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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Does Khorasan Exist? Does It Really Matter?

Link: Is There An Actual Group Calling Itself Khorasan In Syria/Iraq?

Wikipedia Definition Of Khorasan

Well, I certainly didn't see this coming.  According to Andrew C. McCarthy and National Review, no group calling itself "Khorasan" exists.  Andrew boldly accuses the Obama Administration of inventing Khorasan to provide an enemy with an unknown wrap sheet; a target that exemplifies the threat as the Administration wants it to appear.  This astounding accusation has taken me by complete surprise.  The commentary is not lengthy but still manages to provide a disturbing amount of supporting evidence.  McCarthy alleges that last week's bombing targets were in fact "Al-Nusra Front" locations as opposed to Khorasan.  Last week I argued that we needed to avoid getting caught in the weeds with all the various branches and groups of Islamic extremists.  I remain convinced that sunni groups with extremist religious affiliations are connected.  McCarthy believes that the Administration is disseminating the incorrect idea that Iraq, Syria, and the Near East in general are home to dozens of separate and distinct Sunni extremist groups ("Jabhat al-Nusrsa", "Al-Qaeda in al-Sharm", "Al-Qaeda in -Magreb", "Al-Qaeda on the Indian Sub-Continent", "Al-Qaeda in Yemen", and on and on) who don't coordinate their activities.  During the 2012 presidential election campaign, President Obama made great hay from the death of bin-Laden and the apparent crippling of Al-Qaeda.  This narrative supported other pillars of his foreign policy.  The enemy is splintered into a herd of squabbling, locally focused, unprofessional groups.  The U.S. military is no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan if Al-Qaeda is toast.  The reality is that we evacuated Iraq at a record-setting pace as our enemies, not fifteen or twenty feuding, distinct organizations but a handful of groups united under one cause, rested and watching.

Andrew managed to squeeze a ton of information and argument into a two-page commentary.  I tried to summarize it in the previous paragraph, and I fear I have not succeeded.  The first link is Andrew McCarthy's actual National Review piece.  I'll do everything I can to disseminate this commentary in social media because I believe it to be incredibly insightful.  The key to winning a war begins with knowing your enemy.  Right now we seem to be a bit confused on the matter.  Why did coalition air elements avoid all of the targets identified as "Khorasan" (U.S. jets only, no Qatari or Saudi jets, bombed Khorasan targets)?  Is it because Khorasan is actually the Al-Nusra Front, and our allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia support Al-Nusra's efforts to topple Assad in Syria?  Again, it brings me back to something we discussed last week.  The United States (note that I did not say "The Coalition") must have solid intelligence regarding the players in Syria and who they represent.  If we truly intend to build and equip an army to tackle the Islamic State on the ground, will a U.S. Officer be in command (at a distance, maybe offshore on an aircraft carrier, so his boots aren't on the ground)?  Without that type of hands-on discipline and authority, how can we expect this Army to do our bidding?  Occasionally I'm overwhelmed by this nightmare scenario of the New Syrian Army, weapons et al, deserting to the IS immediately upon completion of training.  Without troops, how can we prevent something like this taking place?  The burr in my saddle has to do with what becomes of the New Syrian Army after the job is done.  Will they turn on Assad and the regular Syrian Army?  you can bet your ass they will, and then the Russians jump into the picture.

I agree with McCarthy's assessment, but I'm not part of the "told ya so" crowd.  I want the IS wiped from the face of the planet and I want the Obama Administration to accomplish this task and add to his legacy.  I don't believe that the religious extremist terrorist groups are separate, distinct entities that seldom communicate.  I believe the network of cooperation and communication is similar to organized crime.  The goal of keeping numerous small units out in the field confuses the enemy and allows for wider access.  If a former British soldier with highly specialized explosives training is recruited on the streets of Ipswich or York or Harrogate, he will not end up swatting flies out in the middle of the Syrian desert.  He will be utilized to train operatives heading out into the field.  The communication network that the extremist community has created is probably impossible to destroy completely (especially in the UK).  We can hope to intercept calls, steal transmissions, and even occasionally bug the correct phone, but the only real way to listen in on the bad guys is through recruited assets.  We are still living in the world dominated by human intelligence (eventually it probably will be run by artificial intelligence, but who am I, Stanley Kubrick?), so lets hope that our Intelligence Organizations are having success penetrating this monster.

When I read "Vengeance: The true Story Of An Israeli Counter Terrorist Team", by George Jonas, I picked up a tremendous amount of useful information regarding Terrorist Cells in the 1960s and 1970s.  What is most fascinating is that the bad guys still do things the same way.  Old habits are hard to break, says the old cliché. Reading this book I learned that the German Terrorist Cell the "Baader-Meinhof Group" had direct contact with Palestinian and Japanese terrorists.  There is no doubt in my mind that the terrorist groups active in Syria and Iraq are bonded to each other through agenda and necessity....and hatred for the enemy.  I do not support the plan to create a surrogate army to fight the ground campaign against the IS, but since we appear to be committed to that plan, then I want it to succeed 100 percent.  Although we can't have U.S. soldiers of any rank on the front lines with the new Syrian Army we are training, I hope we will be able to direct their movement from a centralized location, i.e. offshore or from a nearby friendly country.  Giving authority to make strategic decisions to Officers within the New Syrian Army would be a mistake until they have proven that they won't immediately about-face on the battlefield and head to Damascus to settle old scores with Bashir.  We will not succeed until this coalition, and the United States diplomatic, intelligence and military elements in particular, accept the fact that we are truly facing only one enemy.  That enemy will grow stronger each time we use foreign affairs to score political points, as the minority Republicans are want to do at the moment.  National Security MUST trump all of that bullshit.

Where In The Hell is Arabia Felix?

Link: Yemen As An Example?

Missile Fired Near U.S. Embassy In Yemen

("Further more, Yemen is a leading pioneer in Democratic practice; lots of brothers and sisters testified on that".)*

Recently I had an important conversation with my brother Joe regarding the abundance of blogs focusing on National Security, and how my modest effort could be most effective.  Joe pointed out that my blog has already found a niche, because unlike the repetitive, "cut-and-paste" blogs that do a nice job of disseminating news, my blog is both proactive and reactive.  I have no problem dedicating an entire post to a question from a reader (in fact, I welcome them), and I use my experience and intuition to post about people and places that will be part of tomorrow's news cycle.  Don't misunderstand, I appreciate the larger, "neater" blogs that break down current events by country (alphabetically as well!); the Longest War Journal is my favorite and gets a visit from my address everyday.  But as Joe pointed out, what seems to be missing is a bit of the ol' human touch.  My style is not for everyone.  My book is written in this fashion, so be forewarned (excerpts coming within the next few weeks, Insh'Allah).

I love Yemen.  It is one of the few places left on the earth where you can have a glass of tea next to a donkey.  So much about Yemen remains as it was when Europeans first arrived and crowned this mountainous desert "Arabia Felix" (Felix is Latin for happy, blessed, fortunate, which sadly has never really applied to Yemen).  Until 1915 or so, Yemen, or more correctly the towns of Mocha and Sana'a, were part of the Ottoman Empire, and Aden belong to Britain.  After World War One, the Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was established in North Yemen, and the Brits continued to occupy South Yemen and Aden.  In 1962 north Yemen became the Yemen Arab Republic, and in 1967 the south chose a socialist path to independence, as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen.  It seemed as if the two sides were always at war, but in 1990, a union was created, and the modern state of Yemen was born (as always, I'm forced to leave out tons of amazing history, especially pre-European.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia).

In 2004, the Hawthis, a Zaydi Shia insurgent group, accusing the Yemeni government of discrimination against the Shia, declared war.  The government accused the Hawthis of trying to implement Sharia Law.  Al-Qaeda, which is basically a Sunni-affiliated terrorist group, arrived in 2009 and has at times fought on the side of the government against the Shia Hawthis.  This fact, together with Saudi Arabia's proximity to Yemen, allowed Al-Qaeda to develop a strong presence in Yemen.  Yemeni President Ali Saleh has played both sides of the fence on numerous occasions.  Now that the United States has decided that Yemen deserves some attention (and taxpayer dollars), Saleh has become Uncle Sam's best buddy.  As the links point out, today Yemen is sorting through a mess that is very similar to Syria's.  A Sunni-Shia conflict continues (with Al-Qaeda continuing to sympathize with the Sunni cause), alongside a U.S. military effort to destroy Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  On different occasions Saleh has fallen from power, only to pop back up again, like a Dervish Jack In The Box.  Presently Saleh and the Yemeni government are working with the United States to destroy AQAP.  Every month or so we get a news story about a successful drone attack on Al-Qaeda encampments.  In fact, the U.S. military effort (with the CIA playing a pivotal part) has had great success hunting down and killing various Al-Qaeda targets.  Because of these successes (and the apparent cooperation of the Saleh government), the Obama Administration considers Yemen to be a success in the war on terror.  As is always the case in this part of the world, the reality can never be covered with just one sentence.

In the last few weeks, the Hawthi Movement has increased its pressure on the Saleh government.  Bit by bit, the capital city is falling under the authority of the Hawthis.  The CIA is aware of events as they occur, and surely is keeping the Administration informed.  But the Administration does not want to let go of its one success story, so we have a President who is, for all practical purposes, burying his head in the sand.  The Hawthis, no friend of Al-Qaeda, have been very careful not to piss off the Americans. Considering the amount of resources that the U.S. military and intelligence have tied up in Yemen, it would be in our best interest to avoid pissing off the Hawthis (I'm sure Sana'a is flooded with Iranian intelligence operatives).  If the Saleh government falls, lets hope that the Obama Administration can diplomatically shift our support from the Sunni government to the Shia Hawthis, and continue our operations against Al-Qaeda.  All indications are that the Hawthis would like nothing more than to have the Al-Qaeda presence removed from Yemen (the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" cliché is getting worked to death, for Heaven's sake).  What we have here is an opportunity.  If the Obama Administration can safely navigate the waters of this internal Yemeni conflict (in truth its a civil war), and end up on the other side, still droning the hell out of Al-Qaeda, it will be an indication that just maybe, the same result can be expected in Syria.  Its almost like an opportunity for the Foggy Bottom Diplomats to practice once, before the big game.

*Ali A. Saleh, President of Yemen

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Questions About Christian Community in Syria

In the past two weeks I have received a number of emails regarding the status of the Syrian Christian community.  Roughly a tenth of the population of Syria is Christian, with the majority being adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church (formerly known as the Melkite Church or Melkites).  During the days of the crusades, the important Christian community of Edessa was located in Syria, as was the Principality of Antioch.  Following the end of the French United Nations Mandate (1946), Syria has suffered through one political crisis after another.  In 1966, the Syrian Ba'ath Party took control of the government, and in 1970 Hafez al-Assad, a former Air Force officer, became President (I'm disrespectfully running rampant over tons of Syrian history and I apologize).  At the time, the Soviet Union exerted tremendous influence over Syrian diplomacy and military affairs, a circumstance that Assad encouraged during his Presidency.  In 2000 Hafez al-Assad died, and his son Bashir won the subsequent presidential election (as the only candidate).  During the six decades since independence Syria has cultivated a reputation of non-repression towards religious minorities.  The Christian community in Damascus in particular has thrived, with allowances being made for Christian observance of the Sabbath and other traditions.  As Syria began its descent into civil war in 2011, many Christian leaders were concerned about the safety of the various communities in Syria.  In fact, organized Syrian Christian groups actually expressed support for the Assad regime and fear of the anti-government rebels.  What does the future hold for the Christians of Syria?

The Obama Administration has declared war on the Islamic State of the Levant, or simply the Islamic State (IS), which currently occupies most of eastern Syria.  The IS is a dedicated Sunni Islam fundamentalist group, which has a nasty habit of executing non-Muslims who do not convert.  The IS butchered many adherents of the Christian Chaldean and Yezidi sects in northern Iraq, and no doubt would do the same to the Assyrian and Greek Orthodox communities in Syria if they win the civil war.  Christians concerned about the welfare of Syrian Christian communities should welcome the Obama Administration's military campaign against the IS.  The real question mark continues to be the New Syrian Army (NSA) that the Administration is equipping and training to conduct the necessary ground campaign against the IS.  If the NSA is successful, will all sides (except the IS, of course) agree to some sort of armistice, to let the diplomats sort out the future of Syria?  No way.  The regular Syrian Army, which keeps a firm grip on Damascus, and President Bashir al-Assad will never agree to negotiations with the NSA.  Assad and the Ba'athists are convinced of their legitimacy, and Vladimir Putin will never agree to a new election monitored by the United Nations.  It astounds me how this argument in the media continues to ignore the Russian element.  Not to worry, because as far as I'm concerned, the NSA, if successful in dispatching the IS, will immediately turn its U.S.-supplied military hardware on Assad and the regular Syrian Army.  Keep in mind, the NSA was organized by disgruntled former elements of the Iraqi Armed Forces officer corps.  Their end goal is not the dismantling of the IS, but the occupation of the Presidential Palace in Damascus and Bashir al-Assad's head on the end of a stick.  They are happy to act as Obama's proxy for the moment, but what happens once the IS is destroyed?

The Christians of Syria have one real concern: the success of the IS.  If the regular Syrian Army and Russian stooge Assad keep power, then its business as usual and the Assyrians and Greek Orthodox Christians can breathe a sigh of relief.  Since the leaders of the NSA are former members of the Syrian military, I am comfortable assuming that if they come to power, they will adopt the same "laissez faire" attitude to the Syrian Christians.  The true enemy of Syrian Christians (and Christians everywhere, to be honest) is the IS, and the Khorasan, and the Al-Nusra Front.  The groups that are motivated by Sunni extremist ideology are the ones most likely to demand forced conversions.  A quick focus of this issue makes it even more apparent that the Sunni extremist groups who fall under different banners, are in fact part of one large, growing mass of hatred.  Al-Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahiri are at the heart of this evolving mass of evil.  The longer we continue to view the enemy as a handful of separate, distinct Sunni extremists, the more dangerous and powerful it becomes.  I am glad to address the concerns regarding Christians in the battle zone, but I am petrified that sooner rather than later we may discover that the battle zone has come to us.

Russian Foriegn Minister Lashes Out At United States

Link: Russian Foreign Minister Insults United States

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a scathing condemnation of the United States during an address to the United Nations on Saturday.  Out of curiosity, I searched through a handful of Russian speeches delivered from the United Nations podium in recent years, and I had trouble finding anything as offensive and disingenuous as Lavrov's remarks on Saturday.  For those of you who missed the address, here is an example: "Military interference has become a norm (for the United States), even despite the dismal outcome of all power operations that the U.S. has carried out in recent years".  Lavrov went on to claim that the United States was unable to change its "Cold War genetic code", and that the U.S. and the European Union were trying to pull Ukraine out of its "organic role as a binding bloc between" east and west.  I think that Minister Lavrov's comments provide a great opportunity to examine Russia's internal and external evolution over the last decade.

Vladimir Putin was first elected President of Russia in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004.  In 2008, Putin was unable to run for a third term because of electoral term limits.  Putin lackey Dmitry Medvedev won the Presidential election in 2008, and in 2011 passed a law extending the Presidential term of office to six years.  Then, in 2012, Putin ran for President again (in a move that many Russians felt was against the spirit of Russia's electoral laws) and currently is enjoying a six-year term in office.  After his second six-year term, he can arrange another "Medvedev" to keep the seat warm.  Heck, Its possible that Putin may end term limits all together.  Who in Russia would oppose him?  Does anyone doubt who will be President of Russia "for life"? 

Since the fall of communism, Russia has been poisoned by the presence of corruption in just about every avenue of civil administration.  Its a unique, organized, very "Russian" type of corruption. 
Transparency International ranks Russia 127th in its 2013 published Corruptions Perception Index.  The problem has really taken off since Putin came to power.  According to Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin Chief of Staff, the most corrupt spheres in Russia are healthcare, education, social security services, and housing and communal services.  At the government level, however, the top five areas of corruption are government contracts, issues of permits and certificates ("comrade, your driver's license will be processed much quicker with a donation of a few extra Rubles"), law enforcement, land distribution and construction.  Recently it appears that corruption and bribery in Russia have become a business.  At one time, the press targeted corruption and certain high-profile cases outraged the average Russian.  Since Putin has in been in office, though, the outrage has all but disappeared.  According to Wikipedia, corruption under Putin has been "remarkable for its ubiquitous and open merging of the civil service and business, as well as its use of relative, friends and acquaintances to benefit from government expenditure and take over state property".

A quick review of Russian foreign policy and diplomacy leaves me wondering where the commies left of and where the "new Russia" took over.  Why is it that a look behind the curtain of every despot and dictator around the planet usually unveils either Russia, China, or both?  I seem to recall a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the United States went through a cathartic admission of our roles in supporting regimes like Pinochet in Chile and Marcos in the Philippines.  How is it that the world (the United Nations to be precise) has not demanded the same "coming clean" from Moscow?  Its fascinating that Russia, after all this time, still supports that ass-boil Assad in Syria, and the failed-state poster child Cuba.  Actually, according to some Democrats, the suffering in Cuba is the fault of the American people for our decision not to economically interact with a repressive, socialist government, but I digress.  While the rest of the world does its best to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons, the Russians could give a damn about international security and openly assist Iran in constructing a nuclear reactor.  By the way, did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demand that the Russians cease their support of Iran's nuclear ambitions before signing the New Start arms reduction treaty?  Of course not.  As balanced politically as I try to be, I can't help but come to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton was probably the worst Secretary of State in my lifetime, but she sure manages to get a pass.  Always.

One morning Putin woke up and decided that the Black Sea needed to revert back to its "Cold War status" as a Russian Lake, so he invaded Crimea.  In one fell swoop, the Ukrainian Navy, which was born with such negotiated effort between Russia and Ukraine (you may remember the debate regarding "who gets what" from the Soviet Black Sea Squadron), ceased to exist.  Because the leaders of the western nations have been running around perfecting their Neville Chamberlain impressions (what I wouldn't give to see someone show up at an Obama/Merkel news conference wearing a Neville Chamberlain mask and holding up a piece of paper!), now Russia has been emboldened to the point of calling guerrillas and murdering thugs "freedom fighters" and "ethnic Russian patriots".  Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian Army to surreptitiously arm the separatists in Eastern Ukraine and they shot down a civilian airliner, killing everyone on board.  I hold Putin personally responsible for the lives of every victim, which is what our government, and the governments of the western nations should have done.  Instead, we decided that another round of sanctions would be enough justice (a temporary ban on vacations in Miami, and no more Oreos or Haribo products in Moscow for the time being).  The events in Ukraine should have come as no surprise; precursors in Chechnya and Georgia were sufficient warning.

I opened up the book on Putin's Russia because the comments of the Russian Foreign Minister were so offensive.  I realize that the world in which we live feels no hesitation to verbally kick us in the teeth.  Our government tries to respond, in its own, polite, diplomatic way.  Thank goodness that there are enough of us out here in social media, to remind the world of Russia and Putin's crimes.  Lavrov may have succeeded in distracting the international community for a fleeting moment, but the difference between the United States and Russia is that we have a healthy Democracy, and in 2016 we will have the opportunity to elect an Administration that is willing to internationally denounce Putin as the murderer he is, and shine a light on his efforts to lift Hitler's mantle.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Should U.S. Invite Iran To Join Anti-IS Coalition?

Link: Iran And The Nuclear Issue: Has IS Made All Things Negotiable?

(Terrorist groups cannot be defeated.  They must be destroyed, obliterated, erased to the last man and woman.  The one that is left alive may be the one with the silver tongue and the gift of manipulation.  In a matter of months you have the same problem all over again.*)

(This part of the world is a bad place for long memories.*)

First and foremost, can we all agree on what to call the Islamic State of the Levant?  I'm still hearing ISIS, the Administration seems stuck on ISIL, and those of us reasonable folks in the blogosphere prefer simply the Islamic State (IS).  Yesterday I wrote a wonderful post focusing on the various independence movements in Europe and what can be expected following the Scotland referendum.  And no one noticed.  Okay, my close friends, who are always ready to lend support, and few new acquaintances I've met through the blog, had a look.  But that's about it.  Interestingly enough, when I post comments on IS or Ukraine, I get a very healthy response.  I get the message.  But the reality is, I will not be posting about terrorism everyday.  I am interested in events on every continent.  The world is full of juicy stuff to discuss.  So forgive me in advance if I post about elections in Kenya or instability in Thailand.  Hopefully I will attract more and more viewers who, like me, see the world as one big neighborhood.  Its best to think that way, because in 2014, you never know when your neighbors are going to show up for a visit.

The air campaign to disrupt the activities of IS has begun.  Today, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced publicly that our efforts so far had been "just for show".  Jeez, these Iraqis are an ungrateful lot.  The bombings conducted to date have not been "just for show".  I guess he was pissed that all the targets were in Syria.  God forbid that the Iraqi Army go in and take care of its own business.  A strategic review of the targets (which probably shouldn't be available to the press, but what heck, its there so I'm gonna look at it) demonstrated that a plan has been formulated to sever the communication and supply lines of the IS.  Even more promising, the air campaign is targeting oil fields that were being exploited by IS (I'm still bloody curious to know who was purchasing the oil; it could've been the French- does anyone smell cheese?). 

On Fox News today, Rear Admiral John Kirby was very clear in repeating the Administration's policy of "no U.S. ground troops", so until the New Syrian Army is ready for combat (4 months?), we have to be content with the bombing campaign.  Is it possible that the IS could feel pressure from unexpected enemies?  The New Syrian Army is not the only force opposing the IS.  Discounting the regular Syrian Army, the IS has to contend with the Kurdish Pesh Merga and the Iraqi Army.  At this point, I believe the Pesh Merga has its hands full defending Kurdish territory, and the Iraqi Army has been one tremendous disappointment after another.  Which brings us to Iran.  The Iranians have been keeping a close eye on events in both Iraq and Syria. The IS has definite Sunni sympathies, which explains why Iran dispatched units of the Republican Guard to Iraq last month, ostensibly to protect Shia holy sites.  When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the Iranians were apoplectic.  They were annoyed down to their shorts that once again, "the great Satan" was just a booger-flick away from Teheran.  Interestingly enough, this time around the Iranian government has been much more subdued regarding U.S. military activity in their backyard.  No doubt they would be glad to see the IS destroyed.  This week, Iranian President Rouhani said that he is seeking a "win-win" deal for his nation.  Having the threat of the IS removed and having international approval to expand Iran's nuclear program would definitely qualify as a "win-win" deal.  Not since Rafsanjani has an Iranian diplomat flirted so brazenly with the great Satan.  "Trust building", "cooperation," and "the beginning of mutual cooperation" were key phrases in Rouhani's comments.  If the Iranians are serious, and would join the fight against the IS, just how much freedom of action vis-à-vis the enrichment of uranium are they considering?

The Obama Coalition (40 nations and counting the last I checked) acknowledges that ground forces will eventually be necessary to defeat the IS.  Since the Administration has provided a timetable of "four to five months" training before the New Syrian Army is ready for combat, is it reasonable to consider the idea of Iranian military intervention?  Iran has the military capability to defeat the IS in short order.  During the last year's Islamic Republic Day parade, I think I counted somewhere in the area of fifteen million ready-and-willing members of the Revolutionary Guard (an exaggeration to make a point), so the Iranians clearly have the ground forces.  With the coalition conducting air sorties, the Iranian Army could fold up the IS before the New Syrian Army unpacks its boots.  Is this suggestion really that far-fetched? 

The idea of rapprochement between Teheran and Washington has been floated numerous times.  If the Iranians offered to join the coalition with no preconditions,  the Obama Administration could wrap up this initiative in a nice package.  I must admit, IS or no IS, the world would be a better place if Iran and the United States could bury the hatchet (into the Islamic State instead of each other).  But the Iranians won't join the coalition without serious incentives.  First and foremost, the Iranians want a free hand to enrich uranium as they see fit.  The Iranians know that the European powers would fall in line behind the United States in the UN, if the Americans decided to ease up on the uranium enrichment issue.  It would have been much easier for Obama to have offered such an incentive and relied on the Iranians to deal with IS on the ground (instead of this headache of trying to train the New Syrian Army).  But just how realistic is this scenario?

It will never happen.  In fact, I doubt the Obama Administration ever really gave it much thought.  Even if the United States agreed to allow Iran to enrich as much uranium as it wants, it would be impossible for Iran to climb down the mountain of anti-U.S. rhetoric it has created over the years.  Many of the Iranian people still get off on that "America is the great Satan" stuff (we probably would to if we'd been listening to it non-stop for thirty-five years).  Obama would have a tough sell at home as well.  The American public is aware of Iran's support for Hezbollah and a bunch of other nasty groups.  Interestingly enough, the American people probably would have moved past the memory of the embassy seizure in 1979, except that the Iranians keep reminding us about it.  Americans see Iran for what it is, a Shia Islamic Republic, which continues to repress its own people.  I think Obama would have had great difficulty bringing the Iranians into the coalition, even if he would have convinced the UN and Europe to ease up on the enrichment issue.

I think we are stuck with the new Syrian Army, come what may.  I believe that the United States and Iran will mend fences in my lifetime, but not until a change of government in Teheran.  For now, the Iranians are content to sit back and watch what happens in Syria and Iraq.  The Iranian nuclear program is a subject that deserves its own post.  Keep reading, it will make its appearance soon.

* Quotes from the soon-to-be published "Mukhabarat, Baby!"

Post-Scotland: Crisis for Independence Movements in Europe?

List: Scotland Independence Referendum Complete Results

I was one of the many who anxiously followed the Scottish Independence Referendum results as they were announced. I'm not Scottish, but I love Scotland and I'm a bit sad that the voters rejected outright independence.   I'm also surprised.  I can't explain why, but I had this feeling that the voters would surprise the pundits.  Actually, they did.  The vote wasn't really close.  So I'm stuck humming "Loch Lomond" with a permanent vision of Queen Elizabeth and those ugly little dogs in my head.  Back on the continent, different folks with a variety of agendas set about interpreting the results.  Personally, I don't believe the referendum on Scotland is a precursor to anything (accept possibly another go by the Quebecois to separate from Canada).  Those persons keeping an eye on the various European independence movements now turn their focus on Catalonia, Spain. 

In 2012 the state government of Catalonia signed an agreement stating that a referendum on independence from Spain would be held in 2014 unless "socio-economic and political context make a postponement necessary".  Madrid is doing everything possible to legally combat the independence movement, which shouldn't be a surprise.  I will not get into the nuts and bolts of the Spanish financial crisis, except to say that I believe high domestic growth and international financing confidence indicate that the economy is on the mend.  The recent modest improvements in the economy have not discouraged the movement for Catalonian Independence.  Many Catalonians believe that Catalonia provides more to the Spanish government than it gets in return, especially when Barcelona is factored into the equation.  If Catalonia manages to hold the referendum in 2014 (which becomes less likely everyday), there is little doubt that the people will vote to secede by a statistical majority.  Even if the referendum is postponed for a year, I can't envision a scenario in which the Catalonian people vote against independence.  I'm going out on a limb here, but I believe the only way that Madrid can avoid a separation with Catalonia, is by proposing increased autonomy, and hoping that the Catalonians won't act unilaterally.  Frankly, I don't see this ending well.  With the Basque question presently on the back-burner ("hey, we were here first!"), the Spanish people are beginning to resent the Catalonian independence movement.  Most Spaniards have felt the pinch of austerity in recent years, and the Spanish media never misses an opportunity to portray Barcelona as the Bacchanalian capital of Europe, with plenty of drunk students and money from tourists to go around. My biggest concern, is that Madrid will be obliged to provide Catalonia with virtual independence, and the Basques will be right behind.

In all honestly, the so-called independence movements in mainland France (Brittany and Normandy being the only two that have received any media attention) are used as platforms to attract tourists.  Both Brittany and Normandy have fascinating and unique customs and dialects, but so does every region of France (trust me on this one; my family is from Angouleme).  The one exception is Corsica.

Since 1960, Corsica has suffered through periods of unrest highlighted by violence committed by Corsican nationalist groups.  Because of its location, the culture of Corsica incorporates traditions from France, Spain, as well as Italy.  In the mid to late 1970s, the underground independence movement was responsible for a number of assassinations, including mayors and policemen.  The government in Paris reacted aggressively and many arrests were made.  In the 1990s, the independence movement collapsed due to internal conflict, and in 2000, French President Lionel Jospin granted increased autonomy to Corsica.  Since then steps have been taken to protect the indigenous language, which is close to extinction.  One issue that has consistently caused problems is the building of summer/vacation homes in Corsica by wealthy Parisian families.  The last time I checked, the Parisians were winning, I'm sorry to say (of course, there's nothing wrong with a polite, half-French, half-Texan buying a vacation house in Bastia, right?).  You can commit the Corsican independence movement to history; France has won.

I am fascinated by the case of Belgium.  Fifty-five percent of Belgians (the northern side) speak Flemish (Dutch), and forty-five percent (the southern side), speak French and call themselves Walloons.  I once read an article which described Belgium as suffering from a case of "linguistic apartheid", which, ironically, is a Dutch word.  Basically, Belgium is a country made up of two separate nationalities, the Flemish and the Walloons, and neither side wants to play with the other.  Belgium is a wealthy country of 11.2 million souls, and (more irony), its capital Brussels is considered the de facto capital of the European Union.  Having spent some time in Belgium, I must say there seems to be a bit of snobbery at play on the part of the Flemish.  What keeps Belgium together?  More than anything else, its royal family.  Don't misunderstand; the Belgians don't adore their royals as the Dutch love the House of Orange.  Its just that the royal family seems to be the one thing that presides equally over both sides.  The rational thing to do would be for the Netherlands to annex north Belgium and for France to annex the south.  Brussels (and its environs) could remain a city-state, continuing its important functions relating to NATO and the EU.  But for something this prolific to happen, enough folks on both side would have to make the effort.  And no one cares enough to make the effort.

I won't delve into the examples of German "independence movements", because they follow the same examples of mainland France.  Bavarians want to talk about independence, but only if you come for Oktoberfest and drink lots of beer.  If you enjoy history as much as I do, you will appreciate the case of South Tyrol.  This situation involves Austria, not Germany; but I took advantage of the shared language to build a nice segue.  Time for a bit of history.  In 1914, The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire went to war against France, Russia, England, and Serbia (the Ottoman Empire, the United States, Italy and a few others joined later).  At the time, Germany and Austria-Hungary (Central Powers) were bound by a mutual-defense treaty with Italy.  The Italians chose to interpret their obligations quite narrowly and announced neutrality.  In 1915, Italy renounced its neutrality and declared war on the central Powers (Italy's former allies).  After the war, the victorious Allies dismembered Austria-Hungary, and, in payment for services rendered, gave Italy large swaths of Austrian territory including South Tyrol.  Even though another World War has occurred (in which the Italians switched sides AGAIN), many Austrians still resent Italy's land grab.  The former province of Tyrol is now split into North Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy).  Even today, seventy percent of people in South Tyrol speak German and identify themselves as ethnically Austrian.  Austrians in Tyrol take this issue very seriously, and at times groups of armed men have gathered in the mountains, anticipating hostilities.  Why won't Italy act sensibly, and return South Tyrol to Austria?  It has everything to do with the fact that South Tyrol is a wealthy province, with a booming tourist industry and a robust agricultural sector.  Unfortunately for Austrian Tyrolians, the government in Vienna is more pacifist than Heidi, and does nothing more than occasionally mention the issue politely through diplomatic channels.  In 1866, Italy demanded an end to Austrian rule in Venice because Venice was obviously an Italian city.  In 1918, the situation repeated itself with Trieste.  How about a little fair play from Rome?  Don't hold your breath.

I began this post with a bit of reflection on the Scottish referendum, and really never made any correlations.  I guess that was the point.  Every circumstance is different, and the independence issues on the mainland bear more similarities to the late problems in northern Ireland than they to do the temporary family disagreement over Scotland's status.  I do believe the issues mentioned above will attract the attention of the European media some time before the end of the year (with the exception of Corsica), as some dispensation has been debated.  Personally, I'm anxious to see the Quebec independence movement (Mouvement Souverainiste du Quebec) reassert itself and call for another referendum.  In 1995, the vote was razor-thin, with fifty-one-percent voting against independence and 49 percent in favor.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apologist in Chief

Link: Obama's United Nations Address

I'm sure, somewhere down the road, I will regret the title I chose for this post.  I don't like being confrontational.  I had my share of confrontation in the first forty-eight years, thank you.  As I've said previously, I started this blog as a means of introducing my book to persons interested in national security and intelligence.  Not surprisingly, I have fallen in love with this method of expression and communication, and fully intend to build this blog into something meaningful.  This experience has reminded me that the majority (certainly not all) of persons interested in intelligence collection are conservative.  Frankly put, its no challenge to find someone in the blogoshere who is ready to criticize the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party.  It has been my intention from the beginning to steer clear of politics, and in most instances I believe I have been successful.  But lately, reality has hit me squarely in jaw.  I enjoy writing about issues that don't have a political angle, and I endeavor to avoid politics with a partisan vein.  But I will not ignore this Administration's policies on immigration or any other subject that directly impacts national security.

How is it that President Obama continues to find ways to surprise me? Yesterday, I commented that the Administration might be playing politics with national security.  In fact, I considered the idea that President Obama was conducting an air campaign against Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria in an effort to appear "presidential" just prior to a major national election.  But today President Obama addressed the United Nations and reverted back to his "America is bad".  Judge and Jury Obama declared to the world's representatives that the incident in Ferguson, Missouri was an American "failure".  He also pointed out the continuation of "our own racial and ethnic tensions".  First and foremost, the President of the United States should not be airing our "laundry" in front of tin-horn dictators, thugs, Marxists and psychopaths.  Why was it necessary to mention the events in Ferguson?  Because Obama continues to believe that the United States has not expressed enough contrition and remorse for our supposed worldwide "exploitation".  President Obama was raised in a family of avowed Marxists and America-haters; its no surprise that he detests our legacy.  It took some time for me to reach this point.  I've heard all the conspiracy theories about birth certificates, etc., but I didn't actually believe that President Obama had disdain for his own country until the last few years.  Dinesh, my apologies for not seeing the truth sooner.

During the address President Obama could not resist his trademark "Islam is wonderful and lovely and peaceful and full of butterflies and unicorns" comments.  Women are beheaded in Saudi Arabia and locked up like criminals. In 2004, just outside of al-Kut, Iraq, my colleague Mike and I watched a man beat a group of Shia women with a switch "just because they were women".  Mr. President, if Islam is a religion of "peace", prove it by attempting to build a Christian Church ANYWHERE in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia (I'm sure someone is going to point out that some Churches already exist in these countries.  The key word in my sentence is "build").  Another one of those odd "Obama paradoxes" has me a bit flummoxed.  Obama has spoken on more than one occasion about the need to address homophobia in the United States, and he did us all a favor by ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military.  So let me get this straight: in the United States we need marriage equality and to fight the homophobia and bigotry that still exists in our society.  But Islamic countries, whose laws are DIRECTLY predicated on the teachings of the Quran, and who consider homosexuality to be punishable by death, are "peace loving".  Huh?

The prevailing Muslim authority in Nigeria is directly linked to Boko Haram, the group who randomly kidnaps children.  In Algeria, a French tourist was beheaded today by an Algerian-based jihadi group with ties to the IS.  Saudi Arabian women are denied just about every right you can imagine.  We could take a country-by-country tour and I could provide lots of unpleasant stories.  The truth is, I don't believe that the average Muslim person wants to kill anyone, but we must recognize that the issue of international terrorism in this generation is rooted in Islamic countries.  What is an Islamic country?  For my purposes, an Islamic nation is one whose laws are directly derived from the Quran.  I do not refer to Turkey as an Islamic country, even though the population is over ninety percent Muslim.  Turkey's constitution is centered on the secular tradition enshrined by Kemal Ataturk.  What point is President Obama trying to make when he reminds us repeatedly that "Islam is a peaceful religion"?  What exactly does that phrase mean?

The first time I attempted to read the Quran I did not make much progress.  The book does not follow any chronological path, at least none that I could follow.  I picked it up again about ten years ago, and managed to finish the book.  Last year, guided by a Muslim friend (who kindly picked out an acceptable English translation), I read the Quran for a third time.  Its very similar to the Christian Bible in that it has of stories of remarkable characters, astounding events, and useful lessons.  The Quran, again, like the Bible, speaks of sin, punishment, and forgiveness.  The real difference between the Bible and the Quran, is that in today's world, the Quran is being used to exhort people to violence.  This development should not come as a surprise to us Christians, because its exactly what we did a few centuries ago.

For six years we have observed our President approach every international issue from the position of "offending party".  I'm more than over this approach.  No doubt in our history, the United States has been involved in some less-than-proud moments.  At the same time, young Americans have bled in battlefields far and wide, in defense of someone else's freedom.  I am proud to be an American.  My father served in Korea and Vietnam and returned with three purple hearts to show for his commitment.  Whatever it is that bothers President Obama so much that he has spent six years apologizing for America, I say its time to GET OVER IT.  In our short history we have introduced the concept of human rights and liberty to a world that had grown accustomed to servitude.  We have serious domestic issues to address, as does Germany, Malaysia, Laos, Rwanda, Wales, Estonia, and on and on and on.  Its part of the evolution of a society.  Our domestic issues have no business on the international stage.      

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Politization of the ISIS Threat: Business as Usual.

Link: Juan Williams says ISIS will Benefit Democrats in Midterms

Former CIA Director Panetta Critical of Iraq Pullout

The first news story that grabbed my attention today focused on threats made by the Islamic State (IS) to French, Australian and American citizens, and it came as no surprise.  IS is not pleased with the ongoing air campaign which has disrupted IS attempts to establish itself in oil-rich areas of Kurdistan.  It is estimated that IS already earns over one billion dollars a day in oil revenue.  By the way, who is purchasing oil from IS?  Shouldn't our military resources be focused on shutting down this IS cash cow?  Now that kind of valuable intelligence would make an Accessions List sparkle (excuse the Agency insider comment).  As for the threats against Yanks, Frenchies, and Aussies, take it at face value.  This part of the world is known for drama.  Remember the Iraqi Spokesman who, during Operation Enduring Freedom, continued to broadcast about Iraqi battlefield victories, as Abrams tanks were pulling up outside his office?  In warfare, bullets are a lot more dangerous than words.  The second article that grabbed my attention highlighted comments by Fox News contributor Juan Williams on the IS issue and how it plays into U.S. politics.  Williams hypothesized that President Obama's approval ratings would improve because of his declaration of "war" against the IS. Williams added that Obama's improved image would benefit Democratic Senate and House candidates in this year's November midterm elections.  I normally disagree with Juan regarding policy, but he is usually on the money with political forecasting.  I agree that an increased military effort in support of our national security is a no-lose proposition for President Obama.  But it doesn't make me happy.

I am one of those folks who believe that Hurricane Sandy helped President Obama win re-election in 2012.  Mitt Romney playing defense for the last month and bizarre instances of voter fraud in key battleground states also played a role, but in the end President Obama won re-election in 2012, and it appears he might be about to do it again, albeit in a different political venue.  I really like Juan Williams.  I have heard he is a true gentleman and I believe he plays his part of the Fox News "counter argument" in fine fashion.  But I am thoroughly disturbed with the glee he seems to express, as he pronounces that, yet again, smoke and mirrors will decide a major U.S. election.  I did not vote for Barack Obama, and I am not a supporter of his policies.  Oddly enough, considering the subject of this blog, foreign policy is not my "Obama complaint".  Simply put, he has taken our grandchildren's credit card out of the White House wallet, and has charged up seventeen trillion dollars in debt in six years.  This is not a GOP-doctored number.  Check it out for yourself.  Now what have we purchased that was worth going into debt (much of it to China) for seventeen trillion dollars (and counting)?  The economy is sluggish, employment figures are disturbing, and we keep on spending.  Be that as it may, I write this blog to comment on issues of intelligence and international conflict, not domestic economics.  In my position as host of this blog, I have opined on more than one occasion that I believe the Obama Administration has not handled the "IS" issue very well.  As former CIA Director Leon Panetta (an Obama appointee) has stated, we should not have left Iraq without some military presence in place.  In the second link provided above, Panetta argues that the IS has become an issue because of Obama's desire to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan quickly.  Panetta also argues that the Administration should have made the decision last summer to support the New Syrian Army (NAS). I don't agree with Panetta on the last point, but I am very concerned by what appears to be a military policy that is designed to affect U.S. elections.  No doubt the Democrats were not seeding the Tropics to create Hurricane Sandy and give Obama the opportunity to look "presidential" just prior to a national election, but in this instance I would not be surprised if politics was at play in forming military policy.  And I am frustrated by the voting public for being such a patsy.

U.S. Air Force strikes on IS positions in Iraq and Syria will make nice clips for the evening news.  Every American (count me in) will no doubt find some satisfaction in our response to the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.  But would we be engaged in this bombing campaign if we weren't approaching a pivotal election?  Why am I so cynical?  I have trouble supporting a policy that has so many questions and so few answers.  More importantly, I believe our policy to arm surrogates to fight the ground campaign of this conflict is a repeat of past errors.  One of the hallmarks of this Administration has been its unwillingness to provide a complete policy for any of its initiatives.  I will repeat a few of the questions I have been asking over the past week.  Will IS also be engaging regular Syrian forces with the weapons we provide?  Of course they will, and the Russians, with their guy Assad sitting in Damascus, will respond.  I do not believe that we should be involved in the Syrian civil war.  But we will be, once the New Syrian Army turns its focus away from the IS and towards its real target, the Ba'ath regime in Damascus.  Call me old school, but I believe wars are terrible things and should be fought with all vigor and ended as soon as possible.  If the IS is a threat to our national security, then we need to revisit the original decision to high-tail it out of Iraq, and hit IS from three directions: Iraq, Kurdistan, and Syria.  We should use every appropriate military tool to obliterate this group.  It is possible to defeat an ideology; we ended the scourge of National Socialism (Nazis) in 1945, and we discredited communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  If we attack the IS with this kind of approach, we will discourage the next nut job who wants to take us on.  Instead, we have an air campaign, conducted alongside our French friends (again, this conflict is making for some strange bedfellows), and a surrogate army of ex-Syrian soldiers to bleed out for us "in proxy".  I believe the New Syrian Army, trained and equipped by the U.S., alongside an air campaign that destroys the IS supply routes, will be successful.  And this is where the problem begins.  What if our surrogate is successful?  Do we recognize them as the next Syrian government?  Do we immediately end all military support and say "you've gotten all your getting from us, folks- good luck?"  Again, no answers.  Actually, that's not true.  Someone may proffer up a vague response or two, but the real issue is, NO POLICY.

Juan Williams is a Democrat, and understandably looks forward to the political "bump" the Democrats will gain from the image of a "wartime President".  But its an illusion.  We all know that Obama is no Hawk.  But he can play one on TV for a while in order to win an election.  I hope Juan is wrong.  I hope that the Democrats don't keep control of the Senate, so that I don't have to listen to people regret their vote for the next two years.  President Obama does not appear to have a "complete" strategy for entering into this conflict with the IS.  But he is very strategic when it comes to the political battlefield.  I am very concerned by Obama's repeated threats to use Executive Authority to create and enforce domestic policy.  Most important is the issue of Immigration; are we are going to reward folks whose presence in the United States is predicated on breaking our laws?  Any form of Amnesty will only increase the flow of undocumented aliens crossing into the United States from Mexico; its not Rocket Science.  So it becomes an issue of National Security.  The only reason Obama is able to accuse Congress of not doing its job, is because the Democratically-controlled Senate under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, refuses to let any House-passed legislation reach the floor of the Senate.  It gives Obama the "manufactured" authority to act unilaterally.  If the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, Obama will be forced to either pass or veto all sorts of issue-driven legislation.  And the reasonable and well-thought House Immigration Bill provides an alternative to Amnesty.  President Obama will no longer be able to tell the American people that he must use Executive Authority because Congress is lazy.  Basically, we would have a government that utilizes the "checks and balances" theory of administration, which is the way its supposed to be.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Brief Look at al-Nusra and Khorasan

Link: Khorasan a Threat to the West?
          What is Khorasan?

Recently I posted comments relating to the various terror groups currently active in Syria.  I believe that it is best to focus more on the overall threat posed by these groups, than to get lost in the weeds trying to determine what name belongs to which faction.  Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in Magreb, al-Nusra, . . . they all have the same goal: they are determined to destroy our way of life.  The enemy does not separate the French infidels from the Danish infidels, or the Austrian blasphemers from the British infidels.  For those of us who are intelligence freaks, though, breaking down the various terror networks is what we enjoy.  I have stated my preferred strategy for militarily confronting these groups quite clearly in recent posts.  Today I would like to use my experience, training, and intuition to look into some of these groups.

On September 2, I spent an entire post detailing the evolution of the Islamic State (IS).  Not surprisingly, we could create a flow chart that connects all of these groups to Al-Qaeda in one way or another.  In fact, I believe all of the groups we have been reading about lately have an Al-Qaeda angle.  If these groups have an Al-Qaeda genesis and the same motivation, why have they splintered into so many factions?  First and foremost, its human nature.  These young men and women did not join a terrorist group to march on a parade ground and shine medals, they joined to kill in the name of Allah.  Without the discipline of a modern army unit, disagreements become arguments, and groups tend to splinter.  It doesn't mean that they hate you any less, it only means that personality clashes happen everywhere.  Also, smaller groups can be a strategic advantage in certain types of warfare.  Units of five to eight fighters can travel lightly and cover much more ground than two dozen armed men.  And if by chance the various groups come together for battle, they can splinter again just as quickly and disappear into the bush or mountains.  Its much harder to locate and keep track of smaller groups.  Another very important reason why we have so many groups with different monikers is vanity.  Everyone wants their five minutes of fame, so what better way than to create your own movement, name, and flag?

A review of open source media reveals (for the most part), four groups currently operating in Syria in opposition to the regular Syrian Army (loyal to President Bashir al-Assad).  The four names that seem to pop up most frequently are the IS, al-Nusra, Khorasan, and the New Syrian Army (NSA).  No doubt Al-Qaeda in present, advising the leaders of these various groups (NSA excepted, of course).  The NSA is the one anti-Assad group in Syria that appears to also oppose the Islamic extremist element.  The Obama Administration has selected the NSA to be our surrogates against the IS.  We spent time examining the NSA on September 21, so there is no need to revisit them so soon.  Personally, I am most fascinated by this group that calls itself the "al-Nusra Front" (ANF), or just "al-Nusra".  ANF is a direct extension of Al-Qaeda, straight from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan (its so fascinating how history repeats itself, especially from a military perspective.  The Pakistan/Afghanistan border reminds me of the Vietnam War-era Vietnamese border with Laos and Cambodia).  Khorasan is an extension of al-Nusra.  During the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, the African National Congress (ANC) had a military wing (Umkhonto we sizwe- Spear of the Nation) to carry out attacks against the State.  It appears some of the terrorist groups are operating on similar lines.  Khorasan is known to favor western recruits, especially anyone with explosives training.  I believe Khorasan will attempt to exploit the training of its recruits to not only attack the enemy in Syria, but to also conduct more prolific attacks against western targets.

Khorasan is led by Muhsin Fadhli, a senior Al-Qaeda operative who was probably hiding out in Iran until recently (the Iran angle in this mess is most intriguing, and will be the subject of tomorrow's post).  It is believed that Fadhli was personally tasked by current Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit westerners.  Why are the westerners so important?  Because some are former military and have specialized training, and (ostensibly) all can travel unhindered on western passports.  Examining the flow of recent media reporting on al-Nusra and Khorasan can be confusing.  Is Khorasan designed to be a specialized unit of western recruits with bomb-making experience, who can create explosives to be smuggled onto commercial airplanes?  Or will Khorasan use its skills to create I.E.Ds (Improvised Explosive Devices)?  ANF will be militarily active in Syria regardless of the presence of Khorasan, which leaves me with the impression that Khorasan will be used for specialized operations.

The Syrian conflict seems to become more complicated by the hour.  During a conversation with two colleagues, we couldn't help but laugh at some of the odd bedfellows that have evolved.  Will IS fight alongside ANF and Khorasan?  If events unfold as planned (by the Obama Administration), the New Syrian Army will be fighting both the IS and ANF/Khorasan.  Here is where it gets humorous.  If the situation on the ground develops logically, then the IS and the ANF/Khorasan will be fighting both the NEW Syrian Army and the OLD Syrian Army simultaneously.  And I'm sure before all is said and done, the NAS will settle its conflict with the regular Syrian Army.

One of the greatest books ever written (and I am an expert, just ask anyone) is Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).  Seven Pillars is a poetic,
stylized biographic account of Lawrence during his efforts to organize Arab resistance to the Ottoman Turks during the First World War.  Don't be discouraged by the beginning...its can be a bit "thick".  Once you leave the beginning behind, you won't be able to put it down.  The book is written so beautifully as to provide the mind's eye with the most amazing Arabian landscapes and events.  True, you must wade through a passage or two of Lawrence's "boy-lust", but its not as bad as its made out to be. I strongly recommend Seven Pillars to everyone who will be serving in this part of the world, or who has an interest in Arabia.  I mention Lawrence and Seven Pillars because it provides great detail to the 1916 "Sykes-Picot Agreement" (I imagine if the Ottoman Empire and the Triple Alliance had gone on to win the war, Sykes-Picot would had become cage-liner for some Parakeet).  In a nutshell, Sykes-Picot was an agreement between France and the British, which defined "spheres of influence" (read: occupation) for each nation following the successful resolution of the war.  The Brits would get Palestine and Jordan, and the French would receive Syria and Lebanon.  The Treaty, which made Lawrence appear deceitful, was drafted without Lawrence's knowledge.  Lawrence had been preaching to the Arabs that their participation in defeating the Turks would result in freedom and independence.  Once the details of the treaty became public, the Arabs were incensed.  If you look close enough, you can always find some episode of western idiocy that stains the reputation of Europe and the United States indefinitely (the Chinese are still going on about the 1840s Opium Wars).  The point is, people in this part of the world do not trust westerners.  Every effort to win the "Hearts and Minds" has been unsuccessful.  The Obama Administration, alongside whatever coalition he is able to crochet together, must have a reasonable exit strategy that leaves the Syrian and Iraqi people in control of their own destiny.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Are We Focused Too Exclusively On The Islamic State?

Link: Who Is This Unknown Group That Has Experts Concerned?

Before the 1998 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, very few Americans had ever heard of Al-Qaeda.  The terror group had been active for some years, recruiting and causing trouble in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.  In the four-year period between 1998 and 2002, Al-Qaeda (AQ) became a household name.  Hezbollah, Hamas, and the P.L.O. basically disappeared from the U.S. media target list.  Why not?  Those three groups were only focused on destroying Israel.  Al-Qaeda, now there was a group of young men with ambition.  After September 11, the United States justifiably declared war on AQ.  In true warrior fashion, President George Bush developed a strategy that would take the fight to the enemy.  Another important part of that strategy was the need to force AQ into a conventional war, which they were ill-prepared to win.  For one reason or another (enough blame to go around folks), we took our eye off the ball.  While its true we cut off the snake's head (bin-Laden), at least two more have grown back in its place.

I appreciate the concern expressed by the experts in the link provided, as it demonstrates that we have established a solid network of assets in the region.  But I continue to be concerned with the reluctance of the policymakers to accept the fact that these groups are basically part of the same monster.  Al-Qaeda in Magreb, Al-Qaeda in al-Sharm, Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Islamic State, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and on and on.  These groups talk to one another and they support one another.  Any reporting that details a rift between respective groups had better be vetted well, because that is just the type of disinformation these assholes use.  I strongly support the approach taken by the CIA.  While the Agency has analysts taking apart each respective group, it falls under one inclusive umbrella known as the Counter Terrorism Center (CTC).  I don't know if anyone will ever be able to adequately detail how many lives have been saved because of the work of these folks.  Seeing these folks at work is truly amazing, and will make your pride swell.  Not only has CTC uncovered and disrupted countless plans to attack U.S. interests, they have also shared life-saving information with our international friends.  Its not that complicated, really.  CTC Case Officers travel to the hot spots, use their training to spot, assess, and recruit people in positions of access.  They must set up a safe, flexible commo plan so that the information can be shared on a "need-to-know" only basis.  Most important is to keep your contact/asset safe.  When I rummage through the archives of my own gray matter (enter at your peril), I cannot recall very many instances in which Agency contacts have been uncovered.  Many times the bad guys will feed false stories to the local media (hello, Russia) in order to demonstrate some success against the Agency.  I am proud to have once worked (three months!) in CTC, and proud as an American at their tremendous sacrifice and their spectacular successes, most of which you may never know.

Sorry for getting a bit off track.  My point is, that we would all be better off considering international terrorism to be one, nasty, dangerous conglomerate.  These people have money and they get around.  Language and culture issues do not stand in the way, as they are the experts at practicing "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  The war in which we find ourselves is against TERRORISM.  It shouldn't necessarily include narco-traffickers but if a few get blown away in the process, all the better.  If we keep our focus on their focus (the destruction of western culture and civilization), it will be easier to attack this monster head-on.  Let the experts at Langley, Interpol, and other various allied intel agencies worry about the different names and personalities.  The linked article mentions the name of a lesser-known group in Syria calling itself "Khorasan".  From what limited information the media has been able to obtain, this group consists of a small number of Al-Qaeda veterans and prefers to recruit foreigners.  Its penchant for conducting bombing attacks probably has something to do with the focus of its recruitment.  At the end of the day, I'm sure this group is no less violent and cowardly as the next.  Instead of singling out Khorasan, they should be lumped into the pile of shit we already know as International Terrorism.

Sooner or later I believe our government is going to create an Agency to focus exclusively on the terrorist target.  As of today we have counter-terrorist elements within the CIA, Department of Defense, FBI, and NSA.  The problem has become such a threat that it would be in our best interest to collate all the intelligence in one repository.  I think a "pseudo-effort" to accomplish this was the creation of the Director of National Intelligence, but I can't help but fear that much is lost in the transfer from one office to another.  The events of September 11 went a long way to obliging the various agencies to share trace information (thank goodness).  I hope we look towards creating this singularly-focused Agency soon.  I'm also hoping that we don't replicate too much work by searching for hundreds of different groups with different names.  They all share one moniker," the enemy", and they should receive an equal amount of our fury. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Are We Comfortable Paying Others To Confront Our Threats?

Link: What Is The Free Syrian Army?

House Votes to Arm "Free Syrian Army".

We are living in fascinating times.  The President of the United States has declared that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group (which was originally Al-Qaeda in Iraq, then morphed into Islamic State of Al-Sharm, followed by Islamic State of the Levant) is a threat to the security of the United States, and that the United States will not use ground forces to combat IS.  Apparently IS has become too organized and prolific to destroy by bombing alone, so the United States decides to fund, train and equip the "New Syrian Army" (NSA; see first link).  I assume that the Administration huddled with intel folks to determine which anti-IS element in Syria would be the most palatable to the American people.  The Administration chose the group that was less likely to morph into an Islamic fundamentalist movement on down the road.  NSA traces it roots to a few disgruntled members of the Syrian Army officer cadre.  They have had success recruiting not only former Syrian soldiers, but also Kurds, Alawis, Palestinians, Turkmens, and Druze.  Considering the majority of members (and the leadership) are Sunni Muslims, the inclusion of other ethnic and religious fighters is an important element.  IS conducts itself as a functioning army, and has occupied a number of cities throughout Syria.  On a whole, the territory controlled by the NAS pales in comparison to areas occupied by IS and regular Syrian Army.  This fact demonstrates the traditional military perspective of NAS.  It is more important to control the transportation and communication nodes (read: cities) than it is to possess large swaths of desert.  Up to this point, the NAS does not appear to have a religious motive.  The goal has always been the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Ba'ath Party.  Numerous human rights groups claim that NAS has participated in war crimes, but finding someone in this mess who hasn't would be an impossible task.

The Obama Administration does not expect NAS to ratchet up its activities until equipment has been delivered and training has been conducted (I assume the training will be conducted by elements of both the CIA and the U.S. Army).  A high percentage of NAS troops are former military or have military training already, so this should accelerate the process.  It appears that the "four month" mark is when we should expect to see an increase in NAS activity.  Until then, the United States Air Force and France's Armee de l'Air (and whoever else Obama can convince to join his coalition) will be bombing the shit out of IS targets. Military strategy argues that a focused bombing campaign should prioritize supply routes, but I think we will have enough firepower to hit the enemy everywhere.  If we stay committed and manage to round up a few allies, the NAS can be molded into a first-rate military force.  No doubt that if the Obama Administration had taken the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stayed in Iraq long enough to complete the training of the Iraqi military, we wouldn't have to take this "Mujahideen"-like risk.  When a decision is made to arm a foreign element with weapons paid for by the U.S. people, we assume the responsibility of those weapons.  Its a different circumstance altogether when military equipment from a U.S. company is purchased by another nation (such as F16 to Taiwan and Black Hawk Helicopters to Austria).  In reality, we have no idea what will become of the equipment we provide to the NAS (I for one was not expecting the Iraqi Army to desert in mass exodus prior to its first engagement, leaving tons of U.S.-supplied military hardware for IS to pick up).  I am also concerned about what the NAS will become if it succeeds in toppling Assad.  The leaders of the NAS are all former Syrian military officers and during their careers, must have been exposed to all sorts of corruption and nepotism. 

Are we involved with the NAS to destroy the IS or to topple the Assad regime?  Will IS have two enemies on the battlefield?  Does the Obama Administration intend to fund the NAS until both Assad and IS are defeated?  Why haven't these legitimate questions been addressed?  As is the habit with this Administration, we seem to be diving head-long into something with no real end-game strategy.  Would we recognize an NAS government, or would we demand elections?  What if the NAS says, screw your elections, we are the government now (which is what will happen if we fund the NAS enough to defeat both IS and the regular Syrian Army).  Has anyone in the Administration or Congress commented on how much this effort will cost the American taxpayer?  In recent months (with help from Hillary's buddy Vlad Putin in Moscow, no doubt) the regular Syrian Army has reconstituted itself.  Assad's Army has aggressively and ruthlessly fought for every inch of ground, and shows no sign of internal conflict.  I can only assume that the Administration, in choosing to back the NAS, envisions a scenario in which elements of the Syrian Army desert and join the NAS.  As this conflict grows, the NAS must formulate a plan to combat both the regular Syrian Army and IS.  Of course, Washington DC is only concerned with destroying IS.  Has the NAS agreed to focus exclusively on OUR enemy (IS), or will the weapons we provide be aimed at elements of the regular Syrian Army?  Will the U.S. Air Force also target regular Syrian Army positions?  What if a NAS unit is surrounded by regular Syrian Army forces.  Will the U.S. (and coalition) air elements intervene?  If we do, then I can assure you, the Russians will have something to say.  Will the NAS pursue IS targets into Iraq?  The decision to use NAS as surrogate ground forces in our war against IS comes with a nightmare collection of "what ifs".

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union faced-off in many locations around the world.  On more than one occasion that United States and the Soviets came to near-blows over issues in the Near East.  The U.S. supported Israel and the Russians provided arms to the Syrians and the Egyptians.  Although the Cold War has ended (per se), Russia continues to view Syria as a close ally.  Sooner or later our involvement in the Syrian conflict will compel Putin to increase Russian support for the Assad regime.  Arming NAS has the real possibility of bringing us into conflict with Russia.  The Administration has gone to great lengths not to antagonize the Russians in eastern Europe (sanctions only-still no military aid for Ukraine).  If the Russians stand aside and allow the NAS to form a government, with the Israelis be comfortable with another militarized Syria on its border?  In a worst-case scenario, we could see U.S. equipment handled by NAS being used against Israelis, who might also be carrying U.S. military hardware.

It must be apparent that I do not support the arming of NAS to combat the IS.  Too many times we have provided equipment that seems to fall into the hands of our enemies (or our friends become our enemies, as in the case of the Afghani Mujahideen).  Also I am offended to the core that we would consider paying others to do our dirty work.  If the IS is a threat to the security of the United States, then the IS should be destroyed by the U.S. military.  Isn't that the raison d'etre of our armed forces? Have we reached the point of decadence in our society that we feel others should be paid to die in proxy?  Here's a novel idea: why not take all the money that we spend to fund defense, and use it to pay others to fight our wars?  I believe IS is a threat to our national security, as Al-Qaeda continues to be.  But once we have made the decision that a group is a direct threat to our freedom, then we need to utilize every resource we have at our disposal to destroy the enemy quickly.  Wars must be fought to the fullest, and brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible.  History shows us that this method of approach to war will result in the fewest collateral casualties.  When conflicts are drawn out, people suffer.  I believe we should use ground forces to attack IS from all directions, including Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan.  We should use as many troops as necessary, in concert with our military air elements, to finish the job quickly.  IS must be obliterated.  If we attack the IS target full-force, with our NAS and Kurdish allies, we would destroy all remnants of IS and Al-Qaeda.  The fact that we did not completely destroy Al-Qaeda in Iraq is why we must now deal with the IS.  In fact, we are pulling out of Afghanistan while Al-Qaeda hides in Pakistan.  Once we are gone, the Taliban will welcome al-Qaeda back, and Afghanistan will join Iraq as diplomatic failures of the U.S. government.  Our young men and women in uniform did an outstanding job in both Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be let-down by the fat politicians back in Washington DC.

The use of NAS to combat IS is nothing more than the contracting out of mercenaries to fight our conflict.  If NAS is successful against IS, will they return the equipment we provided, or will it be used to strengthen their hold on Syria?  Will a NAS government in Damascus be hostile to Israel?  There is no doubt in my mind.  As was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have no way of determining what kind of government we are helping to create.  I don't like the NAS.  As recent members of the regular Syrian Army, they can be no strangers to lobbing rounds of ammunition down on Israeli Kibbutz settlements in northern Israel.  Arming the NAS is a textbook example of  "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  I have three critical questions for the Obama Administration.  Will NAS be continuing its campaign against the Assad regime while also attacking the IS?  Will the U.S. (and coalition) Air Force be targeting regular Syrian Army elements?  What is the diplomatic strategy for the Levant after IS has been defeated? 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Threat of Domestic Terrorism

Link: Department of Justice and Domestic Terrorism

Last night I wrote a post that focused on third world debt, and earlier today I posted a short message about football.  Its safe to say that I have been avoiding the subject of today's post.  The idea of real domestic terrorism in the United States is not only hard to define, its hard to imagine.  The link I have provided does not add much to the discussion, but it does highlight the perspective that the Justice Department has embraced regarding this issue.  Since this is my blog and I am writing this post, I will be expressing my opinions about some very sensitive subjects.  My comments are opinions only, albeit opinions developed after a career in both Federal Law Enforcement and the Intelligence Community.

It would be wrong to believe that the Islamic State (from this point on referred to as "IS") is the primary domestic terror threat.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, Americans on the southern border with Mexico have been subjected to a brand of domestic terrorism for some time.  The Narco-traffickers who govern the Mexican side of the border do not hesitate to occasionally hop across the border and share some of the terror usually reserved for Mexicans.  American citizens have been kidnapped, assassinated, and terrorized for more than a decade by members of both the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels.  So when discussing "domestic terror threats", we have to be careful not to generalize.  Today I will be commenting on the domestic threat posed by Islamic fundamentalist-inspired terrorism.  Many Americans continue to misunderstand Al-Qaeda's goal in carrying out the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Too many brave, innocent people died that day, and I'm sure the bad guys were thrilled, but their real desire was to cripple the United States in as many fundamental ways as possible, for as long as possible.  They were only partially successful.  The United States transportation system, primarily air travel, was shut down.  I would never have imagined that the United States could survive as long as it did, with all the airlines grounded.  When the transportation system is disrupted, the economy suffers.  Goods do not move from assembly to market, and businessmen do not personally attend to important business.  The medical community is also affected, as patients and organs need to be transported in a time-sensitive fashion.  It was quite a contagion, as the airline shutdown affected everything, including buses, trains, banks, mail, and even port activity.  Americans were unable to live their lives as they had grown accustomed.  The events of 9-11 temporarily denied many Americans their sense of freedom, as they stayed behind closed doors, huddled around the television sets.  We also suffered from a stock market crash.  As far as September 11 goes, the disruptions were much more valuable to Al-Qaeda than the body count.  Islamic extremists have a fundamental conflict with the United States of America and how we embrace the idea of freedom.  An American family that balances its budget, takes a summer vacation to Disney World, votes, celebrates Santa Claus and Christmas, raises its children to be honest, proud citizens, is an anathema to Al-Qaeda and its associates.  Simply put, the American way of life is the real target.

Its possible that in the last decade, using a variety of methods, Islamic terror groups have seeded our cities with operatives.  When I say a variety of methods, I include domestic recruitment, illegal border crossing, and the utilization of fake passports and Visas.  I will always argue for a secure border, but for this discussion, how the bad guys arrived on scene isn't really important.  If you look at a map of the United States, you will see so many burgs that are similar in size and function.  It would not be difficult for someone keeping a low profile to get lost in a city of 250,000 (urban).  Federal Law Enforcement and local authorities have a solid grasp of the trouble makers in America's Islamic communities.  The Imams have been identified, the young stallions who frequent their daily rants in the mosques are also known, and the organizations that try to hide themselves under the guise of "educational foundation" or "charity", are on some "watch list" (I assume).  What concerns me, is the relative ease in which one hundred persons could separate and spread out towards the four corners of the United States, set themselves up domestically, and never really draw anyone's attention.  The bad guys are not stupid, at least not all of them.  Any true operative with a mission will not be spending time at anyone's mosque.  In fact, this individual with do everything possible to avoid attention.  If all one hundred of these agents have been trained and armed beforehand, and instructed to wait for a signal, its very difficult to defend against that kind of arrangement, especially in a country like ours.  I imagine the terrorists will do everything in their power to disrupt our way of life.  Possibly a sniper attack in the northwest, a grenade launched in south Florida, an automatic weapon discharged at a Supermarket in Des Moines, gas on the New York City Subway, at the same time as multiple hit-and-run incidences all over Pennsylvania, etc.  If the bad guys can orchestrate such events to take place at relatively the same day and time, they will certainly succeed in disrupting the lives of every American.

Without a doubt, our police, Federal Agents, militia and military will take care of the bad guys with precision and dedication, and in good time.  The real question will be the same one that was asked after the 9-11 attacks.  How will we let this affect the way we live?  The enemy wants us frightened.  If Americans are hesitant to embrace and share their constitutionally protected freedom, then the terrorists will have gained some measure of success.  I believe we have let down our guard a bit, especially regarding the security of the border, and sooner our later, we will have to deal with an incident of domestic terror.  We must remember the lessons from the past, and pick things up as quickly as possible.  If the authorities give the all-clear, go shopping, run your errands and play that tennis match you had to reschedule.  Help your neighbor in every and any way possible, and approach each task with a smile and conviction.  As usual, the rest of the world will be watching, to see the Americans flying their flags, gathering together, celebrating family and embracing all that is being American.  I can imagine no greater disappointment to the leaders of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014 weekend football picks.

I am a huge sports fan.  I tried Fantasy Football last year and did enjoy it, but I had real trouble grasping all of the moving parts.  Today I am inaugurating a new feature on "Mukhabarat, Baby!"- a few select football predictions.  I will include my own teams and maybe a national big game or two.  Non-Texans stick with me, I am required to begin in the local High School ranks.
Judson over Brennan
Blanco over SAC

West Virginia over OU
Texas State of Illinois
Virginia over BYU

Dallas over St. Louis
Houston over NY Giants
Seattle over Denver

Thank you for your indulgence!  Tomorrow's post will be ready tonight.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

African Debt Crisis....The Facts

Link: Statistics on Africa and Debt

(I was hesitant to use the above link because the site has a definite point of view.  Definite points of view tempt people to juggle statistics.  But in this instance, the figures were so accurate and easy to understand that I decided to take that risk.)

Most of the nations in Africa gained their independence from Europe in the 1960s.  In most cases, an attempt was made to transition the respective economies of these newly-independent states in a manner that would provide sustained, manageable growth.  By 1970, the majority of African states were suffering from high unemployment, eroding infrastructure, inflation, and endemic corruption.  I did not introduce this subject to debate the reasons behind the failure of post-colonial Africa.  Suffice to say that many African nations took advantage of loans offered by western interests (banks, nations, even companies) at sometimes mercenary interest rates.  The story seems to repeat itself again and again, whether its Burkina Faso, Zambia, Kenya, or the Central African Republic.  The process begins when the nation accepts the loan.   The corrupt nature of the civil service, administration and the military steal most of the money, a coup takes place, and when the new government take office, the money is gone.  What remains is a big I.O.U., with heavy interest.  The new government refinances the loan in order to access additional funds.  The money is looted in the same manner, the government is removed, and we start all over again.  Without adequate investment in infrastructure, much of Africa remains dependent on subsistence agriculture.  There is no money to pay for factories, roads, harbors, machines, farm tools, or education (the machines and tools won't do much good without skilled labor).  On most occasions the African nations made attempts to pay the necessary interest on the loans, until there wasn't even money for that effort.  The European banks (and eventually the International Monetary Fund) stopped loaning money to Africa.  I remember as a student in grade school, reviewing the list of the poorest countries in the world.  They all were in Africa.

In the 1970s, 1980, and 1990s, Africa went through a political metamorphosis. Most African intellectuals justifiably blamed (European) mistakes made at independence for the low standard of living in African countries.  I'm not much for the blame game, especially when there seems so much to go around.  It would have been nice if the Europeans had done a better job preparing the African work force for independence and it would have been great if Africa hadn't been plagued with so many selfish thugs with small armies.  From the late 1970s until the turn of the century, Africa went through periods of flirtation with just about every type of government our species has created.  Africa has seen its share of Socialist governments and also numerous attempts at western capitalism.  The episodes of Marxist and Socialist movements were definitely inspired by a need to "rebel" against the ways of the west.  Today it appears that for the most part, Africa has gotten that knot out of its system.  Many African countries are enjoying democratically elected governments, and sincere efforts are underway to improve the lives of people.  Corrupt functionaries are being replaced with educated civil servants and economies are bring rebuilt.  A sense of national pride has swept through countries like Botswana, Ghana, and Cameroon.  This turn of events has not gone unnoticed in Europe.  The owners of a handful of some very deep I.O.U.s are watching, and like a flock of vultures, they show up to remind everyone of their obligations.

I am a firm believer that people should pay their debts.  The same rule should apply to international agreements.  In this instance, though, it is in everyone's best interest to show some serious flexibility.  In most African countries, just paying the interest on the amounts owed would torpedo the promising changes that have been taking place.  Plain and simple, the debt owed to western interests by African nations will never be repaid.  Pressure can be applied by the United Nations and other international financial and diplomatic organizations that would require each nation to pay at least a percentage (possibly just the interest), but this only perpetuates the problem.  The debts can be eliminated through one of two methods: they can be repaid, or they can be written off.  I understand that the holders of the notes would prefer to at least get something in return, but I argue that in most cases, they already have.  A close look at the link provided demonstrates that in many instances the original loan amount has been repaid.

Writing off all external debt carried by African nations would be a historic event.  How long has it been since our species has worked together to create a positive, historic event?  Probably not since we put a man on the moon.  If the banks and other financial entities that hold the outstanding notes were to accept a token payment as paid in full, it would allow for opportunities that the African continent has yet to enjoy.  To release funds previously scheduled for loan payments, would provide a financial platform for infrastructure development that Africa so desperately needs.  What a pleasure it would be to build a hydroelectric plant with internal funding, instead of waiting for the Chinese government to decide that said African nation had become strategically important, therefore worth the investment.  Many folks will argue that making money available again will only lead to more corruption.  I disagree (which is easy, since I don't hold any of those notes); I think the African people, regardless of tribe, ethnicity, language or religion, desperately want an even playing field.  Once they have one, I pity the fool who tries to re-introduce some of the bad habits of the past.  Simply put, relieving African nations of the burden of debt, would provide a third-world economic stimulus that would drip UP as opposed to down.  All the economies of the world would benefit from an Africa that has the resources to responsibly access and exploit it own indigenous wealth.  Of course, not all the poor nations of the world are in Africa.  Maybe we should use the same formula in Asia and in Central and South America (except Argentina; I love Argentineans like no others, but that Kerchner woman really gets on my nerves).  I argue that such a bold approach to international debt would revolutionize and stimulate economies worldwide.