Friday, August 01, 2008

Will Iranian Government Survive?

Iran has had to resort to SWAT teams to control the citizens who are protesting economic conditions and political decisions. Yesterday, a group of shop keepers hit the streets to protest daily 5 hour power blackouts. A police SWAT team opened fire, wounding several protesters. Thirty or so were arrested.

To intimidate citizens, public executions have become common. A few days ago, 29 criminals were hanged in the public square. Of course, the killings only angered more citizens.

A month or so ago, democrat and republican members of congress quietly authorized another $65 million to support regime change in Iran. Sixty five million is a drop in the bucket but it sends a clear message, Iran needs to negotiate with the P5+1 or face "severe consequences".

Today, EU negotiators said that the Saturday is not critical. If Iran needs a few more days, that is fine. As always, it is the threat of additional sanctions that is psychologically devastating. The shopkeepers and other citizens who are suffering now fear the unknown of what will happen next. UN negotiators have indicated that the forth round of sanctions, if necessary, will be severe.

Germany got into a little trouble with the rest of the negotiators when it agreed to build a natural gas to liquid fuel refinery for Iran. Germany used the loophole of building the refinery in Germany and shipping large completed parts to Iran. The point is that Iran is in a scramble to secure transportation fuel. This country of 70 million people had a per capita income of about $12,000 a few years ago. The people own cars. They don't have gasoline to operate them but they own cars.

In preparation for a rough winter, Iran has stopped exporting about 400,000 barrels of residual fuel oil. Turkmenistan is "having problems" delivering about half of the normal amounts of natural gas to Iran. If sanctions are increased, will they have trouble delivering the other half? What useful energy Iran has must be saved for in country consumption. While information is scarce, it is my understanding that about 1.7 million barrels per day of Iran's heavy oil production has been sequestered. This is 1.7 out of "normal" production of about 4.1 million total shipments. Americans are not happy with $4 gasoline but we are not being forced to ration consumption to 60% of our normal usage.


Taliban forces are massing in the mountains of Pakistan. A significant number have left the battle of Kashmir being fought with India in order to reinforce the battle against Afghanistan. Other militants, Taliban and al-Qaeda have left Iraq, traveled across Iran and joined the crowd in Pakistan. Obama may be about to get what he wished for, a significant surge in Afghanistan. US and Nato forces are able to take on a conventional war and easily prevail.

Pakistani military forces have pulled out of forts in the high mountains. It appears that the Pakistani military is all set to make a major offensive. The above two sentences may sound counter intuitive but, in military strategy, if one cannot support a distant outpost, one should pull out of it before starting a major offensive. Starting the offensive while a couple of distant outpost are weakly held would be a like a death sentence to the soldiers in the outpost.


What is becoming more clear every day is the improvement of US intelligence. General Petraeus has correctly gained recognition for his execution of strategy but little credit has been given to the information that has made his strategy possible. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is a career intelligence officer. He understands the importance of knowing before doing.

In recent days, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has been openly praised and simultaneously chastised severely by the Bush administration. Bush praised the Pakistani efforts while disclosing that intelligence shows that the Taliban has agents deep within the Pakistani Intelligence Service (the ISI). Evidence was leaked that the ISI was involved in a recent bomb attack against India. Of course, the Taliban continues to make attacks designed to pit opponents against one another. In Iraq, the real turn came when the people got totally fed up with the killing of Muslims just to incite the anger of other Muslims.

Intelligence, like diplomacy and war is a nasty but necessary business. Spying on ones allies seems so wrong but how else would it be known that the Pakistanis have been fighting themselves. Our educators have chosen to take a lot of details about US History out of our school books. We somehow have come to the belief that we must protect our children from the dirty truths of life. The bottom line is that good intelligence is like letting the light shine. Good intelligence, used properly has saved and will save millions of lives. I frequently describe by comparing it to a sharp knife in the kitchen. Intelligence is another needed sharp knife, a necessary tool that must be used carefully. After a long battle, the President just won a battle with congress that allows phone calls from foreign countries to be monitored. Our constitution gives us the right of privacy but it also makes security the primary responsibility of the federal government.

It is great news that the terrorist are aggregating in one location in isolated mountains. We should be very thankful that these terrorist are not in locations where they could do great harm.

A few months ago, Gates sacked a number of Air Force commanders. These commanders were focused on winning appropriations for new aircraft designed to win the next war. Gates has rightfully pushed hard to increase the air support for the current war in Afghanistan. In addition, Gates has pushed for the increased use of efficient, unmanned aircraft that can be flown by a Specialist Fourth Class from a computer terminal in a safe zone. The drone does not need to come back to base when the shift is over, the control can be shifted from a terminal in Florida to one in Oklahoma to keep fresh eyes on the job.

From a significant distance, a spotter can call down fire from heaven on specific targets. Yesterday, another Taliban commander went up in smoke without putting American soldiers at risk.

The Iranian government is likely to survive. The leaders are under severe pressure to make a deal. Top level meetings are being held this weekend. The cost benefit ratio is heavily in favor of a deal.

A hat tip should be given to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The information above was pulled from many sources but the Nation Council site provided a few details not found elsewhere.