Intelligence Fail: How Mussolini’s Ego Saved the Soviet Union

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

In previous articles, we examined the intelligence failures around Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the USSR, from both the German and the Soviet points of view. An important side of the equation that is usually ignored, however, is the Italian contribution to the eventual Soviet success.

 

Allies Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler Image from the US Holocaust Memorial Mueum public domain

Allies Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler
Image from the US Holocaust Memorial Mueum
public domain

 

In the fall of 1936, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini and German Dictator Adolf Hitler announced a military treaty between their respective nations. From the beginning of this alliance, Hitler was convinced that Italy, a junior partner, could at best be most useful in countering British naval power in the Mediterranean and possibly in threatening Great Britain’s hold on the Suez Canal. From Mussolini’s point of view, the alliance with Nazi Germany entitled Italy to be treated as an equal partner. Mussolini expected the alliance to offer Italy opportunities to develop a Mediterranean empire that would stretch across northwest Africa and westward from Italy across the Adriatic.

In March of 1938, without any prior consultation with its Italian ally, Germany entered Austria and managed a coup that is remembered as “bloodless.”

The annexation of Austria was not actually bloodless, but Austrian resistance collapsed quickly, and Nazi propaganda efforts were somewhat successful in convincing the world that Germany was welcomed by the Austrian people. Mussolini was stunned both that Hitler had succeeded so easily in Austria and that Hitler had not consulted, or even forewarned him, of the invasion.

On September 29, 1938, France, Italy, Great Britain, and Germany signed the now infamous Munich Agreement, which granted the Western portion of Czechoslovakia to Germany. While in this case Mussolini was consulted, his role was limited to helping bolster the feeble notion that the Munich Agreement was legitimate, given the fact that the Czechs were not consulted at all about how their country would be carved up.

In March of 1939, Hitler again surprised Mussolini by granting independence to the Slovakian areas of Czechoslovakia and annexing the remaining portion of that country. By this point, Mussolini was beginning to understand that Hitler had no intention of treating him as an equal partner in their alliance.

Mussolini felt that he had to do something to improve his prestige. Without consulting Germany, Italy invaded Albania in April of 1939.

 

Italian Troops in Albania public domain

Italian Troops in Albania
public domain

 

Albania had a poorly trained and minimally equipped army of 15,000 men. It was further impeded by the fact that it was already in a state of political turmoil due to tensions between communist, royalist, and democratic nationalist factions.

The 100,000 Italian invaders managed a rare Italian victory, installed a puppet government, and declared that Albania was now part of Italy.

Hitler saw the Italian annexation of Albania as being a sensible move and was likely informed in advance by his intelligence agencies. From Germany’s point of view, having Italy in control of the entrance of the Adriatic Sea from the Mediterranean supported its long-term strategy for the coming war.

In August of 1939, again without consulting his Italian ally, Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR. Mussolini was angered and embarrassed at having been left out. He would likely have been far angrier if he had known that the pact included a secret agreement for a postwar division of Eastern Europe between Germany and the USSR.

The following month, Germany and the USSR invaded and divided Poland. France and Great Britain then declared war against Germany.

In April of 1940, Hitler once again went on the warpath and unleashed his army on Denmark and Norway. Denmark fell in a day, and Norway managed to resist until June.

Hitler was quite pleased with himself, while Mussolini was feeling more and more like Hitler’s weaker little brother.

Mussolini decided he had to do something to prove that Italy was a modern military powerhouse. He confided to his generals that “to sit at the peace table you have to make war.” This was his way of voicing concern about post war division of spoils between Germany and Italy after what he expected would be a quick war.

In September of 1940, Mussolini made his “big move.” He attacked British-occupied Egypt. He did so after prior consultation with Hitler. Unfortunately for Mussolini and Italy, things did not go quite as they expected.

 

Royal Air Force preparing to raid Italian positions at Tobruk public domain

Royal Air Force preparing to raid Italian positions at Tobruk
public domain

 

The British in Egypt were badly outnumbered both in men and aircraft, but their planes, tanks, and equipment were vastly superior to what the Italians had. The Italian attack on Egypt, which should have been a quick success for Italy, turned into an embarrassing failure.

In February of 1941, Hitler had to send German divisions and aircraft to help Italy try to invade Egypt. By the time Germany was able to send adequate reinforcements to North Africa, Great Britain had also reinforced Egypt. In spite of the best efforts of Hitler’s Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, his German Africa Corps, and three full corps of Italian troops, Rommel never reached the Suez Canal.

When compared to the immense scale of operations on the Eastern Front, the Axis defeat in North Africa might seem less important, but their failed North Africa campaign denied the Germans the use of several of their best divisions, along with considerable resources of the overtaxed German Luftwaffe.

In October of 1940, having achieved no success in North Africa, Mussolini did a huge favor for the USSR. He invaded Greece.

 

Greek Forces in Korce, November 1940 public domain

Greek Forces in Korce, November 1940
public domain

 

Mussolini was certain of a rapid victory over the smaller Greek Army. The Greeks were not convinced. The Italian invasion turned into an Italian retreat, and the Italians were in danger of being forced out of Albania by the Greek Army and Greek partisans.

Hitler was taken completely by surprise. He and his General Staff were focused on preparing Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR. They had not informed their ally Italy of their intentions.

The UK and the US suspected the planned German invasion of the USSR. The Soviet Army expected the German invasion but could not convince Stalin. In fact, everyone except Stalin and Mussolini expected a German invasion of the USSR. Even when Germany moved massive amounts of men, equipment, and supplies to Poland, the Italian diplomatic and intelligence communities managed to miss what should have been obvious to them. This ignorance of Germany’s planned April 1941 invasion of the USSR, was instrumental to Mussolini’s decision to invade Greece.

It was an intelligence failure that sank Mussolini’s military into dire trouble.

Hitler was furious. He refused to see that he had helped Mussolini stumble into this terrible mistake by not informing him of his Operation Barbarossa. Italy plunged head first into an ill-timed operation in Greece instead of concentrating on the far more crucial campaign in North Africa.

Hitler considered leaving the Italians to suffer their growing disaster in Greece on their own. However, as the Italian debacle dragged on towards the spring of 1941, Hitler decided that he had to save his Italian ally from complete defeat – not because Italy was his ally, but because Greece was no longer neutral and was now accepting aid from the UK. This meant that Greece had to be defeated, because if the British RAF was allowed to operate air bases in that country, their bombers would be within range of the oilfields of Romania. Without Romanian oil, the German Army would have ground to a halt in the USSR.

 

Royal Air Force Operations Over Albania and Greece, 1940 Image from Imperial War Museums public domain

Royal Air Force Operations Over Albania and Greece, 1940
Image from Imperial War Museums
public domain

 

In April of 1941, Germany and Bulgaria invaded Greece. By early June, Greece was defeated. So, all well that ends well? No. It ended well, but it ended too late.

By June, the German Army should have been halfway to Moscow with trucks of supplies following it on mostly dry, passable roads. The Russian road network was primitive, and the Germans could not afford to have their Army’s logistics further strangled by nearly impassable muddy roads.

By the time Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, it was two months behind schedule, thanks to Mussolini’s decision to invade Greece. It was also without valuable troops and equipment that now had to occupy the previously neutral Greece. Before the German Army got close to Moscow and Stalingrad, supply problems on bad roads were limiting their armored operations. When it did get to the gates of Moscow, snow began to fall, and the German Army was without winter clothing and equipment.

In the end, the vastly numerically superior Soviet Army and Soviet production defeated Hitler on the Eastern Front. However, if Operation Barbarossa had started on time, Stalin might have lost Moscow, Leningrad, and Stalingrad. He could conceivably have decided to conclude a peace treaty with Germany, and an early departure by the USSR would have been disastrous for the Western Allies.

The great intelligence lesson to be learned from Italy’s failure to anticipate Operation Barbarossa: No nation should take for granted their ally’s intentions. Even friends need to watch each other.

In our next installment, we will consider a great American intelligence failure in WWII.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Related Articles in the Intelligence Fail Series:

Hitler and a Most Important Intelligence Lesson

Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet View

 

Intelligence Fail–Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet View

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

In our last post, we discussed the intelligence lesson to be learned by Hitler’s choice to invade the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. On the other side, the Soviet Union’s reaction to that invasion provides us with one of history’s most glaring examples of bad intelligence assessments.

Intelligence professionals that read this series should be aware that I use the term “assessment” in the generic English sense rather than in the technical professional sense. All intelligence agencies have their own requirements and rules for what an “intelligence assessment” should look like. We are not following any of those requirements other than the ones that coincide with the researching and writing of history.

To understand the Soviet Union’s failure to adequately prepare for the German invasion of June 22, 1941, it’s important to consider the decision making process of the Soviet Union.

 

Josef Stalin in Berlin, 1945 Image from US Library of Congress,  public domain.

Josef Stalin in Berlin, 1945
Image from US Library of Congress,
public domain.

 

Josef Stalin was a dictator that only nominally reported to the Communist Party of the USSR. In reality, the Communist Party lacked the will or practical authority to oppose any decisions taken by Stalin.

By 1941, everyone in the USSR understood that disagreeing with Stalin about anything was likely to lead to arrest, torture, and possible execution. Not surprisingly, Stalin had grown accustomed to people agreeing with him. While he may have enjoyed his success in bending the entire USSR to his will, it had an isolating effect that would prove disastrous.

Even though Hitler vastly underestimated the war fighting capability of the USSR, he understood that the USSR had a much larger military than did Poland or France. Accordingly, he instructed the German military to move approximately 3.8 million troops into position to invade the USSR. Some of those troops were not for employment in the spearheads of the invasion, and, therefore, did not need to be kept close to the Soviet borders. Still, even in the pre-satellite age, it was difficult to disguise German troop buildups.

 

The six lines of attack comprising Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941. From The Battle of Russia, the fifth film in the Why We Fight series by US Govt. public domain

The six lines of attack comprising Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941.
From The Battle of Russia, the fifth film in the Why We Fight series by US Govt.
public domain

 

So how did Stalin manage to ignore the massive German buildup leading to Operation Barbarossa?

There are various opinions about the details of how and why Stalin failed to anticipate a German invasion, but some aspects are nearly universally accepted. One might assume that the Soviet NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) and military intelligence forces were inadequate or perhaps nearly blind to all evidence. This was clearly not the case.

The Soviet Union leadership considered itself to be in a perpetual state of war with the rest of the world. From their point of view, the character and intensity of that war varied, but there was no such thing as real “peace” with Western nations. The Soviet State also operated on the assumption that it was and would always be in a state of war with a significant portion of its own citizens.

These two fundamental assumptions caused the USSR to invest heavily in intelligence efforts. Both the NKVD and Soviet military intelligence accurately assessed that Hitler was planning an invasion of the USSR. They had done an excellent job of penetrating Hitler’s Foreign Office, intelligence services, military staffs, and industry. They were receiving more than enough information from a variety of independent sources to be certain that Operation Barbarossa was imminent.

In addition to its direct sources in Germany, Stalin’s intelligence community was aware of US and UK assessments of Hitler’s intentions.

When diplomats from the US and the UK informed Stalin of German plans to invade the USSR, Stalin had already heard this from his spies in the UK and the US. He assumed that all the warnings coming from the Western nations were part of a Western conspiracy to force him to go to war with Hitler prematurely. Stalin preferred to let the West demolish itself, and he planned to step into a convenient power vacuum of a destroyed Western Europe.

Opinions vary about precisely how, in the face of so much corroborative information, Stalin failed to anticipate the German invasion. In one sense, he didn’t.

Just as Hitler understood that carving up Poland with the USSR would in no way appease Stalin’s long term goal of annihilating Western nations and governments, Stalin clearly understood that Germany would try to attack the USSR. Stalin’s basic reaction to that reality was to attempt to outsmart the Western nations.

Remember, from Stalin’s point of view, the UK, France, and other Western enemies were as much a threat to the Soviet system and Soviet ambitions as was Germany. All Westerners were Stalin’s enemies, and all of them needed to be accounted for in the Soviet geopolitical calculus of the day.

In addition to considering the threat from his Western neighbors, Stalin had to consider the very real threat of invasion by the Japanese military to the east. Japan had already conquered vast swaths of China, and it could not be completely ignored.

Stalin responded to the threats that surrounded him by using his vast NKVD resources to try to maneuver Western countries into war with themselves and by counting on the Japanese to continue being strategically diverted with their slaughter of the Chinese. From Stalin’s point of view, Hitler’s invasion of his Western neighbors perfectly fit into his plans.

 

Wehrmacht troops cross the USSR borders in Operation Barbarossa, June 22, 1941. public domain

Wehrmacht troops cross the USSR borders in Operation Barbarossa,
June 22, 1941.
public domain

 

Stalin never doubted that Hitler would invade the USSR, but since Germany was still busy dealing with the undefeated UK, he was certain that Hitler would not make the mistake of throwing Germany into the same sort of two-front war that brought that country to ruin in 1918.

When Stalin’s magnificent intelligence services explained to him that Hitler was not going to wait for the fall of the UK to invade the USSR, his megalomaniacal personality enabled him to ignore them. When anyone in his intelligence, diplomatic, or military organizations foolishly attempted to argue the point with him, he accused them of being enemy agents and had them murdered or banished to labor camps.

Since June 22, 1941, Stalin’s miserable intelligence assessment of German intentions has been a popular topic of study. As more files have been obtained from the now defunct USSR, more explanations are offered as to precisely how Stalin managed to deceive himself.

 

German soldiers in Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, June 1941. Image from German Federal Archives, wikimedia commons.

German soldiers in Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa,
June 1941.
Image from German Federal Archives, wikimedia commons.

 

Thus far, the various theories and occasional new evidence have not changed the essential facts of the case.

Stalin failed to prepare for Operation Barbarossa because he refused to acknowledge that anyone might understand the strategic situation as well as or better than he could. The results of his grand miscalculation were devastating for the USSR. We cannot assume that the best possible preparations by the USSR would have completely and bloodlessly defeated the German invasion, but it is reasonable to assume that the USSR would have suffered far fewer casualties in halting the German advances.

There is one other “what if” that we usually ignore when examining Stalin’s grotesque mismanagement of the Soviet military machine. If indeed Stalin had been able to defeat Hitler’s invasion more efficiently, then Soviet forces likely would have advanced further west before the Allied Forces reached the same positions. Then the post-war division of European nations might have left even more European nations enslaved by Soviet occupation.

Stalin’s horrendous failure to anticipate Operation Barbarossa reinforces the lesson that even the best intelligence is only useful when leaders use it effectively. Stalin’s failure in 1941 also demonstrates another important lesson from Intelligence history . . .

Nations and their leaders should be aware that their own plans and ambitions can blind them to their enemies’ intentions.

In our next segment we will consider an oft-ignored intelligence wild card in Operation Barbarossa.

Intelligence Fail — Hitler and a Most Important Intelligence Lesson

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Prostitution may be the oldest profession, but spying is the second oldest. While no one knows when the first intelligence operative conveyed information to his government, historians can safely agree that spying dates as far back as the Iron Age. With such a long history, there are bound to be some fantastic successes and some dismal failures.

 

Woman Spying on Male Lovers Qing Dynasty, Chinese Sexual Culture Museum, Shanghai Image public domain

Woman Spying on Male Lovers
Qing Dynasty, Chinese Sexual Culture Museum, Shanghai
Image public domain

 

Considering past intelligence operations and their impacts can help us all to be better consumers of intelligence estimates. In any democracy, the stated purpose of funding intelligence activities is to make us—the voters and taxpayers—safer and less burdened by the astronomical costs associated with national defense. Taxpayers are the CIA’s customers.

While considering cases of successful intelligence estimates can be useful, for two important reasons, I will start this overall series with a sub-series of the worst cases.

First, I have a tendency to want to deal with the ugliest and dirtiest problems up front. A lifetime of living in the Great Hall of Mirrors tends to do that to old spooks like myself. The greatest and ugliest problems are easiest to identify in the present, and, therefore, if we tackle them first, we can be certain that we are not throwing bundles of cash and human lives into a meaningless inferno of activity. This likely contributes to the “kill, cripple, or steal the biggest monsters first” mentality of much of the world’s intelligence communities.

My second reason to begin by looking at intelligence failures is also personal. On the day that I decided to undertake this series, I was thinking about General Douglas MacArthur and his ineffective staff. Naturally, that left me pondering horrible intelligence estimates. While there are hundreds of annoying cases to review, rest assured that we will only consider a few of the more glaring and informative cases before we move on to the happy contemplation of intelligence successes.

Let us first consider some limitations inherent to any conversations on intelligence history.

As of 2015, we are still learning more from previously classified or buried information that goes as far back as World War One. For example, I spent five hours today scratching at the surface of newly released materials about US intelligence estimates in the 1960s.

Another factor to consider is that a great deal of misinformation is often left in files that are well situated between any researcher and certain classified information.

Also, old spies lie. They do it well, and worse yet, they do it neatly and effectively in concert with each other. In fact, on some level, most spies with field experience were paid by the taxpayers of their respective nations to learn to lie convincingly. While spies may not be liars in their personal lives, they lie to protect others who were involved in past intelligence operations and to protect any creative tradecraft they might have employed.

Not that I would ever be a spy myself. Spying is a disgusting activity that is conducted by loathsome creatures. My cohorts and I are nothing like that. We are nice people, and we have simply done a bit of necessary intelligence work against dangerous enemies—the aforementioned loathsome creatures. To be fair, I should mention that the loathsome creatures often take the opposite view as to who is loathsome, and who is a patriot. But then again, they are loathsome, so why would you take their word for it anyway?

Spying is almost always a controversial issue, so let’s start with the case of a culprit that nearly everyone can despise. (No, not the president from whichever political party that you don’t vote for.) Let’s start with a German. A German that few modern Germans would defend—Adolf Hitler.

 

 

As the NAZI dictator of Germany, Hitler inherited an efficient and effective intelligence apparatus that was run by the German military establishment. So why then did he make so many crucial errors based on bad intelligence estimates?

The answer is one of the most important lessons for managing intelligence efforts in democratic nations.

Let us consider two of Hitler’s many asinine miscalculations during World War Two.

By the time that Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, he had already committed some glaring miscalculations based on faulty intelligence estimates. The invasion of Poland took Hitler to new heights of miscalculation.

Hitler made a secret pact with his archenemy, Joseph Stalin, for the partition of Poland, and he did it without the advice of his military leaders, his intelligence service, or his best diplomats. It is difficult to imagine that Hitler had any “good diplomats,” but he did. Unfortunately, the German Foreign Office had been taken over by a pathological low life named Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop was a dedicated NAZI and had no regard for logic or reason. He was also capable of tremendous self-delusion.

 

German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signing Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of NAZI-Soviet non-agression, Poland, 1939. Image public domain, wikimedia commons.

German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signing Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of NAZI-Soviet non-agression, Poland, 1939.
Image public domain, wikimedia commons.

 

One result of Ribbentrop’s colossal stupidity was that the many well-educated, dedicated, and intelligent employees of the German Foreign ministry no longer mattered. Their assessments that invading Poland would likely force France, Belgium, and England into war with Germany fell on deaf ears.

Hitler found himself fighting the war he had not planned – a general war on his Western front. Germany’s easy conquest of a numerically superior, but poorly prepared, Western Europe encouraged Hitler’s increasing faith in his own propaganda. Unreasonably, he became more convinced that he alone had a clear vision of the geopolitical realities of Europe.

With much of her army spread across the globe, Great Britain was badly defeated on the fields of France, but her Air Force and Navy were still largely intact. At the same time, Great Britain’s Army, with material support from the US, was rapidly rebuilding and expanding. Rather than admitting that his own military wisdom was inferior to that of the entire German military establishment’s, Hitler became less willing to listen to his best generals and admirals.

This led him to his next great miscalculation, Operation Barbarossa.

With Great Britain undefeated and rapidly growing closer with the US, the German military was forced to maintain large garrisons of troops in the occupied countries from Poland to France. The responsibility for controlling these nations was made more difficult by Hitler’s infamous SS Divisions and his secret police, the Gestapo.

While consuming military equipment and other resources, the barbaric SS and their ruthless Gestapo counterparts inspired intense hatred for Germany in the occupied nations. This made it impossible for Great Britain to seriously consider any peace agreement with Germany, and it made the German Army’s massive occupation duties much more expensive in equipment and manpower.

In those circumstances, no reasonable man would have invaded the numerically superior and materially wealthier Soviet Union. Unfortunately for all concerned, Hitler was nothing like a reasonable man. His military intelligence apparatus and his General Staff accurately assessed that while Germany’s well trained and well equipped Army could take advantage of Stalin’s gross mismanagement of the USSR, they could not completely defeat the USSR while still in a conflict with Great Britain. Hitler ignored their well-reasoned, intelligence assessments, and in doing so, led Germany to ruin, albeit after inflicting millions of casualties in the USSR.

The great lesson to be learned from Hitler’s invasion of Poland and from Operation Barbarossa is one that, unfortunately, not all leaders have learned – that the most accurate intelligence estimates are useless when decision makers ignore them.

In our next episode, we will look at how Stalin managed to commit some very similar mistakes to Hitler’s with similar costs.

Iran Nuclear Talks–Intelligence Perspective and Worrisome Questions

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

For several weeks, members of the UN Security Council have been attempting to reach an agreement with Iran regarding its development of nuclear weapons. This month, President Obama announced the “key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” The terms of this plan and how will affect Iran’s neighbors remain to be seen.

 

US Secy. of Energy Ernest Moniz, US Secy. of State John Kerry, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi at the Geneva talks, March 2015. Image by US Dept. of State, public domain

US Secy. of Energy Ernest Moniz, US Secy. of State John Kerry, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi at the Geneva talks, March 2015.
Image by US Dept. of State, public domain

 

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the other negotiating nations’ representatives describe the pending agreement with Iran as being a major historic breakthrough in relations. Supporters of the agreement describe it as a historic triumph. Detractors are certain that it is a historic mistake. Since the final details of any agreement are not yet known, it’s difficult to say how good or bad it will be for any of the concerned nations.

Though the deadline might again prove flexible, the final agreement is scheduled to be finished by June 30. If the UN Security Council – comprised of permanent members Russia, China, France, the UK, and the US, and rotating member Germany – all accept the final terms and sign an agreement, then we will have an agreement to debate.

It’s easy to understand why any nuclear agreement with Iran might be difficult to sell to the majority of the American public. Many Americans remember President Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proudly gushing enthusiasm about how she had gotten North Korea to agree to forego building nuclear weapons. That was in 1994. Madeleine was not available for comment once North Korea tested their first nuclear weapon in 2006.

Burn me with radiation once, shame on you. Burn me with radiation twice . . . well, I would be dead anyway, but you get the point.

 

 

President Obama and his supporters have presented the agreement as an alternative to war with Iran.

Framing it in those terms makes any agreement seem more palatable, but this ignores the various other options, including the status quo. We cannot forget that while the sanctions have been in place, they have helped prevent Iran from testing a nuclear warhead.

It’s clear that Iran has acutely felt the effects of the current sanctions.

Either keeping the sanctions in place or increasing them are both viable options. Just this past Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that other options including increased sanctions were under consideration. Clearly the “we better sign it to prevent war with Iran” theory is salesmanship, and like most sales teams, the White House knows not to take their own marketing efforts too seriously.

If we compare the proposed terms of the pending agreement with past negotiation results, it appears, from a US point of view, to be an improvement over previous Iranian positions. However, some of the more worrisome terms of the agreement, as it is proposed thus far, include permitting Iran to retain illegally built facilities at Fordow and Arak, allowing Iran to preserve its stockpiles of enriched uranium, and phasing out most restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities after 10 years.

US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that expecting Iran to close the aforementioned facilities and reduce their stockpiles of enriched uranium would have amounted to “Iranian capitulation,” and therefore was not achievable.

I agree with the Secretary on this point. The entire reason for the sanctions during the last fifteen years has been to get Iran to capitulate on the point of nuclear weapons development. We could have achieved Iranian “non-capitulation” without the past fifteen years of negotiations and diplomatic breakdancing.

If we examine the current proposed terms without comparison to past proposals, then the framework for an agreement is probably better than what most skeptics (and experienced optimists) had expected.

 

Canstock 2015 Apr Time for Questions

 

However, some of the most worrisome questions have not been addressed . . .

  • Will the International Atomic Energy Agency be given unfettered access to all Iranian nuclear facilities?
  • When will sanctions be lifted, and in exchange for what action by Iran?
  • At what point will sanctions be imposed if there are violations?
  • What will happen to Iran’s current stockpiles of 20% uranium?

Regardless of any other terms, without addressing these questions, any agreement with Iran would be close to useless.

Iran continues to give heavy support to internationally identified terrorist groups, and Iran is in the middle of expanding its ballistic missile program. Otherwise, observers in the West might be more enthusiastic about an agreement with them.

Notice that we have not yet mentioned Israel . . .

Israel sees itself as the future target of any Iranian nuclear weapons. Given that the Iranian leadership has so often worked hard to convince the world that they wish to annihilate Israel, it’s easy to see how Israelis would not wish to place much stock on anything short of a completely enforceable, airtight nonproliferation agreement with Iran.

It might have been reasonable for the White House to assume that Israel would not accept any agreement with Iran. It might even have been reasonable for the White House to give up trying to placate the Israeli government. But it was unwise for the White House to do so openly and blatantly. In my opinion, the administration should have at least publicly dealt with Israel with its usual politically feasible feigned concern. After all, those are, in large measure, Israeli lives that the negotiators have taken to the poker table with Iran.

The Saudis and the Gulf States (as we so optimistically call those sheikdoms near Saudi Arabia) might not have any deep concerns for Israeli lives, but they have lived next to the Iranian theocracy long enough to worry about their own vulnerability to Iranian weapons developments. Iran’s current invasion of Yemen and its power grabbing efforts in Iraq have further raised the level of distrust in Iran’s Gulf neighbors.

What about the concerns of that other group of over-privileged playboys?

Let’s not forget that the White House will have to satisfy the collective wishes of the US Congress before the US is officially a party to any treaty with Iran. The White House has tried to disarm the US congress by calling the agreement a “not-a-treaty.” We shall see how well that flies.

 

Secy. of State John Kerry after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the "not-a-treaty" conference. Image by Dept. of State, public domain.

Secy. of State John Kerry after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the “not-a-treaty” conference.
Image by Dept. of State, public domain.

 

And the Iranians, themselves?

Alarmingly, the Iranians are already backpedaling from this agreement, even though they have not yet actually agreed to it. Currently, Iran is describing terms of an agreement that are vastly different than what the White House and UN Security Council are describing.

One glaring example is that the Iranian government says that the agreement will allow them to keep ten thousand uranium enrichment centrifuges while all other parties to the negotiation say that the agreement allows for a little over five thousand centrifuges. Doubling the uranium enrichment capacity makes a huge difference in any nuclear weapons program. Yet at the same time, the Iranian leadership is telling the world press that Iranian nuclear weapons programs are a figment of the US government’s imagination, while they are telling the Iranian people that they are not giving up their right to produce nuclear weapons.

Before we can know if any agreement with Iran is good or bad, we have to know what the agreement is. Thus far, we don’t. The sales campaigns for any agreement with Iran are at this point premature.

Let us hope that if any agreement does take place, it actually prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. If it doesn’t prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it will be less than meaningless. It will trigger greater risks from Iran by halting the very economic sanctions that have so far slowed Iranian weapons development. We look forward to reviewing an actual agreement, if and when one is proposed.

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze — A Publishing Pioneer

By Bayard & Holmes

 

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze

 

Vicki Hinze can write anything. She has several popular series from romantic suspense to military thrillers to Christian fiction and non-fiction books on the writing craft. She has published over thirty-five books in as many as sixty-three countries and won multiple awards since her writing career began in 1987. A kind and sharing lady who enjoys associating with others, Vicki Hinze is also one of the charter sponsors of International Thriller Writers and served on its Board of Directors.

We are honored today to welcome Vicki Hinze.

Vicki, you write romantic suspense, military thrillers, science fiction, Christian thrillers, and pretty much everything else. Is there any correlation between events in your life and the types of book you prefer to write at any given time?

Honestly, I write about what I’m fearing most at the time or about something that sets me off like a rocket.  For example, I was midway through a three-book contract for paranormal romance novels when I went to the commissary (grocery store on a military base).  Anyway, this young airman and his wife were standing in the aisle debating between buying a jar of peanut butter and a can of tuna–they couldn’t afford both.  I was stunned to hear that, went home did some research and discovered the lowest four pay grades in the military were eligible for food stamps.  I went postal.  They put their lives on the line for us, their families sacrifice too, and they’re eligible for food stamps?

I went on a “this has to change” binge with elected reps (and it has now) and called my editor.  I wanted to write military romantic suspense/thrillers that depicted the special difficulties soldiers and their families face.  Like custody battles due to deployments.  Military romantic suspense/thrillers hadn’t really been done, but the editor trusted me and we went for it.  That gave me the opportunity to write about a lot of fears–environmental terrorism (before the phrase was coined)–fear of our water supply being poisoned, our food supply, dirty bombs.  I wrote about all of those things in the mid 90s before they were totally on everyone’s radar.

It’s God’s sense of humor, when you get down to it.  I hate to cook, so where do I have the most epiphanies?  In grocery stores.  And in a quirk I can’t explain, I marry my fears to them. That often results in a new sub-genre, or something being done differently than it has been, but I’m okay with that.  It’s interesting and challenging.  I gravitate toward challenges.

Your books or articles are published in over 60 countries. When publishers in countries that are very different from America contract for your books, do they ever ask you to change things to appeal to their local cultures?

Typically in these situations that’s established in contracts.  That publishers can alter content so that it is consistent with the market in the distribution area. When you think about it, it’s it everyone’s best interest.  Something that is ordinary and totally acceptable in one culture could be extremely offensive in another.  The objective isn’t to isolate or irritate readers.  Now, authors are seeing more contracts call for world rights and those contracts do retain rights on that front.  Since the objective is to provide great reads, it’s a common sense thing to give the work the best possible chance for attaining its objectives.

Christian fiction is a relatively new publishing genre, if you don’t count the Book of Esther. Some people think Christian fiction is all about prayer meetings, devout pioneer women, and girls in fluffy dresses giggling over boys at youth camp, but your books include such gritty turns such as murder and human trafficking. How would you describe the Christian (faith-based) thriller genre to people who are not already familiar with it?

That’s a common misconception about the Christian fiction market and I’m not sure why it exists.  Being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from life’s problems or insulate you from realities occurring in the world.  What it does do is give you tools to cope with those challenges and an understanding that whatever you face, you don’t face it alone.  Christian fiction is as diverse as human beings.  You will find people struggling in relationships, struggling against bad things that happen to them, hard times, and all the rest.  It’s a solutions-oriented genre, and one that embraces constructive solutions to everyday problems as well as ones we hope we never have to face.

Often what happens is out of our control.  But how we react to it is in our control.  Faith provides a foundation to sustain us and knowledge of faith provides us tools and constructive solutions.  You’ll find the same diversity in the challenges, obstacles or conflicts that you encounter in any thriller. 

You’re known through the publishing world for your original ideas, such as creating limited edition, multi-author ebook collections. In keeping with your reputation, you just launched a new web site that allows your readers to connect on a private social media site. Could you please tell us more about this?

Readers Group News Community is a community I created for my Readers. Those who get my Newsletter are eligible for the Community and everything there. I’ve gotten to know many of my readers, and they’re great people. I thought they might enjoy having a place where they can meet and get to know one another. I also didn’t want our conversations and interactions to always be all about me. I want to know more about them, too. A community where we can chat and interact seemed like the answer, so I thought we’d give it a try and see how they like it.

So far, I’d say they like it very much. There are recommendations for books that are free and on sale, virtual exercise buddies and virtual walk videos (Venice and Australia and other cool places). A place to share recipes. Contests. A place to celebrate whatever anyone is celebrating, chats–and well, all kinds of things.

Readers Group News Community is new, but the responses and feedback thus far have been great. The site has been busy, that’s for sure.

Anyone signing up for my newsletter receives an invitation to join us. People are encouraged to do as little or as much there as they like. It’s not supposed to be “another thing I have to do” for anyone. It’s supposed to be a place where you can get support if you need it, someone to cheer with you, or you can recommend a book you read and enjoyed so others can read and enjoy it, too.

My goal in creating Readers Group News Community was to give Readers a place that isn’t so overwhelming and is more intimate and focused, where you can interact and grow friendships. Readers clearly like the idea of it, so that bodes well for the community long-term.

Sounds like a brilliant way to connect with your readers and provide them with a way to connect with you and each other. We predict many authors will follow your lead, as they so often do, and reader communities will become familiar throughout the writing world.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and insights with us. It’s been an honor to have you at our site today.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

Vicki The Marked Bride

 

Our sincere thanks to this lovely, talented lady whose big heart and talent are legend in the writing world. Her latest release is THE MARKED BRIDE, first in the Shadow Watchers series. Would you turn to the man that you dumped at the altar and ask him to risk his life for you? When terrorists kill and threaten to kill again, do you really have any choice? You can find this and Vicki’s other bestselling books at her website, Vicki Hinze, along with inspiring posts, common sense, and resources for both writing and life.

Life, Death, and the Sex License

By Piper Bayard

Themes of death and birth, that cycle of apocalypse and renewal, surrounded me this week. A dear friend’s father died, a good soul who made the planet better by his presence. Another friend hit the magic 28 weeks and breathed a sigh of relief that her unborn child now has the odds in his favor. And in our house? My 9th grade son, who I could swear just started walking yesterday, applied for his Sex License.

 

Canstock photo -- Not my son.

Canstock photo — Not my son.

 

“So Mom. How old is old enough to have sex?”

I’m well aware that almost any religion on the planet would offer a moral answer to that question. I’m also aware that the guiding light of morals tends to dim in the dashboard lights. I mean, think about it. How many “good kids” did you know in high school who lost “it” at church camp or spawned prom babies because THEY would never do THAT? I needed to give him something real. Something tangible. So I said what I think most parents would say in my shoes.

“Uuuuhhh . . .”

“I get my Learner’s Permit at 15.”

“Not fifteen!”

“Well, I get my Driver’s License at 16, and driving a car is a serious responsibility.”

“A car doesn’t get pregnant when you drive it. And you don’t get hepatitis or AIDS from a car.”

“So Mom, how old is old enough?”

“Well, you know you can have a baby every time you have sex, even with birth control. I mean, have you noticed your little sister running around here? Latex loophole baby.”

“Eeewww! Maaahm!”

“Hey. You opened the door for that one.”

So we talked about sex. We noted how young men are most biologically suited for killing bears and starting families. I commiserated with him about how the modern economics of supporting families are out of sync with natural urges and the sight of teen girls in mini-skirts. We pondered the fact that the most important decision he will make in life is choosing the mother of his children. And I can hear some of you dear readers now . . .

“He asked his mother? He needs to talk to his dad. His dad will set him straight.”

I’m sure his dad WOULD give him a different answer. And my writing partner, Jay Holmes? Let’s just say he’s been a student of sex, C4, and hollow points for a very long time, so it’s safe to assume he won’t be backing me up on this one.

But as I studied my man-child and tried to give him real world answers to his real life questions, at least from a mother’s perspective, I realized something. Life so loves Itself that no amount of death can discourage it for long. At least not while there are teenage boys, and girls in mini-skirts.

Make Your TSA Grope Memorable

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Spring break is kicking off the travel season, and summer is just around the corner. The DHS and the TSA are already using this timing to further justify molesting American citizens and irradiating them with shocking, and shockingly expensive, strip-scanners in airports, on highways, and in bus terminals.

 

Canstock image.

Canstock image.

 

Our advice to you? As Holmes says, “Avoid the radiation by all means. We shouldn’t be irradiating our citizens. Situations like this make me long for the Cold War. At least back then, our government knew who we were supposed to irradiate, and we weren’t planning to offer those SOBs any patdown options.”

We realize this subject causes great stress for many travelers, and our entire goal is to sell books alleviate your stress. So not long ago, we spent the better part of our evening sipping 10-yr-old Guinda* and discussing some creative methods of reducing your stress and lightening up the travel season for you and all of your fellow voyagers.

We want to extend our stress relief to TSA employees, as well. After all, except for the child molesters and other perverts among their ranks, they are mostly people who are just as beleaguered by their duty to grab your crotch as you are.

 

"Two by two, hands of blue." ~Firefly TSA agents in Boston. Image by DHS, public domain.

“Two by two, hands of blue.” ~Firefly
TSA agents in Boston.
Image by DHS, public domain.

 

We’re offering these suggestions to help you make your TSA Patdown fun for you and memorable for your TSA agent. Let’s fill America’s airports with laughter and joy this summer. It’s win/win.

1. Pretend you don’t speak English. Whatever translator they bring you, pretend you don’t speak that language, either.

2. If you’re traveling with a church group, you should all simultaneously cry out, “Hallelujah, the rapture is coming!” and start speaking in tongues.

 

 

3. Let yourself relax and enjoy it. In fact, moan loudly with pleasure. After all, lots of folks enjoy a good groping, and your TSA agents are hard at work looking for all of your security sweet spots. Be sure to cry out with passion to let your TSA agents know how much you appreciate their security technique. When it’s all done, compliment them, and if it’s your first time, let them know it was everything you dreamed of. Meg Ryan gives us a great example for the TSA encounter.

4. Educate your TSA agent to the benefits of becoming an Amway salesman and refuse to move on until you have finished with your sales pitch.

5. If you are a melanin-gifted traveler, and you’re being groped by a melanin-challenged TSA agent, burst out singing Perry Como’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” with the broadest smile you can muster. (We recommend against any rap songs about killing authority figures.)

6. Tell your TSA agent that if her groping inspires an out-of-body experience, you will reward her with a kiss and a phone call on the morrow.

 

Man in kilt enjoying his TSA grope. Canstock image.

Man in kilt enjoying his TSA grope.
Canstock image.

 

7. For men, wear a kilt with no underwear. When they get to your genitals, have a bouquet of flowers pop out of your cod purse playing Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Then, in your best Mike Myers Scottish accent, exclaim, “Ah, Laddie, ye give such good grroope!”

If the TSA fails to offer you a complimentary groping and attempts to re-route you through a metal detector, remind them loudly that you paid full fare for this ticket, and you are every bit as entitled to a groping as any other traveler would be. And don’t worry. If you are a virgin, you will still be a virgin when they are finished. But if they offer the free cavity search, definitely turn them down.

Let’s fill America’s airports with laughter, song, and joy this summer travel season. It’s win/win. And remember, you’re in good hands with TSA.

All the best to all of you for avoiding all unwanted gropings.

 

The bottle we toast from on special occasions.

The bottle we toast from on special occasions.

 

*Guinda is a traditional Spanish drink made from cherries. It will give you a serious case of the warm-fuzzies.