Archive for category Iran

UAE: Saudi Arabia And UAE Open Strategic Pipelines To Bypass Strait Of Hormuz

Highlighting the importance of the strait, Cyrus Vance, former US secretary of state, called it “the jugular vein of the West”, while Ali Fadavi, of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran had the ability to “not allow even a single drop of oil to pass” the strait.
“Multiple pipelines would partly negate the Iranian threat to block [the Strait of] Hormuz,” said Rafael Kandiyoti, senior research fellow at Imperial College London and author of Pipelines: Oil Flows and Crude Politics. “Showing increasing pipeline capacity suits the purposes of Saudi Arabia.”

This is big news, just because it gives these countries an alternative to shipping oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Although my first thought after reading this is that Iran will want to attack these pipelines as a way to shut down oil shipments–if Iran is attacked by Israel (and the west) because of it’s nuclear program.

If Iran is attacked, they will no doubt try to strike back by shutting down the Strait of Hormuz. They will also try to attack and destroy any oil infrastructure in any of the countries whom have key oil partnerships with the west. Saudi Arabia and the UAE would be classified as such.

With that said, it makes sense why the UAE would want to plus up their military with combat veterans from Colombia. They are going to need some serious manpower to effectively cover down on 220 miles of pipeline to protect it from attacks. The pipeline also makes it’s way through some interesting mountainous terrain that small attack groups could certainly take advantage of if you do not have an effective defense.

Interesting stuff and we will see how these pipelines fair, if in fact Iran decides to target them after an attack. -Matt

 

The Habshan-Fujairah pipeline, UAE. Photo – Arabianoilandgas.com

 

Saudi Arabia and UAE open strategic pipelines to bypass Hormuz
July 16, 2012
Iranian threats to close the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in response to US and European-led sanctions and pressure over the country’s nuclear programme will seem less alarming with the opening of new Saudi-UAE oil pipelines.
Although the Middle-eastern super-producers did not specify that the pipelines, which bypass the busy shipping lane – responsible for carrying a third of the world’s shipped oil – were a direct response to Iranian sabre-rattling, the move is seen as a pre-emptive strike against an action that would spell economic catastrophe for the region and the West.
The opening of the pipelines comes as diplomatic tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme – believed to be gearing up to produce weapons grade material – increase and Iran’s oil production, due to the sanctions, has fallen to its lowest level in more than 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iraq: US Embassy Staff Might Be Reduced, And Iraq Continues To Hassle PSC’s

Approved movements have been subject to stops, detentions and confiscation of equipment without justification, impacting delivery of equipment, supplies, and materials to the US embassy, bases and offices throughout the country,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
The Congressional Research Service said last May that the State Department estimated the number of security contractors working for it in Iraq would reach 5,500, “with some 1,500 providing personal security for diplomatic movements and an additional 4,000 providing perimeter security.”
Brooks said “our hope is that the US government will be a bit more proactive,” as the government and embassy, in “our impression, has not been very active in trying to help the Iraqis address this problem.

This first story below is from the New York Times, so take it with a grain of salt. lol And of course as soon as it came out, an edit was made that showed that the NYT jumped the gun a little on this. With that said, it is wise that if you are in WPS (mobile or static security), or one of the numerous contractors assigned to do convoy operations for logistics, then it pays to pay attention to this stuff.

The second story just emphasizes what Iraq is doing to security companies as they try to operate there. If the Embassy can’t get supplies, then point the finger at Iraq for holding up those convoys at the border or for hassling security contractors about paper work/visas/licenses that Iraq has failed provide or update.

In short, things in Iraq are getting a little dicey now that the troops are gone, and the US mission there is having to adjust to this new environment. This was to be expected and there will be many hiccups along the way. The US is also experiencing economic issues and an upcoming election. So cost savings will be a factor, and reducing waste in our overseas operations will be necessary if the current administration wants to show it is serious about saving money (and getting re-elected as a result).

But this administration does not want a failed Iraq mission under it’s belt. They have already cut the troops from Iraq earlier than expected, which is not the smartest thing strategically, but it makes sense politically. But cutting security will only add one more planet into alignment for a really bad situation or situations that could truly stain a political campaign. Security should be the last thing you mess with, and especially in that chaotic and extremely dangerous environment.

There is also politics and corruption in Iraq that is impacting operations. A visa or license or whatever is required for the companies to operate can be a simple and fair process if Iraq wants these companies there. Or it can be a complex and unfair process if these officials have other things in mind. Maybe they are looking for kickbacks, and purposely targeting foreign companies so that Iraq companies are able to secure all of this work. Especially for supplying the embassy, or for oil related security contracts. (Strategy Page is echoing the same thing in their post about PSC’s in Iraq and the Embassy)

Perhaps this was a concession when the Sunni-bloc came back in to join parliament? Perhaps there is a focus on attacking logistics using government and political mechanisms, so that the Embassy is forced to reduce in size so it can be weaker for an attack. Or get more Iraqis involved with working at the Embassy, so as to get more spies or even attackers on the inside?

Who knows? All I know is that there is a reason why Iraq is doing this, and that reason often revolves around money or extortion of some sort. Meaning ‘if you do this, maybe we will do this’. We see the same thing happening in Afghanistan, and maybe Iraq is taking notes from the Afghans on how to play the US. It is ironic to me that we have the largest Embassies in the world in both countries, have expended much American/Coalition blood and treasure in both countries, and yet simple matters like visas, licenses or even a MOU or SOFA cannot be worked out? That corruption in these countries is trumping our so-called ‘diplomatic’ missions there. Certainly we can do better and get better for what has been invested.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that there is a third party that has a say so in this matter. That would be the insurgents and jihadists in Iraq who are in the shadows and doing all they can to attack Iraq and the US mission there. You also have Iran doing what they can to exert influence. You can slash the staff at the Embassy, but the security requirement to protect that Embassy does not change. That’s unless the grounds of the Embassy are slashed as well and given back to the Iraqis.

But as you give up more ground, then that gives more ground to the enemy so they can maneuver closer for attacks. If patrols in the area decrease, then that means the enemy can launch more mortars/rockets, drive more VBIED’s, or use more suicide assaulters. So security is still essential and will be even more important as you give up more territory.

I could see the mobile side of WPS decreasing a little, but not by much. If there is still going to be 1,000 diplomats as opposed to 2,000 diplomats (if they are halved according to the article), then those 1,000 will still have to do their missions in Iraq. Or does state plan on never leaving their Embassy?

We could also have an extremely small footprint in Iraq, and bring it on par with the size of other Embassies in the world. But there are a couple of issues that are front and center for the US, which to me justifies a presence there. Oil, Iran, Jihadists and the continuing collapse of regimes in the Middle East because of the Arab Spring (Syria comes to mind). If we can keep Iraq functioning and focused on their oil goals, and goals for their nation’s well being, then that is a good thing. How many diplomats that takes and how we do that is out of my lane. But these are considerations when we think about why we are there.

Now the one thing that looked like it was getting a look for cuts was the police training contract, and that would also include all the logistics required for that. So that might be a big savings and reduction right there.

One State Department program that is likely to be scrutinized is an ambitious program to train the Iraqi police, which is costing about $500 million this year — far less than the nearly $1 billion that the embassy originally intended to spend. The program has generated considerable skepticism within the State Department — one of the officials interviewed predicted that the program could be scrapped later this year — because of the high cost of the support staff, the inability of police advisers to leave their bases because of the volatile security situation and a lack of support by the Iraqi government.

Interesting stuff and I would like to hear what you guys think? Either way, I will keep my eye on this as it develops. -Matt

Edit: 02/10/2012- It looks like State is trying to clarify a little more as to what they plan on doing. Here is a quote below. Also be sure to follow Diplopundit’s take on the whole thing, because they are also questioning the security cuts (if made), and who would step in as replacements (maybe Iraqi security?). I doubt they would go this path and DoS is not about to put the lives of it’s diplomats at the hands of Iraqi security forces….quite yet.

The State Department has asked each component of the massive U.S. diplomatic mission in Baghdad to analyze how a 25 percent cut would affect operations, part of a rapidly moving attempt to save money and establish what a top official on Wednesday called “a more normalized embassy presence.”
“We’re going to be looking at how we’re going to do that over the next year,” said Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides. “What we’re not going to do is make knee-jerk decisions” that could jeopardize the security of the thousands of U.S. citizens working in Iraq, he said.

 

US Embassy in Iraq.

 

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by as Much as Half
By TIM ARANGO
February 7, 2012
Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.
Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.
The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.

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Iraq: US Says No Decision On Keeping Troops In Iraq

This is an interesting development. Many folks were speculating that a much higher number of troops would stick around, and then this rumor of 3,000 troops came out and all hell broke loose. lol The article below mentions politics as a driver for this type of decision making….go figure?

The concern here is that if there is too small of a footprint, that these troops will be sitting ducks in Iraq, or Iraq will not be able to deal with their security issues without sufficient troop presence. My concern though is that companies in Iraq that are dependent upon the security services of the current troops, will have to once again re-adjust to the politics of the matter. Planning might have included a certain amount of US troop presence in specific areas, and all of their war fighting tools and capabilities that come with that presence. So if they were planning on a 10,000 troop presence, and now it is 3,000, that can have an impact.

It also can impact the logistics. If contracting companies were planning for a set amount of troops based off the feedback war planners were giving them, then those companies have made their moves and planed for those contracts. So yet again, the back and forth on the troop presence in Iraq has an impact on this industry. Of course companies will flex and adapt, but I am sure this is causing a lot of headaches.

The other aspect of Iraq that needs to be mentioned is the Iranian influence there. As we speak, rockets and mortars continue to fall on the various FOBs and outposts in Iraq. These munitions come from all sorts of sources, but the biggest arms provider is Iran. Their goal is to help along the exit of US Troops and destabilize the region so their pet leaders can rise to the top (like Sadr). So the environment in Iraq is less troops, but tons of contractors, and lots of Iranian weapons and influence pouring into the country to help destabilize it and in the long run control it with puppet leaders.

Iraq is also in dire need of maintenance of weapons and equipment, foreign investment to include oil contracts, training and upkeep of security forces, etc. If Iraq cannot depend upon a US troop presence to help in these areas, then they will probably depend on contractors to fill these needs. Which our industry will fill the need, but yet again we have the wolf called Iran and Al Qaeda still doing their best to do harm.

I contend that private industry can deal with these sets of problems, but private industry does not have the same freedom of war fighting and weapons/hardware that US troops enjoyed. So in essence, private industry will have to accomplish what the military used to do, and yet with one hand tied behind it’s back. If Iraq sinks into Civil War again, or the pace of war and problems pick up, contractors will be right in the middle of that. -Matt

 

US says no decision on keeping troops in Iraq
By LARA JAKES
September 7, 2011
The Obama administration pushed back Wednesday on reports it has decided to keep a few thousand troops in Iraq next year — a number that will do little to ease security concerns but may be too big for White House advisers who are worried about the slumping U.S. economy and the president’s re-election chances.
In Washington, new Joint Chiefs chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and Undersecretary of State nominee Wendy Sherman separately said there has been no decision on how many troops might stay.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey went a step further, soundly dismissing as false news reports that about 3,000 troops would remain in Iraq beyond the final Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.
He said that figure has not been part of ongoing discussions in Baghdad, where both governments have been weighing whether as many as 10,000 U.S. forces should stay.

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Industry Talk: Extremists Use Iranian Weapons, Iraq Command Spokesman Says

This is not particularly new, and I have talked about IRAMs and EFPs here in the past. But it is still important to keep the information flow going out there as far as what are the ongoing threats. Military forces and contractors are still in Iraq, and they still face these threats. It is also important to point out that we have seen the highest amount of deaths in Iraq since 2009.

Both of these types of weapons are pretty specialized, and it would make sense that Iran would be behind the construction of ‘effective’ IRAM’s and EFP’s. It is also important to note that the spokesman made a very interesting point about the construction of this stuff. Here is the quote, and this kind of goes against the conventional wisdom about how ‘easy’ these weapons are to produce.

Neither weapon is something someone can produce on a lathe in a garage. The EFP requires very precise machining, and the explosive charge is cast. For the IRAM to be effective, it requires specially machined parts to attach the larger warhead to the missile.
The firing mechanisms are factory-made electronic parts that have no other use than firing off IRAMs or EFPs.
And the forensic teams can categorically state that the weapons are from Iran. In one case, an IRAM built in Iran was turned over to the Quds Force – part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – and then given to an Iraqi extremist in Kitab Hezbollah, a terrorist group that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Quds Force, officials said.

So there you have it, and take that for what it is worth. I would imagine that insurgents would take the path of least resistance when it comes to weapons. If Quds are handing these things out, then why go through the effort to make these weapons in a garage?  DIY weapons are nice and all, but getting them for free is better. Especially if Iran is logistically able to keep the flow of weapons consistent and sufficient. -Matt

Extremists Use Iranian Weapons, Iraq Command Spokesman Says
By Jim Garamone?American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, July 11, 2011 – There is no doubt that deadly weapons being used against American forces in Iraq originated in Iran, a U.S. Forces Iraq spokesman said here today.
Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Buchanan led reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on a tour of Joint Task Force Troy here, where they were free to talk to the men and women who examine all enemy ordnance to determine its origin and to look for ways to defeat the threat or prosecute those who launch attacks.
Part of the unit is the combined explosive exploitation cell laboratories. “When p[explosive ordnance disposal] teams go out and they respond to an explosive event, they collect whatever evidence they find and bring it back,” said a military official at the unit, speaking on background. “We take that evidence and take it apart and exploit it.”
The team looks at the weapon from a technical and chemical viewpoint. “You put all those puzzles together, and you can determine where they are from,” the official said. The team also can sweep the weapons for fingerprints and DNA evidence.

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Industry Talk: The UAE Contracts With Erik Prince To Raise An Army–To Deal With Iran!

So this is what Mr. Prince was up to in the UAE?….and what a project! Lookout French Foreign Legion, here comes the UAE’s first Foreign Legion/PMC hybrid built by Erik Prince. (Vinnell Arabia eat your heart out. lol) There are many things here to talk about, so let’s get started with some of the stuff that jumped out at me.

First, the creation of this force was so that it can be used to deal with Iran, or whatever national interests of the UAE. The Iran angle is smart, because that makes a lot of folks in the west happy. (which could explain why there isn’t much ado from the US about this) It sounds like a blended work force of foreign forces (Americans, South Africans, Colombians, etc.) and Emirates troops, all answering to the laws of the UAE and to the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Part PMC  and part Foreign Legion. But legally, here is a snippet from the contract:

Article 17
Compliance with the Laws, Regulations and Bylaws
The Second Party undertakes to comply with all the laws, regulations and bylaws in force in the State, and all provisions of the Decision of the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces referred to hereinabove shall apply to this Contract, provided that the general legal principles in force in the State concerning contracts and contracting methods of the administration shall apply to any matter regarding which there is no specific provision in the said Decision or in this Contract.

The article below also had a quote from international trade lawyer Susan Kovarovics. I would certainly hope that if this Foreign Legion hybrid is within the best interest of the US, that they would have provided ITARs or similar blessings to Prince or any of the American trainers participating in this.  I kind of look at it like the Vinnell Arabia contract that has been going on for years in Saudi Arabia training the SANG.  But Susan is the expert here:

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.
But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

The contract is also very interesting in that it has a ‘Performance Bond’, which is a great thing to have in a contract. I have been pushing for similar performance bonds for US contracts, much like our early privateers were bonded before they were given a license. R2 had to put up ‘ten percent of the contract value’ as a bond. My fuzzy math says that is close to 53 million dollars! Quite the incentive to do well, and just imagine a modern military operating with a similar contract mechanism? lol

The amount of money this contract is worth and time period of it is also listed in the contract and stated in the article below. Here it is for anyone that is curious:

Contract Period June 2010 – May 2015
Total Cost $529,166,754.13

If Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC or R2 can deliver on this first test battalion, it sounds like the UAE is prepared to expand on the thing. The contract goes up to May of 2015, so a lot can happen between now and then.

Now as far as what they will be used for, who knows?  The article below says that this legion could be used to take a few islands off the coast and keep them out of Iranian hands? That this force could also be a deterrent to deal with Iran, which I think that is the real reason why the US would be ok with such a set up. Here is a quote on some of the possible tasks of this force:

Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”
One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”
The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

Here is the part of the article that talks specifically about Iran. Pretty wild, and this kind of operation is certainly offensive in nature if they do it:

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

Finally there is the future of this project, and more importantly, what Prince envisions. This is where the Foreign Legion turns into a hybrid type force.  It would be like Secopex training and providing logistics for the FFL, and offering the training facility to other private or government forces. Here is the quote:

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.
Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C.

So will R2 be opening it’s doors for training to the world, much like how BW operated in the US?   If true, I could see something like this becoming a multi-billion dollar project for Prince and company. Just because it would be located in the middle east and cater to all the OPEC nations.  That is a pretty wealthy neighborhood to cater too, and this will be one to watch in the coming years. Also, if anyone at R2 or Thor Global Enterprises would like to add anything to the discussion, please feel free to do so in the comments or contact me directly. When these two companies actually set up an online website, I will make the edits. At this time, I have not been able to find anything other than a listing at IDEX 2011. (hint–if you guys are having a hard time recruiting enough folks for the project, then at the least you should have a website and recruitment page) -Matt

Edit: I would also like to mention that Eeben Barlow has reacted severely to this article because of the reporter’s false and libellous statements about Executive Outcomes. EO did not ‘stage coups attempts’, and the New York Times should do the right thing and make an edit or publish a separate correction to the article. Hell, if the reporters below would have actually took the time to contact Eeben on his blog or read some of his posts, he has actually stopped coups in the past and has been vehemently opposed to them.

Edit: 05/20/2011 Finally the NYT’s makes a correction. Hopefully an apology is sent as well. Here it is:

NYT Corrections
Published: May 18, 2011
FRONT PAGE
An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Edit: 5/29/2011- Eeben has posted a reaction to the correction, and you can find that here.

Edit: 6/7/2011- Here is another correction that the NYT’s has had to make. Very interesting.

New York Times
June 7, 2011
Correction
An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the
United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder
of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit
troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a
contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to
the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

A satellite image of the camp in the United Arab Emirates built to train an 800-member military unit.

 

R2 Logo

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
By MARK MAZZETTI and EMILY B. HAGER
May 14, 2011
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.
The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

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Bahrain: Saudi Arabia Sends Soldiers To Defend Government In Bahrain, So What Will Iran Do?

 

Wow, this is some news that needs to be put out there.(obviously the disaster in Japan, and uprisings in Libya are taking up the stage right now)  My question here is if most of the protest base is Shia, will they now be justified and inclined to accept help from Iran? Especially since Saudi Arabia (which is mostly  Sunni) has decided it is within their best interest to send troops to Bahrain? I think so…

Or will Iran send advisors and lots of weapons, much like they do elsewhere in the Middle East? And of course, Iran’s little puppets in Iraq are firing up the Shia there, and joining in support of the protesters in Bahrain with their own protests in Iraq. Things are moving fast and this fire burning in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Middle East is in some very dry tinder. Especially if footage of Saudi troops shooting or beating protesters comes out–and I know Iran will be all over that. Interesting times. -Matt

Saudi soldiers sent into Bahrain

March 16, 2011

Hundreds of Saudi troops have entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities there amid escalating protests against the government.

Bahrain television on Monday broadcast images of troops in armoured cars entering the Gulf state via the 26km causeway that connects the kingdom to Saudi Arabia.

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