Small Wars Journal is a professional community of interest focused on small wars the muscular exercise of foreign policy that is an enduring feature in politics. Our mission is to facilitate the exchange of information among practitioners, thought leaders, and students of Small Wars, in order to advance knowledge and capabilities in the field.
WASHINGTON - The United States and Iran pushed full steam ahead, each country launching a new round of verbal volleys, as military tensions between Tehran and the West rose to new heights Monday.
U.S. President Donald Trump did his part to ramp up the rhetoric, telling reporters at the White House that Washington was ready for “the absolute worst” from Iran.
“They are really the number one state of terror in the world,” Trump said during a photo-op with Pakistani President Imran Khan in the Oval Office Monday.
Trump added Iran’s actions and lack of respect were making it more difficult for him to negotiate with Tehran.
“They shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “It could go either way.”
The U.S. president’s comments came hours after Iran did its part to further stoke tensions with the West, announcing it had captured 17 U.S. spies and sentenced some of them to death.
The announcement from Iran’s ministry of intelligence claimed the spies had been captured during the past year and had been collecting information from “sensitive sites,” like military and nuclear facilities, for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
An Iranian counterintelligence official further said that despite having received sophisticated training from the United States, none of the alleged spies had been successful in efforts to sabotage the Iranian facilities. Television reports also showed photographs of alleged CIA officers who had been in touch with the spies.
Both Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected the Iranian claims.
"The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false,” Trump tweeted. “Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do."
Earlier, Pompeo told Fox News, "The Iranian regime has a long history of lying.”
“I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they've taken,” Pompeo added.
This is not the first time Iranian intelligence officials have made such claims about the capture of American spies.
Back in April, Iran’s Mehr news agency quoted the intelligence minister as saying Tehran had uncovered a U.S. spy network which included hundreds of agents across several countries.
A U.S. official, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, disputed a similar set of Iranian claims in June.
The latest verbal sparring between the U.S. and Iran comes as Tehran has become increasingly aggressive in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane the passes by Iranian territorial waters.
On Friday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commandos descending from helicopters took control of a British-flagged oil tanker, the Stena Impero, transiting the strait.
On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt labeled Tehran’s actions an “act of state piracy” and said Britain was working to create a European-led naval mission to protect ships trying to navigate the strait.
Tensions between Iran and the West have risen steadily in the year since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 international accord aimed at restraining Tehran's nuclear weapons program and reimposed economic sanctions against Iran to curb its international oil trade.
In addition to seizing the British oil tanker, Iran has also targeted U.S. assets in recent weeks.
In late June, Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone after alleging it violated Iranian airspace – a claim the U.S. denied.
Last week, the Pentagon said that forces aboard aboard the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone after it “closed within a threatening range” while the ship was in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
While numerous U.S. officials have stated that Washington does not want war with Iran, U.S. military officials have warned the risk for a miscalculation has been increasing.
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif put the blame on Trump.
"Having failed to lure @realDonaldTrump into War of the Century, and fearing collapse of his #B_Team, @AmbJohnBolton is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire," Zarif said Sunday on Twitter.
Zarif also repeated claims that U.S. policy towards Tehran is “economic terrorism.”
Israel expects to encounter urban warfare and terror tunnels in a future conflict in Syria, a senior IDF officer said on Monday.
“We are looking towards future challenges in the next war-tunnels and urban combat-which could be in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria,” a senior IDF officer told reporters on Monday during a visit to the Lotar Counter-Terror School’s base at Mitkan Adam outside of Modiin.
While the military is still perfecting underground warfare techniques, the LOTAR school is “a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of tunnel warfare,” the senior officer said, explaining that after Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the IDF understood the need for troops to fight in tunnels after Hamas surprised the military with their cross-border attack tunnels dug from the densely populated Gaza Strip into Southern Israel.
Israel’s military has been investing extensive efforts in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza and a total of 18 cross-border tunnels have been discovered and destroyed since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014…
President Donald Trump is meeting with Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, about ending America's longest war, the conflict in Afghanistan.
Trump and Khan are both unpredictable and have had a rocky relationship. Monday's visit is meant to smooth tensions and deal with complex problems facing both nations.
The Trump administration wants Pakistan to use its leverage and influence with the Taliban to get a cease fire in neighboring Afghanistan, advance the peace process and create stability so he can end or substantially reduce America's involvement in the war…
Islamic State militants who escaped the defeat of their self-declared caliphate in Syria earlier this year have been slipping across the border into Iraq, bolstering a low-level insurgency the group is now waging across the central and northern part of the country, according to security officials.
About 1,000 fighters have crossed into Iraq over the past eight months, most of them in the aftermath of the caliphate’s collapse in March, said Hisham al-Hashimi, a security analyst who advises Iraq’s government and foreign aid agencies.
These fighters, mostly Iraqis who followed the Islamic State into Syria, are returning home to join militant cells that have been digging into rugged rural areas, sustained by intimate knowledge of the terrain, including concealed tunnels and other hiding places…
U.S. President Donald Trump will press Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for assistance in advancing the peace process in Afghanistan when the two leaders meet at the White House on Monday in their bid to reset strained relations between the two countries.
Pakistan has arranged Washington’s direct peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents who are fighting local and U.S.-led international troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
“The purpose of the visit is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crackdown on militants and terrorists within its territory,” said a senior U.S. administration official.
The months-long U.S.-Taliban dialogue has brought the two adversaries in the 18-year-old Afghan war close to concluding a peace agreement to pave the way for ending what has become the longest U.S. foreign military intervention.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on the eve of the Trump-Khan meeting, said Washington appreciates the "initial steps” Islamabad has taken to facilitate the peace process but “we are reaching a critical juncture” and more cooperation is required to move the process forward.
“The president will be most interested in encouraging Pakistan to... use its leverage with the Taliban to help bring about a ceasefire and genuine inter-Afghan negotiation that include the Afghan government….We're hoping that the discussions are productive.”
The Taliban refuses to engage in peace talks with Afghan interlocutors until it concludes an agreement with Washington that would outline a timetable for withdrawal of all American troops. In exchange, the agreement will bind the Taliban to prevent foreign militants from using insurgent-controlled areas for international terrorism.
The Taliban insists that once the agreement is signed in the presence of international guarantors it will initiate inter-Afghan talks to discuss a ceasefire and issues related to political governance in the country.
Last year, President Trump suspended military training programs and canceled hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to Pakistan. He accused the South Asian nation of offering “nothing but lies and deceit” while giving safe haven to terrorists staging deadly attacks on the Afghan side of the border.
Islamabad rejected the charges and in turn accused Washington of trying to make Pakistan a scapegoat for U.S. military failures in Afghanistan, plunging bilateral ties to historic lows. Officials in Islamabad say the progress in Afghan peace has led to the warming up of ties with Washington, prompting Trump to invite Khan for the Monday’s meeting.
In the lead up to Khan’s visit, authorities in Pakistan arrested a radical cleric, Hafiz Saeed, who is wanted by the U.S. for terrorism in India and carries a $10 million reward. Pakistani officials have also taken control of hundreds of Islamic schools, health facilities and offices run by banned organizations blamed for cross-border terrorism.
Saeed's arrest, however, has come under scrutiny because he has previously been detained only to be freed by courts for a lack of evidence linking him to terrorism.
“We’re monitoring the situation and -- but we wouldn’t want to praise Pakistan for this step too early, because, you know, we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we’re looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window dressing,” the U.S. official told reporters.
Khan, who arrived in Washington on Saturday, is also accompanied by the Pakistani military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Pakistan army has long been accused of covertly maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban and terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founded by Saeed. India accuses LeT of planning and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 166 people, including foreigners.
Another irritant in Pakistan’s troubled ties with the U.S. is the detention of Shakil Afridi, the jailed Pakistani doctor believed to have assisted the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 2001 attacks on America.
“Dr. Afridi is a hero in our country. He helped us capture the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks…this is something that is of the utmost importance to us…it is likely to come up,” the U.S. official said when asked whether the administration would raise the issue in meeting with Khan’s delegation.
Britain’s decision to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of its overseas territory of Gibraltar earlier this month is fast snowballing, dragging the country deeper into an escalating crisis between Iran and the West.
The Army has failed to adequately train and equip the military bomb technicians and infantry troops who are increasingly accompanying American commandos on high-risk missions in war zones, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.
As the Pentagon draws down the number of troops in combat, including in Afghanistan and Syria, it is largely relying on Special Operations forces to keep up the fight. Those American commandos depend on support from remaining conventional troops for extra firepower, security and logistics.
But the documents and interviews with seven military officials show that the backup forces — including explosive ordnance disposal, or E.O.D., soldiers — often do not have the necessary gear for protection nor the same level of training as the commandos they join on Special Operations raids and patrols…
The U.S. government has taken custody of an American citizen suspected of fighting for Islamic State and is returning him from Syria to stand trial in the United States, officials said Thursday.
The unidentified individual, described by U.S. officials as being of Russian origin with dual Russian-American citizenship, had been held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed group of primarily Kurdish fighters who have detained thousands of ISIS fighters. The officials didn’t specify which charges would be filed or where a trial would be held.
The United States and its allies, particularly in Europe, continue to grapple with what to do with their citizens who went to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State. Many were captured following the collapse of the group’s self-declared caliphate earlier this year…
Britain on Saturday threatened Iran that “there will be serious consequences” for seizing a British-owned oil tanker the previous evening as the government warned ships to avoid the crucial shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.
The British defense minister, Penny Mordaunt, said in a television interview on Saturday that the ship had been intercepted in Omani, not Iranian, waters and called the seizure “a hostile act.”
The British government said in a statement earlier on Saturday after an emergency meeting that it had “advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.” By Saturday afternoon, Britain had summoned the Iranian ambassador to register its protest, and a second emergency cabinet meeting was set to begin…