that they signed an agreement allowing Russia to enjoy an open-ended military presence in Syria. Also announced were joint air missions where Syrian MIG-29s escorted Russian bombers as they attacked Islamic State positions. The Russian air assault on anti-Assad forces has saved the Assad regime, and therefore Moscow's footprint in the Middle East, for now. This result obviously saves Iran's influence in Syria and Lebanon, therefore allowing Iran to maintain pressure on Israel. After all, Iran's call for the destruction of the Jewish State has never really been repudiated.

Combined with Iranian influence in Baghdad, the axis of Iran, Russia, and Syria controls territory from Persia all the way to the Levant. It truly is a remarkable turn of events. The speed in which the power vacuum was filled after the withdrawal of most American troops from the region is simply stunning.

In a period of years, the Middle East may see a nuclear-armed Iran using this regional hegemony to force its will on the world. Israel could be isolated. America and NATO might have a much tougher time shaping events in this volatile area of the globe without the ability to gain a foothold, being squeezed out by possible territorial control of this new axis.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Prepping For The Next War

The next big war?

What could trigger a big war?

A massive, direct attack on the United States certainly would, but other lesser crises could also escalate unpredictably. Imagine, for example, a Russian invasion of another eastern European state; a territorial miscalculation between the United States, China, or a treaty ally in the South China Sea; an explosive Sunni–Shia conflict spilling beyond the Middle East; a regional conflict in South Asia or on the Korean peninsula; or a large deadly terrorist attack in the United States. An initial U.S. military response to any of these scenarios could escalate into a greater, and potentially even global, conflict. The requirements of such a war would greatly exceed current contingency plans for Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the Korean peninsula.

The potentially devastating consequences of the next big war demands that the U.S. military (and the nation as a whole) prepare as much for this scenario as for the range of lesser challenges demanding attention today. Today’s wars, likely contingencies, and simply running the Defense Department all require time, energy, and resources. Choices and tradeoffs must be made. Nevertheless, the Pentagon must identify the gaps that would put the United States at the biggest risk in a large, prolonged conflict against a highly capable adversary, and mitigate those risks to the greatest extent possible.
There are at least five big gaps that the United States must try to fill — and a sixth that cannot be fixed even though it may be the area of greatest U.S. vulnerability.

1. Precision Munitions and Advanced Weaponry. A large-scale conflict could consume vast quantities of U.S. and allied precision munitions in the opening weeks. Many of these weapons have been bought in limited quantities and would require immediate replenishment. Munitions production lines should be stocked with critical sub-assemblies and parts, and precious scarce materials warehoused to rapidly churn out more of these essential tools of war. Precision munitions will be consumed quickly even in medium size conflicts; upgrading this capability would yield high payoffs across most potential scenarios. Moreover, the Department of Defense and industry must be able to rapidly accelerate and combat test advanced weapons that are still in development (such as rail guns and laser weapons), so they can get into the hands of fighting troops quickly.

2. Platforms. Fighter planes, drones, bombers, even submarines and surface warships could see heavy losses in the first days and weeks of a big war. Other hardware may prove obsolete or vulnerable to enemy action and require immediate replacement or abandonment. Most of these complex platforms require months or years to produce. Warm production lines with readily available manufacturing materials must be available to accelerate production quickly. There may be some lessons to be learned from the rapid production of MRAPs at the height of the IED threat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, the services should inventory their boneyards to identify what systems could be rapidly reconfigured for combat use with some advanced preparation.

3. Troops. Defending the United States against potential homeland threats while deploying hundreds of thousands of troops overseas would require a significantly larger U.S. military, even after the National Guard and Reserves are mobilized. A new and massive effort to build, train, lead, and equip new forces may be necessary to generate sufficient combat power quickly and to sustain it over multiple months and even years of combat. All of the services need plans to expand rapidly if required, though this is particularly urgent for the Army and Marines. Since conscription might well be required, U.S. political leaders should ensure that the Selective Service System remains strong (and, as written, includes women), and think through what manpower requirements would require instating a draft.

4. Planning and Adaptability. Planning for a big war requires carefully examining vulnerabilities, making sober estimates of casualties and attrition, and realistically appraising how many men and women will be needed. Broad questions need to be asked about how the force might fight, where, and against what adversary; what new equipment and capabilities might be needed; and what current assumptions or constraints (such as relying on a volunteer force) might need to be discarded. Once a big war starts, the services will need to rapidly adapt to unanticipated battlefield conditions. They may need to invent new units and capabilities, either as physical formations or virtual capabilities — think space attack brigades, civilian chem-bio advisory teams, or micro-drone defense units.

5. Technology. Additive printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies all have important military applications — and every combatant will be racing to exploit them first in battle. The U.S. military must therefore maintain its technological superiority, and also find ways to rapidly find wartime applications for non-military technologies. However, the United States is likely to be far more vulnerable to cyber attack than almost any imaginable adversary, since its military, government, and business functions rely so heavily on the cyber realm. The U.S. government may need to mobilize key parts of the nation’s cyber workforce in an online version of the Civil Air Patrol to counter large-scale cyber attacks and defend U.S. public and private networks against hostile disruptions and direct attacks.

6. Stamina. This is a major strategic gap that may not be able to be filled before a big war starts, because it is psychological in nature. The military and the nation must both be mentally and emotionally prepared for large numbers of dead and wounded troops — and possibly civilians, too. Big wars tend to be bloodily indiscriminate toward both. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of killed and wounded may be incurred in hours and days rather than months and years; generals may no longer be able to carry slim packets of index cards with their names and stories as has become common practice in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bloody mindedness” among fighting generals and admirals may once again become a necessary war-winning attribute — in stark contrast to recent limited wars. The willingness of the nation to endure a big war is a potentially large vulnerability, especially if the war does not involve a direct attack on the United States. Making the nation and military psychologically more resilient in the face of potential heavy casualties is a challenge that both civilian and military leaders should begin thinking about now.

U.S. political and military leaders face many constraints in addressing these gaps, including limited time, resources, and attention.
The United States cannot afford to enter an increasingly dangerous future without a sober look at the most demanding, even existential, military contingencies. The return of aggressive great powers, the diminishment of some allied military capabilities, and the rise of transnational threats all suggest a world in which a large, dangerous, and deadly war could arise unexpectedly. Creative thinking and problem solving must remain a very important part of how the Department of Defense and the services prepare now. As the U.S. military continues to reshape itself for an uncertain future, imagining the unimaginable next big war must become an essential part of its planning for a dangerous future.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Problem With Pakistan (Part LXIX)

Land of the Pure is a magical place where anything can happen! Girls can learn to fly jets only 69 miles a way from where Pakistani Talibani brutally beat girls for promotional vids.

Pakistan is a study in discombobulation

Imagine a country that is embroiled in a long and bloody conflict with its neighbor, and each time its democratically elected Prime Minister tries to reach out and make peace, his own army launches an attack to make sure the peace doesn’t take hold. You might think you were trapped inside a dystopian movie. Unless, of course, you’ve been to Pakistan, where this happens all the time.

This week, Pakistani officials said they had detained Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group, for his alleged role in overseeing the attack on an Indian airbase in the city of Pathankot earlier this month. The attack left seven Indians dead. Jaish-e-Mohammed is one of several Pakistani militant groups whose members routinely cross into India and carry out attacks there, for the ostensible purpose of prying loose Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.

The attack on the airbase in Pathankot, on January 2nd, came little more than a week after the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, flew to Lahore to meet the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for a surprise summit. It was the first visit by an Indian leader to Pakistan in twelve years. By all accounts, the meeting went well. That’s an unqualified good; both countries possess nuclear weapons, and their unresolved disputes, especially over Kashmir, could have terrifying consequences. India and Pakistan have already been to war with each other four times.

So why would Pakistani-based fighters follow up a feel-good summit with a cross-border attack? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time, or the second, or even the third.
Pakistani militants regularly try to sabotage peaceful relations between their country and India. Aparna Pande, at the Hudson Institute, has put together a chronology of these attacks.

The important point is who backs, trains, tolerates and supports those militants: the Pakistani military and, most particularly, its spy service, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence, or the I.S.I.

For decades, the Pakistani military has backed insurgent groups whose express aim is to cross into India and fight. (The I.S.I. has also done this in Afghanistan, helping to create and sustain the Taliban.) The ostensible aim of these militant groups, and of the I.S.I., is to bleed India into ceding control over Kashmir. This has never been more than a fantasy, but it keeps the country of Pakistan focussed on something other than its intractable domestic problems, and it justifies the military’s bloated budgets.

The attack on the base in Pathankot has especially lurid implications. Masood Azhar, who appears to have overseen it, was once imprisoned in India on charges of kidnapping Westerners there.

Did the Pakistani military order Azhar to attack the Indian airbase in Pathankot? Maybe, maybe not.

When Pakistani officials announced this week that they had detained Azhar on suspicion of involvement in the Pathankot attack, it raised the obvious question: How did they know where he was?

What is most remarkable is that the pattern never changes. The Pakistani military keeps backing militant groups, like Jaish-e-Mohammed, that keep pushing the subcontinent to the brink of war, and that keep undermining Pakistan’s fledgling democratic institutions.
Since 9/11, according to congressional reports, U.S. taxpayers have given Pakistan at least eighteen billion dollars, much of it to the military.
  Last year alone, the U.S. gave Pakistan $1.5 billion dollars. Isn’t it about time we asked ourselves whether this is a good idea?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Audie Murphy Day

For those of us born betwixt the Fall of the Wall and 911, we kinda grew up with Great Satan unbound. Until Operation Iraqi Freedom, for older Americans - battles and history were old school stuff that would probably never happen again.

As "Rock of The Marne" blitzed through the largest Arab army in history in 20 days, her combat power was unparalled:

"An infantry division in name only, fielding 270 Abrams M1 tanks with mobile infantry that could be hastily formed into adhoc battle groups to handle a variety of missions"

Thunder Running into downtown Baghdad, even phoning up the Iraqi Minister of Misinformation at Palestine Hotel to request "Parking for 88 tanks" seemed like the debut of audacious American war fighting.

Actually - "Rock of the Marne" was following in the footsteps of their spiritual great grandfathers

"On 26 January 1945, 2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. 

"Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 

"2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy.

"He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank.

"Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw.

"His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.

"The President of the United States of America has awarded in the name of The Congress the MEDAL OF HONOR to LIEUTENANT AUDIE L. MURPHY, UNITED STATES ARMY

Today is the anniversary of Lt Murphy's heroic achievement - Americans everywhere should get on their knees and thank God Almighty for raising up this laughing race of free men.

Pic - "Our Heroes Live In Our Hearts"

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Japan China US War of 2016

Shin Shin!

 After a relatively peaceful year—if such a thing exists in the East China Sea—Beijing and Tokyo are once again warning each other to back off claims over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Rand Corporation's recent war game pitted China vs. Japan and eventually the United States. In the simulation, Tokyo’s treaty ally pledged to defend the island nation, including the disputed islands, from attack.

The scenario for the wargame was frighteningly realistic to say the least:

Over the last several months China has instituted daily non-naval maritime patrols around the hotly disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Beijing is even sending fully-fledged naval assets within the islands' 12 mile exclusion zone while its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, exercised only 50 miles away from the islands back in February — truly the end of Beijing's small-stick diplomatic strategy.

“But on 1 March the plot thickens. Two Chinese SU-27 fighters come within 25 feet of a Japanese P-3 Orion surveillance plane just 10 miles west of the Senkakus (sound familiar?). The Japanese pilot gets nervous. A slight tweak at the controls and the Japanese plane collides with one of the Chinese fighters. Both aircraft crash into the ocean, with no survivors. 
Beijing threatens force if its citizens are harmed. As Japanese naval forces come within 20 miles of the islands a Chinese J-10 fighter jet buzzes the task force. On its second pass it comes dangerously close to a Japanese destroyer. In a perceived act of self-defense, the destroyer shoots down the aircraft.

Hours later, as Japanese forces begin operations to remove the Chinese nationals from the Senkakus, Beijing fires a warning shot, a DF-21D or “carrier-killer” missile which hits the ocean just 10 miles away from the Japanese task force. Undeterred, Japanese forces press ahead. Domestic pressure on Chinese leaders becomes intense. They feel they have no choice but to escalate, launching a massive saturation strike with ballistic and cruise missiles against the Japanese task force. Three vessels are hit with heavy loss of life. Global media coverage of the burning hulks and bodies in the water reaches a fever pitch.

Prime Minister Abe urgently phones the President formally requesting America's help under the terms of the US-Japan alliance — a 3am call no president would ever wish to receive. War in Asia seems imminent.
A conflict in Asia—which would make problems like ISIS seem like mere child's play—is only an incident away. And make no mistake about it, such a conflict, considering that the United States and China are armed with nuclear weapons, would be a frightening affair.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


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, January 22, 2016

After Implementation Day

The day after Implementation Day what will the mullahs do with their newfound cornucopia?

Apologists are certain to claim that these monies will be applied solely to boost a sagging economy. No doubt some, perhaps most, of those funds will do so—but not all. They also are needed to accelerate Iran's ongoing thrust for regional hegemony.

Iran has long since expanded its influence beyond what King Abdullah of Jordan termed in 2004 "the Shia crescent." At the time, Tehran was supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, while attempting to secure influence in U.S.-occupied Iraq. Abdullah's statement provoked considerable controversy, with many pundits reacting to the king's statement with either ridicule, disbelief or both.

Twelve years later, Iran is no less invested in Hezbollah and Assad. But it also has achieved far more sway in Iraq than anyone apart from King Abdullah (certainly not the United States) ever anticipated. Iran's influence now also extends to the Houthis of Yemen, while it foments dissension, and possible insurrection, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's eastern province. Not surprisingly, the Saudis, facing Iranian subversion both on their border and inside their country, have one-upped the Jordanian king's characterization. They now speak in terms of a Shia "full moon."

It would not require Tehran to divert much if its newfound revenue significantly to increase its subversive activities and support for terrorism both inside and outside the Middle East.

Iran's support for Hezbollah costs something over a billion dollars annually, according to a top Israeli official who watches these developments as closely as anyone. Estimates of its support for Assad range anywhere from what the Obama administration has characterized as "a pittance," to some $6 to 8 billion as identified by UN officials and academic observers. Add to that perhaps another two billion provided to Iran's Shia allies in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and its total annual expenditures amount to some $10 billion. This is an amount it can easily double by drawing upon its newly unfrozen accounts, while still allowing it to pump at least $40 billion into its domestic economy.

An increase in Tehran's aid to Bashar al-Assad, in the form of both military and economic assistance, will render it even more difficult to achieve an end to Syria’s civil war. More funding for Hezbollah will increase the threat from across Israel's northern border, adding to the likelihood of another conflict between the terrorist militia and the Jewish state. More financial support both for the Shia militias in Iraq, and for its backers in Baghdad, will further fractionate that bitterly divided country.

An increase in Iranian support for the Houthis will add to the growing strains on the Saudi budget, which may have to step up its operations in Yemen even as it faces declines in oil revenues, shrinkage of foreign reserves and massive deficits resulting from all-encompassing social programs. Finally, increased Iranian funding for the Bahraini opposition, which claims to speak for that kingdom's majority-Shia population, could lead to even greater instability that could cross the causeway that links the island to the Saudi eastern province, further aggravating Riyadh's security situation.
Washington has long assumed that the Gulf states have nowhere else to go for their national security. For decades, that was a valid assumption. But with a resurgent Russia reaching out to states all over the Middle East, and China expanding its influence in the region as well, that assumption no longer may hold true. If it does not, other allies elsewhere in the world will also begin to question just how reliable an ally the United States really is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

China's Plan To Nuke Us

When one reads enough Chinese naval literature, diagrams of multi-axial cruise missile saturation attacks against aircraft carrier groups may begin to seem normal. However, one particular graphic from the  October 2015 issue (p. 32) of the naval journal Naval & Merchant Ships  stands out as both unusual and singularly disturbing.

It purports to map the impact of a Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) strike by twenty nuclear-armed rockets against the United States.

Targets include the biggest cities on the East and West Coasts, as well as in the Midwest, as one would expect. Giant radiation plumes cover much of the country and the estimate in the caption holds that the strike “would yield perhaps 50 million people killed”.  The map below that graphic on the same page illustrates the optimal aim point for a hit on New York City with a “blast wave”  that vaporizes all of Manhattan and well beyond.

That makes the North Korean “threat” look fairly insignificant by comparison, doesn’t it? But what’s really disturbing is that the scenario described above envisions a strike by China’s largely antiquated DF-5 first generation ICBM.

In other words, the illustration is perhaps a decade or more out of date. As China has deployed first the road-mobile DF-31, then DF-31A and now JL-2 (a submarine-launched nuclear weapon), China’s nuclear strategy has moved from “assured retaliation” to what one may term “completely assured retaliation.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Desert Storm @ 25

Desert Storm’s goal was to expel Iraqi forces from neighboring Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein’s military had invaded months before. The U.N. had put forth the deadline of Jan. 15 for Iraq to withdrawal from Kuwait, which was never adhered to. As a result, the U.S. and its broad coalition began an air campaign against Iraq—the likes of which the world had never seen

Over five weeks coalition aircraft rained weaponry down from skies over Iraq and Kuwait. Then ground forces stormed across the deserts of Saudi Arabia and into Kuwait and Iraq. Just just over four days after beginning the ground assault, Iraq capitulated and a ceasefire was agreed to.

The war was a supernova-like event for the U.S. military, a big capstone showcase of advanced American combat capabilities that were acquired in the last stretch of the Cold War. Yet Desert Storm’s fairy tale-like execution clearly misled future power players as to the limits of air power and the danger of large-scale ground engagements.

Here is a glance at Desert Storm “by the numbers”:

Coalition: 39 countries, of which 28 contributed combat forces

Force size: Approximately 670,000 troops from 28 countries, 425,000 of which were from the United States.

Coalition air component size: 2,250 combat aircraft, 1,800 of which were American

Price: Estimated $61 billion dollars of which Gulf States covered $36 billion while Germany and Japan covered $16 billion

U.S. combat related deaths: 147

U.S. non-combat related deaths: 145

Iraqi deaths: 100,000+

Coalition POWs taken during the war: 26

Iraqi POWs taken during the war: 70,000+

Coalition aircraft lost: 75 total, 63 U.S. and 12 allied

Iraqi aircraft lost in air-to-air engagements: 42

Iraqi aircraft lost on the ground: 81

Iraqi aircraft flown to Iran: 137

Number of oil well fires Saddam set off: 610

Millions of gallons of crude oil dumped into the Persian Gulf: Up to 11 million barrels

Coalition sorties flown: 100,000+

Tons of bombs dropped: 88,500

Cruise missiles fired: 297 Tomahawks plus 35 CALCMs

GPS units fielded at the time: 1,332

Coalition airlift: 509,129 passengers and 594,730 tons of cargo carried

Iraqi tanks lost during the war: 3,700 out of 4,280 in inventory

Dollars Iraq owed Kuwait before they invaded: $14 billion

Iraqi SCUD missiles launched: 81

Number of U.S. Carrier Battle Groups: 6

Aerial refueling: 15,434 sorties and dispensed 110.2 million gallons of fuel

30mm depleted uranium rounds fired by A-10 Warthogs: 782,514

Number of air-to-air missiles fired by U.S. aircraft: 174

Number of anti-radiation missiles fired at Iraqi radars: 2,039

Number of dumb bombs dropped: 210,004 of which 39.336 were cluster munitions

Number of smart bombs (LGB/EO) dropped: 9,342

Number of air-to-ground missiles fired: 5,930 (excludes those fired by the U.S. Army)

Duration of air campaign before ground invasion: 39 days

Ground war duration: 100 hours

Monday, January 18, 2016

44's Foreign Policy Core Values

For whatever reasons, 44 is not that interested in using his biggest public speeches to explain his foreign policy to the electorate. 44's detailed pronouncements on the region give a very good roadmap of what is to come during the rest of his tenure in office.

Saudi Arabia: The ruling Al-Saud family has operated under the assumption that the United States would protect the regime and its oil assets since 1945. The relationship became even stronger in 1981 when the Reagan administration, in response to the Iran-Iraq War, pledged to defend Saudi Arabia from invasion and to ensure internal regional stability. Obama's decision to effectively end the U.S. promise to guarantee the status quo in the Gulf is at the core of the Saudi crown's regional aggressiveness in recent years. What may come of the changes currently being proffered by King Salman and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, are unknown, but Saudi Arabia's outsized influence on the world's oil markets means the United States will be patrolling the sea lanes for years and years to come.

Iraq: Only after the Islamic State group threatened to overrun Kurdistan, a key U.S. sub-state ally, and started an extermination campaign against the Yazidi ethnic minority in Aug. 2014, did the administration intervene militarily. Hence, Kurdistan and the Iraqi coalition government constitute a core interest for the administration, and as a result, more than 3,000 troops are on the ground in Iraq coordinating the counter-insurgency against ISIS.

Syria: The lack of any alliance with the regime of Bashar Assad, combined with scant direct threat to U.S. citizens or property in Syria, meant that the country didn't meet the threshold of a core interest, even after resulting in 250,000 deaths and a major refugee crisis in Europe. The administration's Iraq-first focus strongly suggests that the Syrian conflict will not be resolved until well after Obama has left office.

Egypt: The core American interests in the country's strategic relationship with Egypt remain strong priority transit rights through the Suez Canal for the U.S. Navy; a close military and intelligence relationship with the Arab world's most populous country; and continued peace with Israel. The United States continue to protect Egypt and its infrastructure from attack, but Washington will not ensure internal stability, as seen by U.S. inaction when both Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi were swept from power by the military.

Israel: Even a deep personal dislike between U.S. and Israeli heads of government did not upend the economic, cultural, and security linkages between the two states that run deeper than anywhere in the region. The survival of the Jewish state is a core interest of the United States, and it remains so even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a personal reprimand to Obama before a joint session of Congress in March 2015 over the administration's talks with Iran.

Iran: Defending Iran is not an American core interest by a long shot. The two sides have been major adversaries for decades and killed members of each other's armed forces on many separate occasions in the past. That said, the nuclear agreement signed in July and scheduled to be implemented as early this weekend is a watershed action that effectively ends the era of relations between the two sides symbolized by the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. Much will depend on the outcome of the Feb. 26 elections for Iran's parliament, the Majlis, and for the Assembly of Experts, which will choose a successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei , who at age 76 is one of the world's most successful and longest-tenured purveyors of anti-American rhetoric come as a head of state. If reformists take over either body, Obama is certain to take some credit, arguing that his rapprochement with the government of President Hassan Rouhani has borne fruit.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Pakistan - Saudi Hook Up

Oh snap!

While Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif assured visiting Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman on Sunday of “strong response” to threats to his country’s territorial integrity, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for resolving its crisis with Iran through diplomacy and offered Pakistan’s good offices in this regard.

The Saudi crown prince, whose visit came close on the heels of one by Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, was reportedly in Islamabad to find out how Pakistan could militarily assist his country.

Although it is publicly unknown what the military has committed to the Saudis, Gen Sharif found it enough to say that the defence relationship with the country was held “in the highest esteem”.

Amid speculations on the matter, a government source was reported as saying that the military had committed deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia.
Yet the nuclear back up goes both ways in the Shia Sunni Forever War vis a vis Wahabbi Arabia versus Iran

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both majority-Sunni, have their disagreements but are united in their fear of Iranian – that is, Shia – dominance in the Gulf region. Particularly worrying is the view of many in the spy business that Pakistan would quickly send a nuclear weapon to Riyadh if needed to deter Tehran.

It’s a poorly guarded secret that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which came to fruition in 1998 with a successful nuclear bomb test, was partly funded by the Saudis, who wanted a Sunni Bomb. In exchange, Islamabad will come to Riyadh’s aid, even nuclear aid, in an hour of crisis. “If Tehran announces on a Monday that it has a nuke, the Saudis will ‘suddenly’ have one by Wednesday,” explained a Pentagon nuclear expert.

Just as worrisome is the reality of nuclear ties between Tehran and Pyongyang, which just conducted another major atomic weapons test to showcase its power. Iranian scientists have observed previous North Korean nuclear tests and a big question now facing the U.S. Intelligence Community is: Did any Iranians participate in the test last week?

It’s an alarming fact that Iran can get a nuclear weapon at any time from a single IL-76 cargo flight from North Korea – which may, or may not, be detected by Western intelligence.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Held Hostage

Iran's seizure of two U.S. naval ships and 44's response show that the country the president hoped would secure his foreign policy legacy now has the ability to hold it hostage.

44 didn’t mention the incident in the Persian Gulf during his State of the Union speech because, according to administration officials, the U.S. does not consider the boarding of the ships and the seizure of 10 U.S. sailors to be a "hostile act." Instead, the president praised the diplomatic agreement on Iran's nukes.

Even if Iran quickly releases the 10 U.S. military personnel it took custody of, as senior administration officials assured reporters Tuesday evening, the incident is a significant escalation in the Persian Gulf. It shows that despite a nuclear agreement with the West, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is willing to board U.S. vessels, take American soldiers into custody, and, according to CNN citing U.S. officials, confiscate the crew's communications and GPS equipment.

There are several signs the administration and the Iranian government were not working well together. As the Iranian state press reported the sailors had been “arrested” for “snooping,” a senior administration official gave reporters conflicting information, saying the boats had malfunctioned and the sailors would be released “promptly.” It took several hours before the captured sailors were allowed to make contact with their superiors.

The incident is just latest in a series of Iranian provocations since agreeing to the nuclear deal in July. In late December, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels fired unguided missiles near the USS Truman; the U.S. did not retaliate. Also last month, Kerry wrote to the Iranian government to assure it the U.S. government would waive new visa restrictions passed by Congress, after Tehran objected. The U.S. indefinitely delayed imposing sanctions on Iran in response to its tests of ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations sanctions.

The incident comes just as Western leaders were hoping to announce the implementation day for the nuclear agreement. The State of the Union speech, officials said, meant to highlight that legacy and present 44's case that the world was more safe and secure because of his diplomatic achievements. To put it mildly, Iran undermined that message Tuesday.

The administration's reaction, first to play down any incident and then to seek accommodation with Tehran, is becoming the norm in the U.S.-Iran relationship in the wake of the Iran deal, even as Iran escalates tensions with the U.S. and its allies. 

The Iranians were clear when striking the deal that they would not change their negative views and aggressive policies against the U.S., Jeffrey said, and they have been consistent in that. To his thinking, it is the administration that has wavered between hope and skepticism that the Iran deal would yield broader progress in the bilateral relationship.

The Iranians know the administration is committed to preserving the Iran deal above all else and they are using that knowledge to get away with mischief. The administration is so committed to claiming the Iran deal as part of its legacy, officials won’t reverse course and take a tougher line now.

The incident also shows that the faction of Iran's government--led by its president, Hassan Rouhani--that negotiated the nuclear deal has little influence over Iran's national security state. U.S. analysts and most experts see these incidents as provocations aimed at weakening the nuclear agreement that is supported by Rouhani. This dynamic is particularly important because of elections next month for Iran's parliament and powerful assembly of experts, which will choose Iran's next supreme leader, which has the ultimate authority over Iran's nuclear program. 

On Capitol Hill, there is a determined behind the scenes effort to bring new Iran sanctions legislation to the Senate floor, focused on all of Iran’s non-nuclear bad behavior: its ballistic missile testing, human rights violations, holding of three other American hostages, and sponsorship of terror around the region.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Turkey Time: ISIL or the West

Time for Turkey to pick a side.

The Islamic State suicide bombing in Istanbul yesterday shows that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should stop worrying about the Kurds and take on the fundamentalists instead

In the war against the so-called Islamic State (Isil), the position of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is laced with contradictions. On one hand the leader of a country regarded as a key Nato ally professes to be committed to destroying the Islamist fanatics who are attempting to establish their hate-filled caliphate across the border in neighbouring Syria. US air force F-16 fighters and drones regularly fly combat missions from Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base, while the Turks have even launched attacks of their own against Isil positions in Syria.

And yet, for all Mr Erdogan’s constant claims that Turkey is the “top target for all terrorist groups in the region”, strong suspicions remain that Mr Erdogan is guilty of double standards for turning a blind eye to its highly lucrative smuggling activities across the Turkish border.
It is highly unlikely that Isil would be able to sustain its attempts to establish its caliphate without the continuous flow of funds and new recruits that regularly cross the Turkish border. But despite repeated demands from its Nato allies that Turkey act to close Isil’s smuggling routes, Ankara has been reluctant to move decisively.
It is the same with Turkey’s half-hearted response to the migrant crisis that now threatens the security of Europe’s borders. The vast majority of the million or so migrants who have flooded Europe during the past year have made their way to the continent by making the treacherous crossing over the Aegean Sea from Turkey to EU member states such as Greece.
The question Mr Erdogan now faces is whether, in the wake of yesterday’s suicide bombing in Istanbul by a suspected Isil terrorist that killed at least 10 people and injured many more, he can continue to maintain his decidedly ambivalent approach to the Syria crisis.

Any assistance the Turkish authorities may have provided to Isil will have been on the basis that the Islamist fighters are at war with the Kurds, whom the Turks regard as a far greater threat to their long-term security.

A tacit understanding like this – such as the Turks turning a blind eye to Isil’s smuggling operations – works only so long as Isil does not pose a direct threat to Turkey’s own security interests. If, as now seems likely, Isil was behind yesterday’s Istanbul bombing, then the terrorists have clearly crossed an important red line for the Turks, one that could have a profound impact on the future of the US-led coalition’s military campaign to destroy Isil.

While the ambitions of both regional superpowers like Iran and Saudi Arabia should not be underestimated, Turkey potentially has an even more pivotal role to play – assuming, that is, that Mr Erdogan can make up his mind whose side he is on in Syria’s brutal conflict.

Closing all crossings along the Turkish border with Isil-controlled Syria, for example, could have a devastating impact on the financial wellbeing of Isil, which relies heavily on revenues generated by its oil-smuggling operations into Turkey. Without these, many experts in the region believe the so-called caliphate would collapse in a matter of weeks.

A more committed approach by Mr Erdogan could also help to stem the flood of migrants to Europe, thereby easing the pressure on governments from the Balkans to Berlin.

In order to play a more constructive role in resolving the Syrian crisis, though, Mr Erdogan must first get over his obsession with the Kurds, the one group that has provided effective ground forces in the war against Isil. The Turkish government fears that any victories the Kurds enjoy over Isil, such as last year’s success in liberating Isil-controlled Kobani, will encourage Kurdish aspirations for independence, when the reality is that the Kurds’ main objective in Syria is simply to reclaim their territory from Isil.

After yesterday’s terror attacks in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan should realise the Kurds are the least of his problems and that, if he wants to prevent further terror attacks, then his best course of action is to support the international campaign to destroy Isil.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Saudi Arabia Is The Next Syria

Reckon Saudia Arabia could end up like Suriya al kubra?

Saudi Arabia has always faced unique demographic and socio-economic challenges. Out of a population of approximately 28 million people, immigrants make up nearly a third of entire population and over three-quarters of the labor force. Approximately 70% of the population isunder the age of 30, and within that age group, unemployment is close to 30%. Nationals and non-nationals alike live under Sharia law with strict Wahhabi principles dictated by the royal family and the religious leadership of the ulema, which often cause strains within the immigrant population as well as  the native population.

While some within the kingdom push for modernization, the ultra-conservatives consistently call for increased rigidity in religious practice, causing friction within the royal family and the Saudi population as a whole. The recent ascension of King Salman last year has only added fuel to the fire as the internal politics of the royal family add another layer of uncertainty, opening the door for terrorist groups who might take advantage of the instability.

Saudi Arabia is also suffering a major hit to its largest source of income - with 80% of its budget revenues coming from oil production, Saudi Arabia has been massively affected by dropping oil prices, running some of its highest deficits in history. The kingdom has also traditionally depended on its constant influx of oil wealth to supply high-paying government jobs to key supporters, but with the rapidly dropping oil prices, Saudi Arabia may lose its ability to maintain popularity through employment opportunities. Saudi Arabia’s massive wealth will undoubtedly survive the instability, but the oil crisis adds to a growing list of uncertainties plaguing the country.

These circumstances not only encourage terrorist organizations to view Saudi Arabia as prime real estate, but also create an environment in which the young, unemployed Saudi citizens themselves might fuel the fire of insurgency.

As ISIS loses steam and is pushed out of its old stomping grounds, Saudi Arabia is in danger of becoming the next ground zero for terrorism in the region.

In addition to internal pressure due to widespread unemployment, a massive immigrant population and falling oil prices, Saudi Arabia faces multiple challenges from external sources as well. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen is steadily draining resources and political good will. The Iranian nuclear deal was perceived as a loss and a sign of weakness for Saudi Arabia and the Sunni community, which has always fought to contain its Shia neighbor.

ISIS has already targeted Saudi Arabia for its ties to the US, and in response the government has been driven to arrest almost 100 people in 2015 alone for suspected ties to ISIS. These perceived weaknesses and flaws in the Saudi government provide ideal material for an insurgency seeking a common enemy, and ISIS may seize that opportunity in the event that it is pushed out of its current strongholds. 

 The Saudi government itself is stretched thin operating in Yemen and contributing military resources to Syria, all while suffering blows to its economy from dropping oil prices. The royal family is caught between a rock and a hard place, risking censure from radical conservatives if it modernizes and popular discontent if it pushes more stringent Wahhabism on its population. Critically, Saudi Arabia is home to two of the most holy sites of Islamic culture, Mecca and Medina, which makes it a natural rallying point.
All of these factors make Saudi Arabia an ideal location for insurgency, and suggest that Saudi Arabia will suffer the consequences when ISIS’ power is depleted and its fighters scatter beyond Iraq and Syria.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Deutschland Ist Der Seig!

Alt Europa is paying a heavy price for importing tons of combat age foreign guys into the mix...

On New Year’s Eve, in the shadow of Cologne’s cathedral, crowds of North African and Middle Eastern men accosted women out for the night’s festivities. They surrounded them, groped them, robbed them. Two women were reportedly raped.
Though there were similar incidents from Hamburg to Helsinki, the authorities at first played down the assaults, lest they prove inconvenient for Mutti Merkel's policy of mass asylum for refugees.
That delay has now cost Cologne’s police chief his job. But the German government still seems more concerned about policing restless natives — most recently through a deal with Facebook and Google to restrict anti-immigrant postings — than with policing migration.
Which may expalin why the Polizei und Bundeskriminalamt were overwhelmed and unable to halt unacceptable illegal beahviour - they were booked solid checking out mean spirited tweets

When immigration proceeds at a steady but modest clip, deep change comes slowly, and there’s time for assimilation to do its work. That’s why the Muslim population in Europe has been growing only at one percentage point a decade; it’s why many of the Turkish and North African immigrants who arrived in Germany and France decades ago are reasonably Europeanized today.
Yet when you add a million (or millions) of people, most of them young men, in one short period, you get a very different kind of shift.

In the German case the important number here isn’t the country’s total population, currently 82 million. It’s the twentysomething population, which was less than 10 million in 2013 (and of course already included many immigrants). In that cohort and every cohort afterward, the current influx could have a transformative effect.

If you believe that an aging, secularized, heretofore-mostly-homogeneous society is likely to peacefully absorb a migration of that size and scale of cultural difference, then you have a bright future as a spokesman for the current German government.

Prudence requires doing everything possible to prevent it. That means closing Germany’s borders to new arrivals for the time being. It means beginning an orderly deportation process for able-bodied young men. It means giving up the fond illusion that Germany’s past sins can be absolved with a reckless humanitarianism in the present.
It means that Angela Merkel must go — so that her country, and the continent it bestrides, can avoid paying too high a price for her high-minded folly.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


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, January 8, 2016

Pushing Their Luck

For a nation state about to get sanction relief and tons of cash from way back unfrozen, Persia's Preacher Command of Iran sure is acting cray cray...

Remember “snapback?” That was supposed to be the enforcement mechanism for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the Iran nuclear deal. If Iran cheated, the U.S. would re-impose sanctions. Administration spokespeople spent the summer assuring anyone who would listen that the mechanism for punishing Iranian violations would be sure, swift, and painful.

But while “snapback” remains a theoretical possibility, it depends on the willingness of the U.S. government to risk a showdown with Tehran. At the moment — and for the next year — it is plain that this administration will not under any circumstances risk such a confrontation, no matter what Iran does.

An Iranian state-sanctioned mob ransacks and burns the Saudi embassy in Tehran. What does the U.S. do? The State Department issues a statement condemning Saudi Arabia for executing 47 prisoners including the Shiite preacher Nimr al-Nimr, whose death “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.” Yes, Nimr’s execution was maybe over the top, but so too was the invasion of the Saudi embassy — a tactic that the Iranian regime has long used to attack countries it dislikes.

Why isn’t the U.S. leading the charge for an international condemnation of Iran?

Perhaps for the same reason that the U.S. withdrew its plan to impose sanctions on Iran for two missile tests in recent months that were conducted in violation of United Nations sanctions. The Iranian regime threatened that these sanctions could unravel the nuclear deal and would only cause Iran to accelerate its (illegal) missile program. So the  administration immediately and cravenly backed off.

Just a few days earlier the same thing happened when Iran complained about new legislation that would mandate visas to enter the United States for anyone who had visited Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria or other high-risk countries since 2011. This was not even legislation aimed at Iran per se, but Iran is worried that it would dissuade some business executives from visiting the Islamic Republic. So Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif threw a hissy fit, and Secretary of State John Kerry promptly promised to use executive authority to make the issue go away.

What happens when Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships fire rockets within 1,500 yards of the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman in the Persian Gulf? Nothing beyond a mild protest from a low-level American military officer.

And of course there has been no real U.S. pushback against Iran for its support for the Assad regime in Syria which is guilty of crimes against humanity — the kind of crimes that United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power has spent her career denouncing. Nor does the U.S. inflict any kind of cost on Iran for holding five Americans hostage, or for the rather hostile habit that Ayatollah Khameini and other Iranian leaders have of regularly chanting “Death to America.”

Sense a pattern here? Whenever Iran acts up, the U.S. looks the other way.

This is particularly egregious given the fact that Iran has not actually received its sanctions relief yet. Soon — possibly in a matter of weeks — Iran will get access to over $100 billion in frozen oil assets. Until that happens all of the leverage is on the American side. Iran should be on its best behavior until it gets its payoff for signing the nuclear deal. But that’s not the way Tehran sees it. The Iranian regime knows that 44 is so desperate to implement the JCPOA that Iran can get away with murder and not suffer any consequences. So that is precisely what Iran is doing.

This is creating a very dangerous precedent for the future. The devastating loss of American credibility means that a future president, even if he or she is so inclined, will have a hard time restoring our deterrent power and convincing Iran not to secretly pursue its nuclear ambitions.

It also means that the value of American security guarantees continues to erode, which helps to explain why allies such as Saudi Arabia are pushing back against the Iranian threat in their own crude fashion, e.g., by bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen and by executing a Shiite rabble rouser.  
In sum, it means that the Middle East (and indeed the rest of the world) will continue to become more dangerous and more hostile to American interests — hard as that may be to believe.