Thursday, March 30, 2017

Will Japan Preempt North Korea?

North Korea’s advancing nuclear-tipped missile program is fueling a new push by hawkish Japanese politicians to enable Tokyo to pre-emptively attack North Korean launch sites if Japan appears under imminent threat.

Japan is protected by Aegis destroyers and land-based Patriot missile defense systems, and the installation of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea is expected to further improve Japan’s defense. The North’s latest provocations, however, have Japan considering that it might be better to aim for the archer than the arrows, Reuters reports. As things stand, more than three missiles fired simultaneously at Japan might be enough to overwhelm Japan’s present defenses.

Japanese military capabilities are restricted, for the most part, to self-defense purposes. The country has avoided the pursuit of long-range, power-projection weaponry that would give it the ability to launch an assault on another state.
In the aftermath of North Korea’s latest missile launch, the Japanese prime minister said that North Korea’s behavior “is a clear challenge to the region and the international community,” adding that the “threat has entered a new phase.”

“Technology has advanced and the nature of conflict has changed,”  Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister in charge of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) committee exploring options to counter North Korean threats, said Wednesday. “If bombers attacked us or warships bombarded us, we would fire back. Striking a country lobbing missiles at us is no different.”

While previous administrations have stated that Japan has the right to fire on an enemy if an attack on Japan appears imminent, the ruling LDP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is determined to take it a step further and acquire the ability.

“It is time we acquired the capability,” Hiroshi Imazu, the chairman of the LDP’s policy council on security, explained, “I don’t know whether that would be with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or even the F-35 (fighter bomber), but without a deterrence North Korea will see us as weak.”

Inside sources told Reuters that Japan has “already done the ground work on how we could acquire a strike capability.”

Abe has been actively attempting to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution in recent years to give Japanese self-defense forces a larger operational scope. For instance, Japanese troops can now come to the aid of allied forces in the event that they come under attack from an enemy force. The acquisition of armaments that would allow China to launch a preemptive strike against another country would be a big step for Japan though.

China has been highly critical of Japanese militarization, as well as U.S. efforts to boost regional defense through the application of force and the installation of new missile shields.

China has missiles that can hit Japan, so any complaints it may have are not likely to garner much sympathy in the international community.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ayatollahs Praetorians

Vanguard of the Imam is the most up-to-date account of the IRGC’s rise.

Beginning with a chapter on Shiite history and political thought, it covers the organization’s founding in the aftermath of the revolution and chronicles the Iran-Iraq War, postwar reconstruction, domestic and foreign policy disputes of the 1990s and 2000s, and ends with Iran’s current military involvement in Syria. It also pays proper respect to Shiite religious culture, which “radiates through every pore of Iran’s Islamic system.” Key themes in Shiism – righteous leadership, resistance against oppression, and martyrdom – are thoroughly examined.

Understanding modern Iran, the IRGC, and the power of conflict is impossible without referencing the Iran-Iraq War. Soon after its founding, the Islamic Republic, and by extension the IRGC, was strengthened by fighting an initially defensive eight-year war against Iraq. Ostovar faithfully examines the Iranian war effort against its Ba’athist neighbor, particularly the debates over the war’s extension in 1982 and its contentious termination in 1988. In Iran’s domestic political parlance the war is styled “the Sacred Defense” and “the Imposed War.” For officials, the war remains a ceaseless rallying cry to resist oppression and export Iran’s revolution. For the IRGC, the war represents the consummation of its creed and mission.

Crucial to the Iran-Iraq War was the propaganda effort to portray the conflict as divinely ordained, and to sanctify those, like the IRGC, who partook in the fight for the soul of Iran and Islam. Mining the IRGC’s own political journals, Ostovar examines wartime propaganda to uncover the subtext underneath. Describing a mural commemorating an archetypal guardsman, he writes, “Although we still conceive of him as a soldier, he is lionized for his religious devotion … he is a willing martyr for whom the ultimate sacrifice is the ultimate reward.” Iran watchers acquainted with funeral ceremonies held for Shiite militias and the IRGC’s fallen will see continuity between Tehran’s framing of the Iran-Iraq War and its involvement in Syria.

Vanguard of the Imam aids in understanding the battles that rage today in the Middle East. The recent fall of Aleppo to the Assad regime illustrates this. Pro-government internet forums in Iran have linked the city’s “liberation” to the liberation of Khorramshahr in 1982, which holds a key place in Tehran’s cosmology of conflict as the last city to be freed from Iraqi occupation. One such post reads, “God liberated Aleppo, the same God which liberated Khorramshahr.” Similarly, newspapers that had commemorated Khorramshahr’s liberation have now been photoshopped to celebrate Aleppo’s deliverance. Even the IRGC’s martyrs from each conflict are being likened to one another.

The central challenge then becomes how best to operationalize what is written about the Guards to inform policy towards the regime they serve. Attempts to deny Tehran a foreign (read: American) adversary overlooks the theological, political, and military mandate the Guards have to “contest arrogance.” That is why a modus vivendi or rapprochement with Washington is impossible, as the past eight years of U.S. Iran policy have amply demonstrated.

Central to the IRGC’s self-perception is the waging of earthly struggle for celestial objectives. Charged with preserving the Islamic revolution, the Guards rely on the existence of continuous conflict with an adversary deemed hostile to their identity.

For the IRGC, no one fills that role better than the United States. Sound U.S. policy requires never losing sight of that fact.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pakistan's Nuclear War Plans

Sandwiched between Iran, China, India and Afghanistan, Pakistan lives in a complicated neighborhood with a variety of security issues. One of the nine known states known to have nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and doctrine are continually evolving to match perceived threats.

A nuclear power for decades, Pakistan is now attempting to construct a nuclear triad of its own, making its nuclear arsenal resilient and capable of devastating retaliatory strikes.

Experts believe Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is steadily growing. In 1998, the stockpile was estimated at five to twenty-five devices, depending on how much enriched uranium each bomb required. Today Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of 110 to 130 nuclear bombs. In 2015 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center estimated Pakistan’s bomb-making capability at twenty devices annually, which on top of the existing stockpile meant Pakistan could quickly become the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Other observers, however, believe Pakistan can only develop another forty to fifty warheads in the near future.

Pakistani nuclear weapons are under control of the military’s Strategic Plans Division, and are primarily stored in Punjab Province, far from the northwest frontier and the Taliban. Ten thousand Pakistani troops and intelligence personnel from the SPD guard the weapons. Pakistan claims that the weapons are only armed by the appropriate code at the last moment, preventing a “rogue nuke” scenario.

Pakistani nuclear doctrine appears to be to deter what it considers an economically, politically and militarily stronger India. The nuclear standoff is exacerbated by the traditional animosity between the two countries, the several wars the two countries have fought, and events such as the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, which were directed by Pakistan.

Unlike neighboring India and China, Pakistan does not have a “no first use” doctrine, and reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, particularly low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, to offset India’s advantage in conventional forces.

Pakistan currently has a nuclear “triad” of nuclear delivery systems based on land, in the air and at sea. Islamabad is believed to have modified American-built F-16A fighters and possibly French-made Mirage fighters to deliver nuclear bombs by 1995. Since the fighters would have to penetrate India’s air defense network to deliver their payloads against cities and other targets, Pakistani aircraft would likely be deliver tactical nuclear weapons against battlefield targets.

Land-based delivery systems are in the form of missiles, with many designs based on or influenced by Chinese and North Korean designs. The Hatf series of mobile missiles includes the solid-fueled Hatf-III (180 miles), solid-fueled Hatf-IV (466 miles) and liquid-fueled Hatf V, (766 miles). The CSIS Missile Threat Initiative believes that as of 2014, Hatf VI (1242 miles) is likely in service. Pakistan is also developing a Shaheen III intermediate-range missile capable of striking targets out to 1708 miles, in order to strike the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.

The sea component of Pakistan’s nuclear force consists of the Babur class of cruise missiles. The latest version, Babur-2, looks like most modern cruise missiles, with a bullet-like shape, a cluster of four tiny tail wings and two stubby main wings, all powered by a turbofan or turbojet engine. The cruise missile has a range of 434 miles. Instead of GPS guidance, which could be disabled regionally by the U.S. government, Babur-2 uses older Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) navigation technology. Babur-2 is deployed on both land and at sea on ships, where they would be more difficult to neutralize. A submarine-launched version, Babur-3, was tested in January and would be the most survivable of all Pakistani nuclear delivery systems.

Pakistan is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war. It is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan and India are clearly in the midst of a nuclear arms race that could, in relative terms, lead to absurdly high nuclear stockpiles reminiscent of the Cold War. It is clear that an arms-control agreement for the subcontinent is desperately needed.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Syrian Path

Suriya al Kubra!

Defining the Problem

• The US is fighting the wrong war in the Middle East. ISIS and al Qaeda are waging population-centric insurgencies while we conduct counterterrorism operations by proxy. Defeating these groups requires the US to pursue population-centric counterinsurgency by, with, and through acceptable and viable partners in Syria’s and Iraq’s Sunni Arab communities.

• Current US strategy empowers al Qaeda, which has an army in Syria, is preparing to replace ISIS, and exploits a vulnerable Sunni Arab community. The US has delayed defeating al Qaeda until after it has defeated ISIS. But al Qaeda is consolidating in northwestern Syria after withdrawing from Aleppo and is preparing a counteroffensive in Syria as it simultaneously reconstitutes in Iraq.

• Current US military operations impale our local partners against the strongest points of the enemy’s prepared defensive position and make little use of American asymmetric capabilities. We can and should operate in the enemy’s rear areas while also attacking its front so as to disrupt its defense and confront it with multiple dilemmas to which it cannot adequately respond.

• Sunni Arabs view the US as aligned with the deepening Russo-Iranian coalition and complicit in its atrocities.

• The US must regain the initiative and drive the multinational strategy. No regional actor can or will develop the moderate Sunni Arab resistance needed to defeat the ISIS and al Qaeda insurgencies. Turkey supports the al Qaeda–penetrated Ahrar al Sham. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are embroiled in Yemen and have given up on the idea of a moderate opposition in Syria. Jordan faces a major internal Salafi-jihadi threat and has few resources.

• The US must de-escalate the underlying Turkish-Kurdish political dispute in Syria to gain leverage on both actors. Syrian Kurdish political aims threaten US interests. The US must halt these forces’ progress after they secure the Tabqa Dam, the Syrian Democratic Forces’ natural limit of advance.

• Russia and Iran deny the US freedom of action in Syria and the Mediterranean and can threaten three of seven major global maritime trade chokepoints—the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Bab al Mandab Strait—in the next five years.

• A major US-Iran conflict is likely in the next five years. Iran has developed a functioning, interoperable, and deployable coalition of its proxies with Russia’s help, which will invalidate US planning assumptions. Iran seeks conventional capabilities as well. It will counter US pressure on nonnuclear issues, resist efforts to control Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, and escalate in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and elsewhere, using its own forces and its proxies.

• The US must develop a plan to achieve American interests with limited or no ability to base in Iraq. Iran and Iraqis aligned with Tehran are preparing to use the 2018 elections to replace Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al Abadi with a pro-Iranian candidate, who will likely order US and coalition forces out of Iraq or curtail their actions below levels required to destroy ISIS and other jihadists.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Problems With Land Of The Pure

Nishan E Hador!

Pakistan was meant to be a model, an example for other nations to emulate. It was founded after World War II, as the sun was setting on the British Empire and India was preparing for independence. India’s Muslims, though glad to see the end of the Raj, were apprehensive about becoming a minority in a Hindu-majority land.

They envisioned instead what might be called a “two-state solution”: the establishment of a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims in areas where Muslims were in the majority. Their new nation was to be free, pluralist and tolerant. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) declared in 1947, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

What went wrong? In an excellent new book, “Purifying the Land of the Pure,” Farahnaz Ispahani both recounts and laments Pakistan’s “descent” into what it has become today: unfree, undemocratic, intolerant and both a sponsor and victim of terrorism.

A Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Ms. Ispahani spent years as a journalist and high-ranking Pakistani official. She clearly loves the land of her birth. It’s doubtful that she’ll ever be able to safely return.

Pakistan, she writes, started out “as a modern state led by secular individuals.” But it was not long before important “religious and political leaders declared the objective of Pakistan’s creation to be the setting up of an Islamic state.”

This tension reveals itself even in the country’s name. Pakistan is an acronym for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. But in Urdu, the country’s lingua franca, the word means “Land of the Pure.” To what Ms. Ispahani calls “Islamist activists,” that implied a state that would embrace Muslim values and Islamic laws — as they defined them.

What went wrong? In an excellent new book, “Purifying the Land of the Pure,” Farahnaz Ispahani both recounts and laments Pakistan’s “descent” into what it has become today: unfree, undemocratic, intolerant and both a sponsor and victim of terrorism.

A Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Ms. Ispahani spent years as a journalist and high-ranking Pakistani official. She clearly loves the land of her birth. It’s doubtful that she’ll ever be able to safely return.

Pakistan, she writes, started out “as a modern state led by secular individuals.” But it was not long before important “religious and political leaders declared the objective of Pakistan’s creation to be the setting up of an Islamic state.”

This tension reveals itself even in the country’s name. Pakistan is an acronym for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. But in Urdu, the country’s lingua franca, the word means “Land of the Pure.” To what Ms. Ispahani calls “Islamist activists,” that implied a state that would embrace Muslim values and Islamic laws — as they defined them.

A subsidiary point: Ms. Ispahani could not have written this book had she observed the strictures of “political correctness.” The belief systems that have led Pakistan to where it is today cannot be adequately described as “violent extremism.” She talks instead of “Islamism,” “jihadism,” “Islamist militancy” and “Islamist terrorism” — terminology that begins to open a window into the ideologies and theologies that now threaten free peoples (and those who might like to be) around the world.

Pakistan’s history teaches at least three lessons.

The first: Elections alone do not produce democracy. The second: Majority rule without minority rights leads to egregious illiberalism. Third: A state committed to the pursuit of religious “purity” will always find some of its subjects in need of “cleansing.”

Down that path despotism lies.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Coming Carrier Gap


If U.S. lawmakers fail to approve a full-year budget and rely on a stopgap measure instead, the Navy will face maintenance backlogs and other shortfalls that will keep its biggest warships from deploying on schedule and leave critical carrier gaps around the world, an official said.
Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, this week said the prospect of shutting down two air wings, going to minimal operations on three more, and delaying 14 ship maintenance availabilities — a scenario predicted by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran in February — was the minimum damage the Navy could expect if the service did not receive the readiness finding it needed for the rest of the fiscal year.

“We have not developed those specifics, but we will relay those to Congress in a classified document later to say what are the impacts,” Mulloy said Thursday during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. “It will be that or more, and will very likely be more depending on the date that that kicks in.”

The brunt of the impact, Mulloy said, would be felt in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, when squadrons and units currently without funding to conduct training workups or maintenance would face related deployment delays.

“You would start seeing the same carrier gaps and start seeing other impacts around the world,” Mulloy said.

The Navy has had to contend with several high-profile carrier gaps in recent months due to sequestration budget caps in 2013, which led to massive maintenance backlogs and threw scheduled ship maintenance availabilities off-schedule.

In October 2015, the carrier Theodore Roosevelt redeployed from the Persian Gulf, leaving the region without a carrier to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State targets — a carrier gap directly linked to maintenance delays for the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had been scheduled to deploy. In November 2015, the Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group deployed to the region, ending a one-month carrier gap.

Just before the start of 2017, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group returned home from the Middle East following a seven-month deployment, leaving a gap of nearly a month while the carrier George H. W. Bush completed preparations for its deployment. This gap too was a direct result of maintenance delays in the shipyard for the Bush.

Congress has until April 28 to pass the fiscal 2017 defense appropriations bill, avoiding a year-long continuing resolution that would keep existing budget caps in place. Mulloy said he also hoped to see predictability in future defense budgets, enabling the Navy to better plan and spend its money.

“For the current 2017 budget … we had approximately three weeks to cut $6.5 billion out of the Department of the Navy, $4.5 billion out of the Navy itself, and $2 billion out of readiness,” he said. “Cutting $6.5 billion out of the Department of the Navy in a matter of weeks causes some very hard choices.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Panzers

As reported on military tech website earlier this month, the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is currently hard at work designing a new tank to serve in the Army, and hoping to get it ready by 2030. Equipped with "advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor," says Scout, this new tank would be "high-tech," "lightweight," and able to do things the Abrams can't, like "destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire."

It would also incorporate advanced communications systems permitting it to network with other combatants on the battlefield, and even control its own drone detachments.

Specifics of the new tank design are still being worked out -- for example, will it sport the new lightweight XM360 120mm cannon the Pentagon has been working on, or perhaps a futuristic XM813 rapid-fire 30mm auto-cannon capable of rattling off 200 rounds per minute?

This all remains to be seen.

What does seem clear, though, is that if the Army decides to proceed with investment in a new 21st-century super-tank, then this would provide the funds to keep General Dynamics' Lima plant busy building and testing prototypes. Thus, it wouldn't be necessary to continue pouring money into the production of circa-20th-century Abrams tanks that no one seems to want anymore.

And that would be a win-win-win scenario -- for the Army, taxpayers, and General Dynamics.