Monday, March 30, 2015

The Haiku of OSINT for 03/30/15

Post-conflict planning
Some leaders come from nowhere
Demanding a seat

Envisioning Post-Conflict Security For The Yazidis

The Yazidi minority in Iraq and Syria has it rough.  ISIL has spent the past year driving Yazidis from their homes and enslaving them.  The international community has work to do after it eventually defeats ISIS.  The Yazidis and other minorities will need repatriation to their homes and permanent security that they cannot achieve on their own.

The national government of Iraq has failed its R2P responsibilities towards the Yazidis, just as it failed the Iranian exiles within its borders.  Iraq's hastily reconstituted army is unable to make significant progress against ISIS without help from the US and other stable nations.  The weakness of Iraq's Shiite-led government and military in the face of ISIS will persist long after the US and its allies vanquish ISIS . . . and that victory may be a long time in coming.

The international community is doing what Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis are incapable of doing for Yazidis.  UNHCR has provided emergency shelter for Yazidi refugees since the Mount Sinjar siege in August 2014.  Estimating need starts with an estimate of population size.  Pew Research's Fact Tank discussed several Yazidi population estimates in August 2014.  Third Eye OSINT judges the straight extrapolation from the Iraqi 1965 census to be the most accurate number.  Consider that Saddam Hussein's Arabization repression of ethnic Kurds would have suppressed any excess fecundity that less literate groups possess.  Statistics have a logic all their own.  The least reliable numbers are the most recent self-reported stats the Yazidis fed to the US State Department.  Diplomats are normally not experienced statisticians.  Self-reported numbers that are far higher than what normal statistical progression should indicate are very likely artificially inflated.  Deliberately driving numbers higher feeds a political agenda for more aid spending.

The Yezidis are also spread among several Transcaucasus nations.  Georgia is increasingly under Russian dominance.  Armenia and Azerbaijan have not resolved their tension over disputed territory.  None of those states strongly favor the rights of ethnic minorities.  Yazidis in the Transcaucasus seeking a better life will not migrate to Iraq or Syria while ISIS threatens their kin.  Migration to Western Europe exposes them to wealth creation that they otherwise cannot access.  The international community should leverage Westernized Yazidi expatriates as a leadership cadre for a post-conflict Iraq and Syria.  These leaders will be trustworthy if they refrain from inflating their population numbers as a way to extort more Western aid.

The straightforward military solution to ISIS is obvious to serious strategists.  One division-sized ground combat formation, with at least one fighter wing of air support, could drive west from Sadr City all the way to ISIS's de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.  One month of solid combat would disperse the tens of thousands of drug-crazed jihadi opportunists adhering to ISIS for romantic adventures in theological purity.  The West's political leaders are unwilling to sell this prospective victory to their electorates.  Lack of political will to win leaves Iraq and its neighbors with a festering sore in Mesopotamia.  Yezidis will remain homeless in the meantime.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Haiku of OSINT for 03/12/15

A conquered people
Assimilate or depart
No right of return

Radical BDS Movement Targets Israel for Destruction

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is about a decade old.  It couches its appeals to Western sensibilities in a language of righteous indignation that never gets old.  The Palestinian nationalists behind the BDS movement use it as another strategy to achieve their goal of destroying Israel.  It is fair to identify the BDS movement's supporters and their own goals.

NGO Monitor has done excellent work tracking the funders of the BDS movement and its allied causes.  The New Israel Fund aligned with BDS is particularly noteworthy for its history of supporting Israeli NGOs that make false or misleading claims about Israel's justice system and military operations.  Even the BDS symbol is an adaptation of the Palestinian "Handala" cartoon encouraging perpetual victimhood.  Handala figures prominently in the imagery of the Palestinian right of return principle.  It is obvious that Israelis and others who adhere to the right of return principle have not considered the effects of forced immigration on Israeli citizens.

Israelis and Jewish-Americans who sign on to the BDS movement are, in the phraseology attributed to the Comintern describing their international collaborators, useful idiots.  Jewish Voice for Peace claims the BDS positions are going mainstream.  That claim is unverifiable, and is certainly untrue within mainstream Judaism after Jewish organizations have repeatedly identified JVP representatives as unwelcome.  The Anti-Defamation League has an excellent backgrounder on how JVP covers for the anti-Israel agenda of other entities.

I had a very unenlightening experience in recent weeks when a JVP activist spoke to a foreign policy study group I frequently attend at one of San Francisco's most renowned civic affairs clubs.  She sounded very naive, as if they could all sing Kumbaya to give the Palestinians their own state.  This woman claimed that JVP's social network audience exceeds AIPAC's audience.  I just did my own checking today on Twitter, Facebook, and Alexa.

JVP Twitter followers:  41,500
AIPAC Twitter Followers:  46,000
JVP Facebook fans:  206,756
AIPAC Facebook fans:  102,417
JVP website Alexa rank:  Global rank 536,838; US rank 123,682
AIPAC website Alexa rank:  Global rank 214,495; US rank 36,527

The numbers show AIPAC leading JVP in two of those three metrics.  The JVP woman was either lying or stupid to make her claim of social reach.  Radical activists are not above lying to move their agenda.  Soviet dupes in the West did it all the time.

BDS activists often draw false parallels between their movement and the US civil rights movement of the 1950s-60s, the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, or the Northern Ireland peace process.  The red herrings fly fast and furious with these people.  The US civil rights movement never lobbied for a separate homeland for African Americans, but for justice within a single-state solution.  The anti-apartheid movement was a similar recognition of a single state's legitimacy.  The Northern Ireland peace process ended with recognition of British sovereignty, another single state solution.  The BDS objective of weakening Israel's ability to defend itself through a military boycott, with no requirement for the Palestinian territories to likewise disarm, is not the moral equivalent of earlier movements for peace and justice.

It is glaringly obvious that JVP and other BDS supporters in the Anglo-West have not conducted any serious thinking about what happens after their boycott succeeds and a Palestinian state crowds out a greatly weakened Israel.  Where would Palestinian returnees settle?  Would they go to Israel to evict Israelis or to a Palestine that may not be able to absorb them?  Will the GDP of a Palestinian state support both its existing citizens and new returnees?  Will Hamas abandon its charter's pledge to destroy Israel and evict all Jews from the Middle East?  Is a comprehensive Israel-Palestine peace even possible while a Sunni-Shia conflict exists within Islam?  Serious diplomats across the Middle East and the Anglo-West have wrestled with these questions for decades.  The only firm answer has always come in the form of Israel's ability to defend itself from existential threats.

Radical elements within the Palestinian nationalist movement have never surrendered their goal of destroying Israel.  The methods change to make the goal seem palatable to sympathetic Westerners.  The BDS movement is another strategy to de-legitimize Israel.  It does not yet pose an existential threat to Israel by itself, but it is clearly a form of asymmetric warfare.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Haiku of OSINT for 03/09/15

Back channel talkers
Ignore political noise
Focus on a deal

Domestic Politics Drive US-Israel-Iran Strategic Monologues

Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress this month stirred up the usual posturing from American politicians.  Their equivalents in Israel and Iran, the other two audiences for Mr. Netanyahu's speech, will eventually be heard.  Third Eye OSINT judges that recent noises from leaders of the US, Israel, and Iran have more to do with moving public opinion in those countries than with reaching any diplomatic agreements.

All perspectives on US/Iran/Israel relations are of interest.  CFR's description of Iran's nuclear program raises enough concerns about the program's intent to warrant continuing IAEA monitoring and verification in Iran.  There is no reason for any of the P5+1 parties to pursue side deals with Iran outside this negotiating framework given its legitimacy in the eyes of the UN.  The US's own estimate is that Iran is years away from weaponizing its nuclear program.  The CFR's description of a 2007 NIE describes the difficulty Iran has in producing sufficient weapons-grade material.  The Stuxnet virus' attack on Iran's facilities pushed the weaponization date even further into the future.  Talk of crossing red lines is premature.

All of the recent public actions by both Israel's and Iran's leaders are fodder for internal audiences.  Mr. Netanyahu gains politically by frightening his people with an external threat.  His Likud party still polls strongly but he cannot ignore the growing chorus of former Israeli national security figures who have come out publicly against Israeli policies.  Anti-Iran rhetoric shores up his electoral base.

Iran's mullahs want their people to think the Iranian nuclear program is more dangerous than it is to keep the reformers sidelined.  Strategic feints are an old practice in history.  Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq went to great lengths to convince its own battlefield commanders that WMDs were an option, believing that mention of such programs would deter Iran or even the US from striking the regime.  Iran's hardened facilities and uranium enrichment technology obviously have military potential.  Whether Israel is the eventual target of an Iranian nuclear strike is open to debate.  Tehran has little to gain from a strike on Israel that would almost certainly bring US retaliation.  It has more to gain by rattling a nuclear saber against nearby rivals, specifically Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Even US politicians feel the impulse to contribute rhetoric fit for their domestic base.  Republican Congresspeople sent a letter to Iran with vague warnings about the validity of US-Iran diplomatic agreements.  Once again, domestic audiences matter, and positioning for the 2016 election cycle means putting tough rhetoric on the record.  Iran responded with an understanding of legal precedents that surpassed that of the GOP letter's authors.  An American legal scholar from the George W. Bush administration took the GOP to task on the Lawfare blog for their lack of understanding.  Israeli and Iranian leaders have yet to reveal whether their understanding of their own legal systems needs remedial attention.  They may surprise us yet.

Both Israel and Iran also have something to gain externally by going through these motions in public.  Iran wants a bigger bargaining chip to terminate sanctions, so making its nuclear program seem dangerous is a diplomatic gamble.  Israel has obviously won a major diplomatic breakthrough with Saudi Arabia if the Saudis quietly approve of Israel's stance against Iran.  American diplomacy is always at work and could probably have forged a P5+1 agreement sooner if not for some clumsiness.  Media exposure of President Obama's Nov. 2014 letter to Tehran about ISIS was an embarrassment.  Predictably, Iran's response was noncommittal once the entire US negotiating position was laid bare.  Trading nuclear concessions for acquiescence to a more active Iranian ground campaign is a deal best done in back channels.  US fumbling invites Israel and Iran to air their frustrations in public rather than behind closed doors.

The most explosive conflict in the Middle East isn't even Israel vs. Iran.  The intensifying Sunni vs. Shia civil war within Islam is the main threat to regional stability.  The leading Sunni states (Saudi Arabia first, Turkey second) are unwilling to directly confront Iran for leadership of the Islamic world, so they cynically allow Israel to do their heavy lifting for them.  They won't be able to postpone the open civil war for long; ISIS is just the latest explosion of Sunni anger against Shiite proxies (Syria first, rump Iraq second).

Public speeches on geopolitics are always the tips of icebergs.  They are monologues intended for multiple audiences.  The primary audience is usually domestic.  Hidden diplomatic initiatives rarely take their cues from public statements, except in states like North Korea where a megalomaniac leader personifies the state.  The US has yet to demonstrate its ability to competently navigate both the public diplomacy and back channel communication that can set the framework for a successful P5+1 agreement.  Rhetoric about leading from behind and "strategic patience" are no substitute for competence.  Dialogue suffers and the world is left with monologues.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Haiku of OSINT for 03/02/15

Reforming defense
New law and personnel plans
More adaptive force

The 3 Reforms The US Department of Defense Must Make Now

The US military divides campaign responsibility between the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war.  Its pursuit of success at each level has encountered severe problems since the 9/11 attacks.  The most well-funded military in human history has not achieved satisfactory strategic outcomes in Iraq or Afghanistan.  These problems stem from both policy and cultural weaknesses that cry out for remedy.  The US Department of Defense needs three broad reforms that will make its prosecution of each level of war more effective.

The first DOD reform must adapt strategic level policy development to modern times.  The National Security Act of 1947 governs the interaction of the military and whole-of-government (WOG) actors in the Department of State, the Intelligence Community, and other areas.  Its authors designed it for a post-WWII era that no longer exists.  The US is in dire need of a National Security Act 2.0 for the 21st century.

The Act as originally written subordinated the armed services to a central Cabinet secretary.  It did not anticipate a proliferation of intelligence agencies that compete with the CIA for authority and funding, nor did it prevent the non-defense executive agencies from creating internal offices that encroach on each other's functions.  Piecemeal reforms in the post-Cold War era have not solved problems with interagency coordination.  Act 2.0 must begin by recodifying each executive department's relationship with the President and the National Security Council.  DOD needs Congress to articulate this legal change; it cannot do so on its own.

The second reform will require a new personnel management approach to developing military leaders who can adapt at the operational level of war.  The US military's reliance on formal decision-making processes is adequate for planning major campaigns against nation-states.  It is often inadequate for rapid innovation or adaptation to ambiguous environments.  Changing the mental flexibility of mid-grade and senior officers means introducing them to private sector planning processes earlier in their careers.

The US Army's Training with Industry (TWI) program is a template for transforming the process-oriented thinking of career officers into the results-oriented thinking the private sector uses to stay viable.  The current TWI configuration allows no more than a handful of officers each year (normally 125 people as of 2014) to spend up to twelve months on sabbatical from the Army with a small number of large private corporations.  They return to the force with little incentive to use what they learned because they must re-adapt to the military's official planning processes.  Redesigning the program to allow tens of thousands of officers to spend six to nine weeks interning with private corporations would spread results-oriented thinking much wider within the military.  A 21st century TWI for all of DOD would resemble MBA program internships that prepare seasoned business professionals for management roles.

The third defense reform will change how new officers acclimate to tactical-level operations.  Young officers must prove themselves in the eyes of their enlisted service members to be effective as leaders.  More than anything else, this means offering some commonality of background, interest, or values shared between officer and enlisted ranks.  The strongest and fastest way to establish this bond is to require that all US military officers first serve in the enlisted ranks as a prerequisite for commissioning.

Decades of social science research have proven that social affinity bonds among peers are strongest across peer groups with common social origins.  This finding is a common thread in the study of social group cohesion at any socioeconomic level or within any culture.  In the military, the most common origin is entry-level enlisted indoctrination.  Officers who served successfully in the enlisted ranks, particularly as NCOs, achieve instant rapport with their enlisted followers.  They do this more rapidly and effectively than non-prior enlisted officers.  They also achieve horizontal trust among each other more quickly than "cherry" officers who have never served before.  Horizontal and vertical trust are essential to building effective teams.  Requiring enlisted service as a precursor to applying to officer accession programs ensures that new officers are trustworthy on day one.

Third Eye OSINT will elaborate more on each of these three reforms in subsequent articles.  Alfidi Capital is the only source in the world for this particular strain of original military thinking.