Republicans Want You to Forget Bush (Rev 13:10)


Republicans Want You to Forget Why Sending Troops Back to Iraq Is a Terrible Idea

Bob Burnett Berkeley writer, retired Silicon Valley executive

As the Republican presidential demolition derby continues, the 2016 GOP candidates have settled on two central themes: hatred for President Barack Obama and desire to send U.S. troops back to Iraq to fight ISIS. While Republicans suffer from short-term memory loss, there’s no reason the rest of us should forget what actually happened in Iraq and why sending troops back there is a terrible idea.

1. The Iraq War was a ghastly mistake.

Most political observers now believe the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq was the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history.

The Bush White House had three reasons for invading Iraq. First, the invasion diverted the public’s attention from the failed campaign in Afghanistan, where Dubya’s people hadn’t captured Osama bin Laden or any of the others responsible for 9/11. In a March 13, 2002, news conference, Bush blurted, “I don’t know where [Osama bin Laden] is… I truly am not that concerned about him.”

Because the 2002 mid-term elections were coming, Republicans needed positive momentum on their “war” on terror. They shifted America’s focus from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

During the first quarter of 2002 the Bush White House decided to invade Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney began asserting that Iraq had nuclear weapons. In June, Karl Rove and other GOP political operatives said the Republican mid-term election strategy was “war and the economy.” Dubya and his pals hated Saddam Hussein because he had once attempted to kill George Bush Senior. As a consequence, the Bush Administration fed Americans a series of lies about Iraq: Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Qaeda, had helped plan the 9/11 attacks, and had “weapons of mass destruction.”

2. The Iraq War cost $4 trillion plus.

The Bush Administration vastly underestimated the cost of the invasion. On September 16, 2002, White House adviser Lawrence Lindsey estimated an Iraq War would cost $200 billion. (On July 2, 2002, White House adviser Richard Perle observed, “Iraq is a very wealthy country [with] enormous oil reserves. They can finance… reconstruction of their own country.”) On November 8, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld predicted the length of an Iraq War: “Five days or five weeks or five months. It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”

The Iraq War lasted more than eight years (from March 20, 2003, to December 18, 2011.) In March of 2008, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz released a study estimating war cost as more than $3 trillion. (In current estimates the war will cost “$4 trillion to $6 trillion.”) This includes not only the direct costs of the war but also the interest on the money borrowed to finance the war plus the “medical care and disability benefits to about 70,000 soldiers injured in the conflict.”

To put “$4 trillion to $6 trillion” in perspective, the U.S. debt is estimated at $18 trillion. Guaranteeing every American a basic income at the poverty level is estimated to cost $2.1 trillion annually. (The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of Obamacare over ten years [2016-2025] to be $1.2 trillion.)

3. The Iraq war was mismanaged.

It’s no secret that George W. Bush was a failed businessman. In the 2000 campaign, Republicans attempted to shield Dubya by claiming he would be surrounded by seasoned managers, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But the reality is that Cheney and Rumsfeld were also failed managers, who made a series of awful decisions.

Not enough troops were sent into Iraq. As a result the immediate result of the fall of the Saddam Hussein government was widespread looting and unnecessary damage to the civil infrastructure. Instead of turning control of Iraqi civil society over to Iraqis, the Bush Administration formed the Coalition Provisional Authority. In May of 2003, L. Pail Bremer, CEO of the Provisional Authority disbanded the ruling Ba’ath Party (and banned members from future employment in the public sector — effectively firing all educated teachers) and the army. This alienated most Iraqis, particularly Sunnis.

4. A bad U.S. management team installed a bad Iraqi management team. 

Following the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. installed a Shiite, Nouri al-Maliki, as prime minister (who served from 2006-2014). Al-Maliki, a Shiite, systematically repressed the already repressed Sunnis. He, in effect, spawned ISIS.

5. In 2011, the Iraqi management team we installed asked us to leave the country.

As Time magazine explained at the time: “ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it.” Obama wanted to leave troops in Iraq but al-Maliki fought this by insisting on an unacceptable State of Forces agreement.

In summary, Republicans, and their progeny, are responsible for every piece of the Iraq debacle. Now they are asking us to forget that.




BY MICHAEL WEISS 05.28.155:2

The Obama administration is being slammed from all sides for its failing strategy against ISIS—and rightly so. But amid all the scorn, one question has yet to be asked about the resiliency of the terror army, which actually goes to the heart of its decade-old war doctrine. Namely: Does ISIS actually win even when it loses?

This isn’t an academic issue. America’s allies in the ISIS war are gearing up for a major counteroffensive against the extremist group. That assault that could very well play right into ISIS’s hands.

Having superimposed its self-styled “caliphate” over a good third of Iraq’s territory, in control of two provincial capitals, ISIS is today in the strongest position it has ever been for fomenting the kind of sectarian conflagration its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, envisioned as far back as 2004.

Zarqawi’s end-game was simple: by waging merciless atrocities against Iraq’s Shia majority population (and any Sunnis seen to be conspiring with it), Zarqawi’s jihadists would have only to stand back and watch as radicalized Shia militias, many of whose members also served in various Iraqi government and security roles, conducted their own retaliatory campaigns against the country’s Sunni minority. Internecine conflict would have the knock-on effect of driving Sunnis desperately into the jihadist fold, whether or not they sympathized with the ideology of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi’s franchise and the earliest incarnation of what we now call the Islamic State.

Indeed, in the mid-2000s, the Jordanian jihadist nearly got what he wished for by waging spectacular terror attacks against Shia civilians and holy sites, such as the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a strategy which quickened devolved Iraq’s violence from a primarily anti-American insurgency into all-out civil war. The only stopgap for a truly apocalyptic or nation-destroying result was the presence of nearly 200,000 U.S. and coalition troops. Today, however, absent such a foreign and independent military presence, the main actors left in Iraq are the same extremists—Shia militias and ISIS.

This fact was only driven home last week after thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi Security Force personnel, including the elite counterterrorist Golden Division, fled from Ramadi, allowing the city fall to a numerically modest contingent of ISIS jihadists. Having been initially instructed by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to refrain from defending the city (no doubt at the prompting of Washington) the Hashd al-Shaabi, the umbrella organization for these Shia militias, now say they are prepping a massive counteroffensive to retake Ramadi. It promises to be a drawn-out and highly fraught counteroffensive, pitting paramilitaries—which have been accused of war crimes and atrocities by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and United Nations Human Rights Commission—against genocidal ISIS militants.

Many Iraqis fear, with good reason, that this counteroffensive will also extend to Sunni civilians who will now be branded “collaborators” of ISIS, as they have in previous Hashd-led operations. The result: torture, extrajudicial killing, and ethnic cleansing. Nothing would better serve the ISIS narrative or legitimate its claim to be the last custodian and safeguard of Sunni Muslims in the Middle East. Such an outcome might even precede the eventual disintegration of the modern state of Iraq into warring ethno-religious enclaves. That this was ISIS’s plan all along adds yet another grim paragraph to the obituary of American-hatched adventurism in the Middle East.

True, Hashd al-Shaabi has routed ISIS elsewhere before, namely in Amerli and Jurf al-Sakhar and Tikrit. In the aftermath, the militia was accused of committing human rights abuses, but those accusations didn’t tear the country apart.

The difference with Ramadi, however, is one of both scale and symbolism. This city of close to 200,000 is dead center in the Sunni heartland of Iraq, where ISIS has the home advantage. Ramadi was also, not coincidentally, the cynosure of the so-called “Anbar Awakening,” which saw hundreds of thousands of Sunni tribesmen rise up against ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in a cautious but fruitful partnership with American soldiers in the mid-2000s, a grassroots counterinsurgency whose gains were then solidified by the “surge” orchestrated by U.S. commander General David Petraeus. This time, absent any American combat forces, there are Shia Islamists who have never before tread into Ramadi. Many Iraqis dread the consequences.

“Iraq is not unified,” Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister Rafe Essawi, a senior Sunni political leader originally from Anbar, told The Daily Beast. “Fifty percent of the country belongs either to Kurds or ISIS, and 50 percent belongs to the Shia militias backed by Iran. We said too many times to our friends the Americans that we do not need to see the militias in Ramadi because this will lead to sectarian conflict.”

Yet the Americans have little on offer by way of an alternative. U.S. training efforts are still months off from fielding military units able to join the fight. With Iraq’s future resting on them, Hashd is seen as the only ready bulwark against further ISIS encroachments, although its conduct in Anbar may paradoxically purge the province of ISIS’s hard power while underwriting its soft version.

The Ramadi offensive hardly got off to a promising start. On Tuesday, Hashd spokesmen announced that the name for their Anbar offensive was “Labeyk Ya Hussein,” a slogan roughly translated as “At your service, Hussein,” in tribute to a venerated Shia religious figure. The connotations were therefore of holy war—not exactly the multi-sectarian, pan-Iraqi message Baghdad has preferred to telegraph to international audiences.

On Wednesday, in response to criticism from U.S. officials and some Iraqi leaders—including demagogic Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (who has fallen out with Iran and has since platformed himself as a nationalist politician)—the operation’s name was changed to to more universal: “Labeyk Ya Iraq.” But the public relations rethink has not addressed underlying concerns about the Hashd’s intentions, nor allayed Sunni anxieties.

“I think the careful examiner of the facts on the ground will see de facto borders are being drawn, whether by design or by circumstance,” said one former Iraqi official who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity. “The militias have effectively cleared the Baghdad belts to the south of Sunnis, and with the Ramadi operation I expect the same will happen westward, but it will entail a lot more fighting and possibly much more instability.”

This is because the war for the future Iraq isn’t being waged first and foremost by Iraqis but by their self-interested next-door neighbor, Iran, led by its elite Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity in its own right.

Iraq’s sectarian division, whereby Sunnis have been forced out of Shia-controlled areas under the auspices of fighting ISIS, reflects the fact that the Hashd operates more according to Tehran’s geo-strategic and ideological interests, the former official said. “I feel that Iran and some of its erstwhile allies have reached a realization that they have lost a significant ally in Syria and therefore need to buffer the ‘Shia’ zones in Iraq to protect them while paying lip service to the notion of a unified state.”

It certainly does not help matters that America’s unacknowledged ally in the anti-ISIS coalition is the IRGC-QF, whose commander, Major General Qassem Suleimani, not only blamed U.S. incompetence for the fall of Ramadi this week but labeled the United States an “accomplice” of the jihadists—a conspiratorial view of ISIS’s secret patronage widely shared among the Hashd rank-and-file.

The scenario described by Essawi and the ex-official is more common among the Sunni political class than either Washington or Baghdad care to acknowledge. Whether it is credible will depend on how the Hashd conducts itself on hostile terrain and whether it can break with precedence of collective punishment. If the militias act as a nationalist reserve army, under the command and control of Haider al-Abadi—something the White House has insisted as a precondition of U.S. air support—then they may be able to recruit Sunnis to their efforts, or at least earn their respect and admiration.

Essawi argues that Hashd has so far relied on coercion rather than a savvy hearts-and-minds approach for winning over Sunnis. “The Sunni tribes used to be against ISIS after [their] crimes,” he said. “Definitely there are some local supporters of ISIS, but the tribes, generally speaking—almost all of them are committed to fight. It is the government that refuses to strengthen them. So some very weak tribes have been coerced into accepting this bad choice: It’s either Hashd al-Shaabi or ISIS.”

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy prime minister under Abadi, disagreed.

He emphasized that the Hashd should henceforth operate under the Iraqi flag rather than the host of competing standards their constituent militias currently brandish (including those bearing the images of Iranian ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei). But Mutlaq is hopeful of greater Sunni support for the Hashd. He pointed out that volunteer camps established near Ramadi incorporate Sunnis volunteers and Iraqi policemen who fled the city into the broader counteroffensive.

“The government will give them training and weapons,” a statement issued by Mutlaq’s office read, without offering specifics. As for Shia sloganeering deemed alienating the Anbari support base, he doesn’t think this has had too dire an impact. “The Sunnis were conflicted about the intervention from the Hashd al-Shaabi because they were worried about reprisal attacks. But the Hashd is less harmful than ISIS. At least, these people are Iraqis and we can deal with them later on, but we can’t with ISIS.”

Nevertheless, Mutlaq wonders just what form a pro-government success may take and what happens the day after ISIS is routed from Ramadi. “His concern is whether Ramadi will undergo demographic changes,” his office said. “Will Sunnis be forced to relocate to others areas and will there be any revenge attacks and conflicts between the Hashd and the tribes?”

Usama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq’s vice presidents and the former parliamentary speaker, pointed out that recent missteps by the militias has squandered incipient good will for Sunni reconciliation. Yesterday, during a parliamentary session, the Sunni governor of Diyala province was fired—and replaced with a Shia. “This is a real threat and a very negative message to Iraqis. This is considered a break to the rules and it contradicts what has been agreed,” Nujaifi said. “The majority in Diyala are Sunnis.”

ISIS is counting on such political heavy-handedness to indemnify its own savagery. “It is that enemy, composed of Shiites joined by Sunni agents, who are the real danger with which we are confronted, for it is our fellow citizens, who know us better than anyone,” Zarqawi wrote in a 2004 letter, correctly foreseeing that the U.S. military occupation would be fleeting and incidental to the future of Iraq.

In other words, he wanted the Shia militias, principally the Badr Corps—now first among equals in the Hashd—to commit anti-Sunni atrocities as payback for Zarqawi’s own scorched-earth war against the Shia. “If we manage to draw them onto the terrain of partisan war, it will be possible to tear the Sunnis away from their heedlessness, for they will feel the weight of the imminence of danger and the devastating threat of death wielded by these Sabeans.”

If Iraq does fall apart, it will have been because Zarqawi’s apocalyptic plan got realized a decade after his death.

The new CBRN terrorist threat (Revelation 16)

Could ISIL go nuclear?

NATO Review

This year has shown that terrorism is again coming closer to Europe. After Madrid in 2003 and London in 2005, this year it has already visited Paris, Brussels and Verviers. Tomorrow it could be Frankfurt, Berlin or Rome.
Muslim countries in Asia are also at risk. The US has had its own terrorist experiences with New York, Boston and other attacks. While public attention is currently very much focused on military security in Europe, and in particular in Europe’s Eastern neighbourhood, much less attention is given to developments on the southern borders of NATO. Terrorist groups operating there, as inhumane as they are, are still considered primarily as a “conventional threat”.
But a further particular risk could become a major threat to Western societies. There is a very real – but not yet fully identified risk – of foreign fighters in ISIL’s ranks using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials as “weapons of terror” against the West.
One can easily imagine the number of victims created by panic as well as the economic disruption if the ’Charlie Hebdo’ attacks had centred on “Chatelet les Halles”, the biggest Paris metro station, with an improvised explosive device containing radioactive sources or chemical material instead of using Kalashnikovs. The deadly Tokyo attacks in 1995 using toxic chemical material, (the so called “Sarin attack”), could have killed many more people. Had Aum Shinrikyo used all the Sarin they had actually produced, a large part of Tokyo’s population would have died. Thus the attacks led at the time to a complete rethinking of the threat perception, well before 9/11.
Until now, the Tokyo attacks have fortunately remained an exception and most terrorist groups have used “conventional” explosives or weapons, simply because they lacked access to know-how and material.
This may soon change. And there is a reason.

A new threat scenario

A lot has been written recently regarding the rising power of an organisation that calls itself the “Islamic State in the Levant” (ISIL) or “Daesh”. ISIL has attracted at least hundreds if not thousands of foreign fighters from Western countries to join its ranks. What makes ISIL different is exactly that.
Hundreds of foreign fighters, some with solid academic and educational backgrounds and intellectual knowledge, have joined the cause and continue to do so every day. Furthermore ISIL’s success is based on an effective media strategy of looking at the utmost possible “news effect” of their attacks. Together with their access to high levels of funding, these three elements bear the real risk of the group turning into practice what up to now has been largely a theoretical possibility: to actually employ weapons of mass destruction or CBRN material in terrorist attacks.
We might thus soon enter a stage of CBRN terrorism, never before imaginable. Worrying reports confirm that ISIL has gained (at least temporarily) access to former chemical weapons storage sites in Iraq. They might soon do so in Libya. They allegedly used toxic chemicals in the fighting around Kobane. Even more worrying, there are press reports about nuclear material from Iraqi scientific institutes having been seized by ISIL. This demonstrates that while no full scale plots have been unveiled so far, our governments need to be on alert. Generating improved military and civil prevention and response capabilities should be a high priority and should not fall victim to limited budgets in times of economic crisis.

New actors

Apart from their ideology, an even more fundamentalist and aggressive version of jihad than Al Qaida’s, four unique features make ISIL different:
First, their “possession” (or de facto control) of a huge “territory”, stretching from the Turkish border in Syria to close to Baghdad in Iraq and approaching the Lebanese border. Numerous air strikes by the international “Anti-ISIL coalition”, in which a number of NATO Allies are involved, tried to target ISIL and its strongholds. However, despite coalition and Iraqi Armed Forces successes in forcing ISIL to give up some territory, the group remains able to control and find refuge in large parts of Syria and Iraq, most recently by capturing the city of Ramadi.
Second, the reported access to extraordinary levels of funding. ISIL is reputed (much more than Al Qaida ever did) to earn money through “economic” and fundraising activities inside their territories, from supporters abroad and from the collection of ransom money. Most recently, the Ambassador of Iraq to the UN even claimed that ISIL was selling human organs from victims to earn money. They are said to be already involved in human smuggling of migrants from Libya to Europe to create funding.
Third, ISIL, in addition to its strong ideological motivation, is building its success on the use of social and other media in a way rarely seen before by other terrorist groups. This helps them gain attention at any cost for their atrocities, such as the decapitation or even the burning alive of hostages.
Fourth and most dangerously, the hundreds if not thousands of foreign fighters from the Arab world and Western countries in ISIL’s ranks, some of them with solid knowledge including in chemical, physical and computer sciences, makes ISIL special. A full assessment is still very difficult, as only a limited amount of information on the backgrounds of the fighters is publicly available. Notwithstanding that, it is clear that ISIL attracts growing numbers of young foreigners daily from all levels of society. Clearly reported cases show that ISIL actually has already acquired the knowledge, and in some cases the human expertise, that would allow it to use CBRN materials as “weapons of terror”.

Access to material

A full threat analysis needs to look specifically at how and where the terrorists could actually get hold of CBRN material. Reportedly in the past, it was exactly the difficulty of access and handling of this material that limited terrorist groups’ appetite, including Al Qaida, in using them in actual attacks. Osama Bin Laden is reported to have even advised against this. However, over the past few months several potential sources where ISIL has gained access, or had the possibility of access to such material, have been made public.

Chemical weapons

Most of the declared chemical weapons (CW) material has been removed from Syria in the past few months and destroyed. However, there are indications that some material still remains in the country and is potentially accessible to ISIL. In addition, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) suggested that chemical material not qualifying as CW and not subject to being declared under the CW convention, such as chlorine, has actually been used by the Assad regime in the fight against the Syrian opposition. Some press reports indicate that ISIL might have done the same.
Even more worrying, ISIL actually controlled the so-called Al Muthanna site in Iraq for some months during 2014. At this site, according to UN reports, bunkers from the past Iraqi CW programme contained “2,000 empty artillery shells contaminated with mustard agents, 605 one tonne mustard containers with residues and heavily contaminated construction material”.
Iraqi forces claim to have retaken possession of the site. However, the fragile state of these buildings makes it too dangerous for regular Iraqi forces (but not necessarily for ISIL “martyrs”) to enter the bunkers and check whether any looting has taken place. While it is reported that the stored material would be of limited toxicity due to its age, it can still be used to create panic.
Also, no one is able to tell how much material so far has landed in the hands of ISIL. According to most recent reports in the New York Times, in mid-2000 the CIA repeatedly purchased nerve agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller but that the relationship “dried up” in 2006. Nobody knows with certainty how much material is still out there. Libya, where ISIL is establishing a new stronghold, has still not destroyed all its chemical materials from previous programmes. They could also fall into ISIL’s hands.

Nuclear material

Equally of concern is that ISIL fighters or supporters have stolen nearly 90 pounds (approx. 40kg) of low enriched uranium from scientific institutions at the Mosul University in Iraq. Due to its limited toxicity, again this material can be used rather to spread panic than to inflict serious physical harm. Yet, it is not without risk.
It’s not for nothing that the US and other Western countries have been helping Iraqi authorities since the mid-2000s secure and recover other more dangerous material. The programme included securing and removing orphaned and disused radioactive sources and nuclear waste from previous Iraqi programmes that were dismantled after the second Gulf war.
The clear aim of these efforts was to reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring these dangerous nuclear materials. It remains questionable whether all dangerous materials have indeed been removed from Iraqi territory. As for Syria, there are still unconfirmed reports that the country has moved nuclear material, intended to be used in the destroyed Dair al-Sour reactor, to an undisclosed storage site near the city of Kusair.
Finally, despite existing but often loose controls, accessible industrial chemicals, radioactive sources or other CBRN material out of regulatory control might be used by returning fighters or home grown “lone wolves” to plan or commit acts of terror. On February 16 this year, the UK police reportedly arrested a man called Mohammed Ammer Ali charged with trying to obtain 500g of Ricin, a material used in chemical weapons.

Access to know-how and the resulting threat to the West

Still not enough is known publicly about the exact level of knowledge and expertise of ISIL fighters and foreign fighters in their ranks for dealing with CBRN material. Some of them have reportedly received higher education in Western universities or otherwise acquired the necessary knowledge. One confirmed case is a former Saddam WMD specialist, Salih Jasaim Muhammad Falah al-Sabawi, who was allegedly killed by a US air strike near Mosul on 24 February 2015. According to US intelligence sources, Al-Sabawi had previously worked at the Al Muthanna site referred to above, and was allegedly gathering relevant equipment. ISIL’s ambitions to acquire chemical weapons are referred to by these intelligence sources as “more than just notional”.
The threat to Western nations and for the region
To understand the threat, one needs to distinguish between different groups of possible perpetrators.
First there are the returning foreign fighters. They could be ready to bring their “fight” to Western countries at any price either directly or as so-called “sleeper cells” (or “human time bombs”) awaiting a signal to act. While a smaller group of them might have lost any illusion about the “legitimacy” of ISIL fights and are willing to change course, others have been further radicalised.
Second, there are the so-called “home grown” terrorists within Western countries, radicalised followers of ISIL or Al Qaida. Most of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Paris and of uncovered plots in Belgium, UK, and other European countries, belonged to the latter group.
Third, there is an undeniable threat by fighters in the Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan combat theatres, creating a risk for the local population and the countries in the immediate vicinity. As referred to above, ISIL is reported to have made use of a widely available industrial chemical, chlorine, in the ongoing fighting, as did the Assad regime.
Returning foreign fighters could be ready to bring their “fight” to Western countries at any price either directly or as so-called “sleeper cells” (or “human time bombs”) awaiting a signal to act

NATO’s response

NATO’s response does not need to start from scratch. Over more than 15 years, NATO, as well as individual Allies, have built up capacities to prevent, protect and recover from WMD attacks or CBRN events. Some activities started well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
NATO tools include the Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force, a strong military capacity created by volunteering Allies to be at the disposal of NATO in case of a WMD or CBRN attack. Regular training ensures its operational readiness. Intelligence sharing and reporting to Allies helps to identify potential threats.
The Joint CBRN Centre of Excellence, established by Allies in the Czech Republic, provides training and expertise to military customers and first responders in Allied and partner countries. It integrates a “Reach Back facility” operated 24/7 to react and provide scientific and operational advice in case of an attack, having access to a large secondary network of expertise in Allied countries.
The Defence against Terrorism Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Ankara, Turkey, provides advice and undertakes research on the terrorist threat including the issue of foreign fighters. Other NATO CoEs and agencies as well as Allied national military capacities are consistently reviewing, together with Allied civil protection forces (police, firefighters etc.) preparedness plans against possible CBRN attacks. These response capacities are also regularly trained in exercises and are on standby in case of any attack, whether committed by state actors, ISIL members or lone wolf terrorists.


As terrorism is again coming closer to Europe, more attention needs to be paid to the developments on NATO’s southern borders to the possible use of CBRN material in terrorist attacks not just in the region but also in Western societies. NATO and its Allies need to step up their preparedness and be ready to act jointly, including by ensuring that necessary military and civil prevention and response capabilities remain adequately funded – even in periods of defence and public spending being under stress in many Allied countries.

Saudi Arabia Nukes: Not If, But When (Dan 7)

Addressing the Saudi Nuclear Option

May 26, 2015
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Correspondent for In Homeland Security

As if the stakes weren’t high enough in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia put out a feeler in the media regarding its desire to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan. This is in response of Iran’s long ambitions for nuclear weapons, the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran and Saudi Arabia’s deep-rooted discontent and distrust of both the talks and Iranian sincerity of stalling or abandoning those efforts.
From the Saudi perspective, Tehran is building a nuclear weapon in a secret facility that is not and will not be on the map for inspections. They are also using the talks to lift the sanctions. Lastly, they are wreaking havoc in the Middle East and to Riyadh, Iran is worse than ISIS.

Since 2009, the Saudis have in various ways warned that if Iran crosses the line, they had access to nuclear missiles through a variety of sources. Importantly, Saudi Arabia has its own red-line threshold for Iran’s nuclear ambitions. At the time, these often off-the-wall comments were good enough for them to warn Tehran and later discourage them that should the P5+1 talks fail or the Iranians employ a strategy of deceit and duplicity, the Saudis will instantly have nuclear weapons from their ally Pakistan.

A number of changes have precipitated in raising the stakes: First, the death of King Abdullah. The new monarch, King Salman, has shown himself to be far more assertive in the region and feels estranged from the West. He saw a more passive Abdullah fail to elicit a firm commitment from the Americans in Syria and on the nuclear issue. With Syria, the Saudis were in position and ready to strike but Washington backed down and accepted a largely successful chemical weapons ban by leaving Assad in power. Iran also got another ingredient that it wanted through prolonged nuclear talks with world leaders (the U.S., the UK, Russia, France, China and Germany). Here, Iran ingratiated itself nicely with the West and is currently seeking to remove economic sanctions by June. To the Saudis it is all just the perfect ploy.

The second major event could be the block of stalemate in Syria, which helps Iran. Assad is still in power and ISIS is thriving with its transnational terrorist enterprise. The stalemate follows major setbacks in Iraq as well, with ISIS gains taking Mosul, Tikrit and Ramadi. Although Tikrit was recently taken back, there is now greater Iranian activity through militias and the politics of both countries. Most importantly, the Saudis have overexaggerated the role of Tehran in the Yemeni civil war and underestimated the workings of the former longtime dictator and ally of Saddam Hussein—President Ali Abdullah Saleh—also the man who engineered the Yemeni democracy protests and then slaughtered hundreds of them.

Saleh was eventually forced to relinquish power to his Vice President at the pressure and behest of the Saudis, his people and other international players. The Houthi takeover was a shock in that it went from protest to coup but the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was weakened by a loss of the strongman, continuous war on two fronts between Shia Houthi and al-Qaida in the South, a poor economy, rampant abuse, corruption and ethno-religious discrimination. The Saudis want to reinstall Hadi, the right-hand man of the butcher, President Saleh. So it is no great wonder the Houthis wanted him out too and placed him under house arrest; however the Houthis have proven to be worse for stability and are tearing the country apart with the help of Saudi-led air raids.

The third major break for Riyadh was the feeling of necessity and last resort to strategically steer the Middle East military coalition away from U.S. leadership. GCC Sunni states began testing the waters for airstrikes of their own even before Yemen’s government fell. Close Saudi Arabian partner, the United Arab Emirates conducted covert airstrikes with Egypt in Libya last August, attacking the violent extremists there. But the Sunni military coalition came to its peak in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia led 11 Sunni majority states in heavy and sustained airstrikes in Yemen since late March of this year. This was just after the U.S. had disengaged itself diplomatically from Sana’a, through anther exodus following its embassy in Libya. The U.S. did not offer or participate in the attacks and gave the impression that it was caught unaware; deciding instead to supply the Saudis with intelligence.

Across the map, Riyadh is redirecting its efforts from ISIS to Iran. For Iraq, the U.S. supplied and trained national army is cutting and running from the enemy and crumbling before the world’s eye. In its place is more control from Iran and more Iranian backed militias. For Syria, Iran still holds sway. The Saudis have sided with Turkey in order to remove President Bashar al Assad from power.
Riyadh is no longer waiting for Washington but is willing to draw its ‘partner’ into the messy fog of regionwide political instability. The meeting that should have seen two heads of state, the King and the president, together, has been a blatant rebuke to the White House from Riyadh; without love. They plan to send the heir to the throne and defense minister to the president’s summit. The U.S.-Sunni alliance has fallen beyond repair.

Anything that Riyadh demands now, especially in their current state of mind, would not be in the interest of the U.S. This does not mean need to entail a future relationship of abandonment but caution and constraint; especially in their present military operations; such as cluster bombing. Washington still has a deal to close with Iran on nuclear weapons that will, in spite of assurances by the president mid-May that the U.S. would use force to defend Saudi Arabia if attacked, derail any Saudi perceptions of trustworthiness and commitment. As the Sunni states distant themselves from the West, Iran edges closer, diplomatically.

As far as nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the U.S. must partner with the U.N. and demand a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. They must act as a superpower as well as a dominion of international powers and develop a hasty trust with Saudi Arabia and Iran. The U.N. is holding talks May 28 in regard to Yemen but the date could not get here soon enough and the U.S. and its allies have a lot of work to do to get the Saudis and Iranians to the table before then.

Shadowing the Iranian cargo ship with military escorts using the Iwo Jima is a responsible precaution but U.S. defense officials have warned that the Iranians could have humanitarian supplies or international observers aboard, waiting to pin an attempted search and seizure or confrontation at sea unnecessarily. On the other hand, this could also be a weapons resupply. The U.S. has encouraged Iran to port humanitarian supplies at the U.N. station in Djibouti. Iran has given mixed signals, first stating publically that they intend to port in Yemen ignoring and bypassing the U.N. and then through their state run news deciding to go to Djibouti. Either way, it is a bad development for the U.S. more than the Saudi-coalition, who are already involved directly in the conflict.

Best Political Options for the U.S.: Stay out of it militarily.

Immediately demand, press and hold talks in the U.N. between the Sunni GCC states and Iran to diplomatically rebalance over the crisis in Yemen and what is presently seeing a military/paramilitary rebalancing between states and proxies in regional cold war context.

The U.S. must kick-start an international diplomatic effort with key global players. Getting at them at the table will be the hard part. Once there, both states should hash out a formal truce with terms that outline and discourage negative and hostile actions or at the very least table the nuclear cross talk.
Washington must demand that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia pursue nuclear weapon development or procurement programs with the backing of the international community.

Other states need to speak out but these two regional players need Russia, China and Europe on their backs diplomatically too as well as the other Middle Eastern states involved.

Note: The opinions and comments stated in the preceding article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.

NATO worried about Russian nukes (Dan 7)


Nato chief says Russian nuclear threats are ‘deeply troubling and dangerous’

Agence France-Presse
Wednesday 27 May 2015 21.45 EDT

Russia’s provocative rhetoric and its dramatic expansion of flights by nuclear bombers are deeply troubling and dangerous, the Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Russia’s plans to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad – near Poland’s border – and its threat to move nuclear forces in Crimea would “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” Stoltenberg warned, in a speech during a visit to Washington.

In blunt language, the Nato chief delivered a scathing critique of Russia’s behaviour over the past year – including Moscow’s armed intervention in Ukraine – and vowed the transatlantic alliance would redouble its commitment to “collective defence”.

Russia’s recent use of nuclear rhetoric, exercises and operations are deeply troubling,” he told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “admission that he considered putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert while Russia was annexing Crimea is but one example,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.

The Nato alliance was also concerned about Russia’s compliance with nuclear arms agreements and stepped-up global flights by strategic bombers.

“Russia has also significantly increased the scale, number and range of pro-active flights by nuclear-capable bombers across much of the globe,” Stoltenberg said.

The Russian bomber flights, he said, spanned “from Japan to Gibraltar, from Crete to California, and from the Baltic sea to the Black Sea.”

Russia was failing to draw on the lessons of the Cold War, including that “when it comes to nuclear weapons, caution, predictability and transparency are vital,” he said.

“Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling is unjustified, destabilising and dangerous,” he said.

Stoltenberg also criticised Russia for staging large snap military exercises, which he said was a violation of international agreements requiring governments to share information about planned drills in advance and to invite observers.

One short-notice exercise was used to move Russian forces to annex Crimea in February 2014 and others were employed to support separatists in eastern Ukraine and to stage a military build-up on Ukraine’s border.

Russia is conducting yet another snap exercise near Ukraine this week that involves 250 aircraft and 700 pieces of heavy equipment, he said.

Dating back to Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, Moscow has sought to settle disputes through military force or the threat of military force, he said.

Russia has also started deploying its most modern weapons systems near the borders of Nato members in Eastern Europe, he said.

Citing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere, Stoltenberg said Moscow “is asserting its military power, stirring up aggressive nationalism, claiming the right to impose its will on its neighbours and grabbing land.”

Nato’s relations with Russia were at their lowest point in decades, he said.

“We are not back to the Cold War but we are far from a strategic partnership,” he said. The alliance needed to adapt to challenges, he said, “that may be with us for a long time.”

Nato will uphold its principles, including respect for the sovereignty of states and transparency in military activities, while also renewing its commitment to “collective” defence and deterrence, he said.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia plan to make a formal request to Nato to deploy a force of several thousand troops in their countries as a counter-weight to Russia. But it remains unclear if the alliance will approve the request.

The Nato chief’s comments came a day after he held talks with President Barack Obama, who accused Russia of adopting an “increasingly aggressive posture.”

Both Obama and Stoltenberg urged both sides in the Ukraine conflict to respect a shaky ceasefire accord.