Friday, July 27, 2007

Know Thy Enemy - An Iranian View

It is always instructional to try to look at things from the point of view of you adversary. In that spirit I have been reviewing the news posted on several Iranian news websites. My interest in Iran should be obvious, and you should be interested too, since, without question the Iranians are deeply involved in Iraq, certainly advising, and almost certainly training and arming insurgents who use that knowledge to kill Americans.

  • AP: The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.
  • ... the sophisticated weapons being used against U.S. troops in Iraq “were provided by the Quds Force,” a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
  • Sergeant Grumpy's own post Hezzbollah leaders capture ties Iran to Iraq
  • Milbloggers and military writers in Iraq are beginning to note improved aim, and less spray and pray from the insurgents they confront "They have attacked multiple targets simultaneously, and often target follow-on forces and first responders, such as medical personnel ... Some of their snipers are deadly and elusive. I've taken almost as much accurate machine-gun fire as inaccurate."
But don't take my word for it, here is what the "Supreme" (really, have anything but despots called themselves Supreme?) Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Saturday commemorating the birthday of Imam Ali (the first Imam of Shia Muslims)"The Zionist regime (Israel) and the American government are the main enemies of Iran, and hatred for America is deepening every day around the globe"

On to the Iranian view. Much like the USSR did in the Cold War, Iran sees itself beset by enemies on all sides - America occupies countries to the east and west, the Gulf to the south is dominated by Sunni states, including rival Saudi Arabia (look at the reaction in Iranian press to the Wahhabi Fatwa for the destruction of Shiite's holy sites and shrines.)
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi on Thursday urged Muslims to maintain vigilance to thwart the US and global arrogance conspiracies at regional and international scenes.

"The global arrogance, led by the US, intends to destroy culture of the Islamic nations in line with its ominous goals," he said.
In this view there is a global conspiracy to destroy "Islamic" culture. The logical response to this threat is for Muslim nations to band together in defence. For the Iranians, it is natural that this requires Iranian leadership ("Islamic Revolution" in the following quote.)
Impacts of victory of the Islamic Revolution on international equations are emerging under circumstances that the Muslim world has been turned into an international power against arrogance and enemies.

The end is around the corner and try what they may, the US and its surrogates including Israel are living on borrowed time
Iran also has cause to see itself under assault via covert action on the part of it's enemies:One point made surprised me somewhat, mainly because I haven't heard Islamists speak out against IT.
They wish to cause a change in typical structures and norms of the Islamic nations through information and communications technology (ICT) and military means.
This position aligns with others in the world who view the grip of Hollywood, and the access to information granted via the web as a plot by Washington to destroy local cultures.

So the narrative they tell themselves and attempt to sell to the rest of the Islamic world is that they are reacting in a logical manner in response to a real and pervasive threat to their religion, cultural heritage and way of life. Iran (in this narrative) is taking the lead in confronting the Arrogant West.
The geographic heart of the Islamic world is in Mecca and Medina. But, the political heart of the Islamic world is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is beloved among the Muslim nations and the Islamic Iran will strongly continue its way with the mottos of justice and people loving.
The ultimate goal is to "to turn the Muslim world into an international power through the next 50 years." Some advantages Iran notes this power has:
  • 1.35 billion population
  • 70 percent of the world's known oil resources and 48 percent of gas reservoirs are located in Islamic states (note the Iranian use of Islamic vice Muslim)
Of course, this largely ignores the Shia/Sunni schism that al-Qaeda is doing it's level best to aggravate. This is no small issue for Muslim society. It is entirely possible that a US exit from Iraq, coupled with al-Qaeda's murderous agenda, and Iranian-backed Shia death squads could plunge the area into an Islamic Civil War akin to the 30 Years War Christendom suffered in Europe.

Regarding their Nuclear program, Iranian news is at pains to show that Iran is in fact the victim of nuclear encirclement as well, and the development of a nuclear program (they will not say weapon until they detonate one) is purely logical from a perspective of self defense. Aside from the obvious nuclear threat from the US, Britain, France, and Russia there are nuclear programs being developed in Israel and Saudi Arabia. From the headlines of Iran Daily:
  • Saudi Arabia’s Secret Nuclear Program Exposed
  • Americans Helping Israel’s Nuke Plans
So what should we conclude from this? A few things - Iran is a State actor that sees itself as the ascendant leader of the Islamic World. Iran is not going to be intimidated, or made to cave in to pressure. That would violate their narrative. Iran will likely seek non-military confrontation with the West in order burnish these credentials. And while the US maintains forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran will seek to arm and train the insurgencies there, for good reason. It frustrates US plans, and it also allows Iranian agents to build networks and relationships to be leveraged later in the future struggles to topple Muslim regimes not in line with the messianic vision of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran would not likely move to attack the West outside of the Middle East, at least not while they attempt to consolidate the Muslim world to their particular banner of Islam. That of course is not to say that Iran wouldn't build intelligence networks in Europe and the US, along with "sleeper cells" for use in any future conflict with the West.

How to deal with Iran? Many of the best minds are working on this, and I can't hope to be more articulate than them - Google the web for their thoughts. But one thing is clear to this Soldier - the Iranians do not respect restraint, it only emboldens them. Doing nothing is not an option.

However, because Iran is a State it is interested in self-preservation and therefore is more like the Soviet Union than al-Qaeda, and there is room for firm negotiations, just as with the USSR. And Iran is anti-Wahhabi and may be worked with to oppose al-Qaeda and it's ilk. (In fact al-Qaeda recently threatened to attack Iran.) It has been widely reported that Iran was prepared to help fight al-Qaeda and was rebuffed by the neocons in the Administration. Quite possibly Iran can be contained and co-opted, given the right mix of threat of force and incentive for cooperation. Or, if we navigate this challenge poorly, we could end up in a 3-way US-Iran-Sunni Islamist fight. Either course of events promises to be difficult and historic.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mission First

Recently we finally received our mission.

For those who haven't served, your mission is what you and your unit's every activity revolves around.
mission [mish-uhn] -noun from the Latin missum (English: sent), is a specific task with which a person or group has been charged.
For a while now, we haven't had a mission. Yes, we knew we were being mobilized, and who we were being attached to, and what the general mission was. But there was an ever growing list of what our specific mission might be. In fact that list had grown from 3 to 5, then 7, 8, and finally 9. This is unusual. There certainly was plenty of questioning as to what a Guard unit could handle. Some of us were hoping for a rather sensitive mission, and there was some logic to it - after all none of our Active Duty counterparts are also civilian Police Officers. But the reality is we were never seriously in the running.

<aside>Police Officers who serve in the Guard are a significant asset when it comes to the conduct of any type of human intelligence operations. Especially if they have been beat cops. They are far more effective than the HUMINT operators the Army is trying to mass-produce from 18 year old kids.</aside>

In the end the mission we have been given is a good one, one we can sink our teeth into, and one if done well, with seriousness and professionalism can make a difference, even if it is just one small piece of the puzzle. As with much of life, it is what you make of it. Not that it won't be hard, and probably have its moments of horror, but it is ours.

Now that we have our mission, we can progress from general training and preparation for deploying to Iraq to specific research, planning, and training. It will also be the cause for some reorganization of the unit, "task organizing" in Army parlance, and we will probably lose a few of the guys who we have been training with since JRTC back in June.

I expect my own focus will become narrower, and I will have less time to follow the vapid and increasingly nasty debates over the war, much of it detached from the on the ground reporting.

It is sometime depressing to think I and my kind sacrifice for the Freedoms of such blithering idiots (again both sides: from those who are blindly anti-war, apologists for mass murders as long as they are anti-US; to those who advocate "nuken 'em" as every answer, or deny global warming simply because it is a cause of the left.) But at the end of the day I have to believe in the basic goodness of the average American, both because I have seen it, and because it gives the fight meaning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good week of training

I'll share a little more detail on what I've been up to of late. The last week has been nothing but range time and tactics training - exactly what a Soldier lives for. Outside on a firing range for 12-16 hours, or driving like mad men thru a fake city guns at the ready. Good stuff.

We spent a full day zeroing our rifles and sites, then zeroing our night sites. That can be fairly dull, but it is always good to review the basics of rifle marksmanship, and since we had new heavier barrels put on our rifles, they needed to be zeroed so we hit what we are aiming at.

Then we spent a few days firing the M2 .50 caliber ("Ma-Deuce") and the M240 7.62mm (this replaced the M60 for all you older vets.)

We fired first from static positions, mounted on vehicles, and simulating being engaged from the side.

Why tell you all this? Well, I was having a late night conversation with our XO, a great man we all have a lot of faith in, and we touched on the topic of preparedness. Now, we had been imbibing a little, and as happens that can make some of us (okay all of us) wax philosophical, but the question he put to us was do we feel well trained, well equipped, and well prepared for our mission.

As we answered, everyone had to more or less agree:

  • our equipment shortages are mostly closed, and there are good plans to address the rest
  • we have been getting some excellent training to address all our tactical skills
  • we've really come together as a team, from a band of strangers at JRTC
  • the remaining training lined up for us is exactly the kind of training we have hoped we would get
  • our Ops Sergeant has proven he will move heaven and earth to get us the training we need
Despite everything we feel ready for the task ahead, and their are many combat veterans among us who agree. Time will tell.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just a simple update.

This is a short update - I have been working my a$$ of at a MOUT site built for the 101st. Gotta give the 101st respect, but at the same time they are no longer a real Airborne unit - the 101st doesn't jump. So.... I am going on leave Friday to see my family, don't expect to hear too much from me then. BUT, I will respond to Paul, you are right and I won't disagree with you that it was Bush, not the the Dems, who got us into this mess, didn't listen to his military leaders, and, while winning the war f'd up the occupation.

However, those are all sunk costs. What we need to look at as is where we go next. I have an opinion, but in fact no matter what Congress decides I am pretty sure I will be there anyways. But we have to look at the present situation and decide which course provides the best benefit to the Nation. We should not be trying to minimize losses or worried about what other nations think, we should focus ondesireable outcomes. Kosovo was an "illegal" war, but no except the far right was upset about it. We need to look at where we are, and what the consequences are for pulling out.

A wise man once said - "the military doesn't make policy decisions". That is true. Do I want to go to Iraq, hell no. Do I want my son and daughter to have to deal with the consequences of our failure there? Hell no. So I am off to Iraq.

BTW, I have gotten a few requests for a picture, so here it is.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Absurdity of the week

Rant: We have been working pretty hard this week - on the order of 14-16 hours a day. Now, this isn't a problem in and of itself, because one of the causes is that we have some good training lined up. But yesterday we were forced to endure a 90 minute status meeting that started at 1600! 90 f'in minutes for a status meeting of a team of 20 Soldiers. WTF. Anyone who has worked with me knows how much this would drive me crazy. And again today we almost missed dinner chow because a few oxygen bandits wanted to hear themselves talk.

A few choice quotes from meetings like this:

  • "I know it goes without saying, but ..." if it goes without saying, then shut the hell up!
  • "I know the Sergeant Major just said this, but I want to reiterate ..." the Sergeant Major just said it, we all heard it and clearly so did you, so shut the hell up!
  • "I don't really have anything to added to that." (but then you proceed to restate exactly the same points that the person before you just said) Shut the hell up!
  • "Yada, yada, yada", "Excuse me chief, Sergeant Hammer just covered that.","Umhhh, oh, well then can you restate what the resolution was, I wasn't paying attention"Rrrrrrrrgghhhh!
  • Ah! Yeah. It's just we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that'd be great.OK, maybe I slipped into a daydream at this point, but PLEASE shut the hell up!

Absurdity II
"Democratic leaders engineered passage of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008. The measure envisions a limited residual force to train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and fight al-Qaida and other terrorists."
This is the same Congress that unanimously confirmed General Petraeus, promised to give him the support he needed, and heard him say he would need until September to report back on the progress his approach would make. For those who have never experienced it, this is called being set up for failure.

As I've written before, there are indications that progress is being made, but no one in Iraq is going to be motivated to follow through on these glimmers of hope if they see that we, America, are going to abandon them to the thugs who would terrorize them.

It is true that Iraqis want us to leave, who would want their country to be occupied? Well the Bosnians for one, and many Rawandans, and Sudanese I would guess. Many groups who were fighting US troops even last year have turned on al-Qaeda.

I was standing there with Abu Ali, with American soldiers and 1920s people milling all around. We had certainly killed a lot of his people, and the 1920s certainly had killed many American soldiers. During severe fighting with al Qaeda in April 2007, the 1920s reached out to American soldiers, and together they have been dismantling al Qaeda here in Baqubah and other places.

Al Qaeda’s ultimate failure in much of Anbar and now in parts of Diyala relates back to one of the pillars of success—or failure—in this war: Values.
-Michael Yon

Discuss amoungst yourselves.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Needles and blood.

Time for another update - I've had some time off for the 4th Holiday and been off the grid for a while.

This week we are doing a lot of medical training. Not your old school CTT stuff, training you could even use hiking or playing sports. Today's training is, as you would hope, much more focused on traumatic injuries and dealing with providing care under fire. I hate this training even though it is critical, mostly because I have a pretty visual memory and I find myself thinking about standing over my best buddy watching him die while while I scramble to try to save him with the little training I have. That, more than anything, is my biggest fear.

Part of our training is to practice giving each other IVs, and it can be humorous to watch guys fish around in another's arm trying to hit a vein. I don't enjoy doing this because I always seem to get the shakes right as the needle is going in. I manage to get it in the vein (most of the time) and not inflict (too much) pain on my practice partner. We do have dummy arms we can practice on, but everyone agrees they are no substitute for a living person.

So we all ended the day with a few extra holes in our arms. The best part of learning this is when we are hung over - we can just stick each other to rehydrate rather than trying to drink lots of water.

So angry

Today I just don't know how to reconcile my anger over the atrocities committed by our enemies with the fact that most Americans want us to up and leave and allow mass slaughter to occur.

There has been consistent reporting that things have and are changing for the better in Anbar, Baquba (North of Baghdad) and Babil (South of Baghdad.) But instead of focusing on these successes, where does the media focus? On those towns where al-Qaeda has now run to since they can't stand up to us or the Iraqi forces. Yes, if we focus on securing Baghdad, it, by definition, means that if more vulnerable towns are attacked, we can't protect them. That is the way it works, and that represents a major change in tactics, although most people can't appreciate that.

I've hesitated from writing much about recent events in Baquba, since they are simply too disturbing for most people, but if you want to read what has been happening, on the ground, from one of the few reporters actually with the troops during the ongoing Arrowhead Ripper, read Michael Yon's dispatches.Warning: While true, these reports are graphic and disturbing

Congress is calling for a change in strategy, but that has already occurred. I didn't leave my wife and kids to have the rug pulled out from under us. There is a significant change in our tactics, and if you can't see it, that is only because you haven't don't your homework.

I simply can't reconcile the desire to leave Iraq with the desire to intervene in Darfur, or the intervention in both Bosnia and Kosovo (I served in Bosnia and have heard the horrible stories and seen the killing fields, nonetheless I am proud that America was able to stop the genocide there.) But if we leave Iraq, there will be a massive civil war on the scale to make Rwanda look like little league killings.

We are making progress in bringing people to our side, here is a quote from an insurgent who is now working with us to hunt and kill al-Qaeda:

“I ask one thing,” and now I paraphrase Ali’s words: “After the Iraqi Army and Police take hold and the security forces are ready, we want a schedule for the leaving of the American forces.”
This is not unreasonable, and shows it possible to defeat al-Qaeada, AND leave Iraqi. As Michael Yon points out, Iraqis are finally starting to understand that we aren't there for their oil, and we certainly aren't there for their land.
The people we are fighting are nearly inhuman - if you dare say one man's terrorist is anther's freedom fighter, I will beat you down... There is nothing that justifies killing children because they run to American troops, cooking children and feeding them to their parents, decapitating little kids in front of their parents because they didn't support al-Qaeda. It makes me want to throw up, the more I read about the way al-Qaeda has targeted Iraqi children, the more I want to go fight.

If you are the type of person who gets upset over Abu-Gharib or Guantanamo, ask yourselves why is it you aren't bothered by the brutality of our enemies? People have criticized the U.S. for not being more active against Nazi Germany when the Holocaust was evident, but most of you are willing to abandon the Iraqi people. How do we respond to this kind of intolerance?

Evil must be confronted, through every means necessary. Sometimes that will include the use of force, no matter how repugnant that may be to some people.
"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truths have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
-R.A. Heinlein
And lastly a quote for all those in the country that feel free to criticize without actually risking anything themselves. What gives you the right? Because you won the lottery and were born American? Look in the mirror and answer to yourself what you have done to earn that blessing.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, July 2, 2007

Atlantis Pays a Visit

Well, it is past time for an update. Since arriving at Ft Campbell, KY we have been taking it rather slow (other than PT, which is kicking my a$$.) =0 Our higher HQ has given everybody two long weekends in a row, and most of our work time has been spent checking our equipment and getting our work areas set up. The barracks they have us in aren't too bad for the Guard, although I am surprise active duty soldiers would live in them. I guess that is why they are moving into a brand new facility.

The grounds are actually really nice - there are a lot of trees in the area. There are several rows of trees in the parade ground and in between the buildings. They add a real restful touch to the place. Then you realize each tree was planted for a fallen Trooper, so it has the feel of hallowed ground, especially in the still of the early morning. It certainly makes you think, and feel that you are in the company of the spirits of heroes.

So right now we run alot, do a lot of driving training, convoy training, etc. Go out on the weekends. (Speaking of which we found a brew-pub in town that makes great Black and Tans.) Next week we will start spending a lot of time at the ranges, which is always good.

Got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis today, which was unexpected - apparently it was being ferried back to Cape Canaveral and stopped here because the weather was bad there. Not something you see every day.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hezzbollah leaders capture ties Iran to Iraq

News media is reporting that a senior Hezzbollah special operations officer, Ali Mussa Daqduq, was captured in Iraq in March.

Intelligence officials say Daqduq is one of Hezbollah's top special operations commanders, an expert in the use of roadside bombs. The Americans say he, along with the Iraqi militia commanders he worked with, has admitted working with Iran's elite Quds Force special operations unit.
Well now there's a surprise!

The Quds Force is an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in other words an organ of the Iranian government. Some will question whether any in Tehran are really directing them to conduct operations in Iraq.

But, Iran does not even officially acknowledge the existence of the Qods Force!

Really? Does that pass any sanity test? If one of our paramilitary organizations, say the CIA, was killing people in a foreign country would you be willing to say that the government in Washington is not to blame? People who are inclined to believe Tehran is innocent would be screaming for the President's head. That's called being a hypocrite.

Vignette of change - Haifa Street

Haifa street near the Green Zone in Baghdad has come to symbolize the futility of America's efforts in Iraq as a whole. Right outside the safety of the Green Zone, the insurgents controlled a major street. American and Iraqi forces would clear it one day, and the insurgents would take it right back.

Here is a NY Times video from January. The fighting that night was described as "some of the most intense fighting of the nearly four-year-old war, a 10-hour-long firefight involving almost 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops along Haifa Street in central Baghdad, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency."

Today, Haifa street tells a different story, one that shows what GEN Petraeus's tactics can accomplish, if given enough time and troops. Other COIN experts have been saying the same thing - we are finally executing the right plan, hopefully not too late.

Whether we can will it, given where we are as a Nation is another matter. You decide.