Morning Report: November 10, 2006

Semper fidelis. As the United States Marine Corps celebrates its 231st year, an amphibious group enters the Persian Gulf while Iran develops its missile program. Elsewhere, citizens stand up against assaults on women. Changing times call on us to be true to the things that matter.

USS Boxer Strike Group enters Persian Gulf. Debka: 'USS Boxer Strike Group, entered the Persian Gulf Thursday, Nov. 9, the largest US landing force to reach this water in a decade. The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) now in the US Fifth Fleet area headquartered in Bahrain, consists of Boxer (picture), Amphibious Squadron 5, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Seals), the Coast Guard cutter Midgett and Canadian frigate HMCS Ottawa, as well as the USS Dubuque, USS Comstock, the largest landing craft in the US Navy, USS Bunker Hill and the guided missile destroyers USS Benfold and USS Howard. The Boxer Group has just come from joint maneuvers with the Indian navy in the Arabian Sea opposite the coast of Goa, including large-scale landing practices. The group’s commander, Capt. David Angood said that if “anything important happens in the real-world environment, the task force will deal with it in the most efficient manner.” DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the arrival of Boxer in the Persian Gulf coincided with the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group’s passage through the Suez Canal on its way from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. It is the first time that a US naval strike force is accompanied by a coast guard unit. Its vessels are equipped and their crews trained for rapid rescue and aid missions to damaged ships and wounded crewmen. Their presence in the task force indicates that the Boxer strike group is prepared for Iranian attack by sea, air, submarine, sea-to-sea missiles or depth mines.' (Debka)

Israel's Deputy Defense Minister: Iran attack may be necessary. Ha'Aretz: 'Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh suggested in comments published Friday that Israel might be forced to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear program - the clearest statement yet of this possibility from a high-ranking Israeli official. "I am not advocating an Israeli pre-emptive military action against Iran and I am aware of its possible repercussions," Sneh told The Jerusalem Post daily. "I consider it a last resort. But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort," he said. Sneh's tough talk is the boldest to date by a high-ranking Israeli official. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other leaders frequently discuss the Iranian threat in grave terms, but stop short of discussing military action against Tehran.' Debka: 'In a Jerusalem Post interview ahead of prime minister Ehud Olmert’s White House talks next week, Sneh said he is not advocating a pre-emptive Israeli operation, but considers it a last resort. “Even a last resort is sometimes the only resort.” ... The newly-appointed second in command at the Israeli defense ministry stressed that his priority was "preparing the IDF for victory in the next round with Iran and its proxies." High on the list was the need to improve the country's defense systems. "We developed and produced the Arrow, the only system that can intercept nuclear missiles. Depending on the altitude when intercepted, the warheads do not detonate. But Israel needs to substantially improve its indigenous long-range capacities."' (Ha'Aretz, Debka)

Iranian missile threat. Washington Times via Iran Focus:
As Secretary of Defense-designate Robert Gates prepares for his confirmation hearings, he will need to address one of the most serious but underappreciated security threats of the post-September 11 era: the burgeoning threat from Iran's ballistic-missile arsenal, which is growing much more lethal thanks to considerable assistance from North Korea. Today, Iran has ballistic missiles capable of striking U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, where nearly 150,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed. Its missiles can also reach targets in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and may be able to reach parts of Germany and Italy.

As it becomes apparent that, at least for now, the United States, the Europeans and the international community in general want to avoid confrontation with Iran, the Islamist regime, emboldened, is becoming more aggressive and confrontational. For the past nine days, Iran has been staging military exercises, which may have included test-firing of Shahab missiles capable of targeting U.S. bases in the Gulf. On Sunday, the commander in chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, declared that the Guards had trained thousands of troops for suicide missions in the event that Iran was attacked. ...

Several years ago, Iran, in an effort to placate Europeans worried about the Iranians targeting them, said that the Shahab-3 would be the last version and it would would not build a follow-on with a longer range. Subsequently, the Iranians announced a Shahab-4 exists, but that it is just a satellite launcher, not a ballistic missile. But, according to Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel's Arrow missile program, a "satellite launcher" is really a covert intercontinental ballistic missile. All the Iranians have to do, he said in an interview with IranWatch newsletter, "is orbit satellites and make threats against America once in a while. That will be enough to tell the United States that it could be hit by an ICBM."

Full article at the link. (Iran Focus)

Iraqi forces claim arrest of al-Qaeda figure. AP via Jerusalem Post: 'Iraqi security forces said they arrested the head of an al-Qaida cell in a western Iraqi city on Friday. Acting on a tip-off, soldiers descended on a building in the city of Rawah, 275 kilometers (175 miles) northwest of Baghdad, where they arrested local al-Qaida commander Abu Muhayyam al-Masri, whose name is a pseudonym meaning, "the Egyptian," a Defense Ministry official said. Aides Abu Issam al-Libi, or "the Libyan," and Abu Zaid al-Suri, "the Syrian," were also arrested among nine other members of the cell, said the official, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The official said al-Suri confessed to being responsible for organizing at least one suicide bombing in Baghdad. He said the raid also netted a large quantity of weapons.' (JPost)

Egypt: Photos of anti-harassment demonstration. Sandmonkey has pictures of yesterday's rally against sexual harassment in Egypt. 'The Police started besieging the protest, but they didn't do anything to harm anyone. It was an intimidation tactic more than anything, prompted by the shift in chants from just anti-sexual harrassment to anti-government. But for all intents and purposes, it was a success.' A Dreams Into Lightning roundup on the incident is at the link. (Sandmonkey)

Commentary. I won't try to read the tea leaves regarding the recent Congressional elections. What has happened, certainly, is that Congress has passed from a Republican to a Democratic majority, and Rumsfeld and Bolton are on their way out. Beyond that, I'm not sure what it means in the big picture.

The Republicans (among whom I'm still proud to count myself a member) have had the luxury of GOP control of the White House and both houses of congress until now. This week, the voters chose to give a Congressional majority to the Democrats, and Republican leaders must now adapt to that reality. And if they do not have the flexibility to adapt to the shifting landscape of domestic politics, they are not fit to lead us in the war on terror.

What will matter in the years ahead is our commitment to the basics: individual freedom, equality for women, and security for America and the civilized world. I'm not the only one who has noted the irony of these essentially liberal values being defended by the more conservative of America's major political parties. And despite the ravings of some on the far left, there are also pro-Israel Democrats like the folks at Pro-Semite Undercover. Perhaps we are entering a new phase, in which political liberalism will re-emerge as a meaningful ally in the fight against fascism and terror while enriching the debate on both stragegy and domestic issues. This would be a good thing.