Category: War on Terror

Mullah Omar Dead

Afghan Intelligence is reporting and the Taliban are confirming that Mullah Omar is dead, having perished two years ago in a Pakistani hospital.

I have no idea how this will affect the situation in Afghanistan. I suspect the impact will be small since Omar was largely a symbolic figure. Still … at least the man who crafted the vile Taliban state can’t do any more harm.

Iran Deal

Hmmm:

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

And President Hassan Rouhani said the “historic” deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

Mr Obama, who is trying to persuade a sceptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision

get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium

accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated

permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

Sanctions relief would be gradual, Mr Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.

The major drawback is the end of the sanctions. Jonah Goldberg explains:

The lifting of crippling sanctions, which will come about as part of the nuclear deal struck in Vienna, means that at least $150 billion, a sum Barack Obama first invoked in May, will soon enough flow to Tehran. With this very large pot of money, the regime will be able to fund both domestic works and foreign adventures in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.

It is hard to imagine a scenario—at least in the short term—in which Hezbollah and other terror organizations on the Iranian payroll don’t see a windfall from the agreement. This is a bad development in particular for the people of Syria. Iran, as the Assad regime’s funder, protector, and supplier of weapons, foot soldiers, and strategists, is playing a crucial role in the destruction of Syria. Now Syrians will see their oppressor become wealthier and gain international legitimacy (legitimacy not just for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which this deal will leave in place.)

Goldberg, however, points out that, despite these problems, the deal achieves our main objective of delaying Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon, possibly for decades. I would also add that it prevents us from not reaching a deal and seeing the sanctions regime collapse, particularly from the Russian side, where Moscow is trying to form a stronger alliance with Iran.

A key point for me is that the sanctions are set to snap back automatically if Iran is found to have violated the deal, which is a key point. It would take a new UN resolution to remove them again.

Liberals are praising the deal; conservatives are denouncing it. I expect to see Chamberlain cited about a million times in the next sixty days (it is, after all, the only history the neocons are familiar with). But I don’t see that there was much of a choice here. Bombing Iran sounds good, but it would spark a massive international crisis and might not even work. Maintaining the sanctions would be fine, but that coalition is already crumbling and would collapse completely if we walked away from a deal.

In short, I think this is probably the least bad option given the cards we have.

This should come as a surprise only to people that lack a connection with reality

Those of us that realize that you can’t strike a bargain with the devil and pointed that out as long ago as when Boosh tried to do the same, making the point that any attempt to bargain was futile, are not surprised to find out that Team Obama is being duped and not admitting they are being duped. At least one could believe that if the Booshies figured Iran was duping them, they would lay down the smack. When it comes to Obama however, it almost feels like this administration has done everything to convince Iran to actually build that nuke and have the capability to deliver it (definitely to Israel) while telling us they have put a halt to the program.

Iran is continuing to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons despite an interim agreement on its nuclear programs, according to a Pentagon report.

“Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program and fulfilled its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development,” a one-page unclassified summary of the report says.

A copy of the report was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The report was due to Congress in January but was not sent to the Armed Services Committee as required by law until this month. Analysts said the delay appeared designed to avoid upsetting Tehran and the nuclear talks.

The State Department sought to challenge International Atomic Energy Agency reports on the increase in Iranian nuclear material, despite President Obama’s claim that the nuclear agreement had halted Iran’s nuclear program.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said this week that the increase in nuclear production was expected and that the amount has increased and decreased.

Yeah, sure. It was expected. We are being played by Iran and the WH. When the shit hits the fan, don’t be surprised. Iran is getting all its ducks in a row and will race to create that bomb while the Obama administration fiddles. I hope like what they did back in 1987 to Saddam’s nuclear program that the world will once again end up beholden to Israel when they end Iran’s program as well by any means necessary. The alternative, despite what the morons playing foreign policy experts tell us, is going to be far worse.

A Small Victory

Well, it’s not the complete repeal I’d prefer, but it’s an improvement:

In a significant scaling back of national security policy formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Senate on Tuesday approved legislation curtailing the federal government’s sweeping surveillance of American phone records, and President Obama signed the measure hours later.

The legislation signaled a cultural turning point for the nation, almost 14 years after the Sept. 11 attacks heralded the construction of a powerful national security apparatus. The shift against the security state began with the revelation by Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, about the bulk collection of phone records. The backlash was aided by the growth of interconnected communication networks run by companies that have felt manhandled by government prying.

The storage of those records now shifts to the phone companies, and the government must petition a special federal court for permission to search them.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, for the first time, will be required to declassify some of its most significant decisions, and outside voices will be allowed to argue for privacy rights before the court in certain cases.

So a little more transparency, a small speedbump between the government and our meta-data. By itself, it’s a very tiny win against the gigantic surveillance state President Obama controls.

But the bigger win could be the political victory. The pro-police-state forces threw out their usual apocalyptic rhetoric while they tried to force the Senate to reauthorize the Patriot Act without even a debate. And, for the first time, it didn’t work. Rand Paul, many Democrats and enough Republicans weathered the storm and got some small changes. For the first time, someone in Congress had enough of a spine to call bullshit on their bullshit. And that could pay off down the road:

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, and Senator Leahy made it clear after passage that curtailing the phone sweeps might be only the beginning. The two are collaborating on legislation to undo a provision in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 that allows the government to read the contents of email over six months old. House members and senators from both parties are already eyeing a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that they say has also been abused by the government.

Let’s hope they keep pushing. The surveillance state has legions of supporters. The pushback has begun. It won’t end until we have our basic civil liberties back. And that might take decades.

Rand Stands Again

So today, Rand Paul engaged in his second filibuster, this time against the Patriot Act, talking for ten hours. Specifically, he was filibustering against Section 215, which supposedly enables the NSA meta-data collection program.

This has been building for several weeks now. The Second Circuit, in fact, ruled that the Patriot Act doesn’t authorize the data collection program and the NSA has said they will not change anything until Congress acts. Following this, the lying sack of shit that leads the NSA claimed that he lied to Congress about the program because … and I’m not making this up … he forgot the program existed. Defenders of the program are demanding Congress reauthorizing it, making dubious and sometimes outright false statements about the success of the program. And last week, the House voted to reign in the NSA’s power, albeit in water-down version. The ball is currently in the Senate’s court.

I don’t think the Patriot Act should be renewed. This has been primarily used as a smokescreen for prosecutions on drug and other non-terrorism charges. It was passed in the first place on false claims that 9/11 happened because the government didn’t have the powers within the Patriot Act. If it must be passed however, it should only pass after the USA FREEDOM Act directly curtails the NSA’s power.

I have my disagreements with Paul, but this is another occasion on which he has made me proud. Let’s hope other Senators will stand not just with Rand, but with us.

Ramadi Falls

You remember how the Obama were boasting about killing a key ISIS member last week? The exact same way the Bush people used to always boast about killing Al-Qaeda’s #2 leaders over and over again?”

Well, ISIS captured Ramadi this week, which is a much more significant event than killing one of the numerous members of ISIS’s leadership.

And just think … Clinton’s going to be running for President on her experience building this nightmare.

Bin Laden Coverup

Seymour Hersh, source of some big — although not necessarily accurate — stories, is alleging that the bin Laden raid did not go down as we were told:

The principal claims that Hersh’s article makes, which largely rely on the assertions of a single, unnamed, retired senior U.S. intelligence official, are:

• That the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid on the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was hiding in northern Pakistan was not a firefight in which SEALs went into a dangerous and unknown situation, but a setup in which Pakistan’s military had been holding bin Laden prisoner in Abbottabad for five years and simply made him available to the SEALs who flew in helicopters to the compound on the night of the raid.

• An officer from Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency ISI accompanied the SEALs on the raid and showed them around the Abbottabad compound, and the only shots fired that night were the ones that the SEALs fired to kill bin Laden.

• A “walk in” to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad tipped off the CIA that bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad compound, and it was not true — despite the statements of multiple U.S. officials after the raid — that the CIA had traced back one of bin Laden’s couriers to the Abbottabad compound and built a circumstantial case that bin Laden was living there.

• Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden’s upkeep in his Abbottabad compound.

• A Pakistani army doctor obtained DNA from bin Laden that proved he was in Abbottabad, proof that was provided to the States so that all the supposed uncertainty — cited by Obama administration officials after the raid — about whether bin Laden was actually living in the compound was a lie.

• The “most blatant lie,” according to Hersh, was that “Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders — General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI — were never informed” in advance of the U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound.

In short, according to Hersh’s account, President Barack Obama and many of his top advisers lied about pretty much everything concerning what is considered one of the President’s signal accomplishments: authorizing the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

In some way, I’m disposed to believe this story. It always did seem suspicious that bin Laden was right near a Pakistani military headquarters. And I wouldn’t put it past Obama to lie to us about it. The Administration has been milking the raid for propaganda since before it happened, including giving classified information to filmmakers for Zero Dark Thirty.

But after thinking about it, I have to say, like Peter Bergen, I am deeply skeptical of this. Part of this is Hersh. Yes, he broke My Lai story. But he also claimed that Bush intended to use nuclear weapons on Iran. So he’s not always in Earth orbit. Part of this is my general suspicions of conspiracy theories. Part of this is that it smells badly of a Killian Memo.

But mostly it because it contradicts well-established facts. You can read the details in Bergen’s piece. Notably, multiple witnesses, including Bergen, can attest to a bullet-riddled compound and multiple bodies. And there’s this:

Common sense would also tell you that if the Pakistanis were holding bin Laden and the U.S. government had found out this fact, the easiest path for both countries would not be to launch a U.S. military raid into Pakistan but would have been to hand bin Laden over quietly to the Americans.

Indeed, the Pakistanis have done this on several occasions with a number of other al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, who was handed over to U.S. custody after a raid in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi in 2003. So too was Abu Faraj al-Libi, another key al Qaeda leader who was similarly handed over by the Pakistanis to U.S. custody two years later.

Ed Morrissey is suspicious of the story for similar reasons.

We’ll see what comes out. But I highly suspect Hersh is full of it. ISI may have known more than they were saying about bin Laden’s whereabouts. But a cover-up of this magnitude would also involve Seal Team 6 and multiple intelligence agencies. I find it highly unlikely a lid could be kept on such a conspiracy only to be blown by the likes of Hersh.

Texas Shooting

Now that the facts are out, I have a a few random thoughts about Sunday’s shooting in Texas, which apparently involved two wannabe jihadis trying to shoot up a meeting where people would draw images of Muhammed.

First, I have no use for Pamela Geller and her compadres. They spew anti-Islamic invective whenever they can, are frequently factually challenged and hold events like this to be deliberately provocative.

That having been said, the blame for this is totally on the shooters and their vile religious beliefs. Every religion has its critics and its mockers. But you don’t see Christians, even fundamentalist ones, shooting up meetings of atheists or trying to murder Richard Dawkins. As Amy Alkon reminds us, there is no free speech in fundamentalist Islam. The radicals regard murdering “blasphemers” as their duty. We can never forget that.

Second, this event is protected speech no matter how much the pantywaists and thought-controllers try to pretend it isn’t. Our commitment to free speech is most tested with provocative or even insulting speech. And our commitment should stay strong even in the face of gunfire.

Third, according to Mother Jones, this was not a mass shooting stopped by someone with a gun. As I’ve noted many times, they require four people to be killed before it counts as a mass shooting or an attempted one.

And finally … Texas? Seriously? You guys thought you were going to win a shootout in Texas? When I lived down there, I was the least-armed person in my carpool lane.

The Outline of a Deal

It’s not official, yet. Right now it’s just the framework. But the basics of the nuclear deal with Iran look … not that bad, actually. Iran will cut down it’s centrifuges by two-thirds and not enrich uranium past 3.67 percent. They’ll cut their stockpile of enriched uranium by 97% and not build any new facilities for 15 years. IAEA will have access to all of their facilities. This is the most important part:

U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.

Sanctions related to support of terrorism will remain in place.

Israel is unhappy, but Israel will be unhappy with just about any deal. The GOP and many Congressional Democrats are objecting, but they’ll object to almost any deal. Obviously a better deal would eliminate their nuclear facilities completely. But Ed Krayewski makes a good point:

That’s the reality a lot of critics of the Iran deal don’t want to admit. President Obama even briefly touched on it yesterday—a country won’t do something just because America wants it to. For starters, the country’s political leadership would have to be historically illiterate to even consider it. Following American diktats provide no guarantee of not becoming a target of American ire in the future (i.e. Qaddafi giving up WMDs and then getting regime-changed by the West anyway). Could the U.S. continue sanctions against Iran? Certainly. The Israeli government would appear to consider that a better option. But sanctions aren’t effective at compelling compliance. Cuba’s been the subject of sanctions for more than half a century—neither did the sanctions break the communist regime nor were they even able to accomplish the more limited goal of extracting reimbursements for property seized by the Cuban government. And, most importantly, sanctions rarely hurt the ruling class of a country. The Ayatollahs, the Castros, the Kims, they’re all authoritarians of very different stripes, but none have known hunger or deprivation because of the sanctions their actions may have triggered.

While I agree that our ability to force Iran’s hand is limited, I’d disagree that the sanctions haven’t been a big factor here. Iran is much closer to a democracy than Cuba is and the bad Iranian economy has clearly put the leadership in jeopardy of popular uprising. I don’t think Iran would be at the table at all had it not been for the sanctions. This is good: it indicates a sliver of pragmatism laced within the fundamentalist dipshittery that infests Iran’s leaders.

As always, the devil is in the details. We’ll see how the final deal looks and how the inspections go down. But so far … this doesn’t look half bad … if the inspections and the conditional nature of withdrawing sanctions are as strong as the State Department is claiming.

Surviving the New Cold War

As you have probably heard, Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The President we were backing had fled the country and Iran-backed Shia rebels appear to be establishing control. Saudi Arabia is intervening and it looks like Egypt may get involved as well.

All this is a sign of Obama’s failed foreign policy according to … holy crap … Vox?:

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