Thursday, May 28, 2015

US Folly -- Obama Sides with Shia Islam

Iraqi troops flee Ramadi

The March of Folly in Iraq - Jonathan Spyer

In addition to showcasing the low caliber of the Iraqi security forces, the events surrounding the fall of the city lay bare the contradictions at the heart of Western policy in Iraq.

Prime Minister Abadi had ordered the garrison in Ramadi to stand firm. [But] Iraqi security forces ignored orders to defend Ramadi, and fled eastwards to the neighboring town of Khalidiyeh.

This left Ramadi to the tender mercies of the fighters of the Islamic State, who have reportedly since slaughtered at least 500 people. It is important to note that even U.S. airstrikes were not sufficient to prevent the debacle.

So what is behind the failure of the Iraqi security forces and the continued advance of the jihadis?

On the simplest level, the greater motivation and determination of the IS fighters explains their continued successes against the Iraqis. The jihadis are all volunteers. Not all of them are highly skilled fighters, but their level of motivation is correspondingly very high. By contrast, Iraqi soldiers are often serving far from home, defending communities for whom they have little concern. Most joined the army for the salary. Their unwillingness to engage against the murderous jihadis of the Islamic State is not hard to understand or explain.

The blame for this cannot be placed at the feet of low ranking Iraqi soldiers. The blame lies at the policymaking level.

The United States is [foolishly] committed to the territorial unity of Iraq. It therefore is determined to relate to the government of Haider al-Abadi as the sole authority in the country. The problem with this stance is two-fold. Firstly, it precludes providing arms directly to the elements who are most willing to use them against the Islamic State (namely, the Kurdish Peshmerga and further south, the elements among the Sunni tribes whom the U.S. aided during the “surge” in 2006-2007).
Secondly, and more importantly, the U.S. commitment to the territorial unity of Iraq is leading to a willful blindness regarding the actual nature of the government in Baghdad and its true sources of strength and support. The supposedly legitimate armed forces of Baghdad are, as has been witnessed again in Ramadi, not fit for the purpose. The true defenders of Baghdad and of the government are...the Shia militias, supported by Iran. These militias are the wall behind which the Amadi government shelters.
The West insists on maintaining the illusion that the government in Baghdad is something other than a Shia sectarian-dominated entity in the process of entering a de facto military alliance with the Iranians. This stubbornness is producing the current absurd situation in which Western air power is being used in support of Shia Islamism.
It is important to understand that this is not taking place because there is no other option for stopping the advance of the Islamic State. There is another, more effective option:  direct aid to the Kurds, and to the Sunni tribes further south.
This support of Shia Islamism is taking place because of the conviction in Western capitals — most importantly, of course, Washington, D.C. — that the advance of Iran and the building of Iranian strength in Lebanon and in the collapsed states of Iraq and Syria is not a phenomenon to be prevented. Rather, Western capitals believe that growing Iranian influence can be accommodated and perhaps even allied with.
This conviction combined with the desire to maintain the fictions of “Iraq” and “Syria” are the foundations of current policy. For these reasons, in the coming days we will witness U.S. and Western air power, astonishingly, supporting Shia Islamist militants as they battle with Sunni Islamist militants. Meanwhile, overtly pro-Western forces further north lack arms.
The Islamic State just took Ramadi. In Western capitals where Middle East policy is made, folly is engaged on a similarly triumphant march.
[The Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs ]

Report: Iran, North Korea Forging Ballistic, Nuclear Ties - John Irish

A seven-person North Korean Defense Ministry delegation visited a military site near Tehran in April, the dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said.

"The delegates included nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts, and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems," NCRI said.

Another North Korean delegation was due to visit Iran in June.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Capitulation of US: 'Step on Me'

U.S. Ignored Israeli Warning on Violation of Sanctions - Jeffrey Heller

A senior Israeli official said that, despite a tip-off from Israel, the U.S. allowed Iran to purchase 15 used commercial planes in the last three months, even though the acquisition violated international sanctions.

"Israel learned from intelligence sources about this very significant breach of the sanctions in advance of it occurring," the Israeli official told Reuters. "We flagged the issue to the U.S. administration. Unfortunately, the deal still went through and there was no success in preventing it." 

New Tensions Between U.S. and Iran - Dion Nissenbaum & Asa Fitch

Two Iranian warships have linked up in the waters off Yemen's coast with an Iranian vessel said to be carrying aid for Yemen, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. American officials have called on Iran to send the ship to the African country of Djibouti to undergo newly established UN inspections for aid going to Yemen. But Iran has ignored that appeal so far.

(Wall Street Journal)

Iran Ship to Refuse Inspections

Iranian officials said an Iranian cargo ship, which left from Bandar Abbas, Iran, for al Hudaydah, Yemen, and is escorted by the Iranian Navy's 34th Fleet, will refuse inspections by countries involved in the conflict in Yemen.

Iran appears to be testing U.S. redlines in the Gulf of Aden.

Recent incidents involving the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington, Marshall Islands-flaggedMaersk Tigris, and a convoy of seven cargo ships reportedly carrying weapons for the Houthis demonstrate Iran's willingness to test the line.
(American Enterprise Institute)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Low Rates of Post Traumatic Stress in Israel

Why PTSD in the IDF Is Only 1 Percent - Sebastian Junger

PTSD is a natural response to danger. From an evolutionary perspective, it's exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger...

The American military now has the highest PTSD rate in its history - and probably in the world. PTSD claims to the Veterans Administration have reportedly risen 60% to 150,000 a year.

Anthropological research from around the world shows that recovery from war is heavily influenced by the society one returns to, and there are societies that make that process relatively easy.

Israel is arguably the only modern country that retains a sufficient sense of community to mitigate the effects of combat on a mass scale. Despite decades of intermittent war, the Israel Defense Forces have a PTSD rate as low as 1%.

Two of the foremost reasons have to do with national military service and the proximity of the combat - the war is virtually on their doorstep. "Being in the military is something that most people have done," I was told by Dr. Arieh Shalev, who has devoted the last 20 years to studying PTSD. "Those who come back from combat are re-integrated into a society where those experiences are very well understood." 
(Vanity Fair)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rabin on Jerusalem: How Things Change

This rare video is of an interview Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave the day before he was murdered!

Caroline Glick notes on her Facebook post: "[h]e explains that his vision is for Jerusalem to remain united under Israeli sovereignty and for the Palestinians to exercise their national rights in less than a sovereign state. Today we are told that this is an extremist right wing view. When we take a step back, we can see how badly things have deteriorated in the past 20 years."

 Many believe that had Rabin lived, peace would have been achieved.  This 'cult-of-the-individual' ignores evidence like this.  There is no evidence that Rabin would have negotiated away parts of Jerusalem.  Rabin's opinion, once a "left-wing" position, is now widely seen as a "right-wing" one. things change. 
Hat tip: Caroline Glick

Friday, May 15, 2015

Kill Us...Please

Hamas Understands the West - David P. Goldman

Never in the entire history of warfare has a belligerent done what Hamas did during the Gaza war, namely, maximize civilian casualties on its own side in order to win sympathy.

Yet there is a reflex in the West to declare the deaths of civilians "unacceptable" even if it is engineered by Hamas. Hamas understands the West better than the West understands Hamas.

The horror over civilian deaths overwhelms the West and prompts a significant body of Western opinion to demand a "solution" where no solution is to be found.
(Asia Times-Hong Kong)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Projecting Weakness

Inspectors Find Undeclared Sarin and VX in Syria - Anthony Deutsch

International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared, diplomatic sources said. 

What Do Syrian Chemical Violations Mean for Iran Deal?
- David Gerstman   

When we see that there are no consequences to Syria for violating a verifiable deal to get rid of its chemical weapons, what lesson should we draw about future violations by Iran of any deal that it agrees to regarding its illicit nuclear program? 
(Legal Insurrection)

Report: New Chlorine Attacks in Syria - Sarah El Deeb

Mohammed Tennari, a doctor who testified before the UN Security Council last month about chemical attacks, reported Thursday on three new chemical attacks in the province of Idlib that injured nearly 80 people. Government helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on the villages of Janoudieh, Kansafrah, and Kafr Batiekh on Thursday.
(AP-Washington Post)

Persian Gulf States Want: Iran Kept at Bay - Doyle McManus

This week, President Obama will gather kings, emirs and sheiks from the oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf at Camp David for a summit aimed at bolstering the U.S. alliance with their Sunni Muslim governments. These alliances have been fraying, mostly because of diverging views on Iran, the Arab states' historic rival, ruled by Shiite Muslims.

In recent months, as the Obama administration has neared an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear programs, the Saudis and their allies have reacted with near-panic. They don't want an equilibrium that grants Iran big-power status; they want Iran kept at bay. They think Iran is irrevocably bent on expanding its influence. 
(Los Angeles Times)

Saudi, Bahrain Kings to Miss Gulf Nation Summit in U.S.
The kings of both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will be skipping the Camp David summit of U.S. and allied Arab leaders, the two countries confirmed Sunday.

The absences will put a damper on talks that are designed to reassure key Arab allies, and almost certainly reflect dissatisfaction among leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council with Washington's handling of Iran and what they expect to get out of the meeting.
(AP-ABC News)


With Plane Delivery, Iran Sanctions Collapsing Already
- Eli Lake

Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's transportation minister, said Sunday that 15 planes had been acquired by Iran since February. Iranian media reported that the nine planes that arrived for Mahan Air used to be part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet. On Monday, the Financial Times
reported that Western governments suspect Iraq's Al-Naser Airlines to have been a front for Mahan to acquire the planes.

Some analysts said the transaction showed how the sanctions against Iran were collapsing. "Mahan Air's case shows that U.S. sanctions no longer deter Western companies from doing big business with Iran," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The administration must move quickly to punish those companies involved in this blatant breach of U.S. sanctions. Otherwise, the argument that sanctions are still largely intact and can always be snapped back in the future loses all credibility."

Avi Jorisch, a former Treasury Department official who is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the purchase of the airplanes was a "gross violation" of the interim agreement. "Such moves weaken the U.S. government's ability to negotiate and make a credible case that if a good deal is not signed, Iran's economy will continue to suffer."  

Assad Failed to Disclose Ten Chemical Weapons Sites
- Josh Rogin and Eli Lake 

Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent during an inspection of the Syrian government's Scientific Studies and Research Center near Damascus. The administration is said to have not yet decided about how to respond.


Lessons of Syrian Chemical Weapons Discovery
- Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser
  • In early May, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that they had located traces of sarin-type chemical weapons and ricin-type biological weapons in at least three sites in Syria which the Assad regime had not reported.
  • The lack of political will to be drawn into a conflict with the party under supervision leads to foot-dragging; the issue is sidelined and its importance downplayed. The chlorine-gas attacks on the Syrian population, for example, have become a humdrum matter that interests no one and is barely mentioned, let alone spurring a response.
  • The West's commitment to act on these issues only within the framework of a broad international coalition creates total paralysis.
  • Whoever wants to defend against the threats embodied in Iran's behavior must have an independent capacity to act - even if one enjoys a deep strategic security relationship with the U.S. What the Saudis have been demonstrating in Yemen shows that they have already reached this conclusion.

    The writer is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

What Syrian Chemical Weapons Reveal about Obama - Daniel Pipes, PhD

The famed "red line" warning that Barack Obama issued in August 2013 to Bashar al-Assad of Syria was arguably the defining foreign policy moment of his presidency...

When the incident ended in a blur, responses were bifurcated. The president and his allies hailed this as a monument of diplomacy, whereby a plausible threat led bloodlessly to a major improvement in behavior. In contrast, critics presented Obama as a paper tiger who raged with threats that collapsed when offered meaningless assurances by a well-established liar.

For two years, there was no verdict. But now, closure is at hand. That's because there are now multiple reports of the Assad regime using chlorine in barrel bombs, plus the discovery of traces of ricin, sarin and VX.

In response, the U.S. government not done nothing about these hideous developments other than issued mild rebukes, turn to the feckless United Nations, and hope against hope that the Russians and even the Iranians would dispose of the problem. No mention of red lines this time, just a wish no one would remember 2013.

But we do remember and we do draw conclusions. It's now indisputably clear that Obama is no more than a paper tiger. His threats against the Syrian dictatorship meant nothing but vanished into thin air, replaced by squirming and prattle.

Not only is this response important in itself, but it has implications for other hostile states, notably Russia, China, and especially Iran. If Obama dares not handle the weakling in Damascus, how might he venture to do so with the more formidable foes in Moscow, Peking, and Tehran?

For this reason, the issue of Assad's chemical weapons is crucial to American foreign policy. Like many observers, I count the months until this president is gone and the United States of America has an opportunity for a fresh start to stand by its word, live up to its historic reputation, and protect itself.
[Fox News]

Monday, May 04, 2015