Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What is the goal in Iran based on recent history?

Let's review a little history.  In 2003, then President Bush sent the US military into Iraq because Saddam Hussein (who the US supported with his war with Iran) had "weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)" that posed a clear and present danger to the US.  Saddam Hussein supposedly also supported Al Qaeda (unsubstantiated) and was going to use those WMDs agains the US (even though after almost 12 years of economic sanctions and no-fly zones, Saddam was in no position to do anything but try to rebuild his infrastructure).  By taking out Saddam, the US would be safer and democracy would be restored in Iraq.  Now 12 years later we are still flying missions and have quietly increasing the number of ground troops and Iraq is pretty much in chaos (and Mr. Obama and his administration have done nothing but continued this atrocity).

After 9/11, we had to do something so former President Bush invaded Afghanistan in 2002 supposedly to hunt down Al Qaeda/Osama bin Laden (even though when the CIA worked with UBL during the 1980s, he was always in Pakistan.  Imagine the surprise when we "found" Osama bin Laden in Pakistan during the 2011 raid!).  US troops were supposed to eliminate the Taliban (who were not the same Al Qaeda supposedly responsible for 9/11 but were close enough for government work).  By inference, by eliminating the Taliban democracy would replace Islamic tyranny.  Under that guise, 16 airplanes bought for Afghanistan to the tune of $500 million which we then summarily sold for scrap (around $32 thousand) when the US pulled out.  Now Mr. Obama has quietly agreed to slow the withdrawal of the remaining 10,000 US troops AND has requested $3.8 billion to fund as many as 352,000 Afghan forces through 2017 (DW).

Obama and Clinton wanted Qaddafi out of the way, again inferring that democracy would replace tyranny in Libya.  Instead anarchy has flourished.  Likewise, they hoped the same thing would happen once Asad fell that would allow them to position the next domino to fall, Iran.  But when that didn't happen, Obama and now Kerry playing the part of Hillary had to fall to plan B.

Plan B seems to be negotiating a nuclear arms agreement with Iran (who is supposed to pose some long range threat to the US).  The grandiose initiative though keeps getting overshadowed by the ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh mass executions and now threats against US troops at home.  (Working a deal with Iran is actually nothing new for the US, however, if one remembers a nasty little episode called the Iran-Contra Affair.  Basically sell arms to Iran to get several US hostages released and in-turn use the money to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.)

Giving these attempts to send in troops to eliminate tyranny/terrorism and install democracy, one wonders what the real goal is with Iran?  The US has been wanting regime change there for at least 35 years and so far, things are now different then when the Shah was chased out of Tehran.  Syria shows no signs of losing Asad and at this point, it would allow Daesh to seize control of Damascus.

To all of this, here is the real question.  Unless O'Malley manages a Jimmy Carter or if Ted Cruz usurps Jeb Bush, we are most likely to see Clinton and Bush running in 2016.  If that happens, what are the chances that any of things going on now will change for the better?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Iran behind the scenes

I find this quote from the BBC extremely telling, "The Shia militia's relationship with Iran is a worry for Washington, which sees it as potentially destabilising and deepening Iraq's sectarian divide."  (BBC News)  No wonder Mr. Obama and his mentor Valerie Jarrett are so keen on playing nice with Tehran. Not only does Iran provide a means for Obama to look tough on foreign policy, more importantly Iran provides valuable weapons and support to Iraq in the fight against Daesh.

ISIS top 100, World War III?

Stories have been breaking over the weekend that Daesh has posted a list of 100 troops names and addresses.  The terrorist group was able to comb press releases and compile information from social media to come up with the names.  "The US Marine Corps urged personnel to ‘check their online footprint’ after the so-called Islamic State released the alleged identities and addresses of 100 staff officials, calling on adherents to kill them."  (RT)  Want a sure fire way to neutralize this threat?  The Sec Def should immediately require all active duty personnel to be issued and wear their sidearms at all times.  Up the rhetoric to the terrorist levels by adding that "any military personnel (including those who have separated or retired) will be found NOT be charge with any crime as a result of shooting and/or killing who was in the midst of committing an act of terrorism as defined by the Department of Defense or FBI."

While the Americans are being led to hate one another because of race, they are too busy to notice that Daesh is getting very serious about operations outside their own area:

"Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon believes that every British ISIS fighter will have been given chemical weapons training in the hope they will come back to launch an attack.

The retired head of chemical and biological weapons for the Army believes the Tube or sporting events could be the target."  (Daily Mail)

Daesh does not give a damn about if you are white, black, Latino, Asian or any other flavor of American.  Be at the wrong place at the wrong time and they will kill you just as soon as anyone else.  The only way to counter this culture of fear is to empower Americans to defend themselves.

During the early days of the Cold War, the government decided the best way to manage widespread fear of nuclear war was to convince the public they could survive it.  Hence "Duck and cover" was released and while we can now see how patently ridiculous this campaign was, the interesting thing is the government back then wanted Americans to be responsible for their own safety.

Today's White House pretends to be about empowerment (kids eating healthy, race relations, rights for illegal immigrants) but the effect is just the opposite of "duck and cover".  Americans don't trust the police, don't' trust the government and increasingly don't trust other Americans that don't look like them.  The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was supposed to symbolize American's renewed focus on defending the homeland but recent stories (such as Ferguson, Eric Brown, hiring immigrants as police officers) has made Americans feel less safe.

Focusing on keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons is also making us less safe.  The headlines and Washington sound bytes assure us that a nuclear armed Iran is unthinkable and the President has to put all of his focus on this issue (and somehow not Daesh?).  It's fascinating to watch how Iran's potential, not actual" nuclear capability is of far more concern to the White House than is Russia's actual nuclear inventory.  Or China's.

In the not too distant past, there was much press about the "Pivot to Asia" under then Secretary of State Clinton.  The policy supposedly recognized that by focusing on defeating terrorism, the US had taken its strategic view away from an ever expanding China.  The "pivot" was supposed to get US efforts refocused on containing China (especially in light is its rapidly expanding economy and surging military).  But Clinton and then Kerry became kiddy at the thought that they could use the Arab Spring to gain US advantage in the Middle East.  Their lack of focused has introduced a different scenario to World War III than most people think.

The most obvious and alarming scenario to the next World War is with Russia over something like the anti-missile system in Europe or if Russia expands their buffer zones via the areas in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania.  But a wholly different scenario has been developing eerily similar to the days prior to the First World War.

The Economist's "Look Back With Angst" from 2013 shows how pre-war Europe believed "Globalisation and new technology—the telephone, the steamship, the train—had knitted the world together," much as we view smart devices, social media and the Internet today.  For all of the good that has come as a result of these latest technologies, we need only look to how one shooting in Ferguson was able to set race relations in the US back decades (would the reaction have been the same without social media?).  Like in the early 20th Century, many are still of the delusion that war that globalization eliminates the possibility of a global war.  John Maynard Keynes has a wonderful image of a Londoner of the time, “sipping his morning tea in bed” and ordering “the various products of the whole earth” to his door, much as he might today from Amazon—and regarding this state of affairs as “normal, certain and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement”.--The Economist

Instead of Britain, France and Germany, the essay sees China as in the role of pre-war Germany, Japan in the role of pre-war France and the US playing the role of a fading British Empire.

"Yet the parallels remain troubling. The United States is Britain, the superpower on the wane, unable to guarantee global security. Its main trading partner, China, plays the part of Germany, a new economic power bristling with nationalist indignation and building up its armed forces rapidly. Modern Japan is France, an ally of the retreating hegemon and a declining regional power. The parallels are not exact—China lacks the Kaiser’s territorial ambitions and America’s defence budget is far more impressive than imperial Britain’s—but they are close enough for the world to be on its guard."--The Economist

It may often seem that the Middle East will lead us into a major conflict and it is tempting at times to reminisce about the days of the Cold War and try to cast Russia in the role of its former self but the Economist makes some truly valid comparisons.  The comparisons of which the current occupants of the White House and State Department are even less concerned with than Keynes portrayal of a pre-war Londoner.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Russia threatens to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark ships if it joins NATO shield

Russia threatens to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark ships if it joins NATO shield

"Denmark said in August it would contribute radar capacity on some of its warships to the missile shield, which the Western alliance says is designed to protect members from missile launches from countries like Iran.

Moscow opposes the system, arguing that it could reduce the effectiveness of its own nuclear arsenal, leading to a new Cold War-style arms race."

Now another US ally is being drawn into a potential conflict with Russia thanks to Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry's unremarkable approach to dealing with Russia.

Reasons not to be impressed with the Iranian agreement

According to the CIA Factbook, Iran is a theocratic republic.  The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, overseas the military and judiciary branches in Iran.  Therefore it is dishonest for Mr. Obama and Secretary Kerry to pretend that we've made great strides in reigning in the Iranian nuclear program just because Iranian President Rouhani likes the draft agreement.

Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats like to criticize George W. Bush for portraying Iraq as a threat that it really wasn't to the US.  However, Mr. Obama and Kerry (along with Presidential hopeful Hillary) have done the same thing with Iran.  Even if Iran were able to produce enough weapons grade plutonium to build a warhead, that's only half of the battle.  They still have to produce a weapon system capable of striking the US (and in enough numbers to defeat our defenses).  That it is an extremely tall order and it is the same reason why the US has typically not worried when North Korea starts to rattle their nuclear saber.

The real nuclear threat to the US is the one Mr. Obama keeps poking, Russia.  Mr. Obama is hellbent on reducing the military overall but especial the nuclear weapons in the US inventory.  Russia is developing a new type of nuclear cruise missile, the KH-101.  The problem for the US is the sheer number of these weapons (launching from manned bombers as well as submarines) could easily overwhelm US defenses (unlike the hypothetical threat of a nuclear Iran).  Mr. Obama has cut and demoralized the US military to the point that this is a very real scenario.  Couple that with his penchant for leveling economic sanctions against Russia and we are on very thin ice.

As I've written previously, Iran has no reason to trust the US.  The Iranian citizens see the US as trying to make their country irrelevant through economic sanctions.  Having a nuclear weapons program is the only thing the west respects in their eyes.  (While we are on this, consider that the US is always leveling economic sanctions but when was the last time you've hear of someone trying to level a sanction against the US?  So much for fair play!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

US backed coups

I do not think that supplies of weapons, lethal weapons, will change the situation dramatically,” Navalny said. “The fact is that a military victory of Ukraine over Russia is impossible. Putin will get new facts that Americans are fighting the war in Ukraine and not Ukrainians.” Navalny, 38, a lawyer and anti-corruption blogger, was the most pessimistic about the pace of change since he led of the wave of protests three years ago that made up the biggest threat to Putin’s 15 years in power.--Washington Post

"The Russian foreign minister says the US president’s recent remarks about brokering power transition in Ukraine show that Washington was behind the overthrow of former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych."--PressTV

Two different Russians, two different news sites but both showing why Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry need to keep their noses out of the Ukraine.  To Russia, the US led the coup that has now created the situation in Ukraine today.  Sending arms to Ukraine appears to Russia as doubling down.  Now wonder Putin wants to put nukes in Crimea.

These two articles caused me to ponder just how many different coups has the US backed over the years.  I've written about Iran and Iraq.  Vietnam was about regina change as well.  Then there was Nicaragua and Chile.  There was also the United States Fruit Company.  I did some quick research and found the following list of US backed coups over the years;

You can judge for yourself how effective any of those attempts were.  The list does not include Ukraine, which makes you wonder how many other coups have been back by the US through third parties?  The problem has and always will be you don't know what happens once your guy takes office.  Does he take revenge on those that oppressed him and his allies or does he simply become corrupt with power?

Of particular note, the US has been trying to effect a regime change in Iran since 2005.  If that is correct, what makes Mr. Obama and Ms. Jarrett think Iran is negotiating with us in good faith (or Iran think we are negotiating in good faith)?  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A culture of fear

At some future point, history will make its conclusion about the Obama administration.  History tends to be kinder remembering the talking points more so than the details about what went into them.  I don't know what my grandchildren will be taught about Mr Obama and his legacy, I can only write about what I see now through the eyes of a retired military officer and former intelligence analyst.

Obama and his master handler, Valerie Jarrett, promised "hope and change" during the campaign trail but instead have only manifested a culture of fear.

Obama and Jarrett, ably assisted by the likes of Wolf Blitzer, want us to be very afraid of Russia.  But Russia hasn't levied sanctions against the US.  Russia did not try to overthrow a legitimate Middle Eastern leader  (Assad) thereby giving rise to the most dangerous terrorist organization (Daesh).  Russia did not threaten to shoot down a valued ally's fighters (Israel) in an attempt to convince a long-standing enemy (Iran) that Washington keeps its word.  Russia did not suddenly warm-up to a long standing enemy (Cuba) while simultaneously leveling sanctions against another country in the region (Venezuela).  

Russia human rights record is to say the least unimpressive but who is Mr. Obama to lecture Putin after his own administration has left relations between African-Americans and the police in the worst state since the civil rights movement?  Thanks to Obama, Jarrett and Holder the African-American community is now more afraid of its own police than ever before.  Police officers, especially white police officers, are more afraid than ever after the sniper shootings in Ferguson this weekend.  (Now it turns out that the racist practices of the Ferguson PD may have ironically been exposed by a righteous shooting.)

The US has a tendency to embrace a culture of fear.  During the 1930s, a culture of fear lead to US Isolationism, causing the US to pass a number of neutrality acts to prevent involvement in the war in Europe.  Paradoxically, the culture of fear lead to matters deteriorating in Europe and Asia to the point the US had no choice but to enter the war.  A culture of fear lead to the Cold War which although the US and Soviet Union never came into direct conflict, it did lead to the US getting involved in the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam War.  

The fall of the Soviet Union introduced a brief period of relief from the culture of fear.  This is perhaps why some believe that the events of 9/11 were a conspiracy to create a new culture of fear (replacing the potential for nuclear war at the hands of the Soviets to WMD attacks by radical Islamic terrorists).  

The culture of fear was termed a "global war on terrorism' by George W. Bush.  He parlayed that into two conflicts that lasted 13 years.  The American public had grown weary of the conflicts and Obama seized on this weariness with his "hope and change" slogan.  He was going to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home.  While not overtly, he seemed to imply that his administration would not be a culture of fear.  But that has not been the case either domestically or overseas.

Obama's policies on immigration have legalized millions of illegal immigrants, who may be given the right to vote.  American citizens are now afraid they will lose their jobs to these newly legalized immigrants (although it remains to be seen what if any work they will be allowed to do).

Obama's administration let loose the NSA on the American public and even hacked the New York Times.  A culture of fear was now reborn but this time Americans would be afraid of their own government reminiscent of McCarthyism.  The BATF has been let lose to attempt a ban on ammunition (5.56MM) causing gun owners to fear even more draconian gun-control measures could be coming.  The measure is to "protect" police officers (even though this administration has had no qualms throwing the Ferguson and New York Police Departments under the bus).

The one branch of the government that the public still trusts is the US military.  The best way to make people afraid of the troops is to make sexual assault and PTSD front page stories.  Instead of portraying the military as heroes, now they are portrayed as broken.  Instead of maintaining high levels of discipline they are shown as sexual predators.  Instead of strong women fighting and leading others into combat they are show as victims of rape and sexual assault by their fellow troops.

Even political allies aren't safe.  Hillary Clinton has been, and still is, the presumed Democratic Presidential candidate for 2016.  However, things have not been good between the Obama and Clinton camps.  Time to make us afraid of Hillary so now the media has finally turned on her and her private emails.  Fascinating how this happened during her time as Secretary of State but we are only now hearing about it right before her planned announcement to run for President.  The media ratted Jarrett out initially but she had to quickly remind them we aren't supposed to be afraid of her!  Now according to the White House this was all "a bunch of baloney" and Jarrett had nothing to do with the leak to the media.

The problem with a culture of fear is once people are afraid, fear can become widespread and difficult to control.  Jarrett and Obama seem to have forgotten people were already suspicious of them.  Once the story hit about Hillary's emails, people began to finally remember that Ms. Jarrett was a Chicago lawyer/activist (wannabe politician) who was born in Iran.  Oops, we weren't supposed to remember that annoying little factoid.

It makes the events of the last few months seem especially suspect.  A deal with Iran to limit nuclear arms, something that up until now hasn't been a priority.  But then again, don't want to upset Tehran or they may stop sending arms to the Iraqis (who Obama bailed on as part of his campaign promise) to fight Daesh who only came to power after we tried to support an overthrow of Assad.

In the novel and movie "Dune", the protagonist Paul Muad'dib recites the following litany to himself when facing fear

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration…"