Category Archives: Iran

Commentary: To Drone or Not to Drone

If you log on to Amazon and type in the word “Drones”, you are given an arms-length list of items you can purchase– from games involving the use of drones to flying your own drone. If you have watched enough episodes of your favorite spy thriller, such as “Homeland”, you will see at least one short scene of two American pilots sitting behind what appears to be a mocked flight simulator, but in fact, it is a replica of the equipment utilized to fly armed drones that may be thousands of miles away from the control center. This was an accurate portrayal of reality: the targets were initially suspected high-level terrorists speeding in a car caravan across a remote desert area or in a hut in the middle of a village. Today, the target of armed drones goes beyond that limitation, but as I write this commentary, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk, described the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan as a “significant development in the fight against terrorism.”

And the American pilots presently controlling our armed drones, dressed not in a fighter pilot’s high altitude flight gear but in tailored non-flight uniforms, receive information from observers possibly thousands of miles away or by high power cameras attached to a drone. What has recently been reported is that many of those who pilot drones, far from harm’s way, have never seen combat because of the necessity of having combat trained men and women needed in the “real” battle zone.

Drones are low on the list of our daily vocabulary, but they are an integral part of our daily living to check the viability of utilities lines, to site checking long miles of above ground oil pipe lines to flying toy drones, as we did with model airplanes with tiny gas motors. Today, drones also play a decided role in one of our many ongoing wars. Most of which we are totally unaware of. The list of areas of the world that face drone warfare keeps expanding, as we sit basically ignorant of the government’s involvement with armed conflict from Islands in the pacific to the Mid-East and now being revealed in many parts of Africa.

For me, it was a quiet labor day weekend when I read an article by Rebecca Gordon that enticed me to go further to learn of our expanding use of this very singular weapon. My research led me to discover buried articles, describing the involvement of U.S. troops, arms and, most important, drones in Africa. Prior to the ultimately extensive revealing of the ambush of our troops in Nigeria, when four U.S. soldiers died in an October attack, if you were to give me a blank map of Africa, I would be hard-pressed to fill in eighty percent of the names of each nation-state. What surprised me was the extent of the use of drones beyond the Mid-East into Africa. The Pentagon’s Africa Command is presently building a facility named “Air Base 201” in Agadez, a town in Niger. Your taxpayer dollars will support this $110 million installation and will be the base of operation for MQ-9 Reaper armed drones. As reported by the US Air Force it will soon become the new centerpiece in an undeclared U.S. war in West Africa. The Air Force describes this drone as “…an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons — it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets. 
Reapers can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid over watch, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives. “

What gave me pause was that this new base of drone operation is not the only base of U.S. involvement in that part of Africa. It turns out that the ambushed troops weren’t the only U.S. soldiers involved in firefights in Niger. The Pentagon has recently announced very quietly that there had been another clash in December of last year between Green Berets and a previously unknown group identified as ISIS-West Africa. This is not the only area of Africa that is subject to attacks. There have been at last count at least eight incidents, most of them in Somalia. Mz Gordan tells us, in her report, that U.S. drone strikes on Libya targets have increased under the present administration and, are usually launched from a secure non-combat base in Sicily. The new air base in Agadez, it is reported, will be able to strike targets in all these countries.

But this is not the end of the story, and what is missing from our daily sources of news is that the United States presently has another major drone base in Africa, in the tiny country of Djibouti which you will find on your map just across the Gulf of Aden and war ravaged Yemen. It is from that base that the U.S. has been pointing its strikes against targets in both Yemen and Somalia.

While looking at the newly created tariff trade war escalating between The United States and China, it is not surprising that the Chinese have recently established their first base in Africa in Djibouti, which is physically quite close to the US base of operation. China, as noted below, is also selling its attack drones to other countries.

The Times points out that this “approach (to the use of drones in combat)… for possible strikes in countries where Qaeda- or Islamic State-linked militants are operating, from Nigeria to the Philippines” is evolving. And under the Trump administration, it is no longer necessary that drone attack decisions only be made at the highest levels of government. “The requirement for having a “near certainty” of avoiding civilian casualties’ ― always something of an inter-governmental friction ― officially remains in place for now.” This march, Fox News (not a prime source of information for me) reported that the marines are planning to build a highly new and multipurpose drone, called the MUX, for Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary. “The MUX will terrify enemies of the United States, and with good reason. The aircraft won’t be just big and powerful: it will also be ultra-smart. This could be a heavily armed drone that takes off, flies, avoids obstacles, adapts and lands by itself ― all without a human piloting it.”

The time for the widespread use of some form of military drone has arrived, not merely on the battle field by nation states but also by terrorist groups, and it appears that it is an underreported present threat world-wide. One report has stated that nine countries have used armed drones in combat: the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Those are the ones that have reported their use, but we can safely guess that there are other countries that are in the process of developing the armed drone. And similar to the traditional piloted operated fighter, the military drone falls into categories dependent upon how high they fly, their armament and their endurance of flight. Not surprising is that the United States and Israel are the top sellers of military drones with China following closely behind. What did surprise me was that India and the UK are among the largest of the purchasers.

On 9/11, after leaving my law school and prior to catching the last subway out of Brooklyn to Manhattan, I spent an hour on a high floor in a Brooklyn apartment overlooking the East River toward a large heliport jutting out into the river in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. Within minutes private planes disappeared from the landing site and a number of combat army helicopters appeared. It was my assumption that they were going to be utilized to evacuate high level government personal from the City. The late, brilliant Ian Cuthbertson set me straight: What was feared was there would be a follow-up attack by small, comparatively slow one engine planes that could not be intercepted by fast moving fighter jets and, thus, the use of the slower attack helicopters.

Which brings me to today: attack drones are not the little toys, similar to those one can purchase on Amazon. They are large enough and capable of transporting a large assortment of weapons including rockets. Why not explosives? Why not steal, manufacture or have them purchased by Iranian agents from China and then innocuously shipped in multiple stripped down parts to the waiting terrorist in the U.S. They could then be secretly reassembled and armed with explosives to be flown under the radar screen at numerous soft targets in New York, Washington or any other high value targets. Not unreasonable and real.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary—Protecting Our Civil Rights — The New Fight Against ISIS and Terrorism

Terror attacks are increasing in intensity and frequency, and it has become obvious that we must increase the invasiveness of our techniques in combating those elements. That, in turn, raises the issues of protecting our civil rights, which might be encroached upon in the process of counterterrorism activity. How we interdict violent terroristic attacks here and abroad and how we simultaneously protect our civil rights is not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. To understand the necessity of revisiting the methods of interdiction and its effects, it becomes important that we have some background in understanding the present nature of terrorism as it has evolved in recent times and as we shortly move into 2018. At the outset in our discussion we must ignore any slippery slope analysis. It does not enhance the depth of the discussion nor advance any meaningful analysis.

We should begin in June 2014. The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. By that summer, the Islamic State’s territory covered about a third of Iraq and between a quarter and a third of Syria. It has been estimated that ISIS had become the richest terrorist organization in the world. In response to ISIS’s overwhelming territorial capture, and within months, an American-led international coalition was fashioned to attack ISIS. Not surprising, one year later (September 2015), Russia began its military intervention in Syria, initially to prevent the collapse of the Syrian regime and later to support the regime in fighting not only ISIS but other rebel organizations, referred to as “terrorist organizations”. To expand its sphere of influence, Russia has entered into an agreement for air support rights with Egypt.

The ISIS crises came to an head in early 2015, with the commencement of an intense and non-stop military campaign for the next two and half years, up to the time of writing this Commentary ( early December, 2017). It can be said, on the ground the Islamic State no longer exits. Lost are most of its captured territory including the historic cities of Mosul and Raqqa including those areas along the Euphrates River in both Iraq and Syria. It would, however, be a terrible mistake to say we have defeated ISIS and all is well. It is not.

We have recaptured land seized by ISIS, but ISIS, as a terrorist organization (along with its immense wealth), has not been defeated. It remains a real, continuing and enormous danger to our wellbeing. ISIS motivated and inspired attacks here, at home and abroad, will continue, and if history is any judge, they will escalate in intensity and scope with the demise of its territorial loss, and as thousands of their fighters who already have returned will return to their homes with their hatred intact. In addition, there is no longer the question some of those fighters will join or rejoin with some faction of a-Qaeda from which they had initially belonged. As reported, it has already shown its ability to easily function in far-flung places, while openly conscripting new and trained fighters in areas marked by political, social neglect or oppression.

As I have written in the past, our civil rights, protected both at home and abroad, is the cornerstone of our democracy and individual well-being. They must be protected but cannot be used to lesson our ability to defend ourselves and thus be an avenue thru which we are attacked. It is equally essential we not hamper our ability to anticipate and defend against the enemy. ISIS. Not Islam. Not those “dudes”. Not those who create fake shadow targets thru the internet.

There is a subtle but elusive bond and trust between our national government and the population. It is that bond and the trust that has been created that protects our democracy. We must have faith in our government. And in return our government must be “of the people and for the people.” Any concept of a “big brother” government must be rejected; an idea that we merely cede our rights in return for protection must be rejected. Without ceding self to an authority, we at the same moment, must have in place a robust form of law enforcement that protects that fragile structure against internal and external threats. At this juncture it is essential that we have an enhanced counterterrorism mechanism in place, but as I will discuss below, with a respected independent national oversight authority as a counterbalance. Not the Attorney General appointed by a President, not individual state legislatures, not ad hoc civilian groups created for particular contentious events. We must create a congressionally constructed legal body, independent of any presidential control that is funded and answers only to a joint bipartisan congressional committee, with neither political party having a deciding vote.

We have moved far from the time when we made hard distinctions between domestic and international forms of terrorism. The line between legitimate forms of dissent and terrorism is not as ambiguous as in the past. We have come to a time when it is essential that we employ enhanced law enforcement tools to increase our ability to interdict a terrorist before (s)he attacks. Not after the attack. Concurringly, during any ongoing investigation, it is essential that there be in place a process for the civil rights protection for the target. We are long past the time of Hoover’s FBI.

As noted above, with the creation of an independent body of trained lawyers and investigators who will have the appropriate “standing” (notwithstanding not having been retained by the target of any investigation) to appear before a federal court on behalf of these person, and to maintain the necessary secrets of any enquiry will any hearing will take place in camera. The effect is that those persons or entities under scrutiny will then have legal representation without being notified of any ongoing probe. The aim of this approach is that with the risk of terrorist attacks increasing,(yesterday at Times Square in New York City) we require our national defense, to be more robust and intrusive in our terrorist investigation, and that might further encroach upon civil rights. In order to minimize that intrusion and to be as certain as possible that whatever invasive procedure is permitted by court order, there must be evidence that underscores the seriousness of the potential threat and necessitates the need for the enhanced counterterrorism techniques requested. For that we need something more than the Government’s mere unilateral claim and procedural request to a court.

What becomes vital in our democracy is an independent analysis and review of the government’s request. This is accomplished by the creation of an autonomous group of attorneys who would appear before the appropriate court and act on behalf of the targets without the target’s knowledge. A safeguard is thereby created to protect against the government’s potential overreaching and violating the targets civil rights but also to provide the government with the appropriate, more intrusive tools to counteract a potential attack.

Aside from the lone copycat who more often than not flies-under-the-radar, terrorism on a larger scale is becoming more sophisticated and complicated in method and structure. It is essential that we refine and improve our methods of investigation or we will lose in that battle.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary–the Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Connected Unsystematic Thoughts

The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began more than a year ago, and then chaos set in. The confusion on the ground and in the air over Syria is only becoming more of a night- mare, caused in part by too many fingers in one pot with no recognition of each other. Two months after Putin’s physical entry to shore up Assad’s regime, there have been too many close calls in the same air space between the fighters and bombers from Russia and the United States. To add to the confusion and disarray is Turkey’s shooting down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish air space. The crises continue with questions concerning the Turkish control of its boarders and ISIS. And now the present outcry: which country bombed a friendly Syrian army base? The first accused was the United States, but forced to reveal its evidence, the American intelligence confirms it was Moscow’s “Blackfire” bombers that killed three soldiers, wounding at least 13 and destroying vehicles and equipment. And yesterday, a Turkish fishing vessel came within 1600 feet of a Russian destroyer playing a dangerous game of “two close to call navigation” with Russian firepower used to make a military point and Turkey said its losing patience with the Russia.

As we flip to the other side of the world, China continues to pile sand and rocks on reefs to build islands to extend its territorial claims further into the South China Sea and to add its military strength to be piled higher on newly created islands. This is not only an attempt to control so much more of free sea lanes of navigation but to cut heavily into the control and power of China’s many neighbors, especially Japan and the United States’ long reach of its naval might. All this adds up to a new strategic imagery: Japan is moving rapidity away from its post WII pacifism, communist Vietnam is purchasing arms from the United States, and the Philippines is inviting the U.S. Navy back to its ports, some twenty-five years after asking them unceremoniously to leave. And even if you have never visited the tiny island nation Singapore, it is not hard to understand why the United States and Singapore have signed an agreement to provide a launching pad for the United States to monitor the South China Sea. Also, as reported, not only has Malaysia called for the United States to work out of its bases, but I am informed that the United States has added to its aircraft force in the area the P-8 Poseidon thereby putting greater spying know-how ability into play to monitor the Chinese adventures and capabilities in that part of the world.

Two items have become clear since my last comments concerning the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCOP). First, Iran is moving internally further in the direction against the “American Enemy” with greater political movement toward the ideological base of its Supreme Leader and non-adherence to the JCPOA , and, second, my mistrust of Iran’s intentions have become more evident. We have just learned that notwithstanding UN Resolution 2231, which was passed just one day after the nuclear accord was signed and which compels Iran to restrain from any work on ballistic missiles for 8 years, on November 21, in breach of that resolution, a missile known as the Ghadr-110, having a range a little over 1200 miles with the capacity of carrying a nuclear warhead, was tested by the Iranians. So much for international agreements, international resolutions, and international oversight and enforcement.

About three months ago I asked one of my grandsons: What’s the Dark Web? Without hesitation he shot back: “Why? Why do you want to know? You shouldn’t go there!” Since the shooting in San Bernadino with the death of 14 and the injury of scores of others, there is talk of encryption (normal text into code) and the Dark Web. It is on the Dark Web that terrorists communicate, utilizing encrypted messages. The Dark Web is a semi-technical term that refers to a collection of websites that, although they are publicly visible/available, the IP address of the servers that run them is hidden. You and I can utilize the Dark Web with any web browser, but it is more than problematical and ultra-challenging to determine who is behind the sites.

On December 8th the French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that France, not nearly recovered from the ISIS attack last month in Paris, may seek to ban the infamous Tor browser, used to namelessly surf the Dark Web. The French Parliament may also ban use of public Wi-Fi during periods of emergency. But, at this writing, Paris seems to be turning away from those options. The UK has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious criminal rings and child pornography. This very week the FBI has admitted that they can determine who is “speaking” to whom, but cannot crack the encrypted messages, so what it hears is “noise”, without understanding. Of course, only one country has been able to successfully block Tor: China, with its great “other” wall, the firewall.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 6th that she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject the implementation of this type of labeling as it has done for many other countries. It refused. So much for a balance, even-handed international policy, and from a person just named TIME’s—Person of the Year in a country synonymous with holocaust.

Each of these random thoughts carries a connecting tissue. The obvious fact being that the United States sits geographically between the conflicts in the east and the west. These conflicts share potentially devastating consequences to its national security not merely abroad but at home, on our own shores. We are also in the midst of a race to the White House in a manner and style never before witnessed, filled with extreme rhetoric and personal vindictive hate. We have seen pictures of foreign parliaments whose member have been moved beyond words to extreme physical conformation. We are not like that; but what have we become?

To live in fear is not acceptable. But to live without care is imprudent and unrealistic. Today, as I write this blog, Americans’ fear of terrorism is as high as immediately after 9/11. Do we cry “ouch “only when we are personally affected? There have so many lessons available to us over the last 75 years, why are we ignoring them and to our peril? What do we teach our children, and why does a grandchild have to become fearful because his grandfather queries about the Dark Web?
Richard Allan
The Editor

Enough is Enough with Iran

My normal morning ritual allows me to take the next step in my daily routine. I read two print newspapers, and one of them is not the New York Post. The headlines and front page articles claim Bush is Toast, earth quakes are ravaging counties, Greenland is melting, and more and more of any meaningful discussion of the issue at stake in our presidential election.

When I turned to read the opinion page of the second newspaper, I realized that it has been over a week since an important pronouncement trickled out of Iran that would have been lost but for the outstanding work of Yigal Carmon and his institute, MEMRI.  The ignoring of this proclamation and its non-dissemination to the American public via the national press is shameful.

On October 21, 2015, Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader published a letter, for the world to read. It was a “guideline” (read that word as you wish) to Iranian President Hassan Rohani, regarding the execution and implementation of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)). Not unnoticed is that the letter’s publication corresponded with the celebration of a central religious and national holiday of immense importance in Iran. In other words, his letter is meant to underline Iran’s determination and dedication against “the forces of evil”. This is no “guideline.” And it is directed at us.

Ali Khamenei, after the world had sanctioned the Iranian Nuclear deal, — bequeathed Iran millions of dollars instead of an armed attack, continues his excessive tirade against the United States. He asserts that the US government has and is pursuing an approach of hostility and disruption to his country and its interests. It is unlikely, he rages, that it will otherwise in the future.  That Obama‘s real intention is to subvert Iran with open threats of military and nuclear strike. That the United States is a nation with a “never-ending hostility” toward Iran and its people.  In total, “…the US regime’s enmity against the Islamic Republic is inevitable and this enmity will continue.”

Mr. Khamenei has clearly identified us as his country’s mortal enemy and concludes that the agreement that we all thought had been concluded is not yet “a done deal”. He wants more. Much more. Enough is not enough.

His first demand: that the U.S. and Europe lift the sanctions, not suspend them, and in addition demands “solid and sufficient” guarantees in advance that this will be done. These conditions constitute a total change of the JCPOA.

Second demand: Any sanctions against Iran “at every level and on every pretext,” (note the word pretext), including the claim of terrorism and human rights violations, by any one of the countries participating and a party to the Nuclear agreement, will “constitute a violation of the JCPOA” and a reason for Iran to stop executing its obligations pursuant to the Agreement. Obviously, he is looking for an excuse to cancel the Agreement after reaping the millions of dollars in rewards.

The Third demand seeks to change the Agreement’s timetable, so that Iran will not take action as stipulated in the JCPOA, and, therefore, will not meet its obligations before the sanctions are eased. Instead it commands that the sanctions must first be eliminated totally, and only then will Iran meet its obligations under the agreement.

His fourth demand: Iran’s fulfillment of its obligations regarding the purpose of Arak reactor, as stipulated by the JCPOA, will be postponed until some undetermined future date.

The fifth demand: The date for Iran to ship out its enriched uranium, as stipulated by the Nuclear Agreement, is postponed again until some unknown future date. In addition, he is now demanding that Iran receive in exchange for the enriched uranium he is releasing — not the raw uranium as agreed upon, but uranium that has been enriched but to a lower level.

The last pronouncement for our purposes is that notwithstanding the declared goals of the JCPOA agreement, he directs that Iran is to immediately expand its ability to enrich uranium with a 15-year long term objective for its centrifuges.

A thought suddenly occurred to me: On 30th September 1938, the Prime Minister of the British Empire returned from a meeting with Adolph Hitler, where he signed the Munich Agreement conceding part of the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia, to Germany.  In effect, the free world buckled under Hitler’s demands. But the British Prime Minister announced to the troubled world with great fanfare as he arrived back in London: “I have returned with peace in our time.”  Less than a year later, Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.

Lessons not learned haunt you in the future.

I have written in the past about the loopholes and side deals that we find in the Agreements with Iran, which bodes trouble of an immense magnitude in the future. This latest move by the supreme leader of Iran is a clear signal that he does not believe in the sanctity of an agreement and despises the west. Contracts I teaches us an agreement is only as good as the integrity of the signing parties. He has no integrity, that’s more than evident, and will not honor either the letter or spirit of the agreement. He has said so. Nothing is clearer. The question then becomes why are we playing his game and not our own? Why are we dealing with a person who seeks our destruction? We, in colloquial terms, have all the cards, why aren’t we playing them?

As I finish writing this commentary (10.29.15), a breaking news report is issued by MEMRI—Rafsanjani, it reports, has told the Iranian Supreme Leader to get out of the way of fully executing the Nuclear Agreement. In other words, I will not follow your guidelines. The two most powerful men in Iran, in facing off in one arena, might have caused their own implosion.  The outcome is not clearly predictable.

One thing is clear; the nations who conducted and agreed to the JCPOA have given much more away in their desire to reach an accommodation than was prudent, necessary or safe for the United States and its allies.

Enough is enough.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

“Islam is the Religion of War” – Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (ISIS)

One Sunday morning, I realized that I was slowly but surely being sucked into a vast spinning ball where the speed and collision of events were beginning to scatter my brain. What I am referring to, obliquely, is the multiple wars and collisions of facts and interests in the Middle East and across a significant span of North Africa. Our Government is not only deeply divided on how to defeat or even contain the major threats of terrorism, but as one commentator said, how mired we have become in this thing called “the war on terrorism”.

Superimposed one upon the other are the volatile issues created by the proposed Iranian Nuclear Agreement before Congress and the violence in the Middle East that has metastasized, creating complex contradictions.

I have never before prefaced any of my writing by stating my avowed political position. Since I have been able to vote in a presidential election, I have voted Democrat. I voted for Obama. Having made that statement, Obama’s nuclear proposal is a disaster for today and tomorrow and for America. I speak seeking to protect nothing beyond the borders of the United States.

Prior to entering politics Obama taught constitutional law; he would be better prepared today if he had studied and taught “contracts”. The art of contract drafting has as one of its first axioms: Don’t create ambiguity in the use of language. To do so will ultimately create conflict.

Certainly, the Iranian nuclear agreement is far from being a joking matter, but at least one person (Jackie Mason) has quipped that New Yorkers” know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system. You can surprise any restaurant without notice to walk in and inspect them… So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish. We’re not protected from a bomb, but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish.”

My opposition to the Nuclear Agreement is the untenable consequences that flow from it, which are not readily visible, glossed over, and ignored to our peril.

A few examples are:

* There are phrases in the agreement relating to the inspection of important facilities which read: “where necessary, when necessary.” The Administration alleges this means “anytime, anywhere”. That is nonsense, and more important, totally misleading. The Iranian Government can hold off inspection for months after a demand is made. Iranians can begin the long process by asking: “Why is this demand necessary?” Someone said that if the marshal knocks on your door with a search warrant, it means you do not get an invitation to return in two weeks to search for the items in your warrant. “Assurances” between the parties to an agreement are as good as the persons who make them, and it seems that we should have learned by this time that Iran, who seeks our death as it signs the agreement, should not be trusted.  Not now and not tomorrow. Why embrace a person who has a knife in their hands.

* When sanctions are lifted (at the time of complete execution by all the parties), the Agreement will provide Iran with as much as 150 billion dollars in sanctions relief, which will permit Iranian companies (or their hidden middlemen) to have total commercial access to the world. It will become all but impossible to prevent Iran from buying whatever it wants, wherever it wants. Despite a ban on arms shipments to Iran under international sanctions, Russia is proceeding with the sale of their advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles. This weapons system has the ability to bring down, among other planes, US jet aircraft. A number of significant events signal that Russian and Iran now appear to have closer ties both diplomatically and militarily in the weeks since the announcement of the nuclear accord in Vienna. Keep in mind that Iran supports terrorist groups and proxy forces in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. And like its Russian friends, supports the regime of al-Assad’s Syria. There is talk today that the only way “out” for Iraq is partition.

* The question of Syria’s future was nowhere presented in the talks with Iran. And this connects to the previous paragraph. The results are predictable: the flow of fighters, weapons and money fueling the devastating conflict in Syria will only worsen. Iran will now have greater financial resources to protect and help their proxies to gain the advantage on the field of battle. The very groups with whom we are “at war”. It has been announced that Russia has delivered six MiG 31 fighter jets to support al-Assad.

* Since Obama withdrew our entire troop presence from Iraq in 2011, the country has moved further into sectarian fighting. The lifting of sanctions will only escalate that conflict, as arms may readily be purchased and will be freely transmitted to those groups backed by Iran.

* With the lifting of sanctions (at the date of execution of the Agreement) and then a possible “snap back” (on the breach of the terms of the Agreement), those arrangements between Iran and any group or nation executed between those two dates will not be affected.

* Although the President has readily admitted that Iran supplies both Hezbollah and Assad in Syria and Hamas in Gaza, he quite amazingly implies there is nothing the Allies can do about it. It is worth repeating in opposition to accepting the Agreement that we are not faced with only two options: the Agreement or war. Nonsense. Heavier and tighter sanctions would have a crippling effect in Iran and the Iranians are more than aware of their implication.

* Tehran has consistently violated the UN arms embargo and missile sanctions. Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made crystal clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with any arms embargo, saying “Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so.” And they will have the $150 billion in sanction relief to do just that.

* Most upsetting, and the nation only learning about it after an Associated Press “bomb shell”, was the revealing of the existence of the Parchin Settlement (named after the Iranian military complex, being the home of Iran’s nuclear-weapon and ballistic program). This Settlement was worked out between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers that negotiated the Nuclear Agreement were not a party to this agreement, but were allegedly “briefed” by the IAEA. When confronted by this news, the Obama administration described the document as nothing more than a “routine technical arrangement”. One cannot image that this Settlement is anything but routine when it allows the Iranians (taking into account its own military concerns) to provide the location and photos of suspected sites to the IAEA”. The Iranians have not been known for their honesty, so why now. Congress, under present legislation, enacted this year, must receive all documents entered into between Iran and any third party. Which includes IAEA Settlement. Congress has been provided nothing.

In addition, we have presently enforced United States’ legislation that Iran not be granted any relief until there is “a certification by the President that Iran is no longer a financier and sponsor of terror. That presidential certification has not been satisfied.” During all of this the White House remains silent.

As I previously mentioned, entwined with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement and at the vortex of the Mideast catastrophe are two countries vying for supreme domination for decades to come: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Parenthetically, while neither of the potential winners is a friend Israel, one overtly seeks its total destruction.

Viewed from afar, one sees the principal objectives of Iran and Saudi Arabia: First, Iran seeks to replace the United States’ control and influence in the Sunni world led by Saudi Arabia, second, to bring to fruition the preaching of Ali Khamenei: destroy Israel.

One of the pieces of supporting evidence is the 2015 report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which documents that since Hassan Rouhani assumed the office of the president of Iran in mid-August 2013, the number of people from various minority communities who imprisoned has increased. In 2014, it was reported that religious minorities Baha’is, Christian converts and Sunni Muslims, along with dissenting Shi’a Muslims, are deteriorating and face increased harassment. Today’s news brings horrifying pictures of the treatment of Catholics in the region.

On the other side of this hostile equation, Saudi Arabia and Israel will never be “friends” and do not have any diplomatic relations (playing to its constituents) and probably never will. Nevertheless, both countries are allies of the United States in opposition to the expansion of regional influence by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

News reports, not yet confirmed, indicate that behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the Saudis and Israel have taken place. One public gesture was that Israel had offered Iron Dome technology to the Saudis who publically declined the offer. That does not mean the technology will not be transferred.

This layer of conflict is very much straight forward. It becomes more complex as we examine the surrogates of Iran and Saudi Arabia who seek to destroy each other with impunity.

But first simple mathematics: Sunnis outnumber Shias by nine to one. Those are the simple numbers; least we forget there are other smaller numbers of tribes whose allegiance shift with the wind and bribery. Today there are one thousand organized, armed sectarian militants in the region. Well in excess of 100,000 people who form alliances with other similar thinking groups.

The entire picture becomes more complex when one studies the generally accepted map of the region. At first blush, nothing unusual comes to the fore, there are straight lines forming different countries as one would expect to see on any map of the Mid-East. The problem is that those lines do not represent the reality of what is on the ground. The map lines were drawn and then imposed by the super nations of the world after wars and conquests and do not take into consideration the multiple tribes and diverse groups that have resided separate and apart for generations across the region. Today, there is talk of the partition of Iraq.

Over decades, the cost, in lost lives and dislocation to vast numbers of individuals is incalculable in this intractable, ongoing conflict. The cost in dollars is staggering. For example, the U.S. has spent in a very short period of time over $2 billion on the air campaign in Syria and Iraq alone.

I recall reading that the King of Jordan had warned the international community that with America’s toppling of Saddam Hussein (clearly, a bad guy) in Iraq, a void would be predictably created and with that an unappealing opportunity would arise for an Iranian-influenced Shia expansion. His words evaporated into thin air. Then as the voids through the Muslim world were being created by one failing government after another, with civil war and protests one after the another, the voids quickly were filled with transnational Shia forces backed by Iran and by violence.

First thing first: In this arena of not merely political posturing but supporting that posturing with weapons, we have been faced with a lot of double talk. Complicating matters, those groups or tribes who seemed not to play any major role in the ongoing conflict are now involved in in the regional violence as they change sides. This complicates the overall picture; weapons that we had sent to help overthrow Assad are now, because of a shift in alliance, being employed against our interests and troops.

While the West extends nuclear negotiations and agreement with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to enhance its international terrorism infrastructure through its proxies. Hezbollah has operatives in the Western European states while Hamas maintains its operatives, according to a German intelligence reports.

Turkey, a country with one foot in Europe and one in Asia, is viewed as a stable nation in the area, has recently undergone its own political upheaval. This Muslim nation until recently run by a strong man, who had turned this historically democratic, nonsectarian nation into a Muslim stronghold, had his political base damaged severely in recent elections. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan– the Turkish government forcibly opposed Kurdish independence – and at the same moment had been tacitly permissive of ISIS. Erdogan deliberately withheld support from the Kurds, whose troops have been successfully opposing ISIS in the north of Iraq. What changed the dynamic of the regional politics was the political blow to Erdogan following his most recent elections, with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party entering the Turkish parliament for the first time, thus creating a political crisscrossing of political wires. Erdogan then entered into an agreement with the US and ordered the commencement of vigorous bombing of ISIS strongholds, but, to everybody’s astonishment, also launched bombing Kurdish centers. I guess “duplicitous” is the word for his actions. He now alleges that both the campaigns (US warplanes striking ISIS from Turkish bases and his own jets) are really one fight against the terrorism in “his” region, equating ISIS and the Kurdish centers in the north. Viewed from afar there is no moral or ethical reason for these actions. This has had sever political consequences in Turkey as I write these words: the Turkish prime minister failed to form a coalition government, plunging the country deeper into political uncertainty with the President calling for yet another election. In stepped the voice of ISIS, taking advantage of another political crisis in this region urging Muslims in Turkey to rise up against their “infidel” president and “to capture Istanbul”.

The US is not immune from this sort of ambiguity. We find the US bombing Iran’s enemies in one country and helping to bomb Iran’s allies in another. This Gilbert and Sullivan travesty, played out as Sunni-Shia loathing, can indeed give way to marriages of confusing convenience, all while the world watches as the US debates whether to enter into a Nuclear Agreement with a nation who seeks its destruction.

The Nuclear Agreement discussion in the United States has reached name-calling status, affecting not only our natural allies and those we should engage, but our presidential political election process. The violent conflicts in the Middle-East bring continued killings that are reckless and unnecessary even in wartime. In some instances they are horrific by any standards – beheadings, mustard gas and rape. And the immigrants of all descriptions, of all ages, suffer beyond imagination as they flee their homeland and seek solace by placing their lives in unworthy boats that ply across the Mediterranean only to die at sea or face empty, blank and sometimes hostile stares upon their arrival. The civilized world appears to be in a state of physical paralysis and fills their created void with empty gestures. World leaders are more obsessed with the political implications of their pronouncements than the human implications caused by their inaction.

There is a price to pay for all of this and its cost is “human lives”.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Global Incidents and Commentary

[column]Global Events

    • RFE reports Turkey has called for an extraordinary meeting of the NATO military alliance to discuss what it calls Syria’s “aggressive” downing of a Turkish fighter jet over the Mediterranean. Speaking on his country’s TRT state television, Turkish Foreign Minister said that the Phantom fighter jet was on a routine training mission when it inadvertently strayed into Syrian airspace. The plane carried no weaponry and that its mission, it was alleged, was not related to continued unrest in Syria.
    • MOSCOW, June 24 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian ship carried overhauled disassembled helicopters to Syria and not new gunships as was claimed by western media, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei alleged. “We are not going to make any excuses because we did not breach anything. We violated neither international law, nor UN Security Council resolutions nor our national legislation on export control, which is one of the tightest in the world,” the Minister said in an interview Rossiya-1 TV channel. Western media claimed the Russian ship carried armaments and ammunition to Syria, a circulated a picture of the alleged ship. Editor’s Note: If true it is a tragedy of gigantic proportions in terms of human tragedy.
    • Voice of America reports from LONDON – Ecuador says it is giving serious consideration to giving Julian Assange ( Assange is thefounder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which published confidential files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and thousands of U.S. cables sent between overseas diplomats and Washington) political asylum, after the founder of the WikiLeaks website made the request at the country’s embassy in London. British authorities say they will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy. Assange alleges that “Ecuador back in 2010 suggested that perhaps I should come to Ecuador and be given residency, so they are sympathetic over a long period of time so we hope that the asylum application will be viewed favorably,” he said. The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said his government was considering the asylum application. Editor’s Note: What wonders what Ecuador will extract from the United States to ignore Assange’s request.
    • The Times of India reports from NEW DELHI, that Delhi and Mumbai, two most populated cities of India, will be protected by the missile defense system.“According to media, these two cities have been chosen by the Defense Research and Development Organization for deploying the first national Ballistic Missile Defense system. Editor’s Note: The whole world, it appears, is preparing for armed attack by its neighbors.
    • Iran: Al Pessin of the Voice of America reports from London what could have been safely predicted: “The near failure of talks in Moscow and the pending imposition of a full oil embargo by the European Union have deepened the dispute between Iran and the international community, and increased concerns about military action.“Two days of grueling talks did not narrow the gaps between the West and Iran. The negotiators could only agree to hold lower level talks in the coming weeks. Mark Fitzpatrick at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies calls the Moscow meetings “a disappointment,” and has little hope for the follow-on talks.” Editor’s Note: Does anyone really believe that Iran will come to the table after repeated false moves. It is a continuing game of diplomatic gamesmanship, buying time for them to develop their bomb making and delivery capabilities. Once accomplished the world would have lost yet another moment to secure some semblance of sanity in the world.
    • Turkish media has reported that several high-level Syrian military officers — a general, two colonels, two majors, and 30 soldiers — have defected with their families to Turkey. They were part of a group of 200 Syrians who crossed the border near Reyhanli and were taken to a high-security camp about two miles from the Syrian border.
    • Syrian president Bashar al-Assad declared to his newly appointed cabinet that Syria was in a “state of war,” and “all of our politics has to be concentrated on winning this war.” Riad al-Asaad, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army opposition group, told the Lebanese Daily Star that Hezbollah fighters are involved in battles in Syria. Al-Asaad said “as for the involvement of Hezbollah fighters, we have confirmed that it is involved in events inside Syria, especially in Talkalakh and Homs

[/column]

 

[column]Commentary: One Person, One Vote, One Time

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for Egypt’s 2012 presidential election, Mohamed Morsi, was officially announced the winner after a number of tumultuous days on June 23rd. At a rally before the election, a widely known cleric spoke on behalf of Morsi, who was the Muslim Brotherhood’s second choice as candidate, and drew a huge emotional response from his audience, when he outlined his hopes and beliefs with their triumph of the presidential election. One must remember that the Brotherhood had already secured a strong majority in the parliamentary election; a constitution of their own making was assured. Their only obstacle was (and is) the Army.

The charismatic cleric envisioned a changed world with the election of Morsi. Gaza would be liberated, the Caliphate[i] of the “United States of the Arabs” would be restored, with Jerusalem as its capital. His rallying call to those who were present and those listening to the broadcast was that “our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march towards Jerusalem.’

Martyrs! To claim Jerusalem! While Morsi himself did not echo these statements, he did not repudiate them, and later, prior to the actual election, promised to stand for peaceful relations with Israel. Yet during his campaign he pledged that his administration would be based on Islam. No mention was made of the fact that he spent years as a member of an anti-Israel group, the Committee to Resist Zionism. At the same time, he is not a stranger to the United States, having received his PhD from the University of Southern California, and he was an assistant professor on their faculty. He had seen democracy in action while living in California.

Not withstanding President Jimmy Carter overarching interest and presence in that part of the world, the Brotherhood’s opposition claimed that the Brotherhood employed “intimidation, threats and violence against supporters of candidate Ahmed Shafik.” Those opposed to the Brotherhood “filed more than 100 official complaints accusing the Brotherhood of ballot rigging and stuffing.”

The National Post reported —“ Egypt’s media are demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood as the state’s worst enemy, claiming the fundamentalist group plans to plunge the country into chaos if its candidate does not emerge as the winner from the presidential runoff.” The question left unanswered is what they will do now that their candidate has won. We now must wait for that answer. One thing is certain, there will be an escalation of tension between the government newly elected and the Military. Tensions are escalating, as in the past, with protesters gathering in larger and larger numbers in Tahrir Square; the power of the Constitution Court will come into question, and the Military protecting its concept of national security will exercise its determination. Each of the multi-sided equations in this battle will be aimed at the sweeping powers assumed by the military and their diminution of the office of the presidency.

International overt condemnation of the rule of the military, with a subtext by those who secretly fear the Brotherhood, will have little impact on the ultimate outcome of the political uncertainty frothing in Cairo. The military will not lightly rescind the role it engrafted upon its own historical mandate—now adding the role of legislator, the right to arrest civilians and control over drafting a new constitution. The military has also taken several steps to shield itself from civilian oversight.

But the most telling sign, as reported on the cover of this week’s edition of the state weekly Al-Mussawar, showed a picture of Morsi placing a kiss on the head of the group’s spiritual leader, or Murshid, Mohammed Badie in a gesture of both reverence and submission. For the world to see: The president/government acknowledging it’s being “submissive” to the supreme Islamic/religious leader of the nation. Within days the articles in Arabic newspapers around the world were speculating who is blinking first in the standoff between the people, the newly elected government and the military. A headline in the United States read: “Islamic Democracy.” That, to my mind, is either a non-sequitur or an oxymoron. Your choice.

“We will not be ruled by the Murshid,” said the magazine in red print under the picture. Inside, eight prominent literary figures known for their liberal views said in interviews that a Brotherhood presidency could change Egypt forever. “I consider the Brotherhood to be a threat to Egypt,” said one of the eight, prize-winning novelist Gamal el-Ghetani. “We are living a moment that may be similar to (Adolf) Hitler’s rise to power.”

A chilling thought: One person, one vote, one time.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

  • Editor’s Note, postscript: Turkey’s uproar over a shot down unarmed fighter jet by Syria while understandably it was an act of aggression, the extent of which is not sufficient to go to war or reign unleashed force on that nation. Turkey’s prime minister has claimed that Syria is a “clear and present threat” to his country. Nonsense! May I suggest that the Turkish government beset with serious financial chaos is attempting to focus the unrest, concerns and anger of its population at the government’s handling of the economy toward a foreign and different enemy: Syria.

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Caliphate, the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death (ad 632) of the Prophet Muḥammad. Ruled by a caliph (Arabic khalīfah, “successor”), who held temporal and sometimes a degree of spiritual authority, the empire of the Caliphate grew rapidly through conquest during its first two centuries to include most of Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Spain. Dynastic struggles later brought about the Caliphate’s decline, and it ceased to exist with the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258. Encyclopedia Britannica