Friday, January 3, 2020

Fire in the Sky

Yeah, some people deserve to die. Leave it to the Trump Regime to screw everything up:
Prior to the strike that targeted Qasem Soleimani, White House administration lawyers in consultation with national security officials put together a "strong rationale" specifically for the strike against the Iranian general that President Trump, as commander in chief, had the authority to not ask for congressional authorization over a matter of self defense, the administration official said.

That legal rationale formed the basis for not going to Congress for authorization beforehand.

"We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense," the official said.

A separate administration official says the strike was fully vetted by three different sets of lawyers from the White House, Department of Justice and Department of Defense. All three sets of lawyers deemed the strike was a fully appropriate action and 100% lawful.
Part of the legal reasoning was that Soleimani was deemed an enemy combatant because he was in the process of planning specific attacks in the near future on US and allied personnel and citizens, including military personnel.
The fact that they have to use the same specious arguments that prevent Congressional oversight is telling enough. However, you make the case that someone deserves to be killed BEFORE you actually kill them, not after. Then, you go and kill them.

This man, Soleimani deserved what he received. Better yet, he should have been taken care of like many of his victims, who were disfigured and blown to pieces with shaped charges that gave them traumatic brain injuries. This fellow was responsible for directing and funding the killing of an untold number of Americans. Someone who deserved the fate that he received had the good fortune to get it from the most incompetent fools in American history. This was a one car parade, and they fucked it up.

We are looking at another debacle. This is the fatal flaw of every action undertaken by the people who work for Trump. They are screamed at, goaded, and forced to do things and then they have to make up an excuse or justification after the bodies have been blown to pieces. It is hardly the way adults make foreign policy. And, now that we can press a button and rain fire down from the skies, thanks to our policy of remote control killing with drones, we have handed the worst possible people in American history the most lethal tools imaginable with which to do stupid shit. Yay!

I have heard some commentators state the obvious, but the interagency process that used to guide American foreign policy has been destroyed under Trump. Instead of reason and logic, you have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his chubby cheeks sitting in front of you, daring you to give him a reason to tell you to go fuck yourself because he's such a tough guy. Instead of the infrastructure needed to inform and guide the president's actions, you have Putin and some jackass with a Mar-a-Lago access card running things. Instead of notifying Congress, you have the Gang of Eight completely out of the loop and Lindsey Graham bragging that he has known what's happening for days.

This is not how things are ever supposed to work. So many things are broken right now, God help us when the Iranians start sinking ships and turn the Strait of Hormuz into a shooting gallery.

As a bonus, read this and remember what the Iranians can and can't do.

The Strategic Threat from Iranian Hybrid Warfare in the GulfBy Anthony H. Cordesman 

June 13, 2019
The threat of war with Iran may seem distant to many in United States and Europe, but its strategic implications became all too clear only hours after two freshly loaded tankers – the Frontline and the Kokuka Courageous – were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 12, 2019 – just outside the "Persian" or "Arab" Gulf. These attacks came less than a month after four previous attacks on tankers near a port in the UAE, and after months of rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programs, the war in Yemen, and the growing arms race in the region.
The fear of further attacks, and interruption in the continued export of petroleum sudden raised the global price of crude oil by 4% – a global price rise that everyone in the world must pay – including Americans – regardless of the fact the U.S. is no longer a major petroleum importer.
The reasons why such incidents can lead to immediate price rises, as well as growing concerns over far more serious patterns of conflict are simple. First, the military confrontation between Iran, the U.S., and the Arab Gulf states over everything from the JCPOA to Yemen can easily escalate to hybrid warfare that has far more serious forms of attack. And second, such attacks can impact critical aspects of the flow of energy to key industrial states and exporters that shape the success of the global economy as well as the economy of the U.S.
The Threat of Hybrid WarfareIran can use its naval, air, and/or missile forces and proxies to attack ships anywhere in the Gulf, around the Strait of Hormuz, in the Gulf of Oman outside the Gulf, and in Indian Ocean waters near the Strait of Hormuz. It has long threatened to "close the Gulf" at the Strait of Hormuz, but its military exercises involve dispersing its naval of Revolutionary Guard forces broadly in the Gulf and near it.
Iran also does not have to launch a major war. It can conduct sporadic, low-level attacks that do not necessarily provoke a major U.S. or Arab reaction, but create sudden risk premiums in petroleum prices and the equivalent of a war of attrition. Tankers are inherently vulnerable to relatively small anti-ship missiles and UCAVs, and attacks by submersibles and radio-controlled small craft filled with high explosives. Iran can plant "smart" mines in the bottom of tanker routes that can detect large tankers and home in on them, and be set to arm at widely space intervals.
These methods of "hybrid" attack can be carried by individual ships and dhows that are not part of Iran's armed forces, that do not have Iranian flags or operators wearing Iranian uniforms, and that cannot be directly tied to actions by the Iranian government. They can be operated by proxies like the Houthis or "false flag" groups made up for the occasion, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) have established a growing presence in the Gulf of Oman based at Chabahar – to "prevent smuggling" – and in the Gulf of Aden and near Yemen to "deal with Somali pirates."
Its growing role in the Gulf of Oman includes basing for its Kilo submarines to reduce U.S. ability to track and cover their movements, and IHS Janes reports that Iran plans to establish three new bases on its Makran Coast on in the Gulf of Oman – one of which at near Pasabandar (close to the Pakistani border) was completed in February 2017.
At the same time, outside extremist groups like ISIS can also carry out such attacks – potentially dragging Iran, the U.S., and Arab states into some form of clash or war. No one cans safely assume that Iran is the cause in the absence of reliable intelligence or evidence. Even "implausible" Iranian denial can limit the military response of other states, particularly since virtually any such response risks triggering a far more serious conflict and an even more serious reduction in the flow of Gulf oil.
The Threat to the Global and U.S. EconomyPetroleum is a global commodity, and any serious risk or reduction in the supply affects prices everywhere in the world. The Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf are critical sources of exports, and some 60-million barrels of oil, plus product and natural gas, move out of the Gulf by sea every day.
While the volume of the Gulf petroleum exports varies over time, the U.S. government's Energy Information Agency's estimates note that the volume has risen by about 9% in the half-decade between 2011 and 2016, and that,
The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important chokepoint, with an oil flow of 18.5 million b/d in 2016. The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, and in 2015 its daily flow of oil accounted for 30% of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids. More than 30% of global liquefied natural gas trade also transited the Strait of Hormuz in 2016. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, separated by a two-mile buffer zone.
There are limited options to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. Only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pipelines that can ship crude oil outside of the Persian Gulf and have additional pipeline capacity to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz. At the end of 2016, the total available crude oil pipeline capacity from the two countries combined was estimated at 6.6 million b/d, while the two countries combined had roughly 3.9 million b/d of unused bypass capacity.
The only options to this traffic by sea are a limited pipeline through Iraq to a port in Turkey that offers little real-world surplus capacity. There is another comparatively small Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline that can more 1.5 million barrels per day (MMBD) of crude to a point on the Indian Ocean Coast of the UAE where tanker loadings are almost as vulnerable as those in the Gulf.
And finally, these is a bigger 4.8 MMBD Petroline (East-West Pipeline) through Saudi Arabia from Abqiaq near the Gulf to a port at Yanbu on the Red Sea. This pipeline has had less than 2.9 MMBD in surplus capacity in recent years. Even in a best case, this amounts to less than 20% of the petroleum that now flows daily out of the Gulf. In practice, however, Saudi Arabia already had to shut this pipeline down after an attack in mid-May 2019 when the Saudi Press Agency reported that it suffered limited damage from armed drones and a "terrorist and sabotage act."

Trump Will Burn it All to the Ground

It is difficult to see how the latest war in the Middle East will end. I don't have any answers, and, really, no one else does, either.

Here's what people should pay attention to--this happened just as evidence of Trump's orders to the Department of Defense landed on the front page. This happened after the major holidays and just as we are beginning the 2020 primary season in earnest on the Democratic side (the GOP has decided to prevent another Pat Buchanan moment, circa 1992, from happening).

Every life that is lost is because of Trump's decisions.

Every penny that this increases the price of gas is a tax on the poor and allows people who regularly have access to Trump to maximize their profits.

Every American traveling overseas is less safe.

Everyone who cares about peace will be shouted down and marginalized because that is the media's job.

Every attempt to hold Trump accountable will probably fail because the GOP is complicit in all of his crimes.

Everyone cheering this war is mindful of keeping their own son or daughter out of harm's way.

Every Democrat who tries to do the right thing will be attacked.

Every moment that we ignore the global climate crisis and engage in a war with Iran is a colossal waste of resources and energy.

Every day brings us closer to an opportunity to defeat Trump and take back our democracy.

How will you spend the year ahead?