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Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.
  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.” Write A Comment
  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

Does Iran really want the bomb? | Salon - 0 views

  • Perhaps what Iran wants is the ability to produce a nuclear weapon fast, rather than have a standing arsenal
  • I think a single hypothesis can account for all the known facts. These are: Iran is making a drive to close the fuel cycle and to be capable of independently enriching uranium to at least the 5 percent or so needed for energy reactors and also to the 20 percent needed for its medical reactor. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a fatwa in 2005 that no Islamic state may possess or use atomic weapons because they willy nilly kill masses of innocent civilians when used, which is contrary to the Islamic law of war (which forbids killing innocent non-combatants). Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that they are working on a nuclear bomb or that they aspire to have one. US intelligence agencies are convinced that Iran has done no weapons-related experiments since 2003, and that it currently has no nuclear weapons program. Israel forcefully maintains that Iran's nuclear program is for weapons and has repeatedly threatened to bomb the Natanz enrichment facilities. Iran recently announced a new nuclear enrichment facility near Qom.
  • Those who agree with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency, that there is no evidence for Iran having a nuclear weapons program have to explain Iran's insistence on closing the fuel cycle and being able to enrich uranium itself.
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  • nuclear latency
  • The regime has every reason to maintain latency and no reasons to go further and construct a nuclear device. The latter step would attract severe international sanctions.
  • As for the general Islamic law of war, it forbids killing innocent non-combatants such as women, children and unarmed men; ipso facto it forbids deploying nuclear weapons. It was suggested that Iran has chemical weapons and that these would as much violate the stricture above as nuclear warheads. I do not agree that Iran has a chemical weapons program, but in any case chemical weapons have for the most part been battlefield weapons used against massed troops or in trenches. Having such a program does not imply intent to kill innocent civilians. Whereas making a bomb does imply such intent and is therefore considered by most Muslim jurisprudents incompatible with Islamic law
  • Nuclear latency has all the advantages of actual possession of a bomb without any of the unpleasant consequences, of the sort North Korea is suffering
  • Scott Sagan noted in one of his essays that one impetus to seek an actual bomb is regime and national pride in the country's modernity. But this motivation does not exist in the case of Iran, since the Islamic Republic is a critic of the alleged horrors of modernity and because it defines nuclear bombs as shameful, rather than something to boast about.
  • nuclear latency is not illegal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat
Ed Webb

The F-35 Triangle: America, Israel, the United Arab Emirates - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • deepen what were heretofore covert ties across the full spectrum of civilian sectors from business to science to agriculture and even space. The Emirati-Israeli agreement builds upon years of “under the table” cooperation between security and intelligence professionals driven toward strategic alignment by a shared perception of the major regional threat — Iran.
  • the U.S. sweetener appears to be a commitment to sell it F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as other advanced weaponry long sought by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  • When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, it secured the second largest military aid package in the Middle East after Israel, which continues today. When Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, the announcement came along with debt relief and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft — and, like Egypt, Jordan remains a top recipient of American assistance
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  • Reactions to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 have largely focused on whether Israel will support such a sale and the related requirement in U.S. domestic law to ensure Israel’s military superiority against all other countries in the Middle East. The longstanding policy term, later codified in law, is “qualitative military edge.” From the Emirati point of view, if they have entered into full diplomatic relations with Israel — with a promised “warm peace,” in the words of Emirati officials — and both countries share the same threat perspective, then Israel should have confidence that these advanced weapons will not be turned against it and should therefore not object to the sale. Moreover, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates has never attacked Israel.
  • Weapons sales are a leading area of competition in the Middle East, and in the words of the former Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow: Arms transfers are foreign policy. When we transfer a system or a capability to a foreign partner, we are affecting regional — or foreign internal — balances of power; we are sending a signal of support; and we are establishing or sustaining relationships that may last for generations and provide benefits for an extended period of time.
  • selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would say much more about the Washington’s partnership with Abu Dhabi than it would about the evolving Emirati-Israeli relationship
  • Selling the F-35 to a country ought to be a signal that the United States has the highest measure of confidence in that country’s warfighting capabilities, decision-making on the use of force, and commitments to protecting sensitive technology. The Emirati record on each of these issues does not, however, inspire the highest confidence. The record is mixed.
  • As former government officials serving in the State and Defense Departments as well as in Congress, we are confident that the process going forward will be messy and time-consuming, specifically because the current case breaks precedent in so many ways.
  • Since the Yemen war’s inception in 2015, members of Congress have raised concerns about the conflict and U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, in which Abu Dhabi was a partner and to which it contributed forces until withdrawing in the summer of 2019. These concerns, and the Trump administration’s refusal to address them, culminated in Congress mandating a report on steps taken by both governments to reduce civilian casualties and comply with laws and agreements governing the use of U.S.-origin weapons — indicating skepticism that either country was doing so
  • Reflecting a long-held U.S. policy view, during his nomination hearing Washington’s envoy to Abu Dhabi noted that the country “is a moderating and stabilizing force in one of the world’s most volatile regions.” The United Arab Emirates stands out among other militaries in the region for having contributed military forces to many U.S.-led coalitions since the first Gulf War — Kosovo (late 1990s), Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (since 2003), Libya (2011) and the anti-ISIL coalition (2014 to 2015). Indeed, Jared Kushner set a new precedent for framing the American-Emirati partnership when he effectively equated it with that of America and Israel, terming them comparably “special” during his most recent visit to the Middle East.
  • Emirati regional policies have been the subject of increasing congressional concern in recent years, largely focused on the country’s actions in Yemen and Libya. Since the beginning the Saudi-led coalition’s 2015 intervention in Yemen, most congressional action focused on the Saudi role in the conflict and not the Emirati one. But in 2018, congressional concern peaked in response to Emirati plans to launch an offensive to seize the Yemeni port of Hudaydah. The Trump administration subsequently declined to provide military support for the Emirati operation, given the risks of worsening an already severe humanitarian crisis, concerns regarding the complexities of the proposed military operation, and the likelihood of mass civilian casualties
  • In both Yemen and Libya, Abu Dhabi has not succeeded in leveraging its robust military investments toward political processes that would end the conflicts. In both contexts the divergent policies of the United States and United Arab Emirates — including use of military force, conduct in combat, and utilization of U.S. defense articles — should be considered as part of the F-35 deliberations.
  • competitors in the global arms export industry — particularly Russia and China — also leverage arms sales, but by and large with no strings attached for their use. Both governments use arms sales to challenge U.S. market dominance and to undermine American partnerships in the region
  • protecting Israel’s military superiority consists of both legal requirements and longstanding political and process steps that, while not mandated by law, have paved the way for decades of bipartisan congressional consent to arms sales in the Middle East, including of advanced fighter aircraft. The requirement to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” is enshrined in 2008 naval vessel transfer legislation, although it had been implemented as a matter of policy between Washington and Jerusalem since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Presumably, the United Arab Emirates and Israel entering into formal relations affirms that the former does not pose such a military threat. The Israeli perspective at the moment, however, has been complicated by the continuing murk over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the U.S. commitment to sell the Emirati government the F-35 — without the knowledge of his own defense minister. Tensions in Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition and a larger uproar in Israel’s defense establishment have prompted an awkward pas de deux among American, Emirati, and Israeli officials. Netanyahu — responding to concerns raised by the Israeli defense establishment — stated emphatically during an Aug. 24 joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had not consented to any arms deal as part of normalization. Given Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump, it is safe to say that no one in either country finds this claim credible. The public spat over Israeli consent to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 escalated when Netanyahu publicly vowed to go to Congress in opposition to the sale, and the United Arab Emirates in response cancelled a planned meeting between the Israeli and Emirati ambassadors to the United Nations.
  • extensive discussions should be expected between Israeli and U.S. technical and military experts to agree on the appropriate mix of offsets to ensure Israel’s military superiority. The offsets may involve discussions of quantity (how many F-35s the Emiratis will acquire versus the Israelis), technical variations in the F-35 platform, or additional sales and assistance to Israel. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will be time-consuming and extend pass the upcoming American electoral cycle
  • The standard for this level of consultation with Israel before moving forward with arms sales packages to others in the region was set by the Obama administration — first in 2011 with the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and later in 2013 with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates along with stand-off weapons to both the Saudis and the Emiratis. Concurrent with 2013 sales, the Obama administration negotiated a package for Israel to maintain its military edge that included V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers, and anti-air defense missiles.
  • Though Israel has no legal right to  block the United States from selling a weapon to another country in the Middle East, Israeli support is critical, particularly during the period of congressional notification. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will consult with the Israeli government, and will prefer to support a sale that earns a clear green light from the Israeli government. Members are likely be left unsatisfied by ambiguous and lukewarm Israel responses to the question of selling the F-35 to the Emiratis, precisely because technical talks have not yet begun. All parties risk being stuck between the divisive politics of the moment, and the deliberative, lengthy policy considerations that such arms transfer packages usually entail, opening the door to a further erosion of bipartisanship on a key issue of national security importance — the what, when, and how of a decision by the United States to provide advanced weapons systems to partner states in the Middle East.
  • Arab capitals are closely following whether the United States will follow through on its apparent commitment to sell the F-35 (and assorted other high-end systems) to Abu Dhabi, and whether American deliverables are sufficiently compelling to consider bringing their own relations with Israel into the daylight
  • The historical record from Egypt to Jordan and now the United Arab Emirates — across administrations of both political parties — is that formal relations with Israel facilitate strategic consistency from Washington
  • Will Egypt and Jordan request the F-35 in light of their existing peace treaties with Israel? Will countries in closer geographic proximity, like Saudi Arabia, request the F-35 and additional advanced U.S. weapons as part of their normalization package?
  • For Israel, Iran and Turkey represent sobering examples in that regard — previously solid security partners within seemingly stable governance structures that became hostile.
  • military edge risks eroding as Arab governments, whether blocked from purchasing certain weapons from the United States or in addition to acquiring them, turn to China, Russia, and other weapons exporters not obligated to maintain Israel’s military superiority
  • Competition in the Middle East between the United States and its adversaries is intensifying — particularly in the weapons sales arena
  • Washington may find itself in an escalating — and unsustainable — cycle of supplementing and upgrading support, technology, and other military offsets to Israel.
Ed Webb

Is Iran becoming a major regional arms producer? - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle ... - 0 views

  • during the past few years, in spite of extensive sanctions on exports of conventional military equipment, Iran has managed to become self-sufficient in the production of a vast range of weapons and military equipment. Indeed, a large portion of Iran’s military equipment is presently met by domestic production. Given this capacity, Iran appears now ready to establish a serious and effective presence in the international armament market.
  • deliveries of weapons to Iraq have increased so much that all semi-heavy artillery equipment, sniper weapons and many other types of personal and armored weapons presently used by Iraqi paramilitary forces are Iranian-made. In addition, over the past year, Iran has also started sending the T-72S main battle tank to Iraq.
  • Iranian-made military equipment is officially and extensively now in use in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Since Iranian-made arms and equipment have yet to be tested, it is not possible to compare them with the originals they’re modeled after. However, the expansion of terrorism in the region has given Iran an opportunity to test its military equipment in action and learn about possible defects
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  • The JCPOA, and the prospect of the lifting of conventional arms-related sanctions in the next five years, have resulted in the Iranian armed forces seeking a way to expand their domestic military industrial capabilities and become part of the international arms market. For instance, Iran’s minister of defense participates in most military exhibitions in the region. He is also constantly in contact with countries such as China and Russia regarding the transfer of the most advanced military equipment technology to Iran. In this vein, it appears that the sanctions related to conventional weapons trade are already being dropped, and that in the near future Iran will become a serious rival of both Western and Eastern arms firms that are presently providing conventional weapons to regional states
  • if the current trajectory of arms deliveries continues, it appears that countries such as Iran, Russia and China are set to become the Middle East’s main weapons suppliers.
Ed Webb

Just What The Middle East Needs -- $110 Billion More In Weapons | HuffPost - 1 views

  • It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East.
  • Piled on top of this enormous arms lot are precision-guided munitions that President Obama would not sell the Saudis. That’s not because the Obama folks didn’t like selling weapons to the Saudis — Obama sold more weapons and gear to Saudi Arabia in eight years than all other previous administrations combined. No, Obama withheld precision-guided munitions because the Saudis were using U.S.-provided munitions to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites in their bombing campaign inside Yemen, despite regular protests from the United States.
  • millions of Yemenis are being radicalized against the country they blame for the civilian deaths: the United States. By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more — not fewer — civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them.
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  • The Saudis’ obsession with Iran, and the proxy wars (like Yemen) that flow from this obsession, mean that they have little bandwidth to go after extremist groups. Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to export a version of Islam called Wahhabism that is a crucial building block for the perversion of Islam parroted by groups like al Qaeda
  • we have to ask whether continuing to fuel the growing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the right way to bring peace to the Middle East. To the extent this conflict is going to continue, we are clearly on the Saudis’ side, but the inarguable effect of selling more capable weapons to the Saudis is the acceleration of weapons build-up in Iran
  • feeding the arms race between the two nations probably isn’t the best long-term strategy
  • What do we have to gain by going in so enthusiastically with the Sunnis against the Shia in their fight for power in the Middle East? This isn’t our fight, and history suggests the U.S. military meddling in the Middle East ends up great for U.S. military contractors, but pretty miserable for everyone else.
  • $110 billion could educate every single one of the 30 million African primary school age children who has no access to school today...for five years
Ed Webb

The ISIS Ambassador to Turkey - Homeland Security Today - 1 views

  • the ISIS military and weapons training and the ISIS “obligatory shariah training” in which new male recruits are taught the ISIS takfir ideology, an ideology that justifies use of violence against those considered heretics or unbelievers, including against fellow Muslims.
  • Abu Mansour explains the format and nature of intake forms that were filled out at the ISIS reception area. “It was a form about experience, countries you visited, etc. I don’t remember it very well, but it was very detailed,” he explains. He further continues, “There were several people who came with higher education. We wrote his discipline, his studies, his languages. These things were recorded on my forms.” According to Abu Mansour, job placements occurred after another intake took place inside the training camps. “At those places, there were very trusted people running the ISIS offices of recruiting, so if you say you’re an engineer, they put you to that kind of job. It was an office of human resources management,” he states, adding, “but of course different, because in ours we also had, ‘I want to be a martyr.’
  • According to Abu Mansour, the numbers of would-be “martyrs” went down as the Caliphate was in fact established. “It started to go down as Raqqa stabilized. [Then,] most came simply to live. It was a small ratio of those who came to martyr themselves.” Adhering to his uncanny ability to remember exact recruiting figures, he explains, “Before 2014, 50 percent came to martyr themselves. Then it went under 20 percent.”
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  • “There were some agreements and understandings between the Turkish intelligence and ISIS emni about the border gates, for the people who got injured,” Abu Mansour continues. “I had direct meeting with the MIT [the Turkish National Intelligence Organization], many meetings with them.”
  • The benefit to Turkey, according to Abu Mansour, was that “we are in the border area and Turkey wants to control its borders – to control Northern Syria. Actually they had ambitions not only for controlling the Kurds. They wanted all the north, from Kessab (the most northern point of Syria) to Mosul.”
  • When he mentions meeting Turkish government officials in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, we suddenly upgrade him in our minds to an ISIS ambassador, which is indeed how he was functioning. “I passed the borders and they let me pass. [At the border,] the Turks always sent me a car and I’m protected. A team of two to three people from our side were with me. I was in charge of our team most of the time.”
  • we learn that his “diplomatic” reach on behalf of ISIS extended even to the president of Turkey himself. “I was about to meet him but I did not. One of his intelligence officers said Erdogan wants to see you privately but it didn’t happen.”
  • “There were teams. Some represent the Turkish intel, some represent the Turkish Army. There were teams from 3-5 different groups. Most meetings were in Turkey in military posts or their offices. It depended on the issue. Sometimes we meet each week. It depends on what was going on. Most of the meetings were close to the borders, some in Ankara, some in Gaziantep.”
  • In our meetings, we talked about re-establishing the Ottoman Empire. This was the vision of Turkey.
  • “I cannot say that this is the vision of the whole Turkish government. Many are against interfering to bring this project to reality. They say we will try to defeat the PKK and Kurds. We are afraid of the union between Kurds and that they may make a Kurdish state, but they also expanded to Aleppo,” he adds regarding Turkish aspirations inside Syria.
  • “It’s a big benefit to Dawlah, as they could protect our back. Approximately 300 km of our border is with them. Turkey is considered a road for us for medications, food – so many things enter in the name of aid. The gates were open.”
  • “No one can accuse the Turkish government that they gave us weapons, because we got weapons from different sources. Actually, we didn’t need to get weapons from Turkey,” he explains, noting that the Free Syrian Army soldiers would trade their weapons for a pack of cigarettes. “Anti-government Syrian people provided us with weapons; many mafias and groups traded weapons to us.”
  • “We negotiated to send our fighters to the hospitals [in Turkey]. There was facilitation – they didn’t look at the passports of those coming for treatment. It was always an open gate. If we had an ambulance we could cross without question. We could cross [into Turkey] at many places. They don’t ask about official identities. We just have to let them know.”
  • “Dawlah [ISIS] paid for the treatments, but some Turkish public hospitals took these fighters for free. It was not only for our fighters but also for the victims of bombings. I don’t know how many were treated in Turkey, but it was routine,” Abu Mansour explains, adding that it was not his area, so he doesn’t have the figures on that. “I just know this agreement to open the gates for our wounded and that there were ambulances sent for them. It was a ‘state-to-state’ agreement regarding our wounded. I negotiated these agreements. For the wounded, medical and other supplies to pass, and I negotiated about water also, the Euphrates.”
  • “Actually, we [Syria] had an agreement with Turkey for 400 cubic meters per second [of water] into Syria. After the revolution, they started to decrease the quantity of water to 150 cubic meters per second. After our negotiations [in 2014] it returned to 400. We needed it for electrical power and as a vital source of living. Even water we cannot keep it, it passes to Iraq also,” he explains. “But the importance of water [cannot be understated]. We don’t need to generate electricity through the dams. We could have another source [i.e. petrol], but we need water for farming. There are three dams. The biggest is Tabqa dam. Actually, at 150 cubic meters, we could generate some electricity, but if the level of the lake reached 5 meters it would not work.”
  • When asked what ISIS gave in return for water, he answers, “There is the most important benefit – their country will be safe and stable.” We ask if he means that ISIS agreed not to attack inside Turkey.“In negotiations I could not say I would attack Turkey. This is the language of gangs, but I would say we will try to keep Turkey from the field battle, we will not see Turkey as an enemy. They understood what we are talking about. We said many times, ‘You are not our enemy and not our friend.’”
  • “Most of the Syrian oil was going to Turkey, and just small amounts went to the Bashar regime.”
  • “We didn’t ask ransom for the consul employees, we asked for our prisoners. MIT knows their names.” For the consul employees, “approximately 500 prisoners were released from Turkey, and they came back to Dawlah,”
  • “[In 2014,] they opened some legal gates under the eye of Turkish intel that our people went in and out through,” Abu Mansour explains. “But, entry into Syria was easier than return to Turkey. Turkey controlled the movements.”
  • “Turkey wanted us to move 10 km back from the borders so the danger from Turkey is removed. They wanted it to be under control of Turkey and no aviation above it. This was for an area 60 km long and 10 km wide.”
  • Abu Mansour’s journey started in Morocco when he was a young man and where he first watched the 9/11 events from afar and suddenly began to feel that if he wasn’t with them, as U.S. President Bush stated, he was against them – that Muslims in the world needed to unite and resist dictators and world powers, like the U.S.-led coalition that invaded foreign countries. “After I heard George Bush say it’s you are with us or against us – when I heard that [and saw his invasion of Iraq] I searched for who stands up for the Muslims.”
  • We were searching for the identity of Muslims, to protect Muslims and to be freed to do our Islamic duties. There was no desire to fight, no tendency to kill or revenge, just to free ourselves from dictators. I use the weapon to prevent harm by others and all that is taken by force should be regained by force,” he explains. “All these government regimes, we were forced to follow, we didn’t chose them.”
Ed Webb

Growing demand for Russian arms in the Middle East: The Syria Effect? - 1 views

  • For Russia, the military and political engagement in Syria is an opportunity not only to showcase the operational capabilities of their weapons but also the political “muscle” behind them. 
  • A quick look on arms transfers databases reveals a growing demand for Russian arms in the Middle East. In 2012, Russia delivered weapons to four countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE – in addition to Syria and Iran). Five years later, in 2017, it delivered weapons to eight countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Turkey – in addition to Syria and Iran), and sales grew in variety, size and value. Compared to 2012, the sales, according to announced figures and estimates, at least doubled in size, both because of the expansion to new markets and increased sales to traditional partners
  • The Russian military industrial complex showcased the best it has to offer in Syria, deploying a vast array of naval, air and ground weapon systems. Furthermore, the conflict has served as a major testing ground
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  • “Combat-proven” is in itself a major marketing argument
  • the heavy supersonic strategic bomber Tu-160, new generation fighter jet Su-34 or the first Russian stealth fighter ever constructed, the Su-57
  • The S-400 air defense system is not just another advanced piece of equipment. The decision to acquire it is the basis or starting point of a strategic relation between the provider, Russia, and the client.
  • most of the contracted weapons, such as air defense systems or fighter jets, are highly advanced pieces of technology and there is only a handful of producers capable of supplying them. Generally speaking, Russian weapons are highly efficient and cost-effective. Where Russia lags in technological innovation, it makes up for in costs. At the same time, American (and Western) companies go through a much stricter process of arms export control, and arms deals to third countries often involve some form of political conditionality. Middle Eastern countries might therefore prefer, under certain circumstances, to avoid the uncertainty and bureaucracy and choose the straightforward option of dealing with other providers, such as Russia, which also puts forward the time factor and its ability to deliver supplies quickly
  • At the end of 2017, it was announced that a deal was reportedly reached allowing Russia to use Egypt’s air space and air bases
  • As a member of NATO and U.S. ally, the decision to purchase the S-400 air defense system puts a strain on Ankara’s relations with its western allies. Specifically, the U.S. is exerting strong pressures on Turkey, threatening to cancel the planned sale of F-35 jets, in order to discourage it from moving forward with the S-400 deal, but with little success so far
  • Algeria is a regular client. Algiers is the largest military spender in Africa, and despite efforts to reduce military imports, it continues to import Russian weapons and remains one of Russia’s most important clients in the region.
  • a number of countries in the region have recently signed MoUs with Russia for closer military cooperation, in anticipation of future arms deals
  • arms deals are generally lengthy processes. Some of the deals concluded lately have been years in the making, before even the start of the Russian intervention in Syria. Not all can be solely attributed to the “marketing effect of war”. That said, the “combat-proven” label is an undeniable marketing argument. In Russia’s case, the massive military engagement in Syria, coupled with increased influence in the region, allowed Russia to position itself as a desired political and military partner
Ed Webb

Scholars, Spies and the Gulf Military Industrial Complex | MERIP - 0 views

  • Until recently, there was little practical knowledge about what it meant for an academic to analyze the military activities of the Gulf states because there wasn’t much to study, other than some symbolic joint training exercises, sociological inquiry about the composition of the region’s armed forces, and limited Emirati participation in non-combat operations in places like Kosovo. The bulk of scholarship examined the Gulf in the context of petrodollar recycling (the exchange of the Gulf’s surplus oil capital for expensive Western military equipment) or the Gulf as the object of military intervention, but never as its agent.
  • Academic research is not espionage—but many parties (notably US and European governments) are implicated in the process that has allowed them to be conflated
  • The history of the United States and European states undermining regional governments—including its only democratically-elected ones—using covert agents posing as scholars, bureaucrats and businessmen is well-documented. Its legacy is clear in the region’s contemporary politics, where authoritarians and reactionary nationalists frequently paint democratic opposition forces as foreign agents and provocateurs. It’s also visible in the political staying power of religious conservatives, who were actively supported by the US and its allies in order to undermine leftist forces that threatened to nationalize oil fields and expropriate Western corporate property.
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  • Another element of this legacy is the paranoia that makes it difficult for regional governments to distinguish between academic researchers and spies
  • Imagine if Syria had imprisoned a British PhD student and kept them in solitary confinement for seven months with one consular visit—or if Iran covered up the brutal murder of an Italian PhD student by their police forces, as happened in Egypt in 2016. The double standards pertaining to academic freedom and the rule of law in countries formally allied with the United States and Europe and those characterized as rogue actors is so obvious it barely merits pointing out. The Emirati authorities certainly recognize this, and will continue to exploit this double standard so long as it remains intact.
  • Oil money, along with a new generation of rulers eager to use military intervention to demonstrate their power to domestic and foreign audiences, has made the Gulf not just a major weapons customer but an industry partner. The story of the UAE today is no longer Dubai’s position as a global finance hub, but Abu Dhabi’s position as an emerging player in high-tech weapons development.
  • it is no coincidence that two decades of research and funding for domestic weapons development in the UAE is now manifested in armed interventions in Yemen, Libya and the horn of Africa
  • Matt’s arrest and detention, therefore, is a clear message from UAE authorities that research into the country’s growing arms industry is off-limits, in much the same way that researchers and activists working on labor rights have found themselves surveilled, intimidated and imprisoned
  • The slow erosion of public funding for universities has bled dry the resources reserved to support PhD students, meanwhile trustees and consultants urge the adoption of for-profit business practices that generate return on investment, including partnering with defense technology firms for research grants.[3] The fact that educational institutions must go begging—hat in hand—to billionaire philanthropists and weapons conglomerates reflects both the growing share of defense industry involvement in industrial and research activities as well as the failure of our political system to levy sufficient taxes on the ultra-rich to directly fund basic investments in public education.
  • what does the weakening of US and European governments vis-à-vis their Gulf counterparts mean for the protection of students and scholars conducting overseas research?
  • Before my research on the Gulf, my focus was on the role of regional militaries (primarily Egypt and Jordan) in their domestic economies. The more I studied these cases the more I realized their military economies are not some peculiarity of third world political development, but a legacy of colonial militarization, the obstacles facing newly-independent states trying to industrialize their economies, and the extraordinary organizational and financial resources that weapons producers dedicate to proliferating their products all over the globe.
  • I do not know of any studies estimating the total number of academics and non-government researchers working on security and military-related issues across the globe, but I expect it is in the tens of thousands at the very least. At my home institution alone—The George Washington University—there are maybe a dozen faculty working on everything from the psychology of drone operators to the role gender plays in government defense contracting—and I’m pretty sure none of these people are spies. This kind of security studies—which examines topics like defense technology, the global arms industry and government contracting—is a growing field, not least due to the proliferation of information about these issues coming from the booming private sector. And as multinational defense firms and their complementary industry partners continue to chase investment shifting from the core capitalist countries to emerging regional powers like the Gulf States these latter sites will become increasingly important targets for such research.
  • Matt’s case should make us question not only the safety of Western researchers and our students but, more importantly, the continued harassment, intimidation and imprisonment of academics and democratic activists across the Middle East.
Ed Webb

America's Dark History of Killing Its Own Troops With Cluster Munitions - The New York ... - 0 views

  • In December 2009, when President Barack Obama ordered attacks on two suspected terrorist camps in Yemen, at least one Tomahawk missile fired from a warship accompanying the U.S.S. Nimitz dumped BLU-97 bomblets onto the village of al-Ma’jalah. The Navy made an almost comical play for plausible deniability of America’s role. The ships steamed near shore so their cruise missiles would have sufficient fuel to fly beyond the target, turn back in the direction of the sea, release their payload onto al-Ma’jalah and then continue over the beach and fall into blue water, hiding evidence on the ocean floor.The attack reportedly killed 55 people, including 14 people suspected of being Qaeda members, 14 women and 21 children. The empty cruise missiles fell into the sea. But at least one dud was left behind at the strike scene. Before long, photos of Tomahawk missile parts appeared in news reports from Yemen, along with one clearly showing an unexploded BLU-97 — distinctive bright yellow and made in the United States. In keeping with United States policy of concealing American involvement in the Yemen conflict, the government of Yemen lied about the strike, claiming the village was attacked by Yemeni forces. Along with the accidental civilian casualties, the bungled attack had another unintended effect: Diplomatic cables exposed by WikiLeaks show that President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and Gen. David Petraeus decided to forgo future cruise missile attacks in favor of airstrikes — evidently a concession to BLU-97 unreliability and public mood.
  • Under the new policy, military commanders can now use existing cluster munitions until “sufficient quantities” of “enhanced and more reliable” replacements are developed and fielded. Though the Army has recently purchased cluster munitions that claim a dud rate of less than 1 percent, the service is buying them in such small quantities that they will come nowhere close to replacing existing stockpiles on a one-for-one basis.
  • The vast majority of cluster weapons the United States currently holds are the same as those that killed and injured dozens of troops in Desert Storm.
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  • Despite cluster munitions’ long history of fratricide, Pentagon leaders continue to assert that using these weapons can reduce casualties among Americans, partner nations and even civilians. When pressed repeatedly by The Times to explain such a scenario, and why other, newer, smaller and much more reliable munitions that have been added to its arsenal in recent years would be unable to carry out the same missions with less risk, Pentagon officials declined to elaborate.
  • A 2008 Defense Department memorandum showed that the Pentagon’s munitions stockpile in South Korea contained nearly 1.7 million cluster weapons, of which almost 1.2 million were Vietnam-era cluster artillery projectiles — the same weapons that killed many American service members in that war.
  • It’s possible that cluster weapons’ grim legacy, particularly that of the BLU-97, has been forgotten by the people now deciding how they will be deployed in the future. Those who remember are the explosive-ordnance disposal techs, who for more than 25 years have circulated Staff Sergeant Crick’s battlefield logbook as a testament of American military recklessness. It had almost no public exposure in all these years until a senior tech, who called the BLU-97 “the most dangerous weapon in our arsenal, and not just to the enemy,” shared a copy with The Times.
Ed Webb

Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before. Italy was a distant second, with $3.7 billion in worldwide weapons sales in 2008, while Russia was third with $3.5 billion in arms sales last year — down considerably from the $10.8 billion in weapons deals signed by Moscow in 2007.
  • The United States was the leader not only in arms sales worldwide, but also in sales to nations in the developing world, signing $29.6 billion in weapons agreements with these nations, or 70.1 percent of all such deals.The study found that the larger arms deals concluded by the United States with developing nations last year included a $6.5 billion air defense system for the United Arab Emirates, a $2.1 billion jet fighter deal with Morocco and a $2 billion attack helicopter agreement with Taiwan. Other large weapons agreements were reached between the United States and India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Korea and Brazil.
  • The top buyers in the developing world in 2008 were the United Arab Emirates, which signed $9.7 billion in arms deals; Saudi Arabia, which signed $8.7 billion in weapons agreements; and Morocco, with $5.4 billion in arms purchases.
Ed Webb

US arms sold to Saudi Arabia and UAE end up in wrong hands - 0 views

  • Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States, a CNN investigation has found.
  • The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America's sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones.
  • The revelations raise fresh questions about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade, and whether Saudi Arabia is responsible enough to be allowed to continue buying the sophisticated arms and fighting hardware
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  • Some terror groups have gained from the influx of US arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand. Militia leaders have had ample opportunity to obtain military hardware in exchange for the manpower to fight the Houthi militias. Arms dealers have flourished, with traders offering to buy or sell anything, from a US-manufactured rifle to a tank, to the highest bidder. And Iran's proxies have captured American weapons they can exploit for vulnerabilities or reverse-engineer for native production.
  • these shops don't just take individual orders, they can supply militias -- and it's this not-so-hidden black market that in part is driving the demand for hi-tech American weapons and perpetuating the cycle of violence in Yemen
  • Once the intellectual heart of the country, Taiz is now a tinder box that set off a war within a war last year, when the various militias backed by the Saudi-led coalition turned their guns on each other. Amid the chaos of the broader war, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) made its way to the frontlines in Taiz in 2015, forging advantageous alliances with the pro-Saudi militias they fought alongside. One of those militias linked to AQAP, the Abu Abbas brigade, now possesses US-made Oshkosh armored vehicles, paraded in a 2015 show of force through the city. Abu Abbas, the founder, was declared a terrorist by the US in 2017, but the group still enjoys support from the Saudi coalition and was absorbed into the coalition-supported 35th Brigade of the Yemeni army.
  • In October 2015, military forces loyal to the government boasted on Saudi- and UAE-backed media that the Saudis had airdropped American-made TOW anti-tank missiles on the same frontline where AQAP had been known to operate at the time. Local officials confirmed that the airdrop happened, but CNN's attempts to conduct further interviews were blocked and the team was intimidated by the local government. A local activist joked that the weapons had probably been sold on.
  • Recipients of US weaponry are legally obligated to adhere to end-use requirements which prohibit the transferring of any equipment to third parties without prior authorization from the US government. That authorization was never obtained.
  • "The United States has not authorized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates to re-transfer any equipment to parties inside Yemen," Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNN. "The US government cannot comment on any pending investigations of claims of end-use violations of defense articles and services transferred to our allies and partners."
  • MRAPs like these, captured on the battlefield, have been probed by Iranian intelligence, according to a member of a secret Houthi unit backed by Iran known as the Preventative Security Force. The unit oversees the transfer of military technology to and from Tehran.
  • Iranian and Hezbollah advisers have already gotten their hands on the armored vehicles and other US military hardware
  • The flood of US weaponry is fueling a conflict that has killed tens of thousands -- among them children on school buses and families fleeing violence -- and pushed millions more to the brink of famine.
  • too many powerful political figures and key armed actors in the region have been prospering greatly from the conflict and, as a result, they lack the incentives to agree to a peace process that would threaten their financial gain
  • The US is by far the biggest supplier of arms to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and its support is crucial to the Saudi coalition’s continuing war in Yemen.
Ed Webb

German arms exports to Turkey highest since 2005: report - Turkish Minute - 0 views

  • Germany sent €250.4 million ($277 million) worth of weapons to Turkey in the first eight months of 2019, Deutsche Welle English service reported, citing German press agency dpa and adding that the figure is already higher than any annual amount since 2005, even excluding the last four months of the year.
  • released by the German Economy Ministry at the request of the opposition Left party
  • The European Union on Monday passed a resolution to limit arms sales to Turkey but stopped short of imposing a weapons embargo. Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the NATO ally to end its operation and said Germany will not deliver any more weapons to Turkey “under the current conditions.”
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  • Last year, Turkey was the number one importer of German weapons by far, with contracts amounting to €242.8 million. Despite a halt in some deliveries, it is on track to claim that title again in 2019
  • the weapons sales were “exclusively merchandise for the maritime sector,” with most of the orders likely relating to material for six Type 214 submarines being built in cooperation with the German firm Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.
Ed Webb

IS 'producing weaponised mustard gas': Watchdog | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • The global watchdog tasked with destroying chemical weapons is probing more than 20 reports of the alleged use of toxic weapons in Syria since August, its chief told the AFP news agency on Friday.And, in what he called an "extremely worrying" development, Ahmet Uzumcu revealed that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) believes the so-called Islamic State (IS) group has manufactured its own mustard gas for use in Syria and Iraq.
  • The OPCW is already "collecting information and analysing" it, the OPCW director general said, to see if the allegations "are credible or not in order to deepen our investigation"."The number (of allegations) is quite high. I counted more than 20," said Uzumcu, revealing that even on Thursday the Syrian authorities had sent to the OPCW fresh reports of chemical weapons use against them.
  • Samples of mustard gas taken from attacks in Syria and Iraq have now been analysed by the OPCW's dedicated laboratories and "the findings do suggest that this substance may have been produced by IS itself," said Uzumcu.It was "poor quality, but still harmful ... and it was weaponised so it's extremely worrying," the OPCW chief said."Especially given the fact that there are several foreign fighters in those countries who may go back to their countries of origin one day. This requires a high-degree of vigilance within our countries," he warned.
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  • "I don't think we will be able to investigate them all," Uzumcu said, highlighting the difficulties of working in a conflict zone.
Ed Webb

Turkey 'effectively holding 50 US nuclear bombs hostage' at air base amid Syria invasio... - 0 views

  • An estimated 50 US nuclear bombs are effectively being held hostage in Turkey as Washington attempts to find a diplomatic way of responding to the country’s invasion of Syria
  • the rapid pace of withdrawal and the tumultuous decline of relations between the two countries has left administration officials scrambling to find a plan for the nuclear weapons stored under American control at the shared Incirlik Air Base in south east Turkey
  • One official told the paper the bombs were now effectively Mr Erdogan’s hostages. It is feared that removing the weapons could signal the end of relations between the Nato allies, while leaving them in place could put the weapons of mass destruction at risk.
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  • just a month after Mr Erdogan said it was “unacceptable” that Turkey was not allowed its own supply of the weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty the country signed in 1980.
Ed Webb

Jordan plans to grab excess American weapons - 0 views

  • Jordan has obtained spare American fighter jets for an undisclosed sum and plans to upgrade large transport planes, a State Department official told Al-Monitor, as the Pentagon has moved in recent months to cultivate Middle East interest to keep production going for aging US weapons systems. The agency OK’d the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan in September through the US government’s so-called Excess Defense Articles program, known as EDA. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arab nation plans to use the planes, which the US Air Force no longer buys, to provide spare parts to its current fleet.
  • Jordan received more than $30 million in Pentagon military aid for the fiscal year that ended in September, mainly to help reinforce communications networks around the country’s border areas, as the longtime American partner has faced threats from terror groups such as the Islamic State (IS). The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated that as many as 4,000 Jordanian fighters left to join the militant group on battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa since 2011.
  • the Pentagon has pushed US partners in the Middle East and elsewhere to invest in older American weapons systems to keep the production lines humming
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  • The United States has helped put up several barriers along sections of Jordan’s border to stop refugees and IS militants from getting into the country, where sluggish growth has failed to meet the government’s ambitious targets, leading to allies floating a $2 billion economic lifeline to Amman at a conference in March. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates as many as 672,000 Syrian refugees are currently registered in Jordan, and the US government has provided as much as $1.3 billion to offset that burden.
  • In September, then-acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi in an effort to get the UAE’s de facto leader on board with a plan to buy 10 Boeing-made Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which became nearly ubiquitous in the post-Sept. 11 war in Afghanistan. That could help offset political turmoil over defense program cuts that have deviled modernization efforts. The Army plans to significantly pare back the program in order to invest in future capabilities, a move that has generated strong protests from Congress. The United Kingdom plans to buy an additional 18 of the rotorcraft.
Ed Webb

How Biden Kept Screwing Up Iraq, Over and Over and Over Again - 0 views

  • Reviewing Biden’s record on Iraq is like rewinding footage of a car crash to identify the fateful decisions that arrayed people at the bloody intersection. He was not just another Democratic hawk navigating the trauma of 9/11 in a misguided way. He didn’t merely call his vote for a disastrous war part of “a march to peace and security.” Biden got the Iraq war wrong before and throughout invasion, occupation, and withdrawal. Convenient as it is to blame Bush—who, to be clear, bears primary and eternal responsibility for the disaster—Biden embraced the Iraq war for what he portrayed as the result of his foreign policy principles and persisted, most often in error, for the same reasons. 
  • “I think the vast majority of the foreign policy community thinks [my record has] been very good.” That will be important context should Biden become president. He’s the favorite of many in Democratic foreign policy circles who believe in resetting the American geopolitical position to what it was the day before Trump was elected, rather than considering it critical context for why Trump was elected. 
  • National Democrats embraced the war on terrorism with enthusiasm and, with few exceptions, were disinclined to challenge Bush on foreign policy even as that foreign policy became more militant and extreme
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  • Biden’s hearings highlighted the dangers of occupation, such as the basic uncertainty around what would replace Saddam Hussein, as well as the bloody, long, and expensive commitment required to midwife a democratic Iraq. “In many ways, those hearings were remarkably prescient about what was to happen,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime aide on the committee and a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. “He and [GOP Sen. Richard] Lugar talked about not the day after but the decade after. If we did go in, they talked about the lack of a plan to secure any peace that followed the intervention.”
  • But the balance of expert testimony concerned guessing at Saddam’s weapons program, the pragmatic questions of invading, and the diplomatic legwork of an action whose justice—if not necessarily its wisdom—was presumed
  • the regnant foreign policy consensus in America: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had sealed his fate by doing so. It was an enormous factual mistake born out of an inability to see that Saddam believed that transparent disarmament would spell his doom at the hands of Iran. This misapprehension led advocates to accept that the U.S.—preferably with others, but alone if necessary—was justified or even obligated to get rid of Saddam
  • Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, convinced the White House to attempt securing United Nations support for the war. It was a cynical maneuver: the Security Council could accept additional weapons inspections but not war; Bush could claim he tried for an internationalist solution before invading unilaterally. Its primary effect was to legitimize the war in the eyes of uncomfortable congressional Democrats who had made the tactical error of disputing the war for insufficient multilateralism rather than arguing it was wrong
  • For Biden, the critical point, “what this is about,” was America daring to “enforce” U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions that the U.N. was saying did not justify war. When the world stood against America, in the forum Biden considered critical and Bush considered pretextual, America would simply act in the world’s name. He approvingly quoted the infamous Henry Kissinger: “As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a special, unilateral capacity, and indeed obligation, to lead in implementing its convictions, but it also has a special obligation to justify its actions by principles that transcend the assertions of preponderance of power.” America’s confidence in its nobility was, in the end, all the justification it required. 
  • Biden acknowledged that the “imminence and inevitability” of the threat Iraq posed was “exaggerated,” although that recognition was irrelevant to both his reasoning and his vote. He performed an end-zone dance over Bush advisers who favored what he called the doctrine of preemption—a euphemism for wars of aggression—as if his vote did not authorize exactly the preemptive war those advisers wanted. The trouble Biden saw was that elevating preemption to a foreign policy “doctrine” would grant “every nation an unfettered right of preemption.” Left unsaid was that it would be better for America to keep that unfettered right for itself.
  • Biden was unprepared to break from prevention, which is always the prerogative of hegemonic powers. Boxed in, he continued to argue that the trouble was Bush elevating preemption to centrality in foreign policy, and fretted that predatory states would cite that “doctrine” to prey on weaker ones. He neglected to see that all those states needed was the example of the Iraq war itself. Eleven years later, when Biden was vice president, Vladimir Putin cited Iraq as a reason the U.S. had no standing to criticize him for invading Ukraine. 
  • Iraq was an abstraction to Biden—as it was, ironically, to the neoconservatives Biden had criticized—a canvas on which to project theories of American power
  • Nothing that followed went the way Biden expected. Bush did not share Biden’s distinction between the U.N. weapons-inspection process and the invasion. Iraq did not passively accept its occupation. And Biden did not reap the political benefit of endorsing the war that seemed so obvious to the Democratic consultant class in the autumn of 2002. 
  • Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency
  • Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges
  • By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage. 
  • The U.S., unable to win the war it chose, would be better off reshaping the map of Iraq into something that better suited it. The proposal was a natural outgrowth of viewing Iraq as an abstraction. Now that Iraq had undermined American power, Iraq would be subject to a kind of dismemberment, a theoretically cleaner problem to solve than a civil war or a weak client state. In September 2007, Biden prevailed upon his fellow senators to endorse his proposal on a staggering 75-23 vote. There was no support for the idea among actual Iraqis outside Kurdistan, but they were beside the imperial point.
  • 2007 saw Biden’s most valorous act on Iraq. With the war a morass, Biden secured $23 billion, far more than the Pentagon requested, to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, whose hull design proved more survivable against the insurgency’s improvised bombs. Replacing insufficiently armored Humvees with MRAPs was “a passion,” he said. While the number of lives MRAPs saved over the course of the program’s $45 billion lifespan has been disputed, the Pentagon estimated in 2012 that over 2,000 service members are alive today because of the vehicle. Biden counted securing the funding for the MRAP among his greatest congressional achievements.
  • Barack Obama had opposed the Iraq war, but was hardly afflicted with the “distrust of the use of American power” that Biden feared in 2004. Selecting Biden as his vice president laundered Biden’s reputation. No longer was Biden the man whose faith in American exceptionalism had driven the U.S. into a morass. He was the lovable uncle in aviators who washed his metaphorical Trans Am on the White House lawn. Obama gave him responsibility for a three-year project of U.S. withdrawal, one that Biden considers an accomplishment. 
  • Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed
  • Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war.
  • “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing
  • Biden is the last of the pre-Obama generation of Democratic foreign policy grandees who enabled the Iraq war. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both lost their presidential bids, saddled in both cases with the legacy of the war they supported
  • A President Biden is likely to find himself a man out of time. Writing in The Guardian, David Adler and Ben Judah recently described Biden as a “restorationist” in foreign policy, aiming at setting the American geopolitical clock back to what it was before Trump took office. Yet now an emergent China, a resurgent Russia, and the ascent of nationalism and oligarchy across Europe, India, and South America have fragmented the America-centric internationalist order that Biden represents. While Trump has accelerated these dynamics, he is far less responsible for them than is the martial post-9/11 course of U.S. foreign policy that wrecked itself, most prominently in Iraq.
Ed Webb

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/01/31/181636/israelis-missiles-were-at-syrian.html#emln... - 0 views

  • President Barack Obama has warned the regime of President Bashar Assad that it views the use of chemical weapons against anti-Assad rebels as a “red line” for possible military intervention. Israel’s threshold for taking action, as demonstrated Wednesday, appears to be much lower – and aimed at a much wider variety of potential threats.Israeli officials have made it known for months that they fear that Syria’s sophisticated weapons systems might be passed willingly to the Islamist militants in Hezbollah, Israel’s arch-foe in Lebanon, or fall into the hands of al Qaida-linked militants who are now the vanguard of the anti-Assad rebellion.
  • Israeli officials told McClatchy that Wednesday’s attack was aimed at a convoy of Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles that Israel feared were being sent to Lebanon. Russia apparently provided the weapons to Syria after Israeli aircraft destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007. One official told McClatchy that the missiles would have been a “game changer” had they fallen under the control of Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill in 2006
  • Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, the U.N. group that’s charged with monitoring Hezbollah’s activities in southern Lebanon, told McClatchy that "nothing had changed in the area under UNIFIL’s mandate in recent weeks." "We can certainly confirm that there were a high number of Israeli overflights that UNIFIL recorded yesterday. But that is all we have, and these air violations have continued on an almost daily basis. So we cannot draw any further conclusions on this basis," Tenenti said. “We have not seen or witnessed smuggling of any weapons into southern Lebanon," he said.
Sana Usman

Islam prevents atomic weapons & mass destruction arms. Nejad - 0 views

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    Islam prevents atomic weapons and other arms of accumulation destruction, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed on Wednesday ahead of his country's nuclear discussion with global powers in Baghdad, as Israel recommended to world powers not to hesitate in key talks with Iran.
Ed Webb

Trip Report: Meeting the Syrian Opposition in Antakya and Istanbul | Fikra Forum - 0 views

  • Having recently returned from a European Foundation for Democracy sponsored trip to Antakya and Istanbul, during which a European delegation and I met over 100 Syrian opposition figures, a number of important observations come to mind. First, one of my strongest impressions is that things are not what they seem. It is very difficult on the ground to be sure who it is that you are really talking to and what they represent. Second, Turkish officials maintain a striking degree of control over Syrian opposition forces inside Turkey. Third, the Muslim Brotherhood is pervasive not only within the Syrian National Council (SNC), but among many opposition groups – mostly outside Syria. Lastly, there is a striking cynicism and anger among fighters within Syria toward the outside world for not providing enough practical support.
  • Syrians of all backgrounds seem to be free to move between Syria and Turkey with only Turkish permission. The Syrian government now seems to have lost control of its borders in every direction.
  • there is a distinct Turkish preference for some parts of the opposition movement; they favor the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Syrian National Council.
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  • An unfortunate paradox has emerged in which well-meaning and well-connected Syrians are setting up new groups every day, saying, "I am going to unify the opposition."
  • most of these Syrians hold Israel responsible for preventing greater U.S. support. Aside from one exception, this view was nearly unanimous. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this very weird perception about Israel’s power, whenever we asked, “If Israel offered weapons or help, would you take it?” the answer was almost always, “definitely”!
  • they want communications equipment, medical supplies, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. They do not want more meetings, political support, training, and declarations
  • We heard over and over that "you are complicit in the slaughter of the Syrian people." It was not that "you are not giving enough support," but "you do not want Assad to fall" and "you want Syrian people to be slaughtered."
  • the Islamists tend to be relatively well organized, well disciplined, and unified, even if they do not represent the majority. This is the case in Syria among the outside opposition, but not on the inside, where the MB still has a limited presence. However, these other groups may not be a match for the discipline and unity of the MB in the political battle as the regime collapses
  • what we heard most was, "Give us anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. We don’t even need your air cover or corridors. Give us the weapons and we will do it ourselves.”
Erin Gold

Agencies Say Iran Has the Nuclear Fuel to Build a Bomb - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • Accurate intelligence about the progress of Iran’s weapons programs has been notoriously poor.
  • Both the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate and the recent updates for Mr. Obama, according to officials familiar with their contents, are filled with caveats that Iran could be conducting uranium enrichment or weapons design work at remote locations
  • By the last count of the international inspectors, Iran has installed more than 8,000 centrifuges — the machines that enrich uranium — at its main underground facility at Natanz, the primary target the Israelis had in their sights. At last inspection, Iran was using only a little more than half of them to enrich uranium.
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  • to create a bomb it would have to convert its existing stockpile of low-enriched uranium into bomb-grade material. International inspectors, who visit Natanz regularly, would presumably raise alarms. Iran would also have to produce or buy a working weapons design, complete with triggering devices, and make it small enough to fit in one of its missiles.
  • The official American estimate is that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon sometime between 2010 and 2015, probably later rather than sooner. Israel’s official estimate is close:
  • head of the Mossad, Israel’s main spy agency, told the Israeli Parliament in June that unless action is taken, Iran will have its first bomb by 2014,
  • Israeli officials believe Iran could create a bomb much more quickly. They cite the murky evidence surrounding two secret programs in Iran, called Project 110 and Project 111. Those are the code names for what are believed to be warhead-design programs
  • Israeli officials say privately that the Obama administration is deluding itself in thinking that diplomacy will persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program. The Obama administration says it believes Iran is on the defensive — fearful of more crippling sanctions and beset by internal turmoil.
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