Sinking Deeper into the Mideast

The deserts of the Middle East and North Africa have become a kind of quicksand for U.S. policymakers, the more they thrash around violently the faster they sink, with the latest round of warfare against the Islamic State worsening matters, not improving them, as Phyllis Bennis told Dennis J. Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The expanding U.S. war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is reverberating across the Middle East and North Africa where fundamentalist movements are gaining strength partly in reaction to the U.S. intervention.

Regional expert Phillis Bennis discussed this widening war and worsening destruction in an interview on “Flashpoints.” Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She is the author of eight books including From Stones to Statehood: The Palestinian Uprising and Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s UN.

President Barack Obama and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. (This White House photo by Pete Souza was taken when McDonough was deputy national security adviser.)

President Barack Obama and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. (This White House photo by Pete Souza was taken when McDonough was deputy national security adviser.)

DB: Let’s start in Iraq, Syria, ISIS. Give me your sense of where that situation is now, and a bit on what U.S. policy looks like in that regard.

PB: U.S. policy is a disaster. And, U.S. policy is helping to make things worse. We’re seeing increased U.S. air strikes along the border between Syria and Turkey. We’re seeing more attacks in Kobani, the town that has become the, sort of, symbolic linchpin of the ISIS attacks in Syria. What we’re not seeing is that these U.S. air strikes are actually keeping anyone safe.

We’re hearing of at least small numbers … perhaps larger numbers of civilian casualties. We’ve now had the third U.S. death of a pilot, in those air strikes. All of them, supposedly not combat related, as they like to put it. Which basically means that the plane, officially, was not shot down. But it does seem to me that when a plane crashes in a bombing raid, whether or not it was from being shot down, or from some kind of mechanical difficulties, or whatever, it’s a combat fatality. I mean, let’s be clear.

So we’ve had three fatalities, so far, in this new U.S. global war on terror, Obama-style. The Global War on Terror 2.0, we might call it. And things are getting worse, they’re not getting better. The idea that somehow the U.S. can send, what’s now about 3,100 U.S. soldiers on the ground, troops on the ground, the ones we heard were not being on the ground, but they are on the ground.

To identify and train up a functioning, powerful, motivated, disciplined Iraqi military when 160,000 troops at a time, totaling over a million U.S. troops, over the course of a decade could not do that, makes no sense. I don’t know why they think they can do it now when they couldn’t do it before with a hundred times more troops. It doesn’t make any sense. The U.S. policy doesn’t make any sense. And what we’re seeing is more bombing, less safe, people in the area more and more driven to become refugees.

 

The number of refugees is increasing, the amount of money available to the United Nations to take care of the refugees is decreasing. We just heard today that 41,000 Syrian refugees, just as winter approaches, will now no longer be getting food vouchers. They will have no access to food. Why? Because the U.N. doesn’t have the money that was pledged from various countries, including the U.S., although some U.S. funds have been paid, not all of it. And the result is, things are simply a disaster.

DB: Now, in terms of the refrain coming out of the Pentagon, and the White House is that our bombing campaign has, if not stopped, if not turned back, [caused] many setbacks for ISIS. From your information, from the way you are following this, what do you think the strength is. Is ISIS gaining? Is Washington having any success in its so-called program of turning them back?

PB: Well, I think what is happening is that some of these U.S. air strikes are finding, identifying, and killing members of ISIS. So they’re bombing pick-up trucks, they’re bombing groups of half-a-dozen troops at a time, that sort of thing. So, yes, ISIS is paying a price for this. ISIS fighters are being killed. Now if you want to consider that a great victory for U.S. policy, I suppose that’s a victory.

The problem is, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the rise of ISIS, and the expansion of ISIS. This is a little bit similar to what we saw in Afghanistan in the early years of the war when the U.S. was able to simply wipe out the vast majority of Al-Qaeda fighting forces in Afghanistan.

You remember, Dennis, and many of your listeners will remember, just a couple of years into the war we already started hearing that there’s only somewhere between 50 and 100 Al-Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. And lots of people started scratching their heads, and saying “and exactly why are we keeping 100,000 troops there, if that’s the case?” “Well, because Al-Qaeda had expanded and now we’re also going after the Taliban, and we’re going after Al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Which, of course, is what became ISIS a few years later. “We have to go after Al-Qaeda in the Magreb, in and around Algeria and the North Africa area. We now have Al-Qaeda in Yemen. We have Al-Qaeda spreading around and now we have ISIS expanding.”

There’s now a militant group in the Egyptian Sinai, which a week or two ago declared themselves to be part of, and accountable to ISIS. So as the U.S. proceeds to drop bombs on pick-up trucks with half a dozen troops here and a half a dozen guerrillas there, what we’re seeing is an increase, just as we did with the Taliban and other militant organizations when the U.S. attacks them, that’s the best possible recruiting device that those organizations could ever wish for. The same thing is happening with ISIS.

DB: Particularly now, could you talk a little bit about the U.S. is bombing in Syria, the U.S. wants Turkey to get more engaged, we’ve got the U.S. bombing in a way that helps the Syrian government which it clearly opposes. You want to give your assessment of what’s happening here?

PB: Yeah, kind of messy, isn’t it? We have the U.S., as you say, bombing in Syria and bombing in Iraq, and it’s bombing the strongest opponents of the government in Syria, which is the government that just a year ago we were almost at war with. And it was only the opposition of the British Parliament, the face-saving provided by Russia, and the massive outpouring of anti-war demands on Congress from people in this country that stopped the Obama administration from bombing the Syrian regime at that time. Why? Because the Syrian regime was the worst regime we had ever faced.

Now we’re bombing the chief, most powerful strongest military opponents of the Syrian regime, which is ISIS. ISIS has absorbed into itself stolen money and weapons from, and sidelined, all the other opponents. It has become, by far, the dominant opponent of the Syrian regime, at a military level.

I mean, we should be clear there are still incredibly brave non-violent protestors in Syria that are challenging both the regime and these extremist forces. But on a military level, which is the only level the U.S. operates at, ISIS has become, by far, the most powerful opponent of the Syrian regime. And every bombing that the U.S. carries out, further strengthens the regime, not least because it takes forces away from the need for the regime to challenge ISIS. The U.S. is doing its work for it. So, that’s a very messy situation.

We also have to recognize that the whole question of Kurdish rights, Kurdish nationalism, has re-emerged in these last six months or so, as a major, really defining component here. And it makes everything far more complicated. If we look at the question in September, when we first saw the U.S. decision to bomb in Syria, something it had, up until then, refused to do. The official reason, at the time, was that the Yazidi community had been isolated and was stuck on Mount Sinjar. It was the heat of the summer, they were stuck without water. It was a lot of old people, a lot of babies, children, women; a desperate situation. The humanitarian situation was an absolute crisis.

And it was that crisis that was the, sort of, public rationale that the U.S. gave for engaging in bombing. Well, in fact, out of about 100 air strikes that were carried out at that time, by the U.S., only two of them were actually anywhere near Mount Sinjar. The rest were all up near the oil city of Erbil, the Kurdish oil city in Northern Iraq. The Kurds, the Yazidis, the Kurdish Yazidis on Mount Sinjar were saved by Syrian Kurds, not by the U.S. bombing but by Syrian Kurds allied with the organization known as the PKK, which is an organization of Turkish Kurds which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization.

So the Yazidis are saved by people the U.S. considers to be terrorists. That makes things a little bit complicated. What’s even more complicated is that the Iraqi Kurds around Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, that whole region has expanded by 40 percent through this period of U.S. bombing and the re-introduction of U.S. forces into Iraq. That Kurdish zone now includes the city of Kirkuk, a long disputed city with a mixed population, partly Kurdish, partly Iraqi Arab, and one that the Kurds wanted to control because it’s a wealthy oil center. At the same time and for the same reason, the Iraqi government wanted to keep control of it, keep it out of Kurdish hands.

So now we have a situation where the U.S. is operating militarily in alliance with the Kurds of Iraq, who are trying very hard to divide Iraq, something the U.S. says it opposes. So, everything the U.S. does, whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Syria, is having an opposite effect as a direct result of each of its military strikes. So everything we hear from the Pentagon “Oh, we got some bad guys. Oh, we got somebody and we got a pick-up truck full of bad guys.” Well, that’s all well and good, but the result of it is the exact opposite of the medium to longer term goal that the U.S. has and instead is serving the interests of U.S. opponents.

DB: Just staying with the Kurds for a moment, the U.S. has a new sort of feeling of allied with the Kurds, Kurdistan in Iraq, people talk about a new, independent state, but clearly that reverberates in very different ways in Turkey. I mean, there are a lot more Kurds in Turkey than there are in Kurdistan, not to mention the Kurds in Iran. So where does that come into play?

PB:  Yeah, this is a big problem because what we’re seeing right now, this is the basis for the U.S.-Turkish divide over what to do. The reason that the Turks have been very resistant to playing a bigger military role in Kobani, for instance, the Syrian city that is right along the Syrian-Turkish border, is because they don’t want to be helping the Syrian Kurds towards greater independence.

The Syrian Kurds have been, more or less, unofficially allied with the Syrian government. That doesn’t mean they like the government, that doesn’t mean they necessarily support the government. But it does mean that they have reached a fairly official rapprochement with the Syrian government, which has agreed to not attack Syrian Kurdish areas.

So when Turkey is faced with going after ISIS, in Kobani, they don’t want to do that because they don’t want to give more support to the Syrian Kurds who are seen as friends of the Syrian leader, who is the deadly enemy of the Turkish government. So, it’s all incredibly complicated.

You know, again it comes back to everything the U.S. does in one place, is having a really negative effect on what it’s trying to do somewhere else. The Turkish Kurds, who had fought a real guerrilla war against the Turkish government for decades, have not been at war, have not been fighting militarily, have been engaged in negotiations for the last five years or more. And both sides have been reluctant to abandon those negotiations.

But on the other hand the Turkish Kurds are watching their compatriots in Syria and in Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds, who are having these military victories and suddenly controlling a lot more territory than they used to, and that’s giving them ideas that maybe it’s time to give up on those negotiations and try a different route. So there’s a lot of very dangerous possibilities at stake here.

DB: Oh, there’s so much going on. So let’s travel across Syria to the other border there. With Lebanon, it’s got a busy border. … You’ve got Palestinians fleeing Syria on the one hand and you’ve got Hezbollah joining the war with Syria on the other hand. How does that impact on the region, on Israel, which has already conducted its own strikes in Syria? How do you look at that?

PB: It’s hugely destabilizing, and at the humanitarian level, it’s disastrous. If you look at what’s happened in Palestinian refugee camps like the Sabra and Shatila camps, known around the world for the massacre against Palestinians that happened under the leadership of General Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister of Israel and later the prime minister, known as the Butcher of Beirut, as a result that lead to the massacre of over 2,000 Palestinians civilians in a two-day raid by Lebanese Christians while Israeli soldiers provided the light to allow them to kill through the night.

Sabra and Shatila today have been flooded with Palestinian refugees coming into Lebanon from their refugee camps in Syria, and by Syrian refugees who are fleeing the fighting. It’s put enormous pressure on the already very fragile, both political and physical infrastructure of the camps, and of Lebanon as a whole.

At the same time, you have, for many Palestinians in Syria, who have been forced to flee in some cases the third or even fourth time they’ve been made refugees. These were, many of them, were originally refugees in what the Palestinians call the Nakba or the Catastrophe, the massive dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians in the war that led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1947-48.

Many of them first found refuge and set up camps in Syria. Those camps later were filled with refugees from the ’67 war. Some of them were people who had gone during the ’67 war, had fled to Jordan, and then in 1970, during the Black September operation, had been driven out a third time, had found refuge now in Syria. And now a fourth time are being made refugees again, and are fleeing back into Lebanon. So for Palestinian families it is absolutely disastrous.

And because they are stateless they have no rights. In Lebanon, for instance, Lebanon is known among all the Arab countries that hold large numbers of Palestinian refugees, Lebanon has always had by far the most stringent restrictions on what Palestinian refugees can do. They are not only not allowed the rights of citizenship, as they are in Jordan and to a large degree historically in Syria until the war began, but they are also explicitly restricted from, I think it’s about 50 or so job categories. That they are simply not allowed to take those jobs. So refugees, Palestinian refugees, second, third generation refugees in Lebanon, are already living incredibly difficult, constrained, impoverished and dispossessed lives, along with the denial of their right to return to their homeland. So it’s made all of that worse.

DB: So then we’re going to sort of leap over Palestine-Israel and talk about Egypt but obviously in the context of talking about Egypt, obviously what happens there has a major impact if anything is going to change in terms of Palestine and the Israeli occupation. Do you want to talk about the horrific unfolding we’ve seen around the dismissing of charges against Mubarak because of technical whatever in the court system. Do you want to talk about what’s been going on there? Some people died in protests over the last several days.

PB: There was never any technical problem with the court system. The court system works fine, technically. The problem is political. The problem is the courts are an instrument of the military government that took power in a coup d’etat a year ago, overthrowing the first and, so far, last, freely elected president of Egypt, the Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi. And when Morsi was overthrown in the protests that resulted in the military government that came to power killed huge numbers of people. Over 1,000 people were killed in one set of demonstrations. Thousands have been imprisoned; famously the three Al Jazeera journalists remain in prison without any evidence, charged with being supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Without, again, without any evidence at all. These are completely secular [journalists]. Two of them are not even Egyptians.

So the human rights situation has been disastrous in Egypt. And in the last couple of days the courts, the government controlled courts, have given up any efforts on accountability of Mubarak and his two sons and their top officials. And all the charges were dropped. He’s expected to get out any time now. And, in some of the protests that greeted that decision, several more people have been killed. But at the same time there has been a rise in Islamist opposition fighters, extremists militias of various sorts, that are operating kind of unaccountable to anybody in the Egyptian Sinai.

One of the results of that decision by the government that has been so far unable to stop them from their occasional attacks on military targets. They’ve killed some soldiers. In one large-scale attack they killed 31 soldiers, but the response of the government has been to, among other things, create a so-called buffer zone along the border between the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Which has meant, not only shutting down the tunnels that were used for smuggling crucially needed building supplies, food, other supplies into Gaza, but they also permanently shut down the Rafah crossing which was the last remaining way for Gazans to get in or out.

As of right now, Gaza is completely surrounded with no open border, without any way to get in or out. Students who have scholarships to study around the world can’t get out to get to embassies to pick up their visas, can’t leave to begin their studies. And they are simply losing their scholarships. They are losing their right to go to school. Patients that desperately need cancer treatment in Cairo, can’t get out. Four hundred to five hundred houses have been destroyed. These are Egyptian houses, on the Egyptian side of Rafah who have been summarily dismissed and told to go live somewhere else.

So the situation in Sinai is at an absolute boil. And the human rights situation in Egypt is getting worse and worse. So the situation there is becoming worse and in response to that at least one of the extremist organizations operating in the Sinai has declared its new allegiance to ISIS. So it’s now linking the instability in Egypt directly to the ISIS crisis in the Iraq-Syria region. So it’s very quickly becoming a widespread regional reality that we’re dealing with.

DB: And does this reverberate in the militant Palestinian community which is, you know, at the edge of … you can’t even say desperation in terms of what’s been going on there; the last slaughter with Israel. I mean it would seem to me that the militancy, the next intifada is around the corner, if not here now.

PB: Well, I think we have to be careful. There is no question desperation is rising, and it’s not only rising for militants. It’s rising for ordinary people, for children, for families, for pregnant women, for every possible constituent of society that you can imagine. People are desperate. There’s no work, there’s no money, increasingly there’s no food. Ninety percent of the water in Gaza, and there’s very little available, 90 percent of it is not fit for human consumption. Everything that you need for a normal, decent human life is denied. So desperation absolutely is on the rise.

When we speak of another intifada, I think that one way to see it is that the third intifada has already been underway for quite some time, and this one is an international intifada. And it’s largely non-violent. It’s largely led by the global BDS movement, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement that is growing in power here in the U.S. and is enormously powerful in Europe and in places like South Africa and elsewhere.

But it’s also a situation in which that the call for BDS came from Palestinian civil society which is increasingly the most recognized leadership of the Palestinian people, at a time when both Hamas and Fatah, the two leading Palestinian parties are losing ground, are losing support, are losing the ability to speak for and even speak to their constituents.

So, I don’t think that we’re going to see something like the second intifada which was quite a violent uprising against extraordinary Israeli violence of the occupation. That violence, occupation violence has been absolutely skyrocketing in recent years, as you mentioned this last summers’ 50-day assault on Gaza was only the most recent. But the expansion of settlements, the destruction of homes, the arrests, the killings are driving people to absolute desperation.

I don’t think that necessarily means it will translate into a violent uprising. I think that there is already a set of uprisings underway, some of which is non-violent, much of it is non-violent, but certainly some have seen what we’ve seen some of these individual people who simply lose control and there’s an explosion. When people are just pushed to the limits. And we’ve seen these kinds of individual acts which do not constitute an intifada. They’re not organized, they are not led by anyone, they’re not part of organizations. They are simply desperate individuals who have been driven to the end of their tolerance. There’s a danger of that for sure.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

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7 comments for “Sinking Deeper into the Mideast

  1. Abe
    December 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    NATO […] has feigned a desire to defeat ISIS but has failed to expose and uproot ISIS’ multinational sponsorship and more importantly, has refused to cut its supply lines – an elementary prerequisite of any military strategy.

    ISIS Menace Was NATO All Along

    ISIS supply lines leading from NATO territory should be of no surprise.

    As reported since as early as 2007, the US and its regional accomplices conspired to use Al Qaeda and other armed extremists in a bid to reorder North Africa and the Middle East. It would be Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that explicitly stated (emphasis added):

    To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

    Of course, these “extremist groups” who “espouse a militant vision of Islam” and are “sympathetic to Al Qaeda,” describe the “Islamic State” verbatim. ISIS constitutes NATO’s mercenary expeditionary force, ravaging its enemies by proxy from Libya in North Africa to Lebanon and Syria in the Levant, to Iraq and even to the borders of Iran. Its seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons, cash, and fighters can only be explained by multinational state sponsorship and safe havens provided by NATO ISIS’ enemies – primarily Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Iraq – cannot strike.

    Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey
    By Tony Cartalucci
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2014/11/breaking-germanys-dw-reports-isis.html

  2. Abe
    December 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    The emergence of the ISIS/ISIL is deeply linked with the US’ up-coming exit from Afghanistan. According to some credible reports, the US military equipment worth $420 million went missing in action in Afghanistan during the last year alone. According to a recent Pentagon report, 156,000 pieces of hardware, including sophisticated weapons systems, vehicles and communications gear vanished into thin air in fiscal year 2013. The report also revealed that between 2006 and 2010, 133,557 pieces of equipment valued at $238.4 million could not be accounted for. Given the suspicion that the military hardware has been supplied to the ISIS, it cannot be categorically denied that the figures given in the said report are misleading. This was also confirmed by Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, when she told the Reuters that “there’s probably a lot more missing than what’s been reported by this Inspector General’s report.”

    To understand this complex development, one has to keep in mind some other related developments which took place during the last year or so. The US President Barak Obama, who is known to have made at least seven invasions/offensives to date, in an unprecedented way reportedly decided in the last year to leave to the US Congress the decision of attacking or not attacking Syria. The reason for this change by Obama administration is a tactical one rather than a political one. In other words, Obama didn’t do so out of respect for the constitutional procedures but as a tactic to seduce the public opinion; for, it was correctly realized that taking sides in the Syrian civil war was a bad public relations move since al-Qaeda was also allied with the Syrian rebels against the Assad government. On the other hand, there was also the nagging problem of chemical weapons. It would have been a bad strategy on the part of the US to have Syria bombed when the US supported rebels were fighting on the ground—hence, the US foreign secretary’s offer to Assad to hand over chemical weapons as a precondition to calling off the rebels. However, as a result of a successful Russian intervention at this point, the US had to bring the UNO in, and as a result of this, the unenviable task of removing Syria’s chemical weapons was eventually assumed by the United Nations, leaving no pretext for the US to attack and bomb Syria.

    However, the US was never satisfied with the removal of chemical weapons; for, the real issue was never the weapons; the real issue was and still is toppling Assad’ regime and replace it with the one more sensitive to protecting the US’ interests. In fact, Washington, which had previously openly stated its intentions of assisting the rebels to usurp the elected leader of Syria, could never be expected to close the Syria chapter forever; instead, it came up with a new strategy—hence, the ‘sudden’ appearance of the ISIS on the horizon and the disappearance of military hardware from Afghanistan. It is, as such, not a coincidence that all of these developments took place during the last one year or so. Similarly, it is not a coincidence that the emergence of the ISIS on the horizon was preceded by the supply of the same merchandise and hardware that went ‘mysteriously’ missing in Afghanistan. Still, it was further followed by videos uploaded, one after another, by the ISIS showing beheading of the US and British journalists, which provided the US and its allies to mobilize public opinion to do what it could not do just a year ago: attack the Syrian territory.

    Although the US has, so far, retrained itself from going all out against the Syrian Army, it does not mean that Pentagon will not change its gear from “defensive strategy” to an all-out offensive against Syria.

    ISIL: The Story of the Middle Eastern Conquest
    By Salman Rafi Sheikh
    http://journal-neo.org/2014/12/05/the-story-of-the-middle-eastern-conquest/

  3. Hillary
    December 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    The neocon PNAC policy was/is the successful policy on Israel’s behalf with the USA as the junior partner.
    “We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned.”
    ..
    quote from Iraq War veteran, Tomas Young who was sent to Iraq.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40241.htm

  4. F. G. Sanford
    December 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I generally perceive Phyllis Bennis to be on the ‘moral high ground’ side of most of these issues, but there sure was some disjointed syntax in this transcript. Sometimes, I got the idea she thought bombing ISIS was a bad idea because it would help Syria. I guess it could go either way for the Kurds, but since our ‘ally’ Turkey has made a deal with Russia on the pipeline, any sense of who’s side anyone is on is up for grabs. Now that we’ve got a Defense Secretary nominee with a degree in theoretical physics and medieval history and a CIA Chief nicknamed “Sheik Brennan”, the Strangeloveian forces of chaos appear to be approaching critical mass – as in mass casualties. Our military geniuses must be having Grand Mal seizures – thousands of Syrians are threatening to starve to death, thus denying Samantha Powers any opportunity to make a teary eyed plea to blame Assad and campaign for ‘humanitarian bombing”. Shucks, everybody knows bombs are cheaper than food, aren’t they?

    Several outlets have marveled at the appearance of a cold war era WB-57 spotted at an airbase in Djibouti, one of a small fleet maintained by NASA. The elegant lines of this high altitude bomber are vaguely reminiscent of the aesthetically pleasing early British designs bolstered by the philosophy that, “If it looks right, it’ll fly right”. And it does look right. Those enormous wings and immense tail surfaces don’t provide any stealth, but they don’t really need to. That thing can probably achieve stable flight at 80,000 feet. Too high for conventional air defenses, and capable of carrying an enormous payload…like 3D laser mapping or ground-penetrating radar equipment. It would be perfect for seeking unexplored oil fields, untapped water resources, undiscovered archaeological sites, or…data gathering for terrain-guided cruise missile avionics.

    Iranian and Syrian air defenses are pretty good. They have Russian technology, which includes GPS jamming – the achilles heel of cruise missile and drone warfare. Doesn’t anybody find it strange that we only send drones to attack medieval hellholes like Afghanistan and Yemen? Probably because even a WWII era Curtis P-40 could bounce a drone. So, low flying, radar evading cruise missiles are the answer, but the problem is that annoying GPS jamming. Terrain guidance is the answer!

    If I understand correctly, Phyllis notes that we’ve already lost three aircraft over ISIS territory. My prayers are with the pilots if they bailed out. Since we trounced the Geneva Conventions, I doubt they can expect humane treatment. Say, has anybody heard about the Egyptian Watergate scandal? It makes Nixon and the Plumbers look like choir boys. Speaking of humane treatment, they even built an entire phony prison to house Morsi, just to make it look like he wasn’t illegally detained. Yep, we’d probably better get this war going before another of our corrupt, propped up coup regime allies falls on hard times. Jen Psaki said it best: “Generally, we continue to believe that upholding impartial standards of accountability will advance the political consensus on which Egypt’s long-term stability and economic growth depends.” Yep, that’s the ticket – impartial standards. And a billion dollars a year directly into el Sissi’s pocket. What a bargain! And, in keeping with impartial standards, we can just flip a coin. Heads, it’s Syria, tails it’s Iran.

    • Zachary Smith
      December 5, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Doesn’t anybody find it strange that we only send drones to attack medieval hellholes like Afghanistan and Yemen? Probably because even a WWII era Curtis P-40 could bounce a drone. So, low flying, radar evading cruise missiles are the answer, but the problem is that annoying GPS jamming. Terrain guidance is the answer!

      I wish I hadn’t seen your post, for I’ve been all over the place looking for information about terrain guidance. :)

      The first observation is a good one. The current batch of ‘killer’ drones would be easy prey for some very old aircraft. But couldn’t the same sort of planes (or tethered balloons or radio towers) have sensors to detect the incoming missile exhausts? Or even the signals they must emit to search the surrounding terrain and maintain altitude. These emissions aren’t very substantial, but they are real enough.

      One problem with TERCOM seems to be that the flight path cannot deviate. An enemy looking at his own map could site sensors and gun emplacements on the most obvious paths.

      The Iranians claim to have “spoofed” the advanced US drone they forced down 90% intact. Might not this be done when a missile is detected? Fly the enemy device into the nearest hill or even the ground.

      During my search I did uncover a fellow thinking along the lines I was attempting.

      http://www.military.com/NewContent?file=Buff_112403

      But if all else fails, a land emplacement of naval terminal defense weaponry would protect high-value installations. One of them uses the enormous cannon in the A-10 to put out a freaking wall of metal.

      Another possibility: call out the National Guard and put them in key places with MANPADS. Observers could notify the network thusly: “A hot one is heading down the valley towards you, Vern.” Low to the ground subsonic missiles would be easy meat for an organized setup. But they’d need to be have preparations in place for very quick reactions.

    • Abe
      December 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      “kind of messy, isn’t it?”

      Bennis peddles the same obfuscations we’ve heard for months from the likes of Paul Pillar and Ivan Eland.

      Apparently Consortium News believes that readers “can’t handle the truth” that al Qaeda/al Nusra/ISIS is a mercenary terrorist army backed by the US, NATO, and their regional Arab and Israeli allies.

      The US is driving deeper into the Middle East, with liver eaters and decapitators in the vanguard.

    • Peter Loeb
      December 6, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Having “the high moral ground” is a liberal/progressive tradition. It sounds magnificent and is very persuasive. It almost never SOLVES anything.

      RE: US and Syria:

      As recently as last February 2014 the US
      joined every other member of the UN
      Security Council to pass S RES/ 2139(2014). In point # 14 (page 4 of the document) the US supported Syria’s attack on”the terrorists” (resolution language). The resolution urged everyone to assist Syria in fighting these militants, now known as “ISIS”. Since the US had immediately endorsed “regime change” in Syria (but not in Saudi Arabia, Israel etc) this unanimous resolution was promptly forgotten—buried by Washington.
      Washington evidently got “cold feet” about assisting Syria and protecting its
      sovereignty. (Note: The US-CIA had Syria
      as a special destination for torture through
      the CIA “extraordinary renditions” program.)

      Everyone on the UN Security Council
      was on board. The Council maintained
      that without the defeat of these groups, there could be no political resolution etc.
      (See text point # 14).

      If the US had provided the so-called “non-lethal” aid to Syria which we are told was
      provided to figleaf “moderates” the
      situation would be quite different.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

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