Iran is winning in Syria and we are screwing it up

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If you haven’t noticed, Hezbollah has changed the tide of the Syrian civil war. Their troops with the Government forces took back Qusair, a key junction for supplying the rebel forces. More than 50 people were killed, including many civilians as artillery shells dropped on the town at a rate of over 50 per minute.

Qusair is 6 miles from the Lebanese border, where fighting has been going on in Tripoli for at least 3 weeks. On the other side of Syria, central Iraq and especially Anbar province have become a Wild West. The country had its highest kill rate since 2008 in May with over 1,00 killed in car bombings, political assassinations, and minor massacres. Factions are jockeying for position and the Sunni/Shiite struggle is raising its head again. Prime Minister Maliki is seen as weak and a tool of the Iranians. Iraq has, despite several warnings from the United States, been allowing unfettered transit both by land and air of arms shipments from Iran to Bashar al Assad’s forces and to Hezbollah.

The Russians have now raised the stakes even higher for the West by shipping advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria. Those systems will directed specifically at NATO and Israel’s first line air forces.

Hezbollah has gone all in with Assad, their closest ally, now. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, broadcast a television message to his supporters and the world that the alliance of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran was the new paradigm in the Middle East. “According to the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah entered he Syrian civil war “in response to the injunctions” of Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei.”

The spillover into Tripoli and Hezbollah’s involvement have effectively dragged Lebanon into the war. A war most Lebanese have no taste for.

On the southern border of Syria the Israelis bombed a convoy carrying heavy armaments destined for Hezbollah with massive corollary explosions on the outskirts of Damascus as Assad threatened to retaliate against Israel. News of Syrian rebels begging for  Israeli assistance in providing surgical support of wounded rebels is being touted in the Syrian press as evidence of Israeli involvement rather than as humanitarian aid.

At Turtle Bay, the Russian government has been obstructing and obfuscating the case against the Assad regime for over 2 years now.

And in the background the Gulf Arab states and Iran have been supporting the Sunni and Shia factions respectively with hundreds of millions of dollars in arms.

With the entry of Hezbollah and Russian support, Assad is on a roll. Our Secretary of State, John Kerry and Senators such as John McCain are like deer caught in the headlights with no clue what to do as our president dithers. The same is true in Europe. Leadership is clueless.

And in the meantime, Iran is ready to install Saeed Jalili as their next strong man upon the orders of the Supreme Council. Mr. Jalili has been the fox in the henhouse on Iran’s nuclear negotiations for the last several years. He has lied every step of the way, and with news of Iran’s desire to develop up to 30 nuclear warheads per year according to an Israeli MP, the Iranian government is clearly reaching for the matches to light the gasoline.

Israel has been on edge for the last 5 years. In the Fall of 2008 as the election went down to the wire, President Bush was rumored to have reined in Israel’s plan to strike at Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Our country revised its MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) program to deliver bombs that could go deeper and more destructively in order to stave off what would be a necessary Israeli nuclear strike on secret Iranian weapons facilities.

The STUXNET virus which was revealed through a White House leak was directed at this program. And now Mr. Jalili wants to build 30 warheads per year.

So what are our next steps? The risk of an Iranian nuclear option has all of the Gulf States and Israel on edge. The risk of a pan Iranian empire from  the Afghan border, where they are interfering,  to the shores of the Mediterranean is real and present.

Our government and our people are tired of war. Only this morning did I receive the news of another Green on Blue attack which killed an American Colonel and of another VBIED attack  which killed a young LT and and an SPC.

And yet we are looking at the Megiddo spoken of in the Bible. Sunni vs Shiite. Damascus, one of the oldest cities in history, is partially destroyed and now the specter of nuclear weapons has risen.

There is a weird confluence of interests. The West, Israel and the Gulf States desire to rein in Iranian interests. Turkey and Lebanon must stabilize their borders.

if Iran wins in this conflict, the world is fundamentally changed, doubtfully for the better. The nexus of crazy wins.

So what is next? Do we have the thinkers and doers to find a solution?

 

 

 

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Blood on the President’s hands

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Yesterday I read the speech given by the President on his evolving position on the Global War on Terror, also known as contingency operations, also known as The Atlantic tells us now as “a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” or The PTE for short.

At the end, the speech was a poor rationalization for the blood on the hands of the President. The Establishment had its opinion. I have mine.

The speech was pedantic; a recital of the history of where we have been in conflict for the past 30 years, invoking the Beirut bombings of 1983 and Lockerbie in 1988 and even the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard a cruise ship. Historically and philosophically the president was rolling the history and motives for Middle Eastern terrorism into a great big ball and declaring victory.

He declared victory a couple of years ago after Bin Laden was killed, but then came Benghazi and Boston and now London. Now he is really declaring victory, I guess.

With over 7,000 military deaths and the imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President also declared victory in Somalia and Yemen and that we have driven Islamic radicalism into the shadows. He ignored the reality of the radicals in Syria who have taken to beheadings and ritual cannibalism and of the Shia/Sunni divide that is being fought out and threatens to engulf neighboring states.

He minimized the underlying nature of the conflict in North Africa where the militants want to establish their own state or where Sudan has been waging war on non-Muslims for 20 years. Boko Haram in Nigeria is a recent phenomenon. And through all of this runs the thread of Al Quaeda.

Radical Islam has extended its influence throughout the tenure of this administration; in Egypt; in Yemen; in Libya. In Pakistan. The resentment and hatred have waxed rather than waned. While Brand Al Qaeda has been damaged, it has also gone underground and gone viral. Al Qaeda is now live on the internet 24/7.

As rioters take to the streets night after night in Sweden radical Islamists in Britain and America go DIY. Whole sections of French towns and some major cities such as Marseilles are no-go zones for the police where Sharia is the law and drug gangs and violence rule. There is an inherent contradiction in that last sentence, isn’t there? Why don’t we recognize this?

And our president has taken our security posture  to the next level. We live in a police state for our own protection with a constant erosion of civil rights.2509226125_174d71b55d

And the president would just as soon change the subject right now. Why not close Guantanamo? Problem gone and political voucher obtained. He now wants to convene a committee on drone strikes. Imagine this scenario: A terrorist is on the loose. A drone picks him up. Obama convenes a panel. This is worse than LBJ’s micromanagement of the Vietnam War.

There have been over 200 drone strikes. Hundreds of civilians and bystanders have been killed sparking outrage in Pakistan, where most of these strikes have taken place. The drone strikes have more than any other factor turned that country into an enemy.

The President has refused to account for the actions of our government during and after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.

For over three months the President dithered in making a decision to attempt another Surge in Afghanistan in 2010, a surge that was undermanned and undercut by unrealistic timelines. We declared victory in that as well, if you recall.

Three years after that Surge, our troops now do ritual patrolling, much as we did in Vietnam before pulling out in 1972. Our soldiers and sailors will still die, but the spirit of construction and nation building was lost long ago in a miasma of corruption, underfunding, and a refusal to institute the rule of law.

From the moment in 2011 when the president telegraphed his intentions to withdraw by next year, the Taliban had already won. They just had to wait. But then, magically, the Taliban are no longer the issue. Only Al Quaeda and its defeat is the issue, at least as of yesterday. Declare victory and go home.

So for the past 5 years, every ounce of the blood of our military and of our international allies and of good Afghan allies can be considered wasted. The mission was not accomplished.

How does a leader live with himself or herself knowing that they have sent their best to to a death that strategically or tactically has little meaning? The sand will simply blow over our FOB’s and our COP’s as if they never existed. The Taliban will pose on what’s left as mongrel victors who simply outlasted their enemies.

Al Quaeda was always a distributed network and became even more so as we chalked up our successes against it. In response it morphed. Bin Laden was holed up in a safe house using messengers to communicate when he died. We reduced the organization’s effectiveness for a time, but it has not gone away as we would be led to believe. Jihad burns in the hearts of more people than ever before.

In the end, the buck stops in the oval office, much as the current tenant has tried to avoid this fact. He began by blaming Bush. But his vacillation and his poor decisions are his own and the blood is on his hands now.

It is Memorial Day weekend. I hope that our President remembers this and the cost in both the lives of our own and those whose lives we have taken.

Benghazi & the FBI wiretaps – the connection

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This morning, the Washington Post reported that the FBI wiretap investigation of the Associated Press was initiated because of leaks of classified information from the government. In the words of the Post:

“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.”

The Post also reported:

“The two leak inquiries were started after Republicans in Congress accused the Obama administration of orchestrating news stories intended to demonstrate the president’s toughness on terrorism and improve his chance for reelection. The Republicans sought a special prosecutor, but Holder instead named two veteran prosecutors to handle the inquiries.”

If you recall, in June of last year, in the heat of the election, Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and others accused the White House of leaking information on the highly classified Stuxnet cybervirus program to the New York Times. Of course the Democrats called it politics but it was serious enough to force meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Clapper then suggested wider polygraph testing of intelligence officials.

In fact, the suspected source for this leak was at the very top at the White House.

In May of 2012, world headlines reported the arrest of a second underpants bomber in Yemen. It was later reported that the United States government blew the cover of an allied agent in place who tipped off the British intelligence services. Even Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta condemned the leak. A full investigation was supposed to have been launched, but then it sank mysteriously into obscurity. Again, the White House was the prime suspect.

For an Administration that has been more aggressive in policing the intelligence community than any of its predecessors, there is a gaping hole in its narrative.

And so now the important facts are coming out about the Benghazi attack. It was a coverup and it was political.

And the FBI has been caught in delicto flagrante wiretapping one of the Administrations favorite news organizations for vague, unspecified reasons. Again quoting from the Washington Post article.

“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.”

Translated into English, it was a fishing expedition.

So as the Administration has been using intimidation and threats to our intelligence apparatus at every step it has itself been engaging in a Byzantine level of political corruption to forward its narrative.

CIA Director David Petraeus was humiliated on a national stage 2 days after the election. This wasn’t an accident. It was an act of political destruction. The Benghazi coverup wasn’t an accident. The FBI investigation was a political fig leaf meant to both show Congress that something was being done on the larger scandals while being used as a tool to quash the Administration’s enemies.

Machiavelli and Boss Tweed and the Borgias have got nothing on this bunch of treasonous crooks.

 

Failure Analysis – Asking the hard questions on the Boston bombings

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It has been one week since the Boston Marathon bombing. We now know that the perpetrators were two brothers acting in jihad. A primary and a secondary device were planted to maximize casualties.

The perpetrators went to ground for 3 days before they surfaced. One of them, Dzhokhar Tsaraev, went back to his dormitory room and acted as if nothing had happened. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to those who knew him. None of those who knew him seem to have any recollection of anything out of the ordinary leading up to the bombings.

The trail of the other brother, Tamerlan, is much more clear. At a certain point he turned towards a very conservative Sunni interpretation of Islam. His family was concerned. From what little we know of his wife, a convert, she adopted the hijab and lived as an observant Muslim in a small town in Rhode Island. Not the most normal state of affairs in small town New England.

Tamerlan began to follow ultra conservative imams and posted their sermons on his web page. He also posted jihadi videos taken in Syria and elsewhere.

According to Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, the FBI visited him at some point. According to Tamerlan’s father the visit was a warning. “We know where you live. We know what web sites you are frequenting. We know who you are talking to” was the message.

And yet this week the FBI reported that the U.S. government was asked by Russia to investigate Tamerlan, did so, found nothing amiss, and were legally required to close the file.

The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars building a security apparatus that includes the most sophisticated surveillance systems; that allows for an unprecedented invasion of the privacy of its citizens, and that has access to virtually every database on-line.

When speaking with a FBI Agent based in the Santa Ana, CA office recently, I was told that the office had become one of the largest in the country because of the ongoing programs monitoring the Muslim community. Mosques have been bugged, imams are regularly interviewed, and close attention is paid to anything out of the ordinary.

And yet we find this week that Tamerlan Tsaraev was thrown out of his mosque in Massachusetts because of his radical and aggressive actions.

We also found that he spent six months in Dagestan, a known region for Islamist unrest, and may never have been questioned about his stay.

The UK’s Channel 4 reported that Tamerlan was under surveillance for 5 years. So said his mother. The Dail Mail reported:

The FBI said in a statement released Friday that it had investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaeva in 2011 at the request of a foreign government. The FBI did not reveal which country’s government that was.

‘The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups,’ the FBI statement said.

The FBI said that in response to the request the bureau culled through its databases and interviewed both Tamerlan Tsarnaeva and members of his family, but were unable to find any evidence that he was connected to a terrorist organization.

It would seem that the Wall Street Journal’s account and that of the FBI differ, or perhaps there was more than one meeting. Tamerlan’s father mentioned no questioning by the FBI.

Regardless, it now seems obvious that Tamerlan Tsaraev should have been on the terror watch list at least 2 years ago. The question is why was he overlooked? The press does not seem to want to ask that question yet.

The press has also been remarkably forgiving of an administration that stonewalled on both Fast & Furious and on Benghazi. Will they ask the hard questions now?

1 – What are the full and complete circumstances of Tamerlan Tsaraev’s interactions with our government?

2 – How and where was he radicalized?

3 – How, where, and why did he take the steps to become a terrorist?

4 – Why did his family know and his mosque know he had become radicalized and the FBI not know?

5 – How and why did the FBI and other agencies, especially Homeland Security drop the ball?

6 – Could this have been prevented by better tactics and strategy?

The carnage was minimized through the heroic actions of many and a lot of luck. The apprehension of the perpetrators is still murky, but after the largest lockdown in American history, it was a citizen who made the final link. It was ordinary Americans who finally solved the case; a dead cop in Cambridge led to the chase to Watertown and a bloody exchange with the terrorists. Some guy who noticed a tear in his boat cover.

Did we need every SWAT cop within 100 miles out there marching around and searching without warrants? Did we handle the lockdown properly? Was it an intrusion too far on civil rights?

We need answers to all of these questions and we cannot afford to have bureaucratic or political agendas keep us from the truth.

Islamist Terrorists Bomb Boston

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10 days ago,, the Associated Press removed the term “Islamist” from its style book as a perjorative term for Muslim extremists. This morning we woke up to find that Islamist terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The two terrorists, for they admitted that they did commit the act; in fact they bragged about it, were from Chechnya, one of the most violent places on earth 15 – 20 years ago. Chechnya experienced one of the most devastating civil wars of the past 100 years between the Russian state and Muslim separatists. As the war which began in 1994 expanded, brutality begat brutality. The First Chechen War ended in 1996, while the Second Chechen War ended in only 2009 after a 10 year insurgency.

The Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 where 170 died and the Beslan School massacre, where 380 people lost their lives in 2004 were perpetrated by Islamist terrorists. Grozny, the capital of Chechnya looked like Stalingrad 1943 after the first Chechen War. This is the reality of being Chechen.

Chechen fighters today are considered the shock troops of Islamist armed struggle from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Syria. mention Chechens to a jihadi and it is like mentioning the Navy SEAL’s or the pro’s from Dover to an American.

The Tsarnaev brothers were escaping that part of the world, it is clear. They were brought to this country and given refugee status. The elder brother, Tamerlan, came here when he was approximately 16. The younger brother was probably 9 when he arrived. At those ages, young men are very impressionable. And instead of dreaming of becoming firemen or cops or other American dreams they were isolated and insulated.

Somewhere along the way they became radicalized. One does not simply think to assemble and place improvised explosive devices one day. It is a process.

The press tells us that jihadi web sites such as Al Q’aeda’s have the manuals and instructions for the pressure cooker bombs used at the Boston Marathon posted.

Djohar Tsarnaev had Jihadi and Islamic devotional videos on his VK profile and linked it to a Chechen web site.

When confronted by a MIT campus policeman, Sean Collier, they shot and killed him. They then robbed a 7-11 and carjacked a man who stated that they had admitted to the Marathon bombing. Tamerlan died in a hail of bullets and may have detonated a suicide vest.

The cops are calling it terrorism, but not Islamist terrorism. At least not yet. Our government is deathly afraid of labeling it for what it is, just as at Ft. Hood.

But when it walks like an Islamist and quacks like an Islamist and smells like an Islamist, I think AP might want to reconsider the changes in its style guide and our president and his government their disconnect from reality.

There is a faction of Islam at war with us. On 9/11. In London. In Madrid. In Yemen. On a Christmas Day flight to Detroit from Amsterdam. At Fort Hood, and now in Boston.

Al Q’aeda was never an organization with clear lines and uniforms and unit patches. And Al Q’aeda is just one part of Salafism. You can go out and say you’re an AQ without having a membership card or you can go out and blow up innocent civilians and not affiliate yourself. But the motives and results are the same. Death to infidels. That’s why the term Islamist was used in the first place.

All Muslims are not Islamists, but all Islamists are Muslim. The president “vanished” the Global War on Terror. It disappeared from the lexicon. But it never disappeared. Not in Benghazi nor in Boston.

The Tsarnaev brothers are simply the latest link in a chain of Islamist terrorism that will continue until the Muslims themselves extinguish this fanaticism.

Hillary dances around Benghazi

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Hillary dancing - BenghaziToday we have the spectacle of the Secretary of State emoting on cue while saying nothing of substance regarding the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 of last by Islamic terrorists. She is waltzing effortlessly around the greatest deliberative body in the world and making them look like fools.

In addition to the usual fawning by Democrats, she has largely been tossed softballs by the Republicans. Consider these potential questions:

1 – Where was Ms. Clinton during the attack? Was she a part of the decision making team? Who participated in the decision making team during and after the attack?

2 – Why was this declared as a mob attack when State and the government knew in  real-time that it was a terrorist attack? Why did the government continue to propagate this trope for months afterwards?

3 – Why was no effort made to intervene during the 5 hours the attack took place?

4 – Why was every warning regarding the dangers waiting in Benghazi, including pleas by Ambassador Stevens on the very day of the attack, ignored?

5 – Who was responsible for the White House and Department of State descriptions of the attack, and for coordinating the misleading response of the UN Ambassador, the Secretary of State, and the President?

6 – Who was responsible for the decision to tape an apology for the video that purportedly caused the attack that was recorded by Ms. Clinton and broadcast on Pakistani television? who participated in this process? Was this discussed with the President? What was the thought process behind this?  Why was the decision made? Why was the decision made when the facts were known to be otherwise?

7 – Why was the Department of State caught completely off guard not only in Benghazi, but in Cairo as well?

8 – Why did the Secretary of State continue to insist weeks and even months later that the attack was caused by a protest when she had the facts at hand that stated otherwise?

9 – Why have senior officials of the State Department repeatedly contradicted each other regarding the responsibilities and cost of improving security at State Department run facilities around the world?

After four months, there are no answers. The White House, the Intelligence establishment, and the State Department have been playing a game of keepaway with witnesses; have stalled and prevaricated, and danced with their enablers in the media to quash the investigation and its mention in the news.

I am sure Ms. Clinton will have thought this is the last chapter, but it is incumbent upon those responsible to provide a full accounting. Ms. Clinton is far too well known for dancing instead of doing the hard work of representing the American people’s interests.hillary - dancing - south africaHillary in South Africa

Hillary Dancing ColombiaHillary in Cartagena

The Problem with Mali isn’t just Mali

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The papers and the Internet and the foreign policy magazines are all now talking about Mali. Once again, there is a war in a country most people couldn’t find on a map.regional-map-north-west-central-africa

 

Islamist insurgents, primarily from the Tuareg, a nomadic people, have been declaring jihad against what government exists in one of the harshest terrains in the world. The Sahara and Sahel make Afghanistan look like a summer camp. This is the land of 1,000′ sand dunes and tiny oases, and dusty, remote towns like Timbuktu, the legendary end of the line in 19th Century literature. Beyond Timbuktu there was nothing but endless desert for thousands of miles.

The Land of the Tuareg is called Tinariwen and extends from the inner deserts of Libya to those of Niger, Mali, Chad, Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.Other tribes are allied with or subject to the Tuareg in these regions. The Tuareg have been in an almost constant state of war and rebellion against first the Western colonial powers, and the national governments in each of the aforementioned countries.

Starting in 2006/2008 radical Islamists, including some influenced by Al Qaeda, began to proselytize in Tinariwen. The Tuareg have always been extremely conservative. They are sometimes still involved in the slave trade even now. This is a  pre-colonial African society, with some parallels to Afghanistan, I might add.

Tinariwen’s is among the driest climates in the world. The oases are life, and control of the oases is political power. While Saudi Arabia has its oil wealth and modern cities Tinariwen has no riches and is largely barren. It is even more tribal and more remote. A united Tinariwen would be larger than any country in Africa, including the formerly united Sudan.

The distances are vast and the ability to govern such a large area almost impossible. However, the attack on the gas processing plant in Algeria and rapid collapse of resistance in Mali point to a much larger problem. It isn’t a failed state. It’s a never had a state state.

In most countries the effort to relocate and anchor nomadic peoples has been a primary objective. Smuggling, banditry and rebellion are much more prevalent where there are no police or state controls. Virtually every one of the states where the Tuareg live have waged harsh wars of suppression with only limited success ever since their Independence in the 1960’s.

Now, with failed and dysfunctional states all around and the power of the word of the Prophet as interpreted by Al Qaeda, along with an infusion of modern weapons from Libya the Tuareg in the West see the opportunity to break away from governments to revert to purely tribal governance.

The West sees Al Qaeda training camps in the deep desert but at the same time the desert is the greatest enemy. Water is survival. Control of the oases is power. This is real live French Foreign Legion 1,000′ sand dune desert and hard Sahel scrubland where the nearest water could be 100 miles. the caravans have been plying the same routes for 1,000 years because of the same need for water.

While the first reaction of the military may be to bomb and strafe the jihadis it might be better to negotiate with the leaders. The Tuareg councils of elders are ancient and formalized to a far greater degree than in Afghanistan or Iraq with much less corruption. When you have nothing, there is nothing to steal.

This is not Lawrence of Arabia or one of Delacroix’s paintings or Afghanistan or any other desert war. It is probably a uniquely unnecessary war if properly handled. Much of the problem is in the actions of corrupt central governments. Even the crisis with Boko Haram in Nigeria is different. The Tuareg are in Nigeria, but they are not of Nigeria.

One of the critical mistakes make in Iraq and Afghanistan was simple hubris. We did not and do not have the T.E. Lawrences and Richard Warburtons who know the inhabitants intimately and are accepted by both sides. We seek to impose top down solutions and spend billions of dollars on a constantly revolving and changing set of priorities because it is our way.

The conflict in Mali is in its early stages. Let us hope after 11 years of constant warfare that somehow, someone comes to their senses. Expansion of this war will spread from country to country if we do not.