Terror Strikes Sydney

As the world knows now, terror has struck Australia’s shores like a lighting bolt. As Australians woke up yesterday, most likely nobody could have predicted what would happen or could expect that by 10am the entire country’s attention would be focused on a hostage situation in Sydney.

What we know so far is fragmented and at times contradictory. However, from what we can gather, at 9:45am an unknown man entered the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place and took over 20 people hostage. The first images that emerged were of two terrified women holding a black Islamic Shahada flag up against the window.

1418601847601It was initially reported, incorrectly, that this was the flag of the Islamic State. Nevertheless, the presence of this flag at the beginning of the hostage crisis stamped the event with overtones of an Islamist extremist attack.

For most of the day, there were no developments in the hostage case. Police acted swiftly and sealed off most of downtown Sydney, with the news and social media lighting up as people sought out and traded what information they could find. The information was incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes completely false. Then at mid afternoon we saw the dramatic images of at first 3 people and then later another 2 escaping from the cafe and running into the arms of police. For many, the defining image of the siege was a cafe employee running into the arms of a heavily armed tactical response officer

039905-ee7b8d36-8421-11e4-b7a3-5366c32c384aA hostage runs towards a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place in central Sydne

As night fell though, the siege appeared to settle down, as the hostage taker reportedly released a number of demands. These have not been confirmed by police, but have been reported to include the provision of an Islamic State flag to the hostage taker, along with the demand to talk to the Prime Minister.

What we know at this stage is that just after 2am, police seemed to storm the building. Witnesses report explosions plus several volleys of gunfire. Hostages then started streaming out of the building, some assisted by police. The confrontation ended with 3 dead, including the hostage taker, and a number injured, including a police officer who was shot in the attack.

It is far too early to speculate about what happened. There will be an immense media beat-up in the next few weeks and months, and the Police and security services will conduct their own investigation.

From what we can surmise so far though, police could have entered the building based on an imminent threat to the hostage’s safety. In hostage situations like this, the strategy employed by police is usually to wait out the hostage taker while the threat to the hostages is minimized. During this time hostage negotiators will attempt to contact the assailant and understand the situation more fully. There is often a dialogue back to forth. The best solution is for the hostage taker to reach some agreement with police and release some or all of the hostages. It is suggested that the exit of the 5 hostages earlier in the day could have been a negotiated release by police, though it is unclear if their escaped or were released.

Police will move in on a hostage taker if there is the belief that there is clear and present danger to the hostages, or if there is an open opportunity to defuse the situation quickly and safely. While we don’t know what sparked the attack, the gunman inside could have acted in a hostile manner towards the hostages or gave police reason to believe he was about to do so. This seems likely, as police had been content to wait out the siege for almost 16 hours previously, before moving in.

From watching the video of the live assault, at first one can hear a muffled shot, perhaps from inside the cafe. Police at this stage started to push into the building, leading to another single shot, followed shortly by a volley of shots as police opened fire. At around the 16 – 18 second mark the police seem to have thrown up to 4 flashbang like devices into the building, followed by bright flashes of light before they make entry and hostages are rescued from the building.

As expected the confrontation was over in seconds. My initial belief, based on the very limited amount of data which is available, is that the hostage taker could have fired a shot (the initial shot heard) which then sparked the police storming the cafe. It is hard to know what could have happened however, as the footage is not have a great quality, and down not show any other angles. More details will emerge shortly, and I will attempt to analyze these as they come to light.

Expect more shortly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this terrible attack.

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Obama Obama, We Love Osama! The True nature of the Muslim Riots

Today, Sydney Australia was rocked by violent protests as Muslim demonstrators surged through the streets holding signs saying “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet Muhammad”, and carrying the flag of the Jihadists. Hundreds of protesters battled with police, hurling rocks at them, and injuring at least six officers. The crowd also vandalized property, and assaulted some individuals in the street. Police ended up gassing the crowd and using dogs to disperse the rioters, who vowed to return in greater numbers.

The reason given for the violence was the perceived insult to Islam by the trailer to the film made in America The Innocence of Muslims. Although not even confirmed as legitimate, the film has sparked uprisings around the world, with the most tragic moment being the assault on the American embassy in Libya and the murder of the American ambassador to Libya.

However, let us not fall into the trap of thinking these protests are in any way a legitimate expression of anger against this film. Let us not look at Sydney and claim that the violence was in any way, shape, or form a justified response to oppression. The vast majority of these rioters have never lived under oppression, have never been persecuted for their faith, and have lived in a free and democratic country which has been well known for their policy of openness to immigration and multiculturalism.

This violence is another outbreak of what Samuel Harrington termed the “Clash of Civilizations”. The Muslim world believes, rightly or wrongly, that the West has declared war against them, and against Islam in particular. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been painted as a crusade against Islam. This picture has not been helped by ill advised comments by the previous American administration.

In response to this, the Muslim culture has risen up against the West. They will fight back with everything they can against America and it’s allies, including Australia. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are only a symbol of the festering conflict between East and West; between Christian and Muslim. Groups such as Al Qaeda have been very open in appealing to the religious nature of this war, and they are absolutely correct. This is a fight, not against a government or a geopolitical ideology. It is a fight against a way of life. It is a fight against a culture.

America has been taught time and time again that to the Muslim people, a term I will use in a general sense, it is always seen as a target, no matter if they are allied to them or not. Americans feel hurt and angry that they are attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan after removing despotic regimes from power. They are confused why Libyans slaughter their ambassador after they freed their country. They do not understand why Muslims world wide are attacking their embassies due to an obscure film that the American administration had nothing to do with, and have not supported in any way.

The fact is, the film is meaningless. It is not the cause of this hatred. It is merely an excuse to carry on a campaign of hatred and terror against the West. No matter now much the West has done for these people. No matter now free the country in which they live, to the Muslim community, they will seize control of the nation and impose their own law on the people. And then they will have their revenge for perceived years of oppression in their homelands. Thus, radicals such as Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon in Australia call for Sharia law openly, and state that only a Muslim government of Australia would be legitimate. Siddiq-Conlon is right when he states

“One day Australia will live under sharia; it’s inevitable,” he said. “If they (Australians) don’t accept it, that’s not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There’s always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia.”

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/pm-go-and-let-the-muslims-take-over/story-e6frg6nf-1225991362018

Later, this charming individual goes on to state that he hates democracy, and calls for the hatred of the worship of any other religion than Islam.

To radicals like Siddiq Conlon, the battle on the streets of Sydney is far more than an isolated outburst against a video. It is a culture war. They are not in Australia to assimilate, they are in Australia to attack the country, the culture, the people, and to take over.

Australians, good natured, trusting, and blissfully ignorant until recently of the affairs of the world, are shocked and stunned by these attacks. While Australians have the reputation of being racist, and indeed can be, they have no idea of how to respond to an attack on their very way of life by people they feel they have given refuge and shelter to.

The protesters in Sydney are not only attacking a culture, they are expressing open support for terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda. In a chant on the street, Muslim men in Sydney shouted “Obama! Obama! We Love Osama!”. In another photo, protesters are holding a flag similar to those used by Al Qaeda.

Until Australia, America, and the UK realize that they cannot negotiate, cannot give in, and cannot placate such hatred, the clash between Muslim and Australian, American, or Briton will become more and more frequent. Immigration from largely Muslim homelands to Australia and Europe especially has created concern among the local population, who feel intimidated by actions such as what happened in Sydney today. In response, increased racism and violence in return occurs, resulting in greater ill will between the two cultures, and thus strengthening a cycle of violence.

However, in a message to Muslims in Australia, I would say: I do not hate you. I sympathize with some of your grievances, however this is not the way to go about addressing them. I do not wish you out of my country. I welcome you to Australia, as long as you abide by Australian law and live as a law abiding citizen.

However, if you attempt to destroy the freedoms I enjoy here, and which are freely offered to you. If you attempt to cause harm or violence to me, my country, or my people, this attempt will be resisted, and I will work to restrict your ability to carry out such attacks. Attacks against this country will result in a blowback to your interests by Australians. If you wish to find freedom in this country, respect the laws of the country, and the country will respect you.

Your actions today in Sydney, and elsewhere around the world, are reprehensible. They show many of you for what you truely are. If you hate this country, if you hate our way of life, if you hate the West so much, I understand that your views will be more warmly received in Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, or Iraq. Please take your views back to these places or others where they will be received.

If a Clash of Civilizations occurs, the West must understand what is at stake, and what must be done to win in this war. Tolerance must exist. Hatred towards Muslims, the Muslim religion, or towards the community in general makes us as bad as the protesters. Our response must be both respectful, but firm. Such behaviour as this should not be allowed, and must be met with swift justice. Not injustice, not vigilantism, but justice through the policing, intelligence, and legal systems of this country.

To Muslims in Australia, remember: What image you give to Australians now, will determine how you are treated by this country.

Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice…

There is the old saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As a former manager once told me, “I am quite happy for you to make mistakes; that means you’re being active and learning. But if you make the same mistake again, you have learnt nothing from the first”.

On a geopolitical level, the Western nations seem to have made mistakes again and again, and yet are constantly surprised and amazed at the predictable result. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US and the UK found themselves again on the front lines of the Cold War. The Place, Afghanistan. The Enemy, Russia, and the Communist backed government of Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Americans flooded Afghanistan with sophisticated weapons, including MANPAD systems, explosives, and small arms. Along with the arms came money. Millions of dollars were poured into the country through the ISI in Pakistan, all for the purpose of “liberating” the country. Americans such as Charlie Wilson and the Right Wing Christian movement pushed vigorously for increased support to the Afghan Mujahedeen.

Along with weapons and money can support in the form of a public image campaign. American and British movies, from Rambo to James Bond, all portrayed a heroic struggle by a simple yet courageous people against a brutal government.

Support came also, from all over the world. Arab and Muslim fighters flocked to Afghanistan, where they enlisted in the call to Jihad against the infidel Soviets. Along with the droves of fighters came a wealthy Saudi Arabian man who dreamed of using his talents, his money, his connections, and his whole life to advancing the cause of Islam. His name of Usama Bin Laden. Usama, and many others like him, found their true calling in life in the fires of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets. CIA and SAS units were eager to arm and train anybody who would fight against the Soviets. Along with these arms came valuable training in explosives, assassination, sophisticated weapons systems, and other black arts. These lessons were learnt all to well by the young Muslim recruits, who then used them to great effect against the Soviets.

 

Bin Laden in Afghanistan 1980s

The Americans were successful. Through their proxy armies, they had defeated the Soviet Union, turning Afghanistan into a Russian Vietnam. Indeed, the defeat, and the expense incurred, was instrumental in bringing down an increasingly weak USSR some years later.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Deputy Direction of the CIA Richard Kerr

But as the victory celebrations died down, warlords such as Hekmatyar, Massoud, and other individuals realized that they now had to govern a power vacuum. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, but politics and power do so even more. The weapons and training which had driven out the Soviets now were turned on each other, as the warlords fell to fighting each other for power.

In this vacuum arose a new power. Hailing from the religious schools on the Afghan border with Pakistan, and fired with religious zeal from the Whabbist schools of thought in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban swept into Afghanistan from the east, capturing Kabul, and controlling most of the country except for the northern areas held by Massoud and the Northern Alliance.
Having no love for the West, the Taliban imposed a strict view of Sharia upon the whole country, plunging the country back into the Dark Ages.

Others, though, had a more globalist view of the Jihad they had just won. Men like Bin Laden, Khalim, Basayev, Khattab, and al-Zawahiri were veterans of this war, which imbued them with the confidence to take on the West. After all, they had defeated one Superpower. Why not another one? When Bin Laden formed Al Qaeda in the 1990s in response to what he saw as American aggression towards Muslims and a desecration of Islam, he had a large source of recruits to choose from. Men who had fought with him in Afghanistan found themselves with a set of skills which could be very easily turned against their former benefactors, the United States. The Jihadists built up their experience and skills in Africa, in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban, in Pakistan, in Chechnya, in Palestine, in the Balkans, and in the Philippines. The view of Bin Laden was to leverage the contacts he had made in Afghanistan into a worldwide network to bring the fight to the West. Bin Laden came full circle when he returned to Afghanistan with Al Qaeda. Safe in the country, he established training facilities, to which a new generation of aspiring young men who sought the glories of Jihad flocked.

The reason we have discussed this history is that it bears very serious lessons for American foreign policy today, which are being very quickly forgotten by the current Administration. The Neo Conservative idea under President Bush was that if America only removed dictatorial regimes from power in the Middle East, other regimes would fall like dominos, creating a wave of freedom across the region. America put this theory to the test in Iraq, with a far less than satisfactory result. Rather than embracing freedom and democracy and the American way, Iraqis first turned against the American invaders and then against each other. More than any place on earth, the Middle East cannot have a political vacuum present without some group attempting to fill it. In Iraq, the Americans soon found that they lacked both the support and the political know-how to even consider filling the political vacuum they had created with the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

As a result, Al Qaeda moved in force into Iraq, carrying on both attacks against American forces, and then against Shiite Muslims in the country. Iran responded by filling the power vacuum with Shiite supporters such as the Madhi Army. These two groups brought Iraq into the verge of Civil War, before the Sunni backed Al Qaeda was pushed out of the country.

America should have learned valuable lessons from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Regime change in the Middle East is often the prelude to anarchy, violence, and greater bloodshed. And dictatorial regimes can be seen as being far superior to the violence which follows their demise. American styled Democracy does not take root easily in the Middle East, as has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and Libya.

Instead, the current American strategy is still to support and fight for regime change. In the case of Libya, this was successful, and a military campaign ousted Gadhafi from power, leading to his death and the formation of a new government. Around the same time, Mubarak fell from power in Egypt, bringing in new “democratic” elections.

The Arab Spring was touted by pundits, activists, and neoconservatives as being an amazing example of “People Power” rising up against oppressive regimes and overcoming them through willpower and the might of the population. It was seen as being a new wave of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Very few voices, in the days of Libya’s revolution, sought to criticize the movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen. After all, were not the governments in question corrupt, violent, and despotic? Isn’t the rule by the people the best kind of government?

American writers, bloggers, political scientists, and activists were not the only ones watching and rejoicing at the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda was watching events very carefully also. With the death of Usama Bin Laden, and on the run worldwide, Al Qaeda was in dire need of another safe haven, where they could regroup and plan their comeback. The Arab Spring gave them exactly this. It was a movement which posed serious threats to the secular, despotic governments who had so often waged war against them. In every country which has seen regime change, or attempted regime change, the Governments have waged an often brutal war against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Libya, Egypt, and Syria had all sought to destroy their influence and power. And with these governments now crumbling, Al Qaeda saw the creation of more political vacuums. And as we have seen before, whenever there is a vacuum, the Jihadists are quick to try and take advantage of the opportunity.

In a four part series, we will discuss the impact of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on the Arab Spring, their current successes in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, and the bleak future it poses for the region as they have seized power. Al Qaeda is back with a safe haven. It now has another battle to fight, it now has another source of recruits for their war, and another battle ground to test their skills in. And ironically, they are now fighting on the same side as an often well meaning but hopelessly ignorant America.

 

The Fall of the House of Saud

In our previous posts, we have discussed the rise to power of the House of Saud, along with the corruption and internal instability which has arisen along with them.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as caught between the East and West. In the words of Samuel Harrington, the “Clash of Civilizations” has Saudi Arabia caught in between. On one hand, the Saudis desire good relations with America, as their primary support base and protector against other regional competitors. The US has traditionally supplied the Saudi defence forces, supported the Saudi’s politically, and has been a major customer for Saudi oil.
Thus, while hating America when attempting to pander to Islamists, the Saudis need America to survive.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wishes to establish itself as a legitimate Muslim power in the region. As the keeper of the two holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia holds substantial influence in the Muslim world. However, this influence has been severely damaged by accusations, with merit, that the al Saud family are merely American puppets. The failure of Saudi Arabia to confront Israel, and the eagerness of the government to forge ties with America has led many fundamentalist Saudis to see their government as illegitimate.

To the fundamentalists, Saudi Arabia is not only a prize, but it is their divine duty to overthrow what they see as a pro Western and corrupt government. The Prophet was very clear about who should rule in the Arabian peninsula, and it was not a Khafir regime.
Thus, prominant Saudis such as Bin Laden have arisen in opposition to the Royal Family, and have called for attacks upon them. The Saudi counter terrorism strategy has been to historically support such movements outside of the Kingdom. Thus, Saudi money has turned up in the Phillipines, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, in New York, in Iraq, and latest in Syria. The goal of Saudi Arabia is to attempt to keep radical elements occupied elsewhere, and dependant upon a flow of funds and weapons from the country. In Syria, for example, Saudi Arabia is seeking to both deny Iran a regional ally, to exert influence in the region, and the position themselves as supporters of a popular revolution.

But what is the future of Saudi Arabia? The US support, which has underpinned the majority of the Saudi defence force expenditure, is being slowly withdrawn, as the US found itself stretched thin in two unpopular ground wars in the Middle East and Asia. With the slowdown in the US economy, the country also is beinning to shift its focus from the Middle East to South East Asia to counter Chinese economic expansion.

The US has been working politically for years to develop an alternative to Saudi oil supplies. This alternative seems to have come from increased use of shale gas and oil deposits within the US itself. As Saudi Arabia sees a long term ally start to turn away from them, they have reached out to any aid they can find, including China.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of terrorist acts within its own borders along with violence caused by Iran in the Shiite minority within the country. During the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia moved quickly to shut down protests both in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain, which could have spread further amoung a discontented population.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of regional rivals, including Israel and Iran, which while being mortal enemies, neither have any love for Saudi Arabia. To counter this, Prince Bandar has been tasked by the Family to purchase a number of sophisticated long range missile systems, capable of delivering any warhead up to Nuclear to both Tehran and Tel Aviv. By creating a new version of the MAD system, the Saudis hope that this will deter any threats to the Kingdom.

A greater risk, the author believes, is that of a popular uprising supported by Islamic fundamentalists. Such a movement, if provided with traction, could possibly topple the Royal Family.

In Part IV, we will look at the necessary steps which Saudi Arabia must take in order to survive in the ever changing geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

Lessons from the Omani Conflict – Winning Hearts and Minds

Modern theorists and practitioners of counterinsurgency theory have developed a list of characteristics of insurgencies which will impact on either the success or failure of an insurgency movement. While all of these drivers and attributes of an insurgency will be present in almost all cases in varying degrees, this essay seeks to analyse the Omani Insurgency in the 1970s by the characteristics of popular support, sanctuary and external support, and weapons.

The conflict in Oman existed from the 1950s until the 1970s, even as the contestants and insurgents changed and reformed their form and goals constantly. Even though early insurgencies ended in failure, the oppressive and corrupt rule of Sultan Sa’id Bin Taymur resulted in discontent across the country, especially in the region of Dhofar in South Oman

Dhofar had long been considered the personal property of the Sultan, and was his place of residence year round, even though the government capital was in Muscat, 500 miles to the northeast

The Sultan sought to keep Oman closed off from the rest of the world, banning all forms of modern or Western technology or thought. Any who left the country for education were forbidden to return. The Sultan refused to invest in Oman’s infrastructure, creating a nation without functioning hospitals, schools, communications, or civic services

In this environment, an underground resistance movement began in Dhofar in the early 1960s. Influenced by Arab Nationalism, and seeking reforms in government, they began a small scale resistance campaign based in Salalah, the provincial capital. In 1965, Iranian forces intercepted and arrested armed Dhofari rebels in a ship attempting to enter the country. The intelligence gained from this group aided the Sultan’s forces in cracking down on the resistance in Salalah, forcing remaining resistance fighters to flee into the mountainous Jebel of Dhofar. From their new sanctuary, they formed the Dhofar Liberation Front (DLF) with the express purpose of establishing a separate Dhofari state.

Popular Support:

Originally, popular support in Dhofar was on the side of the insurgency. Initially, the DLF were committed to establishing an independent state which would end the hated rule of the Sultan, and thus achieved fairly wide popular support. The Suntan’s counterinsurgency also alienated the general population with crude tactics such as cordon and search programs, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling, and collective punishments for communities expected as being rebel supporters. In a Government report in 1970, the military described the counterinsurgency campaign as being a purely military campaign, with no attempts to win hearts and minds, no amnesty agreements, no civil projects, and no police or intelligence support to the military.

After the DLF merged into the left wing PFLOAG, the insurgents received external funding and weapons provided from a number of Communist countries, and sanctuary across the border in Yemen. Due to this, the insurgents were on the verge of possibly overthrowing Salalah, the last remaining bastion of the Sultan’s support in Dhofar.

In 1970, Sultan Saíd Bin Taymur was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his son, Sayyid Qabus bin Said. Qabus, Sandhurst educated, had been placed under arrest by his father upon his return to Oman, but with British support and backing easily wrested control of the country from his increasingly besieged father.

Once in control, Qabus embarked on a rapid policy of openness and modernization in a five pronged strategy which illustrated his understanding of the whole of government approach to the counterinsurgency campaign. His plan included a rapid development of the country through the increase of civic services, especially in the Dhofari regions. Also, he offered a general amnesty to all insurgents who surrendered and embarked on a diplomatic campaign to isolate the rebels and their supporters in Yemen from other Arab nations.

These popular reforms went far in gaining support from the local population for the government position. Civic development teams would enter communities and provide medical and schooling care, as well as veterinary attention for the farm animals owned by the primarily farming based population

The British especially embarked on a propaganda campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim based population. By playing upon religious sentiment, the general population was led to reject the Communist insurgents as atheists and infidels.

In return, the rebels responded against the population supporting the government with harsh attacks, further losing public support.

Translation: “The Hand of God Smashes Communism”

At the end of the campaign, both internal and external support for the insurgency had dried up. This is primarily due to the success of the new Omani government in winning the hearts and minds of the disaffected population.

Some authors, such as Thompson, believe that the attempt by the Rebels to force the general population to renounce Allah was the greatest alienation between them and the population. Once the Communists resorted to torture in order to attack the Muslim faith held by most of the population, their attempts at gaining popular support would always meet a measure of resistance.

External Support:

Externally, the DLF received little support initially. Egypt and Saudi Arabia provided advice, however the real external support started in 1968 from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). Using the PDRY as a base, other communist countries, or leftist leaning regimes, such as China, Libya, Iraq, Cuba, and the USSR funnelled through weapons and equipment over the Yemeni border. In addition, a small contingent of Yemeni troops supported the rebels in their operation.

This influx of equipment and weaponry evened the odds initially, and put the PFLOAG on the offensive against the Sultan’s forces. Before the arrival of support and equipment, the DLF’s tactics consisted primarily of ambushes and small raids. The better armed PFLOAG was able to level the playing field, and given similar numbers would often defeat the Sultan’s forces in engagements.

From the Government’s side however, Sultan Qabus relied heavily on British forces, particularly the SAS counter insurgency forces who were able to organize an effective counter insurgency campaign against the rebels. By building on the failure of the PFLOAG to gain popular support, they formed effective tribal units to hunt down the insurgents holed up in the Jebel. The British also provided heavy weapons and equipment such as helicopters and armoured personal carriers to the Sultan.

Sultan Qabus also worked strongly to bring Oman into the Arab league and isolate the PFLOAG and the PDFY from Arab support. On a military front, the British forces cut off the outside support to the rebels through use of the Hornbeam Line, which intercepted shipments of arms from Yemen, thus denying outside support to the rebels.

Weapons:

As discussed previously, the PFLOAG became a decisive force through external support by leftist movements who provided the rebels with modern Soviet arms. These included AK-47 Kalashnikovs, 60mm and 81mm mortars, Rocket Propelled Grenades, 122mm Katyusha rockets, and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. The primarily smuggling route for these weapons was over the Yemeni border by camel trains into the Jebel.

Armed to this extent, the insurgents became more than a match both in firepower and numbers against the government troops. In contrast, the government soldiers were armed with inadequate uniforms and gear, no heavy weapons, and with WWI and WWII rifles and Bren guns.

After the change of government to Sultan Qabus, the tide of the insurgency turned in favour of the government forces. Rebel supply lines were targeted, cutting them off from outside support. Additionally, the amnesty program put in place by Said was remarkably effective in encouraging the surrender of insurgents. As public support turned more and more against the insurgency, the last remaining members fled across the border into Yemen in 1976, effectively ending the insurgency.

In conclusion, the deciding factor in the Omani Insurgency was the hearts and minds of the Dhofari people. Initially, the public support for the insurgency guaranteed them early victories. However, as the insurgents failed to follow up on their opportunity, and indeed drove the general public away from them through acts of terror, support was gained by the government forces, ultimately resulting in a failed insurgency.


[1] Peterson JE, “The Experience of British Counter-Insurgency Campaigns and Implications for Iraq”, Arabian Peninsula Background Note No APBN-009

[2] McKeown J, 1981, “Britain and Oman: The Dhofar War and It’s Significance”, University of Cambridge

Ladwig W, 2008, “Supporting Allies in Insurgency: Britain and the Dhofar Rebellion”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol 19, No 1, March 2008

White Jim, 2008, “Oman 1965 – 1976”, Small Wars Journal Online Publication, 2008

Fine W, 2010, “Winning the Hearts and Minds in Counterinsurgency: The British Approach in Malaya and Oman and the US in Iraq and Afghanistan”, University of Kansas 2010

Thompson, L, 1996, “Ragged War: The Story of Unconventional and Counter-Revolutionary Warfare”, Arms and Armour Press, London, UK

Force Buildup in the Persian Gulf

According to a recent New York Times article, the US has been steadily building up military first strike forces in the Persian Gulf region over the past few months. These include the buildup of strike aircraft in bases in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as an increased naval presence in the Guld region. An Amphibious Assault Ship, the Ponce, has also been deployed to the region to serve as a possible command and control vessel for an assault on Iran.

An analysis of the Navel positions of the current American Pacific and Atlantic fleets show a disturbing trend

Based on the above, the US already has two aircraft carrier battle groups and an Amphibious Warfare Ship operating in the region of Iran. From both the East and West coasts of the US however, there are three carrier battlegroups and three amphibious warfare ships on the move. Their ultimate destination is unknown, however their current course could take them into striking distance of Iran.

The possibility of war with Iran is still not a probability however, as the US seems to be attempting to strongarm Iran more than provoke a war. The US wants to have the advantage in the region in case conflict breaks out, and thus is building up their military capacity in the area. A strike on Iran has always been kept on the table by the US government, however such a strike in the next few months is unlikely.

President Obama has an election battle to fight in the latter half of 2012, and thus is unlikely to greenlight a potentially unpopular war before the election period. Iran on the other hand is eager to rise to the American pressure by appearing tough through military exercises in the region. However, in reality, Iran does not want a war with America, which it would surely lose.

The strategic goal in any conflict would be the Strait of Homuz however. Whoever controls the Strait between Iran and the UAE will control much of the flow of Saudi Arabian oil to the US and China. In the event of hostilities, Iran would be likely to attempt to close the strait to hurt the US. In addition, other pipeline options from Saudi Arabia go north along the Syrian border and into Turkey. In the event of a conflict, the Iranian allied Syria would likely be tempted to attempt to sabotage the oil pipeline going north to further weaken US interests in the region.

Thus, both powers are facing off at the moment, with neither side wanting to make the first move. Israel is the unknown variable in this equation however, and is unpredictable in its relations with Iran. The nightmare scenario is an Israeli attack on Iran which results in a regional war between Syria and Iran and Israel and America.

The buildup of American arms in the region is also potentially about to spark a new arms race in the Middle East. With Saudi Arabia attempting to become the regional superpower, it is currently embarking on a military expansion through the purchase of Pakistani missiles which could deliver a warhead to any major city in the Middle East, including Tehran. As Saudi Arabia expands its military, other regional countries will feel compelled to level the balance of power by increasing their own military capacity.

In summary, a war with Iran would be very ill-advised given the current climate and position of the US. Any strike will result in all the issues of Iraq, and many times over.

We will keep on monitoring the situation and report any changes as they come in.