The Thinker: Rich Galen


The definition of the word mull.
Mullings by Rich Galen ®
An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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Off the Ledge

Rich Galen

Thursday January 9, 2020

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  • This past week was one of those times when, if you live Inside the Beltway, you check the weather patterns to make certain you are still upwind from the White House just in case.

  • This is much like living near a major river and checking the tide tables to see how high, high tide is going to be after a big storm.

  • If, like me, you live Inside the Beltway and a block from the Potomac, it was a week to hit the NOAA websites pretty hard.

  • Since the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by blowing him up via an American drone last Thursday night, the world has joined me in checking for blast patterns, and high tides with some frequency.

  • There was little question that the Iranian leaders would retaliate against U.S. interests following the attack on Soleimani. The Iranians had to.

  • The outpouring of grief and anger in Tehran streets came close to the crowds that Donald Trump and Sean Spicer believe, to this day, were on the streets of Washington, DC during Trump's inauguration.

  • While waiting for the Iranians to decide what to to, Trump mused that if the Iranians overstepped, the U.S. would attack Iranian "cultural sites."

  • Trump stopped staying this when it was pointed out by his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, that targeting cultural sites is a violation of international law.

  • I pointed out that it would also put Trump on the same plane as the Taliban who blew up those massive statues of Buddha carved into the side of a mountain in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

  • As it happened, the Iranians recognized that we have more assets near Iran than they have assets near the Continental United States and the asymmetry ran in the wrong direction.

  • The Iranians apparently told the Iraqis they were going to launch rockets into Iraq sovereign territory - which did not appear to surprise or distress them unlike the single drone strike on Soleimani which sent the Iraqi parliament into paroxysms of torment to the point they passed a resolution demanding all U.S. troops leave their country.

  • At any rate the Iranians were pretty sure the Iraqis would share this intel with the Americans so the Americans could sent their people into bunkers and await the big booms.

  • Secondly, the Iranians - maybe because they were not certain the Iraqis would get the story straight - also told the Swiss and, according to CNN, at least two other countries that this attack was coming.

  • The Iranians, whose missiles are accurate enough to take out specific oil assets in Saudi Arabia, aimed at two airfields, but they apparently aimed at areas of the airfields where they were unlikely to hit an human beings.

  • The White House did not come under attack nor did the Potomac overflow. It was a relatively benign reaction.

  • Trump delivered a speech the next morning saying he would accept the relatively minor battle damage at the two airports in Iraq in return for both sides backing down. Trump's speech was, at times, slurred which led the anti-Trumps to trot out their back-of-the-matchbook psychological diagnoses.

  • The current buzz is that the Iranians will use more sophisticated forms of retaliation - like cyber attacks.

  • From this point on, any errors in fact or typos that appear in Mullings will be put down as evidence of an Irannian cyber attack.

  • See? It's starting already.

  • Finally, the Trump administration and its allies in the media and on the Hill have been calling this standing down as both sides having taken an "off-ramp" from further kinetic activity.

  • I think that's giving both sides too much credit.

  • Getting off the Interstate at an off ramp requires a knowledge of where the off ramp is, where it will lead, turning on your (usually) right-hand blinker, applying the brakes or at least lifting your foot off the accelerator, and having some idea where you will go after you get to the bottom of the ramp.

  • Having tortured that metaphor just about enough, I think the correct one is this: Trump, by ordering the attack on Qasem Soleimani was effectively walking along the wall of the observation deck on the Empire State Building.

  • A gust of wind, in the form of the Iranian missile launches, blew him off the ledge and back onto the deck.

  • It just as easily could have blown him in the other direction, 86 floors to the sidewalk below.

  • Donald Trump - the great negotiator - put us all in the position of having left that decision to the Iranians.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the NOAA page showing tide data for the Potomac River at Alexandria, Virginia; to a battle damage photo at one of the Iraqi airbases; and, to CNN's explanation of how the Swiss provide information between the U.S. and Iran.

    The Mullfoto is an old one of me standing in front of an empty hole in a mountainside in Bamyan, Afghanistan that used to be the home of a giant statue of Buddha.

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