February 26, 2008

Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS): Strengthening the Alliance

"When the U.S. decided to take action against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Canberra’s response was to send in the cream of Australia’s military, the SAS. Modeled on the British SAS and feared by potential enemies, little was known of Australia’s Special Forces, the Australian Government has been secretive of there operations..."

For nearly 100 years, Australia has committed its armed services in every major conflict fought by the United States. Its foreign policy makers and its people have mostly accepted that the U.S. is a force for good; a force that historically we have wanted to be associated with. Beginning in 1908 when Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin successfully invited Teddy Roosevelt to send his fleet to visit our shores through to the fighting in WW1. From when John Curtin turned our military operations over to U.S. General Douglas Macarthur during WWII, through to Vietnam and presently, Afghanistan and Iraq - some 50,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam.

Under the Anzus Treaty, Americans are committed to respond to an attack on Australia and vice versa. Following 9/11, the Howard Government invoked Anzus under clause iv which states,

“Each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
It is interesting that the attacks in NYC, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania were outside the Pacific forum however, the wording of Anzus made little difference, there was universal intent for the two allies to assist each other. Hence, Anzus which begun as a regional pact has evolved to a global one.

When the U.S. decided to take action against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Canberra’s response was to send in the cream of Australia’s military, the SAS. Modeled on the British SAS and feared by potential enemies, little was known of Australia’s Special Forces, the Australian Government has been secretive of there operations, the personal and intensive training methods; something that proved valuable in operations.

In relation to matters technology and skill levels, the U.S. views many of its allies as being somewhat backward, the exception being the U.K thus for Australia, the Afghanistan operation, known as Anaconda provided an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of its own special forces, which were up to worlds best practice, highest state of readiness, in possession of there own equipment and superbly trained. Anaconda proved just how enormously capable the Australian SAS is, and represented another defining moment in the history of the U.S. – Australia alliance; in that single operation the SAS saved the U.S. a significant loss of troops. Former U.S. Secretary of State and Special Forces officer himself, Richard Armitage and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, also a decorated former soldier noted that the regiment is as good as any such formations the world, said Armitage,

“The Australian SAS are shit-hot and our people love to work with them.”
Added Lieutenant-General Frank Hagenbeck in a television interview “The Australian SAS are shit-hot and our people love to work with them.” Added Lieutenant-General Frank Hagenbeck in a television interview,
The Australian SAS displayed those kinds of things that make them elite, in my view, of small-unit infantrymen throughout the world … that’s autonomy, independence, tenacity that they will never be defeated.”
The Australian SAS is a somewhat diverse soldier to that of a U.S. Special Forces unit member. Being trained for a more traditional role of patrol and long-range reconnaissance with an emphasis on independence and endurance together with core tasks including recovery, counterterrorism, and offensive operations making them highly capable when infiltrating behind enemy lines and/or to undertake covert operations for extended periods. The typical Australian SAS is a leaner mass than his American equal and is trained to endure on little for very long periods. The other notable difference relates to technology. Whilst the Australians both possess and value both Hi-tech tools and support systems, the focus is more so on the soldier, not the gear – as we shall see, this factor weighed heavily during Anaconda. It is not suggested that this makes them better, just different.

The operation took place in February 2002 and involved some two-thousand coalition soldiers. It was designed to crush the enemy, (in this case Taliban elements and al-Qaeda fighters) between converging coalition forces in Shahikot Valley. At one stage, it went horribly wrong, in order to illustrate the role of the SAS, the following description represents the basic sum and substance of the operation.

From the onset the enemy area was pounded from the air by U.S. jets, but unknown to coalition forces at the time, this proved largely ineffective due to the many tunnels and caves for the fighters to shelter in. When U.S. helicopter borne troops arrived there was some intense skirmishes, those not killed would escape through the many tracks leading to where Australian troops were waiting. The Afghan vehicles broke down and a convoy became separated, soon the enemy, being more capable and larger than expected attacked hard. A U.S. helicopter sent in to assist had to back off due to intense enemy fire and in doing so; a U.S. soldier fell from it and was immediately shot. More U.S. helicopters arrived on the scene but two were shot down resulting in the deaths of six troops and dozens wounded. A rescue mission was called off as 36 U.S. soldiers found themselves isolated, surrounded and under attack by a powerful Taliban force that greatly outnumbered them. It would not be till nightfall that a new rescue mission would be mounted.

This is where the Australian SAS mission became critical. High in the mountains above, in extremely harsh environmental conditions; conditions that we humans are not supposed to survive in, with frozen water bottles and suffering altitude sickness, the SAS patrols had entrenched themselves long before to gain an overview of the battle. With there instrumentation they could not only see the Americans in the valley, but also the enemy, who were now quickly advancing in for the kill. From there mountaintop hideaway the SAS team reported a looming disaster to the coalition command tent. Fortunately, throughout the many hours that followed the SAS called in very precise and successful American air strikes to engage the enemy thus frustrating their attempts to approach the trapped U.S. soldiers.

The operation demonstrated that technology had limitations, the hostile conditions made it difficult for U.S. spy planes to see the enemy sufficiently well to guide the bombers and the dense fog in the Shah-i-Kot valley rendered the Predator surveillance drones ineffective. That meant an SAS observation team was to play a crucial role in saving a platoon of US Rangers. The incredibly fit and highly trained SAS unit did a remarkable job, accurately directing U.S. firepower and in doing so, a human tragedy was averted.

Indeed, there were other very significant contributions. At the onset of the Iraqi invasion, with there speed, weaponry, mobility, they swept across the desert, identifying targets for the Americans and destroying Saddam’s command and control structure. Significantly, they seized the huge Al Asad airfield, the second largest airbase in Iraq and with it discovered and grounded Fifty-five Soviet built Migs and seized eight million kilogram of explosives. President Bush expressed gratitude to our leaders, as it was learned that the SAS removed the threat of Iraqi strikes on Israel having also knocked out Scud missile launchers in the desert. It is perhaps to this that former Israeli Prime minister Ehud Barak referred to when commenting on the Australian SAS’s successes.

The remarkable feats may have also influenced U.S. defense policy in relation to their own special forces. Said Greg Sheridan,
“The decision announced in the 2006 U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review to vastly increase U.S. Special Forces almost certainly owes something to the example of the Australians, for whom the Americans come to have the highest regard. In terms of the alliance, Iraq drew the Australian and U.S. militaries very much closer together.”
The SAS involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has fundamentally altered the relationship between the two militaries; today American commanders give the Australian contingent great operational priority. As U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General James Mattis wrote,
“We Marines would happily storm hell itself with your troops on our right flank.”
Finally, for those who see the praise as nothing short of apple-polishing, let’s envision the following act. Once again, Greg Sheridan:
“It’s a peaceful image from Afghanistan just after Anaconda. The battle is over … the dead are being mourned. A large group of U.S. soldiers is lined up at the mess for food. It’s a fairly sound rule in life not to get between a soldier and his food but this day some very strange happens. A few Australian SAS men arrive and join the food queue. Suddenly the marines recognize them and the food line breaks up, the Australians are applauded and ushered to the front of the food queue to be served first. In its way, this is as eloquent a testimony as ever you could find.”
The total current Australian commitment in Afghanistan is approximately 1000 personnel.

Reference: Sheridan Greg. 2006, 'The Partnership: The inside story of the U.S.-Australian Alliance under Bush and Howard', University of NSW Press Ltd, Sydney, pp. 40-56

Feel free to comment

February 23, 2008

Dallas Police Department Website Hacked

"The alliance system lead by America is, for all intensive purposes our international security system, one that nurtures peace and prosperity for all nations, indeed for the whole planet. Which other nation or nation collective can give us this. "

The Dallas Police Department Website was shut down Monday after it was hacked resulting in political rhetoric in the form of an anti-American rant nature, being posted on the site. Also posted were doctored images displaying U.S. troops looking over four people lined up against a wall.

I have stumbled upon some sites claiming that Russians were responsible, to date however, I am unable to find any credible news sites to confirm this.

Sott.net has a reprint (with corrections to spelling and grammar) of the screenshot that reads:

'You, Americans, are really stupid if you can't see what really occurs in the world and in your country! You society is ruled through and through. You are under the control of religious fanatics! Your children kill each other at schools! You're so selfish that you can't soberly estimate events! You are attacking the peaceful countries worldwide and you think that this is necessary! Open your eyes!”

Conspicuously, the hack coincided with imminent visits by Presidential hopefuls as all eyes to Texas for the next wave of voting.

They just do not get it, do they? Allow me...

For all that, the concept of American hegemony stands for, it does not imply that it stands above international law, more exactly since the United States has been given such wondrous affluence and plentitude; it naturally has many constraints and obligations. Moreover, whilst most outside of America hate to admit it, this is an undisputable fact. The alliance system lead by America is, for all intensive purposes our international security system, one that nurtures peace and prosperity for all nations, indeed for the whole planet. Which other nation or nation collective can give us this.

Thanks to Brian over at, Another war-on-terror Blog for posting about this; I loved his line: "People around the world are computer-savvy, so between efforts by Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Berkeley, we'd better get used to seeing this sort of thing.”

Ah yes Berkeley; would seem, the sixties haven't ended in that part of the world.

Comments welcome...

February 21, 2008

Satellite hit but was the toxic fuel tank?

When you have hundreds of ballistic missiles at your deposal as Putin and Hu have, it does not take Einstein to figure out that a missile defense system is easily surmounted in a real conflict.

The Pentagon tells us that it has destroyed its malfunctioning spy satellite with an interceptor missile; an SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific.

Said the statement, "A network of land, air, sea and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the earth's atmosphere," adding, "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours,".

This raises a question of vast military consequence; here we have the Pentagon stating that it will not know for 24 hours whether the toxic fuel tank was ruptured. Under these circumstances we can accept this, after all, it is only a satellite. Fast forward to real combat, would military decision makers have 24 hours available to confirm whether a target was hit? The clear answer is no, in fact, there would only be minutes to spare at best; minutes to decide whether to launch a new salvo in the event of failure.

This in turn raises further questions, missile interceptors are very costly highly advanced articles, just how many defense interceptors of the SM-3 mixture does the U.S. have at its disposal, 50, perhaps 100? We know that Raytheon won a $1 billion contract for 75 Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missiles for the United States earlier this month at that price, resources must surely be limited in the event of conflict.

So when the Russians, who at best will have some 400-500 nuclear warheads by 2020, or the Chinese with perhaps 600 missiles at present, remonstrate about U.S. missile defenses how serious can we take them. When you have hundreds of ballistic missiles at your deposal as Putin and Hu have, it does not take Einstein to figure out that a missile defense system is easily surmounted in a real conflict.

As Richard Fernandez wrote at Pajamas, “The real motives for shooting down NROL-21 are probably simple: to validate the performance of an ABM system against a realistic target. As Wired notes, “the SM-3 missile that’s supposed to do the job is at the heart of the most successful component of the American missile-defense program; unlike other, less reliable interceptors, the SM-3 has hit its targets in 11 of its last 13 tests.” Here’s a chance to see if it works for real.”

Let us hope this attempt results in nothing short of unqualified success, nonetheless, although missile defense systems remain an imperative, let us hope they get more affordable.

Comments welcome

February 20, 2008

Presidential Candidates and Castro’s resignation

"It's very clear that there's a transition underway from Fidel Castro to some other form of government. Unfortunately, at the moment, that form of government is not an elected democracy..."

Both McCain and Obama urged the release of political prisoners, Clinton called for democratic reform in Cuba, which Huckabee says, will not be possible until Castro is dead.

Presented are the Candidate reactions:

Barack Obama…

“Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba’s history. Fidel Castro’s stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.

“Cuba’s future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime. The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past. It’s time for these heroes to be released.

“If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring Americans together.”

Hillary Clinton…

“As you know, Fidel Castro announced that he is stepping down as Cuba’s leader after 58 years of one-man rule. The new leadership in Cuba will face a stark choice—continue with the failed policies of the past that have stifled democratic freedoms and stunted economic growth—or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we.

“I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward towards the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms. The people of Cuba yearn for the opportunity to get out from under the weight of this authoritarian regime, which has held back 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas. The new government should take this opportunity to release political prisoners and to take serious steps towards democracy that give their people a real voice in their government.

“The American people have been on the side in the Cuban people’s struggle for freedom and democracy in the past and we will be on their side for democracy in the future.

“As President, I will engage our partners in Latin America and Europe who have a strong stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and who want very much for the United States to play a constructive role to that end. The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba.

“The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo’s declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a President with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America’s values and interests around the world. I will be that President.”

John McCain

"Today's resignation of Fidel Castro is nearly half a century overdue. For decades, Castro oversaw an apparatus of repression that denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship.

"Yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections.

"Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when - not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough."

Mike Huckabee

“The Cuban people deserve nothing less than free and fair elections which would provide the only hope for a prosperous and democratic Cuba. Until Fidel Castro is dead there can be no significant movement towards reform in Cuba. Raul Castro has proven that he’s as much a tyrant and dictator as his brother Fidel. Simply providing more power to another dictator does nothing to promote freedom and democracy to the Cuban people.”

Other views:

Says Aurora at The Midnight Sun, “A Marxist is a Marxist and you know what to expect; totalitarian control, poverty for the masses and equal repression for all…” read more

Says Ken Taylor at TheLiberal Lie the Conservative truth, “By handing power over to Raul offically while he is still alive, Fidel has insured that Communism will still rule as well as the Castros remaining in absolute power”... read more

Michelle Malkin reminds us that the U.S. trade embargo will remain…read more

U.S. State Department, "It's very clear that there's a transition underway from Fidel Castro to some other form of government. Unfortunately, at the moment, that form of government is not an elected democracy. So we remain hopeful that the Cuban people will one day be able to elect their leaders; that they will one day be able to actually build democratic institutions that serve the needs of the people and that reflect the will of the people. And more immediately, that you will see a day where political prisoners, who are being held in Cuban jails only for speaking their minds, will be released." see video below



More accurately, where only talking of a succession not a transition, in fact, one that took place some time ago and, I might venture to suggest, there is nothing to indicate a move to democracy. Its 11 million people are plagued by low levels of disposable income and very high prices in a command economy with a single party system; hardly anything to get excited about. So where to for Cuba now? I foresee a gradual opening of its economy but with rigid political check; the early China model.

Over to you

February 18, 2008

Moderate Muslims, Wherefore Art Thou?

"What percentage of a culture’s population can hold views that are completely at odds with the culture’s foundational reference points before said culture is irretrievably lost? 15%? 21%? 32%?" ... "Before it’s too late, Western nations should be asking themselves: with moderates like these, who needs extremists?"

When observing the cultural existential struggle of the age, it’s hard not to be reminded of the story of the emperor who had no clothes: the citizens were all afraid to be the first to speak up and say something wasn’t right, so they all agreed that the emperor’s clothes were the finest they’d ever seen when he was, in fact, quite obviously, naked. It’s clear our society is in a bit of trouble, but people can’t even talk about it without the same sort of fear felt by the naked emperor’s subjects.

We all know that dangerous jihadists have been found in Brampton and Birmingham, Dallas and Dearborn. This is indisputably factual. We are told, however, that instead of viewing this as a serious problem as common sense would suggest, these are insignificant ‘isolated incidents,’ far less worthy of concern than, for example, the global temperature increasing by 0.7 degrees Celsius over the next half-century. To go against the conventional wisdom on this is to be called an alarmist, or, better still, a ‘bigot’ or a ‘racist.’ ‘Every bushel has a few bad apples. The vast majority of Muslims are actually quite moderate,’ is what we’re told by way of consolation. This leaves us with the question: who are these moderate Muslims, and how much cause for comfort do they really provide us?

In the first place, I’m sure there were plenty of ‘moderates’ in, say, Japan, Italy and Germany in the 1930’s, but they don’t seem to have done themselves or anybody else much good. And remember the 9-11 widows who protested the Bush Doctrine with signs that read NOT IN OUR NAME? Good for them. But the next time Christians are harassed, jailed or murdered by Islamic mobs and/or governments in Egypt, Afghanistan, Thailand, Sudan, Nigeria etc., would it be too much to ask a few ‘moderate Muslims’ to walk down Main Street holding signs that read NOT IN OUR NAME? If so, Why? No, it is only possible to see the Western world as brimming with ‘moderate Muslims’ if we first profoundly lower the bar when it comes to our definition of moderation, to the point where anyone who’s not a card-carrying al-Qaeda member is a ‘moderate.’

I used to work in a warehouse that was, coincidentally, a half hour drive from the place where Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her father for refusing to wear a hijab. Some of my co-workers were friendly moderate Muslims, so I engaged them in a debate. It didn’t take too long to hit a brick wall; the tone became a little ‘edgy,’ and the conversation started going in circles. To save time I said, “Let’s cut to the chase: do you think the Holocaust actually happened?” The moderate fellow shrugged and said, “Who can say? The Jew says six million, but other experts say 30 000, so who knows? And anyhow, isn’t the ‘Occupied Territories’ situation a far worse crime etc. etc.” A few follow-up questions revealed more dismaying sentiments. My anecdotal evidence is backed up by statistics and numerous opinion polls: significant and growing numbers of Canadian and British ‘moderate Muslims’ think:

  1. The Holocaust is a myth/exaggeration,
  2. ‘The Jew’ is the real culprit behind 9-11, and
  3. Sharia is at least as valid as British common law.
Just last week the papers revealed an embarrassing bureaucratic snafu. The Canadian government says polygamy is a criminal affront to our way of life, yet somehow Toronto had been paying out higher welfare benefits to ‘moderate Muslims’ who were claiming multiple wives as dependents. Oops! I’m sure ‘proper steps’ will be taken, but hey, in a culture where ‘multiculturalism’ and anything-goes relativism are the highest virtues, how dare we claim the moral authority to say polygamy and treating women as soulless chattel are inferior to any other modes of behavior anyhow? As Emily Dickinson presciently warned, “The abdication of Belief makes the Behavior small.”

What percentage of a culture’s population can hold views that are completely at odds with the culture’s foundational reference points before said culture is irretrievably lost? 15%? 21%? 32%? Anybody? Once released, genies are notoriously reluctant to go back into their bottles. Before it’s too late, Western nations should be asking themselves: with moderates like these, who needs extremists?

Comments always appreciated

Post written and submitted by Darrell Epp
Darrell Epp blogs here

February 14, 2008

Self-Destruction of America - a scenario

“In 2058, after nearly half century of demographic shifts in its population and burdened by the steady exiting of most manufacturing and technical industries to easterly neighbor states, Canada and Asia, the state of California -after a decade of political and Supreme Court decisions supporting it-, seceded from the Union and declared itself the Republica de California … Signifying a never-before seen socio-religious movement, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio had grown to be 26% Muslim with torrents of illegal Arab immigrant coming through the Canadian border by the tens of thousands each month. Within 6 years from California's secession, Sharia law was declared ...”

Truth Pain paints an ingenious but not, that implausible scenario of an America that, within a near future, literally self-destructs; a self-destruction brought upon itself through unbridled and careless manner of community diversity, blind tolerance and unchecked Political correctedness.

“The falling of the former 6th largest economy in the world started a domino effect of a magnitude never imagined by the founding Fathers of a once-great Country. Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi immediately coalesced into the United Gulf States and recalled its entire congressional body in the spring of 2059, thus starting the disintegration of the US system of government as it was known ... Signifying a never-before seen socio-religious movement, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio had grown to be 26% Muslim with torrents of illegal Arab immigrant coming through the Canadian border by the tens of thousands each month. Within 6 years from California's secession, Sharia law was declared in all but one of the great lake States. The last President of the Union…”

Read the whole piece here

Like a slow growing metastatic cancer that gradually, relentlessly progresses until inevitably, its host reaches tipping point. The dismantling of time honored institutions. Laws, practices, and conventions can facilitate sweeping cultural change of such magnitude and profundity as to wipe out that can-do individualistic spirit that characterized its once proud citizenship. Gone is the American ethos, born under the first smoke stacks of the industrial age and brought to bear by the greats of the past; the Edison’s, Carnegie’s, Wier’s, Rockefeller’s, Westinghouse’s and espoused by the likes of Napoleon Hill. Whittled away by a generation that no longer cares nor understands.

Just how can the U.S. collapse and fragment? It a captivating question. Apart from the usual arguments about terrorism, it could also come about due to economic weakness and internal disorder caused by the aforementioned factors. Too much immigration? Wrote Don Douglas …"if high rates of continuing immigration result in demands for ethnic separation, the traditional assimilationist melting pot model could be threatened and overturned. Its something that needs to be considered, and perhaps a period of restrictionism in immigration might work to incorporate those already here (in America) and build up and renew American national identity.”

Concludes TP, “I'm going to be long dead before this shit happens, but my kid, my darling little girl is going to inherit my inactions, my blasé attitude of change, my apathy and my assumptions that "somehow" we will prevail, that somehow we will be ok."

We need to wrestle with the questions raised by TP’s post today not tomorrow; otherwise, American hegemony as we know will be threatened.

Comments most appreciated…

February 10, 2008

Order of the Garter

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in medieval England, and presently bestowed on recipients in any of the Commonwealth realms; it is the pinnacle of the honours system in the United Kingdom. Membership in the order is limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than twenty-four members, or Companions; the order also comprises Supernumerary knights and ladies, (e.g. members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). Source: Wiki

The Melbourne Age reports that "Former Prime Minister John Howard could be in line to join one of Britain's most prestigious orders. Speculation is mounting that Mr Howard has been personally selected by Queen Elizabeth to receive the Order of the Garter, the most senior and oldest British Order of Chivalry."

"The death last month of New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary has created a vacancy in the Order, sparking speculation Mr Howard could be in line for the honour ... When a knight dies, the items are taken down and the insignia returned to the Queen while the stallplates remain as a memorial."

English subjects can be named Knights of the Garter in exchange for commendable public service, contributions to nationhood, or as recompense for exceptional personal service to the monarch.

John Howard was always a monarchist; I am betting therefore, that the reports will prove true. Congratulations may be in order…

For previous postings referring to John Howard click here, here, here, and here.

Photo credit: AP

I look forward to your comments

February 8, 2008

U.S. advisors training Pakistani Special Forces

"The assistance should be seen as an important step to counteract the rise of fanatics who have driven some of the more moderate tribal leaders out of the region. Without U.S. assistance, these radicals may be too powerful for Pakistan alone to subdue."

In a move that authenticates the argument that the U.S. is more than just concerned about Al Qaeda operations within Pakistan. The Associated Press has just reported a U.S. military role inside Pakistani borders.

Only yesterday, Vickers said, “U.S. military has not yet begun training Pakistani forces to fight Islamist militants but is already seeking a larger assistance role, including possible joint operations.”

However today the tune is different, “U.S. military advisers are helping the Pakistanis double the size of their elite commando force in a continuing effort to blunt the rising threat of terror groups and anti-government militants operating in Pakistan's unruly tribal areas, a senior Defense Department official said.”

The senior defense official is Mike Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Vickers is also a “senior civilian advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense on the capabilities and operational employment of special operations forces, strategic forces, and conventional forces. He is also the senior civilian advisor on counterterrorism strategy, irregular warfare, and force transformation.”

“The U.S. military presence in the country is fewer than 100 people, said the official, Mike Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and is focused on what he called "targeted training." That includes assisting Pakistan's Special Service Group and teaching specialized fighting techniques, like helicopter assaults.”

The report also cites that “U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Osama bin Laden ... “is in the tribal area, a swath of rugged land that runs along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.”

"We have certain capabilities that we can do in a low-visibility manner that can enhance the operations of Pakistani forces," Vickers said. Those capabilities could include night vision devices, air transport, and sophisticated gear for gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance."

No doubt, the training programme forms part of the $750 million aid package to assist Pakistan for development of the tribal region, as announced in July 2007 and comes in addition to Pakistan's pledge of $1 billion over the next decade for the same reasons.

Given the open support many Pakistanis have for Al Qaeda it will be interesting to note how news of a U.S. military presence, albeit a small one, is taken by a populace that is also sympathetic to the “Taliban or other militant groups.”

Aside from these issues, it is in both America’s and the world’s interests that Pakistani forces be adequately trained and supported to confront the growing menace of terrorism.

As noted in the article, “Defense Department officials told members of Congress on Wednesday that Al Qaeda was operating from havens in "undergoverned regions" of Pakistan, which they said pose direct threats to Europe, the United States and the Pakistani government itself. Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted in written testimony that the next attack on the United States probably would be made by terrorists based in that region."

The assistance should be seen as an important step to counteract the rise of fanatics who have driven some of the more moderate tribal leaders out of the region. Without U.S. assistance, these radicals may be too powerful for Pakistan alone to subdue.

Comments appreciated

February 7, 2008

Nuclear Iran: Reality Check (ii)

"2008 may yet provide Iran with an opportunity to relentless pursue its enrichment program while the world focuses on the U.S. Presidential race. As important as the next U.S. President may be, we cannot afford to allow the race to dim our view ... obscure our judgment. "

Before we consider the opinions of the many who have drawn the same conclusion, know this first:

Iran has no need for nuclear energy because of its immense oil and natural gas reserves which are equivalent to 9.3 percent of the world's reserves. In fact, Iran has 73,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas, an amount second only to the natural gas reserves of Russia.

Iran remains the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism and is on the Department of State's list of countries that provide support for acts of international terrorism.

Iran has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Iran supports organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, which are responsible for terrorist attacks against Israel.

Iranian officials have stated their intent to complete at least three nuclear power plants by 2015 and are currently working to complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant located on the Persian Gulf coast.

Iran is building up its offensive military capacity in other areas as evidenced by its recent testing of engines for ballistic missiles capable of carrying 2,200 pound warheads more than 800 miles, within range of strategic targets in Israel.

Source: Global Security

As Iran continues to advance its uranium enrichment capabilities in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, it ought be clear that sanctions, may at best, do little more than hamper the Iranians. Top foreign leaders, both Democratic and Republican national security experts, and leading editorialists have arrived at the same conclusion, that Iran remains a major threat.

FOREIGN LEADERS and DIPLOMATS

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

"The threat exists… Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will among the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons… I don’t see why we should renounce sanctions… What made Iran budge so far has been sanctions and firmness." (The New York Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

"I think that we are in a process, and that Iran continues to pose a danger." (The New York Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband

"There are three key elements to a nuclear weapon — the fissile material, the missile itself and the process of weaponising the fissile material for the missile. The US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear programme published this week suggests that Iran has put work on the last of these elements on hold. If so, good. But Iran is still pursuing the other two elements, in particular an enrichment programme that has no apparent civilian application, but which could produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon, despite demands to stop from the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency." (The Financial Times, Dec. 6, 2007)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

"[The NIE report confirmed] the double approach chosen by the international community of incentives and measures from the United Nations Security Council was right." (Deutsche Welle [Germany], Dec. 4, 2007)

French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pascale Andreani

"It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations. … We must keep up the pressure on Iran... We will continue to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations." (Reuters, Dec. 4, 2007)

Spokesperson for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

"It confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons [and] shows that the sanctions program and international pressure were having an effect in that they seem to have abandoned the weaponisation element." (Reuters, Dec. 4, 2007)

NON-PROLIFERATION EXPERTS

Gary Milhollin
Director, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control
and Valerie Lincy Editor of Iranwatch.org

"For years these expensive projects have been viewed as evidence of Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons. Why aren’t they still? The answer is that the new report defines ‘nuclear weapons program’ in a ludicrously narrow way: it confines it to enriching uranium at secret sites or working on a nuclear weapon design. But the halting of its secret enrichment and weapon design efforts in 2003 proves only that Iran made a tactical move. It suspended work that, if discovered, would unambiguously reveal intent to build a weapon. It has continued other work, crucial to the ability to make a bomb, that it can pass off as having civilian applications." (The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2007)

Anthony Lake
Former National Security Adviser and Current Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"While we’ve got more time, we’ve got to use the time, because the enrichment activities are continuing." (Interview, The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 7, 2007)

Leonard Specter
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and Current Deputy Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies

"The danger of a nuclear armed Iran thus remains very real indeed. The United States, its partners on the UN Security Council, and others, such as Germany and the EU, who have played leading roles in the attempt to constrain Iran’s nuclear capabilities have every reason to sustain their efforts and must do so, in particular, by taking the next step in the process: imposing a third round of sanctions on Iran, while holding out the possibility of negotiations to ease the current impasse. … The international community needs to maintain pressure on Iran to change course and must not be deflected by taking greater comfort from the NIE than it actually provides." (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 6, 2007)

Jon Wolfsthal
Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Jon B. Alterman Director and Senior Fellow, CSIS Middle East Program

"Iran’s uranium and plutonium programs are still a concern for U.S. security and are still operating in violation of binding UN Security Council resolutions. … That being said, the fact that Iran appears to have voluntarily ended its nuclear weapons program in response to international pressure shows that outside influence can change Iran’s behavior." (CSIS Paper, Dec. 4, 2007)

Gary Samore
Former Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council and Current Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

"The halting of the weaponization program in 2003 is less important from a proliferation standpoint than resumption of the enrichment program in 2006." (The Los Angeles Times, Dec 7, 2007)

John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Current Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

"In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's ‘civilian’ program that posed the main risk of a nuclear ‘breakout.'" (The Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2007)

George Perkovich
Director of the Nonproliferation Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"Iranian leaders appear to have recognized that by staying within the rules they can acquire capabilities sufficient to impress their own people and intimidate their neighbors, without inviting tough international sanctions or military attack." (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 7, 2007)

Peter Brookes
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Current, Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation


"There is still plenty of reason to worry about the current and future state of Iran's atomic ambitions… So the question remains whether the Iranian work stoppage is a short-term, tactical decision or a long-term strategic one. While the NIE provides the basis for some (extremely) cautious optimism, it simultaneously reinforces the need for deep concern and continued vigilance." (The Boston Herald, Dec. 5, 2007)

Robert D. Blackwill
Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Planning and Former U.S. Ambassador to India

"This latest NIE gives us a few more years to use diplomatic efforts than we previously thought… Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would have devastating strategic consequences for the West. Should Iran go nuclear, how many Sunni Arab regimes would follow suit? And, should that happen, who believes that in a Middle East with multiple nuclear weapons states, we would not eventually have a nuclear catastrophe in the region, or even a nuclear attack on an American city?" (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 6, 2007)

Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"On the one hand, it indicates that Iran suspended a nuclear weapons effort in 2003, and is susceptible to international pressure and negotiation… It does not in any way indicate that the UN effort to prevent further Iranian weapons development is unnecessary or that further sanctions are not needed to limit or halt Iran’s efforts…" (CSIS Paper, Dec. 4, 2007)

Patrick Clawson
Deputy Director for Research, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

"The reality is that the estimate says little about whether Iran still aims to produce nuclear weapons or when it might do so. The NIE's information supports the theory that Iran has simply changed the sequencing of its nuclear weapons effort — not necessarily the theory that Iran is no longer pursuing nuclear weapons." (Washington Institute Policy Watch, Dec. 4, 2007)

NEWSPAPER EDITORIALS

The New York Times

"The new report is not an argument for anyone to let down their guard when it comes to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. What it does say is that some combination of intensified pressures and opportunities might — ‘if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible’ — prompt Tehran to ‘extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.'" (Dec. 5, 2007)

The Wall Street Journal

"In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale — that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core. … Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one." (Dec. 5, 2007)

The Washington Post

"While U.S. intelligence agencies have ‘high confidence’ that covert work on a bomb was suspended ‘for at least several years’ after 2003, there is only ‘moderate confidence’ that Tehran has not restarted the military program. Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions, even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium. The U.S. estimate of when Iran might produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb — sometime between late 2009 and the middle of the next decade — hasn’t changed." (Dec. 5, 2007)

Source: AIPAC

Even Russia and China joined the U.S., France, Britain, and Germany within the U.N. Council to prevent Iran from continuing the enrichment process and even while I believe the U.N. is NOT the end all be all solution to the stand-off, prior to the release of the NIE, the Security Council seemed willing to support a third round of tougher sanctions. As noted in my December posting the recent and flawed NIE report of December 2007 provide little comfort and is one reason why some are writing, "How America's own intelligence services have brought international policy on Iran to the edge of collapse."

2008 may yet provide Iran with an opportunity to relentless pursue its enrichment program while the world focuses on the U.S. Presidential race. As important as the next U.S. President may be, we cannot afford to allow the race to dim our view ... obscure our judgment. We must not lose sight of the fact that it was Iran, not outsiders who, in April 2007, indicated that they had the ability to enrich Uranium. "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran has the ability to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, which is part of the process to make fuel for nuclear bomb or reactor." (NY Times April 2007)

For my previous references to Iran's nuclear threat click here, here, here and here.

Over to you

February 6, 2008

123 Meme c/o Subadei

Blogfriend Subadei has tagged me with his 123 Meme ...

The rules are simple. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages), open the book to page 123, find the fifth sentence, post the next three sentences and tag five (5) people.

The Partnership: The inside story of the U.S.-Australian Alliance under Bush and Howard, by Greg Sheridan, pp. 123

"An endless series of Indonesian military visitors was invited to Australia and they were always showed the best we had to offer, never told about our logistics problems or our recruitment and retention difficulties. The subliminal message was simple - don't tangle with these folks because they have a lot of firepower and they are very good soldiers. In his very person and bearing, Molan was part of this messsage."

Tagging Heidianne at Big Girl Pants, Angel at Woman Honor Thyself, Tapline at Tapline, Debbie at Right Truth, and Karen at Pondering Penguin

February 5, 2008

Australia's John Howard Receives 2008 Irving Kristol Award

The former Australian Prime Minister was profoundly affected by being in the U.S. on 9/11; he felt first-hand both the sense of shock and the helplessness, which Americans felt on that fateful day. For Howard, 9/11 changed the strategic environment of the relationship between the U.S. and Australia...

John Howard , the long-serving former Prime Minister of Australia, will deliver the Irving Kristol Lecture at AEI's Annual Dinner on March 5, 2008. One of the world's most successful democratic politicians, Howard has raised Australia's standing in the world, achieved prosperity in his country, and staunchly defended liberty overseas.

As reported on the AEI's site for Public Policy Research:

"American Enterprise Institute president Christopher DeMuth announced in January that the former Australian Prime Minister is the recipient of AEI's Irving Kristol Award for 2008. The annual award, selected by the Institute's Council of Academic Advisers, is given to individuals who have made exceptional intellectual or practical contributions to improved government policy, social welfare, or political understanding. Mr. Howard will receive the award and deliver the Irving Kristol Lecture at the Institute's annual dinner on March 5, 2008, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. "

"John Howard is one of the world's most successful democratic politicians. Chosen as Australia's twenty-fifth prime minister in March 1996, Howard and his party were reelected in 1998, 2001, and 2004--making him his nation's second-longest-serving prime minister at the time of his retirement by the voters in last November's national elections. After September 11, 2001, Prime Minister Howard forged a strong alliance with the United States and Great Britain in the global war on terror, sending Australian troops to Afghanistan and later to Iraq."

"As Prime Minister, Howard affirmed the independence of Australia's central bank, continued the deregulatory policies of his predecessor, balanced the budget, reorganized the country's welfare system, privatized the Australian telecommunications giant Telstra, reformed labor laws, and cut taxes. Australia's economy soared, even during the Asian financial crisis that devastated so many of its neighbors, growing every year for the past sixteen years. As the editorial page editor of the Australian and former AEI staff member Tom Switzer has written, "[Howard] presided over the longest economic boom since the gold rushes of the nineteenth century."

"In foreign policy, Howard was a steadfast friend of the United States. When asked by an interviewer about the Iraq war, he said, "I am not going to be part of a policy which leaves the job unfinished and leaves behind [to] one or two other countries the responsibility of completing the job; that is not the Australian way of doing things." His government took a leadership role in dealing with security and economic problems in small Pacific countries such as the Solomon Islands, as well as in East Timor, where Australian troops are the mainstay of the country's current stability."

Read the rest here

It’s interesting that while many in Australia are vying to distance themselves from the former leader, he is about somewhat of a hero’s welcome in the U.S. where, aside from receiving the honor in front of a dinner audience of over 1200, Howard will now give the Irving Kristol address, named in honor of the father of neo-conservatism.

Said Melbourne born Danielle Pletka, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, "John Howard is an extraordinarily important international figure. He was one of the staunchest post-9/11 allies of the U.S." Notably, it is only the second time in over quarter of a century that the award is to be presented to a foreigner.

Howard has agreed to attend at least three other prestigious events while in the U.S. A private gathering of Republicans in Las Vegas, in Boston he will be made a Fisher Family Distinguished International Fellow and will address faculty and students at Harvard and finally, in Texas he will deliver a speech at the George Bush Presidential Library.

The former Australian Prime Minister was profoundly affected by being in the U.S. on 9/11; he felt first-hand both the sense of shock and the helplessness, which Americans felt on that fateful day. For Howard, 9/11 changed the strategic environment of the relationship between the U.S. and Australia, it was not surprising therefore, that he became a strong unyielding advocate, of the war on terror.

Also of no surprise, was an extraordinary show of support when returning to the U.S. in 2003. When his company was announced at a baseball game over the microphones at Yankee Stadium in NY, the crowd stood and celebrated Howard’s presence. The Australian anthem was played and its flag paraded. It was an amazing sight, as New Yorkers are not easily impressed; sure enough, the moment received little if any decipherable coverage in Australia.

Contrast this to Howard’s presence at the last A-League final in Melbourne (Australia) early last year where he was attending as a guest of Jewish-Australian businessperson and Westfield co-founder, Frank Lowry. When his attendance was announced over the microphones the ear belching booing that followed was truly repulsive. However, even more repugnant was the coverage given to this shameful moment by all the major news networks on the evening news.

As first noted at MK’s Views blog, “the MSM has been absent in reporting Howard’s award” with only the Australian Newspaper appearing to refer to it.

Congratulations John Winston Howard!

For previous references to John Howard click here and here.

See also, Andrew Bolt's short take.

Comments appreciated

February 1, 2008

A World without US - The Trailer

Totally left and disturbing! This is the sort of Politician that must never be allowed to gain traction ...

Has anyone seen this film?


"The world is not a naturally peaceful organized place, it has to be made peaceful ... my great fear is that of the U.S. opt out" ...
A different trailer of the same film can be seen here...
Comments welcome...