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


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.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Yemen's Kamikazee Drones

On 27 November 2016, United Arab Emirates Presidential Guard forces intercepted a truck carrying six partially assembled Qasef-1 drones in Yemen's Marib Governorate. This is one of them.

Last week, Conflict Armament Research published an investigation into Iranian technology transfers to Yemen. The investigation links a drone captured in northern Iraq, a drone-like body that crashed near Aden International Airport in Yemen, and an intercepted shipment full of drone-like parts, all curiously missing surveillance equipment.

What is a drone without a camera?

A weapon!

The drones, all Qasef-1 models, appear to be one-use weapons, made to attack missile defense systems. Researchers with CAR examined drone parts seized by UAE forces, and in their report argue convincingly that the drones are not just a modification of an Iranian design, but were made by Iran. And, matching reports that these drone bodies were filled with explosives and launched like missiles at radars, the drone parts the researchers examined lacked any sort of camera or surveillance hardware.

Military drones, as we generally know them, are unmanned aerial vehicles controlled by a human operator, and used as a flying camera, sometimes with weapons attached. While Ababil 2 drones built for surveillance can land with either a parachute or by skidding on their bellies, the researchers examining the seized Qasef-1s found no landing gear, and no explosives inside.

Still, they found components for arming and initiating explosives. With that, and without surveillance equipment, it’s more likely that the Qasef-1s are disposable strike munitions, a fancy way of saying “one-use flying bombs.”

Crashing a drone into the radar that guides a missile battery is a pretty good way to knock out the defensive missiles, and with the missiles visible on satellite footage, it’s possible to just program in the GPS coordinates of the radar into Qasef’s guidance system.

That makes the Qasef-1 a simpler alternative to other anti-missile kamikaze drones, like Israel’s Harop loitering munition. Without missile defenses in the way, cruise missiles can strike with impunity.

A kamikaze drone just the first part of a complex attack.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Navy's New Rail Gun

The US Navy recently release footage of its first testfire of an electromagnetic railgun at their new terminal at Office of Naval Research and Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Railguns use 20 to 32 mega joules of electromagnetic energy to fire projectiles at seven to nine times the speed of sound, according to a Congressional Research Service report on the weapons.

Because they fire with electricity alone — not chemical explosives like conventional ammunition — railguns can potentially operate much cheaper and fire much much faster than weapons currently used by the Navy.

The Navy has long sought the technology as a potential game-changer for surface warfare, as China, Russia, and the US all race towards building hypersonic weapons that no ship can currently defend against. The newest classes of Navy ships, like the Zumwalt and Ford carriers, have been planned with outsized power generators in anticipation of the revolutionary weapon.

Despite looking like a typical cannon blast, the railgun only emits fire and sparks from metal components that become molten during the firing process that forces the components to fire at mind boggling speeds.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Revamping Foreign Aid

45's first budget blueprint proposes deep funding cuts for the United States Agency for International Development, the largest provider of U.S. economic foreign aid. Trump’s stated objective is to save money and do more good for those who need help most. If the president wants to reach his goal of allowing the United States to “retain its current status as top donor while saving taxpayer dollars,” a prudent diplomatic goal, he should eliminate tied aid, scale back the number of aid recipients, and cut ties with countries that violate human rights

First, the president should eliminate all tied foreign aid -- assistance that must be spent by the recipient country on goods and services supplied by the donor country. Such rigidity drastically increases the cost of foreign aid, by as much as 30 percent -- especially when it comes to food. For example, current law states that 50 percent of all U.S. food aid must be carried by U.S. flagged shipping vessels. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office estimated that this restriction increased the cost of shipping food by $107 million between 2011 and 2014. In other words, tied aid means the donor -- U.S. taxpayers, in this case -- has to spend more on aid to accomplish the same goal that untied aid could accomplish.  

Second, the president should support distributing foreign aid only to countries in true economic need. This would dramatically reduce the number of countries receiving economic aid, allowing USAID to focus its resources where they can do the most good. If the United States focused its foreign aid on countries classified by the World Bank as low-income economies, it would distribute aid in 31 countries, rather than the 158 countries we’re sending aid to today. For example, USAID is sending $295 million to South Africa, an upper-middle-income country, and only $49 million to Chad, a country stuck in desperate poverty. And while USAID is spending $59 million in Mexico, another upper-middle-income country, it sends only $17 million to nearby Nicaragua, a country of far less prosperity.

Lastly, 45 should insist on a Leahy-style amendment for foreign aid. The Leahy Amendment prohibits any military assistance to parties who are guilty of human-rights violations. The same standard should apply to foreign aid, which is designed to promote human development and humanitarian purposes. Adopting this type of restriction on who can receive aid encourages accountability, both in terms of who is eligible for aid and how USAID distributes the aid. The loss of aid, which for some countries would be substantial, would be a powerful incentive for better behavior. For example, in 2015, South Sudan received $618 million in economic aid, about 7 percent of their total gross income, even though ethnic cleansing remains an ongoing problem.

While these reforms would improve how the United States distributes aid, there are many special interests who benefit from the status quo. Former presidents 43 and 44 both tried to reform foreign-aid practices, only to meet a wall of opposition. Eliminating tied aid will probably be the most controversial of the above reforms because the benefits would be felt widely -- mostly by foreign aid recipients -- while the costs would be concentrated domestically. U.S. shipping interests in particular are sure to complain if the law were changed to allow more foreign shipping of food aid. But cronyism is cronyism, and it’s even worse if it comes at the expense of the world’s poorest individuals.

Despite the potential opposition, 45 has the opportunity to reform U.S. aid practices that will save money for American taxpayers and make aid more beneficial to those who need the most help. That’s a win-win both sides of the political aisle should be able to get behind.   

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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't Buy China's Peace Plan


In a matter of weeks, all of China’s fears have come to a head on the Korean Peninsula. At an airport in Malaysia in mid-February, the exiled half-brother of North Korea’s ruler was assassinated with a nerve agent, reminding the world that the Hermit Kingdom is run by a paranoid and violent regime.

Closer to home, North Korea conducted two rounds of ballistic missile tests in stark violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In response, the United States, South Korea, and Japan all vowed to tighten military ties and step up pressure on Pyongyang, underscored by the initial deployment, much to China’s dismay, of a new U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

Leaders in Beijing had reason to be nervous. An unpredictable ruler in North Korea was once again tempting war on the Peninsula, which would be disastrous for China in the form of refugees flooding across its border and loose nukes on its doorstep. In addition to the immediate crisis, a collapsing North Korea would likely result in a unified country led by a U.S.-friendly government in Seoul, removing China’s strategic buffer that keeps the United States and its South Korean ally at a more comfortable distance. At the end of the day, Beijing isn’t happy with Pyongyang’s saber rattling, but trying to manage a nuclear North Korea remains preferable to rolling the dice with instability.

Under the rubric of a “double suspension,” China recommended that North Korea halt its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the United States and South Korea cancelling major military exercises.

First, particularly given North Korea’s record of evasion and deceit, any reasonable suspension would require an extraordinarily invasive verification regime, well beyond what even the most sympathetic observers believe Pyongyang would stomach. If you can’t verify, the deal isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Second, U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises are not just symbolic shows of force. They are necessary to ensure that the United States and its allies are prepared for what would assuredly be a nasty war. Pentagon officials are quick to warn against putting the reduction of military readiness on the table, much less as an opening gambit.

Finally, and this is the kicker, it’s bad strategy to agree to a mutual suspension at this particular moment—even if you think negotiations are the only viable path to stabilizing the Peninsula. Instead, as the dust settles around South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, the United States should continue working with allies and partners, as well as China, to implement fully the two UN Security Resolutions secured by the 44th administration last year.

These provide unprecedented sources of financial and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, including strict limits on the export of raw materials and access to global financial markets. If faithfully enforced, North Korea’s hard currency could be cut by upwards of $800 million, slowing its ability to fund its weapons programs while creating potential antibodies to Kim Jong-un’s rule. Several elements of the new sanctions package have never been tried and were only put into place in recent months, meaning skeptics will have to hold their breath before assessing the true effectiveness of the pressure campaign—it is simply not the case that this is old wine in new bottles.

All this is to say that diving into negotiations now would be throwing away a key source of leverage over North Korea. It would also take the pressure off of China prematurely, just when newfound U.S. resolve is driving Beijing to finally step up its game in constraining North Korea’s economy. Why start bargaining when you’re on the cusp of dramatically strengthening your hand? Instead, the United States can create more favorable conditions for successful negotiations by first demonstrating seriousness of purpose to Beijing and imposing novel costs on Pyongyang.

Only after the new sanctions regime is fully implemented will the time be ripe to consider mutual concessions.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Flood Tubes Two and Four!

The Soviet Union produced hot-rod submarines that could swim faster, take more damage, and dive deeper than their American counterparts—but the U.S. Navy remained fairly confident it had the Soviet submarines outmatched because they were all extremely noisy.

Should the superpowers clash, the quieter American subs had better odds of detecting their Soviet counterparts first, and greeting them with a homing torpedo. However, that confidence was dented in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet Navy launched its Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Thirty years later they remain the mainstay of the Russian nuclear attack submarine fleet—and are quieter than the majority of their American counterparts.

Today the Russian Navy maintains ten to eleven Akulas, according to Jane’s accounting in 2016, but only three or four are in operational condition, while the rest await repairs. Nonetheless, the Russian Navy has kept its boats busy. In 2009, two Akulas were detected off the East Coast of the United States—supposedly the closest Russia submarines had been seen since the end of the Cold War.

Three years later, there was an unconfirmed claim (this time denied by the U.S. Navy) that another Akula had spent a month prowling in the Gulf of Mexico without being caught. The older Kashalot even has been honored for “tailing a foreign submarine for fourteen days.” All of these incidents have highlighted concerns that the U.S. Navy needs to refocus on antisubmarine warfare. In the last several years, Russia has also been upgrading the Akula fleet to fire deadly Kalibr cruise missiles, which were launched at targets in Syria in 2015 by the Kilo-class submarine Rostov-on-Don.

Despite the Akula’s poor readiness rate, they continue to make up the larger part of Russia’s nuclear attack submarine force, and will remain in service into the next decade until production of the succeeding Yasen class truly kicks into gear.

Until then, the Akula’s strong acoustic stealth characteristics will continue to make her a formidable challenge for antisubmarine warfare specialists.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Syria's Puppet Regime

Both former 44 and 45 have considered deeper cooperation with Russia – and thereby Iran and Assad – against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria. This idea is based on two fundamental fallacies.

First, Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime cannot recapture Salafi-Jihadist safe havens and secure them over the long-term given their severe manpower shortages and shortfalls in command-and-control.

Second, Assad is not sovereign. Iran and Russia have both inserted themselves deep into the framework of the state. Both states aim to entice the U.S. into actions that advance their own strategic interests and ultimately facilitate the expulsion of the U.S. from the Middle East.

Money Shot:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is neither sovereign nor a viable U.S. partner against ISIS and al-Qaeda. Russia and Iran have penetrated the Syrian Arab Army’s command-and-control authorities at all levels and propped up the force by providing the bulk of its offensive combat power. The pro-regime coalition cannot secure all of Syria and primarily serves as a vehicle for Moscow and Tehran’s regional power projection. Any U.S. strategy in Syria that relies on pro-regime forces will fail to destroy Salafi-Jihadists while empowering Iran and Russia.

The U.S. will not find a partner willing or capable of advancing its national security interests within the pro-regime coalition. Pro-regime forces are not capable of independently expelling ISIS and al-Qaeda from Syria. Iran currently provides the high-end combat units that lead pro-regime offensives on the ground.

Any policy that leverages Russia and Assad against Salafi-Jihadist groups will thus empower Iran in Syria by default. Conversely, any effort to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran in Syria in the near-term will also fail due to the critical role of Iran in supporting both parties. Russia has no proxy in Syria without Iran.

Russia and Assad cannot afford to divorce themselves from Iran even if they intended to do so. Neither Russia nor Iran requires an end to the Syrian Civil War or the defeat of ISIS in Syria. Rather, Russia and Iran have consistently intervened in the conflict in order to suppress the opponents of the regime, enhance their own regional freedom of action, and oust the U.S. from the Middle East.

Their public appeals for political and military cooperation with the U.S. are disingenuous and unconstructive. The U.S. must focus on regaining leverage and extracting meaningful concessions from the pro-regime coalition rather than surrendering to the interests of strategic adversaries for unsustainable gains against ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Swarm Baby Swarm

The South Korean Army is considering using drones equipped with explosives, an army official said Sunday.

The army plans to carry out extensive research into "military swarming, which is already in operational use in the U.S., China and Russia, to our ground and naval operations," the official said.

The battlefield tactic uses dispersed combat units to attack designated targets at once.

The research will focus on the possibility using AI-based drones, and on ways to develop techniques based on Korea's advanced science and technology.

The military will analyze the effects of drone swarming on naval operations, including port defense, attacks, search and rescue, and lighting.

If the research results ― due within this year ― are positive, the Army will begin arming military drones.

In January, the U.S. Defense Department said it successfully tested 103 Perdix drones ― each 16 centimeters long ― released from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

In November, China released an image of scores of mini-drones in flight, while Russia is reportedly studying fighter-drone joint operations.

The South Korean military said it could use the similar Coyote drone, developed by leading U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and successfully tested by the U.S. Navy in 2015, in combat exercises.

The drones can carry up to a one kilogram and can fly for up to 90 minutes at up to about 100 kilometers per hour.

North Korea may already be using drones capable of targeting South Korea

Monday, March 13, 2017


He is well-known as the Middle East’s deadliest and Iran’s most dangerous man. He prioritizes offensive tactics and operations over defensive ones, and rejoices in taking overconfident selfies with his troops and proxies in battlefields in many countries, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

When it comes to authority, he is Iran’s second man after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Being a staunchly loyal confidante to Khamenei, Qassem Soleimani has great influence over foreign policy.

By exploiting Iran’s 1979 revolution, and by proving his loyalty and determination to advance its revolutionary principles by any means — including brute force or war — Soleimani rose from being a construction worker in Kerman to his current position in a short period of time. For nearly two decades, he has been the head of Iran’s Quds Force.

He was previously sanctioned by the US, Switzerland and the UN Security Council via Resolution 1747. The US formerly designated the Quds Force a supporter of terrorism. He was also on America’s Specially Designated Global Terrorists list.

Despite all this, and although his actions qualify him to be among the world’s top global terrorists, Soleimani is operating freely, violating sanctions and traveling.

More importantly, he is more powerful than ever.

The Quds Force is a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is the most important military and revolutionary organization, and is officially tasked with exporting Iran’s ideological, religious and revolutionary principles beyond the country’s borders.

Soleimani is in charge of extraterritorial operations, including organizing, supporting, training, arming and financing predominantly Shiite militia groups; launching wars directly or indirectly via these proxies; fomenting unrest in other nations to advance Iran’s ideological and hegemonic interests; attacking and invading cities and countries; and assassinating foreign political figures and powerful Iranian dissidents worldwide.

Under his leadership, the Quds Force has been accused of failed plans to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in the US, and to assassinate then-Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Al-Jubeir. An investigation revealed that the Quds Force was also behind the assassination of Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The Quds Force fomented unrest in Iraq, providing deadly, sophisticated bombs such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that killed many civilians and non-civilians, including Iraqis and Americans.

Soleimani rules over roughly 20,000 Quds Force members. However, it can also use forces from the IRGC and Basij in case of emergencies. In addition, Soleimani technically commands fighters from militias that Iran supports and helped create. He also hires fighters from many countries, including Afghanistan, to fight as proxies.

So in actuality, Soleimani commands at least 150,000 militants, many designated as terrorists and belonging to designated terrorist groups. This is why Iran has been repeatedly ranked as the top state sponsor of terrorism by the US State Department

In almost every country and conflict in the region, Soleimani appears to play a destabilizing role in order to advance Tehran’s hegemonic and ideological interests, and to tip the regional balance of power in its favor.

He and the Quds Force have infiltrated top security, political, intelligence and military infrastructures in several nations, including Syria and Iraq.

While some Iranian politicians believe their country should wield power via its ideology, Soleimani thinks it should spread its ideology via hard power. His strategies and military tactics include influencing the sociopolitical and socioeconomic processes of Arab countries via the Quds Force by supporting and assisting in establishing militias in several countries.

Soleimani does not just seek to take military control or increase Tehran’s influence in Arab countries. His other fundamental objective is to spread the revolutionary ideologies of Iran and the supreme leader via military interventions, scuttling US and Israeli policies in the region, and damaging the national security of other regional powers.

From his perspective, this ideological objective can be best achieved by making alliances and strengthening militia or terrorist groups across the region.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

HAMAS Tunnels

Hamas is still tunneling. With or without the state comptroller’s report, it tunnels almost without respite, and without paying much heed to the incessant Israeli chatter regarding the war that ended two and half years ago.

Israel plainly doesn’t really know how to prepare for the next war; only for the previous one. That was the case, too, with the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Hamas is still tunneling, 24/7, in shifts.

It’s hard to believe amid the crescendo of 2014 recrimination generated by Tuesday’s comptroller report, but the fact is that Hamas has already got at least 15 tunnels under the border with Israel.

Right now.

Meanwhile inside Gaza, a subterranean network thrives — criss-crossing over tens of miles — transferring supplies, enabling gunmen to move around at will.

Residents of Tel Aviv, who are living amid years of construction for a city subway project, can only be jealous of the dizzying pace at which the diggers move beneath Gaza and at the border.

The IDF has upped its preparedness and training to try to confront the tunnel threat. There has been much talk of the barrier Israel is constructing to block the cross-border tunnels. But nobody expects such a barrier to be completed within the next couple of years. Despite the comptroller’s report, with its repetition of the familiar litany of failures, therefore, Israel still lacks an effective defense against the Hamas tunnels. Israel also still lacks an effective response to Hamas’s ongoing rearmament.

This is where the ongoing failure lies.

Nobody wants to start another war by taking preemptive action. And therefore, it is clear that in the event of another round of conflict with Hamas, Israel will again be vulnerable to attack via cross-border tunnels. And if that next round of conflict develops into a full-scale war, the IDF will not encounter too many Hamas fighters above ground. There’ll all be in the internal Gaza tunnels.

For decades, the IDF has trained for warfare via columns of tanks, taking control of enemy areas. Has it trained for battle in the arena Hamas has now prepared for it inside Gaza? Given the insistence on looking backward rather than ahead, as exemplified by Tuesday’s report and the clamor it has attracted, one doubts it.

If there is one useful conclusion to be drawn from the comptroller’s report, much more useful than his comments about the tunnels, it is his assertion that IDF military intelligence failed to accurately gauge Hamas’s appetite for war. At the very beginning of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the assessment of IDF military intelligence was that Hamas was eager to end the fighting. At a series of briefings in the early days of the war, military intelligence declared that Hamas was weak, had been dealt punishing blows, and wanted to cry uncle.

Those assessments, for some reason, overlooked what Hamas considered to be its achievements, as well as its conviction that it was scoring many points in Gazan and wider Arab public opinion. Those assessments, for some reason, failed to internalize Hamas’s desire to continue fighting, and its belief that it was poised at a historic turning point. Military intelligence missed its mark.

Hamas was wrong to believe that the war would enable it to dramatically change the Gaza reality, by pressuring Israel into lifting the security blockade and/or consenting to the construction of sea or air ports. It was wrong, but its confidence meant it was not looking for a swift end to the fighting.
Ahead of the next conflict, Israel should realize that gauging the true intentions of Hamas — and of Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, for that matter — is far from simple.