American Elephants

Ramadi Has Fallen to ISIS, And ISIS Has Taken Palmyra. by The Elephant's Child
May 17, 2015, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , ,

Ramadi has fallen to ISIS. Ramadi was really where the Anbar Awakening began,”the movement,” Max Boot said, “started by Colonel Sean MacFarland in Ramadi in 200, to mobilize Sunni tries against AQI.” (al Qaeda in Iraq)

After having lost hundreds of American soldiers in Ramadi and its environs since 2003, US efforts finally appeared to have paid off. AQI had been routed of the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, and would soon be routed out of the rest of the Sunni Triangle. Victory was in sight.

It is all the more heartbreaking, therefore, to read now that the Islamic State—AQI’s successor organization—has seized the government center in Ramadi. Islamic State extremists detonated a series of suicide car bombs on Thursday to punch their way through fortifications protecting the government headquarters. Reports were that, after the headquarters fell, black-clad fanatics were going to door-to-door, executing tribal fighters who opposed their onslaught. Government security forces and many civilians were fleeing in panic. As Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute points out, it’s as if the Marines, having taken Iwo Jima, had abandoned it and the Japanese had lowered the stars and stripes on Mount Suribachi.

“Leading from behind” is a bad enough strategy when America’s allies take the lead. It is an utterly ruinous strategy when America’s enemies take the lead. But that s what is now happening in Iraq.”

Obama has authorized fewer than 3,000 trainers who are confined to base and not allowed to recruit, train or arm Sunni tribesmen. Nor are they allowed to personally call in airstrikes. They have to depend on Iraqi security forces who are dominated by Iranian security forces to tell them what to bomb. In the guise of fighting ISIS, Iran is taking over most of Iraq.

Obama has illusions of becoming partners with Iran, the world’s greatest terrorist-sponsoring state, and assigning Iran the task of managing the Middle East.  AQs yet, he is utterly unable to explain to the American people just where the war effort stands and what he plans to do differently. The Arab states are begging for American leadership, but that seems not to be what Obama does.

The West’s war against ISIS puts the U.S. and Europe tacitly on the side of Assad, the Iranians, and their joint Lebanese proxy Hezbollah for the simple reason that we’re all fighting ISIS at the same time while leaving one another alone. Tehran can hardly contain itself. “One of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism,” Weiss and Hassan write, “now presents itself as the last line of defense against terrorism.” The idea that a state sponsor of terrorism could ever be a reliable partner against international terrorism is ludicrous.


Decidedly Deficient in the Diplomacy Department! by The Elephant's Child
April 29, 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

From the American Enterprise Institute:

President Obama has stated firmly that if Iran does not comply with the inspections and other nuclear commitments, sanctions will simply snap back in place. Unfortunately he was a bit on the optimistic side. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov quoted in the Kremlin-backed RIA Novosti (and provided by the Open Source Center):

“We have a whole series of our own priorities and objectives that are important to us, and we will be working on those. We are proceeding on the basis that if one of the partners in the talks raises the possibility of sanctions being reintroduced against Iran, in the hypothetical situation that Iran should fail to honour its commitments, then this process should not in any way be automatic,” he [Ryabkov] said.”Decisions on this matter should be taken in accordance with the procedures of the UN Security Council, through voting in the council, and through the adoption of the appropriate resolutions,” Ryabkov noted.

Russia’s English-language propaganda arm “Sputnik News” left out the key preamble, there, but why burden American policymakers with embarrassing facts about Russia’s position.

Regardless, the Iranian government understands just where it stands. Speaking on the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television (IRINN) in Persian earlier today, President Hassan Rouhani bragged about the collapsing sanctions, in a translation provided by the Open Source Center:

“Those who brokered the sanctions had better think of another job for themselves from now on. We will continue moving along the path of constructive interaction with the world with the help of God, with the guidance of the Supreme Leader and with the support of the Iranian nation. Nobody can continue with the sanctions and pressure on Iran in the coming months and years. The sanctions scheme is completely collapsing. The P5+1 group should know well that the government and nation [of Iran] are standing close to each other and are supporting each other, especially in the year of understanding and unity.”

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were warned by knowledgeable experts that Iran could not be trusted, that relying on Iran to negotiate honestly and to mean what they said was a pipe dream. We have a long history with Iran, including the hostages imprisoned for a year, and it is clear that trust is not part of their dealings. The Koran gives full permission to adherents to lie in negotiations, and even has a word for it — taqiyya.

I don’t know quite what to make of Obama’s mindset. I assume that Kerry is merely doing what he is told. Is Obama completely unfamiliar with the country? Is he depending too much on Valerie Jarrett’s childhood memories? Does he believe this will be a crowning achievement for his “legacy?”

They bargained from weakness and cowardice. At best they could assume they were leaving a catastrophic legacy for our country. This is a complete diplomatic collapse that does nothing to resolve the problem, but merely assures a nuclear race in the Middle East. It’s plain surrender. But will our brilliant negotiators continue to remove the sanctions? Turn confiscated funds back? The funds Obama gave back have rescued their economy and after two years of recession, they announced a positive rate of progress for the Iranian year corresponding to March 2014 − March 2015.

Nice going. Iran pirated an American flagged Marshall Islands cargo ship in the international waters of the Hormuz strait today, claimed it was in Iranian waters, fired a shot over its bow, and escorted it to an Iranian port. Some said we have a treaty obligation to protect Marshall Islands ships, the president denied that, who knows? Iran is flexing their muscles because they can.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on events in Iraq, Negotiations with Iran, and Life in the U.S. Senate. by The Elephant's Child
April 13, 2015, 6:47 am
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This young Senator is going to be President of the United States one day. This episode of Uncommon Knowledge was published on April 8, 2015.

ADDENDUM: President Obama was mightily annoyed by the letter Tom Cotton and 46 other Senate colleagues sent to the Ayatollah Khamenei simply explaining that any agreement reached by the president could be revoked by the next president or modified by Congress. Obama attempted to say such interference was uncalled for, and detrimental to the national good. Today, the Center for Security Policy sent a thank you letter to Senator Cotton and the other 46 senators containing the signatures of more than 150 security experts, including a former United States ambassador, multiple high-ranking military officials and other security experts. The letter read in part:

“Given the chimerical nature of the so-called framework agreement—which is, at the moment, being characterized in wildly different ways by the various parties, raising profound uncertainty about the nature and extent of the commitments Iran is making, their actual value in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the timing and extent of sanctions relief, etc.—the need for congressional oversight, advice and consent concerning any accord that flows from that agreement can no longer responsibly be denied.“

“It would be a serious affront to the Constitution and to the American people were an agreement of this potentially enormous strategic consequence not to be submitted for such action by the Congress.  Grievous insult would be added to injury should the United Nations Security Council instead be asked to approve it.”

Liberal Delusions, Sheer Incompetence, or Just A Misguided Search for A Legacy? by The Elephant's Child
April 12, 2015, 6:45 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

la-fg-obama-castro-20150411Americans envision the coming storm with pure  dread, wondering why the Obama administration remains oblivious. Walter Russell Mead over at The American Interest zeroes in on the troubled mindset:

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. … For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat….

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

Things are not all that much different in Panama. Unfamiliar with history, he seems to think that helping Cuba to continue to abuse her people will be an accomplishment for his “legacy.” Raul Castro has already said that Cuba remains proudly communist, and he has no intention of changing the $20 a month allowance for the Cuban people. Obama’s opening up the relationship gives America nothing whatsoever, and expanded tourist revenue will simply further enrich the Castros — the Cuban people aren’t going to get any of it. So much for the Monroe Doctrine!

The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,

Obama’s timing, as usual, is off, as is his understanding of events:

Over the last several years Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran have greatly expanded their operations in Latin America to the detriment of inter-American security and US strategic interests. Today, Hezbollah is using the Western Hemisphere as a staging ground, fundraising center, and operational base to wage asymmetric warfare against the United States. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and other anti-American governments in the region have facilitated this expansion by rolling out the welcome mats for Hezbollah and Iran. US policymakers must increase their attention to this problem, expand their assets in the region, and develop a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat in a sustained and meaningful way.

Hezbollah is closely involved with the Mexican Drug Cartel, teaching them tunneling skills, and transporting Hezbollah operatives into the United States across the Mexican border.

“There is not, nor has there ever been, an Iran deal. The “framework the president announced last week was just a stunt.As yet another negotiations deadline loomed with the president plainly unwilling to walk away despite Iranian intransigence,congress appears poised to end the farce by voting to stiffen sanctions. The “framework” is a feint designed to dissuade Congress and sustain the farce.” That’s Andy McCarthy. He adds:

Iran has built its foreign policy around the goal of “Death to America” for the last 36 years. …With such a rogue state, there is only one negotiation a sensible nation — particularly the world’s most powerful nation — can have. You tell them that until they convincingly disavow their anti-American stance, cease their support for terrorism, release American prisoners, and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, that there is no point in discussing anything else.

“You Can’t Sell The Cow and Still Have the Milk” by The Elephant's Child
April 9, 2015, 6:57 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris

Obama’s sales pitch for his”framework” of a nuclear deal with Iran has not met with universal plaudits and applause. Partially because Iran doesn’t agree in the slightest with what the U.S. delegation claims to have been agreed upon. They seem to have a different idea entirely, which begins with the prompt end to all sanctions and continues with going to work on building their desired weapon without interference. Big words and big ideas slowly turn into farce.

Less than a week following the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran that allows the Islamic Republic to continue operating core aspects of its program, the State Department is looking for a new training course on how to negotiate.

The agency released a solicitation for “Negotiations” on Wednesday, revealing that the State Department is seeking a class for U.S. diplomats on “making and receiving concessions wisely.”

The overall course teaches the essential skills, knowledge, and attitudes for U.S. diplomats to succeed in any of 275 overseas posts performing the full spectrum of political and economic work,” the solicitation said. “This module will focus on the complex art of negotiating across diverse cultures to find common ground for advancing mutual interests.”

One might suggest that their timing was a little bit off, or make reference to “locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.”. It would all be really funny if it weren’t so desperately important.

Marie Harf Strikes Again: “Sort of Big Words and Big Thoughts” of Kissinger and Shultz. by The Elephant's Child
April 9, 2015, 6:27 am
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

Former, and very distinguished. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz wrote a joint op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday.  titled “The Iran Deal and Its Consequences: Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on it head.”

Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. 

I’m sure being a spokesperson for the State Department is a difficult job. They are expected to repeat the talking points issued and to support them, presumably without learning any contradictory facts, and to be able to handle any awkward questions from attending media people. So,in the natural course of things, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf was asked about the op-ed by the “deans of diplomacy.” She said she heard “a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.”

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?”

“In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another.”

I wonder if Hart knew who the two former Secretaries were, and what they accomplished? “Big words and big thoughts?” The attendant reporters were clearly not impressed.

Iran Proceeds Resolutely On It’s Way, Ignoring the Talks. by The Elephant's Child

AP080923010567 Iran on Sunday unveiled their new cruise missile that it claimed would extend the Islamic Republic’s potential range to 2,500 kilometers, placing cities like Budapest, Warsaw and Athens within striking difference. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles are not part of the nuclear talks with Iran, we are told. Tehran has refused to include their growing missile-development program as part of the negotiations. It is not any part of the deal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us last week in his speech to Congress.

The Soumar missile, as it is known in Iran, is a copy of the Soviet Kh-55 which was stolen from the Ukraine in 2001 and apparently reverse engineered in Iran. It flies at low altitude and is thus hard for radar to detect. The payload is reportedly in the 200-kilogram range, not yet capable of delivering a nuclear device. It does, however raise the question of U.S. plans to station missile defense systems in Europe. Russia has long contended that Iranian missiles threaten neither Europe nor the U.S.. This is an interesting development, if it was taken without Russian consent.

Back when he as a mere candidate, Barack Obama said that diplomacy with rogue regimes was an important issue “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them… is ridiculous,’ he declared in 2007. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he told Al-Arabiya. He has been so determined on a deal that he hasn’t let anything stand in the way — not Congress, not our allies, and especially not the facts.

Unfortunately, the State Department does not conduct after-action reports, forcing participants to confront their mistakes, like the Army does. The State Department has no clear metrics for such measurement. Michael Rubin notes that:

Too many American diplomats dismiss the need to consider mistakes. Instead, many are committed to the belief that talking is a cost-free, risk-free strategy. Testifying before the Senate in support of Obama’s outreach to Iran, Nicholas Burns, the second undersecretary of state for foreign affairs under George W. Bush, promised, “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail.”

We project our American understandings onto other countries with different cultures — who see entering into discussions as a weak response, and lifting the sanctions as complete surrender. Ignorance of an adversary’s true intentions can kill. Obama seems to believe that Iranians are reasonable people who really want the same things we do. Obama’s foolish rush into a deal with Iran would be disastrous.

Every U.S. administration has attempted to bring Iran into the family of nations in spite of its rhetoric and in spite of its actions. It’s hard for nations who yearn for peace to understand those that yearn for the apocalypse. In the  year before Obama agreed to talks with Iran, the Iranian economy had shrunk by 5.4 percent. To bring them to the table, Obama has released more than $11 billion to Iran. The only two times Iran has reversed course after swearing to a course of no compromises have been when Iran was close to collapse. Michael Rubin says — Only one thing will deter Iran: “forcing the regime to choose between its nuclear ambition and its survival.” Pretending to delay them for ten years is pathetic.

Does Obama think his deal will deter Iran? Does he believe that ten years will let him off the hook? Or does he simply have no understanding of the consequences of his actions nor consider the possibility that he might indeed be wrong.


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