Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

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

 

 

“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