Monday, October 31, 2016

Trick Or Treat


It's time!

If caught out of time and ill prepped for a T or T costume, here are a few last minute, fast minute ideas:

Zombie tyrants - get your Walking Dead on with a risen Khadaffy maybe?

Mookie al Sadr - Iran's boy Elroy in Iraq til he split the scene pre Surge (lucky for him!) All you really need is a white sheet for a robe, several pillows belted (or bungee corded to make you really girthy) fake beard, fake teeth unibrow and a black Turbin thingy. Of course with spectacles - you may get mistaken for Hiz'B'Allah's freak in chief - the body part collector general - Nasrallah (just play it off).

Iranian nuclear diplomat - fake beard (drawn on with crayon is best), suit jacket with NO tie (wouldn't want anyone to make the Crusader connection to X) and that creepy beastly little spot betwixt the eyes (alledgedly from headbanging during prayers). With specs on - you could get mistaken for HAMAS death cult fanboy Khalid Meshal - again, go with it!

Fidel Castro is prett easy too - old fake Santa beard, od fatigue shirt and a fake (or real) blunt.

Gotta beret? Then it could be Che!

And perhaps the ultimate fright sight for Great Satan's enemies - if you have the gear - deck out as a Marine, or American GI.

Either way - travel in packs and deploy a royal taster.

Pic - "Theories of International Politics and Zombies"

Friday, October 28, 2016

China's Failed Taiwan Strategy

Dong Feng!

Money, persuasion and coercion have all failed.

Simply put Collectivist China has nothing left to force the Reunification of Taiwan with the Motherland. Nothing left of course other than raw force.

For all the talk about the inevitability of the eventual “reunification” of Taiwan and China and bluster about China’s determination to accomplish the “China dream,” ongoing trends in the Taiwan Strait have made it clear that Beijing’s approach to Taiwan is failing. Short of military conquest, there is very little in the current set of options available to Beijing suggesting that “peaceful unification” is even remotely possible.

After years of sticks and a misguided military show of force in the mid-1990s, Beijing’s carrots suddenly appeared to be working, winning hearts and minds and creating dependencies that, it hoped, would draw Taiwan closely enough to China’s center of gravity that it would become impossible for the democratic island nation to escape.

All that détente, however, was illusory. Although a pragmatic Taiwanese polity was amenable to liberalized ties with China, desire for a political union with the People’s Republic of China—especially among Taiwan’s youth—was next to nil.

Paradoxically, closer relations with China only exacerbated the sense of a distinct identity in Taiwan, resulting in the complete rejection of what from the very beginning had always been China’s strategy: eventual unification.

Beijing’s hopes of a resolution on its terms came crashing down during the Sunflower Movement in March and April 2014, whose actions neutralized the Ma administration and opened the doors for a transition of power two years later, with the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The forces unleashed by the Sunflower Movement continue to reverberate today, deepening the desire across society to maintain the liberal democratic way of life that defines Taiwan today regardless of their voting preferences.

The reaction in China was one of confusion and, in certain circles, a sense of betrayal. The strategy had failed. Not only was Taiwan not returning China’s “goodwill,” years of ostensible rapprochement had in fact propelled the two in opposite directions. Officials in charge of cross-Strait affairs under presidents Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping were accused of bungling the strategy, and some were targeted by Xi’s anti-corruption drive. But many knew that the problem was much more fundamental than a few incompetent officials failing to properly distribute China’s economic largesse across Taiwan.

Money had failed. Persuasion, often through propaganda and political warfare operations that intensified even as ties seemed to be improving, has failed. And now it is becoming clear that coercion—seemingly Beijing’s only strategy since Ms. Tsai’s election in January—is also failing. Isolating Taiwan by blocking its participation at international forums, kidnapping its nationals in third countries, publicly attacking “pro-independence” artists and punishing it economically pretty much sums up what is left of Beijing’s Taiwan strategy. Rather than break Taiwan’s will, however, all of this has only fueled the will of the Taiwanese to resist by rallying around the flag, as is typical whenever a nation faces an external threat.

The ensuing frustration has resulted in a marked hardening in the rhetoric. Analysts such as Gen. Wang Hongguang, a former deputy commander of the Nanjing military area command, now often appear in the pages of the hawkish Global Times calling for PLA exercises targeting Taiwan and outright preparation for war. Meanwhile, the more moderate commentators across China, those who know that more of the same will only continue to fail, have fallen silent.

While nuclear-armed China could undoubtedly annihilate Taiwan by force if it chooses to do so, as General Wang himself argued a few years ago in an indignant response to an article in this publication, and notwithstanding the fact that on a quantitative basis the PLA has a clear advantage over its much smaller opponent, the power ratio only tells part of the story.

It might make sense as an intellectual exercise for war strategists, but in reality, here too Beijing’s coercive options targeting Taiwan are limited.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rogue Allies

Another longtime US ally just went off the reservation, in what’s become a depressing trend of 44's  years.

 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is a nightmare. His promotion of vigilante justice against drug dealers has already cost thousands of lives — some of them surely innocent.

But now he’s gone to China — announcing this week that he would formally align his nation with Beijing. Only time will tell if he’s truly breaking a decades-long alliance with Washington, which would upend the entire US position in the Pacific.

Beijing certainly won’t care about his human-rights violations — or any move he makes to undermine Filipino democracy.

This follows a growing break with Turkey, thanks to another peach of a world leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the wake of the recent failed coup attempt, the Turkish president is crushing his nation’s last vestiges of a free press and purging the courts, police and pretty much everything else of anyone who might challenge his Islamist clique for power.

He’s also gone to war against the Syrian Kurds who’ve been the leaders of the fight against ISIS in that country — Kurds who have had the support of Washington and other NATO allies.
Yet he’s also insisting on fighting ISIS on another front, with Turkish troops in Iraq that he demands play a role in the battle to free Mosul from ISIS.

Few other US allies have gone as rogue as Duterte or Erdogan. But many — especially the Saudis and other Gulf monarchs — are increasingly going their own way.

Even Israel has found it necessary to maintain good-as-possible relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
It’s all the predictable result of 44’s penchant for “leading from behind”: Allies who can’t be sure America will stay loyal to them don’t stay loyal to America. And US rivals and enemies feel emboldened.

As John Podhoretz back in 2011, 44’s approach has invited “military, strategic and economic challenges” all around the globe.

The next president will inherit the mess.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Over the last few years, one aspect of the Islamic State (ISIS) has loomed large in the public’s imagination: the group’s ability to attract foreign fighters.

 The attention makes sense; there is something particularly terrifying about the idea of merciless terrorists mobilizing from all corners of the world to decimate civilian populations in Iraq and Syria to help ISIS rapidly gain territory. 

Foreign fighters also preoccupied Western governments, which were faced with the prospect of battle-hardened jihadists returning home. But now, three years into ISIS’ war, its once mighty weapon is now threatening to cut off the hand that feeds it; foreign fighters are quickly becoming one of ISIS’ biggest liabilities.

It should have been obvious from the start that local and foreign fighters would have different goals. ISIS’ official position has been that all fighters are equal, but tensions among groups did not go unnoticed. 

Still, the group’s internal dynamics remained relatively stable because it was successful on the battlefield and in oil production. But now that ISIS is not as rich and powerful as it once was, it can no longer afford to buy everyone’s loyalty. 

Already, a major internal split is hurting the group’s combat performance. In Iraq alone, since last month, ISIS lost all three battles it fought along with control of two towns and more than 30 villages.

According to local ISIS fighters, foreign fighters are more trouble than they’re in fact worth. Foreign fighters’ inability or unwillingness to cooperate with local fighters has culminated in deadly races for money and power. In July 2015, for example, Albanian and Russian ISIS militants killed three local fighters and wounded several others in the Alace Oil fields south of Kirkuk, a transit-point for ISIS’ oil smuggling operations. Local ISIS militants reported that the groups fought over differences in proposed military strategies on the frontline near Alam and that local fighters refused to follow a foreign officer’s orders. But the civilian population of the area doesn’t buy this characterization. Most locals believe that the conflict was over oil money.

 In another instance, when a dispute between foreign and local fighters actually reached the Islamic State’s courts, foreign fighters pressured judges to decree harsh sentences (like a death penalty) for local fighters they disagree with.

It’s also no secret that ISIS has long employed deep institutional discrimination in its military orders: a fighter’s relative position in the hierarchy was based on his nationality. Americans, Europeans, and Eastern Europeans (including Russians and Chechens) occupied middle-rank administrative positions in IED factories and training camps and on frontline military bases; “Chines” (Central Asian) ISIS militants were primarily used as suicide bombers. Native Arabs were divided into two groups—those in top-level leadership positions and those in the lowest possible positions.

This hierarchy lasted for nearly two years, but two recent battles have dramatically changed the pecking order. In battles at Sinjar and Bashir, foreign soldiers persuaded ISIS leadership that they were qualified to organize and command the fight. (They surely realized that doing so would help them gain military status and war spoils—including women, cars, houses, and food.) ISIS leadership agreed to let the foreign soldiers run the battles, but both were disasters.

On April 10, 2016, foreign fighters (Russian, Caucasus, Chines, and Chechens) who were supposed to lead the fight in Bashir fled four hours before Peshmerga forces and Hashd al-Shabi (Shia militias) had even entered the village. These foreign fighters left local fighters with no ammunition, no supplies, and no advanced weapons to face the ground offensive. The battle was a complete failure—dozens of ISIS militants were killed, and ISIS lost more than four strategic villages near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The battle in Sinjar, led by French, Russian, and American ISIS fighters, was even worse. Several days before the battle began, one European ISIS militant stole $70,000 and disappeared, leaving the rest of the militia with little ammunition, food, or backup forces. The fighters didn’t last a day.

Such cowardly combat behavior reinforces deep suspicions among local fighters and civilians, and the conspiracy theories abound. Local militants once believed that Western foreign fighters were true believers, highly professional, and educated to boot. Now local people see these foreign fighters as thugs; the only “rational” explanation is that the foreign fighters are really working for their own governments. 

 In the end, the battles of Bashir and Sinjar were a perfect excuse for local fighters to start taking back vital administrative and military positions in frontlines in Ninawa Province (including Mosul). But the foreign fighters have not been willing to give up those positions. In August, a dispute between groups of local and French ISIS fighters, both of which wanted to manage an administrative office in the Bab al-Tub area, led to a firefight in a crowded Mosul market.

ISIS leaders have stabilized the situation in Iraq by completely removing foreign fighters from administrative and political positions and relegating these fighters to IT-related intelligence work, IED factories, and technical tasks. In some areas, foreign fighters are even housed in rural villages to keep their interactions with locals to a minimum. In response, disenfranchised foreign fighters have resorted to small acts of sabotage. In September, a Saudi ISIS member dismantled a major tunnel that had connected the Al-Shirqat town center with the Shakra Area. It was an escape route for ISIS militants, but he destroyed it after passing through it himself, making the chasm between foreigners and locals even wider.

Competition between natives and migrants for power is nothing new in the Middle East. When the PBUH cat died in 632 CE, Muslim warriors from Makka and the local people of Medina began struggling for leadership of the newly formed Islamic State. Eventually, the foreign fighters from Makka imposed their will and appointed Abubakr Sdiq as the successor.

Although such history might serve to inspire foreign fighters, it looks like this conflict will play out much differently. Most likely, foreign fighters will continue to lose power and, as they go down fighting, will take the Islamic State with them

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

After Mosul

With the Mosul offensive underway, discussion has largely focused on the eventual fate of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), once it is ousted from the city. Yet the most significant barometer of this offensive remains unanswered: what happens if a military victory is not followed by a political accord among Iraq’s competing players? 

The signs are not encouraging.

The realities of victory differ when viewed from military and political perspectives. In the build up to the offensive, most of the focus has been on how to achieve a military victory. Here, much debate has centred on the makeup of the force. It is clear that the Iraqi army, under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s command, will lead the liberation and the operations inside the city. 

Yet the supporting cast remains a shaky coalition of Shia paramilitaries under the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces, and Sunni tribal units from the area. Iranian, American and Turkish troops will also provide support from the air and the ground. The division of labour among the coalition remains somewhat unclear.

Although the liberation for Mosul represents the biggest deployment of Iraqi forces since 2003, it appears set to be a gruelling and protracted fight. The campaign remains in its infancy with troops clearing uninhabited villages on the outskirts. Moving into the city represents a greater challenge. 

ISIS militants, who have been preparing for the battle for over two years, will want to exploit the complexities of urban warfare among civilian populations because they know that the Iraqi army and police are seeking to avoid civilian casualties that can be (mis)interpreted as sectarian killing, as what are perceived to be Shia-led forces enter Sunni-majority lands.

Such considerations present a major challenge to the state-led forces, and have complicated the planning process. Nonetheless, the urban warfare that is set to ensue is likely to bring extensive damage to the city, beyond even the levels of destruction wrought in the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi.

While command and control of the city is likely to be achieved following the battle, it is unlikely that ISIS supporters will be totally removed from the city. Their operations will go underground and transform into more of an insurgency movement—just as Al-Qaeda in Iraq did when it was defeated by Iraqi and American forces in 2008. 

A military victory, then, will uproot the ISIS leadership from the city and revive state services. It will also ensure a return to civilian Moslawi rule of the governorate and municipalities, but the violence may not come to an immediate end.

Most critically, these various parties fighting ISIS have yet to come together to define what victory in a political sense would like. Which actors should take over in the interim? What system of government should be implemented? How can the city’s population, one that has been distant from the politics of the central government prior to 2014, be reconciled with Baghdad? This means that once again, in Iraq, coalition forces are going into battle without a clearly defined 'day after' strategy.

But it is not that there is no plan. It is that there are too many. This is because of the competing political interests of the stakeholders involved. Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, outlined in his State Department briefing on 7 October that there are clearly many competing visions for the future of Mosul among stakeholders, but the priority is to defeat ISIS in the city first before settling those political divisions. Is this short-termism the right approach?

The political strategies and anxieties of the many groups partaking in the liberation will affect their tactics in the fight as well as after it. Each side will attempt to secure as much as possible in anticipation of the post-ISIS power vacuum.

Much of Mosul’s population is multi-ethnic and multi-sect—unlike the populations of the previously recovered cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit. This means that post-conflict reconciliation of communities in the aftermath of ethnic warfare will only complicate a political solution.

With a number of political issues remaining unresolved both in regards to Mosul and the wider province of Nineveh, there is likely to be a long and protracted mediation process between competing parties currently united against ISIS. Without a comprehensive political deal being agreed and implemented, the military victory will only be a short-term solution, unable to address the deep-rooted political issues that have produced a back-and-forth since 2003. 

It could prove nothing more than a band aid, eventually allowing the re-emergence of ISIS, or a reincarnation of it, in the future. Iraqi leaders must prioritize securing the future of Mosul and its population over their own political positioning.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Baltic Blitz

Russia's recent aggression against Ukraine has disrupted nearly a generation of relative peace and stability between Moscow and its Western neighbors and raised concerns about its larger intentions. 

From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the threat to the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics, now member states that border Russian territory — may be the most problematic of these. 

In a series of war games, RAND Arroyo Center examined the shape and probable outcome of a near-term Russian invasion of the Baltic states.

 The games' findings are unambiguous: 

 The longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours.

 As presently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. 

Fortunately, it will not require Herculean effort to avoid such a failure.

 Further gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades — adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities — could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states.

Friday, October 21, 2016

To The Last Drop Of Yemeni Blood

Iran will happily fight to the last drop of Yemeni blood in the southern horn of that Shi ite Crescent...

The war in Yemen is escalating and becoming more dangerous. The Yemeni people are facing a humanitarian catastrophe. Unlike in Syria, the United States has significant leverage to halt the war and the suffering. Unfortunately, the frivolous override by Congress of 44's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act has made using American leverage harder at this critical juncture. 

Yet 44 needs to act.

The Saudi-led coalition bombing of a funeral in Sanaa last weekend that killed over 140 mourners and wounded hundreds more has set off a wave of retaliation by the Yemeni rebels who control most of northern Yemen. The rebel alliance of Zaydi Shiite Houthis and followers of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired missiles at an American destroyer in the Red Sea. 

The rebels have long argued that American military, logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi coalition makes Washington a co-belligerent. The Oct. 13 cruise missile strikes against rebel radar sites — absolutely necessary to protect our ships in the strategic waters — will only add to the anti-American narrative.

The rebels have also fired at least one surface-to-surface missile at Taif, a Saudi city near Mecca. They have fired dozens of other missiles and rockets at Saudi border towns and at coalition garrisons in southern and eastern Yemen. They appear to have an unlimited supply of munitions and missiles. Sooner or later, one missile will cause a disaster.

The big beneficiary of the war is Iran. It provides the rebels diplomatic support and limited military assistance. In return, it bogs down the Saudis, Emiratis and its other Gulf enemies in a quagmire in Yemen that is expensive in lives and treasure, when oil prices are depressing their economies at home. Tehran is all too happy to fight to the last Yemeni.

The New York Times this week rightly suggested that 44 use American diplomacy to secure an immediate cease-fire. The United States and the United Kingdom are the Saudis' major arms providers. On 44's watch, over $111 billion in US arms have been sold to the kingdom. American and British maintenance is crucial to keeping the coalition aircraft in the air. That also makes the countries culpable in war crimes.

The Times editorial reflects growing unease in Washington with Riyadh's war. Although the American media is preoccupied with the drama of our election, the mood on the Hill is increasingly skeptical about arms sales to the Gulf. Despite enormous lobbying efforts, the Saudis face increasing hostility.

The override of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed the Senate 97-1, a massive bipartisan message to the kingdom. Despite an expensive public relations effort, the kingdom was all but declared guilty of conspiracy with al-Qaeda in the worst terrorist attack in American history by both chambers of the Congress.

 Congress has tasked two bipartisan independent investigations to ascertain who was responsible for 9/11. In 2004 and 2015, the studies absolved the government of Saudi Arabia and its officials of any role in the plot and its execution. The kingdom is a vital ally against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. But both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump backed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Few, if any, on the Hill read the reports they commissioned.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have rightly responded with astonishment at this frivolous act. Despite many calls for retaliation, so far they have kept their powder dry. When legal proceedings begin, as they will, the Gulf states will be hard pressed to show restraint. 45 will inherit a damaged relationship in January.

The damage of the override will also impact Yemeni diplomacy, unfortunately, because it poisons the atmosphere. Nonetheless, Washington needs to use all its leverage now before the conflict escalates further. The Iranians would be delighted to see America get even more bogged down in another war in the Middle East.
The international community is rightly concerned with the horrific tragedy in Aleppo. But it needs to be equally gripped by the tragedy unfolding in Sanaa, Taiz and Saada. The poorest Arabs are being blockaded by air and sea by the richest with our help. The coalition should unilaterally impose a open-ended cease-fire, allow an international investigation of the funeral bombing and lift the blockade. 

The United States should insist on no less.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flying IEDs

On Tuesday, French media broke the story that two French soldiers in Erbil had been severely injured and two Peshmerga fighters killed by what appears to be the first successful use of a drone carrying explosives.
At this point, little information is available. The French daily Le Monde reported that “two paratroopers were struck by the booby-trapped drone, sent by a group linked to the Islamic State. The exact circumstances of the attack remain to be specified.” The article also mentions a number of light injuries among other soldiers.

 The drone was most likely commercially available. Regardless, this was an inevitable development. For a while now, civilian drones have appeared on the world’s battlefields, having come full circle: Drones were initially an exclusively military technology, but civilian use has grown exponentially over the last few years, and we are now seeing these systems flown by non-state actors across the world’s hotspots. Both sides in civil wars now use off-the-shelf drones, from Ukrainian separatists to the Iraqi interior ministry. Even Western states are purchasing and using commercially-available platforms, including the Dutch and German navies as well as U.S. Special Operations Command

Le Monde reports that the drone exploded on the ground after having been intercepted by the soldiers. This is a good sign. Despite the tragic casualties, it can be assumed that this has saved lives, although The New York Times now reports that the forces were actually trying to take the system apart when it exploded, not realising it was booby-trapped. Still, it is possible that the interception averted something worse – an explosion in an area with more people, the targeting of a weapons stash, etc.

Advanced military forces have been preparing for this threat. The U.S. military has noted the risk of these crude armed drones in its doctrine and includes these scenarios in training. Counter-drone technology is a big growth sector, according to a Goldman Sachs Investment report, almost 10 percent of U.S. defense research and development funds goes into such systems which range from jamming rifles to lasers to other drones.

 How much of a danger do these drones pose to troops? The media is already going in overdrive about ISIL’s “armed drones.” Technically, the term may be correct – it is a drone that is fitted with armament in the form of explosives – but, at this point, such hand-made systems barely resemble the armed drones used by militaries.

 In fact, the difference between an improvised armed drone and the real thing is much bigger than that between an improvised explosive device and what it tries to emulate, namely a landmine. Whereas a sophisticated IED may cause similar effects as munitions and military platforms, the kind of self-made armed drones we have so far been seeing on the battlefield have very little in common with military armed drones; the range, endurance, and payload of the latter is potentially hundreds or thousands of times higher, not considering the even more important aspects of the underlying infrastructure and the sophistication of sensors and resultant control. 

A Reaper can be loaded with multiple Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs. It stays in the air for the better part of a day while searching for targets through high-end sensors, all while being piloted from halfway around the world. The systems that are now appearing on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria have an endurance of a few hours, carry a maximum payload of a few kilograms, and are controlled by fighters in close proximity who struggle to identify their targets. 

Thus, at least in their current form, these booby-trapped drones should not be considered crude armed drones, but rather flying IEDs. 

Flying IEDs are not a game changer, but they add a level of difficulty to military operations, and they have the potential of making life for deployed troops even more perilous. The rationale of using flying IEDs is similar to using suicide bombers: They can ensure a charge explodes at the most opportune moment to cause the biggest effect. And drones provide non-state groups with airborne capabilities. 

Given that threats from the air have been largely absent in the wars that have occupied Western troops since 9/11, , this adds a new psychological element to drone IEDs, even for veterans with several tours under their belts. We are likely to see a series of action-reaction-counter-reactions as has been the case with the roadside IED: Counter-UAV technology and doctrines will be developed and fielded. Clever insurgents will find a way around them, and then the technology and doctrine will adapt once more.

Flying IEDs will claim lives. In the short term they are unlikely to fundamentally change the fight. In the longer term, however, troops are likely to encounter more sophisticated systems that will be much harder to intercept. Autonomous drone swarms – a scenario the military places much hope in – are likely to eventually also be adapted by non-state actors.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Unhappy Women of Hiz'B'Allah

Heck hath no fury!

As their sons and 'temporary husbands' are ripped from them to fight a proxy war in Syria, grieving mothers and brides of Hiz'B'Allah are compensated with empty promises, poverty, and threats, heightening communal frustrations to the point of explosion.

After the battle of al-Qusayr in 2013, Hezbollah realized the Syrian war was going to cost the party a lot more than it had expected. It would not be able to cover most of the compensation for the families of martyrs. So it started asking single men to put off marriage and family and started to recruit more unmarried young men.

Yet as the war drags on, Hezbollah can no longer stop young men from having families, despite the costs. That is why many are being encouraged to marry war widows, or at least engage in temporary (muta'a) marriages until the time is right.

Because the new recruits are still considered outsiders, the wives of the new recruits have the lowest status, which means that they are worst-off financially, and most vulnerable to the demands of high-status men within the party. A number of women have spoken openly about Hezbollah officials who have threatened them with a reduction of services and money if they don't accept "private visits."

Temporary marriage is not only acceptable, it is promoted as a sacred act that will be rewarded in heaven. By linking the sacred to such practices, Hezbollah has managed to contain its losses and achieve a kind of shaky equilibrium in straitened circumstances.

Women are Hezbollah's main internal problem. 

The war in Syria means they are losing sons, brothers, and husbands. It is marginalizing their role in the party, and pushing the poorest among them to the edge of survival. The pressure that is building within the community cannot be contained for very long by stop-gap measures like delaying marriage for young men and temporary marriage for widows. 

The communal frustration and inequities that the war continues to exacerbate and deepen may soon lead to an explosion that no one will be able to prevent.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

War Crazy

New America Fellow Josh Y has an interesting bit about why cause Russia is totally war crazy...

According to a deeply informed new book on Putin and his court, “All the Kremlin’s Men,” by the Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, the idea, as Putin and his speechwriters had imagined it, was to “brand ISIS as the new Third Reich.” Putin envisioned a grand coalition, Zygar writes—just like in the good old days of the Second World War—that would bring Russia out of its isolation; what’s more, Putin seemed to hope that, by “defeating Islamic terrorism, the Russians and Americans would finally succeed in creating a new world order.” It would be Yalta, 1945, all over again—Putin’s dream scenario of how global diplomacy is meant to work.

For a while, things appeared to be going largely Putin’s way. 

 All that has collapsed in the past month. The ceasefire agreement fell apart after U.S. forces killed dozens of Syrian troops in a bombing raid—a mistaken strike, U.S. officials said—and a U.N. humanitarian-aid convoy was hit in an air attack outside Aleppo, leaving twenty people dead. That strike was widely blamed on Syrian attack helicopters working under the cover of Russian airpower. 

In the aftermath of the convoy strike, Kerry declared his interest in seeing Russia and the Syrian government investigated for war crimes for its alleged bombing of civilian areas in Aleppo. The notion that Washington and Moscow could work together to resolve Syria’s horrific war now appears to have been scrapped. At a press conference on September 28th, John Kirby, a State Department spokesperson, warned that Russia’s continued military campaign in Syria could lead to terror attacks in Russian cities and “troops in body bags.” 

Writing in the Financial Times, Dmitri Trenin, the head of Carnegie Moscow Center, a policy think tank, imagined that Syria “could easily turn into a battlefield” between Moscow and Washington, “with the proxies first taking aim at the principals, and the principals then shooting back not at the proxies, but at each other.”

 Last Monday, he cancelled a U.S.-Russian agreement on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium. The program had been functionally dormant for some time, but Putin got rid of it with a flourish, producing a fantasy list of demands—which included the U.S. reducing its military presence in NATO member states, lifting the sanctions imposed over Ukraine, and paying compensation for lost revenue it caused—that would need to be met before the program could be renewed. The absurdity and impossibility was the very point, an unsubtle message to 44: don’t even bother trying to mend this relationship—it’s hopeless. 

 Then, last weekend, Russia delivered nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. It was a purposefully provocative move. The missiles are potentially capable of reaching Berlin, and, more important, they make the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics more difficult for military planners. According to the Russian defense ministry, the country’s military timed the delivery of the missiles to insure that it would be seen by U.S. spy satellites. Even so, these moves might have garnered relatively little attention if not for the fact that the Russian state also appeared to be preparing its citizens for doomsday. On Monday, it was reported that the governor of St. Petersburg signed an order that guaranteed residents of the city three hundred grams of bread per day in the case of war. Then a Russian news site published a report saying that state officials had been advised to bring their relatives—in particular, children studying abroad or parents living elsewhere—back to Russia.

Why has Moscow gone, for lack of a better term, war-crazy?

  Russia obviously sees itself as fighting against U.S. hegemony, but what is it fighting  for? What is its strategic vision for itself and the world? 

  “For Yugoslavia! For Libya! For Syria! For everything you have done these past twenty years!” 

 Putin’s foreign policy at this moment is, in large part, about avenging the wrongs inflicted on Russia over the past decades, the insults and grievances borne by a generation. It may be a tall order to achieve by January 20th of next year.

 But Putin may certainly try.

Monday, October 17, 2016

DDG 1000

Chief of Naval Ops Admiral Gary Roughead revealed the goal and methodology of the Navy's 'Balanced Fleet'. Fully crunk with hi tech this fleet will be insuring a technological ovematch for potential enemies, real or imagined: for the next 100 years

"We never, ever want one of our sailors in a fair fight."
This is significant. And so is the soon to be released DDG 1000 Zumwalt class. Of all the things that Great Satan's potential or future enemies could list about fighting DDG 1000, the word fair AIN'T on the list.

This desire for continued total supremacy will be totally off the hook with Great Satan's latest, greatest 30 years in the future Zumwalt Class - the DDG 1000(Guided Missile Destroyer for the non nautical). Super intelligent cannon fire with a range of nearly 90 miles. DDG 1000 will also tote au currant and future cruise missiles and two helicopters.

"DDG 1000 is in an advanced state of development and will influence ship design
worldwide for the remainder of the century."
Super stealthy - nigh invisible to look down radar like aircraft, nonexistent sonar return pings, and see thru to satellites DDG 1000 kinda makes any defense, well, defenseless. 
An effective counter for Red China - who is downright dissed still about the Dali Lama and the super sweet best friends forever deal Great Satan granted Tiawan with D Day style invasion vaporizing missiles. Freaked over getting the finger that Great Satan flipped back in November after being denied righteous port of call in Hong Kong. Describing how Kitty Hawk Battle group sailed right between Red China and Tiawan, the Chinese read a lot into that.
"China expressed grave concern to the U.S. and requested the U.S. to take
prudent moves in this highly sensitive area."
China's future (as in next week versus Great Satan's next century) tactics and strats argue that deploying ship killing missile zones backed up with submarines to force Great Satan to stand off helplessly as China amphibiously blows off horrible lossess to force sweet, tiny Tiawan to give up her independence and submit to the wicked desires of Red China may be about as effective as deploying Barbies and Hot Wheels.
"Zumwalt features increased stealth through a composite superstructure,
integrated multi-function mast, and reduced acoustic signature. DDG 1000 will
have a 50-fold radar cross section reduction as compared to current
destroyers and 10-fold the operating area in shallow water regions against
DDG 1000 puts the 'multi' in force multiplier - DDG 1000 will have a crew of 140 compared to current DDG's which deploys 330 or for every 2 old school DDG's, nearly 5 DDG 1000's could sortie.
Like her forward thinking namesake - Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, this DDG class will make Naval Strategic Forcasts, Options and Policies powerfully paramount, as true as Great Satan's 'Maritme Strategy'
"A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower binds our services
more closely together than they have ever been before to advance the prosperity and security of our Nation. The demands of an uncertain world and the enduring
interests of the American people require nothing less."

Friday, October 14, 2016

India's New Plan

All those nuclear weapons in and around the sub continent are causing India to develop a Plan B for her Cold Start Strategery...

See, Cold Start was designed to let India respond the old school conventional way to Pakistan and her proxies unconventional terrorist strikes. Deploy and attack with several army corps into Pakistan seize and hold vital turf within 48 hours before foreign Peace Mongers interloped and imposed Cease Fires.

Naturally, Pakistan has designed a counter to Cold Start - as best understood -  by using nuclear weapons on her own soil to vaporize the Indian army corps that have seized precious turf.

Nevertheless, India has sought alternate forms of deterrence against Pakistan's asymmetric tactics. Using more limited military strikes, or "surgical deterrence," India will decrease the chances of a wider conflict erupting.

Still, escalation will remain an underlying risk.

India and Pakistan's Status Quo

 India is the status quo power in the India-Pakistan equation. First, India controls several territories disputed between the two countries, principally Jammu and Kashmir and the Siachen Glacier. Second, India maintains stronger armed forces, increasing its military advantage every year. Third, India has achieved incremental progress to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, all the while increasing its own standing. Most recently, New Delhi announced that it would boycott the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit for Pakistan's alleged role in a Sept. 18 militant attack on an Indian army base. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan quickly followed India's lead, though it remains to be seen how effective their attempt to punish Pakistan will be.

  Conversely, Pakistan is on the losing side of the status quo. To extricate itself from its difficult position, Islamabad has had to rely on asymmetric means to level the playing field, though not without considerable risks. For instance, to compensate for the widening divide between its military strength and that of India, Pakistan has invested heavily in the development and fielding of tactical nuclear weapons. Although the weapons increase the chance of deterring a full-scale invasion from India, they simultaneously increase the chance of a devastating nuclear exchange. They also provide no real way for the Pakistani military to seize disputed territory.

 Pakistan's support for the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir is a way to disrupt Indian governance in the disputed border regions. Previously, Pakistan's strategy, like India's, relied on the military option to take back the territory. But that course of action is becoming more unrealistic as India's military strength grows, forcing Islamabad to turn instead to tactics such as supporting militants and their efforts, despite the toll this policy has taken on Pakistan's diplomacy. 

As a result, New Delhi has again been forced to rethink its punitive deterrence strategy. India is unwilling to take actions that could expose the country to severe danger. Even though Cold Start provides New Delhi with the flexibility to scale military attacks, Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons would make strategic- and even operational-level offensive operations on Pakistani soil too risky for India's armed forces. Large-scale offensive operations could also degrade India's international standing, undermining its diplomatic progress

Surgical Deterrence 

There is much confusion surrounding the Sept. 28 military events along the Line of Control, when Indian paratroopers launched a cross-border raid on at least five suspected terrorist camps in the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir. Indian reports were a mix of contradictory statements on the composition of the raid. Adding to the confusion, Pakistan denied that a raid took place at all, claiming that the attack consisted of Indian gunfire over the Line of Control. What is certain, and arguably most important, is that India initiated the operation and loudly signaled its limited nature.

The confrontation, however confusing, offers the most visible example of India's latest deterrence strategy with Pakistan. India cannot allow Pakistan's support for insurgent attacks on its positions to go unpunished, but neither can it respond through large-scale military action. Instead, it focuses on what officials have called "surgical strikes" of specific scale and duration. These operations are a departure from previous war planning, placing less emphasis on sustained artillery bombardments, massed mechanized assaults and sweeping air operations in favor of tailored missions with light infantry, special operations forces and precision-guided weaponry. The objective is no longer to seize territory, but rather to punish the enemy and discourage future provocative acts. 

The Pitfalls of Escalation Control

Just as India seeks to avoid a full-scale war, so does Pakistan. Fighting an extended conflict with an increasingly powerful Indian military provides no real benefit for Islamabad. In fact, the likelihood that Pakistan would be able to wrest back territory from India through a conventional conflict is now remote. Pakistan and India therefore have mutual incentive to prevent military escalation.

However, it would be a mistake to dismiss the risk just because both countries want to avoid a conflagration. After all, neither side is fully aware of the other's intentions or plans. A raid or mission carried out by one could easily be mistaken for something larger or perceived as a prelude to a wider offensive. Efforts to increase transparency — like the Indian military's announcement shortly after the Sept. 28 confrontation about how narrow it was — can mitigate the threat somewhat, but the policy does not completely remove the possibility of miscalculation.

Furthermore, military missions are by their very nature dangerous and susceptible to escalation. A pinned down unit in a raid may call for reinforcements, only for the reinforcements to be attacked by a larger force.

 Fire could be met with heavier retaliatory fire, fueling a rapidly escalating exchange across the Line of Control. Even in a case where both sides want to avoid a larger fight, there is no guarantee that the violence will stay confined. Such are the risks of armed conflict.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Strategy And Tactics

In a guerrilla war, the guerrilla army wins if it does not lose, while the conventional army loses if it does not win.  This is the sort of situation we find ourselves in fighting against al Qaeda’s core in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.  It’s a very asymmetric “war,” and while we keep decimating their senior leadership, scoring small (but, important) tactical victories, the conflict just keeps on going and going, with no end in sight.

We are scoring tactical victories and “winning” every military engagement we have, but we are unfortunately losing the greater war as the al Qaeda ideology is flourishing.  ISIS and other similarly themed offshoots continue to prosper, particularly in the growing list of failed and failing states in the Middle East and Africa.  Plus, we are never going to be able to get to the point where we can have a decisive win, proclaim victory, take territory, and call it quits on the war on terrorism.  

This is going to go on forever. 

None of this is to suggest that the tactical victories we’ve accomplished are not worth doing or are somehow unimportant—they are important.  The tactical victories against al Qaeda senior leadership have derailed countless terrorist plots that were stopped before the terrorists ever had the chance to launch their attacks against the West.  The success of these tactics speak for themselves:  No major terrorist attack has been successfully launched against the U.S. from abroad since 9/11. 

The intelligence community strategy after 9/11 was to take the fight to them, on their territory, rather than to wait to get attacked again in the United States.  By relentlessly attacking every aspect of al Qaeda’s senior leadership, we have kept them on the defense, which has kept them incapable of mounting much offense.  We have attacked their financing nodes, their recruiting, training camps, freedom of movement, command and control, communications networks, and yes, through surgical operations, we have also attacked their leadership. 

But, our tactical successes against al Qaeda senior leadership notwithstanding, we are missing the bigger questions:  Can we really kill our way out of this?  Are we capturing and killing terrorists faster than new ones are being created in that endless web of radical madrassas and Muslim clerics? 

The first order effects of a Predator shot are immediate, clear, and unambiguous:  We see a bad person plotting terrorist attacks against the U.S. and we eliminate that person, and hopefully the threat that they pose dies with him.  But it is the second, third, and fourth order effects that are much harder to calculate.   Does our current modus operandi ultimately help to counter radical Muslim extremism or are we inadvertently fueling it?  That is the million-dollar question. 

The US shouldn't take her foot off the gas in the war on terrorism and decelerate the pace of operations against terrorists.  On the contrary, She needs to be even more aggressive and resolute, because tactics play a big role in this effort.  The tactical efforts have kept us safe over the last 15 years.  But, we can’t have another 15 years of all tactics and no strategy. 

Who in the U.S. government is working on that piece?  Who’s in charge of the messaging that tries to build bridges to the Muslim world?  The State Department?  The White House?  The Department of Homeland Security?  The truth is that all of them have some counterterrorism and countering violent extremism element, but the efforts have been unfocused and mostly ineffective around the world.  And can we even lead this effort in the U.S. and Europe?  Any effort to counter radical extremism that is U.S.-led is going to be viewed with suspicion in Muslim communities as something that is being imposed on them by their Christian and Jewish overlords. 

There has been some effort to take on this challenge, and there have been good efforts on de-radicalization in Saudi Arabia, Jordon, and elsewhere.  Even Pakistan is trying.  In the wake of their taking back Swat from the Taliban in 2009, the Pakistanis created the Sabaoon Center for Rehabilitation in the Swat Valley to de-radicalize young men and to figure out how to re-introduce them to civil society.  In 2013, as the commander of Swat, Major General Sanaullah Niazi was in charge of he center, and he showed me around during an August 2013 visit.  It was an impressive place, with theological training coupled with vocational training to learn a skill (like small engine repair or furniture making).  Unfortunately, Niazi was killed with a terrorist car bomb a couple weeks later. 

But despite the risks, the Muslim world is going to have to persevere and to lead this effort on de-radicalization while condemning extremism at every opportunity.  That is the only way that it might be effective.  We must collectively start to focus to see if we might unwind radical Muslim extremism while preventing more territory from slipping further in the abyss of failed states. 

 Extremism and the lure of terrorist organizations are strongest when five criteria are met in a country or region:  significant economic deprivation, extreme corruption, a feeling of utter powerlessness, no rule of law, and no hope for the future. 

We decimated al Qaeda in their home in Pakistan’s troubled Tribal Areas, and we can win this broader war on extremism and terrorism, but only if we get smart and work on the strategy as well as the tactics. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Houthi Proxies

Most diplopolititary cats understand Yemen is Persia's Southern Horn of the that infamous Shia Crescent

 Iran is attempting to enhance the quantity and quality of her proxy armies’ rockets and missiles. 

Yemen’s Houthi rebels tested a new rocket last Thursday, marking the fourth new projectile they unveiled this year. Dubbed the Somoud, or “steadfastness,” the projectile’s launch was broadcast late last week across Arab and Iranian media. While observers were quick to point fingers at Tehran, based on its established track record of arming the Houthis, the rebels themselves are developing their own rocket capabilities, and the Somoud may be one of them.

According to official Iranian media, the Somoud is 4 meters long, 555 millimeters in diameter, and can reportedly travel 38 kilometers while carrying a 300-kilogram conventional warhead. However, the Somoud is more of a crude weapon than has been reported. Indeed, it lacks a guidance system and is therefore a rocket, not a missile. Moreover, when describing the Somoud, some articles have erroneously used a picture of the Tochka, a single-stage solid-fueled short range ballistic missile (SRBM). While the Houthis possess (and have used) the Soviet-made SRBM, the Somoud falls far short of its size, range, and capability.

A closer look reveals that the Somoud resembles the Houthis’ Zelzal-3 (“earthquake”) rocket, which first appeared in Yemen this summer.

 Based on a recent flight-test video, the Somoud seems to share the Zelzal-3’s short body and single conical warhead, albeit with minor differences in the shape of its fins and nozzle. This raises questions as to whether the Somoud is an attempt to introduce older munitions under a new name and with a fresh coat of paint.

Whether the Somoud is new or not, the Houthis remain lethal despite a coalition blockade intended to prevent Iranian arms from reaching Yemen. However, some still appear to be getting through. Secretary of State John Kerry stated last month that the U.S. was “deeply troubled by … missiles that had come from Iran that are being positioned on the Saudi border.”
It is unclear which specific types of missiles he was referencing. To date, the documented Iranian missiles used by the Houthis in Yemen include Konkurs and Toofan anti-tank missiles. Indeed, coalition forces interdicted a shipment from Iran to Yemen in September 2015 containing those weapons.

The Houthis’ firing of an anti-ship missile at a UAE logistics vessel near the Bab al-Mandeb strait earlier this week further raises additional concerns over whether Iran is transferring its existing asymmetric naval capabilities to its proxy on the Red Sea.
Reports indicate that the weapon used was likely either a C-802 or C-801 anti-ship missile. The latter was purchased by the Yemeni Navy prior to the current civil war. Iran received the former from China, reverse-engineered it, and has equipped Hezbollah with the projectile.

The  lawlessness of Yemen, along with the abundance of old Soviet and North Korean weapons, makes it easy for the Houthis to construct rockets like the Somoud. Thus, the Houthis’ ability to maintain the stalemate against the Saudi-led coalition may depend more on their own “steadfastness” than any munitions carrying that name.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NATO Threat

One meme that American hyperpuissance haters always rail about is that NATO is threatening Russia.

 The theory behind this realist view is that Russia is too weak to threaten the United States as an expansionist power, so instead of extending NATO’s eastern frontiers and supporting the right of eastern European states to join alliances of their choosing, Washington should have backed off and respected Russia’s need for a “modest security zone” against “NATO’s increasingly menacing incursions.”

 The reality is that NATO has never been an existential threat to post-Soviet Russia. If Carpenter thinks it is absurd for the United States and its allies to fear Russia because it’s too weak to be the expansionist competitor that it was during the Cold War, then it’s doubly absurd for Russia to fear NATO. 

Most of its members’ defense spending fell during the 2000s, while their armed forces deteriorated to such an extent that only now are they scrambling to raise defense spending and shore up their capabilities.
 For most of the 2000s, the United States’ focus was trained on the Middle East, where Russia was often cooperative and the two shared some overlapping interests. Crimea’s annexation in 2014 stemmed from the possibility that Ukraine’s government after Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster might sign an association agreement with the EU, whereas the protests in Kiev leading to his removal from power weren’t remotely related to NATO. 

 If Putin’s apologists think that annexing Ukraine made Russia “safer” from NATO than it was five years ago, particularly now that Russia has reinvigorated NATO’s raison d'être and unleashed growth in European defense spending while prompting the United States to up its presence in eastern Europe, then they are no brilliant grand strategist.

 Instead, Putin is a shortsighted opportunist who deploys anti-American rhetoric, portrays Russia as a “victim,” and uses Russia’s military modernization to solidify his domestic power. 

Realists in the United States who malign NATO offer him intellectual respectability that masks the true aims of his belligerent foreign policy.

  And even though it is true that Russia is vastly weaker than the United States, Russia has invested heavily in capabilities that have allowed it to dismember neighboring states, interfere in European states’ internal political processes, and harass allied states with aggressive maneuvers such as aerial near-misses, all while using its energy portfolio to coerce and blackmail European customers.

 And Realists expects people to believe that Russia’s sudden “fear” of NATO in 2014 was the cause of its invasion of Ukraine?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Operation Odyssey Lightning

Libya - the gift that keeps on giving...

 The Pentagon’s war in Libya appears to be escalating with a surge in reported strikes. And the U.S. Marine Corps — which has played an outsized role in the war — may no longer be alone in attacking the Islamic State faction in and around the eastern city of Sirte.

 On Oct. 2, U.S. forces conducted 20 different missions and blew up more than six dozen individual targets, according to an official press release from the Pentagon’s main command for operations in Africa. By that point, American pilots had conducted more than 200 air strikes since the campaign began on Aug. 1. 

Marine aviators based aboard Wasp have blasted the Islamic State in Libya since the beginning of the mission, dubbed Odyssey Lightning. Though the Air Force’s drones were involved in the strikes early on, the Pentagon’s released information almost solely concerns the leathernecks’ operations.

However, it is highly unlikely that the Marines could have flown all of the Oct. 2 missions by themselves. 

Publicly available photographs from Odyssey Lightning show AV-8B Harrier jump jets carrying only two bombs on each sortie. Pictures similarly show AH-1W Cobra gunship helicopters heading toward the Sirte area armed with only two missiles.

A typical Marine Expeditionary Unit, such as the one aboard Wasp, has six AV-8s and four AH-1s. Assuming each carried two weapons at a time and the crews only needed one bomb or missile to destroy each target, these jets and choppers would have each needed to fly nearly four individual missions on Oct. 2.

And on Oct. 3, American pilots hit more than two dozen new targets. Again, the Marines would have had to put each of their aircraft in the air at least once to meet that demand.

As of Sept. 15, the destroyer USS Carney escorting Wasp had not contributed directly to the strikes, according to an email from the U.S. Africa Command public affairs office. It is more likely that Air Force fighter-bombers and drones, flying from bases in Europe, helped out on at least some of these missions.

 Flying from the United Kingdom, the flying branch’s F-15E Strike Eagles make regular trips to Africa and the Middle East. The Pentagon declined to confirm or deny whether F-15s participated in the recent Libya strikes. 

Back in Libya, the Pentagon has adopted a similarly obtuse method of grouping strikes regardless of the total number of targets American aviators attack.

This means the official tally of strikes for two separate days might be the same even if the attacks on one day destroyed exponentially more Islamic State vehicles, facilities or nebulous “fighting positions.”

And upon closer inspection of the reports, it seems clear that Washington is stepping up air strikes in Libya and committing more American troops to the mission.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The War With Russia

All the talk of developing a new cold war with Russia and maybe a few hot ones tends to remind everyone - starting a war is pretty easy. 

After that - all bets are off... 
The United States could easily annihilate Syrian and even Russian air defenses—and airpower—inside Syria. Moscow—even with the fearsome capabilities of its S-400 air and missile defense system—is not able to defeat the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of stealthy Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, which are able to fly inside zones protected by those system and defeat them. In fact, defeating advanced air defenses is one of the Raptor’s primary missions. Nor would Russian Su-30SM or Su-35S Flankers survive long against the Raptor, which was specifically designed to counter advanced next-generation Soviet fighters that ultimately never materialized.

The problem is that the United States cannot know for certain if Moscow will idly stand by while American forces attack Syrian forces. Moreover, it is unclear how many Russian military advisors are embedded with Syrian forces and where those instructors are located. Some Russian advisors are present and operating within the ranks of the Syrian military, and if Washington launches a strike, those forces could be caught in the crossfire. However, Russian rhetoric suggests that Moscow won’t simply allow Bashar al-Assad’s forces to be destroyed. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by the Russian media saying that U.S. intervention against Assad “will lead to terrible, tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole.”

If the U.S. military does intervene in Syria, and Russian and Syrian forces fight back, American F-22s would likely be able to quickly eliminate the Russian S-400, Pantsir-S1 as well as Russia’s Su-30, Su-35s and Su-34s with relative ease. Conventional U.S. fourth-generation fighters such as the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 would have to wait until the Russian-built air defenses—which, given the S-400’s nearly 250 mile coverage radius, encompass nearly the entire Syrian landmass—were cleared by stealth aircraft such as the Raptor and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Sprit strategic bomber. It is not clear if the long-range 40N6 is operational, but regardless, actions can have unintended consequences.

Russia might not limit its retaliation to just American and NATO forces in Syria. Given Moscow’s arsenal of Kaliber-NK cruise missiles and long-range bombers and submarines, the Kremlin has options to strike back across a huge geographic range. It is not outside realm of the possible that Russia would hit back at U.S. bases in Qatar, United Arab Emirates or Turkey using long-range precision-guided cruise missiles. The Russian Black Sea fleet and the Caspian Sea flotilla can easily hit such targets. Then there is Moscow’s formidable bomber fleet which can target the continental United States itself.

Thus, while it is easy to start a conflict with Russia and Syria, a shooting war could easily escalate out of control. It might be prudent to exercise restraint before launching a new war—against a nuclear-armed power—that the American people don’t necessarily want to fight. 
That’s especially true in a conflict where the lines are blurry and there are no clear-cut good guys—where even so-called “moderate” rebels backed by the U.S. government are beheading children.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Kashmir is again engulfed in violence. 

Over the summer, mass protests have demonstrated widespread public disaffection with Indian rule over the disputed territory. In mid-September, an attack by militants against an Indian Army camp claimed 18 lives; the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan for being behind the attack, a charge that Pakistan has denied. Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors are mounting. An exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistan forces near their border on Thursday, in which Pakistan said two of its soldiers were killed, added to the tensions. Modi, who appeared to be relying on diplomacy rather than the military to press Pakistan, must continue his restraint.

The territory of Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both since the two countries claimed their independence in 1947. The Muslim-dominated area joined India, outraging Pakistanis who insist that it is an integral part of their Islamic republic. Indians dismiss the claim, countering that the process of incorporation was proper and that any concession to the Islamic majority could begin the unraveling of India’s multiethnic, multireligious society.

The result has been a history of tension and violence that has too frequently erupted in outright conflict. Two of the three wars fought by India and Pakistan have been over Kashmir; it is claimed that more than 47,000 people have been killed in Kashmir violence, although some human rights groups estimate the number of victims could be two times that figure.

This summer, the region has been on the boil following the killing of a media-savvy Kashmir militant by the Indian army. His death ignited waves of protest, particularly among younger Kashmiris. The Indian response has been heavy-handed: It is estimated that nearly 90 people have been killed, nearly all of them civilians, and another 10,000 people injured.

Then, on Sept. 18, a group of militants attacked an Indian army camp, killing 18 soldiers before the attackers themselves were killed. This was the bloodiest incident involving the Indian security forces in over a decade. Indian investigators have concluded that the militants were members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, an outlawed militant group based in Pakistan. The Pakistan government has denied any involvement in the assault.

Indian politicians, along with many independent security experts and analysts, have long believed that Pakistan provides considerable backing for the Islamic militants who attack India with regularity. They charge that parts of the Pakistan government see such groups as providing an equalizer in their country’s struggle to claim Kashmir. The terror groups are sufficiently distant from the government of Pakistan to give Islamabad plausible deniability about their operations. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal then ensures that India will not be tempted to strike back against the groups, which generally operate from bases within Pakistan.

Unfortunately, India’s tolerance is growing short. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is demanding a strong response to the Sept. 18 attack, and believes that Pakistan is also behind the unrest that descended over the region during the summer. But while Pakistan may well be supporting the militants, it is a mistake to underestimate the groundswell of opposition to Indian rule in Kashmir and the anger at the killing of the militant during the summer. While Hindus prefer remaining in India, an overwhelming majority of Muslims in Kashmir — from 75 to 95 percent, according to one poll — would rather join Pakistan.

Modi is certain that Pakistan is behind the attacks, but he knows well that escalating the violence will only court more risks. He also knows that Pakistan is the weaker of the two countries militarily, and that an Indian attack could force Islamabad to make good on its threat to employ its nuclear weapons to even the score. He is also aware that Pakistan is a fragile state and a confrontation could undermine the government there, bringing an even more militant administration to power or, worse, creating chaos that might imperil the command and control of nuclear weapons or materials.

A final concern for Modi is China, which has close ties with Pakistan, competes with India and has no desire to see its partner humiliated or destabilized. India and China have fought their own war and continue to dispute territory. Any move against Pakistan could quickly escalate to a two-front conflict.

To his credit, Modi is ignoring the hardliners and emphasizing diplomacy in his government’s response to the violence. While promising that India would not be intimidated by terrorism, he also said that he would focus on isolating Pakistan for its support of militants. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the United Nations General Assembly: “We need to forget our prejudices and join hands together to script an effective strategy against terror. And if any nation refuses to join this global strategy, then we must isolate it.”

Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, called the Indian statement “a litany of falsehoods and baseless allegations.” Unfortunately, however, there is growing international support for India’s assertions. The Modi government has fanned the flames in Kashmir with its repressive response to protests, but much of the violence is not homegrown. India’s restraint is to be applauded and must continue. 

Yet the rest of the world must ensure that this restraint is not misinterpreted and the backers of Kashmiri violence pay a price for their support of terrorism