The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, May 20, 2019

Update for Monday, May 20, 2019

The hostile and threatening rhetoric from the U.S. administration toward Iran has escalated to a threat of national extermination from the president.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted. “Never threaten the United States again!
He did not state what this is in response to, as Iran has not threatened the United States and in fact the Iranian regime has stated clearly that it is not threatening the U.S. and does not want war.

It is possible that this was in response to a rocket exploding in the Green Zone about half a kilometer from the U.S. embassy, which caused no damage or casualties. No-one has taken responsibility. In fact the Iranian-backed Hezbollah brigades has denounced the attack, as have other pro-Iranian factions.

In the midst of this war of words, Exxon-Mobil has withdrawn foreign staff from an oil field in southern Iraq, angering the Iraqi oil minister who denounces the move as "political" and unrelated to real security concerns. "For us, this withdrawal is unacceptable and unjustified because other international companies are working freely and safely in developing oil fields," Ghadhban added.

Iraqi Shiite political leader Muqtada al-Sadr warns that Iraq could not surive a war between the U.S. and Iran  and urges Iraqis to unite against such a possibility.

Cheryl Rofer asks what could be the objectives of a U.S. war against Iran. The U.S. administration has not articulated any.

Iraq's president makes it clear that he is talking with Iranian and U.S. officials and making it clear that Iraq wants no part of a war between the two, while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi leaders that if they are not going to stand with the US against Iran, then they should stand aside.

I will just note that as disastrous as the 2003 invasion of Iraq was for Iraqis and for the United States, Iran has more than twice the population of Iraq (81 million vs.  38 million), a vastly more capable military, and a more unified populace. The U.S. would have no real allies in such a conflict -- Israel and the Saudis would cheerlead but that's about all. And of course the idea that Iran is somehow a threat to the United States is completely preposterous. John Bolton, for reasons he has never really articulated, has wanted to go to war with Iran for more than a decade. As far as I can tell, that it is the basic reason for what is going on now. --- C



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Update for Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I really hope I don't need to add another country to the title of this blog and take up daily posting again. It is not at all clear what is going on with all this saber rattling by the U.S. regarding Iran, but I probably should have taken it up here a week ago.

The U.S. has ordered non-essential diplomatic personnel to leave Iraq, including not only the embassy in Baghdad but also the consulate in Erbil, claiming intelligence showing a threat of attacks on U.S. officials or forces by Iranian-backed militias.

However, British general Chris Ghika, who is deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, denies that there is any threat.

Iraqi PM Mahdi says he expects that "things will end well" between the U.S. and Iran while Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kahmenei rules out any war between the U.S. and Iran.

The mysterious reports that four oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates are adding to the confusion and concern. Spokespeople for the U.S. administration initially tried to cast blame on Iran,  but the UAE has not made any attribution of responsibility. These incidents are in any case very strange. Despite initial reports of severe damage and fires, there were in fact no fires, the damage appears to be minor if indeed this happened at all, and it is unclear what motive anyone would have for this action.

The U.S. president has denied reports that the Pentagon presented him with a plan to deploy 120,000 troops to the region, while saying he would send "a hell of a lot more than that" if it came to war with Iran. (The U.S. has also said it is dispatching an aircraft carrier task force to the region in response to the purported renewed threat from Iran, but in fact the deployment was planned months ago and is part of the routine rotation of carrier groups.)

We'll see what all of this means, if anything, but I will keep this site current for the next few days at at least.