Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Saudi Arabia actually spends a greater share of GDP on their military than the United States does.

I’ve written two answers that should help people who haven’t been paying attention come to a certain realization that Saudi Arabia and most Arabian Peninsula countries have been working to create powerful and modern militaries for many years.

“The USA led the rise [in military spending], but it was not alone. Of those countries for which data was available, 65% increased their military spending in real terms in 2009. The increase was particularly pronounced among larger economies, both developing and developed: 16 of the 19 states in the G20 saw real-terms increases in military spending in 2009.

— Sam Perlo-Freeman, Olawale Ismail and Carina Solmirano, MilitaryExpenditure Chapter 5, SPIRI Yearbook, June 2010, p.1″

This graph shows the % change in military spending over the last decade. On the right you can see how these amounts measure against one another, but the bars to the side are what are most important. They show long term pattern of growth and answer the question, “Which nations are most dedicated to growing their military?”

Many nations, such as China and India, are staying even with the %GDP spending and the growth in military spending shows a somewhat even with the economy. Others, however, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia show significant spikes even as the world at large, including the US, is showing a pattern of reduced military spending. The US? Why yes, check the bottom graph and several more throughout this post. Military spending in the United States has gone down significantly over the past few years even during a time when we were and are still involved in two different wars. What is interesting is, despite the narrative, though the US is leading the others in military reduction, it doesn’t seem to be determining how much they spend since the reduction in its spending is not matched by a proportional reduction in military spending overall worldwide.

Note the blue line, that’s the US. Since 2010 it has steadily been reducing its military spending in relation to GDP. Meanwhile many other nations have not. I used Russia and Saudi Arabia as two important examples because of how much their priorities seem to be changing and also given their precarious political situations presently.

Jon Davis’ answer to Why does the US government spend so much on military?

To fully appreciate the gravity with which Saudi Arabia wants to be a center for military strength, not just in the Kingdom, but throughout the Middle East, a person needs to also understand that they have worked together with other Arab-League nations to form a single pan-arab military force to combat the growing threats they perceive to Arab nations from terrorism and other nations, as well as creating a force capable of force projection, an important factor in international politics.

The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League by Jon Davis on The Defense Quorum

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

So for several years Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in its military assets and even working to create defensive works to defend against attacks and clandestine smuggling networks to their north.

Yep, a wall.

So yeah, sorry you missed the news. Saudi Arabia is preparing to be the center of a major military force in the region, most likely to counter the influence of terror, not only in the form of ISIS, but also much more so, from Iran. Due to the build-up of Iran and its funding of various terror networks across the region (to which The Iranian Quds force, for example, is in large part directly responsible for the Civil War in Yemen, among others) Saudi Arabia and many Arab countries feel that their survival relies on defense. They are also the most situated to combat terrorism in the region, far better than the Americans. So yes, they are very much building a military, and no, Donald Trump did not just come up with the idea to fund them or supply them with weapons.

The Guardian: Obama administration offered $115b​n in weapons to Saudi Arabia: report

The Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US administration, according to a new report.

The surge in sales is in part to reassure the Saudi monarchy of US backing in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran, which raised fears in the Gulf that Washington would tilt more towards Tehran in its foreign policy.

“I think that though the Obama administration is not thrilled about the Yemen episode; it feels it can’t stay out of it, because of the need to reassure the Saudis,” Hartung said.

His report found that since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, half of which are accounted for by deals that are still in the pipeline.

“There are $57bn in sales in formal agreements so far, which is also head and shoulders above other administrations,” Hartung said.

The report comes as concerns about the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and their implication in potential war crimes in Yemen have split MPs on parliament’s arms control committee.

Arms sales over the eight years of the Obama administration have also included combat aircraft, attack helicopters, bombs, air-to-ground missiles, warships and military training. A division of Northrop Grumman is involved in a $4bn train-and-equip programme for the Saudi Arabian national guard, which has reportedly played a key role in the Yemen intervention.

That report came out in September of 2016, before Donald Trump was even the President. So the answer by another writer on this issue, that Saudi Arabia was using weapons against Yemeni children, well if he didn’t dispute that when President Obama was doing that, then the argument loses it credibility. As far as 100 billion dollars being too much, well, $115 billion is more.

Frankly, there is much to dislike about Saudi Arabia. I’ve been a leading critic of them throughout my writing, from the barbaric traditions they allow in their culture, to their absurd apathy to Syrian refugees, but collateral damage is not murdering young children. It is the cold, hard, ugly, miserable truth that war is not a clean affair, but the fastest way to stop it is for one side to so totally dominate that the other sues for peace and comes back to the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia is positioned to bring peace to the region culturally where American military solutions fail. Does it mean that we empower a nation we often find appalling? Yes. But we have greater influence to introduce reforms when we control the source of their power than if we allow the Saudis to crumble and the entire region descend further into anarchy.

Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Advertisements

Questions Remain as Inconsistencies Surface in President’s December 6th Oval Office Address.

I, like millions of other Americans, watched the president’s address to the nation concerning the fear that has been mounting, due to the continued threat of active terror in the United States.

Others will discuss at length many of the correct or comforting points the president made. I agree with him that all Americans are brought together in mourning for the tragedy of more than a dozen of our own. I also agree that the attacks in San Bernardino do not represent a conflict between the United States and Islam, but to use his words, “that the two of them [Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook] had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.” He also followed this by pointing to the difficult work of our military, police and law enforcement, as well as the heroic efforts of our intelligence services to stop countless numbers of these attacks from being made, both domestically and abroad. Among these efforts, he listed the killing of Osama bin Laden, the disruption of terrorist safe havens, and the decimation of al Qaeda’s leadership network. For that recognition, I heartily agree.

I also agree with him where he states that, in spite of the efforts of millions of men and women over the last fourteen years, the War on Terror still continues, and the terrorist group known as ISIL and has survived to reach a second phase. Now, instead of the highly organized attacks that initiated the war, many more attacks of a lesser nature are happening, such that we have seen in Europe and now in the United States. I will also agree with his words that as the Commander in Chief, he has no greater responsibility than to the security to the American people.

There is much, however, that was said beyond this, that I find I disagree with. Following his points that the road to victory against terror won’t depend on tough talks, abandoning our values, and giving into fear, he began to paint a picture that was intended to educate Americans of what the ground situation in Syria actually looks like. He mentioned that we will “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us”. In this picture, he stated that the US military will continue to hunt down terrorists by being strong and smart, and relentless, and by drawing on every aspect of American power. He continued that in Iraq and Syria, US bombers are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy assets, and infrastructure, and that since the attacks in Paris, we have been joined by our allies in Europe to do the same. He also mentions that we are providing equipment and training to forces on the tens of thousands of local fighters in Iraq and Syria who are combatting ISIL on the ground, to take away the safe havens of the terrorist organization. Next, he mentioned that efforts have been underway to dismantle ISIL’s operations, their finances, and their recruiting efforts abroad. Along with this, he mentions how the United States is working with Muslim majority countries to solve this problem and combat the vicious spread of the perversion of Islam he referenced earlier. Finally, there is mention of a ceasefire, led by American intervention and a possible end to the Syrian war.

If this picture were all that was going on in Syria, we would be in a very good situation. One is almost forced to ask, if this is case, why has ISIL not yet been defeated?

To answer that question, we have to look at the rest of what was not said.

  • We will “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us.”

 

This is reassuring. It is a statement of force that says that the United States and her allies will not stand against the threat that these attacks have imposed. The problem with this, is that it differs in almost no way from similar speeches made over a year ago where the President promised to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”  Since that point, the Islamic State has suffered little loss of territory in Syria and Iraq, and has since spilled over into Libya, has claimed direct responsibility for numerous terror attacks in Europe, and have reached at least as far as Bangladesh, where Muslim bloggers speaking out against the Islamic State are being murdered for delivering the voice of Muslim activists the world so desperately wants to hear. Only weeks ago, the President referred to the Islamic State as “contained” within Iraq and Syria, a comment whose timing was tragic, appearing only days before the Paris attacks of late November, and which completely ignored the presence of ISIL troops ravaging Libya, all those acting abroad, and recruiters working throughout Europe. It, however, made apparent how very disconnected to the crisis the President’s foreign policy concerning ISIL is to the truth on the ground, or that what he is communicating is a far more optimistic interpretation of events than followers of the crisis have come to know.

In a post by Carter Moore, numerous polls are showing that more and more Americans aren’t being swayed by what an increasing number of us are viewing as a half-hearted policy towards ISIL’s elimination, and an overall lack of belief that the President’s plans for the region are grounded in either a realistic understanding of the situation, or that his plan can succeed in the future. Along with this, Americans have embraced the unfortunate reality that terror would likely grace our shores, reality that terror would likely grace our shores, “soon”, as indicated by polls done by CBS and Quinnipac University. Along with further polls done by ABC, the overriding theme of the American people is an overall lack of belief in the President’s continuing promises to “destroy ISIL, and any other organization that threatens to harm us.”

  • The US military will continue to hunt down by being strong and smart, and relentless, and by drawing on every aspect of American power.

Every aspect of American power does not correlate to the offensive that is currently taking place. To begin, the United States does not have the forces it had available when we left Iraq prematurely in 2011, and we lack the ability to regain the initiative in this fight. The forces available in the Middle East have been reduced to the point that it’s first option of regular troops for when something in the region goes South isn’t even a combat team.

The US Marine Corps is preparing to deploy about 2,100 grunts to be based out of Kuwait in a new unit configuration designed to respond to crises in the region, according to Corps officials.

Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) Central Command will be equipped to perform noncombat evacuation, humanitarian assistance, infrastructure support, tactical aircraft recovery, fixed-site security and theater sustainment missions, said Brig. Gen. John Love, assistant deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.

This sort of force would have been useful during events such as Benghazi amid the Libyan turmoil several years ago, but utterly lacks the strength necessary to secure and occupy a region the size of Texas.

Yes, we still maintain powerful air and naval assets in the region, such as the 6th Fleet in Bahrain. From here, you will see many of the air strikes originating. But the problem we are seeing, is that there simply isn’t enough power being delivered by the air strikes to have a meaningful effect. While we might be able to “hunt down” forces in dramatic bombing missions, it is obvious to most that this effort isn’t winning any territory on the ground front.

Instead, what we are seeing from our allies on the ground, is that the attacks against ISIL are having only marginal gains. The overriding US strategy is to bomb jihadist forces using fighter, bomber, and UAV, and weaken them, paving the way for allies to overrun them on the ground. Where this strategy fails is that the US airstrikes in Syria have been shown to be based on startlingly little intelligence. Often, the strikes do little more than send the fighters cowering during the bombardment, only to return once it is over. Secondly, the largest single flaw in the plan is a lack of supporting fighters on the ground who are able to take the regions. Examples include Kurdish forces who, while excellent fighters when fighting for their own lands, have no vested interest in conquering lands that are not home to Kurdish people, and therefore, not worth the risk of Kurdish soldiers. In Southern Syria, it is worse as the rebels we are supporting number only a few tens of thousands, at the most. They are, however, fighting against not only the Islamic State, but also the sitting dictator of Syria, and now also being bombed by Russia. The Iraqi army, for that matter, has show virtually no initiative in even attempting to retake the lands lost to ISIL for purely ethnic reasons, which explains why the Iraqi military is unable to handle fighting ISIS without US intervention. For that reason, the statement during the president’s speech that “…we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground, so that we take away their safe havens,” is based either on optimistic deception, or denial based myth.

Furthermore, the bombings themselves aren’t even providing much gain in the actual killing of insurgent forces.

“The air attacks to date have been what can only be called anemic,” says David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

Deptula, who directed the air campaigns in the first Gulf War and the invasion of Afghanistan, says it is not possible to defeat the Islamic State by flying what’s been an average of little more than a dozen airstrikes a day.

“The administration’s incomplete strategy places U.S. commanders in an untenable situation,” he says. “It’s not unlike the failed strategy that was employed in Vietnam.”

For a point of reference, the Iraq War 2003-2011 averaged closer to thirty strikes a day and the Gulf War more than a thousand over its short duration.

The current air campaign drew fire as well at a hearing last month on Capitol Hill.

“Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends,” said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, the Arizona Republican who himself flew combat missions in Vietnam. “That suggests we are not winning, and when you’re not winning in war, you are losing.”

What many believe, instead of attempting to destroy ISIL, the administration is instead attempting to use it as a weapon. The strikes by American forces have been primarily centered on some of the insurgent assets, but mostly in areas where ISIL is in direct conflict with Syrian rebels we are allied with. There, they are attempting to funnel ISIL away from the rebels, but leave them to fight Bashar al-Assad‘s government. In this way, they do not achieve the strategic victory of defeating either, but are having the effect of hardening ISIL against our tactics and strategies, while they continue to grow. The biggest problem with this strategy, however, isn’t that ISIL is learning to defend themselves from the bombings, but that Russia (a close ally of Assad, along with Iranian supporters) is currently engaged in campaigns to destroy both ISIL and the rebels we have been arming and training. Worse than this, the Russians are working a lot harder at this than we are.
This outlines why many analysts agree that bombing alone cannot defeat ISIL on the ground, in spite of the enormous and never-ending steady stream of smart bombs against a hardening target. To better understand that cost I would suggest learning how much one airstrike can cost.
Add to this the impact of sequestration on federal agencies. For the military overall, the funding available to maintain the forces has been reduced by over one hundred billion dollars. This has manifested itself in the form of over seventy-thousand troops leaving or being forced out of the service.  It takes the form of hiring freezes and promotion ceilings for American servicemen, forcing many of our best and most experienced warfighters out of the service in search for a productive and meaningful career. In total the sequestration has left us more than 70,000 less troops than in 2011 before the start of the President’s second term. The cutbacks against the United States military have been called for repeatedly, to the point of ad absurdum, to where now we have the United States army is at its smallest since 1940, and the Navy since 1915. U.S. Military Personnel 1954-2014: The Numbers

In the meantime, our allies are facing greater and greater pressure militarily from overseas from sources like the Islamic jihadists, Russia in Eastern Europe, and China in the South China Sea. Several member nations of the Arab League have even allied together to form Joint Military Force to provide for their own independent interests, further exacerbating the conflicts in the Middle East. The net effect of the United States’ regression toward isolationism, is that the world has become a much more hostile place, where our enemies can no longer rely on us for aid, and are looking elsewhere for support. This has not only left us less secure, but decreased the security of billions of people.

Having said all of this, it brings about the question of a land invasion into the country, which many Americans don’t even realize, isn’t even possible. We’ve reached the point where we shouldn’t be asking if we should deploy boots on the ground, but rather, “is the deployment of ground forces even possible?” To do so would require months of logistical support and maneuvering of forces to the region to reach invasion strength, more than enough time for the Islamic State forces to become aware of what is happening, hide among the civilian population or even return to their respective homelands, continuing the global jihad elsewhere. Perhaps this helps explain why has ISIl still has not been defeated even after a year. Ultimately, the question of “removing the Islamic State” has been lost from us entirely in anywhere close to the near term. Perhaps this, more so than any sort of ideological reason or because of fear of “another long and drawn out war” is why the President so strongly advocated against the option to send in American ground forces. My greatest concern is that that simply isn’t an option anymore.

  • Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.
There is a great deal wrong with the third points. To begin with, it mentions working with allies on goals of cutting off ISIL’s financing, but in July, it was shown that Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’ linked through ISIL’s discounted oil sales. I’ll continue that we are failing the intelligence war when it was only discovered through a raid last year how the organization was set up in the first place. More than that, evidence collected by Kyle Murao in Where is ISIL getting their ammunition? has shown that there is little stopping the Islamic State from utilizing black market resources and its vast wealth of independently earned (looted/ransomed/taxed) wealth to procure from virtually any source on the planet. The table below demonstrates forensic evidence of brass casings found on an Islamic State battlefield and where the casings originated. The findings are unsettling.

Along with this, the President mentions that recruitment efforts are being weakened, which, according to all current evidence, is also failing. In Europe there is already a large movement in place where recruiters for the Islamic state are being made to attempt to convert Europeans to Islam, and to convert the local Islamic population to the Wahhabi doctrine, which is the branch of Islam most responsible for the current era of terror we are now experiencing. There, established Islamic “preachers” and recruiters already in Europe, such as Pierre Vogel AKA Abu Hamza, are transitioning young and easily influenced Muslims into fanatical jihadists.

Abu Hamza, born a German named Pierre Vogel in 1978, is a very popular Islamist preacher in Germany. The former professional boxer became Muslim in 2001 and is now among the most influential German representatives of Saudi-originated Wahhabi fundamentalism, which masquerades as “Salafism.”

In Europe, ministries such as Vogel’s are considered “cool” by the native born Muslim youth, which sees thousands flocking to his influence and to that of his Lieutenants. From there, many face the sorts of extremist conversions that taken place disturbing fast, outlined more in detail here. Under leadership and direction, such as that offered by Muslim preachers like Vogel, these fanaticized young Muslims find their to the Middle East, where they are radicalized in militants. From there, they fight for the Islamic State and with no ties to the local “kuffar,” or “unbelievers” have been found guilty of many of the most egregious acts of criminal barbarism. There, they either die in service to the Islamic State or return home to conduct acts of terror in the name of the state. This can be seen in the famed former German rapper Dennis Cuspert, who operated under the pseudonym Abu Talha al-Almani. Cuspert converted to Islam in prison and went on to command a German speaking infantry unit in Aleppo after serving as a recruiter for the Islamic State in Germany. He was killed in an American airstrike, but had he lived, he may have found his way back to Germany, not unlike those who planned and executed the Charlie Hebdo massacre early in 2015.
What is most disappointing, is that even though this is well known, there is no good work being done other than an internet information campaign to stem the Islamic fanatization in Europe and the tide of foreign fighters into the Middle East.

Having exhausted all points on the image of Syria that the president is trying to communicate, I’ll move on to a few other items that need to be addressed.

  • “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a suspected terrorist to buy a gun?

Among the proposed solutions that the president offered was yet another implication that stricter gun regulations would have, in any way, affected the outcome of this event. One phrase he used repeatedly was the term “Common Sense” legislation. I dislike phrases such as “common sense” initiatives, as well as other like, “the right side of history” or, “it’s what the terrorists want”. They imply a certain unquestionable infallibility, without providing either context or evidence to support the claim. With the example of common sense initiatives in gun-control, the language communicates that the policies are logical to the point that anyone who would disagree is not just of a differing opinion, one with rational speculation and concerns, but are in fact, irrational and lacking in some necessary degree of basic human intellect. It is a dehumanizing and divisive phrase, designed to belittle opponents without giving credit or concern for their individual value or point of view, something the President of the United States should never do, and particularly when his nation is suffering a time of crisis.On the points in particular on gun-control, as I have elluded to, it is not a lack of common sense which has brought opposition to the current policies in debate, but rational concerns behind key failures in their policies. Narrowing the focus, the policy of not allowing gun purchasing by people on the “No Fly List” sounds like a reasonable, common sense proposal. The President even went so far as to ask “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a suspected terrorist to buy a gun?” I’m not sure I have ever met or heard of anyone who wants to allow terrorists to buy gun, so it seems like an odd to frame the argument like that… since literally no one has advocated it. In fact, the majority of those standing in the way of the “No Fly Rule” are the same who have been the most supportive of more thorough investigations for the individuals whom the president called “suspected terrorists.” They, for example, would be the first to ask why anyone considered a suspected terrorist is allowed to walk free and unadulterated by law enforcement, in the first place.

The failure here doesn’t lie in the intent, but in it’s execution. There are numerous problems inherent to the “No Fly” list that have been well documented. Among these is the drastic increase in the number of people added onto the list over the last seven years, far exceeding the last presidency.  According to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, in October 2008 the No Fly list contained only 2,500 names, with an additional 16,000 “selectees” who “represent a less specific security threat and receive extra scrutiny, but are allowed to fly.” Since then, that number has grown to over 47,000 people by 2013 with another 468,749 watch-list nominations. Some have called into the question how easy it is for an innocent person to be placed on the list and how arduous it can be to rectify yourself in getting your name off the “No Fly” terrorist watch list. Along with this, several people have been detained for “false positives”, including a United States Marine returning from Iraq, an ACLU lawyer (big mistake), a one year old girl, and a guy whose only crime was having the same name as a terrorist who went to Guantanamo Bay. Scores of other false positives exist. Together with all the other problems associated with the No Fly list, it was obvious to some that it was too broken of a system to merit being tied to something as foundational to the American identity as the 2nd Amendment. Second, this methodology, had it been in place, would not even have caught most of the mass shooters responsible for terrorist events already, such as the Boston Bombers. It isn’t that anyone wants to put guns in the hands of terrorists, but this is a broken system that won’t be fixed by adding more broken elements to it.

A second proposal made by the president was to make it harder to access the types of high power weapons these two terrorists used. While I will agree that if these weapons did not exist, no one would be shot by them, simply banning them nationally or even their sale is not a rational approach to solving the issue of mass shootings. For instance, it is widely known that California has some of the tightest restrictions on guns. Social media is has made arguments based on the numerous statistics statics supporting a push for more gun regulation, theoretically as a solution to this sort of crime. These statistics, however, don’t change the truth that California has already adopted President Obama’s gun control wish list, which includes the common sense initiatives such as “universal” background checks, registration, waiting periods, gun bans, magazine bans and an expansion of prohibited gun categories, I can’t really fathom. No combination of these laws, however, prevented this act of domestic terror from taking place. Furthermore, evidence has shown that further expansion of gun regulation, such as that which the President has recently proposed, would not have even had an effect on preventing this case.

Requiring background checks for all weapons sales might not have had any effect on Wednesday’s shootings in San Bernardino in which at least 14 people were killed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters, legally purchased two of the weapons at a gun shop in Corona. Two others were legally purchased and given to him by a friend, federal officials said Thursday.”

Yet even more, the vast majority of the guns used in the most recent shooting sprees were made through legal weapons purchases including background checks. This serves to support many gun owner rights advocates who have stated that outlawing the weapons will not affect the actions of the criminals who take note of the laws only so far as to subvert them, but will inhibit only those actions of law abiding citizens.
To answer the main question of “what are some of the major takeaways of President Obama’s Oval Office Address on meeting the threat posed by terrorism” there are a few.
  • The publically communicated policy for Syria hasn’t changed, in that it still relies on US bombing campaigns that have proven not to work.
  • Key allies in the region form a major leg of the operation, but have thus far failed to make significant gains on Iraqi and Syrian soil, in spite of coalition support.
  • There is still no plan (nor capability) to launch ground forces.
  • While there has been a significant number of major terror plots prevented, there is very little that can be done to prevent the “self-radicalized” native born extremist.
  • The only viable plan for this includes placing many people suspected of being somewhat involved in terrorism on a list which forbids them from purchasing weapons.
  • The only other viable plan involves creating gun control regulations, which would have had no impact on cases like this, but that hypothetically would prevent a portion of them in the future.
  • There was also a note on stronger screenings for those entering the United States without a visa. For the life of me, that sounds like an illegal immigrant, something the president has ardently fought up to this point, but at this point, now seems to be a “common sense” initiative.
In closing, however, I would like to make note one thing I am thankful for that the president did. I would like to reiterate that I am thankful that the president spoke when he did. People were scared. They don’t know how to rationalize their fear with a realistic knowledge of the risk they are under. When terrorism strikes in the United States, they don’t have that understanding of how very safe and secure the vast majority of them are. During the day, I am a teacher, and today I taught a class of seventh graders. They know that I am a Marine who served in Iraq when they were little, and that I write in the evenings and am very knowledgeable about these sorts of events. They had many questions, and were scared. For that, I was angry, but also very glad that I could help ease their fears with an understanding of the dangers they actually face and the safeguards which will ensure their security. So, too, did the president. He did that for everyone who doesn’t know enough about the events. He helped a scared nation get moving again, and for that at least, I am thankful.

Thanks for reading!

This is a post presented for the Quora blog The Defense Quorum and Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you enjoyed this post and would like to support me in writing more like it, please visit: Support Jon Davis.

What are some of the major takeaways of President Obama’s Oval Office Address on meeting the threat posed by terrorism (December 2015)?

What are some famous controversial photos that maybe shouldn’t have been taken?

The pictures of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib is a large prison in Iraq. During the time of the Iraq War, it became a housing facility for American prisoners of war, as well as maintaining its role as a prison in an attempt to maintain order in the country following the collapse of the Hussein regime. Housed there were convicted terrorists, murderers, robbers, and rapists, but it was the US Army staff which brought the prison its most infamy.

Early in the Iraq war, soldiers of the 320th Military Police Battalion, an Army reserve unit far from the front lines of the conflict took over command of the facility. Prior to their arrival acts of barbarity by Iraqi prison officials was not uncommon. It was, in fact, a practice in Middle Eastern society prior to the American’s intervention to take pictures of people in humiliating situations, and to release the photos as a means of shame and humiliation to force coercion. In tribal societies, this works well and it was something the Hussein regime had long practiced. Having an image of a woman, in this case a woman holding a leashed naked Iraqi, I should add, greatly increased the value of the for such a work. Culturally, a women was of an inferior status, so to be depicted in such a demeaning manner by ta women was particularly offensive to Arab Muslims.

When the Americans took over, they were advised to continue the practice. Abuses under the American Army command included being forced to pose nude in demeaning positions, evidence of violence, inducing fear with military working dogs, and mocking poses with female guards. These practices, however, go against the law of war and several levels of military law and justice, as well as standing against many treaties, so when leaders in the prison took the advice to continue the status quo for the Hussein regime, they did so without good judgement or the legal leg to support their actions. This is why investigations for the prison were already underway before news of them began to circulate with international media, which had mostly been tipped off by these very same investigations.

Following the investigation, members of the 320th Military Police Battalion was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse. The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, these soldiers were convicted in courts-martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialists Charles Graner and Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten and three years in prison, respectively. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer of all detention facilities in Iraq, was reprimanded and demoted to the rank of colonel.

In April of 2004, information about the goings on at the prison began to become public, following earlier stories by the Associated Press. When the news broke, it detailed images of prisoner abuse at the prison not long after the war began.

After the pictures were released, the conversation about the war collapsed. In spite of the Army’s clear message through the imprisonment of the offending Army personnel, and the demotion of one of their Generals, the story that was told by the pictures was that this was acceptable practices for the United States military. This was detrimental to the war effort in that it unfairly misrepresented the rest of the military, myself included, in our efforts to help Iraq stabilize following the removal of the Iraqi Saddamist regime. It was never viewed as a rogue act of an undisciplined and reckless unit, but as representative of the entire United States military, and, to quote a commentor below, “…but it showed the true face of USA…” This radical hyperbole defined the war for many people even today, but the story the pictures told, rather than the truth, dramatically changed the ground war.

The United States military could not really advocate itself as a force for good when this event existed. It cast a very bright light on the decisions of an extremely small group of people in the military. Within the Iraqi population, it made a sound argument that this sort of behavior was the way of the new imperial dictator, and fed propaganda against the American occupation and populist government.  The pictures generated hatred and animosity as the images touched on very deep cultural sensitivities, beyond the obvious human reactions to them. This escalated insurgency activity and fed the increasing terror campaign for three more years before the “Surge” of 2007. In the United States, the event fed the anti-war rhetoric, silencing many supporters of the conflict and empowering those who were never behind the war in the first place with new evidence to support their views. After quickly toppling the government under Saddam Hussein and breaking grounds towards a stable and free government, the legacy of the American involvement in the country was forever damaged by Abu Gharib.

This was a tragedy on many levels. First, the actions of a very few marred the image of the United States’ mission and the conduct of its servicemen. The Marines have a saying, “No greater friend; no worse enemy.” This led many potential allies to think not in the terms of no greater friend, but that the Americans are simply an enemy to be feared. Resistance from that point on, was assured based on these pictures alone. Further, it painted the entire conflict as one of cruelty, forever ignoring the extreme effort that American and coalition forces went to minimize harm to civilians and attempt to rebuild the Iraqi way of life. And even furthermore, painted the hyperbolic assumption that all Americans were really like this.

Second, it was  a tragedy of justice in that it made it impossible to accurately judge who the just were. I will remind readers that the photos are of not just political prisoners of war, and certainly not of poor innocent Iraqis, but of convicted criminals under Iraqi courts. Some were guilty of war crimes under Saddam and some after the war began in 2003. Others were convicted murders, rapists, and all manner of citizens harmful to their own people. In truth, being tied to a leash and paraded around in some humiliating fashion was a far lighter offense than those suffered by many of their victims. You won’t find much remorse from me in the way they were treated, other than that the Americans were obligated by treaty not to participate in such acts. That said, even if these were the vilest of men, that message never got through. When they were masked, their identity was hidden along with all of their individual crimes. When their clothes or uniforms were removed, you remove their allegiances, in some cases to the criminal organizations that committed acts of terror and treason against the Iraqi people.

People can hate a face of a known killer, and they can hate anyone who wears a certain uniform. They couldn’t identify with a murderer, but to them, this was just another defenseless man. There was nothing that stopped them from identifying with just a naked man. Once you look at the picture, you only see illogical cruelty; there is never a question why did that person get into prison in the first place. The pictures didn’t capture their own atrocities, but clearly communicated human suffering they experienced at the hands of people who obligated to at least protect them, be it justified on any level or not. When we no longer saw them as criminals of the most terrible nature, we only saw people, or in this case, martyrs of the American war machine. Quick to forget who these men were and what they did, it was easy to look to those others pictured, cavalier and in American military uniforms as the unjust. I’m not saying that what the American soldiers tasked with overseeing the Abu Gharib prison did was morally justifiable. I’m just not very sorry for the individuals pictured. What I am sorry for is that the stupid actions of the soldiers caused anyone who saw them, both American or Iraqi, to forgive the evils of the men pictured for the story that was immortalized in their imagery.

The seminal tragedy in this is that it made sound the argument that the Americans should not have been in the war, and were incompetent to see it through. It increased pressure to forcing them out of the country long before Iraq was ready for them to leave. In this way, it opened the door to the premature departure of American forces, therefore leaving the door open to terrorists and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to invade and conquer vast swaths of Iraqi territory and empowering them to spread terror throughout not only the Middle East, but also throughout the world into the rest of Asia, Africa, and even Europe. I’d like to hear rational arguments, not for whether or not we should have been in Iraq, but that the world is a better place now that we have given in to emotions and retreated from the region. Having said this, it isn’t just that these pictures should not have been taken. The event they recorded never should have happened. At the bare minimum, they cost the American and coalition forces years on top of the conflict. They fed emotional reactionaries into fleeing the nation with no reasonable objectives adequately met, and worst of all, led to point where far more evil crimes are being committed today.


Thanks for reading. Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here:Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.

Why has ISIS still not been defeated even after a year?

You ever notice kids burning ants?

America, the whole Western world really, is kind of like that kid. And the ant, well I think you are smart enough to know that is one of those jihadist terrorist murdermongers. Like the kid with his glass, we send over our multimillion dollar planes on their many thousands of dollar sorties, to drop a few $80,000 missiles to kill a few bad guys armed with AK-47s hiding in a hole. It is a massive, massive difference in force being brought to the table. That’s awesome, right? I mean, realistically, what could that ant really do to the kid?

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to realize where the strategic problem here lies. We won’t win the war on the “ants” by killing a few of them individually with our multimillion dollar “magnifying glasses”. Honestly, once the kid realizes that everywhere he looks, there is going to be a few more ants, he’s going to get bored, and eventually, he’s going to get bit by one of those little suckers he never saw coming in for a cheapshot. Mom will probably go into a panic and make the kid come back into the house. “I killed 10 ants.” The little boy proclaims to an ambivalent family. A doting Mom might even say, “Oh, good job son. You can do no wrong.” never thinking of the ants in her yard again.

The truth is that Mom, the family, and the little boy don’t get what has become obvious to everyone else. There is an infestation going on which is going to have to be handled by taking out the mounds.

Now we run into enough problems that I am going to drop the analogy momentarily. After all, killing an ant mound would involve something like dousing the mound in some lethal poison or putting out traps to poison the queen, which I am pretty sure the human comparison is laying down a cloud of chemical weapons gas or poisoning the water supply. I think that is a bad idea, genocide you know… just to be clear.

It does need to be said that there is a mound that does exist. What makes it so difficult to defeat, in this case, is the fact that this isn’t a physical mound that we could even just wipe off the map. This is a “anthill of ideas” or to paraphrase Sam Harris, “The Motherlode of Bad Ideas“.

What you have is a system that has adopted forced coercion over the local population, which essentially means that you can’t trust the locals, because they are more afraid of being murdered by the terrorists than they feel safe knowing that you are around. The Islamic State also runs its social circles in a way that is more or less, and I am not exaggerating, like evil Kremlin spies mixed with the Nazi secret police all headed by Fundamentalists Islamic Preachers. It’s seriously sick and a forceful means of taking over communities in a way that looks peaceful to outsiders, assuming we didn’t notice the beheadings of apostates, stoning of wives, or the throwing of homosexuals off of buildings. Compound this with the fact that Islamic terrorists have also adapted terrorism into their tactics since at least the 1950’s in their fight against the French in Algeria where the killing of moderate leaders and those influential opposed to them is commonplace. As I said, this compounds the problem because it kills off those Muslim leaders who would advocate for the removal of the Islamic State, while silencing opposition within the community.Over time, all of this combines to have an extremely negative effect of literally transforming a population of 1.5 billion people.

To put some data to that statement, here is a graph of a poll done in the Middle East of mostly Arab Muslims. While the world should still delight that most the graph is red, it still showed that as many as 11% of Muslims in that region actually support what the IS is doing.

If you were to say that these percentages held true for the entire Muslim population that would be around 140 million people. So that you know, that couldn’t be said thirty years ago, so something is going on terrible in that part of the world.

Ok, now we have a broader understanding of the problem. We aren’t just dealing with the terrorists who are dressed up like, well, terrorists.

We are actually dealing with fanaticized populations who are either all being systematically converted, or, more than likely, are too terrified ( i.e. terrorism) to speak out against the ruling regime. That means, getting back to that, “You can’t trust the locals” idea, that everyone in the region is complicit with the Islamic State, like I said, either because they are fundamentalists or because they are simply trying to buy their security through favors to the madmen who have proven over and over that they would kill them if they didn’t.

Circling back to happy metaphors, that means that 90% of these ants you see below, are actually good people; terrified people, but good people nonetheless. 2% are no holds barred murderous terrorists. The 8% or so remaining are just wrong headed and given maybe a few more generations, might see that throwing homosexuals from three story buildings is socially unacceptable. That said, all 100% of them, in some capacity, are furthering the aims of the Islamic State, whether through willful alliance or forced submission. With that in mind can you spot the terrorists?

No, but because of the 90% of the people who haven’t yet been purged through annihilation or forced refugee status, we can’t exactly go the way of the Amdro option. In case you don’t realize, Amdro is a powerful fire ant killer that wipes out whole mounds dead with a chemical cocktail of 10,000 kinds of unnatural unpleasantries. If you’re slow, I’m making an allusion to the nuclear option, or as some people have said in dumber parts of the internet, “Glassing That Desert”. Speaking of depraved acts of callousness, by the way, a recent Amnesty International report currently showed that something like 1 in 120 people alive today are living in refugee status, and no one seems to care unless I write a post with cute ant cartoons.

Having said all this, I understand that it is a difficult problem. What I don’t understand, is how with the best minds in the world supposedly working to solve this problem, President Barack Obama made it clear after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the Group of Seven (G7) nations summit in Germany less than a month ago, that he still doesn’t have a plan to deal with it. Whatever your personal view on whether the United States and the West going to Iraq should have happened, we are now and for many years to come, tied to the fate of that region. We, like so many others, have major responsibilities there. 

That’s why so many people like me are so very disappointed with the overall work done by the White House and the State Department over the last six years to quell these exponentially growing international disturbances.

While there have been many victories for the Obama legacy, it can’t be understated enough that Iraq will stand as one of the greatest black marks on his record going right back to his original speeches saying that the United States should pull out as quickly as possible before he even reached the presidency. Given the mess with the IS, it is pretty obvious now that it was a mistake to just uproot and leave. I’ve made the point before that the United States didn’t leave as much as the Iraqis offered terms of their stay that were unacceptable, and the administration did little to prevent it. The problem that myself and many political analysts have had, was that there was very little done to attempt to negotiate out of that situation. This leads many to assume that the situation was just a convenient out to fulfill campaign promises to leave Iraq by the 2012 election, while also having the political insurance for later that it wasn’t “technically” the fault of the Obama State Department if anything bad happens later, headed at the time by Hillary Clinton. It’s an issue of bad faith. The administration left Iraq, knowing that they couldn’t handle their own security at the time.

Look, it was made obvious to me growing up since sex ed class, pulling out is never an adequate form of protection. As an Iraq vet, now watching the region I served in overrun by terrorists, I can’t help but ask why it was allowed that after years of bringing that country into a state of order, it was allowed to descend back into utter chaos though negligence of the highest order. Yes, it was in a state of order when we left, which is proven most ironically by the very site dedicated to showing how much we failed there.

Now, the website iraqbodycount.com is publishing data showing that some areas of Iraq are facing worse carnage than they ever experienced during the Bush era.

17,049 civilians have been recorded killed in Iraq during 2014 (up to Dec 30). This is roughly double the number recorded in 2013 (9,743), which in turn was roughly double the number in 2012 (4,622). These numbers do not include combatant deaths, which even by the most cautious tallies have also seen a sharp rise in 2014.

Yet, we still have no plan. What’s worse, is that the movement being carried on by the Islamic State is one which is easily spreading outside of Iraq and Syria. Now, IS militants are attacking and pushing out major population groups in Libya more than two thousand miles away from Iraq and separated by at least three countries. I honestly don’t know why people aren’t talking about this more.

While the President’s team has surrounded himself with a lot of very good press recently, it just seems like there isn’t time to deal with what is, realistically, the most vital issue threatening world security today. In the words of his current Secretary of State, John Kerry, made in one of the most outlandishly uncalled for attacks on the single group of Americans doing the most to prevent the spread of fundamentalist terrorism, the United States military:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Well, the administration hasn’t done their homework and they haven’t made an effort to be smart, so now, as Kerry predicted in 2006, they’re stuck in Iraq.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow the blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to show your support please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

Chilling Insights of ISIS Leaked Files

An exclusive investigation by German magazine DER SPIEGEL shows that the stunning march of the Islamic State into Syria & Iraq was meticulously planned by former members of the intelligence services of Saddam Hussein.

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of the Islamic State

The documents brought to light by Der Spiegel showed the sophisticated organizational structure which the Islamic State has been utilizing, one of modern secular origin, as opposed to one of classical Islamic design, and how that was necessary to achieve its unthinkable reach and murderous mentality. It pulls the discussion away from the religious fanatics narrative and focuses on a design built around legitimate military organizational theory, as well as one of an advanced mafia organization, and bridges the gap between fundamentalism and a criminal empire.

It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.

This note rang a chord with me when I thought about who it was talking about. The article by Der Spiegel focuses on Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, better known as Haji Bakr. He was a former high ranking member of the leadership of the Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein. After being purged from the Iraqi leadership, along with the rest of the Ba’ath party, Bakr went underground to join the Iraqi insurgency and eventually, made his way into joining the group that would become the Islamic State. He, however, was less religious than his peers, but carried on the legacy of the Iraqi Ba’ath party, one guided by the mission of uniting the whole of the Arab world into a single, unified Arabic nation.

His views were that of the Arab’s answer to Nazism and the supremacy of the Aryan race. Sympathizing with that mentality, and one of eastern military philosophy in general, the Ba’ath party, particularly of Iraq, mimicked much of the organizational philosophies of Socialist Eastern European regimes. The Ba’ath party’s leadership structural theory is descended from this same line of thinking. Saddam Hussein, a noted fan of none other than Joseph Stalin, built his regime around a government ran secret police structure to enforce his law and repress dissent with models formed by the Nazi’s SS, the Stasi secret police and the organizations capable of coordinating Stalin’s terrible purges in the Soviet Union from the Kremlin. Molded into a method workable for the Middle East, Saddam used these same government tactics to hold the majority of Iraq’s people in subjugation for decades.

With this model in mind, Bakr designed a secret service and clandestine operations arm of the Islamic State with stunning efficiency. Perhaps what surprised me most was the pernicious, methodical saturation of the IS into every major town they become a part of, and the methodical approach to take over in which they conquered these towns before a single Islamic State soldier ever arrived.

The plan would always begin with the same detail: The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:

  • List the powerful families.
  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”

I found this deeply disturbing because it really confirmed suspicions I had, but that I never really predicted were this involved and well organized. I operated under the assumption that there were advanced cell structures for the military units, and that there must be another internal structure for the religious adherents, but I was really unaware of how deeply they could infiltrate and saturate a village and a whole region.  The organization created for the ISIL “security” services is extremely advanced structure considering that most people still view them as little more than a highly effective gang of religious fanatics.

From there, the last thing I would mention that we gained from the report is the very clear understanding of how ISIL was able to grow so unchecked through the 20th century, non-religious aspects of this purely religious 7th century cult. The fact that they had advanced military and secular agents saturating their operations early on means that the group has been free to move and operate in a manner that is very un-religious, while also maintaining a very convincing religious face to recruit the faithful.

Some of these un-religious acts included the kidnapping of civilians for sale in the slave markets, forced prostitution, and ransom. There was also extortion, intimidation and blackmail made all the easier though local spies provided through the religious Dawah’s. Through this strategy, they were able to take over massive portions of Syria without even utilizing their troops stationed in Iraq. The military’s open operations also magnified the religious aspects of ISIL. It gave their fighters the capability to strike strategic victories, so much so that they were capable of flooding Iraq in only a number of weeks.

The religious fervor of their foreign mujahideen was also necessary. The report describes them to be mostly students from Saudi Arabia, office workers from Tunisia and school dropouts from Europe with no military experience. They were matched with battle-tested Chechens and Uzbeks to serve as the Non-commissioned officers of the army, and all serving under the command of well educated officers of the former Hussein Iraqi Army, all while serving in Syria. The important element is that they were not tied to the people of a region and could be relied upon to conduct the terrorist and mass criminal murders,  the organization is infamous for, unphased by national or ethnic loyalties or sympathies. These foreign Islamists are also crucial in that, once militarized, they go back to their home countries to spread terror or perform recruiting.

Perhaps the most frightening thing I realized from this document was just how viral the organizational structure is. It is truly international in nature. It is absolutely imitable anywhere in the world where a large enough population of muslims can be found. It doesn’t need an Iraq or a Syria, or an Afghanistan to work. As the above map shows, it has the means to spread very far outside of the focus of the modern conflicts very quickly. What I fear is the exact same story happening wherever there is disorder in the Islamic world. The pattern starts off very peacefully, just an office with Muslim missionary. In a matter of only a few months, there are thousands of people fleeing for their lives as a nation descends into anarchy, held together only through terror of the fanatical army looming at their door, which no one saw coming.

It’s a very frightening, but enlightening article, one I feel everyone needs to read and understand to understand the depths of the conflict as it currently stands.


patreon-donation-link

The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

Thus far, the stated purpose seems to be to counter “outside parties” and their military agendas within Arab countries. While many Westerners may believe this relates to American and European interests, it was made very clear that this is directed toward meaning Iran. Iranian backed groups, such as the current threat in Yemen, as well as Hezbollah, and the Iranian backed Shia government in Iraq have left the Arab nations feeling pressure, compounded by the blow delivered to it in 2011 via the Arab Spring. Uprisings and protests have riddled the Arab World since that time and, given the recent push by the Shia backed Iran to fill the void. This combination of threats has solidified many of the 22 Arab League members. Recent military successes in Yemen, have also empowered those backing joint military operations.

It has already been acknowledged, however, it is doubtful that all 22 will be part of the force.

However, it is unlikely that all 22 member nations of the often-fractious Arab League will join the proposed force. Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense agreement.

Iraq, whose Shiite government is closely allied with non-Arab and Shiite Iran, has said more time is needed to discuss the proposed force.

What we will probably see it used for immediately is to try to stabilize the Yemen conflict in favor of Arab interests. If it has strong lasting power, we may see it act as a counter balance to Iran and forces like their Quds Force. The Quds are a special forces arm of the Iranian military reporting directly to Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. They are responsible for the Iranian military’s “extraterritorial operations” and reportedly number around 15,000 troops. A good analogy for the Quds would be something comparable to the United States CIA married with the Green Beret and reporting directly to the President while still technically being part of the Department of Defense. Through them, Iran has been able to support military action across multiple agendas throughout the Middle East, most notably through their commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani reportedly taking a prominent role in both the planning & execution of the offensive to liberate Tikrit from ISIL.

Currently, there is no such Arab answer in the Middle East with the means to counteract Iranian influence and capabilities such as they have shown through forces like the Quds. What the Arabs seem to want from the arrangement is a direct action force combining air strike capabilities and ground forces to be capable of quelling any national destabilization, (such as events like the Arab Spring) insurgency (such as the beginning of the Syrian War and current Yemen conflict) as well as counter-terrorism capabilities.

This isn’t, however, the first time such a force has been seriously suggested. Such a force was a major agenda with the Ba’athists since the 1960’s and has been a long established goal of various Arab League states for many years. This has always been hampered by the region’s numerous flaws, suspicions and inability to cooperate strategically across borders. Add to this and the devastating effect of the Arab-Israeli conflicts on Arab cohesion.

To the credit of the Arabs, conflicts throughout the Middle East over the last fifty years have seen a massive, though somewhat quiet, increase in military infrastructure to support such a new force. An example of this is the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq and others like it, a result of the Israeli conflict and the Middle Easts inability to muster forces fast enough to fight back against Israeli assaults. Another fact worth considering is that nations throughout the Middle East have been outspending much of the world for the last decade. Saudi Arabia, for example, has been spending as much as 10% of their annual GDP on defense spending, more than doubling even the United States military’s relative spending.

That said, if this goal does stick, one can’t know what it will lead to. The force’s staying power will mean an escalation of conflict between the Arab League and Tehran, an event which paints a new and altogether more threatening light on the recent nuclear agreements going on with Iran currently. The Arab region’s history of being politically intertwined in all regards with Islam, particularly that of extremist Wahabi/Salifist branches, is obviously concerning, given their own recent attempts at nationalization. Arab military victories would surely see a rise in Arab nationalism, which may see more growth in parties like the remaining Ba’athists, which given their history, could be even more concerning.  These three elements together, an example being a militarized Arab national state with religious backing such as Iraq circa the 1980’s is frightening.What this will mean for places like Israel we can’t know, but I’m personally not looking at that area very positively. In general, the only thing the entire Arab League has agreed on centered on the illegality of the Israeli state. Shifting focus, the presence of such a force will also only increase tensions with Iran. Finally, a militarized Arab League does hold the long term threat of one day pushing the West, such as the United States, Europe, and the UN out of many Arab countries altogether.


Thanks for reading. This blog is supported entirely by fan donation. If you would like to support the author, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

Will ISIS attack the United States?

I’ll be straight to the point. Yes, but not in the way you’re probably thinking.

The group we call ISIS will never have a force capable of achieving some sort of international campaign to conquer the United States. Some World War II pitched battle, land exchange style of warfare isn’t going to happen. They way they have been fighting in the Middle East won’t do anything for them abroad. They were barely able to achieve significant gains in Syria and Iraq, owing those victories more to the filling of a vacuum caused by incompetence in the Iraqi military and governance and the Syrians engaged in a state of civil war than to their own military competence. To expect them to expand a great deal beyond their current borders militarily is far reaching, at best.

What is more likely is something like what we saw in France with Charlie Hebdo. Individuals who have fanatical ties and may have been radicalized by direct intervention overseas (such as with the three shooters in France) are also a major threat. Individuals who have actually made a presence in those theaters are a different sort of monster when they return. This is why when people leave the United States presumably to join the Islamic State, they are watched extremely closely by the various intelligence agencies.

The threat of a second 9/11 event is also a legitimate concern. It’s important to remember that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are much, much more advanced and well organized an organization than was the Mujaheddin of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. From that came Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda was able to complete the 9/11 operation with only a total annual budget of $30 million for all international operations. To put that to scale, according to Al Araby Al Jadeed, ISIL’s budget now stands at $2bn with a surplus of $250m. I’m not technically saying that another 9/11 is on its way. Islamic law actually does have rules about this which even ISIL must obey to maintain legitimacy with their followers. While terrorist attacks are obviously allowable by such groups, there does need to be an official declaration of war for it to be legal, such as what occurred in Bin Laden’s Fatwa and subsequent declaration in 1996. That I know of, no such official declaration has been made by the Islamic State. To do so would bring about the immediate retaliatory strike which would be nothing less than an existential threat to the Islamic State’s ability to survive as a land empire. That said, right now, it really doesn’t behoove them to declare war on the United States and it would be an even worse strategy to dedicate a massive force to an operation such as a second 9/11, invoking the historical wrath of the US. That also isn’t to say such a thing is impossible. There is a legal loophole that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s declaration of war may still be legally valid as, by many interpretations, ISIL is an offshoot of the Al Qaeda that existed in 1996.

What is much more likely, though are attacks like what we saw at the Sydney Lindt Chocolate shooting in Australia late last year where a single gunman attacked the store and took hostages and to pull it even closer to home, the Oklahoma beheading in September of last year. Charlie Hebdo in January and the more recent shooting in Denmark also fall into this category. These events were carried out by individual Islamic fundamentalists, inspired by Islamist fundamentalist principles. They are often dismissed as “Lone Gunmen” or simply “Random Fanatics” by media at large, with their ties to fundamentalist Islamic factions and ideology underplayed. Often they are dismissed by the general public as being the work of the mentally unstable and no real connection to Islam, or sometimes rather, no connection to “real Islam”. Symanantics not withstanding, this is a pernicious viewpoint to take, as it is not always the case and rarely the whole truth. Events like these are praised by the Islamic State who has often directly asked sympathizers to conduct such terrorist attacks everywhere. A new poll recently showed that as many as 11% of Muslims in the areas of the Middle East may be sympathetic to Islamic State views. Knowing this, we have to be concerned if the idea that “only a few deranged fanatics” aren’t actually an indicator of a much larger problem.

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, based in Doha, Qatar, surveyed the opinions in the Arab world in relation to IS and the international coalition against it. Their findings were published on November 11.

Findings from telephone interviews with 5,100 respondents in seven Arab countries (Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and “Palestine”) and in Syrian refugee camps located in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey show that 85 percent of Arabs hold negative views of IS, to varying degrees. This compares to only 11 percent of the Arab public whose views towards the group were either “Positive” or “Positive to some extent.”

The Islamic diaspora is estimated to consist of more than 1.3 billion souls. While I don’t want to raise flags, 10%, or even 1% of such a massive population that is sympathetic to the cause of the Islamic State is alarming. Though potential fanatics are possible in any community, they are not evenly distributed. Some Mosques may be places of concern and may even function to funnel support toward IS or spread their ideas, but the majority are still benign in nature in regard to this question. As always, we must not underscore the majority of Muslims who do not support violent interpretations of the doctrine, for they are also victims in this. They will face the suspicion and fear of those who are legitimately concerned by these trends in the years to come until they have purged support for IS from their own communities.

Having said all this, the “Lone Gunman” style of attack, as displayed in Oklahoma, Sydney, Paris, and now Denmark will likely become not just more likely, but the norm in not just the United States, but across Europe and everywhere else where Islamic fighters feel conflict, as well.


Thanks for reading. This is a post presented by the Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to support the author, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.