Morning Report: November 13, 2006

Ripple or sea change? A foreign submarine follows American warships. But has the President's foreign policy vision been deep-sixed?

Chinese sub stalked American fleet. Washington Times: ' Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned. The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military. The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations' militaries. Disclosure of the incident comes as Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, is making his first visit to China. The four-star admiral was scheduled to meet senior Chinese military leaders during the weeklong visit, which began over the weekend.' UPDATE: Submariners' blog The Stupid Shall Be Punished has more:
Absent from the article will be any indication that it's not tough at all for a submarine to trail a carrier; what's tough is doing it when they're at a heightened alert level and have a friendly submarine attached to them, without having the friendly submarine ready to take you out at any time. ...

It's even lamer than I thought; the Song-class diesel boat was spotted on the surface about five miles from the Kitty Hawk. So, either the Chinese were trying desperately to let us know that they could get that close to us, or this is another of a series of attempts by the Chinese to send their submarines farther afield where they just can't seem to stay undetected and/or submerged. Since they have nothing to gain by taunting us like that, I vote for the second option.

For some background: the Chinese were probably interested in checking out preparations for the Annualex 18G exercises taking place south of Kyushu.

Read the full post at the link. Keep an eye on Dreams Into Lightning for more updates and details. (Washington Times, TSSBP)

Olmert met with Rice in Washington. Arutz Sheva: 'Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Washington on Sunday night with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. The two discussed the possibility of a new political realities vis-a-vis the PA (Palestinian Authority) and the Iranian threat. In addition, the meeting served as a prepatory event ahead of Monday’s meeting between Olmert and US President George W. Bush.' (A7)

Blair wants to work with Syria, Iran. Arutz Sheva: 'British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday will call on Syria and Iran to work towards increased regional peace and stability as well as working towards reducing violence in Iraq. According to a Reuters news agency report, the British leader believes the time has come to persuade Tehran and Damascus that if they are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem, indicating Blair intends to paint a picture showing them the consequences of failing to assist towards bringing peace to the region.' AP via Iran Focus: 'British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the international community on Monday to engage Iran and Syria to advance the peace process in the Middle East and defended his government's close relationship with the U.S. Blair said the outcome of the Iraq war was central to bringing peace to the Middle East, and the world must make clear to Syria and Iran how they can assist in the process as well as the consequences of hindering it. Blair was to deliver the remarks in a speech later Monday and excerpts of the text were released in advance by his office. The United States has said it was willing to hold direct talks with Iran about Iraq - which would be the most public exchange between the countries in years. But the U.S. does not want to discuss broader subjects such as Iran's contentious nuclear program which Washington suspects is aimed at making weapons.' (A7, Iran Focus)

ThreatsWatch on Lebanon. ThreatsWatch:
Hizballah’s weekend move is believed to be driven by their Syrian sponsors seeking to evade further any prosecutions and likely resulting sanctions. The situation is being placed within the context of a greater ‘cold war’ over influence in the Middle East, principally between the United States and an Iranian-Syrian cabal.

But Hizballah’s quiting the cabinet does not automatically dissolve the government based on their non-participation and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora rejected the Hizballah resignations. In the United States, the White House issued a statement that criticized the move and condemned Iran and Hizballah, stating that “Hezbollah and Iran remain a dangerous, global nexus of terrorism.”

Hizballah deputy chief Naim Kassem siad that the resignations were but the first step in a Hizballah strategy to assume power within the Lebanese government. “There will be other steps that we will discuss in detail with our allies and which we will announce gradually,” he said.

Full article at the link. (ThreatsWatch)

Olmert on Palestinian plans, Iranian options. Vital Perspective: 'In an interview with Lally Weymouth that was just put to print today, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert insisted he still stands by his plan for peace with the Palestinians and declared that Israel 'has many options' to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.' He's got a comeback for that question about poll numbers, too. Transcript at the link. (Vital Perspective)

The Mesopotamian on America's Iraq policy. Alaa at The Mesopotamian: 'The only thing that America is guilty of is that of underestimating the viciousness of the enemy, and not so much his military capability; because the enemy’s weapon is not so much military prowess, but evil and viciousness. He specializes in hitting below the belt. He has no rules and no scruples, and will stop at nothing. He is absolutely devoid of any kind of human feeling. To think that you can reason with him or somehow accommodate his wishes and desires is absolute folly and suicide. This was clearly illustrated lately in Iraq when all kinds of overtures and approaches were made in forlorn hopes of appeasing him. This only resulted in boosting his morale and appetite for murder and violence. America seems to have become confused and loosing sight of the fundamentals of the issue and even who the real enemy is. Of course this was aided by a massive propaganda assault aimed directly at the American public from abroad and from within.' Full post at the link. (The Mesopotamian)

Kianoush Sanjari. New Iranian blogger Sayeh Hassan at Shiro-Khorshid Forever writes: 'Kianoush SANJARI, a student activist and blogger was re-arresed on Oct. 7th while preparing reports on protests in support of Ayatollah Broujerdi. He is currently being held in ward 209 of the Notorious Evin prsion and is tortured and interoggated several times a day.' Go to the link for the Amnesty International report. (SKF)

Commentary. Despite having left the Marine Corps with the exalted rank of Corporal, I am not an expert on military matters. But if you read the guys who are, they'll tell you that there are a few things - only a few - that you can count on in war. They'll tell you that war is a fluid, ever-changing thing, and that success depends on persistence, flexibility, and your ability to adapt to new conditions, respond to new threats, and exploit new vulnerabilities on the enemy's side.

That last week's Republican losses were a setback in the war against terrorists and dictators is beyond dispute, though the magnitude and nature of that setback may be subject to debate. Still more serious, as some see it, is the Bush Administration's apparent abandonment of the central tenets of its foreign-policy doctrine. In short, it is a victory of the self-styled "realists" over the neoconservatives.

Here is what Debka has to say:
Bush Prepares Switch on Iraq and Downgrading of US Ties with Jordan and Israel
November 12, 2006, 4:14 PM (GMT+02:00)

Monday, Nov. 13, former US secretary of state James Baker and ex-Congressman Lee Hamilton will present their recommendations on Iraq to President Bush in the Oval Office. Their audience will include an array of top administration officials: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and CIA Director Gen. Mike Hayden, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace. Incoming defense secretary Robert Gates will attend as a member of the bipartisan committee.

Absentees will include outgoing defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down after the Republican’s lost the Nov. 7 midterm to the Democrats over the Iraq war, and the commanders directly running that conflict, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey.

The timing and composition of the conference indicate that the larger decisions are already in the bag with regard to the new US policy on Iraq and a fresh approach to the radical side of the Middle East led by Iran and Syria, mainly at the expense of Jordan and Israel. Monday’s White House conference will be concerned mostly with tying up the last ends and deciding who performs which part of the revised strategy.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is due Monday will be one of the first foreign White House visitors to hear an update on the new policy. He will find he is required to listen rather than speak. Bush will use the occasion to inform him where America’s Iraq policy leaves Israel and the Palestinian dispute.

Now I've recently been reminded from several quarters that Debka is neither omniscient nor infallible, so I pass that caveat on to you. Nevertheless, the bleak report reflects one set of conclusions that can be drawn from the events of the past week. Today's analysis at Stratfor asserts that "the Israelis have real reasons to be concerned" about Washington's plans, which may include cutting a deal with Tehran to end the US/Iran proxy war in Iraq, and perhaps assurances that Israel will not strike Iran on its own.

But as the Stratfor piece notes, Washington may not be in a position to deliver such assurances on Israel's behalf. Meanwhile, Amir Taheri argues that the recent election won't result in an American "Madrid effect" because the word "Iraq" means different things to different people: 'The word "Iraq" brought together a disparate coalition that might unravel, now that the Democrats share greater responsibility in shaping policy.' And Michael Ledeen, channeling James Jesus Angleton, finds that the Gates appointment doesn't signal a radical change of Administration policy, in part precisely because of Gates' reputation as a "team player".

So those are the arguments for optimism - Israel is going to defend itself regardless of what happens in Washington, the Democrats are united in how they feel about Iraq but not on what to do about it, and Gates is enough of a true realist to know how to work with the Bush administration on behalf of its goals.

Who's right? I have no idea. (Taheri sounds a little confused himself when he says: 'One thing is certain. The jubilation expressed in jihadist circles as a result of the Republicans' defeat may be misplaced.' Well, which is it - "certain" or "may be"? But I digress.)

Here's what I am sure of: What happened last Tuesday was part of the democratic process in a free society. And nobody should give up on the struggle based on the results of a single election. We can and must adapt to changing conditions and keep up the fight. This means supporting (real) human rights organizations, humanitarian causes, soldiers' and veterans' aid groups, and pro-democracy groups. It means continuing to expose the lies and distortions of the moribund mainstream media. It means demanding that our colleges and universities teach facts and critical thinking, not multicultural mishmash and anti-American propaganda. And it means continuing to dialog with our neighbors, getting the word out, and standing firm for what's right. Because that's where the battle is being fought.