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Commentary—Did You Know — The Shadow War is Real

I was born in 1931. Then, a family radio was generally housed in a substantial piece of “furniture”. Ours was no different. It had doors, sat on legs and perched proudly in the living room. A Stromberg Carlson. For some reason we also had a smaller one that sat in our large dinette next to the kitchen.

I was eight and a half years old in September 1, 1939, and I heard that Hitler invaded Poland, but it made no great impression on me. Japan and China had long been at war, we saw that on the News Reels. That conflict was almost totally off my radar screen but for the group of Americans who flew fighter planes on behalf of the Chinese and were called the Flying Tigers. The nose sections of their planes were painted to resemble the teeth of shark. That hooked me.

From September 1939, the entire world rushed into what became a nearly 6 year war, and you had to be catatonic to be unaware that something was amiss even for an eight year old. Early on my world was not affected but for the refugee kids that I found myself having lunch with, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, in our kitchen during the school week.

The world was slow — much too slow — in responding to Hitler in Europe. And that was a flaw that would ultimately bring about the death of seven million people. Then I began to hear, as I headed off to sleep, the spirited conversations that seemed to always crop up over the weekend, when droves of my parent’s friends and relatives would descend into our living room to talk of the “phony war”. At the time the word and its meaning made no sense to me. The world in Europe was at war –there were thunderous declarations of war—but there were no overt hostilities. The French called this period the Drôle de guerre; and the Germans name was Sitzkrieg. . It was an eight-month period from the time war was declared by the UK and France against Germany on September 3rd 1939 to when Germany launched its invasion France and the Low Countries on May 10th 1940. During the phony war The Allies had created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to end the German advancements, but it was too little and much too late. Thus, the phony war.

To me, none of this became frightening until the age of ten and half on December 7th and Pearl Harbor, and the induction into the army of an uncle I adored. The talk of a “phony war”, ceased and I never heard that expression again. There was talk of collaboration with Germany that involved not only the Baltic States, Poland, Hungry, Russia and, unthinkable to me, France. It wasn’t until last week that I had read of a “shadow war” for the first time and I was stumped again. This time, 79 years later, I had the internet and instant access to information but have come up with no hard definition. An example is the best method to describe this event.

On September 13th 2019, twenty some odd drones carrying deadly missals carried out a sophisticated, simultaneous attack on Saudi oil refineries and created an international disaster. (Please, see my previous blog and the use of drones in simultaneous attacks within New York City.) Almost immediately, the President of the United States announced that this nation (although not attacked) was “locked and loaded” and presumably ready to attack Iran. And on Monday, September 16th, the President said that the U.S. is prepared to respond to the attacks in Saudi Arabia. Have we become a surrogate for Saudis in an attack not aimed at the U.S? This sent me scurrying to one of my copies of our Constitution.

Article I, sometimes referred to as the War Power clause– vest in the Congress, not the President, the power to declare war. Toward the late afternoon of the 16th of September, although not attacked and with no consultation or consent of the Congress, this nation was aiming our military resources to trounce another nation who didn’t attack us. A commentator sarcastically wondered if the Saudis were anointed with the power conferred by Article I and not our own Congress. According to a report by MEMRI, the attack on the Saudi oil facilities “was an implementation of Iran’s explicit threats in recent months to target Saudi Arabia and the U.S. global economy”. It is also claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, sponsored by Iran, that they are the actors who launched the drone attack against the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, while the WSJ, on the 17th,  headlined that the “Saudi Oil Attack Originated In Iran, U.S. Says”. This is a perfect example of a—“shadow war”. Where one nation stands in– a surrogate for another — to further their common goals.

In the bitter conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the “shadow” combatants would be the United States on one side (armed and attacking on behalf of the Saudis) and the Houthi rebels in Yemen (armed and supported by Iran) attacking the Saudis on behalf of Iran.

It’s obvious that Iran has missiles, it has a nuclear program on the front pages of the world’s headlines, it has tanks with which it threatens the world, and it has exported terrorist militias. Iran has spent $500 billion on its missile and nuclear armament programs. It has spent $350 billion on the regional wars in the Middle East–almost one trillion dollars, “but its economy is collapsing and withering. Its economy is stagnant, yet it continues to threaten the world.” It has Russia at its back. What is also so very disturbing is that the successful Iranian attack represented an “American technological failure”, as not a single cruise missile or drone was stopped or destroyed.

Although until now there are no signs that Russia would decisively side in the favor of Tehran, if Iran’s confrontation with Saudi Arabia would intensifies — meaning something more that economic support. And this weekend that conflict did intensify with the potential of a “shadow war” with the U.S. stepping in for Saudis. Our Secretary of State said that Iran’s attack at Saudi Arabia was an attack of war. Against whom? Will Russia find it necessary to step in for Iran?

I will be sitting by my Stromberg Carlson

P.S.   As I was about to type my name and post this blog, another thought came to mind. I had no clear recollection of my geography and of the borders separating Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran, so I went to the maps of the area. If the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities came from the Houthi militia in Yemen, the failure to intercept the missiles and drones, notwithstanding the millions spent by Saudi’s in defense, would be very upsetting. If, on the other hand, the attacks originated in Iran that would verge on a shattering statement of the U.S. capabilities in the Arabian Sea. Let me explain: 1. Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen is probably over 500 miles from where the attack on the oil refineries took place. Depending upon the size of the drone, that might well be beyond their range of operation. 2. If on the other hand they were launched from Iran and flew directly across the Arabian Sea, they would have had to fly, as some point, literally through the spread of the radar network of U.S. Navy. If that were true it would be calamitous for our operational ability to not only defend our own naval ships in case of an attack but to fulfill its overall operational mission. There is a third possibility. According to the NYT, the Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles (picture of the missile published on the 19th September) that fell short of its target. The analysis now runs that the missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the Gulf, thus avoiding the U.S. Naval radar. In any of these scenarios, the question now for President Trump, in what has truly become his growing political separation from potential allies growing, will he, like President George W Bush heading into Iraq 16 years ago, find he is largely alone in any retaliating strike or serious sanctions. Or will his hesitation to act embolden Tehran?

Richard Allan,

The Editor