Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Civil War In The Middle East

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theatre of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.)

Taken together, they comprise a vast arc — the Shiite Crescent — stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years.

This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

Arrayed on the other side of the great mohammedist civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action.

At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent. It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs).

Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.

The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too. The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the Tomahawk attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down.

A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply

Monday, June 26, 2017

MiG 35

The MiG-35, designed to replace MiG-29s rounding out their fourth decade in service, will be featured at the MAKS international airshow near Moscow in July as engineers finalize testing on the aircraft

The MiG-35 has been in development for well over a decade, with the first reported demonstration flight at the Aero India Air Show in Bangalore in 2007

Some 5th generation technologies include stealth capabilities, extreme maneuverability, and increased power: 12 percent more than previous models1

Unlike many advanced fighters, the MiG-35 will also be extremely rugged, designed to withstand heavy anti-aircraft fire and operate in austere conditions

It’s rumored MiG is working on a fifth-generation light fighter. Sukhoi, Russia’s manufacturer of heavy fighter jets, has been working on its own fifth-gen offering, PAK FA, since before 2010, with the introduction of the aircraft reportedly slated for 2019. But if the rumors are true, the future project would be a first for MiG.





Thursday, June 22, 2017

Barbarossa!

"The entire World will hold it's breath!"

Unternehmen Barbarossa's 76th Anniversary.

Just after 0300 hours local time this very day in 1941 - a 3 mile wide strip of territory stretching the length of eastern Europe from Baltic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains erupted in a torrent of fire and flying steel as Luftwaffe aircraft, Werhmacht artillerie und panzers blasted across the Soviet frontier. In the violence of her initial collision, the immensity and feriocity of her subsequent development, and her prolifigacy of destruction of human life and resources - Operation Barbarossa - the Deutschland - Russian conflict - transcended anything ever before - or since - in the human experience.

Flush with fast, relatively easy victories over Western Europa - NSDAP time Deutschland flung three ginourmous Armee Gruppen at Russia in a crazy scheme to knock out the Collectivist armies forcing Mockba to accept an uneven uneasy piece and destroy bolshvikism forever.

The 1st 6 months saw amazing feats of Teutonic arms, vast panzer pincers, desperate pockets of Soviets fought to annihilation or capture (often the same thing) and by Pearl Harbor Day the naughty Wehrmacht was fighting in Moscow's suburbs.

The Moscow Battle - Operation Typhoon was the literally chilling climax of Barbarossa's blitzkrieg portion. Ferocious defense of the the capitol city by freshly released Siberian Reserves (Russia learned Nippon wouldn't be attacking their far east anytime soon) ended any hap hap happy tho'ts of a 'lightning campaign' in Russia.

Operation Barbarossa ground on for three and a half years more the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike - massively complex military ops like Stalingrad, Zitadelle and Bagration - until 3rd Reich died in an orgy of blood and flame and shaped the modern world and lingers with us still: NATO, Russia's near paranoia with her Near Abroad and fear of an awakened, reunified, riled up Germany.

Pic - "Verlonne Siege"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Proxy Wars!

Since January...

U.S. military has struck the Syrian regime or its allies at least five times, in most cases to protect U.S.-backed rebels and their American advisers. Even if the Pentagon may not want to directly engage Syrian forces or their Russian and Iranian-backed allies, there’s a danger of accidental escalation, especially as various forces continue to converge on eastern and southern Syria to reclaim strategic territory from ISIS. Russia, for its part, angrily condemned the U.S. action and threatened on Monday to treat all coalition planes in Syria as potential targets.

But the dangers are perhaps particularly acute when it comes to Iran, which made dramatic battlefield moves of its own on Sunday, when it launched several missiles from inside Iran against ISIS targets in eastern Syria. Officially, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the volley of missiles fired at Deir Ezzor province was a response to a pair of attacks by ISIS in Tehran on June 7, which killed 18 people and wounded dozens; the attacks marked the first time that ISIS had struck inside Iran. But the Iranian regime had several less-dramatic means to exact revenge against ISIS targets in Syria—after all, there’s no shortage of Iranian allies operating in the war-ravaged country.

Instead, Iran’s fiery act of vengeance seemed to be a message aimed at both the 45th administration and Saudi Arabia. (The six ballistic missiles used by Tehran against ISIS, with a range of 700 kilometers, could reach major Saudi cities.) The kingdom has become emboldened regionally and escalated its anti-Iran rhetoric thanks, in part, to 45’s message of seemingly unconditional support.

Nowhere is Iran projecting its regional power more extensively than Syria. Since the war started, Tehran has sent billions of dollars in aid and thousands of troops and Shiite volunteers to support Assad’s men. Over the past two years, Russia and Iran, along with Hezbollah and several Iraqi Shiite militias, helped Assad consolidate control and regain territory he lost to Syrian rebels and foreign jihadists. In December, with intensive Russian airstrikes and Iranian ground support, Assad’s forces recaptured the rebel-held sections of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. It was Assad’s biggest victory since the war began.

What worries us: that with these gains, Iran and its allies will carve out a “Shiite crescent” extending from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and into Lebanon, where Hezbollah is the most powerful political and military force. Such a prospect looms large not only for the 45th administration, but also its allies in the Arab world, especially the Saudis.

While the Pentagon is eager to portray its latest actions as a defensive measure, Assad’s regime and its Iranian allies view it as an aggression, noting that Washington shot down a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace. And by flexing their military reach in Syria with Sunday’s missile launch, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and other regime hardliners risk inflaming more tension with the Trump administration—tension that could boil over in the coming war for dominance of southern Syria. One danger, among many, is that Assad and Tehran, which both have a history of testing their adversaries’ boundaries, could overreach and provoke a confrontation that spirals out of control.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tough To Bear

It's been a tough few days for the Army and Navy. The losses are more than we can bear.

Take a moment and breathe a prayer of thanks and well wishes for Americans - volunteers all - serving on the periphery of danger

Friday, June 16, 2017

6 Key Questions

The U.S. is at war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere with ISIS, al Qaeda, and other Salafi-Jihadi groups.  Our strategy in that war, particularly in Syria, is incoherent and internally contradictory, however.  We must also demand answers to six key questions about how America can secure its people and interests against the large and growing threats from the Middle East.

How will we defeat ISIS?

The U.S. military has been briefing steady progress in the war against ISIS.  It highlights ground retaken by Iraqi forces in Mosul and by Kurds in Syria.  It suggests that ISIS will basically collapse once it has lost Mosul and Raqqa, in Syria.  Assessments by the Institute for the Study of War contradict that view. ISIS still controls Deir ez-Zour, a sizable city southeast of Raqqa, to which it has already relocated leadership and resources.  Our Kurdish partners cannot drive that far south through Arab lands.  Our reliance on Kurds and refusal to fight the regime of Bashar al Assad have severely hindered the formation of an indigenous Arab force against ISIS in Syria, moreover.  How does the U.S. imagine that success against Raqqa will lead to clearing the rest of the Euphrates River Valley?  And even if the U.S. finds partners to retake the cities, ISIS is already reverting back to the insurgent-terrorist mode it used before it had seized them.  What is the plan to continue the pressure on ISIS to stop it from continuing in this mode while preparing its next comeback?

How will we defeat al Qaeda? 

The U.S. has focused on ISIS in Syria, taking little action against the large and powerful forces closely associated with al Qaeda.  The Syrian al Qaeda affiliate has rebranded itself, but remains part of al Qaeda and pursues the same goals of establishing a global Caliphate.  It and its partners control Idlib Province in northwestern Syria and are strong elsewhere in central and southern Syria.  The U.S. military keeps saying that it will deal with al Qaeda after it has defeated ISIS.  What is the plan for doing that?  How do operations against ISIS support or hinder that plan?

How will we ensure that we won’t have to fight son of ISIS or son of al Qaeda?

Both ISIS and al Qaeda gained ground in Syria in response to the brutality of Bashar al Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.  The sectarian policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki created the Sunni Arab protest movement in that country that opened the door to the ISIS invasion in 2014.  Military success against these groups will not resolve the underlying political grievances that created support for them in the first place.  Yet the U.S. has not done remotely enough to address this problem in either Syria or Iraq.  The failure to form a sizable local Sunni Arab force in Syria suggests that the Sunni Arabs do not believe that their grievances will be redressed.  What is the U.S. doing to press Assad and the Iraqi government to resolve the political crises that allowed ISIS and al Qaeda to arise?

How will we contain Iran? 

The Trump administration makes much of its plans to contain and pressure Iran.  Yet Iran is militarily stronger than it has ever been.  Tens of thousands of Iranian proxy forces, led by elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Qods Force, are the army keeping Assad in power and alive.  The removal of these forces without any replacements would open the door to al Qaeda and ISIS expansion.  The U.S. thus relies on the unprecedented forward deployment of Iranian military power to pursue its anti-ISIS campaign.  How can America depend on an Iranian-controlled army in Syria while containing Iranian military power in the region?

How will we come to terms with Turkey? 

Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a troublesome ally.  Erdogan supports Islamist groups in Syria closely associated with al Qaeda.  He fears Kurdish efforts to form an autonomous region in Syria and to create a larger Kurdistan that would reach into Turkey’s Kurdish population.  He sees American support to Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria as U.S. backing for Kurdish terrorism in Turkey.  Yet Turkey is still a NATO ally.  It is also an essential player in any settlement in Syria.  Unequivocal and unrestricted American support for Kurds in Syria is driving the U.S. steadily toward conflict with Turkey—we’ve already had to deploy U.S. forces to stop the Turks from attacking our Kurdish allies twice.  How can the U.S. reconcile our dependence on Kurdish forces with the need to get Erdogan to work with us, stop backing Islamist groups, and accept a stable outcome in Syria?

How will we reduce Russian influence?  

Russia has established a massive airbase in Syria, giving it a major military position on the Mediterranean for the first time in decades.  Vladimir Putin has used that base to constrain American actions in Syria, to threaten Turkey, and as a hub for further expansion in the Mediterranean.  The hue-and-cry about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and the Russian threat to America has oddly ignored these developments.  How can the U.S. make the strong stand against Russia that many on both sides of the aisle now demand while tolerating this unprecedented expansion of Russian military power?  How can the U.S. hope to pressure Assad to stop his efforts to oppress Syria’s Sunni majority while Russia provides him an air force to do just that?

The administration, Congress, and their critics on all sides must answer these questions if we are to arrive at any strategy in the Middle East that has a chance of securing our people and interests.  We must stop focusing on our own internal dramas so much that we ignore the increasingly dangerous world around us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Army Day

"This We'll Defend!"


Happy happy BDay (#242 in fact!) to Great Satan's all weather original voltiguerres - the Army!
Two hundred 42 years ago, our nation's leaders established the Continental Army, beginning a rich heritage of successfully defending this great country and her citizens. Today, we celebrate the continued strength, professionalism and bravery of our ready and resilient Soldiers in the all-volunteer force. Our Soldiers remain Army Strong with a lifelong commitment to our core values and beliefs.
Following more than 15 years of war, the Army remains committed to the readiness, training and advancement of the Total Army through the Army initiatives: Ready and Resilient, The Army Profession and Soldier for Life. This 238th birthday commemorates America's Army - Soldiers, families and civilians - who are achieving a level of excellence that is truly Army Strong. We also celebrate our local communities for their steadfast support of our Soldiers and families. We are "America's Army: Service to the Nation, Strength for the Future."
"...We are “America’s Army: The Strength of the Nation."


Pic "The American Army - Killing Our Enemies On Xmas Day Since 1776"