Saturday, November 28, 2009
The pasdaran had begun playing an overtly political role a full decade earlier. Its insinuation into the economy of Iran had been widely observed for years. It also controlled the nationwide paramilitary force known as the basij. Its association with a radical faction of Iranian clerics, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who preached that the word of the Supreme Leader in Islamic Iran was absolute—the very voice of God—was well known. But the election of 22 Khordad propelled the pasdaran into an active role in domestic politics, just as it forced Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader who is supposed to remain above politics, to align himself with a specific political faction and thereby sacrifice his legitimacy as an objective arbiter.
I am personally convinced that the Revolutionary Guard Corps is now rapidly becoming the dominant force in Iranian politics—greater than President Ahmadinejad, and greater even than Ayatollah Khamenei himself, though the pasdaran and others continue to pay lip service to his “leadership.” I base this judgment, among other things, on the fact that senior leaders of the pasdaran no longer have any compunction about taking positions that differ from those of the President or the Supreme Leader; yet neither the President nor the Supreme Leader ever dare disagree with the pasdaran. But if that is true, who exactly is calling the shots?"...
[bth: if true, it would be good to have more detail on the composition of Revolutionary Guard leadership and its decision making process]
The Nevsky Express derailed in remote countryside on Friday night as the train travelled between the capital Moscow and St Petersburg.
Investigators found 'elements of an explosive device' at the scene, the Russia's federal investigative committee said in a statement.
A senior intelligence official said a bomb had derailed the locomotive.
Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's domestic intelligence service told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that a bomb equivalent to seven kilos (15 lb) of TNT had been detonated, Reuters reported.
There was no immediate confirmed claim of responsibility for the attack."...
"Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever."
Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever.
But here will sigh thine alder tree
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.
A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Friday, November 27, 2009
"Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Christina Georgina Rossetti"
"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien"
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
'Shadow,' said he,
'Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?'
'Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,'
The shade replied-
'If you seek for Eldorado!'
Edgar Allan Poe"
Her delay tactics weren't taken lightly.
Police on Thursday arrested Claudia De La Rosa, 31, of Sunny Isles Beach, on a charge of false report of planting a bomb.
Here's what happened, according to the arrest affidavit.
On Wednesday, a call and e-mail came into Miami International Airport, saying in Spanish there was a bomb on an American Airlines plane. It listed the flight number and departure time.
``The flight was delayed while MDPD searched the aircraft and all the luggage,'' the arrest form said.
The investigation, and the computer's IP address, led police to De La Rosa.
De La Rosa spoke to police, and said ``that her boss was booked on the flight to Honduras, but because she arrived late to work he missed the flight. [De La Rosa], in an attempt to delay the flight, called in the bomb threat,'' according to the arrest affidavit."
The effort appears to be part of a wider drive to counter opposition groups and other pro-reform factions that have been emboldened by the unprecedented protests after June's disputed presidential election.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi strongly attacked the Revolutionary Guard in a new statement Wednesday, accusing the elite corps of using brutal force to crush the massive street protests.
Authorities have recently emphasized the need to battle the reach of Western media, viewpoints and culture—which resonate strongly in a country where nearly half the population was born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution."...
[bth: I'm very skeptical that the votes are there]
Thursday, November 26, 2009
London lost 1.86 percent to 5,264.97 points in late morning trade but was suspended at about 1030 GMT owing to a technical issue.
The London Stock Exchange said it was investigating the 'root cause' of the problem and would update investors when it had further information.
Elsewhere, Frankfurt dived 1.80 percent to 5,698.99 points and Paris plunged 1.89 percent to 3,737.06 points at the half-way stage.
In Asia, Beijing nosedived 3.62 percent, Tokyo fell 0.62 percent and Hong Kong closed 1.78 percent lower. Chinese shares were also hit by the prospect of tighter banking rules and worries about monetary policy next year."...
[bth: this seems like a large over reaction]
Pakistani Taliban militants have escaped primarily to Kurram and Orakzai, districts outside the battle zone but still within Pakistan's largely ungoverned tribal areas along the Afghan border, villagers there say. The military lacks a significant presence in much of these areas, making them an ideal environment for the Islamic militants to regroup.
Newly arrived militants have terrorized Pashtun residents and replenished their coffers through kidnappings and robberies, villagers said during interviews in the Kurram and Orakzai districts. With AK-47s and rocket launchers slung over their shoulders, the militants have begun patrols through the new territory and have set up checkpoints.
"They come to our houses and terrorize us," said Fareed Ullah, a student in Weedara, a hamlet of mud-walled huts in central Kurram. "They are kidnapping our elders and stealing our cars. We have no way of rising up against them, and there's no government here to help us. . . . Kurram is in trouble because of them."
Pakistani military commanders say that after five weeks of fighting, they are in the final stages of their offensive aimed at crushing Islamic insurgents in South Waziristan, a rugged expanse of mountains and plateaus that for years has served as the primary base of operations for the Pakistani Taliban and as a sanctuary for Al Qaeda fighters.
When the offensive began Oct. 17, Pakistani military leaders said they faced a fighting force of as many as 10,000 battle-hardened militants. Thus far, however, the army has put the number of militants killed at 500....
[bth: also keep in mind that the Taliban cut out some key provinces in Afghanistan and now totally control them. The taliban was not defeated in South Waziristan, they were displaced.]
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Washington's Blog - instead of fixing the US economy or creating jobs for Americans, Obama will spend the money in Afghanistan and Iraq
And yet Obama, like Bush, has done virtually nothing to create more jobs. Instead, they both gave trillions to the biggest banks (who are not loaning it out to the little guy) and for waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama is apparently escalating - not ending - the wars. And its not cheap.
According to the White House, the cost of deploying new soldiers to Afghanistan could be $1 million per soldier. Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the Iraq war will cost $3-5 trillion dollars."...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
'The group came from Syria but we are not accusing Syria again,' said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh on state television.
His comments followed the broadcast of confessions from three men said to have plotted the two massive bombings in the Iraqi capital that killed 153 people and wounded hundreds."...
The armoured vehicles will be used in Canada and Britain because they offer insufficient protection against mines in Afghanistan.
A defence source described the procurement, at a time when equipment shortages for troops have caused public anger, as a waste of money. “We certainly don’t need 900 of these things for training. It seems crazy to do this upgrade work on vehicles that are more than 40 years old and then put them into storage, which is what will happen to most of them,” he said.
Commanders in Afghanistan have frequently criticised the shortage of suitable armoured vehicles in the country, where 98 British soldiers have been killed this year alone."...
[bth: this investment is a waste because mines and IEDs will destroy it. It is unlikely that the enemies of the UK or US will forget the effectiveness of IEDs anytime soon. So while the Brits are short of Mastoffs and other vehicles that would work in Afghanistan and Iraq, it upgrades the Bulldogs which will never go into theater using an urgent needs statement. What a stupid bureaucracy. A further indication that the UK MOD is going down the tubes.]
Earlier this year, in preparation for the deployment of V-22s on LSD-41 class ships, the Navy determined that excessive heat from the Osprey’s engines caused deck plates to reach temperatures of 300 degrees Fahrenheit with engines running for 10 minutes; after 30 minutes the plate temperature climbed in some cases to 382 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a source familiar with the Navy assessment.
The heat from V-22's engines during these tests caused decks to deflect as much as two inches, according to the assessment by the program executive officer for ships. To insulate ship decks from V-22 heat, Navy engineers earlier this summer outfitted the amphibious assault ship Bataan (LHD-5) with temporary steel plates -- dubbed “hot pads” -- that can be bolted down and removed as necessary to accommodate V-22 operations.
Systems engineering is dead. Long live systems engineering. And just wait for these guys to be deployed to the flammable California countryside! Or if we try to use the MV-22 to do some of those coalition operations we're always talking about?"
[bth: reference links can be found on the original posting]
Chavez called on his supporters to undergo military training and join the militias during a Saturday speech that ended around midnight, saying he thinks 'it's the obligation' of every member of his socialist party to participate in an ongoing effort to 'organize combat groups.'"
Chavez, a former paratroop commander, said more than 300 armored vehicles and Russian war tanks, including T-72 battle tanks, will be arriving in Venezuela along with radar and air defense systems.
Venezuela has already bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. And in September, Russia opened a $2.2 billion line of credit for Venezuela to purchase more weapons.
The military acquisitions, coupled with weapons purchases among South American nations including Brazil and Ecuador, have raised concerns of an arms race in the region....
Sunday, November 22, 2009
As the Army awaits Defense Department approval of a competition to find a new carbine, weapons officials have identified six fixes intended to address shortcomings in reliability, durability and handling of the Army’s inventory of more than 400,000 M4s.
Army weapons officials presented the proposed changes to Congress on Oct. 30. They are:
• Adding a heavier barrel for better performance during high rates of fire.
• Replacing the direct-impingement gas system with a piston gas system.
• Improving the trigger pull.
• Adding an improved rail system for increased strength.
• Adding ambidextrous controls.
[bth: these weapons overheat consistently in sustained engagements and then jam. Further their small caliber makes them largely ineffective and ranges of 300-900 meters where half the Afghan engagements are taking place. We needs a weapons overhaul. This article seems to go into some detail on the matter. Note the comments with the regard to the Wanat weapons failing are 'alleged'. Jesus Christ, which side are these bureauracts on. Alleged my ass.]
• Adding a round counter to track the total number of bullets fired over the weapon’s lifetime."
McKissock also had a second job. The Marines brought him back as an adviser, at double the rate of pay he made on active duty. Since 2005, the Marines have awarded McKissock contracts worth $1.2 million, in addition to his military pension of about $119,000 a year.
McKissock is one of at least 158 retired admirals and generals the Pentagon has hired to offer advice under an unusual arrangement. Most of the retired officers, one to four stars in rank, have been paid hundreds of dollars an hour by the military even as they worked for companies seeking Defense Department contracts, a USA TODAY investigation found. That's in addition to pensions of $100,000 to $200,000 a year for officers with 30 or more years of service."...
[bth: this article is worth reading in full. It is one of the few recent pieces of investigative journalism out there. Anyway, to get to the point, these generals and admirals are retired getting paid as pensioners, they are then taking senior positions with defense contractors and using their influence to the benefit of the companies. But to add a new wrinkle to the mess, they are then also paid as hourly contractors by the DOD to "mentor" their former subordinates who are making contractual decisions related to their contractor employers. Further these mentoring relationships give the large defense contractors that can afford to hire these retired generals an inside track on information given at classified internal DOD briefings inaccessible to other contracting agents. In short, they get paid by all parties but have the audacity to claim that it does not influence their decisions or actions. Bull shit.]
Gen. Ray Odierno, the commanding general of United States forces, said Wednesday that he was still hopeful elections would be held on time, but he added that the military could adapt if there was a delay.
“What I believe I have is flexibility,” he said, adding that significant reductions in troops were not scheduled until April or May.
April or May? That has real consequences for any escalation of troops in Afghanistan. As I report today, there will be practically no undeployed available combat brigades if President Obama goes with a 30,000-40,000 troop increase. It’s not like you can just pluck a brigade from Iraq and send it to Afghanistan. Soldiers get at least 12 months of so-called “dwell time” between deployments. But Odierno’s schedule means that combat brigades leaving Iraq won’t be until at least April 2011 for Afghanistan, which is a major issue for sustaining an escalation — not a temporary “surge” that lasts for one deployment — in that war, something Gen. Stanley McChrystal has suggested is necessary."
The combat mission in Iraq ends in August 2010 and Odierno has said troop levels will decline to 50,000. But he certainly is backloading the drawdown as much as possible. Where’s Gen. David Petraeus on this? As head of U.S. Central Command, he’s both Odierno’s boss and McChrystal’s boss, and deconflicting the needs of both commanders is one of his primary responsibilities....
[bth: good question. Where the heck is Petraeus on this?]
That means it may prove easier than previously thought to make peace with some Taliban insurgents through job projects and other economic development efforts, experts said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told USA TODAY that 10% to 20% of the inmates at the U.S.-run prison in Bagram are considered hard-core, or 'irreconcilable,' Taliban fighters. The rest are candidates for eventual rehabilitation and release, he said.
'There are some of those caught up in this armed conflict who are … accidental guerrillas,' said Martins, who is overseeing a review of U.S. detainee policy here."...
Nearly five years later, at a sandy outdoor range at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an unassuming orange-and-black-painted forklift approached and lifted a pallet of mock munitions, as an audience of Army officers looked on. It might have looked like any day at any austere supply depot, but for one thing: the forklift had no driver.
While separated by years and thousands miles, there’s a direct link between Lemon’s tragic death and the robotic forklift’s quiet feat. From warehouses to highways to supply depots, the Pentagon is working hard to replace human logisticians like Lemon with machines that cannot be killed. After several years of intensive development, the first supply bots are just beginning to crawl and fly towards battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan."...
Mostly they're looking to their traditional arms suppliers in the West, the United States, Britain and France, but Russia is pushing hard for a piece of the action.
This year's biennial Dubai air show, which opened Sunday in the United Arab Emirates, provided a showcase for the latest technology on offer.
Air power has been the deciding factor in most Middle Eastern conflicts since the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, when Israeli warplanes annihilated the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, largely on the ground, in pre-emptive strikes at the outset.
And for the Gulf states that lie across the waterway from Iran, air power and their ability to counter the Islamic republic's ballistic missile arsenal will be crucial in any conflict that erupts."...
[bth: very interesting. As the article points out near its end, the Saudi's apparently with American concurrence look like they scooped the purchase of air defense systems produced by the Russians and slated for the Iranians.]
According to information compiled by the U.S. Army for The Washington Independent about the deployment status of active-duty and National Guard Army brigades, as of December 2009, there will be about 50,600 active-duty soldiers, serving in 14 combat brigades, and as many as 24,000 National Guard soldiers available for deployment. All other soldiers and National Guardsmen will either be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan already or ineligible to deploy while they rest from a previous deployment."
Obama is expected to announce a decision on an escalation of troop levels for Afghanistan shortly after returning from his trip to Asia on Friday, which would be the second such escalation of his young presidency. That decision follows a request issued in September from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in which McChrystal delivered the Obama administration with a palette of different troop-level options to turn around a faltering war effort. While White House officials have cautioned reporters that Obama has made no final choice on the size of a troop increase, a widely re-reported McClatchy story claimed that the administration was likely to send 34,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, which would raise U.S. troop levels in the eight-year war to an all-time high of 102,000. It is likely that Obama would include members of the other military services, especially the Marines, in any troop increase, but the vast majority of any new troop complement will come from the Army.
The shortage of available combat brigades means that an escalation of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops is “not realistic,” said Lawrence Korb, a former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who now studies defense issues for the liberal Center for American Progress. To send practically all available soldiers into one of the two wars would leave the U.S. with “no reserve in case you had a problem in Korea.”Obama would have something of a cushion, but not much, in the early months of 2010. An additional five brigades will finish their 12 months of so-called “dwell time” at home between deployments by April 2010, providing an additional 22,600 troops, but by that time, about 10,200 troops will be scheduled to leave Afghanistan, leaving available a net gain of 12,400. More brigades become available in the summer and fall, although others currently in Afghanistan will be ending their scheduled deployments then as well. Under current Pentagon policy, dwell time for the National Guard varies, but can be no shorter than two years, and so it is possible but not certain that two National Guard brigades composed of 6,800 National Guard soldiers might be available for deployment by March 2010 as well, beyond the 24,000 theoretically available now. Pentagon leaders had hoped to extend dwell time this year, but that was before McChrystal’s request for additional troops.
Furthermore, not all brigades are the same. Some are built around heavy equipment like tanks, while others are primarily light, mobile infantrymen. According to a September report by the Institute for the Study of War, a pro-escalation think-tank in Washington, no so-called “heavy” brigades have been sent to Afghanistan to date, a condition likely owing to Afghanistan’s lack of paved roads, high elevations and uneven rural terrain, all of which are inhospitable to tanks and other heavy vehicles. But of the 14 brigades available as of December 2009, five of them are heavy brigades, according to the information provided by the Army to TWI, accounting for 19,000 of the available 50,600 active-duty soldiers. There is precedent in Iraq for re-tasking heavy brigades as light brigades by deploying them without their heavy vehicles, as the Institute for the Study of War’s report points out. But there is no precedent for such a thing in Afghanistan. If the Obama administration decides not to re-task heavy brigades as light brigades, the pool of active-duty soldiers immediately available for Afghanistan shrinks to 31,600 soldiers....
[bth: the original source has some interesting tables showing details by unit. Bottom line, we would have fully committed our forces - again. We need to prioritize - its called utility of force. We lack such. We need military leadership that reassesses our priorities and needs by current - not historic threat. Do we need forces in Japan, Korea, Germany? Do we need 100K in Afghanistan? Do we need forces in Iraq? We need to step back and look at the big picture.]