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.

Meanwhile, in Iran …


… the coronavirus pandemic appears to have spread to all regions of that country. The BBC has this video posted with footage from social media showing a morgue in the city of Qom full of dead bodies to be tested for the coronavirus.

Totalitarian societies such as China and Iran have not done well in their public health responses to the virus. Neither have most countries with socialize medicine, e.g., Italy. Could it be that part of the reason for Bernie’s burnout in the last few primaries is that too many Democrats gat hurt by changes in their health insurance under Obamacare, and that the prospect of having the same sort of system as China has caused them to reconsider giving the leadership of their part to a Socialist?

Hmmmm.

UPDATE—

Coronavirus Notes


I haven’t posted as much as usual this week because I’m dealing with a nasty head cold, and, yes, it’s just a cold. However, i’ve seen a few things related to the coronavirus go by that are worth sharing.

One of the hot spots for the illness is Iran where many members of the ruling class have ti.

It looks as if Israel is among the leaders in development of a vaccine.

And the World Health Organization has declared that we are in a pandemic.

BTW, I was at CPAC a couple of weeks ago. According to the emails I’ve received from the event organizers, the Maryland State Health Department has screen all of the employees of the event venue, and none of them tested positive for corona virus. There were a couple of other events going on at the venue at the same time as CPAC. One was a medical meeting, and during my time in the Lobby Bar, I had an interesting conversation with an ophthalmologist about her preparations for dealing with the disease. Because her work require close patient contact, she plans to use additional layer of protective equipment—and she plans on additional screening of patients before they are seen. Her prime concerns were the availability of extra masks, gloves, etc., and whether the public would act calmly and responsibly in following medical advice (as opposed to press and political sensationalism).

The next few months will be interesting. (Say, is it raaaaacist to point out that old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times..”?)

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.

 

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.

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.