#proxywar

Nobility in Iran’s Honesty? Not so fast.

It is one thing to admit a mistake. However the mainstream media is borderline complimenting Iran for its honesty, The Iranians initially denied shooting down the Ukrainian passenger jet by suggesting it had mentioned technical troubles with the tower. Then Iran tried to defend the use of bulldozers at the crash site and wasn’t looking to release the black boxes. Now the Revolutionary Guard admitted it to using a surface-to-air (SAM) missile to shoot it down by mistake.

However we are talking about the elite battle hardened fighting force of the Iranians. Not some bunch of cadets with the keys to toys they haven’t have sufficient training on. Let’s run through the logic of what we know.

First, no aircraft safety investigation body would ever dream of bulldozing a forensics site if they wished to find the root cause. Plane crashes are crimes scenes even when there is no foul play. Was it fatigue, engine failure, mid-air collision? Did the plane pancake? How far is the distance between nose and tail as well as wingtips? Did it disintegrate mid air? Black boxes tell only so much. Initially the Iranians weren’t looking to release them but now are allowing the French BEA to analyze the data.

Flight PS752 took off a bit after 6am. It would have been dawn. Flight 752’s strobe lights would have been visible at just under 8000ft provided there was no cloud cover. The speed during the climb would have been around 275kts. Cruise missiles don’t have strobe lights.

Audibly a 40 meter long Boeing 737-800 commercial jet has an engine speed during climb of c.5,000rpm (fan speed). It has a distinctive thrum. A 5.6 meter Tomahawk cruise missile turbofan shreiks at 36,000rpm. They aren’t built for durability. So a military spec missile engine spinning 7x faster than a CFM-56 turbofan sounds completely different. That alone would be an instant sign to a trained military of what the threat was.

US Tomahawk cruise missiles fly at sub 200ft. That is under two hundred feet. They are terrain hugging weapons. They travel at 550mph. Were the Tomahawk flying past a missile battery it would be simple to pick up visually.

The Iranians use state of the art Russian surface-to-air missiles (SAM). Russia makes the best SAM systems worldwide. Not only in accuracy terms but in detection terms. Tor or S-300 systems would be able to determine altitude, speed and size with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

SAM’s are designed to explode before the target, showering it with high velocity shrapnel like a shotgun to ensure the speeding target is essentially shredded. It does not detonate on contact. The SAM systems are designed to slow down as it approaches the target to inflict the maximum damage.

We do not need to mention that the loss of 176 lives is a tragedy. However the blame is squarely at the feet of the Revolutionary Guard. It is uncanny how the mainstream media is painting the admission by the Iranians as some sort of noble gesture. Does Trump killing such a senior target make for a viable excuse to shoot down a passenger jet?

If Trump hadn’t had Solameini assassinated then this tragedy wouldn’t have occurred is the mainstream media logic. How quickly the mainstream media forget that Obama conducted 542 drone strikes without the approval of Congress which killed nearly 3,800 people including 324 civilians. Is it fair to pin the Malaysian MH17 Boeing 777 shot down over Ukraine at his feet? Of course not.

How long should Trump have ignored oil tankers being attacked by Iran in the Gulf in May 2019? Should he have forgotten the US drone shot down by Iran in June 2019? The attack on a Saudi state run oil company in September 2019? The attacks in US military bases in Iraq in December 2019? Storming the US Embassy in Iraq in the same month? The death of a US contractor? At what point did the US allow Iran to continue without retaliation?

It is not to say the assassination of a ruthless terrorist was the most optimal outcome from a geopolitical stability perspective but the constant Iranian provocation was bound to result in a counter punch at some stage.

Now there is admission of guilt, this isn’t a sign of a noble gesture. It is a stuff up of epic proportions. There is no doubt that Iran would have been in maximum vigilance mode after Solemeini’s death. Aerial surveillance would have been on high alert. The most experienced crews would have manned the SAM sites. There can be no doubt it was a deliberate strike. Fighter jets wouldn’t have been flying at subsonic speeds over Iraq if they were intent on bombing targets. A passenger jet sounds different to a cruise missile.

Back in 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655 over the Strait of Hormuz, misidentifying it as an enemy fighter jet. The Soviets shot down KAL 007 in 1983 for supposedly straying into USSR airspace. An Israeli flight out of Kenya narrowly escaped being shot down by a shoulder mounted SAM in 2002.

Do arms suppliers have a moral compass?

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40 murdered children in Yemen.  The Saudi logic behind the attack was that the Houthi rebels were training these kids as soldiers. A far-fetched claim. Yet where has the condemnation of Saudi’s role on the UN Human Rights Council been? Countless civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi military are nothing new. Where was the outrage then? The decades long proxy war has only accelerated since the assassination of former Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

CNN looked to put the blame of this latest tragedy at the feet of US defence companies. Surely the Europeans are just as blameworthy for selling the Tornado or Eurofighter aircraft that likely dropped the American ordinance on these kids? Mattis has openly criticized the Saudi attack in this instance.

Arms deals are a dirty business. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Unfortunately these dangerous toys rarely come with a “please use responsibly” section inside the box of instructions. Some might argue that in certain cases users are not of the appropriate age bracket to play with them. Bribery scandals (aka incentives) are often more notable than the weapons deals themselves. Yet have there been incidences of arms suppliers turning down multi-billion dollar contracts?

If we go back in history, the Americans refused to release the source codes to the Saudis in a potential multi-billion dollar US jet fighter sale that would have allowed certain weapons (the US weren’t prepared to supply) to be fired. Even if the Saudis bought the US jets and sourced the banned weapons on the black market they wouldn’t be able to be fired.  Instead the Saudi’s bought the Panavia Tornado because the Europeans were happy to sell a similarly capable platform that the US refused to sell. UK defence contractor BAE Systems won a long term maintenance contract known as Al-Yamamah as a result of this Tornado deal. Why not bash the Brits for taking advantage of the US putting regional security ahead of arms sales in Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we could question the moral fibre of the US refusing to sell the F-22 Raptor attack fighter to the Japanese. The Japanese top brass pleaded for the plane but US Congress refused to approve it claiming the billions required to redo all of the computer systems and source codes to ensure it had a lower capability than the USAF plane. The reality was more likely to prevent a leakage of its capability (something that had occurred when the Japanese ordered Aegis destroyers). The result was Japan didn’t get them even given its peaceful history post WW2.

Should we bash the Russians for supplying military hardware has been behind the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians? Or Ford for making the car that ran down people in Westminster?Or should we question the operators of these tools?

If we really want to get petty the Paveway Mk-82 bombs responsible for killing these kids were sold to the Saudi’s in a deal made in 2013 under the Obama administration. Was it Obama’s fault in allowing the sale? CM doesn’t believe he is but interesting that CNN left the period of sale out. Easier to attack the $110bn arms sales going forwards.

40 dead children is a tragedy. Arms deals are far from if ever holy. The instruments of death are sadly not always deploy in manners which are either moral or ethical. The Iranian backed Houthi almost sunk a French made Saudi frigate in the Red Sea at the beginning of last year. Several Emirati patrol boats have been severely damaged by the Houthi in the same area, the most recent incident occurring  last month. There are countless skirmishes along the Yemeni/Saudi border.

Unfortunately the Saudis and several other gulf states are key allies of the US in the proxy war against Iran/Russia. Do not expect a wholesale change in US arms deals with Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.

In closing perhaps people might question China’s new interest in the Middle East? Many may have missed it has deployed 5,000 troops (including special forces) in Syria since 2017. Geopolitics seldom look to protect the rights of anyone other than the home side. Don’t pretend it does otherwise.

What happens when you poke a Russian bear?

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As written earlier in the week, regardless of one’s views on the righteousness of any attack on Syria, Putin is being faced for the first time in a long time, a leader of a foreign nation (nations as it turns out) prepared to stand up to him. Obama fled the Syria battlefield after being given a two hour window when Russia first went to the aid of Assad. If that wasn’t the ultimate sign of a bully in the Kremlin it is hard to think of what is. While sanctions may have bitten to a degree post Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight, Syria is essentially a testing ground for Putin to weigh up Western (specifically Trump’s) resolve. If we look at Russia’s response post the Syrian strike,

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard…A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences…All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris…Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Kind of says it all really – Russia hasn’t been insulted. Putin has. He must have a glass jaw  like Trump! Two bullies flexing muscle. In a show down Should Putin wish to pick a direct conventional fight against 3 nuclear powers (explicitly mentioned), he knows that ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very last option in the drawer and next to no chance of being selected despite all of the media beat up. On a conventional basis, Putin wins more battles by stirring up the hornet’s nests in other regions. Lending more support to Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Destabilize Saudi Arabia and antagonize Israel.

CM wrote,

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

Some arguments have been made about the risks of the American, French or UK strikes killing Russian troops or civilians on the ground in Syria handing Russia free will to attack its enemies. Scroll back to November 2015 when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter it claimed entered its airspace. Two Russian pilots were killed in the shooting and subsequent rescue. The Russians were incensed but President Erdogan is still in power and Ankara isn’t flailing after seeing its capitol turned into smoldering rubble.

This argument that the Russians weren’t given advance warnings of the attack is ridiculous. Had the Russian defence forces been on proper alert (they most definitely weren’t passed out behind their radar screens after a vodka binge) they would have detected the missile launches. Wind back to the 59 missile launch earlier last year against Syrian chemical facilities. We didn’t hear a peep from Putin. Why now? Of course he is incensed over the booting of diplomats on the nerve agent scandal but this is a showdown of ego.

Think of the long geopolitical chess board here. Should Trump have backed down on Putin’s threats, wouldn’t China’s Xi feel equally empowered to annex Taiwan by telling POTUS that he risks ‘grave reprisals if he meddles with Chinese sovereign territory’?

For all the initial snubbing of Trump by Macron on his historic election win in France, there is no way he would have gone in alone to attack a chemical facility without the guarantee of the military might of America. It is unlikely Theresa May would have done it either. So for all of the ‘unhinged’ lunatic rhetoric bandied about by the media, foreign nations don’t gamble their own sovereignty lightly, especially over something like Syria.

General Mattis has said they plan no further strikes at this stage. Does Putin order his forces to sink a US destroyer in the Mediterranean which launched those missiles? Highly unlikely. He does have the best weapon available to do that (the ‘Sunburn’) but sending US naval vessels to the bottom of the sea on a strategic strike would seem a big response to a targeted hit.

Let there be no mistake. There is a new sheriff in town. Russia has a bloody nose it didn’t think it would find itself. Putin miscalculated that Trump isn’t all Twitter-fueled bluster. Uncertainty in foreign leaders is always a risk for enemies. Trump has shown Putin he won’t be bullied like his predecessor.

Putin doesn’t want a hot war with America. The best way to strike at the US is like the last 6 decades. Undermine her at every opportunity. Supply her enemies. As mentioned before, if the Russians didn’t think it worth hitting back at Turkey for deliberately targeting its fighters, it is unlikely that Putin, no matter how ‘insulted’ he might feel will take a strike not aimed at Russians as a pretext to pick a fight with Trump. Putin has worked out the US president’s measure. He miscalculated. He won’t make that mistake twice.

For the media, running all the scare campaign stories is not only highly irresponsible (as it did over Yemen’s attacks on Saudi Arabia) but proving the lack of depth of analysis. They can beat Trump over the head all they wish but should note the actions of Macron and May following him into the region as a tacit approval of the US leader. Was he the madman they portrayed him as in the first place they would have stayed well out of it.

Watch for Putin’s response (unlikely but will threaten it will come when the evil Americans least expect) and think deeply about why it is important that the real despots (Putin, Xi, KJ-U, Erdogan) around the world no longer have the ability to exercise free will in knowledge that the worst they face is a slap on the wrist from the UN.

Sounds more like grounds for congratulation than censure.