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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Possible Expansion of Ukraine Conflict to the West?

Link: World War III?

This fascinating and well-researched link concerns a subject you hear whispered about on the periphery of many conversations in Washington DC and many European capitols.  Will the conflict in Ukraine expand in a western direction?  As long as ISIS/ISIL continues to be a priority for military planners, Putin has an opportunity to consolidate his position.
Whether or not he is prepared to start flinging nukes in the direction of Warsaw is another question altogether.  I do not see it to be in Putin's best interest to expand the number of nations already involved in the Ukrainian crisis.  First and foremost one must consider the viability of the current Russian military.  A great deal of hay has been made of recent increases in Russian military spending along with what appears to be legitimate efforts at streamlining and modernization.  But the Russian Army still has many problems to address, the least of which are outdated equipment and troop morale.  It's accurate to say that the Russians have the capability to strategically deliver nuclear warheads to European cities.  But what would the reaction of NATO and the western nations themselves be?
Poland has been one of the few European countries to call out Putin.  It's obvious there is no love lost between Warsaw and Moscow.  But Poland in 2014 is not the Poland of 1939.  Any attack against Polish citizens by Russia would undoubtedly involve a full-scale retaliatory strike from Poland.  The Polish Air Force is large, modern, and well-trained, with a combination of both Russian and U.S.-made equipment. And I have to believe that any attack on a European nation would trigger a response from NATO.  I believe Ukraine is Putin's one free opportunity to swallow geography (Crimea) without military confrontation with the west.
The evolution of Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine leaves me to question the ability of the regular Russian Army to mobilize and work in concert with the appropriate Air Elements.  Putin has had plenty of time and opportunity provided by a weak response from the United Nations, NATO, Europe and the United States to consolidate his (or his surrogates) hold on eastern Ukraine.  If the only response to the shooting down of a civilian jumbo jet are frowns and more sanctions, certainly the opportunity was there to act decisively and consolidate Russian guerrilla's hold on areas around Luhansk and Donetsk.  But Putin did very little.  Not long after the Malaysian Airlines incident, the ISIS/ISIL dilemma raised its ugly head.  And still no aggressive response from the Russian Army.  I think Putin has lost the initiative and is now searching for a diplomatic way to legitimize his gobbling up of Crimea.  He will be willing to end hostilities in eastern Ukraine in response to recognition of Russian annexation of Crimea.
Actually, I have been very curious what would ensue from a full-scale confrontation between  the regular Ukrainian Army and Russian forces.  Some might surprisingly discover that the Russian bear is still coming out of hibernation.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Extremist Recruitment and Who is Qatar?

Islam's New Recruiting Methods
Qatar's Role as U.S. Ally At odds With Claims it Sponsors Terror
Fed's Bulletin Describes Threat of Imminent Terrorist Attack on Southern Border

Two days ago I commented on an issue which should be at the forefront of domestic counter-terrorism efforts.  Islamic extremists are here in our communities, folks, and they are looking for disaffected young people to join their causes.  I hope that all Federal Law Enforcement personnel affiliated with counter-terrorism operations will take the time to read the Brigette Gabriel piece that I have linked.  Ms. Gabriel is one of the most brilliant, well-spoken persons who put themselves at risk by regularly commenting on Islamic Extremism.  Because of her heritage, Gabriel brings immediate bona fides to her perspective.  Unfortunately her heritage also makes her a target for extremists who believe that Muslim women are not worthy or intelligent enough to discuss these matters.  Let's get one thing straight: Gabriel is not shrinking violet.  She will go toe-to-toe with the best of them, and wins her arguments through honesty, wisdom and integrity.
Islamic extremists have been recruiting in certain American communities for decades.  Particular groups of disaffected young people have shown a willingness to listen to the jihadist point of view.  Most of the targets are young men, so the traditional argument that women should be kept covered, quiet, out of sight, and compliant usually meets with approval.  And then we have the "40 virgins" (or whatever) that are alleged to be waiting in Heaven for those who "die for the cause".  I have no intention of turning this blog into a discussion about faith.  In my world, faith is a very personal issue, and excuse the cliché, but buttholes come in all shapes, sizes, and religions.  For many years my mantra was "mind your own business".  But the spread of Islamic extremism has made things a bit tricky.  The jihadist believes so strongly in the righteousness of his/her cause, that mosques and schools have become great places to hide missiles, weapons and ammunition.  Mosques are ideal for spreading particular messages, and recruiting for extremist causes.  Intelligence Agencies in the United States and in Europe (and also in China and East Asia, I had been informed) have no difficulty determining links from one extremist mosque to the next.  With the advent of a "borderless" Europe, people, money, and even weapons can be transported from a mosque (or religiously affiliated schools, etc.) in one country to a mosque on another.  There is usually a main mosque with an Imam who considers himself a big shot (egos know no bounds with some of these Imams).  Mosques affiliated with extremist beliefs are usually easy to find because these Imams just can't keep quiet.  They have to shout their hatred of all things "western" louder than the guy at the mosque down the street.  It would behoove them to preach a quieter more peaceful brand of Islam
so as to avoid attention.  But they just can't seem to help themselves.
I won't go into detail regarding the efforts to recruit in the United States and Europe, because the main points are relatively simple.  Educated persons are in high demand, and also persons with a particular trade (IEDs can be tricky).  At this stage, groups like ISIS/ISIL are looking for recently retired soldiers (I'm sure they would welcome an active duty soldier as well, God help us all) who have been trained on particular weaponry.  I'm sure they are looking for folks who have first-hand knowledge of Russian-made weaponry as well.  A recent Google satellite shot of Al-Taqbah Airbase in Syria revealed at least 10 Mig-21s sitting on the tarmac.  This is the airbase that ISIS/ISIL captured this last week.  From what I understand, the Migs were still there (who knows what condition they're in).  So keep your eyes peeled in the classifieds of Pravda for ads "looking for persons who can fly Mig-21s".  I'm more interested in what else they picked up at that airfield.  Hopefully nothing that can help them mount a biological agent delivery-system.
I assume that the inner cities of the United States, places with rampant unemployment and urban blight, are prime locations for jihadi recruitment.  I imagine the Russians need to look closely at Chechnya and some of the other former Soviet Republics, if they even give a shit at this point (its been at least a few months since someone blew themselves up in Moscow).
My second link deals with the frequent accusations that Qatar is involved with supporting Islamic extremist groups.  This is not a simple matter.  There are a handful of obscenely rich royal families in the Gulf, and each family has hundreds if not thousands of obscenely wealthy members.  The ruling Shaykh of each family is traditionally burdened with keeping everyone square, but in truth it is impossible to know who is giving money to whom.  There was recently an incident at an airport in one of the U.A.E. Emirates (yes, I know I said "Emirates" twice in a row) during which a number of jumbo jets were left unclaimed.  These people literally do have money to burn.  As for the Shaykh of Qatar (from the Al-Thani clan), I have no reason to believe that he or his government have any financial dealings with groups like ISIS/ISIL.  Since Hamas is considered by many to have social and political functions, I would expect Hamas and the Qatari government to have an official relationship.  But the Qataris have hosted the U.S. Fleet for many years without incident.  I'm sure some members of the royal family do financially contribute to the bad guys.  Personally, though, I believe it pales in comparison to the "support for extremists" activities of some of the other royal families of the Gulf.
My final link of the day is an article about possible terrorist activity on the Texas border, namely El Paso.  In all honestly, the article didn't really shake me up.  It appears that Judicial Watch is quoting from a Department of Homeland Security release of some sort.  I would not be surprised to see attempts to destabilize our cities with IEDs, etc., but not with a singular attack in El Paso.  I'm more concerned with a series of pre-planned, well-organized and coordinated attacks in Metro areas.  I don't think we have any idea how many operatives are currently sitting in place.  Hopefully none.

Thank you and welcome to Mukhabarat, Baby!

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to my blog "Mukhabarat, Baby", and thank you for being a part of this evolving effort.  I especially want to express my gratitude to Tina for working so diligently to get things up and running, Lindsay for sharing her friends, and Joe for making the suggestion to begin with.  I would be nowhere without good friends.
For those unfamiliar with Intelligence Gathering in the Arabic-speaking world, Mukhabarat is a word commonly used to identify persons who work either in the intelligence field or as Secret Police.  I can't count the times that I have been operational alongside a U.S. military unit and been called "mukhabarat" by the locals because I happened to be armed and in civilian clothing.
Given the pleasantly surprising early response to this blog, I have forced myself into a round of "Twitter Education", and will be active daily on Twitter, providing updates to the site.  And since this project is directly connected to the upcoming release of my book, "Mukhabarat, Baby", alongside my Twitter address will be an email address.  My book is a series of connected vignettes highlighting my experiences working as a Case Officer in war zones.  Although it may initially appear to be "just another spy memoir", I can assure its not.  I encourage anyone interested in the release of "Mukhabarat, Baby", to send me their email address for updates and excerpts as they become available.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.


Twitter: @mukhabaratbaby


Friday, August 29, 2014

What game is Putin playing?

Link:  What is Putin trying to accomplish by invading the Ukraine?

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a fan of "".  They don't hesitate to offer possibilities that more mainstream news sources shy away from.  As for the issue addressed in this posting (Putin, Russia and this mini-invasion of Eastern Ukraine), I wish I had some clue what Vlad is planning, or if he has script at all.  My first thought was that Russia was stepping up military activity vis-à-vis Eastern Ukraine for two reasons: first, the attention of NATO and the United Nations has been drawn back to the Near East (I chose to say Near East instead of Middle East; its how I was raised from an infant Case Officer) and this Caliphate bunch of beasties.  Second, with the eyes of the West elsewhere, an opportunity arises to bolster the battered pro-Russian guerillas around Luhansk and Donetsk. 
To be honest, I've been a bit confused by the part being played by the Ukrainian military.  I realize that the Ukrainian Army and Air Force (the Navy ceased to exist a few months back) cannot stand up to a full mobilization by Russia.  But we have yet to see anything close to a full Russian mobilization.  I would love to see it, though.  Vlad would be exposing the weaknesses of his planning and organizational capabilities to the very interested eyes of NATO.  Back to the Ukrainian Army.  The Ukrainians have been very active in every peace keeping operation in recent memory.  They have troops (not a whole lot, granted) who have seen action and also worked side-by-side with Western forces.  Ukraine recently reduced the size of its army by leaps and bounds, but this was more of an effort to modernize and streamline than anything else.  As of today, the majority of Ukraine's fighting potential is still sitting around Kiev and to the West.  Why haven't they charged into Eastern Ukraine, full force, and wiped out this bunch of ass holes that take hostages and shoot down civilian jet liners?  Obviously the new administration in Kiev does not want to act rashly and encourage Russia to raise the stakes as well.  But aggressive action is the only action Putin respects.  Taking small steps only will allow Putin to completely step over the Ukrainians.  I have been encouraged by the Ukrainian Army's recent successes, but I can't help wonder if a full assault against these thugs would not have ended this issue altogether.
I have a brilliant friend who is convinced that Putin is trying to occupy a bit of land and strengthen the guerillas to improve his bargaining position.  My buddy believes that the Russian people will not give Putin an unending vote of confidence as sanctions start to really bite the Russian middle class.  The sanctions are hurting, but mostly in the pocketbook of the richest of Russians.  But these guys are the ones who seem to be backing Putin lately (the ones who farted without his permission ended up in jail or in exile in the UK).  My friend believes that Putin will use Eastern Ukraine as a bargaining chip to permanently attach the Crimean Republic (just in name only, folks) to Mother Russia.  Crimea does appear to be the most valuable piece of this puzzle from a strategic perspective.  Putin has already reunited the Russian Navy and if he can gain some legitimacy for his military conquest of Crimea, then the Black Sea again becomes a Russian lake (no offense to the Bulgarians, Romanians, Moldovans, Turks, etc.).  The Black Sea is more than just important from a military viewpoint.  The issue of oil and its transport (pipelines, drilling, refining, shipping, all that good stuff) are unavoidably connected to the Black Sea.  Maybe Putin believes he can trade stability in Eastern Ukraine (and friendly relations with Russia) with the acceptance of a fait d-accompli in Crimea.
The Obama Administration has a very painful headache to deal with.  Instead of the proverbial two-front war (that doomed Hitler and Napoleon), Obama is faced with a two-front diplomatic crisis.  Both might one day involve the U.S. military, so forward-thinking (not this Administration's strong suit..) is a must.  I would argue that the day has come and gone for giving the Ukrainian Army and Air Force whatever they want.  The Ukrainian people are majorly pissed off at Putin and the Russians, and the regular Ukrainian Army echoes those feelings.  I say give them what they need to free their homeland, and call Putin's bluff.  As for the Near East, you will have to tune in tomorrow for that commentary.  Much obliged, folks.....

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ISIS, ISIL, Friends of the Caliphate, Caliphatians, whatever.....

Link:  Questions about the Caliphate you were too embarrassed to ask

The media has yet to decide exactly what to call the latest boogeyman on the Islamic Extremist scene.  And this one is a doozy.  At first they were known as ISIS, then Islamic State of the Caliphate (sorta rhymes), and now I'm hearing ISIL (thanks General Dempsey and Bagel Hagel).  The link provided answers some of the more pressing questions, and I have added some simple facts myself.  As far as extremist groups go, they are neophytes.  No Egyptian Islamic Jihad/Egyptian Brotherhood (EIJ) from the 1950s or Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from the 60s and 70s. But they are leaving a mighty big footprint for a newcomer.  This group is dedicated to creating a new Caliphate, something akin to the old Ottoman Empire.  The difference being, the Ottoman Empire was usually run by a besotted, sometimes pedophilic, other times syphilitic Sultan who had no interest in Islam whatsoever.  The Sultan of old also held the title of Caliph, which historically is the religious leader for all Muslims.  ISIL (my choice) is not interested in a Sultan but they do want a Caliph, and they want a Caliphate, a geographic area that their religious leader can rule over.  ISIL has repeatedly avowed to conquer Syria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Jordan and parts of Iraq to form their ideal Caliphate.  Of course, this will include Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capitol.  Make no mistake; these guys are for real, and they do not believe in compromise (otherwise I'd say lets just give them Syria and be done with it).

I strongly recommend that anyone seriously interested in the motivations and believes of this group to educate yourself on the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottomans were a Muslim

bunch who happened to have the most powerful military in the world in the 15th and 16th centuries.  They had a history of getting along with Christians within their borders, which is markedly different from ISIL.  But the leaders of ISIL seem to bask in the memory of Ottoman glory, recalling the days when twice Ottoman troops laid siege to Vienna (only to be defeated by the unluckiest of circumstances).  Please read The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross, one of the greatest historic books I have read.
We have also heard another less-than common term being bandied about.  I have been asked more than once, "What is the Levant?"  Well, ladies and gentleman, the Levant is the geographic area that borders the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  The French, who used to run Lebanon and Syria, were very fond of the term.  The Levant refers to Syria, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.

Just so that no one misunderstands the motivations and intentions of ISIL, they may talk about only occupying enough countries to constitute their "dream" Caliphate, but I can assure you the battle will not end there.  There was a time when you could gather up 25 Islamic Extremists and you would be lucky to find 2 who were prepared to give their lives for Allah.  ISIL is different.  It seems that every one of these folks are obsessed with reaching the Pearly Gates.  This group is a Trident of tremendous danger, with three dangerous prongs.  The first is the absolute extreme attitude of the members of ISIL, the second is ISIL's ready access to loads of money, and the third prong is the vacillation of the West.  The Devil holds this Trident, and its only a matter of time before we feel the tips.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ISIL Recruitment Grows

ISIL said to be paying lucrative salaries to recruits
SpainArrest Eight on Suspicion of ISIL Recruitment
ISIL is Recruiting in India For Iraq & Syria Wars
CLAIM: Austria is "Jihad Hub" second only to London

One of the more popular topics of the week is the apparent efforts by jihadists to recruit in the West.  Although I also read a report about efforts to recruit in India, a marked increase in efforts to recruit in Europe and the United States should be expected.  ISIL is in possession of an impressive amount of modern weaponry that frankly does them little good at this point.  Much the equipment that the Iraqi Army handed to ISIL fighters in Iraq has state-of-the-art components.  Federal Law Enforcement in the United States must be aware of the likelihood that jihadist groups will be targeting (for recruitment) disenchanted and and disgruntled former soldiers.  Take a look around....there are many reasons for soldiers who have returned stateside from Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 5 years to be disappointed with life "après la guerre".  The Veterans Administration is in the midst of a colossal scandal, not to mention the broken economy which in many cases can only offer these young folks jobs at McDonalds or Walmart.  The scenario is worse in America's inner cities, where Islamic Extremism has traditionally found converts.
ISIL needs former soldiers, especially those with training on American equipment.  No doubt an effort is already underway to reach out to former military men and women and convince them to join the Holy War for the Caliphate (I will address the historic implications of the Caliphate in tomorrow's blog entry; be sure to tune in and learn about "The Levant").  It is likely that ISIL, along with a variety of other extremist groups, have taken full advantage of the "Get In Free" policy that the current administration has in place at our borders (to be fair, persons apprehended in the United States illegally are given an initial hearing with an Immigration Judge, at which time the Judge assigns the Asylum or Refugee Applicant a future "Notice to Appear"; they are then usually released on their own recognizance....I wonder what percentage actually appear for the hearing).  It is likely we have more "sleeper cells" hiding in our cities than at any other time in our history.  These veterans of the cause play an important role in the recruitment of new troops for the Caliphate.  They are able to spin the takes of glory from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and remind their audience about the gifts awaiting all martyrs for Allah.
Europe has been dealing with this recruitment monster for years, particularly the United Kingdom.  The recruitment effort in Europe (not surprisingly) is centered on particular mosques.  Certain mosques have elaborate communication resources with mosques (and groups) on other cities in Europe and in the Middle East.  The Brits have done an outstanding job identifying and in many cases shutting down some of these recruitment efforts, but as is evident from the videos we are seeing from ISIL, a number of young British men appear to have found a niche at ISIL's management level.  Other European Law Enforcement Agencies, utilizing Interpol, have also had successes, including Austria and Denmark.  But until the European Union gets serious about instituting a viable and toothy immigration policy, recruits will be easy to find.  Within these groups of recruits will be numerous young men and women from countries who still practice Conscription (mandatory military service). 
Addressing the efforts of jihadi groups to recruit former military will increase the resources ISIL must use.  Any serious effort to combat the growth of this group must include disruption operations at efforts to recruit, efforts to resupply, and efforts to raise money.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ISIS Captures a Key Syrian Air Base

Link:  ISIS Captured a Key Syrian Air Base

This particular engagement between ISIL and regular Syrian Army and Air Force elements should be of concern to The Pentagon.  ISIL continues to expand its arsenal of modern weaponry, and has a budding air capability that includes the use of drones and aircraft.  Although ISIL is in possession of a number of MIG 21 fighters (and possibly some newer models), it is still unclear what they were able to take from the Iraqi Air Force Base that was overrun during last month's darkest days for the Iraqi military.  Is ISIL in possession of Blackhawk helicopters?  Probably not, but if it was in the Iraqi arsenal pre-July, anything is possible.  But the discussion of MIGS and Blackhawks is a bit sensationalized.  The real concern at this time is if ISIL is able to create an air wing exclusively for smuggling weapons, ammunition, equipment, and people.  Analysts acknowledge that ISIL is in possession of advanced artillery, MANPADS, rebuilt T-72 and T-69 tanks, and a variety of other new or relatively new equipment (most of this equipment picked up off the desert floor in and around Tikrit as it was deserted by the Iraqi Army last month).  Its true that ISIL will have difficulty taking full advantage of these new resources.  ISIL is now in possession of equipment that it does not have the expertise to use.  I would expect a full-scale recruitment operation focused on former UK and US servicemen is underway.  The idea is to locate disenchanted and frustrated recently retired (honorably or not) servicemen who have the training in this equipment.  It shouldn't be too difficult in the UK, where it appears ISIL has already had success in setting up a clandestine recruitment element (most likely based out of one or more of the London-area mosques).  As we have seen from Austrian news reports, the number of willing European-based jihadists (many times born in Europe), continues to grow.  I have to believe the same event is taking place in the United States.  We can only hope that Federal Law Enforcement is on top of this internal domestic threat.
If ISIL creates an airborne element (evidence suggests they already have), it will substantially increase its ability to resupply itself.  This is very important when you consider the variety of types of weaponry ISIL utilizes.  Before the conflict exploded into Northern Iraq, ISIL was known to rely on mostly former Syrian military equipment (read Russian-made), including the ubiquitous AK-47.  It will be interesting to see exactly how ISIL makes use of the recent haul of weaponry of US manufacture, that the Iraqi Army left in pristine condition on the intended battlefield outside Tikrit.  Fortunately, we have yet to see ISIL utilizing any surface-to-air weaponry, at least not successfully.  But it is only a matter of time.  And the expansion of ISIL's ability to access arms and ammunition through the use of an air element, will only make it more difficult to cut off ISIL from the support mechanisms it needs to keep its armies supplied.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


My intentions in writing this blog is to create a discussion regarding wartime intelligence collection.  This is a fluid and active subject which gives me the opportunity to link prescient commentary and articles that I feel present a valid and useful perspective.  If you share an interest in this subject, please join the conversation.