Thursday, August 30, 2007

SitRep: Russia

Click on all images to enlarge

Violence on the Rise in Russian Province of Ingushetia

This report might have flown by without much discussion, but I think that its important for three reasons:

1) It continues to show the problem's that Russia has had with Republics breaking away or attempting to break away from Mother Russia and its economic/resource concerns in the Caucus area.

2) The continued difficulty of the press to get away from forwarding the "wag the dog" theory of war (ie, it's to appear politically strong a bolster an existing or potential candidates chances for election).

3) Islamist rebels who are not really "Islamists" as we understand them, but who may be co-opted by the Islamists as Chechnya was since 1994. In fact, many use the example of Islamists training ground in Chechnya as a comparison to the problems that arise out of the continued war in Iraq. That is the possibility of recruitment and development of advanced terror techniques. However, one of the overlooked aspects of Chechnya was that, while the rebels might have been Muslim (due to the regional and cultural aspects of the area), they did not start out, nor even end, as an Islamist movement. In fact, some Chechen rebels were reluctant to work with the Al Qaeda network for the very reasons that the Al Anbar Sheihks started to reject them. They didn't want the Al Qaeda Islamists to take over their movement. It was their's not a foreigners and they were fighting for their independence.

They eventually determined that the Islamists were not really interested in their independence, but in their joining some Islamic conglomerate. The locals were afraid of losing power. They decided they had more of under an agreement with Russia for increased autonomy than a future under the Islamists who sought to install their version of Islamic governance on the region. Something that, historically, the Islamists should have figured out would not be accepted. While the Caucuses have been "Muslim" since the middle ages, they had simply incorporated this over their pre-existing tribal and cultural norms. Their social order was sometimes more and sometimes less stringent than Muslim concepts of the Arab tribes. However, due to the geographical realities of of the region, the tribes enjoyed some considerable independence from both the Arab centric religious institutions of Islam and from the Soviet Government in Moscow.

Thus, this report's emphasis on the "Muslim" nature of the "rebels" is some what suspect. These flare ups are much more a result of citizens looking to gain their political and economic independence from Russia. Particularly as many see their conditions as the "poor cousin" egregious considering the amount of oil and natural gas that is known to be in the area or that is transported through the area via road, railroad, river and pipes.

The problem, of course, is the concern that Islamists taking advantage of the situation could add considerable money, materials and men to the situation. The Russians have to be concerned with any attempts to secede because of these vital links to their economic boondoggle from oil and natural gas. Including the possibility that "independence" will spread to other republics such as Dagestan to the east that has considerable control of oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea as well as major road, railroad, river and pipelines used to transport these resources from the Caucus Caspian Region.

Its not simply the loss of revenue from the loss of resources, but the cost of developing new routes for the delivery to the Black Sea . Over half of all oil and natural gas is shipped via river and railroad.

Although Russia produces almost 7 million bbl/d of liquids for export, only about 4 million bbl/d can be transported in major trunk pipelines; the rest must be shipped by rail and river routes. Most of the 4 million bbl/d transported via alternative routes are petroleum by-products (see Fig. 2b).

Reviewing issue one, Ingushetia is much more important than these reports let on. Like Chechnya, the loss of the republic would be more than a loss of land or control of people. It is even more than a political loss of face. Ingushetia sets astride the major railroad and pipeline routes. Further, the Russians fear an erosion of control over the area. With 70% of Russian revenue coming from oil and natural gas exports, it doesn't take much to understand their fear.

This report states "Why Russia is Flexing it's Muscles". It goes on to talk about a "strategic counter-weight" to the United States. It has a lot of emphasis on the military and the political, but doesn't go very far in discussing the economic issues that prompt Russia to "flex its muscles" militarily. There is the issue that the US has been making nice with the "'Stans", a huge energy resource, but also security and staging in the area for operations in Afghanistan.

For its part, Russia isn't worried about the possibility of US military aggression against Mother Russia. What they are worried about is economic and military influence over the region. While it might be to show the US that it is still a capable opposition, these kinds of shows are mostly for regional and domestic consumption. Russia wants to remind their nominal allies in the 'Stans, and the republics that continue to talk about secession, that they are strong enough to protect their interests in the region and their contiguous borders.

Other maps:

US Marine Corps: Maps of the Region

Energy Information Administration

Other discussions:

Russia-Iran Matrix: Economic Security

Warsaw Pact 2

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Do You Know The Iraq Surge Is Working?


1) The Shi'ites start killing each other instead of focusing on the Sunni.

2) When the French Ambassador visits Iraq and talks around "apologizing" for ignoring them.

3) When Katie Couric goes to the war zone.

4) When Angelina Jolie shows up in the war zone talking about the future of Iraqi refugees.

Can you smell that? That's the smell of victory.

Of course, there are always spoilers and spoilers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Battle For Iraq: Every Drop of Blood

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-men’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
-Abraham Lincoln, Inaugural Address 1965

As the war continues to wind down and the new election cycle in the United States begins to play out, the narrative of the Iraq war is, once again, being taken out, brushed off and reshaped to fit the current political climate. Even among certain pundits in the old media and the new, the same accepted wisdoms make their way into every commentary.

On the right, noted pundits and even well versed military or political strategists, who supported the invasion of Iraq and the war to its upcoming conclusion, have taken to stating that there were "mistakes made" in the conduct of the war, but, now, the "right man and the right strategy is in the right place" to finish it. Obviously, referring to Petraeus.

On the left, while some politicians and even journalists are now having to distance themselves from the mourning ashes and breast beating "the war is lost" meme, they continue to insist that Iraq should never have been an issue because we never should have been there. We should have, as they state, been fighting the "real war" against terrorism in Afghanistan. Or, in some minds, not at war at all, but through some sort of police actions supported by international law.

In both cases, I disagree. Oh, the "right" may be correct to state that the "right man and right strategy" is in place, but it is not necessarily that it is out of time or sync with what had to happen to make it "the right man and the right strategy". For our over all strategy, which was to defeat the ideology of Islamic Fascism, the long war in Iraq may have been a blessing and a curse. Its truth is yet to be written and its benefits yet unseen, but can be fathomed if we take a few moments to look past the immediate history into the originating concept: to drain the swamp.

The left totally dismissed the strategic necessities and benefits of taking the war to Iraq; a nation that supported terrorists, that defied international law, was clearly an enemy in our rear that could threaten our necessary resources (ie, oil and trade routes) while we were otherwise engaged in Afghanistan, that was taking many military resources to maintain no-fly zones and sanctions and, finally, that was strategically placed right in the middle of all known terrorist supporting states as well as held an ideological value for being the once center of the hoped for return of the caliphate. Two of the states, Iran and Saudi Arabia, by dent of their religiously based law, rule and adherence to religious ideology that creates such enemies, are in need of an adjustment, but are states whom invading creates a whole other conundrum both in the international political world as well as economically for the United States and many others.

Recalling the original strategy as stated by the now infamous and much maligned Rumsfeld, it called for "draining the swamp". Most people tended to disregard or misinterpret what or how that was going to be accomplished. Maybe because they did not have the fore sight or because it was politically expedient to ignore it because it was general enough to be shaped into many possible policies. "Draining the swamp" was not simply about killing al Qaeda in Afghanistan, killing bin Laden or Zawahiri, nor simply implementing democracy in Afghanistan. The only way that "draining the swamp" was going to happen was by placing the battle dead center of the battle space at the deepest part of the pool.

Historically, Iraq has always been a crossroads for many different ethnicities and religions. Baghdad was once chosen by the Caliphs as the seat of their empire because it was the center. It remained the capitol for millenia throughout multiple dynasties before the Ottoman's determined that Istanbul was more appropriate with its control of the Bosporus and a gateway for trade and economic strength. During the time that Baghdad was the capitol, it saw many struggles between these multiple groups to control it. It was once said that, "he who controls Baghdad, controls the caliphate."

In today's struggle, not only did Iraq, thus Baghdad, represent an enemy in the rear of US combat with the potential to strike at or interfere with resources necessary to conduct the battle in Afghanistan, it represented a geographic and historic center of the Islamic world. A center that had the potential to influence the region just by its location. But, it also represented a historical center whose importance could not be ignored by an Islamist enemy whose stated goal was the establishment of a New Caliphate. The loss of this center to the United States and Democracy would be more than losing a potential ally, a place to recruit and a place to refit and reorganize. It would be a dagger in the heart of their stated goals and the loss of a historically significant place in the narrative they wished to build.

It may even have been a strategic goal of the Islamists long before the battle began in 2003. In his 1998 Fatwa calling for jihad against Jews and Christian Crusaders, bin laden mentioned Iraq and its people more times than he mentioned any other nation or even the struggle of the Palestinians. Most likely in an attempt to be seen as defenders of all of the Arab Muslim people, but also as an attempt to energize the people of Iraq to adopt his position and join his movement; whether as individuals or as a nation. Bin Laden and Zawahiri are many things, but they are not stupid. They also recognized the potential for Iraq to be the spoiler in the Middle East and its already proven ability to take on and scare the regional players. In fact, having already invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia in 1990-91.

For Iraqis, their place in history and the current battle had been sealed for over 1200 years. Yet, as a nation, they had yet to achieve a true position of power because of the very things that plague them now. Largely, they have struggled between their various allegiances to religious and political powers outside their nation and their identity as "Iraq". They have historically fell prey to these various factions and used them to gain power over their fellow Iraqis, subjugating those who are not of their religion or ethnic base. At the same time, giving away their true power to outside entities.

The only movement that had once tried to overcome these fault lines, Ba'athist Nationalists, found itself unable to do so and turned into the very thing that it had once hoped to overcome: a factional party largely representative of the Sunni-Arab population. That is mostly because it found it could not overcome the millenia defined population it sought to control and because it had imbibed the worst of nationalist tendencies. That is, it had determined that those who were not Arab or who defined themselves too closely with the "Persians" across the border, were not "pure" enough nor trustworthy enough to share power with. This led to the repressions and on-going struggles that defined Iraq for nearly sixty years and continues to fuel the "sectarian" fighting we see today.

Its a rift in Iraqi society that the Islamists have known about for decades and which they took full advantage of to see their own ends met. It was laid out in a plan by Zarqawi early on and he was easily successful in exploiting it because it was true. In fact, democracy would not and will not work until each side has determined that Iraq is a multi-faceted nation and no side should be in power when it has a singular goal of enforcing its religio/political ideology on the other and not respecting its diversity. Nor exacting revenge for eons long perceived and real damages. In that regard, it is clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq and its Islamist plan were only a catalyst to the battle and not the root cause. It means that, for Iraq to emerge whole and, possibly for once, a united nation with one allegiance, Iraq, those very fault lines once held in check by the sheer power and terror of Saddam's regime, were destined to erupt and burn until the wounds were cauterized. Or, at least, until the blood of the nation had run in the streets long enough and the children of Iraq had paid enough of a price for the misery of their parents that they finally decide they have paid the price to be free.

In some respects, the critics have been correct that the United States could not resolve a problem that was essentially an Iraqi problem. Yet, they ignored the strategic difficulties that would arise should one faction or the other become capable of totally subjugating the nation again. Or, the problems that would arise should Iraq split into three unevenly armed and resourced "states" without the power of one to defend itself. Nor, even further, the regional implications should the United States withdraw before these factional breaks were at least set on its way to mending. The fact that these ethnic and sectarian breaks would have led to a sort of proxy show down between the Arab states and the "Persian" factions leading to untold years of more unrest would have been damaging to the regional security and provided an entirely new base of possible recruits for the Islamist movement of Al Qaeda, above and beyond what people believe and fear has occurred today.

It very likely would have led to the probability that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would have armed and financed these very groups openly, just as they had threatened in the past year. That would have made the Islamists even more powerful and more capable of attacking the United States, its interests and its allies in the region to further their stated goals. Finally, it would have left the strategic and historically significant Baghdad up for grabs, potentially under the hands of the Islamists, providing them with more than a victory over the United States, but, with an ideological legitimacy based on the ownership of the seat of the once and hoped for Caliphate.

The historical significance and the legitimacy it would have imparted on the Islamists' ideology and demands is lost on most westerners who tend to view the struggle in Iraq and all previous and recent terrorist attacks through an Anglo-centric window. For instance, September 11 (9/11) is viewed as a date whose Anglo-numeric significance has come to mean "emergency call". When, in Islamist history, it is the date that the Islamic Empire stormed the walls of Vienna, Austria. Had that attack on Vienna succeeded so many centuries ago, it would have collapsed the center of Christian Europe and the most powerful economic, military and political force in Europe at that time, leaving Europe open for the final conquest by Islam. Islam would have been the religion of the West, the "enlightenment" and "renaissance" would have disappeared and democracy would never have taken a breath.

Had the attacks on the United States been more successful, it may have led to a similar fate. Or, at least, a reduction in economic capability that would have placed the many Middle East nations and even Europe in significant danger. The only thing that was different was the geographic location of the "center" of the Anglo-Christian world as the Islamists perceived it. The attacks on London on July 7 (7/7) and on Madrid March 11 (3/11) have similar historical dates in common. It is these dates that have played a significant role in the planning and execution of major attacks as well as their strategic location. In their view, the advancement of the world and its political evolution has not changed the realities or importance of the lessons from the past.

It is all well and good for westerners to not place as much significance on these dates based on our modern view of history, but it totally ignores that significance when it comes to the development of the Islamist ideology. This ideology places much significance on the historical rise and decline of the Islamic world, coupled with religious instruction that they believe explains the phenomena as well as points to the eventual resurgence of the Islamic world. It is these tools that they use to educate and recruit their followers. It is these tools which they use to garner legitimacy, particularly among the "educated" in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other fairly well advanced societies (for the region) because their education is steeped in similar religio-histiographic, sometimes mythologized, "truths".

Still, some realities have not changed and this is why the Islamist movement has translated the strategic history of Islamic military endeavors into modern day strategy. In early 2006, Zawahiri had urged Zarqawi to branch out into "the Levant", the historical name for the area that encompasses the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, Gaza, Israel, part of Syria and Lebanon. This area controls the Suez Canal and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. A choke point for trade coming from east Africa, the Middle East, India and even Russia to Europe and the United States. It is why the Islamists have a long term plan to recruit followers and overthrow the Spanish government one day. Or, at least, to cause much havoc within the nation with the possibility of interdicting trade through the Straits of Gibalter. These two places represent a choke point, not only in trade, but military transiting and, most important, economic stability for the Anglo centric world.

In the same vein, Iraq and Baghdad represents the same for the Islamists as it does for the United States and its coalition partners. Namely, that it represents a geographic, economic, political and even historically important crossroads in the region with the ability to have a long term influence on the future of the region. In the end, Iraq and, thus, Baghdad, were destined to be a combat theater in the fight against Islamist extremists and their ideology. The only question was when.

From those that oppose the actions in Iraq, beyond the determined denial of any part of the Islamist ideology as an important signifier of future strategies, the argument has consistently been to deny Iraq and Baghdad their role and insist that the "real war" against terrorism was in Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border. This strategy believes that the fight is limited to only certain actors and that the destruction or reduction of those particular actors means the destruction or reduction of, at least, their ability to act in any significant way against the United States or its allies. The opposition bases their theory on a belief that the Islamist ideology and these non-state actors do not represent as great a threat to the United States and Western allies so much as other nation states and their movements to arm or otherwise take political/economic advantage of our distraction. They are willing to take certain hits and death of their citizens as a small sacrifice compared to the possible future where the position of the west is weakened economically, militarily and diplomatically from an extended military adventure in Iraq.

In short, they are willing to fight an even longer battle of attrition among individuals or small groups while maintaining forces capable of militarily destructing any nation state that may actually show an inclination towards or become an Islamist state. They also want to maintain the capability to fight off any military or political action by other non-Islamic nation-states such as China or even Russia that may want to use the distraction to further their control of other equally important economic and strategic areas or nations.

While the Iraq combat theater has tied up many of our forces and has been harsh on our equipment, using up some reserve supplies, it has not necessarily damaged our ability for projecting power via long range weapons and air craft carriers. Bombers and many fighter jets remain capable along with submarines and other weapons. The question may be whether we are in a vulnerable position regarding man power or land based equipment. That necessity in deterring Iran or China, for instance, is not our primary deterrence though either may act like it.

In either case, Afghanistan was never going to be and never will be the center of struggle, either for the Islamists, the right or the left. It is merely one small combat front that provided a low grade battlefield that had little significance or influence on the rest of the region. Except, of course, without Iraq, it would have turned into the major training ground for terrorist Islamists and probably caused Pakistan, a nuclear state, to be even more unstable from the influx of Islamists and the even more advanced radicalization of its population. The possibility of a Pakistan Nuclear state falling into the hands of Islamists with a bloody civil war that killed hundreds of thousands was even more of a threat than Baghdad or Iraq. Further, a direct attack on such a state by the United States or the west would have been harder, longer and even more bloody. Unless, of course, the strategy simply called for letting Pakistan fall and then having India as a counter that would turn the region into a mini-cold war with Kashmir and the Muslim Indian population between them. Additionally, while its economic and political influence on the Middle East would have been minimal, such a state providing nuclear technology to other rogue states was equally threatening. The last problem is whether a nuclear Islamic state is stable or in any way sane enough to see nuclear weapons as a largely unused strategic deterrence as opposed to an offensive weapon to subjugate or destroy world populations.

In the final estimation, opening a second front in Iraq and placing it at the center of the strategy to defeat the Islamist ideology presented a number of advantages, even while some strategic advantages against other Nation States was lost. Primarily, it represented the exact possibilities for the United States as it did for the Islamists: the possibility to control the geographic center of the Islamic Middle East and use it to control or influence the region militarily, economically and politically. Second, it forced the Islamists to split their material and human resources to confront the United States in Iraq. Based on both the ancient and recent historical importance of Iraq, the Islamists could not ignore this move.

Third, it forced them to speed up their own planning and operations. While some may lament this quickened path, it is not always a disadvantage to cause the enemy to move up operations or re-think their strategy. It forces them to move and make mistakes; mistakes that can be taken advantage of even if our own actions are sometimes "mistakes". As Sun Tzu once noted, the winner of a battle is not always the one that is better equipped, has the best strategic position or the most capable. It is the person that makes the least mistakes. And, just as importantly, can take advantage of their enemy's "mistakes". Fourth, it forced them to try to implement their ideology as more than a guerrilla manifest, but as an actual governing ideology that would create one or more enclaves of "rightly guided" "emirates" convincing others to follow and enforcing the rules that they believed were the epitome of this "new Caliphate". This they tried to implement throughout many areas of Iraq without educated or well indoctrinated forces that, instead, placed draconian rules on the population while the "enforcers" lived less than exemplary lives taking drugs, raping women, killing innocents and so on, that were expressly forbidden even in their own ideological history. In the end, they have been unable to establish these places for long and they are being rejected for their "takfiri" barbarism.

The failure to establish such areas in Iraq and to appear to be a just defender of the people is a failure that Mao once noted would keep such guerrilla forces from becoming a "legitimate" army "of" the people. They would remain, in his words, "rogue bands of criminals" who would eventually find themselves unwelcome and sought after even by those they once thought to incorporate and control. In fact, one of the major failures of the al Qaeda in Iraq activities was putting an Iraqi face on their endeavors. Most of al Qaeda leadership was from the outside; from other nations. Once "Omar Baghdadi" was outed as a fictitious person and not the "face of Iraq" they hoped to establish, al Qaeda's efforts were doomed to failure. Assisted by their continuing attacks against Iraqis of all sects, without mercy or compassion and including alleged allies that they deemed "traitors". Once those attacks became routine policy for Al Qaeda and the "Islamic State of Iraq", they had effectively cut off their welcome as guests. Something that Zawahiri and Zarqawi both feared would occur.

Fifth, it took some pressure off of Musharef and his generally secular government, allowing him to re-enforce his power base and secure his nuclear technology that had already begun to filter out of the state. Even though, Pakistan is still not the most stable nation and recent actions by the Pakistan courts indicate that Musharef's reign may not be for ever nor the staving off of a potential Islamist government that would not be conducive to US policy. This reality is what spurs both the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces in Waziristan to pick up in their offensive against coalition forces in Afghanistan, the recent rebellion at the al Masjid "Red Mosque" in Islamabad and the Coalition assistance to Pakistani forces in thinning out the Islamists in Waziristan.

The battle front may soon switch from Iraq to Afghanistan as a central front. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been losing its foot holds among the Iraqis and their "emirates" have collapsed as previous allies have turned on them. This will not be the "final" defeat for al Qaeda that will result in their total collapse, but it will be a set back to their original intentions in the region. From there they will fall back to their current protected base in the Pakistani border lands preparing to confront, defend and, possibly, push for a fight inside Pakistan as we see today.

The last equation that needs to be answered in regards to the strategy and bloody battle that has been and continues to be Iraq, is the long known and obvious outcome of any war with the Islamists and al Qaeda, was the recruiting of fighters. The fact of the matter is that this recruitment was going to take place whether the main battle was in Afghanistan or Iraq. For over a decade Islamists, particularly al Qaeda, have been working to recruit young men to their cause. These methods have increasingly evolved throughout the same period. During the current battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, this evolution has included the development of internet networks and propaganda videos released on free platforms like YouTube. This evolution may have been quickened by the battle in Iraq, but may also have been simply been in conjunction with the technological growth of these tools.

The numbers of those recruited are certainly a result of the ongoing battles. Whether they would have occurred with only a battle in Afghanistan and how fast it would have occurred is definitely a question that should be asked. However, it would be inaccurate and misleading to suppose that it would not have happened at all. Neither is it potentially an outcome that is strategically wrong at this time. The strategy to "drain the swamp" literally meant to pull in any known or would be Islamists to kill or capture while simultaneously instituting a system of governance and instilling an opposing ideology to counter the Islamists. Further, it may be better now to destroy or dissuade would be adherents earlier rather than later when the Islamists may have developed a larger force over a longer period of time that was largely intact as the other strategy called for a long, slow and limited attrition of leadership elements. Even today, in the decentralized organization that is Al Qaeda and the general Islamist movement, such deaths have not meant a change or destruction of ideology.

In the end, for the Islamist ideology to to be discredited, it had to be discredited as a "legitimate" military force that laid its claim to victory against the USSR and attempted the same against the United States as well as a "legitimate" system of governance for any body of people. The deaths of many would be mujaheddin and the strategic loss of Iraq was a necessary purge. While it may not result in the immediate death of the Islamist ideology, their long term plans or their ability to adapt and implement a new strategy that may include establishing an emirate in Pakistan have been damaged. Sadly, for the greater Arab and Muslim population to discover that Al Qaeda and the Islamist ideology is a losing proposition, it may take many more deaths before the Islamists of both the Shia and Salafist Sunni variety are not longer looked upon as the heroic underdogs fighting in defense of Islam, but as the destroyers or "takfiri" that Mohammed once warned his followers about. As seen in Iraq, the people who will pay most dearly for this lesson will be the Muslim population of the Middle East at the hands of their alleged defenders who have shown a willingness to kill their own and damage their own places more than they currently can any western nation. It may mean that these very people will have to experience the "joys" of Islamist rule as seen by these extremists many more times, enslaved and murdered for the least offense, before they recognize that such slavery is worse than any perceived slight or intrinsic damages caused by the infiltration of western culture into their enclosed societies.

As Lincoln once noted:

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-men’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

As Lincoln surmised, it is not only the enslaved nor the opposing forces that paid the price, but those who stood by believing that the enslaved deserved their condition and tacitly, or sometimes openly, gave their support for that enslavement. That price is in blood and it maybe that this is only the first of several installments. It may also be that this first bloody fight is the necessary catalyst for each group to evaluate their culpability over the long years. Others may believe they owe nothing, but the taint of totalitarian, fascist slavery as enacted by Saddam Hussein, supported by many current regimes and sought by the Islamists is wide and deep. It's a taint that history indicates can only be washed away by blood.

See also:
Al Qaeda's War For Oil and Other Things
Baghdad, Center of Jihad
Jihadis Agree, Fight In Iraq Central to Strategy
Why al Qaeda is Fighting in Iraq
Information War: Muslim Mushy Middle
Al Qaeda's Evolving Plans
Partisan Politics Spell Defeat for Islamists In Iraq: 11/05
Al Qaeda's Growing Public Relations Problem In Iraq: 11/05
Two Views of War: Quantraill's Raiders
Al Qaeda In Iraq: Power Struggles: 07/05
Battle For Baghdad: Zarqawi on the Offensive: 05/2006
Battle For Baghdad: Zarqawi's Alamo: 05/2006

Beyond Iraq

I posted all of these old links for reference on why I believe the above to be true. Just as importantly, I've been watching the events in Iraq since the moment we invaded. I believed strongly then, as I do now, that Iraq is a pivotal center for the war. Not because Saddam was a card carrying member of Al Qaeda, but because it had significant strategic importance as I wrote many times throughout the history of this blog. I also wanted to point out that, while the "new" strategy is seemingly instantaneously successful, without taking anything away from Petraeus and his advisers, the seeds for the current events were sown a long time ago even as the Democrats and other opponents have been calling for retreat. It's been a long hard struggle. It may still have another year to wrap it up or it could turn hot with a third war against the Iranian proxies or Iran itself. The story of Iraq is not finished by a long shot. It is simply starting a new chapter that was predicted for several years and took the hard work, blood, sweat and tears of many to bring it about.

As noted, its not just about who makes the least mistakes. Petraeus' strategy takes advantage of the real mistakes that Al Qaeda and its various adherents made throughout the war as well as the hard work of many of those Americans and Iraqis who came before. The final mistake, however, is ours to make. We can withdraw now on the cusp of victory, or we can finish what we started and prepare for the next battle front. This front may be hot and heavy with combat forces or it may seem luke warm with various counter-terrorist activities continuing through legal methods as well as many small groups of clandestine warriors in places you will never hear of.

In 2005, based on intelligence gathered through captures of various documents, including several letters from Zawahiri where he directs Zarqawi to begin moving operations beyond Iraq (largely preparing for the possibility that Al Qaeda would not be successful or would only hold a moderate space in Iraq and would need to expand it), I predicted that Egypt, the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and even Lebanon were on the hit list. Zawahiri told Zarqawi to move into the "Levant". Recent events and those over the last two years have shown this prediction to be correct as Fatah al Islam was holed up and subsequently attacked in Lebanon. It's also know that Fatah al Islam is making in roads in the West Bank due to the incompetence and corruption of Abbas' government, weakened considerably by their fall out with Hamas that now controls Gaza.

This prediction was not really the result of any in depth knowledge of terrorism or Al Qaeda beyond reading the terrorists correspondence and other documents released by the military. Their plans have been known for a long time. That is why when they said that Iraq was a central front in their war I believed that we should stay and fight for it. There is one consistency from Al Qaeda: they are not shy about stating their exact plans and they generally try to follow through with them.

I predicted that Egypt would be next after that and it may still be. But, I did leave off one important state, not understanding the true conditions until the last six months. That is Pakistan with its nuclear weapons, coming "elections" and rather large contingency of Islamic fundamentalists that have been routinely facing off with the government. The "Levant" (Sinai, Gaza, West Bank, Israel, part of Jordan, Part of Syria and Lebanon) may indeed be an important upcoming battle front. While many complain about letting go the aid we were withholding from Abbas' government because they are still regarded as "terrorists", its obvious we decided to bolster their ability to "govern" (more like "pay off") the Palestinian polity and secure the area against continuing infiltration by this Al Qaeda affiliate known as Fatah Al Islam.

Yet, Pakistan is also an immediate concern as it has several of the necessary key components:

1) Restricted, largely inaccessible area where Al Qaeda can organize, re-fit, train and make attacks from.
2) Group of people who are ideologically similar and offer protection.
3) Access to resources (largely via black market and corrupt military)
4) A divided population whose fault lines provide the cover Al Qaeda needs to establish themselves as a "defender of the faithful", thus garnering support among the locals and across the Islamic world.

Finally, Pakistan's nuclear weapons make a tasty bait for those that are looking for some strategic advantage that they are currently unable to create for themselves. The acquisition of biological or radioactive weapons of mass destruction has been an Al Qaeda major strategy since before 9/11 as noted by videos discovered in Afghanistan at an Al Qaeda camp at the beginning of the invasion, October 2001. These videos showed Al Qaeda testing biological weapons on animals in cages. This fear of their potential capabilities assisted by a country such as Iraq, widely suspected of having WMD, is one of the key reasons the President had ordered the invasion of Iraq. There is a potential here for Pakistan to do the same, knowing or unknowing.

This fear has prompted the US to put extreme pressure on Pakistan to assist in clearing the tribal areas in Waziristan as well as launching attacks against known strongholds. The possibility that al Qaeda could rise with their hosts and cause a civil war in Pakistan is a high possibility, decidedly dangerous and ultimately disastrous for the US war on terror. It is also a reason why the British may have determined that they now need to move their forces from Iraq into Afghanistan, above and beyond any anti-Iraq sentiments among the Prime Minister's constituents.

President Bush said at the beginning of this fight against the Islamists that this was a war that will span generations. He was right. But it isn't just generations of Americans that are at risk. It is the generations of many nations that will pay the price to prevent the Islamic Fascism from spreading. It will be a hard sell in many Middle Eastern nations who have made "Mein Kampf" a best seller in that region. Like the German's who came before them and who latched onto an evil ideology and leader as the "savior" of its people, many more Muslim's from the Middle East will have to pay the price for entertaining the same kind of totalitarian, fascist ideology. These people will also discover that, far from this payment being the result of Western actions, it will be those that they believe are their saviors that do most of the killing of their own people because they are not "pure enough" for this vaunted new state.

Someday, these very same people may produce a poet who can only look back and lament :

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Translation found here: First They Came...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Securing Iraq: A Three Part Series Outlines Current Strategy

Friday, August 24, 2007

Interview Vietnam/Desert Storm/OEF I Vets: Never Again

While we were at the VFW convention, we met and spoke with many veterans of wars from WWII to our current conflicts. We interviewed several of these men and asked them about their service and what support from home meant to them while they were deployed.

I noted on my previous post that there was a recurring theme among the vets: many of them had family who were serving in the military today. The second theme? Vietnam era treatment of our troops: never again.

Not long ago, I read an article stating that some of the treatment the vets received, like being spit on or called "baby killer" did not happen. It was a myth or occurred on an extremely limited basis. The person that wrote the article allegedly based this assumption on known police reports or other non-fiction stories that they could reference on the internet. A faulty premise to base such an assumption on and then write an article for a re-known paper in which to try to change history or assuage some guilt for politicians who were actively anti-war during the period and may have participated in protests against the war. They want to show that they are "anti-war" not "anti-military". A fine line to walk during a war that is unpopular and where protesters attempted all sorts of acts that are similar to the "old school", but often mere caricatures.

So, in rejection of any mythology theory on the "spitting, baby killer" meme, I bring you this video of a vet talking about his experiences on returning from Vietnam and the importance of support to the men and women on the front lines.

Never Again

If I had, had enough memory and tape, I could have recorded hundreds of these stories. There is no myth. They remember the day and the place. These gentleman and ladies just don't care to write it down to be researched on the web.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Soldiers' Angels at the VFW Convention Kansas City

Soldiers' Angels Kansas City has spent the last five days going to the 108th VFW Convention and spreading the word about Soldiers' Angels and how the wonderful veterans and many auxiliary members can help support our troops.

All the Soldiers' Angels had a wonderful time, shared some great camaraderie, met some fantastic people and generally felt rewarded personally and as Angels for the experience.

I'll start at the end because it highlighted the reason why we were there. Angel Christy and I went to the closing party Wednesday evening at the Liberty Memorial Park in Kansas City. As we were preparing to leave, we came across a group of people who were standing in a circle, clasping hands raised above their heads as they sang to Lee Greenwood's, "Proud to be an American". We got a little video and, as usual, asked the group to give a message to our troops so we could send it on CD when we send our care packages. After recording the message, a few folks came over and we talked about what Soldiers' Angels does and how we would like to work with the VFW to extend the amount of support we can provide to our active duty and veteran service members.

A lady and husband from Minnesota told us that their son had served two tours in Iraq. He was wounded and received a purple heart on his last tour. He is going back to Iraq at the end of this year. He's married with three children and one on the way that he will not be here to see born. We thanked her and her husband for sharing their story and then we gave them some "Thank You for your Service" cards to give him and his friends. As I was explaining what we do and the process for signing him up and how he or others could sign up friends, I said, "And then he will be adopted by an Angel..."

I couldn't finish the speech I had given so many times before because this mother broke into tears, put her arms around my neck, hugging me and crying on my shoulder, repeating over and over again, "Thank you for what you do. Thank you."

You know, I couldn't speak for a moment because the tears were choking me up, too. I know how soldiers must feel when a stranger like me thanks them for their service. It wasn't me. I really hadn't done anything special. I did not go into danger like our men and women do every day. In fact, I had been having a great time while they are "over there" doing the hard work. Angels have a lot of different reasons why we join and support our military. I do it because I think it is the right thing to do. It is what we are supposed to do when our people go to war on our behalf. But, I realized that this gratitude was not really for me. It was for all of the Angels who go out there and support the troops unconditionally, untiring every day and the many people who donate time, money or supplies and make it possible for us to support our troops.

So, I hugged her back until she had composed herself and I had, too.

Pardon me. For this one moment, I have no pictures. My arms were a little busy at the time. Besides, I don't think I would have had the presence of mind to snap them.

I wanted to tell people about the Veterans of Foreign Wars. If you don't know, it's not just an organization of old soldiers and their wives getting together Saturday for a beer and to share a few laughs (though they do). These are people who have served our country in a time of war, continue to serve through many projects and programs to assist veterans, their families and many other community programs for children and the under privileged. Like the Military Order of the Cootie, a fun and hard working group of people that "wear funny hats", that volunteers at the VA and works to provide for the needs at the VFW National Homes.

There was another recurring theme that I recognized among these many veterans and their families: they give even more because their sons and daughters carry on the tradition, serving our nation as their parents have for years. Many VFW members told us that their son or daughter was serving in the military today. People know what our men and women are going through every day to complete their missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. We often ask where do we find such people? It is by the example set by such fine people as the Veterans of Foreign Wars that we continue to field the best and the bravest from the Land of the Free.

On Tuesday, a lady came by our booth and purchased a Soldiers' Angels t-shirt. As we had done hundreds of times in the last few days, we explained what Soldiers' Angels was about, sharing a few of our favorite "support" stories about the kinds of things that we did to support our troops. The lady thanked us for our support of the troops and then explained to us why she wanted the t-shirt. She had been a nurse in Vietnam. She would fly on the med-evacs with the soldiers, just like the many wonderful medics, nurses and doctors who do the same for our wounded today. She told us that the nurses that would fly with the wounded were called "Angels". She said the t-hirt would remind her of that always.

We were extremely fortunate throughout the convention. We took turns going to the different speeches by the visiting presidential candidates. Some we were merely able to shake hands or get a picture of, while others we were able to hand some literature and an angel pin with the opportunity for some photo ops. Throughout their speeches, all of them stated the our troops and our veterans have and continue to do extraordinary things that deserve our continued support.

This is Angel Stephanie talking with potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson after she gave him the card, brochure and pin, he diligently read it and commented that, "Supporting the troops was the right thing to do, but we should support them in everything including their mission." Here's hoping some of these folks will put their money where their speeches are and remember that Soldiers' Angels supports the troops every day.

After Angel Christy handed the information and pin to Sen. Barak Obama, he asked her if she would like to have her picture taken with him. Of course, we Angels are always looking for a way to get the information out about our organization and never turn down an opportunity for a little more publicity. While you might not be able to see the back, Christy is wearing a Soldiers' Angels jean jacket (which was extremely popular at the event). She has her Angel pin in the collar.

We also got to see President Bush give his speech. All of the Angels were excited because it was the first time any of us had an opportunity to see and hear a sitting president live and in person. While the hand shake opportunities were limited, we were able to talk to one of his staff named Joshua. We told Joshua that Soldiers' Angels wanted the president to have a "May No Airman Go Unloved" challenge coin, an Angel pin and information about how our organization supports the troops. To our surprise, Joshua had heard of Soldiers' Angels and asked us if we were in Tennessee. We told him that there were Angels everywhere. He thanked us and told us he would get the coin and information to the president. He made sure that he had Soldiers' Angels mailing address so that the president could send something to our organization (so, Patti, et al, if you are reading this, check your mail in a couple weeks for something from the White House).

Even after meeting the candidates and listening to the president, the most exciting moments for us were getting to meet some real heroes and showing them that Soldiers' Angels cares. During a lull in speechifying, we ran into James E. Livingston, Medal of Honor recipient(left). Then we were able to meet Don Ballard, also a Medal of Honor recipient (left). Both of these gentlemen gave us a few minutes of their time and permission to share their photos. In fact, Don Ballard said that he had heard of Soldiers' Angels and told us to "keep up the good work!"

On Wednesday, as we waited for the president, we met some local heroes who had been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We told them about Soldiers' Angels, thanked them for their service and handed them a pin or coin. Some of them had heard of Soldiers' Angels and were very happy to see us. We collected a lot of memories, handshakes and hugs that day.

We also met John Miska from VFW Post 8208, Arlington, Virginia (right) who couldn't say enough about Soldiers' Angels and how our organization had helped the VFW pay for the gas they used to take the wounded to dinner and on other outings. He said to say hello to Lynette from Soldiers' Angels. She's our coordinator at Walter Reed Hospital. Everywhere we went, when ran into Big John and he would tell any VFW member present that Soldiers' Angels was endorsed by his VFW post.

We also met John Hanson from Grand Forks, North Dakota VFW Post 1874 who was the VFW State Commander 2004-2005 (center). He knew all about Soldiers' Angels and had our VP of Public Relations, Shelle Michaels on speed dial. He called her up to report that he had met us and we were all having a great time during the presentation of all the VFW state departments and follow up concert with Lorrie Morgan, the choir from the VFW National Homes for Children and the Army American Idol winner.

Our Angel gear was pretty popular as were the Angel camouflage bear. Many who bought it were sending it to a loved one over seas or to place it in a care package for a soldier they supported. We shook hands and shared the story of Soldiers' Angels with thousands of wonderful people. We sold our Angel gear to raise money for our Vet-Packs. Some people stopped and shared their stories from when they were deployed in defense of our nation. Patriotic colors and themes abounded at the convention and many loved our Red, White and Blue Soldiers' Angels t-shirts. We also met a VFW group from Lautenberg, Germany who knew all about Soldiers' Angels because they work with Landstuhl Medical Center and had seen our First Response Back Packs for the wounded.

This group of great ladies are from the VFW Auxiliary in Farmington, Missouri, right outside of St. Louis. They told us they were working on a project for Fisher House at the St. Louis VA Medical Center that specializes in polytrauma. They told us that they were looking forward to working with Soldiers' Angels to make sure our troops and their families get the best care possible.

We also learned that it was a tradition to exchange pins from the different VFW posts , commanders and presidents of the auxiliary. So, we broke into our private stashes of pins and carried Soldiers' Angels cards wherever we went. It presented a great opportunity to talk with people about our organization and how we could work with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to bring the most support to our troops from every state.

We were also fortunate to meet the next outstanding generation of defenders. A young troop of Army JROTC from Ft. Leavenworth High School received the National VFW award for outstanding drill team. The young men and women were dressed in period uniforms of the United States Calvary.

On the last day of the convention, there were a lot of active duty and recently returned Guard and Reserve military who had been invited to hear the President speak. We sent Angel Julie off to find some more that we might have missed in the crowded auditorium so we could make sure that we had given them each a personal "thank you for your service" from Soldiers' Angels.

To our surprise, she returned with a number of soldiers wearing a lot of brass that sparkled in the overhead lights. It was none other than LTG Caldwell, Commanding General, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; CSM Bruner, LTC Gilbreti, and Major Stroud.

LTG Caldwell immediately noticed our famous Soldiers' Angels coffee mug. He told all the people with him about how these coffee mugs can be seen all over the combat hospital in Baghdad. As we chatted some more, CSM Bruner shared with us that his brother was wounded in Iraq and was the recipient of one of our First Response Back Packs.

We gave each of the officers a Soldiers' Angels Challenge Coin and a "Thank You For Your Service" card. We asked LTC Gilbreti if he knew what an Angel coin was for and, before we could explain he said, "It means, whenever I meet an Angel, I have to buy them a beer!" We all had a good laugh and enjoyed speaking with such fantastic representatives of our armed forces. Then we posed for some pictures and a video with the group. All the officers sent a message of gratitude to the men and women serving on the battle front. Then LTG Caldwell shook our hands, thanked us for our support and gave us each a Commander's Challenge Coin for "Outstanding Performance" which we accepted on behalf of all Soldiers' Angels.

Soldiers' Angels would like to thank the Veterans of Foreign Wars for having us as an exhibitor at their convention and for welcoming us to all of their events. We weren't simply a group soliciting their assistance in supporting our troops, we were treated as honored guests wherever we went and invited to next years convention in Orlando, Florida. We are looking forward to working with the many VFW posts across the United States to bring support to our troops and seeing them at every convention in the years to come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Soldiers' Angels VFW Convention

Soldiers' Angels Kansas City is at the VFW Convention at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri. We've set up a booth and are spreading the word to many VFW members about our organization. We have even been fortunate to meet some of the great people from Landstuhl, Germany who were excited to see us and talk about our efforts to provide First Response Back Packs and other items for the wounded.

We also met the Major Christian from America Supports You. Actually, he told us "I work at the Puzzle Palace (the Pentagon) call me if you need anything." We'll be taking him up on the that offer.

We met many veterans of all conflicts since World War II as well as children, wives and husbands in the Auxiliary. There was a recurring theme among the veterans: Our troops need our support; we will not let Vietnam happen again.

All of these folks have been fantastic and very generous with our organization. The red, white and blue Angel t-shirts were the most popular.

One gentleman showed us the "pocket Angel" that his children gave him and he has been carrying for twenties years, including through Desert Storm. He said that it could never be replaced because of its special meaning as a gift from his children, but he did purchase a Soldiers' Angels Pocket Angel to give to his wife.

We got a chance to interview several vets about their time in service and how much support from home meant to them. Those interviews will be up shortly. We also got to hear Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain on Monday. Tuesday is Obama Barak and Fred Thompson and on Wednesday we will get to see the President.

Soldiers' Angels will be at the Convention through Wednesday afternoon. We are having a wonderful time and hope to meet many more of our wonderful veterans and thank them for their service.

- May no soldier go unloved

Monday, August 20, 2007

SitRep Iraq

Numerous stories at The Thunder Run on the progress in Iraq and how the citizenry are stepping up to protect their own villages and cities from al Qaeda and the insurgents...
"Baqouba Guardians along with Iaqi Police repelled an attack by al Qaeda operation in the Burhitz of Baqouba on Wednesday. The Citizen security force and Iraqi Police are reported to have killed 21 of the estimated 60 al Qaeda fighters and wounded more in an impressive defeat of a complex attack from a determined enemy:"
A tip in Baghdad led 1st Cav units to a school: "They Kill and Destroy. We Secure, Rebuild and Provide Hope.”
"Responding to a tip, Soldiers with the 1st Cav were sent to investigate reports that terrorists had rigged two schools in Northern Baghdad with explosives. Extremists were able to destroy one school and rig a second with explosives:"
In operations against AQI Coalition Forces led patrols which resulted in: Two Terrorists Killed, 16 Detained in Operations Against al-Qaeda in Iraq
"Across Iraq Coalition Forced killed two terrorists and detained 16 operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq one of whom is a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq operative believed to move large amounts of explosives and foreign terrorists into Iraq:"
"Task Force Dragon troops uncovered two large weapons caches in a southern portion of the Iraqi capital Aug. 16-17:"
We find that Iraqi Army units were the first on the scene of the recent bombings in the north: Iraqi Army Units First To Deliver Aid to Victims of Recent Bombing.
"After al Qaeda set off several devitating car bombs in a last ditch effort to disrupt the turn of events in Iraq and attempt to sway public opionin once again, Iraqi Army Forces swept in to provide humanitarian aid and medical supplies to the bombing victims:"
And the tips just keep on coming: Tip Leads 3-1 Cavalry to Weapons Cache
"Members of B-Troop 3-1 Cavalry captured a weapons cache and four suspected terrorists after a tip was given to them by a local:"
And coming: Another IED or VBIED That Will Never Happen: Thanks to a Tip.
"Iraqi Police officers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 2nd National Police Division and Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, were led to improvised explosive device production facility in an abandoned building in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Khadra by an anonymous tip from a Khadra resident on Thursday:"

And coming: Largest Cache Ever, Found in Ameriya: Thanks to a Tip.

"A tip lead Coalition and Iraqi Units to the western Baghdad neighborhood of Ameriya where they uncovered the largest cache ever found to date:"

And we also learn that the Baqouba Guardians aren't the only game in town: Concerned Citizens: A Step Toward Self-Reliance

"Residents of al Arafia have taken their own safety into their own hands and formed a group named: The Concerned Citizens. This group made up entrely of and led by local residents have begun a campaign of reconciliation with various extremist groups and they conduct 12 hour patrols of their neighborhoods reporting insurgent activity to the Iraqi Police:"
All of this and more can be found at The Thunder Run.

Analysis From the Middle Ground

French Officials Visit Iraq

Essentially, this is Sarkozy trying to reverse Chirac's policies. From his perspective, Chirac put France in a difficult situation when it opposed US intervention in Iraq, but, more importantly, when France insisted for the last four years on continuing that opposition and further straining French-US ties. While many saw this as a US failure and insisted that the US should have given in to European pressure, it is the Europeans who have the most to fear from a loss of ties to the US.

Chirac had been attempting to position France as a leader among the European Union nations and create a separate economic and strategic sphere from the US. Multiple problems arose to challenge his plans including French unemployment and economic stagnations as well as the other European nations not being too keen on France being the center of the European universe. Another flag appeared last winter when the Russian's flexed their muscle, cutting off natural gas to the Ukraine, thus, European nations. It became very obvious that, despite the end of the Cold War, Russia was not adverse to making its power in Europe known. The Europeans could do nothing about it except complain mightily.

With France being dependent on Russian and Iranian oil and natural gas, Iraq becomes a pivotal point where Sarkozy believes that they need to become more active to insure Iraq is stabilized. Particularly as Iran continues to meddle there and the US rhetoric is ratcheting up step by step proving the Iranians have been attacking US forces. If this continues, France may well lose its influence in Iran and be totally shut out if the US decides that war is necessary.

Lastly, Sarkozy must realize that the European nations are not strong enough alone against a re-awakened Russian bear, no matter how benign and civilized it may appear now. Last winter proved that. Not that they fear invasion, but they fear being sucked into the Russian sphere via energy resources.

Iran President Ahmedinijad to visit Iran

Of course, he has to put a good face on this situation. He has been denying interference in Iraqi politics via Sadr and other Shi'ite Islamist militias, not to mention potentially providing support for Sunni extremists. On the other hand, Iran has been providing electricity and other trade goods to Iraq so Iraq is an important economic partner in the region. Maybe Maliki will remember that when they are speaking.

Sadr pledges to work with UN if it replaces US, Britain in Iraq

Speaking to The Independent newspaper from his movement's headquarters in Kufa, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Sadr said that he would "support the UN if it comes and replaces the American and British occupiers."

"If the UN comes here to truly help the Iraqi people, they will receive our help in their work. I would ask my followers to support the UN as long as it is here to help us rebuild our country.

"They must not just be another face of the American occupation."

This is wishful thinking on Sadr's part. The UN as a foreign force does not work without US support or that of our European allies. No other nations are going to become involved in Iran because it is too volatile an issue even for peace keeping. His hope is to legitimize his claims that he is simply anti-occupation, but the reality is, if the UN was to come in as any sort of force or leader, he would simply be looking at a much weaker force and organization that would allow him and his militia to take full power. That is something that is not going to happen under US control.

He goes on to lambaste Maliki as a puppet of the US. Though he originally supported Maliki as a compromise candidate that Sadr thought would be too weak to interfere with his expansion, he was surprised in January when Maliki agreed to allow the US to take action against the Mahdi army and attempt to dislodge Sadr from his power bases. He says that Maliki's government will not last long. Ostensibly, Sadr sees his support as necessary to the final government power.

To this end, he and his followers in the south have been starting a campaign of assassination against SCIIRI officials. The Mahdi and Badr Brigades in the south have routinely been maneuvering against each other through quiet killings, but Sadr and the Mahdi have picked up the game since the British have begun to withdraw and the central government has been weakened. Sadr is anticipating an early call for new elections and wants to position his block to take advantage of that possibility.

He has also started his rhetoric that his Mahdi army has "defeated" the British in the south. An important contrivance since people tend to gravitate towards the strong man who is "victorious".

The Sidney Morning Herald picks up on this and publishes some side remarks from American officers and one of Petraeus' "think tank" dinging the British for their general handling of the area and failure to take control. Thus, re-enforcing, though accidentally, Sadr's view that he has been "victorious".

MILITARY advisers in the United States have warned that British troops face an "ugly and embarrassing" withdrawal from the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Stephen Biddle, who sits on the Council on Foreign Relations and is a member of a group that advised the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told the The Sunday Times in London that coalition forces were no longer in control of the city.

"I regret to say that the Basra experience is set to become a major blunder in terms of military history," Mr Biddle was quoted as saying. "The insurgents are calling the shots … and in a worst-case scenario will chase us out of town."

Other officers were even less kind. Of course, the British are adding additional forces in Afghanistan to supplement ISF/NATO forces during the current uptick in Taliban attacks and activity.

In Iraq, US forces are anticipating the situation and continue to move against Al Qaeda and Mahdi leadership while planning to move US forces into the south as the Brits withdraw while simultaneously strengthening Sunni cooperatives so that they can defend themselves against both AQIZ and the black clad Sadrist ethnic cleansers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cold War: Warsaw Pact 2 and The Beginning of History

Well, no one can be surprised after the last seven years that Putin sees the way to economic power for mother Russia is to, once again, become the economic and military rival of the United States and NATO. Russia has been angry since the US support of Georgian independence amongst other former republics, as well as the offer for these nations to join NATO.

This offer includes protection from possible forceful re-integration into Mother Russia via outside arms or internal Russian supported political coup. But, more importantly, it was a bid to increase influence in an area rich with oil and natural gas in order to diversify US supply.

To offset that and what Russia sees as meddling in the affairs of its client nations, regional resources and economic viability, Russia created the SCO in 2001 along with China and several other nations:

Founded in 2001, the SCO, which includes the four central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as China and Russia, is rapidly gaining a reputation as an anti-Western organisation.

That image seems to be one that Mr Putin is happy to cultivate. Analysts say that the Russian president believes the organisation is emerging as a bloc that is rapidly becoming powerful enough to stand up to the West.

Russia's most pro-government newspapers, often used by the Kremlin as propaganda vehicles, yesterday proclaimed the arrival of an "anti-Nato" alliance and a "Warsaw Pact 2".

Now, another reason why calls from the right to bomb Iran and calls from the left to invade Pakistan are equally inept without some sort of plan to dissuade interference from certain actors:

Yet the SCO has wider ambitions. Pakistan, India and Mongolia all want to join - as does Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, attended the summit as guest of honour, a title bound to rile Washington. Iranian membership of the SCO would pose an enormous headache for the United States. Like Nato, its treaty states that an attack on one member is regarded as an attack on all, raising the prospect that the United States could find itself aligned against both Russia and China if it invaded Iran.

Something that should have been apparent without the SCO since China and Iran have very important Natural Gas and Oil contracts. China might protest mildly about Iraq, but it would certainly have a much bigger issue if Iran was invaded and the 20% of its energy resources were cut off. This is also the reason that Iran has felt safe in providing training, money, weapons and fighters for the Shia in Iraq. They fear no retribution, not just because the American congress is weak or our forces overstretched, but because they have the Russian Bear and the Chinese Yin behind them.

This is why we have chosen to combat Iran through economic warfare. Russia knows exactly what is happening because it has been there before. Iran is one of its essential "neighbors" in keeping the Caspian Sea and its energy resources (oil and gas) free and clear for exploitation by Russia and its compatriot states in the Caucuses.

This year, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan signed a deal to expand a Soviet scheme for delivering gas from the Caspian region. This could challenge Western plans to open new supplies, independent of Russia, by routing exports across the Caspian Sea. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh President, said that the group “should create an ‘Energy Club’, which . . . could become one of the key elements of Asian energy strategy”;

It has many cooperative pipelines with these organizations through which it derives a good portion of its yearly revenue. Russia and Kazahkstan are investing heavily in a pipeline that will stretch from Russia to China through Kazahkstan and allow direct delivery of oil to energy hungry China.

The report continues that China would probably block Iran from joining the organization since it does not want to anger the US and create a financial and political situation. India is very likely to remain an observer as well since it is working on becoming its own power in the region and has recently signed a deal with the United States for nuclear technology.

Additionally, this issue with growing Russian cultivation of Iran (where the Russian's have continued to work on the Iranian Bushehr Nuclear Plant for only half the necessary monthly payments) and Iran continuing to attempt to influence Iraq as well as potentially develop nuclear weapons, is what prompted the recent completion of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia even after serious opposition in the US congress due to perceived continuing Saudi inability to curb extremists from entering Iraq. The US sees the Russian/Chinese moves to influence the region as a threat and seeks to insure the major oil exporter remains firmly in the United States' pocket.

Out of all the West’s worries about the SCO, the greatest should be control of energy supplies. The war games, at the moment, are a showy distraction.

Even so, today's exercises will serve as a reminder that the global balance of power is shifting.

For the first time ever, China is deploying troops, tanks and aircraft on a combined mission abroad.

The exercises, being held in the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, involve 6,500 troops, heavy weapons and combat aircraft.

While the goal of the mission is to simulate the capture of a city held by terrorists, the sight of Russian and Chinese troops marching together will give observers in Washington pause for reflection.

This also prompted the US to complete a $30bil arms deal with Israel.

This situation may give a whole new perspective on Chinese goods that are suddenly no longer good enough to be sold in the US and a falling Asian market that tripped some panic in the US, London and Germany over sub prime loans and unrecoverable debt by over leveraged mortgage companies.

By mid-morning the FTSE 100 was up 54 points at 5,913, France's CAC 40 had risen 22 points to 5,288. However, Germany's DAX had slid 11 points, to 7,259.

Asian markets have continued their fall today, with Japan's Nikkei tumbling by 5.4pc and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropping by 3.3pc.[snip]

Mark Mobius, a leading fund manager at Templeton Asset Management, said fear was driving the markets, especially in Asia. "It's a selling panic," he said.

Things do not happen in a vacuum.

Russia is building Iran's nuclear plant and China sells Iran huge amounts of AK-47s, rockets, man-pads, SAMs and other weapons that make their way into Iraq and to mujihadeen in Afghansitan with the biggest arms dealer (a Russian) shipping arms to Iraq, Sudan and other hot spots.

Who are we at war with?

Somebody might want to look into Putin's eyes again.

Update: Russian Bombers flying in NATO space August 17, 2007

Other Posts/articles:

Cold War Continues: China Iran Matrix

Cold War Continues: Russia-Iran Matrix
To Russia With Love
The Importance of Being Taiwan
India Defends Nuclear Deal with US
Economic Warfare: Iran SitRep