British SAS (Special Air Service) commandos engage in a firefight in Afghanistan.
SAS would be at the heart of any hostage rescue mission in Iran.
** THE JESSE JACKSON FACTOR. Barack Obama just scored a very key endorsement in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Reverend Jesse Jackson said today that he is supporting him. Jackson, of course, was the first major black Democratic presidential candidate, finishing third in the 1984 Democratic contest and second in the 1988 Democratic contest. I could write thousands of words about Jackson, but we’ll keep it short for now. Jackson is very important because he represents the black American, as distinguished from the multi-culti American, experience of African Americans, the latter of which is more in the somewhat exotic Obama mode (white mother, Islamic Kenyan father). He was a top aide to Martin Luther King, and was there when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, embracing the civil rights leader as he died.
Jackson is one of the most important figures in the history of African American politics. I remember 1984 very well, when my friend Gary Hart was somewhat unaccountably running late for the Iowa debate, which was utterly key to the emergent success of his dark horse presidential candidacy. It’s a much longer story, but we had to delay the start of the debate — which required some fast talking, I assure you — and convnce Hart’s Secret Service detail, driving him in from Omaha, Nebraska rather than the snowed-in Des Moines airport, to drive at very high speed on icy roads to get him to the Des Moines convention center in order to make the delayed time. It all worked, and when Hart arrived, he immediately went into his friend Jesse”s dressing room to chat. When they emerged, good things happened. For them. Hart emerged from the debate as a major figure, going on to move from fifth to second in Iowa, winning New Hampshire and another 25 states after that. Jackson took a half-dozen states and became the most important black political figure in America.
Jackson has long been associated with the Clintons, and his endorsement of Obama is a major blow to their effort to block Obama’s emergence with a massive black vote in the primaries. I think it is safe to say now that if Obama wins in either Iowa, Nevada, or New Hampshire, he will then win in South Carolina, which will set off a cascade of Southern victories for Obama. Barring, of course, a major mistake by the rookie candidate.
** FOX NEWS DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IS SET. The Congressional Black Caucus and Fox News will partner on a Democratic presidential debate scheduled for September 23rd in Detroit, Michigan. Elements of the “netroots” attempted to dissuade the Congressional Black Caucus from this move, but were unsuccessful, with caucus officials saying their goal is to present the debate their issues discussed therein to the broadest possible audience.
** MORE REPUBLICAN TROUBLE WITH A.G. GONZALES. Still more trouble for Republicans with embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Contrary to his earlier claims, according to his former top aide, he personally decided to fire the eight U.S. attorneys dismissed in the controversial sackings. At least one, San Diego area U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, was zeroing in on big-time Republicans, having already won the corruption conviction of notorious Congressman Duke Cunningham, who was so brazen in his shakedowns he had taken to driving about in a Rolls Royce. She had just indicted a major Washington lobbyist and the former executive director of the CIA before being fired. It’s hard to imagine Gonzales lasting to this point in office were he not an old Texas friend of and longtime aide to President George W. Bush.
** IRAN DIVESTMENT BILL LOOKING GOOD. California Democratic legislative sources say the prospects for legislation by San Diego area Assemblyman John Anderson, a Republican, and Orange County Assemblyman Jose Solorio, a Democrat, look good. The bill passed the state Assembly’s retirement committee yesterday on a 4 to 1 vote. It would require the state’s two massive public pension funds, the Public Employee Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System, to divest from foreign firms doing business with Iran. The firms affected would include Daimler Chryslter, Hyundai, and Siemens. The Teamsters union is stongly in favor of the bill. The Service Employees International Union dropped its early opposition. But the state’s two teachers unions unsuccessfully opposed the bill at yesterday’s hearing, arguing that the pension fund board should make investment decisions independent of the political environment. Not a stance they took during the struggle to divest state funds from firms doing business with the late apartheid regime in South Africa.
** GIULIANI LEADS IN IOWA POLL. In the new Zogby telephone poll of likely Iowa Republican presidential caucus voters (not the unreliable Internet survey), Rudy Giuliani has the lead, 25% to 19% over John McCain. Mitt Romney, still working to win over conservative activists, is in third with 11%. And new potential prospect Fred Thompson has 7%. Giuliani’s lead is due to his edge among young voters and women voters.
** BRITAIN-IRAN STANDOFF CONTINUES. Dashing hopes of an early resolution, Iran has refused to release the lone female prisoner among the 15 British sailors and marines seized by radical Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval elements as they executed a routeine merchant vessel search in the Persian Gulf. While British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he wants a swift and peaceful solution to the crisis, multiple sources indicate that planning is well underway for a special operations solution involving British and US special forces in a search and rescue mission inside Iran. At the core of the operation would be the British SAS (Special Air Service) — seen in action in the video above — which served as the model for many of the world’s top special operations forces, including those of the United States, beginning with the Green Berets established by President John F. Kennedy and continuing through the super-secret Delta Force.
One notable element of the present crisis is that a low-intensity but very real “intelligence war” seems to be already underway between Western and Iranian forces. A leading Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, some say by the Israeli Mossad. A top Iranian general and leading intelligence official defected recently, apparently after several years of providing intelligence to the US and others in the West. A leading Israeli defense ministry official was apparently assassinated in Europe. Iranian agents have been discovered — surprise! — operating inside Iraq, and five Iranian officials, ostensibly diplomats, but operating without proper diplomatic credentials, have been captured and detained inside Iraq by US forces. Then there are the guerilla attacks inside Iran, carried out by Iranian dissidents, of whom there are many, and reportedly backed by US and British special ops forces.
How might an SAS-led hostage rescue mission go inside Iran? Well, SAS has carried out many operations which remain secret. One that was not, in 1980, involved the taking of some 20 British citizens, who were held inside the Iranian embassy in London by a half-dozen Islamic jihadist militants. SAS assaulted the embassy and rescued the hostages, swiftly killing all but one of the Iranian radicals in the process. But operations in another country are more problematical.
The Israeli Sayeret Matkal, working against very poorly-trained Third World soldiers in Uganda, pulled off the fabled raid on Entebbe in 1976, rescuing over 100 hostages at the airport there. 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the operation, verus only three hostages and just one Israeli — the commander of the operation, future Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s brother. But an attempt to rescue American hostages at the US embassy in Tehran in 1980 failed due to a mishap with helicopters in a sandstorm at the rendezvous point known as Desert One. Much has been learned since then, of course. On both sides. The Israeli military, for example, suffered notable setbacks in its largely unsuccessful war last year against Hezbollah. All Israeli hostages taken last year remain in the hands of Hezbollah.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are at or near six-month highs — in the $64 to $67 barrel range — as the British hostage crisis in Iran drags into a sixth day.