Belated News

The Responsibility to Protect, one of the humanitarian principles under which the kinetic military action against Libya was waged, has incidentally helped some not-very-helpless people. Al-Qaeda’s North African branch is boasting they seized part of Khadaffy’s arsenal. “Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believed to be one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), made the remarks to Mauritanian news agency ANI, which has carried interviews and statements from the group in the past.”

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“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world,” said Belmokhtar, an Algerian national. “As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing,” he said, without elaborating on the nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.

It was a reminder that the Middle East, despite all the excitement over democracy’s advance within the region, remains a place where the white and black hats are often intermingled. Even as it remained unclear what the ultimate fate of Syria would be,  both Israel and the United States struggled to keep tabs on what exactly Iran and other states in the region were up to, continuing the job of counting not only guns but white hats and black hats.

Unfortunately the US ability to monitor events in the region has been degraded by the loss of its electronic listening posts in Iraq, following the withdrawals there. There are indications that Iraq was used for over the fence operations involving US assets.

The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq is cutting off vital intelligence bases and listening posts that have played a key role in clandestine operations that have scored major successes in the global counter-terrorism campaign. …

U.S. military intelligence and Special Forces ran operations against Iran and its proxies in Iraq, and even into Syria, Iraq’s northern neighbor and Tehran’s key ally, intelligence sources say.

With tension escalating between the Islamic Republic and the United States, not to mention Israel, the closures could impede such operations.

Iran’s influence in Iraq is expected to swell as U.S. power departs, compounding the loss of these intelligence bases around the country.

Iran has an extensive and deeply entrenched clandestine network across the entire Gulf region, and with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq the way will be more open to expand that network across Iraq, into Syria and Lebanon, right up to Israel’s doorstep.

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Although some years must pass before even the outline of that story can be told, the ongoing fencing between Iran and its enemies was illustrated by reports from Lebanon that the Hezbollah had used jamming equipment to bring down Israeli drones and to spoof Iron Dome missile radars. The Daily Star quotes UNIFIL sources who say their radars observed the loss of an IDF drone in what are still unexplained circumstances.

The French UNIFIL battalion … tracked the drone until it reached the area above Wadi Hujeir, a deep forested valley system east of the villages of Ghandourieh and Froun, when it suddenly vanished from the screen. … it is possible that the drone simply malfunctioned and crashed into Wadi Hujeir, although that would not explain the absence of wreckage. There are no known previous incidents of drones malfunctioning and crashing over Lebanon, although some have been shot down in the past. Also it is unclear how thoroughly UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army conducted their search. As far as UNIFIL is concerned, once the incident has been reported, it is the responsibility of the Lebanese Army to take the lead on any investigation and further ground searches.

Drones comprise about 70 percent of all Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace and unlike jets, they are difficult to spot because of their size and the high altitude at which they usually operate. But UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army have no difficulty in tracking the drones on radar and sometimes identifying the model.

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Iran is keeping its cards to close to the chest and will do what it can to make it stay that way.  Deception and concealment is fundamental to conflict. Hezbollah has pulled off technological surprises in the past, notably attacking the Israeli Sa’ar-5 class corvette with a C-802 missile in 2006, inflicting serious damage to the vessel. Who knew they had the capability? The crewmen of the Hanit found out.

The shadow war in the region goes from tactical to strategic. Recently some Israeli officials accused former IAEA chief and Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Elbaradei of being an Iranian agent, a charge that he has denied. The Daily Telegraph did not quite repeat the charge of espionage, but it did charge that the IAEA took politics into account in the matter of seeing things.

The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iran’s nuclear programme has for the first time acknowledged that Tehran is conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of weapons. This means the regime can no longer credibly sustain the fiction that it is engaged in a civil nuclear programme. Only the most gullible observers of Iran’s ambitions in the region can have swallowed this story. Indeed, the IAEA has known for years that Tehran was building an atomic weapon, but has been reluctant to say so. This has made it more difficult to create a united front against the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to world peace. Where previous reports have been ambivalent, this assessment is to the point. “The agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” it states. “Credible… information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

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And although the IAEA can explain how it was all done to prevent tempers from flaring up and endangering world peace, the fact remains that the agency provided a powerful strategic cover for the Iranian nuclear program, one which may have suited not only Teheran, but the peace lobby in the West.

Never mind. Now it can be told. Just as now it can be said that al-Qaeda in North Africa may have gained somewhat from the demise of the Duck of Death. There maybe but a few white hats in the region and all the more reason to find them in a sea of dark headgear.

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