He said…she said
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”—George Orwell
“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.”— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” —Theodore Roosevelt
“Though defensive violence will always be ‘a sad necessity’ in the eyes of men of principle, it would be still more unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men.” —Saint Augustine
Remember when we were kids on the playground. One kid would say to the other kid, “hey, you spit on me!” The response to the offended, was always, “No, I didn’t” to which the offended would say, Yes, you did! No, I didn’t, Yes, you did, NO…I did not! YES…you did!…and that would go on for a while until they got tired and it would either end in fisticuffs or it would fizzle due to a lack of interest in either or both parties.
That is the best possible way that I can describe what has happened in the latest kerfuffle in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its ally the US. It would be almost humorous if the consequences were not so serious.
I want to dive in a little deeper this week on the Persian Gulf conflict/non-conflict. You may have noticed your gas prices moving up this week quite rapidly. I suspect that will go on for a while. The reason I am going to spend another week on this is because the more I read, the more I am seeing that there is quite a lot there than meets the eye. The quibbling twixt rulers is not all that is happening. The truth appears to be under assault more than Saudi Arabia.
What has actually happened? I am looking hard at the forensic evidence and I’ve got to admit, it isn’t looking good for the Iranian team. So why then the confusion? Why does the EU leadership not buy it? Why are many analysts looking at the data and concluding one thing and another group of analysts looking at the exact same data and concluding the opposite? We will dig deeper into this in this 111th issue of More than Meets the Eye.
As an addendum: Germany, France and Britain joined for photo op this week and stated with one voice that they believe the evidence is compelling that the Iranians were behind the attack. It will be interesting to see how this effects the outcome of this fiasco.
- What we know.
Iranian funded Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a large drone attack on several Saudi oil facilities near the cities of Abqaiq and Khurais, but nobody really believes them. The US and others have accused Iran of involvement, but they deny any involvement, even though the evidence is pretty compelling.
Based on crude oil prices quoted on Saturday, September 14, 2019, the loss of production could be as much as $3.5 billion USD estimated from Saudi claims. If these figures are accurate, the strikes could represent a significant victory for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
What makes it so hard to believe the Houthi’s? Forbes magazine senior contributor Ellen R. Wald wrote about the August 17, 2019 Houthi strike on Saudi’s Sahybah Oil Field:
“What is striking about the large number of attacks by the Houthis on Saudi infrastructure is that so many have been incompetent failures. Some of the failures are due to rocket and drone defense systems deployed by Saudi Arabia. Yet, of those that hit their target, few have resulted in casualties of structural damage. It’s unclear if the attacks can even be said to terrorize Saudi Arabia, because it seems they have not altered Saudi actions or behavior.”
Then all of a sudden, the Houthi’s claim to launch as many as 18 UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial vehicles), also called drones and two cruise missiles and hit with deadly accuracy? This makes it difficult to fathom that the Houthi’s did this on their own.
- How we know what we know.
This is once again one of those things that may remain a mystery forever because of Intelligence Operational Security. Intelligence agencies do not want to tell you all they know, or how they know what they know so as not to disrupt their collection activities by inadvertent disclosure of how they know what they know. For example, if someone was spying through your window and you were just trying to have a private dinner, then you noticed that your neighbor was looking at you through the window, you would get up and close the window and blinds to hide from their stare. Intelligence spend a lot of time and effort to protect their intelligence sources, even to the point of death of some for the greater good. It is unlikely that this will change.
Several countries are saying to the US and to Saudi Arabia, show us how you know this was not the Houthi’s and that it was the Iranians. These collection sources and other capabilities are so deeply guarded that it is unlikely that they will be revealed anytime soon. This is why the trust and cooperation between the general populace and the government is so critical for times such as this. In a democracy, the citizens need to be able to believe the leadership when they say something. The social fractures, not only in the USA, but globally between governments are beginning to show their full effects. The Iranians are loving it and are playing it for all it is worth.
In a world where so many are placing less and less value on the truth, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe anything, even when the evidence is clear.
A question to ask then is what are some of the intelligence indicators that the Houthi’s did not launch these attacks? Unconfirmed satellite imagery and AWACS monitoring discloses that the direction of the attacks came possibly from the north and not the south. It is this constant use of uncertain language that is so confusing to the average reader. The Intelligence community uses a lot of probabilities to determine its conclusions. So far, I have not seen a probability rating on the conclusions, but from the language being tossed around, it appears to me that the Intelligence Community is not more than fifty to sixty percent certain of anything. That is how the Iranians want it. That is not how Western political leaders want it. There are probably a whole bunch of stressed intelligence analysts not getting very much sleep these days.
On the other hand, the UN is reporting that the Houthi’s may have the technology to make a strike of this magnitude from Yemen. They claim that the Sammad-3 was used, (a drone with an attack distance of 1,500 km or 930 miles). Houthi rebels claimed to have launched a drone attack on Abu Dhabi Airport back in July 2018 using three “Sammad-3” armed drones. At the time of that claimed attack, United Arab Emirates officials told media that the attacks did not occur. By contrast, Houthi sources told media outlets including Al Jazeera that the drones flew “1500 kilometers” before they reached Abu Dhabi’s airport. So, here was a drone attack that the Houthi’s claimed last year that the Adu Dhabi government claimed did not happen. Could it get any stranger?
In a nutshell, the Houthi’s admit to launching ten drones in an attack on Saudi Oil fields. The Saudi officials and the US government claim that eighteen drones and two missiles were used in the attack. The Houthi’s said the attacks were launched from Yemen in the due south and the Saudi’s and the US claim the attacks came from the north. Meanwhile, the Iranians continue to play the “he said…she said” game and laying down the victim card on every table that will allow them to. So far, so good.
If you haven’t picked it up by now, I am leaning towards an Iranian backed narrative. If they didn’t fire those drones and missiles themselves, they were using proxies to conduct their affairs for them. This completely fits within their strategic plans.
- Why does what we know not matter?
The Trump Administration has left so many open doors for the Iranians to play the victim card due to its amateurish handling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA by the US left us with few allies in the region, except for Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman shot himself “in the foot” over the killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, leaving him with few open supporters in the world as well.
Liberal politicians are not eager to support President Trump or Prince Mohammad bin Salman on any level, so they are having to fend for themselves politically. Without a smoking gun, both President Trump and Prince Mohammad are unable to convincingly assemble much of an alliance against what appears to be pretty compelling evidence.
On the other hand, one has to ask themselves how is it that the Iranians are able to get away with this. How can they continuously propound fabricated evidence with no seeming moral contradictions? Having worked with many Iranians over the years, it is continuously brought to my attention that the Iranian interpretation of the Qur’an has some specific contentions that create an environment where playing with the truth to accomplish one’s political goals is indeed not a contradiction at all. These contentions are considered a strength of Shi’a Islam.
We must remember that Iran is lead by a religious oligarchy. They have an elected President, but he is only allowed to do what the Religious elite tell him. Within Shi’a Islam there is a Qur’anic doctrine known as Taqiyya.
“Taqiyya offers two basic uses. The better known revolves around dissembling over one’s religious identity when in fear of persecution. Such has been the historical usage of taqiyya among Shi’a communities whenever and wherever their Sunni rivals have outnumbered and thus threatened them. Conversely, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, far from suffering persecution have, whenever capability allowed, waged jihad against the realm of unbelief; it is here that they have deployed taqiyya—not as dissimulation but as active deceit. In fact, deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam, is often depicted as being equal—sometimes superior—to other universal military virtues, such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice.”
These doctrinal teachings allow the Iranian government, the Houthi’s, and any other Iranian proxies to look at the world straight in the eye and tell straight out lies, when the only shame in it would be being discovered. This is a difficult thing for most Westerners to really understand, even though Westerners themselves are increasingly abandoning the notion of truth as a form of social connections.
- Where will all this knowing, but not mattering lead?
Since the US pulled out of the JCPOA, the Mullah’s in Iran have pushed a victim-based agenda to the world, portraying themselves as the underdog that the “Great Satan” was beating up.
This latest provocation is just that–a “testing of the waters.” The Iranian leadership is trying to get President Trump to respond in a manner that will support the narrative that they are pushing. In essence, they want President Trump to respond militarily. They are actually hoping that he will respond with a measured response that will not hurt too badly, but will prompt a global outrage at the US, therefore, causing an easing of sanctions and the renewing of financial support for the Iranian people.
So far, the victim card is working. On the one hand, the Iranian government is telling the world that the US-imposed sanctions are not working and that they have enough cash on hand to survive for another 18 months or until President Trump is voted out of office. On the other hand, they are sending envoys around the world with their hat in their hands demanding that the other JCPOA signatories come up with $60 billion a year to help the country make it, because all that the Trump sanctions are doing is taking milk from Iranian babies and pensions from the sick and elderly. In reality, the sanctions are making a devastating effect and taking a toll on the Iranian economy and people.
I have regular communication with friends in Iran and they say that the economy has never been worse. They are not sure how much longer their country can hold out. There are increasing tensions and talks of demonstrations, which they know will exact a heavy-handed response from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The people of Iran are counting the cost. It is a game of waiting right now. With the new sanctions imposed last week by the Trump administration, the hardships are expected to worsen.
So what is the goal of sanctions? It was, so that the Iranian government would learn to play nice within the global community of nations. The goals have clearly escalated beyond that to regime change. The hope is, that when the Iranian people become weary of economic hardship, they will rebel and replace their regime. My fear is that this may be a misguided calculation by the Trump administration. The Iranian regime holds the nation by the throat with an iron-clad fist. Dissension will be treated with a harshness unimaginable to the Western mind.
If there was ever a time for a cool head, now is the time. I know that President Trump is bristling under the accusations of cowardice and indecision, but now is the time for highly-calculated decisions. The US is not unfamiliar with the whole reality of proxy wars. Deniability is not a one-way street. Cunning and wisdom are required to deal with an enemy as crafty as the Iranians and their allies. The US and Saudi Arabia need to calculate their decisions with great care, lest they fall into the hands of the cunning plots of the Iranians.
An additional note: “To prevent further escalation, Saudi Arabia requested international support to help protect the kingdom’s critical infrastructure,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters. “The United Arab Emirates has also requested assistance. In response to the kingdom’s request, the President has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature, and primarily focused on air and missile defense.
Why is this important to us? These conditions globally reveal great cracks in the vast institutions of democracy. One of the greatest cracks is our ability as a nation to believe our government officials. The left and the right have gotten so used to telling people what they think they want to hear that the truth has begun to feel like an old-fashioned idea that has lost its place in the modern world. It is time for a truth-believing people to demand truth from its leadership or get voted out of their positions. That means that we the voters must be much better informed and prepared to take our place in the world as possible decision-makers and leaders.
We need to better understand cultures and religious nuances as well so that we can make better conclusions about what we hear. Understanding that Iranian Shi’a theology allows for the commonplace deception of unbelievers is important to understanding these kinds of situations.
What can we do?
Read…I will almost always start there. We would do much better by turning off the Game of Thrones for an hour and reading something that will increase our understanding of our community, our nations, and our world.
Open your life and home to those not like you…Our only hope is to grow in relationship with others that we do not understand. I can tell you from personal experience that the Iranian people are some of the finest people I have met. They are happy, hospitable, and genuinely kind. In my travels in Iran, I can tell you I was treated with great respect and honor. I recently read a statistic that bothered me. The article I was reading said that ninety-seven percent of all foreign-exchange students who study for four years at American universities never once set foot in an American home. Open your life and your home.
Become involved in your local community and state or national politics…It seems like there is an increasing number of dynasties emerging within our country. Regular people can and should lead our country. We need to push for an election system overhaul. It is way too expensive for the average person to run for office. It ought not be that way where only the rich can run. Get involved.
Go back and read my past articles on the JCPOA and the Iranian situation. It will help you better understand what is happening right now.
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org