Editors Note: The title of this post was changed at the suggestion of a long time fan of FRI, LtCol Robert Brown, the publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine.
Intentionally or not, in the current contest of wills with Iran, the United States is now in a dominant geo -political and military position. Intentionally or not, the United States now has the most accurate, comprehensive, intelligence on Iran’s order of battle that any adversary has ever harvested from its opponent in history. We may not have arrived at this point due to a clever plan but we are here just the same, so let me describe where “here” is.
Iran was caught seeding mines into the strait of Hormuz in, what many believe, was an attempt to stage a heroic rescue of international sailors who were victims of the instability caused by the reckless actions of the President of the United States. That plan did not survive contact when the freighters did not sink and the USS Bainbridge arrived on scene to stop the Iranians from pushing one the disabled freighters into Iranian waters.
Days later the Iranians shot down a U.S. Global Hawk drone. This was no ordinary Global Hawk, it was a RQ-4N BAMS-D (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator) flown into the area of operations just days prior. It had been the proof of concept demonstrator for the new navy RQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drone, but that program was finished and the demonstrators headed to the bone yard. At the last minute that changed and one was sent to the UAE. Why? It did not bring any new capabilities, it wasn’t needed, there are no units set up to crew the beast, what good could it have done?
I’m not sure, but here is a theory. That platform was sent to be sacrificed in an effort to fine tune our intelligence of Iranian anti air order of battle. The drone was headed for demobilization anyway; what is the downside to using it for a baited ambush?
The Iranians shot down a drone for which the United States had no further use. The Iranians contend that we flew the drone into their airspace; we say we didn’t. I say what would you do with the most sophisticated, disposable drone in history? One that is designed to run well below the normal Global Hawk mission profile I might add. One that is so damn big it looks like a jet on radar. What would you do with an asset like that?
I’d run that asset right into the teeth of the Iranian air defense system and record exactly what they do, how long it takes for them to scramble, and how quickly they acquire and shoot me down. Let me explain how valuable that intelligence is. Suppose you had very high confidence in your ability to launch a cyber-attack another countries missile control system and take them all out. Very high confidence would be what? 80 -90%? How could you get your confidence level up to almost 100%? Run a drone at the air defense system to watch how it responds.
We then stage a raid saying we will not tolerate any state shooting down our drones. At the last second the President decides to turn the planes around, he doesn’t want to spill blood over a drone. He says any further provocations will be dealt with harshly and is immediately criticized for his indecision. How much intelligence did that feint of a raid generate?
Concurrent with the feint raid was a real cyber attack that knocked out Iranian missile control systems. As Richard Fernandez observers in this Belmont Club post:
A sucessful cyberattack inflicts considerable financial damage on the target, rendering vital equipment inoperable. It costs money to diagnose the damage, patch it and test the fix. Before the system can be restored it would be necessary to ensure there was no residual malware. Although Iran has denied any damage to its missiles the unbridled fury of their public response indirectly confirms they are hurt.
It looks to me like the President used a large, serious, diversion to cover his actual attack. That is Sun-Tzu level planning and execution, actually winning a battle without firing a shot, something I have never seen at the national command level. There is another unique aspect to a cyber attack; it produces no pictures.
Pictures cause problems, and right now President Trump has no problems. Had he gone with traditional strike package he would have big problems from the pictures of dead kids caught in collateral damage. If we had not caused the collateral damage casualties the Iranians would have done so themselves. That is how the Iranians play the game and we have known that for decades.
The narrative would have been ‘Bad Orange Man strikes because he is unstable. Innocent Persians suffer because Americans need their oil’. The narrative never changes and is impervious to facts. The facts are we do not need oil from the middle east and we don’t need bombers to deliver a crippling blow to a state in our crosshairs.
Following the script of the traditional Middle East North Africa (MENA) Kubuki Theater play book President Trump launched a retaliatory strike with air and rocket assets. Congress and the media immediately played their assigned roles by preemptively declaring that congress must authorize any military conflictwith Iran. The bi-partisan duo of Matt Gaetz (R Fl.) and Ro Khanna (D Ca) are correct on this point. BUT, we have been dropping bombs and droning people non-stop over there for 18 years, and now they care?
Congress has removed itself from the oversight of our military by refusing to do the work required, by law, to get proper authorizations for the use of military force. How many times did former SecDef Mattis and the CJCOS General Dunford say, during congressional testimony, that they would welcome and, in fact need congress to do its job with respect to the War Powers Act ? The question answers itself while amplifying, to the American public, serial congressional incompetance at a vital function they assigned themselves with the War Powers Act over forty years ago.
President Trump has used the current crisis to point out inconvenient truths. He has asked why we are protecting shipping lanes we do not need ( without compensation) for too long. Trump has asked why we are shouldering the burden of keeping the straits open to benefit China when the Chinese are stealing us blind and working against our interests.
I understand that keeping the world’s shipping lanes running smoothly and safely is in the best interests of the largest economy in the world. Instability in world markets cause prices to rise and that hurts everybody, who in the world wants to see the price of oil rise?
We do. Oil is selling around $65 a barrel, get that price around $100 and the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford Shale plays (these fields are in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico) will explode. The one country in the world that would benefit from a significant rise in the price of oil is the United States. The one country no credible person would accuse of manipulating world oil prices is the United States. The position of being the hegemon, who does not put his thumb on the scale, is one Americans shoulder willingly. But we have been taken advantage of by too many for too long and the American people are sick of it.
Iran just got a good taste of the Tump Doctrine and what has that cost them? Untold millions of dollars and man-hours to replace and repair their missile control systems, which means? They are now Open Kimono. They know we know their air defense system inside and out and that their missile control systems are down hard. If we struck now there is not one damn thing they could do about it. They know it, we know it, and now you know it.
As an aside, the term Open Kimono vis a via Iran was introduced by Jeff Kenney of the world famous All Marine Radio weekly Lynch & Kenny show. We have been on this topic for the past two weeks, those podcasts can be found here and here.
Afghanistan has recently surrendered the cherished institution of official corruption called “The Checkpoint”. As I pointed out in my last post this is a potential game changer. Why, after 18 years of resistance, did Afghanistan choose to do away with the checkpoints? Who knows, maybe it is just coincidence, but I smell the makings of a deal because Afghanistan had to give Trump something to make him stay. The only “something” he has asked for is movement on corruption.
It could be a coincidence that the one thing Trump has asked for is actually happening in Afghanistan. It could be a coincidence that in the only confrontation with a foreign power, with shots already fired, he won without firing a kinetic shot. It could be a coincidence that the one drone Iran shot down was past its service life and heading for the junk yard.
This could be a coincidence, or it could be a response to pressure on the China’s energy supply, they import 90% of their oil through the straits of Hormuz.
SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping said in an op-ed in North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday that China supports North Korea’s “correct direction” in politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula.
The front-page op-ed is an honor rarely granted to foreign leaders and comes a day before Xi is set to visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, making him the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years.
Today President Trump became the first American President to set foot in North Korea. That too may be a coincidence. But the coincidences are piling up and all of them favor President Trump.
Intentionally or not, Donald Trump is transforming, in front of our eyes, into one the greatest presidents in American history.