Friday, March 27, 2015

The Model Theater Evolves

Saudi Arabia is leading air attacks against the Shias who are seen as pawns of Iran. Would Saudi Arabia really send in ground troops?

The Saudis entered the raging Yemen Shia-Sunni civil war and jihadi free-for-all (ISIL and al Qaeda running amok):

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday as Houthi rebels battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city.

Throughout the day, warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck at the Shi'ite Houthis and allied army units, who have taken over much of the country and seek to oust Hadi.

Warplanes resumed bombing the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday evening, shaking whole neighborhoods and terrifying residents. Several civilians have been reported killed in Sanaa.

So far the coalition lacks ground forces:

Al-Arabiya said Saudi Arabia was contributing 100 warplanes to operation "Storm of Resolve" and more than 85 were being provided by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

Egyptian air forces were participating and four naval ships headed to secure the Gulf of Aden. Turkey said it might provide logistical support.

Strategypage says that the Saudis have 150,000 troops near Yemen's border:

Saudi Arabia already has over 150,000 troops on the Yemen border, many of them very near the areas where the Shia tribes live.

I don't get that since my bible of military power--the 2012 The Military Balance--indicates that a commitment of that size would strip the rest of Saudi Arabia of pretty much any defense.

This article relies on the most recent version and says:

The Saudi military numbers 227,000 troops, including 75,000 in the army, 13,500 in the navy and 20,000 in the air force.

Some 16,000 personnel are committed to air defences, 2,500 responsible for strategic missiles and 100,000 man the National Guard, according to the IISS Military Balance, 2015.

The kingdom also has 24,500 paramilitary forces.

How on Earth could the Saudis mass 150,000 troops on the Yemen border?

There is no way that Saudi Arabia would strip their border with Iraq or the eastern oil region of troops or leave Bahrain at the mercy of Iranian counter-moves to stir up Shias. I don't know what the normal deployment patterns are, but I really doubt this is even possible.

As an aside, the strategic missile force is new since my edition (hey, if this site actually made money for me I'd pay the outrageous sums of money for the latest edition).

And while it is the best equipped in the Gulf region, it isn't very good. Nor is the regular army even that trusted. The larger National Guard is a tribal-based force counted on to be the loyal "republican monarchy guard" to keep the royal family in power.

So I seriously doubt that the Saudis would make any major commitment of ground troops inside Yemen despite their ambassador's claim on TV that they don't rule anything out.

Bomb, send weapons and maybe mercenaries and special forces, sure. But regulars or National Guard? I'm doubtful. Saudi Arabia has been historically very cautious about using their forces.

Would Pakistan send troops? They did once hire out a heavy brigade to protect Saudi Arabia. What's the price for sending troops into combat in Yemen? But Pakistan doesn't seem eager despite receiving the request:

Pakistan's defense minister says his country is considering a request to provide ground troops to complement the Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen.

Perhaps this is just Pakistan's bargaining stance to increase the price.

Egypt's role is interesting in this light. They committed a rather large ground army to Yemen in the 1960s (using poison gas in their operations, I'll add). Could Egypt's reliance on Saudi money lead them to commit several divisions if local Sunnis can't handle the jihadis and Shias?

And that would help explain Egypt turning to France for more aircraft--the French don't get all intrusive about how the weapons they sell are used.

Of course, that level of commitment would keep Egypt from increasing their level of intervention in Libya to combat jihadi influence there.

If this Yemen theater of war that was once a model for dealing with ISIL drags on, will we be dragged in back home?

Iran is issuing warnings:

Iran demanded an immediate halt to Saudi-led military operations in Yemen on Thursday and said it would make all necessary efforts to control the crisis there, Iranian news agencies reported.

Remember, the Iranians committed an act of war against us by their attempt to bomb the kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States (and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies) not too long ago--but no worries, that was barely a ripple in the waters of seeking Iran's partnership for this administration.

If you wonder why we are so awful at diplomacy with Iran, this is one more data point.

What would Iran have to do to push us away, the Iranians must think: "We attempt to bomb their capital, support Assad's murderous campaign; seek to destabilize the home of the American 5th Fleet; undermine Iraq; destabilize Lebanon; support Hamas; seek influence in Eritrea; kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; work with North Korea, and now try to expand our influence in Yemen! And the nuclear missile programs, of course!

Let's not mention the stuff that doesn't work out despite Allah and our best efforts.

Yet still President Obama courts us like a reluctant virgin for our hand in marriage!

At this point we could probably get away with nuking a smallish Israeli--or Red state!--city and face no consequences from the Great Satan!"

God, we suck.

Yeah, I know I wandered away from the original topic. But it always seems to come back to the foundation of this administration's ineptitude. Just 22 more months. That's a long time.

Alert George Carlin

We've got the list of words and phrases that can never, ever be used by reporters to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton:


They are NSFHRC according to "HRC Super Volunteers." And not safe for reporters using them, of course.

Luckily, there are plenty of other forbidden words that can be used since they aren't on that list--on cable, anyway. NSFW, naturally.

Meanwhile Back on the Main ISIL Front

So now we get to demonstrate that having America as your friend is better than having Iran as your friend. Can the Obama administration pull this off?

We insisted on sidelining the Shia militias as the price for our air support:

The United States persuaded Iraq to sideline Iranian-backed Shiite militias as a condition to American airstrikes in the strategic Iraqi city of Tikrit, a senior U.S. general said Thursday. The move limits Iran's influence, at least temporarily, and could re-invigorate a ground offensive that U.S. officials said had become stalled under Iranian leadership.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing that he had insisted that Iranian-backed militias pull back before the U.S. began flying intelligence-gathering flights over the weekend and dropping bombs Wednesday in support of a reconfigured Iraqi force of soldiers and federal police.

We said--rightly--that the militias were essentially Iranian forces rather than Iraqi forces.

The militias claimed they were offended by our air support and were taking their partial collection of marbles home:

Akram al-Kaabi, secretary-general of the Harakat al-Nujaba militia, threatened the United States.

"The US-led international coalition is trying... to hijack victory," said Kaabi, whose outfit is a splinter from the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia.

"They agreed with the government but the government did not consult the Hashed Shaabi or commanders on the ground," he said.

There have been no reports of US military advisers or other forces on the ground in Tikrit but he warned nonetheless that his group were on "maximum alert" to target US troops.

Lovely lads, those Iranian puppet militia fellows. Having Iran's arm so far up his posterior that Iran can pick his teeth from the inside doesn't count as "foreign" influence.

We definitely did not want that Iranian atrocity-waiting-to-happen to be involved in pacifying the mostly Sunni Arab city.

Perhaps we figured the militias had been bled enough in the assaults thus far.

But with only 4,000 Iraqi regulars in the area, the militias are still needed to hold the lines around the city even if the assault relies on Iraqi special forces and other regulars and federal police units.

Yes, if the ISIL jihadis have mere hundreds holed up in the city center, this should be enough with our air power in close support. But we don't want the jihadis to infiltrate reinforcements.

Or will more Iraqi regulars be brought up?

Now it is important to show a contrast of fighting methods: Iran will fight to the last Arab while we send the other side to Paradise.

UPDATE: I try not to be infected with Obama Derangement Syndrome. So let me just remind you that I do think that our basic strategy for Iraq (and Syria, if we follow the logic and conclude Assad really does have to be defeated) is correct, but that I worry we lack a sense of urgency:

While I think our strategy for dealing with ISIL in Iraq is basically sound--if our enemy gives us the time to set up the killing blow--Iran could yet undermine any battlefield victory we achieve. It's well past time the Obama administration recognized that Iran is no partner.

Yemen falling apart as ISIL, al Qaeda, and Iran pick apart the carcass of the former state of Yemen is one problem with giving enemies the most precious resource of all--time.

Onward Greenian Soldiers

Al Gore is dangerously close to declaring a holy war.

The heretics must be punished:

For the third time in the last few years, Al Gore, founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, spoke at the festival on Friday. Naturally, his interactive discussion focused on addressing the climate crisis. The former vice president focused on the need to “punish climate-change deniers, saying politicians should pay a price for rejecting ‘accepted science,’” said the Chicago Tribune.

He's gone quite mad, it is clear.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the greening of the Al.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Go With the Good News First

I've got good news and bad news regarding John Kerry.

Let's go with the good news first: Kerry is not our nation's chief science advisor:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent remarks on climate change at the Atlantic Council were so scientifically illiterate that I find it difficult to believe that he managed to barely get a D in geology at Yale University. As a US citizen and geoscientist, I feel it is my patriotic and professional duty to provide Secretary Kerry with a few complimentary science lessons.

The bad news is that he is our nation's chief diplomat.

But in Kerry's defense, making predictions about the future is hard whatever the field is.

(Still) Unclear on the Concept

If there was really a deadline with real consequences for failure to reach a good deal with Iran, right about now Iran would be starting to experience a surge in their pucker factor. But no, we're the side that is worrying. God our diplomats are idiots.

An end of the month deadline for Iran to demonstrate they don't have nuclear weapons ambitions?

Iran should be panicking about now, right? You're new to this administration, aren't you?

The United States will struggle to secure a framework nuclear deal between Iran and major powers by a March 31 deadline, due to resistance from Tehran and scepticism among other countries, officials said.

With the two sides resuming negotiations this week, Washington is under heavy pressure as it pushes for the political framework accord that would lay the foundations for a full deal with Iran by June 30.

We're under heavy pressure?

Bombers should be moving and carriers sailing. More stringent sanctions paperwork should just be awaiting a signature and transmittal.

Iran should be the one to feel under heavy pressure to conclude a deal we will accept!

Remember, we can have a bad deal that paves the way for Iran to get nukes; a good deal that slows or stops Iran's path to nukes; or military strikes that slow Iran's progress to get nukes.

Iran should be made to worry about a "only Nixon can go to China" moment.

Oh, not the BS one where President Obama seeks to make mullah-run Iran our partner. Comparing that to a known anti-communist being trusted to make a deal with communist China in our interests does not apply.

No, the real "Nixon goes to China moment" for President Obama would be the president who is a citizen of the world beyond being a mere American president who dislikes our military and military record, and has a Nobel Peace Prize for nuclear disarmament already under his belt, launching a major military campaign to smash up every bit of Iran's nuclear infrastructure in Iran or elsewhere that we can reach.

Bush 43 would have been impeached for doing that. President Obama would probably get a second Nobel Peace Prize.(Although I no longer think he'd get one for nuking Iran.)

Then we'd have a new saying: "Only Obama can level Iran."

But no, the deadline is meaningless. We will either accept a bad deal to make that deadline; or we'll set a new deadline 6 months in the future.

I'd rather overthrow the Iranian regime, since it is the regime that matters and not the nukes. Nobody worries about France owning nukes. And funny enough, as I've mentioned before, nobody in the Middle East really worries about Israeli nukes as the lack of proliferation worries prior to Iran's effort testify.

A non-mullah government with nukes wouldn't be great but it would be better than mullahs with nukes.

And there's probably a good chance that a normal government would not want to waste money on nuclear weapons.

But since I've long given up hope of an effort to support a revolt against the mullahs and since I have little hope that we can convince Iran to sign a good deal, a military strike seems like the only reasonable option left.

If Iran believed we would do that, we might actually get a deal close enough to being good to be worth signing if we keep our eye on the ball of regime change before Iran gets nukes.

Of course, for all of our president's reputation as being the pacifist anti-Bush, he does have the lead in wars waged. So I don't actually think it is out of the question that President Obama would strike Iran--I just think his inept diplomacy makes that option more likely and perhaps more difficult.

So I retain hope that President Bush left President Obama--or the next president--one last option to disarm a nuclear Iran.

We really have no clue how to do this diplomacy thing, do we?

Helping Themselves

Ukraine, as I've long said, doesn't need the hassle of getting American tanks when they have plenty of their own that can be put into the field. Sadly, our help to fill gaps falls short of actual help.

Strategypage describes the efforts:

Ukraine is refurbishing existing equipment with Ukrainian resources. Emphasis is on armored vehicles, which Ukraine has lots of. Most are elderly, but little used in the past but still effective. The best tanks available to Ukraine right now are 250 T-64BMs and 350 T-64BVs. Ukraine also has 1,000 older T-64B tanks in storage. Only the T-64BM and T-64BM are operational and are in use with the Ukrainian Army. The Since 2007 Ukraine has been upgrading about one of the older T-64Bs to the T-64BM each month. This costs about $600,000 per T-64B. Ukrainian arms factories are also building the T-84 Oplot-M tank and fifteen are already in service and another 40 are to be ready by the end of 2015, and 120 more in 2016 at a cost of $3.7 million each. All this is possible because Ukraine contained many Soviet era armored vehicle plants and inherited them when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

The Poles could be of use to Ukraine in upgrading these tanks. Other former Warsaw Pact nations now in NATO who want to update their armor could contribute hulls and repair expertise, too.

There are weapons and equipment we could supply, according to Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the NATO and American European Command commander:

A decision to provide that lethal aid “could cause positive results, could cause negative results,” he added. “But what we’re doing now is not changing the results on the ground.”

Breedlove, however, said he was ready with plans for the U.S. to provide military assistance to a beleaguered Ukrainian Army fending off Russian backed rebels—should the Obama administration ever make a decision.

The U.S. has conducted comprehensive studies of Ukrainian military needs, he added, and has a good sense of what it could provide to assist with an effective defense with Russian troops in the east.

But a decision has to be made at political levels to provide that support.

Russia continues to pull apart Ukraine and continues to deny they are even involved. So our restraint has not caused positive results.

Indeed, Ukraine won't hold against the next anticipated offensive:

Surveys of the front lines around the Donetsk and Lugansk regions by a team of independent experts - including Dr Phillip Karber of the Potomac Foundation in Washington and retired former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Wesley Clark - note a number of critical issues that "would have to be addressed in a very short time frame if there is to be any chance of holding back a Russian offensive", one of the team members told IHS Jane's in Kiev.

Combined reports from frontline surveys and official briefings from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence (MoD) paint an alarming picture of a Ukrainian military that is over-extended, under-armed, and may not have the depth to hold against another Russian-backed drive further into Ukraine.

Sadly, our administration remains at stage 3 in the 4-stage plan to help Ukraine--and is eagerly awaiting stage 4.

We should actually help Ukraine. They are willing to fight. But they need material help (and we should provide friggin' grid coordinates from our satellites to help target the Russians) to have any hope of stopping the Russians or imposing a cost high enough to deter them from the offensive after the next one that is coming.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

So Gotland is Irrelevant?

While this article has an interesting point that Russia might occupy Sweden's Gotland Island in order to conquer the Baltic states and isolate Poland from the rest of NATO, ultimately the scenario rests on the threat and actual use of nukes that make capturing Gotland rather irrelevant.

The article sets out the scenario:

Last week Russia’s air force progressed from testing military preparedness to dry runs for a major air assault. A combination of transport planes and fighter jets flew from Russia over the entire Baltic Sea to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. While Sweden didn’t even manage to get a plane in the air, Italian air force jets flying out from ┼áiauliai air base in Lithuania intercepted and identified the Russian jets. The Italian fighters were outnumbered 4 to 1.

The obvious targets of Russian aggression along the Baltic Sea, namely Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all share a land border with Russia, so there is no need to mount a large scale air assault to overrun these tiny states. But to keep these three nations occupied and oppressed, Putin must keep the US air force and the US Navy out of the Baltic Sea. This is why Russia is preparing to assault, occupy and fortify Sweden’s Gotland Island.

On the one hand, such a possibility would mean that if we want US Marine equipment stored in the Baltic states, we'd best not move our stores in Norway in case we need them to eject the Russians from Gotland.

And it means that if we kept Baltic state islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga in our hands should the Russians march into the Baltic states, they'd be cut off too if Russia holds Gotland.

But then the scenario escalates way beyond the Russians using Gotland to hold us off in the Baltic Sea.

Why would Russia capture Gotland Island to screen their conquests in the Baltic states if ultimately Russia needs to use nuclear weapons to keep NATO from counter-attacking? Gotland Island becomes completely irrelevant in that case.

Gotland Island should be on our radar screens, I admit. I hadn't figured that Russia would take actions to draw in neutrals. But it could make sense in a conventional conflict.

And I just can't see Russia initiating nuclear weapons use that way.  That's a Hell of a risk to take when we would absolutely have to retaliate with a nuclear strike--likely against a Russian military target--if we had any hope that nuclear deterrence would work in the future against anyone with nukes and an attitude.

I think a Russian attack on NATO could be made at Narva with much lower risk to Russia than flinging nukes around.

Also, I wish we still had a couple armored cavalry regiments in our force structure. Basing one in Latvia to conduct a delaying action south to attrite the Russian invaders would be helpful.

UPDATE: Doh! I don't know why I wrote Bornholm in the title. Bornholm is a Danish Island off the southern tip of Sweden.  It would have been important to hold the Soviet Baltic fleet out of the North Sea.

I think it was on my mind because I was shocked that Sweden was going to send a small force to Gotland and I recalled that Denmark had during the Cold War a decent sized force on Bornholm.

I wasn't making an indirect comment on a Russian threat to Bornholm. I meant to indicate that the whole scenario that started with the Russian capture of Gotland didn't actually require the capture of Gotland at all since the scenario escalates to nuclear warfare to scare us off.

Although if the logic of taking Gotland holds, the logic would apply to Bornholm.

A Dangerous Period, Indeed

We may yet face a big war as an enemy misjudges our willingness to resist.

As I wrote early in the Obama presidency, it is all too easy to mistake the quiet that comes from retreating as peace rather than just a lull in fighting until the enemy follows and catches up with you.

By 2014 it became all too obvious that our enemies have caught up.

Which makes the remaining two years of the Obama administration very dangerous. Our enemies are used to us retreating. But even a president who wants to retreat--and thinks we should retreat--has limits, as re-engaging in Iraq this year demonstrates.

But if enemies continue to pursue us as if they expect us to continue running, we will have war where we might not have had war if our enemies believed we could not be sent into flight so easily.

Remember, Hitler didn't expect his invasion of Poland to start World War II. He still thought he had a few years before beginning the war against the West on his terms when he was ready. How was he to know that the West that had given up so much to his blustering threats would suddenly discover their spine?

If we're really lucky, we'll still have allies willing to stand with us.

Have a nice day.

Where's Kimniss?

North Korea's army is involved in a giant version of the hunger games:

One of the more disturbing revelations is the growing hunger problem in the north and how that is impacting the military. Apparently North Korea has shifted more military resources to the nuclear and ballistic missile programs and part of that shift involved cutting food supplies to the troops. The way this works officers and their families still eat well but the most junior troops (recruits and those only in a year or so) are given just enough to stay alive. Soldiers who demonstrate their loyalty are given more food and this works to control the growing unrest in the ranks. What it does not control is the growing incidence of theft (especially of food or anything that can be sold or exchanged for food) by the constantly hunger young soldiers.

So much for the "military first" policy that The Un tried to reimpose.

Given the reason North Korea abandoned that policy for a survival strategy of "kooks, spooks, and nukes," this development is no surprise.

Okay, there's a bit of a surprise. The saying is never do an enemy a small harm, since it just angers them without crippling their ability to retaliate. I assumed that starving the military of resources might prompt resistance to the North Korean regime.

I never suspected that the regime would take that advice to heart for their own army and literally starve the military to keep them too busy surviving to think of resistance.

Will someone arise from the impoverished districts to lead a rebellion?

About That History Lesson

A Western diplomat, amidst rumors that we will soon provide air support to the Iranian-led Iraqi offensive on Tikrit, took a lesson from World War II to justify American-Iranian cooperation against ISIL. Let's expand the history lesson, shall we?

We appear to be ready to provide air support for the Tikrit offensive. And this makes sense, one of our diplomats said:

"Iranians fighting alongside the coalition is not a bad thing," the diplomat said, comparing the potential U.S.-Iranian alliance against Islamic State to the Western allies and Soviets battling Nazi Germany in World War Two.

"Strange bedfellows, isn't it?" he said. "What did Churchill say? 'I would sup with the devil himself if it defeated Hitler.'"

Just remember that the devil doesn't stop being the devil just because he helps us defeat one evil.

And after that "supping" in World War II, that particular devil, Stalin, gobbled up all the land where his troops stood, and ushered in a Cold War with the threat of nuclear war hanging over the entire post-sup era.

If we work with Iran now against ISIL, let's not become confused and believe Iran is suddenly our partner.

Iran's mullahs still call us the Great Satan, recall. Projection. Look it up.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are starting to question their scream and leap tactics that they have used in the Tikrit offensive:

The Iraqi forces’ progress has put them closer to the doorstep of Nineveh Province, where the city of Mosul looms as the most important battle against the Islamic State. But the hard lessons of the Tikrit offensive, with a heavy cost in casualties for the Shiite militiamen and soldiers involved, have Iraqi officials thinking more cautiously about their next steps.

And the Iraqis are thinking that securing their western flank in Anbar is more important right now:

To that end, officials say, their next goal will be securing the western province of Anbar, in part to keep Islamic State fighters there from ambushing and harassing the main Iraqi force to the east.

“We will secure Anbar first, and then move on to Nineveh,” Iraq’s defense minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, told reporters recently. He added that new army troops were still training for Mosul, where Islamic State militants were constructing berms and trenches, preparing to “destroy the city to defend it.”

As Anbar has deteriorated, that's been my view. ISIL is too close to Baghdad where they are now and could push suicide bombers and other attackers into the capital as Iraqi forces push north.

It also gives Jordan the opportunity to really engage ISIL if they are serious, by striking ISIL in Anbar from the west.

And watch the Iranians. No good can come from "supping" with them.

NOTE: I corrected the first sentence to indicate a Western diplomat of nationality not-stated made the comparison. I knew that, but wrote American.

UPDATE: Our air strikes begin:

"I can confirm that the government of Iraq has requested coalition support for operations in Tikrit," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.

"Operations are ongoing."

We fight to the last smart bomb. Iran fights to the last Arab.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

After some confusion, Strategypage is now coming down on the side of Iraqi militias taking heavy casualties in the battle for Tikrit.

The Iranian-led offensive on Tikrit is showing the results of "scream and leap" tactics (yes, that's a Kzin reference):

Going in the troops were told there would be heavy casualties and that was generally accepted. The 27,000 man force has suffered about 15 percent casualties (dead, wounded and missing) since March 1 st . During that advance some 8,000 square kilometers of territory was cleared of ISIL gunmen. Hundreds of ISIL men were killed and these men often fought to the death.

So that is probably around 1,300 dead for the Iraqi Shia militias that Iran is leading. Which fits with reports.

ISIL has suffered "hundreds" dead.

On the bright side, heavy civilian casualties seem to have been avoided.

And the battle against the thousand or so remaining ISIL defenders in the city center has yet to begin.

We have so far refused to provide air support to the Iranian-led effort. Could this be a problem for us despite the fact that Strategypage rightly notes that the Iranians realize this approach can destroy morale even among the fanatics?

Yet not providing air support also benefits Iran because Iran can make the point that they are a more reliable ally than the Americans who are withholding air support at the cost of Iraqi lives.

I disagree with this is a heads they win and tails we lose dilemma. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iranian offensive alternated between the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard)-led attacks that resulted in heavy Iranian casualties and the army-directed offensives that relied on better planning and tactics.

If we (America or other Western aircraft) do provide air support going forward (new recon flights likely telegraph this step), we should contrast our help with Iran's.

We should certainly highlight Iran's approach to focus the attention of the Iraqis we are training:

Hundreds of American advisers are working at the Camp Taji military base just north of Baghdad to train Iraqi forces on issues like weaponry and better coordination and integration of ground action with coalition airstrikes.

The goal, U.S. military officials say, is to teach the different divisions of the Iraqi military how to harmonize the operations of its various fighting units.
Played right, we can show a contrast between the death toll that Iranian friendship requires of Iraqis and our methods.

Especially if we circulate propaganda praising the Iranian efforts and thanking Allah for the opportunity for so many Arab Iraqis to achieve martyrdom under the guidance of their Persian brothers.

Remember, Iran is our long-term enemy in Iraq, as awful as ISIL is and as necessary as it is to destroy them:

[CIA Director John] Brennan said he "wouldn't consider Iran an ally right now inside Iraq" even though Iran and the U.S. both consider the Islamic State group an enemy.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifying at a congressional hearing this past week, said the U.S. worries that Shiite militiamen eventually might turn against Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis, further destabilizing the country.

But Brennan said he didn't believe the presence of Soleimani and his advisers pointed to Iran having a larger position in Iraq and its future. However, he acknowledged it's not for lack of trying. Baghdad's Shiite-led government has forged closer ties with Iran, its adversary in a 1980s war.

"We're not letting them play that role," the CIA chief said. "I think they're working with the Iraqis to play that role. We're working with the Iraqis, as well."

Former General and CIA director David Petraeus also reminds us that Iran is no partner.

I hope Brennan is right that we can cope with Iran. I've never been in the camp that said our defeat of Saddam threw Iraq to Iran. But I have recognized that our efforts (and presence) are necessary to combat Iranian efforts to do that.

Afghanistan Still Needs Our Help

Recently, the Obama administration said that we would not reduce our troop presence in Afghanistan at the end of this year, as originally planned. That's good. There is no word about the end of 2016, however. We surely need to stay longer if this is to be an effort to win rather than an effort to avoid blame.

Iraq's experience without us after 2011 has led Afghanistan to push us to stay:

Afghans were shocked by what happened to Iraq in 2014. What was especially scary for Afghans was that Iraq had a better educated population and better access to modern technology and the world in general and was much better organized than Afghanistan. Afghans also knew that Iraq suffered, as did Afghanistan, from corruption and tribalism. But it was still a shock when the Iraqi security forces fell apart in mid-2014 as Islamic terrorists took control of the second largest city (Mosul). Now more Afghans, especially their leaders, are pressuring the United States to modify their current plan, which is to reduce American military personnel in Afghanistan to about 5,500 by the end of 2015 and to zero by the end of 2016.

The situation actually isn't as bad as it appears by the official numbers:

The Afghans are satisfied (but not entirely pleased) with the current deal. That means there are only a few thousand American combat troops and a lot of support troops to help keep the Afghan soldiers and police operational. While the United States only has 10,600 troops in Afghanistan there are nearly 40,000 contractors. Over 40 percent of these contractors handle keeping American, NATO and Afghan equipment operational. That means maintenance, repairs and moving in and accounting for all the spare parts and other items needed for the maintenance and repairs. American troops, civilian contractors and more than 5,000 foreign troops and officials from American allies still in the country all depend on these support services along with the Afghan security forces.

The contractors carry out jobs that would otherwise need to be done by troops.

The concept itself isn't a shock. I just hadn't seen numbers on this for Afghanistan. But the contractors are real assets that count for providing stability, as we once did in Iraq.

Our effort to build an Afghan air force will help but won't replace our capabilities. I'd be happier if we provided sufficient air power to help Afghan forces in their fight. Why we won't continue to do for Afghanistan what we find we must do for Iraq to defeat ISIL is beyond me.

Have no doubt that Afghanistan needs more than our firepower. Without us, Iraq's government failed to maintain support of Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and many Shias who looked to Iran rather than Baghdad for support. Without us, the same could happen in Afghanistan:

According to a Human Rights Watch report released in early March, Afghanistan is under siege by a “new generation” of strongmen, warlords, and militias that are terrorizing local populations. Their menacing presence only effectively differs from the Taliban in that they have enjoyed the complicity and support of U.S. forces—including former General Petraeus—and major elements of Afghanistan’s government.

So while Petraeus is busy advising the White House on what to do with Iraq—another country whose reconstruction he left unfinished—unchecked corruption and violence threaten to undo every last good thing the West has tried to accomplish in Afghanistan since 2001.

“The Afghan government and its supporters should recognize that insecurity comes not only from the insurgency, but from corrupt and unaccountable forces having official backing,” Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a March 3 release.

“Kabul and its foreign supporters need to end their toxic codependency on strongmen to give Afghanistan reasonable hope of a viable, rights-respecting strategy for the country’s development.”

Why there is such anger at Petraeus, I do not know. He led us to victories, personal issues notwithstanding. So WTF?

Problems with local defense forces do not invalidate the concept of local defense forces. It means we need to stay to keep them under some control.

One, HRW always seems to be harder on us and our friends than on our enemies. So there's that.

But more important, "Afghanistan" is a geographic and not a political term. Even if the central government of "Afghanistan" was pure as the driven snow (hah!), locals who do not under any circumstance think of Kabul as "their" capital will pull away from the central government.

As I wrote as our first surge in Afghanistan was planned:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

These "warlords" are locals with more legitimacy than Kabul will ever have.

Not that they aren't problematic. I've always recognized they are a two-edged sword: needed to resist insurgents yet potentially dangerous once that danger has passed.

For those in the administration so eager to make Iran our friend based on the fact that ISIL is our common enemy ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend"), that "friend" status becomes non-operative once the common enemy is damaged enough not to require joint operations to defeat.

So yeah, local defense forces are a potential problem. If we want to check tendencies of local commanders who fight a common enemy to evolve into warlords who look to their own gains and harm the locals, we need to stay in sufficient strength to be a factor in local defense force thinking and ability to get away with being predators rather than protectors.

And don't think for one minute that the solution is to disband these local defense forces and rely on the central government's forces. Those are seen as alien invaders just as the Taliban and their drug gang allies are.

We need to stay to support our friends. Do recall our friends in Europe 66 years after we defeated Nazi Germany still needed a lot of military support to take on a civil-war ravaged Third World despot with trivial military power to oppose us (Libya).

UPDATE: While the president will keep close to 10,000 US troops there through this year, he is firm on completely leaving at the end of 2016.

Defining the Friends of Peace Activists

I know I added this comment to a post already, but I think it bears repeating on its own: Why aren't Western "peace activists" rushing to Mariupol to be "human shields" to halt Russian aggression against Ukraine?

Oh. Right.

The enemy of their enemy is their friend, I guess.

UPDATE: American troops will stand with our friends, as we deploy to Romania and Bulgaria and as we get a warm welcome in Poland. This is the kind of shield that matters.

UPDATE: And while I'm at it, let's get on REFORPOL (and post-Ukraine Crisis I'd like an actual heavy brigade on hand) and maybe sending Marine equipment to the Baltic States.

We were warned, you know.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Are Our Yemen Brackets?

Yemen is looking butt ugly:

Yemen's top factions are squaring off for battle after months of skirmishes, turning respectively to neighboring Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran for help in what may become all-out war. ...

In a blow to U.S. counter-terrorism operations, Washington said on Saturday it had evacuated its remaining personnel, including about 100 special operations forces, because of the deteriorating security situation.

Now we're talking March madness.

Not that I blame the administration for Yemen. As I've said before, the place is pretty much always in civil war or on the verge of it breaking out.

What is disturbing is that President Obama knew so little of this place that he boasted about our effort there just 6 months ago as a model for action in Iraq.

The question is, what do we do now that it is an active problem? We don't want Iran to gain ground there (well, I won't speak to what the administration wants for its proto-partner, Iran) and we don't want jihadis to regain ground there.

UPDATE: More on Yemen (tip to Instapundit) where ISIL is attempting to up the body count even more.

Say, given that President Obama bizarrely blamed our overthrow of the evil dictator Saddam for ISIL's presence in Iraq, is our (once) model intervention in Yemen under this president the cause of ISIL's presence in Yemen?

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the place.

And Austin Bay discusses our defeat there and withdrawal of our forces.

In theory, Iran can't afford to support all the allies that they have in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, Bahrain, and now Yemen. But they are on a mission from God, as Strategypage would put it, and so figure something will turn up.

While I doubt the direct intervention of God will save Iran from over-extending themselves, the odds of President Obama saving Iran by agreeing to a bad nuclear deal that also significantly eases Iran's financial problems are way higher than I'd like.

UPDATE: Saudi Arabia--long extremely cautious about using its military power--has conducted airstrikes in Yemen out of fear of Iranian influence:

Saudi Arabia bombed key military installations in Yemen on Thursday after announcing a broad regional coalition to oust Shiite rebels that forced the country's embattled president to flee. Some of the strikes hit positions in the country's capital, Sanaa, and flattened a number of homes near the international airport.

The airstrikes, which had the support of nine other countries, drew a strong reaction from Iran which called the operation an "invasion" and a "dangerous step" that will worsen the crisis in the country.

In the meantime, the White House--where Baghdad Bob has apparently found a new job--insists that everything is just swell in Yemen:

A White House spokesman said American efforts in Yemen are a "template that has succeeded," even as President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the country by boat.

Just ... wow.

UPDATE: This is the latest front where Saudi Arabia is battling Iran for influence. I'm sure the Saudis are completely on board President Obama's Iran partnership project.

God's Work

Will the war on terror become a religious war? That would certainly be contrary to the administration notion that Islam has nothing to do with the terrorists we fight. But it could happen, anyway.

In the absence of effective state efforts, will a new Knights Templar emerge to fight terrorists trying to define Islam in their image?

ISIS has arisen to fill that gap [that developed in Iraq and Syria as the governments faltered], but something else will arise to push back against it, since states cannot. That something won’t be the Templars, exactly, but it will also not be a state. It will instead be new non-state networks to funnel money and fighters against ISIS.

There are already reports of Americans and other Westerners going to join the Kurdish militias; how long before the Christian communities in Iraq and other ethno-sectarian communities under assault begin to attract adherents as well?

The war against ISIS and radical Islam may not always be state versus non-state, but perhaps eventually non-state versus non-state. Popularized violence and popularized sovereignty; more efficient, certainly, to cut out the middleman. It would be the return of de Molay, at least for a while, until they don’t need him anymore.

Yeah, I've expected that for years should our state-led efforts falter (this quote is from 2006):

We face enemies who draw support from traditional states but do not rely on them. Waging war by private groups has been made more lethal by modern technology. Cheap and readily available weapons, modern communications gear (Internet and satellite phones), and WMD--from poison gas to Anthrax to dirty bombs to perhaps nuclear weapons--are no longer state monopolies. Warfare is being privatized by our enemies.

And if our Western governments fail to wage war effectively, will private Western warfare be far behind? Much as vigilantes arise when police and courts cannot provide security, will private groups strike back at whatever target they believe responsible for jihadis?

The Pope hasn't gotten to this stage. Not yet, anyway. But the jihadis have been noticed.

This is just one reason it is so important for Western governments to wage the war on these jihadi scum and not try to pretend like the war is won or not even a war at all.

If it evolves into a war of parts of Western societies against parts of Islamic societies, we will have our clash of civilizations.

And then the Devil take the hindmost.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit.

2 + 2 = 5

If you want federal money, you'll have to accept the full doctrine of the Church of Global Warming.

That's nice:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making it tougher for governors to deny man-made climate change. Starting next year, the agency will approve disaster preparedness funds only for states whose governors approve hazard mitigation plans that address climate change.

So what if climate change is natural (as it was before man came along)? Die, faithless heretics!

As long as the money withheld is only for climate change issues, governors should proudly state they won't waste even "free" federal money for failing to bow to the pressure.

Also, keep in mind that this money pressure is being done by the same federal government that absolutely denies that the plain language of Obamacare denies federal money to states that don't set up their own exchanges.

Now go and emit no more.

UPDATE: Say, should states that receive federal money for military bases be required to accept that military power is a legitimate tool to resist our enemies?

Right Answer. Wrong Question

I don't think there is any question that China's navy is not as good as its hardware suggests. But let's not get carried away with dismissing China's navy.

This author has a point. But it is a point that can excuse passivity in the face of danger long past the time it is no longer true. And it may not matter in any likely war scenario.

So is China's navy a paper dragon that we over-estimate?

The history of the inter-war Italian navy, the Regia Marina, which faced a strategic outlook similar to the PLAN and was also confronted by technologically superior naval opponents, provides a great lesson in why overestimating your enemy’s capabilities is maybe just as dangerous as underestimating military power.

In short, miscalculating the fighting strengths of Mussolini’s navy prior to and during World War II diverted precious allied resources from dealing with more important military challenges[.]

No doubt, China's navy is not as good as their shiny new hardware indicates.

But how do we measure such a soft factor if we factor that observation into quantification of China's threat? And a judgment like that can linger on long after it is false.

Remember, there was a time before Pearl Harbor when we thought little of Japan's fleet. Poor eyesight and bad gunnery would cripple the Japanese. And their planes were just made of cheap scrap metal, so don't even worry about their air force. Sure, they're tough. But it would take a year to knock them down.

The key point is that China has the advantage of being right in the theater while we are far from it. Our fleet is spread out globally with only part at sea and all of their fleet is right there.

China has the advantage of initiating war and can ready a set-piece plan to strike us while we are least ready, and mobilize a larger fraction of their fleet to fight what we have forward deployed.

Even if our fleet is far better than China's, they could manage the opening blow when their detailed and practiced plan can be executed with mostly the friction of their own lack of training hindering the attack rather than adding in our counter-measures.

Japan's fleet in 1941 was both better than what we believed and had the benefit of striking the first blows against our less ready fleet available in the theater.

If China does the same, they could knock us back while they achieve their war objectives. That could be the South China Sea, Taiwan, Taiwanese islands in the strait, or Japanese islands in the East China Sea.

Japan certainly swept up more than that after knocking us back in 1941.

We can comfort ourselves that once we gather the rest of our fleet we can defeat the inferior Chinese fleet and supporting air power. But will we?

Yes, Japan counted on us not having the guts to do that. Yet we did drive them back. But China does not have a GDP just a tenth of ours. And Japan did not have nuclear weapons.

So yeah, China's fleet isn't as good as our fleet. I'm confident in saying that. But that shouldn't be the question.

The question is, is their fleet good enough to allow China to achieve their war objectives? On that question, I'm not as confident.

And since the author did not explain what we might do differently if we had a completely accurate picture of China's naval power, I'm not sure what the harm of over-estimating their power (if that is what is happening--is our Navy really not aware of our training and experience edge?) is to our national security.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's Next? The USS Bergdahl?

Well that's nice:

The Navy will christen the newest amphibious transport dock ship, John P. Murtha (LPD 26), Saturday, March 21 during a 10:00 a.m. CDT ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

Nancy Pelosi was slated to deliver the principle address. Of course she did.

The LPD reportedly has a brig large enough to hold the entire Marine landing force that it can carry. Just in case.

This is wrong. It is an insult to make sailors and especially Marines serve on this ship.

UPDATE: Our Marines and sailors will suck it up and serve well, of course.

It's not like they are fragile little snowflakes requiring a trigger warning, the way our college students apparently are when faced with any unpleasant fact at all. [UPDATE: Link added, tip to Instapundit]

UPDATE: Hell, Bergdahl will get an aircraft carrier named after him.

Russian Diplomacy

Will the Russians please explain why it is so important for them to nuke Europe without wasting a few missiles that might fall to a thin missile defense screen not designed to defeat the Russians?

Russia's ambassador to Denmark said Saturday that the NATO country's navy could be targeted by nuclear missiles if it joins the Western alliance's anti-missile shield.

It isn't enough to sink a warship with a barrage of conventional anti-ship missiles. No, Russia threatens to make a temporary crater in the ocean to do the job.


UPDATE: Some reaction:

"Neither Romania nor Britain will be intimidated by threats to its alliance or its members," [British] Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Monday during a one-day visit.

And ponder the Russian logic as expressed by the Russian ambassador to Denmark:

"I do not think Danes fully understand the consequences of what happens if Denmark joins the U.S.-led missile defense. If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles," Vanin was quoted as saying by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten on Saturday.

Should Danes join "we risk considering each other as enemies," he added.

Consider the logic: Denmark and any other country in NATO that is not part of the missile defense system are not now a target for Russian nuclear missiles.

But if a country joins the missile defense system (and remember that NATO nations that don't host the system are still defended by it), then and only then does Russia consider them a target for Russian nuclear missiles.

And these guys are good at chess?

Their insanity is just effing amazing. And dangerous, of course.

UPDATE: To be fair, it isn't just Denmark. Russia wants the ability to nuke everybody:

Russia on Tuesday warned the United States against sending a ballistic missile defence system to South Korea, saying it could threaten regional security.

Of course, the appeasing Russians might have little choice but to ask how high when the Chinese tell them to jump and complain about the THAAD missiles China is upset about.

UPDATE: Related:

Russia increased tension over NATO nuclear missiles Tuesday with a demand that the United States remove all non-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe.

The proper response is a physical impossibility, of course.

Sadly, that response seems restricted to our allies:

President Barack Obama reportedly will not meet with NATO's new secretary general when he is in Washington this week, despite requests from the alliance chief's staff for a get-together.

I just thank God that President Obama is restoring our relations with the rest of the world each and every day.

Escape from Detroit

Southwest Detroit is getting as bad as Mexico for violence.

Yeah, I grew up there.

It wasn't that bad while I was growing up--a drug raid, high-speed police chase, knowing a couple kids who were murdered, a middle-of-the night gun fight, a Molotov Cocktail incident, Nazi-Communist tensions, and being stopped by police for no reason  (and once for reason--and one successful evasion--I admit), and some other encounters with the shadier side of life sounds bad in one sentence, but it was at least spread out over nearly two decades.

But it was clear which way the area was going as time passed. And it was bad enough to develop "situational awareness" skills that have stuck with me.

And you wonder why I stayed in Ann Arbor after I came here to go to school?

Tip to Instapundit.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stand Your Ground, Japan

Japan needs to stop dicking around and plant their forces on key Senkaku islands.

China is improving their ability to grab islands in the East China Sea that Japan formally owns:

China has responded to Japanese efforts to defend the Senkaku Islands by building a helicopter base on a Chinese island 335 kilometers from the Senkakus, This is within range of transport helicopters that could bring in troops and weapons in under two hours. This is seen as a response to the Japanese decision in late 2014 to purchase 17 American MV-22 transports. This the Japanese did to defend the Senkaku Islands from possible surprise Chinese attack. The V-22s are faster than helicopters but Japanese territory is about a hundred kilometers farther away than Chinese land. So given sufficient warning the Chinese and Japanese occupation forces would arrive on the Senkakus at the same time.

I said that preparing for a race with China to the islands is foolish.

Let's Make a Deal

I see that we are hoping to get Iran to release captive Americans in exchange for our pledge to believe Iran's pledge that they don't want nuclear weapons.

The talks over Iran's nuclear future will go on:

France was demanding more stringent restrictions on the Iranians under any deal than the other Western delegations, officials said.

A European negotiator said the six power group - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - was generally unified but voiced concern that the Obama administration was under pressure due to concerns Republican-led Congress might wreck any agreement.

Thank you, France. The Obama administration is so eager for a deal that they are apparently willing to agree to just about anything at this point.

But if we can't get Iran to agree to terms that require them to prove they have no nuclear weapons program, the administration will accept lovely parting gifts, instead:

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday called on Iran's government to immediately release three detained Americans - Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian - and to help find Robert Levinson, an American who disappeared in Iran eight years ago, the White House said.

Give us Americans and we give you nukes. What's one more bad trade, eh?

But don't think the Obama administration can't be tough! Oh, no!

Following Obama’s warning that the United States would “reassess” its relationship with Israel, the administration is not only reconsidering the diplomatic cover it has long given Israel at the United Nations but is also looking at a range of other possibilities to put pressure on its historically close ally, U.S. officials said.

That'll teach you to elect someone The One doesn't like. And that's saying a lot since we seem to like Iran's rulers and are growing downright fond of Assad these days.

Let me just say that if the administration is going to sign a deal with Iran that gives Iran nuclear weapons one day, deterrence becomes more important. And if Iran can be deterred (a big "if" for a country on a mission from God), extended deterrence is not served by throwing your ally under the bus.

And speaking of Iran's nuclear program, I've long said that Iran has likely dispersed elements of their nuclear program abroad to protect them from American attack.

Iran has worked with North Korea on missiles and nukes--and North Korea claims to have nuclear missiles (they might not be able to put a nuclear warhead on a missile yet, but they are making progress on that). So Iran might buy nukes from North Korea to bridge that "breakout" gap--the time it would take Iran to violate agreements and enrich enough Uranium for a warhead--we think is so critical to stopping Iran.

And closer to home, Syria--Iran's client state--already attempted to build a nuclear reactor with North Korean help (Israel destroyed it in 2007). And a German magazine thinks Syria still has a nuclear program:

Now, secret information obtained by SPIEGEL indicates that the world is once again being misled by Assad. Syria's dictator has not given up his dream of an atomic weapon and has apparently built a new nuclear facility at a secret location. It is an extremely unsettling piece of news.

Unsettling? I'll say! What if those "treasonous" Republicans use this information to cast doubt on the wisdom of President Obama's effort to get a Nobel Peace Prize nuclear deal with Iran?

This could be part of Iran's nuclear program. Which is even more unsettling. Or should be.

Like I've said, the outline of a deal is clear: Iran will pretend to not want nuclear weapons; and we will pretend to believe them.

And in a perfect Obama/Kerry world, the Nobel Peace Prize people will pretend the deal advances world peace and our press corps will believe Iran released American captives in an effort to "reset" our relations without getting any American concessions on the deal!

The deal won't ensure that Iran doesn't have nuclear programs on their soil. It won't cover Iranian programs in other countries friendly to Iran. And it won't prevent Iran from purchasing nukes to deter attack while Iran breaks out of any paper restrictions to gain the ability to build their own nukes.

And if Iran then nukes Israel? Well, let that be a lesson to the next American ally that selects a leader we don't like. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs for the deal of the century.

Have a super sparkly deal!

UPDATE: When Iran goes nuclear, we will legitimately be able to tell the mullahs "you didn't build that" without extensive help from the American government.

UPDATE: Speaking of drooling idiocy:

Iran takes comfort in the fact that members of the coalition (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, United States) they are negotiating with are divided with growing willingness among many coalition members to trust Iranian pledges to abide by any treaty. Many in the West (and the Arab world) don’t trust Iran and demand a deal with strict monitoring. Iran rules this out as a violation of their sovereignty, an affront to their honor and so on.

The Iranian religious dictatorship sees these negotiations as crucial to its survival. In part that is because most Iranians have decided that the ruling clerics and their Islamic Republic are a failure. This can be seen in the plunging birthrate, growing number of drug addicts and the many small protests against the rule of religious zealots. Young Iranians feel like prisoners serving life sentences in a nightmarish jail run by unpredictable religious fanatics who are also corrupt and unable to manage the economy. The sanctions have made this worse and while the damage has been controlled it is draining Iran’s limited cash reserves.

On the bright side, not everyone on "our" side is on board with the Full Monty of pretending to believe the Iranians. I assume I can thank France for holding the line on this issue.

Punish the Israelis (who don't want to be nuked by Iran) and reward the Iranians (who want to nuke Israel). Smart diplomacy in action.

UPDATE: Yes, the French are standing between Kerry and a lovely signing ceremony in Geneva:

"We have not yet reached the finish line but make no mistake we have the opportunity to try to get this right," Kerry said. "It is a matter of political will and tough decision making. ...

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country wanted an agreement that was sufficiently robust to guarantee Tehran could not acquire an atomic bomb.

There are two tough decisions standing in the way: convincing Iran to humiliate themselves by even pretending to bend to our demands that they halt nuclear weapon work; and convincing France to trust us to keep Iran from going nuclear under whatever deal we can convince Iran to sign.

UPDATE: We can't deter Iran's client, Syria, from using chemical weapons:

The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that Syrian government forces attacked the town of Sarmin using chlorine as a weapon on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Thursday.

Yeah, they're disturbed that this might cast doubt on their plans to make Iran our regional partner through a dubious nuclear agreement.

Even if this is false, other events have been confirmed to our satisfaction. Yet Assad rolls on--despite the grand deal with Assad that purportedly ended his chemical weapons arsenal.

How do we deter Iran itself from using nuclear weapons if we look the other way about chemical weapons for our partner against ISIL, Assad?