ISIL Attacks Iran

Earlier today ISIL conducted two attacks in Iran with a third being thwarted. The first was at the Iranian majlis or parliament. The second was a suicide bombing at the shrine to Ayatullah Uzma Khomeini. The BBC has the details:

Twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in the capital, Tehran, have killed at least 12 people and injured many more.

The assault on the parliament appears to be over, after hours of intermittent gunfire there. A suicide bomber detonated a device at the mausoleum.

Iranian officials say they managed to foil a third attack.

The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed it carried out the attacks, which would be a first in Iran.

Unlike the attacks we’ve seen throughout Europe, ISIL quickly claimed responsibility.

This is significant as it indicates a directly coordinated attack, rather than actions taken by self radicalized actors on behalf of/in the name of the Islamic State. The New York Times‘ Rukmini Callimachi, who has done a magnificent job in her reporting on ISIL, breaks this down on her twitter feed:

This is a very significant point that Callimachi is making:

Brisard’s and Callimachi’s reasoning is further supported by this piece of analysis from yesterday at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has recently expanded its campaign to recruit Iranians and disseminate its message to Persian speakers.

In late March, IS published a rare video in Persian in which it called on Iran’s Sunni minority to rise up against the Shi’a-dominated Iranian establishment. The video was dismissed by Iran’s state broadcaster as “nonsense” and an attempt by the group to cover up mounting losses in Iraq.

Since then, IS has published four issues of its online propaganda publication Rumiyah in Persian. Rumiyah, whose title means Rome in Arabic in an allusion to prophecies that Muslims would conquer the West, is already published in several languages, including English, Russian, French, and Indonesian.

Iran has deployed senior military advisers and thousands of “volunteers” in the past six years to help regional ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle an armed insurrection that includes IS and other Islamist fighters as well as groups supported by Turkey and the United States.

IS advocates a radical Salafi version of Sunni Islam and regards Shi’a as heretics, and controls parts of Iraq and Syria under what it describes as a “caliphate.”

This attack is significant for several reasons. The first is that even as ISIL is being squeezed on the ground, with the long delayed start of the operation to clear ISIL from Raqqa finally seeming to be under way and operations to finish driving ISIL from Mosul coming to a completion and other parts of northern Iraq well under way, we are seeing an increase of ISIL related attacks well outside of the self proclaimed caliphate. This makes a certain logical sense. It allows ISIL, or those that objectively (have formally joined/under direct ISIL control) or subjectively (consider themselves to be in solidarity with, but haven’t formally joined/not under direct ISIL control) ISIL, to demonstrate that they are still relevant and have significant operational capability even as they lose more and more ground in Iraq and Syria. To a great extent this was always going to be part of the potential negative effects of the US’s strategy of degrading and reducing ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The more successful Operation Inherent Resolve is, the more ISIL inspired and/or directed terrorist activity would be seen well away from the actual declared caliphate in the Levant.

This is part and parcel of ISIL’s goal of destroying the greyzone. As I wrote back in January 2016 in the wake of an ISIL attack in Jakarta:

The Islamic State attack in Jakarta earlier today is part of the same campaign as the Paris attack last November. While the Jakarta attack was no where near as successful in terms of casualties, including those killed, the objectives of the attack was the same as of last November’s in Paris. Islamic State has two objectives for their attacks – both related. The first is to attack the Gray Zone; the social and civil space** that Muslims live in. It is an attempt to force Muslims, whether in the US or Britain or France or Indonesia or Jordan or anywhere else, to chose sides. To define themselves not only as Muslims, but as Muslim in such a way that sets them apart from their fellow citizens. It is both a figurative and literal attempt to collapse the public realm/sphere into the private one. The Islamic State hopes that by doing so they can then achieve their objectives of recruiting Muslims to relocate to the Caliphate – the only place where actual Islam is being practiced or to stay in place and use their local knowledge to attack targets that further weaken the Gray Zone. So the first objective is to set the conditions for recruiting by attacking the Gray Zone.

The second of the Islamic State’s objective with the Jakarta attack, just as it was with the Paris attack last November, is to get the US, its allies and its partners to provide the ways and means that the Islamic State does not have to achieve IS’s ends. This is terrorism as Psychological Operations (PSYOPS).

In regard to today’s attacks in Iran in specific, the targeting is highly symbolic in regard to ISIL’s doctrine/theology of extreme radical tawheed*.

Tawheed, or the unitary nature of the Deity, was the core of the doctrinal teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. At the time that he developed his doctrine of the unity of the Deity it was quite radical. Basically, it asserts that the Deity is completely one; that any form of intercessory prayer is therefore a denial of such unity and apostasy; that any form of adornment or adoration of great men/saints is a denial of unity and apostasy (hence the destruction of tombs and heritage sites); and living among apostates is forbidden requiring the devout believer to relocate to where tawheed is practiced and enforced.

Abdul Wahhab’s doctrine also included an extreme opposition to and distrust of Jews, Christians, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, as well as all Sunni Muslims that did not accept tawheed. It was the combination of an inflexible understanding of apostasy, opposition to non Muwaheedun (unitarian) Muslims, as well as non-Muslims; and forced indoctrination of the tribes of the Najd (the Ikhwan – not the same as the Muslim Brothers) that led to the violence of the conquests of Ibn Saud.

I want to focus in for a moment on two parts of the brief description above from a post I did back in September 2015:

  1. Abdul Wahhab’s doctrine also included an extreme opposition to and distrust of Jews, Christians, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims
  2. any form of adornment or adoration of great men/saints is a denial of unity and apostasy (hence the destruction of tombs and heritage sites)

Abdul Wahhab’s doctrine of tawheed, which forms the basis of the practice of Islam within Saudi Arabia as well as the more extreme and radical offshoots at the heart of bin Laden’s doctrine for al Qaeda and ISIL’s doctrine, is genocidal towards the Shi’a. Wahhab taught that the Shi’a were to be wiped out wherever they were found. And while the Saudi authorities have not allowed the Saudi religious authorities to do so in regard to the Saudi Shi’a minority, ISIL has not shied away from attacking Shi’a as irredeemable apostates. So bringing the fight directly to Iran should not be surprising. Especially the targeting of the shrine to Ayatullah Uzma Khomeini. By attempting to destroy this shrine ISIL seeks to both destroy a source of apostasy (destroying a shrine where intercessory prayers/requests to the Deity might be made by invoking Ayatullah Uzma Khomeini) and to wipe out a prominent memorial to the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran – the only majority (Twelver) Shi’a government in existence. The attack on the majlis itself also fits into this targeting reasoning – attacking/destroying the seat of Iran’s government, or at least the publicly elected portion of it.

These attacks are both an escalation of ISIL’s war on Islam and a provocation to further draw Iran into the conflict. Right now the US, its Coalition partners, and the Syrian rebel forces they is backing are in an ongoing, low grade fight with Iranian backed forces over the Tanf garrison. The Tanf garrison is where the US and its Coalition allies are training a number of the Syrian rebel groups for the assault on Raqqa. Iran has tried several times to take the garrison, and the crossroads it is adjacent to, to secure its Ground Lines of Communication and Commerce (GLOCC) through Syria in order to better target ISIL and support the Assad government in the Syrian Civil War. This attack in Tehran will increase the pressure on Iran and its proxies to try to actually take Tanf and consolidate their position on the ground in Syria near Raqqa. This would serve ISIL’s purposes should Iran try to do so as it would serve as a distraction for the US, its Coalition partners, and the Syrian rebels as they begin to retake Raqqa and clear ISIL from it. ISIL is hoping that one of the effects of today’s attacks in Tehran will lead to this happening and buy them time to further entrench themselves in Raqqa to withstand the coming assault. What remains to be seen is how Iran and its proxies responds and what those responses have on the ongoing fight against ISIL, as well as the other ongoing conflicts in the Levant and the Arab gulf states.

* For a full treatment of tawheed, especially its development as radical concept within Wahhabi theology in Saudi Arabia, I highly recommend David Commins The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia.

171 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Bill says:

    Trump’s head is going to explode over this one. He’ll have no idea who he’s supposed to bomb in response.

  3. 3
    hellslittlestangel says:

    And The Orange Better One is strangely silent.

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MrSnrub: The Republican Guard and its even smaller component the Quds Force, are exceedingly good at what they do, but a blanket claim that Saudi somehow directed this is largely for internal consumption in Iraq. The Guard is a major political and economic player and wields tremendous power. Also, Major General Suleimani, the Quds Force Commander, is the best, and perhaps only strategist to come out of the region. Without him the Assad government would have fallen two years ago.

  5. 5
  6. 6

    @Bill: All of them, Katie.

  7. 7
    Keith P. says:

    When do the joint US-Iran anti-ISIS operations start?

  8. 8
    MrSnrub says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Thanks for the info.

  9. 9

    OT but tangentially related: Where does Sufism fall in the Shia-Sunni divide? Is it mainly a Shia off shoot?
    Most of the Sufi poems I like to hear (from Hindi movies and other sources) refer to Ali, hence my guess.

  10. 10
    piratedan says:

    sorry for my obtuseness on this, simply because I’m still trying to sort out the players within the factionalized radical Muslim environment and if I’m confused perhaps others are as well…

    so it started with Al Queda, who was mostly Sunni based, correct(?) and they’ve kinda morphed into ISIL or is ISIL a separate different entity?

    Is the Muslim Brotherhood then a Shi’a construct?

    Is Hezbollah aligned with either faction or still yet a different one?

    Are there other groups being the nominal faces of the fraction out there as well or is this mainly a Sunni versus Shi’a battle or are there even divides within the Sunni Wahabbism?

  11. 11
    Boatboy_srq says:

    If there’s better proof the West in general, and the GOTea in particular, is backing the wrong horse in the Middle East, I haven’t seen it.

  12. 12
    Ian G. says:

    @Keith P.:

    Ha ha ha ha ha!

    We’re more likely to see a joint US-ISIS operation against Iran. I wish I were kidding.

  13. 13
    Mart says:

    @Bill: Uh, let’s see, if the enemy of our enemy is our friend, uhhh…

  14. 14
    Ian G. says:

    @piratedan:

    Hezbollah is a Shi’a force. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni religious movement that works through political channels (think a Muslim Ralph Reed). ISIS and Al Qaeda are both spawned by Wahhabist Sunni Islam that comes from Saudi Arabia.

  15. 15
    Peale says:

    Adam, if you’re still around. I was going to ask you on one of these threads about Abu Sayf in the Philippines and the Marawi crisis of the past few weeks. You also brought up Jakarta from February. Does ISIS have the financial resources that Al Quaeda had? Does the Abu Sayf get anything by declaring that its now part of ISIS and has changes its goals from simply expelling the Philippine government to attempting to set up a Caliphate instead?

  16. 16

    @piratedan: AFAIK and I am not an expert either on the middle-east or Islam.
    MB is Sunni, originated in Egypt
    H is Shia and backed by Iran.

  17. 17
    Keith P. says:

    @Ian G.: Or both! Kinda not kidding, either.

  18. 18
    piratedan says:

    @Ian G.: ty… so ISIL is not a continuation of Al Queda, it’s like a Vanilla Bean to Al Queda’s French Vanilla… kinda sorta and ty for the Hezbollah and Muslim Brotherhood distinctions.

  19. 19

    @Ian G.: Leader of the Freeworld always manages to back the most despotic regime in any geopolitical context that is not Europe.

  20. 20
    The Moar You Know says:

    This strikes me as a bit unusual that the House of Saud would play their hand so openly here. Not their usual way. Perhaps they felt the time was right, what with their new pal in the White House.

  21. 21
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MrSnrub: I could be wrong, and certainly the various Saudi princes and their spouses (cough – Bandar’s wife – cough) have spread their wealth far and wide funding these different extremist groups in pursuit of regional political and religious hegemony. But I’d need to see some real, clear, and compelling evidence that Saudi was directing this via ISIL.

  22. 22
    StringOnAStick says:

    IS is taking a play out of mankind’s original playbook: those people over there aren’t like us so we must kill them. Funny how just a sanitized version of this is what motivates the RW/rethug axis in this country and every western democracy currently (with Russian assistance). IS is playing the “destroy the Shi’a heretics” card, and it just so happens to fulfill a current strategic need so ably described by Adam.

    I have to think that the growing instability in the ME has a direct connection to the US being currently run by a weak moron compromised by his financial malfeasance and fading mental skills, with a hearty side of Russian manipulation. Putin has played for increasing chaos, thinking it will benefit Russia; I wonder if he’s beginning to think this is are getting out of his control and towards non-optimal directions.

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Sufis are considered apostates under Wahabbi concepts of tawheed, let alone the even more extreme versions of al Qaeda and ISIL. There was a detente in Iraq at the formation of ISIL when the Sufi Naqshbandi (military) Order folks partnered with ISIL because the enemy of my enemy type of thing against the Maliki government. The Naqshbandi folks are almost all former, senior Iraqi military and intel folks that got run out by the CPA after the invasion when the CPA purged anyone who served under Saddam.

  24. 24
    MrSnrub says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’m in agreement with you, but this muddying of the waters is not helpful right now. I keep thinking of Qatar as this plays out.

  25. 25
    Peale says:

    @Keith P.: Nah. I think we’ll just declare that its a false flag operation since Iran really controls ISIS through its Qatari proxies and move on.

  26. 26
    Chris says:

    @piratedan:

    so it started with Al Queda, who was mostly Sunni based, correct(?) and they’ve kinda morphed into ISIL or is ISIL a separate different entity?

    If I recall correctly, ISIL grew out of the al-Qaeda in Iraq faction, after that faction broke off ties with al-Qaeda proper (i.e. Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri).

  27. 27
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Sufi oppression is well documented on the Wiki page. But it comes from both sides, which does make sense as Sufi beliefs are much more spiritual focused rather than oppressive.

    Side note: I had always hoped that if Islam were to get a reformation (which it desperately needs) the Sufis would be in front of the challenge.

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The Naqshbandi folks are almost all former, senior Iraqi military and intel folks that got run out by the CPA after the invasion when the CPA purged anyone who served under Saddam.

    Fuck you once again Dubya et al.

  28. 28

    @piratedan:
    My understanding is that ISIL is a patchwork monster of all the most insane homeless extremist Muslim terrorists, who saw what they thought was an opportunity to establish the Caliphate and conquer the world.

  29. 29
    hellslittlestangel says:

    @Ian G.: I could see the US doing a joint operation with ISIS in exchange for ISIS leaning on Mueller to ease up on the Russia investigation.

  30. 30
    JMG says:

    So let’s see. Since I’ve been awake today, Saudi Arabia sent Qatar a list of 10 demands. Turkey is expediting legislation to send troops to Qatar. ISIL attacked Iranian targets and the Revolutionary Guards blamed it on Saudi Arabia.
    This all seems suboptimal to me. What does our government say? Actually, don’t tell me.

  31. 31
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @schrodingers_cat: According to Wikipedia, although they trace their origins through Ali, most Sufis are Sunni but there are Shi’a Sufis as well. It’s more a set of practices than a specific variety of Islam.

  32. 32
    Waratah says:

    Thank you Adam I just came in from working in the garden and scanned Apple news
    And did not see anything on this.

  33. 33
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Adam, there’s a piece to all this multiple peoples moving puzzle that I don’t understand. Why do Iran and Russia support Assad? Also, it seems the missing piece, i.e., not being discussed is how our “National Security” is intertwined to a tunnel vision degree with Israel When I think solely about OUR national security it seems we’d be better served aligning with Iran than the KSA?

    Kinda makes me sad that President Obama wasn’t able to pivot from the ME to Asia via TPP. While not the perfect trade agreement, it certainly made sense in terms of international relations..

  34. 34
    hovercraft says:

    @piratedan:
    I’m not an expert, but this is my understanding, anyone who knows better feel free to tell me to STFU

    so it started with Al Queda, who was mostly Sunni based, correct(?) and they’ve kinda morphed into ISIL or is ISIL a separate different entity?

    AQ- Saudi =Sunni, Wahhabi- fundamentalists, the government exports Wahhabi clerics, and exports and funds them to spread their ideology and to get them out of the country.
    ISIL- same sect, but more extreme than OBL, they felt that AQ was too soft on Muslim heretics, AQ tried to limit Muslim casualties to keep support, ISIL believes that since they don’t follow Tawheed, they should be killed.

    Is the Muslim Brotherhood then a Shi’a construct?

    This is the nut of the current dispute between the GCC and Qatar, they finance the Muslim Brotherhood, who are Sunni, but they want to depose the corrupt regimes that rule the GCC countries and Egypt, they do have ties with Iran, because Iran would like nothing better than to see their enemies overthrown.

    Is Hezbollah aligned with either faction or still yet a different one?
    They are Shi’a, and are directly backed by Iran, the Revolutionary Guard and in particular the Quds Forces train them and help them every time they have a spat with Israel.

    Yesterday I posted this cheat sheet about some of the diferences:

    1. The Muslim brothers: The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Jamiat al-Ikhwan muslimin literally Association of Muslim Brotherhood) is a pan-Islamist organization founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in Ismailia in northeastern Egypt, with the objective of an Islamic renaissance, the fight officially nonviolent against Western influence. This tending was the subject of much perseverance, as the years it became more radical in some countries by feeding channels of takfiris.

    2. The Takfirist through that some describe by ignorance as Salafists. The takfiris (the Arabic word Takfir wal Hijra Anathema and Exile, a group founded in 1971) Islamic extremists are followers of a violent ideology. The takfiris term means literally “excommunication”. The takfiris consider Muslims not sharing their views as apostates, therefore, legitimate targets for their attacks. They work for the establishment of a caliphate by means of force.

    3. The “Salafis ” are called by Shia “Wahabis”, founded by Muhammad ibn Abdelwahhab or Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-22 June 1792, is a scholar in Arabic and Muslim preacher of the Arab tribe of Banu Tamim, who advocated a return to his understanding of what he considered Islam original. He worked all his life to teach true Islam (homecoming), by its critics perceive as against the founder of a rigorous doctrine of Sunni Islam at the border they named the “Wahhabism”. They work for the establishment of a caliphate by peaceful means, and they are always against Takfirist by using harsh preaches counter to them.

  35. 35
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @piratedan: Here’s a down and dirty set of basic explainers:
    so it started with Al Queda, who was mostly Sunni based, correct(?) and they’ve kinda morphed into ISIL or is ISIL a separate different entity?
    ISIL began as al Qaeda in Iraq. It was formed under the leadership of al Zarqawi and several others. It is now largely led by folks who got together while being held at Camp Bucca as detainees. Zarqawi had a major break with bin Laden and Zawahiri as he didn’t feel that bin Laden and Zawahiri were willing to go far enough. Both al Qaeda’s and ISIL doctrine/theology, and therefore ideology, are rooted in Wahhabi doctrine, especially that of tawheed and the related concepts of forbidden innovation, apostasy, and things like that.

    Is the Muslim Brotherhood then a Shi’a construct? No. The Muslim Brotherhood began in Egypt among the second generation of Egyptian nationalists. Its roots lie in late 19th and early 20th Century Egyptian Islamic revivalism/reform, which attempted to separate the religion (specifically Sunni Islam) from the politics of the late Ottoman Empire. This attempt was undertaken with the belief that if Sunni Islam could be separated from Ottoman rule, then it could both be revitalized and made relevant for what was then modernity and used as a wedge to get Egypt out from under the Ottomans. This thread was then picked up by folks like Qutb and developed into a full fledged system that intertwined a revitalized and more fundamentalist – as in a return to basics – Sunni Islam with how politics, economics, and society should be organized and run. It was an explicit rejection of Western ideals that were being brought to Egypt largely from Europe as it attempted to transition to liberal democracy in the first half of the 20th Century, but especially after WW II. It was also coupled with Qutb’s reaction to living for a couple of years in Greeley Colorada as an exchange student.
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/.....109822568/
    http://www.denverpost.com/2011.....s-greeley/
    http://www.vagablogging.net/fr.....iever.html
    http://articles.latimes.com/20.....y-20110306

    Is Hezbollah aligned with either faction or still yet a different one? Hezbullah, literally the Army of G-d, is a Twelver Shi’a social movement, political party, and militia/military organization in Lebanon. Its leadership is aligned with that of Iran, consider’s the Supreme Religious Authority of Iran (Ayatullah Uzma Khameini) as the marja al taqlid/authoritative religious authority. Hezbullah has long been considered an Iranian proxy. It is currently, through its political wing/party, part of the Lebanese government with further complicates its operations.

    Are there other groups being the nominal faces of the fraction out there as well or is this mainly a Sunni versus Shi’a battle or are there even divides within the Sunni Wahabbism?
    There is an ongoing war inside Islam, specifically Sunni Islam. Part of this war is about what Islam will be, how it will deal with, interact with, and respond to modernity. Part of it is about control of the religion. A significant chunk of this war has been financed, overtly and legally via missionary work (funding for preachers, schools, mosques, etc) and covertly and illegally via extremist movements (al Qaeda and its offshoots, the Taliban, its offshoots, and regional affiliates in Pakistan) by both the Saudi government, including the religious authority, and by wealthy Saudis including members of the royal family. Other wealthy Muslims, including the leaders of the other gulf states, have also done this. In some ways al Qaeda, ISIL, their offshoots and affiliates are the monsters that have gotten lose and are trying to kill their creators. In other cases they’ve weaponized these groups to fight proxy wars throughout the region. The Saudis seek hegemony – religious and political throughout the Middle East. As do the Iranians, but they seek to establish a Shi’a arc/triangle connecting the Twelver Shi’a majority or plurality states of Iran (not Arab), Iraq, Syria (technically not a Shi’a majority, but Iran has extended official religious cover to the Alawites), and into Lebanon. Qatar appears to be an equal opportunity funder and stirrer of shit.

    Hope that helps.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    Why are all these little blonde Nazi Youth on the tarmac with Trump?

  37. 37
    JMG says:

    Kurdistan just announced it will hold a referendum on independence (from Iraq I know and any parts of Syria they control I guess) on Sept. 25. That should help clear things up and calm them down.

  38. 38

    Actually, I’m hearing that some intelligence experts are saying that ISIL just isn’t sophisticated enough to have successfully attack the Iranian Parliament because of the security there. That it was more likely the Saudis–they have motive and they have the ability. And they just isolated Qatar, who were “soft” (In their opinion) on Iran and the HQ for Al Jazeera (trying to discredit a major mouth piece that isn’t pro-Saudi). Plus, there are signs that the evidence of Qatar providing funding for terrorists was planted by Russian Hackers. This all points to the Russians and the Saudis taking full advantage of Trump’s ignorance and the US’ inattention to the region.

    Besides, what would be the point of ISIL attacking Iran when they are fighting for the very survival of their physical caliphate right now? Also, while it makes sense for the Iranian leadership to blame the Saudis for internal political reasons, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. For all we know the Saudis helped ISIL do it or at least let them have credit for the attack to provide cover for Saudi Arabia. The timing and the involvement of the Russians just makes more sense than simply ISIL. What sucks is that we’re kind of flying blind because our State Department is understaffed and the staff we do have is purposely letting countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia do whatever they want.

  39. 39
    JGabriel says:

    @Bill:

    Trump’s head is going to explode over this one. He’ll have no idea who he’s supposed to bomb in response.

    I fully expect Donald to send out a tweet like this (after he makes sure it’s the one with the ‘n’ and not the one with the ‘q’):

    Iran attacks prove need for Travel Ban! They wouldn’t have problems if they just kept out Muslims.

  40. 40
    hovercraft says:

    @JMG:
    Our Dear Leader proudly tweets out that this is all the result of the most glorious adventure to the middle east ever embarked upon by an American President, the fruits of which we are all watching right now.
    You’re welcome world.

  41. 41
    JGabriel says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Why are all these little blonde Nazi Youth on the tarmac with Trump?

    Love and loyalty. Of course.

  42. 42
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Peale: You all know I have a sinus infection, right?

    I’m following the Philippines stuff. Had to write a primer for someone at work on it a few weeks ago. What you see with these regional proxies affiliating with ISIL is the same thing you saw when they were affiliating with al Qaeda – they want to be aligned with the current perceived winning team. And the end of the day, even given the religious complication, the conflict on Mindanoa and in the Sulu Archipelago is an ethno-national conflict. The Moros seek something between autonomy to national separation. This has been ongoing since the 1890s and the US has been providing support, including personnel, for almost 120 years. Our longest undeclared war, though we did officially wrap the operations into Operation Enduring Freedom as OEF-Philippines for a while.

  43. 43
    hovercraft says:

    @JMG:

    Kurdistan just announced it will hold a referendum on independence (from Iraq I know and any parts of Syria they control I guess) on Sept. 25. That should help clear things up and calm them down.

    The one thing that Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria all agree on is no independent Kurdish homeland. A united Kurdistan would create another power they would all have to compete against, and they would all have to give up territory, they will all do everything in their power to maintain the status quo.

  44. 44
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MrSnrub: I’ll get to Qatar later today. I’m assuming it will still be there.

  45. 45

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: SA is trying provoke a war with Iran? Do they think that T is going to provide them with ground troops?

  46. 46
    🌷 Martin says:

    Why do I have the feeling our idiot President has managed to take the shit hand on both sides of a growing regional religious war? So we’re now fully backing the Saudis against Qatar and Iran and simultaneously trying to fight ISIS. How the fuck does that work?

  47. 47
    ruemara says:

    @Corner Stone: Bannon is now coordinating his photo ops?

  48. 48
    MattF says:

    Here‘s more about the Saudi ultimatum to Qatar. One item on the list is curbing al-Jazeera. I’ll just note that ever since Austria sent its ultimatum to Serbia as part of the domino effect that started WWI, ultimatums are generally recognized as not-a-good-idea.

  49. 49
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @JMG:
    “What does our government have to say”? This is a serious example of how I miss President Obama’s calm, clear and rational thinking and discourse. Fuck the WWC and their “economic anxiety”; there are plenty Americans who experience existential anxiety with Trump as our pretend president.

  50. 50
    rikyrah says:

    Thanks for this post. Thanks for that twitter feed.
    Am watching all of this with dread, because there’s nobody with sense in our Government. We don’t have a State Department – it is headed by the Secretary of Exxon, who is so out of his depth, it’s not funny.

  51. 51
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    FWIW –

  52. 52
    🌷 Martin says:

    @MattF: Has that been confirmed? There was some doubt last night about it with suggestions that it was a Russian attempt to stir the pot.

  53. 53
    MattF says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Also, the Gallup daily is at 38%. Very much fwiw.

  54. 54

    @pamelabrown53: Isn’t that great master plan? To return to the pre WWI status quo? Didn’t the NSA endorse it by writing an op-ed?

  55. 55
    hovercraft says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Why are all these little blonde Nazi Youth on the tarmac with Trump?

    he needs a fix, no one appreciates him, he needs the high of his people roaring their approval of him to gird his loins for tomorrows battle with Comey, those fat little fingers need to be waved about in the air so that by tomorrow they’ll be in fine fettle to point at his twitter bitch as he dictates his tweets, or if worst come to worst he has to tweet for himself, he’ll be ready. He will not tolerate this indignity, imagine Comey having the audacity to go on national TV and tell the world what he actually said! The gall of the man, doesn’t he know that what counts is loyalty to him, the rest of this doesn’t matter, he’s president, and if the president says or does it, it cannot be wrong, period. Now stop all this nonsense, he’s innocent.

  56. 56
    MattF says:

    @🌷 Martin: The article says nothing about Russian shenanigans.

  57. 57
    hovercraft says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    How is that possible, the villagers keep telling me that no one outside of DC really cares about all this stuff, they only care about jobs and the economy.

  58. 58
    piratedan says:

    ty all for your input, while it’s not exactly devolved into a Python sketch (splitters!), it helps to keep a scorecard updated of the players, whose proxies they are and why some groups that would seem to have common cause (depending on who their enemies are of the moment) oftentimes don’t. Appreciate the help on keeping my understanding grounded in knowing who is whom (or is that whom is who?)

  59. 59
    Spanky says:

    @pamelabrown53: Well, if President Obama really loved us, he would have gotten on camera and announced ” if I were still President, I would have started bombing yesterday”, thereby ensuring that Trump would never bomb anybody involved.

  60. 60
    TenguPhule says:

    @Keith P.:

    When do the joint US-Iran anti-ISIS operations start?

    The day we strangle the last Republican with the entrails of the last FYNYT editor.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @pamelabrown53: Putin needs a warm water port, Assad granted them a long term one in Latakia on the Med. Iran wants a land corridor and Shi’a axis from Iran, through Iraq to Lebanon. So they’ve officially declared Alawism, the Islamic offshoot practiced by the Assads, as an official form of Twelver Shi’ism. That’s why.

  62. 62
    hovercraft says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I’ll get to Qatar later today. I’m assuming it will still be there.

    It’s been several weeks since we used the MOAB, and with his new lows……………..
    What’s that you say about troops, dammit, where can I bomb?

  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @JMG: I predicted that happening about four years ago.

  64. 64
    TenguPhule says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Leader of the Freeworld always manages to back the most despotic regime in any geopolitical context that is not Europe.

    But enough about India.

  65. 65
    westyny says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Wow. But they attempting to ram through the AHCA as though they have a mandate.

  66. 66
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I predicted that happening about four years ago.

    You might as well have predicted the sun would rise in the morning and set in the afternoon.

    Everyone with any sense of the region saw that one coming.

  67. 67

    @schrodingers_cat: No, if they wanted to provoke a war they would have taken credit for the attack. SA has been THE Islamic leader-state in the Middle East for a long time and they feel threatened by a more prosperous and open Iran which is one of the major outcomes of the Iran-US nuclear agreement.They simply want to cause confusion and chaos. Maybe it will push hardliners inside Iran to desire more isolation and push the Iranian people away from electing moderate leaders towards more isolation, which moves them away from Europe and the US. Or maybe it will tie up Iranian resources battling ISIL. Essentially anything that distracts and weakens Iran, strengthens Saudi Arabia. And as far as Russia is concerned, anything that sows chaos and distracts the US helps them. The whole world is looking everywhere BUT at eastern Europe and the former-Soviet satellite countries. And those countries are very worried about a Russian invasion so much so that they are putting out leaflets to their population on what to do in case of an invasion and beefing up their military forces. Putin is fucking with basically everyone right now except China and we’re too busy trying to cage the Orange Shitgibbon.

  68. 68

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Saudi Arabia would prefer the US fight their war with Iran for them. Trump is dumb enough to do it…

  69. 69
    TenguPhule says:

    @piratedan:

    it helps to keep a scorecard updated of the players, whose proxies they are and why some groups that would seem to have common cause (depending on who their enemies are of the moment) oftentimes don’t.

    Please be aware that this is subject to sudden and completely confusing change at any time for any reason.

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: You’d be surprised. I got interrupted by a former student at a briefing I was giving last May to argue this wouldn’t happen. He’s a good, conventional Army intel officer. But I do this for a living.

  71. 71
    TenguPhule says:

    @Certified Mutant Enemy:

    Trump is dumb enough to do it…

    But are our forces there dumb enough to obey him?

  72. 72
  73. 73
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: They’ve been trying for about 30+ years (post WWII), off and on when encouraged by the US. What did the Army intel officer smoke before the session?

    edited slightly about WWII

  74. 74
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I got interrupted by a former student at a briefing I was giving last May to argue this wouldn’t happen. He’s a good, conventional Army intel officer.

    They’ve been waiting for this chance since Gulf War I finally gave them the first wedge they needed. The Kurds have been the red headed stepchild of the region for the gods only know how long.

    Of course they were going to try and create their own nation once they felt they could hold it.

    I’d say best of luck to that, they’re one of the few remaining parties there that don’t hate our guts for doing stupid and evil shit to them.

  75. 75
    Corner Stone says:

    @Certified Mutant Enemy:

    Trump is dumb enough to do it…

    We have a whole cadre of R pundits who would take their V!@gra and jump on board the Trump Train if he wanted to do a war in Iran. Hottest ticket in town, with a bullet.

  76. 76
    TenguPhule says:

    @JMG:

    What does our government say? Actually, don’t tell me.

    It is the sound of one very small hand clapping.

  77. 77

    @Corner Stone:

    They all think it will be a cakewalk, just like Iraq….

  78. 78
    p.a. says:

    Tangental: IIRC that Princeton prof of Islam (can’t remember name, he was old in ’01) made claim that Saudi gvt (Saud family in effect I guess) in part came to support more radical Sunni doctrines as response to Iranian revolution and its popularity, part & parcel of Arab cultural ‘paranoia’ vis Persia/Persians dating back pre-Muhammad. Any accuracy to this?

  79. 79
    TenguPhule says:

    @Corner Stone:

    We have a whole cadre of R pundits who would take their V!@gra and jump on board the Trump Train if he wanted to do a war in Iran.

    And not a single one of them would get within a thousand miles of the front line.

  80. 80
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @schrodingers_cat:
    OMG. Didn’t frame it in terms of pre WWI. Clarifying comment.

  81. 81
    TenguPhule says:

    @p.a.:

    Any accuracy to this?

    More Sunni/Shia divide then the Persian issue. Not that being Persian doesn’t also play a part in SA’s being fascist assholes.

  82. 82
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: He’s a good guy. He’s a conventional Army intel senior officer. He looks at the world one way. I look at it another. It’s why I was giving the briefing and he wasn’t.

  83. 83

    @TenguPhule:

    And not a single one of them would get within a thousand miles of the front line.

    I’m sure Trump’s sons will be first to enlist… ;)

  84. 84
    TenguPhule says:

    @Spanky: Wrong. Trump would promptly try to one-up him by using nukes. Yes, he would.

  85. 85
    TenguPhule says:

    @Certified Mutant Enemy:

    I’m sure Trump’s sons will be first to enlist… ;)

    to serve at the Playboy mansion as escorts.

  86. 86
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    He looks at the world one way. I look at it another. It’s why I was giving the briefing and he wasn’t.

    Being older, wiser and smarter then him also probably had something to do with that.

  87. 87
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: He’s older than me. By almost a decade. USAWC students are colonels and senior lieutenant colonels or their Navy equivalents.

  88. 88
    chopper says:

    @JMG:

    daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

  89. 89
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I’ll get to Qatar later today. I’m assuming it will still be there.

    You know what they say about assumptions.

  90. 90
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Okay, so two out of three isn’t so bad.

  91. 91
    MattF says:

    @p.a.: I’m no expert, but religious leaders will always find new rationales for increasing surveillance of sectarian purity. Historically, Saudis have followed Wahhabism for a long time.

  92. 92
    hovercraft says:

    @Corner Stone:
    And when he fucked it up*, which you know he would, they’d’ all put their very disappointed shocked faces.

    *I know that any war with Iran would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child’s play. Persia/Iran is a real nation, not one cobbled together, they are an ancient people/culture and they would all pull together to fight us, they have a real military, Putin would enjoy arming his ally against his puppet and enjoy watching us fight a war we could not win. Can we hit them with a bunch of missiles, of course, but what does that get us?

  93. 93
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    Besides, what would be the point of ISIL attacking Iran when they are fighting for the very survival of their physical caliphate right now?

    The whole region going up in flames would probably serve them well as a nice distraction.

    Not to mention recruiting and infiltration opportunities.

  94. 94
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @westyny: Well, they (may) have the numbers in the Senate. The only explanation I can find is that Mitch McConnell MUST tear down anything good that THAT PRESIDENT did. And his minions in the Senate support him.

  95. 95
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Thank you Adam. Really helpful response. Still, would you venture an explanation or educated guess as how Israel fits with our response? While I’m uncomfortable with Israel’s government becoming more and more right wing and less democratic, I’m not in favor of abandoning Israel. Do you think Iran is as big a threat as Israel claims? Have moderating forces within Iran lessened its threat to Israel?

  96. 96

    @Adam L Silverman: So you think there is no validity to the theory that Saudi Arabia was somehow, someway involved if not completely responsible for the attack? You must admit the timing of the Qatar incident is strange (and yes, I know “timing” does not equal “relationship”, etc, etc). I do bow to your superior professional knowledge…I’m just speculating online as one does. :)

  97. 97
    TenguPhule says:

    @hovercraft:

    Can we hit them with a bunch of missiles, of course, but what does that get us?

    Asymmetrical Warfare. They’d hit back in all sorts of nasty ways.

    And keep in mind that the entire Federal government, including Trump and his family would become legitimate targets for Iran during a war.

  98. 98

    @TenguPhule: True, but as an org with increasingly limited resources who is fighting for their survival, I’m not sure the attack in Iran would be the best use of them. Then again, I’m expecting a very irrational organization to behave rationally, so there’s that.

  99. 99
    hovercraft says:

    @p.a.:
    trade off, you get to preach what you want, keep the masses under control, and we get to loot the treasury. The clerics make sure that there are no attempts to overthrow the “government” , the House of Saud gets to rule.

  100. 100
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    True, but as an org with increasingly limited resources who is fighting for their survival, I’m not sure the attack in Iran would be the best use of them.

    If ISIL can goad Iran into a war with SA and/or get them fully involved in a power play in Iraq, its money well spent. All pressure on them in Syria would fall apart as everyone in the region scrambles to respond to the new lines of engagement.

    Consider it a Hail Mary Pass.

  101. 101

    @TenguPhule: @hovercraft: Also, doesn’t Iran have a VERY large and well trained standing army? Another instance where they are different than Iraq and Afghanistan. One way in which they are similar is their geography, IIRC. The country is large and diverse with some serious mountain ranges. And bordering three former Soviet satellites it would be a piece of cake for Putin to feed them anything they needed to fight us. It would be the height of folly to engage in a war with Iran….but that never stopped us before. /feeling very cynical today

  102. 102
    TenguPhule says:

    @🌷 Martin:

    Why do I have the feeling our idiot President has managed to take the shit hand on both sides of a growing regional religious war? So we’re now fully backing the Saudis against Qatar and Iran and simultaneously trying to fight ISIS.

    Yes.

    How the fuck does that work?

    Very badly for all involved.

  103. 103
  104. 104

    @TenguPhule:

    If ISIL can goad Iran into a war with SA ….

    In which case, ISIL shouldn’t have taken credit. They should have made it look like it was the Saudis.

  105. 105
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    Also, doesn’t Iran have a VERY large and well trained standing army?

    Yep. With terrain advantages and the ability to cripple oil shipments in the gulf.

    Koboyahi Maru scenario in any attack on them.

  106. 106
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    In which case, ISIL shouldn’t have taken credit. They should have made it look like it was the Saudis.

    Iran may still blame the Saudis. Especially if ISIL managed to leave behind evidence showing a link between them.

  107. 107
    hovercraft says:

    @pamelabrown53:
    Bibi and the crazy right wingers he’s in bed with, claim that the deal was a bad deal which made Israel less safe, the funny thing though is that the intelligence people who actually have to keep the country safe and aren’t politicians running for office say the deal is working. Bibi is using the Bush/Rove/Putin playbook, you’re all going to die if you don’t elect me, while steadily taking away the rights and the land of the Palestinian people. He wants to make it impossible for there ever to be a two state solution, he said so in the last election campaign, he no longer believes in a two state solution, which means basically an apartheid state. Problem is the math doesn’t work for them in the long run, even with the people who are having a shit load of kids trying to keep up with the Arabs, there just aren’t enough of them.

  108. 108
    hellslittlestangel says:

    @TenguPhule: … Trump and his family would become legitimate targets for Iran during a war.

    So you’re saying there’s an up side?

  109. 109
    D58826 says:

    @hellslittlestangel: In his infrastructure speech just now no mention of Iran but lots of phrase for the king of SA, the homeland of Wahhabism and it’s violent off-shots. He also performed the magic incantation of radical Islamic terrorism.

    Plus the usual whining about the terrible foreigners.

  110. 110
    Tom says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Given his backing of Marie Le Pen and his trashing of NATO, there’s nor reason to exclude Europe from this list.

  111. 111

    @TenguPhule: Actually seeing on Twitter that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is really pushing the Saudi angle. You might be right! What a clusterf*ck.

    +10 for the Star Trek reference BTW

  112. 112
    TenguPhule says:

    @hellslittlestangel: But of course. There’s a silver lining to every storm cloud.

  113. 113
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    You might be right! What a clusterf*ck.

    You will rarely ever be wrong when you bet on “clusterfuck” in the Middle East.

  114. 114
    hovercraft says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:
    Exactly, Iran would be war on a scale we haven’t seen in decades, their army would nit just drop their weapons and walk away, they are well trained, their leadership has been fighting for 15 years in Iraq. A ground war would never end, just look at the rag band Taliban, the terrain is tough, and as I pointed out an air war would have limited affect, and as the bloodthirsty one said the reprisals would be asymmetrical. You think Iraq is unstable now, just imagine the Middle East on fire from Iran to Lebanon, just think of what that’d do to the price of oil. And you know who else would love to see oil prices skyrocket right now? Putin. So win, win?

  115. 115
    Chris says:

    @hovercraft:

    *I know that any war with Iran would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child’s play. Persia/Iran is a real nation, not one cobbled together, they are an ancient people/culture and they would all pull together to fight us, they have a real military, Putin would enjoy arming his ally against his puppet and enjoy watching us fight a war we could not win. Can we hit them with a bunch of missiles, of course, but what does that get us?

    Not only that, but from what I’ve read, the Iranian security establishment is fully aware that they couldn’t conventionally hold out against the United States, and has spent the last decade or two preparing to fight an asymmetric/guerrilla war in the worst-case-scenario of an American invasion. Based on lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, which they’ve had plenty of chances to observe closely through intelligence officers and advisers embedded right in the middle of both countries’ insurgencies/civil wars.

    Think NATO’s stay-behind-cell idea from the old days, on steroids.

    Imagine fighting an Iraq or Afghanistan type war, against an enemy that had actually planned and trained to do it.

  116. 116
    Jeffro says:

    Comey’s testimony…released in advance, just now?

  117. 117
    Immanentize says:

    @pamelabrown53:
    WWI? I then expect Wonder Woman will solve this.

  118. 118
    hovercraft says:

    @D58826:
    Did you not get the memo, this is Infrastructure Week, the whiner proclaimed it so on Monday. What you’ve missed all the talk about infrastructure this week on TV? For some reason holding up shiny objects for the media isn’t having the effect it used to have. SAD!

  119. 119
    TenguPhule says:

    @hovercraft:

    and as the bloodthirsty one said the reprisals would be asymmetrical.

    I do not thirst for blood. Iron has a metal taste.

  120. 120
    hellslittlestangel says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Wow. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.”

    Trump forgot to add, “Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.”

  121. 121

    @hovercraft: Yes, I agree on all that and Putin’s motivation. That was one of his motivations for wanting Herr Hair in office. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Saudi Arabia and the Russians colluded on this simply to drive the price of oil up. With friends like Saudi Arabia, who needs enemies!

  122. 122
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @pamelabrown53: I think the Iranian leadership, including the Supreme Religious Authority are not suicidal and are able to make rational (with the bounded context of their own culture) decisions. Are they a threat? Yes, but… They will fund groups like Hezbullah and militias in Iraq to further their own objectives. Are they stupid enough to try to attack Israel? No, certainly not directly.

    The problem we have, in government, as well as the think tank world and the media, is that we need to change the way we look at the problem sets. The Syrian Civil War is as much civil war as it is proxy regional war. As is Yemen. And now whatever the hell is going on with Qatar. And there are four contestants for regional hegemony: Israel, Iran, Saudi, and Turkey. The latter three all have a religious overlay to what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing it. So we have both a state based, a non-state, and a combination state based/non-state set of overlapping problems. A great deal of our national security focus is currently wrongly directed and/or conceptualized.

  123. 123
    TenguPhule says:

    @Chris:

    Imagine fighting an Iraq or Afghanistan type war, against an enemy that had actually planned and trained to do it.

    And had at least 20 years to prepare.

    Any General, Admiral or Air Force commander who’s raring to get stuck in Iran should be immediately discharged from the military on the grounds of being a complete moron.

  124. 124

    @TenguPhule:

    Iron has a metal taste

    And blood doesn’t?! Coppery is what I would describe it as.

  125. 125
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    So we have both a state based, a non-state, and a combination state based/non-state set of overlapping problems. A great deal of our national security focus is currently wrongly directed and/or conceptualized.

    And the only winning move is not to play in this sandbox.

  126. 126
    Chris says:

    @TenguPhule:

    I’d say best of luck to that, they’re one of the few remaining parties there that don’t hate our guts for doing stupid and evil shit to them.

    Not only that, but aren’t they among the few in the region who aren’t complete assholes, politically speaking, from a Western POV?

  127. 127
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: I can see that joke just flew right past you.

    /tinkers with Snarker

  128. 128
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: Based on what I’ve seen so far this was an ISIL directed/coordinated op. Right now it is in the Revolutionary Guard’s interest to claim it was Saudi not ISIL. This was a major security breach, which shows that even if it is only a one off that ISIL can get through Iranian security arrangements. By claiming it is Saudi they:
    1) Cover their own tuchases
    2) Denigrate ISIL’s abilities – so this is part of an Information Operations war
    3) Provide internal communication support to the long simmering regional dispute with Saudi.

  129. 129
    TenguPhule says:

    @Chris:

    Not only that, but aren’t they among the few in the region who aren’t complete assholes, politically speaking, from a Western POV?

    Yes. For some strange reason they admired America for its freedom,

  130. 130
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: No, Iran does not have a very large standing army. They have comparatively and relatively small military forces. The most effective are the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. Their war plans are all irregular and asymmetric and focus on using their terrain to their advantage. Whether in the Shat al Arab waterway, the Persian Gulf, or Iran proper.

  131. 131
    TenguPhule says:

    @rikyrah:

    Am watching all of this with dread, because there’s nobody with sense in our Government.

    This is not true.

    There’s plenty of sense in our government.

    Unfortunately the same is not true of the idiots currently in charge of it.

  132. 132
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Or to change the game one is playing using different resources and lines of effort. We have more forms of national power than just military.

  133. 133
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    No, Iran does not have a very large standing army. They have comparatively and relatively small military forces.

    Half a million official troops with a 350,000 reserve is small?

  134. 134
    Chris says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The problem we have, in government, as well as the think tank world and the media, is that we need to change the way we look at the problem sets. The Syrian Civil War is as much civil war as it is proxy regional war. As is Yemen. And now whatever the hell is going on with Qatar. And there are four contestants for regional hegemony: Israel, Iran, Saudi, and Turkey. The latter three all have a religious overlay to what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing it. So we have both a state based, a non-state, and a combination state based/non-state set of overlapping problems. A great deal of our national security focus is currently wrongly directed and/or conceptualized.

    By this, I assume you mean that our national security focus is to see Syria only as a proxy regional war, and not as a civil war or a sectarian war?

  135. 135
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    We have more forms of national power than just military.

    We had.

    Then Trump decided and the GOP went along with the idea that soft power is for losers.

  136. 136
    Jeffro says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Ah, you got there ahead of me, my bad Cheryl

  137. 137
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @hovercraft:
    While I agree that Bibi is using the Bush/Rove et, al playbook., the Israelis really have more to fear. They have always been under siege and IMHO have developed a “siege mentality” where their fear is substituted for rational thought and ideas of how to move forward.

    Anyway, this thread is not about Israel but I don’t see how we apprehend the whole ME picture if we don’t even discuss the elephant in the room.

    As I said up-thread: I’m so distressed that Obama’s TPP was torpedoed by both the left and right. To reiterate: I viewed TPP as an important pivot from the ME to Asia. If we truly made it a national security matter to invest in renewables, we could shrink our ME footprint.

  138. 138
    Jeffro says:

    Looks like the “I expect loyalty” line is going to be the first to burn up the Twitters…

  139. 139
    catclub says:

    @pamelabrown53:

    If we truly made it a national security matter to invest in renewables, we could shrink our ME footprint.

    Ha, ha, but then we would be following the advice of that loser Jimmy Carter,
    Moral equivalent of war, if I remember correctly.

  140. 140
    Peale says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: I know business partners make for weak geopolitical alliances, but come on. Qatar just bought a large stake in Rosneft in January and now Russia decides that its O.K. to ruin Qatar? I mean, the sanctions that made it difficult to sell that stake to anyone are still in place. I know I’m overly focused on that deal, and its tough to do business in Russia. I guess I wouldn’t put it past Russia to take that $10 billion, keep it, distribute it to themselves, and pretend that it never happened so they can sell that asset again. But seriously?

  141. 141
    catclub says:

    @Jeffro: It would be interesting to find out what Trump offers in return for said loyalty? Overcooked Trump steaks? An honorary degree from Trump U?

  142. 142
    Captain C says:

    @pamelabrown53:

    Why do Iran and Russia support Assad?

    Adam and/or others may have put a better answer up above (I haven’t read the whole set of comments yet), but for Iran, it was/is a combination of Shiite solidarity (or at least alliance), as Syria was the only Shiite-ruled (sort of, actually Alawite) Arab state until Shrubya and Cheney’s Grand Adventure in ’03, plust it was a way to keep and use influence in the Arab world. As to Russia, Syria’s been a long-time client state, plus Syria has the Russian Navy’s only warm water port, with Mediterranean access to boot (Tartus). Even though the base is small and kind of decrepit, it’s still a matter of prestige for Russia.

    When I think solely about OUR national security it seems we’d be better served aligning with Iran than the KSA?

    While Iran would be a natural ally for the US (and Israel) for a number of reasons, a) there’s that little matter of the hostages a few years back (plus the other little matter of the coup a few decades before that which set the course for the events which included the hostage-taking) which many Americans haven’t gotten over (it’s about the only thing, I suspect, they could tell you about Iranian history), and b) the US has had a sort of special relationship (read access to and protection of oil) with KSA since about the ’30s or ’40s, so, barring the end of the need for loads of hydrocarbons in the economy, or an open declaration of hostility by the Saudis, that relationship is not going away anytime soon.

  143. 143
    Fleeting Expletive says:

    I don’t want us to forget other possible fronts in this mess. What’s going on with the cyber, and what might be going on with the money. “The Cyber” and “The Money”. Do these ME situations portend/signify/obscure movement on these and other issues among the players?

  144. 144

    @TenguPhule: I haven’t had my caffeine yet and it’s almost noon (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

  145. 145
    Chris says:

    @Captain C:

    When I think solely about OUR national security it seems we’d be better served aligning with Iran than the KSA?

    While Iran would be a natural ally for the US (and Israel) for a number of reasons, a) there’s that little matter of the hostages a few years back (plus the other little matter of the coup a few decades before that which set the course for the events which included the hostage-taking) which many Americans haven’t gotten over (it’s about the only thing, I suspect, they could tell you about Iranian history), and b) the US has had a sort of special relationship (read access to and protection of oil) with KSA since about the ’30s or ’40s, so, barring the end of the need for loads of hydrocarbons in the economy, or an open declaration of hostility by the Saudis, that relationship is not going away anytime soon.

    Along with the fact that, as I mentioned yesterday, aligning with Iran puts you on very much the smaller/weaker side of the Sunni/Shi’a cold war divide.

  146. 146

    @Peale: If the price of oil goes up, Roseneft wins and so does Russia AND Qatar. This recent thing with SA is a flesh wound. Qatar will still profit in the long run.

  147. 147
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Captain C:
    Interesting. Thank you. False borders; false friendships? You reiterated Adam’s point of Russia’s support of Assad’s Syria as realpolitik: Russia gets a warm water port. The ME is to me a Gordian knot.

  148. 148

    @TenguPhule: @Adam L Silverman:

    Iran is ranked 17th overall with total size of army (~913,000 total, 523,000 active), we’re what 7th (2.3 mill total, 1.5 mill active)? That doesn’t sound small to me especially combined with their terrain, their experience, and their planning. It should be enough of a deterrence for us.

  149. 149
    NorthLeft12 says:

    Perhaps this will make some people realize that even in a tightly controlled society, terrorist attacks are impossible to completely stop.
    Yeah, I doubt it too. The fear and anger crowd will always point out more personal freedoms that need to be sacrificed to try and stop terrorism……..or dissent…..or the opposing political parties…..etc.

  150. 150
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Yes, comparatively for the region. And for the overall size of Iran.

  151. 151
    Yutsano says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    You all know I have a sinus infection, right?

    CHICKEN SOUP AND KNAEDLACH TIME!!!

  152. 152
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Half a million official troops with a 350,000 reserve is small?

    That is freaking yooge to this Canuck. Yeah, they have over twice the population that we have and a lot more security challenges than us, but that is a very large army by any measure.

  153. 153
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Yutsano: Just had chicken soup. Going to lie down soon. Have some work to finish up first. Please stop yelling, I have enough of a sinus pressure headache as it is. Thanks!

  154. 154
    Elie says:

    @🌷 Martin:

    Isnt this the chaos that Bannon promised? Yes, Trump makes all these crazy actions, but that works in synchrony with Bannon’s goal for national and international chaos.

    We are so fucked and getting more fucked every day… Not a day goes by that things aren’t getting worse.

  155. 155
    Fair Economist says:

    @Peale:

    Qatar just bought a large stake in Rosneft in January and now Russia decides that its O.K. to ruin Qatar?

    Russia can sell the same stake again. Profit!

  156. 156
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Chris:

    and has spent the last decade or two preparing to fight an asymmetric/guerrilla war in the worst-case-scenario of an American invasion.

    If the US expected to be able to conduct a war just on Iranian soil, you would be dreaming in Technicolor. Europe, the rest of the Middle East, and the continental US would likely see a great deal of violence from Iranian supporters. Someone would have to be nuts to propose military action in Iran. Just nuts.

  157. 157
    Captain C says:

    @hovercraft:

    *I know that any war with Iran would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child’s play. Persia/Iran is a real nation, not one cobbled together, they are an ancient people/culture and they would all pull together to fight us, they have a real military,

    Also, Iran is highly defensible, with lots of mountains. To successfully invade Iran, one would need a) a strong ally on at least one land border (Iraq is a puppet, Afghanistan is chaos, as are Pakistan’s tribal regions), b) an army of at least a million and probably several ~*, plus many thousands of planes, tanks, missiles, and so forth, as well as secure supply lines, c) a willingness to be as merciless (especially with regards to civilians) as Genghis Khan or Tamerlane, and d) some way to make sure that no one else in the region (or the major powers without) objected. We don’t, and won’t have any of this.

    *Size is a very, very rough guess, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t at least in that order of magnitude.

  158. 158
    Captain C says:

    @TenguPhule: Or demoted to private and placed in the projected first wave of attackers.

  159. 159
    Abolfazl RS says:

    ok so i just came here reading about tehran’s attack in the google. and i see the bunch here are kinda interested and sometimes a little confused. so let me tell you how i see things from inside iran. its going to be a little off the topic but i guess i need to start from basic stuff to explain it well.
    this whole thing, Israel , Hezbollah, Assad, Iraq, shia sunni conflicts that iran gets into. they all have but one purpose, proving their worthiness. i know some Christians believe in “return of the jesus” and “son of man” and etc etc. but they don’t do anything for it do they ?… well iranians do.
    Iranians are mostly 12 imam shias. meaning they follow 12 imams after death of prophet muhammad, but the 12th one.. just vanished. they call it the “great absence”. they are waiting for him to arrive again and save the world upon his arrival. they even believe jesus will accompany him too. so they have to prepare the world for his arrival. the 12th, will need loyal soldiers when he arrives, will need to be known by all oppressed people around the world so they trust him for leading them to unity, they have to prove their loyalty and tell the world about his quest. iranians believe he will arrive in a friday so they hold ceremonies every friday begging for the time to come. it’s crazy to think all iran’s reactions is about an absent imam, but it is.
    now after almost 1200 years, shias finally got their power base in iran in 1979, the whole ideology of the iranians is based on 12th imam arrival, their “revolution” is supposed to be preparing the world for the final global revolution. iran’s IRGC is kinda mistranslated, they are actually “Guardians of the revolution” meaning they will guard (and continue) the revolution until “he” arrives. they believe Zionists are aware of this whole thing and are trying to stop them. so they founded hezbollah to fight off Israel in Lebanon and then continued the support to have a leverage in Israel’s backyard.(they also support hamas but since hamas is a sunni movment it’s not always aligned with iran). there are also houthis in yemen who fight their own war to get rid of their former dictator “hadi”. they are not directly funded or founded by iranians but since they are shia and they are also in a fight with saudis iran wouldn’t hesitate to support them behind the scenes.

    in the meantime Saudis became worried about iran’s influence in the arab world trough shia groups.sunni jihadists were first born in Afghanistan to boot soviets out of the region. American plan and Wahhabi(saudi) ideology. but that didn’t stop there, taliban, AQ, ISIS and several other smaller and bigger groups all are fed from the same roots ( even al’nusra in syria). these are the militias mostly involved in middle east today the only other groups that remains are the iraqi militia known as “hashd al shabi” (PMU).
    when saddam invaded iran there were some iraqis who favored shia iran more than dictatorship of saddam, they joined iran and formed “badr” brigade. most of them returned to iraq after the war. when US invaded iraq, former officers of badr brigades formed local groups to fight the americans. they were responsible for most of the road bombs that hit american convoys. they stayed active and fought isis but they weren’t much powerful till 2013, when an iraqi cleric ayatolah sistani called for all the iraqis to join the fight against ISIS. the groups suddenly got wide attention, iran and iraq governments supplied them with all kind of arms and now when the ISIS business is over in iraq, they want to enter syria to help Assad. now why Assad ? because Assad is iran’s only ground way to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. so after all this redundant talks let us review everything.

    1.Iranians vowed to fight the “oppressors” so their 12th imam would rise, thats how they made their revolution in 1979 and overthrew the “oppressor” shah.( they also consider dieing while fighting oppressors the greatest honor since their second imam was killed in such manner when coming to aid of people)

    2. Israel is oppressing Palestinians ( in Iranians View at least) and zionists want to stop the “arrival” process. so israel must be stopped. ( thats also the main reason they cant come along with US, cuz US supports israel and continuously meddles in iran, it gets more funny when you realize Americas biggest problem with iran is their denial of israel )

    3. hezbolah and other mobilization forces should be funded as a mean to fight israel, quds force is responsible for all foreign affairs of IRGC. and as people already said, after doing it for 40 years, they are good at organizing local groups. ( quds is the name of mosque in Jerusalem, kida say all these groups came together for fighting Israel in the end )

    4. syria should not be lost, cuz that means no more support for hezbolah through syria.

    5. the bonus objective is fighting whabbi miltias in iraq and syria (and anywhere else necessary) which will pose a threat to iranian borders and middle east peace if they manage to hold their territories.

    6. saudi should be dealt with in long term since they are constantly annoying iranian supported groups. AND they are the main reason behind rise of extremists ( again these are iranian agenda, i’m not saying they are true or false, just saying how my government thinks)

    now iran is the bad guy if you look at it from US point of view, they cant come along with the only true US ally in the region and they cant let go of that “death to America” chants. to stop iran you should join hands with saudi which is kinda wrong, but at least they are not trying to make a world revolution or something. and not only they won’t try to drop the dollar and endanger US economic and corporations, they also invest their dollars in US and Europe.
    Saudis politics might not be so healthy for their own people, but it’s better to come along with Saudis extremism than to bear iran’s crazy ideas about future of the world.

    P.S: sorry it was too long and off the topic , i felt some people here needed to know whats all these conflicts about.

    P.S2 : about the “death to america”, it’s not as bad as you think it is. i mean it’s more of an slang in persian to say “death to something” my people are not really wishing death for anyone. its meant to express the anger toward US governments actions. i’m not saying they should say it but it doesnt mean what most of people think it does.

    P.S3: since i probably wont check here again, if there was anything you wanted to say please email me at skyy.boyy@yahoo.com. i’ll be happy to help with anything i can.

  160. 160
    ericblair says:

    @Peale:

    know business partners make for weak geopolitical alliances, but come on. Qatar just bought a large stake in Rosneft in January and now Russia decides that its O.K. to ruin Qatar?

    This is what I don’t get if the Russians were supposed to have hacked the Qatari government to stir up trouble. You’d think they’d be backing the Qataris as a friend-of-a-friend at least. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t get what the motivation would be.

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ:

    If the price of oil goes up, Roseneft wins and so does Russia AND Qatar.

    Crude is taking a dump right now, down to $45 and change on the NY market. I assume this tension screws up the oil supply deal OPEC supposedly had going, plus an unexpected rise in stockpiles.

  161. 161
    Captain C says:

    @pamelabrown53: A Gordian Knot made of Kevlar, so you can’t use Alexander the Great’s trick.

    Also, add in Adam’s point somewhere above about Iran using Syria as land access to Lebanon and the Mediterranean.

  162. 162
    Seth Owen says:

    Iran is a big country, with a sizable mllitary sitting on difficult terrain. It could not be defeated for a price we’d be willing to pay.

    Seriously, you’d have to bring back the draft. Does anyone think Trump is popular enough to pull that off?

  163. 163
    TenguPhule says:

    @ericblair:

    I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t get what the motivation would be.

    Cleans up a loose end tied to Trump and gets everyone in the region into conflict.

    Two birds, one stone.

  164. 164
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @TenguPhule: IIRC-‘Were’t they angry at US because Bush I implied US support for them against Sadam after Gulf War I and US didn’t follow through. Many died as a result.

  165. 165
    J R in WV says:

    @pamelabrown53:

    I think one big reason Russia supports Assad/Syria is that they provide Russian Navy a warm-water port in the Eastern Med. Their only other warm-water port in the Black Sea is a long way from free room to maneuver. Past the Turkish military to boot.

  166. 166
    Chris says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    I think you’re thinking about the Shi’a in southern Iraq. Though the Kurds have been abandoned or screwed over by us in the past as well.

  167. 167

    @J R in WV: IIRC what my high school teachers said, the Russian desire for a warm water port has been behind many, if not most, of their aggression throughout history.

  168. 168
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: They also have a thing for girls in Czechoslovakia. Which I can’t say I really blame them for.

  169. 169
    J R in WV says:

    @NorthLeft12:

    “Someone would have to be nuts to propose military action in Iran. Just nuts.”

    So, that means no one in OUR government would ever propose military action against Iran, right?

    Thot so.

  170. 170
    TenguPhule says:

    @Ladyraxterinok:

    Were’t they angry at US because Bush I implied US support for them against Sadam after Gulf War I and US didn’t follow through. Many died as a result.

    Clinton managed to fix that with the no-fly zones which gave them the seed of Kurdistan.

  171. 171
    Camembert says:

    @J R in WV: Russian support for the Syrian regime is overdetermined. Ally with port on the Med, secular regime as bulwark against Islamic political power, counterweight to Turkey, neighbor to Iran and Israel, lack of alternatives.

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