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

Ahoy!

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 Scout.com 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

Juche!

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

Akula!

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

Soleimani


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.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Seizing Raqqa

Oh, it's happening sweetheart!

A Pentagon plan for the coming assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State capital in Syria, calls for significant U.S. military participation, including increased Special Operations forces, attack helicopters and artillery, and arms supplies to the main Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighting force on the ground.

The military’s favored option among several variations currently under White House review, the proposal would ease a number of restrictions on U.S. activities imposed during the 44th administration.

Officials involved in the planning have proposed lifting a cap on the size of the U.S. military contingent in Syria, currently numbering about 500 Special Operations trainers and advisers to the combined Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. While the Americans would not be directly involved in ground combat, the proposal would allow them to work closer to the front line and would delegate more decision-making authority down the military line from Washington.

45, who campaigned on a pledge to expand the fight against the militants in Syria, Iraq and beyond, received the plan Monday after giving the Pentagon 30 days to prepare it.

But in a conflict where nothing has been as simple as anticipated, the Raqqa offensive has already sparked new alliances. In just the past two days, U.S. forces intended for the Raqqa battle have had to detour to a town in northern Syria to head off a confrontation between two American allied forces — Turkish and Syrian Kurdish fighters. There, they have found themselves effectively side by side with Russian and Syrian government forces with the same apparent objective.

Approval of the Raqqa plan would effectively shut the door on Turkey’s demands that Syrian Kurds, considered terrorists by Ankara, be denied U.S. equipment and kept out of the upcoming offensive. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that arming and including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in the operation is unacceptable and has vowed to move his own troops and Turkish-allied Syrian rebel forces toward Raqqa.

U.S. officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity about the still-secret planning, believe Erdogan’s tough talk is motivated primarily by domestic politics, specifically a desire to bolster prospects for an April 16 nationwide referendum that would transform Turkey’s governing system to give more power to the presidency.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the Baghdad-based U.S. commander of the anti-Islamic State coalition, told reporters Wednesday that there was “zero evidence” that the YPG was a threat to Turkey. With some apparent exasperation, Townsend called on all anti-Islamic State forces in northern Syria to stop fighting among themselves and concentrate on the best way to beat the militants.
U.S. talks with Turkey, a NATO ally and coalition member, are ongoing. But events over the past several days in and around the town of Manbij have injected a new element in the conflict that could either help the Americans avoid a direct clash with Ankara, or set the many forces now converging on the town on the path toward a new confrontation.

Manbij, located near the Turkish border about 85 miles northwest of Raqqa, was captured by the Islamic State three years ago and retaken last August by the YPG, backed by U.S. airstrikes and advisers. The town now forms the western edge of a militant-cleared border strip extending to neighboring Iraq.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sea Bees

On March 5, the Seabees turn 75. And though that initial, all-volunteer, and older-aged construction force was soon to be replaced by a new group of younger and unskilled recruits by way of the draft in 1942, the rugged spirit of those first men to earn the title of “Seabee” (along with their straightforward motto of “Can Do”) would pass down to the young men and women who would follow in their footsteps over the next 75 years. They would forge a rich history steeped in victory and sacrifice while going on to participate in every major U.S. military engagement and humanitarian action since the inception of the U.S. Naval Construction Forces.

During World War II, Seabees in the Pacific theater would build 441 piers, 111 airstrips, hundreds of square blocks of warehouses, and numerous hospitals that would serve 70,000 patients. In the European theater, Seabees attached to naval demolition units (the forerunners of today’s Navy SEALs) were some of the first American service members to set foot on the beaches of Normandy, where they labored to destroy concrete and steel barriers meant to impede the impending allied invasion.

In 1950, after a brief respite from war, Seabees would find themselves under heavy fire at Inchon, South Korea, where they successfully labored to overcome 30-foot tides and a swift current while installing essential pontoon causeways, in what has come to be known as one of the most brilliant amphibious assaults in history.

And during the early years of the 1960s, a number of young men voluntarily enlisted to become part of the now-legendary building and fighting force that had been established just one generation earlier. These were men like Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields, who joined the Navy at 22 and later went on to courageously fight and die at the battle of Dong Xoai. For his bravery, Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Those examples are just a drop in the bucket of Seabee history. This is a military construction force that, time and again, has successfully risen to the occasion in the face of adversity.

That quality is what motivated those early, first-generation Seabees of 75 years ago to serve. And Capt. Jeffrey Kilian, current commodore of 30th Naval Construction Regiment — the man responsible for all deployed Seabee operations in the Pacific — says it still motivates the young men and women who answer the call to serve today.

Friday, March 3, 2017

North Korea's Chemical Weapon Stockpile

North Korea is not a signatory to the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

It has been producing chemical weapons since the 1980s and is now estimated to have as many as 5,000 tons, according to a biennial South Korean defense white paper. Its stockpile, one of the world's largest, reportedly has 25 types of agents, including sarin, mustard, tabun and hydrogen cyanide. It also is thought to have nerve agents, such as the VX allegedly used by two women — one Vietnamese and the other Indonesian — to kill the North Korean leader's half brother, Kim Jong Nam.

North Korea also has 12-13 types of biological weapons, said Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based commentator on military issues. It can likely produce anthrax, smallpox and plague, the South Korean defense paper said. If war breaks out, North Korea would likely target Seoul's defenses with chemical and biological weapons dropped from aircraft or delivered via missiles, artillery and grenades, experts say.

Making chemical weapons isn't extremely difficult, and the North likely uses chemical fertilizer plants to manufacture its weapons, according to South Korean experts. The military information website GlobalSecurity.org said that North Korea has at least eight industrial facilities that can produce chemical agents.

"The biggest weakness of chemical weapons is that their effectiveness expires soon and new supplies need to be made constantly, so North Korea maintaining a stockpile of up to 5,000 tons indicates a very strong production capability," said Kim, the analyst. Some defectors from the North have claimed that the authoritarian country tested chemical agents on political prisoners. The North is also thought to have some 17 microbiological labs and other places to nurture and produce germs to be used as weapons.

The North can argue that such places are meant to study how to prevent epidemic diseases. But analyst Lee said the North has already placed those germs in storage facilities in military units, which means Pyongyang intends to use them as weapons.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pipe Dreams

A worthy reprint of General H.R,McMaster's Hindsight is 20/20
First, war is political. As the 19th-century Prussian philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz said, “war should never be thought of as something autonomous, but always as an instrument of policy.”

In the years leading up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thinking about defense was driven by ideas that regarded successful military operations as ends in themselves, rather than just one instrument of power that must be coordinated with others to achieve, and sustain, political goals. Believers in the theory known as the “Revolution in Military Affairs” misinterpreted the American-led coalition’s lopsided victory in the 1991 gulf war and predicted that further advances in military technology would deliver dominance over any opponent. Potential adversaries, they suggested, would not dare to threaten vital American interests.

Underdeveloped war plans encountered unanticipated political problems. In Afghanistan, proxy forces helped topple the Taliban, but many of those militias and leaders then undermined efforts to rebuild an Afghan nation as they pursued narrow personal or political agendas. In Iraq, from 2003 to 2007, coalition strategy failed to address adequately the political grievances of minority populations, most notably Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

In both wars, insurgent and terrorist groups capitalized on these grievances, recruiting new members and gaining support from a portion of the population. Over time, ethnic, tribal and sectarian polarization drove new violence, weakened both states, strengthened insurgents and magnified civilian suffering. The lesson: Be skeptical of concepts that divorce war from its political nature, particularly those that promise fast, cheap victory through technology.

Second, war is human. People fight today for the same fundamental reasons the Greek historian Thucydides identified nearly 2,500 years ago: fear, honor and interest. But in the years preceding our last two wars, thinking about defense undervalued the human as well as the political aspects of war. Although combat operations unseated the Taliban and the Saddam Hussein regime, a poor understanding of the recent histories of the Afghan and Iraqi peoples undermined efforts to consolidate early battlefield gains into lasting security.

Over time, American forces learned that an appreciation of the fears, interests and sense of honor among Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s citizens was critical to breaking cycles of violence and helping to move their communities toward making political accommodations that isolated extremists. Reinforced security efforts, in Iraq after 2007 and Afghanistan after 2010, tried to allay fears of minorities, preserve each group’s sense of honor and convince communities that they could best protect and advance their interests through politics rather than through violence.

The hard-learned lesson: Defense concepts must consider social, economic and historical factors that constitute the human dimension of war.

Third, war is uncertain, precisely because it is political and human. The dominant assumption of the “Revolution in Military Affairs” was that information would be the key to victory. Concepts of “network-centric warfare,” “rapid, decisive operations,” “shock and awe” and “full-spectrum dominance” suggested that near-perfect intelligence would enable precise military operations and point a straight line to success. But in Afghanistan and Iraq, planning did not account for adaptations and initiatives by the enemy. American forces, deployed initially in insufficient numbers to keep pace with the evolution of those conflicts, struggled to maintain security. The lesson: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like all wars, were contests of will that unleashed dynamics that made future events impossible to predict.

Fortunately, in Afghanistan and Iraq, American forces adapted. For example, in 2005, in western Nineveh Province, our enemies had pitted sectarian communities against one another in a bloody civil war. In the city of Tal Afar, our cavalry regiment first sought to understand the complex environment while building trust with local Iraqi security forces and a beleaguered population. Alongside United States Special Forces and Iraqi soldiers, our troops sought not only to fight the enemy, but also to build security for civilians and promote conflict resolution among competing groups. As Tal Afar’s mayor, Najim Abdullah Abid al-Jibouri, recalled, “Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ...Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner.” But when the Americans came, he added, “With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.”
What we learned: American forces must cope with the political and human dynamics of war in complex, uncertain environments. Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely.

Budget pressures and persistent fascination with technology have led some to declare an end to war as we know it. While emerging technologies are essential for military effectiveness, concepts that rely only on those technologies, including precision strikes, raids or other means of targeting enemies, confuse military activity with progress toward larger wartime goals. We must not equate military capabilities with strategy. Achieving our aims in war will demand forces who can reassure allies and protect populations, as well as identify and defeat elusive enemies.

Future wars will pose different problems and involve different conditions, of course. But war will continue to follow its important age-old truths.

Although the defense budget is under pressure, clear thinking about war costs nothing. What we can afford least is to define the problem of future war as we would like it to be, and by doing so introduce into our defense vulnerabilities based on self-delusion.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Smart Grid


U.S. Grid in ‘Imminent Danger’ From Cyber-Attack, Study Says — Excerpt: “The U.S. Energy Department says the electricity system ‘faces imminent danger’ from cyber-attacks, which are growing more frequent and sophisticated, but grid operators say they are already on top of the problem.

In the department’s landmark Quadrennial Energy Review, it warned that a widespread power outage caused by a cyberattack could undermine 'critical defense infrastructure' as well as much of the economy and place at risk the health and safety of millions of citizens. The report comes amid increased concern over cybersecurity risks as U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian hacking was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election.”


The U.S. Energy Department’s 494-page report was released during the final days of the Obama administration, and it offered this clear warning for 2017 and beyond: "Cyber threats to the electricity system are increasing in sophistication, magnitude, and frequency. The current cybersecurity landscape is characterized by rapidly evolving threats and vulnerabilities, juxtaposed against the slower-moving deployment of defense measures."


The new report offered a long list of key findings for policymakers, and here are a few:
  • Advanced metering infrastructure has had a significant impact on the nature of interactions between the electricity consumer and the electric system, allowing two-way flow of both electricity and information and enabling the integration of assets behind the meter into the larger electric grid.
  • Interconnection standards and interoperability are critical requirements for seamless integration of grid connected devices, appliances, and building energy management systems, without which grid modernization and further energy efficiency gains may be hindered.
  • Evolving consumer preferences for electricity services are creating new opportunities.
  • The convergence of the electric grid with information and communications technology creates a platform for value creation and the provision of new services beyond energy.
  • There is enormous potential for electric end-use efficiency improvement based on (1) technical analyses, and (2) the differences in energy efficiency performance between states and utilities with and without ambitious electric end-use efficiency policies and programs.
  • There are no commonly used metrics for measuring grid resilience. Several resilience metrics and measures have been proposed; however, there has been no coordinated industry or government initiative to develop a consensus on or implement standardized resilience metrics.
  • Low-income and minority communities are disproportionately impacted by disaster-related damage to critical infrastructure. These communities with fewer resources may not have the means to mitigate or adapt to natural disasters and disproportionately rely on public services, including community shelters, during disasters.