Thursday, December 29, 2011


At its greatest extent, the Persian Empire included the modern territories of Iran, Turkey, parts of Central Asia, Pakistan, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Afghanistan, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya.

Persia, modern Iran, was undone by its decentralized form of government. Modern Iran suffers no such illusions. The reign of the ayatollahs being set into motion by a revolution against the US backed Shah.

While the US and the rest of the Western World worried about terrorists, Iran pursued a two-pronged course of becoming a major power. First is the much hyped Iranian nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad has pursued a nuclear weapons program as a way of Iranian self-realization (hence my references to the Persian Empire).

The second and more subtle approach has been becoming the chair of OPEC. Iran now sits at the head of one of the most i
influential organizations when it comes to national security and the economy.

Secretary Clinton has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and has, thus far, been unsuccessful in changing Ahmadinejad's mind. I suspected the announced US Navy drills in the region are another attempt to convince Iran that the US means business. However, Iran seems equally determined to tell the US to "piss off" and has allegedly found the US carrier battle group. To be sure, this is not that difficult. Moving that much metal around in the ocean creates all types of signatures.

Iran has not been just sitting around waiting for the Sec Def to send in the troops. First was the rumored recruitment of a Mexican drug cartel to help assassinate a Saudi Arabian diplomat in the US. Now comes a story about the US selling 84 X F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. While the $20 billion price tag was enticing to the US, the need for the Saudi family to have better fighter aircraft was paramount. After all, the Arabian and Persian empires were not exactly friends.

As though this weren't enough for the Obama Administration, now comes news of Patriot missiles that were on the way to China. The Patriot missiles were the darlings of the first Persian Gulf War. Patriots missiles protected coalition forces from the very real danger of chemically armed SCUD missiles. China possessing such technology, in light of the passing of North Korea's long-time leader, is not good news. Had the Finland doc workers been less vigilant, the US would be at a terrific disadvantage on the Korean peninsula.

I don't know what will happen in 2012, the Mayan calendar not withstanding. We have a presidential election, a troop downsizing, budget cuts, continued unemployment, a contentious relationship with Pakistan, a worse relationship with Iran, and now an unknown taking over the reigns in North Korea. It seems like the perfect storm.

Iran pinpoints US carrier

Patriot Missiles Seized

US to sell F-15s to Saudi Arabia

Friday, December 23, 2011

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer?

Vanity Fair is not exactly where one would look for articles on homeland security. The article below does raise some of the same questions I've asked. Are we really safer for the amount of money we are spending? The author, Charles C. Mann, follows around the chief security officer for British Telecom (BT) as he points out many of the flaws associated with our airport security measures.

Even after teaching TSA personnel, I have some of the same concerns. Looking for what happened previously prevents a more fluid approach to looking for the unusual. Case in point, removing shoes. One moron tried it, didn't work, but we still look for shoes. This lead another moron to stuff liquid explosives in his underwear. It didn't work either but not because of our screening process but because of vigilant passengers.

The article also points out the greatest flaw, we are focusing our efforts almost exclusively on passengers. Support personnel and vendors, who work daily at the airport, can easily by-pass procedures or smuggle weapons on-board for other operatives to use.

I also believe if we want to down an airliner, there are multiple ways to do it that don't require the terrorist to ever set foot on an airport.

Do we still need TSA? Yes but not for any reasons the author wrote about. TSA provides a tremendous psychological deterrent to would-be terrorists. Much like the greeter at Wal-mart, TSA lets people know someone is watching. It also makes other travelers feel that something is being done to make them safer. You can't prove a negative, we really can't prove how many terrorists were stopped by TSA. But TSA doesn't just stop terrorists. They seize weapons, drugs and larges sums of cash daily. Most of these seizures result in arrests and convictions by law enforcement agencies.

Vanity Fair

Thursday, December 22, 2011

North Korea's military to share power with Kim's heir

The North Korean military wins the race to being able to directly influence Kim Jong-eun. Having the military with no civilian checks pretty much makes North Korea a junta. North Korea will be more inclined than ever to sell military technology to people or states the US doesn't want to have it. It also lessens the likelihood of a diplomatic solution to any disagreements North Korea may have.

Exclusive: North Korea's military to share power with Kim's heir | Reuters

Monday, December 19, 2011

North Korea

So let's review the last 60 years on the Korean Peninsula. Japan occupied Korea through the end of WWII, after which the North was controlled by the Soviet Union. After the Korean War (1950-1953), Kim Il-Sung adopted a policy of "self-reliance" which set the stage for North Korea's isolation from the rest of the modern world. It also resulted in the longest cease-fire in history. The United States has maintained a heavy troop presence there ever since the war.

According to the CIA Factbook, North Korea "demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang's control. "

KIM Il Sung's son, KIM Jong Il (who died of heart attack over the weekend), was officially designated as his father's successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder KIM's death in 1994.

Under Kim Jong Il, North Korea focused exclusively on becoming a nuclear power at the cost of starving its own people. A German documentary film maker recently gained access to North Korea. Kim Jon Il's obsession has turned the capital, Pyongyang, into a bizarre movie set. Traffic cops stand in intersections directing non-existent traffic. High rise buildings are empty facades with elevators that don't operate.

The nuclear program was no empty promise. North Korea seemed to take great delight in firing ballistic missiles over Japan or at the Hawaiian islands. The missiles were clearly capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The cost has been millions of North Koreans starving. It has often been speculated that the North would revolt against Kim but he was fondly referred to as "Dear Leader". A North Korean newscaster broke down in tears while announcing the death of Kim Il-Jong.

Kim Il-Jong did realize he needed to set a succession plan in motion. Instead of the 70-year senior Kim, North Korea now has his inexperienced 28-year old son Kim Jong-eun. Much like when an established monarch would pass, Kim Jong-eun is not guaranteed to remain in power.

First, it has long been assumed the only thing preventing the reunification of the Korean peninsula was Kim Jong-Il. Rival North Korean generals and Workers’ party officials will jostle for positions. China may not support reunification efforts which would allow a US ally to be on its border.

Kim Il-eun was promoted by his father to four-star general (though he has never been in the military). He may feel it necessary to prove his "street creds" by escalating hostilities against South Korea or US forces stationed in the Pacific. Or some of the general staff may take advantage of the younger Kim's lack of experience to start aggression.

The one good signs seems to be shares on Seoul’s Kospi index closed down 3.4 per cent. China may not want an economic crisis on its borders. Foreign investors, already leery about the European economic crisis, may become skittish about Pacific markets. This may create an incentive for cooler heads to prevail.

The one area that should cause some concern is the history between Pakistan and North Korea. Pakistan sold Stinger missiles to North Korea back in the late 1980s. Pakistan and US relations have heated up over the recently killing of Pakistani soldiers by US forces. Kim Jong-eun may be drawn into escalating this tension. The US is not in a position to deal with this two-pronged attack and still be able to keep Iran in check.

Last flight home

Sixty-two airmen and 55 soldiers assigned to Camp Adder, known to the Iraqis as the Imam Ali Base, on the outskirts of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, boarded a C-17 from Travis AFB, Calif., on Dec. 17 for a flight back to Kuwait. It was the last flight from the last US military base on the last night of Operation New Dawn.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Satellite Takes Picture Of Chinese Carrier On The Move

The Varyag is actually Russian bought by the Chinese. While the picture is dramatic, China is not able to launch or recover aircraft from it. We take for granted the ability to launch and recover large aircraft, such as F-18s, from floating runways. In fact, the US was the only major power able to develop the steam catapult system required to get high-performance aircraft up to the necessary speed on a very short field. The Soviets compensated by using a VTOL aircraft, the Yak-38. It was a Soviet knock-off of the Harrier jump jet. The Yak-38 kill more Soviet pilots due to its inferior design and under-powered engine. Aircraft carriers are expensive, complicated pieces of technology. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles makes this technology is an expensive endeavor to look like a super power. Aircraft carriers are also large targets out on the open sea and need support groups (consisting of cruisers, destroyers, frigates and attack submarines) to protect it. The picture shows China is determined to become a super power able to project its presence globally. However, it may be pursuing yesterday's technology.

Fox News

Monday, December 12, 2011

Major battle in Syria

Nine months and 4,000 deaths later, Syria is still attacking its people without any signs of slowing down. Reports also indicates that many of the attacks in the south are being conducted by Hezbollah. While the West is nowhere to be seen, it should also be noted that NATO or US intervention does not necessarily an improvement. Libya was under Gaddafi for 41 years. The Arab Spring combined with NATO airstrikes forced him out and into the hands of an executioner. However, it appears an even more severe government will take over with the Muslim Brotherhood solidly in charge.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Iran releases video of downed U.S. spy drone–looking intact

Photo credit: George Teichrib

In a rather "revoltin" development, Iran has now posted a video showing what looks like a RQ-170 Sentinel drone. I can't help but draw an analogy to the 1960 downing of a U-2 spy plane flown by CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers.

The United States thought the incredible high operating ceiling of the U-2 made it invulnerable to Soviet air defense systems. The CIA began overflying the Soviet Union in 1956 but it took the Soviets about four years of overflights to formulate a plan. The U-2s were based in Pakistan. Although the aircraft operate at extreme high altitude (80,000+), they are relatively slow moving. The U-2 is essential a jet powered glider.

By having spies in Pakistan, the Soviets were alerted when Powers' U-2 took off. This gave them enough time once the U-2 was picked up to fire three SA-2s missiles. One scored a hit, Powers was unable to activate the aircraft's self-destruct mechanism. The Soviets gained a tremendous asset in both the aircraft technology as well as the political embarrassment of having captured Powers alive. The whole affair directly contributed to the Soviets placing SA-5 missiles in Cuba leading to the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962.

The United States called on Kelly Johnson (who had developed the U-2) to develop an aircraft that would not be vulnerable to Soviet air defense systems. That aircraft was of course the SR-71 which flew higher and faster than the U-2. It is interesting to note that not a single SR-71 was ever shot down.

If the Iranian video is real, then the United States faces a very similar situation (minus a pilot). The RQ-170 contains not only the latest surveillance technology in use by the United States, it also uses the latest stealth technology. It is also the most advance unmanned aerial vehicle in use. Iran may have gained one hell of a jump on the US and will now be able to design counter-measures to defeat our stealth and drone technology.

It also shows just how concerned the United States has become about Iran's nuclear program. Sending a state-of-the-art stealth drone may single to the Iranian government that the US or Israel are planning some type of military action. Unlike Iraq, Iran has no been waging a protracted war with the United States. Its military is at full-strength and may also posses a nuclear capability. The US military has been engaged in a ten year war on two fronts (Iraq and Afghanistan). A military conflict with Iran won't be easy and won't go quickly. The Obama Administration also needs to be concerned should they decide to attack Iran how Russia and China will respond.

Yahoo! News

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ex-leader: Khmer Rouge not 'bad people'

Between 1975-79, Pol Pot lead Kampuchea through a social engineering experiment. He forced all of his urban residents into the country side to learn farming, in effect forced labor. Doctors, nurses, engineers, musicians, artists...basically anyone with education or training was forced to become a farmer. Those that did not comply were executed. It is estimated that from 2 million to as many as 5 million Cambodians were executed in the name of social engineering, placing Pol Pot on par with Hitler and somewhat below Stalin in the number of his own people killed. But apparently, they were not 'bad people' since it really was the Vietnamese (according to his second in charge).

Al Jazeera English

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iran Says It Shot Down Unmanned U.S. Plane

Earlier today, Iran claimed to have shot down a unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) fly by the United States. The shoot down allegedly occurred near the border between Iran and Afghanistan. The drone that went down wasn't just any drone but the RQ-170 Sentinel which is a stealth aircraft able to avoid detection by enemy radars.

The attack was later denied by the US claiming while a drone did crash it was due to mechanical failure. An earlier report by Iran that they had shot down back in July proved false.

If the reports are true this time, it means the US has to rethink its stealth technology used in the RQ-170. More than likely, drones have been operating in Iranian airspace gathering intelligence on the potential nuclear weapons program bragged about by Ahmandinejad. The situation is eerily similar to when Francis Gary Powers U-2 was downed by the Soviet Union. The United States thought the U-2 flew high enough to avoid missiles but they were wrong. The presence of US drones in Iran indicates the level of concern Washington has about Iran's nuclear program.

The presence of the drones is likely to ignite further problems for the US after last week's attack in Pakistan that killed two dozen residents. Support for US forces in the region has waned and this latest situation more give more support to Iran.