Iran’s Intentions Are Growing Even “Fishier”

The Iran debacle has gotten even “fishier” overnight. The plot has thickened as talking heads and “Iranian experts” try to explain Iran’s role in the apparent attack on a commercial airplane. It was taking off from Tehran’s airport at the same time that Iran was launching missiles at military bases in Iraq.

Did Iran actually shoot down a commercial airplane? For what reason? There were no Americans on board the flight. Will the ayatollahs fess up and take responsibility, or will the regime somehow attribute the tragedy to the US?

It’s conceivable that Iranians manning a mobile rocket launcher thought that the commercial plane was an American fighter jet. The plane took off around the time that Iran was launching missiles at US locations. But it was only one aircraft, not a barrage of attack jets zeroing in on Iran’s capital city.

Did Iran decide to delay or minimize retaliation against the US in light of a terrible mistake by members of a missile team on the ground? Every day more questions arise about the actions of Iran’s leadership.

There are several things that are disconcerting about recent events. Why were Iran’s missiles so inaccurate and ineffective? Was it because the Iranians did not want to kick-start a major conflict by killing more Americans? In fact, the Iranians supposedly warned the US about incoming missiles.

And why were missiles launched from Iran, several hundred miles away rather than by friendly Iran militia missile batteries close to US troops?

It should be noted that Iran was probably responsible for a pinpoint missile attack against a major Saudi oil facility. Why would that attack be so successful and the one against the US so ineffective?

Many analysts are attributing much of this to an Iranian government that does not want to engage the US at this time. Rather they would prefer to chip away at US interests in the region, the end game being no major response from the US and its departure from the region.

Trump quashed this notion by publicly stating that the US is not disengaging because the US is intent on preventing Iran from building a nuke, and will fight Iran’s continuing efforts to destabilize non-Shiite regimes.

The speculation about Iran’s intentions is creating great angst for many Iran watchers. Let’s hope that the real reason for Iran’ meek response to the assassination of Soleimani was domestic turmoil resulting from economic sanctions and not an impending all-out military response by Iran that includes a weapon of mass destruction, which has already been secretly built by the rogue regime.

Iran Inches Towards Self Destruction

[This post was written before Iraq retaliated against US missile attacks last night.]

The response in Iran to the assassination, or “targeted killing,” of an Iranian general is predictably overstated. The ayatollahs are saying they will avenge the US missile attack, and Iranians are marching in the streets mourning their dear departed murderer and terrorist, Soleimani.

The US and President Trump should not be intimidated by the ayatollahs, the American press or the liberal left, for that matter. Any act of aggression against the US or any citizens must be responded to with an appropriate amount of firepower. Iran should pay dearly if it decides to ramp up this tit for tat exchange with the US.

Iranian people have been incited by their leaders. They are trying to convince their citizens that the US has bad intentions in the Middle East. The people are suffering from punishing sanctions by the US, so it’s not surprising to see them expressing their outrage against America.

The US has been on a collision course with Iran since the US Embassy was overrun during the Carter administration. More conflict is inevitable, the severity of which is dependent upon the reaction of the Iran government in the coming days.

Yet, Iran will be wise to tread carefully, and not push the US into a full-scale military response. Iran would surely suffer devastating casualties and destruction that will bring down its current regime. All the current static from Iran is bluster that cannot be supported with military might.

President Trump should not back down. A sign of weakness will only increase Iranian resolve. The decision to take cultural targets off the table was a no-brainer. But all military targets are fair game if Iran confronts our troops in the region.

It’s about time that Iran is taken down a few notches by the US. It is a nasty and unreasonable theocracy. The leaders hate every group that does not bow to Allah and some that do, including Sunni Arabs. The decision to give such a country a road map to nuclear armaments was one of the worst in history. How can Iran be trusted with a weapon of mass destruction? What was Obama thinking?

Moreover, the military power of Iran is inconsequential when compared to the US, just like the “elite” forces of Saddam Hussein. Iran’s military will be obliterated in hours in an all out struggle.

The time has come, before Iran develops a nuke, to draw a line in the sand. Iran may be in a position to bully weak regimes in the region, but it is no match for the US military.

Trump Should Be More Aggressive With Iran

Iran’s violent and aggressive posture towards the US has resulted in an exchange of relatively minor attacks during the past week, and a strong reaction from many in the region. Increased military action on both sides was, and is, inevitable, based upon the rhetoric emanating from both parties, and to a great extent, Iranian attempts to create instability in the Middle East.

A US strike with drones was conducted against an Iranian-backed militia group in Iraq. President Trump ordered it in response to the murder of an American contractor in the country. The drone killed 24 insurgents along with Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, an Iranian terrorist who has targeted Americans in the region.

Trump said the strike was ordered “to stop a war and to prevent future attacks on Americans.” He also said “Suliemani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”

This all raises the question of whether a US president has the authority to hunt down killers like Suleimani. The US did the same and captured Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. They were either brought to justice and executed or killed on the spot.

There was no outrage from the opposing political party in the US or from the press at the time. Why are Trump’s motivations and actions always under such negative scrutiny? Is it possible that Democrats and their liberal press allies are siding with the maniacal actions and ideology of Iran?

Although it is difficult to believe, Trump also indicated that he’s not trying to encourage regime change in Iran. Rather, he call for Iran’s “aggression in the region to end immediately.” In fact Trump should be doing everything in his power to stymie the efforts of Iran to build a nuclear bomb and to destabilize the Middle East. He cannot allow Iran Shiites to dominate the region and persecute Sunnis and other religious groups.

There is little doubt that the trajectory of the US/Iran relationship is moving towards greater conflict. Iran will continue to conduct violent operations in Iraq (which for some reason believes having Iranian militias in the country is better than having American peacekeepers), and elsewhere in the region that soon should provoke even greater and more violent responses from the US.

The real problem for Iran is the abrogation of Obama’s nuclear treaty and economic sanctions. The former makes Iran vulnerable to an all-out assault by the US when and if Trump decides that Iran is close to building a deliverable nuclear strike, thereby threatening other non-Shiite countries including Israel.

The latter, economic sanctions, are decimating Iran, especially restrictions relating to oil production and sales. In fact regime change will most likely be greatly influenced by the total economic failure of Iran.

In the meantime Iran will utilize social media and staged protests against America. The Iranians have employed high tech criminals to foment anti-American sentiment on the Internet. And it will probably attempt to employ cyber warfare tactics to disrupt our elections an/or private industry in the US.

During this time of strife, nuclear threats, cyber attacks and social media activity, it is unwise to do anything less than support Trump as he deals with our greatest enemy, Iran. In the past the press has moderated its criticism, as did Congress. They should allow Trump and his intelligence advisors to address the Iranian threat. To this point Trump has responded with restraint, which will need to change as Iran strives to create more hostility in various hot spots throughout the Middle East.

 

Is The Obama Administration Being Truthful About The Porgress Of The ISIS Conflict?

By Sal Bommarito

Recent developments in Ramadi, Palmyra, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan lead me to believe that the U.S. government is not being totally honest or realistic with the American public. After each new incident, the administration says the  ISIS threat is not that serious, or that setbacks are to be expected in a “long-term” conflict. Frankly, many Americans and the press are becoming increasingly skeptical about the rhetoric from Washington. Do our leaders have a moral obligation to be truthful in such situations, or do they have the latitude to spoon-feed us with information in an effort to minimize political upheaval at home?

What was the original battle plan of the U.S. relating to ISIS? The Obama administration has steadfastly said it would not commit ground troops to fight the insurgents. The U.S. would exclusively provide air support to the Iraqi government and train Syrian moderates that opposed both Syrian leadership and ISIS.

Unfortunately, our leader, his generals and his aides miscalculated the determination, resourcefulness and popularity of the enemy. And so, air strikes have not been effective as most bombing missions return with unused armaments (reaffirmed yesterday in a comment by Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). The enemy has imbedded itself among innocent civilians so the risk of collateral damage from bombs is great. Did the administration respond to this development? No.

The president said he wanted the Iraqis to fight their own war. This comment was made before ISIS routed Iraqi soldiers at the outset of the war. After ten plus years of providing arms and training, the soldiers ran from the enemy. Since then, government forces have had limited successes, but only with the aid of Shiite militia groups, with whom the U.S. refuses to fight with because of their strong affiliations with Iran.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that Shiite fighters, be they Iraqi or Iranian, are fighting ISIS predominantly in Sunni territory. The president believes that the Iraqi government could engage Sunni tribes to help fight ISIS. Promised weapons to Sunni tribesmen have not been forthcoming and Shiite soldiers have acted aggressively towards Sunni citizens.

A late breaking comment by Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, was “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.” This occurred in spite of the fact that Iraqi forces outnumbered ISIS fighters.

In Syria, the situation is equally unstable. The U.S., with help from Arab nations, was supposed to train and arm moderate Syrians to fight ISIS. The problem is that it is difficult to determine the ultimate goal of this group. Do they want to fight the insurgents (in conjunction with the Syrian army), or do they want to oust the Syrian regime? Moreover, will the group use armaments provided to them by the U.S. and its allies against the U.S. at a later date?

Is the ISIS conflict moving along satisfactorily? You decide, but do so understanding that the Obama administration may be stretching the truth.

Jeb Bush’s Commets About His Brother’s Decision To Invade Iraq

By Sal Bommarito

Jeb Bush created campaign drama with comments he made about his brother’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. This is part of an effort by his detractors to use Jeb’s family against him. For sure, Jeb is loyal to George Bush and is concerned about his brother’s legacy. Nevertheless, hypothetical questions in every election about previous events are like quicksand that can mire a candidate. Jeb needs to tread carefully.

One such question posed to Jeb was: Would Jeb make the same decisions about Iraq as George knowing what he knows now? The query is an obvious booby trap. The public will likely judge any comment supportive of George’s Iraq policy as unfavorable. The decision to invade led the U.S. into an extended conflict in Iraq that is still in progress, and may be a reason for the proliferation of terrorism in the region.

Most importantly, Jeb does not have all the facts about the decision-making process in 2003; he was not affiliated with the George W. Bush administration.

Given that the public is almost universally negative towards the second Iraq war, Jeb should have dodged the hypothetical game played by his critics and the liberal press. His answer should have been the war was a mistake considering that weapons of mass destruction were not discovered. They were the principal justification of the war and could not ultimately be verified. In a sense, he would not be indicting his brother, but rather those who assured George that WMDs were in play, and Saddam would likely use them against his enemies.

I’m sure Jeb really feels this way. But, putting himself in George’s shoes and considering his affection for his brother, he has attempted to justify the “go to war” decision. Since it was based upon a misreading of Saddam’s WMD capabilities and inclination to use such weapons, the decision is indefensible.

For a moment, let’s consider George’s dilemma. It was not crazy at the time for George to think that Saddam had WMDs based upon the intelligence offered to him. This being the case, it made perfect sense to eliminate Saddam and take the threat of WMDs off the table in the Middle East. Use of such weapons could have easily mushroomed into a much broader conflict and possibly World War III. If a nuke were to be used against Israel, it certainly would have retaliated and obliterated Iraq. Moreover, Saddam possessed WMDs in the past and used them against Iran in an earlier war. The man appeared ready, willing and able to employ WMDs and gave his enemies every assurance that he would do so. Given this, some think it would have been irresponsible to not take out Saddam.

Maybe the voters and all the talking heads should focus on more pressing issues that are plaguing the region such as ISIS, Russian aggression in Crimea, Israel’s plight, Iran’s nuclear program and the proliferation of terrorist organizations in America and across the globe. Rehashing the past is not informative or productive because everyone knows, in hindsight, that America and the world would have been better off if the Iraq invasion did not take place.

The U.S. Gets No Thanks Or Respect From Iraq

By Sal Bommarito

No good deed goes unpunished. Oscar Wilde. The U.S. agreed to assist the Iraqi government with airstrikes in the last stages of the battle for Tikrit. Yet, a New York Times article titled “Retaking Tikrit, Iraqis Give Little Credit to U.S.” was published today.

The following are some of the disconcerting quotes from the piece.

  • “ . . . Americans deserve little or no credit.”
  • “ . . . Shiite militiamen involved in the fight say the international coalition’s air campaign actually impeded their victory . . .”
  • “ Some [Iraqis] even accuse[d] the United States of fighting on the side of the Islamic State . . .”
  • One Iraqi fighter said “ . . .[I] saw nothing to thank the Americans for . . .”
  • “This is a victory of Hadi al-Ameri and God, . . .” Mr. Ameri is a pro-Iranian leader of a large militia group.
  • “All they did was bomb the wrong side and kill federal policemen the other day.”
  • “The Americans supported Daesh, not us . . .” Daesh is a nickname for ISIS.
  • “Yes, the international coalition helped but not really in a good way . . .”

On another note, the article indicates that humanitarian rights groups believe that ISIS massacred 1,700 unarmed cadets last June. Similarly, the Iraqis are taking no prisoners. “To be honest, everywhere we captured [ISIS fighters] we killed them because they were the enemy.” Later the person who gave this account changed his story and added “. . . ISIS fighters who were about to be captured were assumed to be suicide bombers so they were killed as a precaution.”

A battalion commander of a militia unit said “. . . this week [my men] captured three Afghan men, an Afghan woman and an Algerian man, all Islamic State fighters . . . After we were done with them, we killed them.” The commander spoke anonymously to avoid being charged with war crimes.

The final slap in the face came from the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, the man who asked the U.S. to send more bombers to Tikrit, who credited “the joint efforts of the army and police forces alongside the popular mobilization fighters and the tribal fighters and the people of Tikrit with air coverage of the Iraqi air force and the international coalition.” The prime minister finally got around to the U.S. attacks. By the way, the Iraqis have about “a dozen attack jets, but less than half are known to be in service, and none are equipped for precision bombing.”

What the hell is the U.S. doing in Iraq? Iraq shows no appreciation. The U.S. is playing a secondary role. And, the Iraqis are going to slaughter ISIS fighters just like ISIS has slaughtered non-believers.

The ISIS conflict is not a war. It is a street fight, in which neither side engages the enemy with any honor. And there are no rules. It is going to drag on indefinitely, ISIS into civil war. The U.S. should disengage or go all-in and kill the insurgents. Leading from the rear is a horrible and unproductive strategy.

It’s Iran Versus Saudi Arabia Versus ISIS Versus The U.S.

By Sal Bommarito

Sectarian violence and threats resulting from the ISIS conflict and other events in the Middle East are starting to occur on a daily basis. Led by Saudi Arabia, Sunnis are responding to a number of Iranian provocations in the region. Most experts believe this is the beginning of a long drawn-out confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. A New York Times article details these matters.

Stirring Sunni outrage towards Iran are the following significant actions:

  • Iran’s backing of a rebel faction in Yemen. The Saudis are leading airstrikes against the insurgents.
  • Iran’s support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis are aiding jihadists in Syria that are fighting government forces.
  • Iran’s support of Iraqi forces against ISIS. The Saudis have warned Washington “not to allow the Iranian-backed militia to capture too much of Iraq [in the fight with ISIS].
  • The U.S./Iran pending nuclear deal. Saudis have indicated that they want the same rights as Iran to either develop or buy nuclear weapons. The aforementioned deal could lead to significant nuclear proliferation in the area.
  • Iran’s efforts to control the Middle East. The Saudis are backing a “combined Arab military force to combat Iranian influence around the region.”

The ISIS conflict has reached a critical point. The question is, can Iraq successfully win back territory absconded by the insurgents? For a moment in time, Iraqi government troops backed by Iran seemed to be making progress against a much smaller group of ISIS fighters embedded in Tikrit. This battle is a precursor to a much more important assault that is planned for later in the year on Mosul, the Islamic State’s capital.

The Tikrit operation has stalled, and Iraq has asked the U.S. to begin bombing in the area. President Obama agreed to do so only if Iran and Shiite militia groups loyal to Iran disengage. The competition between the U.S. and Iran is unproductive, as both want to destroy ISIS. Unfortunately, both nations hope to influence Iraq prospectively.

Further complicating the situation in Iraq is that most of the ISIS fighting is taking place in Sunni populated areas, and government forces consist mostly of Shiites. This was alluded to earlier in this post. Sunnis inside and outside of Iraq are concerned that the status of Iraqi Sunnis will be diminished even further in post-ISIS Iraq. Also, concern for collateral damage may not be adequate. The Saudis and other Sunni nations are likely to come to the aid of Iraqi Sunnis, if controlling Shiites marginalize the group. This, of course, will ultimately lead to civil war.

Most disturbing is the role of the U.S. By taking a subordinate or apathetic position on the issues herein, the Obama administration is losing credibility with all interested parties. The Iraqis resent the benign response of America to its problems, and other Arab nations cannot determine whom the U.S. is backing in the long-term, especially relating to the Iran nuclear deal.

The Middle East After ISIS Is Defeated

By Sal Bommarito

The Middle East’s political landscape is becoming a bit clearer every day. Unfortunately, the future is bleak for the region.

The backseat role of the U.S relating to current affairs leaves the destiny of the Middle East in the hands of current Arab leaders. This assumes a political status quo on the heels of the Arab Spring, the ultimate dissipation of ISIS and continuing insurgency by both Shiite and Sunni factions.

The apparent victory of Bibi Netanyahu foretells an uncomfortable stagnation of peace plan efforts dealing with the plight the Palestinians. Netanyahu said there would be no two-state deal for Palestine. This promise effectively guarantees the flow of venom between Arabs and the State of Israel for the foreseeable future.

The most important issue is what might transpire in the final days of ISIS. Frankly, the unorganized and murderous group of rebels deserves credit for surviving as long as it has. The tepid response of the U.S. and countries in the region enabled ISIS to thrive. But, the insurgents do not have the firepower to expand beyond Sunni neighborhoods in Iraq and Syria.

Stepping across borders into Turkey, Iran or Jordan will be a fruitless exercise. ISIS will be fortunate to retain the land it has already absconded. Nevertheless, it will not be a cakewalk to unearth ISIS in places that it has embedded itself. Current offensives by Iraq in places like Tikrit prove that a coordinated ground force initiative can be effective against the insurgents.

However, the final pushes into cities with large civilian populations will be bloody, for ISIS in any case, but also for innocent bystanders. The question is whether Iraq with encouragement from Iran will destroy cities held by ISIS with rockets that Iran has already provided to Iraq. Leveling cities populated by Sunnis will not endear Iraq to Sunni Arabs and could cause a great sectarian backlash.

There are several givens from my perspective. ISIS will likely be defeated in Iraq and Syria. But, its influence over disenfranchised rebel groups around the world could be problematic. Imported and exported terrorism is likely to increase.

Iran is the new gorilla in the region. If it is able to develop a nuclear weapon, the entire political landscape of the area will change dramatically. Even without a nuke, Iran is proving that it can and will be helpful to Shiite regimes, such as Iraq. The cost of its aid will be great influence over those countries prospectively.

Sectarian violence will envelope the region post-ISIS. Iran will accelerate its efforts to destabilize Sunni governments, and Saudi Arabia will respond in kind to thwart Shiite nations. Murderous actions, suicide bombing and political gamesmanship will be prevalent.

Several other powder kegs could also create unrest and more violence. They include the efforts of Turkey to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state. Another is the fate of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Most Arab nations want him dethroned. The downward spiral of the price of oil could create economic and political stress among Arab oil producing nations that might threaten existing regimes, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The outlook for the Middle East is great turmoil, destabilization and discontentment.

Future Sectarian Violence Is Dependent Upon Iraq’s Use Of Force In Tikrit

By Sal Bommarito

The New York Times reported that the impending assault on Tikrit in a Sunni-dominated area of Iraq could be coming to a dramatic conclusion in the next few days. During this encounter, Iran has become a powerful benefactor of Iraq providing soldiers, intelligence and, most recently, rockets that may be deployed in the battle with ISIS.

The current standoff at Tikrit is a saga that will likely be repeated time and again as the 30,000 man Iraqi army continues to recapture land absconded by ISIS. Important issues are that the force consists almost exclusively of Shiites that are attacking ISIS in areas dominated by Sunnis, and the use of rockets to liberate Tikrit could result in many civilian casualties and massive property damage.

These controversies relate to the ongoing debate about what methods Iraq will employ to root out ISIS. The cost of this process could be very high depending upon the amount of force Iraq (and Iran) utilizes, and the determination of ISIS as they fortify their positions among innocent bystanders.

Ground forces are finally in play and resulting in some success; the U.S is providing none. These fighters will need to enter the city and engage the enemy door-to-door. Alternatively, the Shiite government fighting force may opt to use rockets and heavy artillery, which will kill ISIS insurgents and decrease its own casualties. But, this tactic will result in the destruction of Tikrit and the deaths of many Sunnis living in it.

President Obama does not want to engage ISIS with U.S. ground forces, nor does he wish to conduct bombing sorties that result in collateral damage. These decisions have enabled ISIS to survive to this point. The Iraqis and Iranians could change the state of play, but it may be at a huge cost.

Sectarian violence will increase if innocent Sunnis are slaughtered. A backlash is probable in Iraq and from neighboring Sunni-Arab nations. Collateral damage could be interpreted as a form of genocide to increase Shiite control in Iraq in the post-ISIS era. Moreover, the influence of Iran in Iraqi affairs will grow exponentially. It will be the ultimate cost of Iran’s aid in the fight with ISIS, a role that most people believed the U.S. would play.

This dilemma is symptomatic of the complexity of the ISIS imbroglio. The U.S. wants to defeat ISIS but is unwilling to deliver the firepower necessary to accomplish this end. Iran also wants to kill off ISIS and has joined Iraq on the ground while providing rocket armaments.

The response to the Iraq/Iran battle tactics could have a lasting impact on the sectarian rift in Iraq. It appears that the U.S. will be sitting on the sidelines as this all plays out.

The Decline Of American Influence In The Middle East

By Sal Bommarito

The president and Congress have devalued the war with ISIS as neither has any motivation to produce a resolution from Congress to continue the fight. This story was reported in the New York Times.

Many Americans believe our leaders and lawmakers are not meeting their constitutional responsibilities regarding the war and that a unified response by both parties to it is critical. How can 535 of our government representatives ignore what is happening in the Middle East? How can these “leaders” turn their backs while ISIS is murdering innocents and inciting violence around the world? Why would the U.S. allow Iran to usurp the leadership of the effort to exterminate the insurgents?

The party lines are that Republicans won’t agree to a watered down resolution that limits the power of the president to take the fight to the rebels. This would include any restrictions on the employment of ground forces. Democrats would only consider a limited resolution fearing another long-term military sojourn in the region.

The president doesn’t give a damn what Congress does or doesn’t do; he says that he has the authorization to continue his battle plan based upon resolutions from Congress dating back over a decade.

One wonders whether all these individuals would be so aloof if our soldiers started coming home in body bags. Then again, it’s doubtful that the U.S. will experience significant casualties if it just continues to drop bombs.

In the meantime, Iran is stepping up and assisting Iraq’s Shiite government with soldiers, equipment, arms, expertise and intelligence. Iraqi officials are gratefully accepting this aid. Iran’s investments will surely pay off in the future when Iraq can begin to focus on building its government, which will be totally dominated by Shiites and greatly influenced politically by Iran.

Iraqi leadership has been relishing recent successes on the battlefield with limited U.S. involvement. Yet, the sectarian storm is brewing as Iraqi forces, which include Shiite militiamen and Iranian soldiers are storming Sunni-controlled territory.

After ten plus years of American bloodshed and over a trillion dollars of money spent in Iraq, the U.S. has given up and is leaving Iraq and Syria to the dogs.

The big question is why is the U.S. hanging around at all? If we are disengaging, let’s pull all our forces and stand by as the Arabs kill each other. Apparently, the fate of six million refugees and displaced Arabs is of no concern to American leaders. Neither are the anarchy, civil wars, sectarian violence and genocide that will follow the end of ISIS hostilities. And what of the dominance of Iran that now seems inevitable?

For Americans 60 years and older, it is difficult to witness the deteriorating influence of the U.S. throughout the world perpetrated by the current regime in Washington. It has squandered much of what has been created since World War II.