So Czer is ISIS really just a Saudi front created to mess w/Iran?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Utumno, Jun 14, 2014.

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    Shia militia group threatens to topple any Iraqi gov. hostile to Iran in ‘weeks’
    August 06-2019

    ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi Shia militia group on Monday said they would overthrow any government in Baghdad that opposes Iran “in some few weeks.”

    The statement came from Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba’s Nasr al-Shammari during a meeting with former secretary of the Iranian National Security Council Saeed Jalili, according to the Iranian ABNA agency. Shammari is in Iran on a visit.

    “[The] Americans know that if any Iraqi government takes a step against Iran, it will be toppled in some few ‎weeks,” the official said, emphasizing, according to the Iranian outlet, the close relations between Iran and Iraq.

    Akram al-Kaabi first formed Nujaba in 2013 with active support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Kaabi sought to support the Bashar al-Assad-led Syrian regime in the country’s civil war. He was also the co-founder of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, another Iraqi Shia militia organization.

    Both became part of Iraq’s security apparatus under the Hashd al-Shaabi conglomerate when the so-called Islamic State overran the country in 2014. In May, Nujaba fighters were also reportedly in the Iranian Kurdish city of Oshinaveh (Shno), killing two unarmed Kurds by firing at a moving vehicle.

    Also in May, the United States sanctioned Nujaba – which reportedly has about 10,000 fighters – and its leader as terrorist entities. Washington also considers Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which is still a close ally of Nujaba and is backed by Iran, a terrorist organization.

    The Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), “is now the enemy of the US,” Shammari said. He described the US Embassy in Iraq as a “Den of Espionage,” claiming it recruits media activists to fight Shia Islamic values.

    “In response,” he stated, “Nujaba has also trained a group ‎of media activists to foil the soft warfare and negative propaganda of the enemy.”
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    Czer I'm a poor person. The lambo is my cousin's.

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    Soleimani Meets Zarif And Congratulates Him For Being Sanctioned By US
    August 06, 2019

    The outpouring of support for Iran’s sanctioned Foreign Minister Javad Zarif by Islamic Republic’s elite continued, with the visit of Revolutionary Guard Qods force commander Qassem Soleimani to the foreign ministry on Tuesday.

    The notorious shadowy general directing the foreign operations of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) is a staunch hardliner opposed to the United States and its allies in the region.

    Soleimani met Zarif and condemned the U.S. decision to sanction Iran’s chief diplomat as “madness”. Soleimani congratulated Zarif for becoming a target of “America’s anger and enmity”, because of his association with the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and also because he had “a deep impact on public opinion, especially among the American people.”

    As tensions rose between Washington and Tehran in the past three months, the U.S. imposed more sanctions on Islamic Republic entities and individuals, at the same time repeatedly offering unconditional talks with Iran.

    Reports in the past week indicated that Zarif was invited to the White house during his last trip to New York in mid-July, but he turned it down, not having received an approval from Tehran. Later in the month the U.S. announced sanctions against Zarif, but it is not clear how far these will impact his freedom of movement around the world.

    The foreign minister who was under pressure by hardliners in Iran has suddenly become a symbol of Iran’s resistance for various factions of the ruling elite.
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    Russian news showing fighting in Idlib

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    Gibraltar Releases Iranian Tanker U.S. Tried To Seize
    August 15, 2019

    Gibraltar has released an Iranian oil tanker that was detained last month by Britain, despite a last-minute request by the U.S. to take possession of the vessel.

    Grace 1 was raided on July 4 in the waters off the coast of Gibraltar, a British territory, by Britain's Royal Marines. The tanker was impounded on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria — a breach of European Union sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. It was said to be carrying 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.

    Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo confirmed those suspicions on Thursday, but said in a statement that he had received "written assurance" from Iran that the tanker would not head to Syria with its cargo.

    "In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1 in order to ensure compliance with the EU Sanctions Regulation," Picardo said.

    The tanker's release from detention was decided Thursday afternoon local time by the Gibraltar Supreme Court.

    A spokesperson with Gibraltar's government told NPR on Thursday that the Justice Department had applied to seize the vessel, providing "a number of allegations which are now being considered."

    The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

    Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, took to Twitter after the news of the release.

    "The US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas," he wrote. "This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin's contempt for the law."

    According to a legal notice provided Thursday by the Gibraltar government, the Grace 1's passage plan plotted 38 specific waypoints for a route from the Persian Gulf to Baniyas, where a major oil refinery is located in northwestern Syria.

    "There were no plotted navigational charts, passage plans, plotted courses or underkeel clearance calculations on board the Vessel relating to a destination other than Syria," the notice said.

    Emails from April to July between the captain and managing agents showed permit requests and a directive to land the ship's waste at the discharge port — deemed to be Syria. The government of Gibraltar said it confirmed that the vessel was the property of the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company.

    Days after the tanker was taken, Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized a British-flagged commercial oil tanker, called the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz — a vital shipping route linking the Middle East to the world. Iran also briefly detained a U.K.-owned oil tanker, Mesdar.

    On Wednesday, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted by Iran's Press TV with a warning that enemies should leave the region. "The era of hypocritical stunts and roaming freely around in the Persian Gulf is over," he said.

    The seizures this summer have escalated relations between the West and Tehran. Tensions had already run high since President Trump's withdrawal last from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

    Under the agreement, Iran said it would curb its nuclear programs in exchange for the U.S. easing of sanctions. The Trump administration has since imposed new economic sanctions on Iran, and Iran said it has begun to enrich uranium above the levels established in the agreement.

    The Gibraltar Chronicle reported that the Grace 1's captain and three officers were released from arrest in a separate development. None of the crew were Iranian, according to The Associated Press.
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    Iran's Khamenei meets Yemen rebel leader after blow to Saudi coalition

    [​IMG], AFP | A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on August 13, 2019 shows him (R) meeting with Mohammed Abdul-Salam (2nd-L), spokesman for Yemen's Houthi rebels.

    Iran's supreme leader has held talks with a senior Yemeni rebel official just days after the long-running intervention against the rebels by its regional foes Saudi Arabia and the UAE suffered a major setback.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hosted Houthi rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam at his Tehran residence late Tuesday after southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates seized Yemen's second city Aden on Saturday.

    The defeat for President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's unionist supporters, who have been backed by Saudi Arabia, exposed the divergent ambitions of the key coalition partners and threatened to weaken their common struggle against the Huthis.

    Khamenei renewed his support for the rebels, who control the Yemeni capital Sanaa and much of the north, and accused Iran's foes of a "plot" to partition the country.

    "I declare my support for the mujahidah (struggle) of Yemen," he said in a statement issued after the talks.

    "Saudi and UAE and their supporters have committed major crimes in Yemen.

    "They seek to divide Yemen. This plot should be strongly resisted and a unified, coherent Yemen with sovereign integrity should be endorsed," the Iranian leader said in an English-language statement.

    South Yemen was an independent country until it merged with the north in 1990. An armed secession bid four years later ended with its occupation by northern forces, which provoked resentments that persist to this day.

    Four and a half years of Saudi- and UAE-led military intervention in support of Hadi has seen the Houthi rebels pushed out of the south.

    But the UAE, which has led ground operations in the region, has relied heavily on southern separatists at the expense of the unionists, who dominate Hadi's government.

    Khamenei called for talks to stop Yemen being divided.

    "Given Yemen's religious and ethnic diversity, protecting Yemen's integrity requires domestic dialogues," he said.

    The conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced some 3.3 million since 2015. Two-thirds of the population - some 20 million people - require humanitarian support, according to the United Nations.

    Khamenei blasted the "Western world's indifference towards the crimes committed in Yemen".

    "The Islamic republic's anti-US and anti-West stances are not out of fanaticism," he said.

    "Rather, they're based on realities, US politicians' and West's actions, who fake a humane, civilised and ethical appearance while committing the worst crimes and talking about human rights."

    The United States and its Western allies have kept up huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite an international outcry over the human cost of the war.

    Saudi Arabia and the UAE have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying weapons, including ballistic missiles, to the Houthis rebels, an accusation Tehran has consistently denied.
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    AUGUST 15, 2019

    It is now popular to talk about grand strategy. A variety of media outlets regularly publish articles about it. Think tank panels and papers frequently address it. People even talk about it on television. Loren DeJonge Schulman memorably said that it has become cool to talk about grand strategy at parties and happy hours over $8 PBR. As conversations about America’s strategic choices become more frequent, and hopefully start to have more of an impact, practitioners and academics alike need to begin to question the assumptions they make about the tools at America’s disposal.

    One commonly made assumption is that the United States has for decades enjoyed conventional military dominance, the ability to defeat any other actor in a conventional fight. The assumption of historic military dominance, often understood as fact, is almost entirely unsupported by meaningful evidence. While the U.S. military is unquestionably powerful, dominance cannot be measured by defense spending or even training. Dominance can only be measured through performance, and the United States’ history does not support a narrative of conventional military dominance. Because American conventional military dominance is an assumption rather than a fact, strategists need to question its validity and its importance for policy and strategy. If the common narrative proves to be unsupported, it will change America’s strategic variables.

    Military Dominance: A Bipartisan Position

    Confidence in the U.S. military’s dominance has persisted for decades across a variety of fields, creating what Joseph Nye has referred to as the “golden glow of the past” in discussions of foreign policy. President Barack Obama, in a speech to U.S. Naval Academy graduates, promised to “maintain America’s military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has even seen.” President George W. Bush announced in his 2002 National Security Strategy that “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” President Bill Clinton said in a 1994 speech, “Today our Armed Forces are clearly and without dispute the best trained, the best equipped, the best prepared, and the best motivated military on the face of the Earth.”

    Similar declarations have come from foreign policy intellectuals. Writing for the Center for New American Security in June of 2019, Chris Dougherty noted that for “generations of Americans accustomed to U.S. military superiority,” the idea that the United States might be defeated in battle has become “preposterous.” Dan Drezner remarked in 2013 that the “U.S. military hegemony has been a concrete fact of life in world politics.”

    Understandably, this discussion seems to have influenced how the American public sees its military as well. Gallup polling shows that over the past three decades a majority of Americans believed that the United States is the world’s preeminent military. Every one of the abovementioned experts and leaders spoke in good faith, but from a shared assumption about the character of global military power. This belief, founded in an underexamined narrative, is worthy of further scrutiny.

    The False Narrative of Military Dominance

    Most Americans learn a history of U.S. military dominance. Narratives of triumph in two world wars, a one-sided fight in the first Gulf War, and rapid invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan all support the belief that through most of the 20th century and no small amount of what we have seen thus far from the 21st, the United States has been the inevitable victor when its enemies are brave enough, or perhaps foolish enough, to meet it on the field of conventional warfare. On closer examination, however, history provides little obvious support for a narrative of American military dominance.

    The United States played a valuable role in World War I and World War II, but was not the primary combatant in either conflict. Americans fought hard, sacrificed, and made a key difference in both wars, but did so as part of large alliances that included other powerful states, not as a military titan crushing its enemies. During the World War I, the U.S. military tipped the balance of power against Germany, but did not dominate, or have the military or industrial power to dominate the Western Front. Instead, the French, British, and Russian militaries each bore a heavier burden. World War II arguably made a much greater impression on the American narrative, whether measured through recent remembrance on the anniversary of D-Day or the number of Call of Duty games the war is featured in. However, the narrative of American efforts during the “good war” often leaves out the efforts of other nations. During World War II, the United States played a major role in North Africa, Italy, France, and the Pacific, but the Soviet Union destroyed the largest portion of the Nazi military and defeated the Army of Manchuria, Japan’s strongest ground force.

    The 1950s through the 1970s are less commonly portrayed as a period of military dominance, but still affect how Americans see their military. The Korean War is rarely mentioned. When it is, stories of Chinese human-wave tactics control the narrative rather than depictions of a stalemate against an adversary with occasional small numerical advantages at the theater level. The United States’ struggle to accomplish its objectives in Vietnam is typically described as a dark point in an otherwise bright history. Instead of a reminder of the limits of American military power, Vietnam is often part of a parallel narrative about the hazards and frustrations of fighting unconventional forces. Instead of challenging American conventional dominance, that narrative is used as a demonstration that the American military has so much conventional power that its enemies may choose to avoid it on the field and fight as insurgents.

    Defense planners during the 1970s believed that even the combination of America’s powerful nuclear arsenal and conventional military power was unprepared to face increasingly capable Soviet forces. The planners believed Soviet armor could quickly penetrate NATO lines and destroy its tactical nuclear weapons, “and prevent NATO from mounting a nuclear defense entirely.” The resulting technological, doctrinal, and operational reforms, labeled the second offset, created the military that fought in the first Gulf War.

    The first Gulf War mostly reversed whatever doubts the Korean and Vietnam Wars created. The United States and its allies outperformed expectations in Kuwait and Iraq. Instead of taking the projected 10-20,000 casualties, the United States and its allies steamrolled the Iraqi military. At the time, the victory seemed to prove both the value of post-Vietnam reforms and emerging information technology capabilities. President George H.W. Bush captured the spirit of the hour when he announced the United States had finally beaten Vietnam.

    Unfortunately, the first Gulf War was not a strong indicator of American military power compared to other major powers. The conflict was heavily balanced towards the United States and its allies. The Iraqi military fought mostly in open terrain where the American military could use its technology far more effectively than in cities or forests. The United States led a massive coalition against a much smaller Iraqi military, which was in relatively poor shape from a long war with Iran that had exhausted their militaryrather than forging a battle-hardened force. Saddam’s purges of his officer corps also degraded his army’s effectiveness. On top of these issues, the Iraqi military was not committed to defending their occupation of Kuwait, an action some Iraqi soldiers found immoral. With all of those factors weighed, it would have been surprising if the United States and its allies had not quickly driven the Iraqis from Kuwait. However, military and political leaders often portray the conflict as an indicator of a revolution in military affairs and a new era of American military dominance.

    The same factors were in play during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003. While both campaigns were impressive victories in many ways, they were fought against small, poor states, and are better indicators of the fate of small, poor states that fight against large, wealthy states than indicators of American military prowess.

    The United States has not fought many well-trained or well-resourced militaries since the end of World War II. The United States has fought against North Korea, China, North Vietnam, Libya, Iran, Panama, Iraq, groups in the Balkans, the Taliban, the Islamic State, and many insurgent groups. The only well-trained enemies were the Vietnamese, North Koreans, and arguably the Iraqis. During these conflicts, the United States has performed well against much weaker forces, but has a mixed record against even moderately strong adversaries.

    In Search of Evidence of American Military Dominance

    There are other arguments one can use to claim the United States can dominate adversaries in conventional military conflict. The first and most often referenced reason Americans are confident in their military is defense spending. The United States spent $596 billion on defense annually in 2016, $19 billion more than the $567 billion spent by the seven next most prolific countries. Few people, when asked directly, would argue that better funding ensures military victory. Despite this, the American military’s budget still serves as a source of reassurance to both policymakers and the American people, who somewhat justifiably assume that higher defense spending leads to more effective military forces.

    Unfortunately, defense spending does not directly correlate with military effectiveness. Stephen Biddle notes that tactical proficiency is significantly more important than, and not directly related to, defense spending. Operational and strategic proficiency are even more important than tactical proficiency, and even less directly correlated to defense spending. It is also difficult to compare American military spending to other states, as the United States spends a disproportionate amount on personnel costs.

    Another, and perhaps better-founded, reason for American confidence is the military’s tough, realistic training. Most of the United States’ potential adversaries do not have training centers and exercises that are as rigorous as the combat training centers, Red Flag, or several of the United States’ large-scale naval exercises. Units depart combat training center rotations more confident and prepared for deployments than when they arrived. Post-Gulf War studies say, “The results of this research, and other research as well, indicate that the realism and intensity of [combat training center] training appears to have prepared soldiers well for the ‘real thing.’” Despite their benefits, even demanding exercises are not a sure recipe for success. To take advantage of the benefits of training, militaries have to predict what combat will look like in the future — a notoriously difficult and unreliable task. Training value can only be truly measured by combat effectiveness, and combat effectiveness in future battles can’t be measured ahead of time.

    This is not to say the U.S. military isn’t powerful. Large, well-equipped forces with the ability to project force globally provide a type of power that few states can rival. History, however, provides no evidence that American military power translates into genuine dominance of adversaries, leaving the comparison of conventional military power uncertain. It would be an exaggeration to say that Americans tend to enter wars as part of massive coalitions fighting against weak or exhausted enemies, then remember themselves as world champions of warfare. But it might not be as much of an exaggeration as most Americans would like to admit.

    The Effect of Overconfidence

    The above arguments do not lead to the conclusion that the United States is weak. Likewise, they do not mean the United States is unprepared for the next war. Military strength is relative, and America’s likely adversaries are no more invincible juggernauts than the United States. Similarly, they do not reduce the substantial skill, sacrifice, and professionalism shown by the American military. Instead, an examination of history shows that Americans should acknowledge that the United States has entered conflicts with its ability to defeat its enemy uncertain, and will do so again. This should cause policymakers to ask three questions as they consider future policies:

    Is the concept of military dominance still meaningful in the nuclear age?

    In some ways, military dominance is still a valuable concept in the nuclear age. The United States and other countries have and will continue to fight nonnuclear states in limited wars. Within this context, dominance is still a meaningful, if somewhat unrealistic, concept. In other ways, nuclear weapons grossly undermine the concept of military dominance. If the United States cannot guarantee even military victory against adversaries that might use nuclear weapons against American forces and cities, then it cannot claim dominance.

    If potential adversaries do not believe in American military superiority, what are the likely results of the United States acting as though it can win any conventional fight?

    Much of American foreign policy during and since the Cold War has been based on concepts related to deterrence and coercion. While the Obama administration moved away from basing its policy on credibility, the idea still influences American foreign policy. If the U.S. military has less credibility in foreign capitals than Washington believes, its policies may have foundations built upon sand.

    If the United States fails to intimidate adversaries with the threat of conventional force, is its population willing to commit the time, money, and lives needed to engage a near-peer or peer adversary?

    The United States has an unquestionably powerful military. There is a vast gap, however, between powerful and dominant. As discussions of dominance, loss of dominance, and grand strategy increase, it is essential that we consider on which side of this gap the United States has historically fallen. The military’s budget and training cannot guarantee dominance, and American history does not provide any evidence that it ever existed. If policymakers and the American people want to conduct foreign policy with an accurate assessment of the risks they take, they need to question the assumptions and reasoning that led to their estimation of the United States’ abilities.

    Grand strategy questions how the United States will use its economic, diplomatic, and military tools to protect the national interest in the coming century. If those conversations are to be of value, we must question not just the future of American military dominance, but its past as well.
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    Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Is the Tip of Tehran’s Spear
    Over the past four decades, the Revolutionary Guard has emerged as a strangely powerful political and military force that has no counterpart in any Western nation.

    In the short run, at least, President Donald Trump’s beef with Iran has more to do with its aggressive, destabilizing foreign policy in the Middle East than with its nuclear program, which, experts agree, is years away from producing even a single nuclear device.

    The chief institution responsible for implementing the political warfare and military aspects of that foreign policy is the Pasdaran—better known in the West as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

    The IRGC was forged on the anvil of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It has grown steadily in power and influence over the Republic’s turbulent 40-year history. Today the Guard is a unique, and uniquely powerful, politico-military organization within Iran. It has no exact counterpart in any Western nation.

    The Pasdaran functions as both the sword and shield of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Shiite theocracy over which he presides, and it remains outside the chain of command of Iran’s conventional armed forces. The Supreme Leader commands the IRGC, and his imprimatur, in the eyes of the soldiers of the Guard, legitimizes every act of violence it perpetrates.

    The Guard’s primary missions are to defend religious orthodoxy at home and to spread Iran’s anti-Western, pro-Islamic ideology throughout the Muslim World. The IRGC’s senior leadership sees its primary enemies as the United States, Israel, and their allies in the Middle East. At home, it wages a constant struggle against secularism, liberal reformers, moral laxity, atheism, and anyone that challenges the righteous path of True Belief.

    The organization’s view of the world comes through very clearly in this excerpt from an early, official IRGC publication:

    “Imperialism and global Zionism, with the help of governments and their henchmen, are everyday involved in plots against the spread and penetration of the Islamic revolution among the hearts of the people of Iran and the world… Therefore we can and must… shoulder the global message of Islam. We have no recourse except the mobilization of all the faithful forces of the Islamic revolution and must, with the mobilization of forces in every region, strike fear into the hearts of our enemies so that the idea of invasion and destruction of our Islamic revolution will exit their minds. If our revolution does not have an internationalist and aggressive approach, the enemies of Islam will again enslave us culturally and politically.”

    The organization’s extraordinary success in exporting the revolutionary ethos by any means necessary explains in large part why it’s the only foreign government entity labeled a terrorist organization by Washington. President Donald Trump made that determination this past April, but the IRGC has been at the epicenter of what historian David Crist calls the “twilight war” between America and Iran for almost 40 years.

    The Corps today consists of about 125,000 men, but its influence is much greater than that number would indicate. Experts estimate the organization controls as much as one third of the Iranian economy, with an especially strong presence in construction, energy, and telecommunications. The Guard has its own television news channel. Many of the country’s leading politicians are former Guardsmen, and the organization is regularly called upon to thwart the efforts of groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq that seek to liberalize Iran’s hardline political institutions and diminish the power of the Supreme Leader.

    To quash dissent or mobilize Iranian society behind a particular cause or project, the IRGC leadership deploys the Basij—a vast paramilitary organization of some 10 million people with chapters in many schools, businesses, government offices, and mosques. The Basij is a cross between a cultural organization and a militia that provides basic religious and military instruction. Recruits are all volunteers noted for their religious zeal.

    Western powers, especially the United States, are most concerned with the activities of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite special forces, the Quds Force; its navy, which is a distinct from the country’s regular naval force; and its ballistic missile force, which is rapidly expanding in capability and would bear responsibility for managing nuclear weapons if Iran somehow found a way to develop them.

    The Quds Force consists of about 5,000 men. It’s a kind of hybrid of the CIA’s Special Operations Group and the Green Berets. According to New Yorker journalist Dexter Filkins, its members are "divided between combatants and those who train and oversee foreign assets." The force has branches focusing on intelligence, finance, politics, sabotage, and unconventional warfare.

    From Washington’s point of view, the Quds Force’s most troubling activity has been its role as a “force multiplier.” Quds operatives have trained, funded, and armed a vast network of proxy forces throughout the greater Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, a handful of Shiite militia groups in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite military units in Saudi Arabia, to name but a few. According to Iran expert Ray Takeyh of the Rand Corporation, this proxy force network today consists of 200,000 fighters.

    Iran’s proxies have been deployed against the United States or its allies in the Lebanese Civil War of the ’80s; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the U.S.-led coalition in the civil war in Syria, and the Saudi-Houthi struggle in Yemen, among other places. Interestingly, Iranian-supported Shiite forces fought with the American coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

    Major General Qassem Soleimani, the charismatic commander of the Quds, is a national hero in Iran. Dexter Filkins describes him as "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today" and the principal military strategist and tactician in Iran's effort to combat Western influence throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Many experts believe he has been one of the leading strategists for the Assad regime in the ongoing Syrian Civil War for the last several years.

    The IRGC’s “mosquito navy” of 20,000 men may be small, but it remains a significant concern for the U.S. Navy in the current crisis because of its highly developed asymmetric warfare capabilities. It has more than a thousand small attack boats, a formidable array of anti-ship missiles and naval mines, and it is highly skilled in hit-and-run and swarming tactics.

    The IRGC’s ballistic missile program is the most robust in the Middle East, and it continues to progress. The program’s Revolutionary Guard commanders are determined to transition from liquid to solid propelled systems, which are more sustainable. They are also striving to improve accuracy, which still leaves much to be desired.

    According to one of the leading experts on the Pasdaran, Afshon Ostovar, the Guard is at once “a champion of Iran’s revolutionary ethos and a pragmatic organization with an approach to strategic affairs that comes closer to realpolitik than Islamism… the organization’s history is in many ways a microcosm of the Islamic Republic, from the struggle to carve and independent path to its controversial rise into a regional power.”

    Some knowledgeable observers of Iranian politics believe the Guard has a significant voice in the making of Iran’s foreign policy as well as its implementation. Given its symbiotic relationship with Khamenei, and deep roots in the country’s political life, this seems entirely plausible.

    Cobbled together by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from a wide array of Shiite militia and armed gangs during the revolution, it served as a counterforce to the regular army and police force, which were regarded as untrustworthy because of their close association with the Shah of Iran. The Guards spent most of 1980 and 1981 conducting assassinations and marginalizing non-clerical elements of the revolution, including liberals and Marxists.

    When the regular army performed lethargically in the face of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in 1980, the IRGC stepped into the breach, activating the Basij, and employing hundreds of thousands of partially trained warriors—including young teenagers—in massive human wave assaults against the invaders. Often they defeated the Iraqis, but incurred horrendous casualties in the process.

    After it appeared that Iran might defeat Iraq and come to dominate the region, the United States, France, and the Arab Sheikdoms threw their support behind Iraq. According to Ostovar, the Iran-Iraq War contributed significantly to the IRGC’s “paranoid view of the outside world.” The war, of course, ended in stalemate in 1988, but not before the IRGC orchestrated a campaign to halt the flow of oil to and from Iraq through the Straits of Hormuz.

    Protecting the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz has been a mission of the U.S. Navy since 1949. When an Iranian mine badly damaged the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts, a guided missile cruiser, the U.S. Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis, one of the largest naval surface actions since World War II. American ships and aircraft destroyed roughly half of Iran’s naval forces in one day—April 18, 1988.

    It was during the early years of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) that Revolutionary Guard covert agents cobbled together diverse Shiite militia groups in Lebanon into an umbrella organization the world soon came to know as Hezbollah. The IRGC was intimately involved in the training, funding, and arming of the Hezbollah terrorist cells that bombed the American embassy in Beirut in April 1983, and the much more costly suicide truck bombing that destroyed the barracks of a battalion of U.S. Marines in that city, killing 241 men.

    After much dithering, President Ronald Reagan decided to withdraw the Marines without retaliating against Iran.

    Nonetheless, IRGC-trained proxies continued to make life a misery for Americans in Beirut, capturing, torturing, and killing CIA station chief William Buckley, and partially blowing up the U.S. embassy annex on September 20, 1984, killing 24 people.

    In the ’90s, says Ostovar, the Guard “became the standard-bearer for hardline politics in Iran,” and was amply rewarded for its work with hundreds of contracts for reconstruction projects. Its network of proxies expanded. The Quds Force played a pivotal role in planning the suicide bombing of an Argentine Jewish Community Center in 1994 that killed 80, and the destruction of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, where U.S. Air Force personnel flying missions over Iraq’s no-fly zones were housed. Nineteen servicemen were killed, and almost 500 civilians wounded.

    The 9/11 attacks on the United States greatly enhanced the profile and standing of foreign policy neoconservatives in Washington who wanted to use American military power to reconfigure the Middle East along pro-Western, democratic lines. The abject failure of this project is due at least in part to the IRGC’s dexterity in spreading its pro-clerical, anti-Western message throughout the region.

    Ironically, the Bush administration’s early successes in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Afghanistan and Iraq had the effect of strengthening the IRGC at home and abroad. The GWOT seemed to confirm suspicions that the Americans were conducting covert operations inside Iran with a view to overthrowing the Ayatollah’s hardline regime and replacing it with reformers receptive to democratic ideas and institutions. According to Ostovar, the GWOT “not only failed to contain the IRCG, it was a boon to the organization, and both directly and indirectly encouraged its political involvement, domestic expansion, and entry” into the Iraq War against the Americans and their allies.

    The Quds Force in Iraq went into high gear, expanding its training, arming, and funding efforts, as well as providing strategic and operational advice to combatant groups. It did the same thing on a lesser scale in Afghanistan. The Bush administration was so concerned about Iran’s support for Shiite insurgents in Iraq that in 2005 in began to make detailed plans for attacking Iran directly.

    According to the Trump administration, the Quds Force was directly involved in operations in Iraq that killed 600 American service members.

    Today, Iran wields a great deal of political influence in Iraq through its allies, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and the Badr Corps. Members of both groups hold important positions in the Iraqi government.

    In 2012, Quds force operatives attempted to orchestrate the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a swanky Georgetown restaurant. The plot fell apart when one of the operatives tried to hire the assassin through an intermediary who turned out to be a DEA informant. Not for nothing has the Trump administration called Quds “Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorism.”

    The current crisis between Washington and Tehran has made Gen. Soleimani even busier than usual, as his naval forces retain responsibility for defending Iran’s interests in the Persian Gulf, and have been directly involved in attacking tankers, shooting down a U.S. drone, and seizing the British tanker Stena Impero on July 19.

    Should the United States decide on a military response, the chances are very good that American forces will be engaging the warriors of the Republican Guard.
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    Yemen rebel attack sparks fire in Saudi gas plant: Aramco
    August 17, 2019

    Riyadh (AFP) - An attack claimed by Yemeni rebels sparked a fire in a Saudi gas plant Saturday but caused no casualties or disruption to production, state-owned energy company Saudi Aramco said.

    "Saudi Aramco's response team controlled a limited fire this morning at the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility," the energy giant said. "There were no injuries and no interruptions to Saudi Aramco’s oil operations."

    The Huthi rebels have carried out a spate of cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in recent months in what it says is retaliation for the Saudi-led air war in Yemen.

    Early Saturday the Huthis issued a statement claiming a "massive" attack against a Saudi gas installation, which they said was hit by 10 drones.

    A rebel spokesman, cited by the insurgent television station Al-Masirah, also vowed "fiercer and larger attacks" against Saudi Arabia should it retaliate.

    The channel later broadcast a speech by rebel chief Abdelmalek al-Huthi, who said all the group's military operations were "a legitimate response to Saudi aggression".

    Al-Huthi added that Saturday's attack was also "a warning to the United Arab Emirates", the other main pillar in the Saudi-led coalition.

    The Shaybah installation lies just 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Emirati border and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest Huthi-controlled territory.

    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the operation was carried out at 0320 GMT by "booby-trapped drones".

    "This terrorist sabotage follows a series of actions, including attacks against oil tankers, aimed at disrupting international oil supplies," Falih said.

    "These acts are not only aimed at Saudi Arabia but also against the global economy."

    Tensions in the Gulf have soared since May, with US President Donald Trump calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic downed a US drone.

    The United States and Saudi Arabia have also blamed Iran for multiple attacks on tankers in the Gulf.
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    Bill Barr issued this warrant created by John Bolton

    U.S. issues warrant to seize Iran oil tanker 'Grace 1' after Gibraltar judge orders its release

    Aug 17 2019

    The U.S. Justice Department issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar, a day after a judge in the British overseas territory ordered its release.

    The U.S. move late Friday deepens a weeks-long diplomatic dispute between Tehran and Washington. It also comes amid a standoff between the two countries after President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed sanctions. Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been on the rise since.

    The tanker "Grace 1" was seized last month in a British Royal Navy operation off the coast of Gibraltar. Authorities suspected it of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. Its seizure aggravated fears of a conflict in the Persian Gulf, where Iran claims control of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments.

    But despite a last-minute U.S. attempt on Thursday to keep the oil tanker detained in Gibraltar, a court there ordered its release. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had received "written assurances" from Iran that its tanker would not seek to travel to a destination that is subject to EU sanctions. "This assurance has the effect of ensuring that we have deprived the (President Bashar) Assad regime in Syria of more than one hundred and forty million dollars of valuable crude oil," he said.

    The "Grace 1" was carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil.

    It wasn't immediately clear if the tanker has tried to depart Gibraltar.

    The warrant unsealed in the U.S. District Court in Washington alleges "all petroleum aboard it and $995,000.00 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), bank fraud statute, and money laundering statute, as well as separately the terrorism forfeiture statute."

    Federal prosecutor Jessie Lui claimed Iran had used a "network of front companies" to launder money used to ship its oil abroad in violation of sanctions and that these companies had links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, an organization with ties to Iran's military and economy that the U.S. has placed on a terrorism list.

    There was no immediate response from Iran or the United Kingdom.

    Tehran has called the impounding of "Grace 1" an "illegal interception."

    Still, the attempted U.S. intervention Friday may further strain the situation in the Persian Gulf. After Gibraltar's detention of "Grace 1," Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker "Stena Impero" as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz. The Islamic Republic is still holding the "Stena Impero," claiming it failed to stop after colliding with an Iranian fishing boat. Iran has also seized other foreign oil tankers and the U.S. blames Tehran for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone as well as a series of sabotage attacks on ships operating in the Persian Gulf. Iran disputes claims it was involved.

    The Trump administration late last month sanctioned Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a move that has narrowed the window for dialogue with Iran. It was a decision that came after weeks of heated rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran as Washington has attempted to squeeze the regime economically and isolate it diplomatically. European signatories to the nuclear deal brokered during President Barack Obama's administration, including Britain, have so far resisted pressure from Washington to abandon the landmark 2015 agreement that placed restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in return for easing sanctions on its key industries, such as oil.

    "A successful U.S. seizure of the Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar would further increase tensions between Iran and the Trump administration," said Rocky Weitz, the director of Maritime Studies at The Fletcher School of Tufts University.

    Authorities in Gibraltar said they decided to release "Grace 1" to ease tensions. Legal action against the ship's crew and captain, an Indian national, were dropped.

    New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who enjoys a good relationship with Trump, has not indicated publicly whether he intends to back Washington's "maximum pressure" strategy over Iran that has stoked fears it could lead to military conflict. The two leaders will hold their first meeting since Johnson's elevation to prime minister on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, on Aug. 24-26.

    The U.S. State Department has meanwhile threatened a visa ban or potential prevention of admission to the U.S. on anyone who assists the "Grace 1."
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    do you see this smile on the right, that's a commander of the chinese army during the battle of chosin reservoir where 15000 US marines died out of 30k

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    Gibraltar rejects U.S. pressure to hold Iranian tanker
    The U.S. had unsealed a warrant Friday to seize the vessel, a day after Gibraltar lifted the ship's detention.
    Aug. 18, 2019

    LONDON — Gibraltar on Sunday rejected a renewed U.S. request that the British overseas territory not release a detained Iranian oil tanker.

    The tanker, Grace 1, was impounded last month in a British Royal Navy operation.

    It was suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria — an ally of Iran — and its seizure deepened international tensions in the Persian Gulf.

    In a statement, Gibraltar's government said the ship would be free to go as U.S. sanctions on Iran had no equivalent in the United Kingdom or the rest of the E.U.

    The U.S. had unsealed a warrant Friday to seize the vessel, a day after Gibraltar lifted the ship's detention.

    The vessel remains at anchor off Gibraltar, laden with 2.1 million barrels of Iranian light crude oil.

    A new crew is expected to arrive and sail the tanker to an undisclosed destination as early as Sunday.

    The U.S. government claimed in court documents that the Grace 1 was part of a scheme to support illicit shipments from Iran by that country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated a foreign terrorist organization in the U.S.

    The unsealed documents said that the oil tanker engaged in "deceptive voyages" from Iran to other locations, including Syria.

    But Gibraltar's government said on Sunday that it was unable to fulfill the U.S. request because of "differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the E.U. and the U.S."

    "The E.U. sanctions regime against Iran, which is applicable in Gibraltar, is much narrower than that applicable in the U.S," the statement said.

    Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said on Thursday that he received a written assurance from Iran government that if released, the destination of Grace 1 would not be an entity that is subject to E.U. sanctions.

    "In light of the assurances we have received, there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention of the Grace 1," he said.

    Iran has insisted that the Grace 1 was never bound for Syria and called the seizure an illegal act.

    The decision to lift a detention order on Grace 1 raised hopes that Iran would reciprocate the gesture and release Stena Impero, a British-flagged and Swedish-owned tanker seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard for “violating international regulations” just weeks after Grace 1 was impounded.

    The Stena Impero remains in detention.

    Video footage and photographs obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed the Grace 1 tanker flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing the new name of 'Adrian Darya-1' painted in white on its hull.

    Its previous name, Grace 1, had been painted over and the vessel's anchor was still down.

    The two vessels have become embroiled in the larger atmosphere of hostility since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions.
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    Rumors Hezbollah was called in to spear tip

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    skip to 7:46 for a sweet bombing highlight reel set to synthwave

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    Iran clamping down

    US agrees to new rules as Iraq cracks down on use of its airspace


    U.S. military officials in Iraq will now seek out Iraqi approval before launching any air operations, a move made a day after that nation’s prime minister announced a ban of unauthorized flights, including those involving coalition forces fighting ISIS.

    Top leaders with Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint task force leading anti-ISIS efforts in the country, have met with Iraqi defense officials to discuss the mandate to have every helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle and fighter aircraft launch pre-approved, according to a Friday release from the Pentagon.

    “As guests within Iraq’s sovereign borders, CJTF-OIR complies with all Iraqi laws and direction from the Government of Iraq,” the release said. “The U.S.-led coalition immediately complied with all directions received from our Iraqi partners as they implemented the Prime Minister’s order.”

    Under the agreement, coalition forces would have to route any requests to fly through the Iraqi government, including urgent flights in support of coalition troops fighting against ISIS in the country’s north.

    A new system could hamstring response times to flight requests, according to a former Inter-Agency Take Force director at U.S. Special Operations Command.

    "The biggest concern would be, if there’s an immediate call to respond to troops in danger ... quickly routing so that any kind of [quick reaction force] could get to the troops in contact or in immediate need of support,” retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes told Military Times on Friday.

    It would be less of an issue for planned airstrikes or other missions, but a catastrophe when there are minutes to scramble aircraft and save lives.

    “If it were up to me, I would ensure that I had a U.S. military liaison officer in that command center to expedite any kind of emergent or immediate request," Holmes said, down to single-digit seconds. "These are smart guys out there now, and quite frankly, maybe they’ve already done that.”

    Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had threatened to treat any unauthorized flights through Iraqi airspace as hostile, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

    That included reconnaissance aircraft, both manned and unmanned, as well as helicopters and fighter jets, which have been allowed in Iraqi air space since the joint anti-ISIS campaign in late 2014.

    Coalition flights ― including surveillance, close-air support and medical evacuations ― will still be authorized, but requests will be routed to a centralized office to better keep track of them.

    Mahdi also ordered any military bases or weapons caches moved away from major cities.

    The move came in response to an explosion Monday at Camp Falcon, also known as al-Saqr, near Baghdad. The former American base, now controlled by national police, has a weapons depot with a stockpile controlled by local militia groups.

    “The blast shook the Iraqi capital and sent explosives and mortar shells shooting into the sky, damaging nearby homes and terrifying residents who ran into the streets with their cellphones. Black smoke billowed over the city for hours afterward,” the AP reported.

    The cause of the explosion is unknown, but officials have blamed overheating, while rumors have flown that it was an Israeli airstrike targeting weapons stored by Iran-backed militias.

    It was the latest in a series of explosions at munitions warehouses, sparking suspicion that airstrikes had targeted the stockpiles.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019 at 5:13 PM
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