"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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To Resolve An Insurgency - Part III

Click to read Part I and Part II.

For all its effort in reconstruction projects, the US has not been particularly successful in establishing basic security throughout Iraq. Specifically, Baghdad has become both the American and insurgent center of gravity in this country. By not ensuring basic security in Iraq’s major cities, the US has created fence sitters. A fence sitter is a citizen of a country that allows insurgents in/around his neighborhood and does not report them to the authorities. A fence sitter is important to an insurgent for the sole purpose of it gives the insurgent freedom of action from which to perpetuate his activity to overthrow the government. It is this “tacit support” of the population that allows an insurgency to grow and develop. It is from this “tacit support” that an insurgency gains approval from the populous and becomes ingrained in a society.

In the Insurgency Cycle, Iraq is currently somewhere between 10 or 11. The Iraqi government is the duly elected, legitimate government, but is perceived as weak- unable to provide for basic security, corrupt-unable to provide basic services, and ineffectual-unable to provide for vast employment. Maliki’s reconciliation plan, while gaining some inroads, is also faltering. How can the Iraqi government correct these perceptions?

First and foremost, a strong central government needs to be established. As stated above, this is the foundation of everything else. It must be strong to prevent a security breakdown and abandonment of law and order. To gain popular support and to get the fence sitters on its side, it also must be fair. In Iraq’s case, since it is a duly elected, legitimate government, it initially had the support of the people, it now needs to focus on the four pillars to become strong while maintaining its fairness. One of the first things that need to happen to ensure fairness is Maliki needs to ensure both Sunni and Shi’ites Soldiers/police are in the same units to stop sectarian death squads. They may not be split 50:50, but his units need to be integrated to ensure fairness.

Since Baghdad is the center of gravity for both the insurgency and the government, Maliki must focus on making Baghdad secure. Several methods have been tried, but none has had resounding success. However, it is time for Maliki to move Iraqi troops out of safer regions and bring Baghdad under martial law. The recent hanging of Saddam may very well be the impetus he needs to make such a move. He should request that foreign troops focus their efforts on securing Iraq’s borders to prevent external logistical support to the insurgents into his country.

He should declare Baghdad a “weapons free” zone. He should give an amnesty period and then if anybody is found with a weapon, that person should be jailed and then tried. He should use the police force and Iraqi Army to sweep the city from one side to the other to rid the city of weapons. If a known insurgent is found, that person should be summarily shot on sight.

Once Baghdad is clear of all weapons, he should ensure the police force maintains good order and discipline. If a member of the police, Army, or citizenry is found to be in violation of good order and discipline, that person should be tried and jailed whether Sunni or Shia, whether part of the clan/tribe/party in the government or not. Maliki should then move on to other cities where insurgency is rampant and declare marshal law and execute clearing operations in these other cities.

Quickly after executing security operations in each city, Maliki should engage in development projects employing the people in each city or town. He needs to establish all basic services quickly and employ as many people as possible. He should involve clan/tribal/party leaders to focus this massive development project in each city. While outside contractors may be able to do the job better, he must ensure all contracts stay in country to ensure the influx of capital back to the Iraqi economy. If somebody is found to be inflating prices or not providing services paid for, that person should be tried and jailed as an example to all others.

These methods, while harse, would re-establish law and order, provide security and legitimize the government. In addition, these methods would ensure the stakeholders, the Iraqis themselves, are involved in bettering their cities and are employed. By maintaining clan/tribal/party involvement in all developmental projects, he could ensure loyalty.

The difficult part of this scenario is for Maliki to not overstep his bounds and become another Saddam. However, this is a democratic country and has a working constitution. If he oversteps his bounds, he will not be re-elected or worse, he will lose his coalition and be thrown out faster. If he doesn’t and Iraq is secure, basic services are provided, employment is up, and clan/tribes/parties are involved, he may very well be re-elected.

I will discuss how the US needs to refocus its efforts in Part IV.

Somali forces, Ethiopian tanks pursue Islamists

From Reuters at Yahoo.

Ethiopian tanks rumbled south from Mogadishu to attack Somali Islamists on Saturday after their hardline clerical leader reportedly exhorted his fighters to make a final stand in the port city of Kismayu.

Ethiopian fighter jets were seen over Kismayu and nearby Jilib town on Friday and Saturday.

"We are heading to Jilib in a convoy of 15 Ethiopian tanks," Ahmednur Yasin told Reuters by telephone. "There are more forces heading to Buale and I am sure the fighting will start soon.“

A Somali government soldier said the Islamists had laced the highway from Mogadishu with mines as they pulled back.

For a day by day presentation of the war, click here.

Saddam executed by hanging

A picture is worth a thousand words.

This ruthless, tyrannical dictator finally got what he gave to hundreds of thousands of his own people.

Let this be a message to Al Qeada leaders as they also kill indescriminately.

Somali government instilled in Mogadishu while Somali/Ethiopian forces prepare to move South.

From the AP at Yahoo.

On Friday (29 Dec), Somalia's Prime Minister [Gedi] promised thousands of cheering Somalia peace and stability Friday as he formally took control of the battle-scarred capital for the first time since his government was formed two years ago.

Hundreds of foreign fighters, mainly Arabs and southern Asians, were seen in Kismayo on Friday.

Ethiopian troops aboard tanks fired warning shots into the air after dozens of young men threw stones as the convoy traveled through the city on the way to secure the airport.

Ethiopian jets continued to buzz the front line town of Jilib, 65 miles north of Kismayo. Jilib is at a crucial junction of rivers and roads that lead to Kismayo.

Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf said Ethiopian troops would stay in Somalia as "the government is not up to the level of taking back the entire country overnight."

Somalia's president vowed to take the fight to Kismayo. "We are going to go there and confront them," Yusuf told reporters. "If we capture them we will bring them to justice."

For a day by day presentation of the war in Somalia, click here.

One can only hope.

MSNBC has an article entitled, "Saddam to be hanged by Sunday".

This murderous dictator is hopefully finally going to get what he gave to thousands of Kurds, Shi'ites, and yes Sunnis too.

To Resolve an Insurgency - Part II

To Resolve an Insurgency - Part I can be found here.

The insurgency cycle can be interrupted at any place along its continuum. Some areas are more difficult to disrupt than others, but none the less, all can be interrupted and stopped.

But a couple of highlights are worth mentioning.

Fundaments which insurgents capitalize upon to gain control:
  • Weak central government
  • Security concerns of citizens are not met
  • Basic services (SWEAT) of citizens are not met
  • Large segment of population is unemployed
  • Clan/Tribal/Party leaders are ignored in central government
Prior to examining all of these fundaments in detail, it must be understood that not all of these must be in place to prevent insurgents from gaining control. Some may be more important in different countries/regions than others, but generally security is the greatest concern, followed by basic services, employment and finally involvement of clan/tribal/party leaders. However, one thing is certain, if a government only has one of these fundaments as its strength, it is at risk of being overthrown by insurgents. Conversely, if a government is able to maintain a many of these fundamentals to a high degree, it will florish.

Central Government: A central government is the basic building block or foundation for all other fundamentals. It can provide security, basic services, employ the populous and engage clan/tribal/party leaders to maintain control. Below is a diagram of this foundation.

Security: Security is the most basic of needs of a population. Without it, a population cannot grow, create, and aspire.

Basic Services: The most basic of services are sewage, water, electricity, academics, and trash (SWEAT). Sewage, water, and trash must be taken care of for a society to survive. Electricity must be available for a society to grow. Academics must be present to allow a society to persist and flourish.

Employment: The basic human need to provide for oneself and a family must met. At its most rudimentary level, employment is necessary to provide solely for the basic services above. In this form, it also provides security to an individual or family.

Clan/Tribal/Party Leadership: All individuals want to be part of something. It is in our nature. In many Muslim societies, the clan or tribe is an integral part of society. Even in the United States political party alignment is important to most individuals. At the very least, being a part of a company that employs an individual, whether a bank, a store, or a major corporation, often defines an individual.

With all the definitions done, where does this leave us? How can we use it to affect Iraqi society today? How can the re-established Somali government use it to affect Somalia?

First, I will go to Somalia as they are right now where the US was in Apr/May 2003. In Somalia, the insurgency cycle was interrupted at point seven in the cycle. The insurgents were routed by an organized Army. It is now up to the Somali/Ethiopian government to establish a strong central government, re-establish security, provide basic services, employ the populous, and to involve clan/tribal/party leaders to prevent the old or another insurgency from gaining strength in Somalia. It will be interesting to see if the re-established Somali government with Ethiopian backing can make this happen. Will Somalia become a strong, democratic government or will it continue to be controlled by warlords or will another Islamic insurgency take control and start the cycle all over again?

It is of special note that I did not include a democracy as one of the pillars of a stable society in the picture above. Many countries have persisted and still do persist, but lack any democratic principles. Democracies allow individual citizens in a country/region to focus the government. If a democratic government does not listen and act to the will of the people, it will soon be out of office, either by another elected government/party or by an insurgency (whether internally or externally supported).

Iraqi leaders and leaders in the west may want to examine what happens in Somalia in the near future and learn from their successes and failures. It may very well help western societies to quell Islamic insurgencies in other parts of the world.

I will discuss what is needed to quell the insurgency in Iraq in Part III.

Reason Number 486 to launch strikes against Iran

Israeli Insider reports today:

"Islamic Jihad members said Wednesday they were hoping to provoke Israeli retaliation and sabotage the truce to restore Palestinian unity against a common enemy -- Israel....Islamic Jihad takes orders from Ramadan Shallah, a Palestinian from Gaza who now lives in exile in Syria."

Add this to what Haaretz reports today:

"Syrian President Bashar Assad asked United States Senator Arlen Specter to convey a message from him to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asking him to tell the prime minister that 'Syria is interested in peace negotiations with Israel.'"

Add the above two to this report from the Jerusalem Post:

"Hizbullah is paying Palestinian splinter groups "thousands of dollars" for each Kassam rocket fired at the western Negev, The Jerusalem Post has learned."

Finally, add this from YaLibnan:

"Mohammad Ali Jozu said of Hezbollah that they are in the middle of a coup against the government in which they were a major partner for one and a half years.He added " they are threatening to close roads , airports, ports etc….this is no more a peaceful demonstration , but a coup against the state"."

So, we have Islamic Jihad who is firing Kassam rockets into Israel for $1000 per launch by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization funded by Iran, supported logistically by Syria, and attempting a coup against a democratically elected government in Lebanon. We have Assad saying he wants peace negotiations with Israel while still funneling arms to Hezbollah. And finally we have Iran, who is in violation of UNSC Resolution trying to make nuclear weapons.

The question is:

Who is the knucklehead here?

The Palestinians, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran....


The US and Israel for not bombing these jokers out of existence.

More to the point, why does the ISG recommend talking to these talking to these jokers about helping out in Iraq. I guess we figure they will help out in Iraq like they are helping out in Palestine or Lebanon.

Hezbollah using Mafia tactics in Lebanon

Mohammad Ali Jozu, the Mufti of Mount Lebanon, stated that Hezbollah has transformed itself from a resistance group to a Mafia organization, trying to force its will on the Lebanese people by using Mafia tactics.

For an entire read, click here.

The delusion of a dialogue with Syria

The Daily Star has a superb article authored by Ammar Abdulhamid about the delusions of dialogue with Iran or Syria. It is an excellent analysis and should be read in full.

A highlight follows:

"Under these circumstances, neither Syria nor Iran seems capable of delivering anything but mayhem in Iraq. What, then, would the proposed dialogue between the US and these states achieve other than continue to empower their corrupt yet ambitious regimes?"

Somali/Ethiopian Forces Enter Mogadishu

SomaliNet News posted the following article:

Convoys of Ethiopian forces along with the interim government troops have just entered Somalia capital, Mogadishu where hundreds of people welcomed their arrival.

Heavily armed Ethiopia-Somalia troops have been welcomed in Mogadishu late Thursday.

Witnesses told SomaliNet the Ethiopians were waving to the people as they entered the capital.

The allied troops of Ethiopia and Somalia arrived from two directions, north and south and received a sweeping welcome.

The interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi is reported to be with the advancing troops that arrived the capital and is expected to deliver speech to the people.

It will wait to be seen if Islamists in Somalia now resort to guerilla warfare and suicide bombings.

To Resolve An Insurgency - Part I

A basic Insurgency Cycle has developed now that we have seen a few instances of extreme Islamists (whether Sunni or Shia) forming a government in a region or state. These fundamentals have been observed in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Lebanon, and the tribal areas of Pakistan recently. They have also been observed in less modern times, but the focus here is on current day Islamists.

1. Islamists move into countries/areas which have weak central governments and are not providing basic services (sewer, water, electricity, academics, trash (SWEAT)) for their citizens.

2. To gain control, they use clan/tribal leadership to establish legitimacy and provide basic services to citizens.

3. Once established, they bring in the clan/tribal leadership in a country/area make them stakeholders of a stronger central government/entity.

4. Once in control, they begin to severely restrict basic freedoms such as ownership of weapons, mass media, free speech, learning, music, etc.

5. They lose the popular support of people, but they are able to maintain their control/power through clan/tribal sponsorship, fear, coercion, and targeted assassinations.

6. Their basis of power is sustained by foreign governments which provide them arms, monies, and logistical support to maintain support of clan/tribal sponsorship.

7. Without external involvement, they persist and continue to oppress their people. However, they are quickly routed once engaged in battle against an organized Army. They do not engage organized Army's in traditional battle and retain their forces for later actions.

8. Once routed in battle, they resort to guerilla tactics, IEDs, and suicide bombings to promote insecurity and to delegitimize the current government.

9. The most important things to execute once Islamists are defeated is to establish and maintain security and establish law & order quickly.

10. If the citizens' basic security needs (SWEAT) are not met and the population is not employed, they will sit on the fence, providing tacit support for the Islamists, while an insurgency builds and grows stronger.

11. If the government/attacker is unable to maintain security, provide basic services, and employment for its citizens, support for the insurgency will blossom and gain favor.

12. The cycle begins again at number 1.

Now that we have the cycle for how Islamists gain control of country/region, the question becomes, how can we interrupt this cycle?

I will answer this question in Part II.

Somali Islamists routed.

On Thursday (28 Dec), Somali forces backed by Ethiopian forces seized roads to the North and West of Mogadishu prepared to lay siege to the capital.

About 3000 Islamists were seen retreating towards the port city of Kismaayo. It appears that the Islamists have totally given up Mogadishu. According to Abdirahman Janaqow, a senior leader, he ordered his forces out of the capital to avoid bloodshed.

In Kismaayo, clan leaders demanded that Islamists surrender. It appears Somalis are turning against Islamists.

Other fighters who had joined the Islamists have taken off their uniforms and submitted to clan rule.

Gunman Mohamed Barre Sidow stated, "I have seen that the Islamists are defeated. I'm going to rejoin my clan. I was forced to join the Islamic courts by my clan, so now I will return to my clan and they will decide my fate, whether I join the government or not.“

Clan elders were calling for their young men to form into militias to protect their neighborhoods.

For a presentation of the fighting, click here.

Somali/Ethiopian force close on Mogadishu.

On Wednesday (27 Dec), Somali backed by Ethiopian forces secured Jawher (50 miles north of Mogadishu) and are moving onto the outskirts of Balcad which is about 18 miles north of Mogadishu. Other elements appear to be closing into Mogadishu from the west.

Sheik Mohamoud Ibrahim Suley of the Council of Islamic Courts stated, "Our snakes of defense were let loose, now they are ready to bite the enemy everywhere in Somalia.“

It appears that Ethiopian and Somali troops will close on the outskirts of Mogadishu tomorrow. Once this center of gravity is captured, it waits to be seen if Somali/Ethiopian forces continue to clear Islamists out of the entire country.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated Somali and Ethiopian forces have killed about 1000 Islamists and have wounded an additional 3000.

To view a presentation of this war, click here.

War is Hell, What we need to do to win in Iraq.

Herbert Meyer has an excellent piece in The American Thinker today.

In this piece, he boils down the war against radical islam to a competition among different operating systems. He states:

"You find that one operating system has triumphed above all the others: Western Civilization. Its key features are the separation of church and state, the primacy of the individual over the State, the encouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, free enterprise, and a never-ending struggle to reach equality among the races and sexes. Like all operating systems, Western Civilization has its flaws, its shortcomings and its imperfections - as will any operating system designed and run by human beings. But by any imaginable measure, Western Civilization is history's greatest achievement."

He goes on to describe radical islam operating system:

"Radical Islam. Its key features are the combination of church and State, the submission of individuals to this combination, the discouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, the crushing of its people's entrepreneurial talents, and the treatment of women as though they were property rather than people. Just like Western Civilization, this operating system has its flaws, its shortcomings and its imperfections. But unlike Western Civilization, Radical Islam contains a flaw that may not be correctible: it is incompatible with the modern world."

He also aptly shows who we are war with:

"Our enemies aren't the people on whom the Radical Islam operating system has been imposed, but rather the operating system itself. We are using military power, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, to give moderate Muslims, who comprise the vast majority, the first chance they have had to hold power in a long while. Our hope is that, over time, these moderates will develop an Islamic operating system that is compatible with the modern world and - more importantly - willing to co-exist peacefully with our operating system."

He goes on to show how we can win this war:

"What the Bush Administration has now realized - belatedly - is that to achieve our objective we will need to use more violence than we had thought, and hoped, we would need. That is why the President is seriously considering sending more troops to Iraq. Simply put, we haven't hit the Radical Islam operating system hard enough to crush it. And this means the real issue isn't the number of soldiers we send to Iraq, and perhaps to Afghanistan, but the orders that President Bush gives to our military commanders."

Finally, he specifically talks how we can win in Iraq:

"The violence we will need to inflict to win won't be limited to Baghdad, or even to Iraq. Just as you cannot fill a bucket with water if that bucket has two big holes in its bottom, we will not end the war in Iraq so long as Iran and Syria continue to interfere. Thus far, we have done nothing whatever to stop Iran and Syria from interfering, and unless we do we cannot win. In other words, to crush the Radical Islam operating system we will need to widen the war. More precisely, the governments of Iran and Syria must be taken out of the conflict, either by forcing these governments to cease fighting, or by removing and replacing these governments."

Widening the war to Iran and Syria is the only way we will win the war in Iraq. We need to take out the competing operating systems of these two countries or at least prevent them from pushing their operating system onto the Iraqi people. To prevent them from pushing their operating system on the Iraqi people, we need to begin bombing their country. In Iran, we should focus on their nuclear facilities as this is causing the most consternation in the Middle East. Widening the war to Iran may very well open Syria's eyes without widening the war to it. However, if needed, we need to bomb Syria much like Reagan bombed Lybia-attacking the leader's family itself.

"On War" = Motivation + Capabilities

COL (Ret-USAF) Tom Snodgrass writes an interesting piece today in The American Thinker. In it he writes that war is reduced to motivations and capabilities of both sides.

Correctly, he infers that motivations of Islamists cannot be influenced and therefore we are only left with affecting the Islamist's capabilities. He also correctly infers that it is impossible to maintain a regional war if we are to affect the enemy's capabilities.

His answer is two-fold:

1. Fight the war like a war and not a police action. For this he recommends changing the ROE to permit the use of overpowering and overwhelming American firepower on a hair-trigger basis to execute prolonged clear and hold operations.

2. Moving the air war to supporting neighboring countries which would have the double effect of reducing the insurgent's capabilities and establish the military-political point that if you aid our enemy, you are our enemy and we will target you and your country.

He goes on to point out that the regional war in Vietnam continued for so long and resulted in an eventual American withdraw for the very same reason.

I have argued this point repeatedly in this blog. America needs to strike at the suppliers of the insurgency. Bombing Iranian nuclear capability would have the additive effect of reducing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons which we may have to deal with in the future and limiting its influence in Iraq both politically and logistically.

The purpose of war is to break things in such a manner that you reduce the enemy's motivation and capability to wage war. While this war is taking place in Iraq, it is being supplied outside Iraq. We need to go to these outside countries and break things. In the case of Iran, nuclear installations would be a good start as this would solve not only the problem of resupplying of the insurgency in Iraq, but would also solve any future nuclear Iran issue.

Islamists retreat as Somali/Ethiopian forces gain ground.

On Tuesday (26 Dec), Islamists retreated more than 30 miles to the southeast from Daynuney, a town just south of Baidoa, the government headquarters.

The Islamic forces also abandoned their main stronghold in Buurhakaba (southern sector) and were forming convoys headed toward the capital, Mogadishu.

Somali government and Ethiopian troops entered the town of Buulebarde (center sector) and Galinsor, south of Galcaio (northern sector) and appeared to be pushing south from this position.
"We have withdrawn as part of our military strategy," said Sheik Mohamoud Ibrahim Suley, an official with the Islamic council in Mogadishu.

Like other Islamists, it appears they are retreating from major fights, overwhelming firepower and will begin a guerilla war and employ suicide bombers.

For its part, Somali government and Ethiopian troops appear to be executing a three-pronged attack which will culminate in Mogadishu.

For an interactive map, click here.

Al Qeada has been trying to take over Somalia to establish the African portion of their caliphate. Up to now, they have been successful and it seemed this front would go unchallenged. Ethiopia has now entered into the Global War on Terrorism and is preventing Al Qeada from establishing Somalia as a base of operations. As more and more countries come online and understand that this is truly a world war against democracy and Christianity, Al Qeada is going to have to decide where to focus its efforts. For now, the third front of Al Qeada has been challenged and Somali/Ethiopian forces are advancing against the Islamists.

Ethiopian backed Somali forces battle Islamists along three fronts.

On Wednesday (20 Dec 06), Somali forces backed by Ethiopian forces attacked across three fronts.

On Sunday (24 Dec 06), Ethiopian Prime Minister acknowledged that his country was “forced to enter a war” against the Somali Council of Islamic Courts.

In the North, the immediate objective appears to be Gaalkacyo in the Mudug Region. Fighting between Somali/ Ethiopian forces and Islamists is still occuring.

In the Center, the immediate objective is Beledweyne. Col. Abdi Yusuf Ahmed, a Somali commander stated his forces entered Beledweyne Monday (25 Dec 06) without firing a shot.

In the South, Somali/Ethopian forces are in control of Baidba and fighting is taking place in Buurhakaba.

The Central and South battle will almost certainly culminate in Mogadishu where Ethiopian jets damaged the main airport.

The battles in Gaalkacyo and Beledweyne have sealed the main Kala-Bayrka road between the Hiraan and Mudug region which is key to the Islamists.

Click here to see a presentation of the fighting.

Tables are turning against President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

The UN Security Council on Saturday (23 Dec 06) voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Not surprisingly, the Iranian government immediately rejected the resolution and Ahmadinejad stated,

"This will not damage the nation of Iran, but its issuers will soon regret this superficial and nil act."

In addition, President Ahmadinejad was rebuked in recent twin elections in Iran.

His first defeat came in the Assembly of Experts where Ayatollah Khamenehi block won 40 of the 86 seats available. Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani split the remaining seats. Ayatollah Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, Ahmadinejad's first choice to rule the Assembly of Experts, came way down the list of those elected in Tehran. Ayatollah Hussein Gheravi, the faction's standard-bearer in the key province of Khorassan, where the holy city of Mashhad is located, failed to win a seat.

While Ahmadinejad's party gained control of 27 of 30 provinces in munical elections, his defeat was noted in Tehran where Muhammad-Baqer Qalibaf, who parted company with Ahmadinejad's party awhile back, won control of Tehran.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah's "sit-in" continues to wreck the Lebanese economy to the sum total of $70 million per day, as did the summer war with Israel, which cost $2.8 billion in damage to Lebanese infrastructure. Support for Hezbollah's attempt to overthrow the popular Siniora government is waning and Hezbollah is now promising to escalate the campaign after the holidays to force the Siniora government to accept their demands.

Iranian backed Sadr is still negotiating his way back into parliament. How this turns out waits to be seen.

Leaders in Syria are continuing to be investigated for the murders of Hariri last year and Gemayel this year.

Meanwhile, the US Central Command has requested a second carrier battle group be sent to the Persian Gulf.

So where does this leave us?

Ahmadinejad was handily defeated in the Assembly of Experts and therefore will not be able to pursue his incendiary rhetoric with direct actions. People in Tehran, fearful of his rhetoric, turned out in large numbers to vote against him. This result in his hometown must make him somewhat timid. Hezbollah is not gaining popular support and is continuing to wreck the Lebanese economy. Sadr is somewhat isolated and is trying to gain support in Iraq. Syria is under continual investigation for assassinations. Iran's economy is already a wreck. Sanctions could make it more so. And a second carrier battle group may be on its way to the Persian Gulf.

The time is ripe for the US to increase pressure on Tehran which may result in the loss of power of Syria, Hezbollah, Sadr, or Ahmadinejad himself. Any one of these would be another significant blow to the presidency of Ahmadinejad and go a long way to putting him back in his place. It seems that all these avenues are being worked by the Bush administration. It will be interesting to look back on 2007 around this time to see if we played our cards better than Ahmadinejad.