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We began after September 11, 2001 as America Goes To War. With the US out of Iraq and leaving Afghanistan, we now cover whatever interests the Editor.
Taking Back Kashmir: Replaying Brasstacks, Checkboard,
Taking Back Kashmir: Replaying Brasstacks, Checkboard, and Trident
Available as E-book on Amazon
Wednesday 0230 GMT September 3, 2014
· NATO and Ukraine compete to be me Most Annoying As of day-before-yesterday, NATO was well ahead in this competition. It announced a 4000 rapid reaction force for emergencies, likely a brigade plus special forces. Several hundred troops are to deploy within 48-hrs, the rest, a bit later.
· The reason this stupid announcement was annoying is that NATO has rapid reaction forces up the wazoo and out again. What is the point of yet another? The problem with this kind of feeble-minded thinking by NATO is that there is no shortage of forces. NATO has well over a million ground troops in Europe (we’d have to do a count to be specific). The problem is that there is so much overhead and so little by way of combat forces, on top of which readiness is absurdly low. The other problem is lack of will. Would NATO have sent a rapid response force to Ukraine even if one was available on just 12-hours warning? Obviously not. For one thing, Ukraine is not part of NATO; till end 2013 it was firmly in the Russian bloc. For another, as has been admitted by NATO itself, there is no question of fighting Russia.
· So what exactly would such a force do to change a replay of Ukraine 2014? Nothing. This force is just an example of show that impresses no one, least of all its target, Russia. NATO, stop with the endless gassy words. Please. Have some dignity.
· Then yesterday the Foreign Minister of Ukraine says that NATO will be haunted forever if it lets Ukraine be split. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29034019 Really? What has changed between December 2013 and today? What security commitment has NATO made to Kiev that failure to maintain Ukraine’s territorial integrity will haunt NATO? The good minister also says that NATO looks weak.
· Okay. One supposes this is the fate of people with IQ’s above 60, to be assailed in perpetuity by folks with IQs below 20. Let’s start with responsibility. On paper, Ukraine had a sizeable army, with about 15 brigades. Because Ukraine’s leaders were so busy stuffing their pockets from looting their country, they had no time to attend to mundane things like defense. The armed forces have not had adequate funding since independence 25-years ago. Those of us who follow these things knew that Ukraine had a hollow military force. But honestly Editor was taken aback to learn just how hollow. Even 8-months later, the Army has just a few thousand effective combatants, as we noted the other day. The State Security forces have been doing the brunt of the fighting.
· Instead of remedying its military weakness, for 8-months Ukraine has been meeping and whining and begging: “NATO, please save us”. For what? So Ukraine can continue its merry way with its terrible governance and corruption? Who exactly is under threat here, NATO or Ukraine? Hint: it isn’t NATO. NATO faces no existential crisis. If all of Ukraine goes to Russia, the situation will merely be a return to the status quo of last year. NATO has not been helping because its stakes are very small, its apocalyptic rhetoric very large. From listening to hysterical western politicians (among them the British) you might think we’re back to 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland. [BTW, not to forget, it wasn’t just Hitler: it was a joint Hitler-Stalin venture. The opprobrium and invective was saved for Hitler because Stalin became BFF’s with America – only to create 45-years of extreme danger the day after the armistice. Talk about policy failures.]
· This is not 1939, Putin is not Hitler. He’s readjusting his borders which were arbitrarily redrawn by Gorbachev a quarter century ago. NATO already did a good bit of readjusting by welcoming Central Europe and the Baltics into security alliances. So why shouldn’t Putin have the right to do the same thing?
· Oh yes, silly Editor. We’re the good guys, Putin is a bad guy. Anything we do is good simply because we did it. Anything Putin does is bad simply because he did it. This is fine if we had the guts to stand up to him. But we don’t, which makes NATPO and Ukraine another addition to the west’s walk of Shame.
Tuesday 0230 GMT September 2, 2014
· US airstrikes in Anbar according to Anbar Daily http://t.co/MClD75H5FO at Haditha, where Iraq is still holding out despite many attempts by IS to take the dam, and at Ramadi where just as at Fallujah, fighting has continued for weeks.
· This is no surprise. US had been under great pressure from Baghdad on account of US supporting Kurds but not Baghdad. Moreover, US said many times over if Baghdad wanted US help, al-Maliki would have to go. Well, he’s gone, sort of. The new PM designate is a close ally of Malaki, who still controls a number of MPs. Malaki will have to be given a ministerial berth because without him the new coalition, already in a minority, would be in bad shape. We are not so close to Iraq politics to say this definitively, but it stands to reason Malaki will remain one of the key players in Baghdad.
· Meanwhile, supported by four US strikes, Iraq, Shia militia, and Peshmerga cleared Amerli. Twelve thousand Turkomen were trapped in this town, which lies between Baghdad and Kirkuk. Pleasant people that they are, IS said the inhabitants are apostates and would all be killed. Amerli held out on its own for 11 weeks before US/Peshmerga got around to dealing with it. Apparently about time as the defenders were on their last legs and many were preparing for mass suicides rather than fall prisoner to IS.
· Now the rescuers are pushing to clear surrounding villages, and the Peshmerga has pushed IS out of Suleiman Beg adjacent to Amerli. Analysts are saying that the victory is the biggest since IS attacked Iraq because this is the first place where IS has been pushed out from its original conquest.
· US is worried that the three Iraq Shia militia who did most of the fighting from the Iraq side could seek revenge against Sunnis who supported IS. Worry away, not much US can do given the Iraq Army has gone kaput. These militia fought against the US when we took over Iraq after 2003, but that’s real life. In the GWOT you have to take allies where you can find them.
· If you are seeking to fit Iraq events into an overall framework, you can conclude that with US airpower now active, IS has reached high tide. It may be a long while before IS is cleared from Iraq, but it cannot advance further. The interesting thing from a military view is that US has made only 120 strikes, with each aircraft dropping 1 or 2 bombs. Very economical application of airpower, aimed to disrupt IS convoy movement and take out the occasional gun or armored vehicle that is causing trouble for the Kurds and now the Iraqis. This is a low-intensity conflict by any definition.
· Nothing we have said should be taken to imply IS is finished. Not a bit. Its advance has been halted. Retaking territory lost will require a new Iraq Army; there is a limit to what the Shia militias can do. For example, Baghdad has not been able to push IS out of Ramadi, Fallujah, and Tikrit. The Kurdish areas are gone likely for good. IS will now simply hide among civilians in the urban areas, and become more circumspect about large-scale movements along Iraq’s highways. No more columns of 50-80 vehicles sweeping into a town. But consider: a week’s worth of ten vehicles per day travelling individually permits IS to build up a nice assault force anywhere it wants. Infiltrating into Baghdad 20-30 or more men into a time cannot be stopped.
· This mess is far from over.
Monday 0230 GMT September 1, 2014
· Ukraine Some readers may be wondering why a mere 1000 Russian troops in Ukraine is causing such a complete freak-out. The answer lies in that Ukraine no longer has anything resembling a proper army. Much like the Iraqi Army after Islamic State attacked, Ukraine Army collapsed when called on to fight the rebels in the East. The Ukraine “brigades” you hear about are roughly the size of US battalions. The bulk of the infantry fighting is done by 10 “National Guard” battalions under Ministry of the Interior, these range from 200-400 effectives. The NG consists of draftees and volunteers who have, by western standards worth mentioning, no proper logistic support, and lack the basics like body armor.
· In this situation, 3 or more well-trained and equipped Russian battalions of200-400 men each can make a big difference, particularly when supported by Russian artillery, which is not counted in the figures given for the invading force.
· Please visit http://t.co/784H7o0ecC RIA Novosti has two maps and two orbats for surrounded Ukraine forces, one according to Kiev and one according to the rebels, as trapped SE of Donetsk. If the rebel one is correct, half the effective Ukraine Army is trapped. The situation is far more serious than the small numbers of Russian troops might indicate. Also, of course, according to the rebels themselves, 3-4,000 Russian volunteers are fighting in their midst. This includes Dagistan and Chechen troops in complete battalions; though again please to realize battalions can mean as few as 200 men. The others include a large number of active duty Russian troops given leave.
· Meanwhile, the west’s reaction has the consistency of watered milk. In the blogosphere and letters to editors, you hear many cries for the west to act forcefully, and Obama is as usual getting slammed for his refusal even to acknowledge an enemy invasion is underway. There are calls to give Ukraine weapons to defend itself, without the least idea that it will take months to get these weapons into Ukraine hands and then men trained up. Then what? Is a National Guard battalion composed of overage draftees, police, volunteers many of whom have dubious pasts supposed to maneuver tank, mechanized, airmobile, and artillery battalions across a battlefield? Who will build the logistics chain needed? Who will lead these men? By the time all is worked out, the matter will be finished.
· As for counter-intervention, who exactly is going to go to war with Russia? People should think things through before calling for counter-intervention.
· As an example, there was a headline saying the Swedish military has moved to a higher state of alert. Impressive. Who exactly is about to invade Sweden is not clear, and anyone who thinks the Swedes are going to fight in Eastern Europe is past mad. Reading the article, Editor learned it’s the Swedish General Staff that is on a higher alert. Oh my. And what do people think this means? Only that the General Staff, instead of keeping 9-to-5 hours is going to spend a bit more time in the office, and that specifically intelligence-gathering/analysis has been stepped up. This does not help in Ukraine in any way, nor is it intended to.
Friday 0230 GMT August 29, 2014
· Montgomery County Public Schools Maryland and the copier problem The bigger an organization, the less chance that someone can think of the organization as a system. The less chance an organization can be grasped as a system, the greater the friction within a system. As happens when people strive to hammer wrong sized pegs into holes that should be fitted with pegs that work together frictionlessly. Induce enough friction in a system and you get system collapse.
· Editor is a student – and exponent – of integrated systems, starting with one human and going all the way up to 7-billion. He is not a student of organization theory. The minute Editor sees the world “theory”, he gets acute cramps, migraines, and numbness in the thinking part of his brain. In his experience, the moment someone uses the word “theory”, the system starts breaking down. So doubtless organization theory has deeply observed, analyzed, and described the phenomenon we make note of as above.
· From the day Editor started working in K-12 schools, he has been struck by the enormous friction and inefficiency generated by photo-copiers. Since no one looks at a county’s schools as a system designed for a single purpose, educate the young, no one understands what a phenomenal part of a teacher’s day is spent in anything but teaching. Teachers spend more time on class management, preparing plans, grading papers, dealing with the department, school administration and parents, and trying to cope with the photocopier problem than they do in imparting education.
· Editor will limit the discussion to photocpopying so as to stay focused. First, next time the copy mechanic comes to fix your office machine, watch him at work. You will be amazed at how complex these things are, and how delicate, despite 55-years elapsing since the first affordable and reasonably reliable photocopiers became available. If you can appreciate the complexity and delicateness of the machine, you will no longer be surprised at how frequently they break down. It seems to Editor that someone should be doing serious R & D to reduce the number of moving parts in the copier to as close to zero as possible, but of course, since things have always been done a particular way there is no question of change.
· Second, consider this paradox: the modern photocopier is relatively simple to operate, and technology is most productive when its use is pushed as far forward to the troops as possible. So everyone thinks s/he is a photocopy expert, but the darn things are so fragile that the machines take a serious beating every hour of every work day. If you try and resolve this problem by centralizing photocopying within an organization, having a single trained person to operate the machine, you suffer enormous productivity losses. Editor’s school has a staff of over 150 needing photocopies; centralization would create a major choke point.
· Accordingly, at Editor’s school, there are three heavy duty copiers. One is for use of the office, one is for use of the copy center, and one is for use of teachers who need copies ASAP. The teacher copier is in a state of constant emergency, much like the casualty intake unit of a major hospital in the inner city. Moreover, teachers have to walk great distances to get to the machine, and often leave frustrated because there are so many pending jobs. This copier is always down because of overuse and rough handling. The machine for the copy center is to be touched only by the lady in charge, so there is no rough handling. But it also heavily overworked, and while crashing less frequently than the teacher machine, is often comatose. The main office machine goes out rarely, perhaps twice a week, because only the office secretaries are allowed to use it and the copy load is very light.
· Third, you have consider the paper problem. Everyone things you just shove in a ream and off we go. No, no, no. All kinds of things can mess up the paper, for example, humidity, which deforms sheets enough that jamming results. In big machines, there are 20 or so points where a jam can occur. As frustration with jams mounts, users treat the machine more and more badly, slamming trays and doors. The machine does not like this. Then there’s the staple problem – remind Editor to one day write a treatise on the staple problem. Then there’s the overheating problem. The teacher machine is kept in an environment as cool as possible – by the way, air conditioning and heating are set to preset controls centrally handled to get economy – but run five hundred copies and the machine gets hot. It does not tell users: “I need to cool down”. It simply jams. Then there’s the tray problem. Our machines have six trays, and on any given day you will find the mechanism for 1, 2, 3 or even more trays crashing.
· Each machine has to run off thousands – yes, thousands – of copies every day. Why? Because you see, we no longer rely on the text book. We make handouts for everything, sometimes multiple handouts – try 2, 3, 4, even 5 or 6 – for each lesson. Why don’t we rely on the text book, notebook, and pencil as in days of yore? Well, Editor could write treatise on this too. Here he limits himself to saying that the multiple handout mess seriously penalizes the boys, who tend to have more organizational problems than the girls – wont go into this, but this is another source of friction in the schools organization.
· So just aside from the mechanical/electronic issues, we get paper issues. As the amount of paper goes up and budgets go down, you frequently run out of paper. We wont discuss that either. Then there’s the stress issues: because the teachers are rushed and stressed, they don’t realize that the machine is set to the last person’s specification. So here you are, wiping sweat off your face, thrilled to get the machine, and half way through your job you realize than when you told the machine to staple, hole punch, sort, change size, duplex etc, you did not make double-sure that the touch screen took your commands – touch screens: another big problem when so many people are using the machine. Then you have to start all over again while the five people wait kill you with knives thrown from their eyes. Yes, we all know that we are supposed to run one test copy, carefully check, and reset the machine if needed. Ha ha. Double Ha Ha. Try doing that when you have six sets of copies to make and those five people waiting are searching for wire and toggles to decapitate you.
· By now those of you in the private sector are getting ready to burn down the schools. Why on earth do school systems not put a medium duty machine in every department office, and an inexpensive light duty machine in every classroom for emergency copies? That way walking steps are minimized, number of people using a particular machine reduced, and the really big jobs are reserved for heavy duty machines. Well, we could have a lengthy discussion on this too. Control of paper has a lot to do with why schools don’t want to proliferate machines. But the main reason is cost. Machines and maintenance are expensive. With skinflint budgets, there is simply no money. BTW, we are talking of Montgomery County Maryland, one of the 10 richest in the country. One shudders to think what is happening in a poor West Virginia county. That’s another discussion.
· So Editor makes it a point to learn about the idiosyncrasies of copy machines in the school, so he can trouble shoot without calling central maintenance – can be a day or two before anyone is free to come because, again, shortage of money. So after a particularly bad three days at his school, where he has been helping the copy center lady and teachers, Editor told the copy center lady: “Why wont central office just accept that machines have a finite life and given our rate of use, need to be replaced every three years?”
· Copy center lady looked at Editor with astonishment. “Did you not know that the school system never buys new machines? That these are all refurbished, and their parts come from junked machines?”
· So. When the financial people at central office are told to limit the growth of expenditures to X regardless of inflation and the steady growth of the student population, do they have a computer program they can run and see where cuts can be made with minimum disruption of the system? Of course not! Such software would costs tens of millions of dollars and many million for annual maintenance. Instead people sit around a table and someone says: “I have a bright idea: lets only buy refurbished machines.” Great idea. But by saving a couple of millions of dollars on – say - 200 new machines a year, you get decreased efficiency that costs – at back of envelope guess – ten times as much.
Thursday 0230 GMT August 28, 2014
· US Court Refuses to Stop Kurdistan from selling oil cargo in US The case concerns the tanker United Kalavrvta with 1.03-million barrels of oil. A US refinery operator purchased the cargo – three smaller cargos had been sold to this and another company previously without fuss. The ship anchored of Galveston TX because it is too big to enter the port. Arrangements were made for transhipment via smaller tankers; US Coast Guard cleared the unloading; and then of a sudden the US court in Houston accepts Iraq’s request to seize what Baghdad says is a stolen cargo.
· What this sudden shift? Shipment of smaller cargoes, in the 250,000- to 500,000-barrel range, have been underway since 2013. Iraq apparently felt the amounts were not worth argument. But with the moral support of the US State Department, Iraq filed a petition in Houston, and Baghdad’s plea for seizure was accepted by the learned court.
· But where does US State come into the picture? Is there a US embargo on purchase of Kurd oil? Well, actually no. Indeed, the US guided 2005 constitution specifically grants Iraq’s governates the right to find, develop, and sell oil from their territory. Old oil, previous to 2005, belonged to all of Iraq, but not new oil. It is on the basis of the constitution that Arbil has been selling oil to Turkey and Iran. And the Iraq supreme Court has backed Arbil, refusing a petition by Baghdad to stop oil sales except through Baghdad.
· Now, we are not going to speculate why this clause about new oil was written (Articles 112 and 115). But since US, via Viceroy Bremmer, was guiding everything in Iraq in that time, down to the brand of toilet paper Iraq should buy, all Arbil did was follow the constitution birthed with US as midwife. State Department will tell you that a lot of things were left for later discussion between Baghdad and the regions and it was never the intention that a region declare itself independent in the matter of oil. Well, no such discussion was successful, and regardless of State’s interpretation, Iraq Supreme Court is – er – supreme.
· Okay, you say, now that that’s completely confused us, what is State’s angle in blocking Kurd oil sales? It wasn’t just this cargo. Another million barrel cargo has been sitting of Morocco for 2-months, unable to unload wherever it was to be unloaded (Editor still hasn’t figured this one out) because of US pressure. It looks like Germany and Italy bought the cargo. A third million barrel cargo destined for “North East Asia” – talk about Senor Oil Slim Shady – was blocked off Singapore until it managed to sell its cargo at sea. A smaller cargo of 300,000-bbl for a US buyer actually entered Delaware Bay; the buyer backed off and the ship sailed away to dispose of the oil in the Mediterranean, where swashbuckling oil types are buying every drop of Kurd oil they can get, and shipping it off to unknown places.
· State’s angle is that it doesn’t want Arbil to sell its own oil and become independent. This may one day becomes a classic case of how ineffectual US Government has become. First, as we mentioned about, Kurd oil is selling everywhere except the US. Editor spent two weeks researching and writing up an exceedingly boring analysis of Kurd oil; if you really cannot sleep until you see the analysis, email and Editor will send it to you. It has all kindly of wildly exciting details, such as the voyages of the tanker Kamari, Hungary and the tanker United Carrier, and the happy clandestine purchases by Israel. Many of these tankers to Israel are owned by the Turkish President’s(ex PM’s) son, but hey, what’s the point of being a capitalist if you cant take advantage of cronies.
· Be that as it may, State was made to look quite pathetic – like a cat half-drowned in a flood – when right after signing the order to seize oil aboard the tanker United Kalavrvta, the US District Court went “Oppsies! The tanker is 100-km off Galveston and outside US territorial water, so we cant seize it.”
· So the argument between Arbil and Baghdad was put before the court. The court ruled for Arbil this past Monday, but as is often the case in the US, the court said Baghdad could file an amended appeal in 10-days. In other worlds, Baghdad gets another shot at proving, in different ways, what it could not prove the first time.
· The court’s decision came down to one thing: the judge wanted to know who held the chain of custody. Obviously Government of Iraq never had custody. Oil was produced by KRG, shipped via a KRG pipeline to Turkey, shipped via a Turk pipeline to Ceyhan, loaded on a Marshall Islands flagged tanker, and sent off to America. The chain of custody rests solidly with the Kurds, Baghdad never got to put a paw on the shipment.
· But, you will say, how does this make sense? KRG is part of Iraq, albeit an autonomous region by grace of Iraq law, so doesn’t the oil belong to Iraq? Aha: this is why you need lawyers. Baghdad is not disputing Arbil’s right to produce and sell the oil to whom it wants. All it is saying is that the financial transaction has to go through Baghdad, which will deduct its 83% share and return 17% to KRG – this is another long story which we wont get into.
· So, said the US District Court, Arbil may have violated Iraqi law. But maritime and US law has not been violated because Baghdad never had custody of the oil. So, for example, had Arbil hijacked a Baghdad charted ship at sea, then maritime law would be violated. And when Arbil seeks to sell the stolen cargo in the US, then US law would be violated. Editor has given you a super-simplified version of the proceedings. After all, neither is he a maritime lawyer, nor does he have access to the case records. But still, keep in mind it’s a lot more complex than we’ve made out.
· Meanwhile, State is sitting in Washington, furiously sucking on its binky. Readers may well ask: how is it our government has become so incompetent? Couldn’t State have analyzed this in excruciating detail before backing Baghdad?
· We’ll tell you our theory, which really comes from just about anyone in Europe. US throws its weight around all over the world on economic and other matters, regardless of what the law says. In bullies and intimidates people into doing its will. So, for example, Swiss law says owners of bank accounts are not to be identified – no ifs or buts. But the US has gotten the Swiss to violate their own laws by going after Swiss financial institutions in the US and levying centi-million dollar fines with threats that this is just the start. But this time the US had no leverage over the Kurds. So the Kurds blew a giant raspberry at Washington. What is US going to do? Punish Kurdistan – previously its close, secular, and democratic ally? Punish how? Withhold arms and air support so that Kurdistan falls to IS?
0230 GMT Wednesday August 27, 2014
· Islamist Militia claims control of Tripoli, Libya says other forces have been forced to the outer edges of the capital. This militia is from Misrata, east of the capital and a major center of resistance to the deposed Libyan dictator; it was engaged primarily with the Zintan militia from west of Tripoli, also a major participant in the 2011 revolution.
· Let’s assume a Martian academic is writing about the Global War On Terror. He has never been to Earth and is in no way sympathetic to, or involved with, any political faction. He is researching strictly the facts, and his conclusions are based strictly on the behavior he observes. He learns that the enemy in the GWOT is western hating Islamists.
· (a) He studies Iraq 2003, which is ruled by a secular dictator, who is brutal whenever faced with opposition to his rule. The US/West decide to overthrow him so that democracy can flourish. Eleven years later, Iraq is on the verge of disintegrating, and the chief player is an Islamist movement controlling about half the country. This movement is even more brutal than the deposed dictator, because it kills not just those opposed to its rule, but because they happen to be of the wrong Muslim sect or another religion altogether. Score one for the Islamists.
· (b) He studies Libya 2011, which is ruled by a secular dictator, who is mildly brutal when faced with opposition to his rule. The US/West decide to overthrow him so that democracy can flourish. The result? The country is on the verge of disintegration; Islamists are ascendant; the democratically elected parliament has fled the capital to the far eastern reaches of the country where it is safe from Islamists.
· (c) He studies Syria, 2011-preent, which is ruled by a secular dictator who is brutal when faced with opposition to his rule. The US/West decide to overthrow him so that democracy can flourish. The result? In a three-way civil war between the government, secular militia and the Islamists, the secularists are essentially wiped out, and the Islamists own a big chunk of the countryand march from strength to strength.
· (d) He studies Pakistan 2001-present. Pakistan is an ally in the GWOT, except Pakistan is also the biggest creator of Islamist militias. Under Government of Pakistan’s adept tutelage, there are perhaps 100,000 Islamist fighter in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan. Because the government cannot control the militias it has created, it has lost effective control of about half the country (west of the Indus River). US attacked Afghanistan in 2001 to deny the Islamists a base in that country, but 13 years later, the Islamists have a huge base in terms of area and fighters in what the Americans like to call “AfPak”.
· (e) He examines Yemen. No serious Islamists are evident before the US launches the GWOT. Then the Islamists start growing, US aids the government to fight them, and the Islamists are slowly but surely gaining a serious base in the country.
· (f) He considers Nigeria. Yes, there has always been trouble between the Muslim north and the Christian south, but during the period of the GWOT, the Islamists expand to the point there is a real danger they will come to control Northern Nigeria.
· Etcetra etcetra – no need to be labor the point, or discuss Somalia, the Mahgreb and so on, or the growing attraction of jihad to the West’s own children. You know, the cute little tykes we are fighting to make the world safe for.
· Our Martian scholar is defending his thesis before his university’s committees, and is asked to summarize his conclusion in a short paragraph. He says: “Though the United States and its western allies say they are fighting Islamic extremism, they are doing it in a way that makes such extremism expand day-by-day. The US/West is fighting the GWOT in a manner assured to deliver victory to its declared enemy. My conclusion is that the GWOT is actually a cover to expand the Islamization of the world. The US/West has to be ruled by people who are actually Islamists themselves. “
Tuesday 0230 GMT August 26, 2014
· Ukraine says that an armored column of Russian soldiers with armor invaded Ukraine and is headed for Mauripol on the Black Sea. One source says they counted 10 tanks and two infantry fighting vehicles; others say there were at least 50 armored vehicles. Two points come to mind.
· How does Ukraine know the soldiers are Russian when they were flying a rebel flag? Kiev says it captured a tank and a self-propelled artillery gun when their crews abandoned their equipment. In one of the vehicles Ukraine forces found ID’s belonging to Russian 76th Airborne Division, also called the Pskov Division. This sounds odd. (a) Since when are Russian airborne divisions equipped with main battle tanks and SP medium artillery? Take a look at the foto http://t.co/lX7Ue4ETE3 and you’ll see what we mean. (b) Is it likely that elite Russian airborne troops would be operating in such a tiny force and just blithely wander down the road to Mauripol singing hey-ho-the merry-ho or whatever, and then run for it after two armored vehicles were hit?
· The second point is of greater interest. If the rebels – under Russian guidance and most likely with genuine Russian troops intermixed – are opening a new front altogether, what does this mean? Speculation is that it could be to relieve pressure on Donetsk, which is essentially surrounded. If the object is to relieve pressure on Donetsk, then its far better done by penetrating to the immediate north and south of the city and getting behind the besieging force, rather than opening a new front a good distance away. It may be that the Russians intend to move against Mauripol at some point because the Crimea cannot be properly defended as long as Odessa is in Ukraine hands. This, however, raises the question. Having eschewed a direct invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, why are the Russians going after Mauripol now? Attacking Odessa is not like attacking Eastern Ukraine where the rebels are entrenched.
· Israel says any Gaza building housing Hamas personnel or offices is a target In the first phase of Operation Protective Edge, the Israelis were attacking specific parts of building where Hamas operatives might be present. Now Israel is flattening entire buildings. It took down an 11-story building, a 7-story one, and a shopping plaza. Insofar as there is probably no building where some Hamas are present or were present, this means open season on all buildings in Gaza.
· It will be said that the Israelis are punishing Gaza residents for not rising up against Hamas, and are also imposing collective punishment. Editor’s comment: A-a-a-n-n-n-d-d-d? There is no need for analysts to act as if they have discovered the Fifth Gospel because the Israelis have many times bluntly said they are squeezing the civilian population until it turns against Hamas. Them’s the breaks of war, sorry about that.
· Our problem is, where’s the evidence this tactic works? Where has it been shown to work? How possibly can an unarmed, ruthlessly beaten down people rise up against its harsh tyrants – who started out as democrats? If you the average Gaza resident, there’s maybe 20 folks in your extended family, more than half of whom are children, and half of the remainder are women, and of then men some proportion is old men. If you are of fighting age, your first priority is to try and save your family, not to ambush Hamas militiamen in the street, grab their weapons, and start shooting at Hamas. If you are under an enormous assault from an enemy, does your anger go against your own fighters or the enemy?
· None of this is particularly hard stuff, people. You don’t have to be a military genius to figure this out.
Monday 0230 GMT August 25, 2014
Folks, school (i.e. work) has started and college is about to start. Spring Term Editor got a B in one college course because he was spending too much time on Orbat updates and Twitter. Of course, it was a master’s level computer course, thus very hard for us non-techs, especially us Ancient Mariners. Seventy is not a great age to start a master’s in Information Assurance when all you know about computer security is “never tell anyone your password”. Still, cannot afford to make the mistake again – one Fall term course is even harder than the one in which Editor got a B. Even the young techies were getting Bs, but that’s because they thought they knew it all and weren’t studying enough.
· President Obama is not to blame for Iraq/Syrias See, Editor is not an Obama fan – readers know that. But if one is to consider oneself a rational person, one cannot attack someone for stuff for which he is not to blame.
· Taking Libya, Obama is very definitely to blame. He understood quite well that overthrowing The Gaffy might well lead to chaos and not stability. That is why he was so reluctant to commit. Britain and France, for their own quite obscure reasons, were hot to trot after Gaffy. Please take their statements about “genocide”, “tyranny”, etc. and toss them in the shredder. Editor doesn’t know what their real reasons for intervention were. In fact, he doesn’t know they had any reasons at all except the Mini Me Syndrome. US gets to bash all comers at will, maybe London/Paris wanted to have a little excitement by bashing someone who was quite pathetic.
· Knowing that the chances were slim of anything good coming out of intervening in Libya, Obama should have firmly said “no”. We are told he said “yes” because the Brits/Frenchies emotionally blackmailed him: “We went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan because US asked for our support. Now its your turn.” It’s easy for us sitting on the outside to say he still should have been the adult in the room. That ignores the reality of relationships between allies and domestic relationships. The point is so obvious we need not beat it to death.
· But Obama was right not to intervene in Syria Lets look at this backward. You don’t see the canny Brits, Frenchies, Gulfies, Turkeys rushing in with air strikes and land invasions. They have been extremely circumspect, acting through proxies. So was the US. Its just that our proxies got the stuffing beat out of them by the Islamists and Assad. We have to face facts. Upping the ante when you are losing – for example, sending more weapons when the weapons you are sending are being stolen by the Islamists at gun point, no less – is not strategy, its Looney Tunes. Obama and Gang were quite aware that by occupying Iraq 2003, all we did is to make Iran, our enemy, much more powerful and to anger our Sunni friends. That’s the Law Of Unexpected Consequences, to which the US seems particularly prone because we Americans are not given to thinking – locally, nationally, internationally. It seemed to Obama that all alternatives were bad.
· And he was right because the situation was not one in which we could have won just by using proxies. It isn’t always that way. US busted FRY into seven component nations by using proxies and a bit of air power. Good job CIA. We busted the Soviets in Afghanistan by using proxies. Except that one turned around and bit our butts but good. Still, FRY worked out beautifully. We got all of Eastern Europe out of the Bear’s Greedy Paws without firing a shot. Heck, we even got the Baltics out of Moscow’s sphere of influence. Not bad at all. Had everyone been a bit more patient, in time we could have taken Ukraine away. Of course, winning repeatedly makes people arrogant. The Moro Rebellion )strictly the Second Moro Rebellion) took 45-years of US working with Manila to bring to a very fragile ceasefire.
· If US wasn’t so arrogant and actually asked India about CI, the Indians would say the same thing. Minimum 30-years. Likely 50-years. Better 80-years. The leading CI experts in the world are not the Americans or even the Brits. It’s the Indians. Butthat’s another story.
· Editor has been through this again and again. To win in Syria meant ground intervention and a 50-year commitment. Ditto North Africa. Ditto Somalia. Ditto Iraq. Ditto Afghanistan – except that one requires 100 years. There’s nothing at all wrong with these long time frames. Seventy years later Japan and Germany still cannot stand on their own. Of course, there’s the argument that we don’t want them to so they do not rise again as threats. That’s another discussion.
· Realistically, does anyone think the American public would accept 50 to 100 year interventions? Ha Ha. Double Ha Ha. Triple Ha Ha while rolling on the floor gasping for air because the notion is so hilarious.
· Since Syria would have taken 50 years – as Iraq and other places, why then even start to get involved when we’re going to lose through our impatience?
· When US started providing Kurdistan with air strikes, for a moment Editor was comfortable with the thought US was doing intervention right. It was aiming only to keep IS out of Kurdistan. Very low cost, can be continued for years and years, perfectly tailored for US inerests, and very helpful that the Kurds are Good Guys.
· But then American ADHD-ism struck, literally while Editor was snoozing on his sofa in the afternoon. The mission has started expanding because people are making the same, tired argument: we cant resolve this without a broader intervention.
· The American power elite needs 100 whacks on each butt. Not with limp noodles, but with Singapore canes. Who in heck’s name said we can resolve Iraq/Syria? We aren’t willing to make a proper commitment; all we’re doing is expanding another war that we will lose interest in and walk away from.
Friday 0230 August 22, 2014
· Israel is back at war. The cabinet and senior military commanders need to resign for having stopped fighting and thus conceding the momentum to Hamas. Tel Aviv went off into a fit of blithering before sitting down to talk with Hamas, knowing there can be no talks, and there is no possible solution aside from a military solution. Israel’s leaders deliberately deceived themselves – the “Eyes Wide Shut” syndrome – that they had punished Hamas sufficiently that the enemy would now be sweet reasonableness, negotiate a ceasefire, and keep the ceasefire.
· Hamas, which apparently ever got the message that was dead, didn’t waste much time before restarting rocket attacks. Hamas’s reasons are easily understood. It quickly understood they Israelis were not going to give much at the Cairo talks: since they considered themselves the victors, why should they. Hamas could have taken the coward’s way out by accepting whatever terms it could get and then building up again. But Hamas refused and resumed fighting.
· At this point, sorry to say, it is Hamas that has showed courage and integrity, not Tel Aviv. Even now Bibi Marshmallow it already puting out that Hamas does have more than 25% of its rockets left, short-range ones, and that it will have to come to the negotiating table. Our point is, even if Tel Aviv forces Hamas to negotiate, Hamas will not stick by any agreement. It will rebuild and attack again. Bibi had the entire country behind him on this war. If he had just gone on to take all of Gaza, search out and kill/imprison anyone with the least connection to Hamas, and then occupied Gaza to ensure no repeated of the last few years, Israelis would have supported him. Instead Bibi started squawking like a frightened chicken, declared victory, and went home. Only to have to return in ignominy mere days later.
· Editor hates to sound like some kind of extreme right-wing, ultra-nationalist Israeli. But he is disgusted that Israel cannot bring a 130-square-mile territory under control. Has Israel become Wimp Nation? If so, it is doomed to destruction. How are Bibi and his generals going to justify themselves to future generations of Israelis and Jews? “Oh, sorry, we didn’t feel like fighting to a finish, we just aren’t the men and women we used to be.” Fair enough. Then just lie down and die, or leave the Middle East.
· Ukraine Editor has to confess to bafflement with Mr. Putin. Ukraine forces have surrounded the core of the resistance, Donetsk and Luhansk. They are fighting well inside Luhansk. But nary a sign of Russian intervention when a few more weeks of this and it will be all over.
· One reads every other day of some military convoy entering from Russia. But where are all these fighters, artillery, and armored fighting vehicles? Is Russia planning to get behind Ukraine forces in the east and then cut them off, forcing a Ukrainian withdrawal from the east? Its okay to say Russia is waiting for the right moment to strike back, but when is the right moment? When the rebels are down to their last four city blocks.
· Or has Mr. Putin given in to western pressure and is just playing to the gallery by sending reinforcements which will not be used? Is it planning to let Donetsk/Luhansk fall and go back to Stage I guerilla war? But who gets almost to Stage III and then voluntarily falls back to Stage I?
Thursday 0230 GMT August 21, 2014
· The Kurd-Turkey-Iran rapprochement In the recent excitement since the Islamic State invasion of northern Iraq, Editor has forgotten to answer an obvious question that many readers have. Are the Kurds supposed to be enemies with the Turks and the Iranians, given these two countries have large Kurd populations? After all, it has been an article of faith that any move by Arbil to secede from Iraq would be opposed by Ankara and Teheran.
· First, a generalization. Anyone who has not spent two lifetimes studying the Mideast and who claims to understand the region is fibbing. The inhabitants of this region, which should technically be called MENA – Middle East and North Africa, seem to have a unique knack of being unable to simply walk a straight line from Point a to Point B. We are not passing a value judgment about the culture, simply making a factual statement. The Arabs and the Persians see beauty in complicating the most straightforward issues. They fancy themselves as masters of subtlety and intrigue. We’ll give a simple example, Saudi Arabia.
· The Saudis are the greatest terrorist financers in the world. Yet the number one enemy of these terrorists is the Saudi regime. Of the ten explanations a Saudi will give you for why the regime supports terrorists opposed to the regime, there will be the truly pathetic explanation “by focusing terrorists energies abroad, we buy safety”. Two points here. First, its downright unfriendly to your so-called friends (for example, US, India) to pay people you should be shooting dead to spread terror through their countries. That doesn’t bother the Saudis. It’s all part of the subtlety: they can be stabbed you in the back simultaneously while treating you as their best friend. They’re not lying and deceiving as far as they are concerned. They are simply being subtle. Second, how can Saudi be sure it can control these terrorists? Few nations have a good record in this respect. Holding snake by his tail means at some point snake bites you. Our hypothetical Saudi will chuckle mirthfully. “We’re subtle, it’s no problem for us.”
· Now multiply this attitude, raise to the power 10, and that’s how many complications, lies and deceptions you are daily faced with in MENA. If you think you can control this, as Washington stupidly has thought for decades, you deserve to be dead. Sorry. Evolution has no room for stupids.
· With this generalization out of the way, here’s another which is easier to accept. We’ll use the Kurds as an example. When you hear the term “Kurd”, you naturally think of one people. Big mistake. There are Kurds and there are Kurds. Remember, in this region the tribe comes first. Moreover, people in the region are expert exponents of the old adage “there are no permanent friends or enemies, there are only permanent interests.”
· So hopefully we have set the background for a very simple explanation of why Turkey and Iran are helping Kurdistan even if it means Arbil’s independence. You can see that Teheran will do what needs to be done to work with the Kurds in order to hit Islamic State. Moreover, Kurdistan has become a big trading partner. Still further, Iranian Kurds are not all hot to join an independent Kurdistan. Though the Kurds on both sides of the border are ethno-linguistically close, each tribe and each group of tribes has its own interests.
· Ditto Turkey. First, Turkey is hydrocarbon poor. Kurdistan is hydrocarbon rich. Connect the dots; Turkey is making a whacking great amount of money off Kurdish oil. The Kurds give Turkey excellent terms on everything: exploration, production, transportation, and export of crude. Second,Turkish Kurds are different from Kurdistan Kurds. Third, Turkish Kurds have called a ceasefire that – so far – is sticking. One thing Turkish Kurds have learned is that the Turks are not soft-hand Europeans. They have a quite brutal Central Asian side to them, too. The Turks are quite happy to endless continue slaughtering separatist Kurds, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands – makes no difference. The Turkish motto here is: “Let them come and we will kill them”.
Wednesday 0230 GMT August 20, 2014
· Israel as a marshmallow state First it fights a brief war against Gaza, declares victory, and goes home, leaving the way open for yet another round. All Israel has done is return to the status quo ante as existed in 2012, the last time the IDF whacked Hamas. Then it agrees with US that to “help peace” Tel Aviv must relax its blockade of Gaza; if this were to happen then Israel is going back to the status quo ante of 2007, which would signify a defeat.
· Next, it sits down to negotiate with Hamas. The word “negotiate” is an oxymoron because Hamas’s central charter requires the destruction of Israel, and Hamas not just sticks by this, even as it emerges from the latest whacking by the IDF, it is already threatening Israel all over again. Just to make its point that it is not intimidated, Hamas yesterday launched 29 rockets in 20 minutes at Israel. This led the Israelis to leave the Cairo negotiating table in a huff. But what were they doing there in the first place? This is a zero-sum game. Either Israel kills Hamas, or war continues. So what is there to negotiate?
· Then we learn a refusnik in Israel who refused orders for military service is in jail, where every 20 days he gets a weekend off to be with his family. And – imagine the terrible agony this poor darling must endure – this could go for months. OMG OMG OMG. Can we try 20 years with no weekends off?
· Israel, the so called warrior state, is just a fat, pale marshmallow. People who don’t do what is necessary for survival usually don’t survive.
· US police This is Editor’s personal view. US police now seldom patrol in pairs. They use one man in a squad car. Decades ago Editor read a RAND study that said shifting to more 1-person cars decreased crime. Fair enough, on paper it must work out, RAND are no dummies. The theory is that if that officer needs backup, more cars can quickly arrive.
· Regardless of theory, a single officer feels terribly vulnerable when confronted with threats to his safety. This one reason US police tend to shoot first and ask no questions later. Another reason, Editor feels, is that American police are no longer chosen for size. Editor sees plenty of petite women and short men playing police. If you are a 5-foot six or eight officer, and you confront an angry suspect who is 6-foot four or bigger and outweighs you by a hundred pounds, let’s just say most people in that situation would shoot first. Next, as is well known, America is a violent country among wealthy nations, and a police officer just never knows when the suspect is going to pull a gun, a knife, or is flying higher than a kite.
· Remember Rodney King who despite the best efforts of half-a-dozen policemen to subdue him with maximum non-lethal force just kept throwing off the officers because he was feeling no pain, and had no idea what he was doing? Well, let’s imagine a single officer confronting Mr. King. Inevitable consequence: Bang, you’re dead, Mr. King
· Next, American police have a well-earned reputation for not backing down. This kind of refusal is necessary, because once someone thinks they can intimidate a police officer, then we as a society are in real trouble. If you’re a lone officer that feels under threat, the only way you can avoid backing down without risking serious injury or death is to shoot. Combine this with the lack of training in disabling suspects – American police are taught to shoot-to-kill - and you are going to get trouble.
Tuesday 0230 GMT August 19, 2014
· Kurdistan Though there are still some villages/towns to be recovered, essentially the Kurds have defeated the IS offensive against the north, with the help of the US airpower, of course. Plus arms, both directly supplied by CIA and by the Iraqis, which had to be persuaded by US that helping Arbil was in their best interest.
· To recap. When IS invaded Iraq, its drive was south and east. West Iraq, namely Anbar, was already mostly in rebel hands. Together with an offensive toward Baghdad from south of the capital, IS was set to seize the capital. But what few of us realized is that IS’s arrival gave the Kurds the opportunity to seize large parts of northern Iraq. Maps of the region as shown in the media are dated: Arbil not only pushed south, for example taking Kirkuk, but also to the southeast along the Iran border. Indeed, Editor himself only realized about two weeks ago how much area has been grabbed by the Kurds.
· IS realized that its entire northern flank was now exposed to Arbil’s forces, which for all IS knew, could continue advancing into Iraq proper. So IS stopped its offensive toward Baghdad, and began advancing on Arbil from the south and the west. That offensive has now been defeated.
· A clarification is necessary. Is Arbil brazenly committing aggression against the state of Iraq by expanding its boundaries south and south east? Educating himself further, Editor learned this is not the case. Editor is not making excuses for himself, he has never had any need to study northern Iraq. You see, the Kurds at one time de facto controlled a lot more of the north than they did when the US invaded. The Kurds have been fighting Bagdad in one form or another since the region was given to the imperially created state of Iraq after World War I. Mostly this fighting has been kind of feeble. But by the early 1970s Baghdad – aka Saddam – had decided the issue had to be settled, and agreed to grant Kurd Iraq autonomy. Okay so far?
· The Kurds, having gained regional autonomy, then overreached, pressing for independence. The Wrath of Saddam descended in full force. Saddam, deciding he had had enough of the Kurds, began Arabizing cities like Mosul and Kirkuk, expelling the local Kurds and settling folks from other parts of Iraq in traditionally Kurdish territory.
· Aha, you say, so the Kurds are only taking back what is theirs. Their first chance came when the US invaded in 2003; their second when IS invaded in 2014. You would be entirely correct, except one thing has to be kept in mind. Northern Iraq is not just ethnic Kurds. It is a multi-ethnic area with Turkmens, Christians, the now-in-the-news Yazdis, Sunnis (not counting those settled by Saddam), and Shias. The Kurds were in the majority, but far from being the only people. Luckily, for everyone, the Kurds are secular. They have offered refuge to any group that asks for it, regardless of ethnicity or religion. In fact, Kurdistan is what the US wanted Iraq to be: live and let live for all people. So its not as if the Kurds taking over what they have long claimed as their land has or will lead to the oppression of anyone else. Nonetheless, this multi-ethnicity is something one needs to be aware of these days, to understand the background.
· Okay, with that out of the way, lets note that in 2014, the Iraq Army was very much in control of Mosul and Kirkuk and a whole bunch of other Kurd claimed territory. No one on Kurdistan had much hope that if they went to war with Baghdad, they’d win. Its only the rout of the Iraq security forces by IS that allowed the Kurds to step back into their claimed lands.
· At this point we have to make another of those digressions that Editor knows drive readers crazy. But see, unless the details are laid out, then one’s understanding remains limited. We have to now talk about the Peshmerga. Most of us thought that the Peshmerga are the Kurdish Army. Editor for one had no clue this was not the case. But actually the Pesh is formed of sub-armies maintained by different Kurd political parties. There is no unified army.
· A whole mythology was created around the Peshmerga – by the Kurds snookering a gullible western press. The Kurds are an attractive people, with this history of ceaseless resistance to brutal Baghdad, their tolerance, their multi-ethnicity, and democratic ways. So it’s easy to fall for the mythology. The Kurds were never as strong as was made out, and they certainly are not 200,000 strong. That’s not surprising if you think about it: the population – no one knows what it is with any precision – is 5-million, so a 200,000 man army would be like the US maintaining a 12-million person army. There well may be 200,000 fighters, yet many are required to protect oil infrastructure, policing, and so on.
· Next, the Peshmerga is not a conventional army, but lightly-armed and lightly-trained militia. They have heart, yes, but when you are facing a ruthless, very efficient lot like IS, with endless stores of ammunition and heavy weapons captured from the Iraqis, heart is not enough. Still further, the Peshmerga is holding a 1,000-km front against IS – and the initiative is with the IS. Put all this together, while we doubt IS could have advanced far into Kurdistan, Arbil, the capital, would certainly have fallen and the oil companies would have scampered away very quickly. This would have ended Arbil’s dream of an independent oil republic.
· If IS had got hold of more oil fields – it has control of several small ones in Syria, particularly the big fields at Kirkuk, Tawake, Khurmala, and Taq Taq, even selling oil via truck at $30/barrel, which IS is doing in Syria, the Caliphate would have been in Fat City. With money comes many things necessary to maintain and expand a state. You see the point.
· So. Things are back to normal, say around third week of July. Now KRG is preparing to go after Mosul, the caliphate’s capital. Presumably the US will continue with the air support. In several months, their army strengthened by foreign aid, they may well take Mosul. That doesn’t mean IS will be defeated; it just means that because of US air attacks, IS will find it difficult to fight conventionally. They can continue as a guerilla organization for as long as suits them. We’ll discuss this matter sometime.
Monday 0230 August 18, 2014
· Mosul Dam, Iraq A CBS News radio report at 1730 US EDT featured a western correspondent in Arbil (capital of Kurdistan, also spelled Erbil or Irbil) saying the Kurds claimed to have taken the dam from IS. US CENTCOM statement yesterday said: “The 14 strikes conducted on Sunday in Iraq damaged or destroyed ten ISIL armed vehicles, seven ISIL Humvees, two ISIL armored personnel carriers, and one ISIL checkpoint.” http://www.centcom.mil/en/news/articles/aug.-17-u.s.-military-conducts-airstrikes-against-isil-near-the-mosul-dam The CBS radio report said land-based aircraft had been used.
· Action to retake the dam was necessary because of fear IS could open the sluice gates, creating a flood down the Tigris that would wipe out towns and villages enroute to Baghdad, and cover the capital in 5-meters of water. There has been talk that IS could blow the dam, but dams are not that easy to destroy. Nonetheless, another concern has emerged. Apparently the dam is built on unstable foundations to begin with, and it needs monthly injections of material into the foundation to keep it from just giving way. Because of other preoccupations, the Iraqi government has been resorting to this temporary fix the last ten years, instead of looking for a permanent solution. So clearly with IS in control of the dam, the monthly patch was not being conducted. The dam might well have collapsed on its own.
· Other reports say US is watching Hadita Dam in Anbar. It is under seize by IS, which so far hasn’t managed to dislodge the 2000 Iraqi security forces protecting it.
· Ukraine Aside from Donetsk and Luhansk, four other smaller cities are under seize by Kiev forces. Though there are some army units, mostly these forces are ill-trained militia volunteers. Still, insofar as Kiev has managed to regain territory to the extent only the Donetsk-Luhansk region is holding out, they have not done badly at all, thanks primarily to the large-scale use of artillery.
· The answer to what Mr. Putin has been doing may lie in the statement by a rebel commander that he was in the process of receiving from Russia 1200 men, trained for 4-months, 120 armored vehicle, and 30 tanks. The rebels also enjoy some artillery support from the Russia side. They shot down a Ukraine fighter today.
· Kiev claims to have wiped out most of the convoy of armored vehicles and trucks that entered Ukraine from Russia late last week. Quite brazenly, too: the convoy simply strolled across an unprotected point. We’re unsure what to make of this story since Ukraine claims it used artillery in a night attack. It is plausible only if the US is proving aerial reconnaissance.
· Editor’s YMCA has a weight room and two other rooms with weight training machines. So Saturday Editor was in the weight room that overlooks the swimming pool. Editor is told that taking occasional 15-second breaks to rest one’s eyes on the swimming pool is a good thing. He’s not quite sure why, because he’s not wait training his eyes. But let it be said that sometimes the view of the pool can be inspiring.
· So it was on Saturday, where a nicely proportioned young lady was lying on a pool chair not 5-meters from the weight room. Editor’s eyes are not that good any more, but there was no doubt about the young lady’s proportions. Over the course of the hour that Editor was working on the machines, this person had her cell-phone camera on, and postured non-stop, admiring herself. Very easy-on-the-eye poses too. So Editor is not complaining. In the course of the hour, as far as Editor could tell when he was looking out for his 15-second breaks, the lady sent three text and received one call. The rest of the time there was a true mutual admiration society going on: one person was the lady, the other her camera.
· Now, as a teacher Editor is used to this self-admiration via cell phone. His girls are constantly at it. But they use the camera to repair makeup, take a mug shot with their friends, stuff like that. They are not in a one-hour self-adoration session. Lady was still at it when Editor left. He was enveloped in foreboding concerning the future of the Republic and human kind.
· Talking about cell phones, the other day Editor was stopped at a red light on Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring, a road he takes to-and-from the gym. Most everyone drives carefully because there are cyclists galore, and a surprisingly number of people observe the 40-kilometers-per hour (25 mph) speed limit. Helped, no doubt, by what these days amounts to a heavy police presence. Which really means about twice a week Editor will see a police car on his 14 journeys to-and-fro the gym. Okay. So along comes a lady, crossing the street without looking up from her phone for the curb, or if a turning car turning left or right from the cross street was being less careful than it should. The cross street has a speed limit of 50 kmph (30 mph) and people regularly do 10-15 kmph higher. One hand had the phone, the other pushed a pram with an infant, and behind came a toddler, toddling along on his own trying to catch up with her. She did not look up when she reached the other curb, where should easily have walked into a street light, a telecom box, or the bus shelter. Or been rundown by a cyclist on the sidewalk.
Friday 0230 GMT August 15, 2014
Happy Birthday, India: Bash on Regardless
· The 130 Marines/SF troops in Arbil One problem with researchers like Editor is that we tend to get compulsive about our work. Editor happens to be super-compulsive to the point of ”We are Krazy” when it comes to inconsistencies in stories. So here we are again, and Editor still has his jaws firmly clamped around the butt of this story and refusing to let go. Normally we’d let it go as being of not special interest to readers. Yet, under the guise of Lessons For The Young Spy, we’re bringing it up once again.
· The story was first presented as the President was considering the dispatch of 130 Marines/SF troops to Arbil to assess humanitarian aid requirements for refugees in the Mt. Sinjar area. This irritated Editor because you don’t need 130 troops to make such assessments. He got even more orritated to learn that while the Prez was officially “pondering” such a move, the troops, along with MV-22s and – we assumed – helicopters were already in Arbil. Why this big fat lie?
· Then we were told that a dozen SF troops, plus some US aid officials, had visited Mt. Sinjar, decided no mission was needed, as few refugees remained, and left. The announcement was made after the troops left, which is fair from the viewpoint of operational security. This got Editor really angry, because what is the point of all those UAVs and recon aircraft and what not? A handful of troops could hardly have assessed the whole of the area – 100-km long – in the space of a day, which suggests US knew there were only a few refugees left before they went in.
· There were rumors that the troops were there to check out evacuation routes. Fair enough, despite remote eyes in the skies, you really do have to see the terrain for yourself. Presumably the SF folks had vehicles, perhaps 4-wheel ATVs and motorbikes. This would be a necessity, again because of the large area. But when the US in all probably knew from aerial reconnaissance, particularly from UAVs, that there were only a few refugees left, where was the necessity to examine evacuation routes? The Peshmerga plus Kurd allies from Syria were already doing a pretty good job of getting the refugees out. This anomaly was merely annoying, because this was only a rumor, not an official statement.
· But presumably, since evacuation was not necessary – indeed, US has even said there is no need for more aid drops – the 130 troops with the aircraft would now return from where they came (likely off USS Bataan). Instead Editor reads there is no time line for withdrawal of the aircraft. So what are they doing there?
· Defense News cleared up the mystery: “Their mission is limited to conducting intelligence assessments on Islamic State forces and helping to prepare possible recommendations for an expanded humanitarian assistance mission to help the Yazidis.” The first party provides the real reason for the mission. A very good thing, because obviously ground intelligence is required in the current situation. Yay, America, well done. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140813/DEFREG02/308130026/US-Military-Aircraft-Operating-Northern-Iraq
· But now we come to the crux of Editor’s aggro: why not just say so in the first place and be done with it? Why the lies? To those of who lived through Second Indochina, the US government fibbing about military matters brings back very bad memories. See, what US was doing in the case of Arbil is not spinning. Spinning is permitted. It was hiding something that Editor considers unnecessary to hide that is wrong.
· If you sort out every possible reason for the lie, only one is plausible. This is that for the first time the US had sent combat troops for a combat mission – intelligence and surveillance – to be conducted on the ground. From the start White house has been braying that no boots would be placed on the ground. You can overlook that several hundred combat troops are in Iraq for protection of U Embassy and varied interests. You can overlook some hundreds of combat troops are serving as advisors and trainers. We may reasonably agree that while these are combat troops, they will not be participating in combat, unlessit becomes necessary to protect American lies.
· What White House has done, as far as we can reasonably conclude, is within days of saying every day “no boots on the ground”, the US has committed troops who, while they will not be looking for a fight, are going out in the field looking for racks and horse droppings, so as to speak. Sure it will be low-key, low-profile, stealthy as much as possible. Intelligence/Surveillance is not a mission conducted by swaggering around the battlefield. But it is a combat mission, no matter how you slice, dice, chop logic because you’re out there on the battlefield, preparing to fight back if things go wrong. As they always do.
· Please to understand: Editor is all for this escalation. Much more is needed. But when you lie to protect yourself from having to admit you were wrong, then we’re on that slippery slope people talk about it. What Mr. Obama did wrong was keep categorically saying “no combat troops”. That he has been saying that shows, again, there is no plan, American is proceeding in an ad hoc manner day to day with no clue as to what comes tomorrow. It also makes the President into a situational liar of the variety “Well, you see when I said ‘no boots’, there was no intention to send boots. Now things have changed.”
Thursday 0230 GMT August 14, 2014
· US Government speaks different English from Editor Readers may have gathered Editor has been tres wroth at Tuesday’s announcement that US is sending 130 Marines and Special Forces to Kurdistan to assess evacuation of the refugees on Mt. Sinjar. Here is quote from CNN: “The …United States deployed 130 military advisers to get a firsthand look at the humanitarian crisis unfolding as ISIS fighters threaten Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities: Yazidis, Christians and Kurds.”
· You don’t send that many people to assess anything, particularly not evacuation from an area every square meter of which you have already photographed, and which you have covered 24/7 with UAVs. You already know what to do: send in cargo helicopters with a small number of troops to manage the evacuations; use air cover to prevent any move forward by IS (which is already being done.)
· IS you are disinclined to accept just Editor’s word about the number of people needed to assess, here is http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/13/world/meast/iraq-crisis/index.html?hpt=hp_t1 to tell us that a dozen SF troops spent 24-hours on Mt. Sinjar for assessment, and have left.
· But apparently when US says “assess”, it means that a contingent of 130 Marines/SF troops along with several MV-22s is already in Arbil. http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-us-sinjar-20140813-story.html There’s nothing to be assessed, the US is ready to go. When White House sources say that the President is pondering a rescue mission, it means the decision has been made – else why are the assets already in place? The MV-22s- and likely escort gunships – have probably come from the USS Bataan amphibious group that is in the area. If the President were still pondering, it would take only a few hours to send the aircraft. After all, what if he ponders against sending the aircraft? All that money wasted for nothing. So we may safely assume it’s a go, the pondering is when to tell the poor, stupid public.
· Aside from these troops, it can be inferred that US ground troops are also slated for Kurdistan. That is what the President is pondering. All well and good, and congratulations to Mr. See Nothing/Hear Nothing/Speak Endlessly for doing the needful. Better to have done it a week ago, he could have saved lives and much misety, but okay, carping aside, he is doing it. Ditto on the ground troops. With the 130 troops, apparently Monday, US now has 186 troops in Kurdistan
· The other really annoying thing from a Government that cannot make sense in its announcements is this hysterical yammering that we will have no boots on the ground. How can the rescue mission take place without boots on the grounds? Well we have boots on the ground, unless the Marine detachment and SF folks are floating around on anti-grav saucers of the design kids use to snowboard. Or unless they are roaming around in purple bunny slippers. So now that yammering has become no combat troops. Very odd. Are not the Marines and SF combat troops? Oh, the President means US troops will not be directly taking on IS.
· Okay, a word to our very clever President. Has he read Machiavelli’s “The Prince”?. Oddly that’s one of exactly two books Editor read before dropping out of college in his senior year, many decades ago. (The other was Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”.) All that Editor took away from “The Prince” is: when you have good things to give the peasants, dribble out the goodies, one at a time, slowly. But if you have bad things to tell them, do it all at once. They get over the bad news because one has to get on with life. Dribble the bad news is a big mistake.
· Instead of every week announcing the dispatch of another hundred troops – the announcement taking 15-seconds and the “no boots on the ground” justifications taking an hour. Mr. Obama would have been better off just saying: “We’’l do what we have to in order to protect Kurdistan”. Finished. No need for explainations.
· The way Mr. Obama is proceeding, you’d think the American people are adamantly opposed to intervention in Iraq so he has to cautiously test the waters for each step. But the American people are NOT opposed. What they oppose is another ill-thought blunder like 2003. Or should we say “no-thought blunder”?
· The real reason Mr. Obama starts every week with a new idea, is that he has no plan, ill-thought, well-though, or no-thought. This is not an original insight of Editor’s: most of the media is saying it, regardless of their individual political bias.
· Further, these baby steps are not cautious steps to see how the public reacts, but a conscious battle to refuse to admit he was wrong about the utility and need for military force in today’s world. This is why the affair is like pulling a sick dragon’s teeth. Folks remember, with irony, how the President boasted that force was so yesterday; negotiations and reasonableness were the order of the day. This is all part of his Nobel Peace Prize persona. Now Obama has to admit that yes, there is evil in the world not amenable to negotiations and discussions, and yes, we do have to often go and kill bad guys to save good guys. Does Mr. Obama strike you as the kind of person who can admit “I was wrong?”
· So are we headed for disaster in Iraq? Probably, because as with a highly alluring and exciting toxic girlfriend, it’s easy to get in, very hard to get out. Mr. Obama can say what he likes about a very limited intervention. The enemy also has a vote. And once in, it becomes impossible to just cut-loose by saying “our plan was to go this far and no more”. That’s not human nature, and when we have no plan, but the enemy does, we are for sure going to get into trouble. Only way we can win is to throw out stupid notions of limited wars. We have to fight to win, regardless of cost. But as a society we no longer can do this. Every time we pussy-foot, the enemy knows our determination will collapse at some point. He has to outwait us.
· By the way, trainers have to be sent for a number of reasons to do with the Peshmerga and the heavy weapons that are coming in. Editor mistook these 130 for trainers because one radio report said they were trainers. And security has to be provided for US forces. So after the President finishes pondering more troops, he will have to start pondering about even more troops.
Wednesday 0230 GMT August 13, 2014
· Russian aid for East Ukraine: Poots-Toots caught in a wee fibbie Russia had said that its 280-truck relief convoy was in cooperation with the ICRC (Red Cross to us peasants) . Problemo dudes and dudettes. ICRC says it is happy to cooperate, but Russia has given it no details. Meanwhile, Kiev says (a) the convoy must arrive a designated border crossing; (b) aid must be moved to ICRC vehicles; and (c) no troops or personnel from Russia’s Emergency Management agency. Well, guess what? Kiev hasn’t received any of that information.
· Still, Editor thinks the convoy is genuine civilian aid, this is just Putin giving the finger to Kiev and everyone else as in “Demmed if I’ll do it anyone else’s way.” We arrive at this conclusion by looking at the situation in reverse. All you young tykes who wanna be spies and analysts, ALWAYS start by looking at a situation upside down, right-to-left, from the sides, top or bottom, backward. In other words, anything but a linear approach.
· The question should be: why does Russia need the pretext of an aid convoy to send military aid? The Ukraine border is vast, Kiev has very little control over it. After all, Russia has been sending tanks, APC, artillery, SP SAMs and what not, and they haven’t disguised anything as aid. They’ve simply driven across the border.
· So we think this “fear” of the convoy being needed to send military aid is just (a) western propaganda, and (b) a Kiev ploy to be in charge of the aid, which is not going to happen.
· Mt. Sinjar So Christians and Yezdis have been on Mt. Sinjar for ten days. You can see from the fotos they have nothing but the clothes on their back and carpets. Over five days West has delivered 72,000 liters of water and maybe 30,000 MREs. Iraq helicopters have delivered perhaps 10-20 tons of supplies a day including diapers, which given the number of babies, is a sound idea. Now, no one seems to know with precision how many refugees there were on the mountain range. Numbers go up to 150,000. We know at least 30,000 have walked out through a corridor held by the Peshmerga. There are 20-30,000 left. If you do the math, basically each person has had a few ounces of food and water per day – some percentage of supplies has not made it, this is quite normal in airdrops to masses of civilians milling around.
West has been trumpeting its concern for the refugees, but actually
it has done very little. US, for example, typically sends three
aircraft – 2 C-130s and a C-17 – on a mission. RAF sends 2 C-130s.
Don’t look at the maximum loads the aircraft can carry – 16-18 tons
for a C-130, 80 for a C-17s. The pallets have to be parachute
rigged, so you cannot stuff every corner of the hold. Even if you
could, you would max out volume long before you max out weight for
the sort of cargo that’s being dropped. US/NATO have hundreds of
military cargo aircraft. Explanations please? One might be the US/UK
are doing the least needed to placate the public back home. The
Euros, bless their generous hearts, are doing nothing at all.
Whichever way you look at it, each person needs at the minimum 500
grams of food and 1000-grams of water (that’s four glasses – and its
122-degree F out there). Add medicines, baby formula, etc – all very
minimum, and you get 2-kg per person per day. If there were 150,000
refugees to begin with, that’s 300-tons. You can make your own
estimate. Seems at the minimum you’d need ten C-17 sorties a day or
thirty C-130s or some combination. The number would drop each day as
refugees escape. We’re guessing that about 50-tons a day are being
dropped inclusive of the Iraqis – if the US/UK are doing daily
airdrops. In the case of RAF, they have only done their second drop.
If you’re going to do a calculation, remember the
containers/rigging/parachutes also eat up weight .
Tuesday 0230 GMT August 12, 2014
In Editor’s Not So Humble Opinion, US is on right military track in Iraq
· A caveat: readers’ views on “right track” may well not accord with Editor’s. But then readers must come up with a politically viable alternative which can be discussed here. There is no sense, like many Obama critics, of just blindly criticizing him for (a) the past, which is gone and cannot be undone; and (b) without offering plans they are willing to stand behind and have a reasonable chance to pass.
· Readers know that Iraq cannot be “saved” just by the application of limited air power. Ground troops are needed – as also in Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria – for starters. None of these problems can be solved without the intelligent use of ground forces. But right away you see the problem.
· (a) US has consistently shown since 1945 that it cannot intelligently use ground troops. US is not Britain, with its three centuries of counterinsurgency experience and manipulation of the politics of each conflict area. Without the clever politics, ground victories cannot stand. US does not do limited war. We are crusaders. It has to be all or nothing. Editor is for going for the all: 10-million troops, 20% of GDP on defense, 100-years of war. Is this going to happen? Never.
· (b) Given the US public will go freak-freak-freaky if the USA sends more than a few enablers to Iraq – someone suggested 10-15,000 in yesterday’s Washington Post – the ground forces will be insufficient as was the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the result will be failure.
· So taking into account these two constraints, one strategic and one tactical, the limited use of airpower is a sensible course. It is almost cost-free in terms of casualties because no one is going to shoot down US planes. Sure IS may get SAMs from one or more of its nefarious backers, but the US operates in a way that the shoulder-fired types will be ineffective. The US is striking a mortar position there, a gun truck there, and convoys of 5-10 vehicles way out there – very low-level stuff, terribly yawn inducing. But that’s all it needs to do to keep Kurdistan safe.
· Moreover, US has partially seen sense and is resupplying Kurdistan. Of course, part of this is because it occurred to the Giant Minds at NSC/Pentagon/State that if the US would not help the Kurds until they gave up independence hopes, IS might have inflicted major defeats on the Kurds and this would have defeated US interests north of Baghdad. The Giant Minds are still insisting the Kurds stay in Iraq.
· We would ask the GMs: what precisely did Kurdistan get from doing this earlier? Baghdad wont give money, or when it does, it cheats, nor can Baghdad protect the Kurds. Unable to fulfill the basic protections accorded to a group within a nation, what exactly is the point of insisting Kurdistan must remain inside Federal Iraq? GM may answer “But with a different, inclusive leader, all this will change. We’ll have a functioning, strong Iraq.” Man, if would just sell the stuff you GMs are smoking on the street, the US deficit would be wiped out in a year. Iraq is NOT a nation! It was an artificial creating dating from the colonial imperatives of post World War I. It was kept united by brute force – first British-Indian, then by dictators. No non-Maliki PM can change a hair of this equation.
· Consider one small thing. Maliki is attacked for not permitting a strong professional army to develop. Hey, Giant Minds! Can you get your heads out of your nether regions and tell us what happens in most 3rd World countries if you do have a strong, professional army? Yes!! The Army takes over!!! No more democratic nation!!! Maliki has done exactly what Saddam did, except Maliki’s praetorians are a couple of army brigades and police commandos, whereas Saddam had the 8-division Republican Guard.
· Consider another small thing. The Shias wont fight to save themselves, they’re supposed to fight to save the Kurds just because a different Shia is PM? GMs, you ARE Bogarting that joint. Yet another small thing. Except in Lebanon for a short time, where do Shias and Sunnis coexist in a cooperative democracy? We could go on and on, but readers get what Editor is saying, the GMs never will.
· What our rant is leading up to is the US has to take one more step: not get in the way of Kurdistan selling its oil. The US is certainly in no position to give Arbil the $20-billion/year it needs to the country. Just because a new PM may want to share resources fairly does not mean it will be happen. There are so many interests and cross interests, please assume as a given ther will be no fairness, no matter who the PM. Let Kurdistan sell its oil; let it be independent; let it be a staunch US ally. It’s a democracy, and its multi-ethnic and secular. It can defend itself against IS give oil revenues and US airpower. What the heck more does the US want?
Monday 0230 GMT August 11, 2014
· Islamic State: strategy and tactics Let us set aside the non-debatable matter of the need to exterminate IS. Not contain, not defeat, but exterminate, which means anyone identifying himself as an IS fighter or supporter needs to be sent to the heaven of the 77 virgins ASAP, by any means necessary. That’s where they want to go, it is our duty as a liberal humanitarian nation to make them happy.
· This said, IS’s military strategy and tactics are of the first order First, IS understands that in the free market global world of militancy, it has to sell itself. Ideology is not enough. How does a product succeed? By winning an ever greater share of the market. We do not doubt that IS are natural psychopaths, but there is no rule that say psychopaths cannot be intelligent. So IS likes to kill, main, torture for the sheer pleasure, but it is also doing this as a marketing ploy. And it is working. IS is not like its progenitor, AQ, which relies on careful plots against civilians to make its point. In an ADHD mediaized world the modern generation of youth has no patience with AQ.
· They are consumer zombies, just like everyone else in the world, it is just their preferred product is not the latest Iphone, but blood and violence and women. The more IS delivers, the more recruits it is gaining. Score one for IS: they have outplayed us, no excuses acceptable. Opponents of harsh treatments of Islamic fundamentalists have argued the same: kill one, three new join. Of course, the obvious conclusion is diametrically different from that which most soft state people reach. The solution is not to find methods other than death of neutralizing jihad, but to kill them faster than they can gather. But that is another story.
· Second, and we’ve said this before, IS has demonstrated a remarkable mastery of mobile warfare. They are here, they are there, just like that Demmed Elusive Pimpernel. You have to understand them the terrain favors mobile warfare. Iraq is a stony desert, lightly populated in most parts, with good roads connecting towns and villages. A convoy of pick-up trucks can arrive where it wishes in a 100-km radius within 2-hours. Such a mobile enemy is difficult to combat.
· Third, like the light cavalry of old – Chengiz Khan, Shivaji’s guerillas, American Indians come to mind – they have no logistic tail worth mentioning. All they need is ammunition, food, water, an endless supply of vehicles and POL. There is ammunition, vehicles, and POL galore in Iraq. This helps mobility. But more than that, as we have mentioned before, the lack of a logistic tail gives IS a fighting capability out of proportion to their numbers. Twenty thousand IS and supporters equal five divisions worth of American fighters. Sure, the American division has many more fighters than a count of infantry would indicate. But light cavalry does not, for example, need artillery, combat engineers, armor units and so on.
· Fourth, IS is brilliant in its tactical implement of the larger strategy. For example, the minute IS either seizes ground or is repulsed, it very quickly pulls back troops to send elsewhere. IS does not waste time or manpower in “at all cost” attacks. This is evident in the Kurdistan campaign. The vacuum created by the collapse of Iraq Security Forces was rapidly filled in part by Peshmerga expanding way outside the borders of Kurdistan as existed on June 1, 2014. This is how the Peshmerga ended up defending the territory to the north and east of Mosul. Now look what happened.
· IS was making an all out drive on Baghdad from various directions, with the main thrust along the Mosul-Baghdad axis. They made it to 100-km of Baghdad before Iran trained militias stopped the advance. To focus on Baghdad, IS had pulled out its forces facing the Kurds, which in part helped Arbil in seizing more territory. But finding the way to Baghdad blocked, and the thrusts from East, South, and West going more slowly than IS wanted, and finding the Peshmerga threatening its northern front, IS quickly switched to focus on the Kurd border.
· After getting within 40-km of Arbil, KRG’s capital, and throwing everyone in a panic, IS switched forces to the north and east of Mosul, apparently so fast no one realized this. They then overran 15 towns within days, leaving the Kurds and the hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee deeper into Kurdistan, and approaching Arbil from the west as well as the south. More panic. They were getting ready to switch back to the south when the US intervened.
· All we can say is, the IS is a worthy successor of the Panzer generals of World War II. IS does not hold ground when threatened, it focuses forces as when targets of opportunity arise, but all with the overall strategy of surrounding Baghdad before moving in. After taking Arbil, IS would have stopped because its northern flank would be secured, and it would have switched back to Baghdad from the north. This is where Mosul Dam becomes important. If IS opens the dam, it is going to wipe out all opposition, all the way into the heart of Baghdad City, leaving the way open for IS. Folks are going to be too busy running from the flood to fight.
· We have discussed before the IS’s mastery of pyswar, of which their barbarism is an integral part. We have admired their infiltration over the years in all parts of Iraq, watching and waiting for the right time. We have been impressed at their ability to make local alliances, if necessary for just days or weeks. IS has no hesitation in attacking friends if the friends get difficulty. IS has been able to keep potential opposition split, confused, helpless thanks to IS’s shock tactics. Just like happened with the US until the Mt. Sinjar crisis, people are gathering together, smoking pipes, and muttering about the need to do something about IS, when lo, out of the sun comes the Hun, an Arab one this time, and administers several hard whacks. This includes executions just to remind the locals of their fate if they start rebelling. IS also will negotiate to leave villages alone so that it can facilitate its advance, planning to return and clean up when the campaign is won. It takes very strong nerves to leave your Line of Communications unprotected. Here again IS uses light cavalry tactics. Some bypassed village is having doubts, IS returns, does the massacre thing, and is back to the front again before people can take a breath.
· This high efficacy in executing strategy and tactics rises the inevitable question: where do these barbarians who lack the structure, training, logistics of an army, get the know how to conduct warfare in so sophisticated a form? Our answer will make readers unhappy. Editor’s intuitive feeling, after considering the issue from all angles, is the IS leader is that rare occurrence in history, a messiah. Remember how rapidly Islam spread within a hundred years? Ditto situation now. That is why this messiah needs to be put to death ASAP.
Friday 0230 GMT August 8, 2014
· US to drop humanitarian aid to Iraq minorities trapped on Mt. Sinjar? Before we get into this, you need to know Editor is hearing-impaired. This situation can get only worse, as the kind doctor explained years ago, because gradually the brain loses the ability to process heard words. So even if you technically hear what someone is saying, you can’t make it out. You may wonder why Editor hasn’t done anything about this. Good quality hearing aids that filter extraneous sound – necessary as Editor is ADHD – cost $6000 and are not covered by Editor’s health plan (Medicare). So keep this in mind when Editor tells you about the story because he is relying on several spoken news reports and may have things wrong.
· The background is simple. Over the weekend IS launched a surprise attack on Kurdish position around Mosul and Irbil; previously there had been an uneasy standoff with some shooting. Hampered by ammunition shortages – several sources claim this – the Peshmerga had to retreat. One report Editor saw had a fighter saying there was no way his men could counter ISIS heavy weapons with AK-47s, which is a valid point. Well, sort of valid, but we don’t want to get into a long digression.
· IS claims to have overrun 15 towns till yesterday, and has been particularly targeting Christians (of course) and Yahzdis, Kurd Muslims who practice a form of Sufism. Sufism is a peaceful, very tolerant, mystical version of Islam that in India, at least, draws on the best of other religions. So you can image the rabid dogs of IS want to kill Yahzdis before they kill anyone else. They Yahdsis are not numerous – Editor has seen 400,000 thrown around. They, and Christians, fled to Mt. Sinjar. Press has been saying 40,000 are trapped on the mountain, yesterday we saw a US report that said 15,000. The story is complicated by references to Sinjar as “Shingal”.
· Anyway, the people ran to save their lives, because IS made clear it was going to start executing people, which they have been doing. We suspect it is in small numbers, just to encourage the others. They even forced a Christian to convert to Islam or die, and then killed him anyway. Just the sort of people you’d want to invite to your house for food and theological discussions. The refugees almost immediately ran out of water and food.
· US went blank. And after all, why should it not? It has watched quietly as 100,000 or more Syrian civilians have perished, and millions made into refugees. What is the big deal with a few hundred Iraqi refugees, of whom only thousands have died. Mostly the northern refugees have been fleeing to Kuridstan. Which, apparently unknown to the US, is secular, democratic and pro-US, none of which applies to other Iraqis. But that’s irrelevant, the US says, because the only solution to the refugee crisis is a political settlement. Which means Maliki must step down and Kurds, Sunnis, and Shias must go kissy faces, holding hands, and singing “round-and-round the carousel” or whatever it is the US wants them to do. On this sound principle of mentally-ill diplomacy, US has been doing nothing for the Kurds, its only friends in Iraq.
· US reaction to the Mt. Sinjar crisis has been zip, zero, zilch. This time, however, the western press has finally come out of its coma and folks like the Pope have stepped in, calling for the US to help. As if US President has time to help anyone in between his rounds of Piggy-Eats-All-He- Can, money-raising, and golf.
· So after some days, with reports of increasing deaths – most of those refugees are children – US moved to “considering” humanitarian aid. If you watch http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pentagon-considers-air-drops-to-15000-iraq-refugees-fleeing-isis/ you will see an irate reporter clashing with White House spokesperson on this. The spokesperson at least has the grace to look totally ashamed of himself as he insists he cannot discuss what’s going with the president, who is “aware”, “gravely concerned” yada yada yada. This young person is an honest man fronting for a very deeply corrupted and degenerate political system, and of course he is going to the Hot Place Downstairs even though he is a decent fellow.
· The reporter interrupts the non-stop verbal loose motions of the spokesperson, to ask what does a political settlement mean to people who are dying of thirst and hunger? The video clip ended at that point.
· Its very sweet of our President to be deeply “considering”. One way of resolving the issue is to keep considering until everyone is dead, or IS gets fed up and attacks the mountain, in which case everyone is also dead. Problem solved. There has been neither empathy nor urgency from Washington. International relief agencies and Iraqi Air Force have dropped small quantities of supplies. But remember, 15,000 folks means a minimum of 30-tons of water, delivered effectively – reports say crates and bottles have been smashing up. Quite normal, if you are familiar with what happens with these impromptu drops. US has inserted itself in the picture via suggestions that it is behind the Iraqi air drops.
· Okay, so aside from US airdrops, which according to a couple of sources will go ahead, there’s the other problem. The refugees will still remain trapped, helpless when IS turns its attention to finishing them off. To this problem there are suggestions – we don’t know who is making them – that the US is considering air strikes and/or a humanitarian corridor. All within the framework of a political settlement, of course.
· What Editor would like to see is the President and his wo/men forced to run with their families – children, old people, sick people – with just the clothes they wear, and sit on a mountain in the middle of nowhere without food or water. Then we’d see how long these terrific folks take “considering”. What’s your guess, readers? Five minutes? One minute? But the Iraqis, who have waited days, can wait some more while Washington “considers”.
Thursday 0230 GMT August 7, 2014
· So now we can meander back to Iraq This round of the Gaza War is over, and it is yet another draw. Bibi will tell you differently. T’was a great victory – cue trumpets, drums, angel choirs – he will say. Total rubbish, and for all his talk, in the end Bibi turned out like the other Israeli leaders after Golda Meir – just waiting for a graceful way to declare victory and stop fighting. The award of Great Squishy Pudding of 2014 goes to Bibi. Bless this “warrior” and Israel’s generals who call themselves “warriors” and good luck for the next round. After all, Israel’s American mentors call themselves warriors, even though they haven’t fought a real battle since Fallujah and Najaf – and they were teeny-tiny battles. And we know how great Americans are at winning wars these days. We’d hoped the Israelis were different. Instead, they’ve let Editor down, more to the point, they have let their people down. The only folks who emerge with any integrity are Hamas – they’ve proved to be the warriors. But enough now – this is to be about Iraq, not Israel.
· So in Iraq we have a situation where three different sects – Shia, Sunni, Kurd – don’t want to live together. So what is the US response? “You have to live together. We’ll make you.” Please, Washington, please tell us when, since 1945, have you succeeded in making people live together? The answer is zero. Does that bother Washington? Of course not. Washington is so deep into its own reality it is clinically insane. Only the people of the US can change this. And, as reader Chris Raggio and Editor were discussing yesterday, this is not going to happen because Washington, while insane, has successfully brainwashed its people far more thoroughly than the Communists ever succeeded.
· Washington says it has a reason for its position. A united Iraq will deny Islamists a new safe haven. But meantime, Washington fails to see two things. One, it lacks the commitment – or even actual interest – in keeping Iraq together. The meme “an all-inclusive government will keep Iraq united” is so sophomoric is uttered without the least effort at keeping Iraq together. Back in the happy days of Saygon, the US would actually do something if it didn’t like a ruler. It would stage a coup. Okay, we know how well that worked, but at least the US did something. Now all the US does is the Slow Yap. It doesn’t even go yap-yap-yap-yap. It goes yap. Snooze. Yap. Yawn. Yap. Time for a beer. To the extent that no one except a fraction of the ruling elite has the least clue what Washington is saying. Its no problem that no one has the clue what Washington is doing, because the US is doing nothing. Excepting shaft the Kurds, who are the only one of the three sects willing to fight America’s Islamist enemies. The genius is astonishing.
· The biggest mistake Washington is making is that it assumes Iraq consists of three actors, who if they can be persuaded to get along, will keep the country united. But there are not three actors, there are hundreds. In true Arab fashion, they are opportunistic and look to the immediate gain. Their loyalty is to their tribe, not to Iraq. The situation is much the same in most Africa, and the reason is the same: Iraq’s boundaries were drawn by imperial powers, not from any logic or reality. And mazingly, the United states continues with the imperialistic tradition. Britain and France kept their imperial possessions in the Mideast in line. They used two simple instruments. Money and the gun. They bribed everyone. They slaughtered anyone who would not be bribed. End of the matter.
· To assume the US is willing to go in with the gun is absurd because we lack the willpower to coerce anyone of significance. As for money, that’s a good laugh. It’s the oil Arabs that bribe Washington, not the other way around. Tried bribing Baghdad or Ibril lately, fool? They’ve got more cash, ctual and potential, than you do. Go suck on a baking soda lolly, Washington.
· The other thing Washington forgets is that it has, so far, had zero luck in denying safe havens to the Islamists. Indeed, it’s the other way around: the Islamists are spreading as fast as one of biblical plagues of yore. We’ve enumerated the list before: from Afghanistan the Islamists are now in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, starting to spread to Lebanon, Gaza, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and spread all over west Africa and the Sahel. For a while Islamists – aided by us, of course, took over Egypt. Then we came to our senses and had the smarts to stop the yap while the generals took over – again. We don’t count Algeria because that has been an internal war – though right now it seems only a matter of time before the Algerian baddies link up global jihad.
· No one can accurately forecast the future. Except Editor – Saturday approacheth but no date approacheth. Yet it seems safe to say that Iraq will not stay together. What are the implications?
· There need be only good implications for America. Facilitate the partition of Iraq. Provide security for each of the three parts. Invest money in Sunni Iraq – which may yet turn out to have whacking great amounts of hydrocarbons – remember, most of Iraq is STILL not explored; help the Sunni state to prosper. There is precedent, namely FRY, a most successful precedent.
· But see, in FRY the US was happy to see Yugoslavia breakup because it was a former communist state. Just as it was happy to see USSR breakup. In Iraq US is affronted by the idea of breakup because it is our stated goal it must stay united. That the stated goal makes no sense now, if it ever did, is irrelevant to Washington. After all, Washington commands the sun to rise and to set.
Wednesday 0230 GMT August 6, 2014
We return to the future of Iraq, but first….
· A letter from Mr. Lou Driever concerning Ukraine. He is a civil aviation expert, and writes concerning rumors Russia may impose an overflight embargo against EU/NATO aircraft http://tinyurl.com/k8jlqcx The source, Zerohedge, is not the most reliable. But if you look at this backward, from Russia’s viewpoint, an overflight embargo is one of the most logical cost-free options to retaliate against EU/NATO sanctions. The article quotes a Russian expert as saying an overflight embargo, at least over Siberia, could cost EU etc $400-million/month in extra fuel chairs. Doesn’t sound a lot, but could be a big strike against civil aviation profitability which is quite tense even in normal times.
· Mr. Driever makes make a related point in two emails. First, “restricting EU air movement over the CIS will massively interfere with aerial resupply into Afghanistan. If the EU wishes to respond denying Russian aircraft entry into Eurocontrol airspace, then the Russians can simply arrange 6th freedom flights with the Asian carriers. Given Russia’s vast expanse, the cost not only to the EU but to world trade would be significant. And of course that’ll be putting large sums of money in the pockets of the Asian carriers who won’t have that restriction.”
· Second, “Note that aircraft don’t fly in straight lines – they use “great circle routes” so the distance is shortened by using the curvature of the earth. Also overflight permission/points of entry into Chinese airspace are commonly requested well in advance. If Russian airspace closed the agencies granting permissions would be inundated by requests on short notice. The need for an additional hour/two of flying (minimum) is equivalent to another 6-7000 gallons of Jet-A per flight hour for a 747. That would rapidly drain the tank farms at airports. And this is the time of year when many refineries are dedicated to producing heating oil for the winter. Translation = airport fuel shortages starting a week to 10 days into the exercise.
· Iraq First, the business of the dams. Fallujah Barrage in ISIS hands; it has not quite gained control of Mosul Dam. As for Haditha Dam (Anbar), so far the Government seems to have beaten off attacks, keeping IS about 10-km away. Government has sent 2000 troops to Haditha, which is likely a big chunk of effective forces in Anbar.
· Though press reports speak of IS blowing the dams, it would serve no point. IS needs the water and power generation for areas under its control. But dams can be used as weapons of war by suddenly releasing water. IS has done this at Fallujah, leading to the flooding out/destruction of crops for 12,000+families. Mosul Dam on the Tigris holds 11-km3 of water. This doesn’t sound like a lot, except when you realize open the gates could put Mosul under 20-meters of water and Baghdad under 5-meters, no speak of intermediate points. We’d be looking at death tolls of half-million. These figures come from US Army Corps of Engineers, which has been very concerned about the soundness of the dam foundation. US Army C of E is worried the dam could just collapse on its own. Haditha Dam on the Euphrates is a lot closer to Baghdad and holds 8-km3 of water. Double bummer for the capital. Fallujah is technically a barrage, it controls the flow of water rather than produce hydel power of water for irrigation. Havent so far today managed to get figures for Fallujah Barrage.
· Overall military situation As we complained last week, there is little worthwhile information coming out of Iraq. IS strategy is to surround Baghdad from the North (Tigris Valley approach); the West (Euphrates Valley approach); from the South, and to at least threaten Baghdad’s northern LOC to Mosul from the East, where neither IS nor Baghdad seems to have many forces.
· Ever since the Iranian RGC got the Iraqi Shia militia’s organized, they have joined a few thousand elite military and Interior Ministry commandos that were under Maliki’s personal command, and blocked IS’s northern advance outside Samarra. Conversely, IS has defeated all attempts by Baghdad to breakout North of Samarra, and IS holds position to the East and West of the Baghdad-Samarra highway. There is repeated fighting going on in the Euphrates Valley; all we can say is that IS has not been dislodged from its positions from the Syria border to Abu Gharib, a Baghdad suburb. In the South, Iraqi regular forces collapsed as they did in all other parts of the country. As nearly as we can tell, the situation looks like a chequerboard, with neither IS nor Baghdad controlling a solid strip of territory to the South. IS keeps infiltrating from the west, aiming for the shrine of Karbala and Najaf, but Baghdad has got tens of thousands of militia protecting both towns.
· What has changed is the northern flank of IS’s positions, which run all along the southern border of expanded Kurdistan bar a few kilometers still under Baghdad’s control. Again, as nearly as we can understand it, the expansionist Kurds have been mixing it up with IS. The latter has realized its entire position in Northern Iraq is at risk because of the Kurds, and the flank needs to be protected. So IS has been pushing into Kurd positions in Ninaveh and Dohuk Provinces.
· The situation is also very unclear despite reporting up a relatively free Kurd press – which doesn’t have access to detailed military information. There are all kinds of mixed reports. Iran RGC fighters have been staging though Irbil, with Kurd permission. This would represent a new threat to IS’s northern positions. Syrian and even Turkish Kurds have been arriving to help the Iraqi breather. Several reports say that the Kurds lost ground in a sudden IS offensive in the extreme northeast, when they ran out of ammunition. The Kurds have been pleading with the US for airstrikes and ammunition. Reports say both US/EU are proving the latter, but since these purported supplies have to be coming in by air, they can cover only emergency supplies. As for air strikes, Baghdad has started giving air support.
Tuesday 0230 GMT August 5, 2014
· We congratulate Long War Journal on its 3rd year of being banned in Pakistan Frankly, though we’re not supposed to say this. We’re quite sick with envy because no one bans www.orbat.com. The reason is not complex. No one reads us or takes us seriously. Lots of people read www.longwarjournal.org and take it seriously. Editor Bill Roggio has done a great job of tenacious persistence in keeping LWJ going over the years despite an acute shortage of resources. We confess to utter mystification why foundations don’t seriously support his work. Don’t folks care about what’s going on in the US’s Global War on Terror? The GWOT is in its 13th year, longer than the American participation in World Wars 1 and 2 (six years), and Korea (three years.
· So why no institutional support? We’ll tell you what we think. Bill Roggio is an old fashioned news type. He does not take ideological sides. He sees his job as investigation and informing. He does not attack anyone, or speak for anyone. Living in Washington DC, Editor can tell you an impartial person like him has little chance of getting funding because the American elite is wholly ideological. Plain truthful information is of no interest, left, center, or right. This is one reason this country is in such a mess and getting further into a mess day by day. Bloggers need money to finance their work just as much as anyone else. If you have money, and want to give it only to people who “prove” that 2+2 equals five, or that 1+2 equals four, you have no interest in support folks like Roggio.
· On the Pakistan side, the security establishment is positively hilarious for banning LWJ. Editor reads the blog regularly. It is so kind to Pakistan that it makes Editor feels sick. All that LWJ does from time to time is note – with utter mildness – that Pakistan has no interest in getting rid of the “Good Taliban” – that is, the pro-Pakistan Taliban. The reality, my good American friends, that excluding 9/11, the one country that has killed more Americans is Pakistan. The Taliban is founded by Pakistan, led, trained, equipped etc. etc. by Pakistan. The “Bad Taliban” are bad only because they are Pakistani Taliban angry at Pakistan’s closeness to the US. To them, being America’s whore is not part of the deal. And – no surprise – Pakistan continues cooperating with the “Bad Taliban”. The Pakistanis have their reasons, which Editor will leave them to explain.
· The US has lost 2000+ troops in Afghanistan; the allies have lost 500+; the Afghans have lost thousands. All these people have died because of Pakistan. It is utterly obscene that the US Congress goes all out to pin the deaths of 4 Americans in Benghazi on the current government, and has not a word to say about Afghanistan. Is this rectitude because the American national security elite does not know about what Pakistan has been/is doing? Not one bit. There is no one with just four brain cells who does not know. What needs to be exposed is not what Pakistan has done since 1994, but the nest of vipers in Washington that are destroying America from within by protecting Pakistan.
· To Editor’s mind, the crime is not that Pakistan kills Americans. Pakistan must act to its national security interests. Editor has not ever blamed Pakistan for its misdeeds. Even the term “America’s whore” comes from Pakistanis who are ashamed of their government, not from Editor. The crime is that from 2001, America has been helping Pakistan kill Americans.
· What a joke is the American elite. During Bush II the left wanted to impeach him for all kinds of utterly mindless minor things. During Obama, the right wants to impeach him for utterly mindless things. No one wants to take up the subject of why we arm and aid an “ally” that follows not our interests, but its own – and those interests involve killing Americans to get the US out of Vietnam.
· How has this happened? Editor knows. There is no conspiracy. No one has been enriching themselves at the expense of the public exchequer. No one has broken the law. There are laws that forbid America from dealing with terrorist states, a label for which Pakistan is uniquely qualified looked at from the American side. But those laws can be overridden if required for national security. That, for example, is the reason we are free to deal with Iran and Iraq. The first has unleashed terror against its people and exported terror wholesale. The latter has slaughtered its own people well before America left, and in unrestrained fashion since.
· So what is happening? What is the reason for what should be the greatest American national security scandal so far since the new millennium? Lets put it this way. Editor knows. But is he going to reveal all? Obviously not! To reveal all takes money and immunity. Editor has neither. Moreover, Editor has been at the receiving end of the power of the state – several times in India and once in America. He decided he was going to give up being a revolutionary in his country. Is he now, at 70, supposed to become a revolutionary in his adopted country? Forget about it, folks. Mortgage was due on the 1st – has not been paid. There may be some folks who enjoy being persecuted by the Government. The martyr complex. Despite all his self-acclaimed craziness, Editor is not THAT insane.
· Editor got off-point. In the fashion of today, he has to make it all about him. This wasn’t intended to be about him, but sometimes outrage just cannot be held back. It was supposed to be about Bill Roggio. For Pakistan to ban him because he is perceived as anti-Pakistani, is an utter joke because all he has done is akin to accusing a mass murderer of coveting a postage stamp.
Monday 0230 GMT August 4, 2014
· Israel loses the war –again When the 2014 Gaza War began, from Israeli statements Editor thought Israel was really going to finish things, instead of prissily stepping into the ring, delivering a few pink panty punches, declaring a victory, and going home. After all, in one form or another this is Round Five: 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014, leaving out the war with Hezbollah. You’d think that Israel would get tired of this Whack-A-Mole.
· Actually, Israel is not tired, and about to declare victory, it is leaving Hamas with no more than a seriously bloody nose. From which Hamas will recover and then we’ll be on to the next round. Israel says the bulk of Hamas’ rockets have been destroyed, the 32 tunnels have been destroyed, Hamas has been put in its place because there have been no negotiations with that government.
· Almost everyone is rolling around, repeating the meme “this conflict cannot be settled by war”. Well, Israel surely seems to be proving it by going off with little of the job done. In reality, this conflict can very much be won. It means reoccupying Gaza, disarming the entire population, rounding up anyone associated with Hamas and shipping them off to a nice comfy gulag in the Negev, closing the very short border with Egypt, and inspecting every bottle of vitamins before letting it into Gaza. Yes, by the laws of war and in simple humanity, Israel will be responsible for the 1.4-million people in Gaza. Israel decided the cost was too much and unilaterally left in 2005. The rest is history. It is simply absurd, given today’s technology, to argue that a population of 1.4-million over a territory of 120 or so square miles cannot be controlled.
· Now, if the Israelis are going to say that these bi-annual bashes are cheaper than occupation, so they’re going to go to war every two-years as a matter of cost-effectiveness, that would be legitimate. But Israel is not saying that, and as such it is lying to its people that 2014 is a victory.
· 2014 is NOT a victory, sorry about that. Hamas has lost foot soldiers and a few officers, but 700+ out of a force of 20,000+ is not victory. Hamas will make up these losses in a few weeks. Three thousand rockets left intact with more thousands that will be smuggled in – again – is not a victory. Israel cannot keep assuming forever that the rockets will be the same old slobby unguided ones that have actually caused more deaths in Gaza than in Israel. Israeli deaths as far as we know are exactly one, a man who had a heart attack running for a shelter. But yesterday’s high-tech is tomorrow’s low-tech. With Iran at its back, Hamas can keep improving its rockets. The 32 tunnels destroyed sounds impressive, until you read what Debka reminds us: these are the tunnels leading into Israel. There are many, many more which may have thousands of branches through which Hamas travels, and in which it hides, storing food, water, weapons, and rockets.
· Parenthetically, we’d like to know how these tunnels got dug leaving Israel clueless. Isn’t Israel supposed to have fantastic intelligence and amazing technical resources? It was explained to us by someone who is very familiar with Israel. He says the omniscience of Israel intelligence is a myth, and their supposed “best in the world” military skills are a myth. This last Editor has known for years, and he is not criticizing Israel. The country has a citizen army, which imposes severe restrictions on its performance. Moreover, just as is the case with the US, the higher political/military leadership has all the brilliance of fresh, steaming, elephant poopy. Israel has gotten away with its limitations because it is a European nation among Arab lands.
· But, you see, one thing has not faced since before Hezbollah and Hamas is an opponent that refuses to admit defeat, and is willing to come back again and again. Such opponents cannot be compromised with. They have to be extirpated, root, branch, and twig. Extirpated as in killed dead.
· War – real war, not the play wars that the US has become so fond of and the Israelis too, is an astonishingly brutal business. All the technology cannot compensate for the killer edge, the burning desire to win and to ruthlessly crush the enemy at all cost. It’s a business of so forcibly forcing your will on the enemy that the latter is left broken for 50 years or a 100 years. In this process, his will to resist must be destroyed.
· The last time the US did this was in 1941-45. In 1918, following the lead of the British/French, the US did not go in for the kill. Had the allies decided this needed to be done, the US would have led the charge – enthusiastically. The US waged wars of extermination against the Indians and against the Confederates. The results are there for everyone to see: Japan and Germany are fast allies; nary an Indian to be seen; and as for the Confederates, their big act of resistance these days is to fly the CSA flag and talk about the honor and bravery of the South. As if anyone gives a hoot 150-years later.
· Israel has made the American error: that with high tech wars can be won at lowest cost in human life. So the US won Iraq and Afghanistan. At which point, forget 150 years in the future, right now people yawn and say “so what, because you won the battle and lost the war.
· Israel’s other error is also the American error. This may sound incredible to 3rd worlders, but the Israelis are completly part of the western liberal tradition, which in 2014 is defined to include the notion that everyone, regardless of color, caste, creed, political belief etc. has a valid point of view. In its first decades, the Israelis did not believe in shades of grey. It was all black-and-white. It was “we are right and they are wrong, and if we have to kill them all, we’ll do it.” Americans are like that now, which is why they losing the war against extreme Islam. And why Israel has – again – lost the war against its enemies.
Saturday 0230 GMT August 2, 2014
Saturday Reader Analysis
[A new feature, please feel to write in]
Background Editor commented to reader JK that America did not understand it was in a crusade against radical Islam, and that if we didn’t fight, who would. This is JK’s reply.
· Like it or not radical Islam has risen to challenge modern states, democratic and non-democratic.
· What's more, Islam as a whole is being electrified. We in the West (not that China and Russia are successes) have failed spectacularly on several fronts, but that doesn't mean that in the long run, the challenge wouldn't have risen anyway. Huge money inflows to petro-states will grow, as will those states' relative influence and power. That was preordained in the first 1973 Oil Embargo. Project that trend to 2050 and beyond: it's not pretty. When you consider covert financing for conflicting Islamic agendas, not to mention ability to influence global geopolitics, it's downright ugly.
· What makes us think we could have stopped this ascent? Yes, stupid mistakes were and are being made. They have eroded our ability to influence events. We're now in a defensive, reactive posture. Doubly defensive because no matter what, who has the oil has the cards. And those cards will be played.
· There's no provable case that any military option will change what's foreseen. It might temporarily slow the dynamics, but they'll still exist. Especially since the problem is now multipolar and global: Africa, Asia, the Middle East. True, not everywhere. Not the Americas. But their infrastructure and populace can no longer be considered "safe" and everywhere now, a small number of youth is quietly leaving to embrace conflicts of which we would say they have no part. It's reminiscent of the Spanish Civil War.
· Most people recognize a belligerent -- and that's what Islam has become. Yes, there are historical justifications for belligerence but at some point they no longer matter. Truth has become irrelevant. It's "our" way of life or theirs, and they offer no compromise.
· Alas, we are being outmaneuvered on many fronts, not least of which is popular. The lessons of asymmetrical warfare have been grasped and deployed globally. Skillfully, the enemy turns every retaliation into a PR victory. Maximum disruption achieved at minimal cost. All we can do is circle the wagons and emit meaningless threats.
· Could we have stopped the rise of radical Islam? Can we? I doubt it. But what rises, must fall.
· The answer, simply, is to persist. Long ago, some recognized that this would be a 100-year war. That seems to be forgotten.
Friday 0230 GMT August 1, 2014
· Iraq, Russia, and Kurdistan Reader Bruce Smith asked Editor’s opinion on these issues. This is quite flattering because, as readers know, Editor is used to givingn his opinion whether anyone asked, and usually it’s not asked because these days no one has time to read more than 300 words at a time. Anyway.
· Iraq and Russia is simple In the 20-years after Saddam’s coup in Iraq Russia played a big role in Iraq on account of its large-scale arms supply. Iraq had hard currency, Russia had good prices and enough arms to choke a planet-load T Rexs. Lost in the perpetual debate whose weapons are superior, Russia or American , there is an unappreciated, but whacking great advantage of dealing with Russia. Which is that Russia very rarely imposes any conditions on the use of its weapons. Want to bash another country? Carry on. Want to bash folks in your country? Please suit yourself. Not living up to Moscow’s definition of human rights? Ha ha. Russia has none. There are other advantages. The Russians have no red tape delaying their sales. And back in the day, Russian factories were producing such vast quantities of arms that for the buyer, it was an “eat all you can pay” buffet. Once in your hands, Russian weapons used to be simplicity themselves to operate and maintain.
· Russia owned the Mideast market: Egypt, Syria, and Iraq were the biggest military forces, they were all Soviet equipped. In the 1970s-1980s the US took Egypt away from Russia’s huggy-poo embrace; in the 2000s it pried Iraq loose. These were big losses for Moscow. Now it is back in Iraq, and talk about customer service. Within days of Iraq asking for fighter aircraft the Russians had some on the way, Su-25s, perfect for the task of blasting ground troops. Don’t have pilots? No problem. We’ll find pilots. No maintenance? Please, lose no sleep. That comes along with the deal. Airbases in no shape to take western equipment? That’s no problem for Russian contract personnel and systems. They can operate with the minimum of facilities.
· It’s like the Russians overnight created a ground support air force for Iraq. When the Iraqis said the Frogfoots would be in operation in a few days, Editor sniggered. Sure, sure. Like it really takes a few days to arrive cold in a country from which you’ve been absent for two decades and begin combat operations? Well, the Iraqis had the laugh on Editor, because lo, those planes were in combat in a few days.
· We’re not sure how many Frogfoots Iraq has right now, including the ones from Iran (which are really Iraqi), but it may be 15+ Meantime, the first pair of US F-16s, ordered years ago, may arrive this fall. Whether they can be flown in combat before next year remains to be seen. And now the US is caught in a bind: it supplies F-16s at a glacial pace, Islamic States overruns an Iraqi air base, and its goodbye F-16s. Obviously IS cannot fly them, but the humiliation for the Americans will be intense as the rest of the world laughs at them. Earlier Russia had managed deals for 80 heavy attack helicopters in 2012, they began arriving end-2013; the Mi-25s may have all been delivered. Meanwhile, nary an American Apache to be seen
· So: the Russians are back in Baghdad and the repercussions, even if we cant immediately see all of them, will be immense. Moscow has zapped Washington on this – and rather effortlessly, we must admit.
· Kurdistan Editor has been casually reading about the Kurd issue for the last 30-years. The problem, in short, is that the Kurds want their own nation, but the passage into history of the Persian and Ottoman empires left the Kurds divided between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Syria has the smallest Kurd area, Iran the next, Iraq’s four northernmost provinces come next, and last – and most problematical – comes Turkey, whose Kurdish population covers a huge part of the eastern country. None of the four areas are pure Kurd – they are all ethnically mixed and the best that can be said is that the Kurds are in the majority in their areas.
· So you can see the difficulty immediately: an independent Iraq Kurdistan could well lead to a major redrawing of regional boundaries. The attitude of the four countries is likely to be “Yeah? Well, we’re ready to fight to the last Kurd.” To understand their position, consider what the US reaction would be if the American southwest states demanded independence or union with Mexico – the latter could happen, by the way.
· The independent Kurd thing started with Saddam. He grew fed up of trying to keep these rebellious hill people in line, so he came to an autonomy deal. Something not fully understood by Americans is that Iraq is a tribal society, and the Baghdad government can rule only by giving regions considerable de facto autonomy. Saddam also left Anbar alone. This failure to understand is also why Afghanistan is just waiting to go down the tubes, but that is another study. The recent history if Kurdistan is simple. During the Iraq-Iran War 1980-88 the Kurds became restless, so Saddam massacred them. Things are so simple if you’re a dictator. Now, in fairness, we all talk a lot about Saddam’s brutality toward the Kurds, and forget Saddam happily massacred the Shia after his 1991 defeat, plus more Kurds, plus communists, plus whomever he did not like. US, which inadvertently stirred the Iraqi people to revolt against Saddam, was forced to establish no fly zones over South and North Iraq – a favorite relaxation of Saddam’s Army was to massacre hundreds of civilians at a time using armed helicopters.
· The Kurds became a defacto protectorate of America, and the two tribes, American and Kurd, got along like houses on fire. Much mutual admiration on both sides, and the Americans in particularly respected Kurd courage and straight talk.
· But while it suited the US to have an autonomous Kurdistan before 2003, after 2003 it became “United Iraq”. The Turks played a big role in this – another story for another time. Even before Islamic State invaded this spring, Irbil and Baghdad were at odds – that’s a story we’ll tell next week; when Baghdad’s Army in the north collapsed in June, the Kurds saw their main chance and seized Kirkuk, which they have long claimed (used to be majority Kurd till Saddam – another long story). Though Baghdad has curse the Kurds for being opportunistic, the reality is more complex. Seeing as Baghdad wasn’t going to protect them, the Kurds had to expand their perimeter. Indeed, they now have only a 15-km border with Iraq; the rest of the 1000-km+ border is now with IS. Also, Baghdad had stopped giving Irbil its share of oil money (discussed next week). The Kurds now see no reason to stay with Iraq.
· Independence now depends entirely on if Kurdistan can sell its oil itself – that’s why there is such a huge tussle going on about Kurd oil exports. The US, which actually can be just as opportunistic as the French and British empires of yore, despite our good guy image of ourselves, has stabbed the Kurds in the back because it wants to keep Iraq united now. Earlier, while it highly disapproved of the Kurds trying to sell oil themselves, it had stayed out of the fight with Baghdad. Indeed, it is said some Kurd oil ended up in the US before the ongoing incident of the tanker at Galveston, which the US actually tried to seize – nice buddies, no?
· What happens next with independent Kurdistan? See you next week.
Thursday 0230 GMT July 31, 2014
· Is this any way to run a country? Emergency funding for highways: $11-billion. Emergency funding for Veterans Administration: $12-billion (excluding money reapprorpiated from other accounts. Emergency funding for Homeland Security: $4-billion. If this was back in the day when us teachers were permitted to whack students, Editor would have all members of Congress Assume The Position and get 12 of the very best on their backsides.
· Here you have a country that wants ever expanding services, but refuses to pay the taxes necessary to fund the demands. It refuses to cut back on the demands. The three examples above are all worthy, even necessary causes. But then Congress should appropriate the money needed.
· Are we not being unfair blaming Congress when it’s the people who elect them that don’t want to pay the price for the level of services they want? Not one bit. If Congress would lead rather than pander to ever vested interest there exists, people would understand. The reason these folks, including out benighted President, are called “leaders” is because they are required to get ahead – no one leads from the rear, and no one who simply just gives in to special interests or the latest propaganda generated by special interests is leading by any definition.
· Another example of the mess we’re in is this new habit of companies of shifting their business HQs overseas, and then futzing around with their books in a way that leaves huge profits out of the reach of the US Internal Revenue Service. When asked why companies are doing this, they say US taxes are too high.
· Well. Sob. Weep. Wail. Beat chest. Lament. Sorrow. These poor billion dollar corporations find US taxes too high. Here’s a small story from Editor. He used an IRS approved E-file service to file his 2012 taxes. Earlier this year comes a letter from IRS: you didn’t account for tax on your social security income, plus interest you owe $670. Kindly pay at once. The social security income that IRS is hot after is less than $9000. Editor’s gross income, leaving aside past pension dues which were paid in 2012, and including social security was approximately $29,000. Editor is scrambling to figure out where to find that extra $670. And truthfully, IRS is being pretty patient and cooperative. But the money has to be paid. The only way its going to be paid is in the fall, when Editor was saving up to have critical dental work done. As readers know, co-pays for dental are pretty high even with insurance. So – a familiar dilemma in America: dental health has to be forgotten. And at that Editor at least has the insurance through Medicare and gets some level of care even at his low income.
· And also at that Editor realizes the way America is going, $29K is a pretty decent income for a single person in this country. The middle class has lost 20-years of growth in income, the lower class has lost 30-years. Then these corporate types keep their profits overseas because taxes are too high? They always weep about the 35% or whatever they pay. But very few of them pay full rate – as is also well known. At this point Editor wants these folks to Assume The Position so they can receive not 12 strokes of the cane, but two rounds of 12-guage deer-shot where the sun does not shine.
· Here are people who make their home in America, who as they build their businesses enjoy every benefit America has to give them, and they don’t want to pay taxes because they think the taxes are too high? If you are queasy about the Shotgun Solution we just suggested, like may be you can’t stand loud noises, there is another solution. Strip these people and their families of US citizenship, refuse them visas of any sort, and levy a tax-rate of 123% on gross profit before expenses of every dollar earned in the US.
· But wont these corporations just leave? Wont we the peeps be the losers in terms of jobs lost? Let Editor answer that with a question: have we become so Banana Republic that our own corporations are exploiting us without paying their share of taxes?
· Iraq Editor is frustrated in the extreme because there is no news available. It cannot be that all is peace and love and kissies. The Iraq official daily news is given by the reincarnation of Baghdad Bob of 2003, who was bravely assuring the world that the US was being defeated even as US tanks were a few hundred meters from his position. Al-Arabiya has suddenly become circumspect; it is Saudi owned. Al-Jazeera has transformed itself to US-style soft propaganda ever since it decided it wanted Americans to accept it as a legitimate new channel; the stuff it puts out now makes one barf. Some Kurd sources give real news, but that’s in their part of the world. Al-Alam is owned by Teheran and gives that line, which is a chain of unbroken victories against the Sunni rebels. Western press, for example, NY Times; UK Telegraph, Guardian, and Independent; France 24, AP, AFB, BBC, Reuters have little to say because – sensibly – they have either pulled out or are sitting in Bagdad listening to Baghdad Bob II. Israeli media like Jersualem Post and Haartez are understandably preoccupied.
· US has cleared sale of 5000 Hellfire missile to Iraq for $700-million (Sticker Shock Alert!). It has delivered 180 so far this year, with another 360 for August delivery. We don’t have any more details at this time.
· Iraq has sued in Texas court to prevent the sale of Kurdistan oil. The problem is that the Iraq constitution appears to place no restriction on “new oil” from Kurdistan and we seem to recall Iraq Supreme Court has previously so ruled. At first the US seemed to have changed its non-approving but neutral stand and appeared ready to seize the cargo. But then the Texas judge she lacked jurisdiction because the tanker is in international water. Lets see what happens. But this is a big setback for Kurdistan, which is upsetting because they – and the Shia militias – seem to be the only ones willing to fight IS.
Wednesday 0230 GMT July 30, 2014
· What with the INF treaty stuff? US has accused Russia of violating an important N-weapons treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (1986). Under INF, a major class of nasty N-weapons was removed from Europe, technically ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles of 500-5,500-km range. On the US side, the feared Russian weapon was the SS-20 triple warhead missile; on the then Soviet Union’s side, the feared weapons were the Pershing (108 missiles) and Ground Launched Cruise Missile (468 missiles.
· We wont bore you with the history of why these weapons were developed and deployed, except to say it was part of the action-reaction cycle that characterized N-weapons in the US and USSR from 1945 onward. We also wont bore you with why the weapons were feared, because that goes into deterrence theory, which has always rested on the most illogical of theoretical constructs, particularly when it came to nuclear warfighting (US was the guilty part here). Sufficient to say 2200+ warheads were removed from the European battlespace, and this was a consequence of the earlier SALT I/II treaties which had led both sides to seriously reduce their N-arsenals.
· Allegedly all these treaties made the world a safer place. A normal person wonder how the world was safer by reducing from the ability to blow up the world fifty times over to the ability to blow up the world five times over, or however that worked out. But remember, the people who came up with all this stuff were not normal. We’re not knocking anyone, those were different times, and it has to be said to US’s credit that right after 1945 it offered to N-disarm unilaterally but the Soviets wouldn’t agreed.
· So normally one would think violating these long established treaties is a Very Serious Thing. The problem is that the US makes allegations of Russian INF violations with very dirty hands. For one thing, the US has violated agreements with the USSR/Russia on ABM defense – something on which we heartily agree with the US, but lets not make this analysis more painful for our readers than it need be. Second, the Russians have repeatedly warned US that our ABM system is such a threat to them that they may have to abrogate N-limitation treaties. Third, the system that has the US “alarmed” – yes, please do think Austin Powers – is the Yars M road-mobile missile, which the Russians have been testing for years. Fourth, US has thousands of missiles (and the Russians have some) that fall in the INF range, sea, submarine, and air launched. So why is US going all Holier Than Thou?
· You can always trust the US to play Lawyer Lawyer to mess with the other guy, both to accuse him of breaking agreements, and to justify breaking our agreements. This game is a terrific bore and to Editor’s mind not particularly productive. The US says sure we have other kinds of INF weapons up the wazoo, but we don’t have ground-launched versions, which is what the INF Treaty bans. Honestly, this is a distinction without a difference if you are sitting in Moscow at the pointy end of several thousand US cruise missiles. Moreover, the US says sure we know about the Yars M which Russia is allowed as part of its ICBM modernization, but the Russians have never before tested it within INF range, until February 2014.
· At this point you scratch your head: alleged major treaty violating in February 2014 and in end-July the US is bring it up? That’s where the game-playing comes in: this is just another pile-on-Russia-because-of-Ukraine thing. Enuf said. Given why the US is doing it, the reaction from our Fave Oligarch Pooty-Tooty is likely a polite, small, bored yawn with no effort to cover his mouth. Rude, but that’s the man. Just plain rude. This whole thing can be dismissed as a tempest in a doll’s teacup.
· Now back to Ukraine What gives? Thanks to Ukraine’s Green Men plus material help from the West, Kiev’s forces are suddenly performing better – actually a lot better. They are closing in on the rebels and if they continue at the current pace, the rebels will soon be cooked done with a fork in them. [You have to love these picturesque Americanisms – really, no one does it better.] What’s baffling the heck out of us is why has Poots not reacted? Or has he reacted and his moves are not apparent to the public yet? He’s pouring arms, technicians, fighters, trainers, intel folks and what have you into East Ukraine. Just after the downing of MH17alone he has sent 20 medium tanks and armored personnel carriers alone. He has provided multiple-rocket launch systems, as many surface-to-air missiles as the rebels can use, and so on and so forth. But so far it doesn’t seemed to have helped.
· Kiev says Russia is preparing an invasion. The US/West thinks not. We think Kiev has a point. It would make no sense for Putin to prepare an invasion in plain sight. His previously buildup of 40,000 troops was to intimidate Kiev into saying bye-bye to NATO/EU, not to attack. He has repeatedly exercised his army/air force and could launch with less than a day’s warning. Yes, we know the US has unmatched technical intel capability, but Russia know it too, and once you know it, there are ways of mitigating the edge this gives the US. But of course we have no clue if Russia is really going to invade.
· We look at this thing backward. Despite seizing Crimea, if Putin refuses to act he will lose Ukraine to NATO/EU. This is a very severe strategic loss because, as NATO/EU has been doing with its salami strategy, after consolidating in Ukraine the west will march further east. Its because of the risks posed to Russia that Moscow has been paying a high-stakes game from day 1. We just do not see Putin as peacefully giving in, especially under western sanction, and going off to fly with the bats or whatever his latest gig is. Unless several rebel units heavily reinforced with Russian forces are training in Russia prior to returning, to us only an invasion makes sense.
Tuesday 0230 GMT July 29, 2014
· Gaza Debka.com went off Editor’s “Must read” list because for years it has been quoting “sources” to say a US attack on Iran was imminent, when any nitwit knew no such thing was going to happen. But in the last two weeks, after failing to get anything approaching useful information or commentary from the Israeli press, Editor reluctantly returned to Debka, and finds to his surprise it is being quite modest and moderate with regard to the new Gaza war. It has very little information because of very tight Israeli censorship, but still, at least we can get clues about events.
· The censorship is so tight that Israeli soldiers have been told not to talk to media, and not to discuss anything on social media. In a small country like Israel, obviously everyone knows what is going on. Nonetheless, Editor has to admit Israeli soldiers and public have been pretty Zipped Lips. “Encouraged”, no doubt, by the arrest of three Israeli soldiers who talked about Hamas blowing up an Israeli APC at the outset of war, killing seven soldiers. Their crime? Revealing casualties.
· Yesterday Debka had a justifiable complaint, that Hamas perceives any ceasefire as an Israeli weakness. Justifiable because after the latest 24-hour ceasefire, yesterday Hamas killed ten Israeli soldiers http://t.co/E2G9j6kQMq Four tankers killed by a mortar bomb, one by a sniper in Gaza, and five by attackers suddenly emerging from a tunnel. This last is the second time, as far as we can tell that Hamas has pulled this trick.
· Though we cannot stand Hamas, or any Islamic militant group for that matter, it has to be admitted Hamas has fought with great resolution and courage. When fighters are prepared to kill themselves rather than be taken prisoner, as happened in the tunnel attack, this tells the world something about their devotion to their cause. We have noted that Hamas’s performance has greatly increased due to Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and the tunnel system is a construct of pure genius. One is reminded of the Cu Chi tunnels near Saigon in Second Indochina, and of course DPRK – which is assisting Hamas – can justifiably label itself as Queen of Tunnelers.
· Despite the thrashing Hamas is receiving, it is unrelenting. It has been acting very tough on ceasefires, insisting that a ceasefire can be valid only if Israel withdraws from Gaza and lifts its blockade. Hamas even turned down Israel’s offer to extend last week’s humanitarian ceasefire because Israel said it was going to continue its anti-tunnel operations. Protection of the tunnels is number one priority for Hamas.
· That said, while the Israelis may have underestimated Hamas (we don’t know why, perhaps IDF should have consulted Editor?), Hamas has also badly underestimated the Israelis. At the start of the fourth week of war, Israel is showing no sign of backing down. Indeed, it has expanded its objectives to a complete destruction of the tunnels, and to a disarmament of Gaza militants. If you think about this a moment, unless it wants to keep fighting fresh rounds every 2 or 4 years, this has to be a minimum objective. Editor’s complaint – along with Israeli hardliners – is that the four rounds since 2000 have quit long before the enemy was destroyed, and it was obvious that Hamas would attack again. We’re talking 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012. The Hezbollah war also took place in 2006.
· The genesis of all this trouble was the rise of Hamas in Palestine and the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. On a humanitarian level that was the decent thing to do, but on the military level, it was a disaster. As was foreseen by bitter Israeli critics of the withdrawal.
· Fundamentally, neither the Israelis nor the west has been realistic about Palestine. Oslo, 2-State solution, this, that, and the other became irrelevant with Hamas’s arrival. Your average Palestinian was, by 2004, completely fed up of conflict – as was your average Israeli, and this led to fantasy thinking on everyone’s part, including Washington. Without Hamas there was a good chance peace could have come to the region after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal. After Hamas, impossible.
· This is because Hamas was different from folks like the PLO. It vowed there would be no peace until every last Jew was driven out of the region. The Arabs are so bombastic we all took this be just another bean driven explosion from the rear end. This includes Editor. But Hamas has really turned out to be different, and if there is to be an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict, we all have to admit Hamas is different.
· Hamas has turned Palestine into a zero-sum game. There is no compromise possible. We don’t want to give the impression we are beating up on Hamas: people must do what they must. We are not ignoring the settlers who are gradually absorbing the West Bank, but it has to be seen that regardless of what Israel did in the West Bank, this wouldn’t have shifted Hamas one centimeter from its goal.
· In short, every round has, from Hamas’s viewpoint, simply been a preparation for the next. And it has no mattered to Hamas that it loses every round. Thanks to widespread anti Israeli feeling in the west, Hamas garners more sympathy each time it is beaten up.
· Indeed, at the present time the Arab are so fed up of Hamas they would likely collaborate with Israeli to get rid of Hamas – if there was a plausible way of cooperating. Hint: Hamas is Shia. The Mideast Sunni regimes want to kill the Shias. Its straightforward, no need for a PhD thesis on the subject. But Hamas is garnering tremendous sympathy in the West, as usual. And Hamas doesn’t need the Arabs, it has Iran – another tough bunch of hombres.
· Once we accept this is the case, there is only one solution to the Palestine problem. Israel has to reoccupy Gaza – permanently – after killing ever Hamas person and sympathizer it can get its hands on, to make sure Hamas never returns. Likely Israel will also have to preemptively occupy the West Bank – not that it ever left, to prevent Hamas from taking over the West Bank.
· At this point, Editor has to say one thing very clearly. He hates it when people say “there is no military solution”. This is the sloppiest form of thinking because there is always a military solution. You simply have to be willing to do what needs to be done. If you are not willing, then the party who is willing, in this case Hamas, will win.
Monday 0230 GMT July 28, 2014
· Kurdistan used to be an American protectorate in the Middle East. The US assumed this job in 1991 on the valid grounds the Kurds needed protection from Butcher Saddam. These days Kurdistan may as well be Middle East Public Enemy Number 2, after Islamic State. The Kurds have seized the chance given by the collapse of the Iraq Army to move toward independence. The US, in its wisdom, has decided that Iraq must stay together. Hardly for the first time – or even the 100th time – in recent history the US is on the wrong side. But this worries Washington none at all, because it is very comfortable being on the wrong side and then getting smacked when its plans are defeated. One wonders if the American elite is into some kind of sadomasochistic thing, like the popular book “50 Shades of Grey”. A misnomer of a title, because as any woman will tell you, men are monochromatic. One shade and they’re done. But we digress.
· In previous posts we’ve given a number of examples where the US has agreed to partition – the FSU, Czechoslovakia, FRY, and South Sudan being recent examples. The US does not officially recognize Somaliland, but is content to appreciate Somalia is another cobbled together colonial creation that doesn’t make much sense. The US will be sad if Scotland secedes, but you aren’t seeing the US play the heavy in forcing the Scots to stay within the Union. Similarly, if tomorrow Belgium’s Flemings and Walloons decide to part company, you will not see the US threatening either side. And so on.
· In Kurdistan’s case, the US has taken measures against Kurdistan’s independence. It has refused to supply Ibril with arms and ammunition, despite the Kurds continuing to slug it out with IS, which is more than the Shia government seems willing to do. And Washington has threatened potential buyers of Kurdish crude that they will face consequences. The US, of course, will have some pathetically irrelevant reason for insisting Iraq must stay together, such as a strong Iraq is required to fight Islamic extremism. Which creates a problem when the state itself has been extremist since the US deposed Saddam – we’ve gone over this in several previous posts. Unlike Dorothy, who had the courage to recognize she and Toto were not in Kansas anymore, Washington insists it is still in Kansas and Iraq must do as America wants, despite Washington’s truly miserable track record of Mideast/North Africa/Sahel failures, soon to be replicated in another state near you, Afghanistan. Not to mention the Ukraine fiasco.
· The US’s position is that Kurdish oil belongs to Iraq, and Ibril cannot sell it on its own. If this is not assured to spur Ibril to declare independence, we don’t know what is. One reason America likes the Kurds is because they are a plucky lot not inclined to give in to vicious bullies like Saddam. Now the US is the vicious bully, and the Kurds have courageously decided to stand up to Washington by giving it the Middle Finger. Suddenly Washington doesn’t like them all that much.
· Kurdistan has been exporting oil to Turkey via trucks for several years. From Baghdad’s viewpoint, this was a terrific nuisance, but nothing to go to war about. After all, it’s quite likely Baghdad officials have been siphoning of oil for their private accounts, so what is one more thief at the trough. At some point in the last couple of years – we’ll leave to someone more familiar with the issue to give details – the Kurds decided they weren’t getting a fair deal from Baghdad on oil revenue. They started inviting international oil company to explore, without reference to Baghdad. And they started building a pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey.
· Baghdad retaliated by stopping revenue payments to Ibril, causing the near collapse of the Kurd economy, because oil is the only viable export Iraq has. Ibril was not intimidated, neither were foreign companies including one led by America’s old buddy from the Mexican Gulf, Tony Hayward then of BP. When the Iraq Army vanished, the Kurds sassily grabbed the oil fields of Kirkuk. They had in any case been claiming Kirkuk forever and a day; Saddam had taken it over, expelled the Kurds, and settled other ethnic groups there; and the Kurds wanted it back.
· Simultaneously they expanded oil exports to Turkey to 200-250,000-bbl/day. They have ambitious plans: 400,000-bbl/day by end 2014; 1-million by 2015, and 2-million by 2019. Once revenue gets ahead of $17-billion/year Baghdad is supposed to give, economically it makes no sense for Kurdistan to stay in Iraq. Security is a big reason regions gather together to make countries; here clear Baghdad cannot provide security.
· Though the media has been using a price of $100/bbl for Kurd oil, a lot of which is high quality, Editor prefers to use $60/bbl because until this ownership question is settled, every middleman needs his cut. The breakeven then comes at 800,000-bbl/day – planned for 2015. Of course, since Baghdad is giving no money, the breakeven is 1-barrel/day, but let’s not get too prissy here.
· With the expanded exports, the point at which Turkey could take no more was quickly reached earlier this year. So: global exports had to be arranged. The US has made things as difficult as it can for the Kurds, but Washington operates under a big constraint. Get too harsh with the Kurds, such as blockade Kurd oil, and the next day the Kurds declare independence. Officially, the US has not banned people from buying Kurd oil, but it has threatened that it will back Baghdad in lawsuits over ownership.
· Well, the inevitable has happened. If you don’t know who bought the oil, you can’t sue them. The Kurds are using their owned tankers (nominally owned, at least) flagged in the Marshall Islands, so US cannot retaliate against shipping companies. Marshalls, BTW, have been independent since 1996, in free association with the US. The buyers are disguised, so there’s no one to be sued here. At least three tanker loads were sold to Israeli companies, and if Baghdad – or even the US – thinks its going to unravel the Israeli end, its dreaming. It appears to us – from very limited information – that five million-barrels loads have been sold.
· A German bank financed the Israel deals – so much for Berlin trembling in its booties at US threats. Kurd oil is also going to a joint Roseneft (Russia) – BP refinery. There are rumors a Germany company bought oil, though good luck with sorting out who owns what company in this day and age.
· The most interesting thing is the tanker that is in the Galveston South Channel with one-million barrels. The last we knew, as of about 2100 Hours yesterday, is that the ship was waiting for its Coast Guard inspection and the Coast Guard is in touch with the National Security Council, no less. The oil will have to be transshipped via smaller tankers due to the limitations of Galveston, which incidentally is also one of the busiest ports in the world.
· Now, look at this backward. Is it likely that the US would have allowed the ship into US territorial waters unless it has accepted the idea that the oil would be unloaded? Money is money, but it’s a little too early to decide the US has sold Baghdad down the river. This could be another crude (haha) US ploy to pressure Malaki, who is not cooperating with Washington on its demands for a government of national units – sans him.
· The sad truth is that the US’s leverage over Iraq is slipping. Naturally Iraq would rather rely on the US to do the airstrikes thing – something the US could begin on 60-minutes notice if not less. But Iraq has a ton-and-a-half of its own money, and it has Russia, which has returned to the arena after the US victories of 1991 and 2003. It seems hardly a day passes without Russian Frogfoots making strikes against IS. And we are sure the US realizes that if needed, Russia can send anther 10, and 10 more, and 10 more again, along with crews. On top of which the Russians are expediting supplies of other weapons such as heavy attack helicopters. Meanwhile, US is caught in a web of its own making. Its bureaucratic process is amazingly complex. And now there is the existential problem: supply Iraq arms and have IS seize them tomorrow. So it cannot even quickly supply Iraq, aside from the matter of Iraq being unable to operate/maintain sophisticated weapons.
Saturday 0230 GMT July 26, 2014
· Truth, Lies, and Gaza We don’t normally update on Saturdays, but yesterday something disturbing happened.
· We were told regarding the Israeli attack on the UNRWA refugee facility located in a Gaza school that Hamas had been firing mortars from the vicinity of the school, that the IDF for two days had urged UNRWA to evacuate the school because it was it was to be attacked. Later we found a source for the news http://t.co/AQAGsbxgFm This is an Orthodox Jewish New York blog so is not neutral. Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.607138 also talks of repeated warnings given to the international community, which again has to include the UN refugee agency. Haaretz tends to be quite wobbly liberal, but this is war and it should be expected that the newspaper will stand up for its country. Nonetheless, unless we are to maintain that the IDF gave no warnings and has been lying about this, it is curious that the western media has not mentioned the warnings.
· IDF has on several occasions said that Hamas has been using schools to store rockets. See for example http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/24/grad-rocket-launchers-discovered-next-gaza-school/ If there is a Hamas rebuttal in English, we have not seen it, but there is nothing inherently unbelievable in this. If Hamas did not fight from behind the civilian population, given the tiny geographical area of Gaza, Hamas would be quickly wiped out.
· Now, without getting into the rights and wrongs of the creation of Israel, if we start from the position that Israel is a state created by the United Nations and is recognized by almost every country in the world, we have to concede it has the right of self-defense. It then is not for us to say what should be proportionate response or not. We’d like to remind our American readers that in its hunt for Osama Bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the 9/11/2001 attacks, the United States a country accused merely of giving him shelter, wiped out that country’s military and destroyed its government, then occupied the country, remaining even after OBL was killed.
· This may surprise Americans because we tend to be insular, but to a lot of the world that was a wholly disproportionate response, even though most people would not dispute the Taliban were are a despicable regime. The world sorrowed with America over the civilian losses in New York, but that did not mean people the US response was disproportionate. There is now hardly anyone who still thinks the 2003 US response to alleged Iraq chemical weapons was proportionate or even justified.
· With Israel the threat lies not thousands of miles away, but kilometers away. From the viewpoint of an Israeli, the threat is not just a few ten thousand Palestine militants, but a uniformly hostile Muslim world. Some of which –like Iran – is sworn to destroy Israel. Given the geography, you and I can hardly have any justification to tell Israeli how it should fight its war. Given the population density of Gaza and Hamas’s strategy of using the population for cover, it is difficult to see how the killing of innocent civilians can be avoided. Moreover, there is also moral equivalency: Hamas primary target is Israeli civilians, and a few ritual condemnations of Hamas alongside major world condemnation of Israel hardly equates to moral equivalency on the world’s part. In its worldwide attacks on terrorists, US has held the position that there would be no civilian casualties if the terrorists did not live among civilians. To Editor this sounds quite reasonable, but then we have to apply the same standard to Israel.
· If we don’t, we are guilty of hypocrisy. If the western media is not noting that the IDF did spend two days warning it would attack the school – run by UNRWA and being used to house refugees – then the media has become a propaganda outlet for Hamas. Is this somewhere the western media wants to be?
Friday 0230 GMT July 25, 2018
· First piece of actually significant military news emerges from Gaza War For us military analysts, Gaza 2014 has been a complete bore because no news of military significance has been available. Now at last there is, and this concerns Israeli tank protection systems that defeat ATGMs.
· Readers will understand that the efficacy of the Iron Dom anti-rocket/missile system is no news. Everyone knew about that. For some reason Dr. Theodore Postel of MIT seems to think – by examining low-res press fotos – that Iron Dome does not work and its just a matter of luck Israel has escaped damage. The kindest thing we can say about Dr. Postel is he is an academic who loves attention – as do so many American academics – and will say anything to get in the media. He may be gently ignored. American academics these days are truly children of god. Which is an American phrase meaning they so live in their own world that only God can help them. When the enemy fires 2000 rockets/missiles and kills one civilian, those of who think it’s a bit more than luck may be excused for refusing to take Dr. Postel seriously.
· Readers should understand, the efficacy of Hamas’s defense should be no surprise. We saw how effective it can be in the last Lebanon war, when Hezbollah used these Iranian developed techniques to raise Israeli ground casualties to an extent unacceptable to the attacker. Both Hezb and Iran have been training Hamas, and honestly, Editor has to admit they have done a good job.
· Back to the item of real news. In 1939, what is now called the main battle tank established itself as emperor of the battlefield. Despite Kursk 1943, where the Germans violated their own doctrine and used tanks to smash heavily constructed defense positions instead of using them for fluid, rapid maneuver through enemy gaps, the tank remained supreme through the Arab-Israeli 1967 War. Then came 1973 and trouble. Due to total Israeli foolishness – doing away with infantry supporting tanks – and dense Russian-constructed anti-tank guided missile defense – the Egyptians defeated the first Israeli Sinai offensive. Defenses were upgraded – layered armor, then reactive armor, but ATGMs got bigger warheads, including tandem warheads. The first warhead defeated reactive armor and the second cut through the regular armor. Then came heavy attack helicopters and guided munitions designed to attack the top of tanks, where armor is the thinnest, and from outside the protection envelope afforded by self-propelled air defense systems accompanying the tanks. Not to speak of new RPG systems like the -32, which were large caliber and used Fuel Air Explosive (thermobaric) warheads
· The last large scale instances of tank warfare were First and Second Gulf. The American technology superiority, including stand-off attack, was so severe that Iraq armor stood no chance. So no one particularly worried about the new ATGMs. Then the Israelis ran into trouble in 2006 Lebanon against defense lines that featured trenches designed to protect ATGM gunners, minefields, and plenty of ATGMs fired at close range. We don’t know how many tanks Israel lost – the Israelis are not compulsive truth-tellers –but the defense was tough enough tolead the IDF to declare victory and go home.
· Because the offense-defense thing has been going on since humans decided to organize to kill each other, folks were hard at work on systems to defeat ATGMs and RPGs that could not be rendered ineffective by armor alone. Israel was one such country, with its Trophy system, with so far only its 401 Armored Brigade having the system. Trophy, also called Windbreaker, is a 360-degree sensor system with a large shotgun that with each throws up 17 slugs through which an ATGM, rocket, or air-launched munition must pass. The system is autonomous, and like Iron Dome, will not waste a shell if there is no danger to the tank.
· Light versions can be used to protect lighter armored fighting vehicles. This is a huge advantage, because the lighter vehicles are highly vulnerable to RPGs. Nothing stops an armored advance faster than when a couple of APCs get blown up. The infantry bails to hug the earth, and there goes your high-speed advance.
· So far, claim the Israelis, not a single Merkeva 4 MBT has been hit despite Hamas using advanced ATGMs like the Russian Kornet and Konkurs, which along with RPGs must have been fired in the hundreds at close range. While other countries have such systems in development, probably 10+, the Israeli one is the first battle-tested and will give a major jump to Israeli exports. Though publically available figures are lower, we are told the full-up cost is $1-million per tank. Just one of the reasons your MBTs are now coming in at $10-million each.
Thursday 0230 GMT July 24, 2014
· Here we are, another pathetic day of both journalists and analysts pulling stuff out of their fundaments because they have no clue as to what is going on, and very little real news. Editor is not sure who is more annoying, the journos or the analysts. Not to say the media with their grating hypocrisy as they wage psycho war on Russia. We said “pyscho” deliberately, not “psychological” war, because the latter requires high order skills, whereas anyone can be a psycho.
· Regarding Russia, media has worked itself into a frenzy where it believes that because Russia-backed rebels shot down a civil airliner, the west has Moscow on the ropes and it is necessary only to do the kill, and the Big Bad Bear is dead. Editor often tells his kids when they are behaving badly that teachers are required by law to take their meds before coming to work and during lunch; have the kids taken their meds? So Editor asks the media, why are you all off your meds? When your fantasies interfere with operating in the collective reality, it is harmful for you all and the rest of us.
· In reality, Poots da Toots is less annoyed by Western “pressure” than he is by flies when he bares his any chest for the fotogs. Item One: Russia has enough nukes to destroy the world several times over. You have to be really, really careful not to put Nuclear Russian Bear into a bad mood. Two: if Russia decides it is going to maintain a buffer by keeping Ukraine within its ambit, what precisely is the west, particularly NATO, plan to do about it? Fight back? Seriously? You’re going to fight a nuclear power with little bangs in the sub-100-KT range all the way to big bangs in the multiple megatons? Please excuse Editor for being a party pooper, but he thinks not. Three: Russia has more commodities than any country on earth; perhaps unsurprisingly s it is by far the biggest country on earth. If the west acts against Russian hydrocarbons , its ow hydrocarbon prices are going to shoot through the roof at the time that the west – in case folks have not noticed – is in complete economic crisis. [Please forget all the Bull Poopy about a recovery and all that.]Sure, cut Russian access to Western banks, but someone will take that money. In the case of the hydrocarbons and cash, please do feel free to think of China. Which in case folks have not noticed, now has 55-60% of the US GDP and so cannot be pushed round.
· We heard some Britisher on NPR speaking in that really stupid peasant accent the British think is so cool (David Cameron??) saying there were 200 arms licenses for Russia and each had to be carefully gone through. David, David, come closer to Grandpa Ravi so he can smack some of that alleged upper-class English education out of your silly head. Do you not tire of making an idiot of yourself, lad? Who is the second largest arms exporter in the world? You get one hundred guesses, because with the level of smarts you’re showing, you’re going to need all of them. The rest of us know it is Russia. Moscow wants your technology as a short cut to improving its own tech. Its called globalization. But if you don’t give it, they’ll steal it, and they’re perfectly capable of developing everything they need – as they did for 45-years after the Second World War and 22-years before.
· The simple reality is the West does NOT have the guts to stand up to Russia. And the West, with its non-stop export of arms and support of states and rebel movements who kill civilians, is in no moral position to talk of Russia failing to stop the Ukraine rebels and therefore deserving of punishment. The civilian death toll in Gaza is already twice that of MH17. So please stop already with your hypocrisy. Pakistan has been busy slaughtering civilians for years using US arms. Thailand is just another case of a US ally brutally suppressing democracy. And your new allies the Ukrainians are hardly angels. These are among the most corrupt of white nations. Oh BTW, dear West, got the news that the $17-billion you gave Ukraine is not enough? There’s already talk about another $5-billion needed. And there will be more, and more, and more.