Happy New Year everybody! It’s going to be a good one, I think, with Brexit and a second Trump term to look forward to. We’ll need to keep on our toes, however, like a midget at a urinal, with apologies to Naked Gun.
It’s been a shorter year for Iranian terrorist Qassem Suleimani than he planned, but his death means that many innocent people will live. I’m doubtful that there’ll be another war in the Middle East, but Iran may find increasing Western resistance to her ambition to control the region.
Shooting down Ukrainian airliners isn’t going to help. The scientific case for anthropogenic global warming is going to come under increasing scrutiny and I suspect that Sir Keir Starmer will be the new leader of the Labour Party, with Rebecca Long-Bailey as runner up.
I trust all y’all had a happy Christmas. We had the usual crop of Carry On movies, giving further reminders of the late Talbot Rothwell OBE’s brilliance as a screenwriter. He started his writing career as a POW, by the way, doing the scripts for concerts in LuftStalag III at Sagan. One of my favorite lines of his is in Carry On Henry. Sid James as Henry VIII asks Kenneth Williams as Thomas Cromwell whether his intended, Queen Marie of Normandy, has been chaste: “all over Normandy” comes the reply!
The only setback in my Christmas was that my pudding didn’t light. Well it did, sort of, but the Remy Martin spluttered out quickly. I’ve since been told that I should have warmed the brandy first. I’ll know for next Christmas. There are a number of skills in my skill-set but cooking ain’t one of them.
The elimination of Qassem Suleimani
The taking out of Major-General Suleimani on January 3rd was a major blow to the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was their key strategist and the smartest member of the regime. Responsible for thousands of deaths over the years, he could hardly be heard to complain, although I daresay that he was a bit annoyed at being blown up.
Downing St whinged about not being consulted, but OPSEC (Operational Security) was paramount. The Pentagon clearly has doubts about the reliability of ‘Ritter’ Mark ‘von’ Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, to whom our intelligence agencies report, doubts which I respectfully share. Until we put our house in order we can hardly be expected to be consulted over operations where just one loose lip could sink the ship. ‘Von’ Sedwill is currently trying to destabilize the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement by handing our 5G network over to Huawei. No offense, but he tends to see himself as our Supreme Leader.
Just as the Iranian people can’t offload Ayatollah Khamenei without outside help it may be that there’s no one in Britain powerful enough to get rid of Sir Mark, not that I’m advocating a drone strike on Whitehall. It would raise eyebrows and there would be bound to be a letter in the Times. If he’s left in post however it will be the end of Five Eyes as it currently stands. ‘Four Eyes’ doesn’t have quite the same ring.
OPSEC on the Suleimani operation was truly impressive. In the past Suleimani would have been warned from Dachau, indeed his reliance upon the DVD may have proved his undoing. He simply couldn’t conceive of you guys being able to conduct an operation against him without his getting to hear of it.
I have my doubts about the claimed legal justification, however, although this was a perfectly proper counter-terrorism operation. Civilized states have a duty to suppress and punish the international crime of terrorism, but self-defense seems a bit thin, depending upon how imminent the planned attack on the US Embassy was. The Foreign Office used the same gambit in the Falklands War, quite unnecessarily, since Argentina had launched a war of aggression against a British possession.
In my first appearance on British TV, in 1984, on the BBC’s current affairs program 60 Minutes, following the US invasion of Grenada, the crusty Tory MP Julian Amery, son-in-law of the German spy Harold Macmillan, who worked with Chiang Kai-Shek in World War II, asserted that “you can’t obey international law if the other feller doesn’t”. In practice this is now Western policy – we’ve been so sorely tried by terrorist-sponsoring states that we now only give the rules lip service when dealing with them. That was the only time by the way that I’ve ever been on TV with a friend of Chiang Kai-Shek, although I’ve had a drink with a friend of Madame Chiang.
I’m an international lawyer. I’m not saying that I like the realpolitik approach the West is now adopting. I just recognize reality. In practice, President Trump’s approach harks back to the pre-League of Nations concept of reciprocity. The President has expressed it much more gracefully and tactfully, of course, but essentially what he’s saying to the Ayatollahs is: “you’re a bunch of loonies and scumbags, who have been going about murdering innocent men, women, and children for years. If you want the protection of international law you’ll have to start obeying it yourself.”
Since the successful operation to terminate Suleimani with extreme prejudice the Democrats have behaved like a bunch of weenies, no offense intended. This is not too surprising since they are a bunch of weenies. Their weenie-in-chief, Congressman Adam ‘von’ Schiff, has made himself look like an idiot, or, if you prefer, an even bigger idiot, given the Iranian decision to shoot down Flight 752. Of course, they’re even blaming President Trump for that!
The shoot-down of Flight PS752
Those of you following my Twitter account this week will have seen that I was suggesting a missile strike as early as Wednesday, the same day the plane was shot down. As may be seen from my Twitter feed I initially thought, along with the President, that the shoot-down was accidental. I no longer think that it was.
Since both the Ukraine and Iran are German client states I was struggling at first to find a motive, but of course, the Germans lost a degree of control over Kiev with the election of Volodymyr Zelensky. What’s more, the Democrats are trying to impeach Donald Trump based on a bad faith allegation involving guess what, Ukraine.
If Kiev were showing signs of cooperating with the White House that would definitely give Teheran a motive. They’re not exactly fans of President Trump, but even if they were they take their orders from Dachau.
Iran doesn’t make its money from selling oil, at least not much. It makes its money from high-yield offshore trading programs, which are controlled by Frankfurt. The Iranian-controlled terrorist organization Hezbollah had over a billion dollars squirreled away offshore twenty years ago. The programs are a no-go area for the MSM – very few journalists understand offshore finance and they wouldn’t be allowed to tell the truth even if they did. The yields are such that it gives Germany effective control. This is how they bankrolled World Wars I & II, after all. Put another way the British government is still struggling to work out how Germany funded the First World War.
At the current rate of progress, it’ll take at least another hundred years before they do! It’s not just that ministers don’t understand how the world works, they don’t listen to those who do.
Most if not all oil-producing states in the Middle East trade their oil cash offshore. That includes Oman. Sultan Qaboos, whose sad death was announced this week, was a good friend of Britain, but not such a good friend with the respect that he got round to telling us how he made his money.
Flight PS752 was operated by the Ukrainian flag carrier, Ukraine International Airlines. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-8KV, tail number UR-PSR, was not much more than three years old. The crew was highly competent. Captain Gaponenko had more than 11,000 hours, mostly on the 737. First officer Naumankin was even more experienced and was an instructor on the 73.
There were 176 souls aboard, including nine crew. Most of the passengers were Iranian nationals, although a large number had second nationalities, in particular Canadian, Teheran-Kiev-Toronto being a popular low-cost route between Iran and Canada. The flight took off from Runway 29R at Imam Khomeini International Airport at 0612 local time (0242Z). Less than two minutes later it was hit by an SA-15 Tor–M1 missile (NATO reporting name Gauntlet) fired from an IRGC SAM site, at an altitude of 7,925’ above Mean Sea Level, 4,620’ AGL. The SA-15 uses a terminal radar-activated proximity fuze, with automatic, controlled guidance from the TLAR launch vehicle.
It’s now been confirmed that two missiles were fired, although it seems the second round wasn’t needed. The Tor has a smallish, 33lb fragmentation warhead, which would have detonated in close proximity to the target, shredding its unprotected fuel tanks and engines. The target aircraft was climbing at the time of impact, with a reported groundspeed of 275 knots, implying a true airspeed of around 250 knots, the international limit below Flight Level 100 (10,000’).
After detonation, the target entered an uncontrolled right-hand turn of about 24o. The Iranians are saying this was deliberate, but that’s nonsense. Neither engine appears to have been rotating at the time of impact and there wouldn’t have been time to fire up the APU. There is no reason to believe that either pilot had control, assuming they were still alive. At least one photo of the cockpit appears to show what looks suspiciously like hits from cannon rounds but are almost certainly shrapnel fragments, in which case the warhead probably detonated in front and slightly below the target.
Unlike the Ukrainian/Chinese shoot-down of MH17 I don’t think that a second aircraft was involved. It looks like a head-on shot, well within the SA-15’s capabilities. It’s a sophisticated, modern SAM system and is not limited to tail chases.
Although the time to fire is short on the Tor, the target still has to be acquired by the F-Band Pulse-Doppler 3-D search radar. This system’s capabilities are key to understanding the loss of Flight 752. The search radar has a comparatively narrow search arc (32o), that is to say, the dish has to be pointed in the general direction of the target. In this case, that means that it was probably pretty much pointed in the general direction of Runway 29R.
Secondly, the radar is a digital, 3-D system. Put another way it is perfectly capable of distinguishing between a stretched 737-sized target and a cruise missile.
Was it deliberate?
In my judgment, yes, for the following reasons:
(1) The Iranians lied about the shoot-down from the word go.
(2) They refused to allow access to the black boxes until after French or German technicians had time to tamper with them or fabricate replacements, for which they would need to know the degree and type of impact damage on the originals (the MSM always fall for swapped black boxes, as in the case of AF447).
(3) There were no immediate arrests as you would expect if a junior officer at a SAM battery shot down a civilian airliner without authorization from the chain of command.
(4) After four days of lying, when the Iranians finally admitted to shooting 752 down, they came up with the nonsense theory that the 73 was confused with a cruise missile. The target was climbing, slow-moving, and executing a standard instrument departure from a nearby international airport. It was not off course and its primary radar signature would have been far too large for a cruise missile. Moreover, it was coming from the wrong direction, that is to say away from Teheran, at a time when no US launch vehicle for a cruise missile was thought to be within range.
(5) There were two missiles, not one. Normally with an accidental shoot-down, we like to see one missile only.
(6) The timeframe is inconsistent with confusion as to the target ID and consultation up the chain of command, that is to say, it looks as though the decision to engage Flight 752 was taken before it took off.
(7) The Iranians had a motive, as suggested. There may have been a different motive, but you only need one.
(8) The Iranians have a history of shooting down civilian airliners – this is their fourth, after TWA800, AF447 and the Yemeni Airbus, and
(9) The regime also has a history of being willing to sacrifice its own nationals in large numbers, most notably when setting up the Vincennes incident.
As I have been arguing in vain for years Western cover-ups over TWA800 and the other Iranian shoot-downs have made civil aviation much more dangerous. I’m not so sure that the regime will get away with it a fourth time.
I suspect that President Trump has similar doubts, although he has been reserved and statesmanlike in his public comments, as one would expect, with respect. He would, of course, be aware of any discussions between Washington and Kiev re their intervening in the impeachment.
Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada has gone somewhat further, publicly casting doubt on Teheran’s claims of an accidental shoot-down and rightly so. In point of fact, Canada has no right under international law to render consular assistance in the case of dual Iranian nationals who voluntarily enter their second country of nationality and are then shot down in Iranian airspace following a decision by the Iranian government to murder them. So far as I know each of the Canadian citizens on the flight was of Iranian extraction and held Iranian nationality.
However, it is a moot point whether the second country of nationality commits an Act of War against the first country of nationality by murdering dual nationals. In my opinion, the murder of 63 Canadian nationals on board Flight 752 amounted to an Act of War by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Dominion of Canada. Justin Trudeau is a weak leader however, with every respect, so don’t expect anything other than hand-wringing from Ottawa. It’s too tough a world for liberals, sadly.
Prime Minister Johnson is hamstrung by the Cabinet Secretary, so there won’t be anything other than futile hand-wringing and formulaic condolences from London either over the three dual British/Iranian nationals on the flight.
It would be interesting to know whether Teheran cleared the hit in advance with either the Cabinet Office in London or the Privy Council Office in Ottawa. Teheran knows that ministers tend to be mere figureheads and that real power in Britain and Canada resides with officials. As was the case with Piper Alpha, Whitehall has been willing to go along with mass murder. At any rate communications between Teheran, London and Ottawa might repay study.
The Aussie Bushfires
These are getting worse, and still, there has been no offer of help from the UK, which is shameful. A number of American firefighters have gone out, which is good to see. The left is aggressively pushing global warming as the cause, which is a nonsense, not least as many of the fires appear to have been started deliberately. High temperatures and strong winds don’t of themselves provide ignition points.
A further factor is the failure to burn back firebreaks, a disastrous policy encouraged by environmentalists. Firebreaks are important. So is dropping retardant from the air, which is where the RAF should come in.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
It didn’t take long before our Supreme Leader, sorry, Cabinet Secretary, poked his nose into this sad business, like a demented Ayatollah. I have every sympathy with Their Royal Highnesses over media intrusion into their private lives and in particular over the silly criticism of their sensible decision to use private jets. I’ve only ever chartered a jet once, but believe me it’s a great way to fly! It’s also good for the environment, as the extra CO2 helps improve crop yields.
It must be aggravating for the Royal Family to see the media continually suggesting that they are in some way subsidized from the public purse when the truth is the other way round. Two things must happen – the Queen must be allowed to use the entire income from Her estate, which would allow Her full control over the maintenance of the Royal Palaces, and somebody in authority has got to explain to HRH Prince Harry who murdered his poor mother and why. And no, as I explain in Spyhunter, it was nothing to do with HRH Prince Philip, who doesn’t organize murders, even of journalists. He’s never been Prime Minister of Malta, for heaven’s sake.
It’s a slightly controversial suggestion I know, but if the Rt Hon. Julie Payette could be persuaded to move on, Governor-General of Canada might be the ideal job for the Duke of Sussex. I’m sure that Canadians would love it, even if Justin Trudeau might have to be persuaded. I daresay that Canadians, being the warm-hearted and generous people that they are, would quickly take to the Duchess. Security could safely be left in the capable hands of the Mounties, who are far more professional than the Met, and better dressed.
Ben Stokes OBE
Well done to Ben Stokes on his OBE, announced in the New Year Honours Lists. Not content with helping to win the World Cup and the Headingley Test against Australia Ben took an England record five catches in South Africa’s first innings in the Second Test at Cape Town last week, smashed 72 runs off 47 deliveries in England’s second innings then blew the last three South African wickets away in two overs of searing pace to win the Test when for all money it looked like the match was going to be drawn. (Yes it is possible for a ball game to go five days and end in a draw!)
Had anyone in authority thought there was anything in the absurd criminal allegations against Ben, exposed as a fraud in this column, he would not have got an OBE, trust me. Another thing over the break which would not have happened had there been any truth in an allegation was HRH the Duke of York accompanying HRH the Prince of Wales to the church at Sandringham on Christmas Day, in the full glare of the media spotlight. It was a tacit admission that the allegations against the Duke, based as they are on a forged photo, are false.
This week’s movie review: 1917 (2020, dir. Sir Sam Mendes)
Released to theaters in England on Friday this is a stunning war movie. Based on what appears to be a true story, with considerable dramatic license, it tells the story of two Lance-Corporals (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman), entrusted by a general (Colin Firth) with getting a vital message through to a colonel (Benedict Cumberbatch), who’s about to fall into a trap.
Moving his lines backwards to carefully prepared positions was a typical shabby Hun trick. The movie’s credible plot and accurate recreation of trenches and No Man’s Land gives it immediacy. You really engage with the characters as they battle their way through.
Sadly one of them doesn’t make it. (It’s only just been released, so I don’t want to spoil the plot too much!) It’s always a good idea to search your Hun for weapons before you fetch him water after you’ve rescued him from the wreckage of his blazing Albatross.
The special effects, especially the dead community partners, are superbly done, although it’s upsetting to see dead horses. Huge efforts are made to give an accurate impression of the trenches, both British and German.
There are a few flaws – using Salisbury Plain made all sorts of sense from a production point of view, but the chalk soil and hilly topography detract from the realism. Digging up half a mile of trenches in Flanders probably wasn’t on, though. I only spotted one anachronism – a Mark IV tank in a movie set in April 1917, when they didn’t come into use until a few months later.
However, any criticisms are minor. Germany’s decision to start World War I was one of the most shameful events of the 20th century. 1917 brings home the impact of the brutal war unleashed in August 1914 by our community partner the Kaiser. It should clean up at the Oscars.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.