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11 February 2017

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Prem

OT Elliott Abrams has been vetoed by Trump. That's a hell of a good sign. Although, it's still worrying that Tillerson ever wanted to hire him.

EEngineer

The US going after ISIS/AQ in any meaningful way puts it in direct conflict with the Saudis. Could going after "Jihadists or Khomeinists" be the PC/reverse logic way of getting the Washington crowd behind getting serious in the ISIS fight in the guise of going after Iran? It would be good way for the Trump administration to bring the Saudis to heel...

I'm of the opinion that much of Trump's bellicose style is the equivalent of throwing chaff everywhere all the time to maximize is maneuver space. Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, has gone into great detail on the particulars of the technique on his blog over the last 6 months. That much I get, but I have yet to figure out exactly makes Trump and the crew he's surrounded himself with tick.

Steve Nichols

Col.:

Is it unreasonable to suspect that he and his closest, nonmilitary advisors, are willing to risk the lives of our troops if they think it will gain them a political benefit?

That degree of cynicism seems to me to be warranted by the willingness to go forward with an operation that many seem to think was a bad idea from the start--was it because nobody really cared to make the necessary investment of time to investigate the mission before green lighting it?

Petrous

It seems he was only rejected because of bruised egos at 1600 Penn (comments E.A made about the boss previous to his election), not any fundamental objection to his background or qualifications. If so this would ameliorate its chances of being a good sign, just more of the same. Still, whatever the reason, yes, it is good news.

BraveNewWorld

Iran up until a couple of years ago had decent military relations with Sudan and to a lesser extent Somilia and Eritrea. Those governments all got paid a couple of years ago to officially abandoned Iran. But I have to wonder with the Saudi money drying up, the black workers in the KSA mostly getting F'd out of their wages and other problems between the Kingdom and Africa, what is the real state of affairs today?

For one thing Iran could and almost certainly does still have weapons stashed in the region. There are probably some people that are still sympathetic to Iran vs the Kingdom. If Iran could get one credible shot off at a tanker from the African side that would mean a whole other front that the US would have to protect against. Would that win or lose a war? No. But it could certainly complicate things. Especially for tanker owners with their insurance companies.

BraveNewWorld

I'll raise you confusion with some delusion.

Regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the president said his vision was for a peace deal for the entire Middle East, not one limited solely to the two sides. To that end, he said, he wanted both parties to behave in a reasonable manner.

“Well, I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen. It should happen. After all these years,” he said. “Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians. I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-to-israeli-paper-settlement-growth-not-good-for-peace/

This tells me one of two things are at play. Either Trump has never heard of the Middle East or more likely he has drank Netanyahus Kool Aid. That is the one where the they just remove the Palestinian/Golan Heights part of the Arab Peace plan and all the Musim countries make peace with Israel. Israel keeps the Golan Heights and Palestine every one else just magically caves and "Ta Da" peace.

Problem is after selling the story to Washington and the Israeli people for the last couple of years that it was already a fait accompli it blew up in Netanyahus face with UNSC2334 when every one that Bibi said was on board called bullshit.

turcopolier

BraveNewWorld

Since I think Trump has heard of the ME, I would say that he is in the every earliest stages of thinking he may have been tricked. He would not like to think that. pl

turcopolier

Steve Nichols

"Is it unreasonable to suspect that he and his closest, nonmilitary advisors, are willing to risk the lives of our troops if they think it will gain them a political benefit?" It is quite reasonable. Most politicians do that especially if there is a mirror for them to look in while making this noble decision. In Trumps case he is not competent to make tactical judgments about anything and should not have been made to do so. IMO Flynn told him to say yes and he did so while thinking of himself as Abraham Lincoln or the like. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Several years ago, I think before 2011, there was an unattributed Youtube video of miles and miles of oil pipelines on the Arabian peninsula.

I thought to myself those pipelines are very very difficult to protect; how many tens of thousands of soldiers are required for every 20 kilometers of pipe?

Babak Makkinejad

In my opinion, the country called the United States of American cannot end the war in Palestine because her freely elected government does not wish to try to end it. And the elected government of the United States cannot try to end that war because the electorate in the United States does not support a "Just Peace"; they are supporters of Israel.

That is why I have come to the conclusion that a case fire with HAMAS and PLO is the most productive option for the next 99 years.

A 99-Year cease fire will help Palestinians from being murdered by Israelis as well as prevent the United States of America in digging herself deeper into that hell hole called Enemy of Islam.

Babak Makkinejad

A good sign would have been him not even being on the candidate list. The United States has a deep bench, is there no one else left in a country of 320 million souls for that position?

robt willmann

Although humor is often welcome, this is stretching it a bit, as "crown prince" so-and-so was given a CIA medal -- named after George Tenet, no less (!) -- for being against terrorism and working for peace and security: "The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security." The newly confirmed CIA director Mike Pompeo delivered the "award" personally--

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/10/CIA-awards-Saudi-Crown-Prince-for-efforts-against-terrorism-.html

While handing out an award to the Saudi Arabian "crown prince", the CIA refuses to give a security clearance to a deputy of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Robin Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer, was denied a clearance from the CIA; I am guessing that the NSC people get separate clearances from different departments--

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/mike-flynn-nsa-aide-trump-234923

Stu Wood

I agree. Your analysis makes a lot of sense.

Morongobill

Lincoln knew what he wanted, a fighting general.

I'm not sure if President Trump, this early in his tenure, knows what he really wants.

BraveNewWorld

That is possible. But the fact that the US went scorched earth on the appointment of Fayyad as envoy to Libya despite praise for him even from the Israelis, for the crime of being Palestinian, would seem to point in the opposite direction. But I could be wrong.

The body language coming out of the meeting on the 15th will be worth watching. Netanyahu has been following not leading his coalition since they were elected the last time. Trump has to send him back with either a promise to attack Iran or a green light on settlements. Iran being more important to Netanyahu, settlements being more important to his coalition. If he doesn't get ether of those the existing coalition will crumble.

Then again, all signs are that Netanyahu is about to be indicted for at least bribery and the polls show the majority of Israelis want him to step down if he is. Will he? Probably not. Then again the coalition just barely has a majority and politics is full of eager beavers.

That brings up the question of whether Trump would be as cozy with any other leader in Israel as he is with the furniture sales man from Philly? I really have to doubt it. If the Israelis spend 6 months in an election what happens to all of Trumps plans in the mean time?

MartinJ

PB

the problem with separating the Huthis and Saleh by negotiating with Saleh and giving him most of the pie, is that he is the one who brought the Iranians into Yemen in the first place. He allows them operating space and he allows them to use the Huthis.

The Huthis are naive in this matter but have to walk a fine line between being the proxies the Iranians wish them to be and also understanding that Iran can offer little other than weapons, training and diplomatic backing. Iran can't offer any meaningful aid. The Huthis know that the Saudis are the only ones who can do this.

I would argue that the sensible policy would be to peel the Huthis from Saleh and Iran, promising them the pie instead of Saleh. The problem for the Huthis is that they are not in a strong enough position to fight Saleh. Nor, I suspect, do they feel they can fully trust the Saudis (for all the obvious reasons).

My personal feeling is that Saleh knows this is where the main danger lies and so he has sought to put the Huthis in as much shit as he can by conducting false flag operations in the Red Sea or pretending his missile attacks are Iranian. The worry is that many people in DC will buy that and take decisions based on such misinformation.

I think Yemen is in for a rough ride whatever happens.

VietnamVet

PB

Please keep these excellent posts coming. In the last administration, decisions were made based on influence and money which naturally favored Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is in the American national interest to keep the sea lanes open. I can’t predict what the next act of this Administration will be. But, the flurry of activity so far seems to be belief driven. The world will remain at war in an attempt to keep the Empire and the US Dollar as a reserve currency. Picking a fight with Iran is insane due to its geographical location, no tank armies to drive to Teheran, China and Russia are its allies and the Iranians will fight to the last child. After the next financial crash due to astronomical level of debt that the oligarchs refuse to write down, the Eurasian Alliance will stand on its own. The West will splinter apart into ethnic enclaves. European Statelets will hook with to the New Silk Road if WWIII is avoided. Sort of like Steve Bannon’s Islamic Apocalypse; except, I have no one’s ear.

b

Fun time in Aden today.

The UAE/Saudi fight over Aden is in full bloom. I touched on this in my comment in the PB Yemen piece part 1.
AlQaeda in Yemen is on the Saudi pay list. The SEAL raid was against AQ and included UAE special forces. The Saudi payed Hadi government was pissed about the raid. This UAE/Saudi infighting needs some watching.

Tweets from various sources in Yemen today:

Saeed Al-Batati @saeedalBatati
Breaking: Tension is steaming in #Aden as presidential guards(led by #Hadi's son) besieged Aden airpot controlled by rival faction. #Yemen

Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 #Yemen
1am local : Heavy armed clashes in #Aden Airport. Intra-militia fighting. Many streets now closed. Tanks & armour deployed.

Haykal Bafana @BaFana3
1pm local - Aden Airport, #Yemen : #UAE Apache helicopter launched airstrike on #Saudi-paid militia of president Hadi.

Saeed Al-Batati @saeedalBatati
@adenalghad: A helicopter(Arab coalition) bombed armed vehicle manned by presidential guards outside #Aden airport.

Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
Finally, Hadi orders his forces surrounding Aden airport to withdraw after tense and bloody day near the airport.

Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
The fighting around #Aden airport was not the spur of the moment.
Sporadic intra-factions since Aden liberation,it just got escalated today.

Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
Just to clarify: the fighting was between factions loyal to Hadi and those loyal to U.A.E over taking control of Aden airport.

Hisham Al-Omeisy @omeisy
Hadi forms "joint ops room" for ministry of interior in Aden. Indirectly admitting #Yemen gov not in control & need coordinate w/ factions.
---
Who's side will the CIA take? And who's side the Pentagon? With whom will the White House agree?

The folks in Tehran must have great fun watching this.

turcopolier

b

Now that the Obama claque (Brennen/Carter/Kerry) are gone the inherent interests of DoD/CIA are more visible. The military and civilian intelligence service in every country are normally rivals for influence and budget. Given a chance they will differ in desired policy and if the other side in this moiety falls on its face, well, "tant pis pour eux." The president is not interested in what he considers to be the trivia of whatever it is that is happening in places like Yemen. I doubt that he could find Sanaa' on a map without considerable help. Trump remains what he always was - a business guy who makes deals. That is all he is. He instinctively seeks allies for the coming negotiation over- whatever. In the case of the Arabia peninsula he has been sold (mostly by TV news geniuses like Tapper)the idea that Saudi Arabia is "the big dog" and must be backed so that they will help with the "juggernaut" that is Iran. This process is all bullshit. He has no idea whatever about the substance of such things. He wants to rely on competent advisers to show him where Sanaa' is and what he should do about it while he thinks about the foreign and domestic economy. The Democrats are IMO systematically handicapping Trump (and the US) by obstructing Trump's ability to form an administration. pl

Sam Peralta

Col. Lang

There is a possibility that in six months when Trump is in stride he'll recognize that the success of his presidency will depend on his own instincts. That getting in the middle of the centuries old tribal conflicts in the ME detract from his goals of a successful term.

I think he'll rely more on Jared Kushner and those he believes has his interests at the forefront. The Democrats will continue to whine and obstruct but they're losing more credibility and even some of those that voted for them are getting tired of their shenanigans.

William Fitzgerald

BNW and Pat Lang,

Doesn't this look like a repeat of the same old dance? I'm referring to the one where the Israelis announce more settlements, the Americans pretend to be upset, the Israelis then pretend to take severe umbrage at the nerve of the Americans in telling them what to do, and the settlements get built or expanded. Trump, after promising extreme pro Israel policies, now seems to be settling (not a pun) into the same old pattern.

WPFIII

turcopolier

William Fitzgerald

History is not static. Let us wait and see what the Bibi's visit is like. pl

DH

Colonel, Bannon should be of some use, as he has a master's degree in national security studies:

"He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in urban planning and holds a master's degree in national security studies from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985,[30] Bannon received a Master of Business Administration degree with honors[31] from Harvard Business School.[32]"
-Wiki

turcopolier

DH
I do not underestimate him, but I think Trump is his own thing. In the end I think the Israelis will be more disappointed in him than anyone else. pl

1664RM

One only needs to look at this article to shine a bright beam of enlightenment into Pres Trumps views on the Iran issue. With that I can only assume he singularly fails to understand why Al Qaeda in Iraq & Al Qaeda in Syria have been able to grow & operate with such success.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/10/CIA-awards-Saudi-Crown-Prince-for-efforts-against-terrorism-.html

Frankly I find it nauseating but unsurprising, Tel Aviv & Riyadh are most pleased.

AIPAC is alive & well inside the White House as it has always been & Iran is the next target, China probably next. Quite how that is going to measure up to a better relationship with Russia is beyond me. Divide & conquer for the 'Empire' continues.

Nothing adds up.

SRJB

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