Today’s London’s Sunday Times shed light on even more damning evidence of Iranian involvement with the Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The article says, in part:

TALIBAN commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The commanders said they had learnt to mount complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for most of the deaths of British troops in Helmand province.

The accounts of two commanders, in interviews with The Sunday Times, are the first descriptions of training of the Taliban in Iran.

The article goes on to discuss why Shia Iran has come to the aid of the Sunni Taliban. It should come as no surprise, but to many, it will.

A couple of questions for Mister Putin in Russia:

Is this the same Iran for whom you will be launching the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor? Have the Iranians agreed suddenly to IAEA inspections of the Bushehr site? If so, why have you not announced that to the West?

Here is a suggestion. Let us not harbor delusions about either regime, Iran or Russia, as we seem desperate to do with China.

Iran is a fiercely anti-Western Islamic theocracy bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the non-Muslim world. They are seeking nuclear weapons, for sale to Non-State Actors (who would not hesitate to use those weapons in Amsterdam or Los Angeles), and for their own use, atop missiles that can range Tel Aviv and beyond. Iran’s assistance to the Taliban (as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda) is part and parcel of such an anti-Western policy.


Russia, ruled by neo-Stalinist Putin, is actively helping Iran with its nuclear efforts. Putin is deliberately frustrating US aims at sanctions against Iran, and is well aware of Iran’s activities in Gaza and Afghanistan. Russia is not an American ally, nor a partner, except in those rare instances when doing so (or appearing to do so) gains Russia an advantage. Russia is a rival and an adversary, and a dangerous one. Even without the military might she once had (and is anxious to rebuild at first opportunity), Russia has the economic and technological weapons to be that dangerous adversary, and uses them at every opportunity.

Secretary of State Clinton should know this as well as anyone after this latest trip. It is high time for the US to prepare and act accordingly.




Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, History, Homeland Security, Uncategorized


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  • David J McConville

    Unfortunately,democrats typically build party platform with a heavy emphasis on domestic policy. To the dems foriegn policy almost seems like a neccessary evil;something to be endured, especially in recent history. One need only to examine the presidencies of LBJ, Carter and Clinton to understand their ilk.
    Confronting Putin or the Iranians won’t happen during this administration. Nobody is really fooled about Russia’s intentions, but nothing will come of it until our government has to react. That time is not now. Our current administration has bigger(domestic)fish to fry. We ignore the Russians at our own peril. And that goes double for the Chinese.

  • Chuck Hill

    If the Iran/Afghanistan border is porous then smuggling can go both ways. We should be sending West the things that will bring down Tehran’s government. Might I suggest rock&roll, Jack Daniels, and Lynsey Lohan.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Chuck:

    Ms Lohan’s presence would not spread any contagion useful to our cause. May I suggest the letters of Abigail Adams, the Federalist Papers, and the collected political works of Thomas Jefferson? That’s the sort of thing we want to go viral there (and here).

    C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Chistianity” would be best of all, but the marxists in the crowd would rather die first. Of course, the jihadis quite agree (about prefering that the atheists die first).

    Is that what they mean about “be careful what you wish for”?

  • Trent

    I disagree with some of the assumptions made in this post.

    First off:

    “Iran is a fiercely anti-Western Islamic theocracy bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the non-Muslim world. They are seeking nuclear weapons, for sale to Non-State Actors (who would not hesitate to use those weapons in Amsterdam or Los Angeles), and for their own use, atop missiles that can range Tel Aviv and beyond. Iran’s assistance to the Taliban (as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda) is part and parcel of such an anti-Western policy.”

    I strongly disagree with almost everything in this paragraph. First off, I think it’s inaccurate to assume that upon acquiring nuclear weapons Tehran would immediately use them against Israel, which I’m inferring is shared here since it’s a common view among Israelis and fervent supporters of Israel. I feel confident asserting that they would never commit suicide just for the satisfaction of destroying some hated enemy, which is exactly what would happen to Iran if Tehran ever launched a nuclear weapon at a Western or Western allied target. Iran’s rhetoric has, at times (but not uniformly), called for the end of Israel because Israel is extremely unpopular in the Middle East and it’s a useful way to mobilize people and shore up support for the regime. But they pursue the anti-Israel line out of self-interest, not due to a fanatical devotion that totally transcends basic interests. But this post seems to me a huge exaggeration of the threat Iran poses to the U.S. and U.S. interests. Iran is certainly an adversary in most every way, but they are just not that capable of threatening core U.S. interests militarily or politically and have no capacity to “subjugate the non-Muslim world” (with the added thought that there is hardly a “Muslim world” in any useful sense except for universal dislike of Israel policy and sympathy for Palestinian causes). I also don’t see any evidence for assuming that Iran plans to immediately sell any nuclear weapons to non-state actors (i.e. terrorists). I just don’t see enough of a benefit to Tehran from this, and the consequences if the sale was ever traced back to them would be, of course, utterly catastrophic. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of something like this happening like a rogue scientist, A.Q. Khan-clone selling plans and material to terrorists, but that’s a risk we already take with Pakistan and North Korea possessing nuclear weapons. In sum, I don’t think Iran getting nuclear weapons is a good thing for U.S. interests, but I do think the consequences to U.S. interests are not large enough to warrant a hysterical response, and I think this post exaggerates the dangers.

    “Russia, ruled by neo-Stalinist Putin, is actively helping Iran with its nuclear efforts. Putin is deliberately frustrating US aims at sanctions against Iran, and is well aware of Iran’s activities in Gaza and Afghanistan. Russia is not an American ally, nor a partner, except in those rare instances when doing so (or appearing to do so) gains Russia an advantage. Russia is a rival and an adversary, and a dangerous one. Even without the military might she once had (and is anxious to rebuild at first opportunity), Russia has the economic and technological weapons to be that dangerous adversary, and uses them at every opportunity.”

    I agree that Russia is more of a rival than a partner, but I think there’s alarmism here as well. Russia is lacking in social cohesion, its population is going down (and is only 142 million atm) and I don’t think its long-term economic future is very bright. We can let the Europeans do most of the worrying about Russia, and I don’t think that it poses much of an immediate or long-term threat to core interests. It’s something we can work with.

    Personally, I think the biggest long-term threats to America’s interests ARE domestic. If we don’t take steps to save money and help assure our long-term economic future (say, by controlling spending by health care and social security) then we could face huge problems down the road from surging powers like China, India, and much of Southeast Asia.

  • Derrick Lau

    Some would argue that Ms Lohan would severely damage the Iranian people…just look at what she is doing to the US. [wink]

    Does the US have WMD inspectors in Iran?

    Has the US officially spoken to the Iranian government about allegations of its alleged support of rebels in Afghanistan?

  • Paul

    Ok, let’s go with the common idea that both Iran and Russia are threats (I agree by the way) and that something has to be done. What? That’s the question. It doesn’t matter what administration is in power there are only some options open for any leader. Iran’s leader has made it clear that he doesn’t care about sanctions, isn’t afraid to be disingenuous about his government’s involvement in training fighters and uses his position as a platform for anti-western rants. So, what to do?

    Putin is in a position of economic power and has also made it clear they they want to be treated like the Sov’s were and they don’t seem to want accept anything less. So, what could make both of them be more cooperative? I don’t know, so I throw the question out there.

  • Chuck Hill

    Looks like Iran is close to the tipping point from conservative radical Islam to a cosmopolitan modern society. Trying to make sure the Regime is not the only source of information is extremely important. We need to remember, and make sure that their people understand, that our differences are with the regime, not the people–Radio Free Iran?

    Looks like Russia may also be coming into the 21st century. That’s not to say they won’t disagree with us or that they will not be an important player, but more openness is probably going to result in more integration as the Soviet era population dies off.

  • Chuck Hill

    Putin can’t forget he has his own Islamic radicals to worry about too.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Trent,

    I called Iran a fiercely anti-Western Islamic theocracy bent on the destruction of Israel because that is what they have told us they were, and what their intentions are. Are we going to once again decide, as we did with 20th Century despotic governments, that they don’t mean what they say?

    I believe it would be difficult to overstate the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Their version of rational policy is markedly different from our own.

    Nobody is advocating a fierce anti-Russia stance. Nor, however, should we continue to talk in terms of “co-opting” Russia as a potential ally and partner. Recognize them for what they are, and deal with them accordingly.

    Chuck, I am not sure that a 21st Century Russia will differ significantly in many characteristics from an 18th or 20th century one. The desire for power and status, particularly vis a vis her European neighbors and her “place in the sun” to borrow from the Kaiser, was not Soviet, but Russian in its origin.

  • Joe in Tokyo

    Before getting too alarmist about what’s coming out of the Kremlin, I recommend STRATFOR’s Special Series: Russia’s Expanding Influence.

    Instead of focusing on the rhetoric, consider Russia’s long term interests and available strategies to accomplish those goals.

    This past decade, Russia had far more internal problems to consolidate than external. Once the judiciary, media, and private sector were cowed or assimilated, the Kremlin gained a free hand to hamper or reverse the color revolutions in its near aboard (see Ukraine). While Russia regrouped, the US focused it’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following the US example, Russia boldly proved that it could also unilateraly invade a country while NATO stood impotent to prevent it diplomatically or militarily.

    While the US seeks to end the wars in Mid-East, Russia knows it has a closing window of opportunity. A window that may be extended by keeping the US mired down in drawn out, if not dead end policies in the region, i.e., Iran and Afghanistan.

    And I agree 100% w/ Trent (and G. Friedman, by the way) that population is pillar of political power. As Russia’s population declines, look for Russia to expend its last breaths of regional power by bringing several disputes along strategic faultlines (Ukraine, Baltic States, Transcaucasus) to a roiling boil in the next generations.

    The question for the US is how deal w/ these conflicts. Does it set of course of domestic policy to become independent from petrocarbons (lowering demand and Russia’s influence in Europe) or continue w/ an energy policy that hasn’t significantly changed since the dawn of the 20th century? By disentangling itself of strategic miscalculations in the mid-East, the US can use its free hand to augment pro-Western facets in Russia’s critical near abroad and keeping the Kremlin off balance.

    URR, As for what Russia is: Like the US, she seeks to stabilize its borders and critical areas IOT maintain influence regionally, if not globally.

    The definition of “rational policy” can mean very different things depending on your perspective. Consider if the underwriter of what you considered state-sponsored terrorism was attempting to “liberate” two of your neighbors. Iran is not one party, one religion, Dear Leader state. Every individual has a different opinion of Israel, the US, and President Ahmedinejad. By taking a “hard line” stance to Tehran, the US will isolate pro-Western segments and legitimize the anti-west Revolutionaries.

    Trent, I agree that biggest threat to US national security is domestic policy, IMHO, education and the fostering of future leadership in politics, business, and the military.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Joe in Tokyo,

    “Iran is not one party, one religion, Dear Leader state. Every individual has a different opinion of Israel, the US, and President Ahmedinejad. By taking a “hard line” stance to Tehran, the US will isolate pro-Western segments and legitimize the anti-west Revolutionaries.”

    I believe that your assertion is very wishful thinking. A weak, uncertain policy which enables and emboldens Iran’s government and Islamic STATE RELIGION for fear of alienating some small possibly pro-Western segment of the population is and has been a recipe for catastrophe. While military and foreign policy remains firmly in the hands of A-jad and the Ayatollahs, the segment of the population that might provide a sea change to those policies cannot be a major consideration in shaping US actions vis a vis Iran.

    As for Russia, much of what you ascribe to internal issues and conditions could accurately have been said under the Imperial Czars and under Stalin prior to the Second World War. In fact, such was said both times, by the British in the Crimea and the Germans in 1941, to the effect that, once the door is kicked in the rotting structure will collapse. It proved significantly more difficult than initial estimates, to say the least.

    Also, to ascribe any but the most benign prediction and interpretation of events as “rhetoric” smacks of an unwillingness to admit to the realities of the world in which we live.

  • Joe in Tokyo

    URR – I’m not clear on how supporting pro-West, pro-Democratic causes in Iran is “very wishful thinking.” Agreed that the foreign policy and military is under the grip of the regime. However, if democracy is good enough to be installed via invasion, why is it not good enough to support at the grassroots for a popular revolution? Granted it’s a long term commitment, but given our military over-reach in the region and that both campaigns are perceived as a war against Islam, we’re short options.

    As for Russia, I think we’re talking about different scales. I agree w/ your assessment that Russia is a rival beholden to only their self-interest. I am not asserting that Russia is indefensible and that she would collapse. In the short term, if the US postured in return, it would legitimize the Kremlin’s grab for power and increased military budget. What I do assert is over the long term, a declining birth rate and (hopefully) world demand for hydrocarbons, will make her vulnerable not to an enemy taking the offensive, but Moscow will be less able to aggressively assert policy goals via belligerency if required.

    As far as the Russia reportedly supporting the Taliban via proxy, the obvious historical precedent has been repeated on both sides. One side supports a popular insurgency fighting it’s rival in rice paddies or the Hindu-Kush. Shoe on the other foot on the same battlefield for the later.

    Given your assessment of the Kremlin’s intent, what would you recommend the US do to counter? Could you expound on your recommendation for “the US to prepare and act accordingly?”

  • Joe in Tokyo

    Additionally, the prediction for Russia to aggressively engage it’s neighbors in the next 20 years is hardly benign. Rather, this is based on the reality of Russia’s established trend of behavior to re-assert itself militarily when its territorial interests are threatened since it’s had the ability to do so as an empire.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Joe,

    The idea that a hard line against Teheran would isolate pro-Western elements and legitimize revolutionaries is what I would consider wishful thinking, as it connotes those pro-Western elements are more numerous, powerful, and potentially closer to influencing Iran’s direction than they truly are.

    I believe we do have “outreach” to overuse a popular term, with those elements. But that outreach cannot be at the exclusion of, or detriment to, dealing with Teheran in the strongest possible terms. Not an either/or, but both courses, provided there is proper balance.

    Dealing with Russia accordingly is a bigger question and probably too large for my typing skills and this little box. At least without more coffee. But let me try to boil down what I am getting at.

    Our actions and reactions to Russia should be largely economic, I believe. We should recognize that Russia is holding the proverbial pistol to the heads of our Western European allies in the form of oil and natural gas. The United States has the ability to become an oil and gas exporter again and should do so with an eye toward loosening the choke-hold Russia has on our Western European allies. Once we sufficiently offset our own import requirements, of course. Will it completely offset GAZPROM? No. But it will allow for more options.

    The threat to the new Eastern European nations is much more problematic. This was the danger of misunderstanding Russia when the US lent such support and friendship to these nations after 1991. Not that it was wrong to do, but such was a calculated risk, and Russia would be tolerant only until she had the means not to be. For these new states, the pistol to the temple is not a figurative one of oil and gas, but a literal one of forward deployed Russian combat forces. It is telling that, being eminently practical people in most of those new countries, they look to the United States and not their western neighbors for security. My guess is that Russia can absorb (re-absorb?) all except perhaps Poland and western Ukraine with little military trouble. Perhaps the US can ensure that the economic and diplomatic trouble such actions would cause outweigh the advantages.

    Either way, the worst thing the US could do was to continue to behave as if Russia is not involved with Iran, is not aware of Iran’s activities, and does not pose a military and/or economic threat to Europe as a whole.

  • Paul

    URR

    Your observations about Russia’s intent in Eastern Europe is troubling, given the historical precedents for such an action. What’s the state of the Russian Ground Forces compared to Ukraine? Poland seems to be making a move towards western weapons (Leo’s and F-16’s) so they’d probably give a good account of themselves toe to toe. The big question is would we send ground forces into Poland to support them in a fight against Russia?

    Another big question is would we be ready for such a conflict. With the emphasis on COIN, does the Army spend time training for a conventional, combined arms knock down, drag out fight? Does the Navy practice convoy/anti-sub work to get heavy forces across the pond to reinforce/supply such a commitment?

    I never thought about that scenario you are proposing. How close to reality do you think it is?

  • Joe in Tokyo

    URR,

    Agree that Russia could be isolated economically given their recent wealth is mostly petro-dollars. However, I do not think that drilling for petroleum in the US is a long term solution for US demand, much less Europe. The key here is development, production and distribution of alternative energy technology that the US can export. The side benefits of this are not only economic for the US but also a game changer in our relations w/ other petro-states, allied, partner, or otherwise.

    Agree also that most of Eastern Europe, despite being a member of NATO, look primarily to the US for security assurances. Russia’s trump card of natural gas supply has been and will be used again to drive a wedge between NATO allies. Another benefit of developing alternative energy technology in the US. But I digress. According to G. Friedman, if Russia were to confront Poland (much less Ukraine), don’t be surprised if Germany and France demurred on supporting their NATO ally.

    Agree that the US should focus diplomatic effort on deterring and dissuading any effort by Moscow to bring former satellites back into the fold. This could have been a policy of priority had the US focused solely on Afghanistan vice opening another front in Iraq. Russia saw the opening presented by US distraction and moved deftly. Concurrently, Iran is taking advantage of the situation in Afghanistan by bloodying the US and getting away w/ it.

    To my knowledge, the US is not ignorant of the risks of Europe becoming dependent on Russian natural gas. The US State Dept warned Europe of the potential drawbacks of using Russia as a major supplier prior to Moscow effectively shutting off the gas pipeline in winter 06/07 to punish Ukraine for pro-democratic reforms. Well, Russia didn’t exactly shut off the gas, but they raised the price to fair market value, de=subsidizing to a degree that Ukraine could not afford. As there was only on NG pipeline going west at the time, the spigot was closed to other European customers as well.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Joe,

    I don’t think there is alternative energy technology that the US could export to any western European nation that they don’t do as well or better. Wind, solar, nuclear, all are well-entrenched there.

    I also don’t think Iraq had anything to do with emboldening Putin. He states his intentions clearly during the Second Chechen War, four years before we went into Iraq. He knew then there was little anyone in NATO would do to stop him. Including the US.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *Burma Shave*

    However, you are right, both the Clinton and GW Bush administrations warned European allies against a reliance on Russian energy sources. Putin was smart, though. Like a pusher, he got them addicted to cut-cost product and then had them hooked.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Paul,

    Short brief is Russia would not try against Poland unless they believed survival was on the line. (Which may be well before we would think they would perceive that!) Ukraine? Not nearly so safe. They could have the eastern Ukraine for the taking. West of the river would be tougher, but most of Russia’s pipeline infrastructure is east of the river. Georgia has Russian armored forces within kilometers of their borders. Witness the panic from the false invasion alarm the day before yesterday.

  • Joe in Tokyo

    URR,

    I’m not saying that the US attempt to break into the European energy market w/ more wind, solar, and nuclear, rather that the US lead the “development, production and distribution of alternative energy technology” that can be exported as an alternative to petrocarbons.

    Also, I’m not saying that Iraq emboldened Putin, rather that US ignored the region and Russia w/ soothing dismissal such as, “I looked into his soul.” As a result, the US faces a more diplomatically, economically, and militarily entrenched rival in the region.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Joe,

    European nations are in the lead in alternative energy technology. The Danes and the Germans with wind, the French with nuclear power, and photovoltaic is impractical in most of populated northern Europe because of the dearth of sunshine and the snow/ice conditions.

  • Joe in Tokyo

    URR – True statement. That’s known.

  • RickWilmes

    I agree with URR’s statement,

    ‘Iran is a fiercely anti-Western Islamic theocracy bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the non-Muslim world.  They are seeking nuclear weapons, for sale to Non-State Actors (who would not hesitate to use those weapons in Amsterdam or Los Angeles), and for their own use, atop missiles that can range Tel Aviv and beyond. Iran’s assistance to the Taliban (as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda) is part and parcel of such an anti-Western policy.’

    This statement and the picture of Ahmadinejad shaking Putin’s hand reminded me of Mark Bowden’s book ‘Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam,’ which is about the Iran Embassy hostage crisis in 1979.

    According to Mr. Bowden.

    ‘On round-numbered anniversaries, most recently the twenty-fifth, the hostages are accustomed to being tracked down by local and national news reporters, and often when there are major events in Iran their insight and comments are sought.  The surprising Iranian election in June 2005 of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president brought several of the former hostages back to the front pages.  Some claim to remember the new Iranian leader as one ot their former jailers and interrogators(P. 604).

    I also find it ironic to consider Ahmadinejad’s role in the hostage crisis.  According to Mr. Bowden, Ahmadinejad was a member of an umbrella activist group called Strengthen the Unity who preferred and voted to target the Soviet embassy instead of the U.S.(P. 10).

    Concerning Joe in Tokyo’s statement,

    ‘ Iran is not one party, one religion, Dear Leader state. Every individual has a different opinion of Israel, the US, and President Ahmedinejad. By taking a “hard line” stance to Tehran, the US will isolate pro-Western segments and legitimize the anti-west Revolutionaries. ‘

    Any pro-Western segments of the population are isolated by those in power in Iran not by U.S. involvement.  Mr. Bowden discusses this on p. 612.

    ‘Near the end of his two-term presidency, Rafsanjani was permitted to loosen the political bonds countrywide in 1996, when the ruling mullahs decided to allow the relatively liberal Mohammad Khatami to run for president with a slate of reform-minded Majlis candidates.  By all accounts, the balloting was allowed to proceed unmolested; Iran held an honest election.  It produced a walloping landslide for Khatami and reform, and the newly elected legislators and president felt emboldened enough to seek real change.  There was a brief blossoming of free speech and debate, opposition newspapers sprung up, and Iran began to smell the prospect of real freedom.  There was heady talk of Iran “evolving” peacefully toward democracy.  Khatami encoded the hopes of many in legislation that would have freed Iran’s lawmakers from the veto power of the Guardians Council.

    The Mullahs stopped that fast. Ayatollah Khamenei vetoed the legislation, which provoked some rioting on college campuses in 2003 and some spontaneous heretical pro-American displays, but such outbursts were quickly subdued.  Early in 2005, the Guardians Council simply crossed all reform candidates off the ballot.  The conservatives were back in the saddle.  The elevation of the blunt true believer Ahmadinejad, who as of this writing had called the Holocaust a myth and urged the destruction of Israel, has for a time stripped the kindly mask from the face of the regime.’

    If there is any doubt that Islam is anti-West and more specifically does not respect individual rights than I refer you to a book that I am currently reading,  Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As she points out,

    ‘In Saudi Arabia, every breath, every step we took, was infused with the concepts of purity or sinning, and with fear. Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are still cut off, women still stoned and enslaved, just as the Prophet Muhammad decided centuries ago.

    The kind of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia, and among the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya and Somalia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values.  It preserves a feudal mind-set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame.  It rests on self-deception, hypocrisy, and double standards. It relies on the technological advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking.  This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam(p. 347).’

    A book review of Infidel can be found at

    http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2010-spring/ayaan-hirsi-ali.asp

    Which identifies the following fact.

    ‘Infidel is an inspiring story that should be read by everyone in the West. Those who do not yet understand how backward the world of Islam is will gain crucial knowledge in this regard, and all readers will enjoy the rare spectacle of a true heroine in thought and action—a heroine who concretizes clearly what we are fighting for.’

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