Russian troop deployments in the south

On the move.

There are differing opinions about the exact nature of the reported deployment of Russian troops to Syria.  Some of the reporting appears to be circular, and Business Insider has picked apart the original language of a RIA Novosti report in Russian to conclude that the “Russian troops” amount to no more than an anti-terrorism security detachment for the Russian fleet tanker RFS Iman (a Black Sea-based ship deployed for support to Russia’s Horn of Africa antipiracy task force).

It’s hard to say: Iman by herself couldn’t transport very many troops into Syria (a detachment of infantry, maybe, if they were really miserable, sleeping on deck and in passageways, during the few days’ transit), but Iman is an unlikely platform for transporting Russian troops anyway.  If Russia puts a substantial number of troops in Syria, Continue reading “Russian troop deployments in the south”

Intel on Iran’s nuclear weapons program: An endless do-loop

Blah blah blah Parchin yada-yada.

Maybe we know more now about something that started 12 years go.  That would be nice.  The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which follows the Iran nuclear problem closely, believes it has identified a building where IAEA has information that explosive tests have been conducted for a nuclear warhead detonator.  ISIS issued a report on 13 March highlighting the building in imagery near the Parchin weapons facility southeast of Tehran.

An interesting aspect of the ISIS analysis is the fact that the building in question is located well outside the main area of the Parchin facility.  Basically, it is in an area the ISIS analysts had apparently not reviewed before, Continue reading “Intel on Iran’s nuclear weapons program: An endless do-loop”

Strategic ambiguity watch: The Maritime version

Strategic ambiguity’s top tunes of the month.

No sooner do we establish that (a) Iran wants strategic ambiguity, and (b) Iran’s got it, than we see a fresh round of strategic ambiguity busting out.  Strategic ambiguity looks to be the gift that will keep on giving.

You might think the big news from the last 24 hours would be the report that Iran declined to load a Greek tanker with oil for Greek refineries, thus sparking concerns that the Iranians will cut off oil to hard-pressed Greece entirely.  Tehran has already officially stopped deliveries to France and the UK.  The Europeans are worried that a cut in Iranian oil could sink any hope of a recovery for the Greeks – and that Iran might threaten to extend the embargo to Italy, which also depends on Iranian oil.

In the wake of this report, Continue reading “Strategic ambiguity watch: The Maritime version”

Strategic ambiguity for fun and profit

Ambiguity: it’s what’s for dinner.

The US intelligence community is having a very difficult time interpreting the signals from Iran’s nuclear program.   This isn’t that unusual in historical context; US intelligence tends to be surprised by nuclear detonations.  But it is of grave concern that our national leadership at all levels seems to be so shortsighted about what is at stake.  Our biggest problem in dealing with Iran today is framing the issue – and at the moment, we’re doing it wrong.

If we frame the issue as a question of how close Iran is to getting the bomb, Continue reading “Strategic ambiguity for fun and profit”

Syria: US reconnaissance drones, Iranian warships

Send in the drones.

Because there is no international security problem that can’t be ameliorated with drones, the Obama administration has deployed its platform of choice to perform reconnaissance over Syria.

We’ll get to the Iranian warships.  The drones – according to Pentagon officials, a “good number” of them – are reportedly being used to collect information on Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on his people.  They will provide supporting evidence to justify an international intervention in Syria.  The US officials say the intelligence collection is not a precursor to military operations in Syria.

The US has actually done this before. Continue reading “Syria: US reconnaissance drones, Iranian warships”