• Iraq: Worth Dying For

    December 12, 2012 // 11 Comments »

    Hey, anybody remember we had a war in Iraq that turned out kinda poorly? I know everyone is all caught up in Christmas shopping and planning intervention in Syria, but once in awhile it’s also cool to look back. In this case, about a month ago.

    Thumbnail history: U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003 to free it from the evil dictator. Iraq was to be a democratic ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. Fast forward to November 2012, and Iraq has freed Musa Ali Daqduq, the senior Hezbollah commander who was tasked by Iran’s Qods Force in Iraq to mold Shia terror groups into a Hezbollah-like entity. Daqduq was directly involved in the murder of five American soldiers in 2007. The U.S. government moved Daqduq to Iraqi custody in December 2011.

    Daqduq was freed by Iraqi authorities and transferred to Lebanon where there is no chance whatsoever that he will rejoin Qods or have anything to do with Hezbollah.

    The release is seen as a barometer of U.S. versus Iranian influence in Iraq. In June, the U.S. requested that Iraq extradite Daqduq so he could be tried in an American federal court. In August, an Iraqi court blocked his extradition to the U.S. Iraqi officials had previously assured the U.S. they would prosecute Daqduq. Instead, under pressure from Iran, Daqdug was sprung.

    So, in summation: U.S. invasion fails to achieve our national goals at the cost of some 4900 American lives, ally Iraq releases a known killer under Iranian pressure and the U.S. is left with the grisly option of droning his ass to death because that’s all we really can do anymore, lash out like some giant of a kid frustrated at his own failings.

    It’s a Christmas story!

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    Posted in Democracy, Iran, Iraq

    First(-ish) Clear Link Between Anti-US Iraq Violence and Iran

    October 29, 2011 // Comments Off on First(-ish) Clear Link Between Anti-US Iraq Violence and Iran

    (This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post)

    The US released its first hard public evidence of a link between anti-US violence in Iraq and Iran, US-made radio frequency (RF) transmitters being bought semi-legally by a Singaporean firm, transferred illegally to an Iranian firm and then ending up attached to roadside bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, in Iraq.

    The Invisible War

    Triggering an IED was always its most vulnerable function, and the one where US technology had the greatest effect in disrupting the threat. Look at current photos of US military vehicles in Iraq– they are festooned with antennas and other electronic devices, many of which are aimed specifically at the electronic triggers of roadside bombs. The crudest way to trigger a bomb is via a control wire. A bad guy literally sat nearby and manually set off the bomb as a US convoy rumbled past. Most such triggermen were either obliterated by their own explosives or killed quickly by the convoy’s survivors. Early stand-off triggers used components from household appliances, garage door openers, radio controlled toys and cell phones. The US grew very good at counter-acting these crude signals, rendering many IEDs dead weight, unable to be blown up at the right times. The key to insurgent “success” was increasingly sophisticated electronic triggering devices, staying a step ahead of US counter-technology. One such tool was apparently the US-made RF transmitters smuggled through Singapore, via Iran, into Iraq. The whole contest was described by Wired.com as “Iraq’s Invisible War.”

    Technical specifications on the smuggled transmitters are not public, but one can guess they might have frequency skipping technology, useful in a home network to avoid interference with cell phones and other portable devices. Such tech would make the transmitters that much harder to interrupt, plus their long range (miles) is handy for the bad guys in hiding.

    US-Iran Proxy War Goes Public, Sort Of

    That Iraq is a battleground for the proxy war between the US and Iran has been an open secret for several years. The US, for internal political reasons, has flirted with publically making such a statement. In 2009-2010, my turn in Iraq, the Iranian connections were sort of kept low key, not secret, but not spoken of openly by senior officials even though Iranian presence was well-known.

    The US started to go public this summer, with US General Martin Dempsey leading the charge, stating “Iran hoped to re-create a Beirut-like moment in Iraq, referring to the 1984 pullout from Lebanon’s capital in the wake of attacks including a major suicide bombing targeting US Marines. Iran’s activities in southern Iraq are intended to produce some kind of Beirut-like moment … and then in so doing to send a message that they have expelled us from Iraq.”

    Soon after that statement, Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the senior US military spokesman in Iraq, said Iranian-backed Shiite militias were working to keep the Baghdad government weak and isolated, and that decisions on the number and types of attacks by the militias are made inside Iran, including through ties with the powerful Quds force.

    Stories appeared in the press about the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani. A note received in 2008 was reprinted in 2011 which said “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.”

    A More Intelligent Escalation

    But this was all just noise, speculation, and leak fodder until today’s story linking the violence in Iraq directly to Iran, at least as far as public disclosures are concerned.

    Indeed, to make sure the point was clear enough, a Justice Department spokesman said “This is the first prosecution in which the government has alleged that it has the evidence to trace — by serial number — specific components exported from the United States to Iran, and later to IEDs in Iraq.” Justice went on to say that forces in Iraq had found at least 16 of the transmitters in unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) between May 2008 and July 2010.

    Today’s disclosure represents a more intelligent escalation by the US Government in painting a picture for the always receptive American people, especially after the bumbling attempts to whip up a frenzy over some loser has-been Iranian-American and his B-movie fantasy of whacking the Saudi Ambassador.

    So is the US going to war with Iran next week? No, no, none of this is aimed that high. What we are seeing is a more clever tamping up of public rhetoric, a base that if the US chooses to do so, will serve as the next step in an ongoing war of mostly, for now, words.

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    Posted in Democracy, Iran, Iraq

    What Will Iran Do Next?

    October 19, 2011 // Comments Off on What Will Iran Do Next?

    Wired’ s “Danger Room” had a contest to name Iran’s next plot against America, such as “Build a giant horse, fill it with Quds operatives and leave it on the Tijuana side of the border.”

    Also: “Threaten UN Security Council to issue resolution requiring all members to wear Members Only Jackets.”

    The results are a hoot. See the whole list on Wired, or send in your own ideas.

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    Posted in Democracy, Iran, Iraq

    I Doubt Iran Tried to Blow Up Washington DC

    October 13, 2011 // Comments Off on I Doubt Iran Tried to Blow Up Washington DC

    Are we doing this again? Exaggerating a minor threat to justify a major war-like response by the US?

    I doubt the Iranians planned to blow up stuff in Washington DC.

    Now, if you generously include every person employed by or remotely connected to the power structure in Iran, including some rogue nutter, then maybe this a “government plot.”

    But if you try to sell this as a state-sponsored action by the Iranian Government, as Eric Holder conveniently is trying to do coincidentally at the same time he is under fast and furious fire, maybe not.

    If Iran wishes to (continue) attacking the US and Israel, they need only (continue) to do so through proxy forces in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

    Iran striking so transparently in Washington DC *DEMANDS* a war-like response from the US and Israel. The Iranians have not shown a desire to pick that kind of fight.

    Wiring money from Tehran, through New York to Mexico? Making direct voice calls to Iran? This is not cloak and dagger tradecraft. The Iranians might as well have bought commercial time during the MLB playoffs.

    And who to fight the fight? Trained Qods commandos? Experienced operatives from the Lebanese battlefields? Nah, how about some used car salesman. Even if Iran was persuaded this American could operate quietly, they would have used him to assist serious bad guys, not do the job.

    And for the cartels, $1.5 million bucks is what, a pickup truck full of dope they run across the border six times a day? Why risk the full fury of the US military for pocket change?

    Sure, governments can do dumb things. But this just does not add up. Too much theatre, not enough sense.

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    Posted in Democracy, Iran, Iraq

    Calling Bullshit: Iranian Threat in Iraq Nothing New

    August 2, 2011 // Comments Off on Calling Bullshit: Iranian Threat in Iraq Nothing New

    Ahydrosis is the inability to sweat properly. Among its many afflictions, this is not a disease that the US government suffers from. There is plenty of sweating going on in Washington over the lack of action on getting Iraq to commit to a forever US troop presence.

    The latest actor to bark about the need for troops to remain forever in Iraq is Ray Odierno, the four-star nominated to be the next Army chief, when he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Odierno served three tours in Iraq, the last as the top overall boss from 2008-10.

    Odierno is also the latest actor to pick up the current talking point, that US troops are needed to defend Iraq from Iranian efforts. The General, like his SecDef and many others, cites the Iranian threat as a new reason for the US to remain in Iraq.

    Odierno’s weeping was followed up by Obama’s pick to become the top US military officer, who warned Iran not to underestimate US resolve in responding to attacks on US forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militia. General Martin Dempsey’s message to Iran would be “It would be a gross miscalculation to believe that we will simply allow that to occur without taking serious consideration or reacting to it.”

    While the Iranian threat is being dragged out as something new, another breaking crisis in the war of terror (schedule to run now forever), it is nothing new at all.

    Iran began moving resources into Iraq as early as 2003, after its overtures to the US to resestablish diplomatic relations were rebuffed by the then-engorged Busy Administration. The push back, quickly followed by Tehran’s sense that the US was getting handed its ass in Iraq, led to Iran’s paramilitary and intelligence buildup in Iraq. Tehran deployed to Iraq a large number of the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force — a highly professional force specializing in assassinations and bombings — as well as officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security and representatives of Lebanese Hezbollah. Did I make that up? No, it was reported by the Washington Post in 2006. Odeirno and everyone else involved knows this but presents Iran as a new cause nonetheless.

    Want more? In 2008, the Council on Foreign Relations pretty much laid out the whole Iranian strategy in Iraq, noting among other things that Iraq is filled with figures, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who spent time during Saddam Hussein’s tenure exiled in Iran.

    Even the mighty team of former Ambassador Crocker and former General Petraeus called out the Iranians as waging a proxy war, back in 2008.

    Closer to home, this blog has regularly reported on the US-Iran proxy war being fought in Iraq.

    So we call bullshit on Odierno and everyone else trying to twist Iran’s eight years of activity in Iraq into something new that creates a reason to leave US troops forever. The Iraqis are certainly not sweating over it. Face it guys, the strategic result of the US invasion of Iraq is the emergence of Iran as an even more powerful and secure regional power.

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    Posted in Democracy, Iran, Iraq