Archive for the ‘International Affairs’ category

Iran: From Hostage Crisis to the Bomb?

May 29, 2010

Iran: From Hostage Crisis to the Bomb?
Even Adolf Hitler respected diplomatic immunity.
By WARREN KOZAK Published in The Wall Street Journal and WSJ.com on May 24, 2010
We measure their rhetoric, we monitor their actions both within their borders and abroad, and we wonder: “Once they get it, would they use it?” But perhaps we are asking the wrong question when it comes to Iran’s race to get the bomb.
That question may have been answered 31 years ago in the very first days of the Iranian Revolution. The regime was barely born when it manifested personality traits that clearly told us this was no ordinary group of rulers. The Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran and established the Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979. Seven months later, on Nov. 4, 1979, the Iranians threw out centuries of international diplomatic rules that every other country on earth observes, stormed the American Embassy, and held everyone inside hostage for over a year. What does tossing out diplomatic immunity really mean? Is immunity some quaint old custom or is there a greater message in this act?
Here’s a clue: In the middle of the bloodiest global conflict in human history—World War II—even Adolf Hitler understood and respected the importance of diplomatic immunity. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. rounded up the Germans and Japanese in their embassies in Washington and put them in hotels under guard (including the luxurious Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia). Germany and Japan did the same with our embassy staffs in Berlin and Tokyo (although their hotels were not as deluxe).
The Swiss negotiated an exchange and within six months all embassy personnel on each side were back home. Hitler and Hirohito understood the mutual benefits of this protocol.
This is not to say the Iranians haven’t used diplomatic immunity when it serves their purposes. On July 18, 1994, a powerful car bomb detonated outside the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and wounding 300. Although no one has ever been brought to justice for this terrorist act, Argentine prosecutors laid the blame squarely on Iranian government officials tied to their embassy in Buenos Aires. Ahmad Vahidi, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, is still wanted by Interpol for his alleged participation in that bombing. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reaction to this indictment? He tapped Mr. Vahidi to be Iran’s minister of defense last year.
From the very start we have conducted our diplomacy with Iran as if it were Belgium, and we seem surprised when we get the same dismal results. President Jimmy Carter tried and failed miserably, ending his political career, and every secretary of state since seems unable to accept that the Iranian leaders don’t negotiate like us, they don’t think like us and they certainly don’t like us. Yet we continue.
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama focused his future foreign policy on engagement with Iran, repeatedly distancing his diplomacy from that of George W. Bush. On May 18, 2008, candidate Obama suggested Iran “doesn’t pose a threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat” and he reminded his audience that “Kennedy talked to Khrushchev, Reagan talked to Gorbachev and Nixon talked to Mao.” Backing up his campaign rhetoric, just two months after his inauguration, President Obama reached out to Iran offering “the promise of a new beginning” to be “grounded in mutual respect.”
That respect has hardly been mutual. Iran’s uranium-enrichment plants continue to hum. Its missiles can now reach Western Europe with longer range vehicles on the way. And when Mr. Ahmadinejad clearly says he envisions a world without Israel, many refuse to take him at his word.
Instead, we are reminded that we feared a Soviet bomb in the 1950s and a Chinese bomb in the 1960s and we survived. We have even learned to live with a nuclear North Korea and Pakistan. And while the Iranians have been killing Americans for decades—243 Marines in Beirut in 1983 along with countless IEDs that have been exported to Iraq—we tend to sweep these issues under the rug.
Even the apocalyptic views of its leaders—who believe and await the return of an imam from the 13th century for the day of judgment for all infidels—are ignored, as are those “Death to America” rallies that have been a constant in Iran from the start of the Revolution.
For all the talk about Israel that comes out of Tehran, few seem to remember that the major focus of Iran’s bile since 1979 has not been the Little Satan (Israel) but the Great Satan (the United States).
All of which leads us to the question we should be asking. What if the Iranians mean what they say?
Mr. Kozak is the author of “LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay” (Regnery, 2009).

Nuclear Posture Review

April 15, 2010

The prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation is at the top of the US policy agenda. With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, the Nuclear Security Summit and the review of the Non Proliferation Treaty as central elements to a broader approach to deterrence, this Nuclear Posture Review is paving the way for a reduced role for nuclear weapons and eventually, a world without nuclear weapons.

The NPR is an interagency document calling for investments for warhead life extension, credible modernization to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and a continued national nuclear deterrent.

Northern Distribution Network

April 14, 2010

In the Spring of 2008, Taliban insurgents in Pakistan were attempting to choke off NATO’s only ground supply line that runs from the southern port of Karachi north and into Afghanistan. Attacks on ground convoys were becoming a near daily event. The overland route through Pakistan, given the name “Apache,” for obvious reasons, breaks into two points that flow into Afghanistan, at the “Chaman gate,” in the south that goes to Kandahar, and at the “Torkham gate” in the north, also known as the Khyber Pass. That proved to be a very tenuous ground line of communication with all of the eggs in one basket.

The Bush administration was considering doubling the effort in Afghanistan to counter the resurgence in violence. Bush’s policy and strategy review was eventually handed off to the Obama administration with the underpinnings of a comprehensive logistical plan that afforded the Obama administration a new start with Russia and the Central Asia states. This Northern Distribution Network diversified the resupply efforts into Afghanistan, increased European, Russian and Central Asian participation in the support for the effort and secured improved relations throughout that region.

At that time, US relations with Russia were icy and Kyrgyzstan was making noises about access to Manas Air Base. Alternative supply route solutions were a must. Discussions about troop increases in Afghanistan led to the conclusion that the supply routes in Pakistan would be insufficient if the number of forces doubled.

An opportunity to work with South Korean Airlines unfolded that made a lot of sense for the distribution network. The opportunity hinged upon Uzbekistan allowing South Korean Airlines to operate out of Navoi airfield near Taskent. The concept included the South Koreans flying 4 transport aircraft per week into Navoi, transloading the supplies to truck and delivering the supplies overland to Allied forces in Afghanistan. The South Koreans needed cargo to carry and the Allies needed a Northern Distribution Network.

With adroit diplomatic moves and hard work on the part of OSD’s Central Asia team, Transportation Command, CENTCOM, and the State Department, the military was able to open up a northern supply route that uses ports, rails, land and overflight for delivery of supplies into Afghanistan.

The initial meeting with USTRANSCOM and South Korean Airlines President led to access in Uzbekistan and enhancement of the initial concept. Following many months of effort and with a lot of diplomatic work, the Uzbek Embassy presented the South Korean Airlines a contract and the State Department a diplomatic note granting access.

Following the initial series of discussions, other countries became interested in the operation. The Latvian Ambassador approached OSD and proposed using Latvian ports and rail to assist with access. Latvian relations with Russia and Uzbekistan ensured the success of this initiative.

In parallel, work continued with EUCOM and State Department to engage the Russians to allow rail access through Russia. That route flows across Europe, then down through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and into Afghanistan. Agreements for access were concluded with Kazakstan and eventually Russia once the Manas issue was resolved. Additional agreements with the Caucus states added an additional supply route increasing access even further.

Currently, a new rail line is under construction running from Uzbekistan, across the old Friendship Bridge, down to Mazar-i-Sharif, where a new airfield is also being built. All sensitive equipment, including weapons, ammunition and MRAPs and the newer, lighter MATVs, and troops, are flown into Afghanistan. Non-lethal equipment and supplies are moved through the Northern Distribution Network.

This very successful effort accommodated the stretch goals for the 100% increase in operations tempo in Afghanistan. It increased supply capability from one to four alternate routes of supply…limiting vulnerabilities and pilfering. The new routes accommodated a doubling of the 735,000 short tons of essential non-lethal equipment and supplies. The early diplomatic initiatives in 2008 enabled the Northern Distribution Network and ensured delivery of critical supplies before reinforcements arrived…and all before the August 31, 2010 deadline.

Nuclear Summit & Iran

April 14, 2010

The first of many meetings to combat nuclear terrorism is complete. World leaders committed to eliminate or lock down nuclear materials and to finish this task in the next four years.

Noticeably absent from the conference were Iran and North Korea. Heads of State from Israel and the United Kingdom sent a high level representative.

With a very narrow and staged focus, Obama tried to convince African, Latin American, Asian and European nations to agree to deny terrorist groups the access to plutonium and highly enriched uranium. He urged nations to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but stopped short of addressing the most contentious issues such as stopping Pakistani production of weapons-grade plutonium or pressing Israel to admit to its nuclear arsenal.

With a specific warning to Iran, Obama urged China to put meaning to words and consequences to actions. With intent to gain momentum at the United Nations Security Council, he suggested that the resolution must have significant teeth with matching penalties to get the attention of Iranian leadership.

The result of this two day effort is a nonbinding communiqué that merely restates existing policy. A second conference scheduled for two years down the road will review accomplishments. Canada, Mexico and Ukraine committed to eliminating their surplus weapons-grade materials and Russia closed a plutonium reactor used to make weapons-grade fuel. But, there is little new here since many of these proposals are regurgitations’ from agreements signed 10 years ago.

Achieving success on the broader goals remains elusive. Convincing nations that they don’t need nuclear weapons for minimum deterrence will be difficult. Pakistan, India and China continue to manufacture more bomb fuel; North Korea defiantly maintains its 8 to 12 weapons; Russia is worried about America’s nuclear dominance particularly if American missile defense technology is improved and deployed and Iran continues to tout a new generation of centrifuges that will rapidly improve uranium production.

Next up is a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The month long review of the Treaty in New York sets the stage for challenges by Iran and others. Attempts to close loopholes, recast commitment and encourage new signatories hopefully will change the intentions of many nations.

International outreach efforts, however, are met with closed doors in Tehran. The U.S. and its allies worry that Iran is using its nuclear program to also develop atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks energy-producing reactors. Hawks in the region openly discuss military action. U.S. led efforts coalesce around dialogue and strong U.N. sanctions.

Continued dialogue and increased sanctions appear to be the only options short of the military option. In the meantime, work on nuclear weapons in Iran continues unabated.

In the current contested environment, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is difficult at best. Effective sanctions are not likely as the Chinese will probably limit participation in the oil embargo since they are dependent on Iran for 11% of their oil imports and Russian mistrust of America is on the upsurge. All other sanctions, except maybe banking restrictions, are merely gestures.

To respond with a military strike also has its limitations and follow-on predictable responses. There are difficulties in locating and penetrating deep locations with precision weapons. This requires precise intelligence and effective delivery platforms and weapons. Assessment of effectiveness will always remain a question and determining the length of delays in the nuclear program will be the administration’s nightmare and the pundit’s delight.

Even with a decisive military outcome, Iran can and will respond with many possible options. Its terrorist arm, Hezbollah, can react quickly and decisively. Iran can impose on the stability of Iraq and Afghanistan and can reach into the Persian Gulf to disrupt the international flow of oil. Iranian retribution is real and destabilizing.

Iranian response challenges the Western mindset of rationality. It seems that the Iranian dilemma boxes the international community into accepting Iranian nuclear weapons or accepting the consequences. While dialogue may bring cooperation closer than catastrophe, preparing for the latter remains important.

Trying to change the calculus of a country like Iran when national and regime survival are the core of its concerns is difficult. Even with unprecedented international pressure, the Iranian regime is still able to maintain power over the population and a popular revolution is a distance dream.

Bringing Iran back into the international arena is certainly a worthy objective. Dialogue is important but Iranian defiance should not be tolerated. An Iran with nuclear weapons will do more harm than good. The broader approach of less nuclear weapons is admirable but still leaves nations like Iran short in their desire for minimum nuclear deterrence.

The way ahead is uncertain but one thing is certain, continued engagement and pressure is important. Policy matters and to enable success, America must remain strong. Nuclear posture ambiguity creates uncertainty in the minds of our enemies. A modern US nuclear inventory puts teeth into a Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Strong missile defense across all levels improves deterrence. Small US regional presence with quick response capability enhances credibility and is an effective regional counter balance. Coalescing around a goal of preventing terrorism wins allies. Focusing on economic stability and common interests entices compliance. Convincing Iran to take its place as a rational actor on the stage of international actors lessens confrontation and promotes stability.

National Post news story link

March 3, 2010

Thanks for your help yesterday-very enlightening. It was nice talking to you. Here’s the story we went with –

Pakistan’s success in Bajaur

March 2, 2010

While challenges loom large in the fight against terrorism, the Pakistan Army certainly has reason to celebrate. With the unveiling of a vast Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideout dug into mountains near the Afghan border in Damadola, Pakistan, Pakistani tribal militia can finally celebrate in Bajaur’s tribal region.
Pakistan seized the complex of 156 caves developed over five to seven years in its latest offensive against militants in its semi-autonomous tribal belt.
Major General Tariq Khan said the Damadola area had served as a militant headquarters until it was overrun by troops in an offensive launched in January. “There were Egyptians, Uzbeks, Chechens and Afghans killed in the operation,” he said.
“Al-Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex,” Khan said.
Khan stressed Damadola’s strategic importance as a link to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s northern district of Chitral, the main highway to China and to the northwestern valley of Swat, which has been troubled by a Taliban insurgency.
Hundreds of tribesmen celebrated in front of the television cameras, waving guns in the air and hailing the army. Some vowed to form pro-government militias — known locally as lashkars — to prevent the Taliban’s return.
What remains now is for the international community to help the army assist the local people with food, services and rebuilding in order to keep the Taliban out.