Obama blocks U.S. pilots from bombing ISIS; Iranian fighters escort Russian bombers

Interesting times.

USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath) arrives at Incirlik in Nov 2015. (Image: USAF, Tech Sgt. Taylor Worley)
USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath) arrives at Incirlik in Nov 2015. (Image: USAF, Tech Sgt. Taylor Worley)

It’s essential to have the big picture on this.  The war in Syria is turning into something bigger, with substantially bigger implications than what happens to ISIS.

But ISIS remains the handy pretext for Russia’s and Iran’s growing intervention in both Syria and Iraq.  That intervention is changing their posture, and the correlation of both military and political forces across the region, almost by the day.  They are not there for ISIS, and they’re not there for Assad.  They’re there – putting down stakes from the Caspian and the Caucasus to the Horn of Africa – because they intend to be in charge of carving up the rapidly fragmenting ruins of the post-World War I Middle East.

ISIS will get something of a vote in this conflict.  But America won’t.  The reason for these two realities is that Obama has limited the use of U.S. force – limited it to such an extent that ISIS is still a very viable entity.  Obama’s “restraint” is also the reason Russia and Iran keep having ISIS as a handy, open-ended pretext for arranging to occupy Iraq and Syria.  Which is what they’re actually doing.

Obama has in fact restrained the use of U.S. force to an unnatural degree.  We’ve known for a while now that 75% of the strike sorties flown against ISIS by our aircraft return to base without bombing anything.  U.S. Central Command reported that in operational statistics months ago, and it was picked up by stateside media as early as May 2015. Continue reading “Obama blocks U.S. pilots from bombing ISIS; Iranian fighters escort Russian bombers”

The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat

Cruise missile as geopolitical forcing mechanism.

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)
Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

The Pentagon released information Thursday that some of the cruise missiles launched by Russian warships into Syria the day before (Wednesday, 7 October) had crashed in Iran, instead of making it to their targets.  The missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, between Iran and southern Russia.

The global audience was apt to note the point that four of the 26 missiles launched by Russia crashed.  But the more important point is that Russia launched the missiles in the first place.

The question is why.  The answer is not darkly nefarious (not particularly, anyway), but it’s not obvious from the standpoint of tactical military operations either. Continue reading “The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat”

Obama demonstrates geostrategic incomprehension in webcast with Jewish groups

Uncomprehending.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the march. (Image: AFP via Der Spiegel)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the march. (Image: AFP via Der Spiegel)

There was a lot to reject in the comments made by President Obama on Friday to the leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America, in a webcast sponsored by JFNA.  That’s putting it in the mildest possible way.

But we can gain invaluable perspective from focusing on one particular passage in the Q&A session.  It illuminates everything else that’s going on, and exposes the brittle emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric – because it betrays the anachronism of his view of the Middle East and Israeli security.  It’s as if Obama doesn’t realize it’s not 2009 anymore.

The topic is the security relationship of the U.S. with Israel: how strong it is, and how it can be reenergized.  Here’s Michael Siegal, Chairman of Jewish Federations of North America, asking Obama the question (from the White House transcript emailed after the webcast, which the Chicago Sun-Times has here): Continue reading “Obama demonstrates geostrategic incomprehension in webcast with Jewish groups”

Russia defines Arctic intentions with supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles

Peace in our time.

St. Nicholas presides over the Russian military base at Nargurskoye, on Alexandra Island, Franz Josef Land, which is undergoing a major expansion by Russia.
St. Nicholas presides over the Russian military base at Nargurskoye, on Alexandra Island, Franz Josef Land, which is undergoing a major expansion by Russia.

If it wasn’t clear before that Russia intends to be prepared to “fight the Arctic,” it should be now.  A report from last week indicates that the Russians plan to put “Bastion” anti-ship missile systems at their Arctic bases in 2015, to go along with airfield improvements, aircraft deployments, and installation of mobile anti-air missile systems and early warning radars for a network of bases that extends from one end of Russia’s Arctic coast to the other, and well into the Arctic Ocean.

There is certainly a question as to what “threat” Russia imagines herself to be countering with the deployment of the cruise missile systems.

But that’s really asking the wrong question.  Given the dearth of non-Russian surface ship traffic through the area in question (maps 1 and 2), and the certainty that other nations with Arctic claims have no motive to put ships in that area against Russia’s will, a more accurate interpretation of this move is that Russia seeks to hold a geomilitary veto over the sea-lanes, in a manner similar to the veto sought by China over the South China Sea. Continue reading “Russia defines Arctic intentions with supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles”

Iran tries to undermine Saudi embargo by diverting ship to Djibouti for ‘inspection’

Interesting times.

(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. Continue reading “Iran tries to undermine Saudi embargo by diverting ship to Djibouti for ‘inspection’”