Mattis And McMaster Denounce Iranian Meddling In Middle East, But Iran May Have Already Won The Regional War

The Long March
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis led a town hall meeting with military and Civilian personnel at U.S. European Command during the Stuttgart, Germany, stop of his trip to Europe February 15, 2018.
U.S. Army/Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston

Speaking in Brussels the other day, Defense Secretary James Mattis sounded either determined or frustrated when he commented on Iranian activities in the Middle East: “[E]very time there's a problem in the Middle East, whether it be in Lebanon, South Lebanon, and Lebanese Hezbollah, it's in Syria, where Iran has propped up Assad; it's in Yemen where they're using it for a launching platform, the civil war, for missiles into Saudi Arabia; whether it's in Bahrain, where the Bahrain police have captured explosive material provided, I cannot explain why Iran insists on many of the things it does.”


Meantime, at the Munich Security Conference, Army Lt. Gen. Herbert McMaster, the national security advisor, also said hard things about Iran, such as, “So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran.”

But are they closing the barn door?

I think so. On the subject of Iranian moves in the region: I was having lunch on Friday with some friends on Friday, most of them national security professionals, and we discussed whether Iran already has won the regional war in the Middle East, with effective control stretching from Beirut to Herat—that is, from the Mediterranean to the western edge of the Hindu Kush. That would be a formidable achievement, coming in the two decades after the United States chose to intervene on the ground in the Middle East.  

The consensus was that yes, Iran indeed holds the upper hand in the region — but that it has not yet nailed down its victory to become the neighborhood hegemon.

The discussion then turned to whether it will be able to secure those gains. Some at the table thought it would, while others argued that Iran’s very victories are stimulating a strong new anti-Iran response from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. Even in Iraq, there are signs that Iran has overplayed its hand and brought about anti-Tehran feelings among some Shias.

An interesting question in all this is Turkey. It is still a member of NATO but has been holding hands under the table with Russia and Iran. So where will it land? (My own guess is that it will come to its senses—Russia is not a natural ally of Turkey unless Turkey is subjugated to client state status.)

Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.

The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.

Read More Show Less
Arizona Army National Guard soldiers with the 160th and 159th Financial Management Support Detachments qualify with the M249 squad automatic weapon at the Florence Military Reservation firing range on March 8, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Laura Bauer)

The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."

That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.

When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.

"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.

Read More Show Less

According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.

"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."

Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."

Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."

Read More Show Less

If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.

The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.

But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.

Read More Show Less

As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.

And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.

Read More Show Less