Monday, May 22, 2017

45's Afghan Surge

Once More Unto the Breach 

As 45 continues to weigh his options on how to proceed with America’s longest war in Afghanistan, there has been no shortage of arguments regarding U.S. involvement.  Some are calling Afghanistan a lost cause, while others are suggesting that a secure Afghanistan is vital to the security of this region in South Asia

Access to a classified Intelligence Community document found that the U.S. military would need to deploy fifty thousand additional troops to shore up the Ghani government. Coming on the heels of an announcement last week where 45's internal strategy reassessment group found that between three to five thousand additional troops are necessary to break Afghanistan’s with the Taliban.

Given 45's campaign rhetoric about the military “winning,” how he defines victory in Afghanistan is of vital importance.

Writing for RealClearDefense, Jeff Goodson, a retired Foreign Service Officer with experience in Afghanistan, contends, “there is no “win” or “lose” in Afghanistan.” However, Goodson offers: “The long-running objective of ensuring that Afghanistan never again serves as a sanctuary for international terrorism serves American interests as much today as it did fifteen years ago.”

Goodson does not see that goal as one that can be relinquished to a timeline because “Afghanistan is far too important to U.S. national security for us to either walk away or let this theatre of the global jihad spin out of control from simple neglect.”

In contrast, Philip Carter, Center for New American Security, took to Slate Magazine to proffer President Trump’s “Forever War.” Carter takes a historical view of the war, reflecting on the height of the troop surge in the country and concluding: “If the U.S. could not succeed at counterinsurgency in Afghanistan with more than 100,000 troops, it is unlikely the U.S. can succeed with 12,000 troops.”

In the end, all seem to agree that a comprehensive long-term strategy is required to solve the historic perplexity that is Afghanistan.

Except Afghanistan is not going to get much better unless certain elements in Pakistan are deterred




Thursday, May 18, 2017

NoKo No Win Scenarios

While we hate the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, there are far worse outcomes!

Suppose, for example, that China did begin to apply major pressure to what is often called the Hermit Kingdom. Beijing could cut by 25 percent all North Korean oil exports to get the North Koreans to abandon or at least negotiate over their nuclear and missile programs. North Korea might be able to survive the reduction for a time, but not forever.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may eventually grow desperate as gas shortages begin to pop up all over the country, threatening the stability of his regime. Kim then decides that he must show he is still in control, and that his military might has not been affected. So he decides to not only test another nuclear weapon, the sixth such test of his atomic resolve, but at the same time he test-launches his very first inter-continental ballistic missile into the skies above the mid-Pacific Ocean.

Kim chooses to be a little daring -- he selects a flight path that would see the missile crash 250 miles north of Hawaii into the ocean. But American missile defenses in Alaska are ready, easily shooting the missile out of the sky. How then might Kim respond?

Here is another scenario in which China does its best to “solve” the Korea crisis, only to see it backfire. Beijing decides to not only cut back fuel exports by 25 percent, but also slow food exports to Pyongyang for two weeks in what would amount to a temporary 20 percent slashing of North Korea’s food supply.

Already short on food -- 40 percent of North Korea’s population is undernourished and depends on food rations -- chaos breaks out in six different major cities, with more than 400 people killed in food riots. In an army base near the Chinese border, a group of 700 rioting North Koreans storm the food pantries, killing 60 soldiers in the process and taking some of their weapons. Choppy cell phone video leaks out of the North, with the rioters screaming, “we won’t starve anymore,” a reference to mass famine in the 1990s that claimed the lives of possibly 2.5 million North Koreans.

From here, things get worse. Kim sends in his army to put down the riots. They are ordered to use all means necessary, including VX gas, to end the chaos. But Kim’s generals are nervous to give the deployment orders -- seeing an opportunity to end this regime once and for all and attempt market-style reforms like their allies in Beijing.

Instead, in the middle of the night, hours before troops are to leave their barracks and attack the rioters, Kim’s top generals attempt a coup. They send 200 special operations soldiers into a bunker Kim is staying in for protection against America if it were to attack. The mission, at least it appears at the time, is a success, with reports that Kim Jong Un is dead.

However, Kim outsmarted his generals, and through electronic bugs and intercepts he knew they were coming -- they kill a decoy instead. Kim, now safe in a remote location, appears on state TV and names the so-called traitors and orders them executed. But the military is evenly split between those who are loyal to Kim, and those who are loyal to the mutinous generals.

A civil war seems imminent, with both sides armed with weapons of mass destruction that could see the death of millions and drag in not only South Korea, but also China, the United States, and potentially Japan.

Now, a little disclaimer: The above scenarios are from academics and retired military officials in China over the years. And while they may seem too far-fetched, they only scratch the surface of what could happen if the North Korean regime were accidently pushed over the abyss.

It doesn’t take a Tom Clancy novel to understand why many past U.S. administrations have not poked Kim too hard: North Korea might just be the ultimate Pandora’s box. Open the lid too far, and you just never know what will come out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genius For War?

Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius.

Strategic depth and resolve is always more important than any commander. We saw such depth and resilience in Tsarist Russia in 1812, in France and Britain in the First World War, in the Soviet Union and the United States during the Second World War, but not in Carthage or overstretched Nazi Germany or overreaching Imperial Japan.

The ability to absorb initial defeats and fight on surpassed any decision made or battle fought by Hannibal or Scipio, Lee or Grant, Manstein or Montgomery. Yes, even Napoleon was elevated as the model of battle genius by Clausewitz and in military theory ever since, despite his losing by attrition in Spain, and in the calamity of the Grand Armée’s 1812 campaign in Russia. Waterloo was not the moment of his decisive defeat, which came a year earlier. It was his anticlimax.

Losers of most major wars in modern history lost because they overestimated operational dexterity and failed to overcome the enemy’s strategic depth and capacity for endurance. Winners absorbed defeat after defeat yet kept fighting, overcoming initial surprise, terrible setbacks, and the dash and daring of command “genius.” Celebration of genius generals encourages the delusion that modern wars will be short and won quickly, when they are most often long wars of attrition. Most people believe attrition is immoral. Yet it’s how most major wars are won, aggressors defeated, the world remade time and again.

We might better accept attrition at the start, explain that to those we send to fight, and only choose to fight the wars worth that awful price. Instead, we grow restless with attrition and complain that it’s tragic and wasteful, even though it was how the Union Army defeated slavery in America, and Allied and Soviet armies defeated Nazism.

With humility and full moral awareness of its terrible costs, if we decide that a war is worth fighting, we should praise attrition more and battle less. There is as much room for courage and character in a war of attrition as in a battle. There was character aplenty and courage on all sides at Verdun and Iwo Jima, in the Hürtgen Forest, in Korea. Character counts in combat. Sacrifice by soldiers at Shiloh or the Marne or Kharkov or Juno Beach or the Ia Drang or Korengal Valley were not mean, small, or morally useless acts.

Victory or defeat by attrition, by high explosive and machine gun over time, does not annihilate all moral and human meaning. Aeon counter – do not remove


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Coming Third War With Hiz'B'Allah

It has been more than a decade since the last open confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel; yet in the last few months, there has been a lot of chatter among Hezbollah and Israel observers over the rising tensions between the two adversaries.

The drums of war have been beating even more loudly in the media.

The cost of the 2006 war was severe enough for both sides that they both seem to be making every possible effort to avoid another war: Israel stopped bombing Hezbollah's locations inside Lebanon, while the latter stopped kidnapping Israeli soldiers or launching rockets into northern Israel. However, both parties know that peace in the Middle East is fragile and fleeting. Preparations for a new round of war — now dubbed the Third Lebanon War — have only increased. Both sides appear to be using every opportunity to display not just the military buildup for the upcoming war, but also expose the weaknesses of the other in the event of a war.


On April 20, Hezbollah arranged a tour for journalists to south Lebanon to expose the recent Israeli fortification activities south of the Blue Line. As Israeli military bulldozers busily cut at the landscape across the electrical fence, Hezbollah members pointed to the infrastructure — newly carved military roads, concrete walls, cement blocks and high-tech monitoring radars — all placed along the border in the last year.


These defensive fortifications are the most recent measures taken by Israel in anticipation of the looming confrontation with Hezbollah. Previous measures included, for instance, merging all Israeli army commando units into a single commando brigade, completing the multi-layered air defense, and conducting various war games and drills specifically designed to mimic a war with Hezbollah.


Israel is almost certain Hezbollah has advanced mobile air defense systems. This means the Israeli air force might not be able to fly over Lebanon as freely as it did in the past. Furthermore, airborne operations using helicopters, which the Israel Defense Forces depends heavily on, might be too risky in the presence of such advanced air defense systems.


Hezbollah, for its part, has been busy preparing for war as well. Today, it is considered by many in Israel to be the strongest nonstate actor in the region, and it has analyzed the lessons of the 2006 war to prepare for the next one. Rockets and missiles proved to be effective enough in 2006 for Hezbollah to continue increasing their quantity, while also upgrading the quality of its arsenal.


Yet the most important development in Hezbollah's military capability is the unprecedented opportunity that came with its participation in the Syrian war. It now has the ability to train thousands of its fighters, who are rubbing shoulders with Syrian, Iranian and Russian elite special forces, while also developing its telecommunications, logistics, and command and control capabilities to handle a situation where hundreds of its fighters can fight nonstop for weeks and months in a vast, hostile environment. This is a huge leap from 2006, when Hezbollah only deployed independent small fire teams and squads in defensive fortified positions, in a friendly environment, while awaiting the advance of Israeli infantry and armor units.


Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's threat in 2011 to invade northern Israel is no longer so far-fetched, neither are his threats to hit the nuclear facility in Dimona. Israel takes these threats very seriously, hence the fortification works along the Blue Line. Hezbollah's plan is simple and bold: Saturate Israel's multi-layered air defense with hundreds of rockets and missiles while its fighters go on the offensive across the Blue Line — and perhaps even the Golan Heights.


According to sources familiar with Hezbollah, "A wider front will force Israel to spread out thinner, so now having the front expanded from Naqoura on the sea all the way to the end of the Golan Heights will prove to be more difficult for Israel in the event of a war."


Amidst the war cries, both sides have made it clear they are not interested in embarking on another war. Hezbollah is indeed busy in Syria and has little interest in fighting on multiple fronts. Furthermore, the domestic atmosphere in Lebanon is not that of 2006. There are now around 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon for Israel to consider, as well as a Hezbollah-hostile section of society that would not be as welcoming as they were in 2006 to internally displaced people fleeing airstrikes. In addition, the Syrian-Lebanese border will not be open to those escaping the attacks, essentially turning Lebanon into an open-air prison.


It is also worth noting that with all of Hezbollah's upward trajectory in the region (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen), today's region is incredibly hostile toward it. Thus, the last thing Hezbollah and its backer, Iran, would want is to create a situation where even on its home territory it is on the defensive and dealing with a hostile population — while also fending off attacks from one of the strongest and best-equipped armies in the world.


Nor is Israel prepared to fight a war in which it cannot guarantee a total achievement of its goals.

While it does have the capability of causing severe damage to Lebanon, it still cannot guarantee neutralizing Hezbollah. Israel also knows Hezbollah's missiles have the potential to cause serious damage to both Israeli infrastructure and the security of its population. Furthermore, if the Golan front is indeed activated, it will be a battlefield with a lot of unknown and unpredictable variables. These variables include the role and position of the differing opposition groups, as well as whether both Hezbollah's allies and Israel's allies would be dragged into the confrontation, moving the war from what Israel would prefer — contained, surgical, quick — to an open-ended, messy and complex conflict.


As one Hezbollah fighter told Al-Monitor, "While Israel may have the key to open the door for a war, it does not have the ability to close that door again when it chooses, and therefore won’t take the risk."


While this could encourage some analysts to rule out the possibility of a confrontation, one needs to remember that what happens between Hezbollah and Israel is motivated, to a great extent, by what happens in the region — namely the wider confrontation between US allies and Iran.


Hezbollah is certainly wary of the new US administration, with sources close to the organization pointing to the fact that the previous administration under Barack Obama was not interested in entertaining a new Hezbollah-Israel war, whereas the Donald Trump administration has proven so far to be an unknown variable.


"Before 45, there was no indication of a war [between Israel and Hezbollah] in the future," said one official close to the party. "But now with 45, no one has a clue about his foreign policy. What we have seen so far, his priorities seem to be North Korea, the Islamic State and Iran."


Is it likely the administration would entertain a confrontation with Iran via a Hezbollah-Israel war? It is so far unclear, but the fluidity of the battlefield and the players in Syria mean such a confrontation would prove to be incredibly risky, with the likelihood of eventually dragging the United States further into an already messy arena.


As one source put it, "If there is going to be a war between Hezbollah and Israel in Syria, it would be an expansive confrontation with many unknown variables."




Monday, May 15, 2017

Joyeuex Anniversarie Little Satan!


It's Nakbah Day! Shout out to Little Satan celebrating her 67th this year! Incredible - and soooo true. Despite the unhinged fact that nearly 300 million members of Arab League have tried and failed to put paid to a tiny tiny piece of real estate (with no oil) sweetly attended to by less than 7 million people.

Certain rowdy League members have learned the hard way not to send panzers, combat jets and conscripted infantry against Little Satan, yet there are several threats to her existence. 

 

Some things just get better as time goes by. And just like Great Satan, Little Satan continues to cruise. Totally off the hook in any endeavour - arts, academics, the Beatles, biz, communication, education, medicine, science, space exploration, tech - Little Satan is one sexy magical pixie.

Hotter than a firecracker and twice as loud, Little Satan is also nigh indestructable
 
Hanging in appearantly the only spot ever in the ME with like zero oil (compy speaking), no friendly homies on her borders, a tiny pop, little real estate (after the show ho's like Gaza, WB and Har Dov Farms included - Little Satan "occupies" less than 1% of the Arab world (and less than 1/10th of a % of mohammedist turf), no Suez Canal, no militias or resistance movements, Little Satan's very existence gives the eternal finger to all her failed, backwards, repressive hoodmates.

She is far superior, far more humane than
Hosni's Egypt, Abdullah's (v2.0) Jordan, Bashar's Syria and ex colonies like Abbas' West Bank , HAMAS' Gaza Strip, Royal Saudiland and embattled Lebanon


Unlike her neighbors - Little Satan has real military prowess - yet she's unmilitaristc. She accommodated all faiths - yet remains secular. She absorbs refugees from the entire world - creating loyal, productive citizens throughout an Alamo - Masada environment that created sustained and maintained a tolerant, egalitarian democracy.

Beaches and biotches -
Little Satan puts the 'HO' in "Holy Land." 
 

As one of the world's "Xceptionals" it is only cool and natch for Great Satan to hook up with Little Satan - just like best girlfriends forever - nigh indistinguishable.

"That is why they call her Little Satan, to distinguish her clearly from the country that has always been and will always be Great Satan – The United States of America."

Oh Snap!

Joyeuex Anniversaire Little Satan! 

 

Pic "Saluting an island of Western democratic values in a sea of despotism"

Friday, May 12, 2017

45 Goes To Wahabia Arabia

The Saudis are planning three events for this month's 45 visit. First is a session with the king and his court, then a meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council and finally a meeting with other Muslim leaders and representatives. It is a demonstration of the Saudis' convening power and broad influence. The custodian of the two holy mosques, as they style themselves, has huge soft power in the Islamic world.


Iran is Salman's top issue. This month, Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave an interview condemning Iran in extremely harsh sectarian terms. The prince, the king's favorite son, characterized the Iranian Islamic Republic as being driven by messianic prophecies and determined to dominate the entire Islamic community. He claimed that Iran sought to take control of Mecca from the kingdom. There was no room for dialogue with Tehran, according to his statement.

Indeed, the prince promised that the kingdom will fight its war against Iran inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia. He was vague about what that means, but it suggests he supports regime change in Tehran. It was one of the most virulent public attacks on Iran ever by the House of Saud.

The royal family is eager for American support against Iran in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. The Saudi leaders face a more skeptical domestic audience. The new administration is widely seen by the public in the Arab world as an enemy of Islam. A poll of Saudis in November showed overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton and only 6% for 45. There will be no demonstrations against the president in a police state, but the palace will not want to be seen as failing to defend Muslim rights, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.


here will be agreement on fighting terror, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Behind the scenes, the Saudis will want some administration action to prevent legal action against the kingdom via the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Numerous lawsuits have been filed alleging Saudi responsibility for 9/11.

 The Saudis will note that the CIA just awarded Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef the George Tenet medal for fighting terrorism. How can a medal winner be a sponsor of terror?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

44's Drones Gone Wild

The following is an excerpt from Counter Jihad: America’s Military Experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, by Brian Glyn Williams, by permission of the author and publisher. Copyright 2017 University of Pennsylvania Press.


The incoming 44th administration had come to see these drone strikes as a vital component of its war against terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Like the Bush administration before it, 44's administration felt that the public relations fallout in Pakistan (where reports of civilian deaths from the drones were wildly exaggerated) was worth the disruptive effect the drones had on Al Qaeda and Taliban, who were planning new terrorist attacks from their FATA sanctuary. In fact 44 (who came to be known as “Obomba” in Pakistan) ordered 353 drones strikes in Pakistan by October 2015, compared to just 48 under 43 (i.e. 44 launched more than seven times as many as 43).

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, pushed back on this notion stating, “44 has authorized more military actions in Muslim countries than any previous president and that the most conservative estimate identifies more than 3,000 drone strike fatalities during his tenure, including much of Al Qaeda’s leadership. He is the first president since the Civil War to authorize the assassination of another American — Anwar ­al-Awlaki, himself.” Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic similarly defended 44 saying, “this president who has this reputation [of being weak] is the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the American presidency. I mean, we just saw in the last week the 150 militants in Somalia wiped out by a U.S. strike. Who ordered that strike?”

44’s drone campaign decimated the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s ranks and kept them wondering who was next and hiding, instead of planning new terrorist outrages. The Taliban and Al Qaeda came to have a tremendous fear for the high-tech drones that struck out of the blue without warning and with uncanny precision

The CIA’s ability to hit its targets in Pakistan increased in 2007 with the introduction of a much improved drone known as the MQ-9 Reaper. The Reaper had a much larger engine, allowing it to travel three times the speed of the earlier drone, known as the Predator, and carry far more armament. This ordnance included GBU-12 Paveway II laser laser-guided bombs and Sidewinder missiles.

Like the more primitive Predator, the Reaper could loiter over its intended target for over twenty four hours, using high high-resolution cameras to track militants’ “pattern of life” movements from up to two miles away. Then, when the target was tracked leaving crowded areas, it could fire its deadly mini-missiles (often at targets in moving vehicles) to destroy them in the open and thus avoid civilian bystander casualties known as “collateral damage.”

It has also been reported that the Predators and Reapers were aided by secret electronic transmitter chips placed on or near targets by tribesmen working for CIA bounties. These cigarette lighter-sized homing beacons helped account for the drones’ success in taking out dozens of high high-value Al Qaeda and Taliban targets, while usually avoiding civilians. In essence, the drones’ Hellfire missiles could home in on the beacons and precisely destroy Taliban and Al Qaeda cars or buildings where they were meeting.

It was clear from the success rate in killing high high-value targets that the CIA had excellent intelligence resources in the tribal areas. These locals tracked the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership, often for money or out of distaste for the extremists who beheaded many moderate maliks (Pashtun tribal heads) and terrorized the population.

In addition to killing over a dozen high-ranking Taliban leaders, the strikes have taken out ten of Al Qaeda’s top twenty leaders and the heads of the Pakistani Taliban on three separate occasions. Thousands of Taliban foot-soldiers have also been killed.
 

    

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

VE Day!

Nazi time Deutschland literally fought to annihilation -- until there was literally no country left to defend.


The Third Reich - she died kicking and screaming, finally crashing down in an orgy of pulverized, burning cities and a river of blood — civilian and military, German and non-German. Military history knows no year quite like 1944 -45 and if lucky, will never see another.

On May 7th the surviving ruling remnants of the once powerful Dritten Reich finally screamed "GOD! PLEASE! STOP!"


May 8th is Victory In Europe Day.

The legacy of VE Day is with us still. Commonwealth Russia's paranoia about her near abroad - French, Polish and Russian fears of a re hooked up, riled up rowdy Deutschland and there never could have been a European Union - let alone a re unified Germany without Great Satan's will power, staying power and fire power.

And VE Day would not have been possible without Great Satan, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the Russian Red Army's incredible ability to absorb horrific losses, to bounce back and win.

Happy VE Day!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ISIS And The Ottomans

Oh yeah.

One of the most problematic aspects of the war against the Islamic State has been the role of Turkey. On the one hand, diplomats see Turkey as a cornerstone of any diplomatic strategy to counter the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

On the other hand, Turkey—or, at least, elements within the state—appear to back the Islamic State. Indeed, one of the prevailing theories with regard to Turkey’s recent ban on Wikipedia has been because entries informed by Wikileaks explore financial links between Turkey’s leadership and the Islamic State.

Turkey’s defenders push back on such accusations. Turkey may treat rebel commanders in Turkish hospitals, they say, but isn’t that what Israel also does with regard to wounded Syrians? To compare Israel and Turkey is, on all levels, ridiculous. Israel has not become the revolving door through which foreign fighters enter and exit Syria. The issue is not simply border security—visitors to Istanbul’s international airport say they can overhear travelers openly talking about their time in Syria fighting for radical groups. Nor do members of the Israeli government or the family of Israel’s elected leader appear to have profited from illicit oil trade with the Islamic State.

The notion that Turkey’s treatment and support of the Islamic State is passive, however, is demonstrably false when it comes to new information about Turkey’s support for Islamic State fighters from Libya. The Guardian reported:
The Italian intelligence document states: “Since 15 December 2015, an unknown number of wounded fighters of the Islamic State in Libya have been transported out of the country to an Istanbul hospital to undergo medical treatment.” The bulk of the “false wounded’’ come from the Libyan area of Fataeh, where “elements of the Islamic State would be holed up”, the document states. From there, the fighters are most commonly sent to Turkish hospitals. It claims in one case the fighters showed fake passports to doctors in Misrata and told them they were wounded in Sirte and Benghazi.
It is one thing to provide triage and medical services for enemy wounded who are captured in combat. If Islamic State or al-Qaeda fighters from Syria show up in Turkish border hospitals, it also makes sense to treat them.  Under no circumstances does that mean that those receiving medical care should be free to go after their treatment. There is a greater problem, however, when Islamic State fighters from an area of operation more than 1,000 miles and a sea away start showing up in Turkey to receive services.

That’s an indication not of passive assistance but rather of active support on the part of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.

It’s time to recognize Turkey for what it is and dispense with diplomatic niceties: Simply put, Turkey is an enabler of the Islamic State’s global campaign and, as such, has become a state sponsor of terror.

Monday, May 8, 2017

HAMAS' Makeover

The Washington presidential summit understandably garnered more attention, but it is the Hamas Doha document that may well be remembered as having a more significant and lasting impact on the Palestinian future and even on prospects for an eventual peace. The Hamas Document of General Principles and Policies, several years in the making, does not directly replace the existing Hamas Covenant (or Charter) of 1988.

However, the contrast between the two documents is significant, and it is worth reading the two back to back. In a subsequent interview, Khaled Meshal described the new document as reflecting “we are not a rigid ideological organization . . . that we are a dynamic and adaptive organization and that we are eager to change if it is in the best interests of our people. In the future, Hamas will issue more papers and policy guidelines to deal with new realities.”

The headlines of the new Hamas document are consequential in five important arenas, and it is worth briefly listing them:

Palestinian politics: in terms of the Palestinian internal political system, Hamas commits itself to “managing its Palestinian relations on the basis of pluralism, democracy, national partnership, acceptance of the other and the adoption of dialogue.” It talks of bolstering unity and accepts the PLO as a national framework to be “preserved, developed and rebuilt on democratic foundations,” stressing the foremost necessity of “free and fair elections” (Articles 28 to 30). Regarding Palestinian politics, the PLO and democracy, this is major new departure from the original Hamas covenant.

The two-state: in the document, Hamas considers as a formula of national consensus “the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of June 4, 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled.” Hamas raises this option while adhering to its principled commitment to “the full and complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea,” and while maintaining its “rejection of the Zionist entity” or “relinquishing any Palestinian rights” (Article 20). The acceptance of the ‘67 lines in practice—of, in effect, the two-state option, as part of an agreed national platform (even while adhering to the more maximalist aspiration in theory) —is in stark contrast to the old charter.

Defining the problem, Zionism not Jews: the 1988 covenant was a horrendously anti-Semitic document. Its text was replete with references to warmongering Jews, their secret societies, their wealth and “control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations.” In short, it was abhorrent. The new document contains none of those references. By contrast, it affirms that, for Hamas, “its conflict is with the Zionist project, not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine” (Articles 16 and 17). While some make the case that opposing Zionism and Israel is itself anti-Semitic, that is a contentious and often spurious argument. What is clear is that Hamas has, in certain key respects, revisited its own Jewish question.

Hamas and the Arab/Muslim world: in the new document, Hamas “opposes intervention in the internal affairs of any country” or being “drawn into disputes and conflicts that take place among different countries” (Article 37). Hamas also defines its own movement as a “Palestinian Islamic national liberation and resistance movement” (Article 1). This is a clear move away from Article 2 of the old 1988 Covenant, which defines Hamas as the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” “one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine.” The signal is clear, important and largely intended for a regional audience.

• Resistance: the document argues that resisting the occupation “with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by . . . international norms and laws.” It also affirms that Palestinians can “develop” and “diversify” “the means and mechanisms of resistance” (Articles 25 and 26). Later (Article 39) it states that “from a legal and humanitarian perspective, the liberation of Palestine is a legitimate activity.” So, armed struggle remains front and center for Hamas—including, it seems, the use of indiscriminate violence against civilians—but a window has been opened both for clarifying what international law and international legality have to say about the boundaries of legitimate armed struggle, and also, implicitly at least, to other nonviolent forms of resistance. The old covenant gave no hint of other kinds of resistance, or of grounding Hamas’ actions in international legality, and even dismissed these.

The more prevalent criticism, in the West at least, is that the new Hamas document does too little, that it is basically an exercise in spin and deception. That was to be expected as an argument deployed politically by certain quarters for the purposes of point-scoring and to avoid engaging substantively with the positions expressed in the document.

But as a serious and substantive critique by serious people, an approach that simply dismisses the document is curiously naive and inadequate, especially when one takes into account the context in which the document was launched and the dynamics of how resistance/liberation movements tend to evolve.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jihad Factory Nation/State

Nishan E Hader!

For over four decades Pakistan has been a breeder and sponsor of Islamist terrorists.  20 designated terrorist organizations operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, while seven are based in Pakistan.  These wars will not end until the U.S. and like-minded states shut down Pakistan, as the foremost producer of Jihad Inc.

The wars against Islamist militants inimical to secular democracies will not end until the West and its genuine friends forge the will to shut down the factories and sanctuaries that generate and sustain the most abominable strains of Salafi-Wahhabi jihadists.

For over four decades Pakistan has been a breeder and sponsor of Islamist terrorists.  20 designated terrorist organizations operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, while seven are based in Pakistan.  These wars will not end until the U.S. and like-minded states shut down Pakistan, as the foremost producer of Jihad Inc.

For over four decades Pakistan has been a breeder and sponsor of Islamist terrorists.  20 designated terrorist organizations operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, while seven are based in Pakistan.  These wars will not end until the U.S. and like-minded states shut down Pakistan, as the foremost producer of Jihad Inc.

It is clear that, if we hold what we have, in how the NATO Coalition approaches the complex strategic interaction in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will continue to pay the butcher’s bill in Afghan and Coalition blood for the next 15 or 30 years.  Dig a hole, fill a hole, dig a hole—the U.S. and its partners in Afghanistan will continue to abide a strategic stalemate, just as they have done for the last nearly 16 years.  

When facing an insurgency compounded with terrorism, if the counterinsurgents are not winning, they are losing.  The insurgents win by not losing.  Our side has won many battles and succeeded in many actions, but this means nothing when facing a stalemate stemming from strategic asymmetry.  Pakistan’s perfidy is the main reason for this.

The costs stemming from Pakistan’s treachery has been high in blood spilled, resources spent, and the number of years at war.  Pakistan’s deliberate deceit and our continued hopefulness that the Pakistani security elites can be our friends will lead to more of the same over the next 15 years without a major change in how we see and respond to Pakistan.  It would be hard to imagine a worse friend, and it boggles the mind that after attacks on 9/11 and before 9/11, with Pakistan’s direct or indirect complicity, the U.S. would choose to ally with the only country on the planet with its capital city named after Islam, the country that has played the singularly significant role in creating Islamist terrorists over the last four-plus decades.

Continuing to pay out money to Pakistan for its support in the war against terrorists while Pakistan, the enemy, is employing and sustaining its Taliban proxies and other militants to kill and maim Afghan and Coalition partners is strategically bankrupt.  If unchanged, the war in Afghanistan and wars like it against Islamists will end badly.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Missing the Point on Iran’s Ballistic Missiles

The Islamic Republic’s diverse missile arsenal has enabled it to engage in belligerence and subversion abroad for over three decades. That’s why no munition has meant more to Tehran’s security planners than ballistic missiles.

Accordingly, Iran’s missile capabilities deserve more attention than the previous administration was willing to give.

Writing in War on the Rocks last month, the Atlantic Council’s Bharath Gopalaswamy and Amir Handjani frame the missile issue much as the previous administration did. They undersell Tehran’s missile program and too often take Iranian arguments about capabilities and intentions at face value. In so doing, they fall into a larger trap: divorcing pressure from the equation of coercive diplomacy with Iran.

The fact that Iranian officials allege that their missiles are defensive does not mean we should take them at their word.

Developments in future Iranian missile aptitudes also stand to enable new military and political strategies for Tehran. A 2016 Atlantic Council assessment hints at this possibility citing two missiles: a solid-fuel short-range ballistic missile called the Fateh-110, and a liquid-propelled medium-range ballistic missile known as the Emad. The Fateh-110’s domestic upgrades – the Fateh-313 and the Zulfiqar – which purportedly increase its range and accuracy were both tested after the JCPOA was agreed. The Emad, which improves Iran’s re-entry vehicle technology, was similarly tested after the deal.

Moreover, a credible Iranian deterrent does much more than passively defend the regime. It enables the Islamic Republic to actively partake in various theaters of conflict with little fear of reprisal against the Iranian homeland. While establishing deterrence is but one lesson of the Iran-Iraq War, the conflict also acquainted Tehran with the limits of its own conventional military capabilities. This has led to a decades-long investment in local proxy forces and Shiite militias throughout the Middle East.

By backing terrorist groups and other non-state actors with relatively cheap weapons, Tehran is able to offset its adversaries’ conventional military advantages. Asymmetrical counter-punching is an accepted idea among Iran’s ruling elite. The militia approach also permits the regime to shape regional conflicts early on and from the ground up, making its strategic interests the cause of local Shiites. Yemen and Syria are instructive cases.

The enduring lesson of the diplomacy that led to the JCPOA is that Washington must relearn what was once common-knowledge: that diplomacy and pressure work best when married together. Therefore, to be successful, statesmen must avail themselves of a “combined arms” approach when dealing with adversaries. Any strategy that relies on diplomacy with nothing behind it would leave Washington again with one arm tied behind its back.

Monday, May 1, 2017

China's Role In The Middle East

For more than a decade, the Middle East and North Africa region has experienced a level of violence and instability that is unprecedented in its modern history -- a turbulence that shows no sign of abating. During this period, the long-term sustainability of the U.S. role as security guarantor has increasingly been called into question, both in the United States and within the region. Meanwhile, China’s investments in the Middle East have grown, as has its economic, diplomatic, and security footprint.

Within this context, are there any indications that the United States and China already are, or inevitably will become, strategic rivals in the Middle East?

China’s role in the Mideast has grown diplomatically, economically, and militarily, however this increased involvement is not necessarily indicative of an incipient strategic competition between China and the United States.

First, it is essential to point out that American and Chinese interests in the Middle East are not directly in conflict with each other. On the contrary, the United States and China have a common interest in the uninterrupted flow of oil from the Middle East and in countering violent extremism in the region.

Second, China has exhibited few signs that it wishes to challenge U.S. military predominance in the region -- and for good reason. China benefits from the U.S. role as security guarantor, and without having to bear the fiscal or potential political costs itself. Furthermore, maintaining a large military presence in the Gulf and surrounding region to some degree diverts U.S. attention and resources away from East Asia, the area of highest geostrategic priority to China.   
Third, the calls from Beijing’s Mideast friends and allies for a greater Chinese role in the region do not represent a desire on their part to substitute Chinese for American hegemony. America’s traditional Arab allies -- however much they object to Washington’s policies or have grown uncertain about the resoluteness and sustainability of its commitments -- nonetheless continue to regard the United States as a necessary security partner.

Their outreach to China represents an effort to diversify their security cooperation, and not to downgrade or sever security ties with the United States.

As for Iran, the United States’ chief regional adversary, its project to consolidate its regional position and ultimately repel the United States from the Middle East is a vision not necessarily shared by the Chinese.

Indeed, U.S. partners and adversaries alike have sought in recent years to utilize their ties with Beijing in order to gain the upper hand in internecine conflicts or political disputes. In this respect, the objectives and priorities of the various Mideast states and those of China -- which are geared toward balancing regional relationships and avoiding a confrontation with the United States -- are misaligned.

Thus, the prospects for intensifying strategic competition in the Middle East between China and the United States are rather more remote than they appear to be, particularly in the short term. Over the longer term, however, increased Chinese military capabilities, coupled with rising U.S.-China tension in the western Pacific, could feed back into the Middle East, igniting such a competition. In anticipation of such an eventuality, it would be more prudent for the United States to explore win-win scenarios than to assume zero-sum outcomes.

Chinese and U.S. capabilities to contribute to regional stability are complementary. What the two countries can do together is greater than each can realistically be expected to accomplish separately. Moreover, increased U.S. energy independence, thanks in large part to the recent shale gas boom, provides an incentive and an opportunity to share the financial and military burdens with China of enhancing stability in the Middle East.

U.S.-China policy coordination in this regard could help pave the way for other extra-regional actors with interests and investments in the region -- countries such as India, Japan, and South Korea -- to play constructive roles. Seizing this opportunity could help facilitate the transition not from a U.S.-led to a Chinese-led hegemonic order in the region and beyond, but to one that is more complex though mutually advantageous and peaceful.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pay To Slay

Legalism is common among authoritarians.

Created under the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the PA serves as the government of the Palestinian-administered territory in the West Bank. It was originally intended to exercise authority in both the West Bank and Gaza, but Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine, violently expelled it from Gaza in 2007 and now administers Gaza itself.

Within the PA, the predominant political organization is the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO’s chairman, was elected PA president in January 2005 for a four-year term. Though that term expired long ago, the PA hasn’t held a more recent presidential election; Abbas remains president.

Nondemocratic societies lack rule of law, but they generally don’t lack laws. Their laws, in fact, tell us a lot about them. In the case of “pay for slay,” the relevant legislation is the PA’s “Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004).”

It guarantees “a dignified life” to anyone Israel has imprisoned “for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.” That is, it promises benefits to anyone caught for knifing, shooting, running over, or bombing people in Israel. The law lauds current and former terrorist prisoners as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society.”


Articles 5 and 8 apply to terrorists released from Israeli prisons. Those who served a year or more are exempted from:
a. tuition fees at government schools and universities.
b. health insurance payments.
c. tuition fees for all professional training programs offered by the relevant official bodies.


Some released prisoners work as PA civil servants. For each of these, prison time served is accounted for as if it had been civil-service work: The law says the PA “shall pay his social security and pension fees . . . for the years he spent in prison.”

Articles 6 and 7 apply to terrorists still incarcerated. “Every incarcerated prisoner” is entitled to a monthly salary “linked to the cost-of-living index.” A portion thereof goes directly to the prisoner’s family.

The Palestinian Authority promotes violence against Israel. Officials do it in public speeches. PA-run television and radio make it a theme, as do the curricula and textbooks of PA schools. The incitement is so unrelenting that it’s drawn criticism even from supporters of the PA, such as 44—and, remarkably enough, from the United Nations Security Council.


Palestinians have had wretched political leadership for a century, since World War I, when Britain ended Turkey’s 400-year ownership of Palestine. Their leaders have chosen the anti-democratic—and losing—side of every major conflict for the last hundred years. They chose the Turks in World War I, the Nazis in World War II, the Soviets in the Cold War, Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, and the West’s enemies in the War on Terrorism.

Most catastrophically for themselves, they chose Israel’s enemies in the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Despite everything—despite the long history of conflict—it remains possible that the Palestinians might someday achieve peace, prosperity, and some kind of national independence. But they’ll never get it if they continue to be dominated by dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian, and violent leaders.

They’ll never get it if their leaders are the kind of people who pay rewards to terrorist murderers.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Qaher!

The Qaher, which means "Conqueror," was first unveiled in February 2013 during a ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current Iranian government into power. The fifth-generation jet was hailed by leaders at the time as a breakthrough for the nation's military, which both Western and Gulf Arab nations have long considered a regional threat.

Savvy observers, however, noted inconsistencies in the plane's design including apparent errors in cockpit size and the absence of a nozzle for the engine, according to The National InterestThe irregularities caused a number of critics to consider the 2013 model a simple prop.


Iran showcased its first ever domestically-manufactured stealth fighter jet Monday, but a number of critics in the West have called the aircraft a hoax.

Iran's Qaher F-313 jet was presented by leaders of the nation's defense industry at a ceremony attended by top government officials near the Meherabad Air Base, United Press International reported. Days earlier, Iran's Irib News Agency released footage showing the aircraft making its hardware debut. In the video, the Qaher F-313 performed a taxi test, but did not take off, leading some to speculate as to whether the supposedly high-tech warplane was capable of flight yet.

Saturday's footage showed a different jet than the one previously seen in 2013 and one that was at least capable of being operated on the ground. The black-painted Qaher was approximately 45-feet long with a 17-feet wingspan and large downturned wingtips. The twin-engined jet also bore traditional features of stealth fighters such as facets and edge alignment, according to an article published Friday by Aviation International News. The report said the Qaher seen Saturday may have been radio-controlled or a subscale mockup of the actual design.

Criticism from abroad has not deterred Iran from boasting of its military accomplishments. At Monday's ceremony, the likes of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan showed up to praise the Qaher, which could be used for short-range aerial support missions and carrying various natively-produced missiles, according to Iran's Tasnim News Agency. Rouhani said the aircraft, along with the weapons Iran planned to fit it with, were proof that Iran would not be intimidated by foreign powers seeking to limit its military capabilities.






Monday, April 24, 2017

Président de la République Française

As soon as the new president is elected, he or she will face three challenging realities. The first is France’s place in the NATO security alliance. Even if unappreciated by the French public, relations with Washington and London have been pivotal for France’s security policy since 1917, and the so-called P3 continues to design France’s security policy in terms of nuclear cooperation and intelligence sharing.

The new French president will have his or her first international meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25, just weeks after taking office. After stating that NATO is no longer obsolete, 45 is expected to participate in this summit as well.

They would need to express their intentions regarding France’s future role in the alliance at this summit without any real preparation.

The second reality is French relations with the EU and Germany. Contrary to NATO, this reality is well known to the French public. The 1957 Treaty of Rome initiated reconciliation between France and Germany and was the cornerstone of the European project. However, the two countries do not see eye to eye because of their economic asymmetry, which has dramatically increased over the last decade.

In 2016, France’s trade deficit with Germany deepened to around 14 billion euros, its highest point in a decade. In view of France’s sluggish economic growth, it remains to be seen whether it really has a choice when it comes to breaking ties with the EU and Germany. In the past, strong political will on both sides served to gloss over the structural differences between Paris and Berlin. This political will is likely to be tested before summer.

The third reality is military spending. Like its European allies, France is facing a deteriorated strategic environment with diverse threats ranging from terrorism on its soil to coercive military strategies in regions including the Levant and the Sahel. To put it bluntly, if the financial resources devoted to defense are not significantly increased, France’s military model of strategic autonomy, which is at the core of its international positioning, will soon be at risk.

Le Pen has proposed increasing the defense budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2018, and closer to 3 percent by 2022. She has stated she intends to protect and maintain the two legs of France’s nuclear deterrent: submarines and aircraft. On the other side of the political spectrum, Mélenchon remains unclear on his preferred defense budget, only refusing to comply with NATO’s standard of 2 percent of GDP. However, he has said he intends to make cuts to funding for aircrafts.

There are of course other pressing foreign policy issues, which include sovereign debt, trade, energy and climate, digital autonomy, migration, as well as French policy toward Africa, Asia, and Russia. But everything starts in Europe. As a founder of the EU and a first-rate power able to exert influence outside Europe, France carries weight in European debates. If the next president chooses to transform France’s existing alliances without any credible alternative or real preparation, these will be huge risks in a context of global strategic instability. A realignment of this magnitude would weaken, and possibly destroy, the Western community and would mark a sharp break from de Gaulle’s legacy.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

China, Russia send ships after U.S. aircraft carrier


China and Russia have dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which is heading toward waters near the Korean Peninsula, multiple sources of the Japanese government revealed to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

It appears that both countries aim to probe the movements of the United States, which is showing a stance of not excluding military action against North Korea. The Self-Defense Forces are strengthening warning and surveillance activities in the waters and airspace around the area, according to the sources.

The aircraft carrier strike group, composed of the Carl Vinson at its core with guided-missile destroyers and other vessels, is understood to be around the East China Sea and heading north toward waters near the Korean Peninsula.

China and Russia, which prioritize stability in the Korean Peninsula, showed concern over the tough U.S. stance, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying the issue should be resolved peacefully through political and diplomatic efforts.

The dispatch of the intelligence-gathering vessels appears to be partly aimed at sending a warning signal to the United States.

Following the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding father, on April 15, North Korea will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military on April 25. It maintains the stance that it intends to conduct its first nuclear test since September last year, which would be its sixth test, and test-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

By conducting joint exercises with the Maritime Self-Defense Force and through other means, the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group is poised to increase military pressure on North Korea and urge Pyongyang to engage in restraint

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Air Power

Air Power: A Global History offers a comprehensive history of the aircraft and its use in combat; Jeremy Black notes that the doctrine of air power has been constantly updating and evolving in a fluid environment, most recently impacted by the advent of unmanned aerial platforms in combat.

The pace of Air Power is rapid, yet comfortable even for a reader unfamiliar with air power doctrine. In just over a century, the aircraft has evolved from the single-pilot invention of the Wright brothers to a symbol of national power and lethality. The platform has evolved and expanded to include various armaments and weapons. These weapons possess not only the capability of engaging personnel and equipment on the ground, but add an extra dimension to the battlefield, as an aircraft can engage another aircraft or a craft at sea—or, in the age of atomic weaponry, decimate an entire population.

Black discusses military aviation generally, giving equal attention to individual air forces as well as naval and army aviation. He also addresses the different approaches some nations, like the United States, have taken to integrating aviation components by assigning them individual service departments, while other countries may have grouped all of their air assets under an umbrella department regardless of the platform of their projection.

Where the Royal Air Force is and has been a single, separate service since its inception and has incorporated naval and ground based aviation assets, allowing for unity of air command from the beginning, the United States created separate air services under the army and navy. Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was a strong advocate of a separate air force, but was distrustful of naval aviation. The author demonstrates equal knowledge of the topics of fixed- and rotary-wing aviation, Airborne, and Air Assault operations, and the tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with each topic.

Black includes the domains of cyber and space in his history, as the cyber domain permeates every aspect of air power and space is the next logical frontier for air operations. Beginning with a discussion of common-sense developments like cycling propellers synced with an aircraft’s weapons systems, the author illustrates modern developments as well, such as the relationship between the advent of radar and the development of stealth technology.

Air Power presents commanders using this aspect of warfare with a number of ethical dilemmas; commanders and civilian leaders must make decisions which may result in massive civilian casualties, and, in some cases, the possible annihilation of entire territories. Black provides a lively consideration of proportionality regarding air power on the modern battlefield. Different airframes and platforms are considered in terms of their effectiveness and employment in counterinsurgency operations and on the modern battlefield of forces using hybrid methods.

Black concludes with additional questions: How can air power effectively be employed on the modern, hybrid battlefield? While unmanned systems may be used to eliminate high-value targets over great distances, should they be employed against enemy command and control cells? Does such employment amount to assassination? Should military force be deployed from space? The book ends with a consideration of issues pertaining to the costs of air power; as the military budgets of developed nations continue to contract, the rising powers continue to invest in their growing air capabilities.

Air Power should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in military history, but specifically for those interested in joint doctrine and the way forward for the armed forces. Air Power corresponds fairly directly to conversations I've had with the Air Staff of my own service; where the platform of the Army is the soldier, the platform for the Air Force and its reserve components is the aircraft. The book has made a significant contribution to my understanding of leadership at the operational level and has clarified some of the lessons I've learned in the course of my own professional military education, especially those dealing with force capabilities.

 In context of the modern, hybrid battlefield, the author acknowledges the opportunities offered by air power to substitute firepower for mass in conventional warfare; Black also acknowledges the value of air power to counterinsurgency operations in reconnaissance and harassment demoralization of insurgent fighters—without falling into the trap of arguing that strategic bombing is a panacea. The writing is accessible and fast-paced, without any haughty scholarly pretension, yet it is clear that the author is a subject matter expert who has conducted years of research.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Rules For Semi-Authoritarians

The votes from Turkey’s constitutional referendum are in, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory for his side, even as the result remains disputed. What’s clear is who the winner is not: constitutional democracy. On the surface, the amendments turn Turkey into a presidential system instead of a parliamentary one. Underneath, they strengthen the personal authority of Erdogan, who in the last decade and a half has gone from prime minister to president to quasi-authoritarian leader.

Erdogan has shown once again that he is the vanguard of a new breed of semi-authoritarians that includes Viktor Orban of Hungary and potentially Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Poland. These aren’t your grandfather’s would-be fascists, who might have come to power by election but then planned to abolish them and assume total dictatorial power.

Instead, the new authoritarians’ playbook calls for maintaining regular elections and the outward forms of multiparty democracy, while in fact consolidating power and cooking the books just enough to keep winning the popular vote. Erdogan, like his emulators and colleagues, has weakened the free press and free speech without completely shutting down all alternative political voices.

All this leads to a genuine puzzle: Why bother? If your plan is to erode constitutional democracy in favor of authoritarianism, why follow most of the rules most of the time?


The other partial explanation for semi-authoritarianism is that today’s rulers don’t actually believe in total dictatorship as a desirable method for staying in power. Erdogan had the experience of being banned from politics for Islamic rhetoric. Orban lived through the fall of Communism, as did Kaczynski. That should be enough to teach anyone that rule without meaningful opposition doesn’t work very well.

Of course the new semi-authoritarians might fantasize about total power. But their real fantasy seems to be getting re-elected forever by more than 50 percent of an adoring public.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The End Of Strategic Patience

The VP made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a U.S. show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. As the brown bomber jacket-clad vice president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.

"The era of strategic patience is over"

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the vice president said a period of patience had followed.
"But the era of strategic patience is over," he declared. "45 has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable."

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters Monday evening, said he hopes the United States "there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the U.S. will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign."

Meanwhile, China made a plea for a return to negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute there to a peaceful resolution. Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session Monday, said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace. But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless."

Later Monday, Pence reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that "all options are on the table" to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with "an overwhelming and effective response." He said the American commitment to South Korea is "iron-clad and immutable."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Zircon!

Oh, they’re coming, whether we like it or not. And they’ll be on our doorstep sooner, not later.

According to multiple reports, Russia is expected to begin production soon of its 3M22 Zircon, a hypersonic missile that will travel 4,600 miles per hour — five times the speed of sound — and will have a range of 250 miles. That’s just three minutes and 15 seconds from launch to impact.

Guided hypersonic missiles will be more accurate than traditional ballistic missiles and could conceivably be armed with nuclear warheads, according to the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor.

The race to develop an unstoppable and unbeatable weapon capable of defeating all the military defense systems in the world is getting much too close for comfort.

"State tests of Zircon are scheduled for completion in 2017 … and the missile's serial production is planned to be launched next year," the Russian news agency TASS reported last year, quoting sources. And last month, Russia's Interfax news agency cited a source familiar with the Zircon project who said the 5-ton missile is likely to be tested for the first time this spring — earlier than the projected date of 2018 — "from a sea-based platform."

The International Business Times (IBT) reported that the U.S. Navy is concerned the missile could be fitted to a Russian warship.

Hypersonic speed is the stuff of science fiction. As explained in IBT:

“The missile employs revolutionary scramjet technology to reach its hypersonic speeds whereby propulsion is created by forcing air from the atmosphere into its combustor where it mixes with on-board fuel – rather than carry both fuel and oxidizer like traditional rockets. This makes it lighter, and therefore much faster.

In fact, the U.S. may not be behind at all. According to Stratfor, U.S. Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello announced in late February that the Air Force plans to have operational prototypes of its own hypersonic missile ready for testing by 2020.

And Stratfor forecasts that the U.S. and China will likely have the first operational long-range hypersonic missiles in their arsenals by 2025, years ahead of Russia.

India is also working to develop a hypersonic missile. According to India Today, India is developing its BrahMos II missile in collaboration with Russia, and it will use the same scramjet technology as Zircon

Monday, April 10, 2017

Strategic Message Of The Syrian Strike

The message sent via 45's Tomahawk missile strike is actually super strategic:

1st off, for Commonwealth Russia.

Yeah, the Middle East is a crazy place and may easily be transformed into a quagmire for Russia and it's all up to 45 if that happens. If al Assad's regime were to be Tomahawked to death, smashed infrastructure, no way to communicate sans smoke signals, Russia would be in one H of a bind holding the bag on what ever kind of nation state Suriya al Kubra would collapse into.


For China...


Client states, actually China's only client state North Korea is also at risk. If China fears millions of sick and starving refugees flowing over the Yalu river into China, 45 demonstrated the ability to make that happen. Instead of building more make believe islands, China will be stuck building refugee centers, hospitals, and all the infrastructure for redirecting food, medicine and humanitarian aid with all the scrutiny of outsiders the world would muster.

For Iran...

The Northern Horn of the magical delicious Shia Crescent would require more blood and treasure, more volunteers and maybe even an unpopular conscription. Foreign adventurism with the al Quds force is one thing. Redirecting the entire nation with all her abilities is something else.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Reducing Iran's Influence


In Girl World, one of the worst things that can happen is the feared 'reduction of influence'. Much the same in the world of the Diplopolititary too!

Reduce Iran’s influence in Syria?

This will be difficult and complicated, and implementing it is not helped by loose talk about the unrealistic objective of “pushing Iran out of Syria.” We need to recognize that neither we, nor the Russians, have the will or capacity to achieve that goal—as desirable as it might be—in current circumstances.

Iran has developed a formidable presence on the ground in Syria: the Iranians have penetrated the remaining governing institutions of Asad’s regime, and have embedded some 30,000 forces in the government-controlled areas of western Syria (some 5,000 IRGC, Basij, and Iranian Army elements; some 3,000 to 5,000 highly trained Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon; and some 20,000 Shiite militiamen recruited from Afghanistan and Pakistan). These forces are significantly larger than what is left of the Syrian army or the Russian forces now deployed there.

The Iranian-controlled presence is bolstered by two key factors:
  • The Iranian-Assad alliance,which was forged by Assad’s father in the 1980s. Since then, Assad’s son has become ever-more dependent on Tehran for his survival. Accordingly Assad will not dare demand Iran’s departure. Nor will Russia, since its primary interest is the survival of the regime.
  • Iran’s “core interest” in retaining a foothold in Syria because it is the lynchpin of its wider hegemonic strategy. If it loses that foothold, it will seriously jeopardize Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon, the crown jewel of Iran’s regional strategy. That means Iran will mightily resist any effort to force it out of Syria and has considerable ability to do so.
Russia and Iran both seek to keep the Assad regime in power. But they are also rivals for influence in Damascus, and Assad relishes the opportunity to play them off against each other. Exploiting that rivalry has advantages for an American strategy of reducing Iranian influence in Syria. However, that game has strict upper limits. Russia will not cooperate in the undermining of its own influence in Syria for the sake of a partnership with the United States.

The idea that Russia will force Iran out of Syria is therefore a dangerous fantasy. And the idea that we should pay for such a fantasy by removing the Ukraine sanctions on Russia would constitute strategic malfeasance, given the impact that would have on our allies in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe.

We should therefore set more modest objectives. We should, for example, press Russia to deny Iran port facilities in Syria. An Iranian-controlled port would enable Iran more easily to ship weapons to Hezbollah, exacerbating the conflict between Iran and Israel—something Russia has an interest in avoiding. Similarly, we should support Israel’s insistence that Russia press Iran and Hezbollah not to send their forces south to the Golan Heights.

Finally, as in Yemen, we should do what we can to promote a political resolution of the Syrian civil war, one that leads eventually but inevitably to Assad’s departure. One requirement of the political settlement should be the departure of all foreign forces. That principle was incorporated into the Taif Agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war and eventually resulted in the peaceful departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon. Syrians, who do not want Iranian-controlled Shiite militias dominating them in a post-conflict era, will welcome inclusion of that principle. And it will provide us with the legitimacy to demand their eventual departure.