Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Obama stresses concern over Syrian chemical weapons

If proved with certainty, the chemical weapons' usage could triggered unspecified U.S. actions against the Syrian government. Russia has been one of the Syrian government's staunchest allies.
So President Obama needs President Putin's support?  It just might have something to do with the presence of Russian naval and ground forces present in Syria.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Syria and the use of chemical weapons

The White House’s April 25th letter to congressional leaders states: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”

The U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of pesticides which is how many nations disguise the manufacture of chemical agents.

Chemical weapons were the weapon of choice for Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war.  Sarin was the weapon of choice of the Tokyo subway attackers Aum Shinrikyo in 1995.  It is also the chemical weapon possessed in abundance by Hezbollah.

Despite this history, President Obama has reversed his warnings on Aug 2012 and Mar 2013, "We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists."

Apparently the US does tolerate the use of chemical weapons.  The question is why?

Attacking the Syrian military risks inflicting civilian casualties.  Civilian deaths caused by forces (led most likely by the US and France) would further destabilize Syria and potential spill into other countries.  Another problem is Iran which may choose to overtly (and certainly covertly) support the Assad government.  A protracted conflict in the region means fewer forces available to deal with North Korea.

Another problem for President Obama is the unanswered questions about the Boston Marathon bombers.  The brothers are from Chechnya which has for some time been at war with Moscow.  Putin has support both Bush and Obama with their war on terror, however he has not support Obama on Syria.  This could partly be why Obama has been forced into inaction for now (he certainly has not had problems before in sending SEAL Team Six or Predators in to take our terrorists).

The conspiracy sites are abuzz with speculation that the Boston Marathon may have been the first of other attacks slated for May.  Their conclusions are based oncounter-terrorism drills planned for Denver, Washington DC and Portsmouth, NH.  A good conspiracy is based on fact and if the facts are correct, one can conclude that President Obama is worried more attacks are likely.  Striking Syria may trigger more attacks in the United States.

There is another problem, what if Syria doesn't want Assad out?  Reports have thus far only identified the Muslim Brotherhood and various "rebels" fighting Assad.  In an article by Dr. Boris Dolgov – senior research fellow of the Centre for Arabic Studies of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies - he states, "Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have made two trips to that country as a member of international delegations in August 2011 and in January 2012. If we watch the dynamics of situation’s development over that period on the one hand we can state intensification of terrorist groups in Syria and on the other hand we see a broader people’s support of President Bashar Assad and a clear demarcation of political forces’ positions...But everyday life has not drastically changed. There are no servicemen, armed vehicles or document checks in the city. Damascus is still a busy city, with no vacant seats in internet cafes and on weekends streets are crowded with family couples and young people."Syrian Scenario

Perhaps the Obama Administration is concerned US or coalition led forces would not only encounter the Syrian military but civilians as well.  The gamesmanship of the President's earlier warnings may prove that he is more of a paper-tiger than he wants North Korean and Iran to realize.

In the meantime, we need to worry about this maniac article.  Ricin laced letters help remind the rest of the wannabes out there that chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and even deliver.  It should spur the Obama Administration to take action in Syria but for the reasons I'v already outlined, we may be facing more chemical weapon threats/attacks for the foreseeable future.

Friday, April 19, 2013

One suspect down, one on the run

We went from thinking the suspects were "dark-skinned" (excellent way to incite a race riot by the way) to two "light-skinned" suspects.  Beginning last night, the suspects (who are brothers) rob a 7-11 near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  They then car-jacked a SUV.  The suspects killed a police officer.  A subsequent shoot-out with the suspects ended with one being killed.  The dead suspect was found to have bombs strapped to his body.  His brother is believed to be similarly armed.

On Wednesday, several of the noted terrorist experts were predicting that this was a domestic terrorist act as most foreign groups would have wanted more casualties.  The two brothers are from Chechnya (a republic in Russia that is Muslim) pretty much rules out domestic motives.  It does bring Mr. Putin's fight with the Chechen Republic to the United States.

How will Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama are going to handle this.  On one hand, they will want to support a fellow world leader but on the other hand, the history of brutality and near genocide Moscow has committed against Chechnya will make many wonder about the US relations with Islam.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Reports still coming in but it seems at least two explosions killed two and injured at least 134 at the Boston Marathon.  The devices were hidden in backpacks which in-turn were placed in barricades after the area had been cleared by authorities.

No group has claimed responsibility as of my writing this.  Is it terrorism?  For those that are empowered to annotate such things (DHS, CIA, FBI), the final word is still hours or days away.  However, the images of injured and mangled spectators from the Boston Marathon will soon replace the anguished faces of parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook.  In that regard, it is terrorism regardless of the motives of the perpetrators.

Last week I wrote about North Korea and the escalation towards if not nuclear conflict, certainly a return to a shooting war.  Shortly after I wrote that, North Korea confirmed it would target Japan first more or less guaranteeing a direct hit for their missiles and dragging the US into war.

Secretary Kerry attempted to appease the North Koreans by offering to stop the deployment of anti-missile batteries to the theater for the exchange of the cessation of their nuclear weapons programs.  The problem with appeasement is there is your risk looking weak and your foe may be emboldened to escalate the situation.

To me, I can't help but feel as the more is learned about the Boston explosions we may find a link to North Korea.  Secretary Kerry is from Massachusetts and this may be North Korea (or China, Russia or any other group that has a beef with the Obama Administration) way of making a statement.  Let's not forget also that the airliners that American Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 (which both crashed into the World Trade Centers) departed from Boston's Logan International Airport.

Someone asked me today at work if it could be international terrorists?  Possibly but it could just as easily be the 21st Century version of Oklahoma City.  There is much resentment towards the Obama Administration, especially with the increased calls for additional gun control legislation.

The next few days will only reveal more questions than answers.  Just check your FB page and see how many people are asking, why?!  There is no answer to that question other than the need for some to use violence to make a statement.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

North Korea May Have Nuclear Missile Capability (oh really?)

The good news, as of this entry North Korea has not started shooting missiles or people to the South.  The not so good news; a new assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.  NY Times

The reliability and accuracy is assessed as being low by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  However, assessments are only as good as the information on which it is based.  The missiles could end being the "golden BB" that hits exactly the right spot at the right time.  Perhaps this is why the Pentagon released this statement: “It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.” 

Could North Korea hit Alaska?  Possibly.  Could North Korea hit the lower 48?  Unlikely, however it makes you wonder if they can build a warhead small enough for a missile could they have built some type of small yield device to be detonated by a terrorist cell?

The real threat though is more that the cat-and-mouse game causes one side or the other to shoot something (such as downing an enemy aircraft the flies to close to the border).  The other unspoken problem is what if Japan gets hit by a missile?  Will they wait for the US to retaliate or take a page from the Israelis?

Perhaps this is why Secretary Kerry is on his way to Seoul. Press reports have his two goals to get China to mount pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program (unlikely) and assure South Korea and Japan that the US has their backs.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, including one earlier this year, and shot a ballistic missile as far as the Philippines in December. American and South Korean intelligence agencies believe that another test — perhaps of a midrange missile called the Musadan that can reach Japan, South Korea and almost as far as Guam — may be conducted in the coming days, to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. At the Pentagon, there is particular concern about another missile, yet untested, called the KN-08, which may have significantly longer range.

Perhaps this is finally the clue, North Korea is waiting for Kim Il-sung's birthday to start attacks.  Having a new SecDef and Secretary of State breaking in on something this dangerous is not ideal.  One wrong move and we are back in a shooting war.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Of sequester and North Korea

NPR has been spending much effort to broadcast stories demonstrating that Sequester has NOT had any of the adverse effects predicted by critics of the Obama administration.  Fair enough except after I had finished listening to NPR, I then read this on my Facebook timeline;

"Air Force officials will begin to stand down active-duty combat units starting April 9 to ensure the remaining units supporting worldwide operations can maintain sufficient readiness through the remainder of the fiscal year. The stand down is the result of cuts to Air Combat Command's operations and maintenance account, which must be implemented in part by flying approximately 45,000 fewer training hours between now and Oct 1."  U.S. Air Force

I can only assume that NPR had not read this story.

In keeping with this "Baghdad Bob" moment, yesterday a professor from a university that shall remain nameless appeared on a local morning news show to state emphatically that all of this concern about North Korea was totally unfounded.  As the Wizard of Oz famously says, "Ignore the man behind the curtain" or Pyongyang.  He is an expert on North Korea and has written at least one book on the subject so he definitely has the credentials that I don't.

Except then I read this on the New York Times; "North Korea warned foreigners on Tuesday that they might want to leave South Korea because the peninsula was on the brink of nuclear war — a statement that analysts dismissed as hyperbole — the American commander in the Pacific expressed worries that the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, might not have left himself an easy exit to reduce tensions.NY Times

The whole sentence is amazing example of towing the party line.  The NY Times manages to call it hyperbole on one hand but then quotes the PACOM commander as if to hedge their bets.  I think the professor may have been consulted.

The two nonsequiturs are in fact part of a continuum of delusion.  Sequester is most assuredly going to impact the United States (contrary to the assurances of the NPR pieces), minimally by causing the Department of Defense to furlough personnel and to eliminate routine training missions.  In-turn this may emboldened our favorite North Korean madman to increase the threats.  What the professor and NY Times both miss is Kim Jung Un is a young, unknown tyrant who believes his father and grandfathers dreams are his destiny to fulfill.  He is not going to behave the same as his ancestors.

North Korea has loaded nuclear missiles on to the launchers.  North Korea shut down access for South Koreans to cross the border to work in their factories.  North Korea has just told foreigners in the South to "get out".  Despite all of this, experts on North Korea are calling for calm.

Secretary of Defense Hagel seems to have a different opinion.  The F-22s are now back in air (after having being grounded for continued problems with the oxygen generators).  They are performing combat air patrols (CAP) in South Korea.  The US, along with Japan and South Korea, have dispatched seven radar equipped destroyers.  The destroyers are the best choice for countering the missile threats.  A good move by the US but one that could drive the North Korean leader to actually launched some type of attack (mortar or artillery strikes) to prove he is serious and not afraid.

Here is what is real question that is going unasked, why now?  North Korea and South Korea seemed to be on the verge of normalizing relations when suddenly ended.  What does North Korea have to gain by potentially escalating things to the point where one side or the other feels compelled to launch a first strike?

China has massed troops on the border with North Korea as I've previously stated.  That would appear to signal that China is not in support of hostilities.  Why then is North Korea escalating?  The only conclusion is there is more being discussed then we are aware of.  Perhaps China or Russia want a destabilized Korean peninsula for some grander strategy and unfortunately, the new North Korean leader is not experience enough to know he is being duped.

The latest report is the missile will be launched tomorrow.  Let's hope that the professor and NY Times are right.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

North Korea

Unfortunately, it seems matters are worse. We have North Korea increasing the rhetoric to the point Chuck Hagel had to say this is becoming a dangerous situation. We have North Korea locking out South Korean workers from a factory. We have South Korea promising to meet in kind any escalation by the North. We have the US flying B-2 bombers as a show of force (as well as pre-positioning destroyers off the coast of North Korea along with THAD missiles). We have China massing troops on the border with North Korea (probably to prevent North Korean refugees from fleeing into China). We have President Obama saying that the US will help South Korea "hold the line", an order of magnitude change from what US policy has been over the last 60 years.

It would appear that we have the perfect storm. Two new leaders on the Korean peninsula trying to each not blink first. We have President Obama worried to death that he can't seem soft yet can't let this escalate into full blown nuclear exchange. If the President messes this up, the Democrats will lose wholesale in the upcoming elections. In Ohio, the formerly unpopular Republican John Kasich is going to run uncontested by any big name Democrat. If this can happen in Ohio, what would an Obama miscue mean for the rest of the nation?

The US has to worry about both the Korean situation and the Middle East. This has effectively crippled the US in being able to focus attention solely on one part of the world. It also means leaders and North Korean, Iran and Syria are more in control than Obama. The President risks losing much whether he acts or not.

What remains unclear is if China benefits from all of the North Korean posturing. Refugees rushing in will not help China achieve economic superpower status.

It is also unclear if the Obama administration will declare all out war (unlikely) or conduct surgical strikes of North Korea's long range missiles. If Obama strikes the missiles, there is no guarantee this won't lead to a full fledged assault on South Korea.