(Image via Nader Uskowi, Twitter)

(Image via Nader Uskowi, Twitter)

When we left our story on Monday, the Iran Shahed was in the Gulf of Aden heading for the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and was expected to arrive at Hodeidah, Yemen on Thursday, 21 May.  A U.S. military spokesman had encouraged Iran to have the ship offload its cargo in Djibouti and let the UN transport it to Yemen.  But the Iranians were having none of that.

By Wednesday morning, however, Iran had decided to allow the ship to be inspected by the UN in Djibouti, before it continued on to Hodeidah.  That is significantly different from what the low-level U.S. military spokesman — the only person who made an official U.S. suggestion — proposed. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 20, 2015

BREAKING: Russia cuts off major supply route for U.S., NATO in Afghanistan

Attack on a NATO convoy in the Khyber Pass, June 2014. (Image: EPA, Gullamullah Habibi via NY Daily News)

Attack on a NATO convoy in the Khyber Pass, June 2014. (Image: EPA, Gullamullah Habibi via NY Daily News)

Well, this is bad.  This is a real, no-kidding move against U.S. and NATO interests, one that could significantly increase the peril to our forces in Afghanistan.  It creates the potential for things to go south very quickly for NATO troops.

That, in turn, increases the likelihood of divisions within NATO over the alliance’s Afghanistan commitment.  The divisions could well affect NATO’s posture on the political conflict with Russia.  And assuming the Obama administration is passive and ineffective in the face of this latest move by Moscow, the alliance will find an existential crisis – at least the beginnings of one – inescapable.

The basic story is that the U.S. and NATO have relied throughout the Afghan operation on supply routes that run through both Pakistan and the former-Soviet republics of Central Asia.  In 2008, the route called the Northern Distribution Network, or NDN, was consolidated, with a portion of it running through the territory of Russia.  Russia has benefited from transit fees, along with the Central Asian ‘Stans, and has been content to hold in reserve the pocket veto she possesses by agreeing to let our supplies flow through her transportation network. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 19, 2015

Showdown looming off Yemen with sanctioned Iranian ‘aid’ ship

Iran Shahed, with stern decked out in Yemeni flags. Iranian flag flies from traditional position on center fantail. (Image: YouTube, Christoph Hoerstel)

Iran Shahed, with stern decked out in Yemeni flags. Iranian flag flies from traditional position on center fantail. (Image: YouTube, Christoph Hoerstel)

There are some important things to know about the Iranian cargo shop Iran Shahed, which left Bandar Abbas, Iran on 11 May and expects to get to the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah, on the Red Sea, on 20-21 May.  Iran claims the ships is carrying only humanitarian-aid cargo.

1.  The ship itself is on the U.S. Treasury list of vessels and shipping entities under sanction due to complicity in arms proliferation.

2.  We aren’t going to do anything about that.

3.  The Saudis have imposed a blockade on Yemen and are determined to prevent the importation of arms (i.e., from Iran to the Houthis) by air or sea. Read More…

(Image: AFP via La Stampa (IT))

(Image: AFP via La Stampa (IT))

Fueled by wire stories from AP and AFP, the mainstream media have been running with a headline that Pope Francis, during a meeting at the Vatican on Saturday 16 May, called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace.”

The problem: the pope did not call Abbas — aka the terrorist Abu Mazen — an “angel of peace.”

He did utter the words “angel of peace,” and he suggested that Abbas could or might be one.  In the context of the pope’s complete statement about the meeting, the implication was that Abbas could be an angel of peace if he resumed direct negotiations with Israel.

Why did Francis say the words “angel of peace” at all?  Because he was making a gift to Abbas of a medallion engraved with an image of the Angel of Peace.  The Vatican Insider feature of Italy’s La Stampa has this summary in its English version: Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 17, 2015

Why is Jade Helm 15 play spreading way out into West Texas?

Night jump by soldiers from Ft. Hood in an exercise in Ft. Bragg, NC. (Image: U.S. Army, Sgt. Jake Marlin, 11th PAD)

Night jump by soldiers from Ft. Hood in an exercise in Ft. Bragg, NC. (Image: U.S. Army, Sgt. Jake Marlin, 11th PAD)

As readers know who’ve been following LU coverage of the Jade Helm saga, I don’t believe the exercise is a pretext for invading Texas or violating U.S. law.

I do think it sets a bad precedent by putting U.S. soldiers in local communities, to hold an exercise that will involve running around on private and local public property. This is not something the American people should ever get used to or agree to accept. No training requirement trumps the importance of maintaining our non-militarized public environment. No training requirement, period. A non-militarized public environment in our communities was a core goal of the American Revolution, and has remained indispensable to our national understanding of liberty. It will never not be a latent threat to the conditions of liberty, for the military to treat civilian community spaces as available venues for warfare exercises. Read More…

Shell-leased rig Noble Discoverer in the Chukchi Sea. (Image: Royal Dutch Shell via LAT)

Shell-leased rig Noble Discoverer in the Chukchi Sea. (Image: Royal Dutch Shell via LAT)

As noted earlier today, the Obama administration on Monday gave Royal Dutch Shell “conditional approval” to drill an Arctic oil lease off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea – a move that has environmental groups in a tizzy.

Shell actually gave up on its hopes of drilling in the Arctic a little over a year ago after a setback in federal court, and at the time, environmental groups and the media were satisfied that the situation made sense, given the administration’s well-known posture on environmental issues and energy.

The mainstream media have been silent this week on why the Obama administration, with its pattern of uniform and ruthless hostility to the fossil fuels industry, has given this approval.  Even the New York Times, which is usually able to mouth a narrative planted by administration officials, has offered no explanation. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 12, 2015

Summits with the king: France in, Obama out

Hollande and Salman yuk it up at the GCC consultative summit in Riyadh, May 2015. (Image via SUSRIS)

Hollande and Salman yuk it up at the GCC consultative summit in Riyadh, May 2015. (Image via SUSRIS)

Americans haven’t been getting a lot of news about the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “consultative” summit that took place last week in Saudi Arabia.  But it presents a useful counterpoint to the news from this weekend that four of the six GCC heads of state will not be attending the upcoming summit hosted by Obama at Camp David.

The “consultative” summit is held at the deputy or cabinet level, and has not been opened to foreign dignitaries outside the GCC before.  But in a break with that tradition, the summit on 5 May was attended by France’s President Francois Hollande – not just a high-ranking dignitary, but the French Republic’s head of state.

Given that the Saudis were hosting the consultative summit, it’s no surprise that King Salman made an appearance and delivered a speech.  Nor is it surprising that Hollande, the other head of state present, was also invited to deliver a speech. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 9, 2015

Dumbing debate down on the Mohammed cartoon contest and Jade Helm 15

Pamela-GellerThe ticket price for joining the mainstream debates on many topics these days seems to be ritual ad hominem attacks.  Besides being unhelpful, this is evidence of profound societal illness.

The phenomenon isn’t confined to the left.  We see it more and more frequently from the right-that-ought-to-know-better – or, perhaps, the right-that-ought-to-have-more-backbone.  I wrote about one major instance of it last year during the crisis at the Bundy ranch, when conservative pundits whom we have counted on to bring logic and intellectual courage to public issues suffered “CLIF”:  complete loss of intellectual function.  They went from being able to talk about things like government limits and property rights to being unable to do anything except rail against Cliven Bundy. Read More…

Superbad.  An Iranian speedboat and Kayvan patrol boat, the new law in the SOH. (Image: Fars via Uskowi on Iran)

Superbad. An Iranian speedboat and Kayvan patrol boat, the new law in the SOH. (Image: Fars via Uskowi on Iran)

The game of international power dynamics has just shifted in a major way.  It will take a little time for the consequences to be visible to the public eye.  But I don’t think it will take that much time.  We’re talking months, at most, if not weeks.  Iran is getting no pushback from the “international community,” and is moving quickly now.

Two points to take this forward on.  First, the Maersk Tigris, the Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship detained by Iran on Tuesday, is still being held by Iran.  The situation remains unresolved.

Second, the U.S. Navy will begin accompanying U.S.-flagged commercial ships through the Strait of Hormuz (SOH).  This is not the robust use of force it may seem to be, nor is it a repeat of the tanker-escort operation (Earnest Will)* in 1987-88, during the Iran-Iraq war.  It’s a tacit surrender, in fact. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 2, 2015

Catastrophe: U.S. fails to intercept Bear H bombers flying in Alaska ADIZ

Tu-95MS Bear H intercepted in April 2014 by an RAF Typhoon.  (Image via The Aviationist)

Tu-95MS Bear H intercepted in April 2014 by an RAF Typhoon. (Image via The Aviationist)

This is extraordinarily disturbing.  There is no possible justification for it.  Emphasis added:

Two Russian nuclear-capable bombers intruded into the U.S. air defense [identification] zone [ADIZ]* near Alaska last week in the latest saber rattling by Moscow, defense officials said.

The Tu-95 Bear H bombers flew into the Alaska zone on April 22. But unlike most earlier incursions, no U.S. interceptor jets were dispatched to shadow them, said defense officials familiar with the latest U.S.-Russian aerial encounter.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), declined to confirm the incursion. But he said no jets were dispatched last week to intercept intruding aircraft.

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