Changing the Axis of Attack

A couple of interesting pieces showing up on various sources this week.

In the past I have posted about Iran’s continuing thrust into Latin America, and from there the potential for infiltration across our southern border.  Douglas Farrah has an interesting essay up focused on Iran’s involvement in Latin America.

The recent unclassified Pentagon assessment of Iran’s military power released last month to Congress shows official reporting is finally catching up to reality on the ground in regard to Iran’s Latin American activities. The increase comes at a time of deep economic troubles for the Chávez government in Venezuela, as noted by the Hudson Institute’s Jaime Daremblum.

It is also only the most public looks at how Venezuela and Iran are enhancing their military partnerships, particularly in field of asymmetrical warfare where both states are hoping to use their non-state proxies to take on the “Empire,” meaning the United States. For a range of views on this, see my chapter and others in Woodrow Wilson Center publication Iran in Latin America: Threat or Axis of Annoyance?

The assessment contains several interesting nuggets, including that Iran’s highest priority is the survival of the regime, and hence its fixation with asymmetrical warfare and its outreach to groups that oppose U.S. interests. This includes the Boliviarian states of Latin America. (For those who read Spanish, I have an article in the most recent Poder magazine on some of these issues). The DOD assessment does not discuss Iran’s blossoming financial network across the region.

Some of the key findings that relate to Latin America and Iran’s MO in the region:

Diplomacy, economic leverage, soft power and active sponsorship of terrorist and paramilitary groups are tools Iran uses to drive its aggressive foreign policy. In particular, it uses terrorism to pressure or intimidate other countries and more broadly to leverage its strategic deterrent.

Go read the entire article and it’s links.  It is an interesting study on how there is a threat axis from the south, and really points out the results of this country’s  lack of commitment to follow through on the tenets of the Monroe Doctrine, and the Roosevelt Corollary.

At the same time we have seen two recent incidents that have had a profound effect on the US.  The Times Square VBIED, and the Deep Water Horizon disaster.  While I doubt that these were coordinated events they are seem to fit what we traditionally think of as a terrorist threat axis using kinetic attacks.  Roderick Jones takes a look at a recent 5 day span in Manhatten, and presents us with the possibility that we are transitioning to a new phase of the Global War on Terror.   You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.  Here is a taste:

Two events centered on New York City separated by five days demonstrated the end of one phase of terrorism and the pending arrival of the next. The failed car-bombing in Times square and the dizzying stock market crash less than a week later mark the book ends of terrorist eras.

The attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a car bomb in Times Square was notable not just for its failure but also the severely limited systemic impact a car-bomb could have, even when exploding in crowded urban center. Car-bombs or Vehicle-Borne IED’s have a long history (incidentally one of the first was the 1920 ‘cart and horse bomb’ in Wall Street, which killed 38 people). VBIED’s remain deadly as a tactic within an insurgency or warfare setting but with regard to modern urban terrorism the world has moved on. We are now living within a highly virtualized system and the dizzying stock-market crash on the 6th May 2010 shows how vulnerable this system is to digital failure. While the NYSE building probably remains a symbolic target for some terrorists a deadly and capable adversary would ignore this physical manifestation of the financial system and disrupt the data-centers, software and routers that make the global financial system tick. Shahzad’s attempted car-bomb was from another age and posed no overarching risk to western societies. The same cannot be said of the vulnerable and highly unstable financial system.

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