Monday, November 12, 2007

Battle Front Afghanistan: General Overview

Cross Posted At the Castle

As Iraq cools down, Afghanistan heats up. Al Qaeda and it's Islamic terrorist affiliates are being pushed back on many fronts including the destruction of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, MILF and Abu Sayaf in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines among the many places. It has sought to expand into the contested territories in the Caucuses including places like Ingushetia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and the like.

Al Qaeda has begun to concentrate foreign fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan as this represents their last, best hopes for establishing a long term and protected base from where they can launch attacks and, hopefully, from where they can establish and expand the planned for caliphate. Their current plan is focusing on controlling the area referred to as "Pashtunistan": the traditional tribal lands of the ethnic Pashtun that spans both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The foreign fighters account for the increase in suicide bombers and IED attacks against civilian and security forces alike. Their offensive is best seen as their "Tet" which everyone was expecting would happen in Iraq, but the situation for Al Qaeda had become untenable.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing issues that allows the Taliban and Al Qaeda to continue to use it for a base, not the least of which is the protected base it has established in Waziristan, Pakistan. From there, the highest echelon of the Taliban and Al Qaida issue orders, train forces, obtain money and arms. They easily transit the area through the Paktika and Paktia provinces on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

Afghanistan, like Iraq, has both rural and urban populations. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan's populations, though still close to urban areas, are more rural in situation and tradition. Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-sharif do not hold a quarter or more of the population of the nation as Baghdad, Fallujah, Basrah, Mosul, Tall Afar, Najaf and other notable cities do in Iraq. This means that the problem areas and reconstruction efforts are spread out into the countryside, making security for the population difficult to manage. It also means that reconstruction efforts, such as new hydro-electric dams or irrigation canals, will have a more localized and limited effect, are difficult to manage and secure over the long distances between the capitol and main security forces.

In Iraq, US forces using the new established COIN strategy, identified tribal shiehks and power structures outside of urban or suburban political power structures to develop alliances, manage projects and generally route the insurgents or turn the indigent insurgents against the foreign. The area and conditions in Iraq are different than in Afghanistan. Iraq is largely flat and already had established roads and other infrastructure that connected far flung members of tribes from rural to suburban and urban areas. This gave the tribal sheiks a greater power to relate to and manage their distant tribal connections, even if some of the tribe lived in the cities.

It also provided them with the ability to easily contact and work with associated tribes on areas of interest. Those areas more closely overlapped and had shared impact. Even the simplest aspects of security are shared since unrest and subjugation of one tribe in Iraq could and would bleed over to other tribes in the area. The more open terrain also meant that infrastructure projects like roads, electricity and water could be more easily connected and would also share impact across tribal areas. Finally, the open terrain allowed a much quicker response to attacks on the varied populations, rural to town to city.

In Afghanistan, the tribes are much more isolated from each other by geography and equally isolated by lack of infrastructure and shared interests with other tribes. It is much more ethnically diverse. While Iraq had two main ethnicities, Kurds and Arabs, though complicated by religious and political affiliation, language is not a barrier. Afghanistan has at least eleven ethnicities with diverging ethno-politico-religious affiliations, separated by language, customs, and economic interests.

These ethno-politico-religious affiliations do not simply or easily breakdown into "Sunni/Shia" or "Fundamentalist/Moderate" or even "Democrats/Royalists/Kalahfistas". The needs and beliefs of these tribes are more likely to be insular and limited. It is one reason that the centralized government in Kabul does not easily translate into projected power or control in these areas. Additionally, it is one of the reasons that the centralized government is hard pressed to respond to the needs of the people in these areas, leaving them exposed to the mercies of either the resurgent Taliban or the established warlords.

As far as the tribes are concerned, even though many of the leaders and elders were invited into the central government, Karzai's government is the government of Kabul and Kandahar. That government has little capacity to shape politics or provide necessities within these regions, much less project military or other authoritative power. While many coalition forces praise the fearlessness and drive of the ANA, they are far from capable of managing the security situation. Most significant economic improvement has occurred within the two main cities where aid and security are easily accessible. This does not translate to economic or security success within other provinces.

One of the projects that have long been underway is the creation of a national road system. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has little infrastructure from which to build. The road system will connect parts of the country, north, south, east and west. It will allow the government to be more connected to the tribal regions, respond to security threats, deliver services and increase economic possibilities.

Without a road, goods and foods cannot be delivered to national markets or even international markets. Without a road, resources cannot be delivered to manufacturing centers that create textiles and other products. Without a road, security forces cannot provide the cover necessary to secure the population. However, roads also make it easier for enemy forces to travel to areas of concentration as well as warlords to extend their control over their areas. Proliferation of opium and its export can also be tied to the new roads.

Even the coalition, with limited forces, are unable to manage the security situation necessary to institute the rule of law [video] over the entire land. It is concentrated in urban areas while the rural, tribal areas are still subject to warlord type feudal subjugation. Some warlords in the north have attempted to go "legitimate" by becoming part of the government, whether in Kabul or in the provinces. However, this is largely in name only as most of these warlords are only interested in protecting their interests, redeveloping their criminal enterprises and influencing the central government from acting against their own. They are also concerned that their disarmament and reliance on government security leaves them vulnerable to a resurgent Taliban.

While their tribal affiliations and association with the Northern Alliance made the warlords of the north and west natural allies of the coalition, the warlords had been finally routed by the Taliban in 1996. The Taliban was able to do so because it had brought some form of rule of law, all be it fairly repressive and nearly as arbitrary as any under the warlords. It was largely unified, though not codified, applied with equal brutality. Warlord's were territorial, isolated and routinely committed fairly atrocious crimes against people with very little, if any, appearance of justice.

Six years after the invasion by the coalition, similar problems are most likely allowing the Taliban to re-infiltrate these areas. With the increase of opium production, crime is rampant and the warlords and their criminal gangs are likely abetting and committing it. The coalition has been slowly working at creating a judicial system and police force to mitigate this crime. However, the judicial system is dominated by judges who owe their allegiances to warlords or are in fear of their lives. As in Iraq, the police are corrupt or intimidated by militias and insurgents.

While the rule of law and economic improvements are necessary, as in Iraq, the lack of security capable of managing security for a greater portion of the population and against encroachment of insurgents is a problem. The call by US commanders from the area and many politicians to increase troop deployments to Afghanistan is not completely out of line. Particularly, as the new offensive by the Taliban and Al Qaeda is underway.

Some reports indicate that the Taliban and Al Qaida are planning one of their first "winter" campaigns. They expect that the winter months will keep US and coalition forces from using their larger air mobilization and attack assets. This would leave ground forces vulnerable to over run. Others have questioned whether the Taliban could sustain such a winter offensive since their original "Summer Offensive" did go as it had planned. However, reports of suicide attacks and IEDs, now their favored weapons, into November (the start of the winter months) may be indicating the "winter offensive" is underway.

In six years, some progress as been made, but geography, tribal independence and a desire to allow as much autonomy as possible hinders progress in the security, political and economic arenas. Other issues, including NATO and other nation commitments leave a majority of the heavy lifting to US, Canadian, British and Netherland forces. South Korea has announced that it will withdraw a large portion of its troops from Afghanistan per an agreement with the Taliban after the release of their Korean national hostages held earlier this year. Although, ostensibly as part of this agreement, the issue of Korean troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a political minefield in South Korea.

Norway has indicated it will boost its troops temporarily to over 700 with an additional 150 special forces, but that number will decrease in early 2008 as it withdraws over 200 rapid response troops. The additional special forces will be placed around Kandahar where the Taliban and Al Qaeda backed forces attempted to retake a town within miles of the provincial capital.

Germany is maintaining its 3,000 strong forces in the north, resisting placing them in close contact to Taliban infiltrated areas and actual combat. However, Germany continues to pledge continued financial aid to the nation. France has stepped up with additional close air support missions after the US Air Force grounded its F-15 fleet following a crash in Missouri. Dutch forces continue to assist with combat operations in the south, coming into regular contact with Taliban forces and have suffered a number of casualties.

Other commanders are noting that their commitment to train and improve Afghan National Army forces is difficult because they lack at least "50%" of the trainers they need to make it happen. Some commanders insist that this is "quality" over quantity slow approach to building an army. Afghan officers are being sent to training facilities in the United States, Germany and other nations for formal training. Yet, the impending security situation would seem to call for an increase of troops to assist in all areas including security, training, reconstruction and reconciliation operations.

Logistics is still a major problem six years in. Many of the coalition forces do not have enough or any of the necessary equipment to contribute to this need. Helicopters are the main source of transportation for people and goods, particularly due to the lack of other infrastructure. Many coalition partners have to use US helicopters to transport or take action to the enemy. There are not enough in Afghanistan and fatigue to Coalitions, particularly US, equipment and people are causing serious strains on this capability.

In this report on the British Ghurkas
efforts to take the fight to the Taliban, the reporter notes that the British have to cancel an operation due to the lack of helicopters and some nations' policies. Due to the type of equipment and danger the terrain presents, the Dutch do not fly their helicopters at night and the British helicopters were over taxed. They had to go on foot if they wanted to do the mission at all. Reports have indicated that many coalition forces do not have the type of equipment necessary to fly "high and hot".

In the meantime, the Czech Republic is boosting its assistance and the ANA's own rotor capability by donating fifteen transport and combat helicopters to Afghanistan military. This is unlikely to make a significant difference to the current logistical problems due to the amount of training and support that will be required to make a rotor wing capable and self sustaining. Due to the lack of infrastructure and security, most supplies, arms and men are transported via helicopter for both the Coalition and Afghan forces.

Kyrgyzstan has recently recommitted itself to providing a resupply and transit base to US forces for security in Afghanistan. Despite US problems with Iran and accusations that it is supplying arms to Afghan insurgents, Iran and Afghanistan are going ahead on a border post plan that has been discussed for the last two years. It's effectiveness will be dependent on Iran's cooperation and commitment since its well known that the IRGC is controlling the smuggling rings to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the meantime, Marine Commandant Conway has suggested removing a bulk of his forces from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan to quell the increasing violence. While there are no indications that this plan is seriously being considered by the DoD, it does make sense in the long run to improve security forces to the now "hot" front. Marines also have the added benefit of having worked with largely tribal organizations in Anbar that would give them a leg up on many deploying forces. Conway is likely eager to see if his forces can pull off the same program. US forces in the south are seeing a distinct uptick in operation tempo.

The two drawbacks are that most of Afghanis do not speak Arabic, which the Marines would now be fluent in and, while some tribal customs are similar, they would need to come up to speed very quickly to make an immediate difference. However, like in Iraq, building networks and relations are often about overcoming suspicion and having enough time. Time may not be available if suicide and other attacks along ethnic lines, as seen in Iraq, causes the warlords in the north to completely re-arm and restart a civil war.

According to this report from NEFA, the divisions between ethnicities is much deeper than in Iraq due to the distance, history and geography. Like in Iraq, the majority Pashtun population (68%) expect a greater share of the say in government and in resources. For several years, Karzai has been attempting to balance the demands and show that the government is for everyone. But, slow progress in Helmand and other Pashtun dominated areas have lent to the general distrust and disillusionment with the central government.

This report from 2007, while generally lamenting the unorganized, slow process of developing a project and funding it, also notes the general issue underlying the entire endeavor and proved correct in Iraq: security trumps reconstruction and, without reconstruction their can be no security.

The problems in Pakistan are severely complicating matters for Afghanistan. Pakistan's inability (or lack of desire) to rein in Taliban in the Waziristan tribal areas as well as political unrest has given the Taliban and Al Qaeda breathing room to advance control of the area. Musharraf has recently pledged to re-instate elections in February 2008, thirty days after its original schedule, possibly in response to President Bush' direct call for democracy to continue. It's unclear what impact that will have in Islamabad, but it certainly has done nothing for the military issue in the tribal areas where the military is increasingly routed.

Some caution putting too much emphasis on democracy efforts in Pakistan since many of the so-called "democracy protesters" are part of known terrorist supporting Islamist groups. Musharraf's moves may have given these groups and their political wings new found legitimacy. US military commanders are understandably concerned about the security of Pakistani nukes. But, there are no calls at this time for military intervention. Further, discussions regarding withholding US aid to Pakistan were hampered since the government is seriously concerned about damaging Pakistan's assistance on the border.

What may give Pakistan some breathing room is to send additional forces to Afghanistan, stepping up combat operations that might draw in fighters away from Pakistan. Thus, giving Musharraf breathing room to get his security forces set back up off their heels and capable of dealing with the expanding threat from the tribal lands.

Economically, Afghanistan is a train wreck that will take many years to improve. It needs an influx of forces to reduce Taliban re-appearance in key areas, beef up over all security, assist with developing better and more representative governance at the local level and improve the economic connectivity and future of Afghanistan. Until Afghanis feel they have an ability to seek and obtain redress for corruption and crimes, Warlords will continue their behavior which is contrary to the US mission. Afghanis will continue to fluctuate between supporting the Taliban, thus al Qaida, as some sort of force against crime. Poppy money will still fuel the insurgency and keep all other legitimate business from making any significant difference or leading people away from criminal, Taliban or Al Qaida related enterprises.

Finally, Afghanistan will remain a battle front long after Iraq is completely pacified and becomes a once a week or less blip in the media. Sadly, what may be the only way that Afghanistan completely turns on its head is if a civil war does break out and the war models Iraq more completely including horrific, mass attacks against civilians that will serve as a reminder of why the Taliban and its Al Qaida cohorts were rejected in the first place. Let's hope that we do not repeat the same mistakes in Afghanistan as we did in Iraq when we failed to place "security" at the top of the list for nation building.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Al Qaida Threats: It's the Economy Stupid!

Cross Posted At the Castle

Update: John Bolton discusses the terror alert on video

The FBI released declassified memo warning of a possible Al Qaida attack on US malls though they also caution against it's credibility. This type of threat has been made almost annually. The purpose is very apparent. The US economy is strong because consumers spend. If Al Qaida can damage the US economy, it believes it can damage our ability to project military and political power. Damaging our economy has been a primary objective of Al Qaida and like minded terrorists for almost two decades or more.

In 1993, ideological affiliates first attempted to destroy the WTC. They finally succeeded in 2001. The focus on these buildings were not simply symbolic. In 1993, though computer network systems were becoming more prevalent, financial information was either in physical files or on servers that were on the premises. After the 1993 attacks, with new technology and expanded computer network use, many companies had transferred their data management to large, off-site servers with back up tapes, building a dependable redundancy within the system.

It is unclear whether the planners of 9/11 knew that this kind of change had occurred or if it was considered important when any attack on the financial district could cause a panic. More so because the US economy had been in a slight recession for at least two years following the internet bust of 1999. Even without this recession, the attack would have and did have an impact on our economy. Over 1.4 million people lost their jobs within 30-60 days of the attack. While many have questioned whether the appropriate direction from President Bush was to "go shopping" in the aftermath of the attacks, it was explicitly meant to jump start the economy and stave off possible worsening recession or even depression in a post panic withdrawal.

Since then, Al Qaida has either threatened to attack, had their attacks interrupted or been successful against what are largely financially connected targets or represented a "strategic convergence". These strategic convergences are noted here:

Because carrying out these attacks are dangerous and operationally laborious, Al Qaida picks targets with three main objectives in mind: political, financial and psychological. The more spectacular attacks outside of Iraq usually represent an intersection or combination of the three goals in order to get the most "bang" for their buck.

Previous successful attacks included the attacks on Bali night clubs, the 3/11 Madrid bombings of the trains and the 7/7 London bombings of the trains. Further evidence of this fairly normal pattern can be seen in the attacks carried out in Iraq. Besides police, coalition and other government targets, Al Qaida operatives in Iraq targeted markets, gas stations, banks, business, electrical plants and lines, major transportation routes and other targets that represented a "strategic convergence" outside of military targets. Markets in Iraq became one of their favorite high density targets. Not only due to the number of people that frequent them, but because it damaged the economy and up the misery of the people, limiting their ability to exist.

Al Qaida has planned to use US dependency on foreign oil since the beginning of the "hot" war in 2001. In 2006, Saudi Arabia interrupted a plan to attack their largest oil refinery, arresting 172, capturing money and a large arms cache. In February 2007, Al Qaida issued another direct threat against US oil resources, prompting several countries to beef up security at their facilities. The threat to the US economy and military capabilities abroad posed by our dependence on foreign oil imports and threats to that resource continues to be very real.

Other financial targets have included the resorts in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt as well as various tourist attractions in Morocco and other destinations.

While the FBI is quick to point out they do not have "credible" evidence that an attack is imminent and that the threats were posted on open, known, Islamist web sites that are "hit or miss" on their viability, the threats stay within the basic strategic paradigm targeting important financial points of American economy. More importantly because the threats come at a time of financial importance.

This is the holiday season when "shopping" and the money generated sustains many businesses and the economy as a whole for several months after the season has ended. It also comes at a time when the economy is starting to wobble at a precarious pinnacle. Oil prices continue to soar, the prime lending market has crashed and the stock market is showing signs of a real down turn while the fed continues to bolster it with inflow of cash.

Al Qaida has also suffered a major set back in Iraq where it's loss there represents a serious blow to their image and strategic interests. Even internationally, the Al Qaida network continues to be rolled up across Europe and the Middle East. Al Qaida has turned its sites on Afghanistan and Pakistan where they are now cornered in the last possible nation that offers protection and acceptance. It's the last front. If Al Qaida loses acceptance and bases there, they will have few, if any, destinations where they could set up such a large and centralized base for training, rest, refitting and planning.

Any other location would expose them to attack and probable destruction at the hands of the US or coalition partner (North Africa), Russia (Caucuses), India (Kashmir) or other nation as those states have very specific relations. The latest unrest in Pakistan provides them with an opportunity to gain ground and work towards possible domination of a nuclear, Islamic state. The unrest also causes a serious political conundrum for the US and continues to be a factor in the rising price of oil on speculation of regional explosions.

An attack on an external target in the west, particularly a financial or resource target, could be in the works in order for Al Qaida to gain some face after so many set backs. Including the slow destruction of their media wing through capture of their first and second tier operatives. They need a real media victory. It's likely this understanding that has Gen. Fils both projecting victory in Iraq and warning of a possible Al Qaida "come back".

On the other hand, an attack by Al Qaida during the upcoming campaigning season in the US could be a failure on their part. If they attack, they will boost the credentials of any candidate who is running strong on defense. This could damage the possibility of any candidate who is advocating a less robust approach to taking on Al Qaida and terrorism in general. At this point, Al Qaida needs the US to disengage if it is going to survive the next year or two as any cohesive operation with a centralized planning committee and large, open training camps to produce the fighters necessary to take on the US in Afghanistan or work against other allies in the region.

However, it would be inappropriate to dismiss these threats against the malls because they have not happened in the past when other similar threats were made. At least on two occasions, planned attacks on malls in the US and Britain have been thwarted. Many point to the seeming disconnect and "self starter" apparent franchising of these individuals and groups, placing them outside of Al Qaida central control or planning. However, most of the individuals have turned out to have attended terror training camps in Pakistan or associating with others that have.

While each attack or threat on these financially important structures is not necessarily centrally planned or directed, they all follow a similar pattern. Pointing to the probability that terror training camp includes instruction on choosing appropriate targets to make the best impact. Thus, adhering to the central strategy of Al Qaida, even if the plan doesn't come straight from Zawahiri or Bin Laden.

The big attack in Afghanistan was certainly a media making moment and included an attack on a manufacturing plant (economic structure) that provided a huge number of casualties for a psychological effect. For nations such as Canada and Germany where involvement in a "hot war" instead of peace keeping is a hot topic of public debate, it can have a serious impact on national decisions. For the US, it simply re-states the necessity to maintain force and redouble efforts in the midst of this strategic shift.

Yet, the attack also had negative connotations for Al Qaida which is why it and the Taliban are trying to distance themselves from the event by denying involvement. Al Qaida has a strong history of evaluating past mistakes and trying to correct them in future strategies and tactics. Zawahiri had written in "Knights Under the Prophet's Banner" that one of the things that precipitated the fall of armed resistance from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was an attack on a government official that resulted in the death of a young Muslim school girl. This had turned public opinion against them.

The experience in Iraq must also be evaluated from their point of view since the repeated attacks on civilians, the oppression, torture and rape, among the many problems for Al Qaida, is what eventually saw their acceptance among the population of Iraq destroyed and their fighters driven out of various previously protected enclaves. The death of 59 school aged children at the hands of Al Qaida or the Taliban could end up being the event that makes them personas non gratis.

This doesn't preclude any attack on the west. Our current situation and Al Qaida's precarious situation may make an attack on the west at this time a strategic must for Al Qaida.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Our SOB in Pakistan

Cross Posted At The Castle

What do we do about Pakistan? Musharraf has put us in a bad position. A calculation on his part that was probably a foregone conclusion after the Pakistan Supreme Court ruling that said he had to resign as head of the military forces if he wanted to continue campaigning for president. Bhutto decided to take the opportunity to press for her return. Musharraf was being pressured politically and militarily as his forces continued to take beatings in the Tribal areas of Waziristan. He may have felt he had no other recourse, but to declare martial law.

Then again, Musharraf is either supported by the US or his government collapses which means either an Islamic government comes to power or even a "moderate" government, taking in consideration other internal issues, that would force the government to reduce cooperation with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Waziristan. Thus, giving Al Qaeda and the Taliban the truly protected space they require to refit and re-organize.

Leaving us with the prospect of a deposed Musharef in a truly unstable state with nuclear weapons or backing Musharraf after disbanding Democracy and hope we can pressure him into re-establishing it and allowing elections. Even then, the damage may be too extreme since the electoral backlash (or military coup) is likely to be Musharraf's demise.

Are we forced to re-track to "realist" politics and simply back Musharraf as a long term, oppressive dictator, for-going any moral stand on democracy?

Or, do we stand on democracy and hope Bhutto can pull something together to maintain a government that can bring the non-Al Qaeda fundamentalist, Islamists and the more "liberal" urban democrats into a government that can share power?

Or, are we prepared for a total chaotic state where the nuclear weapons may be up for grabs?

This possibility was probably what has had Adm. Fallon talking about re-deployments of troops to counter "other" threats.

Friday, September 28, 2007

GWOT: Developing Effective Strategic Communications

In a previous post regarding information operations, I made the mistake of linking IO (military Information Operations) to PA (Public Affairs) and State Department. The Armorer rightfully rebuked gently in the comment section: "Doctrine, Doctrine, Doctrine". In essence, an age old discussion among those who look at current day domestic and foreign information as well as military operations: who is responsible for relaying information to whom.

To clarify, it's about law, area of responsibility and target audience. But, as the Armorer notes, as have other bloggers on the subject, with the advent of global communications and media, these areas have continued to drift closer together and even overlap. Thus, when we discuss the matter, we have a tendency to view the situation from the "nine thousand mile" perspective: it is all one giant field of operations and every organization is responsible for it.

Add to that, every organization affects the operations and outcomes of the others. Finally, also based on the Armorer's comments and previous discussions, while approaching the field of operations from different angles, each of these organizations have to have the same overarching message to achieve the ultimate central goal: United States' Policy.

Where to begin?

GWOT: Developing Effective Strategic Communications


Throughout history, man has sought to expand his ability to communicate over ever greater distances, using faster, more efficient and reliable methods. He has used these methods for a variety of reasons including personal communications, controlling an organization, economic growth, negotiating contracts, developing diplomatic relationships, affecting the outcome of battle and spreading ideas. The methods of communications have developed over eons as man has mastered his environment, available resources and quantum mathematics.

In the 20th century, the ability to communicate within days, hours, minutes and, finally, seconds has changed the way that communications effect every aspect of life. Humans are bombarded by information and ideas nearly every waking minute, from locations all around the world.

At the dawn of the 21st century, global, instantaneous communications have allowed people to collaborate on projects, develop life changing inventions, obtain wealth, perform surgery from half the world away and exchange ideas with people they may never meet or never previously had the opportunity to communicate with without the advancement in communications. As these advancements occurred, governments, businesses, private organizations and individuals have alternately sought to control and use this new resource for their own benefit.

The most effective use of these communication resources has been by individuals who have the least restrictions on time, content or relations and by corporations who have a long history of developing strategic communications to effect market growth among billions of potential customers. Corporations use market analysis tools to identify their target customers or audiences based on data points within selected communities.

Individuals use a less scientific though equally selective and sophisticated method of social networking. In exchanging emails, websites links and home made videos, they promote one idea over another, promote a relationship and shared goals to individuals and groups. However, opposite from the corporation "top down" method of searching for market share, individuals are often "self-selecting" or "bottom up" associating with a product, organization or an idea sometimes without another individual or organization ever reaching out.

In the Global War on Terror, a global war of ideas, this self-selection using global communications poses a unique problem in limiting participation in acts of murder, destruction and espionage on behalf of any state, organization or ideology in places all around the globe without direct relationship to a central conflict. This requires a new approach to developing communication strategies.

According to sociologists, the most common means of influencing individuals is through peers within a given community. Limiting the appeal of any organization or ideology that is contrary to the security of people or states will largely rely on the ability to persuade the greater community to reject and marginalize the ideology or any terrorist acts as unacceptable behavior. This includes communities in the real and virtual world.

Developing Effective Strategic Communications: Core Concepts and Working Theory

We have a tendency to look at effective communications from the top down. In other words, we tend to look at the organizations involved and try to decipher their responsibilities, appropriate message and correct actions from that perspective. Instead, we should begin this discussion from the bottom up: focus on "target audiences" and work backwards. In fact, from a "customer service" background, the most effective strategy is to first understand who the "customer" is, the needs and demands of the "customer" or "target audience" and then effect the delivery of message or product that best suits the "customer"..

Whatever the organization does to effect the "customer" and convince them to "buy" the message or product, in the end, it is to achieve the organization's over all goals. In business, it is to achieve majority market share, acceptable profits and the long term financial stability and success. In foreign affairs, national security and warfare, it is to achieve the goals of US policy.

Before we breakdown the "target audiences", develop messages, discuss methods of delivery and assign responsibility, we need to put forth a working diagram and a theory. That theory reflects our current and future adversaries: the use of global communications and media, the concepts of distributed networks, dissemination of information and recruitment of "actors" and sympathizers disregarding global borders. In fact, adversaries over the ages have sought to accomplish their goals using all of these methods. More so since the development of global communications and media. Our strategy must take this into consideration and develop around this core idea.

Recognizing Spheres of Influence

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That theory being that, in a global war against such an adversary, using all of the above methods and comprehending the effect of global development on information and interconnectivity of people, there is no such thing as a "neutral" party to the war. In fact, every nation and individual is a potential "target audience" as well as a potential deliverer of the message. Their importance, how the message is shaped and who delivers it is based on the "target audience's" geographical proximity to actual areas of combat operations, their ideological relationship to the adversary or even to the US, including their own national or ideological interests.

All of which indicates their potential acceptance to "blue force/red force" communications and ideas. It also indicates whether they are an effective conduit of either message to other "target audiences" to: pressure the adversary; to pressure his sympathizers, to influence potential allies of either force or even to influence "neutral" parties to act or not act on behalf of either adversarial party.

This theory and its "9000 mile" view of "target audiences" obviously makes a large and unwieldy matrix to work with and plan the message, the method of delivery and the responsible parties. That requires a breakdown and identification of the "target audience" and their geographic and ideological relationship to either entity as well as the most appropriate method of delivery and responsible party. However, this diagram could be used to drill down to each level and category of "target audience", overlaid on each successive group of communities from a global, state and local perspective.

Definition of the Diagram: Spheres of Influence

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The overlapping circles represent these ideas

1) Every entity has a relationship with the other, directly and indirectly, through geography, ideology, economy, security and polity, and through individuals, populations, states or organizations
2) Every entity has influence on the other, through actions or reactions, directly or indirectly, through geography, ideology, economy, politics, security and polity: through individuals, populations, states or organizations
3) Every entity seeks to increase influence on the other to act or react, directly or indirectly, through geography, ideology, economy, politics, security and polity: through individuals, populations, states or organizations
4) Every entity has its own set of goals that it wishes to achieve that is either aligned or in opposition to the goals of the other entities. Such goals include economic, political and security.
5) The importance placed on these goals by an entity; their alignment with any other entity's goals; their relationship with any individual, group or state; the amount of influence each has or can improve on another, will determine what position or sphere of influence the entity occupies on the diagram.

Individual circles:

1) Blue Force/Red Force represents the main protagonist and antagonist, whose goals are similar (such as achieving communications superiority), but directly opposite the other.
2) Green Centers of Influence represents outside entities that share a relationship, influence and some or all of the goals of any entity that it makes contact with. Centers of Influence have their own goals which they attempt to achieve by either supporting the goals of or attempting to influence any of the other spheres it has a relationship with. These spheres of influence are sometimes interchangeable with any other entity on the diagram, most often the "target audience".
3) Yellow represents the "target audience". The target audience depends on a community's direct or indirect relationship to the whole or part of the conflict, it's own goals and from what level it is being viewed and addressed (ie, global, state, local or individuals).

Global Community: Relativity and Friction

Due to the global nature of communications and media which facilitates the global distribution of ideas, the relationship of nations, organizations and individuals invested in global economics, politics and security, this connectivity continuously causes friction which simultaneously maintains those connections.

Achieving Communications Superiority And Limitations

An ideology that bases its primary activities on disseminated and distributed relay or outsourcing of its message and activities, eschewing national borders, a state, or physical assets that can be targeted, nor recognizing any neutral parties to the conflict, cannot be completely eliminated by physical interdiction. For such an ideology to be rendered ineffective, it must be equally marginalized within all public spaces and polities.

This requires the engagement of all parts of society, at all levels, within the global community.

However, we must accept that defeating an ideology does not necessarily equate to eliminating it. The worst ideologies of the 20th century still remain with us today in the form of books, movies, music, internet websites and organizations that continue to attempt to re-establish their organization and ideology. It is only through vigilance and continued influence of the greater polity that these ideas remain marginalized and unable to retain the power that they once held. That may be the most we can expect from any sustained effort against such adversarial ideologies as Islamic extremism where information is retained and reflected in a never ending state on the world wide web.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Iraq: Winning, Disconnecting From the Matrix

Cross Posted At the Castle

What we got here is a failure to communicate. Some men you can't reach, that is they just don't listen when you talk reasonable so you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it, well he gets it, and I don't like it any better than you men. - Cool Hand Luke

History, they say, is written by the victors. Except for modern history, which is written by the media with all the snapshots, sound bites, so called expert analysis, and two minute pundit riffs trying to tell the story before the next commercial break or within the 1.5" x 6" column they were allocated in the news paper.

In this war, history is still being written by the media. They create a narrative that equates to the knowledge of the masses and trickles down to the polls. Yet, somewhere amongst the narrative is the true story of the war, written in "0" and "1" bytes on the world wide web. It was hidden except to the few who knew that the narrative on the air waves did not match the whispers of communications from the front. And we searched for the real story among the bytes, flashing around the world at the speed of light.

It was these flashes among the dark and gloomy midnight of the narrative that has kept us going, insisting that reality, like the interned in the "Matrix", was not reality at all. Becoming unplugged from the legacy media "matrix", we found reality. Still, we shout to people to believe and their eyes are blurry while the media "matrix" tries to shift reality once again, changing the story to meet the reality they can no longer hide.

The "surge" they say is working. A miracle in many quarters while in others it is still rejected. People are waiting and watching for the "next shoe" to drop. Another gigantic frenzy of bloody horror unleashed on unsuspecting people. Yet, if something does come, it will be little and in no comparison to the bloody orgy that the enemy in its death throws perpetrated on the Iraqi people throughout 2005-2006. And, any who will try to claim that it is the "resurgence" of the enemy with a possibility that they will "win" will be dead wrong, just as they have been wrong throughout the war.

Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence-Sun Tzu

In a recently linked piece at Instapundit, Atlas Society noted that the media was "mugged" by bloggers. There is a lot of history that talks about how the media changed. A significant part of this story, broken down to the minimal, is that the conglomeration of corporatist media lost their independence and became subject to a singular editorial process governed, not by reality or the customer base they were serving, but by a hierarchy that that led to only a few at the top deciding what was newsworthy. It was these few that, through their relationship with "global" media and their outright ownership of much of the network and printed media, that controlled the story line, "shaping" American opinion.

Atlas Mugged talks about events such as RatherGate and September 11th, when the popular media servers went down and people were left with either repeating loops on the networks or blogs. It discusses the rise of blogs and the attempts of the mass media to take advantage of the phenomena. But, even Atlas Mugged misses one essential story that the centralized editorial practices of the "mass media" missed: the real story of how we won in Iraq.

Without taking anything away from Gen. Petraeus and those who worked hard in the last nine months to take advantage of the conditions set by all the hard work before and insure victory, victory was assured a long time ago. The truth of it was written in the blogs of military men and women and free lance writers who eschewed the "Matrix" of mass media for true independence.

Most of America is still wondering and looking for the miracle, the mythical moment that it all started going "right" in Iraq. Today's narrative is that the "surge" provided enough security to "finally" convince the Iraqis that it was in their best interests to join against Al Qaida and other extremists. Yet, the hard work that led to the ability of the "surge" to work has been being done over the last three years. The Iraqi rejection of terrorists and extremists of all stripes was written in the blogs.

It was only those of us who disconnected from the "Matrix" of the mass media who knew the reality on the ground did not match the "reality" perpetrated by the media.

We few, we happy few, we band of blogs, having looked beyond the Matrix, discussed strategy and pointed to successes long before the media ever knew who Petraeus was or anything about the new COIN manual that incorporated ideas written by Kilcullen and discussed at length on the blogs.

Victory, they say, has many fathers and defeat is an orphan. Some of us refused to abandon it.

Another truth that was missed until this year, is the horrific actions of the enemy that foretold his own defeat.

No miscalculations mean the victories are certain, achieving victory over those who have already lost - Sun Tzu

In war, there are no such things as "no miscalculations", but there is those who make the least miscalculations. In 2004, Zarqawi wrote how Al Qaida in Iraq would be defeated:

1 - We fight them, and this is difficult because of the gap that will emerge between us and the people of the land. How can we fight their cousins and their sons and under what pretext after the Americans, who hold the reins of power from their rear bases, pull back? The real sons of this land will decide the matter through experience. Democracy is coming, and there will be no excuse thereafter.

2 - We pack our bags and search for another land, as is the sad, recurrent story in the arenas of jihad, because our enemy is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day. By the Lord of the Ka`ba, [this] is suffocation and then wearing down the roads. People follow the religion of their kings. Their hearts are with you and their swords are with Bani Umayya (the Umayyads), i.e., with power, victory, and security. God have mercy.

The truth is, their defeat was written by purple dipped fingers, smiling faces, singing and dancing. Their defeat was written when men and women stood on the line and insured that democracy, however ugly and however different than our own, went forward.

Democracy was coming and there were no excuses after that.

As for the bloody orgy of killing that came after, it was not a push for victory, but a desperate rear guard action. Like Hitler so many decades ago who proclaimed the German people unworthy of the Third Reich and thus deserving of total annihilation, Zarqawi and others put in motion what was to become their death throws; the seal upon their defeat written in the blood of young children.

Some may believe that it is too early to say that we have won in Iraq. Others will claim that it is only hindsight that allows anyone to believe that they knew all along we would win. But it wasn't hindsight that had bloggers across the world looking for victory. It was and is a belief that victory should be and could be the only end.

We almost lost the war. Not on the battle field, but right here at home. As General Lynch recently said, the reason people thought it was being lost and now appears to be miraculously won? The media, with its central editorial boards "shaping American opinion" told everyone it was so. And, at least half of the American population was unaware because they had no idea they were being sold a bill of goods. They didn't disconnect from the "Matrix".

Today, Iraq is still a troubled place and the political situation is rough. Yet, we see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is coming fast. How will we know we have finally achieved "victory"? Victory will not be written on a surrender document signed in front of a host of media with glaring lights and cameras blazing. No, victory will be like the silence after a harsh storm, war fading away while we are in our houses or going to work or welcoming home the troops. Most won't even know it happened.

And the only thing the enemy will do is what he said he would do if they lost. So long ago it has faded from some people's memories, lost in the spasms of blood and fire:

We pack our bags and search for another land, as is the sad, recurrent story in the arenas of jihad

Al Qaida in Pakistan has been working to stir trouble in Waziristan. Bin Laden declared war on Musharef and Al Qaida is picking up operations there.

As the war in Iraq fades away from the headlines and even Iraqi politicians are declaring victory, will anyone remember "the war is lost" crowd? Some people still talk like it is 2004 and the Iraq elections never took place, suggesting that Iraq should be partitioned. Sorry, that is a decision that the Iraqis will be making, thanks in no small part to the sacrifice of thousands of young Americans and many thousands more Iraqis who stood in the breaches while we fought a war of words at home.

The media is still trying to shape the narrative, including Hollywood who has never been more disconnected from reality than today. One wonders if either the mass media or Hollywood has discovered that they are irrelevant?

In Iraq, Kurdistan tries to rebuild economy, the Baghdad book market is re-opening, Iraqis are returning to music, and, instead of suicide bombers, it's teenage suicides due to an abrupt change in culture that is worrying the media.

Don't close your eyes, yet. We're still in Afghanistan and Pakistan is heating up while Iran talks like a petulant child demanding their seat at the adult table. Syria, a dedicated member of the axis of evil, still tries to have its say in Lebanese politics.

The battle for Iraq is all but over, but the war against tyranny, oppression, evil and fascist ideology continues.

Who will tell the real story of Iraq?

A note to the media, particularly the Dan Froomkin variety: you will, of course, ignore this post or the small voice here in the wilderness who is warning you of the future where the mass media begins to divest itself of the "mass" that is sinking it like a giant albatross around their neck and journalists begin to try to figure out where they belong in the brave new world of, once again, truly independent media.

The reason that you are failing, the reason the stock in your companies continues to dwindle, the reason that you missed the true story of Iraq in lieu of "the narrative", the reason that a sitting president invited bloggers to the White House, however limited in its actual journalistic moments that you claim as "real" journalism, is because you and your kind became "the Matrix"; alternate reality created by you and others like you. You are no longer independent. You are no longer individuals seeking "the truth".

You started believing your own press that you were the people that "protected" the people from the power of the government. You were 'objective" you said. You told the "truth" you said. All the while you abdicated your self-appointed responsibilities to foreign unknown, ideologically and ethically challenged stringers rarely ever telling your viewers and readers where it came from. You claim you don't bow down to powers, you bring them down, while all along central editorial boards told you what to write, what was acceptable. They stacked the deck with people like you to "shape the narrative" and "shape public opinion".

You're no longer independent, but a slave to the Matrix. What can you do but complain like petty demagogues who fear their throne has been threatened and belittle others who dare to disconnect from the Matrix?

You're lemmings, speaking with one voice, repeating the same line over and over again as you go down into the dark sea. Yet, you will keep asking yourself why this happened because you will never look past your own nose, self-congratulating prose and incestuous awards for "journalistic integrity".

The owner of this blog thought that maybe you were jealous of their invitation to the White House. I disagree. You are jealous of the one thing that they have that you no longer do:


Believe me, if you believe nothing else: your lack of understanding of that word will be the "death" of you.

Clinton "Hawkish" on War Holds the Center

Shocking news flash: We are winning in Iraq and conducting "mop up" operations.

Next election, as "hawkish" as Clinton is sounding, don't forget that she was moving with the wind of the polls and declaring the war lost while simultaneously insisting that there was no way to pull the troops out "after the disaster" that the President allegedly was presiding over. She was not prescient. She was an opportunist. That's no way to run a war and it is no way to run a presidency.

And don't let the rest of those slippery, weasel "the war is lost" people escape either. John Biden and the rest of the "hawkish doves" (Democrat or Republican) should take a flying leap.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad: I Am A Muslim. I Cannot Lie.

Interview with Ahmadinejad from 60 minutes. Seems like it was tough questions. However, while the Kos Kidz go crazy, Charles Johnson highlighted a section where Ahmadinejad says he has suggestions for President Bush on how he can help his party win the next election. He espouses every democrat talking point, but seems to leave out his favorites like paramilitary beatings of demonstrators, mass arrests, long term imprisonment, killing journalists, and hanging dissidents via crane in a public square. I haven't even watched it all and I'm getting the feeling I'm seeing Baghdad Bob has landed a new job complete with nose job and stupid grin. Can't wait to hear his UN speech.

What I'm saying, I am being very sincere here. I'm a Muslim. I cannot tell a lie."

"But when I ask you a question as direct as 'Will you pledge not to test a nuclear weapon?' you act, you dance all around the question. You never say 'Yes.' You never say 'No,'" Pelley points out.

"Well, thank you for that. You are like a CIA investigator. And you are…," Ahmadinejad replied.

"I am just a reporter. I am a simple average American reporter," Pelley said.

"This is not Guantanamo Bay. This is not a Baghdad prison. Please, this is not a secret prison in Europe. This is not Abu Ghraib," Ahmadinejad said. "This is Iran. I'm the president of this country!"

Go on, laugh. You know you want to. Tehran Ted. I kept imagining him banging his shoe on the podium. Journalist had big brass ones. Could have ended up in Evin like some of the other ones. Obviously why he can't stand real democracy and freedom. He wouldn't last two seconds with an Iranian Helen Thomas in the front row. Probably shoot her as soon as she said, "Mr. President..."


Iran and Syria: Brinkmanship in the Middle East

Cross posted at the Castle

Iran has lately become an even hotter topic than Iraq and, once again, Afghanistan has fallen off the radar completely. An upcoming push by the United States and France to enforce even greater sanctions against Iran is heating up the rhetoric from all sides of the ocean. Germany continues to struggle with the repercussions of joining the sanctions program. Democrats in Congress have been inordinately quiet since their last political push regarding President Bush's attempts to "escalate" the war by "implicating" Iran in the Shia insurgency in Iraq.

The silence in congress is not really surprising. Largely because they cannot deny certain intelligence backed up by hard evidence of the facts. Al Qods members swept up, facilitators singing and weapons with distinct Iranian markings that can't get anywhere into Iraq unless they are smuggled from Iran and can't get out of Iran unless they are intentionally released from Iranian armories. Particularly in the numbers that are being used and interdicted.

The same stands for Iranian weapons making their way to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The quantity of weapons being provided from a Police State cannot be done without willing, organized and directed assistance from the government and military of Iran, all denials to the contrary, unless security in Iran is worse than we imagine. This is one reason why the Democrats in congress are quiet. They might not want to go to war with Iran, but to pretend that Iran is not engaged in a proxy war and does not need to be confronted in some manner could boomerang on them, once again allowing the Republicans to smash them in an upcoming national election over national defense.

However, most congressmen of both sides of the aisle recognize, along with the President, that a terrorist supporting state who has provided money, weapons and political support to terrorist organizations of all ideological stripes around the globe and more recently against Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is not a nation that can be trusted with nuclear technology. As long as the President continues to work towards a "diplomatic solution" through the UN or even without, using tough sanctions and other than war, the Democrats will be quiet and support strongly the efforts to prevent Iran from having these weapons. On the other hand, if the President starts talking like French Foreign Minister Kouchner, Democrats may be moved to strongly protest.

Iranian denials ring positively false as they proclaim no good interest in causing instability in Afghanistan or Iraq and insist on their good relations with both nations. However, this is clearly wrong as demonstrated by the number of weapons, men and materials being provided. Further, they do have good interests in insuring continued instability in both of these nations.

Iran's Interests In Instability In Iraq and Afghanistan

First, continuing low grade instability and the interdiction of oil from either terrorist attacks on the lines or through outright banditry and smuggling to Iran and Syria, keeps oil off the global markets, keeping supply tight and the value high. This increase in oil prices is extremely important to Iran where close to 70% of their state run economy is based on energy revenue, largely from oil. Instability in the region also keeps the market analysts valuing futures higher than ever before.

Second, instability leading to inability to fully develop internal infrastructure including, importantly, electrical plants, allows Iran to continue to provide huge amounts of electricity to both Iraq and Afghanistan contributing to Iranian state revenues. Hydro-electricity is the number three export of Iran. Other trade including food, clothing, concrete (for reconstruction) and appliances, to name a few, continues to be high since neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have developed the manufacturing capable of supplying any of its internal needs.

All of this equates to an economic windfall for Iran that needs the money to continue to support it's political ambitions around the region through organizations such as Hezbollah, Jaish al Mahdi and numerous organizations including Al Qaida in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also need the money to continue to develop the nuclear facilities and technology as well as buy weapons from China and Russia. Finally, while the money is flowing into Iran and growing it's GDP at what would usually be a phenomenal rate, inflation matches or out paces it regularly and sanctions and limited credit have forced the Iranians to start working on a "cash up front" basis to obtain imports of food (believe it or not, a upwards of 50% importer of food which is a serious national defense issue, but is directly related to Iran's export of food for economic gain since it garners more revenue on the open world market for the government, but simultaneously results in inflationary food rates for the common people), gas and other commodities. Making cash flow and management extremely important.

Third, while the world, particularly the US and coalition partners, is busy with Afghanistan and Iraq, Ahmedinejad can continue to consolidate his power in Iran, stacking election boards, sending contracts to the IRGC, appointing IRGC compatriots to important positions and using the possibility of war as an easy stick to beat any opposition with rhetoric accusing them of helping the enemy. While such calls within the United States may be part of the political rhetoric, in Iran, it could quickly spell disaster, political ruin, possible imprisonment and even execution.

In an interesting juxtaposition against the conservative power consolidation, Hashemi-Rafsanjani, once considered the leader of the reformist movement in Iran, was elected to chair the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly of Experts is responsible for selecting the "supreme leader" and over seeing the office, insuring that it adheres to Islamic law. While some see this as a part of the internal power struggle between the extreme, radical conservatives and the more "nuanced" members of the religious council to balance power, it could equally and easily be an attempt to co-opt Hashemi-Rafsanjani and mute any attempts by the reformists to mount an opposition to the conservative take over.

According to the link from Radio Free Europe, the Assembly of Experts is considered "conservative" and "a threat to any reform movement". It seems unlikely that Hashemi-Rafsanjani would be selected for his "moderate" views with an attempt to moderate the council. As one member noted, he didn't expect Hashemi-Rafsanjani as the Chairman to have much effect on the over all positions of the board since the position is about insuring proper procedures are followed and only meets once every six months. On top of that, the position is elected for eight years. The chance that Hashemi-Rafsanjani would have the opportunity to influence the selection of a Supreme Leader is minimal as there are few signs Ayatollah Khamanei is going to depart the world, thus the office, any time soon.

Hashemi-Rafsanjani's history with the reform movement has been checkered. He's a member of the conservative party, but, during his presidency from 1989 to 1997, he worked closely with the secularist reform party, promising changes that he was either unwilling or unable to make. The reformists later rejected him as a representative because they believed his "gradualist" approach to reform was a facade and they had been betrayed.

During the 2005 election, many "moderates" and "reformists", disappointed over his previous performance and the reform situation, boycotted the elections or were otherwise kept from voting. This allowed Ahmadinejad to be elected in a virtual landslide. All of this points to the possibility that political enemies are being kept close.

Internal Unrest

While down in the streets, Ahmadinejad has been knocking out any potential protests from less than enthusiastic citizens. Trade and labor unionist have been agitating for the right to organize as well as for salary increases and benefits (such as two pair of shoes for bus drivers) that they have not received in several years. In some cases, teachers and other service workers have not been paid for months or even a year. In a state where inflation is officially 14% and the outside estimate is 17-20%, this lack of commiserate pay is placing an extreme hardship on the people.

Historically, the labor movement helped bring down the Shah's Imperial Regime when whole sale strikes shut down the economy and workers took over the factories in conjunction with the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Soon after taking power and in the lead up to the Iraq-Iran war, the Islamic government broke up the unions, arrested thousands and destroyed the secular, socialist movement of the revolution.

Ahmadinejad, being part of the original revolution, must be aware of the dangers to the economic stability of the nation and, thus, his own government from such movements. He is once again instituting mass arrests and violent repression of the labor movements, arresting, imprisoning and executing dissidents; and expelling any "liberal" professors and students from university to insure his control. All this is in the guise of protecting Iran from "traitors" who are "assisting the enemy" (the US) as seen in the lead up to the Iraq-Iran War.

This, among the many signs, including defiance over continuing nuclear development, pronouncements of alleged breakthroughs in weapons, missiles pointing at Israel and US targets in Iraq, gasoline rationing, removal of the Chief of the IRGC (who is alleged to have suggested that they give back the British Sailors quickly to de-escalate the situation) to the military attache for the Supreme Leader, the emplacement of an even more hard line, Ahmadinejad compatriot to the IRGC, points to a possibility that Iran is preparing for war.

There are even suggestions that Ahmadinejad may stage some additional, literal confrontation with the US in order to bolster his position and finalize control of the government, forcing the recalcitrant population, assembly and clerical governing bodies to move to his position. This confrontation has been nearly realized on several occasions including incursions into Iraq in an attempt to kidnap or kill US forces or confrontation between IRGC gunboats and US ships or interdiction of US operations in the Persian Gulf. While many in the west look to the young and "liberal" Iranians as the last, best hope for Iran, Ahmadinejad is betting on a national crisis to force even this population to rally round the Iranian flag. The continuing fight over Iran's nuclear ambitions is one that has had even the "liberal" Iranians insisting on their "nuclear rights", swallowing their angst and supporting Ahmadinejad.

However, just to insure that everyone follows along, Ahmadinajad has begun to enforce the Islamic laws very strictly, arresting people for un-Islamic dress, women campaigning for equal rights, even taking away pet dogs from animal owners as "un-Islamic". Most of these actions are to remind the young, possible reformist liberals that he has the power to reach out and touch someone if they don't cooperate.

Regional Concerns

Regionally, instability in Iraq, at least, plays into Ahmadinejad's hands. With the Iraqi government's continuing weakness, it allows him to exert more control and ally Iran closely with their ideological compatriots in Iraq. Aside from economic issues and having to beg Iran to assist (or, more accurately "desist") in Iraq's stabilization by stopping smuggling of weapons, money and people to "terrorists", a weakened central government gives the Iranian backed parties control of major areas in the south where oil, agriculture and ports that control Iraq's economy exist as well as some direct "pull" in the existing government.

That area is also most highly populated with the majority Shia in Iraq. Whoever controls that area has an excellent chance of being the majority party that forms the Iraqi government for decades. This could put Iraq in Iran's pocket and change the economic and security dynamics of the region.

Iraq would represent an economic trade partner that would allow Iran to diversify and increase its trade in the region as it hopes to meet its stated goals of being free of "western trade" and the Middle East "self sufficient". It would also represent a partner in OPEC which controls production, thus, oil prices, for the largely Middle East cartel and is currently dominated by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that are western leaning. This keeps OPEC working on the Saudi vision that price inflation should be limited to insure the global economy stays strong and, therefore, so do OPEC nation revenues. To this end, they often agree to increased production or reduction depending on the market situation.

They are also concerned that, if oil becomes prohibitive, consumers will look for alternatives and ultimately oil will lose its value sending these economies crashing. Iran works on an all or nothing basis along with Venezuela who is desperate for the income and don't mind if the global market crashes and burns in the process.>Viva La Revolucion!.

Significant control or association with the Iraqi government would link Iran and Syria, strengthening their potential military power to put pressure on Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Recent events indicate that Iran and Syria are jointly preparing for possible war.

Iran-Syria Military Matrix

A report from Jane's Defense indicates that at least 200 people, including Syrian and Iranian military, were killed when a missile being fitted with a Sarin gas war head exploded. The testing facility is a joint operations program established with Iran in 2005. Syria has a long history of developing chemical weapons. They were assisted willingly or unknowingly by German manufacturers and through an association with the Soviet Union in the 1980's. Some have even speculated that Iraq's chemical weapons and nuclear technology that are not on the manifest as destroyed and could not be found in large numbers after the invasion may have been transported to Syria in the lead up to the invasion (see also NY Sun Report).

Information continues to come out regarding the recent attack by Israeli commandos and fighter jets against what is now being claimed was a stockpile of nuclear material shipped from North Korea. The information was apparently conclusive enough to have the US put Syria on the nuclear watch list. Reports dating from 2004 by a refugee Syrian dissident indicate that North Korea has been cooperating with Syria in developing nuclear facilities and technology. Locations and details seem to match reports made by a top Iraqi official under Saddam Hussein, Georges Sada, in his book "Saddam's Secrets".

It is believed that the AQ Khan network, derived from Pakistan's nuclear programs, was responsible for providing nuclear technology to North Korea and possibly Iran. It may also have provided assistance either directly or through North Korea in developing similar programs to Syria.

In a seeming replay of Iraq's decade long delay and denial, Iran has recently decided to cooperate in a limited manner with the UN IAEA by providing it with historical documents regarding its nuclear development. While these actions have been welcomed by the IAEA, Russia and China, the United States and European allies have declared that it is not enough. Considering the recent attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear site, this may be correct.

Lebanon has implicated Syria in the latest assassination of an anti-Syrian politician. The motivation appears to be an attempt to shape the upcoming presidential elections by physically eliminating members of the majority in the Lebanon Parliament. According to the linked report, the death of Ganhem brings the majority down to 68 seats; only three seats above the absolute majority of 65. This is an obvious attempt to bring Lebanon back under Syrian influence and away from the west or any possible reconciliation with Israel.

Syria has long depended on Lebanon as a conduit for trade through its Mediterranean ports. Syria also realizes a large portion of its state revenue from fees garnered for oil and natural gas that passes through pipelines across the nation to conduits in Lebanese ports. Syria inked a deal with Iraq in December 2003 for an oil pipeline extending to the Mediterranean for delivery of oil to European markets. Syria wants to maintain access to these ports to realize their plans for the Iraq oil pipeline and other potential pipelines from other nations like Iran whose oil exports are limited to terminals in the Persian Gulf. These present a security issue for Iran who fears the interdiction or blockade of its trade through such limited access. Syrian leaning Lebanese government would also be willing to insure lucrative pricing for a similar taxation on the pipeline and transport of oil since Lebanon's take would eat into Syrian profits.

Ahmadinejad to America: Iran Wants Peace, Give Us What We Want and You Can Have It

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has traveled to New York to make his case before the UN and, according to a reported interview from the Iranian News Agency, make his case to American Citizens directly. He believes that US citizens have been given "incorrect information." His recently aborted (or not) trip to Ground Zero, he stated in a 60 Minute interview, was to pay respects and "perhaps air your views about the root causes of such incidents." Most likely it was an attempt to garner a third venue from which to lambaste US policy in the Middle East and expound on Iran's "right" to nuclear technology.

He insists that the US and Iran are not heading for war while US military intelligence continues to point out Iran providing weapons like anti-aircraft missiles, to Shia extremists. Adm. Fallon, in charge of US forces in the Middle East also stated that the continuing "drum beat for war" was not "helpful" in a recent interview with al-Jazeera, though it is unclear if he is speaking about outside governments, the media or the Iranian government. Prior to leaving Iran, Ahmadinejad presided over a typical "show of force", complete with signs declaring "Death to Israel" and "Death to America".

During his speech he declared:

"Those (countries) who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," Ahmadinejad said.

Real Democracy In Iran Decades Away After Conservative Power Grab

Such "show of force" events are often provided for internal consumption. However, it is equally as likely an attempt to bolster Iran's position for negotiations and Ahmadinejad's public image both in the world and at home as a "strong man" for his upcoming speech. Beyond Iran's current external issues, Iran is continually racked with internal upheaval. Iranian resistance has recently stepped up its attacks and the IRGC is responding by attacking villages around Iran and even shelling into Iraq in an attempt to decimate the Iranian Kurdish resistance.

While many have hopes for the internal pressure to effect change in Iran's government, the "reformists" to date have been unable to organize effectively. Their 2005 boycott of the presidential elections split the reform party over its rejection of Hashemi Rafsanjani and gave the election to Ahmadinejad. Their fears over repression were soon met. Members of the reform party had stated that the elections are controlled by those with the money and the power in Tehran.

In an attempt to bolster democracy organizations in Iran, the US has included some $25 million in funding in the 2008 budget. Open Democracy, a Soros funded organization, believes that these funds are counter-productive because receiving them inside of Iran is against Iranian law and can have severe repercussions such as imprisonment. Senator Leiberman recognized the problem, but stated that the grants would be made available through different organizations if requested.

Iran has only recently released some suspected American-Iranian democracy advocates from the notorious Evin prison having already punished their families by confiscating their property and forcing them to pay exorbitant fees for food and medical treatment at the prison as well as huge amounts of bail. Iranian security claimed that the jailed activists were American spies and/or propagandizing against the Iranian government. Some speculate that their release was to spare an open trial while simultaneously sending a message to other activists that they will be jailed if they continue to act.

The release might also be construed as setting up a favorable view of the Iranian government prior to Ahmadinejad's visit to the UN. Iran has long been accused of human rights abuses. Iranian security forces were implicated in the death of a Canadian-Iranian journalist.

Will the Real Iran Please Stand Up

Due to Iran's continued support for terrorists, Iran's human rights record and the 9/11 report implicating Iran in the transit of an estimated 7-10 of the terrorists who hi-jacked the airplanes that day, Ahmadinejad's visit to the UN and his address at Columbia University are being protested by various groups.

Ahmadinejad says there is no reason for war with the US and declares the state of Iran to be strong regardless of sanctions. At the same time, he will be giving a speech at the UN that will directly challenge the US while in Iran they prepare for war.

Through a small window into Iran, the effects of sanctions are apparent. In the world re-known carpet bazaar, the stalls are only half full and the patrons are scarce. Vendors remain optimistic that the desire for these carpets will keep buyers looking for ways to obtain them. Yet, the damage is already apparent and the possibility it will be erased any time soon is disappearing almost daily.

Additional Reading:

Iran-Russia Matrix
China-Iran Matrix
Warsaw Pact2
From Russia With Love
Economic Warfare: Iran Sitrep
Economic Warfare: Iran-Help and Hindrance
Iran Gas Rationing: Preparing for War, Economic or Subordinating Dissidents?
Economic Warfare: Iran Crisis and the British Sailors
Economic Warfare: Axis of Evil
Democrats' Iraq Strategy