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Special Analysis: Holiday Terror Alert

| 44 Comments | 8 TrackBacks
The United States has recently moved to "High" or "Orange" Alert as a result of what the intelligence community has deemed to be credible threats against US interests both here and abroad on par with or even surpassing the scale of 9/11. This analysis will endeavor to explain why the alert level was raised as well as answer whether or not al-Qaeda still has the operational capacity to conduct such an attack, plus a few clues about who to be on the look-out for as we all prepare to enjoy the holiday season. Just the facts, ma'am ... Al-Qaeda desiring to "top" the September 11 attacks is nothing new, as this article from September 5, 2003 regarding al-Qaeda plans to possibly hijack cargo aircraft for use in multiple attacks inside the US should hopefully indicate (the article also mentions a number of names that I'll come back to a later on). According to CNN, one of the sources for the intelligence for hijacking cargo airlines with Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Farqasi al-Ghamdi, whose tribe seems to keep turning up in conjunction with a number of al-Qaeda plots, including 9/11. According to US intelligence, al-Qaeda is planning a simultaneous series of attacks against both major cities and remote targets, possibly using domestic or foreign airliners whose hijackers are already licensed pilots as well as chemical or biological weapons and perhaps a radiological dispersal device, better known as "dirty bomb." We know from MI6 that al-Qaeda set up a crude nuclear facility in Herat for the purposes of creating such a weapon and that the anonymous weapons expert from Herat referenced in the BBC story as being still at large is very likely none other than Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The American Terror Machine Joe and I disagree somewhat on the nature of al-Qaeda infrastructure inside the US based on his own inferences from the case of Abdullah al-Muhajir case and to be quite frank, I really hope I'm wrong on this one because of the logical implications that follow from such conclusions. In any case, I think that one of the reasons as to why the US has yet to experience a second wave of terrorist attacks since September 11 is due in large part to three unique factors: al-Qaeda's grandiose visions of death and destruction, the arrest and later detention of Ali Saleh al-Marri, and the fact that US law enforcement has finally gotten their act together. Let me go through these one-by-one to show you what I mean. 1. The Downsides of Meglomania ... For better or worse, by carrying out attacks like 9/11, the Bali bombings, the Poshipnikov Zavod Dubrovka theater seige in Moscow, and more recently the Istanbul suicide bombings sets a very high bar for the terrorist network as far as its operational planning goes, which is one of the reasons as to why there is such a lengthy gap between major al-Qaeda attacks. While smaller organizations like Hamas or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are generally content with killing only a handful of civilians in reasonably simple attacks such as suicide bombing a bus, al-Qaeda favors sophisticated simultaneously mass casualty suicide attacks designed to inflict a massive amount of damage as well as to spread a maximum amount of fear to the civilian population. More to the point, al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Salma al-Hijazi have previously promised the network's supporters that the next major attack on the US will kill as many as 100,000. Chopping that figure down by a factor of ten by filtering out the hyperbole, we arrive at ~10,000 casualties, which would be well within the network's capabilities of achieving - Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing originally hoped to kill over 100,000 in his plan to cause one tower to crash onto the other, creating a kind of giant "domino effect." However, by committing itself to such astronomical figures, the network cannot easily resort to Hamas-style suicide bombings inside the US because to do so would be to grant America a tacit admission that its capabilities have become extremely degraded since 9/11. This train of thought is echoed in this article from USA Today from November 27 which states that al-Qaeda scrapped plans to launch a series of low-level attacks inside the US this year in favor of a "more spectacular" attack on par with 9/11. 2. Ali Saleh al-Marri According to the June 23 issue of Newsweek, al-Marri was identified by none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as al-Qaeda's "point man" in the United States after 9/11 and was charged by the network to organize further attacks against American interests inside the continental US. Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, al-Marri, an alumni of al-Farooq camp was arrested December 2001 and is now listed as an enemy combatant, meaning that he is almost certainly removed from any contacts he had inside the United States, likely severing the main point of contact between US sleeper cells and the central leadership. 3. The FBI Gets A Clue ... Couple this with the arrest and subsequent turning of al-Qaeda sleeper Iyman Faris that we know led to the arrest of at least two additional operatives: Uzair Paracha, who was involved in the NYC shipping industry and Majid Khan, who was planning to blow up the underground storage tanks of several US gas stations, and we can see that a sizeable dent was already made against the US al-Qaeda infrastructure by law enforcement in the spring of last year. And in addition to leading us to Faris, who turned in Paracha and Khan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has reportedly given the FBI the names of 12 US al-Qaeda operatives who were reportedly planning attacks inside the US to be in conjunction with the war in Iraq. According to other reporting that followed the arrest of Faris as well as Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's press conference on Sunday, the combination of turning Faris and cracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was one of the steps that enabled the US to avert potential al-Qaeda plots during the course of the war with Iraq, the last time the US was placed on "Orange" alert. To date, the FBI has identified 6 al-Qaeda support groups spread out across 40 states inside the continental United States and if I had to venture a guess I would say that they likely include al-Muhajiroun, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jamaat ul-Fuqra, three extremist organizations known to act as al-Qaeda front organizations. A parallel might be drawn between these groups and the German-American Bund or the Silver Shirts prior to the US entry into World War 2. Decentralized? Think Again. A number of media reports that I've seen since we entered "Orange" alert seem rather skeptical at the prospect that al-Qaeda could plot an attack on par with 9/11, citing the increasingly decentralized nature of the network since the events of Operation Enduring Freedom. What these reports frequently miss, however, is the fact that within the course of the last year or so al-Qaeda has been successfully relocated itself to a new HQ - the Islamic Republic of Iran. The first whispers of this started on August 28, 2002 when the Washington Post reported that "dozens" of key al-Qaeda figures including military commander Saif al-Adel and top ideologue Mahfouz Ould Walid (variously known as Abu Hafs the Mauritanian or Mr. Mauritania) had taken shelter in hotels and guesthouses in the Iranian border cities of Mashhad and Zabol. This seems to have been noted by US intelligence but little was done about it publicly as far as pressuring Iran on the subject until shortly after the first Riyadh bombings when US intelligence identified Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the latter two being the network's equivalent to ministers of war and finance) as being sheltered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at one of their military bases somewhere in Kerman province. More tidbits have trickled out over the course of the last several months, including the rationale as to why Iran is carrying out this seemingly suicidal foreign policy. While the general Iranian response to these allegations are that these individuals are "in custody," such a state of implies generally implies that the individuals being held are unable to run a global terrorist network out of the Islamic Republic. Take for example, the case of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, whom Iran has admitted is among the "detainees" yet is still able to make audiotaped threats to Dubai's Panorama FM radio station. Last time I checked, the ayatollahs don't extend these kinds of courtesies to all of the students and pro-democracy activists that are routinely arrested in Iran. At any rate, the latest information is that over two dozen al-Qaeda leaders and roughly 500 operatives are currently based inside of Iran and are being protected by Qods Force formerly run by Ahmed Vahidi, who is now Iran's Deputy Minister of Defense. These developments, among others, led the conservative Weekly Standard to publish an article on November 3, 2003 entitled "Al-Qaeda's New Base" detailing the extent and implications of al-Qaeda having a safe harbor in Iran. If one is to believe Mansoor Ijaz, those al-Qaeda leaders who have been granted safe haven in Iran include both bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ironically, this squares somewhat with account of Haji Mohammed Akram, a Saudi national who claims to have served as bin Laden's chef in Afghanistan. Whether or not bin Laden is in Iran, the point is that enough of the organization's operational infrastructure is both inside the country and likely has been for over a year - more than enough to time plan a major attack on US soil. On the other hand, any successful mass casualty attack launched by al-Qaeda against the continental United States (and I concur with the Belmont Club that they can probably execute at least one) will have almost-certain suicidal consequences for the current Iranian government, a fact that al-Qaeda's backers inside Iran may well be keenly aware of. Thinking Vigilance Is Good, Too ... Despite all of the warnings of vague caution from elected officials, one of the things that I have found the most deplorable is that a US media that finds it "newsworthy" to show us Jacko's freakish visage 24/7 could at the very least put up the face of the man reputed to be the next Mohammed Atta in addition to being the guy looking for dirty bomb material during the hourly news bulletins - Adnan El Shukrijumah. Even more ominous is who El Shukrijumah was reputed to be traveling with during the last sighting of him on September 14 in Naples, Maine - Abderraouf Jdey, for whom an FBI advisory on August 1, along with his associate Faker Boussora. As the article notes, Jdey first came to US attention after he and Boussora appeared on videotape with three other individuals who were apparently intended to serve as the next generation of al-Qaeda leaders. Of the three others, Binalshibh became a member of the military committee while Khalid Jehani replaced Abd Rahim al-Nashiri upon his capture as the head of al-Qaeda's operations in the Persian Gulf. To be quite frank, if Jdey is here than it means that he's likely got a sizeable number of followers to order around, either in the US or north of the border in Canada. A Saudi Connection? Recently, MEMRI carried excerpts from The Voice of Jihad, which appears to be the main propaganda organ of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In it, we learn that Lewis Atiyyat Allah, a noted al-Qaeda ideologue who has taken over from the late Yousef al-Ayyeri as al-Qaeda's principle ideologue and is a member of the 225 Wahhabi leaders who make up the supreme council of the global jihad led by bin Laden's spiritual advisor Safar Hawali that maintains extensive infrastructure within the United States as a result of the good relationship between the US and the Saudis that could easily be converted by al-Qaeda to serve as a support base for attacks launched from in North America. It is for that reason that Lewis Attiyah's most recent comments in The Voice of Jihad should be remembered:

"Regarding the Al-Muhaya operation [the November 8, 2003 bombing in Riyadh],, it can be claimed that the house of Salul [a derogatory term used by al-Qaeda against the Saudi monarchy] had some media success in portraying the battle as the killing of Muslims, and in inciting some against the Mujahideen. But this effect is temporary and will disappear if, for example, the Mujahideen strike another blow in America. Then sympathy will return to what it was in the past, and may even increase."

In Conclusion ... While attacks may or may not materialize over the course of the holiday season, we should nevertheless keep in mind that as long as men like Lewis Attiyat continue to roam freely and have access to Saudi finances, we may as well get used to this whole system of multi-colored terror alerts and vague warnings from the authorities.

8 TrackBacks

Tracked: December 23, 2003 9:32 PM
Examining The Threat from Jay Reding.com
Excerpt: Winds of Change has an absolutely indispensible guide to the latest terror alert including those who are believed to be...
Tracked: December 24, 2003 3:25 AM
Depressing Reading from The Eleven Day Empire
Excerpt: Some thoughts from Winds of Change, and the commentators there, on the current Orange Alert. It's not fun reading, and
Tracked: December 24, 2003 4:23 AM
Excerpt: Dan Darling at Winds of Change has posted an excellent, detailed analysis of the publicly available information regarding the current terrorist threat environment here in the US of A.   It is interesting, if not entirely reassuring. (Hat tip to In...
Tracked: December 24, 2003 3:24 PM
Iran and Al Qaeda from Tales from a Yeti Suit
Excerpt: It's best you start to read stuff like this now Especially the comments. For those who were interested pre September 11th, the march to Iraq was a foregone conclusion. I knew when the towers fell we were going to Iraq....
Tracked: December 25, 2003 4:33 AM
The Veil Lifts from Solomonia
Excerpt: Every once in awhile we get a little lift in the veil to show us what's behind one of these terror-level increases. In this case, at least part of the problem is a concern about some Air France flights and...
Tracked: December 26, 2003 11:36 PM
Terror alert at 'High' from PunditFilter
Excerpt: Dean Esmay exhorts bloggers to "grow up" and take the terror alerts more seriously. Hugh Hewitt's take on the terror alert also includes a brief discussion of culpability and terrorism in general. Update: The '04 Dems weigh in on 'Code...
Tracked: December 28, 2003 7:35 PM
Excerpt: Some of my old friends are touting the notion that al Qaeda isn't real, based on the common-sense logic that if al Qaeda were real we'd have destroyed it by now. Never mind that AIDS is real (though some think
Tracked: December 29, 2003 1:50 AM
Terror alert at 'High' from PunditFilter
Excerpt: Dean Esmay exhorts bloggers to "grow up" and take the terror alerts more seriously. Hugh Hewitt's take on the terror alert also includes a brief discussion of culpability and terrorism in general. Update: The '04 Dems weigh in on 'Code...

44 Comments

Sooo . . . what do we do about all this?

Good question. The problem is that, like before 9/11, a lot of what the authorities are relying upon is non-specific chatter saying that Something Bad is going to happen.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2002/06/03/cia-attacks.htm

I have a feeling that this is just as true now as it was back then. You have two known al-Qaeda on the telephone who are saying stuff like this:

"The ring has been placed in the bull's horns and I expect a pleasant journey to market."

"I delivered the package and the mailman sends his regards."

"I hear you got tickets for the upcoming event, go with Allah."

And so on. It's vague and non-specific (like the caution we're supposed to exercise), so the authorities are bracing for the worst and taking the necessary steps accordingly. One of the big problems is going to be how to shut down these front organizations. Does anybody know how exactly the US dealt with groups like the German-American Bund or the Silver Shirts after Pearl Harbor, as I'd think that at least would give us some ideas of where to start from.

Good post Dan. This is scary stuff.

Happy Holidays to all, and stay safe.

Canada.

"To be quite frank, if Jdey is here than it means that he's likely got a sizeable number of followers to order around, either in the US or north of the border in Canada."

The Simon Weisenthal Center has the following
information on the Bund:

http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/text/x08/xm0805.html

In brief, the House Un-American Activities Committee investigated the group, result in its leader being jailed. Other leaders were deported or jailed. With the German declaration of war against the U.S. in December 1941, the organization was outlawed; the rank and file drifted away and the leaders were imprisoned.

I don't get it, if we know that these people are being coddled in Iran, why are we sitting around trying to decipher cryptic games of telephone and then acting dumfounded when we can't come up with a solid intelligence report?

What is the reason, and I'm hoping that writer above can elaborate, for not going into Iran or pushing Iran to hand these people over?

This analysis (above) is consistent in itself, but something's missing besides it.

I fear it's going to take another attack along the lines of 9/11 before America is really ready to take on Iran. Or for that matter, the international nuke dealers in Pakistan or North Korea.

Whatever happened to, "and the states that sponsor them"?

That was a very in-depth analysis. The key theme seems to be that Al Quaeda, who will eventually
strike again in the United States is supported
and sheltered by Iran.

Iran, while hosting terrorists is also far underway on a Nuclear Weapons program that endagers the United States and could destablize the Middle East, either directly from Iran or
through one of their proxy terrorist groups.

It seems evident that one of the three things will happen in the near future. The US will
prevent Iran from developing the bomb and
eliminate their terrorist supporting regime or Iran will develop the bomb and something nightmarish occurs or Al Qaeda attacks the
U.S.

So what will it be?

I keep worrying about an attack originating from Mexico. While Mexico is not filled with Arab immigrants, the incredible level of corruption at every level of government and business there would make it very easy for a cash-rich group to bribe their way into an attacking position vis-a-vis the United States.

Tijuana has a large airport with passenger and cargo flights to all parts of Mexico, the United States, and Central America. It doesn't take too much imagination to visualize a fully-fueled hijacked cargo flight from Tijuana being re-directed to a crash landing in Pasadena during the Rose Bowl game. Given the short distance between Tijuana and Los Angeles, such an attack could be carried out before anyone realized what was happening and defensive measures (like jet fighters) mobilized against it.

God, I hope I'm full of crap with these fears.

Dan Darling,

Very interesting but scary reading. Lots of information and links.

To "Al Maviva" and "Mister Ghost": Read Dr. Leonard Peikoff's article, End States Who Sponsor Terrorism (dated 10/02/01).

All the Best,
Martin Lindeskog.
Gothenburg, Sweden.

Brown Line:

Much obliged for the info. I'm not a big fan of HUAC, but I do think that there need to be some type of legal procedures instituted to deal with groups that are known al-Qaeda front organizations like al-Muhajiroun or Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

Ben Noah:

"I don't get it, if we know that these people are being coddled in Iran, why are we sitting around trying to decipher cryptic games of telephone and then acting dumfounded when we can't come up with a solid intelligence report?"

That would be a definite question for the administration. The short form of an answer would be that any real attempt to forcibly deal with the al-Qaeda presence in Iran would start a war between the US and Iran, something we cannot logistically do at this point while maintaining current troop deployment levels in Iraq and East Asia. In the absence of definitive action against these people, the intelligence agencies are doing the best they can in regards to figuring out what they're up to.

"What is the reason, and I'm hoping that writer above can elaborate, for not going into Iran or pushing Iran to hand these people over?"

We've already pushed Iran as hard as we can as a country - the US has had sanctions on Iran for years. The problem is that much of Europe (to say nothing of the rest of the world) will not go along with such sanctions policy out of their desire to achieve economic gain by propping up the Khomeinists and that there is still a sizeable quarter of Washington that believes that regime change in Iran can best be achieved through peaceful means. This does not even get into the before-mentioned logistical difficulties that any potential war with Iran (which is what it would take to extradict al-Qaeda from its bases in country as long as they are protected by the IRGC) would cause the US. To be quite blunt, if we had the troops to invade Iran, they'd be stationed in Iraq right now. And then there is the problem that the ayatollahs have become quite apt at the good cop/bad cop game with Khamenei and Khatami, especially with the Europress.

More to the point, the Iranian claim has always been that these folks are "in custody" and I have no doubt that Kharrazi will throw quite a tantrum of righteous indignation when the time comes before the UN Security Council. More to the point, Iran will likely really on a variant of the alleged impossibility of secular/religious cooperation dictum that Saddam used when faced with similar charges: everybody knows that Shi'ite and Sunni radicals can't work together, so any claim to the contrary is just lies, lies, lies. They can even invoke the Taliban execution of Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif or Mullah Omar's draconian pronouncements against the Hazaras as an example of al-Qaeda's alleged hatred for Shi'ites. And I could see a fair number of people already radicalized over the war in Iraq buying into such a train of thought hook, line, and sinker. The Economist appears to be quite willing to do so, for example, and many other outlets of public opinion (particularly in Europe) routinely ignore or whitewash away the nastier aspects of the Iranian government.

Here's another possible explanation as to why the US hasn't acted against Iran yet: according to the IAEA, Iran has already produced highly enriched uranium and even plutonium. I have no idea as far as why they would need that kind of stuff for what is allegedly a civilian power program, but the point is that they've done it. Who is to say that they don't already have (or might plausibly have, which amounts to the same thing in the murky world of intelligence) a nuke or two ready to go? If they do or could, then they could conceiveably kill a lot of our troops in the event we declared war on them. These are all factors that have to judged and weighed by people a lot smarter than me.

Harry:

AFP is reporting that US intelligence is worried over Latin America airliners. Any attack al-Qaeda from Latin America is likely to emanate from the Triple Border region, however:

http://www.quepasa.com/content/?c=106&id=226709

You aren't just having idle fears. I would also note that many Arabs can plausibly pass themselves off as Hispanics with little more than a name change - to say nothing of what might happen if al-Qaeda chooses to use Chechens or Filippinos or Indonesians against us. Unfortunately, many people still only think of al-Qaeda operatives and terrorists in general as being Arabs after 9/11 and the network may well choose to exploit that vulnerability.

About the al Qaeda/Iran connection: I was the first person to identify this, while the fighting in Afghanistan was still going on. I expanded it in "The War Against the Terror Masters," which appeared nearly a year before the Washington Post caught up with the facts...now everyone accepts it as a commonplace, which makes this soothsayer feel great.

That we MUST bring down the mullahs in Tehran has been clear for years. They are the keystone in the terrorist structure. And the closer they get to the bomb, the more urgent their downfall becomes to the entire civilized world.

As luck would have it, the Iranian people hate the regime and would fight against it if we supported them--politically, financially, and operationally (they need communications help, the best of which would be to fund the Iranian-American radio and tv stations in southern California.

But instead of doing that, we are trying to cut a deal with the mullahs, along the same lines as the deal made with Saddam in the 1991 ceasefire. They promise to be good, and we leave them alone. So Powell said that he has no desire to get involved in the Iranian "family squabble." This was tantamount to pulling the rug out from beneath them at a crucial moment--last summer--when the opposition was building up to a general strike.

Feh.

Dan,

Don't be absurd. Of course America has the logistics to win a quick war with Iran. How many nukes do you want to use and how genocidal do you want their effects to be?

The question here is less one pure military capability than strategy. The Bush Administration has decided for a number of reasons military technical and political to make its next big military move in the winter of 2004-2005.

This has ceded strategic initiative to the Terror Masters.

The reason the Mullah's are helping Al-Qaeda is because they want to get their licks in before we hit them, because they know they are next.

I agree with Tom Holsinger, based on what you posted above, that the most likely originating point for a high body count terrorist strike is Canada. I personally think that if it does, it will be aimed at the Boston-Washington corridor. That is the only way they will get big, flashy, high body count and high media coverage event they crave.

Whoah, Michael Ledeen!

Trent:

I was referring in terms of conventional warfare. If nukes come into play (and the Belmont Club has a great blog up on this) then yes, we can annihilate the Iranian leadership in a nuclear attack - though doing so would likely force whatever remnants of the IRGC survive the first strike to start firing every Shahab-3 in their arsenal at US targets in the Gulf. Are we going to nuke the Bekaa Valley and the Triple Border too? If not, then Iran's proxy army Hezbollah (in addition to al-Qaeda) is likely to be called out to do as much damage to US infrastructure as possible. Both the IRGC remnants and Hezbollah will fight and die very quickly in the event that a war breaks out between the US and Iran - the inevitable end-result of a mass casualty attack being launched against the US by al-Qaeda elements based in Iran at this point.

In regards to the origin point for any mass casualty attack, I would honestly consider Mexico or being smuggled in by ship at least as possible as the Great White North - there's enough corruption in Mexico that it would be quite easy for al-Qaeda to acquire the necessary infrastructure there from which to launch an attack by simply buying off the necessary authorities and our rather porous border situation on both ends doesn't help matters from a security perspective.

BTW, in case anyone thinks I am not in deadly earnest about nukes, this is what the Belmont Club folks are saying at one of Dan's links:

It is not inconceivable that US government has already reviewed its offensive response to another mass casualty attack. If so, its most interesting aspect must be that the President has not seen fit to publicly warn would be perpetrators of the dire consequences, nor to inform the public of what the government would do if several thousand Americans were killed in another attack. The two likely reasons for this silence are that the US does not believe that any retaliatory threat, however dire, would deter the extremist Islamic enemy. The second may be that the US wishes to preserve the element of surprise in its intended riposte as well as avoid any anticipatory public debate on the character of that retaliation. Taken together, they suggest that the United States has not eliminated any options from its range of response. In plain words, the nukes are on the table. Whether they are used depends entirely on the course of events.

A rattled saber makes a lot of noise.

A drawn saber makes very little.

I want to disagree about not having the military power to deal with Iran short of going roman on them. In Iran the problem is nailing the mullahs/Imama's without a lot of collateral damage. There might be enough Iranians that want them gone to do the job once the hired guns from Pakistan and Afghistan are gone. I'd bet a Euro against a dollar that the hired guns are put up in central locations. You would need them in central locations so they could be sent out to machine gun the masses without a big time lag. So find the barracks and JDAM them. Nothing quite like a 2,000 lb alarm clock to wake up a jihadist for that trip to paradise. Delivered by B-2 it's unlikly that the Iranians would even know they were there. Give the IAF credit for it. The Irainian military took 8 years to get a draw against the Iraqi's when they had the advantage. They have not improved over the last 20 years. So I suspect that it would not be very dificult nor take up a lot of resources to get a regime change going in Iran. It would be more of an afghanistan type campaign then an Iraq type. Plus there would be no need to occupy the place afterwards. The Iranians have enough of a democratic infastructure in place to muddle through the first few elections. And forget about Pakistan. Israel has sold enough ABM (arrow) systems to India to make launching a SRBM from Pakistan a real bad idea.
919 (PS The IDF can clear the bakka valley in 12 hours or less, whenever they feel it's neccessary).

Great post Dan, 6 plus the 2 point conversion.

Trent, you've hit it dead on with your analysis of the nuclear option. The Bush Administration as well as Washington five siders were bothered by the debate which arose after news leaked of the preemptive nuclear scenarios reviewed for Iraq.

You can be certain that if we were prepared to use the "ultimate weapon" to run bunker busting missions, it's certainly part of the arsenal of options in retaliation for a massive casualty strike on the American homeland.

Fortunately the adjustment of our military configuration and acceleration of weapons development resulting from the Nuclear Posture Review of January 9, 2002, leaves America with multiple non-nuclear yet similarly devastating response options. The MOAB is one such declassified tool. And yes, there are others.

One thing I just can't figure.

The Ayatollahs have to know that AQ is planning a mass-casualty attack. To deliberately give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda is to invite an American response. Indeed, were AQ successful in inflicting mass casualties in the 25 to 100 thousand range, I can imagine no circumstance which would allow the present Iranian regime to survive.

That's what I just don't figure, unless the Iranians are planning a huge double-cross, rounding up the AQ then calling up Bush to name their price. Imagine the Ayatollahs in possession of bin Laden and Al Zawahiri.

Diplomatic and trade relations would follow, on very generous terms.

There is a huge upside for the Regime, if they choose to play ball with us. The downside for the regime, if they choose to believe their own Islamist bullshit, is catastrophic at best.

Ableiter:

Iraq was an international pariah for 12 years after the first Gulf War - while they could still purchase weapons and the like for their military through illicit methods like smuggling, I think it's quite fair to say that rebuilding the Iraqi after the Gulf War to its pre-bellum levels was a fairly impossible task for Saddam Hussein. Heck, he couldn't muster up the necessary forces to launch a full-scale assault on the PUK and KDP up in the north - he had to rely on proxy organizations like Ansar al-Islam to do it for him.

Iran, by contrast, has not been under international sanctions (though they certainly deserve it) and can (and does) buy European weaponry on the open market. The fortunes of the IRGC nuts are directly tied to that of the Islamic Republic, after all its the deputy defense minister who's playing host to them these days. They, along with the Baseej (who are said to be made up of as many imported thugs as Iranians), will fight for the ayatollahs - their only alternative is to face the very angry wrath of the Iranian people whe the government falls. They also control the Shahab-3 as well as Iran's chemical and biological weapons arsenal and aren't likely to be too shy about using it.

Can we beat them? Of course. Our military is better than theirs and we have much better equipment than they do. However, one of the reasons we won as well as we did in Iraq was because swift victory in these circumstances requires the application of overwhelmingly military force - remember Shock and Awe™? Right now, a solid chunk of our troops are currently needed to garrison Iraq, though the more Iraqi police and security forces are trained, the less GIs are needed. Iran also controls SCIRI (which we've legitimized for reasons I still don't understand) and probably Sadr as well - they could easily try to stir up a Shi'ite uprising against coalition forces in the south if the US attacked them - they certainly have the means to do since we've unfortunately left the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army more or less intact since the invasion. Both militias need to be brought to heel by the US and SCIRI should never have been given a place on the IGC to begin with. Of course, any uprising they stir up will ultimately fail, but my point is that there are serious logistical difficulties to be considered before we start gearing ourselves up for the Sack of Tehran.

As far as JDAMing IRGC installations, a lot of these are located in the center of civilian areas - dropping big bombs on them is not likely to be a viable option. And I would reference the subject of Kosovo as to just how effective air-only campaigns are against entrenched military forces.

This doesn't even begin to get into the political complexities of the issues at hand. Remember all the Franco-German-Russian opposition to the war in Iraq? If it comes to Iran, we may not even have the UK with us - far too much of the EU maintains close economic ties for them to move objectively on the subject of Iranian support for international terrorism, the last several months have provided more than enough positive proof of that with the blatant apologetics from any number of European leaders towards the sicker aspects of the Iranian government. Canada did little more than whimper in the wake of having one of its citizens killed by the ayatollahs' thugs. And don't even get me started on the domestic politics of US military action against Iran ...

Another problem with regards to setting up a new Iranian government is that one of the major contenders to be just that within the Beltway is none other than the National Council of Resistance of Iran - the political wing of the Marxist terrorist group Mujahideen-e-Khalq. I see little reason as to why we should overthrow one dictatorship just to put another in its place and we need to get a definitive post-war plan in place before going into Iran rather than afterwards if it comes to that. And if that means putting the shah's son on the throne as some kind of a constitutional monarchy, I'm all for it, he certainly can't be much worse than the current crop of theocrats.

One other factor you need to keep in mind is that India and Iran are very close allies and that India is very likely to provide diplomatic or even covert backing to Iran in the event of a US-led war against the country.

As to the Bekaa Valley, not all of Hezbollah is based there and that still doesn't settle the question of how to deal with their substantial infrastructure in the Triple Border from which they launched two major terrorist attacks in the early 1990s.

Don't misunderstand me, we can beat Iran hands-down if we have to fight them, but we have some major problems to deal with before we reach that point.

Section9:

I don't pretend for a moment to understand why Iran (or any number of thug regimes) conducts its foreign policy the way it does, especially when it comes to what looks like Jonestown on a national level. I figure a healthy dose of anti-Americanism, arrogance, meglomania, fanaticism, and just plain madness.

To be quite honest, I don't see the Iranian surviving any attack that costs more than 1,000 American lives. Then again, the Saudi government continues to stand after 15 of its citizens helped to kill 3,000 of our people with the probable aid of two Saudi intelligence agents (Osama Basnan and Omar al-Bayyoumi), so maybe Khamenei figures that there's something of a precedent here. In my view, the US determination to act so decisively against Saddam Hussein due in large part to his collusion in al-Qaeda's thwarted attempt to use crude chemical weapons against Western targets, so I think it'd be quite clear to Khamenei and Co that they're playing with fire. Then again, Saddam Hussein didn't offer to hand over a single al-Qaeda operative inside Iraq when Collin Powell made his presentation before the UN in February (after all of the al-Qaeda plots had been thwarted), so maybe Middle Eastern logic just works a lot differently than our Western logic ...

The Iranians didn't turn over the two dozen or so leaders and the 500+ operatives after the Riyadh bombings, when the US threatened to engage in an aggressive strategy to destabilize and overthrow their regime, even going as far as to threaten to use the MEK as a proxy force against them (which is going far beyond the rather prudent strategy that Ledeen and others advocate) - and Khamenei didn't flinch. They even took in Ansar al-Islam, gave them equipment and weaponry, and let al-Qaeda travel straight through Iran to carry out attacks in other countries like Iraq, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia (again). That's a casus belli right there if Bush wants one, so I think that we can plausibly discern that the ayatollahs seek to actively challenge the US and figure that al-Qaeda is the best way to go about doing so. Amir Taheri has written extensively on this aspect of Khomeinist foreign policy ever since the Islamic Revolution. It didn't make sense then, and to be quite frank it doesn't now, at least to me.

We're not going for Iran for a simple reason, we simply don't have the troops available to take them on right now. We're not in trouble right now with Iraq but we're activating at least one unit that has been on ceremonial duties (Arlington National Cemetary) since Vietnam.

The only way to take on Iran right now with our available force structure is to use nuclear weapons. This would not help us in the WoT very much. Remember, combat troops deployed are on a three stage rotation for long term deployments. They do their job, they go home and rest, and then the train back up to be able to go out again. Take any reasonable conventional force requirement for Iran and multiply by three and what do you get? A lot of slots for soldiers, sailors, and airmen that simply don't exist.

I'm all in favor of faster please but not in favor of losing wars because we bit off more than we could chew.

One other reason why we are not attacking Iran could be the Libya alternative. I.e. we are negotiating in secret with them.

A part of this could be for the Iranians to be bugging their AQ "guests" and passing on the info to the US. Then at some suitable moment the AQ terrorists outside Iran are taken into custody with sufficient smoking gun proof of their aims (e.g. a dirty bomb hidden in a container) and an announcement is made that we thank the Mullahs for their cooperation. At about the same time the Iranians would change the terms of their custody of the top AQ people to something less pleasant. Followed by trial and execution for abuse of hospitality etc.

We took Iraq with ~3 reinforced divisions. At this point we could build that up as necessary, with good ports available to ship in as much heavy equipment as desired. The force remaining (~10% of our total) may not be capable of conquering Iran by itself, but we could easily reinforce it to one that was within the current structure. The training issue is overblown; no preparation is more useful than actual warfighting. And the logistics problems are easier than OIF's.

There are several good reasons not to start a conventional war with Iran right now (the biggest is Russian paranoia, followed by the ones Dan listed). But although it would be a stretch, stomping Iran's military isn't one of them. Further, I doubt the mullahs are confused on the point.

Anybody remember Osirak? What do you think of the possibility that the Iraelis will at least take care of the Iranians main reactor for us? Saddam Hussein in '81 and Bashar Assad this year are precedents.

Just a couple of points. First, this is one of the best discussions I've been involved in, so thanks for helping me think more about Iran. Second, I am constantly frustrated by the insistence that the liberation of Iran must be military, when it seems clear to me that it can and should be done politically.

I do think that the Israelis will have to act, and fairly soon, but I think it is a very difficult operation. This only adds to the urgency of the political operation: support for democratic revolution in Iran. God knows the Iranian people are ready...

Finally, it is very hard for us to "think" like the ayatollahs. Khamenei and Rafsanjani do not reason the way we do; they believe they can drive the United States out of the Middle East, they are firmly determined to nuke Israel, and us as well, and they have no compunctions about killing large numbers of Iranians, Americans, Israelis, or anyone else they decide is Satanic.

They are not kidding, and they are smart and cunning. A very serious enemy.

Michael Ledeen:

I don't think that the liberation of Iran has to be accomplished through military means, though something almost certainly has to be done about their nuclear program before it reaches the point where they have enough of a nuclear arsenal to annihilate Israel (something Rafsanjani has already called for on numerous occasions). Similarly, if the al-Qaeda leadership based in Iran is able to coordinate a mass casualty attack on US domestic targets within the next month or so, not responding strikes me as effectively dumping blood in a shark tank for al-Qaeda's cause.

Another thing that I tend to be weary of is any US efforts to democratize Iran that involve any involvement on the part of the MEK or its political wing(something that various folks in the Beltway want to do, according to published news reports). I suspect you and I are in agreement on this one, but the MEK is basically a Marxist cult that has killed Americans in the past and has very little support among the actual Iranian people that we seek to mobilize to overthrow the Khomeinists. The decision on the part of some idiots over in Washington to legitimize SCIRI and the surviving Hakim brother over in Iraq may also complicate any kind of pro-democratic efforts in Iran because, as you know, SCIRI is an Iranian front organization and they could easily create all kinds of problems for coalition forces in the south. And that doesn't even bring in the factor of Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

I think we can still undertake the course of actions that you're supporting, but in order to do that I think we have to be ready to take action against SCIRI and Sadr as soon as their controllers in Tehran tell them to start stirring up trouble for the US in the south. How to go about doing that, I'm not exactly sure (could we have Sistani deal with them?), but I just think that these are factors that has to be taken into account, as well as Hezbollah.

In any case, the bottom line is that regardless of why Iran is conducting its foreign policy the way that it is, we cannot allow al-Qaeda to set up a new base of operations - to do so would be to negate all of the progress we've made over the last two years and I don't think anybody here wants that. Nor can we allow ourselves the luxury of believing that Khamenei, Rafsanjani, and Hojjat al-Islam Ali Fallahian (the head of VEVAK, who is as much involved in all of this as anyone else) will try to cut a deal with the US in aftermath of a major terrorist attack. Rafsanjani, if memory serves, is already on record as stating that it would be perfectly acceptable for Iran to be destroyed if Israel is annihilated in the process. I'm inclined to take the man at his word here and I don't think that can afford to take the chance that the Iranian leadership hasn't collectively decided to drink Osama's Kool Aid and attempt to deliver what they view as a terrorist coup de grace to the Great Satan. The stakes are simply too high.

Dear lord, the fear is palpable.

We've really done well on the war on terror, what is there to worry about. We captured Saddam. He was the root of all terror, he was the lynch pin behind al-Qaueda.

So, yes we're safer for devoting nearly all our military resources on Iraq instead of spending all that time, money, and resources on something else, like finding the real terrorists.

Mr. Ledeen,

There is no way to use the CIA and the State Department to set up an internal over throw of the Iranian Mullahocracy because they will not obey the President.

We don't have an existing on the ground proxy force like Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance in Iran and the CIA/State Axis of Bureaucratic Evil won't let us create one. Just like they would not let us use the Iraqi National Congress to create one in Iraq.

Wishing it were different or expecting President Bush to do something he seems personally incapable of does not change the fact that the only real tool of policy we have in this war is military ground invasion and forcible regime change of the terror masters.

I said this before in a post on Winds and I'll restate it here again:

Iran: It Will Come to Blows
July 13, 2003
http://windsofchange.net/archives/003760.html

"It is clear now from what David Warren is reporting, and what Steven Den Beste is blogging, that it will take a ground invasion to deal to death the Iranian Mullahocracy, its terrorist infrastructure and its WMD programs. Air attacks will not be enough and will be seen as a sign of American weakness afterwards if they are attempted.

Like the victims of any other modern tyranny that has the will to live, the Iranian people cannot free themselves. We have no time to wait for further events on the ground in Iran to play out given Iran's nuclear, chemical and bioweapons programs.

It is time to activate all of the heavy divisions of the National Guard."

I am looking for just that to happen in the run up to the 2004 Presidential election.

The National Guard Divisions will not be used for the Invasion, but they will be for the occupation afterwards.

This is something else for the "thread bearers" here to consider from an earlier post of mine here:

http://windsofchange.net/archives/003908.html

The Long Goodbye, Al-Saud Style
August 13, 2003
Trent Telenko

In this war you always have to watch what the Bush Administration actually does versus what it says. There has been a pattern of long preparation and then building political, economic and military activity until a final burst of military frenzy that changes everything. Then we fall back to the long slow slog again. This happened with Afghanistan and then with Iraq.

The information warfare campaign the Bush Administration is engaging in with the Saudis shows that they are now starting to strategically multi-task. Bush Administration has not finished with Iraq and has not started with either Iran or North Korea, yet they are now preparing the ground in Saudi Arabia. The implications of that development are profound.

In the time since this post, we have captured Saddam, are proceeding to disarm Libya of WMD, and forced the Al-Saud clan to engaged in open warfare with Al-Qaeda inside Saudi borders.

In my day job I am seeing huge amounts of money thrown at the US military wheeled vehicle (AKA truck) industrial base.

The signs and portents are leading me to believe that the American military headman is positioning the ax of ground invasion for the Mullahs in the winter of 2004-2005.

The question is whether our internal security is good enough to thwart another 9/11/2001 before we come for the Iranian terror masters and their Al-Qaeda allies.

Eric:

My position has long been that removing Iraq knocked out a cog in the terror machine (one that Wretchard at the Belmont Club shares, incidentally). In my opinion, had we not gone into Iraq we would have instead been faced with the unfortunate truth that not only would Zarqawi and his minions be able to retain access to what appear to have been at the very least training facilities and conventional weaponry (to say nothing of the chemical weapons labs at Sergat and Khurmal located in Iraqi Kurdistan beyond Baathist control) but all of the hundreds of European and Arab jihadis who are now flocking to Iraq could easily have been redeployed somewhere else. Respectfully, I would rather fight them in the Middle East on our terms than in North America on theirs.

That being said, the loss of Saddam Hussein was a heavy blow and as a result of his capture the Baathists have splintered into 3 factions, each of which can now be crushed in turn. However, just as Mussolini's fall from power in 1943 did nothing to substantially reduce the might of the Wehrmacht, so did Saddam Hussein's capture do little to reduce al-Qaeda. Doesn't mean that either Mussolini's overthrow or Saddam Hussein's capture were bad things from the perspective of the overall war effort.

Trent Trelenko:

I will be quite honest when I say that barring another mass casualty attack, I cannot see the US taking military action (something I agree with Ledeen that I don't think that we ultimately have to do to begin with to overthrow the Khomeinists) against Iran before the 2004 election to begin with and may God have mercy on the innocent people of Iran if we do have to retaliate against the Islamic Republic for a major terrorist attack plotted and organized from Iranian soil for the reasons that you and the Belmont Club listed earlier.

That being said, I take issue with one item of your analysis - any Saudi action against al-Qaeda at this point is at best half-hearted and will remain so as long as the moneymen and the ideologues behind the network remain at large in the Kingdom (that and the fact that most of the operatives who were arrested during the aftermath of the first Riyadh bombings got burnt to a crisp in prison fire). Read my last link from MEMRI, al-Qaeda is issuing orders to its operatives to avoid confrontations with Saudi security forces unless absolutely necessary and couple that with the recent story in US News and World Report that members of the al-Saud clan themselves are an active rather than tacit part of the terror machine, a point that Wretchard and I are in firm agreement on.

I suspect Trent is right and that it will take a ground invasion to end the Mullah's sponsorship of terror. But I haven't spent a lot of time researching this dimension of the situation ....

The real indicators to watch, though, are just the ones Trent points to. When you see the industrial base ramping up production, when weapons and ordinance stocks are replenished on a rapid basis and when troop rotations from Iraq finish late in the winter / early in Spring, and unit strengths are topped off again with new recruits trained and integrated into those units, the capacity will be available for additional ground operations. But whether or not these are initiated will depend in part on support at home for additional reservist and guard callups. I'm not sure how strong that support is right now, but if the Iranians are too blatant about their nuclear capability and/or if there is a major attack that the US public believes was sponsored by iran then the will and the support will be there, I think.

I suspect Trent is right and that it will take a ground invasion to end the Mullah's sponsorship of terror. But I haven't spent a lot of time researching this dimension of the situation ....

The real indicators to watch, though, are just the ones Trent points to. When you see the industrial base ramping up production, when weapons and ordinance stocks are replenished on a rapid basis and when troop rotations from Iraq finish late in the winter / early in Spring, and unit strengths are topped off again with new recruits trained and integrated into those units, the capacity will be available for additional ground operations. But whether or not these are initiated will depend in part on support at home for additional reservist and guard callups. I'm not sure how strong that support is right now, but if the Iranians are too blatant about their nuclear capability and/or if there is a major attack that the US public believes was sponsored by iran then the will and the support will be there, I think.

Oops - sorry for the double post. I promised my husband I'd leave the laptop at home during this trip & am at the mercy of a borrowed aging iMac's keyboard.

>That being said, I take issue with one item of
>your analysis - any Saudi action against al-Qaeda
> at this point is at best half-hearted and will
>remain so as long as the moneymen and the
>ideologues behind the network remain at large in
>the Kingdom (that and the fact that most of the
>operatives who were arrested during the aftermath
>of the first Riyadh bombings got burnt to a
>crisp in prison fire).

Dan, you are measuring the wrong metric here. The point here isn't that the Saudis are half hearted at dealing with Al-Qaeda at home.

It is that America's successes abroad has driven the Saudi Civil War back home.

>Read my last link from MEMRI, al-Qaeda is issuing
>orders to its operatives to avoid confrontations
>with Saudi security forces unless absolutely
>necessary and couple that with the recent story
>in US News and World Report that members of the
>al-Saud clan themselves are an active rather than
> tacit part of the terror machine, a point that
>Wretchard and I are in firm agreement on.

The issue here Dan is blood price.

The indiscriminent terrorist methods of the Al-Qaeda is calling down tribal blood prices on Wahhabi clerics. So they are calling on their Al-Qaeda co-belligerents to cool it while they try a new round of power games.

Foreign Affairs has a very good run down of he Saudi Internal political situation here:

I consider this passage key:

In the aftermath of September 11, informed American opinion concluded that Osama bin Laden had attacked "the far enemy" -- the United States -- in order to foment revolution against "the near enemy" -- the Saudi regime. Subsequent events have confirmed that al Qaeda does indeed use the war with the United States as an instrument against its domestic enemies. Yet the tacit cooperation between Nayef and al-Khudayr shows that the relationship between al Qaeda and the Saudi royal family is more complex than most people seem to think.

To better understand how al Qaeda reads Saudi Arabia's political map, one can turn to the work of Yusuf al-Ayyiri, a prolific al Qaeda propagandist who died last June in a skirmish with the Saudi security services. Just before his death he wrote a revealing book, The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula After the Fall of Baghdad, which gives a good picture of how al Qaeda activists perceive the world around them.

According to al-Ayyiri, the United States and Israel are the leaders of a global anti-Islamic movement -- "Zio-Crusaderism" -- that seeks the destruction of true Islam and dominion over the Middle East. Zio-Crusaderism's most effective weapon is democracy, because popular sovereignty separates religion from the state and thereby disembowels Islam, a holistic religion that has a strong political dimension. In its plot to denature Islam, al-Ayyiri claims, Zio-Crusaderism embraces three local allies: secularists, Shi`ites, and lax Sunnis (that is, those who sympathize with the idea of separating religion from state). Al Qaeda's "near enemy," in other words, is the cluster of forces supporting Taqarub.

The chief difference between the ways al Qaeda and the Saudi religious establishment define their primary foes is that the former includes the Saudi royal family as part of the problem whereas the latter does not. This divergence is not insignificant, but it does not preclude limited or tacit cooperation on some issues. Although some in the Saudi regime are indeed bin Laden's enemies, others are his de facto allies. Al Qaeda activists sense, moreover, that U.S. plans to separate mosque and state constitute the greatest immediate threat to their designs and know that the time is not yet ripe for a broad revolution. So al Qaeda's short-term goal is not to topple the regime but to shift Saudi Arabia's domestic balance of power to the right and punish supporters of Taqarub.

The politics surrounding the suicide bombings in Riyadh last May show how the interests of al Qaeda and the Saudi religious establishment overlap. Working together, they managed to turn a terrorist attack on Americans into a political coup against Americanizers. Right after the attack, the Saudi authorities called for public assistance in capturing 19 suspects, whose names and pictures were published in the press. In response, al-Khudayr and two like-minded clerics issued a statement claiming that the accused were not terrorists but "pious and devout" men and "the flower of the mujahideen." The statement claimed that the Saudi authorities, acting on U.S. orders, were using the suicide bombings as a pretext for persecuting fighters who had "participated in the jihad against the malevolent Crusaders in Afghanistan" and "distinguished themselves with courage and heroism in the battles in the Tora Bora mountains." The clerics called on the population to disobey the regime's request for help and pronounced that any assistance to the police would constitute aid to the United States in its war against Islam. The statement urged other Saudi clerics to step forward and support the beleaguered mujahideen.

Responding to this call, 33 activist clerics who had already formed a group called the Internal Front Facing the Current Challenges lobbied the government on the basis of a statement that reads like a contract for a new alliance between the Saudi dynasty and the Wahhabi religious establishment. The statement worked with al-Khudayr's basic premise -- that the Saudis, in deference to their foreign masters, had grown hostile to jihad. But it changed the tone of the discussion. Whereas al-Khudayr had focused on the need to wage jihad against the Americans, the clerics emphasized the need to wage jihad against the Americanizers -- a reference to the enemy at home.

The statement drew a causal link between the movement for liberal reform and religious extremism. On the one hand, it admitted that religious extremism exists in Saudi Arabia and called for it to be restrained. Yet it also blamed extremism on the creep of "reprehensible practices" -- a euphemism for the growing public legitimacy of the Taqarub reform agenda. The Internal Front essentially offered Abdullah a tradeoff: if he would curtail the reformers' activities, then the clerics would provide Islamic legitimacy for a government crackdown on the takfiri-jihadis, al Qaeda and its fellow travelers.

To make these demands more explicit, the Internal Front's leader, Salman al-Awda, posted an additional statement on his Web site attacking the aggressively reformist newspaper al-Watan. (The newspaper's name means "the homeland," but religious conservatives refer to it as "al-Wathan," meaning "the idol.") According to the statement, the publication's staff was little better than agents of the Americans working against Islam -- "Thomas Friedmans in Saudi garb."

The reformers at al-Watan had concluded that the terrorist attacks vindicated the principle of Taqarub and mistakenly assumed -- like many in the West -- that the Saudi authorities had no choice but to dismantle those institutions that promote Tawhid. Emboldened by a general mood of public outrage, they began to publish articles criticizing the entire Wahhabi edifice. One cartoon in particular enraged the religious establishment. It depicted a suicide bomber wearing a belt of dynamite next to a cleric wearing a belt of fatwas. The caption read, "Those who issue fatwas and manifestos inciting terror are themselves terrorists."

But al-Watan failed to take the full measure of its enemy. Having a good argument is one thing; controlling the secret police is another. One week after the bombing, a journalist had the temerity to ask Prince Nayef if the bombing meant that the cpvpv would be restructured: "As a Saudi," Nayef snarled, "you should be ashamed to be asking this question." One week later, al-Watan's editor, Jamal Khashoggi, was fired. He now resides in London.

Trent:

We seem to be reading off the same page here, by and large, except I'm not certain whether or not the Saudi civil war has been forced back home or not just yet.

Did you see this?

http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/031217/2003121718.html

Now granted, Saudi Arabia is a police state so those being released could simply have been people who were picked up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then again, Sheikh Mohsin al-Awaji is the guy who's advocated mediating between the Saudi government and al-Qaeda after the second Riyadh bombings along with Safar al-Hawali (bin Laden's spiritual advisor and the secretary-general of the supreme council of global jihad) and Suleiman al-Dawish.

http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=subjects&Area=jihad&ID=SP61403

Now initially, it looked like Crown Prince Abdullah ruled out any kind of dialogue, but if the princes are springing loose 300 al-Qaeda operatives (planning to send them north to Iraq, perhaps?) then they may well have reached some kind of an accomodation with the organization to return to the status quo provided they cut out all of the overt terror activities, a point that you raise in your excerpt from Foreign Affairs.

And as far as internal Saudi politics go, Kremlinology was always a lot easier than Saudology ;)

>I'm not certain whether or not the Saudi civil
>war has been forced back home or not just yet.

Dan,

We have had multiple major terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia as well as major shoot out between Al-Qaeda and Saudi security forces.

That for me counts as taking and driving the Saudi Civil War back into Saudi territory. True, the major attacks have been on so-called "foreign compounds," but the major issue here is that they are killing local Saudis who man the security and are part of tribes that demand blood price.

As Foreign Affairs made clear, the issue is that doing such attacks, and drawing that blood price, is a grave short term threat to both Al-Qaeda's position and that of the Wahhabi Clerics. It threatens the internal Saudi balance of power by opening up the possibility of bringing in more secular leaning Saudis and Shias into the power establishment.

Crown Prince Abdullah's fear is that, in doing so, the tiger he is riding will eat him. He is far more comfortable with the old system and is trying to revive a corpse. That is a political failing on the old and infirm.

From the American POV, it really does not matter. As long as the oil flows and the Saudi conflict is played out within Saudi Arabia. It's all good.

Dan, I a reasonable man of rational thought, but there is no evidence to say that Saddam had intentions of supporting terrorism against the United States.

Our military resources would have been far better spent overthrowing Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran than wasting time in Iraq.

I think a greater majority of the American public would have been behind these efforts as those who opposed the war on Iraq opposed it because they saw it as a feble effort in light of the real goal: finishing off Osama's organization.

Granted, not everyone opposed the war on Iraq because of Bush's unwillingness to go after the meat of the problem, there are those very few who are true pacifists.

>Our military resources would have been far better
>spent overthrowing Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran
>than wasting time in Iraq.

Eric,

You are a fool or worse than a fool.

Riddle me this, what are the respective populations of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq?

What are the various nation's levels of religious nuttiness?

What was the American military base structure capable of supporting in 2001?

What is/were these nations WMD program status?

What was the importance of these nations to the world and American economy?

We had to start somewhere and Iraq was chosen first on the preemptive regime removal list because of the answers to those questions.

Your problem isn't "the distraction of Iraq." It is that America is using its military power to destroy the Axis of Evil, period.

I don't see a conventional ground invasion of Iraq, before late 2004, at the earliest. Not for political reasons, but because we'd really like to have the "first team" heavy divisions back up to full strength. The 101st Air Assault Division could use some refit, too.

I think we learned some lessons from Iraq. The most important one being Do not let the die-hards run. Kill them. I think we should expect airborne operations to cut off the escape of Revolutionary Guards units. Special operations (or CIA) strikes at the regime leadership (and Al-Qaeda cadres) are also likely.

Given the modest forces we'll have available for post-war occupation, we're going to have to kill a lot more Iranian soldiers than we did Iraqis. At the very least, we're going to have to force them to surrender and disarm, and intern them until we have found most, if not all, of their cached weapons. We cannot afford a repeat of the mistake of simply letting the troops run home. We must beat them, and in such a manner that they know they're beaten.

Of course, if Iran's Al-Qaeda "guests" kill a few thousand more Americans, we'll go after the Mullahs ASAP, with whatever it takes to take them out, including limited use of nukes.

Riyadh delenda est!

Trent:

The problem is that if the Saudis are springing 300 al-Qaeda loose, then they aren't involved in a civil war, it's more like a turf battle between rival mafia dons than anything else with gains and losses for both sides plus all kinds of shadowy manipulation going on behind the scenes. To call it a civil war is to give the unspoken implication that we should back House Saud since they're our nominal ally (???) against al-Qaeda, the same kind of spin that al-Jubeir has been in charge of putting out ever since the allegations against Princess Haifa came up last year.

Eric:

Respectfully, I disagree and would argue that Iraq was indeed a supporter of al-Qaeda, though there is still much that needs yet to be discerned about the precise nature of the relationship.

In addition, I tend to disagree with you as to the claim that a majority of anti-war demonstrators who opposed the war in Iraq would support military engagements against Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Pakistan. Most of the rhetoric and arguments that I have seen employed against the war in Iraq can almost certainly be applied against these nations, whether it's claims of anti-imperialism, no war for oil (this may not be applicable in the case of Pakistan, but no doubt there's some pipeline or another that someone can dream up as the "real" motive), or yet more shadowy efforts in behalf of the Neocon Cabal™ to democratize the Middle East. On at least one occasion, I have seen anti-war commenters refer back to Bob Fisk citing something to do with dollar to euro exchange as the "real" rationale behind the war.

In any case, the evidence and claims for or against it are readily available, I urge you to consult it and to make up your own mind.

Cato:

That's pretty much what I see occurring as well.

BTW, love the signature.

Eric, has it occurred to you to look at a map of the region? Neutralizing Saddam and occupying Iraq put us in a much better strategic position, vis a vis our remaining enemies in the area.

Read B.H. Liddel-Hart's writings on indirect approach. It's always preferable to choose a line of approach that threatens multiple objectives. The Islamonazis don't know where we'll strike next, and can't know, until it's too late to do anything about it.

For example, sometime in early 2005, there is a "crisis" involving Syria. We build up our forces in Iraq, move them to the Syrian border, and at the last minute, Boy Assad pulls a Qadaffi and caves (or our diplomats offer a compromise, it doesn't matter which). Our troops on the Syrian border head back to the port of Basra, only to make a hard left, into Iran. Shock and Awe™ air strikes on leadership and Revolutionary Guards barracks are combined with airborne assaults on the RG barracks and special-ops strikes on leadership targets.

Or we could do it the other way around, with a phony "crisis" with Iran, only to hit Syria (or Saudi Arabia). Having Iraq as a forward staging base is simply wonderful.

Even if we don't want to manufacture a crisis, we can use troop rotation to cover our buildup. Rotate the heavies in, and the light infantry out. Just before time to go, fly the light units back.

But those scenarios work because we have Iraq. Any other initial target would have made our next target obvious to everyone. An invasion of Saudi Arabia would leave nowhere to go but Iraq. An Invasion of Iran would leave nowhere to go but Iraq. An invasion of Syria would leave nowhere to go but Iraq.

If you're going to eventually invade Iraq anyway, it makes a lot of sense to do it first. And if the military considerations didn't make it the obvious choice, the diplomatic ones certainly did. Most of Saddam's neighbors hated him, and none of them were willing to help him.

Riyadh delenda est!

>The problem is that if the Saudis are springing
>300 al-Qaeda loose, then they aren't involved in
>a civil war, it's more like a turf battle
>between rival mafia dons than anything else with
>gains and losses for both sides plus all kinds
>of shadowy manipulation going on behind the
>scenes.

And your point is...?

The long term survival of the Al-Saud clan is not in the American interest. No matter what they say, members of the Al-Saud clan are pro-terrorist and they will fund and shelter Al-Qaeda or its Wahhabi mind children.

What we do with them in the short term prior to their execution is similar to how the Feds deal with various Mafia gangs.

We can take out the most violent and disruptive ones first with tips from the less disruptive Mafia families and still remain enemies of all the Mafia.

So it is with the House of Saud.

The reason there is no need to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir is because it is non-violent, and has never been associated with organisations that use violence to achieve their aims.

The American government has had a long relationship with certain organisations that use violence to achieve thier aims, but I do not see you wanting to ban the American government.

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