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.

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.

Who’s Next?


So Little Rocket Man may be giving up his nukes. We’ll see how that works out.

If it does, it will be an interesting precedent for other countries with weak economies that can’t carry the load of paying simultaneously for weapons development and economic development. Iran has a bigger economy than North Korea, but the mullahs have stunted their civil economies growth. Pakistan has lots of nukes and rampant poverty. The collapse of the Soviet Union was driven in large part by that country’s inability to pay for guns and butter. The Russians changed leaders, got a modestly improved economy, and kept their nukes. Will Kim preserve his hold on power by giving up his nukes for economic development? Will anyone else?

Stay tuned.

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.

When Did America Forget That It’s America?


That’s the title of an op-ed over at WaPo by Natan Sharansky. He compares how America stood up to the Soviet Union with its failing to do so with Iran.

But in today’s postmodern world, when asserting the superiority of liberal democracy over other regimes seems like the quaint relic of a colonialist past, even the United States appears to have lost the courage of its convictions.

I’m not sure exactly when America forgot who we are, but I know who did the forgetting. It was my generation. Our parents had grown up during the depression and been on the front lines of World War II. As President Kennedy noted in his inaugural address, they were

tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

When it was their turn to lead, our parents carried on with the struggle against tyranny, and faced down the Evil Empire.

Their children—my generation—were raised in the relative prosperity of the ’50s and ’60s and many of us avoided service in war when it was our turn. To paraphrase JFK, we have been relatively untouched by war, undisciplined through years of apparent peace, unsure of our heritage—and quite willing to permit the undoing of human rights in far-off lands so long as we aren’t discomforted.

We’re leaving one helluva mess for our children and grandchildren, and I suspect that it is our grandchildren who will face a world not unlike the one faced by our parents.

An Interesting Summer Ahead?


Netanyahu_redline“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.

“Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage.

“From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

I’m Not Making This Up, You Know


The PLO has accused Iran of being Zionist. The Elders of Ziyon passes along a report from the Saudi Gazette:

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Saturday harshly criticized Iran for inviting Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran later this month. “Iran joined the Israeli choir which aims to undermine the Palestinian political system and its elected legitimacies,” the PLO Executive Committee said in a press statement, a copy of which was obtained by Saudi Gazette.

Uh, huh. Iran looking out for Israel’s interest. Right.

Cui Bono?


The AP is reporting that the National Security Advisor Tom Donilon has briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu on U. S. plans to to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and that the Israelis are denying that such a briefing has occurred. (H/T, The Lonely Conservative)

Funny how that leaked out during Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, isn’t it? Who benefits from such a leak?

Israel? No. The idea that the U. S. will do the heavy lifting on taking out the Iranian threat gives a talking point to those who don’t want Israel to act in self defense.

Iran? Possibly. Confusion among their enemies is good for them.

Barack Obama? Certainly. It allows him to look tough on Iran while actually doing nothing. This has the odor of a politically inspired leak to benefit the reelection campaign.

Is it November yet?

Proxy Warfare


Tyrants would rather not go to war, especially if they can get someone else to do their dirty work. For example, Hitler and Stalin fought a proxy war in the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War. J. E. Dyer takes a look at the latest proxy war, the “civil war” in Syria. On the surface it looks like the Sunnis (Turkey and the Saudis) against the Shia (Iran), but it’s more complicated. Russia, Israel, and Greece have common interests that favor neither the Sunnis nor the Shia.  And America isn’t looking after our interests.

None of this would be foreordained if the US took an active role in fostering the best future for Syria. It is important for Americans to understand that the more we recuse ourselves from the conflict in Syria, the more its outcome is guaranteed to be determined by a foreign power at the expense of the Syrian people. We have just about reached the stage at which what’s going on in Syria is not a “Syrian civil war,” but a proxy war between regional powers, whose objectives will frustrate, and in some cases even defeat outright, every single one of the US interests in the Syrian crisis.

Civil war; children and old people mowed down like animals; arms and paramilitary troops flooding into the country; ruthless power struggles between corrupt despots on third-party territory – this is your world, when American power isn’t being exercised.

Read the whole thing.

Speaking Softly—Not


Our ambassador to Israel is quoted as saying that an attack on Iran’s nuke program is not only possible but “ready” if necessary.

J. E. Dyer analyzes the significance of the ambassador’s remarks.

A warning (or, in this case, an assurance) that the US is ready to attack Iran was almost certainly given on orders from the White House, since it’s not something a diplomat would naturally be moved to say, or say without permission.  It’s a combination of operational TMI and inflammatory rhetoric: a sort of anti-diplomacy.

Second, this is a threat that can’t be convincingly conveyed in a fey, indirect manner.  If we mean this threat and we want it to affect Iran’s decisions, then say it to Iran.  (I would advise putting it in different terms.)  Putting the threat out there in the guise of an assurance to Israel just looks manipulative.

And the comment was made during the run up to the NATO summit. I’ll bet most (or all) of the allies were annoyed by the remarks. I suspect that the Israelis were not reassured by the ambassador’s statement. And, of course, the mullahs will be undeterred.

Chag Semeach Purim


PJ Media has a post up wondering whether or not Israel has taken a final decision on a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Here’s something I noticed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave President Obama a gift during his visit yesterday. It was a copy of the Book of Esther, the biblical story of how the Jews defended themselves from a genocidal attack from a group of Persians. That victory is celebrated in the holiday of Purim which begins this year tomorrow evening at sunset.

Hmmmm.

UPDATE–Allahpundit posts more chatter on this topic.

Close Enough For Government Work


J. E. Dyer has an essay on Iran’s strategic ambiguity relating to it’s nuclear program and our intelligence community’s difficulty understanding what’s going on. She compares the intelligence analysts’ approach to Zeno’s paradox.

I’ve compared this approach in the past to Zeno of Elea’s famous paradox. Zeno proposed, as a basis for a reasoning exercise, that because the distance between an arrow and its target can theoretically be divided in half an infinite number of times, the arrow can never actually reach the target. US intelligence seems determined to operate on this basis, biasing its estimates with an emphasis on the remaining distance to the target.

There’s a joke among us engineers about the the difference between the approach taken to the real world by engineers as compared to mathematicians. If you tell an engineer and a mathematician that with each step they will close half the distance to a beautiful woman, the mathematician will despair of ever reaching her, but the engineer will be delighted to know that he will soon be close enough for all practical purposes.

The Iranians seem to be taking an engineering approach to weapon development.

The Enemy of My Enemy


There’s been another hit on an Iranian nuclear scientist. Delaying tactics?

Of course, the U. S. had nothing to do with it.

UPDATE—Jazz Shaw comments:

It almost seems like every third person in Iran is a nuclear scientist these days. I mean, you almost literally can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. (And nine times out of ten, the ex-feline will probably have a grenade in it.)