Category Archives: Middle East

Wrong!

OK, I was hoping that Trump and Co would do something clever in Syria. I was wrong.

Shiny, new, smart missiles – well cruise missiles by and large – rained down on long evacuated targets in Syria last night. Another billion dollar fireworks display.

On the one hand I am delighted that there are no boots on the ground in this particular shit hole. On the other, there was so much more which could have been done with the Russians, Iranians and Syrians stuck in their bolt holes by Trump’s tweets.

Trump has made his point. There is a red line and he’s not letting it fade. But, as my elder son said over dinner, for 100 million the Syrians would probably have blown up their own buildings.

Sad.

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War by Tweet

So yesterday Trump tweeted that he had “new, shiny and smart missiles”, or words to that effect, and he was thinking about answering the Syrian gas attack. The Russian fleet at Tartus scattered, The Iranian and Syrian forces rushed to Russian bases hoping that Trump is not going to start WWIII by hitting those bases.

Today Trump tweeted, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?””

This is fun but it is also a fairly calculated effort to sow disarray in Syria.

The fact is that the Russian fleet is not particularly seaworthy. A lot of deferred maintenance. Floating around in the Med is not their best look and, in a week or two, ships are going to start breaking down. Nor is cowering beside the Russians a good look for either the Syrian regulars or the Iranian mercenaries. They may be safe – although likely not as safe as they think – but they are rendered ineffective.

“Keep’em guessing.” is a rather good tactical move by Trump and his commanders. There is no rush.

Scattering the cockroaches with a bright light is a painless way of making their position very clear indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boom!

syria, donald trumpPresident Trump is rattling the sabres.  Tweeting that missiles, “nice and new and smart”, would be incoming to Syria.

The Russians, not being idiots, take the threat seriously enough that they have put their Syrian fleet – based at Tartus – out to sea. No point in restaging Pearl Harbour.

Hitting Assad and his Iranian allies is certainly something the Americans might want to do in the wake of yet another gas attack. But a missile barrage, even with shiny, new, smart missiles is not likely to do much other than annoy the Russians without defeating them. Is that worthwhile?

I don’t think much of Trump as a tactical thinker, he is more a limited strategic thinker able to identify “bad guys” and “America’s interests” without having any great insight into what to actually do. However, there are plenty of people in and around the White House who can figure out the tactics beginning with Defence Secretary Mathias. Mad Dog is not really a “fire and forget” kinda of guy.

The trouble with a missile barrage is that it really changes nothing. Some targets are obliterated, some low-level bad guys are killed. Its principal advantage is that it poses very little risk to American personnel. Tactically, a missile attack runs a small risk of interception by the Russian made air defences which are presently in Syria and taking out those defences ups the chances of escalation. But strategically, a pure missile attack is not going to move any needles.

Which is why, I suspect, Trump is tweeting about it. Telegraphing an attack is something Trump maintained he would not do. He likes secrecy when American forces are going into harm’s way. Trump haters will say Trump is incapable of keeping quiet but I don’t think they are right. Trump is making characteristically Trumpian noises and I suspect it is misdirection. If you are Secretary Mathias you know that you have a President who likes nothing more than to shake his tweeting fist. Why not use it?

The Americans are perfectly capable of inflicting real damage on the Syrians – and more importantly, the Iranians – but it will not be by means of shock and awe tactics. Special Forces, stealth munitions and precision artillery with down range spotters can have a devastating effect on people expecting an attack from a bunch of missiles. It is a more personal sort of warfare and it puts American troops at risk; but it would send a very clear message to the Syrians, the Iranians and their Russian backers. “We are willing to fight and fight smart.” A much more compelling message than a very expensive fireworks display.

At the same time, a very blunt message needs to be delivered to the Russians. “You need to leave Syria.” That message is only partially military – although silently taking out several of the S-400 air defence sites would underscore the message – its real thrust needs to be diplomatic and economic. As an economy, Russia is not doing very well in a world of inexpensive oil. Sanctions, plus accelerating the pace of LNG deliveries to Europe would hurt. So would leaning on the assorted oligarchs who prefer to live in the West while retaining Russian citizenship. Scouting around for Russian assets to sequester would also add to the pressure. Critically, the US needs to be very clear about what it wants.

I would think the ask would be along the lines of “Get out of Syria and support us in the sanctions we are about to drop on Iran.”

Get all that done and the US and its allies will not have to fire a single, nice and new and smart missile.

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Turkish Muslim “Hispanic”

You have to go to a British paper at this point to get the nationality and religion of the Cascade mall shooter.

And, of course, the motive is “unclear” and terrorism is not suspected.

Motive is likely important here: if this bastard was just going to the mall to shoot a girl who wouldn’t date him and a few random strangers, it will all be ok and nothing to do with Islam or immigration. If, on the other hand, it turns out that the creep was doing it for ISIS or was self-radicallized, the gently, gently media will go with the mentally deranged, lone wolf, narrative.

Anything to avoid asking if Arcan Cetin was a worthwhile person to have allowed into the US. Because: racist, Islamophobic and very bad indeed. Besides, his Twitter and Facebook accounts suggest he’s a Hilly support so no point in looking too closely.

But, and it is a big but, it also works as a boy meets girl, gets bounced by girl and goes in and kills her story. I am not sure that is much consolation.

Update: You can see this guy’s FaceBook timeline here https://www.facebook.com/Arcancetin

Apparently in high school ROTC. No sign at all of Islam or radicalization as far as I can see.

Update #2: Ooopsie…now his Facebook page is closed:

 

 

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Peace through Strength

Our Russian friends have a funny idea about how to conduct a war: they go and bomb and then dig out the people who are their declared enemies. They support their friends. They are not so much winning in Syria as not losing.

America has a rather vast response capacity. Tomorrow morning President Obama could let lose his heavy bombers and flatten, with a week, every known rallying point of ISIS, all of its oil resources and it’s so called capital.

Obama could send in the attack helios and the AC-130s and kill every formation of ISIS on the ground.

Obama could deploy the several thousand special forces personel at his command and shoot up ISIS at a granular level.

Russia does a lot with, relatively speaking, very little. But what Russia has is a strategic vision. It may be brutal. It may accept civilian casualties. But it gets the job done for Russia.

Tolstoy wrote a little less than a dozen chapters at the end of War and Peace on the philosophy of war. He made the point that the will of an Army and it’s commanders turns destiny in its direction. But without that will nothing occurs. All is chaos.

Pugin, outgunned, knows this. He cannot defeat America, but he can defeat America’s pathetic proxies. Hell, he has them shooting each other. Putin understood Tolstoy… I suspect Obama skipped the last few chapters.

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Saudi Gets Serious in Yemen

CLf7bm-UYAA4nxaThe reported deployment of tanks and other armoured vehicles from the United Arab Emirates, which have been seen unloading in Aden over recent days, represents the first major ground involvement by the Arab coalition ranged against the Houthi rebels.

It is a signal that the air campaign launched in March has its limits and it is a sign too that the Saudi-led coalition is willing now to become more engaged in the fighting. The reinforcements may already have had a hand in the recapture of al-Anad airbase: an important asset that could provide a launch-pad for more extensive operations against the rebels. bbc

Debka has more.

It looks like the Saudis and the UAE, backed by naval bombardment, is finally getting down to business in Yemen. It is not going to be pretty because the Saudis are apparently willing to scratch the paint on their tank fleet. With 1200 tanks that is a serious force even if only a fraction is deployed.

What this means for the Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels is annihilation. And there is little chance Iran is going to be able to do much to stop them as it is occupied to the north trying to keep Assad in power and fighting ISIS.

In broader terms this is a departure for the Saudis who have usually kept ground troops at home. It is also a setback for Obama’s whistling past the graveyard Middle Eastern surrender. His boys the Iranians are going to suffer a significant loss to their Sunni enemies.

My bet is that the Saudis didn’t bother to ask permission or even tell the Americans they were going to launch this offensive. The ever dumb Kerry was in Qatar as the offensive launched meeting with Sunni leaders. Want to bet they mentioned the fact they were taking on Iranian proxies.

And if the Sunnis did not bring in the US where were they getting their satellite intelligence from. One guess. Those fiends in Israel have 24/7 high-res coverage of the relevant areas.

Things are changing fast in the Middle East. The Big Zero has been benched.

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