Week of October 18, 2021

Is Iran Close to Possessing a Nuclear Weapon?

 

After years of hearing that Iran is “months” from building a nuclear device, it was a surprise to hear the Mossad’s former director Yossi Cohen saying this week that an Iranian atomic weapon was still far away.

“I think Iran, to this day, is not even close to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Cohen said at a Jerusalem Post Conference.  “This is due to long standing efforts by some forces in the world,” he said in an oblique reference to Israel’s covert actions in Iran.

“They should not sleep quietly in Iran.”

Cohen also implied further actions against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure when he said, “We have to develop capabilities to allow us to be absolutely independent.  Doing what Israel has done twice before;” referring to the bombing of the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria.

Cohen also said that there is greater opposition to Iran’s nuclear program than in the past.

There was some question about the timing of these statements just as the US and Iran hope to continue further talks on renewing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  Cohen said of the JCPOA that “it isn’t comprehensive; it has to be comprehensive.”

The deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely.”

In an aside, Cohen stated that the Abraham Accords normalization and peace agreements were “one of the greatest accomplishments.”

 

Is an Iranian Nuclear Bomb Currently Practical?

There remain questions about the Iranian nuclear program.  Did Cohen imply that Iran is truly far away from developing a bomb soon, or does it mean that they are far away from developing a bomb capable of being deployed and of defeating Israel’s air defense system?

Meantime, the Institute for Science and International Security stated in a report issued this week, and reported by the New York Times, that Iran could produce the fuel for a single bomb in “as short as one month.

Consequently, Cohen seems to be implying that Iran is far from developing a practical nuclear device that can be fitted to some sort of missile capable of penetrating Israel’s vaunted air defense system.

In other words, Iran may have enough uranium 235 for a bomb in as little as a month, but they would have no way to deliver it.

One reason to believe that there are still technological issues to solve is the recent assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was the head of Iran’s nuclear program.  He was not a nuclear scientist.  Rather it appears that his area of specialty was miniaturizing the nuclear warhead and making it rugged so the warhead could survive its reentry into the atmosphere.

Although it is easy for analysts to say that a nation is close to building a nuclear weapon, there are many problems associated with the project.  America’s first nuclear bombs were extremely large and heavy.  The first bomb used on Hiroshima weighed 9,700 pounds (4,400 kilograms) and was 10 feet long.  It had to be carried in America’s largest bomber and it was essential for America to have total air superiority over Japan for the mission to succeed.

It is believed by many experts; Iran will not be able to achieve air superiority over Israel.  That leaves ballistic missiles.  However, ICBMs are extremely complex to design and build.

The first practical American ICBM was the Titan II, which could be launched from hardened underground silos.  However, they didn’t go into service until 1962; 17 years after the US had developed and used the atomic bomb.  Although the warhead had a similar mass to the first bomb dropped over Hiroshima, it had a much larger yield – 8 megatons versus only 13 kilotons.

During the years between 1945 (the first atomic bomb) and 1962 (fielding of the Titan II ICBM), American scientists had to solve numerous problems like accurate missile guidance, practical propellants, reliability, ablative material for reentry, nosecone configuration, and the ability to launch a missile within minutes.

The warhead had to undergo considerable miniaturization to fit into the Titan missile.  There was also the problem of making the bomb rugged enough to withstand the acceleration of the missile, the temperature variations of outer space and reentry, and lateral forces on the warhead.

But there is more than 17 years of research on ICBMs that Iran must copy.  Nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and air defenses have changed dramatically over the last 60 years.  Many American and Israeli military analysts are of the opinion that while an Iranian missile may be able to penetrate the first American anti-missile system, the Nike Zeus (built in 1961), it would be easily defeated by the multi layered Israeli missile defense system,

This may explain Cohen’s statement that Iran isn’t close to building a nuclear weapon.  Given Iran’s limited stockpile of Uranium 235 and its inability to penetrate Israeli airspace either with an aircraft or missile, it would be a waste to build a nuclear weapon that has no practical utility. Although Iran repeatedly denied that is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insist on its right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

To develop a missile that can be practical to employ against the US or Israel, Iran has moved towards development of a hypersonic missile.  However, hypersonic technology has its own problems.  A nuclear device must be more rugged to withstand the Mach 12 speeds of the Iranian Haj Qasem.  And, since physics mandates that weight must be dramatically reduced to reach these high speeds, more miniaturization is required.

At this point Iran doesn’t appear to be able to field a nuclear tipped hypersonic missile.  The publicly available pictures of the Iranian hypersonic missile do not show a glide vehicle that is used to provide effective maneuvering at hypersonic speeds.  Such a glide vehicle could be incased in the missile shroud, but it would be probably too small for an Iranian developed nuclear weapon.

It also appears from video of its launch that it relies on obsolete North Korean fuels and engine design.  The bright missile flames and black soot at launch, indicates a hydrocarbon (gasoline or kerosene) based fuel.  This is a typical liquid fuel for the Scud B and indicates that Iran is using older North Korean missile technology.

Given the size of the missiles and the fuel, there isn’t any way that this missile has the range to reach Israel.  That means that Iran will keep focusing on hypersonic technology and designing a nuclear device that may be fielded with the missile.  However, they are not likely to build such a nuclear bomb, unless they see the probability that such a missile could reach Israel and penetrate its missile defense systems.

Israelis and opponents to reinstating the JCPOA negotiated under Obama, are advocating that the problem is not the Iranian stockpile of Uranium 235, but hypersonic missile technology and technologies that would let Iran mate a nuclear device to a hypersonic missile.

This mirrors Cohen’s statement that the deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely.”

The chance of a viable deal with Iran is growing fainter by the day.  US Secretary of State Blinken on Wednesday noted “time is running short.”  He was meeting jointly with the Israeli and Emirates foreign ministers.

At the follow up press conference, Blinken stated, “We are getting close to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA and that’s because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways.”

Given the events of the week, it seems unlikely that Iran will produce a strategically practical nuclear device soon.  That, in turn gives the US time to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.

Of course, Cohen’s statement that the deal must be “completely refurbished – not only in one different subject, but completely,” implies that the US must focus on limiting the technologies to make an Iranian nuclear weapon practical.

In other words, the next round of talks between Iran and the US will have some difficult issues to iron out before any accord is signed.

Week of October 10, 2021

The CIA is Losing its Informants
What is happening and why

 

Is there a shadow war going on in the halls of the CIA?  Is there are real life George Smiley (hero in the spy novel of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) hunting for a mole in the agency?

We saw two interesting pieces of that puzzle come out this week.

The New York Times broke a story that reported that top CIA counterintelligence officers sent out a top-secret message to all of its stations in the last couple of weeks that reported dozens of CIA informants have been turned, disappeared, arrested, or killed.

The message went on to warn that the CIA has underestimated foreign intelligence services.  There has been a too much of a focus on acquiring informants without carefully vetting them.  The message also mentioned that foreign intelligence services are using facial recognition, bio metrics, and artificial intelligence to find American informants.

This will put a crimp in recruiting agents as it’s well known that recruiting informants is the best way to earn promotion in the CIA.  Factors like unreliability are often ignored in the rush for more agents.

The result has been a score of failures in the generation long war on terrorism.  The CIA has been fed false information and some of its assets are working for the opposition.

This is not new.  During the Obama Administration, China’s counterintelligence service was able to shred the American spy network in China.  The biggest fault was the CIA’s belief that China couldn’t break its communications network.  Thus, from 2010 to 2012, the Chinese were able to arrest and execute the bulk of America’s Chinese spy network.

To solve the problem of Chinese working for America, the Chinese set up a task force that broke into the system and rapidly identified the American agents.  Over 30 agents were executed, although some sources say that the number is much higher.

As a result of this intelligence coup by China, the US is still trying to rebuild its agent network in China – a long and expensive process.  That’s one reason for the push to acquire agents without checking them out.

However, there are many other factors that are hampering the CIA.

The biggest concern, although it wasn’t mentioned in the message, is that there are very likely agents working in the military and intelligence communities – possibly Chinese – that are selling out America’s crown jewels.  Some of the Chinese spies that have been discovered in the past few years include Larry Wu-tai Chin, who worked in the intelligence community for 35 years, Glenn Duffie Shriver, and Peter Lee, who worked at the secret Los Alamos National Laboratory.

All these worked in the American intelligence and defense community.  However, the biggest (and unmentioned) fear is the possible existence of an operating Chinese mole in the CIA itself.

That is not as impossible as it seems.  There is evidence that there are moles in the CIA that may be leaking some of America’s biggest secrets to its enemies, especially Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran. Why else would dozens of foreigners working for the US suddenly get arrested, imprisoned, and executed?  This is driving the CIA’s mole hunt in Langley.

The Chinese threat was shown on Thursday when the CIA announced that it was forming a “Mission Center” focused on the Chinese threat.  The Mission Center can draw assets from other CIA groups, including counter espionage.

One of the most intriguing undiscovered mole possibilities of the last few decades is one that came out during the arrest and debriefing of the Soviet mole in the CIA, Aldrich Ames.  This unknown agent may have blown the covers of dozens of American assets in the USSR in the 1980s.

Although the CIA started hunting for the mole in 1986, it wasn’t until 1994 that they found Ames.  He had been the chief of the CIA’s Soviet counterintelligence branch and was ideally positioned to sell out America’s agents in the USSR.

As part of a plea bargain Ames opened about his decade of spying for the Russians.  He not only told the interrogators about who he burned, but when he gave their information to the Russians.

Here’s where the story falls apart and the proof of an undiscovered Russian mole in the CIA comes to light.

According to the timeline, the Soviets had already become suspicious of the agents before Ames sold them out.  Letters ordering them home had already gone out in May 1985 and some of the agents had sent out emergency messages to their CIA handlers’ months before Ames treachery.

But Ames hadn’t sold the agent’s identities until June.

That means there was already a Soviet mole in the CIA before Ames – one that hasn’t been discovered in the last four decades.  The mole is likely retired or dead by now.

For the CIA counterintelligence group, if one mole could stay hidden for all these years, there is a good likelihood there are others.

True, there were other moles in the CIA.  Robert Hanssen and Edward Howard were Soviet agents in the CIA who were spying during the 80s and 90s.  However, they didn’t have access to that type of information Ames had, so they couldn’t be the mole.

Although the CIA placed the blame on Ames, the secret that CIA officials don’t talk about publicly is that the American agents were sold out by another Soviet Mole.

“Some of it just didn’t add up,” said former CIA official Milton Bearden.  “I remain convinced there was a fourth man.  Maybe a fifth.”

John Lewis, a former FBI counterintelligence agent said, “I always thought there was another one…There were certain anomalies that took place that we just couldn’t put our finger on.”

“That the KGB ran a “fourth mole is undeniable,” said KGB counterintelligence officer Victor Cherkashin.

Which means that the CIA letter sent out to CIA stations may not be totally truthful.  Although the message blamed technology like facial recognition, those algorithms were well known decades ago and Facebook was using them extensively many years ago.

Is it possible that the message may be covering up the existence of another mole?  Yes.

As nationalism has declined, the national loyalty of the past has weakened.  Patriotism is considered outmoded.  Serving in the secret world of intelligence, without recognition or much money, but for the belief in the superiority of one’s homeland is not in favor today.  Selling out one’s country is more acceptable today.

If any nation is at the top of the list for operating a mole in the CIA, it would be China, which has had 36 of its agents convicted of spying in the United States in the past 20 years.  China clearly has the interest in penetrating American military and intelligence agencies.  They also have the money to spend.

China is also more than willing to give information on American informers to Iran, Pakistan, and Russia.  All four of these nations appear to have arrested and executed American informers recently.

So, why doesn’t the CIA admit it may have a problem with a mole?  The answer is politics.

Since 9/11, the CIA has grown in organization, budget, and political power.  The once secretive agency was once a government group that kept its low profile.  Now it is a Washington political power.  It trades in information and leaks, which is frequently the political currency of Washington.

The CIA knows that adding a politician to an intelligence briefing will make for a powerful friend and ally on Capitol Hill.

As with other Washington agencies the CIA isn’t an intelligence agency as much as a bureaucracy that protects its secrets and fellow CIA employees.

The CIA can’t admit that its intelligence is tainted in any way since it produces many of the briefs for policy makers like the president.

And that is its weakness.

Aldrich Ames was clearly a security risk – he was a heavy drinker and spent more money than his CIA salary gave him.  Although there were questions about his behavior, Ames had friends and a bureaucracy that was willing to “look the other way.”  It didn’t take someone like the fictional George Smiley to spot this security risk.

There is good reason to be suspicious of the existence of a mole in the CIA.  When Ames (and possible other moles) sold out America’s intelligence sources in the USSR, only 10 agents were arrested and executed.  Others were “lucky” and were merely imprisoned and sent to the Soviet Gulag.

This secret letter that was sent out implies that dozens of US intelligence sources have been arrested and killed in the last few years.  That is a tally that is greater than Ames treason.

It’s possible that mere carelessness about security may account for some agents.  And some computer technology may be responsible for leading to other arrests.  However, when dozens of American agents are gathered up by enemy intelligence agencies, it is unlikely that carelessness is responsible for all of them.

The only question is: who the mole is and if he will be discovered?

Week of October 04, 2021

Supply Shortages – Don’t Blame Covid

 

Other factors from buildup of forces in South China Sea to factory fires are more to blame

The world is facing a critical supply-chain failure.  Everything from energy shortages in China and the UK to household appliances and taco sauce in the United States have impacted consumers throughout the world.

What is causing it?  Listen to politicians, and it’s the Covid Pandemic or hoarding by consumers (which may explain a lack of toilet paper, but who hoards several dish washers in their house?).

The fact is that there are several reasons, some the fault of politicians.  However, some of the blame goes back decades.

In the 1970s, when the Japanese were dominating the automobile industry, one of their secrets of success was “Just in Time Inventory” (JIT).  The concept was that parts for auto production would only arrive just before they were needed – avoiding the need for warehousing parts, thus reducing warehousing costs.  Soon, companies across the world were using the same business strategy, even though many logisticians were warning that a problem with the movement of parts would cause the JIT strategy to fall apart and precipitate worldwide shortages.

That time has come.  Several industry groups have warned of a worldwide supply chain system collapse.  In a letter to the United Nations General Assembly, the International Chamber of Shipping warned that governments must restore freedom of movement to transportation workers.  They warned of a “global transport system of collapse.”

“” All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers and expect more to leave,” said the Chamber.  They called upon, “heads of government to take swift and meaningful action to resolve the crisis now.”

However, a study of the issue shows that neither government action nor the end of Covid will solve the problem.  According to data released by Resilinc, a global leader in supply-chain risk monitoring, Covid related events ranked 19th in terms of supply chain breakdown in the first six months of 2021.  The top five factors were factory fires, mergers and acquisitions, business sales, factory disruptions, and leadership transitions.  Factory fires are up 150% in 2021 over 2020.

Mergers, acquisitions, and business sales weren’t due to Covid, but a desire to turn assets into cash to boost the core business.

Supply disruptions caused by the lack of cardboard, semiconductors, and plastics were up 638% over the previous period in 2020.

Most of the supply disruptions are occurring in the US.  According to Resilinc, 46.5% of the disruptions happened in North America.  The second largest source of disruptions was in Europe (23.43%) and the third largest was Asia (19.45%).  Europe has overtaken Asia in terms of supply disruptions since 2020.

One rapidly growing threat to the supply-chain is the resurgence of piracy.  The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center reports that the Gulf of Guinea, which is on the Western coast of Africa, is the scene of about half of all piracies.  The Singapore Straits is another area seeing increased piracy.

Piracy has been best countered with regular patrols of Western nations’ warships.  However, many Western nations are moving their naval assets closer to the South China Sea to check Chinese expansionism.  That has made piracy a safer enterprise.

Another political issue has been carbon taxes and regulation of carbon dioxide.  While many European nations are trying to limit carbon production, carbon dioxide is an important feedstock to produce gasoline, fertilizer, and meat production.  The lack of natural gas storage due to the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused a carbon dioxide shortage that impacted gasoline supplies and caused a panic by British citizens.

Not all supply chain problems are government inflicted.  Many are caused by bad decisions by corporate leaders.  An example is the lack of rental automobiles in the US.

When the Covid pandemic began, it caused consumers to cut back on travel and the resulting renting of autos.  As a result, auto rental companies decided to sell a large portion of their rental fleets, with the idea that they would buy new cars when the market improved.  The problem was that they hadn’t planned on the semiconductor shortage that has hampered the production of autos.  The result is that car rental companies are short of cars and unable to meet current demand for rental cars.

Another problem is the bottleneck at many port facilities.  Los Angeles and Long Beach port facilities are so overloaded that over 70 ships are lying off the coast awaiting a chance to off load.  As of this writing, the wait time is over 8 days.

Meanwhile, twice as many ships are awaiting a chance to unload in China.

As loaded ships await a chance to offload, the situation is causing a shortage of ships and shipping containers.  This has caused transportation prices to skyrocket, while delivery times are twice as long.  That only increases the inflation rate.

But, getting the ship in port and offloaded doesn’t end the problems.  There is also a shortage of railroad cars, shipping containers, and trucks.  Warehouses near ports are filled to bursting.  Half a million shipping containers are currently onboard ships waiting off the coast of Los Angeles.

Other supply chain problems are coming from further down the logistics chain.  US hog herds are shrinking at a brisk rate due to high animal feed prices and disruptions at meat processing plants.  The drop in hog herds numbers is the largest since 1999.

While some of the supply chain disruptions will only cause some discomfort (after all, an American can hand wash dishes instead of needing a dishwasher), there are critical disruptions that could cause unrest in the United States.  These critical sectors are energy, food, and housing.

Housing costs (either home ownership or rental) have skyrocketed up in the last few months and in parts of the country where housing costs are too high like California, “shanty towns” are being established.  Politicians may try to clean them out, but that doesn’t solve the problem of growing homelessness.

Food inflation is also a problem, although America has traditionally been a land of plenty.  Many Americans are on a fixed or limited income and food inflation has caused them to cut back on food.  Although real hunger isn’t a problem yet, it is a traditional cause for civil unrest.  One only must remember Marie Antoinette’s statement, “Let them eat cake,” and the resulting French Revolution.

The most critical sector is energy because it can cost lives.  The brutal cold in Texas cost lives as natural gas and electricity were cut off.  And there are some parts of the US where colder than normal temperatures are forecast.  Skyrocketing fuel and energy prices could force families to choose between food, housing, or heat in the winter.

The Biden administration has proven to be incapable of responding quickly to a crisis.   In many cases, it has taken a moderate problem and made it worse (Kabul and the drone attack on a civilian family is an excellent example).

As the BLM, Antifa, and January 6th incident showed, America is balanced on the edge of serious civil unrest.  Biden has shown little ability to handle a crisis and it is quite possible that some unrest could blossom into a full-fledged civil war.

Could the federal government stop such unrest?  Maybe not.  There is unrest in the police force as many policemen have quit rather than be forced to take the Covid vaccine.  Unrest in the military has grown so much that the administration has jailed field grade officers who have criticized the president and senior generals.

Don’t forget that many state governors are actively opposing the president.

There is also an armed citizenry that owns many more firearms than the US military.

Although Biden said that the American citizens can’t win because they don’t own “F-15s or nuclear weapons,” he may want to consider that the Afghans didn’t have sophisticated weapons either.

Normally, these problems are settled by the next election.  However, the midterms are over a year away.  And the next presidential election is over three years away.  Much can happen in the interim.  Case in point, the time between the coup against Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union was only about 3 months.

Successful revolutions are a function of several factors.  First is a monetary problem (usually inflation) that threatens the people’s survival.  Clearly, potential problems in housing prices, food inflation, and energy prices in a cold winter fit those criteria.

Second, is weak leadership.  France had Louis XVI and Russia had Czar Nicholas II.  Biden’s behavior clearly fits into that same category.

Finally, there needs to be a spark to light the fire of revolution.  France had the storming of the Bastille, the Russians had the storming of the Winter Palace, and the Americans had the confrontation and resulting skirmish in Lexington that led to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Some experts are warning that the supply-chain problems could be earth shaking.  Given history, they could be right.

Week of September 19, 2021

US, UK, and Australia Form
New Alliance Against China

 

On Wednesday, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US formed a new alliance that is targeted towards countering China – although China was never mentioned in the press conference virtually held by the three leaders, Joe Biden of the US, Boris Johnson of the UK, and Scott Morrison of Australia.

“This partnership is not aimed or about any one nation,” one official said.

China reacted to the alliance.  Chinese media accused Australia of “making big strides in the direction of being an enemy of China.”

The pact is considered “historic” although the three nations have always had close military relations and the three were the major military powers to defeat Japan in the Second World War.  However, as Biden noted, “It’s about connecting America’s existing allies and partners in new ways and amplifying our ability to cooperate.”

The alliance called, AUUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States), builds on already strong ties in intelligence and military matters.  It is designed to facilitate cooperation in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, long range strike capabilities, quantum technologies, underwater capabilities, and sharing nuclear submarine technology with the Australians.

This last issue, sharing nuclear submarine technology, is a dramatic move.  The US has only shared nuclear submarine technology with the British.  Australia isn’t a nuclear power but will be able to receive a nuclear reactor from either the British or Americans for a domestically produced submarine.

The Australian submarine will be nuclear powered but will not have any nuclear weapons.  But the nuclear reactor will give the ship the long range and ability to stay on station that is necessary in the Pacific

The announcement that the US and Britain will help Australia build a nuclear-powered submarine created blowback from France, who had a $40 billion contract to build submarines for Australia.  France accused Australia of “stabbing France in the back.”

However, the French submarine contract has been a contentious issue in Australia for years.  The French contract was budgeted for $40 billion, but projections had seen the contract price go up to $80 billion.  In addition, the first delivery had been pushed back from the mid-2020s to the mid-2030s.

Although some of the work was being done at the shipbuilding facilities in Adelaide, Australia, the Australians were growing skeptical of the project.  The day before the announcement of the alliance, the Sydney Morning Herald attacked the program.  They noted that the Australian government must announce by next week that it was continuing the program with the French shipbuilding firm by another two and a half years.  The newspaper noted that after that announcement, it “almost certainly will be too late to pullout.”

It’s likely that the Australian government felt the same way and saw this AUUKUS alliance as a diplomatic way to get out of the submarine deal.

This policy will gain support from the Australian shipbuilding industry.  The next generation of Australian submarines will now be built in Australia.  Only the nuclear reactor will come from either the US or UK.

However, any Australian submarine will be years away.  The current benefits of the alliance will be the sharing of computer technologies, long range strike capabilities, and the “underwater technologies.”

“Long Range Strike Capabilities” indicates that the US will provide some technology (or weapons) that will allow Australia to strike back at China, probably with missiles fired from aircraft or ships.  This will be considered as a counter measure to China that has been accused of bullying Australia recently.

Given the geology of the area, it will be the underwater technologies, specifically acoustic technology, which will benefit the alliance more and provide a strong counter to the aggressive Chinese navy.

There are also some possible economic benefits for Australia.  Australia is having problems selling its beef and wine to China and this agreement may encourage the US to buy more Australian goods.

Although China is a nuclear nation with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, they are generally ground based.  Ground based missiles are the fastest and easiest nuclear option to retaliate with and are more accurate than other options.  The problem is that ground based missiles are easily targeted and their only defense is hardened silos and missile defense systems.

Ballistic missile submarines are an excellent option.  Although they aren’t as accurate as ground based ballistic missiles, they are harder to find in the vast waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Polar regions.

This is where China’s geography causes problems and is one reason why China desires control of the South China Sea.

The Chinese Jin Class of ballistic missile submarines are currently patrolling the South China Sea.  Although much of the sea is shallow (under 100 meters in many places), which make submarines vulnerable to detection, there are several parts of the sea that are deep like the South China Basin, which is over 4,000 meters deep.  In addition, the Chinese air assets and island defenses discourage constant US anti-submarine operations there.

China is also actively discouraging US anti-submarine operations through harassment.  In 2009, Chinese fishing vessels cut a towed sonar array of a US warship, while it was patrolling the South China Sea.  Later that year, a Chinese submarine hit the sonar array of the USS John McCain off the Philippine coast.

The problem is that for the sub’s missiles to reach America, they have to break out into the Pacific Ocean, while remaining undetected.

Although China has a long coast, it is surrounded by shallow waters.  To reach deep waters, it must go beyond the chain of islands (Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) to reach large and deep portions of the Pacific.  The major routes to the Pacific are the strait between Japan and Taiwan – which is well patrolled by the Japanese anti-submarine forces – the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia.

American naval strategy is to control the seas by controlling the chokepoints.  Thus, this new alliance fits neatly into US naval strategy.

However, the US Navy, even with the British squadron now assigned to the Far East, can’t cover all the chokepoints in the region with its anti-submarine assets.

That’s where the Australians are important.  For decades, Australia has been the regional power in the South Pacific Archipelago and has good relations with most of the nations.  Several of the nations are also members of the British Commonwealth.

These good relations should allow the AUUKUS alliance to place acoustic devices in critical chokepoints leading to the open Pacific.  These will probably be monitored by the Australians, who have a sizable navy, but lack the anti-submarine capabilities of the UK and US navies.

The Australians also offer other benefits.  As the traditional peace keeping force in the South Pacific archipelago, they have considerable amphibious abilities for a navy their size.  This would add to the threat that allied forces could capture some of the small islands that China uses to claim its rights over the South China Sea.

Australia has also purchased 72, F-35 fighters that could be launched from Australia’s Canberra Class helicopter carriers, although that would seriously degrade their amphibious capability.  However, the two Canberra Class Australian carriers do have the ski jump ramp that the British use to launch their F-35s.  That would give the allies one or two US super carriers (at any one time), one British carrier, one Japanese helicopter carrier that is F-35 capable, and the two Australian helicopter carriers – a sizable air combat capability, if necessary.

Of course, the question must be asked; can the AUUKUS alliance remain a serious threat to the Chinese?  The answer is probably yes, despite American actions in Kabul.

One of the most powerful, but unsung alliances of the post war era is the alliance of the five English speaking nations, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand – called the Five Eyes.  They have cooperated with each other in intelligence and defense, although Canada and New Zealand don’t have the large military resources.  In this case, New Zealand has already announced that the Australian nuclear submarine will not be allowed in New Zealand territorial waters due to the nation’s “Nuclear Free Zone Policy of 1984.”

Given this history, it seems reasonable to expect the AUUKUS alliance to hold together in the face of Chinese aggressiveness.  It is to Australia’s interest to boost its military technology which has fallen behind Chinese military technology.  America and Britain benefit because Australia’s military capabilities will better match theirs.

It’s easier for China to ignore other regional navies and only focus on the US.  However, with a resurgent British Navy and an Australian Navy using American naval technology, that will help restrict the Chinese Navy operations   The alliance, and its ability to check Chinese hegemony, will also encourage smaller nations in the region – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc. – to assist the alliance.

Although China has managed to gain some allies, they do not have the naval resources to control the oceans.  In fact, many of them are landlocked.

Although the alliance hasn’t immediately changed the situation in the region, once US underwater technology starts to be used to control the chokepoints leading from the South China Sea, it will make a dramatic impact.

Week of September 13, 2021

America 20 Years after 9/11 – Better or Worse

 

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety.”  Benjamin Franklin

American leaders used to claim often that America is “a city on a hill.”  They meant that was a beacon of hope and freedom for the world.

These freedoms were enshrined in the US Constitution – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom from unjust arrest, freedom from being held in jail without charges or the chance to gain release by bail.  The freedom of being secure in your person, and property, and the freedom to protect those rights even with firearms.

Unfortunately, many are realizing that in the twenty years since 9/11, many of these freedoms have been trampled upon as government has used the terrorist threat of 9/11 to institute a raft of measures that have lessened what it means to be an American.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services like the NSA and FBI monitor everything that is being discussed on the internet.

Then, there is the growing threat to American lives by Covid and those who want to use it to pry Americans from their liberties.

For instance, although the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that the people will be secure “in their persons,” Americans are finding that the federal government is trying to force the mandatory vaccination of all people in the US.

Obviously, it appears that liberty has been sacrificed for security against terrorists and Covid.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in testimony before the US Senate, “We are in danger of allowing ourselves to be governed by our fears rather than our values…How else can we explain the actions of our government.

Although the response to 9/11 was the US Patriot Act, which was described as allowing the US government to conduct surveillance on terrorists, many on both sides of the political spectrum were worried that it was opening the door to spying on Americans.  The government response by a Department of Justice spokesman was, “US citizens can’t be investigated under this act.”  And “the standard of proof before [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] is the same as it has always been.”

The concerns were justified.  In fact, it was false FBI records that were presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get permission to spy on many including the Trump campaign.  The FBI agent who committed this crime wasn’t fired or sent to jail.

Since 9/11, nearly every safeguard against government overreach has been sidestepped.  The Future of Freedom Foundation stated, “the US government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist, or foreign entity ever could…While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the US government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the US and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes, and profit driven efforts to police the globe…The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied upon, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subject to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.”

Although these tools granted under the Patriot Act were to fight the war on terror, now that Biden has declared the end of the war in Afghanistan, these tools for government surveillance still are in place and there is no rush by the federal government to relinquish them.  In fact, the government is merely using them as tools in other political agendas like Covid, the environment, racial theory, and gun ownership.

One of the most controversial uses of these new government powers is in the war against Covid.  Where “no fly lists” were designed to prevent terrorists from getting on a plane, there is now a bill in Congress to refuse to let anyone not fully vaccinated fly in the US.

Since anyone can be put on the “no fly list” for any reason (including the person’s political views) without any legal proceeding or opportunity to defend oneself, some want to use the list to forbid gun ownership, even if the person has a clean record and has never been arrested.

This “no fly list” isn’t limited to aircraft.  The Transportation and Safety Administration now screens people who travel by train or bus.  There was even a suggestion that non vaccinated people should not be allowed to cross state lines.

The surveillance state has only grown as the federal government has subsidized closed circuit TV networks in stores, businesses, and public streets.  These are then tied into artificial intelligence that identifies the people in the picture with facial recognition technology and runs it against outstanding arrest warrants.

Of course, many don’t see a problem with this as they feel only those with something to hide would oppose such surveillance.

That is until one gets caught in the web.

On April 28, federal agents raided a house in Homer, Alaska because they thought they had identified this couple as stealing House Speaker Pelosi’s computer.  According to the warrant, facial recognition technology had identified this couple in the US Capitol on January 6th.  The agents refused to allow the couple to read the warrant when they entered their house.

The problem was that the person in the picture didn’t resemble the person they raided.  The lady put the picture up next to her face and challenged the female agent to say it was her.  The lady in the picture had a different ear lobe structure.  The agents left but confiscated several electronic items.  They also confiscated a pocket copy of the US Constitution, since federal agents thought it could be considered “paperwork related to planning violence.”

Obviously, the technology used to entrap Americans is still unreliable.

Not only are mistakes taking place that will permanently ruin people’s reputations, but the government is also using some of the anti-terror legislation to attack and neutralize its political opponents.

On the same weekend that the Taliban took Kabul, the Department of Homeland Security put out a list of extremists that pose the greatest terror threats to America.  ISIS, the Taliban nor al Qaeda was not on the list.

Number one on the list was people who do not want to take the Covid vaccine.  Others who have been considered terrorist are white, conservative, veterans who own guns and support former President Trump.

Federal attempts to infiltrate some of these groups has become nearly comical.  Last year there were arrests of some people were accused of wanting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan.  Although the original arrests made headlines, the rest of the story has been hidden by the Department of Justice.  It appears that nearly 2/3 of the group was either FBI agents or paid FBI informants.  It appears that it was the FBI agents and informants that were encouraging the kidnapping. This does not imply innocence on the part of many racists white extremist groups that support Trump.

This has also been the same entrapment tactic used by the FBI to trap innocent Muslims and charge them with terrorism.

However, if there has been one major change in the last 20 years, it has been the dramatic growth of the Defense/Intelligence Community.

Although the evidence showing a credible threat against the Twin Towers on 9/11 was quite evident, the intelligence community said it “couldn’t connect the dots.”

The government response was not to correct the problem, but to create a bigger bureaucracy, with more funding, and less supervision.

More money was pumped into defense and intelligence operations.  A new layer of intelligence bureaucracy was added and named the Department of National Intelligence.  The Department of Homeland Security was created, although their focus is on naming political opponents than being an actual threat.  Agencies like the US Forestry Service and Social Security now have armed paramilitary police units.

Has this made America safer since 9/11?   No.  The Taliban is more powerful than it was on 9/11.  It now has the reputation of beating the world’s largest superpower.  And, thanks to the military equipment that the US left behind, it has one of the best equipped militaries in the world.

The Defense/Intelligence community is now so large that it is impossible to efficiently manage itself.  The Defense/Intelligence community is collecting so much information on American citizens and others that they are now overloaded and unable to accurately “connect the dots.”

There is also a societal corrosiveness from the growth in surveillance and diminishing of American rights.

Americans are not only more divided today than in the past, the gaps between groups of people are growing.

Opposition to the Covid restrictions is growing as large groups of people see that this pandemic is eroding American rights.  Meantime, there are those who want the security of a Covid free environment.

This divide should not be ignored.  Several governors of Republican states are standing up to federal incursions in many areas of governance and American rights.  Not only are some states ignoring federal regulations on covid prevention, but many states have also decided to ignore federal attempts to restrict American gun rights, including ordering the local police to not assist in the confiscation of firearms and authorizing the arrest of federal agents that may try to take private guns.

The chances that someone will start shooting is getting incredibly likely now that Biden has indicated that he will “push back.”. If that happens, the United States as we know it will have ceased to exist.

Former Republican US congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul recently warned that the real threat is not Covid, but authoritarianism.  He notes, “If a government can force people to take…a vaccine…the same reasoning would support the imposing of many additional liberty violations.

Although the initial strike against al Qaeda was meant to preserve American liberty, it appears that a generation later the biggest loser may not be al Qaeda, but American freedoms.

Week of September 07, 2021

Afghanistan – Twenty-Year War Finally Ends

 

Lessons learned – Or lessons that should have been learned and implemented

On August 31st, US forces left Kabul after 20 years.  Although the White House called the final evacuation “an extraordinary success,” it was considered by everyone else, including America’s allies, as a disaster.

Maybe, instead of listening to Biden and White House spokesmen, one should listen to the words of British Prime Minister concerning the Dunkirk evacuation that saved over a third of a million soldiers.  Churchill said, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory.  Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Churchill also called the British and French military operations in northern France and Belgium that led up to Dunkirk, “a colossal military disaster.”

The planners of the Dunkirk evacuation had only a few days to plan the evacuation, while the US military had months.  The US had total control of the air, while the British were constantly attacked by German aircraft.  While thousands of bureaucrats were mismanaging the Kabul evacuation, it took less than 200 military personnel (commanded by a mere British naval captain) to successfully manage the Dunkirk evacuation.  And the time it took to leave the Dunkirk beach and arrive in Britain was just as long as it took American cargo aircraft to leave Kabul and fly to Qatar.

If there is one overriding lesson that the US should learn is that the US military has grown fat and bloated – especially at the top?

In World War Two, there was one flag officer (General or Admiral) to 6,000 troops.  Today, there is one flag officer for every 1,400 troops.  Instead of manning critical positions, they merely create more bureaucratic layers.

More generals don’t mean better advice for the Commander-in-Chief.  In fact, the corps of American flag officers is full of officers concerned less about American security than advancing their own career.

These career minded generals and admirals are called “ticket punchers.”  They are concerned with getting into the right military training courses and positions to make their military record look attractive to the boards that pick flag officers.  In many cases, that leaves the US with flag officers with no combat experience, even though they are managing major operations like the war in Afghanistan.

An excellent example of “ticket punchers” is the two senior people in the Pentagon – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley.  Although there were many opportunities to lead men in combat in their early years as junior officers (Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, and Kosovo), both have avoided any chance to lead men into the heat of battle.  Rather, they gravitated towards staff positions, where they made the personal contacts necessary to be promoted.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior military officer and the chief military advisor to the president was initially an assistant Battalion Maintenance Officer for an armored unit with the 82nd Airborne.  Although the 82nd was in the conflict in Panama, Milley’s unit isn’t listed as being in combat, even though he has a Combat Infantryman Badge.  He wears a Ranger tab because he went to Ranger school, but he never was a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which means he was never officially a Ranger.  He also wears a Special Forces tab, although he only attended the school and never became an official member of the Special Forces.

SecDef Austin has a record that is worse than Milley’s.  As a black officer, he was shuttled between staffs to fill diversity quotas.  As a flag officer, he was responsible for the growth of ISIS, which he once called a “flash in the pan.”  He insisted that ISIS should be fought in Iraq instead of Syria and conceded that his plan to train Syrians to fight ISIS was not successful.

Austin also has the Ranger Tab, although he isn’t a Ranger.

Compare these two to the US general in charge of the war to recapture Kuwait, General Norman Schwarzkopf.  Schwarzkopf served in combat in Vietnam as a junior officer.  He left a position as instructor at the Military Academy at West Pont to volunteer to go to Vietnam.  During his tour, he was involved in heavy combat several times – including braving heavy Viet Cong fire to personally bring in injured solders.

During two tours in Vietnam, he gained a reputation as a combat commander who led his troops in battle and fought in the center of the action.  He won three Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts for being wounded in combat.

Milley and Austin together combined have only one Silver Star and no Purple Hearts.  They also don’t have any experience commanding a small unit in combat.  No wonder they didn’t know how to set up an efficient evacuation.

No wonder there are calls for both to resign.

Another problem with the US military is its fascination with Special Forces.  In Vietnam, there would only be a couple of hundred Navy SEALS and a few hundred Green Berets in the country.

Today, the Special Forces Command numbers over 70,000.  There are many questions about how effective these new SF soldiers are compared to the SF troops of 50 years ago.

One problem with SF forces is that they are geared for raids, not holding ground.  It is the ordinary soldier who holds ground.  And no matter if it is Germany or Afghanistan, victory goes to those who can hold ground.  In this case, it was the Taliban.

Another problem is the unclear chain of command.  By law, orders go from the president to the Secretary of Defense, and then to the combat commanders.  However, in the last month, the State Department would issue orders to the military in Kabul even though they had no authority.  The confusion was responsible for much of the confusion on the ground and numbers of refugees who couldn’t board an aircraft.

Domestic Ramifications

Despite the White House and Pentagon insisting that the War in Afghanistan and the Kabul Evacuation were successes, the American people know that America has suffered a serious defeat.  Biden’s favorability ratings have plummeted in the last two weeks and polls show that many Americans think Biden should resign.

This indicates that the momentum for the Republicans winning either (or both) the House and Senate are strong, especially since mid-term elections usually go to the party out of power.

The Democrats are playing for time.  They barely control both the House and Senate, and they know that the Republicans can’t force Biden out of office.  They are counting on voters forgetting the disastrous evacuation of Kabul and focusing on ending the war.

However, there are a few factors that may play against the Democrats.  First is the image of Afghans trying to hold on to a cargo plane that is taking off.  That is just as powerful as the image from Vietnam of Americans evacuating from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.  The idea of Americans and American allies desperate to get out of Kabul, while Biden leaves them to the Taliban will encourage voters to vote Republican.

In addition, Biden lost, and Americans don’t like losers.

The second factor is Biden’s declining mental health.  His public performance during the Kabul evacuation was bad as he stuttered, couldn’t answer questions, and made it clear that others are running the White House.

Senility doesn’t improve.  It only gets worse.  That means that the chances that a senile Biden will hurt Democrat chances in 2022 are getting better and better.  And, as Biden’s ability to hurt the Democratic Party grows, the option of using the 25th Amendment to remove Biden becomes a more viable option for them.

The problem of VP Harris invoking the 25th Amendment to become Acting President is that she would relinquish the position of Senate President and the ability to cast the tiebreaking vote.  That would make it hard for her to govern.

The third factor is that a weak, senile president only encourages other nations to test the US.  Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia are watching Biden to see if they can take a foreign policy gamble like China trying to control Taiwan, Iran becoming a declared nuclear power, or further Russian encroachment in Ukraine.  Any of these would only lessen the chances that the Democrats can hold either the House or Senate.

The final factor is the economy, which is heading into a double-digit inflation that would be as bad as the late 1970s.

Since the chances of removing Biden is slight and the chances of Biden sinking more and more into senility are growing, we may see a soft secession occur in the United States.  Some Republican governors are opposing federal mandates for everything from masks to firearms.  As Biden becomes politically weaker, these governors may take advantage of the situation by ignoring federal mandates or regulations.

Currently, both Texas and Florida are the states taking the strongest stand against federal regulation.  There are also several other states that would join if success were guaranteed.  Since some parts of the nation are already favoring leaving the US, this is a strong possibility.

Federal options are limited.  Biden could call an emergency and call-in federal troops and law enforcement agents, but that could lead to a firefight that could spread into an insurrection just as the Battle of Lexington and Concord did.

Biden could also ignore the issue and let the states reclaim some of the powers that are included in the US Constitution but have been ignored since the Civil war.

Many politicians believe the best alternative is to, “Kick the can down the road.” That would mean waiting until the mid-term elections and hoping for a Democrat win.  However, given the economy, foreign policy defeats, and the president’s mental capacity, this would be a long shot.

However, politicians aren’t known for picking the best option.  They tend to kick the can down the road.  That means the US will muddle along until November 2022, while America’s rivals take advantage of the situation.

Week of July 20, 2021

The Assassination of Haiti’s President
Provides more Questions than Answers

 

The murder of Haiti’s President Moise seems to be something out of a novel.  It has the intrigue of a Fredrick Forsyth novel and the complexity of an Agatha Christie murder.  It has Americans, Columbians, and Venezuelans involved. It has mercenaries trained by the US military and informants who worked for the FBI and DEA.  It has Canadian security personnel.  But the one thing it doesn’t have is an answer to the mystery of who was behind the plot.

What we do know is that last Wednesday, a team of gunmen had broken into the president’s residence, yelling” DEA” (The American Drug Enforcement Agency).  They quickly found his bedroom and riddled his body with bullets.

How they got into the presidential grounds without wounding or killing the guards is a mystery and leads one to believe that this was either an inside job or had someone helping on the inside.

The Haitian police quickly started to chase them and within a day, most of the suspects were either caught or dead.  As of this writing, only three suspects are at large.

 

Dr. Sanon

The mystery man at the center of this while plot is a Haitian who has lived in the US for two decades.  He is Dr. Christian Emmanuel, Sanon.  Sanon had expressed a desire to become president in the past, although he has no political experience.  He had made it clear that he was an anti-corruption person, which would pose a problem in a country that thrives on corruption.  People who know him in Florida call him very honest and upright – rarely a description for someone plotting an assassination.

In June, Sanon flew into Haiti in a private plane, with a bodyguard that he had secured from CTU Security, a Florida based security firm owned by a Venezuelan national.  Dr. Sanon then started to contact influential Haitian people.

Here is where the first mystery comes.  Sanon had filed for bankruptcy in 2013.  Where did he get the money to hire bodyguards and fly to Haiti?  Security firms  do not provide credit and require money ahead of time.  There are too many problems with collecting their money when a person is in another country.

Bodyguards are also expensive in nations with civil unrest.  American bodyguards with military Special Forces experience can cost $20,000 per person, a month.

Then, there was the fact that he was unknown in the political or Florida expat community.  If he were expected to rally support after the assassination of the president, he wouldn’t be the one to inspire the population.

Obviously, Sanon was a front man.  But who was he fronting for?  And was he a gullible person who wasn’t aware he was merely a front for someone else?

If Sanon was acting as a front for someone else, chances are that the people behind this whole operation are unsavory.

The most likely benefactor would be the one to take control after the assassination.  However, there is a problem.  There are three potential leaders of Haiti, but none of them are constitutionally able to claim the leadership of the nation.

Of course, President Moise wasn’t totally legitimate as his term of office ended last February.

The fact is that the Haitian government is a basket case more like Somalia.

Here are the three with the biggest claim to the presidency:

There is the Interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, who could legally take over the presidency, except he was never confirmed by the Haitian Senate (which lacks a quorum anyway).  He does control the military and police.  He is also recognized as the legitimate leader by Canada, the European nations, and the US.

However, his position as PM was to end next week and Ariel Henry was to become the PM.  However, he was not confirmed by the Haitian Senate either.  If Moise had died next week, he would be the logical leader.

Then there is Senate Leader Joseph Lambert (If there was a Senate – which there is not as only 10 of 30 seats are occupied).  A group of well-known politicians have recommended he become interim president.

And, to confuse it more, the opposition parties are calling for the creation of the “Independent Moral Authority,” which would make the choice.

All three of the potential leaders have met with the US delegation, but it appears that Claude Joseph remains the favorite.

One could argue the Claude Joseph would be the likely candidate for the instigator of the murder since he was scheduled to leave as PM next week and the murder keeps him in power.  However, that does not hold water because Joseph was only chosen as interim PM in April and the coup attempt was already in motion as some of the coup mercenaries were already stationed in Haiti six months ago.

Of course, if Henry or Lambert had chosen to carry out a coup, they would have assembled a team larger than the 30 or so mercenaries because they would be expected to face off with the military and police after the assassination.

 

The Team

A better idea of the culprit behind the assassination may be gained by looking at the team of mercenaries.

The bulk of the team was former Columbian soldiers who, in some cases, had military training in the US.  However, although the US Army has admitted that they trained them, they declined to say what training they participated in.  At this time, there is no evidence that these soldiers had any special forces training.

But there are others with interesting back stories.

There was a man named Salagas who had provided entertainer Sean Penn security for his aid organization.  It also appears that he spent some time as security for the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince.  The Canadians have said that he was only temporary security for an event.

Salagas, who was captured by the Haitian police claims that the plan was to arrest President Moise, not kill him.

There are also stories that the two Americans were informants for the US Government (FBI and DEA).  This is not an indication of their goof character as federal informants are usually criminals who are receiving money or leniency and as untrustworthy as the criminals they are informing on.

It is interesting that one was a DEA informant as the raiding party of mercenaries called out that they were DEA agents to keep the presidential guards from returning fire.  This may have been done to imply that the US government was complicit in any assassination.

There are three suspects still at large.  One is a former Haitian senator, John Joseph, who opposed the party that President Moise belonged to.

Another fugitive is Joseph Bando, who once worked for the Haitian Ministry of Justice’s anti-corruption unit.  He was fired in 2013 for being corrupt.

The suspect that has familiarity with the DEA is a felon with a conviction for cocaine smuggling.  He is probably the DEA informant.  The man is Rodolphe “Whiskey” Jarr.   He plead guilty in 2013 to smuggling cocaine from Columbia and Venezuela, through Haiti to the US.  Haiti is a popular cocaine smuggling route because the customs officers are easily bribable.  During his sentencing in 2015, Jarr told the judge that he had been a DEA informant.

Frequently the cocaine goes from Haiti to Porto Rico, which is a soft entry into the US.  In fact, Haiti is a key cocaine smuggling station for drugs coming from Columbian and Venezuela.

This suggests the probable killers of the Haitian president.  The South American drug cartels have the cash to create a team of mercenaries and they would have a financial interest in who runs the country, especially if they are determined to stamp out drug traffic.

This also explains the team of Columbian mercenaries, hired through a security company owned by a Venezuelan national.

Stepping back, we see Columbians and a Venezuelan national.  We also see a convicted drug smuggler and a former corrupt policeman.  These all indicate drug cartel involvement.

It may also explain the arrest of Dr. Sanon.  He has accused the current leadership of being corrupt – which would not endear himself to the drug cartels or the Haitian government.

Although there may be more intriguing theories about the assassination of President Moise, it appears that the South American drug cartels wanted to ensure that Haiti would remain a key and profitable part of America’s illegal drug industry and they might have some accomplices in US.

Week of July 13, 2021

America Withdraws from Afghanistan
One Chapter ends, Another One Begins

 

In what one could call a “Middle of the Night” withdrawal, the US abandoned its largest military base in Afghanistan, Bagram air base, last week.

The sudden withdrawal surprised everyone, including America’s Afghan allies.  The Afghanistan base command was unaware of the withdrawal until after the last American left.

The Afghans were left with a treasure trove of weapons like armored vehicles, small arms, and ammunition.  The only problem was which Afghans would take possession of it.  The Taliban started making rapid advances across the nation as pro-American Afghan soldiers abandoned their posts.  The result was that the Taliban forces quickly found themselves with modern military equipment left behind by the US.

The rapid withdrawal sparked some criticism in the United States as video of the Taliban parading around with US equipment reached American TV.

However, that criticism ignored many of the facts on the ground.  The US has already made it clear that they were in the final stages of withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The only question was how the final stages of the pull out would take place.  There was too much equipment on the ground to return to the US; a product of 20 years of war.  Either the US troops would have to destroy it, which takes time, creates a public spectacle, and leaves the final group of troops vulnerable.

The other choice, which the US took, was to quickly and quietly pull out so the Taliban and other anti-American forces would have no chance to attack vulnerable US troops as they left.

The final panicked withdrawal of US forces from the top of the US Embassy in Saigon is still seared in the minds of many Americans.  At least this was not the final image Americans would remember of Kabul.

However, the US still has not totally left Afghanistan.  There is about a battalion of Army and Marines stationed at the US Embassy and the Kabul airport.  Command of US forces in Afghanistan will revert to General Frank McKenzie, who is head of US Central Command.  A new command structure will direct operations that do not deal with diplomatic security out of the US Embassy in Kabul.

The US Central Command said on Tuesday that most of the withdrawal was complete.  “While the withdrawal is over 90% complete, it is not done,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.  “Temporary enabling forces remain in theater that are focused on providing security for a safe and orderly withdrawal.  If these forces and certain contract support are still there, the withdrawal is still ongoing.”

The key to this new structure will be maintaining control of the Kabul airport.  As a landlocked country with a poor road infrastructure, the airport is the key exit for any foreign interests in Afghanistan.  Therefore, a large part of the US military presence will be at the airport.

However, the US is not the only nation with a battalion of forces remaining in Afghanistan.  Turkey has agreed to help the US retain control of the Kabul airport.  This was an important part of the talks between the US and Turkey at the NATO meeting last month.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke with American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to work out details.  Akar later said the two had constructive talks, but the details remain to be ironed out.

While the US will be providing airport security along with Turkish forces, the operation of the airport is in Turkish hands.  The Afghans had asked for the Turkish help as one Afghan official said, “We don’t have the capacity to run the airport with Afghans alone due to the lack of expertise, nor do we have the financial ability to bring in private contractors.”

The Turkish deal includes $130 million per year, which is probably going to be paid by the US.  This also includes a commitment by Turkey to defend the airport.

The US-Turkish deal appears to be helping relations between the two nations.  Relations have been cooling with Turkey buying a Russian air defense system, the US cancelling Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program, and operations in Syria.

However, Turkey’s help in Afghanistan is not as altruistic as it appears.  Turkey and the Ottoman Empire have had good relations with Afghanistan for centuries.  Afghanistan has been a critical part of Ankara’s attempt to limit Russian and Persian influence in Central Asia.  The relationship was so tight that Afghanistan was frequently called “The Little Brother of the Ottoman State.”  In fact, three hundred years ago, to weaken the Persian ruling family, the Ottoman’s recognized the chieftain of the Afghans Ashraf Hotaki as Shah of Persia.

Afghanistan became a modern state over a hundred years ago and it was Turkey that stepped in to help the new country with advisors and money to build infrastructure.  The first public hospital was built in 1913 with the help of Ottoman advisors.

Ottoman advisors, with the concurrence of the Afghan ruling family, helped write the Afghan constitution, while including many more modern ideas of government.

Ankara’s help is also evident in the modernization of the Afghan Army.  In 1920, Ottoman military leader Djemal Pasha came to Kabul to modernize the Afghan Army on more European lines, considering the lessons of WWI.

The relationship became very warm.  Ghazi Khan would say when Turkey won its independence over Ottoman forces, “Turks and Afghans are brothers. Turks’ joy is our joy; their sorrow is our sorrow.

This relationship continued during the last 20 years.  Although Turkey left the fighting to the other NATO countries, Turkey was involved in rebuilding the nation.  In fact, Afghanistan has been Turkey’s largest international project.  About 15,000 military and police officers have been trained by Turkey.  There are 21 Turkish schools and four education centers helping over 7,000 students.  Many NATO operations that dealt with non-military affairs and required familiarization with Islam and cultural affairs were handled by the Turks.

Given this background, it is not a surprise that Turkey is remaining in Afghanistan and keeping a military presence at Kabul’s airport.

This fits Ankara’s historical relationship with the Afghans and Erdogan’s wish to mold Turkey into a modern Ottoman Empire.

Although Turkey and Russia are currently on good terms, historically, the two nations have been at odds for the last several centuries.  A strong position in Afghanistan gives it a border and influence in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.  All three nations are considered critical in Russia’s (and China’s) desire to control central Asia.

Afghanistan also has a long border with Iran, which has been a competitor for influence in the Middle East.

And, although the US has withdrawn from Afghanistan, it still wants to have some influence in that country, while also limiting the influence of Russia and Iran.  Therefore, it is natural that the US will support Turkey’s position in Afghanistan.

The next few months will be critical.  If the Afghans government and the Turks can come to some sort of accommodation with the Taliban, it could help squeeze out Iran, who has helped the Taliban in the past to cause the US problems.

If the Taliban decides to try to control the whole of Afghanistan, it will have problems due to the nation’s tribal character.  Turkey and Erdogan will not want to withdraw from the airport (and all foreign groups, who rely on the airport for an emergency exit and supplies).  And, as was seen in recent events, it will be easy for the US and Turkey to supply arms to pro-western tribes to confront Iranian and Taliban.

It is also important to remember that US airpower remains just over the horizon in the Arabian Gulf.  The Americans have made it clear that they are ready to carry out military operations in Afghanistan if necessary.  If Turkey finds itself in trouble, it is expected to call for the nearest American aircraft carrier.

While the withdrawal of America from Afghanistan means the end of one chapter, the remaining Turkish influence means the beginning of a new chapter.  This chapter may not have the combat operations of the past, but it will join the many chapters written in the past about Ottoman and Afghan cooperation. One factor should be considered is Taliban declared position that all foreign forces including Turkish must leave the country or will be forced out by military means.

Week of July 08, 2021

The Race for the Senate in 2022

 

In a year and a half, a crop of new senators and old incumbents will be making dramatic changes to the political composition of the US Senate.  Today, it is perfectly balanced with Republicans and Democrats both holding 50 seats.  For ties, Vice President Harris becomes the tie breaker,

That means each senate seat is critical and a shift of one senate seat in the 2022 election will dramatically impact the Biden agenda and the Republican opposition to the Democratic agenda.

Although it is early in the election cycle and many potential candidates, especially the most electable ones, are still measuring their chances, we can look at the trends that will determine the control of the Senate.

It is a sort of a tradition that the president’s party will lose both house and senate seats in an off year election.  These off year elections give voters an opportunity to voice their concerns about how the country is being run.

This should be true in 2022; however, there are other factors to consider.  Unlike House elections, which take place across the nation, only 34 states will have a senate election.  Therefore, those 34 states will have a bigger impact on the results and those results will depend on incumbency, the state’s leanings (Republican or Democrat), and specific personalities.

Off year elections are more dependent on who turns out to vote – called turnout differential.  Traditionally, voters who oppose the president are more likely to vote because they are more enthusiastic.  Voters who like the incumbent are more likely to stay home.

That enthusiasm for the president is critical.  A popular president does encourage his voters to come out in off year elections.  Those who support the president but are not that enthusiastic are more likely to stay home on Election Day.  The same can be said about the president’s key legislative agenda.  Excitement about the president’s agenda will encourage his supporters to turn out.

This poses a problem for Biden.  Polling shows him to be running around the 50-55% in approval – and much of that is soft.  These are not the numbers that indicate Biden voters rushing to the polls on Election Day.  Unless the economy kicks into high gear, he will have problems given the fact that many of his programs are stuck in legislative limbo.

One problem for Biden is college educated white voters, who are reliable voters in off term elections.  They went for Biden in 2020 by 54% to 46%, which is a thin margin.  A shift in who votes will give this demographic to the GOP.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of these voting demographics will not really show up until the first 2022 polls start coming in.

Although the “off year election” factor is in the Republican favor, the makeup of the senate seats up for election this year favors the Democrats.  There are 34 seats that will have elections this year – 20 seats are held by Republicans and 14 for Democrats.  That means that Republicans have more seats to protect, and Democrats have more seats that they can pick to focus their energy and money on.

Two of those seats are in states that voted for Biden in 2020 (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).  However, both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania only went to Biden by about one percentage point, so if Biden voters stay home, the Republicans hold those seats.

The Democrats also have some seats that could be taken by Republicans.  They are Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and New Hampshire.

Here is a run-down of these vulnerable six states.

 

Arizona. 

Senator Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords defeated Senator Martha McSally for the remainder of the late Senator McCain seat’s term.  Although Kelly painted himself as a moderate, he has come across to be labeled by opponents as the most liberal of the two Arizona Democratic Senators.

Kelly is also anti-gun in a state that consistently ranks in Guns and Ammo magazine, as the most gun friendly state.

The fact is that McSally was a weak campaigner and Kelly only won 51.2% of the vote.

Although several people have expressed interest in the senate seat, only one Republican, with serious credentials has announced he will run – Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General.  He has a record fighting undocumented immigration, fighting Google on privacy issues and election reform (which he won at the Supreme Court this week).  In a state with more Republican voters than Democrat voters, he has a good chance to turn this seat Republican again.

 

Georgia. 

Senator Rapheal Warnock won this seat in January with 51.04% of the vote.  He is filling the unexpired term of former Senator Isakson.  This will be a battleground election with the polls remarkably close.

Although three Republicans have declared, the state is waiting for Herschel Walker, a former professional football player to announce.  Walker is a friend of former President Donald Trump and served on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.

Walker was a star football player for several professional football teams, including the Dallas Cowboys.  He played college football at the University of Georgia, is Black and will receive the endorsement of Trump.  He has also received the endorsement of Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC).

Walker is a successful businessman, and arguably the best football athlete to ever play for the University of Georgia.  In a state where SEC college football is a passion, that gives him a strong start for winning the senate seat.

Expect Trump to be making a lot of visits to Georgia next year.

 

Nevada

Although Nevada is trending Democratic, this is considered a potential pick-off by the GOP.

The incumbent is Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who won in 2016 by 47.19% of the vote.  Having won by a minority of the vote, she is considered vulnerable.

Her likely opponent is Adam Laxalt, former Nevada Attorney General.  Laxalt has endorsements from Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Republican Florida Senator Scott.

Nevada only went for Biden in 2020 with 50.06% of the vote.

 

New Hampshire

Only 2 out of 5 voters in New Hampshire view Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan favorably according to a poll taken earlier this year.  For an incumbent, those are disastrous numbers.

So far, she has only one declared candidate to run against her on the Republican ticket – Donald Bolduc, a former special forces Brigadier General.  However, the current Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has expressed interest.

A poll taken in February shows Hassan leading Bolduc with 52%.  However, Sununu would be a more competitive candidate.

 

Pennsylvania

Republican Senator Pat Toomey has announced that he will not run for reelection, which leaves this Republican held senate seat in a state that voted for Biden very vulnerable.

Five Republicans have declared for the seat and about 16 have expressed some interest.

On the Democrat side, eight have declared.  Nine others have expressed interest in running.

None stand out in the race.  Biden won the race with 50% of the vote.

 

Wisconsin

Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson won by 50.17 percent in 2016.  He has not declared that he will run again and once said that he only wanted to serve two terms in the US Senate.

By not declaring, he has held up several potential Republican candidates from declaring.  Five Democrats have announced.

The pool of candidates does not have any big names – just several state politicians and some representatives.  The big names are awaiting a decision from Johnson.

 

Summary

At this time, it is impossible to tell who will come out ahead on election night 2022.  Biden’s administration will have an impact on the results as well as the economy.  Much will depend on how the candidates campaign.

Stay tuned!

Week of June 28, 2021

The New Brinkmanship

 

Brinkmanship between the military forces of major powers has been a part of international relations for centuries.  Although they risked war, these provocations also allowed militaries to train their forces and see how the potential enemy reacted.

However, by the Cold War, the forces of NATO and the Soviets had taken this type of brinkmanship to new heights, with naval land and air forces coming close to shooting incidents on a regular basis.  The answer was an understanding about what was considered acceptable behavior and what was considered overtly hostile.  Some of these rules were common sense: military aircraft and naval vessels would follow international rules concerning “rules of the road,” not using fire control radar to target a warship on the other side, not carrying out dangerous maneuvers that could cause a collision, cutting back on hostile military exercises during diplomatic summits, etc.

The rules worked well and both sides were able to carry out their exercises without risk of war.  The Cold War ended without any accidents leading to a major conflict.

That has changed.  In the last week alone, several incidents have gone beyond the old rules of behavior.

One was the Russian naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii – the largest since the Cold War.  Although they did not enter American territorial waters, they came close enough that American fighter aircraft were scrambled on at least two occasions.  The Russians made it clear that the purpose of the exercise was to destroy a naval task force – the type that could be found at the naval base at Pearl Harbor, just a few miles away.

Ironically, this happened just as Biden was sitting down with Putin for their summit talk – talks that the White House insisted were successful.  Biden had given Putin the “go ahead” on the Russian pipeline, backed down on the ransomware issue, and the stationing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Former Deputy National Security Advisor K T McFarland later said that Biden should have walked out of the talks immediately.

This was not a “one time” event.  Just this week, Russian bombers, escorted by Russian fighter aircraft, entered the Baltic Sea airspace.  The Russian move forced fighter aircraft of several nations (Denmark, Sweden, and Italy) to scramble from bases in Estonia to intercept them.

On Wednesday, Russian ships and aircraft are alleged to have fired warning shots at the British warship HMS Defender, an air defense destroyer.  The Russian Su-24 attack aircraft dropped four bombs near the ship according to the Russians.

The British Ministry of Defense denied that and said the firing was part of a scheduled naval exercise that was nearby.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also released video footage of a Russian fighter buzzing the British destroyer.

This would be the first time since the Cold War that Russia used live munitions to deter a NATO vessel.

The Russians claimed that the ship had entered Russian waters off the Crimean Peninsula.  However, Britain has not recognized the Russian control of the Crimea and claims that the ship was not in Russian waters.  The Royal Navy said that the ship was taking the most direct course from the Republic of Georgia to the Ukraine.

A BBC correspondent was on the Defender at the time and verified the aggressive action by Russian aircraft and patrol boats.  However, the video did not show any bombs or cannon fire.  There, however, was aggressive maneuvering by the Russian ships – something that was not permitted under the Cold War rules.

But what was the most provoking incident of the week, was the Russian naval exercise just off the coast of Hawaii.  It was the largest Russian exercise in the Pacific since the end of the Cold War.  It included 20 warships, fighter aircraft and long-range bombers.

The exercise showed that Russia is attempting to develop a post-Cold War ability to project power well beyond its borders.

Although most of the exercise took place 300 miles off Hawaii, some warships came as close as 20 nautical miles off the Hawaiian coast.

The fleet was not unescorted.  Three American Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers and a Coast Guard cutter monitored the exercise.  When Russian “Bear” bombers approached US territorial waters, the Hawaii National Guard scrambled F-22 stealth fighters.  The bombers never entered US airspace and turned around after being intercepted.

The Russian Defense Ministry described the exercise as “destroying an aircraft carrier strike group of a mock enemy.”  The most powerful Russian warship was the Slava class Cruiser, which carries 16 S-300F anti-ship missiles.  Obviously, the Russian bombers would also be carrying anti-ship missiles that they would launch as they enter the missile’s range.

Exercises like this provide information for both sides.  It gave the Russians a chance to carry out some of the tactics that would be used against an American naval task force.  It also gave the Americans an idea of what to expect.

Both sides can learn radio frequencies that may be used in an operational situation and what bands of radar are used.

It appears that Russian naval tactics have not changed much since the Cold War.  Back then, the idea was to fire massive salvos of anti-ship missiles that would overwhelm American Navy air defense systems.  This, in turn led to the American development of the Aegis air defense system that could track multiple targets and launch several missiles at the same time.  With the multi-layer air defense system of Navy F-14 aircraft and their Phoenix missile system and the Phalanx close-in weapons system, the naval task force could destroy most of the aircraft before they launched their missiles and then intercept any anti-ship missiles that did get launched.

The Russian tactics still focus on overwhelming the carrier air defense systems.  But, this time, the Russians have another technology – hypersonic missiles, which will be harder to intercept.

However, American aircraft carriers are not defenseless.  Navy video footage of shock tests on the newest American aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, demonstrated that it can absorb considerable damage and continue operating.  In the shock test, a 40,000-pound high explosive charge (equivalent to the combined weight of about 20, S-300F anti-ship missile warheads) was detonated underwater and 500 feet from the carrier.  The ship remained operational, even though the blast caused an earthquake in Florida.

American aircraft carriers are known for their ability to absorb damage.  In 1967, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal had a fire that killed 134 men and wounded 161 men.  The fire caused 10 bombs with a high explosive weight of about 10,000 pounds to explode on the flight deck.  Despite the damage, the carrier sailed to the Philippines for repairs before returning to its homeport.  Although the rear part of the flight deck was seriously damaged, the USS Forrestal could have continued limited air operations within a few hours if it had been necessary.

Pentagon war planners while alarmed by Russian maneuvers they project confidence in US military power, they insist that American carriers are tougher than many thinks.  And the air defense systems of the carrier task force are better than they were in the Cold War. They believe that the current defense doctrine would call for destroying hypersonic missile launcher systems like bombers and warships before they are launched.  There are also electronic warfare tactics that would try to confuse the missiles in flight.  Finally, there are maneuvering tactics for the warships that would make it harder for the missile to hit its target.

They point out that redundancy is important.  Since there is the risk of a carrier being damaged, most carrier task forces that are intended to go into a major conflict are expected to operate with two aircraft carriers.

In the end, they are claiming that hitting an American carrier enough to put it out of action would be harder than many imagine.

A former high ranking U.S. navy official commented on the Russian latest exercise: “Another factor that Putin must account for is the growing Western fleet of aircraft capable ships.  There are the British carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.  There is the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, and the Italian carrier Cavour.  The American Navy has several amphibious ships that can carry smaller numbers of the F-35 stealth attack aircraft. The Spanish, Japanese, and Australians also have ships that can carry the American F-35”.

To him Putin must answer the question: Can Russia launch another Pearl Harbor attack – one that could cripple the American Navy unlike the Japanese attack?

He added “Although the Russian exercise was just off the coast of Hawaii, the size of the force was not anything like the Japanese fleet that hit Pearl Harbor at the beginning of WWII (the Japanese had six aircraft carriers and 353 aircraft on December 7, 1941).  The only Russian aircraft carrier (which was not in the exercise) has a history of mechanical problems and aircraft that have been lost in operations.  The only other aircraft were bombers that were launched thousands of miles away in Siberia.

In the end, the naval provocations that Putin and Russia engaged in this last week make for great headlines, but do not indicate the real power of the Russian Navy, which has a history of being unable of operating beyond the coast of Syria, which is only a few hundred miles from Russian territory”.

Washington pundits seemed to be miscalculating Putin determination to advance Russian power globally, they are downplaying his actions by resorting to the thinking that Successful brinkmanship requires having the assets to project sufficient power on the other side of the world.  And insist that lessons learned after the Cold War, proved that the Soviet Union did not have that power.  And, despite “Putin’s boasts”, post-Cold War Russia does not have the reach or power yet. But the fact that Biden administration is trying hard to contain Putin prove that reality is otherwise.