B-1B taking off, Central Command on X
The long-awaited Biden response to the Iranian proxy attack on the Tower 22 base camp in Jordan, which killed three Americans, has occurred. The suspenseful Biden delay in striking back was oddly reminiscent of the six months of shouting by the American Intelligence Community (IC) in advance of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. The megaphone cadence was relentless: Russia would invade, and Ukraine would fall quickly. Two years later, here we are.
The American IC got it right as far as the Russians invading. But did the relentless cadence in media, and statements by the IC stoke the invasion and conflict? The reason for IC output is to inform policy and action, but the Biden Team did little to deter or prevent the Russian invasion. They did offer to evacuate Zelensky shortly after the invasion began which came across as feckless and defeatist.
Base camp in al-Qaim Iraq after American response (AP)
Three Americans killed at Tower 22, Biden Team warns the enemy and then aggressively punches holes in the desert of empty basecamps
A British Broadcasting Corporation review of the delay seemed to laud the operational tarry, overflowing with warning and signaling to the Iranians and their proxies, as a high virtue. One excerpt cited an expert who said the delay limited the Iranian casualties which was a positive aspect. “The ultimate benefit, he said, would be ‘to avoid a direct war” between the US and Iran.’ “. In other words, the B-1 strike punched holes in the desert of empty base camps. The word salad is coming as an unrestrained fusillade from the Biden team, with the Secretary of Defense saying, “it’s time to further disable Iran-backed militias that have struck at U.S. forces and ships”. Normally the aim is to destroy enemy combatants not disable. But even lettuce thrown at high enough velocity can disable.
The artful wordsmithing and parsing are demonstrative of the Obama Biden tenet of high level lawfare and lecturing. This is what happens when the Office of General Counsel is running the conflict instead of trusted and dedicated warfighters carrying out a clear national objective. The Biden Team does not seem to understand that the target audience for their words are the American People, Strategic Partners, and most importantly, the enemies that have killed and maimed Americans. Instead, the Biden comments are coming across as extemporaneous thoughts by a Biden official at a think tank, lunch time seminar, a few minutes’ walk from the White House. What is forgotten is that even punching holes in an empty desert can put the lives of 100s of military and intelligence personnel at risk from operational accidents or enemy fire.
Phalanx Close In Weapons System (CIWS) firing from a U.S. Navy Ship (U.S. Navy Photo)
Meanwhile in the Red Sea: A perfect badminton record does not a national strategy make
Shortly after the initial desert hole punching exercise in Syria and Iraq, more strikes were aimed at the Houthis in Yemen. The Central Command (CENTCOM) X’s (formerly known as Tweets) have stopped numbering the counterstrikes that were designed to “degrade” not destroy the Houthis. So far, the incredible U.S. Navy has a perfect batting record in swatting down the various drones, cruise missiles, and anti-ship ballistic missiles thrown at the Coalition Naval vessels and merchant ships transiting the hot zone at the bottom of the Red Sea where it intersects with the Gulf of Aden.
Sooner or later though, a leaker missile may get through. The USS Gravely and its crew have performed heroically but had to resort to its CIWS (Close In Weapons System – a 20mm gatling gun) to destroy one very recent Houthi cruise missile that got through the outer layer defenses. CIWS are not perfect or all aspect, but it worked this time. Next time the aspect of the CIWS may not be pointing the right direction. The Houthis have allies with factions across the Red Sea in Sudan and also in Somalia, so a far more complicated crossfire may be developing.
Iranian Spy Ship Behshad and Chinese Spy Base in Djibouti (PIAT LLC)
Eliminate the Iranian and Chinese elements and attacks will dwindle
Two Iranian spy ships, the Saviz and the Behshad have been mingling in the combat zone of the Red Sea without hinderance so far. These ships are akin to Second World War, German Commerce Raiders in that they are extensions of the belligerent (Iran) and appear to be armed and enabling arms transfers. The Behshad is incredulously now tied up in Djibouti, right off the large Chinese base camp. Not far away is where the USS Puller, the floating American Special Operations base is normally seen. Perhaps the Biden Team finally has the Saviz and Behshad in their sights if the squawking of Iranian press announcements is an indicator.
The Chinese base camp in Djibouti is another problem. Along with the two Iranian ships, the Chinese base camp is likely feeding a large volume of raw intelligence to China and Iran which then processes into refined intelligence back to their sub-contractors in Syria, Iraq, the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gaza, Lebanon, Sudan, and around the world. If the Biden Team takes more firm action against Iran and China (which could mean impactful economic sanctions including food and energy or ejecting the Iranians and Chinese from Djibouti diplomatically), this world hot spot could settle down relatively quickly. Not every response option has to be a missile punching a hole in an empty desert.