Iraq is not bogging us down. So says Robert Gates.
Sec Def Robert Gates today at the International Institute for Strategic Studies speaking to a group national leaders from the Gulf in London says:
"Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents — Christians, Jews and Muslims alike . . . There can be little doubt that their destabilizing foreign policies are a threat to the interests of the United States, to the interests of every country in the Middle East, and to the interests of all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing."
And as if that isn't bad enough . . .
"Iran delivers arms to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said.
They may not be exactly helping us in Iraq, but we're not doing much better ourselves it seems:
The WaPo reports:
"Pentagon auditors said they could not account for millions of dollars worth of rocket-propelled grenades, armored vehicles, ammunition and other supplies and equipment that were to be used to train and equip Iraqi security forces, because of inadequate paperwork and a lack of oversight personnel. The inspector general said the command was unable to prove that it received 12,712 of the 13,508 weapons . . . The 13,508 weapons were made up of 7,002 pistols, 3,230 assault rifles, 2,389 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 887 machine guns."
With all the weapons we're providing to both sides in Iraq why would the Iranians even bother wasting their money smuggling them into the country? Between all of Saddam's weapons depots the US Army left unsecured during the invasion; the weapons Blackwater has smuggled in; and all the stuff the Pentagon has lost, it doesn't really make sense to think the Iranians would go out of their way to bring more in.
If I were the Sec Def I'd worry more about the fact that his Pentagon can't seem to find its own ass with both hands.
The same Reuters article reports Gates told the somewhat skeptical crowd at the conference that Iran 'continues to develop long-range missiles that could carry weapons of mass destruction.'
Hmm . . . If I were him I'd be a little more concerned about our good buddy Vlad the Impaler, who is really feeling his oats these days after that big "election" victory last Sunday.
"Russia tested new strategic and tactical missiles, flexing its muscles amid military disputes with the West and bitter opposition to a US plan for a defensive shield in Europe. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday that is capable of carrying multiple independent warheads and a tactical cruise missile with an increased range, boasting that the weapons can penetrate any missile defense system." [NDTV]
In another worrying development in the Russia file:
"Russia said on Wednesday it would start the first major navy sortie into the Mediterranean since Soviet times, the latest move by an increasingly assertive Moscow to demonstrate its military might. more stories like this 'The aim of the sorties is to ensure a naval presence in tactically important regions of the world ocean,' Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told President Vladimir Putin . . . Serdyukov said 11 ships, including an aircraft carrier, would take part in the sortie and be backed up by 47 aircraft -- including strategic bombers."
This group of ships is to meet up with the Black Sea fleet soon and is expected to have a nice long visit to the Mediterranean, which I thought was sort of our Mare Nostrum. The other one, not the Pacific, which is also our Mare Nostrum.
The Israelis apparently are also kind of concerned about the appearance of a Russian fleet, which they think might be interested in making its new home in Syria.
YNet News reports:
"For the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia plans to re-operate the Tartus and Latakia ports in Syria as permanent bases for the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean basin, according to recent western media reports. Rumors on the growing Russian activity in the Mediterranean began spreading following a statement by Russian Navy commander, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, as he visited the Russian Navy base in the Sebastopol port in Ukraine. . . Israeli security officials estimated that the renewed Russian activity in these bases, which were active throughout the Cold War, was related to the renewed tensions between Russia and the United States, mainly in light of the American plan to station antimissile missile systems in Europe – a plan Moscow views as a threat to its security."
Lebanon Wire reports:
"So far, Syria has gone out of its way to deny that any such plan exists, insisting that all talk of Russia using Syrian port facilities in Tartus and Latakia is a figment of Israel's propaganda machine. But beyond the statements, Syria is facing a very interesting political decision. Russia sees a window of opportunity in which the United States' attention is absorbed in Iraq and in its intensely delicate negotiations with Iran. Though the thought of Russia sending warships to the Mediterranean could have provoked a strong U.S. response a decade ago, it is no secret that the U.S. military's bandwidth is greatly constrained and there is room for other major powers -- like Russia -- to start playing in the Middle Eastern sandbox again."
Not that Sec Def Gates is worried about any of this, naturally. Iraq is no problemo for us, we can handle anything.
"Gates ended his speech with a grim warning against underestimating the United States.
Some countries, he said, 'may believe our resolve has been corroded by the challenges we face at home and abroad. This would be a grave misconception. Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, Fascist Italy and the former Soviet Union all made that miscalculation,' Gates said. 'All paid the price. All are on the ash heap of history.'"
Right, that's why we're not saying anything about the Russian navy moving into new digs in the Mediterranean or the fact that the Russian are testing new ICBMs.
What, me worry?