Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The End Of Syria

al Suriya Kubra!

Six years into the Syrian war, the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is ensured — but it has become something of a facade and lacks a strategy for reuniting the country. The sometimes sharply differing interests of Russia and Iran from above, and the local concerns of a myriad array of pro-regime irregular militias from below, are the decisive factors — not the decisions of the country’s nominal rulers. This impacts the calculus of the “regime” side in the war, in determining its strategy in the conflict.

Just take a look at how the war has developed since late last year, when things seemed to be going well for the regime. The rebellion had been driven out of its last fingerholds in eastern Aleppo city, seemingly paving the way for the eventual defeat of the insurgency. But five months later, while the general direction of the war has been against the rebels, they appear still far from collapse. Idlib province, areas of Latakia, Hama, northern Aleppo, and large swaths of the south remain in rebel hands.

The rebels in the south received a boost this week when a coalition airstrike targeted forces loyal to Assad that were advancing on a base used by U.S. and British Special Forces. If the United States and its partners are willing to use force to defend allied groups in the area, it is hard to envision how the regime can hope to reestablish its rule there.

Further east, the war against the Islamic State is being prosecuted by a powerful U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led force called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This force will shortly embark on the conquest of Raqqa, the last remaining city in Syria fully controlled by the retreating Islamic State.

In other words, the rumors of the death of the rebellion have been greatly overstated. And some of its component parts apparently possess considerable vigor and strength.

Does the Assad regime have a strategy for the reunification of the country, or has Syria’s fragmentation now become an unavoidable reality?

Syria, after all, is today divided into no less than seven enclaves: the territory controlled by the regime, three separate areas of rebel control, two Kurdish cantons, and the Islamic State area.

What is the government’s strategy to reverse this fragmentation?

 “We have absolute faith that this is a temporary situation. The major reason for this faith is that the Syrian people start to understand the conspiracy against them.”

In other words, there is no strategy at all, but the kind of conspiracy theories that no self-respecting Baathist should be without. In fact, no evidence exists of any overarching plan to divide Syria — nor do any of the major forces in the country support its breakup. Syria’s de facto division is a result of the inability of any force to prevail over all the others, not of design.

That is, Syria will be divided between the regime enclave in the west, the Sunni Arab rebels in the northwest and southwest, a Turkish-ensured rebel enclave in the north, an SDF-controlled region in the northeast, and some arrangement involving both the SDF and Western-backed Arab rebels in the east.

As this process plays out, the Russians will continue to do as they wish by day and night in Damascus, the gap between regime rhetoric and reality will remain as gaping as ever, the rebels and the Kurds will continue to march in tune with their own patrons’ wishes. Meanwhile, the stark fact will continue to remain unsaid: namely, that the state known as Syria has effectively ceased to exist.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

PLA Reforms?

Shi Lang!

People’s Liberation Army has not officially released a new generation of operational regulations (作战条令)—which are believed to be roughly equivalent to doctrine—since its fourth generation of them in 1999. The protracted process for their revision has apparently become a “bottleneck” for the PLA’s advances in joint operations and training.

Evidently, its attempts to update these doctrinal documents in response to new strategic challenges have lagged behind its intended progression towards jointness, while failing to keep pace with changes in the form of warfare.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has been engaged in an extensive process of revision of its fourth-generation operational regulations. Although the actual contents of the PLA’s operational regulations have never been released, an understanding of the underlying process and those involved is nonetheless informative. The Academy of Military Science Operational Theories and Regulations Research Department has traditionally played a leading role in this process.

The apparent centrality of the Operational Theories and Regulations Research Department to the formulation of the PLA’s doctrine renders the writings of its leadership and researchers of particular importance to those seeking to understand the evolution of the PLA’s doctrinal approach to warfare. For instance, its series of lectures (教程) released in 2012—including “Lectures on the Science of Joint Campaigns” and “Lectures on Joint Campaign Command” may be closely linked to the revision of the operational regulations themselves.

Although the PLA’s operational regulations may remain opaque, a new “revolution in doctrinal affairs” appears to have been gradually occurring, as the PLA prepares to confront the challenges of future warfare. The apparent lengthiness of the revision process—and unexpected, unprecedented delay in the issuance of fifth-generation operational regulations—could indicate substantive impediments to progress that are only just starting to be overcome, under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Within the foreseeable future, the new generation of operational regulations will likely include revised campaign guidelines for each of PLA’s services—the Army, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force—as well as the new Strategic Support Force, along with force-wide guidelines for joint operations and joint operations command. To date, the PLA seemingly does not have official campaign guidelines that address operations in the space and cyber domains.

Potentially, this fifth generation will establish the PLA’s first operational regulations for space and cyber operations, which are considered critical strategic frontiers for the PLA that are integral to joint operations. Indeed, Maj. Gen. An Weiping deputy chief of staff of the Northern Theater Command, recently called for the introduction of “military cyberspace operations regulations and statutes.” The contents of this fifth generation of operational regulations, while not publically released, will presumably take into account recent changes to the PLA’s military strategic guidelines, reflecting its evolving missions and advancing capabilities. Looking forward, their release could be officially announced as a critical component of the PLA’s new stage of “below the neck”  reforms, which seek to enact deeper changes than the initial “above the neck”  stage of high-level, organizational changes.

Frigate Review

A planned $143 million review of the Navy’s future frigate design was prompted by a changing threat environment that will require the ship to complete more missions, top service officials told Congress this week.

The review was included as part of 45’s fiscal 2018 budget request, released Tuesday.
The money, budget documents say, will allow the Navy to “reassess the capabilities required to ensure the multi-mission frigate paces future threats.” Priorities, according to the request, include maximizing lethality and survivability, particularly in the areas of surface warfare, air warfare through local area defense, and anti-submarine warfare.

The future frigate is set to be based on the controversial littoral combat ship, a platform that saw major cost overruns in its early years and still faces harsh criticism from oversight authorities on survivability and ability to execute its major mission sets.

In April, the Government Accountability Office released a report recommending that Congress delay what had been a planned frigate block buy in 2018 to pursue more information on the ship’s cost and capabilities. In a 2016 report, the GAO noted that the lethality and survivability of the LCS was still unproven, raising questions about investing more in the same design for the frigate.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee in a Wednesday hearing that the service now plans to contract for the frigate in 2020, saying the revision of the initial 2014 plan reflects a changing world.

“Since that time, the security environment, the budget environment, and the industrial base have changed,” he said. “We are refining our requirements to the frigate to increase multi-mission capability and, in view of the additional year required to get to a 2020 contract, we will continue to procure LCSs to maintain the industrial base.”

Funding for just one LCS was included in this year’s budget request, but Navy officials said Wednesday that the workload would be enough for the shipyards when coupled with last year’s three-LCS buy. Currently, two variants of the LCS are made by competing companies: Lockheed Martin/Marinette Marine, and Austal USA.

Stackley said the Navy wants to make sure the LCS and frigate program remain “heel to toe” so that the industrial base will remain financially healthy and able to build the ships.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson called the pace of change in global threats “exponential,” saying the current threat environment will inform the way the Navy rewrites its requirements for the frigate. Tighter budgets, too, mean the service will have to ensure it is getting the best value for its money, he added.

“The way we operate is changing. The way the U.S. Navy operates in terms of networking … this frigate into the larger fleet, executing distributed maritime operations — that has changed as well,” Richardson said. “And so the combination of those three things really necessitated that we go back to the drawing board and make sure we haven’t missed an opportunity to put to sea a ship that will address today’s threats and be modernizing into the future.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

I was thinking this morning that across the country, children and their parents will be going to the town parade, and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.

Arlington, this place of so many memories, is a fitting place for some remembering. So many wonderful men and women rest here, men and women who led colorful, vivid and passionate lives. … All of these men were different, but they shared this in common: They loved America very much. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for her. And they loved with the sureness of the young. It’s hard not to think of the young in a place like this, for it’s the young who do the fighting and dying when a peace fails and a war begins.

And we owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong. 

If we really care about peace, we must stay strong. If we really care about peace, we must, through our strength, demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does. 

40 at Arlington

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Vengence Baby, Vengence

Sometimes cats that usually worry about the wrong thing get stuff absolutely correct...

Let me share with you some deeply flawed words from the editorial board of the New York Times

"Meanwhile, as hard as it is amid the shock and the mourning, it is important to recognize this attack for what it is: an attempt to shake Britain — and, by extension, the rest of Europe and the West — to its core, and to provoke a thirst for vengeance and a desire for absolute safety so intense, it will sweep away the most cherished democratic values and the inclusiveness of diverse societies"

  To the contrary, Britain should seek vengeance. And if terrorists want to provoke a climactic confrontation in the Middle East, then the West should give them the battle they crave.

Why? Because they’ll lose. Because they’ll be slaughtered. Because they’ll be exposed as the violent hucksters they are.

Underpinning the Times’s sentiment is the persistent, misguided belief that what we face isn’t a true war but rather a particularly challenging law-enforcement operation, in which armies stay largely sidelined, the cops do their work, and societies cope with terrorism in much the same way that they cope with other forms of criminal violence.

For those who subscribe to this view, the fundamental response to terror — in addition to mourning the dead and expressing love and support for their families — is to find precisely the people responsible and punish them precisely with the penalties prescribed by law. If we achieve less, then police have failed. If our response sweeps beyond those responsible for the bad act, then we have committed our own injustices and thus perpetuated the cycle of hate and violence.

In war, the goal is different. In war, the goal is to meet an attack with an overwhelming response — to find and punish those responsible for discrete acts, kill their allies, and annihilate their military organization. This martial act of vengeance and wrath — yes, vengeance — should be carried out in accordance with the laws of war, but the laws of war are no impediment to decisive military force.

Vengeance by itself is not wrong.

The manner of the vengeance and its object defines its morality and effectiveness. History is littered with examples of vengeance-motivated atrocities, but it is also full of cases where vengeance (or the threat of vengeance) motivated entire societies to defeat mortal threats and deter even worse calamities. Terrorists count on Western restraint.

The call for unconditional surrender in World War II was a departure from the norm in great-power conflicts, but it led to the ultimate defeat of Nazism and Japanese militarism, rather than to mere setbacks that would have allowed the Nazis and the Japanese to refit, re-arm, and try again. In multiple points throughout the Cold War, the threat of overwhelming retaliation kept conflicts limited, kept weapons of mass destruction off the field of battle, and helped the world avoid another catastrophic global conflict.

By contrast, terrorists count on Western restraint. They often presume that we’ll be unwilling to do what it truly takes to destroy their safe havens or that we’ll grow weary of conflict and ultimately acquiesce to their demands. And all too many voices in the West are eager to oblige. When law enforcement isn’t enough to prevent attacks, and when carefully limited military strikes prove ineffective, they argue that we should look to address the “legitimate grievances” that are said to ultimately drive jihadist motivations.

That is when terrorists win. There exists already a model for successful vengeance. Osama bin Laden wasn’t prepared for massive American retaliation after 9/11. He didn’t expect to lose his safe havens and the vast bulk of his fighters. He thought America would respond as it had before, with ineffective cruise-missile volleys or perhaps even the same timidity that followed the Battle of Mogadishu. In fact, he said as much, speaking of American weakness to Western reporters.

OBL was wrong: He met American strength, al-Qaeda was left in ruins, and the threat of terror eased for a time. In fact, there’s a consistent pattern to terrorist violence. When they obtain and maintain safe havens, jihadists are able to plan, train, inspire, and strike. When they are driven from their strongholds — pounded from the air and the ground — they lose much of their effectiveness and their appeal. Take your boot off their neck, and they rise again.

So, Great Britain, ignore the New York Times. Give in to your “thirst for vengeance.”

In a manner that is consistent with the laws of war and the great tradition of British arms, make an example of ISIS. Destroy terrorist safe havens with prompt, decisive force, pursue terrorists wherever they flee, and send a clear message.

Terrorists have sown the wind. They will reap the whirlwind.

Avenge your fallen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Think of it like a pan Arab NATO with the nom d'guerre like Middle East Defense Organization

The deal still needs more work, so the announcement would be a framework, not a treaty set for signing. But the plan, as reported by numerous outlets, would begin to bring the Middle East’s Sunni Arab nations into a collective defence alliance that would not include the U.S. directly, but would be favoured and supported by it. Indeed, some reports have noted that Israel (despite not being recognized by some nations as likely to join the alliance) will be a quiet partner, sharing intelligence with its neighbours over matters of mutual concern.

And those matters are serious. A strong Sunni Arab alliance — supported by the U.S. and Israel — would be a stabilizing force in a region in chaos. Committed Arab partners coupled with American military technology and Israeli intelligence would be a nightmare scenario for the Islamic State (among others), and could serve as an effective bulwark against the next terrorist organization to rise.

Iran is a threat to the West, Israel and many Arab states, and would also be partially countered by a properly-equipped military alliance. An American-backed Arab alliance might also thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in the Middle East, without directly incurring much risk.

An Arab military alliance would be a stabilizing force in a region in chaos. It would also be the Islamic State’s worst nightmare, to say nothing of Russia and Iran. 
The idea is not without drawbacks. Even though Israel is reportedly set to play a supporting role, it will remember well that Arab nations — when allied — have a history of invading it. They will likely welcome the alliance in the short term while remaining carefully watchful in the long. The Arab states have also traditionally not played together particularly well, and many of them are facing serious internal economic and social issues that would not be addressed by an arms buildup and new treaty. Iran and Russia would, of course, seek to undermine the new alliance precisely because it would oppose their ambitions. And given the turmoil in the U.S., allies would have cause to question its commitment.

And, of course, there is this awkward fact: many of the Arab states remain countries with which we would, in a perfect world, prefer not to do business. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has an abysmal human rights record that hardly needs recapping here. American backing of these states further implicates the U.S. (and its Western allies generally, including Canada) in the misdeeds of these regimes.

But the West must be realistic and not let perfection be the enemy of the good. NATO has been a force for unity and stability in Europe for generations. The Arab world would certainly benefit from an alliance built on that model. It would reduce dependence on U.S. security guarantees, help contain Iran, and deny those seeking to exploit weakness and division easy opportunities for growth. An Arab NATO would be a difficult project to bring about, but it’s worth trying. We sincerely wish the president — or any future successor — well in seeking its earliest implementation

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


After the Soviet implosion in 1991, Chechnya, then part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, declared its independence from Russia and split from what would become Ingushetia.

Russia launched the First Chechen War in 1994, lasting until 1996, in an effort to regain sovereignty over the area. But it was not until the Second Chechen War, which began in 1999 and lasted for the better part of the 2000s, that the Kremlin retook control. It was then that Moscow gained the loyalty of Akhmad Kadyrov, the former mufti of the short-lived independent Chechnya. He became president of the Russian-controlled Chechen Republic in 2003.

Yet Russia is in a state of decline. One of the immediate implications of this trend is a diminished ability by the Kremlin to manage its territories and influence countries in its periphery. Chechnya, which is already a major challenge for the Russians, is the most significant area poised to descend into chaos. From the capital of Grozny, Kadyrov’s clan has been the tool through which Russia has held Chechnya – and the broader North Caucasus – together. This region is highly susceptible to jihadists, who would be the first to try to take advantage of any opening in the system.

 As Russia’s ability to help manage the area wanes, jihadist forces and other rivals of Kadyrov will try to exploit it. Just as the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s could no longer project power into its peripheral regions, leading to the secession of its republics in the Baltics, Caucasus and Central Asia, a weakened Russia will not be able to keep its grip on Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus.

Left to its own devices, Chechnya is bound to devolve into factional warfare. And this is where jihadists, with their propensity to rally people around religion, are likely to benefit the most.

Monday, May 22, 2017

45's Afghan Surge

Once More Unto the Breach 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NoKo No Win Scenarios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genius For War?

Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Coming Third War With Hiz'B'Allah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Joyeuex Anniversarie Little Satan!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Snap!

Joyeuex Anniversaire Little Satan! 


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

Friday, May 12, 2017

45 Goes To Wahabia Arabia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

44's Drones Gone Wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

VE Day!

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

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

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

May 8th is Victory In Europe Day.

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

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

Happy VE Day!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ISIS And The Ottomans

Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

HAMAS' Makeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jihad Factory Nation/State

Nishan E Hader!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Missing the Point on Iran’s Ballistic Missiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

China's Role In The Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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