A Phone Call With A Foreign Leader

Reuters reports the transcript of Joe Xiden’s  23 July phone call with Afghan President Ghani contains the following—

Biden: Mr. President, Joe Biden.

Ghani: Of course, Mr. President, such a pleasure to hear your voice.

Biden: You know, I am a moment late. But I mean it sincerely. Hey look, I want to make it clear that I am not a military man any more than you are, but I have been meeting with our Pentagon folks, and our national security people, as you have with yours and ours, and as you know and I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there’s a need, whether it’s true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Wow! It’s a good thing he didn’t ask Ghani to do something such as conducting an investigation. That would have been an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor.

Everything Is Proceeding As I Have Foreseen

I wish I were wrong, but I’m not.

I understand the frustration of the actual warriors feel because of the incompetence of the the generals and admirals who are supposed to be leading them. I turned down a promotion to major and left the Army Reserve rather than continue to serve under Carter’s Pentagon crowd.

I foresee that Carter’s second term was much too optimistic an expectation for the Xiden Administration. Let’s pray that we can still avoid the likes of Buchanan’s second term.

Non-Stranded Non-Hostages

White House press flack Jen Psaki has admitted that it is likely that there will be American citizens still stranded in Afghanistan after 31 August. Indeed, given the current progress in the evacuations, there will probably be thousands of Americans who want out and who can’t get out by 1 September.

There were only 52 American hostages trapped in Tehran in 1979/80.

You know that thing about Carter’s second term being the best case scenario. It was clearly too optimistic.

Afghanistan’s Future

I’m seeing posts around the Interwebz saying the Taliban will drag Afghanistan back to the 15th century. I believe that it’s more likely the country will wind up stuck in one of the uglier corners of the 21st.

Badakhshan Province sits along the ancient Silk Road and shares a border with China. I expect that China will begin an economic invasion within a few weeks or months. So far, the Chinese have modeled their economic imperialism less on the Europeans and more on the Ferengi, but I expect that Afghans’ unwillingness to be dominated by outsiders will cause the Chinese to be sucked into the same black hole that devoured British, Russian, and American resources over the past couple of centuries. (Note: The last successful conqueror of Afghanistan was Genghis Khan.)

Stay tuned.

Nothing to See Here. Move Along.

According to an Agence France-Presse report published by France 24, North Korea and Iran have resumed cooperation long-range missiles development according to the UN. The report, which was submitted to the Security Council this week, also confirms that the Norks continue to violate several UN resolutions related to nuclear weapons development.

President Xiden has said that the U. S. should rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Don’t Let Your Mouth Write a Check …

Legal Insurrection reports that Iran has been making public threats against the life of President Donald Trump. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the airstrike that killed Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, and the Iranian government is plainly stating that they intend to take revenge by killing the President.

On Friday, Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, warned that President Trump and members of his administration will “not be safe on earth” as the regime marked Soleimani’s death.

“Do not presume that someone, as the president of America, who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out. Never,” Raisi said. “Those who had a role in this assassination and crime will not be safe on Earth.”

Tehran could hit President Trump on American soil, Soleimani’s successor Esmail Ghaani suggested. “It’s even possible that there are people inside your home [the U.S.] that will respond to your crime,” he said on Friday.

This strikes me as a sign of desperation on the part of the Iranian government. Their economy is free fall, collapsing not only because of sanctions but also because American energy policy has held the price of oil at levels well below what Iran needs.

I doubt that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat successfully. Their mouths have written a check that their asses can’t cash. However, I’m afraid that they will not learn the proper lesson from that failure—that they should moderate their behavior. Their evil brew of politics and religion won’t permit that. Rather, they will further convinced of the need to acquire nuclear weapons and use them.

I fully expect the Xiden/Harris administration will take the steps necessary to remove restraints from the Iranian weapons program.

2020 has turned 21 and has started drinking.

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf …

… the Iranians are getting restless. During the final years of the Obama Administration, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps repeatedly engaged in harassment of U.S. Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. After the change in policy under the Trump Administration, contact by the Iranians dropped precipitously. Until recently.

The pallets of cash provided by Obama Administration have run out. The oil market is cratering. The IRGC’s top commander has been killed, and the IRGC’s retaliatory strikes fizzled. Iran is among the nations hardest hit by the Wuhan virus. The level of frustration must be reaching the boiling point. So last week, a group of IRGC boats harassed American ships, buzzing them with weapons unsecured.

I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.

—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020

Stay tuned.

Gnats and Elephants

The United States fired one missile. It hit its target, and there was trivial collateral damage.

Iran launched 15 missiles. Four (over 25 %) failed in flight. The remain eleven all missed their targets, causing collateral damage to a third party (Iraq) and wounding Iraqis.

Donald Trump set his red line a the death of an American, and he has not responded with further military action. Iran’s feeble response to our hit on Soleimani didn’t tempt him to ratchet up the fight. Rather, Trump’s restraint demonstrates the huge difference in power between the U.S. and Iran and the difference in our abilities to take a punch.

Elephants have thick skins, but if small insects become bothersome, elephants have the wherewithal to deal with them.

Cultural Sites and War Crimes

John Hinderacker has a post over at PowerLine about war crime hysteria on the Left.

The Democrats hyperventilate endlessly over hypothetical offenses that President Trump hasn’t committed and, I venture to say, won’t commit. Meanwhile, there is no reason to assure the mullahs that anything if off limits if they continue to kill Americans, something about which no prominent Democrat, to my knowledge, is expressing any concern.

There are two important points there. The first is that President Trump hasn’t ordered any further actions yet, and I doubt he will unless the Iranians are foolish enough to invite such an attack.

The second is the warning to the Iranians that we won’t be deterred from attacking one of their military assets if it has been placed at a cultural site. IANAL, but my training in the laws of war that I received as an Army officer was that it a war crime to place a military asset at such a cultural site—or a school, hospital, or place of worship—but that it was legal to attack such a target. If the Iranians have illegally hidden assets where they shouldn’t be, they have now been given fair warning to move them or risk the consequences. (I suspect that Trump is not so subtilely reminding the Iranians of how good our targeting intelligence has been and that we have reasonably good knowledge of where many of their assets are hidden.)

Hinderacker concludes—

Wouldn’t it be great if the Democrats were pro-America, rather than pro-Iran and pro-terrorist? That is a world that we once knew, but is now hard even to imagine. I don’t expect we will see it again in our lifetimes, unless the Democrats are dealt electoral defeats so crushing as to dictate a total realignment of their party.

Just so. Read the whole thing.

 

BREAKING: WaPo Discovers the Government Lies

WaPo has published a long piece on one of the Lessons Learned reports of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (aka SIGAR). The article is based on documents received after a three-year long legal battle over a Freedom of Information Act request that is still ongoing.

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The government initially refused to release the unclassified report, claiming the the persons interviewed were whistleblowers. That was patently false because those interviewed did not come forward voluntarily but were approached by SIGAR. Also, some agencies, including the State Department, the DoD, and DEA, have classified parts of the report after the fact.

Read the whole thing and check out the linked documents.

Meanwhile, over at Instapundit, Mark Tapscott suggest that

Trump will say it proves him right about getting out of Afghanistan, and, more importantly, about why the Washington Establishment cannot be trusted. That this gift comes to Trump from the Post is the icing on the political cake.

Perhaps. Stay tuned.

Brandishing the Big Stick

Teddy Roosevelt once described his approach to foreign affairs as speaking softly while carrying a big stick. Over the past few days, Donald Trump apparently came close to using that stick, but he wound up speaking softly. It seems to me that he made a wise choice.

Iran is being crippled financially by our sanctions. Its proxy fighters in places like Yemen and Syria have been taking beatings from our allies. Iran’s power and influence are not on the rise.

So why would Iran attack shipping and shoot down a U.S. drone? Desperation?

I don’t think so. The Iranians may be testing the limits to see what they can get away with. Or they may be in such a cash bind that they’ll try anything to raise the price of oil. But oil shipments through the Persian Gulf are no longer a direct concern to Trump because his policies have resulted in America becoming a net oil exporter. These days, it’s China, Vietnam, and Japan who are reliant on oil from the Gulf.

A pinprick attack in retaliation for shooting down a reconnaissance drone wouldn’t have caused enough damage to the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards to curb their ambitions, so speaking softly (but firmly) probably was wise.

This time.

One of these days, the Iranians will do something too costly to be disregarded. Then it will be time for the stick.

Tankers Attacked in Gulf of Oman

Two tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman, the body of water just outside the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. One is Norwegian-owned, the other is Japanese-owned, but both are sailing under second country flags. The U. S. Navy says that it received distress calls from the vessels at 6:12 am and 7:00 am local time this morning. The Navy says it is helping to evacuate tankers, and the shipping companies says the crews of both ships are safe.

There have been reports that the Norwegian-owned ship was torpedoed. The Iranian Student’s News Agency has tweeted pictures of one of the ships which show it burning at the water line which is consistent with either a torpedo strike or hitting a floating mine. A missile strike would probably have a higher point of impact.

If torpedoes were used, that would imply a state or state-sponsored attacker. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility, and the Iranians have denied any connection, pointing out that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe currently visiting in Tehran.

The price of oil is up today. The cost of these attacks is yet to be determined.

UPDATE—These tanker attacks occurred a week after a mysterious fire in the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee destroyed four Iranian merchant ships and damaged two others. The Shahid Rajaee fire occurred one day after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway—whose ships were attacked near Fujairah, UAE, on 12 May, 2019—submitted a report to the U. N. Security Council about the attacks on their vessels.

Don’t Know Much About History

That would be the charitable way of categorizing Congresscritter Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) statement that her “Palestinian” ancestors provided a safe haven for Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

First, there were no “Palestinians” during the Holocaust or the immediate aftermath. The arabs living in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate called themselves “Arabs.” No one referred to them as “Palestinians” until after Israel had survived being invaded by multiple Arab armies in 1948.

Second, even if she used the term “Palestinian” proleptically, the arabs almost universally opposed Jewish immigration into the region, and they did so violently for the half-century prior to the founding of the State of Israel. And in 1967, and in 1973, and in …

Of course, it could be that Tlaib really believes the Palestinian propaganda version of Near Eastern history, but I don’t think so. I believe she knows the truth, but it doesn’t fit her narrative. Her response to outrage over her statements has been to double down with a statement repeating the lie that Palestinians welcomed Jewish refugees.

Not even CNN is buying it.

Stuxnet II

The Times of Israel has an article up about recent intelligence operations directed against Iran.

Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday.

The report came hours after Israel said its Mossad intelligence agency had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rouhani’s mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups against Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January by the Mossad of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.

And Reuters reports that the Iranians have sorta/kinda fessed up on the computer virus attack.

Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said on Sunday that Iran had recently neutralized a new version of Stuxnet.

“Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency at a news conference marking Iran’s civil defense day. He did not give further details.

Sounds like some folks at the Mossad have been earning their pay.

Cold War II?

Richard Fernandez has a post over at PJ Media taking a look a what could be the beginnings of a new cold war.

Without fanfare elements of a new cold war are being put into place by the Trump administration, the European Union and China. Although the disconnected components separately make headlines, the underlying pattern is evident despite the carnival-like distractions of the Mueller investigation and the reluctance to declare the old order dead.

The generation that ran the world in 1914 sent their sons to die in what came to be called “The Great War,” and then they mismanaged the peace. In 1939, the generation that fought The Great War sent their sons to World War II. The lessons they had learned didn’t keep us out of another war, but the resulting Cold War was in most ways less brutal than WWII.

The West won the Cold War, but our leaders have mismanaged the Cold Peace. Now, a new generation may be facing Cold War II. If we’re lucky.

Looking at Iran

McClean’s has a post up that looks at the current uprisings in Iran through the eyes of Iranian immigrants in Canada.

As for what the future holds, this is where Sharooz and Mohyeddin part ways.

Mohyeddin is filled with optimism, convinced that the darkness that descended upon Iran in 1979 will soon be lifted, and that the Iranian people will not allow the regime to resort to the barbarism and genocide Bashar Assad has unleashed upon the Syrian people for their impudence in demanding democracy. “The regime would never dare do what Assad did,” she said. “They just wouldn’t dare.”

Sharooz said he wants to believe that, but he just can’t.

“This is not going to have a happy ending. I can’t imagine that. This is a regime that is not going to give up power without a fight. The moment that they feel their power is threatened they will unleash any violence that they can to maintain that hold on power. The ending to this story, whether it’s two years from now or five years from now, it’s going to be bloody.”

Read the whole thing.

For now, I don’t see any reason to doubt Sharooz’s view. Unless the uprisings fizzle soon, I believe it is likely that the mullahs will inflict on their people what they have done in Syria. I hope things do not proceed as I foresee.

I’m So Old …

… I remember SAVAK. While the Shah’s regime was in many respects more open that the Islamic Republic, his secret police forces was among the most effective in the world and greatly hated by the Iranian people. If what is going on in Iran now becomes a successful revolution, I hope the new regime will not see the need for yet another secret police organization to maintain control.

Two Views of Jerusalem

One point of view concerning President Trumps decision to obey the law and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (Congress mandated the move before the turn of the century) is summed up by the headline on a post at Breitbart Unmasked Bunny Billy Boy Brett Unread: Trump Throws Gasoline on Middle East Fire by Recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli Capital. There’s not much original thought in the BU piece by “Staff Writer”—just a bunch of cut-and-paste from the usual suspects such as CNN and the NYT.

A more insightful view is outlined in a piece over at Bloomberg: Trump Teaches Palestinians About the New Middle East. The article begins by noting that the Sunni Arabs are more concerned about Iran than the West Bank. Indeed, there are signs that the Sunnis are ready to consider a three-way alliance with Israel and the U.S. to roll back Iranian expansion.

And so, Israel’s full participation in the Trump-Sunni project comes at a price. Netanyahu has a vision of how to solve the Palestinian issue. It includes a unified Jerusalem legally belonging to Israel, as well as continued West Bank settlement and, if there ever is a deal, a demilitarized Palestinian entity. The alternative — no deal — is okay with him, too.

Seen this way, Trump’s move today is not a Hanukkah present at all.  It is a down payment. How long will it take to build that embassy? Three years? Four? No rush. Time is on Israel’s side.

Read the whole thing.