Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook

The news has been focused on nothing but the massacre at Sandy Hook.  A lone, disillusioned twenty-something murdered teachers and children.  Instead of a discussion about how American society failed both the victims and the shooter, we have now allowed the politicians and pundits to provide us with their "solutions".

Since the shooter used an "assault rifle", this has generated the requisite liberal outcry for more gun control.  The argument of course turns the more critical issue of our lack of mental health resources into a pathetic sound-byte about gun-control.  The same liberals fail to mention the recent mass murders committed by Anders Breivik.  Denmark is not known for having liberal gun laws yet he was able to purchase an "assault rifle" legally and used it to kill 69 Danish teenagers in July 2011.

The conservatives have been silent, most notably the NRA took down their Facebook page and have not sent out a Tweet since the shooting.  The NRA is supposedly going to conduct a press conference on Friday to announce a initiative to help craft meaningful gun-control.  In the vacuum, the only conservative voice has been former governor Mike Huckabee who has concluded that the massacre occurred because "they" have take God out of schools.

Somehow the American public has allowed a major sociological issue to become a political sound-byte.  A twenty-year old, whose mother was concerned about his mental health, was able to have a confrontation with 4 teachers at a school and return later unmolested by police or security.  Despite these basic facts, most Americans have turned to the federal government to solve a problem that they have profoundly ignored for decades.  The United States systematically eliminated mental health institutions turning patients out on the streets leading to surge in the homeless population.

At the same time, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) became the bible for proscribing medication to anyone demonstrating the symptoms outlined in the manual.  This means that hyper-active children are now prescribed medication instead of learning to deal with their excessive energy in non-pharmological ways.  (Would Leonardo da Vinci even exist in today's world?)  To be fair, this is overly simplistic but it emphasizes the concept that makes my next point.

Instead of institutionalized care (even that term seems politically incorrect), those with mental health issues can now take a pill.  Therein lies the crux of the problem, what happens when the patient does not take their pill?  Patients may not take their medications due to a lack of health insurance, feeling better or simply not want to feel under the influence.  Once they stop, their symptoms return.  In the case of the Sandy Hook shooter, he may not have been seen by a mental health professional so his condition was untreated.

But even if he was undiagnosed/untreated, it still does not answer how he was able to return to the school AFTER he was in a altercation with four school teachers (and I assume witnesses).  The answer is the second sociological problem, the United Sates has become the land of lawsuits.  School administrators were probably worried that if they called the police, the shooter (I refuse to give him any notoriety on my blog) would go out and hire a "Gloria Allred" who would sue the school district for violating his civil rights.

Our thin-skinned, lawsuit-prone society has made us more vulnerable.  Dangerous people have to actually do something (other than terrorists) before legal action can be taken.  Look at stalkers.  Most women are at the mercy of the stalker until they threaten to do something and law enforcement actually has proof.  Unfortunately the "proof" sometimes is the assault or murder of the victim.

We will hear about gun-control and the loss of Constitutional rights for the foreseeable future and no one will point out that it has nothing to do with what happened.  Columbine is remembered for the shootings but everyone forgets to mention the propane bombs that were going to be the primary way of killing.  It was only when those dumb asses could not get the bombs to detonate, they went on their shooting spree.  Even Breivik first used bombs before he went on a shooting spree.

My point is we are focusing more on the "how" instead of the "why".  No matter what legislation the federal government passes we will not be any safer.  Our modern society is less connected with each other making it harder to really know who is struggling with problems.  Compound that with a litigation-happy legal system and we are in no real position to identify and stop problems before they happen.

Imagine what an organized, terrorist organization can do with all of this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Syrian may be producing Sarin

Reports are that Syria may be producing Sarin gas.  Sarin is a nerve agent that is usually not mixed until it is required since it is highly corrosive, volatile and dangerous.  Sarin gas was used by Aum Shinrikyo to attack the Tokyo subway in 1995.  Turkey had earlier requested the Patriot missile system in anticipation that Syria would start using chemical weapons against the rebels.

Chemical weapons are imprecise.  Winds and other meteorological factors can reduce or even neutralize the weapon before it effects people.  Chemical weapons tend not to be pervasive and it is hard to concentrate enough to be effective on a wide area to produce mass casualties.  Sarin is extremely deadly, a mere drop will kill a human.

Chemical weapons are then much more about the psychological impact then about gaining any military advantage.  You risk poisoning your troops just as much as your enemies.  The Assad government is obviously feeling the rebels may be getting the upper hand and wants to inflict a psychological blow to the moral of the rebels.  Assad may also be giving a middle finger to the Western world that he would do something so reprehensible.

The United States is not helping matters by alternating focus between Iran and Syria.  At the same time, major changes are occurring at CIA, State and DoD.  It may be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of the US going through a period of transition.

The continued focus on Iran's nuclear program will be seen by some as forcing Syria to escalate into chemical weapons.  We may also see Syria cells activated in the US threatening to use chemical weapons or cyber attacks.  Iran has remained somewhat quiet in the last year but may also have cells that will be activated in the US.  We are going into the holiday season and with multiple college bowl games and the Super Bowl coming up, there are soft targets that could be threatened by a terrorist attack.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Iran working on nuclear bomb

According to the AP, an anonymous source sent in a diagram demonstrating that Iranian scientists are working on a nuclear bomb. For some reason, this is a boogeyman to the US and Israel.

From the US perspective, a single nuclear bomb in the hands of Iran is cause for contemplating war yet it is extremely unlikely that Iran has the capability of developing a ballistic nuclear weapon capable of striking the US. During the Cold War, both the US and Soviet Union built thousands of nuclear weapons for fear that not all would work.

From the Israeli perspective, Iron Dome has shown great efficacy in defeating Syrian ballistic missiles so it should prove minimally to be a deterrent and maximally a countermeasure to an attack.

Given both of these conditions, the build-up of a nuclear powered Iran seems excessive. North Kore has had a nuclear capability for a longer period of time has yet has yet to seriously takes steps towards attacking the United States. Pakistan and India, two diametrically opposed nations, both have nuclear weapons yet have not launched them at each other.

The other problem with the Iranian nuclear bomb scare is that it totally misses the real threat of a cyber attack. Stuxnet effectively attack Iran's power grid and nuclear facilities. The US faces a far greater threat should our banking systems of power grids be attacked, it would be far more devastating than even multiple nuclear weapons.

AP story here

Monday, November 26, 2012

Iron Dome

By now, you must have heard about the Iron Dome that defended Israel against Syrian missiles.  Most reports say Iron Dome was 84% successful taking out over 400 incoming missiles while losing any six Israeli lives.

Perhaps but as these reports are open sourced, the numbers are probably inflated with some experts suggesting more around 40-50% success rate.  We have no way of truly knowing but one thing is for sure, Iron Dome did not produce 100% kills.  Meaning, Syrian technicians got some things right.  Israel needs to be be concerned that Syria does not figure out what they got wrong before the next upgrade is made to Iron Dome.

Whenever one side scores a technological advantage, that sends the other side into overtime figuring out how to beat it.  Israel will not sit idle but neither will Syria in trying to defeat Iron Dome.

The other problem is one of numbers.  Syria fired over 400 missiles at Israel.  Syria needs to only fire more missiles than Iron Dome can fire.  That leads to the only other option for Israel, to attack and destroy the Syrian Air Force on the ground before they can be launched.

Turkey asked for and received the Patriot system to protect its borders from Syria.  Basically, a campaign of slow escalation is being waged against Syria.  The next concern is how much longer will Israel put up with the threat they perceive from Iran?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

China lands first jet on aircraft carrier

US assessments of China's carrier was just slightly off. It was apparently believed (or hoped?) that China was still years away from actually landing a jet aircraft on a carrier. Now according to CNN, not has China accomplished this feat but may be well on its way to producing more carriers. The scandal surrounding Patreus and a possible ascension of Susan Rice to Secretary of State does little to position the US to assess the true threat of China's increasingly modern military.

Oil and Azerbaijan

Marie Antoinette, when told the peasants were out of bread due to a lack of wheat, famously quipped "Let them eat cake!".  The quote is one of the best known examples of a super wealthy class becoming so completely removed from the rest of the population they are unable to understand it.

We like to pretend that we have the situation here in the Untied States and to a certain extent that is true.  Super wealthy athletes and entertainers experience idolization and indulgence that rivals royalty.  Stock brokers and CEOs play fast and furious with stock options, rarely ever having to face the employees laid off due to a devalued stock.  As Americans, we firmly believe some or all of these explanations for why there is such discord in the United States.  We know that the United States is still the number one economic power and thus our experience is unique.

What is often forgotten is that elsewhere, wealth is even more concentrated into the hands of an elite few families.  Some resident in countries that we've heard of; Saudi Arabia (the Saud family), the Netherlands (Queen Beatrix, she of the Royal Dutch Shell corporation), and Azerbaijan.  What?  Take a look at this picture from the Daily Mail;

These are the wealthiest of Azerbaijani women who are bathing in crude oil.  Azerbaijan produces over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day (based on 2011 figures).  This is not a new phenomena, oil drilling first started in Azerbaijan in 1871 and has been going non-stop ever since.  By 1898, production exceeded that of the United States.  Before the outbreak of World War I, three companies controlled 86 percent of the oil in Azebaijan (Russian General Oil Company, Partnership of Nobel Brothers, and Royal Dutch Shell).

The oil industry is also why relations have never been good between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  Armenians ran almost 1/3 of the oil industry in Azerbaijan by 1900.

In 1920, only 1800 qualified specialists worked in the Russian oil industry of which 1232 worked in Azerbaijan. The industry urgently needed technology, education and specialists. The scientific exchange started with the US, where visitors from Baku were seconded to oil-fields in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, California, Texas, learned new methods of well deepening and exploitation. The Azerbaijan State Oil Academy was established in 1920 to train oil specialists.

Just is this brief history, we can see all of the major oil powers (US, Royal Dutch Shell and Russia) having a presence in Azerbaijan.  Looking at the map below, you may see some other interesting thing.

Geography can often tell us more than words.  The Bake oil fields in Azerbaijan sit right on the Caspian Sea which is controlled by Russia (it is also land locked which we will get to in a minute).  Azerbaijan is bordered by Georgia, Armenia and Iran.  Armenia in-turn borders Turkey (a NATO member).  This should now make the situation in Iran and Syrian even more concerning as conflicts in either region could spill into Azerbaijan and its oil fields.

As I noted, the Caspian Sea is land-locked making exporting its valuable oil difficult beyond the region, especially the lucrative European markets. This problem was solved by the agreement for the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline among Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey in 1998. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was officially opened on July 13, 2006 and now transports crude oil 1,760 km (1,090 mi) from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

The map above shows one of the main reasons for US and Europe to be concerned about conflicts in the region.  Syria taking pot-shots at Turkey could interrupt oil flow to Europe.  It also explains why France was so keen on being involved in the Libyan conflict, a hedge against any interruptions to the BTC pipeline.

We also see a reason for Russia's support of Iran.  A war with Iran could place US forces within striking distance of Baku.  Europe would feel better with the oil fields being under Washington rather the Moscow's influence. In Iran, the mullahs despise all they see in Azerbaijan, including its open business and diplomatic ties to Israel and the West. Tehran withdrew its ambassador in protest at the staging of Eurovision so nearby.  British royalty and high level government officials travel here frequently.  Read more about that here Daily Mail--"Filthy rich: Britain's favourite dictatorship"

Keep your eyes on the pipeline.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thousands of Portuguese soldiers protest budget cuts

Here is an effect of the failing Euro that you don't hear much about; the cuts to military spending. The Portuguese Army has around 44,000 personnel, the equivalent to 4 US Army brigades. The Portuguese military is much more a homeland defense than a global military. Yet, even with this relative small role cuts to spending are having a severe impact on the service members salaries. One senior naval officer quoted in the article has had an average of 500-2,000 Euros cut from his salary each year since 2005.

The failing Euro and subsequent cuts to the European militaries mean they are less able to execute their missions. The morale of the Portuguese military is shot. The environment is ripe for insurrection, revolution or even a regional conflict.

The US should take heed before mandatory cuts to military spending start taking effect next year. The world is far less stable then we would like to think.


Friday, November 9, 2012

CIA director submits his resignation to President Obama

This could not have come at a worst time. The CIA is still struggling with its over-emphasis on technology versus HUMINT (spies) to collect actionable intelligence. The State Department will be getting a new secretary and the change in things could signal Iran to pick a fight with Isreal (or vice versa).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hillary Clinton due to step down as Secretary of State 'within days' of start of Barack Obama's second term

I was not a fan of Hilary Clinton, First Lady under her husband President Clinton. Nor was I a fan of candidate Clinton running for the Democratic nomination in 2008. I have become a fan though of Secretary of State Clinton. She has had to navigate some of the most difficult foreign policy challenges facing a modern administration. She has managed, not the President, to keep the situation in Syria from escalating into a war with Iran. She has kept Russia and China at bay while dealing with the Arab Spring. She wont' receive the status of Henry Kissinger but Hilary Clinton didn't pretty damn well as the Secretary of State. And that is my concern, she is now leaving with Syria still ripping its throat out and Ahmadinejad being smug over how much it cost to re-elect the President. As I've posted previously, Russian attack subs seem to come and go as they please in US waters. I think we are going to miss this Secretary of State.

Daily Mail

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Russian attack sub discovered just 200 miles from the East Coast and given safe harbor from Hurricane Sandy

"U.S. defense officials are downplaying the potential threat of a Russian attack sub detected just 200 miles from the East Coast and given safe harbor in Florida during Hurricane Sandy."

This is not the first time a Russian submarine has entered US waters. Attacks subs have been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico as they were EXITING. I know it is the silly season when all eyes become glued to the TV to see who is the next president, but this is somewhat disturbing. Either the Russian Navy has really stepped-up the stealth technology or the US Navy is falling down on the job.

Daily Mail

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gaddafi was killed by French secret serviceman on orders of Nicolas Sarkozy, sources claim

I like a good conspiracy and this one fits like a glove.

France has a long history of employing the French Foreign Legion (an early version of today's private military institutions such as the infamous Blackwater) in undeclared conflicts. That is statesman jargon for invading without declaring a war. The French Foreign Legion consists entirely of foreigners, normally seeking a new identity as a French citizen.

The Legion could, in the eyes of the French, be used covertly and should they be discovered their actions can be dismissed by the French government since they are not citizens.

Infiltrating a spy into Gaddafi's camp is rather consistent with the French (and the American and the British) way of handling foreign policy. Libya produces 2 percent of the world's oil. France needs access to cheap oil, having been cut out of the other Middle Eastern producing nations by first the British and then the United States.

France's Sarkozy is implicated in the article for his overtures to Gaddafi back in 2008. Sarkozy then took the lead in the air campaign over Libya 3 years later. It insured France would be at the table when the powers that be divid-up Libya's oil production.

Daily Mail

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is anyone paying attention?

Tis the election season which means every off-handed remark made by a candidate or incumbent will be dissected and replayed in the media ad nausea.  While part of our political process, this has by necessity pushed many other stories to the back or completely off of the radar.

For example, in the last week China and Japan are on the verge of going to war over some uninhabited
islands in the Senkaku chain.  Japan purchased several islands and took immediate occupancy igniting old tensions between the two nations.  

If you think this is hardly a reason to go to war, you need to go read about the Falklands War and how Britain and Argentina went to war over some rocky islands with only a few inhabitants.

The Chinese government is being pressure by thousands of anti-Japanese protestors who want China to take a hardline with Japan.  China has sent navy vessels to sit off the coast of the islands with the ominous warning from their defense minister to be prepared to go to war.

In response Japan has closed many of its plants (including Honda which makes over 900,000 cars per year at the plant in China).  Japan is not looking to back down and tensions are running high.

Secretary of Defense Panetta expressed his concerns which in turn forced him to reassure China that the US is not trying to contain China.  Panetta has maintained the US is neutral in this situation and is not taking sides despite the existence of the Taiwan Relations Act.  The act basically says the US treats Taiwan as an independent nation even though China does not recognize Taiwan's independence.

Meanwhile Syria has started bombing targets in Lebanon forcing refugees to flee to Turkey or Jordan.  In turn, Turkish and Syrian forces are clashing on the border.  Remember, Turkey is a member of NATO so at some point an attack by Syria will be considered an attack on NATO.

Then in the Persian Gulf, US and Allied Forces navy minesweepers are trying to keep the Straits of Hormuz open.  At the same time, Iranian has just launched a refurbished Russian attack submarine. A Tareq-901 heavy attack submarine was sold to Iran and refurbished by the Iranian Navy (along with Russian Navy technical experts.

Finally, the green on blue violence is continuing unabated in Afghanistan causing the US military to suspend joint patrols in theater. The situation in Afghanistan, Obama's forgotten war, has seen an ugly increase on US and NATO deaths.  Prince Harry, after his embarrassing  Vegas trip, finds himself right in the middle of this increased violence while being personally threatened with a bounty for his death.

Somehow, the comments of politicians seem a little less important in comparison.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Post Arab Spring

No, it isn't about a low-budget film posted on YouTube by some bogus film maker. The violence we are now seeing in Egypt, Libya and Yemen has to do with long standing power grabs in the Middle East. The movie is just a sound bite for the Western media that doesn't understand history.

One of the "victories" of the Arab Spring (at least in the eyes of the West) was the ouster of President Mubarak who proved to be an exceptionally cruel thug. Things are not always what they seem, especially in the world of foreign affairs.

President Mubarak became the Egyptian leader after President Sadat's assassination in 1981. Sadat is remembered more for his national-building between Egypt and Israel rather than his decisive in the 1973 conflict that re-aquired territory lost to Israel three years earlier.

President Sadat was an unknown who came up under President Nasser. In those days, Egypt was just emerging as a former colony so there was no real mechanism for establishment of a government. The strain ultimately killed Nasser and set the stage for Sadat's ascension.

With some many different factions vying for power, Sadat had to work with some keeping factions. Enter the Muslim Brotherhood. The modern incarnation of the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in 1928 as an Islamist group looking to establish a pan-Islamist state in response to British colonialism. The group quickly spread to other North African countries.

The Muslim Brotherhood ends up getting sideways with Nasser when they are accused of an attempted assasination. Nasser abolished the group and imprisoned and tortured its members.

A writer named Sayyid Qutb started to prosthelytize the need to restore Islam by overthrowing modern Islamic states. Other branches of the Muslim brotherhood embraced this ideology but the Egyptian branch maintained a non-violent approach.

After Nasser's death, Sadat enlisted the Muslim Brotherhood to combat leftist groups but the Muslim Brotherhood remained illegal under the Sadat Administration. The signing of the peace accord with Israel led a violent Islamist splinter group to assassinate Sadat.

When Nasser took over, two things occurred. Students disenfranchised with Mubarak's policies joined the Muslim Brotherhood. In response, Mubarak arrested, harassed and basically shut-out the Muslim Brotherhood from the Egyptian politically system.

Continued pressure by the Muslim Brotherhood eventually wore down the political barriers in 2000, 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were elected to parliament. Of course, the pressure by the Mubarak administration allowed the more radical elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to assume prominence in the movement.

Mubarak amended the constitution to prohibiting independents from running for parliament. In 2010, all of the Muslim Brotherhood members lost their seats. This set the stage for the Arab Spring, the fall of Mubarak, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Mubarak and Gaddafi were ruthless thugs that did not hesitate to use violence to suppress opposition. What is often overlooked in condemnation of these thugs is how many other thugs they are keeping at bay so that when they fall, other more violent inevitably follow. The West then wonders out loud, how did that happen?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is the Arab Spring turning into an Arab Winter?

Hang on to your hat, kiddies! As Martin Lawrence said in bad boys, "the shit just got real!". Violent protests are sweeping across the Muslim world following a bloody attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, as U.S. officials say they are sending warships to the coast of the volatile country.

Daily Mail

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aging before their time

Veterans Affairs Department scientists say returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans' bodies appear to be aging at an accelerated rate, reports USA Today. In addition to the psychological signs of post-traumatic stress and the effects of traumatic brain injuries, many former military personnel in their 20s and 30s are showing alarming early signs of heart disease and diabetes, slowed metabolisms, and obesity—maladies that usually surface later in life, states the newspaper's Sept. 6 report. "They should have been in the best shape of their lives," said William Milberg, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychology involved in this research. He added, "The big worry, of course, is we're going to be taking care of them until they're in their 70s. What's going to happen to them in the long run?" Researchers still aren't sure that their hypothesis is correct, according to the report. However, medical personnel are hoping they can get ahead of the problem "rather than waiting out 20 years to see [the combat veterans] wind up with early death and stroke and cardiovascular disease," said Ann Rassmusson, a psychiatrist and neurobiologist.--From the Air Force Association Daily Report

Monday, August 20, 2012

The US debacle in Afghanistan

If true, this only demonstrates that hostility to the American military occupation is so widespread and deep among the Afghan population that any incident can provide the spark to provoke violent resistance. This is the case after ten years and $43 billion devoted by the US military to training an Afghan military and police force to do its bidding.
e US debacle in Afghanistan

I was talking to a colleague at work today about the US relationship to the mujahideen which was the precursor to al Qaeda. The CIA provided Stinger missiles to Osama bin Laden and the mujahideen to fight the Soviet invasion. Even back in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden was based in Pakistan and not Afghanistan so why did we spend the billions to hunt him in the wrong country?

American and NATO troops need to be pulled out. Their purpose ended with Osama bin Laden's death. The continued military presence is only resulting in resentment and continued attacks against our troops.

Russian rein deer games

A Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks and its travel in strategic U.S. waters was only confirmed after it left the region Silent Running
Russian and before that Soviet bombers regularly would play tag with US interceptors along the Alaskan airspace. But recent reports show now a more aggressive and wider area with Russian bombers flying along the Pacific airspace. Now comes a report that a Russian attack submarine was operating in the Gulf of Mexico. It is as though the Russians are bragging that they can penetrate the US defense zones undetected. These incursions bolster Putin's position to grow the Russian military (he recently announced a $3 billion plan to upgrade the Russian military). It also makes you wonder how far the US military has been reduced that the Russians are feeling the need to test us. It also means that Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney are going to have an very interesting time on their hands if we end up going to war in Syria or Iran. We will not be able to focus on waging combat operations abroad and defend the homeland against a military power.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Israeli minister warns of 30-day war with Iran

A strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would spark a 30-day war with missile attacks on Israel's cities and as many as 500 dead, according to the Israeli minister responsible for preparing home defences.Telegraph
The above is from an article in the Telegraph. The jingoism in the assessment is alarming in that Israel does not perceive a conflict with Iran as having consequences beyond their own casualties. I also struggle with the small number of predicted casualties (500 according to the article) as the result of a 30 day missile war. A few missile strikes could result in that amount in just a few hours.

The rhetoric for attacking Syria in the US has been staying strong for the last few weeks and now the Turks and French have joined in. It looks more and more like a perfect storm leading to a major conflict in the Middle East. On the homefront, the US has had two horrific mass murders first in Aurora, Colorado and then the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. There have also been several incidents on armed men showing up in movie theaters. At least one ended up with the vigilante shooting himself in the posterior.

The Internet is fueling passions for conflict with a posting of a document claimed to be a training document for the US Army to attack US citizens in 2016 after the Tea Party leads a revolution in South Carolina. The essay may have been one of those papers someone going through the War College writes as a "what if" exercise but once it hit the Internet, it is now "doctrine" in the minds of conspiracy buffs.

Oh and less I forget, Putin has decided to increase military spending to modernize the Russian military. Gee, I wonder who he is getting ready to deal with?

All of these events make 2012 look like an rather destabilized time. However, the predictions of terrorist attacks at the recently concluded London Olympics did not happen so perhaps all of this sabre rattling will also go silent. It is just seems the preponderance of scenarios makes it unlikely that at least one conflict will not occur before the end of the year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


From AFA Daily Update: Russia plans to invest heavily to rebuild and modernize its air force by 2020, said Russian President Vladimir Putin. He announced this plan at the Moscow Air Show on Aug. 11 in comments marking the Russian air force's 100th anniversary, reported the Associated Press (via ABC News). Putin aims to re-equip the air force with 600 new fixed-wing aircraft, such as the Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter, and 1,000 new rotary-wing platforms, with deliveries starting this year, according to the report. "I'm sure, each of us will feel pride for the country, for the people who build such aircraft and pilot them," he added, stressing the government's commitment to defense revitalization. Russia reportedly intends to spend some $625 billion on new weapons through 2020. "I want to thank those who helped our air force survive during a difficult period in the 1990s and the early 2000s," said Putin.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

U.S. Fires on Persian Gulf Boat, 1 Dead

A Navy official said it's not uncommon for Iranian speed craft to harass U.S. ships in the region, but in this case the boat wasn't Iranian.

"I can't emphasize enough that this has nothing to do with Iran," the official said.

Really? If we weren't trying to pick a fight with Iran, would our Navy ships be in a position to have to defend themselves? Ah but you say this was a set-up, the US Navy is trying to instigate. Well read on.

Raelson said the small motor vessel that was hit by gunfire from the Rappahannock was "approaching at a high rate of speed" and "on a deliberate approach."

Another Navy official said it was "on a course that would have caused it to impact the Rappahanock... It wasn't just close, it was on a course that would have ultimately taken it to impact."

Why would anyone come full speed at a military ship? The smaller ship had on board four Indians and one Emirat. Interesting how the United Arab Emirates has already come out and said it does not appear to be an act of terrorism. Even our drunkest American boaters don't roll up on a US Navy ship at high speed on an intercept course. You know you will receive the same fate as the boaters in the Gulf war. The incident just keeps reminding me of a term from the Reagan era, plausible deniability. There were no Iranians or Syrians on the craft but why would 4 Indians and one Emirat find it necessary to harass a US Naval warship? Me thinks someone wants to pick a fight and it isn't just the US.

ABC News

Thursday, July 12, 2012

U.S. moving submersibles to Persian Gulf to oppose Iran

The L.A. Times is reporting, "The U.S. already has sent two aircraft carriers and a squadron of F-22 fighters to the Persian Gulf, and is keeping two U.S. army brigades in Kuwait. Though much of the buildup has been publicly acknowledged by the Pentagon, the deployment of the submersibles has not been publicly disclosed, apparently to avoid alerting Iran."

The Iranian missiles can just as easily be used against surface ships as land based targets. While some of the US Navy have anti-missile systems, not all do. As the map points out, the Straights of Hormuz are very narrow. Any conflicts will surely result in high causalities on both sides.

The US is putting most of naval might into the region, meanwhile Putin is putting his 11 warships in the Mediterranean. It seems inevitable that with so many combatants in the area it is only a matter of time before someone starts shooting.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reporting for duty

The Tsezar Kunikov pictured above is one of 11 Russian naval vessels that will partake in exercises off the cost of Syria. The Tsezar Kunikov and Nikolai Filchenkov are fleet landing craft that carry Marines. President Putin seems to have sent this flotilla as a counter to the increasing likelihood of military action by the West. The fleet will keep the Obama Administration on its toes since they will to look at Bear bombers encroaching on the West and the Russian Navy in the Middle East. A smaller contingent of Russian ships had successfully kept the West from launching airstrikes into Syria. The larger flotilla seems to also be in a position to deploy troops rapidly if that option becomes necessary. President Obama and Secretary Clinton may have to wait a bit longer before they can pick a fight with Mr. Assad or Mr. Ahmadinejad. On the other hand, Mr. Putin seems ready to pick one with them. Russia Sending Warships on Maneuvers Near Syria

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Russia's Putin says the West is on the decline

Quick, what happened to all of the hardline Soviet Communists when the Soviet Union fell? Well they certainly did not all give up their ideology and some even have become president....
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the West's influence was waning as its economy declines but warned Russian diplomats to be on their guard against a backlash from Moscow's former Cold War enemies.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Looking at the vodka and tea (Russia and China)

The crisis in Syria is now spilling into Lebanon while the US and EU seem powerless to stop short of military action.  Military forces in Syria means increased risk of war with Iran (which has already taken he ugly step of testing its missiles).

The US and NATO (which is more or less the armed forces of the EU) have demonstrated an ability and desire to launch airstrikes in Libya.  As I've pointed out before, the check for US and NATO is the alliance between Russia and China.  The former has positioned naval vessels off the coast of Syria.  The latter continues to check every diplomatic or economic maneuver the US or EU tries.

Russia has for the second time in as many weeks entered the US air defense identification zone (ADIZ), this time in the Pacific.  Whereas the first would seem to target Fort Greely in Alaska, the latest seems to target Vandenberg AFB in California.  The Obama Administration's response, in keeping with its reset policy, is to announce another cut of 1,000 to 1,500 nuclear warheads.  Reducing the number of weapons in the face of increasing aggression makes no sense.  Russia does not follow any kind of Marquess of Queensbury Rules.  Getting rid of your weapons in the face of Bear Bombers indicates you don't have the stomach for a fight.

It also makes the US position weak in the Middle East.  While both the Bush and Obama Administration have shown a willingness to go to war in the region, none of their previous targets had such a strong backing from Russia and China.

Secretary Clinton is trying to get Assad's opponents to make Russia and China "pay the price" for helping the Syrian leader maintain power.  The absurdity of this statement caused the Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Weimin to snap "Any words and deeds that slander China and sow discord between China and other countries will be in vain".  Touché.

Meanwhile, China has been busy in this hemisphere while the Obama Administration has been focused on the Middle East.  Argentina's defense minister spent six days in China signing military agreements and praising their military technology.  Defense Minister Puricelli calls China an economic, political, and military partner that shares a strategic position in international security that is entirely consistent.  Beijing was quoted as saying China wants to do more with Argentina.

The US has not forged any new military alliances as it heads into an uncertain future in the Middle East.  The Obama Administration may be tempted to seize re-election gold by launching an attack against Syria (likely) or Iran (frightening).  The repercussions will well outlive the elections and may be the start of a Third World War.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Israel "must be wiped off the page of time"

So said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.  On Sunday, Iran took another step towards picking a fight with Israel when it announced missile tests.  The tests are a response to the European Union's banning imports of Iranian oil by its members (as though the EU doesn't have enough on its mind these days).  

All of this gamesmanship is about preventing Iran from developing a bomb.  The west is convinced that Iran's nuclear power program is merely a cover for developing long range nuclear weapons.  Iran sees the US, Britain, France and most likely Israel as having nuclear weapons yet preventing the Persians from entering the stage.

Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons yet it is not not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) making it easy for the West to ignore the hypocrisy of claiming Iran is the sole destabilizing force in this situation.  (Note; the NPT also does not recognize North Korea, Pakistan or India as nuclear states yet there is little denying the three possess nuclear weapons).  It puts into a whole different perspective threats by Israel that it will not tolerate Iran's possession of nuclear weapons.

According to Yeganeh Torbati reporting for Reuters, Washington sees the sanctions and talks as a potential way out of the standoff to avert the need for military action, but has not said it would block Israel from attacking Iran.  The US has deployed F-22 fighters to the United Arab Emirates and maintains a huge presence in both Bahrain (the US 5th Fleet) and Qatar (Al Udeid AB). 

The US is concerns about a nuclear Iran is centered more on oil and the Tehran embassy crisis than in reality.  Pakistan and India are two of the most theologically and politically opposed nations in the world now and both possess nuclear weapons.  Thus far, they have avoided any serious confrontation although there has been many incidents of missile testing.  Iran is attempting to enter the nuclear world stage which requires the appropriate level of fanfare.  Yet Israel very likely has possessed nuclear weapons since the mid-1970s without the corresponding nuclear crisis one might expect.

Iran is serving as the latest boogeyman, a role formerly held by the Soviet Union.  However, unlike the Soviets the Iranians don't have the requisite numbers to be of a real threat to the US.  The real concern for the US is a nuclear capable Iran could spell trouble for the regions oil supplies.  Saudi Arabia especially is concerned about facing their ancient foes again armed this time with long range nuclear weapons.

The Syrian crisis is serving only to make matters worse.  Attacking a NATO nation has already resulted in the EU sticking its nose in something that will only make Iran more desperate.  The US tried sanctions against Iran a long time in response to the Tehran Embassy crisis with little result. These sanctions will only make Iran's relations with China and Russia stronger.

The West seems determined to have a conflict in the Middle East, especially with Iran.  If that does happen, I don't see how it does not make Russia and China stronger while the US and Europe use up their military might.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So much for "reset"

President Obama won in large part by being "anyone other than Bush".  He promised to bring the troops home out of Afghanistan and Iraq.  He eventually did bring the troops in Iraq home but first increased troop levels in Afghanistan.  He also whacked Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awalki (who still held US citizenship when it was revoked via missile). President Obama also authorized the use of airpower to help whack Muammar Gaddafi (who was whacked old-school via a bullet to the back of the head).  President Obama has also made no bones about potentially whacking Iran if it doesn't knock of the nuclear power wanna-be stuff.  He doesn't seem opposed to taking on Syria as well.

My irreverent review of the Obama Administration was to help better set the stage for the title of this blog.  While President Obama was still the darling of the foreign policy world (read, before he started to assassinate everyone George W. had missed), his administration started of policy of warming relations with the Soviet Union (er, Russia I mean!) called "reset".  (Why American leaders feel the need to give some goofy title to relations with Russia escapes me.  Detente, MAD, even perestroika).  Unfortunately for President Obama, Vladmir Putin has a different vision for Russia.  He firmly believes Gorbachev and Yelstin destroyed the honor and glory of mother Russia and Putin is hellbent on restoring it.  Having grown up as a KGB agent, he still remembers the glory days of the Cold War.  So while the American president was busy picking fights with Islam, Putin has gone old-school with Arctic war games.

USAF veterans will remember Bear bombers constantly testing our air defense response.  It almost become de rigueur for F-15 pilots in Alaska to intercept a TU-95 (pictured above).   The difference was both sides got the Cold War and played their respective roles acceding to script.  The 21st Century versions is more sinister.  The US thinks of Russia as a friend, Russia sees the US as a former superpower that is in its way.  With most of the US military diverted to the continuing crisis in the Middle East, the Russians might just keep bumping nasty with the Alaskan F-15s.  Hopefully everyone will still have a copy of the old script to go by.

The Bear at the Door

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bomb explodes outside Tunisian consulate in Tripoli

First the Muslim Brotherhood wins the election in Egypt and now we start to get back at the original trouble-maker of the Arab Spring. Could the Obama administration be just crazy enough to risk military action in Syria to help win the election?


Monday, June 25, 2012

Turkey to push NATO to consider attack

"Turkey will push NATO to consider the jet's downing under Article 5 in a key alliance treaty. Article 5 states that an attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against all members." Fox News

Fox News is reporting that Turkey will push for NATO to consider the shoot down of their het as an attack against the alliance.  It is unlikely that the US or European members of NATO will approve this action.  It is further unlikely that the UN or Arab League will support such a resolution.  However, it does beg the question of what would constitute an attack on NATO or would there be such a weak reply if the attack had been on a European or American fighter?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Syria says it downed Turkish jet

A Turkish F-4 was claimed to be shot down by the Syrian military.  The violence set into motion by the Arab Spring only continues to worsen within Syria so the shoot down of a NATO ally fighter jet is not a good omen.  World War I was launched in part because of the complicated series of alliances between European nations.  Once Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, it was inevitable that Europe would plunge into war.  Syria is now plunged into internal violence while most of Europe struggles with the failure of the Greek economy (and its struggles to prevent similar fates in Italy, Spain and Portugal).

The original intent of NATO was to protect Europe from attack by the Soviet Union.  NATO is not exclusively European; both the US and Canada are members (France left early on due to differences with NATO policies).  Turkey is the only Muslim nation that is a member of both NATO and the EU.  In effect, an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.  The cynic in me believes this attack will provide the cause for military action in Syria (which is perhaps why the US has increased the number of fighter aircraft and Navy ships in the region).

Syria says it downed Turkish jet

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some cry 'coup' as Egypt's highest court annuls parliament, military extends power

"Everything about Egypt's revolution has been unexpected, and the first-round results in the country's first-ever competitive presidential elections are no different," Omar Ashour, director of Middle East studies at the University of Exeter and visiting scholar at the Brookings Doha Center, wrote for Project Syndicate previously.

I don't understand that statement. Mubarak came to power throughout the assassination of Anwar Sadat (who in turn had come to power through the Muslim brotherhood). Mubarak is overthrown during the Arab Spring and now the latest parliament is dissolved by a military coup. What is unexpected about that? The Muslim Brotherhood has never had a regional, coordinated effort before but it does have its eye on creating a pan-Islamic state in North Africa. Of course the more interesting question is once the military takes over, who is left to force them out?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Detect to Protect?

The first alternative is to aerosolize known quantities of a well-characterized, non-pathogenic, microbiological organism within the subway system to demonstrate positive detection of the material by the sensor network installed in several underground stations. Activity in the subway stations should be at peak operational capacity for trains and passengers to most closely simulate the conditions that would likely exist in the event of a true bio-terrorist attack. 

The DHS document (link at the end) does have other alternatives but that it should even appear as a published idea is concerning.  The history of these types of "tests" is unimpressive at best and if nothing else, could give would-be terrorists ideas on how to build better weapons or attacks.

Detect to Protect

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Homeland Security Prose Poem

Working at a community produces some unique opportunities for collaboration. I share with my colleagues the latest about world affairs, the military or homeland security. In return, I get some interesting insights from those in the sciences or liberal arts. For instance, upon reading the DHS list of words used to scour for "threats" my good friend who chairs the English department set pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and composed this little ditty;

 Domestic Security This drill we do, the one that scatters my synapses like cops in disaster assistance mode, the building surrounded as they attempt recovery of good intentions pitching themselves through smoke out-belching windows as the structure melts below them, not that there’s no value in the exercise of cleaning up the dirty bomb that is our lives, but if national preparedness were a metaphor for what we’ve together become, we’re beyond prevention, orange alert, even mitigation of this, which I cannot stress enough, is not metaphor for the attack on the offices of my well-being, hypothetical or otherwise, unclear as I am on rules of enforcement or response or authorities under which I might address this attack of itself complete, type of the modern, roll through my chant with all your lawless music.--Author, Geoffrey Woolf

 I told him that such prose could not be left to our Facebook musings and must be shared with the masses. He responded with alacrity which in-turn generated some envy amongst his other Facebook friends. What can I say? I work at a college!

US military warns Syria as pressure builds on Obama

Last month, the United States positioned F-22 fighters in the United Arab Emirates (without much fanfare). The location of the UAE to both Syria and Iran seemed to indicate an escalation in military options for either of the situations. Now for the first time in the media, we have the United States indication military intervention in Syria is an option. It has always seemed hypocritical of the US to have led the air campaign in Libya while taking a more measured approach with Syria. The massacres being committed by the Assad regime are just incomprehnsible but so is continuing to pursue UN sanctions that are blocked by Russia and China.


At the same time, Reuters is now reporting about the "Flame" cyber weapon which appears to a stronger, more complex relative of Stuxnet. Stuxnet effectively shut-down systems in Iran's nuclear reactor facilities. Preliminary reports indicated Stuxnet was the result of some type of US/Israeli collaboration. The Reuters article does not make that connection but does indicate that "Flame" is present infected computers in Pakistan, Syria and Iran. Therefore it seems the release of information concerning "Flame" was to coincide with the US saber-rattling. The increase threats of US military intervention also seem linked to the Presidential elections with surging Romney calling for more action by President Obama.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Anarchist group vows to wage 'low level warfare' on Olympics

I blame Tom Clancy.  His novels weave complicated threads of political ambitions executed via super soldiers and spies.  You can't write 1,000 page novels without having large scale plans carried out against a global backdrop.  Clancy's novel are extremely popular amongst military and government employees, thus when 9/11 occurred it confirmed on a subconscious level the "sophistication" of all terrorist cells. But I've often wonder about just he opposite, the "death by a thousand paper cuts".  Weapons and mass destruction are very expensive and difficulty to use.  Low level terrorism (such as the Mumbai raids using just assault rifles in the hands of a well trained small unit) can be even more effective.  The Informal Anarchist Federation is creating quite a mess by damaging railroad signals.  Nothing large scale or requiring sophisticated weapons, just lifting up some concrete slabs to burnout the signal cabling.  In Italy, they went old school and shot the CEO of a nuclear power plant in both kneecaps.  Anthrax and dirty bombs may be the mainstay of terrorists in movies but the low level warfare techniques FAI may prove far more effective.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Arab Spring, one year late

The Arab Spring began last year and saw Qaddafi as well as Mubarak fall. Assad in Syria, at least for now, remains in power via violence and despite UN resolutions. The US was reminded of this when the NATO conference was held in Chicago. Images of protestors lying down in the streets of Chicago being taken away by police failed to make any real impact on the American psyche. It is thus not surprising that this little gem went largely unnoticed: "United States and NATO officials announced yesterday that the North Atlantic alliance has no intention of intervening on the violence being caused be President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It was also said that Syria was not discussed during Sunday’s NATO sessions."--press release from the Syrian American Council The US had no problems in convincing NATO to "assume" the lead in the airstrikes that helped bring down Qaddafi. But that was when Sarkozy was still the French president and the EU looked like it might still survive. Now the French have a new President and the Greek and Spanish bailouts may spell the end of the EU. The more jaundiced readers might also point out that Libya's oil fields were a far more compelling reason to launch airstrikes than ousting a vicious Syrian ruler. I personally suspect the proximity to Iran and the backing of Syria by Russia and China has been a much larger factor than the State Department wishes to acknowledge.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Francois Hollande's wife Valerie Trierweiler wants to be France's new First Lady

Somehow, it seems apropos that France's politics have been shaped and changed by sex. Sarkozy starts the latest trend with his songstress/model wife Carla Bruni. Marrying a former model and songwriter guaranteed Sarkozy celebrity status by virtue of his wife's associates. It seemed to give Sarkozy a swagger in his approach to international affairs that Mitterand would have been loathed to demonstrate. His swagger and celebrity friends rubbed the French people the wrong way. It appeared Dominique Strauss-Kahn was ready to replace Sarkozy until the former succumbed to his on sex scandal. In keeping with conspiracists the world over, the scandal seemed to flame just long enough to eliminate Strauss-Kahn as competition for Sarkozy. A sexy wife and a sex scandal has led the way for Francois Hollande to become the new president...a man who has never held an elected post previously. Furthermore, in keeping with Sarkozy and Strauss-Kahn, he has his own scandal involving his current wife who was the other woman.

Hollande is an unknown and at the very least it means the prominent role France has played in the Libyan crisis may change. If France reduces its role, then the US will be without a major European power other than Britain (which continues to reduce its own military forces)

Daily Mail

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cleveland bridge bomb plot sting operation results in five arrests

Why should New York or Washington DC have all of the fun? Cleveland has now entered the hallowed ranks of a terrorist target. Five would-be terrorists with delusions of blowing up a bridge were arrested through an FBI sting. The case shows that any moron with malicious intent can become a potential terrorist and not all reside on the Eastern Seaboard. Cleveland does not come to mind as a major terrorist target. There is no Wall St or national capitol. It is a major metropolitan area with major rail, air and Interstate lines running through the area. It should remind us that no matter how much the President assures us Al Qaeda will be destroyed, they are only one of many potential terrorists.
Washington Post

Saturday, April 28, 2012

US Stealth Fighters at Iran's Back Door

The 308th Air Expeditionary Wing stood up at Al Dahfra Air Base, United Arab Emirates (UAE) with approximately 1,200 personnel made up of active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard. Longer range aircraft (KC-10 refuelers, U-2, E-3 Sentry and the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle) are based there. Basing F-22 stealth fighters there, changes both the mission of the 308th as well as indicates the increasing tensions between the US and Iran. ABC News

The more interesting part of this story is the F-22 itself. "Since they were rolled out in 2005, F-22 Raptors - the most advanced and pricey fighter jets used by the U.S. military - have been plagued with the oxygen system problems, and have never been flown in combat." Daily Mail

The F-22 has been grounded several times since its roll-out in 2005. The most recent was as recent this past February due to oxygen system problems. It makes you wonder if the decision to deploy our most expensive, unproven weapon system so close to Iran. It could be showmanship to demonstrate a "real" commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Or it could be an admission that after 10 years of the Global War on Terror, US fighter and bomber aircraft are just too worn-out to be an effective deterrent.

Monday, April 23, 2012

North Korea issues unusually specific threat

The North Korean military threatened to "reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, (or) in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.
Yahoo News

I guess this is your response when your nuclear missile test fails.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Turkey calls on NATO to protect its borders from Syria

The Assad government, despite calls by the US and UN to step down, does not appear to be leaving anytime soon. Now Turkey is thinking along the lines of Israel, namely they see the situation as a clear and present danger with incursions into their borders. What makes the situation in Turkey different is its membership in NATO. A threat to one member is a threat to the Alliance. Taking a page from the Bush Administration, Turkey probably won't declare outright war against Syria but rather label Assad and his supporters as "terrorists".


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Anders Breivik killed 77 people last year

He has achieved what he most wanted, infamy. According to the Daily Mail, a prisoner as dangerous as he is would normally have been sent to Ringerike, Norway’s highest security prison, but this was ruled out because of its location overlooking Utoya. Instead he gets to have a large space, good food, and better treatment than most law-abiding citizens. Norway will come under scrutiny by hard-liners who will demand to know why Anders is being treated so well. Norway has demonstrated the efficacy of humane treatment and true rehabilitation of prisoners. An exception like Anders though makes the policies seem naive. The bigger question is not how Norway treats its prisoners but how Norwegian culture and politics (known for being liberal and progressive) could create such a mass-murderer.
Daily Mail

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

20 flights on NKorean rocket path rerouted - National Business -

Japan's defense minister has ordered missile units to intercept the rocket if it or its fragments threaten to hit Japan. Seoul has also warned it might shoot down any parts of the North Korean rocket heading for South Korean territory.
It could be just a coincidence, however the threatened rocket launch by North Korea will force the Obama Administration to split their attention between the Middle East and the Pacific. Most the US fleet is trying to face down Russia and Iran in the Middle East and are out of position to influence much in the Pacific. The new North Korean leader may be trying to assert himself on the international scene or simply is following in his father and grandfather's footsteps in flexing North Korean military muscle (while their population gets hand-outs for the US).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Violence overshadows Syria ceasefire deadline

"Forces were reported to have shot and wounded four people in a Turkish refugee camp and killed a Lebanese cameraman in North Lebanon. Regime forces also killed at least 30 people when they pounded a town in the central province of Hama, activists said."

Even with Russia and China supporting the Annan plan, violence is continuing in Syria.  There is no strong opposition leader with the needed network to easily assume power when Assad finally steps down or is overthrown.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Israel and Azerbaijan

Something has been troubling me about Israel's focus on attacking Iran. Conspiracy theorists are all saying that Israel has been secretly given the go-ahead for an attack by the US. Political pundits are saying President Obama is using to situation in Syria as a way of appearing tough on foreign policy and by extension keeping Iran in check.

But given Israel's history in warfare, attacking Iran's nuclear facilities would lead to hostilities on its northern border. The Egyptian government is no longer friendly towards Israel and could cause problems for Israel on its souther flank. Therefore, the only way it makes sense for Israel to attack is they have another partner backing their play. The US does not seem to be in a position to back an Israeli led attack against Israel. The presence of Russian warships off the coast of Syria seems to be specifically to prevent US led airstrikes. If US airstrikes can be neutralized, or at least reduced, against Syria then strikes against Iran are even less likely to be successful.

But what if Israel's plans did not have to rely (or wait) for US airstrikes? According to an article on Foreign Policy, Israel has had a relationship with Azerbaijan since 1994. There are four airbases leftover from when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union that could be used to recover Israeli fighters.

Azerbaijan - a nation with a majority-Turkic and majority-shia Muslim population - was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920; it regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region that Moscow recognized as part of Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s after Armenia and Azerbaijan disputed the status of the territory. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Source: CIA Factbook

But if Israel gains access to runways and a means of flanking Iran's northern border, what does Azerbaijan gain? According to Foreign Policy:

Israel's deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan's ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called "a slander." In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan -- the ruling party -- called on the government to change the country's name to "North Azerbaijan," implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran ("South Azerbaijan") are in need of liberation.Foreign Policy

Israel now gains not only a military advantage but also has politicized the plight of the Azeris in Northern Iran. But this also explains why Israel and Turkey have been having issues in the last few years.

The deepening Azeri-Israeli relationship has also escalated Israel's dispute with Turkey, which began when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship destined for Gaza in May 2010, killing nine Turkish citizens. When Turkey demanded an apology, Israel not only refused, it abruptly canceled a $150 million contract to develop and manufacture drones with the Turkish military -- then entered negotiations with Azerbaijan to jointly manufacture 60 Israeli drones of varying types. The $1.6 billion arms agreement between Israel and Azerbaijan also left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "sputtering in rage," according to a retired U.S. diplomat.

The centerpiece of the recent arms deal is Azerbaijan's acquisition of Israeli drones, which has only heightened Turkish anxieties further. In November 2011, the Turkish government retrieved the wreckage of an Israeli "Heron" drone in the Mediterranean, south of the city of Adana -- well inside its maritime borders. Erdogan's government believed the drone's flight had originated in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and demanded that Israel provide an explanation, but got none. "They lied; they told us the drone didn't belong to them," a former Turkish official told me last month. "But it had their markings."Foreign Policy

Baku may be familiar to those of you that follow oil or know a little history of Rockefeller. Standard Oil had discovered huge oil reserves in Ohio and Pennsylvania but nothing like the oil reserves that were discovered in Baku in 1883. Standard Oil perfected its fracking techniques specifically to refine the thicker crude oil from Baku. Rockefeller was in direct competition with the Russians to gain access over the Baku oil fields but ultimately, the Russians took control.

The history of oil in Baku is important in understanding why Turkey is uneasy with the Israel-Azerbaijan relationship. But perhaps the best way to understand their concerns is by looking at the below map:

The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is a 1,099 mile long crude oil pipeline from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It connects Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan; Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia; and Ceyhan, a port on the south-eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In part, this has allowed Turkey to gain greater economic influence. Russian specialists claim that the pipeline will weaken the Russian influence in the Caucasus. Hence Russia's support of Syria and reluctance to condemn Iran's nuclear program. The Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev stated that the United States and other Western countries are planning to station soldiers in the Caucasus on the pretext of instability in regions through which the pipeline passes.

Israel also gains access to the Baku oil fields which means it doesn't not need to worry about situations in Iran or Libya effecting the cost of energy. Israel is unlikely to back down from a confrontation with Iran and the US really isn't in a position to say one way or the other. Israel can destroy what it perceives as a grave threat (Iran's nuclear program) and recover its fighters safely in a friendly territory. The ramifications though of such an attack are huge. Turkey and Russia will view Israel's presence in Baku as destabilizing and aggressive. Russia will especially view the Israeli as a threat to its oil fields. Turkey will view the Israeli presence as a threat which could lead to Turkey eventually attacking Israel. The US is out of position to effect any influence on these matters. The US has decided it does not want a nuclear Iran, preventing an Israeli attack would essentially endorse Tehran's plans. Further, the US is not interested in a conflict that may pit US forces against Russia.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saudi Arabia will act to lower soaring oil prices

It is clear that sustained high prices are starting to take their toll on European economic growth targets. They are contributing to trade balance deficits and feeding inflationary pressures. It is an unsatisfactory situation and one Saudi Arabia is keen to help address. In an interconnected world, European economic growth is in our national interest. No one benefits from a stagnating European economy and we want to do what we can to help encourage growth.
While the above sounds like good news for Europe and the US, Saudi Arabia's stance could create further tensions in the Middle East. Libya and Iran are also two larger OPEC producers and they may see higher oil prices as advantageous to their political ambitions. It could lead to tensions between Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations. Or Saudi Arabia's stance could be seen as a way of appeasing the West just to garner protection.

On a related note, the UK is experiencing a fuel panic but for a different reason. Tanker drivers are planning to strike which would cripple the British economy. Roads Minister Mike Penning (the British equivalent to our transportation secretary) advocated British citizens stock fuel in jerry cans. The British firefighters union are throwing a fit pointing out the incredible dangers posed by people hoarding fuel in their homes. A house fire could rapidly spread out of control with people storing jerry cans of fuel.
Daily Mail

We are seeing $3.90 a gallon for fuel here in Ohio with no sign of prices dropping as we head into the summer vacation season. The increase seems to be based purely on speculation and not on any real reductions.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tunisian Islamists step up demand for Islamic state

Thousands of Tunisian Islamists took to the streets on Sunday to step up their demands for the creation of an Islamic state in one of the most secular Arab nations.
Tunisia is where the Arab Spring begun last year. By changing out many of the regimes, the potential exists for many of these countries to become Islamist states. If Tunisia becomes the first to become Islamist, it will great the potential for pan Islamism. Northern Africa and the Middle East could become essentially one continuous Islamist state. Egypt and Libya also appear ready to vote in Islamist regimes (lead by the Muslim Brotherhood). Assad stepping down in Syria will save lives, but in so doing it has to be noted an Islamist state could be created.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mohammed Merah

In that and other respects, he may fit the model of an Iron Man, a terrorist prototype and Salafi extremist who drives fast cars and motorbikes, enjoys the good life, is at ease with electronic gadgets and used a high tech video camera from a Formula One car to record his murderous rampage in high resolution for propaganda and posterity.

Mohammed Merah said he had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which countries he visited in 2010 and 2011. A Kandahar prison official identified him as an al Qaeda bomber who was imprisoned for three years and escaped in a mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008, only to be rearrested and sent back to France

A new type of terrorist but really much of the same. An extremist who received training abroad only to return to country he originated from. He then enjoys his final months driving fast cars and presumably women and good food. He then commits murder and finally kills himself. How many more are already in France or here just waiting to start their rampage of violence?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Extremist suspect upends French presidential race

The specter of radical Islam's grip on France has threatened to overturn France's presidential race, in which Socialist Francois Hollande has long been the pollster's favorite to unseat the divisive conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
CBS News

The French can show US conservatives a thing or two about the Islamic "boogeyman"and how to use it to use it to whip up jingoistic fervor. It doesn't help that gas prices here in the Buckeye state are around $3.99.

Poll: 'Anti-Semitic notions' on rise among French, other Europeans

Of the many stereotypes of the French, perhaps the most common (and least offensive) is that they are a very cosmopolitan people and thus open to other cultures. Anyone visiting France will notice there is "French culture" and then there is the rest of the world. French art became world renowned not because of a tolerance for different styles but because anything other than the French ideal was not tolerated.

The recent shootings in Toulouse highlight French intolerance. Anti-Semite feelings in France are not unknown but for years France has been more intolerant of Muslim culture. Muslim women especially feel discriminated against by numerous policies requiring them to remove their face or head coverings.

France's involvement with military actions against Libya was largely motivated not by feelings against Qaddafi but rather a desire to have access to oil. In turn, this strained relations between the Sarkozy government and French Muslims. The legacy of French imperialism throughout North Africa still echoes in the 21st Century.

As hostilities continue to escalate with Syria and Iran, we can anticipate seeing more violence in France.

LA Times

The Real Cost of War

"Typically, when your back is injured it's injured for life," McInroe says. These things just get worse, he says, and adds that veterans who were 50 percent disabled in 2008 will be 70 percent disabled in a couple of years. The peak years for World War II disability payments were in the 1980s, 40 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki".
Houston Press

The alleged killings by SSgt Bales will keep PTSD at the forefront but the real cost of war is the physical injuries sustained from wearing body armor while maneuvering around rough terrain while wearing a pack. During the summer, temperatures rise over 120 degrees further breaking down the body. You get to do all of this while breathing in dust, diesel exhaust (from generators and vehicles), refinery exhausts, insects, viruses, bacteria, and other airborne pollutants. No wonder returning troops have persistent coughs and other respiratory ailments.

On top of all of this, troops are still required to PT. Most services still favor running, push-ups and sit-ups as a measure of physical fitness. Running on knees and hips strained from carrying all of that weight in theater means more injuries and joint damage.

We are going to see a whole generation of 30 and 40 year olds that will move like geriatric patients. By the time they are 50, many of these vets will need hip and knee replacements (if they haven't had to have them earlier).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Troops stressed to breaking point

For military analysts, the reason is the nightmarish experience of sustained combat: Soldiers have been fighting the longest war in U.S. history, with frequent stressful deployments and compressed rest time back home.
Washington Times

You can't keep taking people away from their family and friends, inflict long deployments with many opportunities to be hurt or killed, and expect them NOT to show signs of stress.

I've written before about being deployed over the years missing birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, births, etc. Troops are not the same when they return, it takes months to re-assimilate back into the home (if they can). Knowing that they will have to do it all over again in 18 months makes it worse than anything WWII or Vietnam vets faced.

Russia and France equals a softened position on Syria

"We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and ... is making very many mistakes," Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told local radio station Kommersant-FM. Al Jazeera

The quote supports my thought that the Russian counter-terrorist Marines indicate a concern Assad may be overthrown by a coup. Russia has stood by the Assad regime but their deployment of troops would indicate their are losing their faith or patience with him.

The article also had this comment:
"In a bid to win Russian and Chinese support, France has watered down a proposed UN Security Council statement calling on the Syrian government and the opposition to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the year-long bloodshed." Al Jazeera

This seems to paint the March 11th shootings in Toulouse, France where 3 French paratroopers, 3 children and a rabbi were killed.

The suspect is 24 years old, of French nationality and says "he belongs to al-Qaeda," Gueant told reporters. He said the suspect "wants to take revenge for Palestinian children" killed in the Middle East, and is angry at the French military for its operations abroad. The man was known to authorities for having spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The shooting suspect is "talking a lot, claiming his jihadist convictions" and calling himself a "mujahedeen," Gueant said. USA Today

Could the shootings have convinced France to take a less hard-line stance against Syria? While I was researching the shooting, I came across this "A bomb blast outside Indonesia's embassy in Paris on Wednesday caused serious damage to surrounding buildings but no injuries...The bomb exploded around 5:45 am (0445 GMT), when the streets of western Paris were relatively quiet, blowing out windows in a 50-metre (54-yard) radius and setting fire to two cars."
Google News

If Paris was somehow coerced (either real or imagined) into changing their position, then we may see more attacks. It also casts recent events in Afghanistan in a new light. I still am unconvinced US military personnel (who have been engaged in Muslim countries since Desert Storm) would not know the books seized from the prisoners were Qurans. I think someone, somewhere was hoping that burning the Qurans would create enough of a backlash to pull the troops out. Do I have proof? No. I just have my experience that says someone would have pointed the importance of those books.

Then there is the strange case of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who killed 16 Afghani civilians. According to the reports in media, Bales was scarred by several tours of duty, had recently watched a fellow soldier have his leg blown off, was facing marital problems back home and, on the day of the massacre, had been drinking heavily. But then there is this new report surfacing "Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the Norwood native accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, was ordered in 2003 to repay more than $1.5 million to a Carroll couple after it was alleged that he stole the couple's money as a financial adviser."Newark Advocate

Bales had been a financial advisor prior to joining the US Army. Somehow this finding did not concern the US Army, even though troops who have excessive debt are considered a security risk. Bales had also been recently denied a promotion. My point is this case seems to be the perfect storm to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Whether by design or by accident, the Quran burnings and Bales massacre will have a major impact on US policy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Russian Anti-Terror Troops in Syria

Now the Russian Black Sea fleet's Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard according to the Interfax news agency. The Assad government has insisted it is fighting a terrorist insurgency. The Russian news reports did not elaborate on the Russian troops' mission in Syria or if they are expected to leave the port.
ABC News

Now we are are getting somewhere. Rebel forces must be getting to Assad or Russia is afraid Assad is out-matched. In either case, Russian troops on the ground in Syria changes the dynamics. The Russian troops check any airstrikes by the US or NATO. If a guided bomb or missile goes awry, and they still do sometimes, and strikes a Russian troop there will be consequences. I don't know if President Obama and Secretary Clinton get Putin is a hardline Soviet (not a typo). As such, he is playing high stakes poker here and will put his troops in the way of US weapons if just to bolster anti-US feelings back home. Could be why there was a report of three carrier battle groups being dispatched to the region.

We should also pay attention to Iran. If Iran remains silent, it will prove that Tehran and Moscow have been in collusion. North Korea is providing the needed distraction to all of this keeping US forces spread thin, not to mention the turmoil now in Afghanistan.

Friday, March 16, 2012

North Korea rocket launch plan sparks US threat

Iran and Syria have been keeping the attention of the Obama Administration and the media for the past months. That could only mean that our latest "fearless leader", North Korea's Kim Jong-un, would have to claim some of the headlines for himself. The best way to do that is to of course shoot off a missile.

He plans to that exactly that next month. The Taepodong-3 is classified as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of 10-20,000 kilometers and is able to carry an estimated payload of 500-1,000 kilograms. The stats translate to a missile easily capable of striking the United States with a warhead and unlike Iran, we know North Korea possesses nuclear warheads.

Worse, North Korea doesn't even need to worry about developing nuclear warheads anymore. Iran has the ability to produce the miniaturized components necessary to make the warheads. Iran also has the reactors necessary to produce the nuclear material. North Korea was able to achieve its advanced rocket technology through the acquisition of parts and technology from parts and technology from North Korea include Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Of course Libya stopped selling components earlier this century but not before North Korea developed its capability.

Kim Jong-eun gains both press as well as Assad's gratitude for giving the US much to think about. It puts the Obama Administration in a really bad position going into an election cycle.

Yahoo News

North Koreas missiles

Airstrikes may not be the right decision

Hezbollah was formed in the early 1980s in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Of course one nation's terrorist group is another nation's resistance movement. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the US, UK, Australia, Canada and of course Israel. Most Arab and Muslim nations consider Hezbollah to be a resistance movement. The group wants the destruction of the "Zionist entity" more commonly referred to as Israel.

Although based in Lebanon, Hezbollah receives much of its weapons, training and finances from Iran through Syria. I was reminded of this linkage while reading about the latest events in Syria. The Assad regime has now killed over 8,000 people with no end in sight. There are increasing calls for airstrikes by the US to support the rebels.

By understanding the relationship of Iran and Syria to Hezbollah, it makes any military actions a potential flashpoint for Israel. Any attack on Syria risks pushing forces into either Lebanon (which borders Israel), Turkey or Iran. This could ignite conflicts outside of Syria with unforeseen outcomes. Forces fleeing into Lebanon could link up with Hezbollah and Hamas to create havoc in Israel. A huge influx of refugees from Syria into Turkey could destabilize the NATO country. Refugees fleeing into Iran could lead Iran into some type of armed response to forces attacking Syria.

The US and NATO have led airstrikes with the intended result of ousting Qaddafi but also created the unintended consequence of allowing the Muslim brotherhood to ascend to power. There is no guarantee that whoever comes in behind Assad will be friendly towards the West. Some may argue that the mixed results in Libya were due to the lack of boots on the ground. The current situation in Afghanistan disproves the notion that having boots on the ground will result in a stabilized situation. In fact, recent events in Afghanistan (the kill team, Quran burnings, and rogue soldier) have empowered a return of the Taliban.

Unlike Afghanistan, military operations could make Iran or Israel nervous. Syria shares a border and political connections with Iran meaning any conflicts could spillover. Iran could take the involvement of US forces in Syria as a prelude to an attack and put their military on high alert. In turn, this heightened state of alert by Iran could cause the Israelis to strike first as their tolerance for a nuclear Iran is much lower than the US.

Russian and Chinese vetoes prevented the U.N. Security Council from passing a resolution to condemn the Assad regime on October 4, 2011—and yet again on February 4, 2012. Secretary Clinton has been unable to convince either to change their position. For Russia, the need for a port in the Mediterranean means it will be unlikely that Moscow will allow the West to intervene. For China, it risks losing access to abundant oil reserves should hostilities break out in the Middle East.

People such as Senator John McCain are calling for intervention in Syria. Watching thousands die is certainly not what human beings should die. However, we must act with our minds and not just our hearts. The short-term goal of ousting Assad will have long-term implications that no one is really discussing. The Arab League has thus far only been a paper tiger. The US and Europe need to push them to broker a long-term solution, preferably one that does not mean further use of US military forces.