Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey announces sanctions against Syria

"The sanctions by Turkey, one of Syria’s top trading partners, come as the Arab League and the European Union are enacting their own punitive measures — a triple blow that highlights the growing isolation of the Damascus government and that could significantly hurt Syria’s economy. In Washington, the White House commended the Turkish government for imposing the sanctions, which it said will “undoubtedly increase the pressure on the Syrian regime.”

Syria is one of the last holdouts from the Arab Spring which saw many longstanding North African and Middle Eastern governments falls to internal conflicts. Some such as Tunisia or Algeria occurred with little bloodshed while others like Egypt and Libya were violent conflicts last many months. The United States and NATO led the air campaign against Qaddafi's regime and aided the rebels in overturning his government. Many in both the Middle East and West saw the United States preparing to get involved in the Syrian crisis, perhaps as a prelude to an attack against Iran.

Bashar al-Assad was elected president of Syria in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad who had ruled Syria for 29 years until his death. While Syria has prospered under economic policies implemented by his father, Assad's reign has been plagued by charges of corruption, human rights violations, and economic collapse.

When opposition forces started to call for his resignation, Assad launched some of the most violent attacks seen during the Arab Spring. In one weekend alone, the Syrian military killed over 500 Syrian protestors. The violence is so extreme that the Arab League has called for Assad's resignation.

So why hasn't the United States started to drop GPS guided munitions all over Assad's palace? Well for two reasons. First, although some feared intervening in Syria would merely be a prelude for a US attack of Iran the risk of such of attack make it unlikely. The second reason was our friends the Russians are planning to send a battle group in response to the USS George H. Bush being on station off the shore of Syria.

Russia and China have both warned the United States not to become involved in the Syria crisis. The presence of Russian ships may be in response to US plans to expand a missile defense system into form Eastern Bloc countries or that Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia are being considered for membership in the EU.

Matters are getting worse. An airstrike earlier in the week by US forces resulted in two dozen Pakistanis being killed. Relations have deteriorated with our "ally" Pakistan. The attack could be used as a recruiting tool by radical Islamists in Syria. Turkey is after all a NATO member and their sanctions may be viewed as sponsored by the US.

We are going into the Christmas season with many Americans beginning their travels over the next few weeks. Terrorists may take this opportunity to attack Americans either abroad or at home.

The Washington Post

Friday, November 18, 2011

AFP: Pentagon successfully tests hypersonic flying bomb

The Pentagon tested a hypersonic vehicle that can strike a target anywhere in the world in an hour. While the Pentagon did not release the actual speed of the vehicle, a hypersonic vehicle by definition would be capable of speeds in excess of Mach 5. The new weapon is maneuverable unlike a ballistic missile meaning its flight path can be changed. I don't think the announcement of this test is no coincidence. Increased tensions with Iran makes this test especially important. Washington may hope this gives them the leverage to convince Ahmadinejad to back down.

AFP: Pentagon successfully tests hypersonic flying bomb

Monday, November 14, 2011

US officials worried about security at London 2012 Olympics

There are many layers to this story. First the United Kingdom is no slouch when it comes to security and counter-terrorism. The Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) have been used as models for other counter-terrorist groups (such as the US Delta Force). The UK government had to deal with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) bombings and assassinations for decades. New Scotland Yard has had to deal with a huge increase in criminal organizations that are as heavily armed as any American gang.

The United States complaints seem to have to deal with not enough security personnel by the UK. In response, the US is sending the FBI and diplomatic security. The response indicates the US government is much more concerned about retaliation either for the past Global War on Terror, the air campaign against Libya, or perhaps anticipated future hostilities with Iran. The choice of the FBI is intriguing. I understand the need for a law enforcement agency but I would have thought the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security would have been the preferred choice in this circumstance.

The United States is becoming more adept at straining relations with former allies. While I agree the 2012 Olympic Games pose some very grave concerns, embarrassing a long-standing ally does not make sense.

The Guardian

Sunday, November 13, 2011

As Obama Talks Sanctions With Foreign Leaders, Lawmakers, Candidates Debate War On Iran | Fox News

Okay, Leon Panetta is not one of my favorite beltway insiders. I think he rather uninspired thinker and as proof, recently named a Democratic Congressman to chair the investigations of the mortuary operations at Dover AFB only to have very same Congressman resign since he was already running for office! However, of late he has been making a lot of sense that President Obama chooses to ignore.

Secretary Panetta only three days ago warned that the proposed super committees recommendation to slash $1.2 trillion in the defense budget could result in aggression towards the United States. In Ohio alone (home to Wright-Patteson AFB), we could active duty military go from 8,000 to 1,000 (as though Ohio needs any more help with unemployment!). Panetta then sounded the alarm that any military action against Iran would at best slow their nuclear program by only about three years. Furthermore, the Sec Def feels (in my opinion correctly) that any strike against Iran would bring retaliation from the Persians (sorry, Iranians).

Given all of Panetta's calls for caution, it seems incredulous that President Obama would seek to continue to antagonize Iran with sanctions. Senator Lindsey Graham's words are just ridiculous. The United States does not need to go to war with Iran and does not need to condone Israeli strikes against Iranian targets. I entered the military at the height of the Cold War and spent most of my early years training how to defeat the Soviet threat. Iran does not pose that order of magnitude threat. And less we all forget, the only country to use nuclear weapons is the United States. If we did not drop the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, then the Soviet Union would not have felt compelled to pursue their nuclear weapons programs with such gusto (yes, I know how many lives are alleged to have been saved by dropping the atomic bombs). With the US and Soviet Union pursuing nuclear weapons, Britain and France followed suit along with North Korea, China, India, Pakistan and Israel (some say even South Africa and Germany). But the United States seems hellbent on stopping the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons regardless of the long term consequences.

Fox News

Israel refuses to tell US its Iran intentions

Ah, now here is a surprise (not!). Israel is not taking the threat of a nuclear Iran lightly. They most likely will be the first target of any Iranian nuclear attack. Therefore, Israel may just take out the Iranian nuclear program. Panetta and Obama want assurance that Israel won't do anything so rash. Needless to say, Israel is saying mind your own damn business. I don't see this situation improving at all.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Iran explosion at Revolutionary Guards military base

The photo above is not photo-shopped, that is a Grumman F-14 Tomcat painted with Iranian paint scheme. Once upon a time, Iran and the US were allies. Shah Pahlavi came to power after WWII and in partnership with the British created the Anglo-Persian Petroleum Oil Company (better known as BP today, minus the Persian part). The Shah was secular Muslim meaning he was very pro-West. The Muslim clerics was none too happy and opposed the Shah. The Shah maintained his power in no small part through his secret police (SAVAK). In keeping with other secret police agencies, SAVAK kidnapped, tortured and murdered any and all opponents to the Shah. The Iranian people grew tired of this crap and staged a revolution most notably by seizing the American embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. The Shah fled into exile and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power re-establishing Iran as a theocracy.

The US and Iran relations have never been the same. The failed rescue attempt (Operation Eagle Claw) was a complete humiliation for US special operations (especially Delta Force) leaving a bad taste in President Reagan's mouth for Iran. He abandoned the former US ally in favor of one Saddam Hussein during the 8 year Iran-Iraq war. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 (much as Hussein would almost a decade later with Kuwait). Iran regained much of the territory and for much of the war, Iran was on the offense. Hussein responded by using chemical weapons. Yes, dear children your read that correctly. The US was an ally of Saddam Hussein who used chemical weapons. Now do you see why George W. thought in 2003 he would find weapons of mass destruction?

Meanwhile, Iranians were not that impressed with a theocratical form of government. The ayatollahs allowed the election of a secular president (who would take orders from them). The sixth and current president of Iran is of course Ahmadinejad. He is the least cooperative with the ayatollahs and is the most hellbent on creating a nuclear weapons capability for Iran. He idolizes the rich history of the Persian Empire and seeks to regain it through the acquisition of nuclear weapons. It is important to understand that the Iranians are Persians, not Arabs. Therefore they are much more inclined to move unilaterally compared to an Arabian country.

Secretary Clinton recognizes this proclivity and has stated outright that the acquisition of nuclear weapons technology by Iran is unacceptable. Ahmadinejad counters by stating Iranian nuclear reactors are strictly for peaceful purposes. Israel is not buying it and has threatened a unilateral (read, non-US) airstrike to take the reactors out. Many (including myself) felt the air campaign against Libya was more of a cautionary tale for Iran than actually supporting Libyan rebels.

A few weeks ago, the US media was not buying a supposed plot uncovered by the Department of Homeland Security staring Iran (surprise!) sponsoring Mexican drug lords (another surprise!) to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US (who?). The plot was such a stretch that none of the cable news networks bought the story. It was quickly overcome by other stories and dropped.

Now the BBC is reporting this explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base. Perhaps I'm just jaded but I suspect we may find out US or Israeli special forces are responsible. Even if they are not, we may see Ahmadinejad claiming they were. May we live in interesting times.

BBC News

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prosecutors raid German arms maker Heckler & Koch’s offices over alleged bribes in Mexico

While Eric Holder claims that the US Attorney General can't be expected to know about Operation Fast and Furious, one of Germany's arms maker seems to have followed suite. Heckler & Koch (H&K) produces some of the most sophisticated weapons in the world including the MP5, G3 and MK23. Their weapons are well made, heavy and the preferred choice of special operators around the world. The reputation and craftsmanship of H&K weapons are such that they command top dollar prices. A typical H&K USP in 9MM will run around $700 or more (a comparable Glock can be had for about $100 less).

It seems H&K executives may have provided weapons to Mexican drug cartels in part to drive up their overseas sales. The actions of both the US Attorney General and H&K are egregious but what is lacking is the outrage against these drug cartels. They are operating way above the law and thus far, the US has not called on the Mexican government to do more. The United States went to war over a single terrorist act but thus far, no outrage has followed the revelations about Fast & Furious. Yes, the BATF should be held accountable for their actions but what about the drug cartels themselves? How much longer are we going to tolerate this undeclared war?

The Washington Post

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told members of the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that he expects the Pentagon's strategic review to be complete by year's end. That review is likely to outline the fate of the Air National Guard's newest airlifter, the C-27J, which embarked on its first deployment to Afghanistan this summer. The service already has purchased 21 aircraft, with plans to purchase 17 more. However, that appears to be under debate as service leaders grapple with fiscal uncertainties. Schwartz said the "decision is not final" over whether to put the remaining C-27Js on the chopping block, but he added that such a move "would be extremely painful to me personally." He explained that he made a "commitment" to retired Gen. George Casey, former Army Chief of Staff, "that I would not do this deal with him and then back out." The C-27J was originally an Army program, but was later transferred to the Air Force. "That was two years ago, so I've got personal skin in this," said Schwartz. But, Schwartz also said that budget constraints are forcing the Air Force to look at reducing entire fleets, "not a few here and a few there.

The C-27J was procured to backfill the tactical airlift gap created by the culling of the C-130s from the Air National Guard. As Katrina proved, the ability of the Air National Guard to use C-130s to move materials into Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana was critical to restoring infrastructure and services. Despite this track record, the 2005 Base Re-Aslignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations was to cull most of the C-130Hs and C-130Js from ANG. The C-27J was a stop-gap to allow the National Guard some tactical airlift for contingency response and homeland security. Barely a year after the first C-27s were fielded, the remaining airframes are in jeopard of being slashed. Not only will these airframes never get purchased, there is no other option available to the states.