Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Strolling down memory lane with Dr George Friedman

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While doing some research on the origins of the war in Iraq for a column I'm hacking away at, I stumbled on this treasure in my files. It is the summary of a conference call that Dr. George Frieman of Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) made with Schroder Salomon. Smith Barney, shortly before the war. The summary below gives a perfect Polaroid of the neocon mentality and the garbage they used to take America to war.
Part of the enjoyment of reading the transcript and its amazing analysis, is the humid-handed prose of Dr. Friedman. They say that the true sexual organ of our species is the mind. That being true, my late grandmother would have hastened to warn Dr. Friedman that if he continued to analyze is this fashion he would be bound to go blind. DS

Iraq, The War, and the next 5 years - Strafor

An Analysis

This is a summary of a SSSB-organised Conference Call with Dr George Friedman, Chief Intelligence Office of a Geo-Milito-Political Consultancy firm in the US, called Stratfor. The call is from earlier this week. The following analysis should not be taken to be the opinion of the summariser, nor the view of SSSB.

Executive Summary
  • This is a war which is definitively going to happen
  • It will most likely commence between 27th February and March 2nd
  • It will be over by mid-April
  • Regime change is the objective
  • The US is committed to a major military presence in the area for the foreseeable future
  • The purpose of the war is to position the US in the heart of the region, so as to be able to bring to bear overwhelming pressure on surrounding States, so that they ruthlessly ‘deal with’ the Al Quaeda network in their countries … or else face the US
  • Ultimately, Pakistan is on the US agenda
  • India, as a consequence, is going to become a major US ally
  • China will acquiesce, as will Russia, in return for US recognition of their respective rights to ‘deal with’ ‘insurgency’ as they see fit
  • Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia are the biggest losers …. and Iraq
  • The current international landscape is about to fundamentally change … war will become a permanent feature of the next 5-10 years

Prospects for war: Converging with the 20 century mean

The backdrop of Stratfor’s analysis:

1. We are re-entering ‘normality’, and that the 1990s were a period of abnormality
2. That stock markets have gone up and down during conflicts [Korea, Vietnam] and that war is neither extraordinary in terms of the 20 th century, nor is it inherently bad for market.
3. The Iraqi invasion itself is not about Al Quaeda being in Iraq

4. Nor is it about oil
5. The US is committed to a long-term presence in the region
  • It is about Iraq being the single-most strategically placed country in the Middle-East … having at its borders Syria, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait.
The US rationale

To date, the US has always been an outsider when it has come to dealing with issues in the Middle East, and as direct consequence it has always needed alliances ….. this will change, definitively, when it becomes the dominant and overwhelming military power in the region. The whole dynamic of the Middle East will shift as a consequence.

What is the purpose of the war?
  • The purpose is to redefine the geopolitics of the region, in order to be able to bring direct and unavoidable pressure upon countries who are intentionally, or by default, are allowing Al Quaeda to operate
  • The driving logic is to create a new reality: that it is far worse not to co-operate with the US than it is to ignore Al Quaeda within their own countries, for fear of internal problems.

Nevertheless it is a scenario which these countries have recognised is increasingly likely to come to take place.

The opposition from Iran and Saudi Arabia has little to with Iraq, and everything to do with the wider implications of a long-term US presence in the Middle East.

Is it likely to take place?

War is a certainty [according to Stratfor]

  • The US administration is absolutely committed to going to war.
  • It does not want a UN ‘government’ in place
The immediate upshot of war:

  • Syria will be surrounded by hostile countries [Turkey, US/Iraq, Israel]
  • US naval dominance will provide overwhelming reach
  • Saudi Arabia will be surrounded by Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, US/Iraq, Qatar
  • Iran will be flanked by US-supporting Afghanistan on its East, and in the West by the US/Iraq, Kuwait
Fighting the war:

There are currently two opposing perceptions of the forthcoming war:

1. The US perception/assumption: The Iraqi army is incapable of fighting. As the US command views the situation, the predominant supposition is that the regular Iraqi army collapsed when the US took it on in Kuwait. The assumption in 1991 was that US casualties would be high: the US establishment feels that they over-estimated the Iraqi army. As a result, the theme now is that the Iraqi regular army cannot fight. Stratfor states that this shows a strange schizophrenia , in that the public are encouraged to believe that great sophistication is being shown by the Iraqi subterfuge and deceptions regarding the mobile chemical bio-chemical weapons which are being moved about the country at the moment, whilst little competence is accorded/transferred to the army.

2. The Iraqi perception/assumption: Saddam Hussein believes that he will win. This is based on the premise that the US does not want to suffer high casualties, as evidenced in the 1990s by Somalia, Beirut, and the1991 war. Far from being a massive defeat for Iraq, Hussein/Iraq views the Gulf War as, at best, a draw, and at worst as being defeat for the US. Why? Because the perception is that, beside being ejected form Kuwait, when the US met the Iraqi Republican Guard, the US gave up and gave in. Thus, now Iraq believes that just so long as they can inflict high casualties upon the US early on, and then have an urban battle in Baghdad, that the US will revert to type, and that a UN-based ceasefire will come into acceptance…..and that Saddam Hussein and his regime will continue to survive
So, we have two very different perceptions of the past, upon which the present is now predicated
When will War begin?
  • Between February 27th and March 2nd
Why then?
  • Because that, for the US, is the optimal period of the phases of the moon
  • The US wishes to commence the attack in darkness. Night darkness favours the US, because Stealth bombers can only be picked up opticially, and not by radar. Also, darkness will aid special forces going in under cover.
By when will it end?
  • The most likely deadline for the resolution of the war, from the perspective of the US, is mid-April. This is because should Iraq decide to use Chemical weapons against the US, the above-85 degree temperature will render the anti-chemical suits virtually inoperable, with US fighting basically ineffective.
  • It cannot wait until mid-autumn because the US currently has six army divisions around Iraq ….the ‘family jewels’ have now been committed. A force with overwhelming battle-strike potential is now in place. There is no way it will be held there indefinitely. This war will, and has to be, fought to conclusion.
Is there a possible earlier start date?
  • Yes: If Iraqi troops in the North and South, near the oilfields, and around Baghdad, were suddenly to be moved, then it is very possible that bombardment would begin
How will it be fought?
  • First: Complete surpression of Iraqi air-defences, using cruise missiles, Stealth bombers, and heavy strikes against all Iraqi command centres
  • Simultaneously, ground operations would begin early on
  • From the South the US would advance into the oilfields rapidly, in order to prevent their destruction. The purpose of this is two-fold: to secure the oilfields, for future usage; and to secure the road infrastructure leading up to the region, which will be critical for the successful follow-up of troops and armour.
  • Also of paramount importance: of the six bridges which cross the Euphrates river, three must be taken intact by the US, or else critical time will be lost in rebridgin
The First Military Objective:
  • The primary initial objective of the US forces is to seize the afore-mentioned bridges. Special forces will enter first, followed up by heavy armour.
  • Stratfor states that at this success is expected, due to the absolute excellence the US has at this sort of operation.
The Ultimate Military Objective:
  • To take Baghdad and effect ‘regime change’
  • Easier said than done…
  • Taking a major capital is a scale of task hitherto unattempted in US military history, and indeed only attempted successfully on a few occasions worldwide [Berlin by the Soviet Union was successful, but Stalingrad and Leningrad both were too much for Germany].
If Iraq can fight effectively from the outset [contrary to the US assumption, in Stratfor’s view] then there is a serious problem.

This will be a key point in the success of the overall campaign.

There are currently four brigades of the Republican Guard in Baghdad. The US has never yet encountered them in battle.
  • The key question is: Will the Replublican Guard fight?
  • The importance of morale on this point, within Iraq, is crucial.
  • If the Republican Guard can fight the US to a standstill/standoff, then it will have achieved its aim.
  • The reality here is that no-one, not the US, and not even Saddam Hussein, knows the answer to this question for sure.
In purely military terms, there is no question that the US can take Baghdad: the question is, however, at what price?

The US cannot afford to be seen to be targeting civilians – something which was not an issue in either Berlin or Stalingrad in WW2.

Thus the US hope that there may be one of three outcomes in Baghdad:

1. That the Special Republican Guard decides not to fight
2. That there is a coup within the Iraqi military high command and immediate surrender to the US. This is not something which should be dismissed as a possibility – certainly their loyalty has in the past by no means been assured: viz. the periodic purges of the military elite during the 1990s.
3. The US manages to win the city without excessive civilian casualties

What does this a successful US outcome do for geopolitical alliances in Europe?
  • That both Germany and France have made a major miscalculation.
  • The assumption that a united European response was not the natural corollary to the US position was wrong.
  • Too many European countries do not want a dominant Paris-Berlin coalition, according to Stratfor, for fear of ‘generational domination’. Hence the support of the Iberian Peninsula, most of Eastern Europe, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Of greater consequence is: What will happen to other states?
  • Saudia Arabia will be in difficulties
  • Syria will be under immense pressure in the future
  • Iran will be faced with a far more immediate challenge to its internal structure
  • India will benefit considerably both in terms of business and political relationships.
  • Why? Because, ultimately, after Iraq, dealing with Pakistan will the next overriding objective for the US.
The Oil Effect?
  • Stratfor assert that this is not about oil…
  • There will be a minimal effect on oil prices from the war
  • The Venezuelan effect will have had a bigger impact
  • There are already US contingency plans in play. The worst case situation is already in the price.
  • At worst, 1.5mm bbpd will be off the market, but not permanently.
Wider implications of the Iraqi war

  • War is going to be a permanent backdrop for the next 5-10 years
  • There will be a de facto ‘extension of an informal US empire’
  • Markets, will have to learn to live it, and they will do so
  • The Structural impact on the US economy will range between neutral to positive
  • There will be ‘considerably more friction between the US and other countries
Q & A Session in Conference Call

In 2003/4, post-Iraq, what priorities does the Bush administration have vis-à-vis the wider region?

  • The US view is that it cannot do anything about anti-Americanism.
  • It will not attempt to win the hearts and minds of people locally
  • It will attempt to ‘create a sense of fear and impotence’ within the region.
  • It will ensure that nation states are more afraid of not cooperating with the US than simply ignoring terrorism within their own countries.
  • This is where the Al Quaeda aspect will enter: the US will exert extremely heavy pressure on suspected countries, forcing them to deal with Al Quaeda effectively
  • … should cooperation be found wanting, the US will not baulk at launching covert operations and extreme pressure onto non-cooperating countries.
Why take this strategy?
  • Because the thinking is that Al Quaeda cannot afford to become a larger organisation, because - the theory asserts - the larger it becomes, the less secure it becomes.
  • Structurally highly-secure growth of Al Quaeda is of greater concern to the US
Impact/Implications for other countries

North Korea
  • North Korea, according to Stratfor, is little more than a side issue. It is merely playing the latest round in a decade-long game where it seeks to gain economic concessions from the US/Japan/South Korea in return for ratcheting down military rhetoric.
  • There is a ‘qualitative difference’ to the Korean threat; it is not likely that the US will get involved.

  • There have already been quiet talks between Washington and Moscow over Chechnya. There will be a change in US policy towards Chechnya, which will be the price of Russian co-operation.
  • The Russian administration will be ‘very happy’ with the new paradigm
  • They do not care excessively about Iraq: they will settle for an increased market share in Oil.

  • Iran will choose to close down internal debate as it steps up its security levels
  • Long-term, it knows it is in danger: the US-Iran issue will be a serious issue for the future.
  • There may well be considerable internal change further down the line.

  • France is not posturing for commercial reason, as some commentators are suggesting.
  • On the contrary, they have made a serious strategic miscalculation, and are now staring at an‘abyss’ in which they have alienated the US, and have caused considerable resentment within Europe for their current stance.
  • The German-French response to the US has as its overall purpose the creation of a European counterweight to US power.

  • The US, whilst ‘absolutely committed to the survival of Israel’, does not want to involved itself in the resolution of what it regards as an essentially, if not exclusively, internal issue.
  • The US would prefer to see a timely and equitable resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict; but the pressure it is likely to exert upon the Israeli administration will more probably focus on encouraging the Israeli administration to coming to an ‘accommodation’ with Hamas, with Arafat side-lined.

  • China is ‘delighted’ with the new situation. Why?
  • Pre-9/11 the focus of US strategy had decisively shifted towards worsening US-china relations. Now, the entire focus has shifted away from Asia.
  • US needs china diplomatically
  • … but China is also worried by improved and strengthened [in the medium-term] US-India relations
  • China also has its own internal issues – the price of cooperation with the US will be that the US does not interfere with its internal ‘security issues’
  • With poor US-China relations out of the way, there will be a new ‘lease of life’ towards improved commercial and political relations with the US.

  • India is going to be one of the main longer term beneficiaries of the new situation
  • Why? Because the US has decided that it has to deal with Pakistan’s linkages to Al Quaeda, and its non-cooperation, hitherto, in dealing with terror cells which the US allege are being given the official ‘blind eye’
  • The US will be keen to develop commercial links to solidify this relationship
Will Nato survive?
  • Difficult to say: whilst it is not the remit of this discussion …
  • Nato no longer has its raison d’etre [the Soviet Union]
  • The US does not want to involve itself with such a consensus-oriented institution
  • Where consensus is so evidently lacking, the US does not want to reveal military plans and secrets to an essentially un-trusted organisation
So what will emerge?
  • Whilst Nato may continue to exist in name, in effect a series of informal and formal alliances will [and indeed have] emerge in its place
  • For example: at the moment the Netherlands is supplying Kuwait with Patriot Missiles. Germany is supplying the Netherlands with these. This sort of accommodation will become the norm, as will a lack of formalisation of such alliances.
What are the key initial lead indicators of the possibility of military success 7-10 days in?
  • Are the six bridges over the Euphrates blown effectively by the Iraqi army?
  • If they are intact, then it will be assumed that the regular Iraqi army are ineffective.
  • Chemical weapons are most likely to be used in this area of the conflict.
  • Within the 1st 96 hrs as there should be a good picture emerging of Iraqi morale.
What does Iraq/Hussein want? Simply to survive through to mid-April?
  • Yes: Iraq wants to reach mid-April having inflicted thousands of casualties on the US, in the hope that this will erode US public opinion, forcing Bush to seek a UN ceasefire.
  • Iraq wants to make a big impact on the periphery of its borders early on, in order to shore up morale and support in the centre if Iraq, ie in Baghdad.

Is there going to be a major terrorist attack in the US during the next 6 weeks?
  • There will ‘certainly be attempts’.
  • But … Al Qaeda attacks when least expected: we know too little of their overall reach and capabilities to say anything else definitively.
What about the dangers posed by chemical weapons?
  • This is a key issue: one of the main reasons that the public is not being told of the whereabouts of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons is because what the US fears most is that Iraq learns how much is known about them, and that as a consequence they move and hide the weapons before the US can react.
  • The US will already have covert troops targeting the sites they know of, and will hope to take them out early on
  • It is possible they might be used against Kuwait – it is likely against Turkey, and it is possible against Israel.
The Bigger Picture post-Iraq
  • Stratfor assert that the current Iraqi situation should be seen as a ‘campaign as part of a protracted wider war’ which will last for 5-10 years, and which will, by default, overwhelmingly dominate the international scene
Who will gain most?

  • The high-tech sectors
  • China
  • Russia
  • India

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