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We are agreed that the FBI has a scurrilous history of entrapment and false flags.  We are agreed that is has gotten worse and that the accusations of the FBI fomenting Jan 6 are plausible.

That said, because our cause includes logic and integrity, we also need to acknowledge the validity of AMcC's criticism of Tucker's claim that unindicted co-conspirator means that they were FBI agents.  It just ain't so.

Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
« on: June 23, 2021, 11:49:43 AM »


CU’s El Betin Gunned Down in Street by Sicarios in Morelia, Michoacan
Monte Escobedo, Zacatecas: Cartel del Golfo Burns Captured Combatants
Reynosa, Tamaulipas: The Hunting of Innocent Civilians
Knights Templar Cartel joins CJNG to Form Michoacan New Mob Cartel
La Costa, Michoacan: CJNG Leaves Decapitated Heads and Message for El Abuelo (Graphic image Attached)
Chihuahua: Business Robbery, Crime With the Most Increase in Corral Administration
EXCLUSIVE: Los Zetas Cartel Builds Big Data Surveillance System on Mexican Border City
Mexican president vows to investigate deadly border shootings of innocent bystanders


Topic # 1:   CU’s El Betin Gunned Down in Street by Sicarios in Morelia, Michoacan




The Story:


El Betín was gunned down inside his car in the middle of the street on Sunday. El Betín is the brother of a Carteles Unidos plaza boss named El Seco in Apatzingán. El Betín also allegedly had financial ties to powerful Carteles Unidos leader Alberto Espinoza Barrón, "La Fresa" an infamous, high ranking former leader of La Familia Michoacana.


The Shooting


On the afternoon of Sunday, June 20 2021, a man known by the alias “El Betín” or “El Cocón” was driving in his purple Chevrolet Camaro on Periférico Paseo de la República street, in an area south of the city of Morelia, Michoacán. When El Betín reached the section of the street near the subdivision “Morelia 450” unknown assailants opened fire on him. No details are given about the appearance of the attackers nor if they were inside a vehicle at the time of the shooting. The vehicle and El Betín himself were riddled with bullets in the attack. The assailants then fled in an unknown direction. El Betín received serious gunshot injuries from the shooting. Witnesses to the attack called the emergency services line to report the incident. Paramedics were dispatched to the scene. El Betín was given basic first aid on site and rushed in an ambulance to a hospital however Betín succumbed to his injuries and died while he was being treated by doctors at the hospital.


Who is El Betín? How does he relate to Carteles Unidos?


Contra Muro reports that El Betín is the brother of Juan Manuel Montero Nambo, alias “El Seco”, who is alleged to be the Carteles Unidos plaza boss in charge of the town of Santiago de Acahuato, in Apatzingán municipality. El Betín has also allegedly been financially linked to Alberto Espinoza Barrón, alias “La Fresa” or 'The Strawberry'. La Fresa is a former lieutenant of the La Familia Michoacana. He is currently believed to be a major leadership figure within Carteles Unidos. Back in the 2000s-2010s, La Fresa is believed to have taken over the Morelia plaza after the death of “El Güero”. La Fresa was believed to be a financial advisor and right arm of Dionisio Loya Plancarte, alias "El Tío" and Nazario Moreno González alias "El Chayo", the leaders of La Familia Michoacana at the time.

La Fresa was arrested in December 2008 and was believed to be succeeded by Rafael Cedeño Hernández alias “El Cede” after Fresa’s arrest. El Cede was later famously arrested in 2009 while attending a baptism party for a baby born to a cartel member. With La Fresa having all these historic ties to the criminal underworld of Michoacán, Fresa is a very interesting character for El Betín to allegedly have direct financial ties to.


Who is his brother, El Seco?


Juan Manuel Montero Nambo, alias “El Seco” a native of the town of Acahuato, municipality of Apatzingán, Michoacán. He first came to the attention of the public in 2014 when an avocado farmer from Tancítaro came forward to authorities and revealed that two years prior, in November 2012, El Seco had kidnapped him and held him for ransom. The avocado farmer was only released by El Seco and his men because the farmer had promised he would sell some property he owned in order to afford the large ransom they were demanding. After his captors released him, the farmer made good on his promise, sold the property and delivered the money to appease El Seco. The farmer did not report the incident to police at the time because he was afraid of reprisals against his family.   

Juan Manuel Montero Nambo, alias “El Seco”


The farmer had chosen to come forward in 2014 because El Seco was believed to have fled the state and believed to be in hiding so he was unable to hurt the farmer’s family in retribution. When the Michoacán State Attorney General’s Office received this report from the avocado farmer, they began investigating the current whereabouts of El Seco.  They were able to locate him in the town of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, in the state of Jalisco. According to Vallarta Uno,  El Seco had been hiding out in Jalisco for the last 8 months because “he was hiding from another subject with whom he had problems in his state [Michoacán]”. El Seco was arrested by authorities and presented before a judge on charges related to the homicide of six people and the kidnapping of seven others.  In addition to the November 2012 avocado farmer kidnapping, El Seco is believed to be involved in the kidnapping and ransom of two women in Tancítaro, also in November 2012. One of the kidnapped women was released, presumably after payment was received while the other woman was later found dead.

El Seco after being apprehended by the PGR in 2014


El Seco is believed to be involved in the August 2013 kidnapping and subsequent murder of five people in Tancítaro. Only 3 remains of the five kidnapped were ever recovered. Those three remains were located in September, a month after they were kidnapped, in the Tepalcatepec river. El Seco is also suspected in the November 2014 kidnapping of 4 farmers in the city of Apatzingán. Those four farmers are still missing to this day, their whereabouts unknown.

El Seco after being apprehended by the PGR in 2014


Who was behind the hit on El Betín?


The cartel affiliation of the assailants who killed El Betín is currently unknown. There are no confirmed reports on who was behind the attack. It should be noted that Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) has previously threatened El Betín’s brother El Seco on social media. The CJNG is widely considered to be Carteles Unidos’s primary rival in the state of Michoacán. According to Letra Roja, in May 2021 the CJNG publicly named and threatened members of the Michoacán Police who they allege are working for El Seco and fellow Carteles Unidos member, El Tukan.




Topic # 2:  Monte Escobedo, Zacatecas: Cartel del Golfo Burns Captured Combatants




A new video from the Mexican underworld has just surfaced online. For this broadcast hitmen from the Gulf Cartel (CDG), in alliance with the Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) are disposing of their adversaries with fire in an open field. An ominous message for the enemy is being spoken. While an enforcer is pouring a flammable liquid from a one gallon container onto a tight firewood stack. Beneath the mound of wood lies an injured Grupo Flechas combatant. Before their communique concludes the horrific screams of the immolated individual can be heard in the background.


Video translation is as follows:


Sicario #1: This will be the fate of everyone who wants to help out the Sinaloa enforcers. For those of you wanting to do a favor for the Sinaloa Cartel. As it is you owe us for that loss we took in Tepetongo. Little by little we are going to turn things around in our favor. I’m telling you this ahead of time so that you don’t find yourselves in disbelief afterwards. So you all know how Commander Fantasma takes care of things.


Sicario #2: Pay attention gentlemen. This is how the Sinaloa gunmen are being burned away. Because you guys are assholes and pieces of shit. You still owe us for that loss we had in Tepetongo. We are the absolute mob of Mr. Fantasma. This is an operation for Mr. Fantasma you fucks. The fucking towns of Monte Escobedo and Tepetongo belong to us.




Topic # 3:  Reynosa, Tamaulipas: The Hunting of Innocent Civilians




The Story:


Last Saturday, the city of Reynosa was again a ghost town of desolate avenues and closed shops. Messages circulating on WhatsApp asking people not to leave their homes and alert their families that the nightmare had begun again. That day a caravan formed by trucks and sedan cars arrived in Reynosa from Río Bravo. Those who were part of the convoy toured four colonies in the east - Almaguer, Lampacitos, Unidad Obrera and Bienestar - shooting at the people they were encountering in their path. Construction workers, workers repairing the sewer, a young newly graduated nurse, an elderly person who walked under the burning sun (and who was shot in the throat), the owner of a grocery store and a customer who was shopping at the time he passed the hitmen's armed criminal cell. In total, 14 people whose lives were cut up on the chopping block at the whim of the murderers. The citizens of Reynosa have learned to live between shootings that are recorded almost every day, at any time. It is common for citizens to check their social networks before leaving home or work, in order to avoid war zones: roads in which persecutions are recorded, or vehicles are burned.


It’s not strange that civilians lose their lives by being caught in the crossfire of the groups that dispute control of that border city. But nothing like this had ever happened. The hunt for innocent people, without a criminal record or any relationship with organized crime. "Unpublished, unprecedented," said Attorney Irving Barrios. In April 2017, a former bodyguard who had become leader of the Gulf Cartel, Julián Manuel Loisa Salinas, El Comandante Toro, was killed by the Navy. Loisa was fleeing for the sixth time from an operation designed to stop him. On that occasion he couldn't escape. The truck in which he was fleeing crashed into a tree: he descended opening fire on the sailors. He was riddled on the spot. His death unleashed two days of chaos and extreme violence in Reynosa. His men burned shops, cars, buses, cargo trucks. There were 32 blockades in the city. The Gulf Cartel itself circulated audios ordering people not to leave their homes. There were versions that a group of Cyclones - one of the factions of the cartel - had been sent from Matamoros to take over the city, one of the main drug and migrant crossings: a kidnapping gold mine, "protection fee", hydrocarbon theft and extortion.


The command was assumed by Jesús García, El Güero Jessi. But other cartel leaders opposed: Alberto Salinas, El Betillo; Petronilo Flores, aka El Metro 100 or El Comandante Panilo; Lui Alberto Blanco, El Pelochas, as well as Juan Miguel Lizardi, nicknamed Miguelito 56. Between April and July of that year, 90 executions were recorded in Reynosa. There was talk of a hundred disappearances. Clashes between Los Metros (fraction of the CDG whose stronghold is Reynosa), Los Ciclones (armed wing created by Alfredo Cárdenas Martínez, El Contador) and Los Escorpiones (fraction created by Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, aka Tony Tormenta, and composed of ex-police officers) intensified. The internal struggle ended in a bloodbath that plunged Reynosa into darkness. El Betillo and El Güero Jessi were killed. El Pelochas and El Metro 100, arrested. His successors continued to be engaged in a struggle that has made Reynosa one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico - and with the greatest perception of insecurity.


In 2019, 140 inhabitants of Charco Escondido, just 20 kilometers from Reynosa, left their homes: the hitmen had entered the community to burn several homes: seven people from the same family were killed days later. In the middle of all that fire, the Northeast Cartel was also introduced into the area, commanded by a nephew of the bloodthirsty Z-40, former leader of the Zetas: Juan Gerardo Treviño, known as El Huevo. For years, the bodies of executed people have appeared on rural roads, as happened in May 2021 when six men in tactical vests were found with gunshots in the head, or as happened in August last year, when the heads of three "bodyguards" of Commander Maestrín (a lieutenant of Miguelito 56) appeared.


For years, blockades have been a daily thing, as happened last March, when Mayor Maki Ortiz could not reach the celebration for the 272 years of the foundation of the city because criminals had crossed vehicles and placed caltrops on various avenues. For years, in one of the main manufacturing and cross-border trade centers, classes have been suspended, shops close, people have equipped themselves in their homes: the streets become a cemetery. And yet, nothing similar to what happened this Saturday had never happened: hitmen hunting people in the streets: murderers who go through four colonies killing at random, without anything happening: without being persecuted, arrested, judged. The massacres are repeated. Violence in Mexico is out of control and the State is increasingly incapable of guaranteeing the security of citizens.




Topic # 4: Knights Templar Cartel joins CJNG to Form Michoacan New Mob Cartel






The Knights Templar Cartel has separated from the United Cartels (CU) and joined forces with the Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) and now call themselves the Cártel Gente Nueva de Michoacán (Michoacán New Mob Cartel). The possible rupture between the Knights Templar and United Cartels came after the murder of a well-known owner of a steakhouse in the town of Coalcoman, who had alleged links with the criminal organization. It is believed that the hitmen behind the attack were from Cárteles Unidos, who in addition to murdering the owner Margarito Gálvez, also set fire to the restaurant with the victim inside. A crime that caused indignation because residents claimed that the man was honest and had no criminal activity, a fact that contrasts with the version of the reason for the rupture between the Michoacán cartels. The owner of the restaurant gained notoriety in 2019, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) ate at the restaurant during a visit to the state of Michoacán along with two other members of his cabinet.


The Knights Templar Cartel


The Knights Templar Cartel emerged in the state of Michoacán as an ally of the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS). And publicly announced its appearance in March 2011, originally it would replace the La Familia Michoacana (LFM) but over the years both groups followed each other in their own way. The original leaders of the Knights Templar were Enrique Plancarte aka El Kike Plancarte, Servando Gómez Martínez, aka La Tuta and José Antonio González aka El Pepe, who after the alleged death of the leader of the Michoacana Family, Nazario Moreno González aka El Chayo, the Madest Male and the Craziest One, in December 2010. Following after the break with Jesús Méndez Vargas, tried to take over the social base that The Michoacana Family captured in its beginnings. But most of its founders have been killed or arrested, which turned The Knights Templar into a very small cartel with a discreet presence which led it to be part of United Cartels to confront the CJNG. Unidos is an alliance of several small criminal groups such as Los Viagras and La Familia Michoacana, as well as some self-defense groups that have allegedly received support from the Sinaloa Cartel to combat the CJNG's attempts to take control of key coastal areas used to bring drugs to Mexico, as well as production territories in the mountains.




Topic # 5:  La Costa, Michoacan: CJNG Leaves Decapitated Heads and Message for El Abuelo






The Cartel Jalisco New Generation released online a narco message directed at Juan Jose Farías Álvarez aka El Abuelo Farías. Their notice also included the heads of two decapitated males in a styrofoam cooler. The ascending CJNG is looking to assassinate him. El Abuelo is a controversial figure in Mexico. He’s been linked to the self-defense groups and the world of drug trafficking. In the city of Tepalcatepec he is received with praise and cheers by the townspeople. El Abuelo is a celebrity for some but for the Michoacán government El Abuelo is a criminal. Currently he’s the leader of the Tepalcatepec Cartel.


Narco message reads as follows:


This will be the fate of everyone who supports El Abuelo, El Torró, El Teto. Along with you Chopo Panzón, you’re next bitch. Jackass, jackass, jackass. Sincerely, CJNG




Topic # 6:  Chihuahua: Business Robbery, Crime With the Most Increase in Corral Administration





The Story:


According to data from the Trust for Competitiveness and Citizen Security (Ficosec), during the administration of Governor Javier Corral Jurado the crime that increased the most was that of robbery without violence, while in the rest of crimes the variation is not very significant. “The truth is that the statistical behavior comparing the last three state administrations is very similar; There is not much to analyze, because it varies in some crimes, well, there are some that have gone down in this administration, but there are others that have gone up ”, explained Arturo Luján Olivas, director of the Ficosec Foundation. Regarding the investigation folders for business robbery without violence, the director of the association points out that in the administration from 2010 to 2016, a total of 7,805 folders were found, while the current administration, which ends in September, has registered 9,046, which corresponds to an increase of 27.6%. This is by comparing the first 55 months of each administration, to make a fair comparison, since it should be remembered that this last period of government has been shorter than the previous ones.


Regarding intentional homicide, it only increased 1% compared to the previous administration, since from 8,894 folders during the period of César Duarte, the figure increased to 8,990 in the Corral government. “Those 100 folders are a very small variation; but in what corresponds to victims there is a significant decrease, since in the previous administration there were 11,291 victims, while this administration has registered 10,198 deaths ”. The highest peak in this crime was registered in August 2020, with 247 folders, which compared to the most complicated month of the previous administration, which was January 2011, with 311 folders, shows a decrease of 20.5%. "Yes there is an important change, but we must also take into account that the figures are sometimes highlighted in folders and sometimes the victims must be highlighted, as a folder can have more than one victim." However, historically the month of January 2011 is not the highest, since in the Reyes Baeza administration, which was from 2004 to 2010, August 2010 had a total of 406 research folders; 39.1% more than the most violent month of the last administration.


“The rest of the crimes that we monitor, which is the robbery of a house with and without violence; business robbery with violence, vehicle robbery in its two forms, kidnapping and extortion, the numbers decreased; that means we can talk about an improvement.” As for the crime that decreased the most in the last 55 weeks, it is theft of a vehicle with violence, it has a decrease, in the comparison of administrations, of more than 82% in the investigation folders, while theft without violence also decreased up to 60% statewide. “Of course the decline is a good thing, although we will never be satisfied with the numbers around public safety; it would be wrong for us to affirm satisfaction with the numbers, but we are able to recognize that in hard data there is improvement in some crimes ”. Therefore, the head of the Ficosec Foundation points out that the crime trend has been downward, despite the fact that there are erratic months in terms of crime, however crime levels are still above the national average.


“In the last 12 months, which correspond from June 2020 to May 2021, the mobile homicide rate is 6.6 victims per 100,000 inhabitants; while the municipalities of Chihuahua bring a rate of 44 victims and Ciudad Juárez of 102 per 100 thousand inhabitants ”. Likewise, he pointed out that 45 of the 67 municipalities in the state are above the national average in terms of homicides; taking into account that there are municipalities where the rate must be for every 10,000 inhabitants, because the population is smaller. "It is not the same to speak of 20 homicides in Ciudad Juárez, to speak of 20 homicides in Cuauhtémoc, in Uruachi or any of the towns that are located in the mountainous area, which do not even reach 100,000 inhabitants."




Topic # 7:  EXCLUSIVE: Los Zetas Cartel Builds Big Data Surveillance System on Mexican Border City






Los Zetas Cartel checkpoints in the border city of Nuevo Laredo are linked to more than 100 forced disappearances–including the recent kidnapping of three U.S. citizens. The checkpoints exist with complete impunity and are part of a complex strategy to give the criminal organization more control by harvesting the data of those stopped at the roadblocks. Breitbart Texas consulted with U.S. law enforcement agents in Mexico who are working the case of a missing Texas family from earlier this month as they were traveling from a town in Nuevo Leon to the border city of  Nuevo Laredo. 39-year-old Gladys Cristina Perez Sanchez traveled with her 16-year-old son, Juan Carlos Gonzales, and her 9-year-old daughter, Cristina Duran, when they went missing. The current theory is the family encountered a cartel checkpoint. In 2021, authorities have documented close to 100 similar cases in and around Nuevo Laredo–prime Los Zetas turf.


Authorities from both sides of the border shared with Breitbart Texas exclusive information about a complex intelligence apparatus used by the Cartel Del Noreste faction of Los Zetas to exert complete control of their territories. The region is under the cartel command of Juan Gerardo “El Huevo” Trevino Chavez. The cartel operation uses lookouts and informants placed in strategic turf locations. Those individuals call in suspicious vehicles or persons who then intercepted. The gunmen interrogate the disappeared about their identities, where they are traveling, and why. The gunmen also order motorists to unlock their cell phones and check their social media. The cartel operators reportedly can quickly clone a phone they deem suspicious for deeper data mining. The information is relayed to a central network of radio, phone, and database operators, similar to a 911 call center. Authorities share grave concern about how CDN-Los Zetas has created a database which mimics government ones loaded with property records, license information, and other contents.




Topic # 8:  Mexican president vows to investigate deadly border shootings of innocent bystanders




The Story:


CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico’s president vowed to investigate the border shootings that left 19 people dead over the weekend, even as the latest homicide figures showed a rebound in killings nationwide. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said evidence indicated that 15 of the victims were innocent bystanders. The other four dead were suspected gunmen from a group that drove into the northern border city of Reynosa and opened fire indiscriminately. “Everything indicates that it was not a confrontation, but rather a commando that shot people who were not involved in any conflict,” López Obrador said. The government of Tamaulipas state, where Reynosa is located, said in a statement there was evidence the killings involved “organized crime,” which in Mexico is generally used to refer to drug cartels. Cartels in the Reynosa area have become increasingly involved in migrant trafficking or charging protection fees to migrant traffickers. Raymundo Ramos, who leads one of the state’s most active human rights groups, said he believed the killings were related to the June 6 elections that chose new mayors for Reynosa and most other Mexican cities and towns.


“This is clearly an act of post-electoral terror directed at the people of Reynosa, and probably a warning for the rest of the townships in Tamaulipas,” wrote Ramos. Drug gangs in Mexico rely heavily on intimidating or coopting local governments to extort money or gain protection from municipal police. Reynosa is located across the border from McAllen, Texas, and has been the scene of fighting between factions of the Gulf cartel. But those disputes usually target rival gunmen or security forces. The dead in the Saturday attack included taxi drivers, workers and a nursing student. On Monday, federal prosecutors said they were taking over the case, in which one suspect has been arrested. The Attorney General’s Office said the attack was “the result of territorial disputes between gangs from Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas and the cartels that operate in Reynosa.” Rio Bravo is located just to the east of Reynosa. Authorities are still investigating the motive, though in the past, drug cartels have sometimes used random killings of civilians to turn up the heat on rival gangs, or intimidate local authorities.


López Obrador pledged “a thorough investigation.” María Elena Morera, director of the civic anti-crime group Common Cause, said many people have become inured to such violence. “Mexicans have become accustomed to all these atrocities, without there being any real reaction,” Morera said. “In the face of so much violence, people prefer not to let the pain in, and turn away.” The killings Saturday in Reynosa, and the latest nationwide homicide figures, suggest that López Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” crime strategy is doing little to decrease killings. There were 2,963 homicides in May, the latest month for which figures are available, higher than May 2020 and well above the numbers that prevailed when López Obrador took office in December 2018. The government says homicides declined 2.9% in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020, but that may be because January and February of this year were marked by Mexico’s worst coronavirus wave, when public activities were curtailed. “This is nothing,” Morera said of the drop. “It is as if you keep a patient in a coma and then say he’s doing very well.”


Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca called the Reynosa victims “innocent citizens,” and said “Criminal organizations must receive a clear, explicit and forceful signal from the Federal Government that there will be no room for impunity, nor tolerance for their reprehensible criminal behavior.” García Cabeza de Vaca belongs to the rival National Action Party and is himself being investigated by the federal prosecutor’s office for organized crime and money laundering – accusations he says are part of plan by López Obrador’s government to attack him for being an opponent. Local businessman Misael Chavarria Garza said many businesses closed early Saturday after the attacks and people were very scared as helicopters flew overhead. On Sunday, he said “the people were quiet as if nothing had happened, but with a feeling of anger because now crime has happened to innocent people.” The attacks sparked a deployment of the military, National Guard and state police across the city.


The area’s criminal activity has long been dominated by the Gulf cartel and there have been fractures within that group. Experts say there has been an internal struggle within the group since 2017 to control key territories for drug and human trafficking. Apparently, one cell from a nearby town may have entered Reynosa to carry out the attacks. López Obrador has sought to avoid confrontations with drug cartels, at one point releasing a top trafficker to avoid bloodshed. He prefers to focus on addressing underlying social problems like youth unemployment. Earlier this month, López Obrador praised the drug cartels for not disrupting the June 6 mid-term voting, even though three dozen candidates were killed during the campaigns. “People who belong to organized crime behaved very well, in general, there were few acts of violence by these groups,” the president said. “I think the white-collar criminals acted worse.”



Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
« on: June 23, 2021, 11:47:07 AM »
June 23, 2021
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US-Mexico Border Security: A Modern Version of an Old Problem
It’s a geopolitical problem that often gets painted in political colors.
By: Allison Fedirka

U.S.-Mexico defense and security cooperation is a geopolitical conundrum. Geography dictates that the two countries must work together to address security concerns across their extensive shared border, among other issues. However, a host of constraints – many of which are permanent or endemic – surround this relationship. Such constraints limit the space in which cooperation can take place and the possibility for mutually acceptable solutions.

The United States and Mexico share one of the longest continuous and dynamic land borders in the world. There are 50 official crossings along the 1,900 miles of border between them. Before the pandemic, approximately $1 billion worth of trade crossed the border every day, with advanced manufactured goods often crossing back and forth multiple times. This movement of goods is vital for both countries’ economies. Mexican exports to the U.S. represent approximately 31 percent of its gross domestic product, and the four U.S. states that border Mexico (and rely heavily on migrant labor) account for 25 percent of U.S. GDP.

Commerce at the border is possible so long as the border is secure and stable. But more than that, a tranquil border – something that has generally existed since the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 – was a geopolitical prerequisite for Washington to project power abroad. In other words, the absence of a major threat from the south freed up policymakers to allocate resources toward supporting and executing their foreign policy ambitions. (So important is border security that in World War I, Germany tried but failed to sow conflict between the U.S. and Mexico in hopes of bogging down the U.S. Army in North America.)

Rightly or wrongly, U.S.-Mexico border security tends to get lumped in with domestic politics – such that it obscures the real reasons border tensions are so difficult to resolve. The issue du jour, of course, is immigration, specifically Central American immigration via Mexico. (This issue predates the pandemic, but the associated economic and social deterioration of COVID-19 made it worse.) There is a consensus among the U.S., Mexico and Central American countries that the migration flows should be addressed, as should the underlying causes of migration. There is no consensus on how to do it. No country wants to assume the bulk of the responsibility for a solution where others have a say. The solution each country brings to the negotiating table often reflects the political necessities of the moment, painting a fundamentally geopolitical problem in political colors.

The underlying constraints that limit the intensity and the potential of U.S. and Mexican cooperation are a byproduct of a historical rivalry. The United States didn’t always dominate North America; it had to compete with Mexico for territory and foreign allies, especially in both of their early years.

They even fought a war with each other, after which Mexico lost large swaths of territory to the U.S. Equally scarring but often forgotten up north are the memories formed by a U.S. military invasion that ventured not only into the borderlands but into what is present-day Mexico City.

Subsequent U.S. interventions and invasions of Mexican territory reinforced Mexico’s sensitivity to and distrust of U.S. security forces. During the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Mexico was so unstable that the U.S., compelled as it was to stem any spillover into its territory, sought to block incoming weapons to Mexico that could add to the violence, including by occupying the port of Veracruz.

Then there was U.S. involvement in the Punitive Expedition of 1916-17. One of the leading figures vying for political power during the revolution was Pancho Villa, who actively tried to draw the U.S. into the conflict as a way to undermine Mexican state forces. After he attacked U.S. citizens and raided border towns, the U.S. Army sent as many as 12,000 soldiers into Mexico to search for Villa. And though the U.S. would withdraw them as WWI commanded more and more attention, the seeds of distrust in Mexico had been planted.

However unlikely an invasion from the north may be, the fear of subjugation is a defining feature of Mexico City’s border security strategy. Mexico is obviously not strong enough to unilaterally take on the U.S. alone, so its current strategy revolves around keeping U.S. security forces at as much distance as possible. But since security cooperation is in both of their interests, they have had to engage in a variety of ways to keep the border safe. Perhaps the most notable of which was the 2008 Merida Initiative, which established a cooperation framework between the U.S. and Mexico for combating transnational crime, drug trafficking and money laundering primarily through U.S. support to the judiciary. But even then, there are parameters in place to limit the physical presence of U.S. security officials in Mexico and to regulate how shared information is exercised and used. More recently, the Mexican government went further and passed legislation that restricts the operational tasks U.S. security and intelligence agents can engage in.

Geography also makes it difficult for Mexican security forces to cooperate with outside countries. Mountainous and desert terrain split Mexico into states that, during colonial times and early independence, were extremely isolated from the central government and needed to rely on their own resources and systems for governance and security. Over time, this contributed to power vacuums that have often been filled by criminal groups. Crises such as pandemics make it all the more difficult for the central government to reassert control.

The U.S. understands all these limitations, which is why the immigration issue remains so intractable. It’s also why the U.S. has begun to reengage with Central American countries more directly. Mexico will always be part of the equation, but there is only so much it can do given its financial constraints and its general (and understandable) aversion to U.S. security presence. It’s a contemporary version of a historical problem, one that calls into the question the very concept of national sovereignty.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Intel agencies flinching
« on: June 23, 2021, 10:10:52 AM »
Head of U.S. Intelligence: We May Never Know COVID-19’s Origin

On the menu today: Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, ominously declares in an interview that the U.S. intelligence community is no closer to determining how the COVID-19 pandemic began, and may never know with certainty; the need to end the crisis mentality on evictions; and Vice President Kamala Harris apparently thinks she’s “winning” something by refusing to spend a day visiting the border.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence: Hey, We May Never Know the Origin of COVID-19

Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, did a surprisingly extensive interview with Yahoo News, and said quite a bit about the ongoing U.S.-intelligence review of information relating to the origin of COVID-19. Almost nothing she said was particularly encouraging — starting with her declaration that “nearly a month into the review, it appears that the intelligence community is no closer to settling on one explanation of how the deadly virus originated”:

Asked if it’s possible the intelligence community will never have “high confidence” or a smoking gun on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haines responded, “Yes, absolutely.” Haines, who studied physics at the University of Chicago, held out the possibility of a eureka moment but refused to predict a breakthrough. “We’re hoping to find a smoking gun,” she said, but “it’s challenging to do that,” adding that “it might happen, but it might not.”

Haines said she has been closely overseeing the review, which involves dozens of analysts and intelligence officials, and has immersed herself in the details. She is regularly briefed by analysts who represent the rival theories, which may explain her caution about predicting a breakthrough. “I don’t know between these two plausible theories which one is the right answer,” she said in the interview. “But I’ve listened to the analysts, and I really see why it is that they perceive these two theories as being in contest with each other and why it’s very challenging for them to assess one over the other.”

If, after a 90-day review, specifically in response to a directive from the president, the U.S. intelligence community’s answer is, “Well, we just don’t know how this pandemic started,” it will be not just a colossal disappointment; it will also set off a million conspiracy theories about coverups.

The U.S. intelligence community has access to all kinds of information that we mere laymen don’t — signals intercepts of every kind from the NSA, satellite photos and footage, information from allied intelligence services such as the “Five Eyes,” and who knows, hopefully at least one human source in the Chinese government. There’s that rumor of a high-level defector, although some unnamed U.S. official told the Daily Beast that’s not true — but governments aren’t usually eager to confirm rumors of major-league defections. (If that denial is accurate, that raises the question of just where Dong Jingwei, vice minister of the Ministry of State Security, currently is.) At minimum, the U.S. intelligence community should be able to determine if anyone of significance within the Chinese government secretly feared or believed that the pandemic was indeed the result of a lab leak. Between the early lying, the delayed release of key information to the WHO, the taking down of previously accessible databases of virus information, the refusal to allow a WHO team to visit for a year, the refusal to turn over raw data on the first COVID-19 patients, and the suppression of academic research into the virus’s origin, Lord knows the Chinese government has been acting like it’s guilty from the start. And then there’s this simple fact, laid out in Katherine Eban’s piece in Vanity Fair:

Dr. Richard Ebright, board of governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, said that from the very first reports of a novel bat-related coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, it took him “a nanosecond or a picosecond” to consider a link to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Only two other labs in the world, in Galveston, Texas, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were doing similar research. “It’s not a dozen cities,” he said. “It’s three places.”

There was one comment from Haines in that interview with Yahoo that seemed a little curious:

Haines even posited a third, hybrid theory for the virus’s origin. “It could be, for example, a scenario in which a scientist comes into contact with an animal that they’re sampling from” and contracts the virus in that way.

A scientist contracting the virus while collecting a sample is not morally or ethically all that different from a lab leak. (That particular scenario doesn’t seem all that unlikely, considering the fun-and-games images of bats hanging off the hats of the researchers with exposed skin collecting the samples, and Tian Junhua’s description of the time he “forgot to take protective measures. Bat urine dripped on him like raindrops” and self-quarantined for two weeks.) In either case, an effort at virus research that the institutions publicly insisted was safe was not safe and set off the worst pandemic in modern history. The only mitigating factor would be that no gain-of-function research was involved.

There is no bigger question facing the world right now than how this awful pandemic got started. Sure, thanks to vaccinations, the pandemic’s effect on American life is getting smaller each day. But this progress comes after more than 617,000 Americans succumbed to the virus, at least $16 trillion in economic losses, a lost year of schooling for almost all of America’s kids, the health effects of the “long-haulers,” and a million other disruptions and tribulations in the lives of ordinary people, all around the globe. We’re almost at 3.9 million deaths worldwide, and have more than 179 million cases worldwide. There’s also a good chance that all of these official figures underestimate the true toll in lives lost.

No one wants to go through this again, which means we have to know how it started. A “We just can’t figure it out” from the part of the U.S. government that is specifically assigned to protect us and and find out what other countries are hiding isn’t going to cut it.

By the way, even if this pandemic turns out to be proven to be the result of a lab leak, the risk of human beings catching a new virus from some animal is still a real and persistent risk, and animal smuggling and wet markets represent a significant continuing danger. (Yulin, China, hosted its annual Dog Meat Festival again this year. Dog lovers, you’re not going to want to click on that link.) The global scale of the illicit collection and trafficking of wild animals and their carcasses is jaw-dropping. Also, depending upon whom you ask, anywhere from 200,000 to 2.7 million pangolins are poached each year.

There are a lot of people who would prefer “We’ll never know” to “Yes, at least 4 million people worldwide are dead because of negligence and recklessness in the top virology lab in China.” Because if it’s that latter scenario, then the rest of us will have to do something about it, and the free nations of the world are already drifting into a new cold war with China, even without confirmation of our worst suspicions. Xi Jinping has been preparing for this conflict his entire life; the Chinese Communist Party has been researching, developing, and experimenting with new methods to maximize its leverage over other countries for decades.

It is not overstating it to declare that the upcoming intelligence-community report on the origins of COVID-19 may be the most consequential assessment of the U.S. government since George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” in 1946, recognizing the threat of international Communism and more or less inventing the concept of “containment.”

These are genuinely interesting but unfortunately they do not engage with the points made by AMcC about the legal meanings to unindicted co-conspirators.

Politics & Religion / Caucuses
« on: June 22, 2021, 06:09:25 PM »
June 22, 2021
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Brief: Crime Surge in the North Caucasus
The region was already one of Russia's least stable.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Background: The North Caucasus region, with its low level of socio-economic development and separatist undercurrents, is one of Russia’s most unstable. It’s also Russia’s gateway to the South Caucasus and the Middle East – or, alternatively, a path for Russia’s enemies into the Russian heartland. It’s therefore important for Moscow not only to control the region, but also to maintain a semblance of security.

What Happened: Two North Caucasian republics, Chechnya and Ingushetia, saw massive increases in registered crimes in the first five months of 2021. In Chechnya, crime rose by 41.2 percent, and in Ingushetia it jumped 27.5 percent. The top 10 includes other North Caucasus regions like Dagestan and North Ossetia. Earlier this month, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin admitted that public programs intended to develop the North Caucasus had failed.

Chechnya & Ingushetia
(click to enlarge)

Bottom Line: The Kremlin is focusing more on the North Caucasus, particularly ahead of legislative elections in September. The spike in crime and poor performance of development measures could push the Kremlin to overhaul its plans and create a new strategy to firm up its grip on the region.

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Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law; the Deep State
« on: June 22, 2021, 12:12:12 PM »
From Don't Ask, Don't Tell


We are telling you to watch the show and tell.

China Clobbers Crypto

Bitcoin has lost more than half its value since April, due in large part to a move by Chinese authorities to regulate crypto markets:

The original cryptocurrency has lost more than 50% from its mid-April high of almost $65,000, leaving it up marginally for the year. That compares with a 12% gain for the S&P 500 since the end of December. The coin started 2021 trading around $29,000 following a fourfold increase in 2020.

Chart-watchers said Bitcoin, which failed to retake $40,000 last week, could have a tough time finding support in the $20,000 range following its drop below $30,000. Still, Bitcoin had prior to Tuesday breached $30,000 during at least five separate instances this year but recuperated to trade above that level each time.


Representatives from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and payment service provider Alipay were reminded of rules that prohibit Chinese banks from engaging in crypto-related transactions, according to a statement from the central bank on Monday.

The latest development is a sign that China will do whatever it takes to close any loopholes left in crypto trading. In May, China’s State Council – the country’s cabinet – called for a renewed crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading activities. . . . Crypto activities “disrupt financial order and also breed risks of criminal activities like illegal cross-border asset transfers and money laundering,” according to the statement from China’s central bank.

China has been more zealous in cracking down on crypto than many market watchers expected: While it started with a ban on Bitcoin mining, the regulatory push has expanded to include trading and holding of cryptocurrencies. Because an estimated 65 percent of global Bitcoin mining is done in China, this push has had a significant effect on the processing power devoted to Bitcoin, and therefore on the functioning of Bitcoin markets.

While China has hinted at regulation in the past without following through, it seems this time is different

Politics & Religion / GPF: Turkey and Germany's Grey Wolves
« on: June 22, 2021, 10:07:21 AM »
The original post in this thread is not without prescience:

Land Mines for U.S. Abound in the Caucuses
Azerbaijan is rich with diplomatic possibilities; Armenia complicates matters.

By Walter Russell Mead
June 21, 2021

Azerbaijan released 15 Armenian prisoners of war on Saturday in exchange for the locations of 97,000 Armenian land mines on territory Azerbaijan recaptured in last fall’s Nagorno-Karabakh war. That was a welcome sign that American diplomacy in the Caucasus is alive and well. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s victory in snap elections Monday suggests that the window for diplomacy remains open. But the State Department will have to step carefully. There are plenty of geopolitical land mines left, and U.S. diplomats—who helped arrange the exchange agreement—could set off career-ending explosions if they make a false move.

The Caucasus is one of those complicated faraway but strategically vital regions that Americans often overlook. It’s the only exit oil and gas can take from Central Asia to the West without passing through Russian or Iranian territory. Since the former Soviet republics of the southern Caucasus declared their independence in 1990, there have been numerous conflicts in Georgia, two in Russia’s restive Chechen region, and two between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is largely populated by ethnic Armenians but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Caucasian conflicts can have an outsize impact on world order. In 1999 the second Chechen war helped Vladimir Putin assume firm control of the Russian Federation. His 2008 invasion of Georgia marked the beginning of a Russian challenge to the post-Cold War international order. The recent Nagorno-Karabakh war, in which Azerbaijani forces equipped with Turkish and Israeli drones imposed a stinging setback on Armenia’s Russian-supplied army, also marks a shift in world politics as high-tech drone warfare becomes a factor in small-power conflicts.

The problem for U.S. political types engaged in Caucasus policy is that American values and American interests can pull Washington in different directions. U.S. connections with Armenia are strong and deep. American missionaries and educators were closely involved with Armenian communities across the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, and some of the most searing and heart-rending accounts of the Armenian genocide come from American missionaries who saw friends and colleagues slaughtered in 1915.

The large Armenian diaspora community in the U.S. keeps the memory alive, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenian-Americans have actively assisted and advocated for their struggling homeland. Practically speaking, Washington cannot conduct a Caucasus policy that ignores the concerns of Armenian-Americans and their Christian allies.

At the same time, Azerbaijan is too important to ignore. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline carries a million barrels of oil a day to Europe and Israel. With last January’s agreement between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on the joint exploitation of the Dostluq oil-and-gas field in the Caspian, the pipeline’s supply and importance has grown. Azerbaijan is also the only country that borders both Russia and Iran, and a predominantly Shiite country that enjoys close and cordial relations with Israel. The majority of ethnic Azeris live in modern Iran, and the close cultural and economic ties between Iranian and Azerbaijani Azeris are of critical importance for Western powers seeking information about Iran’s nuclear program and other sensitive topics.

Azerbaijani officials speak openly of their desire for closer relations with the West. Armenia meanwhile enjoys friendly back-and-forths with both Moscow and Tehran. During the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Russian supplies for Armenia were shipped through Iran—setting off demonstrations by Iranian Azeris that alarmed authorities in Tehran. Since the conflict last fall, the Kremlin has tightened its grip on Armenia. As has often happened when Christian Armenians have cried out for protection in the past, Moscow alone has answered their calls. Russian peacekeepers and threats are the only forces holding Azerbaijan back from completing its reconquest of Karabakh.

If there were no Armeniaian-Azberbaijani conflict, Azerbaijan, with three times Armenia’s population and 3.5 times its gross domestic product, would be the center of U.S. Caucasus policy—even if concerns about human rights and corruption ruffled relations from time to time. (Freedom House rates Azerbaijan as “not free,” and Transparency International rates it 129 among 180 countries for perceived corruption.) As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and draws down forces across the Middle East, it needs local allies to protect its interests. Azerbaijan is high on the very short list of countries in the region both willing and able to help. Building a relationship with Azerbaijan without alienating Armenians is difficult, but Washington has a long history of managing incompatible allies. South Korea and Japan, Israel and Saudi Arabia: American diplomats have specialized in herding cats since World War II.

Last week’s prisoner release offered a welcome opportunity to work with both countries. One hopes the Biden administration can build on this success to make the Caucasus more peaceful and less vulnerable to Russia.

President Clinton asked us in 1994 to chair the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform to study the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and recommend measures to assure their long-term viability. Reforms of these popular programs were so politically fraught that finding consensus on solutions proved impossible during our tenure in the Senate.

But there was near unanimity within the commission on the scale of the problem. Entitlements were on an unsustainable trajectory. They consumed an ever-growing share of federal spending. In 1994 the budget deficit was $203 billion (2.8% of gross domestic product), and the national debt was $3.4 trillion (47.8% of GDP).

The crisis we identified 27 years ago seems negligible given where the debt stands today. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in January 2020 that annual budget deficits will exceed $1 trillion, and that the debt—then hovering at $17.2 trillion—would more than double as a share of the economy over the next 30 years. These numbers don’t take into account $65 trillion of unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare. The CBO now projects that, under current law, the deficit will reach $1.9 trillion in 10 years and the debt will skyrocket from 102% to 202% of GDP within 30 years.

The words “current law” are critical as the CBO forecasts only what will happen should government make no changes in spending and tax policies. But President Biden has already proposed $5 trillion in additional spending over the next 10 years, much of it for new or expanded entitlements, labeled “infrastructure” and “investment.”

Beyond the numbers, the biggest difference between then and now is that in 1994 both parties worried about deficits and debt. Today, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to care. Under President Trump, the national debt grew from 76% of GDP to 100%. Under Mr. Biden’s first budget proposal, the debt is expected to reach 117% of GDP by 2031.

While politicians in both parties toss fiscal restraint to the winds, the good news is that a hefty proportion of voters are still concerned about the debt. An Ipsos poll conducted April 23-26 found that 75% of respondents believe too much debt can hurt the economy.

Current figures suggest that the federal government is digging America into a hole. According to CBO’s baseline projections—which don’t account for Mr. Biden’s proposals—interest costs will surpass spending for Social Security by 2045 and will consume nearly half of federal revenue in 2051.

Despite the urgency of the problem, nearly every elected official in Washington is an original co-sponsor of the “do nothing” plan. While today’s hyperpartisan political environment makes it unlikely that our fiscal crisis will be resolved anytime soon, elected officials would do well to take at least some action to address the issue.

One promising approach, the Trust Act, has been proposed by bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and Senate, including Reps. Mike Gallagher and Ed Case and Sens. Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin. The bill aims to create a process for avoiding insolvency of the major federal trust funds, including those covering Medicare hospital insurance, Social Security and highways.

The Trust Act would also establish a “rescue committee” for each fund with six members from each party. These committees would have bipartisan co-chairmen and would be charged with developing legislation to save the trust funds. At least two committee members of each party would have to agree to advance proposals by a majority vote. Once submitted, the proposals would receive expedited consideration in the House and Senate. This approach would be fair and practical and would focus on the most pressing issues that have identifiable deadlines rather than try to solve all the country’s fiscal challenges at once.

It’s become all too clear that America can’t build a sound economy on a foundation of unsustainable debt. The longer lawmakers wait to act, the more difficult the solutions will be—and the greater the risks for future generations. The Trust Act offers a sensible way to get started.

Mr. Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, and Mr. Danforth, a Missouri Republican, are former U.S. senators and co-chairmen of the Concord Coalition.

Politics & Religion / Re: 2024
« on: June 21, 2021, 06:02:35 PM »
Deep respect for Pompeo and he would make an outstanding VP.

Question presented:  What votes would he bring to the table?

Politics & Religion / Re: Mike Pence
« on: June 21, 2021, 06:01:09 PM »
"Pence could have stood up against it"


Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races
« on: June 21, 2021, 05:59:13 PM »
This would be GREAT news!

Not sure of your point here.  What does this have to do with AMcC's analysis of the errors in TC's analysis?

Politics & Religion / Iran's Drone Strategy
« on: June 21, 2021, 07:14:56 AM »
June 21, 2021
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Iran’s Drone Strategy
Drones have become a critical part of Iran’s grand strategy for the Middle East.
By: Ridvan Bari Urcosta

In recent weeks, U.S. Central Command has been warning of an increasing threat to U.S. troops in Iraq from drone attacks launched by Iranian-backed militias. The warnings come as concerns mount about the increasing sophistication and coordination of the drone attacks. Indeed, over the past several years, Iranian drones have been deployed to Tehran’s allies across the Middle East including in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Thus, drones have become a key part of Iran’s strategy to expand its influence throughout the region and weaken its biggest rivals – namely, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

A New Type of Warfare

Drones are changing the shape of warfare as we know it. By relying on technology instead of foot soldiers, they enable nations and militias alike to attack targets using fewer troops on the ground and with a level of precision that wasn’t possible through traditional combat. It’s no surprise then that militaries around the world, including Iran’s, are increasingly relying on this emerging technology.

Iran’s drone strategy has been decades in the making. The program began during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s but gained serious momentum in the 2000s. In 2018, Tehran announced that its drone program was completely independent, meaning it could manufacture all necessary parts at home.

For Tehran, one key advantage of drones is that they can help Iran overcome certain barriers that might otherwise prevent it from expanding its regional influence. Mountainous terrain, distance and limited manpower have long placed a ceiling on Iran’s reach beyond its own borders. (Notably, Iran has also used drones to control its own restive populations, particularly ethnic minority groups like the Kurds and the Baloch.) Thus, drones have become a critical part of Iran’s grand strategy for the Middle East.

Iran's Path to the Mediterranean
(click to enlarge)

Iran’s drone program has four main goals. First, Tehran is hoping to suppress Kurdish separatist groups in Iraq, Syria and Turkey as well as at home. Second, it’s trying to undermine the positions of the U.S. in northern Iraq and U.S. allies throughout the region. Third, it’s hoping to muddle the long-standing conflict in the Palestinian territories. (During the recent bout of unrest in Gaza, Israel repeatedly accused Iran of providing military assistance to Hamas, including by providing it with so-called kamikaze drones.) Lastly, it hopes to destabilize one of its main regional adversaries, Saudi Arabia.

There are four main types of Iranian drones. The most common type is the Shahed-129, a combat drone armed with precision-guided munition. The Fotros, introduced in 2013, has similar capabilities, though not much is known about it. The Saeqeh 1 and 2, first announced in 2016, have similar properties to the United States’ RQ-170 Sentinel drone. In 2018, they were reportedly used in Syria against anti-Assad insurgents and Israeli targets. The last type is the Qods Mohajer series. They are tactical combat drones that have reportedly been acquired by Hezbollah and Venezuela. The latest addition, the Mohajer-6, has a range of about of 200 kilometers (125 miles) and is able to carry 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of arms.

Targeting the Kurds

The Kurds have been one of the main targets of Iran’s drone strategy. Their close relationship with the United States in Syria and Iraq irritates Tehran, which has been cooperating with Ankara since 2018 in joint military operations against the Kurds. Iran targets the Kurds both by supplying drones to its proxies and by launching its own drone strikes.

In 2015, Iranian kamikaze drones were used in an attack on the headquarters of Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, an adversary of pro-Iranian militias, in Syria’s Idlib province. In 2018, Iran reportedly carried out a drone strike in Iraqi Kurdistan targeting a Kurdish militant training camp there. Last April, Iranian-backed militias fired a drone carrying explosives at a U.S. military base near Irbil International Airport. It was the first time militants had used drones in an attack on Irbil, likely a message to the Americans and the Kurds that Iran, through its proxies, can strike anywhere in the country. It was later reported that the drone targeted a secret CIA hangar containing anti-drone equipment, showing a certain level of sophistication in Iran’s planning and execution of the attack.

This display of intelligence and precision was deeply concerning to Washington. The same month as that strike, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps published drone footage of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to demonstrate Iran’s technological capabilities and American vulnerabilities. Indeed, the drones are small enough to be loaded onto a ship and positioned to reach any number of targets from the Persian Gulf.

According to U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, this is the first time since the Korean War that U.S. forces have operated without complete air superiority. Noting the difficulties of countering small off-the-shelf drones that have undergone modification, he said it will take time for the U.S. to develop and field a capability to detect and destroy such drones. Small, low-flying drones are not typical targets for air defense systems, and thus they can sneak past defenses undetected. This is precisely what happened in late 2019 when Houthi rebels slipped drones past Patriot missile defense systems to attack Saudi oil facilities.

Three things are clear from McKenzie’s remarks. First, Tehran is orchestrating a massive proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles throughout the region. Second, it prefers drones in the hands of its proxies to avoid state-to-state conflict. And third, it coordinates with pro-Iranian proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria to use them effectively in attacks.

In the near future, the role of Iranian-made drones will increase in northern Iraq. They are key to Iran’s strategy to undermine U.S. positions and its ties with the Kurdish peshmerga. Washington provides safety and security to the Kurds, but intensification of drone attacks will drive a wedge in the relationship.

Iranian Proxies in the Levant

Israel is similarly threatened by drones emanating from areas controlled by Hamas and Hezbollah, and has been for more than a decade. In 2010, a motorized balloon believed to have been dispatched by Hezbollah came close to Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility before it was shot down. In 2012, an Iranian-made drone reportedly tarried in Israeli airspace for 30 minutes before it was brought down. The danger is growing by the year, as the drones available to Hamas and Hezbollah become more sophisticated.

Though Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system reportedly downed more than five explosives-laden drones assembled in Gaza during the brief May conflict, it would be premature to declare that they pose no threat. The Qassam rockets that Hamas typically launches at Israel are little more than glorified fireworks with no guidance. Palestinian Shehab drones, on the other hand, have longer ranges than the Qassam rockets, are highly accurate and can fly at unpredictable trajectories (well below radar coverage, for example, shielding themselves among civilian structures en route to their destination). The rockets can carry more explosive material, but the drones offer what the Palestinian groups have long lacked: precision.

It is too early to conclude that Palestinian groups are ditching rockets and missiles for drones, but during last month’s fighting, Hamas and other groups proved that, despite Israeli efforts, they had managed to accumulate massive arsenals of rockets and that they could coordinate to launch them in huge salvos. It is therefore possible to predict that Hamas could combine missile salvos with significant drone attacks to overwhelm Israel’s defenses.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has undergone significant transformations before. Prior to 2000, Hamas and other groups relied on suicide bombings to attack Israel. This strategy faded away in the 2000s, and in 2001 Hamas transitioned to using rockets. Signs of another change emerged in 2014, when the Palestinians started combining missile salvos with kamikaze or intelligence drones. Meanwhile, Israel has developed its own, highly sophisticated unmanned combat aerial vehicles, both tactical and strategic. In Gaza, Israel is searching for the perfect drone to conduct tactical special operations in an urban area while minimizing civilian casualties. This process of developing and deploying increasingly advanced drones – by both sides – will only intensify.

Iran’s part in this evolution, in Gaza and beyond, is crucial. The IRGC provides the weapons and trains and advises their users. It is easier to manufacture the drones in the insurgent areas than it is to ship heavy weaponry into blockaded enclaves throughout the Middle East. Iran’s power projection depends on its ability to support pro-Iranian proxies, especially in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Syria. These proxies cannot match the technological superiority of the regular armies fielded by Iran’s traditional rivals, but by supplying them with drones, Tehran can at least partly offset their disadvantages.

In the 2000s, missiles changed the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the 2020s, drones will do the same. Successful drone attacks against Israel won’t change the status quo in the same way that they did in Yemen, but they represent a new threat, and they can seriously escalate Israel’s conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Politics & Religion / Re: Gov. Ron DeSantis
« on: June 20, 2021, 08:09:14 AM »
Didn't Mayor DiBlasio take down the Columbus Circle statute of Columbus down?

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