Monday, September 16, 2019

Do real men still want to go to Tehran..?

I've beat this drum before, but one of the really infuriating - and more than a little unnerving - things about the Trump Administration is that you can't be sure which of its lies are lies, which are damned lies, which are statistics, and which may, just possibly, be truths.

Case in point.
The Saudis apparently want the hell out of this to be Iran's doing. That makes geopolitical sense. The Saudis can't do anything to the Yemenis they're not doing already, they are regional power rivals to the Persians to the north, but they'll need some U.S. help to take a slap at the Iranians without getting slapped pretty hard in return.

If they can get the Yankees to buy it who sent the drone airmail doesn't really matter; they'll have their Gulf of Persia Resolution and it's Bombs Away! over Tehran.

What's less explicable is the intentions of this government as expressed by the various spokescritters within the Trump Administration.

Since the Saturday strike on the Saudi refinery at Abqaiq everybody and their dog (and Mikey Pompeo, but I repeat myself) has blamed the tricksy Iranian devils. Pompeo practically busted a nut on Twitter fulminating about the wascally Iwanian wabbits:

Thing is, there can't really be much doubt if there's physical evidence. There will be bits and pieces of the aircraft as well as the ordnance. There is likely to have been ground-to-air tracking of the UAVs in flight.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the U.S. doesn't 1) know where Iran's cruise missile launch sites are located, and 2) monitor the hell out of them, Iranian communications, and, especially, their aerial attack capabilities.

If this was as unequivocally an Iranian op I have to think that the U.S. intelligence services already know that.

Now...there may be an good reason to keep the intelligence sources on the downlow - tho the Boss doesn't seem to have problems with tweeting out classified reconnaissance photos - and there may be a reason (likely something to do with fire control problems at the Abqaiq facility that are delaying crater analyses and other on-the-ground intel collection that needs to be done to nail down the exact means and methods used) for playing cagey about whodunnit.

But if that's the case, why jump in with the scary ooga-booga "We Know You Did It!" stuff so soon?

I mean, in a tweet he fired off yesterday Trump appeared to say that all he needed was the go-ahead from his pal MBS to nuke those meddlesome Persians:
(As an aside, remember when Republicans used to go nuts about how Obama was just a cat's-paw of everyone who wanted him to use American force to meddle in foreign business? IIRC that was the point of denying him use of force in Syria regardless of red lines here and there; because we are Amurrikuns, gawddamnit, and we don't bow the knee to no furriners. Ah, yes, those were the days...)

However, at the latest White House presser Trump wouldn't directly say that.
"A reporter off-camera asked, "Could you clarify Mr. President? You said you think Iran is responsible for the attack, do you think --- "

"I didn't say that." "Why do you say that?" he asked. "I said we think we know who it was, but I didn't say anybody but ... Certainly it would look to most like it was Iran but I did not say it the way you said it."
So in classic Trumpenstyle the Orange One has managed to 1) make it seem like he's waffling around waiting for his Saudi pals to tell him what to do, and in so doing 2) irk the living shit out of a bunch of people in D.C. by opening his piehole before thinking about it.

Tulsi Gabbard's response “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not ‘America First,’”may the juiciest, if not the most informative, but pretty much sums up the general enthusiasm for whatever-the-hell-the-Trumpkins-are-up-to.

But what's kind of weird about this is that if the Iranians DID blow the hell out of this Saudi refinery it's either an Iranian-Saudi problem (and only a US problem if we make it one, so why shout and make a fuss until we decide to do that?), or a "global oil supply" problem and thus an attack on everyone who depends on that supply, including the US - which means that we either take some action, or not; again, fulminating on Twitter seems a very odd way of re-envisioning the Ems Telegram.

Anyway, here's my take.

The bottom lines on this one are;

1) I have no idea who really blew up this Saudi refinery, and I could care less. The Houthis certainly had a good reason. But, frankly, with sanctions squeezing their own petroleum sales the Quds Force might well be disposed to remind their neighborhood sheiks that their own lifestyles aren't out of reach if they get too bitchy. Hell, it could have been the Saudis themselves trying to fool their Uncle Sammy and Tangerine Tiberius to launch a Operation Persian Pacification,

2) As a U.S. citizen, please tell me why I should care, or want to help the Saudis in any way? As far as petroleum goes, gas made from Iranian crude drives the ol' Subaru as far as Saudi, and as far as Islamic despotisms go I'd say the difference between the two gas-pump polities is "pick 'em". I don't have a dog in the Shia-Sunni fight, and the best thing my nation can get from Middle Eastern politics is "out", and

2) I'd be a lot less nervous about some moron starting Gulf War IV if I had a higher opinion of the grade of moron currently running things in the Fraudulency Administration, and this nonsense doesn't reassure me in any way. I think that there are still a lot of Bush Era ne'redowells in this Administration that still Want to Go To Tehran, and I don't trust the real-estate-grifter-in-chief to either recognize that or keep those damn gomers' hands off the bomb release levers.


We'll have to wait and see, unfortunately.

Update 9/18: There seems to be an increasing consensus that some Iranian organization(s) was/were involved in this attack. The only real question at this point is whether Trump will take his marching orders from his Saudi bros.

What makes this even more frustrating is that Trump's bobo, Pompeo, is straight-up confessing that this is all because his boss blew up the JCPOA:
“There is this theme that some suggest that the president’s strategy that we allowed isn’t working. I would argue just the converse of that. I would argue that what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA,”
When you edit this for Trumpian Newspeak you get the gist that the problems Iran is involved in - whether caused by or not - are the direct result of some idiot blowing up the diplomatic agreement that was actually working and replacing it with nothing but Tweets-o-War and bombast.

The notion that people are going to die because Donald Trump's ego is chafed by the impudent Negro who twitted him at a dinner meeting years ago just reminds me of the scene in Shaw's Devil's Disciple where Richard Dudgeon objects to paying taxes to King George. GEN Burgoyne answers that a gentleman's part is to fulfill his obligations, regardless of their distastefulness, to which Dudgeon responds that it's not the money, it's being swindled by a pigheaded lunatic like George Hanover.

To which Burgoyne admits is another matter entirely...


  1. I have no sympathy for the Saudis. They deserve every freaking black eye that gets dished out to them. I have not forgotten which countries that 15 of the 19 World Trade Center hijackers came from - or who their funds came from - and the 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 report that alleges Saudi involvement - and their sponsorship of the vile cesspool of Wahabbism - and their bombing of weddings and funerals and markets in the Yemen. They deserve a lot worse than a temporary shutdown of oil processing facilities. I for one am hoping that there are a few Saudi princes with brains and balls enough to defenestrate bin-Salman; and then get his mercs out of Yemen; and send out an "As-Salam-u-Alaikum" across the Gulf to the Ayatollahs and south to Sana'a.

    That being said I have the following to add re your bottom lines:

    1)The Houthis AKA AnsarAllah definitely were the ones that attacked these SaudiAramco oil facilities. Why should they lie about it? But they did have some key UAV/missile parts paid for and smuggled in country by friends in Persia. And some of their technicians probably had training by those same friends. Plus they had some intel and targeting help on the ground from a Saudi citizen or two, undoubtedly from the repressed Arab Shia minority in the Eastern Province. There's going to be lots of bastinados and beheadings in those districts soon. Probably already started.

    No way those UAV &/or cruise missile sorties came from Iran. All of the Saudi radars and SAMs are on their east coast facing Iran. Hard to hide their flight tracks crossing the water. And if some RSADF radar squint was taking a nap there are USAF/USN systems in the Gulf that would have seen them coming.

    But some still apparently think that Houthis have only Jambya daggers, AK-47s and neanderthal technology; so the strikes had to come if not from Iran then from Iraq, or false flags from a] Israel b] the CIA, c] Russia, or d] the Saudis themselves (shame on you Chief!).

    2) You and U.S. citizen should not care. And we should not want to help the Saudis in any way.

    3) My bet is that the real-estate-grifter-in-chief won't do anything now. It is too early to wag the dog in order to get re-elected. But I wouldn't make the same bet next year at this time. Although even now it could start in an instant if some youngster, whether Iranian or American or whoever, gets scared and trigger happy. The place is a tipsy bottle of nitro sitting on a rickety table in earthquake country. Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

    1. I was skeptical immediately because there was no tracking. I find it hard to believe that as tense as the relationship between the countries is that the Saudis don't have telemetry of every cubic kilometer of the airspace along their northern and eastern borders.

      But like I said; this is Three Stooges time. It's bad enough in "normal" times because there's way too many people in D.C. who are enthusiastic about blowing shit up to solve problems. But Trump's idiot crew? Christ, I wouldn't trust them with a rubber rifle and a cardboard bayonet. They're weapons-grade stupid, and could do damn near anything.

  2. I see even ABC and CNN have caught the drones-came-from-Iran fever. Idiots! They don't want to be outfoxxed by Fox. Saudi rials dribbling into Washington has all these Trump goombahs anonymously leaking bad-bad-Tehran-did-it to the press.

    The Saudis reportedly will "invite international experts, including investigators from the United Nations, to probe the strikes, which were claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels but have been blamed on Iran by the US."

    So my money is betting on conflicting investigation results. The so-called 'international experts' will find evidence to support the Iran theory. But you would think the UN investigators will be more competent and honest. In any case we will end up with another situation like the chemical attacks in Ghouta & Khan Shaykun where blame went to both sides depending on who did or did not investigate.

  3. Little conspiracy theory:

    Bolton may have been firedbecause he got caught scheming for war causes, possibly even this incident.

    The Saudis don't suffer much if some old and insured facilitiesburn down and this pushes the oil price up.

    Another conspiracy theory:

    The Saudis may love the conflict with Iran because the uncertainty and stunts push the oil price.

  4. I hate to be this guy, but...given that Trump is effectively making economic war on Tehran already, if the Iranians DID do this? I could give a fuck. It's not Pearl Harbor, it's the Dolittle Raid. I just wish they'd caught a dozen or so Saudi royals touring the place and sent them to Wahhabi Hell.

    The coincidence that this happened just as Trump is bashing California for trying to raise the CAFE standards just points up how foolish and self-destructive our petroleum addiction is, and how foolish and self-destructive the GOP's ever-closer hugging of fossil fuels is. No matter how much Moscow Mitch and Five-Deferment Donnie love them some buggy whips the end of the Petroleum Era has to come, and the sooner the better. The fact that it will return the Saudis to impoverished desert nomads and raggedy-assed fellahin mooching around the grubby streets of Riyadh is just a chef's kiss.

  5. Sven -

    Both Bolton and bin-Salman are idiots. But those theories are just the tip of the iceberg. There are ten or twenty more conspiracy theories out there. Plus ten to twenty variations and permutations on each so the total number of conspiracy theories on this single event reaches three figures at a minimum. None make sense when looked at closely. The internet has become a petri dish for paranoia and Machiavellian conjecture. Skepticism is a good thing but on the internet it has turned into a sewer of suspicion. We, or rather the psychiatrists and psychotherapists, need to come up with a 21st century clinical approach.

    But the Houthis had the means, the motive, and the opportunity, plus they confessed and took credit for it. That perhaps rates a post of its own.

  6. FDChief –

    Agree about sending some Saudi Royals to Jahannum. Maybe the Houthis will borrow from the USAF’s HVT drone assassination tactic for the next strike sortie from the Yemeni mountains? I would bet they have the capability. Doable with a little information from friends - the Shia minorities; or some of his enemies within the House of Saud that he arrested, tortured, and stole from; or maybe his own Tiger Squad will turn on him for a few dollars more that what he pays them.

    And I see that Dufus Donnie has directed SecTreasury to levy more sanctions on Tehran. It won’t have any impact as they are already sanctioned to the hilt. Besides, Putin and Xi will not pay any more attention to these new ones than they did to the older ones. And sooner or later Europe and India are going to revolt from under Trump’s economic edicts and tell him to go to Jahannum himself.

    1. Speaking of knocking off the Saudi Royals: Apparently the Houthis have already done a drone assassination. In January of this year used a drone to target several high level officers of opposinh Yemeni armed forces. This included the Saudi-backed Yemen Army Chief of Staff General Abdullah al-Nakhi, a General Zindani, the intelligence chief Brigadier General Mohammed Saleh Tamah, and senior army commander Fadel Hasan. The drone exploded directly over a VIP dias during a military parade at a military base in Al Anad.

      The drone warhead was apparently a top-attack variety similar to the way an artillery proximity fused shell rains death and destruction on those below. Although I have no clue as to what the fusing arrangement was.

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  8. FDChief -

    Regarding your Update and the "increasing consensus that some Iranian organization(s) was/were involved in this attack." Of course there was! The fact that Iran and the IRGC supports the Houthis and their fellow Yemenis against Saudi and Emirati oppression and occupation has been public knowledge for years. And it is well known that Houthi missiles and UAVs are renamed copies of Iranian counterparts. Other weapons for the Houthi have come from Iran or from elsewhere purchased by Iran. The guy after whom the Houthi insurgency is named had his religious education in Iran, This is all history.

    What is complete cockamamie bullshit is PomPom's claim that the attack was launched from Iran.

    I'm sure the Saudis would love to see us spend our treasure and blood to slap one of their regional rivals around. But I understand that bin-Salman's younger brother, Prince Khalid the Deputy Minister of Defense, is not following PomPom's party line. His statement was very carefully calibrated to NOT suggest that the strikes came from Iran. He knows full well what would happen to his country in a shooting war with Iran - further and more destructive wreckage of their critical oil facilities and ports - Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 MRBMs raining down on Riyadh and other Saudi stronghold cities in the Najd - major insurgency in the eastern province of ash-Sharqiyyah and perhaps also in the Hejaz in the west as they have never liked the Sauds. No money from oil, then there is no money to pay the tribes for their loyalty.

    They are encircled by Iran in the east, Shia Iraq in the north, and by Zaidi Yemen in the south; all of whom would love to put stop to the snake's nest of Wahabbism. There is no way that the Saudi bros will issue marching orders to Trump which would ensure their destruction. They are a bit cannier than Bolton and PomPom and Trump.

    1. The thing is that I don't see Iranian involvement as "an act of war".

      Trump's breaking the JCPOA deal and slamming the Iranians with brutal economic sanctions was "an act of war". If the USN showed up off your coast and imposed an 100% blockade on maritime commerce that would be an "act of war", right? Well, same thing. Like I said; this attack on the Saudis isn't Pearl Harbor, the infamous sneak attack that produces righteous wrath. This is the Dolittle Raid, the pinprick payback from the polity that's been attacked for no reason other than hubris and anger.

      HEre's what I think; I think this may have been a multipronged attack; some of these aircraft came from Yemen, some from Iraq, and some from Iran. All the Shiites who have good reasons to hate the fuck out of the Saudi bastards combined to give them a good swift kick in the ass.

      And, purely as an American who doesn't think Trump needs any more money, good for them.

  9. The weird thing is that the Saudis are apparently not eager to point fingers at the Iranians this time.

    1. I think mike has the gist of it, Sven; the Sauds 1) know what will come out of that Pandora's box once they open it, and 2) probably - and sensibly - don't trust Trump further than they could throw his ginormous ass. They know that he'll lose interest the moment they don't pay him or stroke his ego or is asked to do something genuinely risky.

      That and they've seen what happens when Americans "help" you, and I don't think they want to go there...

      So, no. They'd like it if the Yankees were to be the ones to slap the Persians all on their own initiative, so the Sauds can pretend they had nothing to do with it and avoid Iranian payback.

  10. The War Nerd calls bullshit on BBC claim the Saudi radars were pointing south and would have detected Houthi drones.

    He also had a good post several years ago on the background of this Saudi/Yemen pissing contest:

    1. Well, actually, Saudi Arabia was stupid enough to buy Patriot, which is a deeply flawed system because it has only about 120° radar field of view and no proper 360° search radar.

      It's nevertheless ridiculous to imagine that
      - S-A had its Patriots deployed at those sites
      - pointed at Yemen instead of Iran
      - not clustered (as is good practice to compensate for Patriot's inane design)
      - the radars were active at all (and then seemingly for years already)

      If anything, S-A had only a chance to detect a drone/missile attack reliably if it maintained an AEW patrol in about the right area.

      In the end, those refineries were hit for the very same reason an Israeli corvette was hit by a missile during the attacks on Lebanon while off the coast of Lebanon; the systems were simply not active at the time. It's commonplace. Readiness is an unusual state of affairs, even in wartime.

    2. Some are saying Abqaiq was protected by nearby French made Shahine SAMs (older Crotales). Although the wikipedia article on Royal Saudi Air Defense makes no mention of them. Plus Abqaiq was defended by German or Swiss 35mm Skyguard AAA. None fired that I know of. I would agree that the Saudi radar squints had shut down for whatever reasons. Or maybe were asleep at the scope, or maybe saw them coming and fled their command centers?

      In any case, I don't think Patriots are any good against low flying cruise missiles. Do the Saudis have the GEM/C version (the 'C' standing for cruise missile defense)? Saudi Patriots have in the past intercepted, or claim to have intercepted several Houthi ballistic missiles. The Emiratis have also claimed success with Patriots batteries they deployed to Yemen.

  11. Ironically - given Sven's acerbic comments on the current US AAA system - the current "plan" from the Fraudulency Administration appears to be...MOAR PATRIOTS! some ash-and-trash and possibly a handful of Air Force assets.

    This is all frankly risible given the initial "THIS IS PEARL HARBOR!!!" shrieking from these gomers. It's like the Trumpkins read Roosevelt and got "Shriek loudly and then swing a small dick" out of it.

    I have no doubt that a crap-ton of these GOP hardliners would luuuurve to have them some war with Iran. But they can't see a way to "win" that they can explain to Trump in a way that he can see a way to make a buck out of it, so he won't play along. Sadly, that's the thin reed that's keeping us out of expanding the "let's bomb random shit because of stuff" that has typified this idiot War on Terror...

    1. I fear the 'thin reed' between us and war is a nervous Iranian missileer or a US F22 pilot stoked up on testosterone.

  12. Unlike the Saudis, the Iranians have been able to hack into the control systems of some UAVs flying over or near their territory. Or in Iraq or Syria? Tehran is sponsoring a display of drones that they have captured. These include both those shot down and those captured electronically. There should be some video on youtube soon.

    They have MQ1, MQ9, Shadow, ScanEagle, RQ-170, Aerosonde, Desert Hawk, Britain's Phoenix, Israel's Hermes. Certainly they have reverse engineered all of them; which allowed them to peek into the best engineering brains of General Atomics, AAI, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Textron, BAE, and Elbit. And they've passed tech details to the Houthis and to the Lebanese Hezbollah.

    Meanwhile the Saudis are stuck in the warp and weft of 18th Century Wahhabism and 21st Century oil opulence, buying technology they are incabable of using.