October 28, 2011

The "Biden-ization" of Iraq?

صلاح الدين

Vice President Joe Biden just might have been ahead of his time. In 2006, then-Senator Biden was the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While in that position, he proposed that Iraq be divided into three separate regions along ethnic and religious lines. Specifically, he called for Kurdish, Shi'a and Sunni areas with a central government in Baghdad.

The Iraqi constitution allows for the formation of autonomous regions - the Kurds have already taken advantage of this and created the Kurdistan Region comprising the three governorates of Dahuk, Irbil and Sulaymaniyah. Of course, the Iraqi Kurds often refer to the area as South Kurdistan. I was recently in Turkey, and one of the questions I heard more than once from the Turks (they are aware of my history with the Kurds in northern Iraq) was, "If the Kurdistan Region is South Kurdistan, then where exactly is North Kurdistan?"

In a surprising development this week, the provincial council of the governorate of Salah al-Din voted to form an autonomous region as well. The majority of the population of Salah al-Din - just over 900,000 people - is Sunni Arab, but there are also Kurds and Shi'a Arabs living in the governorate as well.

Interestingly, the Sunnis were originally against the provision in the constitution allowing for autonomous regions. They were concerned that the Kurds would form an autonomous region in the oil-rich north (as they did) and the Shi'a would do the same in the oil-rich south. Thus far, the Shi'a have not made any moves to form such a region, but they really don't need to - they easily dominate the government based on their numbers. The Sunnis feared that the Kurds and Shi'a would have sole access to the country's primary resource - oil - and freeze them out of the wealth.

What is driving the Sunnis in Salah al-Din to form an autonomous region?

The most recent aggravation between the Sunnis - most of whom live in the areas of central Iraq to the north, east and west of Baghdad - and the Shi'a dominated government is a massive arrest campaign targeting members of the outlawed Ba'th Party, the party of former dictator Saddam Husayn. The Salah al-Din governorate includes the city and environs of Tikrit, the area that was home to Saddam Husayn. The Sunnis believe that autonomous region status will shield them from the Iraqi security services.

In addition to the security crackdown in the governorate, the Sunnis believe that the central government in Baghdad is not allocating national resources fairly to the Sunni areas. They complain that the only city in Salah al-Din that is treated fairly is Sammara' because that city is the home of the shrines of the tenth and eleventh imams of the Shi'a sect. It was this shrine that was bombed by the late al-Qa'idah in Iraq (AQI) leader Abu Musa'ib al-Zarqawi, an event that triggered a civil war between the Sunnis and Shi'a. That bloody conflict lasted until the 'Anbar Awakening in which the local Sunni tribes turned on the mostly foreign fighters of AQI.

If the leaders of Salah al-Din think that forming an autonomous region is going to stymie the Iraqi security services from hunting down remnants of the Ba'th Party and Saddam loyalists, they are mistaken. The Shi'a suffered terribly under Saddam and the Ba'th and will not be deterred from hunting down anyone still wanting to be a Ba'thi.

Will Iraq go the way of the Biden plan? I doubt it. The Kurds have been autonomous for decades and have proven to be such a problem for central governments in Baghdad that it works better to allow them to be autonomous as long as they do not abuse it - as they have tried on more than one occasion. The Shi'a will probably not try to unite the southern provinces into a "Shi'a-stan" since their political alliance with the Kurds gives them the dominant political role in the country as well as key positions in the ministries and government organizations.

On the other hand, I am surprised that the Sunnis have not attempted to unite the Sunni heartland, but it probably would do no good even if they did. That said, who knows - maybe Biden will be right. The only - and major - difference is that the Iraqis will do this themselves rather than have the Americans do it for them.

October 25, 2011

The Shalit release deal - setting up the next seizure

Gilad Shalit /  גלעד שליט 

After more than five years as a prisoner of HAMAS, Israeli soldier Gild Shalit has been exchanged for over 1,000 HAMAS militants. I am all for pressuring HAMAS to release the young Israeli, or possibly an exchange of reasonable proportions, but 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many serving life sentences and most with Israeli blood on their hands, for one Israeli captive?

It sets a very bad precedent - the reunion of Gilad Shalit and his family feels good, makes a great media story, and certainly will be used to Benyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's political advantage, but this will come back to haunt the Israelis. How long will it be before HAMAS, Islamic Jihad or some other Palestinian faction attempts to capture another Israeli soldier and force the Israelis to release more of the remaining 4,300 Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons? How long will it be before the released Palestinian prisoners themselves are again plotting violence against Israel? I would venture to say that HAMAS's recruiting efforts have been made much easier by this besting of Israel in the diplomatic arena.

Who are the real winners of this political move? Certainly HAMAS, whose flagging stature and slide into irrelevance has been reversed. The perception that the radical Islamist group has been able to humble the "invincible" Israelis into making such an uneven trade for a young corporal (although he was promoted numerous times in captivity) has revitalized HAMAS arguably into the primary political power in the Palestinian territories. If an election was held today, not only would they sweep the Gaza Strip as they in the elections of 2006, they would almost certainly win in the relatively more moderate West Bank as well.

I understand the emotional bond between the Israeli population and their troops. Israel is a small country with large enemies, forcing virtually all of its Jewish citizens (Arab citizens are exempted) to serve a period of active military duty and remain in the reserves for decades. Military service in Israel is one of the common experiences with which all Israelis identify. Over the 64 years of Israel's existence, almost every family has suffered losses in the various wars and conflicts. With a small population and large military establishment, every soldier is regarded as part of the family. It is not surprising that the Israeli government negotiated with HAMAS for Shalit's release, but what is astounding is the number of prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands the government agreed to release.

I am not in the camp of some of fellow Middle East analysts who believe that this deal might presage improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians, believing that if the two sides could compromise on this issue, perhaps there are other things that could be negotiated. First of all, releasing 1,027 Palestinians, including not just a few murderers, in exchange for one Israeli soldier is not a compromise, it is a capitulation. The Palestinians know, or at least believe, that they now have the upper hand in dealing with the Israelis - all they need are more hostages, be they soldiers (the best capital) or even settlers in the West Bank.

Why would HAMAS - and they are now the key player on the Palestinian side - agree to any deals with the Israelis. All this exchange has done has vindicated the HAMAS hard-line position. Why change a winning strategy? If I was an Israeli soldier anywhere near the border with Gaza or the West Bank, I'd be watching my back. If I was a settler on the West Bank, I'd be careful what Palestinians I allow close to my village. HAMAS will try this again.

October 24, 2011

Death of Saudi Crown Prince highlights succession issue

Sultan bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud * /  سلطان بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود‎

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Sultan bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud died Saturday at the age of 80 while in New York City for medical treatment. The prince had been in ill-health for a number of years and was suspected of suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The crown prince was well-known to many Americans (including me) from his service as the Minister of Defense and Aviation during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. The prince was a gentleman, a friend of the United States and a pleasure to work with - he would have made a fine king, and I mourn his passing. Of note, he was also the father of Prince (Lieutenant General) Khalid bin Sultan bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud, commander of Saudi and Arab forces during the war (who was not always a pleasure to work with).

King 'Abdullah, the crown prince's older brother, was at the airport in Riyadh to receive the body. The king, now 87, was seen in a wheelchair and a surgical mask, underscoring the health issues that plague the surviving sons of the founder of the kingdom, King 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud.

When the kingdom was founded in 1932, King 'Abd al-'Aziz established the succession to be from his sons, from brother to brother, not from father to son. Normally the oldest surviving son was the first choice, but not always. When kings have died, the surviving sons of King 'Abd al-'Aziz have gathered and selected the new king by consensus.

This system has been in place since the death of King 'Abd al-'Aziz in 1953. With 37 sons, there did not seem to be any urgency to provide for further succession. However, the youngest of the founder's sons (Muqran bin 'Abd al-'Aziz) is now 66 years old. At some point, the family will need to come to terms with selecting a monarch from the next generation - that may cause divisions in the family. There are already rivalries among the various groups based on their different mothers. Given the close relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is in America's national interest that there continue to be smooth transitions of power in Riyadh.

To address this issue, in 2006 King 'Abdullah created the Allegiance Council, comprised of 35 princes charged with determining, in consultation with the king, who will become the new crown prince. It is widely rumored that Nayif bin 'Abd al-'Aziz, who has been the extremely powerful Minister of the Interior since 1975, will be the next crown prince. Nayif is also one of the powerful "Sudayri Seven," a set of full brothers who include the former King Fahd and the late crown prince.

Nayif is 78, so still may be able to serve for years as king following the death of his older brother 'Abdullah. Assume that he becomes king in 2013 and serves for 10 years. That means that Muqran, the youngest of the first generation would be 78 at that time, and could possibly serve for ten years or so. Then the real issue surfaces. Who in the second generation becomes the king?

As long as the United States imports most of its oil ( a situation that unfortunately I do not see changing anytime soon), it is essential that there be a friendly monarch on the throne in Riyadh. That means smooth successions from the brothers and later to the next generation.

* Please note the difference in the transliterations of the Arabic al- and Al. In the name 'Abd al-'Aziz, al- is the Arabic definite article "the." The word Al in Al  Sa'ud, Al is the word for "house of" or "family."

October 21, 2011

Iraq - Obama spins another policy failure into a success?

(Note: This should be read in conjunction with my July 30 article - click here or on image to open in new tab).

October 21 - President Barack Obama announced today that after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that the United States and Iraq were in "full agreement" on the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of the year. I am surprised that the announcement was not accompanied by a warning to DC area residents to remain in their homes or be swept up by the vortex caused by the incredible spinning coming from the White House.

Today's claim goes beyond the normal spinning we have come to expect from this Administration. Today's spin was replete with references to the deaths of al-Qa'idah leader 'Usamah bin Ladin and Libyan dictator Mu'amar al-Qadhafi and the continued - and ill-advised - scheduled draw down of American troops in Afghanistan. We should expect that, after all, the death of bin Ladin and al-Qadhafi are successes, albeit a bit more nuanced than the President would have you believe (see my earlier article, Mu'amar al-Qadhafi dead in Libya - what took so long?). However, to spin this obvious foreign policy failure into a success is a stretch for even this White House - the claim that Iraq and the United States are now in "full agreement" is disingenuous and misleading. That's a polite way to say that it's a lie.

The President continued, "The last American soldier (sic) will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops." On this, he is correct - the American troops (I am including the marines, airmen and sailors in addition to that soldier he mentions) should hold their heads high. They did their part, they were successful. However, this Administration has not been. The "full agreement" the President cites is actually an admission of failure.

Over the past six months, the Administration has been in almost crisis mode trying to secure an agreement whereby some American troops could remain in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 deadline established in the Status of Forces Agreement of 2008. This Administration has had almost three years to make an arrangement with the Iraqis - as provided for in the SOFA. Now we have today's admission that the effort has failed. American commanders wanted to keep between 15,000 and 25,000 troops in Iraq as trainers of the not-ready-for-prime-time Iraqi forces and as a contingency force. This failure will put at risk many of the gains achieved by almost nine years of the expenditure of American blood and treasure.

Given Iran's constant meddling in Iraqi politics and its lethal operations against American troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the fact this region is critical to American national interests, it is important that we have a presence in the region. Thanks to this failure, there will be almost no American troops on the ground in the Middle East. That may come back to haunt us the next time a crisis - and there will be one - erupts in the region.

Mr. Obama, you may think that this ends our involvement in Iraq and frees you up to focus on your domestic agenda - national security has never been your strong suit - but I venture to say we will be dealing with the fallout from this failure for years to come.

You have committed one of the worst sins of a President - you have broken faith with the troops.

October 20, 2011

Mu'amar al-Qadhafi dead in Libya - what took so long?

Screen capture from the Al-Jazeera web site announcing
the killing of al-Qadhafi and the end of his regime

October 20, 2011 - According to Libyan officials former "Brother Leader" Mu'amar al-Qadhafi has been killed and photos of his bloody corpse broadcast on various news media around the world. This, of course, is welcome news. Not only does it end a 42-year reign of terror in Libya, it presents an opportunity for the Libyan people to at long last determine their own future.

This culminates a revolution that began on February 15 of this year - eight months of fierce fighting between al-Qadhafi loyalists hoping to hold onto power and a variety of armed groups seeking the end of the regime that has been in power since September of 1969. These rebel groups have been supported by NATO air power since March 19. The five-week delay by NATO, which includes the United States, to take action almost doomed the rebellion from the start and cost many more Libyan lives than was necessary.

Later today, no doubt President Obama will make another speech in which he will claim victory and vindication for his policy on Libya, specifically his ludicrous "leading from behind" military strategy. The delays in taking actions in February and the limited American involvement, leaving the bulk of the air operation to our NATO allies, prolonged what should have been a very short, weeks-long engagement rather than an eight-month bloodbath that has not only killed thousands of Libyans but decimated the infrastructure of the country.

We should be happy that the regime of Mu'amar al-Qadhafi is gone, and we should salute our forces and those of our NATO allies who played a critical role in that process. We should also, however, demand an analysis of how many lives could have been saved had we exercised better political leadership and employed much more capable American air power with more appropriate weapons systems for this type of fighting. This particular episode of timid operations execution turned out well albeit delayed; next time we may not be so fortunate.

This entire affair should have been over in weeks with much less loss of life. Remember that when Caesar comes forth for his accolades.

October 19, 2011

Proposed U.S. arms sale to Bahrain - the wrong weapons

The State Department announced that it will take into consideration an upcoming report on how Bahrain handled recent protests in the Gulf kingdom before approving the proposed sale of $53 million of American-made weapons. The State Department announcement is in response to Democratic senators who voiced concern that United States was in effect arming a nation who may have abused its citizens' human rights. They cite the Egyptian example that we might be perceived as arming a repressive government, a perception that in the future might harm our relations with the Bahraini people.

I have problems with the arms sale package, but not because of the concern over the ruling family in the Kingdom of Bahrain. My issue is with the makeup of the arms package itself - we're selling them the wrong weapons for their needs. I understand that a $53 million sale would be nice for contractors AM General and Raytheon, but isn't someone advising the Bahrainis on what they need?

Let's take a look at the relationship between the United States and Bahrain. Bahrain has been a staunch ally of the United States for years, in fact, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is headquartered in the island kingdom. The Bahraini royal family, the Al Khalifah, is Sunni in a 70 percent Shi'a country. Because of the Shi'a's natural affinity for the Iranians, Iran has been a constant thorn in the side of the Al Khalifah. The United States supports Bahrain's efforts to minimize Iranian influence on the island. Despite that, the Iranians have fomented unrest in the Shi'a community. The Iranians have gone so far as to claim that Bahrain is actually part of Iran.

Given the fact that the kingdom is ruled by a Sunni minority, it is doubtful that in a future change of government the Shi'a majority will ever gravitate towards the United States, so I think we should not consider how our support of the al Khalifah is viewed by the Shi'a. When push comes to shove, they will align with their Shi'a allies in Tehran.

The proposed $53 million arms package consists of 44 up-armored Humvees, 48 TOW anti-tank missile launchers, almost 300 TOW missiles (in various configurations), and associated night sighting devices. 

Approval of the sale requires the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to certify that it will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States, specifically in this case, "by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. The proposed sale will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future armored threats. Bahrain will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense."

This is where I have a problem. Armored Humvees and TOW missiles constitute an anti-armor capability, defending against tanks and armored personnel carriers. From the certification: "The proposed sale will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future armored threats." Hey, DOD, just where is that armored threat?

Bahrain is an island in the Persian Gulf. It's nearest neighbors are Saudi Arabia, less than 20 miles to the west, and Qatar, a little over 20 miles to the east. Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. Iran, which might pose the greatest threat to the kingdom, is over 100 miles away across the Persian Gulf.

I am having trouble picturing an armored vehicle threat to Bahrain. Perhaps the Saudis - a close ally of Bahrain, by the way - might run an armored column down the causeway? First, they would not do that. Bahrain has fairly liberal rules when it comes to Islam - Manama has bars and nightclubs. The causeway is usually packed on Wednesday (last day of the Saudi workweek) afternoons with Saudis heading for what passes for "sin city" in the region.

Which brings me to the next point. In the far-fetch likelihood of an attempted incursion via the causeway, it could easily be stopped with air power. It is hard to imagine any real land threat to Bahrain. Is someone postulating that the Iranians would attempt an amphibious assault across the Persian Gulf? Here again, the answer is air and sea power.

As with many of these small Gulf nations, Bahrain's best "bang for the buck" (excuse the obvious pun) lies in acquiring a capable air force and navy. A potent air force and navy can blunt almost any threat to Bahrain, or at least buy enough time for more capable allied forces such as the United States and Saudi Arabia to enter the fray.

Humvees and TOW missiles? I would ask if anyone at the Pentagon has actually thought this through, but the answer is obvious in their certification: "The proposed sale will improve Bahrain’s capability to meet current and future armored threats."

In case I am being too subtle, that's a no.

October 17, 2011

The MV Mavi Marmara in the Golden Horn

I was in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month and happened on the MV Mavi Marmara at a dock in the Golden Horn (my pictures).

The ship was docked at an out-of-the way location not far from some Turkish government facilities. The current status of the vessel is unclear.

To me, the Mavi Marmara is a bit of recent Middle East history.

The Mavi Marmara, which translates from the Turkish as Blue Marmara (Sea) was built in Turkey in 1994. It was operated as a passenger ferry in the Istanbul area until 2010, when it was purchased for $800,000 by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an Islamic Turkish charity organization active in more than 100 countries. IHH is derived from the first three words of its full name in Turkish: İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief.

IHH purchased the vessel specifically to lead an international effort to challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since no shipowners would allow their vessels to take part in such a dangerous operation, IHH purchased a vessel using public donations. This is interesting - the IHH has special consultative status with the United Nations, but the United Nations has upheld the legality of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

If IHH was looking for a confrontation, unfortunately, the Israelis obliged them. In May 2010, the Mavi Marmara participated in a convoy of ships manned by activists from 37 different countries. After the activists refused Israeli Navy demands that they divert to the Israeli port of Ashdod or be boarded, the Israelis began forcibly boarding the Mavi Marmara early in the morning of May 31.

In the violent clash that followed, nine activists on the vessel were killed and several dozen others injured. There are mixed reports as to whether or not the ship was carrying humanitarian aid.

The Mavi Marmara was released in July 2010; after being towed to a Turkish port and repaired, it returned to Istanbul in December.

According to what information I can find, including several Turkish sources, the vessel is still registered in the Comoros Islands.  That may be, but the Turkish flag has been reapplied to the side of the ship, and the vessel was flying the Turkish flag from the stern when I saw it in the Golden Horn. During the confrontation with the Israelis in 2010, the ship did not have the Turkish flag painted on the side, although there were huge Turkish cloth flags adorning the vessel. It also flew the Cormoros flag on the stern.

Most of the Turks I spoke with about this incident believe that the IHH activists were looking for a fight. They aslo expressed surprise that the Israelis took the bait and, in their view, overreacted. I tend to agree with that assessment, but then, it's always easy to second guess these things after the fact.

October 15, 2011

The Qods Force plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador - Amateur Hour?

Saudi Ambassador 'Adil al-Jubayr

There has been a lot of "analysis" of the plot by the Iranian Qods Force to assassinate 'Adil bin Ahmad al-Jubayr, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. It has been called amateurish, an act of war or a rogue operation. The Iranians claim that the entire story is simply a fabrication of the Obama Administration.

Given the transfer of $100,000 from the Iranians to someone they believed was part of Mexican drug cartel and the confession of the one person now in custody, I am dismissing the Iranian regime's claims that the plot was made up by the Obama Administration. Granted, Attorniey General Eric Holder could use a distraction from his abysmal performance in a host of national security matters, but this is not it.

One only needs to look at Holder's attempts to try senior al-Qa'idah operatives in a New York City federal courthouse rather than military tribunals in Guantanamo, or his decisions to treat "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as the illegal combatant he is. As the facts of the botched Fast and Furious operation expose Holder's ineptitude and deceit, he could use a successful case - like breaking up a plot to assassinate the ambassador of one of America's closest allies.

Let's address the so-called amateurish nature of the operation. Having run somewhat similar operations in the past (although I never tried to have anyone assassinated), I can identify with the Iranians involved in the case - the three Qods Force case officers, Gholam Shukuri, Qasem Soleimani and Hamed Abdollahi. Like me, these case officers are trained to spot, assess and recruit assets to conduct whatever operation they are tasked with, be it intelligence collection or a covert action.

We should not underestimate the Iranians - the Qods Force is the elite operations element of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These Iranian case officers probably received similar training as we American case officers - after all, much of the intelligence training in Iran prior to 1979 was modeled after ours. As I read the case, there are, however, some glaring tradecraft errors that I will not specifically discuss. The fact that there are errors is good for us.

In the intelligence world, you sometimes have to recruit assets that are not always the most skilled or the most reliable people - you take what you can get. If you can find someone willing to betray their country or conduct dangerous operations, sometime you have to overlook character flaws. When the Iranians spotted Manssor Arbabsiar, they saw a man who could be manipulated and who needed money. For the Iranians, Arbabsiar was a "throwaway," someone who was useful for an operation, but of no consequence if discovered. Arbabsiar's ability to be manipulated was confirmed when the FBI was able to convince him to make recorded, and incriminating, phone calls to Shakuri in Iran.

I am surprised at the apparent urgency on the part of the Iranians to kill Ambassador al-Jubayr, but not with the selection of the target. Al-Jubayr has been a strong proponent of the close relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and a vociferous critic of the increasing Iranian power in the Gulf region. According to a leaked 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Ambassador al-Jubayr, who is close to Saudi King 'Abdullah, reiterated the Saudi monarch's frequent exhortations to the United States to attack Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, quoted the King as saying, "cut off the head of the snake."

The Saudis and Iranians have been rivals for influence in the Gulf - they both control major portions of the Gulf coast - Saudi Arabia on the west and Iran on the east. The rivalry is not only based on geography, but religion and ethnicity. The Saudis are Arabs and predominantly Sunni Muslims, while the Iranians are mostly Persians and overwhelmingly Shi'a Muslims. 

One of the key issues between the two countries is Iran's quest for a nuclear weapons capability. The Saudi believe, rightly in my opinion, that Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons will ignite an arms race in the region, virtually forcing states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to acquire a similar capability. It will be a huge expense none of them needs or wants.

That said, why kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil? That is truly a provocative act. Certainly the Iranians would have been on the short list of suspects had the operation been conducted. And why now? When contacted by Arbabsiar, Colonel Shukuri indicated that he wanted the operation to be done as soon as possible. What was driving the timing of the operation? Is there another operation that is tied to this one? If I were investigating this case, I'd surely be asking those questions.

According to the State Department, representatives of the United States and Iran sat down to discuss this issue. Why are we meeting with the Iranians over this, or anything for that matter? Is this more of the misguided Obama Administration outreach to the Iranians? How many times do we have to be outmaneuvered before we give up trying to negotiate with these people and start acting in our own interests?

The Iranians, specifically the IRGC Qods Force, has American blood on its hands in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we discover that they have just planned an operation to kill the ambassador of one of our closest allies in our own capital city, an operation in which dozens of Americans would also have been killed. This plot would have to have been approved at the highest levels, and when you are talking about the IRGC and especially the Qods Force, they answer directly to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei. The transfer of $100,000 certainly was approved above Colonel Shakuri's level.

This operation has unmasked the Iranian regime for what it is. I hope the Obama Administration finally wakes up and recognizes that these are not people we can negotiate with, be it about this issue, support to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shi'a militias in Iraq, or their nuclear weapons programs.

If the United States continues to display what is perceived as weakness in our position towards Iran, we can expect more of these types of operations targeting our interests. Why not? There never seem to be consequences for the Iranians.