Paul Wolfowitz on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and a Life in Foreign Policy | Uncommon Knowledge

Paul Wolfowitz on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and a Life in Foreign Policy | Uncommon Knowledge

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgX1rbwxxkQ

US hits hard at militias in Iraq and Syria, retaliating for fatal drone attack

“The strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft hit more than 85 targets, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centers, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities. U.S. Central Command said the strikes used more than 125 precision munitions, and they were delivered by numerous aircraft, inlcuding long-range bombers flown from the United States. One official said B-1 bombers were used.
Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet, said the strikes hit areas in east Syria including the countryside of Mayadeen, Quriya and Rahba that is home to a telecommunications center for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and arms depot in Boukamal along the Iraq border.

The assault came came just hours after Biden and top defense leaders joined grieving families to watch as the remains of the three Army Reserve soldiers were returned to the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It was unclear what the next steps will be, or whether the days of U.S. warnings have sent militia members scattering into hiding, making it more difficult to detect and strike them. But it was evident that the recent statement released by Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the main Iran-backed militias, saying it was suspending attacks on American troops had no impact on the administration’s plans.

The U.S. strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds force within its borders. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-bolsters-defenses-around-jordan-144526727.html

The U.S. Is Done In Iraq

“U.S. policymakers, therefore, have a choice to make. They can continue the status-quo policy, which amounts to being a willing hostage to an indefinite mission and carrying on with the delusion that any Iraqi prime minister has the power to do much of anything about the militias. Or they can finally admit that the U.S. has succeeded in doing what it set out to do—eliminating ISIS’s proton-state—and extricate the U.S. military from a mess only the Iraqis have the ability to clean up.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/09/the-u-s-is-done-in-iraq/

The US must strike Iran, and take out its terrorist commanders

“After more than 170 attempts since October, the proxies of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have succeeded in killing three US soldiers and injuring 25 in on the Jordan-Syria border. The US must respond now, and it must hold the IRGC directly accountable. Washington should conduct targeted strikes against senior IRGC commanders – a course of action that would send a clear message to the regime in Iran and make it think twice about escalating further.
For decades, the mainstream view among so-called policy “experts” in the Washington and Westminster bubble has been that targeted strikes against the IRGC increases the chance of all-out war with Tehran. This popular narrative that such action will lead to “World War 3” has shaped the Biden administration’s reluctance to respond to Tehran’s consistent acts of aggression since October 7, including sponsored attacks on US forces. But is the fear of what the IRGC would do in such a scenario worse than the reality? Past experiences seem to suggest so.

Since at least 2008 different US and Israeli administrations have conducted high value targeted strikes against the IRGC and its key proxies. The list of those struck reads like a terrorist all-star roster: Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s terror chief, killed in 2008; Hassan Shateri, the Quds Force general suspected of being behind Hezbollah’s underground missile infrastructure, killed in 2013; Qasem Soleimani, the second-most powerful man in Iran, killed in 2020; Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the IRGC’s nuclear weapons scientist, killed in the same year; and, more recently, Sadegh Omidzadeh, head of the Quds Force intelligence unit in Syria, killed last week.

In each case, Khamenei’s regime has vowed “harsh revenge”; in practice, each strike has degraded his regime’s ability to inflict violence on America and its allies. Perhaps the best example was the regime’s so-called “Operation Martyr Soleimani”. After the assassination of the IRGC commander – itself a response to a string of Iranian backed attacks on Western interests – Tehran launched a series of ballistic missiles at al-Asad Airbase and Erbil International Airport in Iraq. But as it pulled the trigger, it simultaneously announced that it had given advance warning to the Iraqi government, which in turn had passed this warning to American forces.

This is how Tehran responded to the killing of its most senior and valuable commander. Not the outbreak of World War 3, but a carefully choreographed display. And it was no exception to the general rule: whenever America and its allies have conducted high value targeted strikes against the Iranian regime, they have deterred further action rather than encouraged it.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-must-strike-iran-terrorist-142731799.html

Biden’s Options Range From Unsatisfying to Risky After American Deaths

“A spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, said at a news conference in Tehran, Iran, on Monday that the militias “do not take orders” from Iran and act independently. It is a convenient argument, one that preserves some sense of deniability for Iran.
But the speed at which Iran tried to distance itself from the strike, rather than embrace it, underscored that the downside of using proxies is the same as the upside: Iran will be blamed for everything the militias do, even acts the Iranians believe are too provocative.

“This is the inherent risk in Iran’s proxy-war strategy,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has been brilliantly successful, but only if the retaliation focuses on proxies and not on Iran’s own territory. Now there is a real risk of things getting even more out of hand in the region.”

Biden is running out of middle-ground options. Sanctions have been exhausted; there is barely a sector of the Iranian economy that the United States and Europe are not already punishing, and China continues to buy up Iranian oil. He could approve “strike packages” against a variety of proxies, but that would embolden some of them, and give some of them the status they crave as legitimate U.S. enemies.

And, following Stavridis’ suggestion, it could look to cyberattacks, more stealthy, deniable ways to make a point. But the lesson of the past decade of cyberconflict with Iran — in both directions — is that it looks easier in the movies than in reality. Gaining access to critical networks is hard, and having lasting impact is even harder. The most famous American-Israeli cyberattack on Iran, aimed at its nuclear centrifuges 15 years ago, slowed the nuclear program for a year or two but did not put it out of business.

And that is Biden’s challenge now: In the middle of an election, with two wars underway, he needs to put Iran’s sponsorship of attacks on Americans out of business — without starting another war.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/biden-options-range-unsatisfying-risky-182446875.html

The War on Terror Zombie Army Has Assembled

“All of the ghosts—or perhaps zombies—of U.S. foreign policy for the past 30 years seem to be assembling into one big war. Since the Obama administration, Washington has promised to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East, while quietly dabbling in proxy wars all over the region. That arrangement turned out to be neither stable nor sustainable. Right under everyone’s noses, and without permission from Congress, the United States has gone from proxy warfare back to direct combat in the Middle East.
The immediate cause of the crisis was unexpected: the mass Hamas-led killing and kidnapping of Israelis last October and the Israeli invasion of Gaza in response. But the underlying dynamics were there for everyone to see. American leaders believed that they could impose an unpopular order on the Middle East without putting in much effort and freeze the Middle East’s conflicts on Washington’s terms. And like an overconfident character in a horror movie, the Biden administration accidentally foreshadowed the bloody events to come.

“The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades now,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said a week before the war. “Now challenges remain—Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians—but the amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced.””

“The Trump administration was unbothered. “The biggest threat that our allies and partners in the region face is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It’s Iran. You’ve got to start there,” Trump administration official Brian Hook said in August 2020. As was the Biden administration. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in January 2021 that “it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward” on the issue.

Perhaps the United States alone could have solved the conflict; perhaps no one could have. Either way, Washington had tied itself to the outcome. Israel continued to receive U.S. military aid in greater amounts and with fewer conditions than any other country. And the Abraham Accords made Israel a key part of the entire Middle East’s security architecture.

Meanwhile, Tehran was licking its wounds. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is internationally isolated and domestically losing control, it has many cards left to play. Iranian leaders can still count on a large arsenal of missiles and drones and an array of pro-Iran guerrilla forces across the region. (The Houthis are one such group.) Saudi Arabia, once an advocate for bombing Iran, decided to cut its losses and accept a diplomatic deal with Iran last year.

“The stage was set, then, for the October war to spread all over the region. The Abraham Accords were exposed as both fragile and unpopular in the Arab world, especially after Israeli leaders began to talk about expelling Palestinians from Gaza en masse. Iran had a golden opportunity to escalate on its terms. Hezbollah, the pro-Iran party in Lebanon, immediately began firing on Israeli territory. Biden sent two aircraft carriers to the region to deter any further escalation against Israel, while also talking Israel out of a preemptive war on Lebanon.

Iraqi militias broke their truce with Americans the following week. The U.S. bases originally set up to overthrow Saddam Hussein and repurposed for the war against the Islamic State were now redoubts against Iran’s Iraqi supporters. Like the Obama and Trump administrations before it, the Biden administration cited the original Iraq War authorization to justify its newest battle.

Then the Houthis began to menace international commerce. Houthi spokesman Yahya Sare’e claimed that Israeli shipping was a “legitimate target” until the siege of Gaza was lifted. Echoing the logic of liberal American hawks, he claimed that Yemen had a responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians. But the Houthi attacks also struck non-Israeli ships and drove international shipping companies out of the Red Sea, which normally carries around 10 percent of global trade.

As it turned out, the problem wouldn’t take care of itself. Despite the Abraham Accords, no Arab state except Bahrain was willing to intervene against the Houthis on behalf of Israeli shipping. (Saudi Arabia also seemed more concerned with maintaining its own truce.) Biden decided to cobble together his own fleet to fend off the Houthi assaults.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/12/the-war-on-terror-zombie-army-has-assembled/

Massive Attack On Al Assad Air Base In Iraq, Airstrikes Hit Houthi Missiles (Updated)

“Al Assad Air Base in Iraq, where U.S. military personnel and contractors are based, came under a massive barrage from Iranian-aligned militant groups in the country. The attack was so big that reports state it overwhelmed Al Assad’s air defenses, with multiple projectiles landing within its permitter, causing injuries.”

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is a blanket moniker for a number of groups hostile to the U.S. and Israel over the war in Gaza, claimed responsibility for the attack. It caused minor injuries to U.S. personnel and seriously injured one Iraqi.

“The U.S. has around 2,500 troops in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS mission there. This would be the 58th attack on U.S. facilities in Iraq since the war between Israel and Gaza lit off after Hamas’s cross-border terror attacks on October 7th, according to Reuters.”

“in and around the Red Sea, it seems clear now that the U.S. is carrying out a sustained hunt aimed at striking the Houthi’s anti-ship weapons prior to launch. Yet another round of preemptive air strikes were carried out yesterday, with three missiles being destroyed.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/massive-attack-al-assad-air-214819320.html