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WAR 03-03-2018-to-03-09-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
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  1. #1
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    3 03-03-2018-to-03-09-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****

    (310) 02-10-2018-to-02-16-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
    http://www.timebomb2000.com/vb/showt...*of****WAR****

    (311) 02-17-2018-to-02-23-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
    http://www.timebomb2000.com/vb/showt...*of****WAR****

    (312) 02-24-2018-to-03-02-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
    http://www.timebomb2000.com/vb/showt...*of****WAR****

    ==========

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    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/photograph...155230968.html

    A photographer's journey out of Venezuela

    By Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    Reuters
    March 2, 2018

    CARACAS (Reuters) - The bus station was like a funeral home. Families were weeping and hugging, saying their goodbyes. Everybody was sad and scared - the ones leaving because they were facing an uncertain future, and the ones staying behind because they were facing muggings, shortages of food and an even more uncertain future.

    Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans migrated elsewhere in South America last year. Reporter Alexandra Ulmer and I wanted to give names and faces to at least a few of them, so we decided to join them in a nearly 5,000-mile bus journey south to Chile.

    I hoped that by sharing this journey with my fellow Venezuelans, I could help show the rest of the world what most of us are facing every day.

    I am no stranger to this daily reality: Friends and family members are leaving; some have been robbed of their few remaining belongings and of their hopes; others have lost their jobs and income. I try to take care of the people closest to me - otherwise, some of them might not eat.

    When the passengers finally boarded the bus carrying cheap Chinese luggage, the mood was somber, but there was also a feeling of hope. I just photographed them silently, observing their strength as they made this huge step.

    Adrian, a car battery salesman, lived with his girlfriend in the house he shared with his grandparents, his mother and his siblings. Although they all worked, there was never enough money. Adrian wanted to help his mother and build a future with his girlfriend. And he saw no other way to do that than leaving.

    It was very difficult for him to leave his home, and he broke down in tears when he learned, while crossing Colombia, that his great-grandmother had died. But he told me that although the pain was almost breaking his heart, he had to keep going. He was the only hope for his family.

    And there was Alvaro, a former bank supervisor, whose most precious possession was a photo of him, his wife and their two children posing with Santa Claus. His wife had written a few lines on the back of the picture - that she loved him, that they would miss him and that he was the greatest father in the world. And that she hoped they would all be together again soon. They looked happy and healthy in the photograph. Now it was a memory that he held onto like a castaway and a life preserver.

    Everyone on the bus counted and spent every cent carefully, considering if it was necessary to spend a few coins on a bathroom at a bus station or eat a warm meal. Some of them lived on food they had brought from Caracas: canned sardines or tuna, mayonnaise and white bread that had gotten smashed in a plastic bag after days of traveling.

    I felt their fear every time we crossed a border. Most of them had never left Venezuela before. There were afraid of the border police, worried they would ask any tricky questions that could bring an end to their journey and force them to return.

    And although the landscape was constantly changing, after so many days it was like a movie that was constantly repeating itself. The passengers spent the hours sitting listless in their seats, staring out of the windows and completely losing any notion of time.

    In fact, that sameness made the assignment a challenge, visually speaking. After the first days, the photos started to repeat themselves: people sitting inside a bus. But as the hours went by, I got to know them, and I was able to visualize their dreams and hopes – and fears.

    I could feel their growing anxiety until the last group finally crossed the border into Chile. There, the mood changed immediately. They cried and hugged each other, only this time out of sheer happiness.

    It hurts me as a Venezuelan, but after witnessing their pain during those nine days of traveling together, I believe they made the right decision. They took the best chance they had to change their lives.

    ((Reporting by Carlos Garcia Rawlins; editing by Kari Howard))

  2. #2
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    Well we can see where this is going.....And WTF is Kerry doing? How many Logan Act violations do these guys get before they're called on them?....

    For links see article source.....
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    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/iran-calls...115531458.html

    Iranian official calls on West to scrap nuclear arms before any missile talks

    Reuters
    March 3, 2018
    8 Comments

    DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will not negotiate over its ballistic missiles until the United States and Europe dismantle nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, a top Iranian military official said on Saturday.

    Separately, Iran confirmed that the Iranian foreign minister had met his former U.S. counterpart John Kerry on the sidelines of a Munich meeting last month. The New Yorker magazine earlier reported that Kerry had urged Tehran not to abandon a 2015 nuclear deal, despite tensions with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

    While Iran has accepted curbs on its nuclear work - which it says is for purely peaceful purposes - it has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program, something the United States and European countries have called for.

    "The condition for negotiating Iran's missiles is the destruction of the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles of the United States and Europe," Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.

    Iran says its missile program is defensive, and that it is not related to Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which led to the lifting of sanctions against the country.

    European powers and Iran have started talks over Tehran’s role in the Middle East and will meet again this month in Italy as part of efforts to prove to Trump that they are meeting his concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal.

    On Friday, the New Yorker reported that during a meeting, which it said was attended by others involved in the nuclear deal, "Kerry quietly urged the Iranians not to abandon the deal or violate its terms - whatever the Trump Administration does".

    Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, quoted by IRNA, said that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif "has always met on the sidelines of such international summits with attending personalities and elites ... in the framework of preserving Iranian interests".

    Zarif had met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference with "John Kerry and Ernest Moniz, foreign and energy ministers of the previous U.S. government, who have a critical attitude towards Trump Administration policies", Qasemi said.

    (Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

  3. #3
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    https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/be...nese-diaspora/

    Beijing’s Influence Operations Target Chinese Diaspora

    Timothy Heath
    March 1, 2018

    Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in “Ministry of Truth,” a special series on state-sponsored influence operations. Catch up on the series here.

    In September 2015, tens of thousands of Malaysian pro-government “red shirt” protestors thronged Kuala Lampur’s Chinatown, where they shouted slogans denouncing the country’s ethnic Chinese community and leaders. China’s ambassador reacted angrily, warning that his country “will not sit idly by” as others “infringe on the national interest of China.” His statement, employing language suggestive of threats to use military force, outraged Malaysian leaders, who promptly summoned the ambassador to demand a clarification.

    As U.S. officials continue to grapple with Russian interference in domestic politics, growing attention has turned to Chinese influence operations. Although much attention has focused on Beijing’s efforts to fund pro-China propaganda, the incident in Kuala Lumpur highlights that some of the more troubling activities the government has undertaken have been those targeting the Chinese diaspora.

    For Beijing, much of what Westerners call “influence operations” is captured in the concept of “external propaganda,” which consists of media efforts aimed at cultivating popular support and weakening political foes as well as the activities of the “United Front,” a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organization designed to build broad-based domestic and international political coalitions to achieve party objectives. Notably, China’s influence operations are explicitly intended to support a project of “rejuvenation”: restoring China’s status as a wealthy and powerful country ruled by the CCP. As the United Front Department’s Research Office put it in a 2017 article, its “new direction” consists of “the three tasks of serving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, safeguarding the state’s core interests, and maintaining the long term stability of Hong Kong and Macao and completing the unification of the motherland.”

    This focus on China’s rejuvenation can help us better understand what exactly makes these activities pernicious. Russia’s interference aims to damage political institutions and foment instability in countries Moscow considers unfriendly. Beijing does not appear to be involved in such activities. However, what Beijing regards as necessary to support revitalization does include some measures that oppose the interests of the United States and other countries. Beijing’s efforts to cultivate support in and control diaspora communities, in particular, threaten to exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions, aggravate problems of political and social polarization, and harm the civil rights and freedoms of citizens in other countries. For these reasons, such activities merit much closer attention by democratic governments seeking to counter China’s influence operations.

    Rejuvenation and Influence
    How does Beijing think national rejuvenation can benefit from influence operations? First, China’s leadership seeks to extend its influence and the appeal of China and its culture. Second, the CCP hopes to weaken political foes and advance its narrative for all Chinese people. Third, the party hopes to persuade Chinese around the world to contribute directly to the country’s development through contributions of resources, skills, and knowledge. Global media attention has focused primarily on the first category of activities, but the second and third categories arguably provide more reason for concern. These latter two also depend more on interactions with the Chinese diaspora.

    Chinese leaders regard increased international influence and the appeal of China and its culture as an important element of revitalization. The 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress report, China’s most authoritative strategy document, states that by mid-century, China wants to be “a global leader” in “international influence.” The report similarly outlines ambitions for Chinese “cultural soft power” to have “greater appeal” by 2035. Media coverage has already drawn considerable scrutiny to Chinese efforts to promote traditional culture and benign views of the country through investments in movies, advertising, exhibits, and activities related to the Confucius Institutes, which are Chinese government funded educational organizations aimed at promoting Chinese culture and teaching Mandarin Chinese. How much these activities pose a threat to U.S. security remains a topic of intense debate.

    The activities that mainly target the Chinese diaspora generally draw less attention, but could pose far bigger threats. Such activities may affect people of Chinese descent in North America and Europe, but the impact is likely to be felt more strongly in countries with large populations of Chinese migrants, especially those in areas closer to China that have economic and strategic value to Beijing, such as those in Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand.

    Influencing ‘Overseas Chinese’
    The Chinese diaspora now numbers about 60 million, of which more than 70 percent are in Asia, especially Southeast Asia. This marks a decline from the 1990s when 90 percent of ethnic Chinese lived in Asia, and signals the diaspora’s increasingly global distribution. The Chinese diaspora, like those of other ethnicities, is a heterogeneous group with diverse views, values, and identities. Many regard themselves as of Chinese heritage but feel no allegiance to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a point that commentators in countries with large Chinese populations, such as Singapore, have frequently pointed out. Acknowledging this reality, Chinese academics have urged officials to pay more attention to the roughly 15 million migrants who have left China since the start of reform and opening up, a group that Chinese academics regard as potentially more sympathetic to the CCP’s agenda. Zhuang Guotu, a scholar at Xiamen University, characterized this group as the “new migrants” whom he described as “highly educated, wealthy, and willing to forge close relations with mainland China.”

    Chinese authorities have prioritized efforts to cultivate support of the diaspora as well as all of its citizens who study and live abroad, which state media has collectively referred to as “overseas Chinese.” At a national work meeting on overseas Chinese held in February 2017, President Xi Jinping called for “closely uniting” with overseas Chinese in support of the Chinese dream. State Councilor Yang Jiechi explained in a 2017 article on United Front outreach to overseas Chinese that strengthening relations with this group had become a “pressing need.” To supplement the United Front’s work, the Chinese government has established an “Overseas Chinese Affairs Office” responsible for carrying out related tasks. In recent years, the office has coordinated with various Chinese ministries to develop preferential policies to entice overseas Chinese professionals to return to the mainland. Incentives have included financial support, preferential access to desired schools, protection for intellectual property, and business support.

    The efforts appear to be paying off. Last year, 80 percent of students who left to study abroad returned to China, a dramatic shift from previous decades when most Chinese students who left the country never returned. While these returning students are Chinese citizens, not diaspora members, the trend suggests that China’s marketing efforts are succeeding. Beijing has also provided virtually free two week-long “birthright tours” to over 400,000 foreigners of Chinese ancestry since 1999 to encourage the diaspora to develop emotional ties to the People’s Republic.

    Chinese officials hope these overseas Chinese will cooperate to counter political foes of the CCP and advance the party’s political agenda. In his 2017 article, Yang highlighted the importance of working with overseas Chinese to “counter ‘separatist forces’” and carry out “pro-reunification activities.” Already, Chinese officials have made gains in consolidating control of diaspora media, often using strong-arm tactics. For instance, reporters in China who provide content to independent diaspora media sources may face harassment, detention, or imprisonment. Beijing has also pressured advertisers, foreign diplomats, and media broadcasting partners, including European satellite companies, to curb the reach and access of independent diaspora media. Chinese Canadian journalists have reported growing pressure to muzzle criticism of Beijing, in part due to threats from China’s consulates and from pro-Beijing advertisers. News reports have also highlighted efforts by Chinese students to intimidate fellow students, again often with the apparent encouragement of embassy officials. Incidents in which Chinese netizens harass and intimidate ethnic Chinese in other countries who express any criticism of the CCP and its policies have also garnered attention.

    Authorities have long regarded diaspora Chinese as important sources of capital and technology who can contribute to national development. In recent years, however, officials have started to see the diaspora not only as a key conduit for high-end technology through involvement in Chinese-led multi-national technology development initiatives, but also as a way to realize broader geo-economic ambitions. Chinese leaders regard the diaspora as critical enablers of ambitious projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One Chinese academic explained that the success of the initiative will depend on ethnic Chinese communities in countries along the route serving as “guides, go-betweens, and participants” because they “have a deep understanding of the local situations and run business there.” In 2016, authorities began to hold an annual “business conference” for overseas Chinese involved in the BRI. Underscoring the political importance of the event, Premier Li Keqiang attended the second conference last year.

    Regional Reverberations
    The importance that CCP leaders place on ties to the diaspora suggests these activities will only increase in coming years. Taiwan, an island populated with ethnic Chinese, has long felt the weight of intrusive PRC efforts to dominate its media, interfere with political campaigns, and strong-arm its leaders — all of which has exacerbated political polarization and social tensions. Others are beginning to feel the pressure as well. Australia and New Zealand, for example, continue to grapple with the Chinese government’s efforts to influence domestic politics. Australia’s security services have reported efforts by Chinese agents to infiltrate policymaking circles and strengthen Beijing’s influence over the country’s Chinese diaspora community.

    Indeed, Chinese officials have signaled their intention to advance more policies to earn the loyalty and goodwill of diaspora communities — in part by scrutinizing their treatment by foreign governments. Yang Jiechi stated in his article that it had become “necessary to actively push the governments of countries of their residence to build a favorable environment for Chinese compatriots.” In the past few years, PRC diplomatic officials in Malaysia have carried out regular visits to ethnic Chinese communities, endorsed pro-China political candidates, and attended high level meetings by political parties dominated by ethnic Chinese.

    Beijing’s influence operations cynically exploit the diversity of other countries for the CCP’s own ends. Coercion and intimidation of Chinese living abroad harms their civil rights and freedoms and damages their political institutions. The efforts by the People’s Republic to muzzle critical diaspora Chinese media voices, infiltrate and manipulate policymaking, and encourage the formation of pro-Chinese political factions not only harms the sovereignty of other countries, they can also exacerbate social tensions within pluralistic societies and encourage polarization. In Malaysia, for example, efforts by Chinese government officials to generously fund Chinese language schools and endorsements of particular candidates have stirred resentment on the part of some ethnic groups who see such actions as interference in the country’s internal affairs. This tension contributed to the 2015 protests in Kuala Lumpur. Chinese government efforts to recruit agents also threatens to encourage unfounded fears and racism towards individuals of Chinese heritage.

    Policymakers and commentators may be tempted to focus on those Chinese influence operations that are most visible to elite opinion makers, such as the activities of the Confucius Institutes and Chinese involvement in Western media. However, it is dangerous to neglect Beijing’s efforts to cultivate and dominate diaspora communities. Overseas Chinese populations who resist Beijing’s demands could experience more harassment, coercion, and fear, which could lead them to feel vulnerable and alienated from their governments and fellow citizens. On the other hand, diaspora communities who comply with Beijing’s demands could find themselves the target of harassment, racism, and coercion by members of their host countries, which could in turn drive them into the arms of the PRC. Mishandled incidents involving diaspora communities could spur Beijing to weigh in, potentially through the use of diplomatic and economic coercion. To minimize the risks of Chinese influence operations, governments will need to demonstrate leadership and courage in affirming the rights of their fellow Chinese heritage leaders, journalists, and citizens to live free from coercion and in a manner consistent with the rights and freedoms due to them as fellow countrymen.

    Timothy R. Heath is an international and defense research analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

  4. #4
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    http://freebeacon.com/national-secur...posed-beijing/

    Trump to Sign Taiwan Bill Opposed by Beijing

    Congress urging high-level visits by U.S. military and civilian officials

    By: Bill Gertz
    March 2, 2018 5:00 pm

    President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law new legislation opposed by China that calls for increasing high-level visits with Taiwan, according to administration officials.

    The president could sign the measure into law in the coming days, said officials familiar with the issue.

    The action has set off a vigorous internal debate between White House advisers who favor conciliatory policies toward China and others pushing for tougher trade and security policies toward Beijing.

    A White House spokesman said he had no announcement on the legislation.

    President Trump has expressed admiration for Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping but also has tweeted that he has not been tough enough in challenging China.

    Trade tensions between the United States and China heightened this week after Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum products that target China and other trade partners.

    Legislation passed by both the House and Senate on Feb. 28 calls for the U.S. government to support expanded official visits to and from Taiwan "at all levels."

    The bill and expected law would be a political slap at pro-China advocates in government who regard Taiwan, an unofficial American ally in Asia for decades, as an impediment to improved relations with China.

    "Taiwan is a fellow democracy and important partner in the Indo-Pacific region, so I am proud that Congress has now passed the Taiwan Travel Act and is sending it to the president’s desk," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and a key sponsor of the bill.

    "It is critical for the United States to strengthen our ties with Taiwan, especially as China increases efforts to isolate Taiwan and block its participation in international organizations," he said.

    China has blocked Taiwan from joining international organizations and recently began flying both military and commercial flights down the center of the 100-mile wide Taiwan Strait.

    Taiwan has called the flight a military provocation as it requires Taiwan's air force to scramble jets to intercept the flight that intrude on the island's air defense zone.

    Coinciding with the provocative Chinese flights, the Pentagon in January authorized the transfer of 250 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan.

    The travel legislation also follows new U.S. defense and national security strategies that identify China as posing a security threat to the United States.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the shift in strategy was prompted in part by China's militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.

    Currently and under previous administrations, visits to Taiwan by U.S. military and civilian officials were restricted for government and military officials.

    The limitations were imposed in a bid to avoid upsetting Beijing, despite the fact that U.S. military forces could be called on to defend Taiwan from an attack from China under the terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

    The act was passed by Congress a year after the United States shifted formal diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. The law stipulates continued sales of defensive arms to Taiwan and states that the United States would help Taiwan resist an armed attack from China.

    The administration currently is limiting official U.S. visits to Taiwan until June, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for a new building of the American Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial diplomatic representation.

    The island is the last hold out of Nationalist Chinese forces that fled the mainland during China's civil war in the late 1940s.

    China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has not renounced using force to retake the island.

    Chinese state-run media threatened conflict if the legislation is signed into law.

    The Communist Party newspaper Global Times stated in an editorial this week that if the travel legislation becomes law it would trigger one of China's conditions for using force to re-unite the island, an anti-secession regulation.

    The official Beijing Taiwan Affairs Office issued a more veiled threat stating that the law would violate China's one-China policy.

    An Fengshan, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, said Friday China strongly opposes the legislation. "We are firmly against the act," An was quoted as saying by in the official government Xinhua News Agency. "We sternly warn Taiwan not to rely on foreigners to build you up, or it will only draw fire against yourself."

    China's Foreign Ministry, however, stopped short of threatening force if the travel bill becomes law.

    Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying would not answer directly when asked about the state media report on the threat of force.

    The United States should "stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way," she said.

    "It must handle Taiwan-related issues cautiously and properly so as to avoid causing any major disruption or damage to the China-U.S. relations," Hua told reporters.

    President Trump angered China early last year by accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. The president also suggested the United States might abandoned its one-China policy. Trump later backed off the policy change.

    Several of his key White House advisers are regarded as pro-China advocates, including former Goldman Sachs chairman Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council.

    Those favoring tougher policies toward China include Peter Navarro, a White House adviser in charge of trade and industrial policy. Navarro is one of the key advocates of Trump tougher trade tariff policy shift announced this week.

    The State Department told the official Taiwan Central News Agency that the travel legislation does not change U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

    "We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world. Taiwan shares our values, has earned our respect, and continues to merit our strong support," Michael Cavey, spokesman for State's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs was quoted as saying.

    The legislation states that it will be U.S. policy to permit visits to Taiwan by "cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials" to meet Taiwanese counterparts.

    The bill also would allow high-level Taiwan officials to visit the United States "under conditions which demonstrate appropriate respect for the dignity of such officials" to meet U.S. officials including State Department, Pentagon, and other cabinet agencies.

    Currently, visits to the United States by Taiwan officials, including the president and vice president, are limited to brief "transit" stops on the way to other nations.
    The last senior visit to the United States took place in 1995 when then-President Lee Tung-hui visited Cornell for a speech.

    The legislation also calls for allowing the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Taiwan's unofficial diplomatic office, to conduct business in the United States and to allow greater activities with Congress and federal and local governments.

    Global Times, the state-run Chinese news outlet, said Congress' unanimous passage of the bill shows increased national sentiment in the United States in confronting China's growing power.

    "Bellicosity has peaked in Congress and legislators approved the bill to vent their anxieties about China," the newspaper said.

  5. #5
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    https://www.thecipherbrief.com/artic...7424a&mc_eid=f

    Putin’s Soviet Throwback: Build More Nukes, Blame the West

    March 2, 2018 | Cipher Brief Analysis

    On March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted of new nuclear-capable weapons that could overcome any U.S. missile defenses, in a feisty pre-election “state-of-the-nation” speech. He presented Russian military force as a “guarantor of peace on our planet,” and also made some over-the-top economic and social promises, just 17 days before Russia’s March 18 poll, where Putin will seek a fourth term in an electoral contest that has already seen a major challenger excluded.

    We asked our experts to comment on Putin’s speech. Comments are adapted below for print.

    Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO, & Dean of the Fletcher School
    Putin’s public announcements about new Russian weapons systems sounded like Q explaining to James Bond all the goodies in the MI6 locker, or a bit like the North Korean annual “big missiles” parade. Nonetheless, we should take him seriously for three reasons.

    First, U.S. intelligence has been tracking these systems for years and this provides us useful information to consider; second, this illuminates his “go big” strategy for dealing with the U.S., including an aggressive stance backed up by destabilizing weapons; and third, it should spur us to develop counters to what he is describing. The history of warfare is the history of offense versus defense, with first one, and then the other in ascendency. We need to do the research and development, testing, fielding and training to deal with the new battlefield he is describing, with both offensive and defensive capabilities.

    I’d say take him very seriously as he is a serious person with deep and abiding antipathy toward NATO in general and the U.S. in particular. He is also backed up by capable scientists. We should not overreact, but we need a strategy for Russia that includes diplomatic, economic, cultural and military elements. With this announcement, Vladimir Putin is forcing us to adjust our strategy in all dimensions.

    Rob Dannenberg, former Chief of the Central Eurasia Division, CIA
    I’m not surprised at all that Putin used his annual “state of the nation” speech (moved from its traditional December timeframe to March, just ahead of the Russian presidential election) as a platform to highlight Russia’s military prowess. This is consistent with his pattern in his nearly 19 years of running Russia (he is now Russia’s longest serving leader since Stalin) striving to regain for Russia a prominent position on the world stage. Putin surely knows Russia can never compete with the U.S. and the West economically so his only option is through demonstrating military power—and the willingness to use it, as in Crimea and Syria. I don’t think his speech revealed anything that wasn’t already known to the U.S., and after the release of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, it’s no surprise Putin used the speech pulpit to look tough in front of the Russian people.

    There is certainly some grandstanding for the Russian people in Putin’s speech and accompanying digitally-enhanced video, but more importantly, there is a message to the U.S. that there is a new arms race underway—and Putin may have stolen a march on us as we have underinvested in strategic weapons for at least the past decade. Moreover, as Putin threatened nuclear weapons use if Russia or its allies are attacked, how does that factor into a U.S. “bloody nose” strike against North Korea or another U.S. strike against Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria? I would also note Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner force mercenaries (allegedly hired by Putin) certainly suffered their own bloody nose in their ill-fated attack on U.S./anti-Assad forced in Syria in early February.

    Frankly, the U.S. needs in my view to re-evaluate completely its approach to Russia. First, we need to recognize Putin is the arch enemy of the West. He and the clique of former KGB officers that run Russia hate everything for which the West stands: market economy; rule of law; freedom of choice and freedom of expression. These concepts are threatening and loathsome to Putin and his gang. That understood, we need to recognize there is no negotiating with him. (He will lie and cheat on any negotiated agreement—look at the Minsk agreements that are supposed to lead to peace in Ukraine, for example.) Our graduated approach toward sanctioning Russia for misbehaving has patently failed.

    Have our sanctions persuaded Putin to renounce the annexation of Crimea or reduce support for secessionists in the Don Basin? Has our CAATSA sanctions package—slow in coming—caused Russia to cease its cyber malfeasance? Russia’s behavior will not change until the regime is changed. That should be our focus and strategy. Putin has turned Russia into a pariah and rogue state and he should be treated as a pariah. We should relentlessly expose to the Russian people the corruption and cynicism of Putinism. Look at the work of [opposition activist] Alexei Navalny in exposing corruption and the impact it has had in Russia, especially among young people. We should support, expand upon and replicate that work. Lastly, we should go after the money of the oligarchs that support and benefit from the system Putin has created.

    Adm. (ret.) Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    These “new” weapons come as no surprise to the U.S. intelligence community and, by extension, to the policy and military communities. We have been aware of them for some time, and much of what the U.S. has been doing in nuclear policy is in response. For example, the Nuclear Posture Review’s resurrection of a sea-based nuclear cruise missile is an attempt to level a future negotiation playing field in response to Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

    Putin’s speech reflects a combination of traditional Russian paranoia, which has resulted in willful misinterpretation of the scale and purpose of U.S. missile defense systems, and grandstanding by Putin in advance of Russia’s election. We have to remember that, even though he is sure to win, in an authoritarian state like Russia, the win has to be overwhelming or the leader loses legitimacy. Thus, Putin’s speech is principally aimed at his public.

    U.S. policy-makers should not over-react, much less panic. They should see the speech for what it is, remain firm in establishing a strong position, and highlight Putin’s hint in his speech about negotiations.

    Some are reacting to Putin’s statement that Russia’s new weapons can defeat missile defenses. This only reflects the depths of Russian misunderstanding. U.S. missile defenses are not designed to, and are not intended to, defend against an intentional Russian nuclear attack. They are designed to defend against a limited attack from a nation such as Iran or North Korea, or perhaps an accidental single launch from a more capable nation like Russia or China. This truth has never penetrated Russia’s calculus. But we know what our defenses are, and are not, intended to do.

    John Sipher, former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service
    I don’t think any of it is a surprise to those in the U.S. government that have been watching Russia. It is vintage Putin.

    I would advise our policymakers not to make too much of Putin’s comments. They are not a surprise. It is his means to deter the much bigger and more powerful West, and signal to his people prior to the Russian Presidential “election” that he is a serious player on the international stage. Our reaction should be to continue to modernize and improve our nuclear and military capability, and support our allies.

    So much of this goes directly to Putin, his mindset and a long-held sense of betrayal and inferiority. It may be surprising to those who don’t follow Russia, but it is 100% consistent for anyone who has been watching Putin over the years.

    First, the weapon systems he described are real and the U.S. has been aware of them for years. I don’t know, but would bet that our recent discussions of nuclear modernization etc. was in reaction to some of these things that we have witnessed the Russians working on.

    Creating doomsday weapons is also consistent with what we saw in 2016. Russian hybrid warfare, information warfare known as “Active Measures” are the weapons of the weak against the strong. Like terrorists who cannot take on a superpower frontally, they look for weaknesses to exploit. Our tribalism and hyper-partisanship was our weakness. Likewise, seeking a powerful nuclear capability – to include “secret” weapons – is a means by which a weaker power can deter a stronger one.

    Putin is all about staying in power. He needs to look powerful to his people and his neighbors. He needs to have an enemy to blame for the problems at home. He has been bitter for a long-time over the U.S. comfort with taking action around the world, without taking Russia into account. He grew up in a superpower and was scarred by its downfall for being “weak.” Likewise, he has seen the U.S. involved in regime change in Serbia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Ukraine etc. He fears and is angered by it. He blames us for things we’ve done and much we haven’t. He is obsessed with appearing strong.

    By taking such an aggressive tone, he is like a cornered animal. He is escalating the debate, and also appealing to his people that Russia is a great power.

    Andrew Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs
    What is so striking about President Vladimir Putin’s macho nuclear saber-rattling and announcement of new nuclear weapons systems is how closely it echoes President Donald Trump’s recent nuclear chest-thumping and announcement of new nuclear weapons systems. Look out world, we are in an arms race that is spinning out of control. Where are statesmen like Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev when we so badly need them?

    Granted, some of this is political posturing, as Putin’s speech is on the eve of the Russian presidential elections. Although they are uncontested, Kremlin worries over an embarrassing low turnout persist. After 18 years of economic cronyism and corruption under Putin, the economy is in a doldrums, reminiscent of the Leonid Brezhnev-era stagnation.

    Although presidential nuclear rhetoric, or declaratory policy, matters a lot, as a former director of the Nuclear Weapons Council, I tend to focus on actual investments in nuclear weapons hardware. The most worrisome recent trend is major Russian and American investment in new nuclear weapons systems, especially the most dangerous and destabilizing class of nuclear weapons – cruise missiles. These weapons, which come in indistinguishable conventional and nuclear variants, can be launched without warning in decapitating first strikes. They are also nearly impossible to defend against, so it is not surprising that Putin framed his new nuclear cruise missiles as intended to bypass America’s ballistic missile defenses.

    So what next? Intriguingly, both Trump and Putin have explicitly left the door open for a return to the arms control negotiating table. In a best case scenario, all of these new nuclear weapons systems could be used as bargaining chips in the arms control deal of the 21st Century. Since 2015, Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and I have been quietly building the case around the world for a bold next step in global arms control – an effort to cap and eliminate all nuclear armed cruise missiles. This would include all nuclear-tipped sea-, air- and ground-launched cruise missiles of any range, and could also capture the underwater drone cited in Putin’s speech. The alternative to arms control is a costly and dangerous arms race nobody can win.

    Daniel Hoffman, former CIA Chief of Station
    Putin’s speech was very much a domestic campaign stump speech, but in addition to being aimed at Russian constituents, it was directed at regional and global allies and enemies, including the United States.

    There are three takeaways. First, Putin deliberately exaggerates the military threat from NATO, and he does this for two reasons: to justify the existence of his own military spy state, and to conflate this purported military threat with the West’s democratic ideals, which are the real existential threat to Putin’s security. That’s an old Soviet tactic.

    Secondly, he is essentially outlining the Putin Doctrine, which is Soviet-style military strength focused on a nuclear capability. Putin has mounted aggressive military campaigns in former Soviet states as well as the Middle East, and this approach gives Russia a measure of deterrence as well as a free hand as it acts the aggressor in these regions.

    And lastly, we’re hearing a little bit of the same economic message that we heard 10 years ago when [current Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev was “running for president.” He talked about the “three I’s”: innovation, investment, and infrastructure. Putin is similarly promising economic growth for his citizens, and it sounds to me like a Soviet five-year plan. But that message is delivered in the context of this “serious threat from the West,” which is, as Putin would argue, making his job of economic growth that much more difficult. This supposed threat is the reason for whatever he has failed to do domestically.

    As for technology – what’s new is Putin’s open description and bluster about a new intercontintental ballistic missile (ICBM), a supersonic weapon, and a new small nuclear warhead. It’s like the equivalent of the Soviet military parade on “Defend the Fatherland Day,” but Putin is just doing it with words. And he’s got to do it now because he has an election on March 18.

    The person Putin holds in the greatest esteem is his mentor, Yuri Andropov, former director of the KGB and General Secretary of the Communist Party. Putin follows a lot of the same basic central tenets of governance, including a real effort to project military power even though his economy is the size of Italy. He wants to project a level of Russian military power that allows it to go toe-to-toe with the United States on the world stage. It’s a little bit of bluster, but it’s designed psychologically to show he’s on the world stage and competing against the United States—“just like the old days.”

  6. #6
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    Well so much for sanctions.....

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    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/03/w...?smid=tw-share

    Middle East

    Need a North Korean Missile? Call the Cairo Embassy

    By DECLAN WALSH
    MARCH 3, 2018

    CAIRO — On an island in the Suez Canal, a towering AK-47 rifle, its muzzle and bayonet pointed skyward, symbolizes one of Egypt’s most enduring alliances. Decades ago, North Korea presented it to Egypt to commemorate the 1973 war against Israel, when North Korean pilots fought and died on the Egyptian side.

    But now the statue has come to signify another aspect of Egypt’s ties to North Korea: a furtive trade in illegal weapons that has upset President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s otherwise cozy relationship with the United States, set off a painful cut in military aid and drawn unremitting scrutiny from United Nations inspectors.

    Egypt has purchased North Korean weapons and allowed North Korean diplomats to use their Cairo embassy as a base for military sales across the region, American and United Nations officials say. Those transactions earned vital hard cash for North Korea, but they violated international sanctions and drew the ire of Egypt’s main military patron, the United States, which cut or suspended $291 million in military aid in August.

    Tensions may bubble up again in the coming weeks with the publication of a United Nations report that contains new information about the cargo of a rusty North Korean freighter intercepted off the coast of Egypt in 2016. The ship was carrying 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades worth an estimated $26 million.

    The report, due to be released this month, identifies the customer for the weapons as an arm of the Arab Organization for Industrialization, Egypt’s main state weapons conglomerate. Mr. Sisi heads the committee that oversees the group.


    Related Coverage

    Trump Announces Harsh New Sanctions Against North Korea FEB. 23, 2018

    Visiting Egypt, Tillerson Is Silent on Its Wave of Repression FEB. 12, 2018

    U.S. Slaps Egypt on Human Rights Record and Ties to North Korea AUG. 22, 2017

    Trump Shifts Course on Egypt, Praising Its Authoritarian Leader APRIL 3, 2017


    Egypt has previously denied being the intended recipient of the weapons, or breaching international sanctions. In response to questions about the United Nations finding, the State Information Service said this past week: “The relevant Egyptian authorities have undertaken all the necessary measures in relation to the North Korean ship in full transparency and under the supervision” of United Nations officials.

    After the Trump administration slashed aid last summer, Egyptian officials said they were cutting military ties to North Korea, reducing the size of its Cairo embassy and monitoring the activities of North Korean diplomats. The relationship with North Korea is “limited to representation, and there is almost no existing economic or other areas of cooperation,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a news conference with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in Cairo last month.

    But that diplomatic representation, in an embassy that doubles as a regional arms dealership, is the problem, American officials have said. In addition, Washington worries that North Korea, a longtime supplier of ballistic missile technology to Egypt, is still supplying missile parts, said Andrea Berger, a North Korea specialist at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

    “Ballistic missile customers are the most concerning of North Korea’s partners and deserve the highest attention,” she said. “Egypt is one of those.”

    The Embassy
    North Korea’s largest embassy in the Middle East, an elegant, three-story Victorian building with a rusty brass plate over the entrance, sits on a leafy street on an island in the Nile. The embassy walls display photos of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, standing in a garden or strolling through a fish market. Its windows are usually shuttered, and security guards discourage passers-by from taking photos.

    Like those of many North Korean outposts, the duties of the Cairo embassy extend well beyond diplomacy.

    In Africa especially, North Korean diplomats have engaged in a wide variety of ruses and schemes to earn hard currency, United Nations investigators say. In South Africa and Mozambique, North Korean diplomats have been implicated in rhino poaching. In Namibia, North Koreans built giant statues and a munitions factory. In Angola, they trained the presidential guard in martial arts.

    In Egypt, their business is weapons. United Nations inspectors and North Korean defectors say the Cairo embassy has become a bustling arms bazaar for covert sales of North Korean missiles and cut-price Soviet-era military hardware across a band of North Africa and the Middle East.

    Shielded by diplomatic cover and front companies, North Korean officials have traveled to Sudan, which was then subject to an international trade embargo, to sell satellite-guided missiles, according to records obtained by the United Nations. Others flew to Syria, where North Korea has supplied items that could be used in the production of chemical weapons.

    Inside the embassy, arms dealing goes right to the top. In November 2016, the United States and the United Nations sanctioned the ambassador, Pak Chun-il, describing him as an agent of North Korea’s largest arms company, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation.

    At least five other North Korean officials based in Egypt, employed by state security or various arms fronts, have been sanctioned. One of them, Kim Song-chol, traveled to Khartoum in 2013 as part of a $6.8 million deal for the sale of 180 missiles and missile parts to Sudan.

    According to this year’s sanctions report, Mr. Kim and another sanctioned official based in Cairo, Son Jong-hyok, continue to deal with Sudan’s state-controlled Military Industrial Corporation.

    “An arms dealer with a diplomatic passport is still an arms dealer,” Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in 2016.

    The Ship
    For weeks in the summer of 2016, American intelligence had covertly tracked the Jie Shun, the ship filled with rocket-propelled grenades that has become a focus of Cairo’s ties to North Korea. As it neared the Suez Canal in August, according to a Western diplomat familiar with the case, the Americans warned the Egyptians it might be carrying contraband, effectively forcing them to intervene.

    The seizure was the largest interdiction of munitions since sanctions were imposed on North Korea in 2006 — a significant victory in the international effort, including an arms embargo and export restrictions, to force Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear weapons program.

    For the next three months, with the Jie Shun impounded at Ain Sokhna port, a diplomatic tug-of-war played out. The Americans wanted to send officials to inspect the dilapidated freighter and its illicit cargo. North Korea sent a diplomat to negotiate its release.

    The Egyptians refused both demands, but in November 2016 agreed to allow United Nations inspectors to board the ship. But by then, valuable information about the identity of the customer for the rockets, which had been hidden under mounds of iron ore, was missing. The North Korean crew had been sent home, which meant the inspectors could not interview them.

    But one piece of evidence remained, in the form of a name stenciled on the rocket crates: “Al Sakr Factory for Developed Industries (AOI),” Egypt’s principal missile research and development company and a subsidiary of its sprawling state weapons conglomerate, the Arab Organization for Industrialization.

    Mohamed Abdulrahman, the chairman of Al Sakr, did not respond to emailed questions about the shipment. In its statement, Egypt’s State Information Service said the measures taken by the country were “praised” by the United Nations’ sanctions committee, “which reiterated that the way Egypt dealt with this case is a model to be followed in similar situations.”

    Secret Missile Cooperation
    The Jie Shun shipment was a glaring example of how cash-starved North Korea has helped finance its nuclear program by hawking stocks of cheap, Soviet-era weapons to countries that developed a reliance on those systems during the Cold War, American officials and analysts say.

    But it also pointed to an established smuggling route and an entrenched military-to-military trading relationship that American officials say has long been a conduit for ballistic missile technology.

    Starting in the 1970s, Cairo and Pyongyang collaborated to extend the range and accuracy of Soviet Scud missiles, said Owen Sirrs, a former agent with the Defense Intelligence Agency. In the late 1990s, American officials worried that Egypt was trying to buy North Korea’s Nodong missile system, which has a range of about 800 miles.

    “We were sending démarches to the Egyptians to say, ‘Knock it off — we’re sending you hundreds of F-16s, and you don’t need that North Korean crap,’” said Mr. Sirrs, who was based in Cairo at the time and now lectures at the University of Montana.

    It is unclear if Egypt ever acquired the Nodong missiles. Although Cairo has spent billions on high-profile military purchases in recent years, including Russian fighter jets, French aircraft carriers and German submarines, it has been notably cagey about its offensive missile capabilities.

    In 2013, a shipment of spare parts for Scud-B missiles, which have a shorter range than the Nodong, was intercepted in transit as it was shipped by air from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing to a military-controlled company in Cairo. The missile components had been labeled parts for fish-processing machinery.

    Egypt denied that the military company had ordered the Scud parts.

    Such missiles could strike Israel from deep inside Egyptian territory. They could also reach Ethiopia, with which Egypt has a simmering dispute over a new dam on the Nile.

    The Politics of Sanctions Evasion
    The Trump administration has scored some successes in its drive to isolate North Korea from its allies, notably with the Philippines and Singapore last fall. But Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion annually in American aid, has resisted Mr. Trump’s entreaties.

    Egypt’s relationship with North Korea runs deep. President Hosni Mubarak was regularly feted in Pyongyang before his ouster in 2011. An Egyptian tycoon, Naguib Sawiris, built North Korea’s main cellphone network and invested in a bank there. Along with the AK-47 monument on the Suez Canal, North Korea built a large war museum in Cairo that is frequently visited by Egyptian schoolchildren.

    Egypt’s military leaders are reluctant to cut those ties and lose access to Soviet-era weapons and ballistic missile systems, analysts say, a posture bolstered by their reflexive distaste for appearing to bow to American pressure. They may feel that, based on past experience, American criticism will eventually abate.

    “They think they can evade the consequences,” said Andrew Miller of the Project on Middle East Democracy, who until last year worked on Egypt at the State Department. “That they are continuing to stonewall and obfuscate and pursue this course of action indicates they think they can get away with it, and whatever price will be imposed on them will be bearable.”

    At the North Korean Embassy in Cairo, now under a new ambassador, business continues as usual. North Korean state media has said little about the ambassador, Ma Tong-hui, other than to note that his previous post was as head of a little-known government body in Pyongyang called the Disarmament and Peace Institute.

    Follow Declan Walsh on Twitter: @declanwalsh
    Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from New York, and Nour Youssef from Cairo.

  7. #7
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    Hummm....

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    https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/03/0...tarts-ticking/

    The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock starts ticking

    Published 2 days ago on March 3, 2018
    By Dr. James M. Dorsey

    The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock is ticking as nations pursue peaceful capabilities that potentially leave the door open to future military options.

    Concern about a nuclear arms race is fuelled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

    The Trump administration was mulling loosening controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu prepared, in an address this week to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to urge US President Donald J. Trump to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions.

    Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage.

    The US has signalled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies with Westinghouse in the lead have a stake in the kingdom’s plan to build by 2032 16 reactors that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

    In putting forward demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia was backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the United States in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

    “The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives,” warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

    While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to Saudi demands, Messrs Trump and Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests.

    European signatories to the agreement are pressuring Iran to engage in negotiations to limit its ballistic missile program and drop its support for groups like Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Iran. Iran has rejected any renegotiation but has kept the door open to discussions about a supplementary agreement. Saudi Arabia has suggested it may accept tight US controls if Iran agreed to a toughening of its agreement with the international community.

    The Trump administration recently allowed high-tech US exports to Iran that could boost international oversight of the nuclear deal. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan signed a waiver that allows a Maryland-based company to export broadband networks, satellite dishes and wireless equipment to Iran for stations that monitor nuclear explosions in real time.

    Iranian resistance to a renegotiation is enhanced by the fact that Europe and even the Trump administration admit that Hezbollah despite having been designated a terrorist organization by the US is an undeniable political force in Lebanon. “We…have to recognize the reality that (Hezbollah) are also part of the political process in Lebanon,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the eve of a visit to Beirut.

    A US willingness to go easy on demanding that Saudi Arabia adhere to tough safeguards enshrined in US export control laws, widely viewed as the gold standard, would open a Pandora’s box.

    The United Arab Emirates, the Arab nation closest to inaugurating its first nuclear reactor, has already said that it would no longer be bound by the safeguards it agreed to a decade ago if others in the region were granted a more liberal regime. So would countries like Egypt and Jordan that are negotiating contracts with non-US companies for construction of nuclear reactors. A US backing away from its safeguards in the case of Saudi Arabia would potentially add a nuclear dimension to the already full-fledged arms in the Middle East.

    The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) cautioned last year in a report that the Iranian nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons… There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities, motivated by its concerns about the ending of the (Iranian agreement’s) major nuclear limitations starting after year 10 of the deal or sooner if the deal fails.”

    Rather than embarking on a covert program, the report predicted that Saudi Arabia would, for now, focus on building up its civilian nuclear infrastructure as well as a robust nuclear engineering and scientific workforce. This would allow the kingdom to take command of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at some point in the future. Saudi Arabia has in recent years significantly expanded graduate programs at its five nuclear research centres.

    “The current situation suggests that Saudi Arabia now has both a high disincentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the short term and a high motivation to pursue them over the long term,” the report said.

    Saudi officials have repeatedly insisted that the kingdom is developing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes such as medicine, electricity generation, and desalination of sea water. They said Saudi Arabia is committed to putting its future facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    Vietnam constitutes a precedent for application of less stringent US safeguards. The US settled for a non-binding Vietnamese statement of intent in the preamble of its agreement that Vietnam had no intention to pursue fuel cycle capabilities.

    Tailoring Saudi demands of parity with Iran could be addressed, according to former senior US non-proliferation official Robert Einhorn, by sequencing controls to match timelines in the Iranian nuclear agreement. This could involve:

    — establishing a bilateral fuel cycle commission that, beginning in year 10, would jointly evaluate future Saudi reactor fuel requirements and consider alternative means of meeting those requirements, including indigenous enrichment;

    — creating provisions for specific Saudi enrichment and reprocessing activities that would be allowed if approved on a case-by-case basis by mutual consent and would kick in in year 15;

    — limiting the period after which Saudi Arabia, without invoking the agreement’s withdrawal provision, could end the accord and terminate its commitment to forgo fuel cycle capabilities if it believed the United States was exercising its consent rights in an unreasonably restrictive manner.

    Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir recently raised the stakes by declaring that the kingdom was engaged in talks with ten nations about its nuclear program, including Russia and China, nations that impose less stringent safeguards but whose technology is viewed as inferior to that of the United States.

    To strengthen its position, Saudi Arabia has added Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, an international law firm specialized in energy regulation, to its army of lobbyists and public relations firms in Washington, in a bid to ensure it gets a favourable agreement with the United States.

    “Allowing Moscow to gain a nuclear foothold in Saudi Arabia would deal a serious blow to U.S. regional influence and prestige,” warned the Washington-based Arabia Foundation’s Ali Shihabi.

  8. #8
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    https://www.longwarjournal.org/archi...-in-london.php

    ISIS supporter tried to recruit 55 children for attacks in London

    BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | March 2, 2018 | tjoscelyn@gmail.com | @thomasjoscelyn

    The UK Metropolitan Police announced today that three men have been convicted on terrorism-related charges after it was learned they planned to use up to 55 children in attacks throughout London.

    The thwarted plot was conceived by Umar Ahmed Haque, a 25-year-old from east London who worked as an administrator at “an after-school madrasa at Ripple Road Mosque in Barking.” Two other men were also convicted of playing supporting roles in Haque’s scheme, which targeted “up to 30 groups, businesses and establishments in London.”

    UK counterterrorism officials first became suspicious of Haque in Apr. 2016, when “police officers stopped him at Heathrow Airport as he attempted to fly to Istanbul, Turkey.” Istanbul has been a common transit point for jihadists seeking to join the Islamic State or other groups in Syria. The officers discovered that Haque’s phone has been used to perform “detailed searches for terrorist attacks and executions.” Although he couldn’t be charged at the time under existing laws, Haque’s “passport was revoked by the Home Office under Royal Prerogative.”

    Back in the UK, Haque began working on a twisted idea to indoctrinate and then deploy children in terrorist attacks.

    During “a five-hour phone conversation” in Mar. 2017, Haque told another convicted participant in his plot, Muhammad Abid (a 27-year-old from east London), that “he had radicalized 16 children.”

    The police apparently didn’t have corroborating intelligence at first, but they continued their investigation after arresting Haque, Abid and a third man, Abuthaher Mamun (29).

    Working with social workers, the police discovered that Haque “had attempted to radicalize 55 children aged 11 to 14 while working at Ripple Road Mosque.”

    “All 55 children have received safeguarding support and 35 have been assessed to require longer-term support, which is being provided to them,” according to the UK Metropolitan Police’s statement.

    “When specially trained officers interviewed the children, they described being shown by Haque horrific videos of extreme terrorist violence including executions,” Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, explained. “They told police how Haque made them roleplay terrorists and police officers, with the children acting as terrorists being made to stab the ‘police officers’ to death.”

    The roleplaying described by Haydon is similar to the horrific scenes included in numerous Islamic State videos. The so-called caliphate has repeatedly used children to execute captives, often having them shoot, stab or behead their victims. The jihadists have also used children in suicide bombings.

    The group developed a program named “Cubs of the Caliphate,” which is responsible for raising a generation of young jihadists. The program has been implemented everywhere from Afghanistan to Syria. Some of the Islamic State leaders killed in the US-led coalition’s targeted air campaign have played leading roles in the “Cubs of the Caliphate” initiative. In addition, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization launched a social media application for children that was intended to provide basic instruction.

    Although the UK Metropolitan Police doesn’t mention the Islamic State’s prolific use of boys in its operations, it is certainly possible this is what inspired Haque.

    “The children were paralyzed by fear of Haque, who they understood to have connections to terrorists and who essentially told them that a violent fate would befall them if they told anyone what he was doing,” Commander Haydon said. “They were too afraid to confide in anyone.”

    Haque is “a dangerous man who was inspired by attacks in Europe and Westminster,” according to Haydon. “He wanted to orchestrate numerous attacks at once, using guns, knives, bombs and large cars to kill innocent people.”

    The Westminster attack, which influenced Haque, took place in Mar. 2017, when Khalid Masood (52) drove his car into a crowd of people and then jumped out of the vehicle to assault others with a blade. The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency quickly claimed that Masood was its “soldier.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, London terrorist a ‘soldier’ of the Islamic State, group claims.]

    Haque discussed his plan with Abid during the aforementioned phone call the same month (Mar. 2017) as Masood’s vehicular assault. Haque was then arrested in May 2017.

    Haydon provided more details concerning Haque’s patient plotting, saying that Haque’s “plan was a long-term one,” which “he intended to execute…years later.” By that time, Haque “anticipated he would have trained and acquired an army of soldiers, including children.”

    During “conversations with Mamun,” the Met Police say, Haque “discussed various aspects of his plot, from how to increase the strength of a bomb and what type of vehicle to use, to where to carry out an attack and what the police response would be.”

    Mamun “helped Haque strategize, and was planning to take driving lessons so that he could teach others in Haque’s aspirational ‘army’ to drive.” Mamun “also made unsuccessful attempts to invest money online in order to raise money to fund Haque’s plans.”

    Haque’s ambitions went even further, as he told Abid that he wanted “another 30 or 40 men on standby” in case he was arrested. Haque also confided in Abid that he wanted the British public to be “annihilated.”

    Haque, Maun and Abid were all found guilty today on charges related to the plot involving children. A fourth man, who was arrested during the investigation into Haque’s activities, “previously pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon.”

    Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

  9. #9
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    A similar idea was proposed for the upgraded F-15C "Golden Eagle" using PAC-3s (I posted the article back when it came out just couldn't find it...HC)...

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    https://www.realcleardefense.com/art...-6_113137.html

    Giving the Super Hornet More Punch: Think SM-6

    By Jason Blackstone
    March 01, 2018

    In the Navy’s recent budget request, the Navy finally funded the design an acquisition of conformal fuel tanks for the Super Hornet. With the potential to extend the range of the Hornet with a low drag external fuel tank, the tanks can either expand the range of a Super Hornet or free up two high capacity weapons stations by replacing the two external tanks currently used on almost every flight. One option would help to restore a long-range interception role that has been missing from the Navy since the retirement of the Tomcat in the 2000s. With four capacity weapons stations available on the Super Hornet, the SM-6 Dual I SAM could be modified to serve as a long-range air to air missile, much like the Standard SM-1 was modified to serve as an anti-radiation during the Vietnam War.

    Since the retirement of the Tomcat from carrier decks in 2006, the Navy has lacked an interceptor with the ability to engage targets capable of carrying long-range cruise missiles. With the death of the Soviet Naval Bomber Force at the end of the Cold War, there has not been a country capable of operating more than a handful of cruise missile carrying bombers. In the past few years, the threat scope has changed dramatically, as Soviet operations have expanded, and the Chinese bomber force has been modernized with the introduction of the Badger H-6K. The Navy does not have an interceptor capable of shooting the archer before he shoots his arrows. A Super Hornet with three external fuel tanks and a full air intercept load of 6 AIM-120D has rather limited effective combat radius of around 400 miles. As a result, the maximum engagement range of the Super Hornet/AIM-120D combination less than Tomcat/Phoenix combination from the 1990s.

    The Navy currently has two products in development that can address this new long-range cruise missile threat: The Block III Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks and the SM-6 Dual II missile. The Block III Super Hornet in development will include conformal fuel tanks that will allow the Block III Hornet to have an increased combat radius while freeing up the high capacity weapons stations 4 and 8. A Block III Hornet with the conformal fuel tanks will be able to carry 4 SM-6 Dual II missiles and 6 AIM-120D missiles along with a single external fuel tank on weapons station 6 to a combat radius of 510 miles.

    The SM-6 Dual II missile currently in development by the Navy is capable of engaging both air and surface targets out to a range of 130 miles when launched from the surface. The missile is about 15 feet in length and 1,800 pounds, and so can be accommodated on four weapons stations of the Super Hornet, weapons stations 3, 4, 8, and 9. In a Block II Super Hornet, weapons stations 4, 6, and 8 are normally occupied by external fuel tanks, but on a Block III Hornet, with weapons stations 4 and 8 freed, an SM-6 can be carried on the 4 stations mentioned earlier.

    The process of qualifying the SM-6 Dual I to be carried on a Super Hornet should not be needlessly complex. The SM-6’s predecessor, the SM-1, was similarly modified from a naval SAM to an air-carriage configuration. This process took around two years to create an operational product. The SM-6 has been designed to be easily updated using software updates, as evidenced by the newly enabled ability to engage surface targets. Capt. Michael Ladner, program manager, told USNI News in 2014 that several new missions could be added via software-only upgrades. In addition to being easily reconfigurable, the SM-6 has been shown to work with the Navy’s fighter datalinks by the engagement of an aerial target utilizing targeting data provided by an F-35 in 2016. A short development process would allow the SM-6 to be qualified for Super Hornet use by 2020.

    There are some additional benefits beyond providing a counter to the emerging long-range cruise missile bomber threat. At first instance, the SM-6 would provide a much longer range air-to-air missile than the AIM-120D and help to bridge the gap between the AIM-120D and the longest ranged Chinese and Russian AAMs that are either in development or newly in service. The SM-6 would also provide a more effective anti-ship weapon to the Super Hornet. Notwithstanding, it is a smaller warhead than the Harpoon, the SM-6 provides a much larger kinetic punch than the subsonic AGM-84 Harpoon due to its Mach 4 speed, is more survivable against modern CIWS systems due to its high speed and has a longer range. If the SM-6 were to be acquired in large quantities for airborne use, the per unit cost of the missiles would drop dramatically and allow the missile to be purchased in larger quantities for use in the original SAM role. Additionally, the employment of the SM-6 on the Super Hornet would allow potentially allow for the Super Hornet to widen the engagement range of a carrier strike group in the BMD role.

    This modification is a low risk, low cost endeavor that could provide a much greater engagement range of the current carrier strike group against air threats and should be explored soon and taken seriously.

    Jason Blackstone is currently an attorney in private practice related to patents and technical issues. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in both Physics and Journalism and a focus on strategic issues and foreign affairs, and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
    Last edited by Housecarl; 03-05-2018 at 03:52 PM. Reason: fixed spelling of "Eagle"

  10. #10
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    https://www.militarytimes.com/flashp...-taliban-dont/

    Flashpoints

    US, Afghan leaders agree on peace push, Taliban don't

    By: Matthew Pennington, The Associated Press  
    12 hours ago

    WASHINGTON — Despite U.S. support, the Afghan government’s surprising new peace offer to the Taliban is immediately running into a wall. The insurgents show no sign of shifting from their demand that talks for a conflict-ending compromise take place with Washington, not Kabul.

    The impasse is blocking a diplomatic path out of America’s longest-running war and could prove as fateful as fortunes on the battlefield.

    The Trump administration says it’s escalating pressure on the Taliban to advance a negotiated solution to the fighting. But diplomacy is a distant second to military efforts right now, and the U.S. isn’t offering carrots of its own to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms.

    Laurel Miller, who until last June was a senior American diplomat for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the U.S. should be clearer about what it’s willing to negotiate on, including when it might start pulling forces from Afghanistan. “That could set the stage for talks,” she said.

    Such a timetable seems a remote prospect, and President Donald Trump has consistently railed against the idea of telling the enemy when the U.S. might leave. The U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict is now in its 17th year, and 10,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in 2017 alone. All sides are hung up on even the format for potential negotiations. The Obama administration’s peace push, which relied heavily on Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, floundered in 2015.

    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s new effort, announced at an international conference in Kabul this past week, includes incentives for insurgents that join negotiations and enter the political mainstream. The government would provide passports and visas to Taliban members and their families, and work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders, he said. The Islamist group could set up an office.

    Alice Wells, America’s top diplomat for South Asia, endorsed the overture and said the “onus” was on the Taliban to demonstrate they’re ready to talk, “not to me or the United States, but to the sovereign and legitimate government and people of Afghanistan.”

    With wounds and emotions still raw in Kabul after a wave of brutal Taliban attacks in Kabul in late January, Ghani’s offer was a significant olive branch. Still, it’s one unlikely to change the calculus of hard-line insurgents, said Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center think tank.

    And Barnett Rubin, a New York University expert on Afghanistan who advised the Obama administration, said: “The trouble is that the major issue the Taliban is interested in talking about is the one he has no control over — the presence of American troops in Afghanistan.”

    Top Afghan security officials maintain back-channel discussions with Taliban, The Associated Press has learned, but the officials’ efforts are not coordinated and more formal talks are impeded by the Taliban’s insistence that its “Islamic Emirate,” ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 for hosting al-Qaida, remains Afghanistan’s legitimate government.

    “America must end her occupation and must accept all our legitimate rights including the right to form a government consistent with the beliefs of our people,” the militant group said in a rambling Feb. 14 letter addressed to the American people and “peace-loving congressmen.” It sought “peaceful dialogue” with Washington.

    Events on the ground are moving in the opposite direction.

    Since August, when Trump recommitted America to an indefinite military presence in the country, the U.S. has sent in thousands of additional forces to train Afghans, bringing the total U.S. troop figure to more than 14,000. The U.S. has intensified airstrikes, though there has been no significant dent on the Taliban, which control or contest nearly half the country.

    Shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb using an ambulance that killed more than 100 people in Kabul, Trump declared on Jan. 29: “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time.”

    U.S. officials have conveyed messages to Taliban political representatives in Qatar, urging the group to join talks with the Afghan government. Neighboring countries are doubtful about America’s commitment to a political resolution. Pakistan, Iran and Russia are thought to maintain ties to militant proxies inside Afghanistan in case the war-ravaged country collapses.

    Miller, now a senior foreign policy expert at Rand Corp., said peace would require heavy lifting by the Trump administration, which has yet to appoint a top diplomat for the region. The war might need international mediation.

    “It’s not enough to say the door is open, let’s have a peace process,” she said. “You have to make it happen.”

  11. #11
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    https://www.yahoo.com/news/burkina-f...151349451.html

    Burkina Faso arrests likely key attack suspect: govt source

    AFP • March 4, 2018

    Ouagadougou (AFP) - A suspected key figure in the deadly Burkina Faso attacks has been arrested, a government source said Sunday, adding that there were suspicions of complicity by the army.

    Saying the suspect could be "one of the brains" behind the attacks, the source told AFP there were "very strong suspicions" that "army infiltrators" had passed information to the assailants for the coordinated attacks in the capital Ouagadougou Friday claimed by GSIM, a jihadist group allied to al-Qaeda.

    The arrested suspect's nationality was not revealed. A second man was also arrested and questioned, but is of lesser interest to investigators, the source said.

    Sunday saw further unrest when one person was shot dead after three people attempted to storm a roadblock in the early hours near the presidential compound.

    Two of the trio managed to flee the scene but the third was arrested and gunned down after attempting to seize the weapon of a guard, according to government and security sources.

    Friday's twin attacks on the French embassy and the country's military HQ in the capital saw seven soldiers killed, which was a new toll after eight had previously been declared dead.

    The source added that nine assailants were killed, one more than previously reported. At least 80 people were injured.

    Some of the assailants may have managed to flee the attack on the military HQ, a government source said.

    - Inside job?-

    The attackers "had knowledge of the current habits and practices inside the (army) headquarters," another governmental source said Saturday, which is how they managed to access the service entrance.

    The assailants were also wearing army uniforms, another sign of possible help from inside.

    Investigators are considering whether the attack on the well-protected French embassy was merely a diversion.

    That attack resulted in the death of four jihadists who were unable to enter the diplomatic compound, the source said.

    A group of French investigators arrived in Ouagadougou on Saturday to help the Burkinabe authorities.

    The government has said the attack on the military HQ was a suicide car bombing and that a regional anti-terrorism meeting may have been the intended target.

    That meeting had been moved to a different room, otherwise the death toll could have been far higher.

    Visiting the HQ on Saturday, Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba said he saw "apocalyptic scenes" and condemned "with the utmost severity this terrorist attack, cowardly, which attacks our country, once again, which sows death, unnecessary destruction".

    GSIM, which has admitted responsibility for previous attacks in the troubled Sahel region, claimed to have carried out the twin attacks, in a message cited by Mauritania's Al-Akhbar news agency.

    The group said the Ouagadoudou attacks were a response to the deaths of some of its leaders "in a French army raid in northern Mali two weeks ago," the agency reported.

    According to French military sources, some 20 jihadists were "killed or captured" on that occasion.

    Burkina Faso has been the target of jihadist attacks since 2015, but they had never previously been carried out with this level of organisation.

    "I hope it stops." said Bouri Sawadogo, a local student, "because with the frequency that this is happening we're all scared".

    3 reactions

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    https://www.yahoo.com/news/france-te...--finance.html

    France says Iran ballistic missile program a major concern

    Reuters • March 4, 2018

    PARIS (Reuters) - France's foreign ministry said on Sunday that Iran's ballistic missile program was a major concern, a day before foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was due to visit Tehran.

    The ministry said it wanted Iran to contribute in a "positive" manner to solving crises in the Middle-East.

    "In this regard the crisis in Syria and the humanitarian situation there will particularly be discussed along with other regional issues where Iran is involved (Yemen, Libya, Iraq)", the ministry added.

    (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

    40 reactions

  13. #13

    4 Russia Successfully Tests Iskander-M Missile System

    The Iskander-M is Russian short-range ballistic missile system, equipped with supersonic, guided nuclear-capable missiles which have a range of up to 500 kilometers and are fully controlled at every stage of their flight path.



    The Russian Defense Ministry has reported a successful test-launch of an Iskander-M missile, which took place at the Kapustin Yar firing range in southern Russia’s Astrakhan region.

    “Fired at a range of more than 100km, the missile is aimed at a target simulating the command post of a conventional enemy. The target was destroyed with a high degree of accuracy,” the ministry said.The Iskander-M missile launch became the final stage of the tactical drills for Russian servicemen based at the 60th training center for the combat use of missile forces.

    The Iskander-M is one of Russia’s newest high-precision weapons, which entered service at the country’s armed forces in 2006. Its supersonic, guided nuclear-capable missiles, ranged at 415-500km, can be independently targeted in seconds, and are fully controlled at every stage of their flight path. https://muraselon.com/en/2018/03/vid...issile-system/ [video at the link]

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    http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...oups-in-turkey

    The Rise of Paramilitary Groups in Turkey

    by Suat Cubukcu
    Journal Article | March 2, 2018 - 11:32pm

    Introduction
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has extensively consolidated his power through massive purges and a constitutional referendum that granted him sweeping dominance and authority over state institutions since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. While restructuring formal institutions, Erdogan instigated an irregular and Iranian-like militia structure that helps him control streets, inflict oppression and carry out covert operations against dissident political groups.

    Erdogan’s paramilitary structure has three distinct layers. The first layer includes pseudo-military groups that function formally as security contractors (e.g., SADAT A.S. International Defense Consulting) and informally as secretive armed forces that carry out clandestine operations that formal state institutions legally cannot implement.

    The second layer includes gang and mafia groups and their leaders (e.g., the Ottoman Germania, a Turkish nationalist boxing gang in Germany, and convicted mafia leader Sedat Peker).[i] Erdogan aims to use such criminal groups as a deterrent against his opponents and perceived enemies both within Turkey and among the large number of Turkish descendants living abroad to gain leverage over the host countries.

    The third layer includes youth clubs and hearths (e.g., Ottoman Hearths, a pro-Erdogan youth organization, and the People’s Special Operations Squad, an association founded by a former special-forces soldier)[ii] from which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) recruits adolescents and young adults with the goal of ensuring their loyalty to Erdogan and his regime.

    To consolidate his power, Erdogan has supported the emergence and growth of these groups and emboldened them to inflict fear among the Turkish people and to oppress political dissidents by granting immunity for the youths’ criminal offenses against Erdogan’s political “enemies.” Erdogan’s strategy to empower pro-government paramilitaries, however, poses grave risks for Turkish democracy and institutions.

    Background
    When Erdogan became prime minister sixteen years ago in 2002, the military, which had been known as a secular institution with a Kemalist tradition (i.e., a tradition of nationalism and secularism as established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), has been a major obstacle to Erdogan’s populist and Islamist agenda. Erdogan has presented himself a true democratic leader who aims to adapt progressive policies in pursuit of European Union membership and real democracy in Turkey. His democratic attitudes enabled him garner popular support and alliances from both conservative and liberal political groups. Erdogan, however, continued to amass political power and wield extensive control over state institutions. With a tight grip on power, Erdogan began to turn his back to his allies and his progressive policies. He embraced authoritarian leadership and policies that prioritized eliminating political alternatives and his opponents within the government bureaucracy.

    The Gezi Park protests in late May 2013 were a milestone in Erdogan’s modus operandi. Gezi Park switched Erdogan’s attention and his threat perception from state institutions to the people. He began to perceive political dissident groups as a significant threat to his regime. Since then, the government has been less tolerant of and more violent toward political opponents and critics.

    Erdogan, for example, has used terrorism charges loosely. During and after the Gezi Park protests, the Turkish government harshly oppressed and criminalized peaceful protesters of the government and its policies. Erdogan and his party members did not shy away from labeling millions of people as terrorists simply because of their political views and membership in certain social groups. The president frequently uses labeling, demonization, incarceration, and even torture to silence and deter his opponents.

    Eissenstat (2017) criticizes Erdogan for reshaping “security structures to ensure loyalty and to maintain political control” and for creating “a network of informal security structures that include military contractors, political party clubs and newly militant and mobilized AKP base” (p. 1). Erdogan’s efforts to gain control and loyalty among the military and the police have had a dramatic effect, as more than 50,000 military and law enforcement personnel have been purged since the July 15, 2016, coup attempt.[iii] Erdogan has used the “controlled,” if not staged, coup attempt as a pretext to justify his actions “in casting aside any limits, whether those based on rule of law at home or condemnation abroad” (Eissenstat, 2017, p. 4).[iv]

    Erdogan’s Paramilitary Force
    Erdogan’s paramilitary force has three layers: private armed security contractors, gangs and mafia-like groups, and youth clubs and hearths.

    First Layer: Private Armed Security Contractors
    SADAT, a private security and consulting company, is the most notorious armed group that functions as a paramilitary force for Erdogan. SADAT was established in 2012 by former military officials who were dismissed after being charged with promoting and supporting extremist Islamist ideologies. The founder and chair of SADAT, Adnan Tanriverdi, is a former general dismissed from the military in the 1990s because of his extremist leanings. Tanriverdi also is a columnist for Yeni Akit, a pro-government and Islamist newspaper that has been sympathetic to violent extremist groups. Despite Tanriverdi’s infamous reputation, Erdogan appointed the former general as his chief advisor right after the July 15 coup attempt. Multiple media reports and eyewitness accounts have said that pro-AKP militia and mafia groups, including SADAT, were responsible for many civilian killings during the coup attempt.[v] [vi] [vii]

    SADAT’s involvement would not be surprising given that its mission is to provide Islamic countries with military training on asymmetrical warfare tactics.[viii] SADAT reportedly has trained about 3,000 foreign fighters and other militants operating in Syria and Libya and received a grant from the Turkish government to do so. Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, contends that ISIS and Al-Nusra were among the groups that received military training from SADAT.
    [ix] Several media reports say that SADAT carried out clandestine operations against government opponents, including kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings. Eissenstat (2017) argues that “SADAT’s ideological profile, paramilitary experience, and close ties to government make it an ideal ally for the sort of ‘dirty war’ against opposition groups.” Tanriverdi’s close relationship with Erdogan has given the former general a powerful and active role in the redesign of the Turkish military after the massive purge of the country’s defense forces. Tanriverdi, for example, was a member of the security summit on Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin.[x]

    Second Layer: Gang and Mafia Groups
    Erdogan has developed strong relationships with gang and mafia leaders in Turkey and in other countries where large numbers of people of Turkish descent live. One such gang is Ottoman Germania, a boxing club formed by Germans of Turkish origin who adhere to far-right ideologies. The club is estimated to have 2,500 members and 20 chapters in Germany[xi] and about 3,500 members combined in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. German law enforcement conducted criminal investigations against several Ottoman Germania members for offenses that include organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and prostitution. The investigations also unearthed the club’s affiliation with the AKP and revealed how Erdogan used the club for his political aims. According to a news report in December 2017 by Frontal 21, an investigative news program of German public broadcaster ZDF, police investigations discovered the relationship between Ottoman Germania and Erdogan and Metin Kulunk, an AKP deputy and close confidant of Erdogan. [xii] Kulunk had been financing[xiii] Ottoman Germania through Mehmet Bagci and Selcuk Sahin, the former head and vice president of the group, respectively. Both men were detained in Germany on criminal charges. German police surveillance and wiretappings found that Kulunk instructed Bagci and Sahin to target Erdogan’s political enemies in Germany, telling the men to “hit Kurds over the head with sticks,” record the beatings, and provide the video footage to them, which then would use the documentation as a “deterrent” for dissidents.[xiv]

    Kulunk also has a strong relationship with Sedat Peker, a far-nationalist Turkish mafia leader and staunch supporter of Erdogan. Peker criticized the cancelation of Turkish cabinet members’ rallies in several European town in 2017 and released a video on his personal website saying that “when the right time comes, Europeans will learn exactly how our race, which has been brought up with the belief that those who look at life fearlessly are not afraid of death, can organize such protests in every corner of Europe, much worse than Gezi protests.”[xv] [xvi] [xvii]

    Bundestag intelligence oversight committee members, meanwhile, accused Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) of using around 6,000 informants in Germany to pressure Turkish Germans who do not ally with Erdogan and his party.[xviii] According to Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, a German intelligence service expert observer, the MIT’s activities in Germany had been “enormous.” He notes that “for many Turks national pride is so strongly pronounced that they regard it as an honor to be allowed to work for MIT.”[xix]

    Third Layer: Youth Clubs and Hearths
    Erdogan has become more aware of the importance of youth clubs and hearths, which are more common among right-wing political parties than parties of other political persuasions. The clubs have become recruitment sites for right-wing parties determined to turn the youths into loyal supporters of Erdogan and his party, the AKP.

    When Erdogan saw that adult members of Turkish population had grievances against and were dissatisfied with his regime, he focused on reaching out to youths by forming youth organizations from which he could recruit AKP supporters at a young age. He adopted the structure of far-right youth clubs (e.g., Ulkucu Ocaklari) with a tradition and structure that could align easily with the AKP and its Islamist ideology.

    Ottoman Hearths (Osmanli Ocaklari) were founded in 2009 and have been a pivotal civilian force in the AKP’s efforts to suppress dissidents during anti-government protests. The organization’s members have appeared at AKP rallies and protests wearing white burial shrouds, which means that they are “ready to die” for their leaders. Ottoman Hearths adopted the youth-organization structure of the ultranationalist Grey Wolves (i.e., Ulkucu Ocaklari) and combined it with the organizational structure of Turkey’s Welfare Party, or Refah Partisi (founded by Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister), and with the structure of the National Youth Foundation (Mili Genclik Vakfi). The founder and chairman of the Ottoman Hearths, Kadir Canpolat, was involved in the National View (Milli Gorus) Islamist movement.[xx]

    The reach of Ottoman Hearths has spread rapidly to each province in Turkey and now have about 2 million members across the country. It organization also has established itself in other countries, such as the United States and Germany, that host large numbers of ethnic-Turkish people.[xxi] [xxii] The groups have been under the spotlight for their alleged activities that include violently targeting opposition-party and media offices and journalists. [xxiii] Canpolat, for example, was convicted on charges of causing bodily injury, possessing and bearing weapon without a license, and kidnapping. The actions for which Canpolat was convicted befit the organization’s mission and declaration of responsibility to intervene in “social and domestic disturbances” and defend Erdogan and his regime against any kind of vigilante or insurgency. In an interview with the online news portal Middle East Eye, Ottoman Hearths Deputy Chairman Yilmaz Babaoglu said about the organization’s actions: “It was our way of showing our leader how much we appreciated his efforts to make us great country again under the aegis of a ‘New’ Turkey.” He added: “We love our nation’s leader Erdogan and his AKP. We also believe the AKP’s enemies are the nation’s enemies.” [xxiv]

    Ottoman Hearths have made their presence known at anti-Erdogan protests and rallies, working diligently to crush political dissidents. The organization responded, for example, when Erdogan threatened to use the AKP base during the Gezi Park protests and unleash a million of his people against the demonstrators. Members of Ottoman Hearths also serve as street vigilantes committed to thwarting any action they perceived as being a threat to Erdogan and the AKP. In the role of vigilante, the organization’s members have targeted several Kurdish activists. Most of these incidents have not been investigated. The head of Ottoman Hearths’ Istanbul branch, Furkan Gok, expressed on Twitter his appreciation of a suicide bomber for killing of 30 civilians in the town of Suruc on July 20, 2015, during a meeting of young Kurdish activists. [xxv] Ottoman Hearths also have been successful in mobilizing AKP supporters against protesters in Turkey's intensely polarized political environment. Members rallied for Erdogan and monitored protests that erupted during the 2014 presidential election and 2017 constitutional referendum.

    People’s Special Operations (Halk Ozel Harekat) is another organization founded to fight for Erdogan and his party in case of a civil war or a coup attempt in Turkey. [xxvi] The organization was founded by Yunus Emre Polat, who fought along with extremist groups in Syria.[xxvii] The current chairman, Fatih Kaya, served as specialist sergeant for 10 years in the Turkish Military Special Forces. He joined jihad along with opposition groups in Syria. In an interview with the BBC Turkish, Kaya said his organization is active in 22 Turkish provinces and has received 40,000 applications for membership.[xxviii]

    During the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, several media outlets and eyewitnesses reported that Ottoman Hearths, People’s Special Operations, and SADAT members were present at the event and were responsible for the loss of many lives, including the brutal killings of cadets and conscripts who already had surrendered to the police. Two cadets, Murat Tekin and Ragip Enes Katran from Air Force Academy, and four military personnel surrendered on the Bosporus bridge; however, they were stabbed to death, and their throats were brutally slit. Some of them were beheaded, as ISIS did to its victims. Some people have alleged that the three groups might have killed civilians during the failed coup attempt in order to galvanize the public against the putschists.[xxix] The AKP government, however, did not initiate a criminal investigation of these lynching, killings, and beheadings.

    Backing and Emboldening Paramilitary Groups
    Erdogan has taken a number of measures to consolidate his power and assume full control of legislation, the judiciary, the military and law enforcement since the July 15 coup attempt, which was, as Erdogan saw it, "a gift from God.”[xxx] After declaring a state of emergency immediately after the coup attempt, Erdogan purged more than 100,000 public servants. The government then bypassed parliament and issued controversial decrees that suppressed human rights and undermined Turkish democracy.[xxxi] The decrees have emboldened and empowered paramilitary groups.

    With a decree (KHK/696) issued on December 24, 2017, the government granted immunity to civilians who were deemed to have acted against the July 15 coup attempt and to those who acted to suppress subsequent terrorist activities.[xxxii] Normally, legal immunity is given to government officials, including diplomats, member of the judiciary, and some government representatives in pursuit of their duties. It is unusual, however, to grant such immunity to civilians who have no official duties and responsibilities.

    One of the most notable concerns about this contentious decree is that pro-government paramilitary groups, including contracted private security firms (e.g., SADAT), gang and mafia groups (e.g., Ottoman Germania) and AKP-affiliated youth clubs and hearths (e.g., Ottoman Hearths, People’s Special Operations) will enjoy the granted immunity during their activities that target those who are perceived to be a threat to the Erdogan regime.

    The vague language and terms used in the decree has been harshly criticized by opposition parties, social groups, and academics, as it is likely to generate conditions that justify the use violence against whomever the government perceives as terrorists.[xxxiii] [xxxiv] Erdogan and his party members did not hesitate to use the term terrorism broadly and to criminalize their political opponents. Hundreds of thousands of people, including leftists, Gulenists and Kurdish political activists, were labeled as terrorists and a “threat to national security.” [xxxv] These individuals have been harshly oppressed. More than 60,000 were imprisoned, and many of them have endured physical and psychological torture.[xxxvi] Their families have been exposed to hate speech and defamation and are disenfranchised from society. The decree, which created a gap in the civil rights and left critics unprotected from pro-government groups and vigilantes, essentially granted a security blanket to pro-paramilitary forces and rendered political opponents and their families vulnerable to retribution.

    In the absence of criminal liability for paramilitary groups, concerns have arisen about the emergence of death squads that may function under paramilitary forces. It is not uncommon for AKP members and pro-government journalists to issue death threats to their political opponents.[xxxvii]

    Another government decree (KHK/696) issued soon after the coup attempt encourages extrajudicial killings and kidnappings and provides immunity to those who commit violent crimes and hate crimes against political dissidents whom the government has labeled as terrorists. As a side effect of the decree, violent criminals will enjoy sweeping immunity because they can claim that their actions were aimed at persons labeled as terrorists. The criminals will be able to justify their violence and blame their victims. Some “smart” criminals will take advantage of the chance to avoid prosecution and any charges for their criminal offenses.

    A third contentious decree (KHK/675), issued on October 31, 2016, allows “retired officers and noncommissioned officers” to be involved “in the recruitment of military personnel and cadets to the Turkish Armed Forces.”[xxxviii] This regulation became more ominous after the assignment of SADAT leader Adnan Tanriverdi as chief advisor to the president. SADAT’s alignment with the paramilitary wing of Erdogan’s party and the Erdogan regime is concerning because people who espouse Islamist views and have close relationships with Erdogan will be able to manage the recruitment process for the Turkish army.

    While only one percent of military personnel were involved in the coup attempt, according to Gurcan (2017), “nearly 44 percent of the land force generals, 42 percent of air force generals, 58 percent of naval admirals, and around 30 percent of the staff officers in charge of concept development and planning in strategic headquarters such as the Turkish General Staff and force commands have been formally discharged” since the coup attempt” (p. 8). As the massive purges of the military and the police continue, Erdogan and AKP government have intensified recruiting efforts among the party’s base and allies. The KHK/675 decree opened a window of opportunity for SADAT to recruit members for the Turkish military and reshape the armed forces of a powerful NATO member.

    A fourth controversial decree (KHK/676), issued on October 29, 2016,[xxxix] allowed the government to lift restrictions on individuals who previously had been constrained from purchasing and possessing guns. Given the high prevalence of ex-felons among pro-Erdogan gangs and mafia groups and youth clubs, the decree allows ex-felons in these paramilitary groups to possess and carry guns legally. These guns, of course, are used for more than just self-defense. The guns also are used to intimidate and stalk their political “enemies.”

    Overall, the decrees since the July 15 coup attempt have protected and emboldened pro-government paramilitary groups to engage in violence and intimidation against political dissidents. The decrees created a golden opportunity for pro-government contractors to reshape the formal military forces while giving pro-government gangs and mafia groups access to guns they can use to gain power over the people and intervene in protests.

    What’s Behind Erdogan’s Leverage of Paramilitary Groups
    Erdogan is well aware of the strong and swift impact of paramilitary groups, as they have tremendous capacity to integrate military forces with local knowledge and use extra-legal force against perceived enemies (e.g., Dube & Naidu, 2015; Lyall, 2010). Pro-government paramilitary structures are efficient and functional instruments for authoritarian states to exert control over the public and ensure their obedience to the government. While the alignment of government with paramilitary groups may seem controversial because the relationship dissolves the government’s “monopoly of violence,” the ideological and operational alignment of paramilitary groups with states actualize the government’s efforts to oppress political dissidents and insurgents (Kalyvas & Arjona, 2005, p. 35). Ideological and operational alignment with paramilitary groups helps states to have nonconfrontational or even collusive relationships with these groups (Staniland, 2015). Paramilitary forces have the capacity to conduct clandestine activities with much less accountability than would befall the government. Political leaders simply ignore their affiliation with the paramilitary groups and do not take responsibility for the groups’ controversial activities. As an example, Ottoman Hearths were harshly criticized for their violence and oppressive behavior during antigovernment protests; however, Erdogan and the AKP denied any affiliation with Ottoman Hearths, adding that the hearths are independent social youth clubs with their own agenda.

    Despite the massive purge and Erdogan’s large-scale recruitment efforts to set up his own cadres within the military and the police, Erdogan still fears that the military has the potential to defy the government and protect secular democracy and the rule of law. Another conundrum for Erdogan is that while he has gained total control over the country’s formal institutions, it may not be politically feasible for him to use those formal institutions for his clandestine and illegal operations. Eissanstat (2017) argues that the new military and the new police are no more reliable for Erdogan now than they were in the past. The new recruits and those who replace the purged officers are “less professional,” and “the government has been forced to form alliances with formal secular enemies.” As an example, Tol & Taşpinar (2016) argue that “ten colonels convicted in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials were reinstated” after the purge and promoted to generals or admirals. However, Erdogan’s alliance with former political “enemies” in an effort to crush the president’s current political opponents—including Gulenists and Kurds—is extremely fragile and could easily collapse with new developments.

    To strengthen his position, Erdogan may want to recruit some members of pro-government paramilitary forces in state institutions and give them formal titles and ranks and include them in the formal security forces, as the Iranian government has done for members of the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary group that operates under the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.[xl] The Basij, or people’s militia, was established as a voluntary civilian auxiliary unit that works closely with Iran’s formal security forces to monitor and control aggrieved separatists. The Basij has been active especially in Iran’s remote regions where Baluchi, Kurdish and Turkoman people are densely populated.[xli]

    Many Basij members have been recruited by formal security forces and serve alongside with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp and for the Iranian regime and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini. Erdogan is following a similar path as he seeks to create a “party” military and a “party” police agency by purging officers and recruiting new members from his paramilitary forces and party clubs.[xlii] A national security crisis in the future may provide the “legitimacy” for Erdogan to implement his plan.

    Authoritarian leaders also can tolerate or empower paramilitary organizations to balance or have more control over the formal forces. Kalyvas and Arjona (2005) argue that states can outsource their core functions and “dissolve the monopoly of violence in order to preserve it” (p. 35). “Violence devolution,” Kalyvas and Arjona contend, is a way for the government to maintain control over formal institutions. Given the criminal immunity and security blankets Erdogan has bestowed, pro-government paramilitary groups have become more powerful, enabling the president to balance, at some level, formal military and police forces with diehard loyalist groups.

    Even though Erdogan has the power to mobilize government resources to ensure his victory in the 2019 presidential election, he will not risk losing the election and will instead use any means—both legal and illegal—to guarantee victory and continuation of his regime. Erdogan’s current crackdown on the institutions has shown that he has ended Turkish democracy “to avoid being ousted democratically” (Cagaptay, 2017).

    Last, but not least, Erdogan has a legacy of favoring those who scratched his back in his bad times. Erdogan therefore wants pay back and emboldened his loyalists, who did not hesitate to use violence during the coup attempt.

    Detrimental Effects of Paramilitary Groups on Turkish Democracy
    As long as paramilitary groups are operationally aligned with the state, these groups will continue to exist and even thrive. Political leaders who may be shortsighted tolerate and support paramilitary groups in order to consolidate their power. What these leaders perhaps do not realize is that paramilitary groups undermine the core functions of government and, in so doing, weaken democracy and democratic institutions. Paramilitary groups may claim territorial control, provide public goods and provide state services. They also may engage in corruption and economic crimes to extract political and monetary benefits from the country’s citizens. Once a paramilitary group accumulates power and becomes strong enough to compete with the state and control territory, the group challenges state authority and gains more access to resources and becomes more resilient to government interventions.

    The support of pro-government paramilitary groups appears to be a rational strategy for Erdogan and the AKP in the short run; however, paramilitary groups represent a significant threat to the stability of both the country and democracy. As the history clearly illustrates, authoritarian leaders such as Adolph Hitler and Muammar Kaddafi organized and legalized paramilitary groups and brought them into the state system in order to protect their regime and ensure their personal safety. Their actions, however, threatened civil liberties and democracies, and destroyed the lives of their own people.

    References
    Cagaptay, S. (2018, January 8). To save Turkey’s democracy, the country’s opposition must offer Erdogan a grand bargain. War on the Rocks. Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/sa...grand-bargain/
    Dube, O., & Naidu, S. (2015). Bases, bullets, and ballots: The effect of US military aid on political conflict in Colombia. The Journal of Politics, 77(1), 249-267
    Eissenstat, H. (2017, December). POMED snapshot – Uneasy rests the crown: Erdoğan and ‘revolutionary security’ in Turkey. Project on Middle East Democracy. Retrieved from http://pomed.org/pomed-publications/...ity-in-turkey/
    Erşin, T. A. (2017, July 1). Kürt İsçilere saldıri raporu: Savcı ‘bulamıyoruz’ dedi, [Attack report on Kurdish workers: Prosecutor says ‘We cannot find’]. Evrensel. Retrieved from https://www.evrensel.net/haber/32513...amiyoruz-diyor
    Gingeras, R. (2014). Heroin, organized crime, and the making of modern Turkey. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
    Gürcan, M. (2017, April). Never again! But how? State and the military in Turkey after July 15. Istanbul Policy Center. Retrieved from http://ipc.sabanciuniv.edu/wp-conten...tin-Gurcan.pdf
    Hidalgo, D., & Lessing, B. (2015). Endogenous State Weakness in Violent Democracies: Paramilitaries at the Polls. Working Paper, MIT.
    Kalyvas, S. N., & Arjona, A. M. (2005). ‘Paramilitarism: A Theoretical Perspective. Unpublished Manuscript, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
    Lyall, J. (2010). Are coethnics more effective counterinsurgents? Evidence from the second Chechen war. American Political Science Review, 104(1), 1-20.
    Staniland, P. (2015). Militias, ideology, and the state. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59(5), 770-793.
    Tol, G. & Taşpinar, Ő. (2016, October 27). Erdoğan’s Turn to the Kemalists: How it will shape Turkish foreign policy. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/artic...turn-kemalists
    End Notes
    [i] http://www.dw.com/en/massive-german-...ang/a-36331416
    [ii] https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ori...019-polls.html
    [iii] https://turkeypurge.com/turkey-purge...graphic-charts
    [iv] http://pomed.org/pomed-publications/...ity-in-turkey/
    [v] http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/13/...erincek-gulen/
    [vi] https://www.aei.org/publication/has-...ionary-guards/
    [vii] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/am...rticle/2647538
    [viii] http://www.sadat.com.tr/about-us/our-mission.html
    [ix] http://www.aei.org/publication/has-s...ionary-guards/
    [x] http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/s...SADAT_Baskani_
    guvenlik_zirvesinde.html
    [xi] http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-akp-pol...any/a-41789389
    [xii] https://www.zdf.de/politik/frontal-2...mania-104.html
    [xiii] https://anfapimobile1.news/dunya/sui...pacakti-100679
    [xiv] http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-akp-pol...any/a-41789389
    [xv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_c...&v=sood3kFnGzA
    [xvi] https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/0...lent-protests/
    [xvii] https://anfapimobile1.news/dunya/sui...pacakti-100679
    [xviii] http://www.dw.com/en/report-turkeys-...rks/a-19490657
    [xix] http://www.dw.com/en/report-turkeys-...rks/a-19490657
    [xx] http://osmanliocaklari.org.tr/osmanl...-genel-baskani
    [xxi] http://osmanliocaklari.org.tr/osmanl...izilkaya-atadi
    [xxii] http://osmanliocaklari.org.tr/?s=almanya&submit=
    [xxiii] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/an...ing-1499886208
    [xxiv] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/an...ing-1499886208
    [xxv] http://t24.com.tr/haber/akp-adayi-su...-diledi,303777
    [xxvi] http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/iste-tart...rekat-40693394
    [xxvii] http://www.habersom.com/halk-ozel-ha...in-mi-kuruldu/
    [xxviii] http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-42600391
    [xxix] http://www.tr724.com/sniperlar-da-yi...-ahmet-donmez/
    [xxx] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.892f225683ba
    [xxxi] https://www.theatlantic.com/internat...-again/492374/
    [xxxii] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/imm...-turkey-124701
    [xxxiii] http://sendika62.org/2017/12/akp-ope...rorism-463893/
    [xxxiv] https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-...ted-terrorists
    [xxxv] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-t...-idUSKCN11E1XU
    [xxxvi] https://turkeypurge.com
    [xxxvii] https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-erdo...ulen-movement/
    [xxxviii] http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/d...REF(2017)011-e
    [xxxix] http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskile...20161029-5.htm
    [xl] http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/...sistance-force
    [xli] https://jamestown.org/program/the-ro...lectoral-coup/
    [xlii] https://jamestown.org/program/the-ro...lectoral-coup/

    About the Author

    Suat Cubukcu (Ph.D., American University) is a Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology at American University in Washington, D.C. His research focuses on terrorism, justice policies, and methodological issues, especially in terrorism research.

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    Statement for the Record: Worldwide Threat Assessment

    March 6, 2018

    Robert Ashley, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
    Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
    March 6, 2018

    INTRODUCTION

    Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to provide the Defense Intelligence Agency’s assessment of the global security environment and to address the threats confronting the Nation.

    The United States faces an increasingly complex array of challenges to its national security. The military environment has shifted from the existence of the United States as the single power able to dominate challengers and to deter aggression through conventional means to one in which foreign militaries are emerging with near-peer and, in some areas, peer capabilities. Adversaries have studied the American way of conflict and have developed, and will continue to develop, capabilities to mitigate or upend longstanding U.S. military dominance in all warfighting domains—terrestrial, maritime, air, space, and cyber—raising the complexity of the threat environment and risk to the United States. Competitor states will employ all diplomatic, economic, political, and covert mechanisms of influence and coercion available to advance their agendas. Many states will continue to view nuclear weapons as both the guarantor of regime survival and a critical capability in a conflict with a conventionally superior adversary. This threat environment highlights the need for us to operate in close collaboration with our Five Eyes partners, NATO, and other allies across the globe. This Statement for the Record is organized regionally, followed by transnational issues. Taken together, these issues reflect the complexity, diversity, and scope of today’s challenges to our national security.

    The men and women of DIA lead the Intelligence Community in providing strategic, operational, and tactical Defense Intelligence. They deliver decision advantage to warfighters, defense planners, the defense acquisition community, and policymakers. I am privileged to serve with them and present their analysis to you. My hope in this hearing is to help the Nation—through the important oversight role of Congress—to better understand these global challenges and to support this committee in identifying opportunities and possible responses to these threats. On behalf of the entire Defense Intelligence Enterprise, thank you for your continued confidence. Your support is vital to us.

    REGIONAL THREATS

    EAST ASIA

    North Korea
    North Korea is a critical threat to the United States and our allies in Northeast Asia and is our hardest intelligence collection target. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pressed his nation down a path to develop nuclear weapons and deliver them with ballistic missiles that can reach South Korea, Japan, and the United States. In pursuit of this objective, he has instituted a rapid, ambitious missile development and flight-testing program that has, over the past 2 years, brought North Korea closer than ever before to its goals. Concurrently, Pyongyang has attempted to reinvigorate its conventional military, investing in select weapon systems and in improvements to training designed to bolster the threat against South Korea.

    Since 2014, North Korea has accelerated the pace of its ballistic missile testing. In 2016 and 2017, over 40 launches of short-, medium-, intermediate-, intercontinental-range, and submarine-launched systems were conducted. Although flight tests on longer range missiles in 2016 were marked by multiple failures and setbacks, 2017 saw Pyongyang making advancements. Specifically:
    • North Korea flight-tested two Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July. In their tested configuration, these missiles are capable of reaching North America. In late November, North Korea launched what it described as a new ICBM—the Hwasong-15—which also demonstrated a capability to reach the United States.
    • Pyongyang flew two Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles over Japan last year, placing our allies at potential risk from missile debris. The second of these tests demonstrated a capability to range more than 3,700 kilometers, which can reach beyond Guam.
    • The North twice flight-tested a solid-propellant medium-range missile capable of reaching Japan. Based on North Korea’s developmental submarine-launched ballistic missile, this system—the Pukguksong-2—is the North’s longest range solid-propellant missile. This advancement is significant because solid-propellant missiles can be prepared for launch more rapidly than liquid-propellant systems.

    North Korea conducted a nuclear test, its sixth overall, in September. The test generated a much larger seismic signature than had previous events, and North Korea announced that this was a test of a “hydrogen bomb” for use on an ICBM. North Korea has demonstrated the capability to produce kilogram quantities of plutonium for nuclear weapons and has claimed to possess the ability to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. We judge that North Korea continues to generate fissile material for nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has publicly showcased two weapon designs, claiming both as missile deliverable. We also remain concerned about North Korea’s proliferation activities in contravention of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, most recently Resolutions 2356 (June), 2371 (August), and 2375 (September).

    North Korea has a longstanding biological warfare (BW) capability and biotechnology infrastructure that could support a BW program. Pyongyang is a signatory to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) but has yet to declare any relevant developments and has failed to provide a BWC confidence-building measure declaration since 1990. Pyongyang may consider using biological weapons during wartime or as a clandestine attack option.

    North Korea probably has a chemical warfare (CW) program with up to several thousand metric tons of chemical warfare agents and the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents. It is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. North Korea probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles, or by using unconventional, targeted methods.

    Although resource shortages and aging equipment continue to hamper North Korea, its conventional military remains a major threat to South Korea. The Korean People’s Army (KPA) Ground Forces operate thousands of long-range artillery and rocket systems along the entire demilitarized zone. These weapons include close-range mortars, guns, and multiple rocket launcher systems trained on South Korean military forces north of Seoul; the North is bolstering this threat with longer range self-propelled guns, rockets, and close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) that can reach Seoul and some points south of the capital. A new CRBM that is probably close to fielding is capable of reaching Seoul and major U.S. air and ground bases farther south.

    In addition, Kim Jong Un has emphasized a need for more realistic military training across the force and has overseen high-profile training events in artillery, air, and special operations forces. The training events we have observed seem largely designed for public messaging and are probably not sufficient to compensate for years of neglect in some sectors of the military. The KPA lacks the operational capability to forcibly reunify the Korean Peninsula, but North Korea’s military is capable of a full range of armed provocations and lethal, limited-objective attacks. With its large artillery and infantry force forward-deployed, the KPA can mount an attack on South Korean and U.S. forces with little or no warning.

    North Korea continues intense efforts to deny us information about its capabilities and intentions. North Korea’s underground facility program is the largest in the world, and its primary function is to protect and conceal regime leaders, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles, military forces, and defense industries. The military relies on thousands of underground facilities distributed throughout the country to conceal and protect key command and control (C2) nodes, forces, warfighting stores, and other significant infrastructure. North Korea has learned and adapted the use of deception in its defenses after observing U.S. conflicts in Vietnam, Kosovo, and the Middle East. North Korea exploits its mountainous terrain to fortify its military installations and will continue to improve and construct hardened bunkers and underground facilities to protect its forces.

    North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing has deepened the Kim regime’s isolation. The United Nations has imposed additional sanctions on North Korea through new Security Council resolutions. The North’s relations with China are at their lowest ebb in years, and military and security cooperation remains officially suspended. Chinese leaders, in response to North Korea’s actions, have publicly committed China to supporting international efforts to strengthen sanctions. However, Beijing is attempting to balance incremental increases in pressure with avoiding actions that Chinese officials fear could destabilize North Korea and place China’s strategic buffer against the U.S. alliance system in Northeast Asia at risk.

    Despite external pressure, Kim shows no interest in voluntarily walking away from his nuclear or missile programs, which he has made central to his security strategy. Additional missile launches—from short range to intercontinental range—are a near certainty, and further nuclear tests are possible as Pyongyang seeks to refine its weapon designs. In addition to further testing, North Korea has announced that it will focus on producing and deploying nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in 2018. We also expect the Kim regime to consider launching cyberattacks, similar to the WannaCry ransomware attack conducted in mid-2017, and the possibility for limited-scale military action against South Korea remains on the table. The North Korean regime appears stable, and Kim will continue to actively manage regime elites and the populace through indoctrination, inducement, and intimidation. In the coming year, international sanctions are likely to strain foreign currency earnings by some elites and may limit availability of refined fuels nationwide. The elites and general public, accustomed to scarcity, are likely to try to cope with decreasing resources and are unlikely to challenge the regime in the near term; however, our ability to discern dissent is limited.

    China
    In 2017, China’s armed forces continued implementing sweeping organizational reforms that President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders unveiled in 2015. This reorganization is the latest phase in China’s long-term military modernization program, which the country’s leaders have characterized as essential to achieving great-power status and what Xi calls the “China Dream of national rejuvenation.” The leadership portrays a strong military as critical to advancing China’s interests and ensuring that China can defend itself and its sovereignty claims.

    These military reforms seek to enhance the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct joint operations; improve its ability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from the Chinese mainland; and strengthen the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the military. The changes instituted during the past year and codified in the 19th Party Congress reduced the size of the Central Military Commission, streamlined its control over the PLA, and propagated reform to corps-level units and below, transforming ground and air combat units with foundational improvements, including modern C2 and the abilities to conduct more effective joint operations. The PLA also is strengthening its joint operational command system and developing its new Strategic Support Force, which consolidates cyber, electronic warfare, and space capabilities.

    In early 2017, China announced a 6.5-percent inflation-adjusted increase in its annual military budget, to $154.3 billion, second only to the United States and about 1.3 percent of China’s GDP. Since China omits several major categories of expenditure from its published military budget, we estimate its actual military-related spending to be over $190 billion. This budget extends more than two decades of annual defense spending increases, which we expect China to sustain for the foreseeable future.

    Chinese military forces continue to develop capabilities to dissuade, deter, or defeat potential third-party intervention during a large-scale theater campaign, such as a Taiwan contingency. China’s military modernization plan includes the development of capabilities to conduct long-range attacks against adversary forces that might deploy or operate in the western Pacific Ocean. These capabilities, spanning the air, maritime, space, electromagnetic, and information domains, are most robust within the first island chain, but China is rapidly extending capabilities farther into the Pacific Ocean.

    The PLA Rocket Force is bolstering its medium-range DF-21 antiship ballistic missile with the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of conducting precision conventional or nuclear strikes against targets as far away as Guam. The PLA is also developing and fielding numerous advanced, long-range land-attack and antiship cruise missiles, some capable of reaching supersonic speeds, and operated from ground, air, ship, and submarine platforms. These capabilities are being augmented with two new air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may include a nuclear payload. The PLA Air Force is fielding modern fighters and extending the range and capabilities of its bomber force. During the PLA’s 90th anniversary parade in July, the Air Force conducted high-profile public flybys of its developmental, fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter and debuted advanced variants of fourth-generation fighters with upgraded weapons. The PLA Navy is developing into a global force, gradually extending its ability to sustain its operational reach beyond East Asia. Its latest naval platforms enable combat operations beyond the reach of China’s land-based defenses. In particular, China’s aircraft carrier and planned follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defense umbrellas beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems and help enable task group operations at increasingly greater distances.

    The ongoing modernization of the PLA’s nuclear force is focused on mobility, survivability, and effectiveness intended to ensure the viability of China’s strategic deterrent in the face of perceived advances in U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Russian offensive and defensive capabilities. China is developing a range of technologies, such as multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), maneuvering warheads, decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and hypersonic glide vehicles, in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems. These technologies will be incorporated into China’s silo and road-mobile ICBMs while Beijing expands the force in the size and types of missiles and the number of warheads capable of striking the United States over the next 15 years. The PLA Navy’s four Jin class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, armed with the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, provide China its first viable sea-based nuclear deterrent. The PLA Air Force is developing a strategic bomber that we expect to have a nuclear mission; when combined with Rocket Force and Navy capabilities, this bomber would complete China’s first credible nuclear “triad.”

    Strategists in the PLA regard the ability to use space-based systems—and to deny them to adversaries—as central to enabling modern warfare. As a result, the PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the weaponization of space. Beijing has invested in space system improvements, with an emphasis on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, satellite communications, satellite navigation, meteorology, and human spaceflight and interplanetary exploration. China also continues to develop a variety of counterspace capabilities designed to limit or prevent an adversary’s use of space-based assets during crisis or conflict. Space and counterspace capabilities, like missile forces, advanced air and sea power, and cyber capabilities, are critical for China to fight and win modern military engagements.

    China has long identified the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity as a “core interest” and is leveraging its growing power to assert sovereignty claims over features in the East and South China Seas and the China-India border region. Despite a tribunal’s ruling in 2016 that China’s “nine-dash line” is not a lawful maritime claim, China is using coercive tactics, such as employing law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict. In the East China Sea, China persists in its use of maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft to patrol near the Senkaku Islands and challenge Japan’s claim. In the South China Sea, China sustained construction at its Spratly Islands military outposts in 2017 and employed diplomatic and economic pressure to persuade the Philippines to curtail construction activity and coerce Vietnam to abandon drilling operations.

    China’s expanding global footprint and international interests are reflected in its Belt and Road Initiative of economic, commercial, and infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Beijing’s military modernization program is expanding in concert with this initiative to include investments and infrastructure to support a range of missions beyond China’s periphery, including power projection, sea lane security, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. China’s most recent white papers and doctrinal writings emphasize the requirement for a PLA able to secure expanding Chinese national interests overseas, including a growing emphasis on the importance of the maritime domain, offensive air operations, long-distance mobility operations, space operations, and cyberoperations. In August, following more than a year of construction, China officially opened a military base in Djibouti and deployed a company of marines and equipment to the facility. China probably will seek to establish additional military logistics facilities in countries with which it has longstanding, friendly relationships and similar strategic interests.

    Looking forward, sustained year-over-year spending increases will enable the PLA to realize its goals for military modernization and reform. An increasingly lethal joint force will be capable of holding U.S. and allied forces at risk at greater distances from the Chinese mainland, and the PLA will use new bases and military logistics facilities to extend its operational reach well beyond East Asia. A modern, effective nuclear deterrent and substantial investment in advanced cyber, electronic warfare, and space capabilities will bolster China’s ability to fight and win modern military engagement across multiple military domains.

    EURASIA

    RUSSIA
    Russia views the United States as the primary threat to its national security and geopolitical ambitions and is developing a modern military designed to defeat all potential threats to the Russian homeland and accomplish its larger foreign policy objectives. The Kremlin’s objectives include establishing a sphere of influence over the states of the former Soviet Union, preventing further eastward expansion of NATO, and ensuring that no major international issues are resolved without Russia’s input or at its expense. The Kremlin views a powerful, survivable strategic nuclear force as the foundation of Russia’s national security and sees modernized general purpose and nonstrategic nuclear forces as critical for meeting conventional military threats. At the same time, Russia increasingly considers the information sphere as a new domain for modern military conflict. Moscow is honing its cyber capabilities and its ability to spread disinformation in order to advance its own agenda, sow future discord in the West, undermine faith in democratic norms and processes, and discredit Western institutions.

    Russia’s desire to be recognized as a great power requires a modern, proficient military, and Moscow has devoted significant attention and resources toward improving its military equipment and command capabilities. The Kremlin continues to place top priority on modernizing Russian strategic nuclear forces, seeking to replace Soviet-era legacy systems, maintain rough nuclear parity with the United States, and improve the survivability of Russia’s nuclear weapons and critical national leadership facilities in the event of a precision strike or nuclear attack. New systems under development include a heavy, liquid-propellant ICBM and mobile ICBMs that are designed to challenge missile defense and enhance survivability. In addition, the Kremlin claims that a new class of hypersonic glide vehicle under development will allow Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems. Moscow is improving its strategic naval forces by building and deploying the Dolgorukiy class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine with the SS-N-32 Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile. Russia is also refurbishing its long-range strategic bombers to carry the newest air-launched cruise missiles, the AS-23a conventional variant and the AS-23b nuclear variant. These missiles are the follow-on system to the AS-15, the main armament of Russia’s Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers.

    Russia developed a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that the United States has declared is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Despite Russia’s ongoing development of other treaty-compliant missiles with intermediate ranges, Moscow probably believes that the new GLCM provides sufficient advantages that make it worth the risk of violating the INF Treaty. Russian officials have previously complained that the treaty prohibits Russia, but not some of its neighbors, from developing and possessing ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

    According to New START Treaty statements on 5 February 2018, Russia declared 1,444 warheads on 527 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers. Russia has an active stockpile of up to 2,000 nonstrategic nuclear weapons. These include air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs, and depth charges for medium-range bombers, tactical bombers, and naval aviation; antiship, antisubmarine, and antiaircraft missiles; and torpedoes for surface ships and submarines. Russia may also have warheads for surface-to-air and other aerospace defense missile systems.

    Russia is a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and had completed destruction of its nearly 40,000-ton declared chemical weapons stockpile as of 27 September. Russia maintains a robust commercial chemical industry that is capable of producing chemical warfare agent precursors. The country’s industrial base, coupled with knowledge from the historical chemical weapons program, suggests that Moscow has the capability to produce chemical weapons.

    Moscow has concluded that gaining and maintaining supremacy in space will have a decisive impact on the outcome of future conflicts and is developing counterspace systems to hold U.S. space assets at risk. Russia will continue to pursue the development of a full range of ground-, air-, or space-based antisatellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness and control the escalation of conflict if deterrence fails.

    Russia’s forcewide conventional modernization continued in 2017, driven by improving import-substitution efforts designed to eliminate military-related imports from NATO countries and Ukraine. State deliveries to the Aerospace Forces have included new Su-34 strike fighters, Su-35 fighters, and modernized Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 bombers. Naval forces are expanding with launches of multirole corvettes and frigates that provide air defense and strike capabilities, along with nuclear- and diesel-powered missile submarines. The Ground Forces have received modernized T-72B3 tanks and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, while development of the T-14 Armata tank, Kurganets and Bumerang armored vehicles, and Koalitsiya self-propelled howitzer have continued.

    Moscow will continue to conduct large-scale regional military exercises as the capstone event of its annual military training cycle. Last year, Moscow held ZAPAD 2017 in northwestern Russia and Belarus, arousing concerns in states along Russia’s borders. The exercise tested and demonstrated the readiness of the participating forces to respond to a sudden attack, and it rehearsed a rapid transition from peacetime to a wartime footing focusing on logistics, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and the preparation of the state and society for wartime mobilization. Moscow will hold a similar exercise, VOSTOK 2018, in the Pacific theater in September.

    Russian intelligence services, including Russian military intelligence (GRU), have been increasingly involved in carrying out cyberoperations abroad, as we have seen in the United States, in efforts to sway the 2017 French presidential election, and in attacks against Ukraine’s power grid. The Kremlin is further developing these capabilities and its capacity to carry out information warfare, or what it calls “information confrontation.” Moscow views control over the information sphere as crucial to influencing, confusing, and demoralizing an adversary, and the weaponization of information is a key element in Russian strategy. Russia employs a full range of capabilities, including pro-Kremlin media outlets and websites, bots and trolls on social media, search engine manipulation, and paid journalists in foreign media, to sway Western attitudes toward Russia and in favor of Russian governmental objectives.

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    Russia believes it has benefited from its military interventions in Syria and Ukraine, which have boosted the Kremlin’s confidence in its military and increased Moscow’s geopolitical profile. In Syria, Russia’s military intervention changed the dynamic of the conflict, bolstering the Assad regime and posturing Moscow as a credible regional power broker in the Middle East. As operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) in Syria ease, Russia is seeking a political settlement to the conflict that will allow it to reduce its direct combat role and preserve Syria as its military and geopolitical stronghold in the Middle East.

    Russia’s engagement with the Turkish government of President Erdogan, military sales to Turkey, and deepening interest in and involvement with Egypt and Libya illustrate Russia’s strategic objective to strengthen its ability to project power into the Mediterranean and along NATO’s southern flank, expand its influence in the region, and exacerbate existing friction in NATO.

    In eastern Ukraine, Russia has steadily lowered the level of violence along the Line of Contact and has proposed the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to protect Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers in an effort to break Western solidarity and secure sanctions relief. Nevertheless, the Kremlin shows few indications that it is prepared to reverse course on Ukraine or make any new compromises—short of Kyiv’s capitulation to Moscow’s efforts to institutionalize a de facto veto over Ukrainian decisionmaking—and is under little pressure to do so. The Russian armed forces remain deeply involved in eastern Ukraine, where Russian military officers command the Kremlin’s separatist proxies down to the battalion level. Moscow retains the ability to reescalate the conflict as it deems necessary.

    Russia is concerned about growing U.S.-North Korean tension and seeks to carve out a role as a mediator befitting its position as a great power and to ensure that its regional interests are protected. Moscow remains frustrated by Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear provocations but continues to emphasize the need for a diplomatic resolution to the standoff while rejecting all military solutions and providing only partial support for UN sanctions. Russia is likely to take advantage of opportunities to improve its leverage with North Korea, making use of even small steps, such as the October provision of an Internet connection by a Russian state-owned company, reducing North Korea’s dependence on China and separately enabling oil transfers to North Korea despite UN sanctions.

    Russia views the Arctic as vital to its national security and economic prosperity. Over the past 5 years, Russia has strengthened its military presence in the Arctic, refurbishing once-abandoned Soviet-era installations and developing new dual-use facilities to support civilian and military operations. These efforts include construction of airfields, naval ports, search and rescue centers, and radar installations. Russia has also created new Ground Forces units, air defense units, and coastal missile units to improve security of Russia’s northern border. The majority of Russian deployments at this point are defensive systems and provide little in terms of force projection capability.

    Over the coming year, we expect that Russia will seek opportunities to reestablish itself as a regional security broker and alternative to the United States. It will seek opportunities to strengthen its great-power bona fides and overturn the post–Cold War international order that it believes is tilted too heavily in favor of the United States. Moscow’s strategy is to force the United States and U.S. allies to acknowledge Russia’s security interests and recognize its importance as a global actor whose interests cannot be summarily dismissed without consequence. Although Russia repeatedly emphasizes that it is not interested in a new Cold War with the United States, it has also made clear that it will no longer reconcile with the West through concessions or a policy of appeasement.

    SOUTH ASIA

    Afghanistan
    In South Asia during the past year, Afghan national defense and security forces (ANDSF) protected major population centers and denied the Taliban strategic gains while combating ISIS-Khorasan. ISIS-Khorasan intends to expand ISIS’s self-declared caliphate and compete with the Taliban for recognition as the dominant militant group in the region. Although degraded, al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent, which represents al-Qa’ida’s primary geographic and ideological presence in South Asia, has retained the intent and limited capability to threaten coalition and Afghan forces and interests in the region.

    We assess that the ANDSF will build on incremental successes from the previous year by developing additional offensive capabilities and setting conditions for major military operations. We expect the Taliban to threaten Afghan stability and undermine public confidence by conducting intermittent high-profile attacks in urban areas, increasing influence in rural terrain, threatening district centers, and challenging vulnerable ANDSF locations. Rural areas will remain contested between the Taliban and the ANDSF over the next year as the Taliban consolidates control in these areas and attempts to pressure provincial capitals, predominantly in the south and northwest.

    The ANDSF will almost certainly need to focus on increasing its fighting capability, improving its leadership development and unity of command, and countering corruption to further develop a sustainable security solution in Afghanistan that would compel the Taliban to seek negotiations to end the conflict. Continued coalition airstrikes as well as train, advise, and assist efforts this year will remain critical enablers to improving the ANDSF’s ability to forestall Taliban advances beyond rural areas and in extending security and governance.

    Pakistan
    Islamabad is likely to proceed with its counterinsurgency operations and border management efforts along its western border while sustaining counterterrorism and paramilitary operations throughout the country. These efforts have had some success in reducing violence from militant, sectarian, terrorist, and separatist groups, but Pakistan will look to the United States and the Afghan government for support against anti-Pakistan fighters in Afghanistan. Pakistan is increasing its nuclear stockpile and developing tactical nuclear weapons and new ballistic missile systems. In January 2017, Pakistan conducted the first test launch of its nuclear-capable Ababeel ballistic missile, demonstrating South Asia’s first MIRV payload, and in early July, Pakistan demonstrated an expanded-range Nasr CRBM.

    India
    New Delhi seeks status as a global power and perceives its strategic forces as necessary elements to achieve that goal. India has put its first domestically built nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, into service, and is set to take delivery of its second nuclear submarine, the INS Arighat, in 2018. India continues to modernize its military to better posture itself to defend its interests at home and in the broader Indian Ocean region while reinforcing its diplomatic and economic outreach across Asia. Continued exchange of heavy fire between Indian and Pakistani forces along the Line of Control poses a risk of inadvertent or gradual escalation of hostilities. In 2017, the lengthy standoff between Indian and Chinese forces along the Bhutan-China border heightened tension between India and China and prompted both sides to increase their forces near the Line of Actual Control. We expect that both sides will maintain this elevated force posture along disputed border areas through the remainder of 2018.

    MIDDLE EAST

    The Middle East faces multiple, simultaneous challenges. ISIS has been largely defeated as a semiconventional battlefield force that controls territory, yet the group retains key leaders and the ability to attack civilians and security forces in Iraq and Syria even without control of territory. ISIS is transitioning to a clandestine posture to ensure its survival and preserve attack capabilities, and the group remains the most significant terrorist threat to the United States and our allies in the region. Traditional drivers of unrest—authoritarian leaders, civil conflict, ungoverned spaces, insufficient economic opportunity, and corruption—are compounded by terrorism, conventional military threats, and growing Iranian involvement. My comments on this volatile and important region will focus on Syria and Iraq, related ISIS developments, Iran, and Yemen.

    Syria
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has strengthened its military momentum against the armed opposition during the past year with continued support from Russia and Iran is poised to wield the most power in a postconflict environment.
    Since recapturing the strategic city of Aleppo in late 2016, proregime forces have largely contained opposition forces in western Syria and seized large swaths of territory from ISIS in eastern Syria. However, a lack of progress in political negotiations, along with President Assad’s pursuit of decisive military victory, will continue to challenge the durability of these zones. Iranian-affiliated fighters, including Lebanese Hizballah, serve as critical force multipliers for the Syrian regime and will look for opportunities to solidify their influence in the coming years. Syria’s fragmented opposition, demoralized and suffering from severe resource shortages compounded by heavy infighting, is on the defensive with little prospect of reversing its decline. The al-Qa‘ida–affiliated al-Nusrah Front overran its main opposition rivals last summer and solidified its position as the most dominant opposition group in northwestern Syria, further complicating efforts to deescalate the conflict.

    As concluded by the UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM),the Syrian regime probably conducted a chemical weapons attack using the nerve agent sarin against the opposition on 4 April 2017 in Idlib Province, killing over 100 civilians. The chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 aircraft, which we assess took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. This was the fourth time the JIM found the Syrian regime to be culpable for CW use in Syria. We further assess that the Syrian regime has not declared all the elements of its chemical warfare program to the OPCW and judge that the regime continues to use chemicals as a means of warfare, as it has every year since acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013.

    Despite the work of the OPCW's Declaration Assessment Team to address gaps and inconsistencies in Syria’s Chemical Weapons Convention declaration, numerous issues remain unresolved, and a recent OPCW Executive Council draft decision noted that Syria's use of CW on April 4, 2017, indicates its CWC declaration is inaccurate and incomplete.

    Although Russia is likely to reduce its direct military role in Syria as counteropposition and counter-ISIS operations diminish, Moscow will provide further military support to the regime and will probably continue to help Damascus train and equip Syrian forces. Russia has become the primary interlocutor between Damascus and the broader international community, a role we expect it to try to preserve in a postconflict environment, including involvement in forging a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and limited humanitarian aid and reconstruction projects.

    Turkey continues to work with multiple Syrian opposition elements to help achieve Ankara’s objectives in Syria, and it is also engaged with Russia and Iran through the Astana process. In addition to holding territory in northern Syria it gained during Operation EUPHRATES SHIELD, Turkey expanded its footprint in Syria in October when it deployed forces as part of the Idlib deescalation zone, under the auspices of Astana talks. On 20 January 2018, Turkey also began military operations in Afrin, called Operation OLIVE BRANCH, which appear designed to surround territory and isolate Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces there. Turkish officials have said the ultimate goal of Operation OLIVE BRANCH is to completely remove the YPG from Afrin. Turkey is methodically capturing territory on the Syria side of its border with Afrin, forcing the YPG to move forces to the Afrin area from elsewhere in Syria. Turkish objectives include securing its southern border from Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)-affiliated elements, repatriating Syrian refugees from Turkish territory, and rolling back YPG control in northern Syria.

    Iraq
    In November 2017, after 3 years of major combat operations against ISIS, the Iraqi security forces (ISF) reclaimed areas in and around Al Qaim, Anbar Province, regaining control of ISIS’s last strongholds in populated areas in Iraq. Throughout the defeat-ISIS campaign, the ISF has been aided by assistance from the coalition. Separately, the Iraqi government also used Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), including Iranian-supported Shia militias, to retake territory from ISIS in light of enduring ISF institutional problems and deficiencies in Iraq’s conventional forces. Iraq’s most professional and capable security force—the Counterterrorism Service (CTS)—experienced heavy losses during the defeat-ISIS fight, and its focus on conventional operations has degraded its precision counterterrorism capability. This will necessitate significant retraining and other force-generation efforts, assisted by the coalition, to rebuild and refocus the CTS on its mission of effectively and independently neutralizing future terrorist threats in Iraq.

    The PMF continues to assist in the final operations against ISIS, as it did in the more recent Iraqi government efforts to reassert federal control over disputed territories in northern Iraq. The PMF is still being finalized as a permanent Iraqi security institution based on the passage of “the PMF law” in 2016, which brought the PMF under the control of the prime minister’s office. The upcoming Iraqi elections will allow some leaders of these groups to tout their role in the defeat-ISIS campaign, attempting to transition battlefield success into political victories.

    Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) suffered significant backlash following the Kurds’ independence referendum in late September. The Iraqi government reasserted federal control over territory that the Kurds had occupied in the security vacuum created by early ISIS victories, which included the loss of lucrative oil-rich territory and related oil revenues that were vital to the KRG’s independence aspirations. The nonpartisan Regional Guard Brigades largely dissolved following the independence referendum as the two main Kurdish political parties sought to place blame on each other for the failures of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kurdish security forces are likely to struggle defending Kurdish-controlled territory from insurgent attacks while maintaining a large defensive line against Baghdad’s forces. Financial shortcomings and institutional limitations of the Kurdistan Regional Government will also continue to limit Kurdish forces’ military and counterterrorism capabilities.

    Shia militia groups, including those loyal to Iran, are likely to pose an increasing threat to U.S. forces, especially in Iraq, as the ISIS territorial threat recedes. The ISF very likely will require significant foreign assistance to bolster its security performance throughout 2018 and beyond, yet systemic problems will undermine coalition efforts to build partner capacity.

    ISIS Developments in Syria and Iraq
    Since last summer, ISIS has lost key strongholds as accelerated anti-ISIS campaigns by both proregime forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have reclaimed territory across Iraq and Syria. ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and over 90 percent of its territory in Syria since the peak of its control in August 2014. In October 2017, the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces secured ISIS’s former de facto Syrian capital of Ar Raqqah after 4 months of operations. In early September, Russian-backed Syrian proregime forces launched operations into ISIS’s last remaining core territory along the Middle Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria. Syrian forces broke ISIS’s 3-year-long siege of Dayr az Zawr in mid-September. In early October, Syrian proregime forces rapidly encircled ISIS’s then–de facto capital of Al Mayadin, capturing the city by mid-October. By the end of 2017, with the fall of the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal and the Iraqi towns of Al Qaim and Rawah, ISIS had lost all of its significant urban holdings in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

    We estimate ISIS lacks the capability to stop anti-ISIS forces from seizing its remaining territory, and the group will accelerate its transition to a clandestine insurgency, as it was prior to 2014.

    The loss of oil- and gas-producing territory in central and eastern Syria in 2017 severely undermined ISIS’s finances. The group probably has stockpiled some cash reserves from funds obtained since 2014, which will underpin its financial viability as it adapts to reduced revenues.

    ISIS will remain an enduring threat to coalition interests and Iraqi and Syrian stability, and the group remains capable of executing complex, destabilizing terrorist attacks despite losing territorial holdings. For example, in November ISIS fighters infiltrated the Dayr az Zawr airfield and destroyed several Syrian regime aircraft almost 2 weeks after the regime declared the city cleared. ISIS will attempt to exploit longstanding Iraqi and Syrian Sunni grievances and the continued civil war in Syria. Coalition airstrikes are degrading the group’s ability to support its operations, but the enduring undergoverned territory and security challenges in western Iraq, as well as the unresolved conflict in Syria, could provide ISIS opportunities to rebound and regain influence in 2018.

    Iran
    Iran remains a primary nation-state challenger to U.S. interests and security within the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Iran’s national security strategy focuses on deterring and, if necessary, defending against external threats, securing Iran’s position as a dominant regional power, and ensuring continuity of clerical rule, economic prosperity, and domestic security. Iran is engaged in the region’s conflicts to further its security goals and expand its influence with neighboring countries, at the expense of the United States and U.S.-aligned regional partners.

    Following Iran’s implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to verify and report that Iran has not enriched uranium above allowable levels, maintains limits on centrifuge numbers, and allows monitoring of nuclear fuel and heavy water stocks. We expect that the regime has distributed some financial gains resulting from the JCPOA to its security forces, although we believe domestic social and economic expenditures will remain the priority for Tehran in the near term, particularly in the wake of recent unrest sparked by economic conditions.

    UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the JCPOA, established benchmarks for lifting UN restrictions on the import and export of certain advanced conventional weapons and ballistic missiles through 2020 and 2023, respectively—pending Iran’s continued compliance. Iran will look to Resolution 2231 dates as opportunities to expand its military modernization, and we believe Iranian military leaders are preparing their forces to begin receiving some advanced conventional weapons once UN restrictions are lifted by 2020.

    Iran’s conventional military strategy is based primarily on deterrence and—if deterrence fails—the ability to retaliate. We believe that Iran’s military forces are incorporating lessons learned from operations in Syria and Iraq to refine some of their tactics, which could improve Tehran’s ability to combat terrorism and domestic insurgencies.

    Iran continues to improve its conventional capabilities to deter adversaries, defend its homeland, and control avenues of approach—including the Strait of Hormuz—in the event of a military conflict. We expect Iran’s modernization priorities to remain its ballistic missile, naval, and air defense forces, with new emphasis on the need for more robust combat air capabilities. In 2017, Iran tested and fielded its Russian-made SA-20c surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, providing Iran the flexibility of a highly mobile, long-range, strategic SAM with a generational improvement in capabilities over its other legacy air defense systems. Both Iran’s regular Navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy will field increasingly lethal platforms and weapons—including more advanced mines, small submarines, fast-attack craft, and ship- and shore-based antiship cruise missiles—which further complicate U.S. freedom of navigation throughout Iran’s littoral.

    Iran has the region’s largest ballistic missile arsenal, consisting of close-, short-, and medium-range systems that can strike targets throughout the region up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran’s border. Iran continues to improve the range, lethality, and accuracy of its missile systems to increase the systems’ effectiveness, which Iran probably believes enhances their deterrent and operational value. Tehran is pursuing long-range, precision land-attack cruise missiles, which present a new type of threat in the region. Iran is also developing more powerful space launch vehicles—boosters that would be capable of ICBM ranges if configured for that purpose—and technologies that enable development of long-range missile subsystems.

    As Iran perceives that the threat to its allies is diminishing and Damascus and Baghdad consolidate control over their respective countries, we expect Iran to transition to efforts that secure and increase its long-term influence and to look for new opportunities to challenge its regional adversaries. In Iraq, Iran will leverage its aligned PMF and Shia militia groups as well as its longstanding political and societal ties as its main avenues of influence to pressure Baghdad to expel U.S. and coalition forces and prevent Kurdish separatism. In Syria, Iran will continue to work with Russia to administer deescalation zones while simultaneously supporting Syrian regime operations on the peripheries of these zones. Iran’s presence in Syria not only benefits the Assad regime, it represents a key step toward Iran’s goal of a land bridge from Tehran through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon. This increases Iran’s operational reach in the region, enabling greater support to its proxies. Increased lethal support to Lebanese Hizballah in particular is likely to amplify tension with Israel.

    In Yemen, Iran will proceed with its low-cost, high-payoff support of the Huthis against the Saudi-led coalition, including through the provision of lethal aid, to expand Iranian influence while also indirectly confronting Saudi Arabia. Iran has helped the Huthis improve their military and missile capabilities, demonstrated through Huthi missile launches against targets in Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led coalition ships in the Red Sea. We expect Tehran will refocus on stabilizing its allies and look for new opportunities to challenge its regional adversaries, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    Iran remains committed to modernizing its military; building the capacity of its partners across the region; and forging new partnerships, while balancing a desire to gain from its reintegration into the global economic system.

    Yemen
    Fighting in Yemen will persist along the major battlefronts between Huthi-aligned forces, backed by Iran, and remnants of the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Neither the Huthis nor the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi, backed by the Arab coalition, has been able to achieve decisive results through military force. Efforts at peace talks are stalled, and the Huthis are unwilling to cede territory or disarm, and Saudi Arabia is unwilling to accept a perceived Iranian proxy on its southern border and weapons in the hands of nonstate actors. We do not expect a significant shift in 2018.

    The Huthis continue to launch ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia and have improved their missile capabilities with Iranian assistance. The Huthis launched Iranian-origin missiles with an estimated range of 900 kilometers at Riyadh in November and December and at the Yanbu oil refinery in July 2017, illustrating Huthi intent to strike economic and infrastructure facilities as well as military targets in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia threatened Iran with retaliation should a Huthi missile strike a high-value Saudi target. The Huthis have repeatedly threatened the UAE with a missile strike, which suggests they are in the final stages of acquiring a longer range missile, probably with help from Iran. With Iranian support, the Huthis have improved their maritime capabilities—which include antiship missiles, explosive-laden boats, and mines—and consequently, the conflict remains a threat to vital international shipping lanes through the Red Sea.

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    Terrorist groups have exploited the conflict, and the absence of government authority has allowed al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS in Yemen to gain new recruits and allies, especially in southern Yemen. Both groups threaten Western interests in Yemen and have conducted attacks on Huthi, Yemeni government, and Saudi-led coalition targets.

    The fighting has displaced more than 2 million people and has left more than 80 percent of Yemen’s population of 27 million in need of humanitarian aid. Relief operations are hindered by insecurity, ineffective and corrupt distribution practices, and funding shortages. Health agencies have recorded over 1 million cases of cholera in Yemen since April, according to the World Health Organization. Some humanitarian aid deliveries do get through; most Yemenis will rely on such aid for survival, even in a postconflict Yemen.

    AFRICA
    African governments are struggling to respond to an array of internal and external threats, including insurgencies, civil disorder, humanitarian crises, and transnational criminal and terrorist networks. The relatively low price of global commodities has persisted, forcing African economies that depend on extractive industries to make deeper cuts to services, increasing socioeconomic stressors. Support to regional security organizations has been particularly affected; an increasing number of governments have had to choose between countering proximate internal security threats and sustaining their commitments to African Union and UN missions.

    North Africa

    The inability of rival Libyan governments to unify, coupled with a reduced but still active terrorist presence, poses the greatest security challenge to the North African region. International efforts to reconcile differences between government leaders have made limited progress. ISIS-Libya remains a formidable regional terrorist threat but is probably incapable of seizing major population centers in Libya or neighboring countries as long as international actors continue counterterrorism actions. Al-Qa’ida affiliates in Libya are spreading their influence, particularly in the ungoverned southern region. Extremism has also undermined North African states’ efforts to address illegal migration, corruption, and smuggling. Algeria and Tunisia are reacting to the spread of regional extremist groups by seeking increased support from Western partners to train, equip, and advise their counterterrorism forces.

    West Africa and the Sahel
    Terrorism and general insecurity are on the rise in the Sahel region of West Africa, presenting an increasing threat to regional governments, despite international peacekeeping and counterterrorism efforts. In Mali, a stalled peace process has given space to extremist groups to expand their influence and has undermined Malian and international efforts to advance government control of northern and central Mali. In March 2017 several Mali-based al-Qa’ida–affiliated terrorist groups merged to form Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a move that unified and strengthened their capacity to threaten the region. Extremist groups based in Libya, Mali, and Nigeria—including ISIS’s Mali-based affiliate, ISIS in the Greater Sahara—threaten Niger. ISIS in the Greater Sahara probably conducted the October ambush of a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol, marking the first attack against U.S. forces in the region. Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania are seeking to implement a “G5 Sahel” combined force to counter threats from JNIM and ISIS in the Greater Sahara. This initiative could improve military cooperation among partner nations and help secure key areas along Mali’s borders, but progress is very likely to be slow and uneven. In the Lake Chad Basin region, military operations by Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to counter ISIS-West Africa and Boko Haram have stalled, giving these groups time and space to reconstitute for operations in northeastern Nigeria and across neighboring borders, where both groups still carry out attacks.

    East Africa
    East Africa remains at risk for instability over the next year as enduring conflicts, entrenched extremism, and political volatility strain the already fragile security environment. One of the world’s worst humanitarian crises will continue in South Sudan as the government attempts to violently quell the proliferation of opposition groups. ISIS in Somalia is attempting to claim a foothold in the country’s north, and al-Qa’ida’s affiliate al-Shabaab is posturing to exploit the drawdown of international peacekeeping forces in southern Somalia.

    Central/Southern Africa
    The risk of a return to regional conflict in Central Africa is increasing despite international peace and stability efforts. Armed groups in the Central African Republic are exploiting domestic and UN security force limitations and posing an expanded threat to the government and the civilian population. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), President Kabila’s decision to remain in power past his constitutionally mandated term probably will trigger additional protests that threaten stability. ISIS networks may be exploiting security gaps in eastern DRC to establish a new presence, heightening instability in the restive eastern regions. In Burundi, opposition to President Nkurunziza’s efforts to consolidate control and amend the constitution to remain in power may further jeopardize internal and regional stability.

    LATIN AMERICA

    Positive events in 2017 included the signing of a historic peace agreement in Colombia and orderly democratic transitions in some parts of the region. At the same time, the flouting of democratic norms in certain other countries persists, while illegal trafficking remains endemic; both pose significant challenges to regional security and stability.

    Venezuela
    Political tensions in Venezuela are likely to remain heightened in the lead-up to the late-May presidential election. In the event of renewed protests, Venezuela’s security services may respond aggressively, as they did during 4 months of violent demonstrations in summer 2017, which resulted in more than 125 deaths. The country’s deteriorating economy—marked by quadruple-digit inflation and continued shortages of food and medicine—is fueling a sustained flow of outbound migration that could overwhelm neighboring countries. Regional governments are concerned about accommodating growing numbers of Venezuelan migrants. Defense Minister Padrino Lopez and other senior officers have confirmed their support for President Nicolas Maduro and endorsed his increasingly authoritarian measures, including his ongoing efforts to rewrite the country’s constitution and sideline the opposition-led legislature. Widespread corruption among Venezuelan security forces is facilitating U.S.-bound cocaine trafficking. Some reports suggest Russia and China remain supportive of the ruling party, partly to protect their investments in Venezuela’s economy but also to sustain their security-related influence in Venezuela.

    Cuba
    Although 2018 may herald the first non-Castro government in Cuba since 1959, Havana will remain a significant foreign intelligence threat, with Cuban services focusing their robust intelligence collection infrastructure on the United States. Still-unattributed attacks against U.S. diplomats highlight the challenging environment our personnel face.

    Transnational Organized Crime in the Region
    Countries throughout the region face steep challenges in stemming drug production and illicit trafficking, as well as the ever-adapting networks that enable these flows. Competition between drug trafficking organizations has led Mexico, the principal vector for U.S.-bound cocaine and the primary source of heroin and methamphetamine, to its most violent year in decades. In the past year, Mexican criminal groups’ distribution of fentanyl and heroin to the United States has increased, contributing to the rising U.S. death toll attributable to opioid abuse. Bogota, while implementing a nascent peace agreement, faces an evolving challenge from criminal groups that have filled the void left by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and driven a substantial increase in coca cultivation and subsequent movement of cocaine to the United States. The spike over the past 2 years, in conjunction with precursor chemicals from Asia used to manufacture other illicit drugs, has fueled violence among drug trafficking organizations and gangs in the transit zone. Despite recent drops in homicides, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras still have some of the world’s highest homicide rates, making them reluctant to immediately decrease the military’s role in domestic security missions.

    TRANSNATIONAL THREATS

    CYBER

    In the coming year, we expect global cyberthreats to emanate from a wide array of state and nonstate actors. Our networks, systems, and information are at risk from an evolution of malicious cyberspace activities. The most important emerging cyberthreats to our national security will come from exploitation of our weakest technology components: mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). Our social media, web applications, cloud services, and critical infrastructures are also vulnerable to targeted attacks, influence operations, information leaks, and the loss of intellectual property. Adversarial cyberoperations range in scope from compromising critical infrastructure and U.S. military technological superiority in fields such as precision guidance and autonomous systems, to the targeting of U.S. military personnel on social media to gain insight into the disposition and movement of our forces. Our top adversaries are developing and using cyberspace to increase their operational reach into our military and civilian systems, exploiting our vulnerabilities, and compromising our national defense. Their capabilities will continue to challenge the adequacy of our current defenses and cybersecurity investments.

    Russia and China will increasingly integrate cyberattack capabilities into their militaries, seeking to deny or disrupt our networked forces and infrastructure. Iran and North Korea, although less capable, can launch disruptive cyberattacks and use cyberspace as a means to asymmetrically respond to perceived challenges in political, military, or economic domains. Continuing to partner with our allies to improve their cyberspace defenses will help limit this threat. Establishing an effective cyberspace defense will require a combination of next-generation technologies able to warn of the latest wave of elusive threats and a sound policy framework that balances the public interest with national defense.

    TERRORISM

    ISIS suffered significant setbacks in 2017 but has attempted to maintain relevance by increasing its emphasis on ideology-inspired attacks and shifting its media efforts. Territorial losses in Iraq and Syria and persistent counterterrorism operations against ISIS’s global network have degraded the group’s strength and impeded its ability to exploit instability and societal discontent in the regions where it operates. ISIS members are dispersing and prioritizing clandestine terrorist operations to preserve their core capabilities. Counterterrorism operations have eliminated numerous key senior leaders, operatives, and facilitators, significantly reducing the group’s ability to achieve its self-declared caliphate’s territorial objectives. ISIS’s capabilities have been degraded in numerous countries, including Libya, Afghanistan, and the Philippines; however, ISIS continues to inspire more attacks in major cities throughout the West than any other terrorist organization and to conduct high-profile operations in other countries, demonstrating that it remains a significant terrorist threat to the United States and other Western nations. The ISIS brand and global network remain strong, with eight formal branches and an increasing number of affiliated networks in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

    In September 2017, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assured supporters that ISIS remains committed to its long-term strategy of establishing a global caliphate, asserting that territorial and personnel losses are temporary setbacks from predestined victory. This rhetoric and ISIS’s anti-Western propaganda resonate with sympathetic attackers, who often lack any direct ties to the group but who carried out some of the most lethal attacks in Europe and the United States in 2017 on behalf of ISIS.

    Personnel, infrastructure, and resource losses in 2017 forced the group to reduce the output of its multilingual flagship media publications, including its monthly magazine, Rumiyah. ISIS’s remaining media apparatus is focused on inspiring actors to conduct low-budget attacks that do not require substantial resources or outside training. These include attacks on cultural monuments, transportation hubs, shopping malls, restaurants, and other civilian infrastructure that the group hopes will garner a high media profile and sow fear and division among citizens. We assess ISIS will maintain an expansive online presence, which may assume even greater significance as the group exhorts its followers to carry out attacks in its name.

    ISIS’s use of unmanned aerial systems (drones) for surveillance and delivery of explosives has increased, posing a new threat to civilian infrastructure and military installations. ISIS could also seek to use the chemical and biological capabilities it has honed on the battlefield in areas outside Iraq and Syria. The return of some foreign fighters, with battlefield training and experience, to their home countries probably will increase the capabilities of local cells and networks. Al-Qa’ida remains a serious and persistent threat to U.S. interests worldwide. In particular, the group’s exploitation of conflicts in Syria and Yemen offers opportunities for reconstituted external attack capabilities. Al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s 2013 guidelines for jihad, intended to “exhaust America and bleed her to death,” still resonate with the group, but al-Qa’ida leaders are struggling to reconcile the regional focus of some affiliated groups, especially in Syria, against al-Qa’ida’s traditional focus on targeting the United States and its close allies. Al-Qa’ida leaders in Iran have taken on key decisionmaking and dissemination roles, compensating for Zawahiri’s self-imposed seclusion. Al-Qa’ida’s affiliates in Somalia, North Africa, the Sahel (where al-Qa’ida–affiliated groups consolidated into a unified organization in 2017), Yemen, and South Asia threaten local and regional stability and have the potential to support or sponsor attacks against U.S. interests. Al-Qa’ida appears to be preparing for the next generation of leadership by elevating the public profile of Usama bin Ladin’s son, Hamza bin Ladin, and his call to attack the United States in retaliation for his father’s death.

    Over the next year, ISIS will attempt to direct, enable, and inspire attacks in the United States and against U.S. interests across the globe unilaterally and with the assistance of its branches, networks, and cells. ISIS possibly will shift some of its resources to bolster its external branches in Afghanistan, Libya, the Sinai, and Yemen as the group increasingly relies on its global network to conduct attacks in its name. In addition, ISIS probably will seek to establish a foothold in other ungoverned or undergoverned spaces with populations that are sympathetic to the Salafi jihadist ideology.

    International focus on ISIS probably is alleviating some counterterrorism pressure on al-Qa’ida, enabling the group to recover from leadership losses. Al-Qa’ida and ISIS share the same underlying ideology, but it is important to note that ISIS advocates the immediate creation of a caliphate and implementation of its ideology, while al-Qa’ida is more willing to compromise with local groups over ideology and the implementation of its version of Islamic law. Both groups have found ideological traction with subsets of populations alienated by deep-rooted socioeconomic issues, as well as real and perceived grievances.


    PROTRACTED CONFLICTS RESULT IN RECORD DISPLACEMENT

    Conflicts are driving record population displacement, resource shortages, demographic shifts, and unplanned expenditures of economic and military assets in countries of strategic interest to the United States. As of October 2017, protracted conflicts and ethnosectarian violence have increased global displacement to the highest levels on record, according to the United Nations. More than 5 million refugees have fled Syria since 2011 to neighboring host nations, including Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Our European allies are also coping with the influx of migrants and refugees (from the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia), most of whom have arrived during the past 4 years.

    Many Middle Eastern countries with large Syrian and Iraqi refugee populations are closing their borders because public service provisions and government finances are being overtaxed, living standards are declining, labor markets are narrowing, and they perceive a lack of burdensharing by countries outside the region. The longer that conflicts continue, the more likely regional ethnosectarian grievances will become entrenched, leading to additional instability and sowing the seeds of new military and security challenges.


    ADVANCED TECHNOLOGICAL THREATS

    Our adversaries are pursuing multiple science and technology advances to their military capabilities. China and Russia present the greatest threat of developing new military capabilities using emerging and disruptive technologies.

    Major military powers will continue to emphasize development of more capable ballistic and cruise missiles. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing and fielding numerous advanced, long-range land-attack and antiship cruise missiles, some capable of reaching supersonic speeds, operated from ground, air, ship, and submarine platforms. Developments in hypersonic propulsion will revolutionize warfare by providing the ability to strike targets more quickly, at greater distances, and with greater firepower. China is also developing increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile warheads and hypersonic glide vehicles in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems. Russia claims a new class of hypersonic glide vehicle under development will allow Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems. Iran is pursuing long-range, precision land-attack cruise missiles as well as development of more powerful space launch vehicles—boosters that would be capable of ICBM ranges if configured for that purpose.

    More generally, developments in novel materials will enable operations in extreme environments. Advances in photonics will permit significant improvements in military communications, remote sensing, navigation, stealth, and directed-energy weapons. The IoT will offer advanced connectivity to devices, systems, sensors, and services. Atomic sensors will allow for navigation in GPS-denied and electronic warfare environments. The rapid development of cyber technologies, particularly quantum technologies, IoT, supercomputers, and artificial intelligence, is enabling new defensive and offensive military capabilities. Adversaries are giving priority to researching quantum-enabled communications and quantum computing, which could supply the means to field highly secure communication systems and eventually to break certain encryption algorithms. The challenge for predicting the next emerging and disruptive technology for the future is anticipating the follow-on effects of seemingly innocuous technologies that are evolving today.

    In conclusion, the security environment is becoming more complex with our adversaries’ determined pursuit of advanced technologies across multiple domains to include cyber, space, and WMD, expanding regional and global ambitions and the serious, persistent threat from terrorism. These risks pose an increasing challenge to our warfighters, decisionmakers, and the Intelligence Community.

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    Preparing for the Urban Future of Counterinsurgency

    MARCH 7, 2018 | LEVI MAXEY

    Bottom Line: Conflict follows humanity wherever it goes, and the world’s population is increasingly living in cities. Waning are the days of the Maoist blueprint of rural insurgents pillaging small peripheral villages and seeking refuge in the hard terrain of mountainous caverns, dense forests or expansive deserts. Soon terrorist and insurgent groups will mount operations from crowded slums and ritzy skyscrapers – not just in a dense urban landscape, but in coastal megacities that pose a unique challenge for which the U.S. military largely remains unprepared.

    Background: The United Nations estimated in 2016 that some 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, which will grow to 60 percent by 2030. There are 512 cities of at least one million inhabitants around the world, and this too is expected to grow to 662 cities by 2030. Over the same time period, the number of megacities – or overlapping urban landscapes home to at least 10 million residents – is expected to grow from 31 to 41. Many of these are emerging in the developing world, which will soon be economic, political, and cultural centers of gravity in the international political order.

    David Kilcullen, former Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the U.S. Secretary of State



    “Since April 2008, the planet’s population has been more urban than rural, and analysts estimate an additional three billion urban-dwellers globally by mid-century. To put that in perspective, it took all of human history, right up until 1960, to generate that same number of people across the entire planet, so this is a dramatic acceleration of urban growth that is almost certain to have implications for urban security, as well as for every other aspect of life. In other words, war is become more urbanized because everything is becoming more urban.”
    • Crowded urban venues give would-be terrorists ample opportunity to wreak havoc. The tactics used in attacks against the Tokyo subway in March 1995, Mumbai in November 2008, the Westgate mall in Nairobi in September 2013, the Bataclan theater in Paris in November 2015, the July 2016 Nice attack, and the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and October 2017 devastating truck bomb in Mogadishu provide vivid examples of the damage urban militants are capable of – all with limited planning, easily attainable tools of attack, and few resources required.
    • Urban warfare, however, is not just a future phenomenon – though the characteristics of it are changing. Entire armies have faced off in cities before – the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, for example. Similarly, civil wars have involved devastating aerial and artillery sieges of entire cities housing those fighting in opposition to their governments, including battles such as Russian and Syrian 2016 air campaigns over Aleppo, Russian operations against Chechen separatists in Grozny in 1995, or Serbian bombardment of Sarajevo in 1992.
    • But simply leveling a city to the ground does little to actually address the rumblings of insurgency – it could even reinvigorate discontent and insurgent efforts, as has arguably happened in Syria, fueling a continuing revolt against the Syrian regime. Such operations require a close combat presence on the ground – a necessity the Israeli army continues to encounter in their operations in the densely crowded Gaza Strip. Perhaps a harbinger of the challenges to come with urban counterinsurgency is the French campaign in Algiers in the 1950s – leading to an estimated 350,000 Algerian civilian deaths and the cascade of decolonization.

    Issue: Wars of the future will not be fighting for cities, but rather fighting within them. Counterinsurgency of the future will take place in peripheral slums, along narrow backstreets, and among a metropolis of civilians going about their days.

    David Kilcullen, former Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the U.S. Secretary of State



    “Recent advances in sensor technology – including airborne synthetic-aperture radars that can peer through jungle foliage, satellite-based imagery and signals intelligence systems that can detect and locate radio transmissions in remote mountain areas, and platforms like drones that can stay aloft for days to maintain ‘eyes on’ a target – have made rural and remote areas much less safe for guerrillas. At the same time, rapid unplanned growth, particularly in informal slum settlements that tend to cluster around the edges of large cities, has made many cities much less ‘legible’ for governments. Jumbled houses, cluttered rooftops, narrow winding streets and crowded urban neighborhoods also make it harder for security forces to operate in urban terrain and allow guerrilla cells to disappear and re-emerge at will.”
    • Perhaps the defining characteristic of the future of counterinsurgency in megacities is the omnipresence of innocent civilians. This creates a number of implications – most notably the risk of collateral damage that could undermine the counterinsurgency efforts.
    • Air power – the strategic panacea of Western policymakers adverse to the human and financial costs of war – will no longer maintain the same usefulness that it does against rural insurgents. While “danger close” tactical drone strikes and aerial reconnaissance may have enabled the street-to-street fighting against ISIS in Sirte, Libya, such operations will be severely limited over expansive megacities. The threat of civilian casualties is often too high, even for many precision-guided munitions with limited blast radius, and buildings and layers of infrastructure often obscure a clear overhead view.
    • While the advantage of heavy weaponry a counterinsurgent force has enjoyed in the past will become limited in megacities, ground forces, such as tactical counterterrorism units or special operations forces, will encounter related challenges as a result of the physical terrain within a burgeoning metropolis. Urban canyons between skyscrapers with vantage points from windows and rooftops along bustling narrow networks of streets and alleys increase avenues of approach for insurgents to ambush troops, all while hindering the counterinsurgent’s line of sight.
    • Subterranean layers such as subways and sewers only further this problem, allowing militants to attack and disappear at will.
    • Insurgent groups will also be able to establish mutually beneficial relationships with local groups, such as organized criminal networks. As they are already operating out of global economic centers with the necessary infrastructure, these criminal networks will provide access to established illicit trafficking routes for weapons and other vital supplies – such as perhaps commercial drones, explosives, or even biological or chemical agents – as well as a consistent means to fund insurgent operations locally.

    Doug Wise, former Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency



    “Some of the advantages of military forces comes from precision-guided munitions, precision surveillance, night operations and mobility such as helicopter insertion. However, when counterinsurgents are doing maneuver combat by neighborhood, many of our advantages are no longer available to us. Also, in a dense urban environment, you have some mobility issues, in which you either land counterinsurgents on top of buildings or you are driving or walking in the streets. Artillery strikes, air-to-ground missiles, Apache gunships, B52 bombers – all of which are tremendously advantageous to the counterinsurgent in places like Afghanistan – are likely not to be not useful at all. There are likely to be technical and tactical advantages to the insurgent as well. Small-scale versions of that – the DJI Phantom 3 equipped with a hand grenade – brings an element of what was our advantage to the insurgent. In some respects, the urban environment levels the playing field.”

    Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institution



    “Military planners are dismayed that the collateral damage of their military efforts often gets condemned far more vociferously and is far more politically explosive than the far greater brutality and collateral damage caused by the non-state opponents. Yet that is the political reality on which they need to count. This political reality, as well as the indispensable human rights obligation to minimize civilian casualties, inevitably limits the use of heavy weapons, artillery and air power in urban spaces by the counterinsurgents. At the same time, the ability of non-state actors these days to deploy at least unmanned air assets, such as commercial drones, for reconnaissance – and increasingly for lethal action as ISIS already began to do in Iraq and Syria – may tempt the more powerfully-armed counterinsurgents to unleash the full potential of their destructive military capacity. Yet such a temptation needs to be resisted.”

    Response: Just as insurgent and terrorist groups are now adapting to operate in dense urban environments – including the megacities of the future – so are counterinsurgent forces, an evolution that requires a change in mindset about the use of unconventional military power. In anticipation of this explosive urbanization, the U.S. military needs to adapt to operating within sprawling metropolitan environments.

    Doug Wise, former Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency



    “Urban settings are a unique combat and counterinsurgency environment, so training for those unique skills in absolutely important. Leadership is also important because it can get brutal and violent quickly, and it can be easy for the counterinsurgent to use excess violence in order to deal with the insurgency. So most importantly, you have to have much stricter rules of engagement in an urban environment because there is such a dense non-combatant population.”

    David Kilcullen, former Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the U.S. Secretary of State



    “The increasingly urban nature of conflict is generating dilemmas for the world’s armed forces, most of which prefer to avoid city fighting whenever possible. The United States and its allies – who care about minimizing civilian casualties and avoiding damage to urban infrastructure – have invested heavily in new technologies for precision close air support, small-diameter bombs, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, sophisticated intelligence and targeting systems, and vehicle self-defense suites to help forces survive and operate in cities while doing the minimum possible damage.”
    • “In the future, I can say with very high degrees of confidence, the American Army is probably going to be fighting in urban areas,” General Mark Milley, the Army Chief of Staffremarked in October 2016. “We need to man, organize, train and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas, and that’s a different construct.”
    • While urban insurgents are now able to leverage commercial technologies such as Google Earth satellite imagery and small hobby drones capable of aerial reconnaissance for maneuver, targeting, and explosives delivery, there are new technologies being developed for counterinsurgents as well. What is particularly necessary, are tools to differentiate insurgents hiding among millions of residents in order to detect and preempt their operations.
    • Given that most of the world’s megacities will emerge within the developing world, the U.S. must be able to work through host governments, providing training, equipment and on-the-ground assistance to their local partners. U.S. military operations in Mogadishu, Sadr City, Fallujah and more recently Sirte provide insight into the challenges of operating in these environments, but on a much smaller scale.

    Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institution



    “Several broad implications can thus be derived for counterinsurgency operations in urban spaces and complex operations against criminal gangs ruling parts of cities.
    First, the development of non-lethal technologies for waging combat in such spaces is imperative. Second, despite the temptations and short-term urban battlefield exigencies, a scrupulous adherence to avoiding non-combatant casualties is vital in terms of basic human right standards, as well as political sustainability of counterinsurgency efforts and a long-term viability of pacification. That limits not only the choice of weapons, but also the choice of allies.”

    David Kilcullen, former Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the U.S. Secretary of State



    “New insurgent capabilities, which of course are also open to state-backed operators and special forces teams that seek to operate below the radar in future cities, have prompted conventional militaries to think of fresh ways to deal with what I have described as ‘the coming age of the urban guerrilla.’ These include sophisticated biometric, facial recognition and biochemical sensing systems to detect explosive residues or track individuals in crowded spaces, as well as big-data techniques to monitor and respond rapidly to subtle but detectable changes in an urban environment. They include new counter-sniper, counter-IED, and counter-drone technologies, techniques for emplacing and employing mesh-networks of ground-based and airborne sensors, and new organizational structures – smaller, more modular but better protected units that can more effectively operate in urban areas.”

    Looking Ahead: Importantly, megacities are not just big cities, but a unique and constantly adapting system of systems. They are ecosystems where the casual link between destabilizing neighborhoods rippling across the city and into the region and the world is difficult to determine.

    Doug Wise, former Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency



    “Look at Tahrir Square and the civil unrest that took place in Egypt and the effect it had on the country’s biggest industry, tourism. While this arguably had a local effect, there are number of reasonable scenarios where if you disrupted a financial hub (always found in metropolitan areas) through insurgent activity, it could have significant ripples far beyond the borders of that country.”

    Megacities such as Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Dhaka, Johannesburg, Luanda, Dar-es-Salaam, Kinshasa and Mumbai will be global economic hubs, with some being home to major ports, financial centers, or critical industries on which the rest of the world relies. Merely laying siege to neighborhoods within these megacities in order to rout out insurgents is not a strategically sound option and evacuating millions of innocent civilians prior to fighting is a logistical nightmare. Battles in these hubs will have significant economic and political ripple effects, as the Syrian migrant crisis currently facing Europe shows.
    Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institution



    “Planning for post-combat reconstruction needs to assume it will be a long-term, expensive, and complex effort – particularly for megacities with fatally damaged economies and infrastructures. For urban slums, the planning should often be for decades, not years, and an effort needs to be made to obtain funding for such a long-term enterprise. Out of the many development challenges, creating legal jobs in slums is the most vexing one. But in the absence of serious reconstruction efforts, at best, criminal gangs and illicit economies will emerge, and at worst, new militants will move in.”

    David Kilcullen, former Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the U.S. Secretary of State



    “All of this means that the challenge of urban conflict, and within that broad category the even more complex and demanding subset of urban insurgency and counterinsurgency, will be with us for the foreseeable future. And as the planet continues to urbanize and cities keep growing at unprecedented rates, this subset of urban warfare will almost certainly continue to be one of the most dynamic and dangerous of all.”

    Levi Maxey is a cyber and technology analyst at The Cipher Brief. Follow him on Twitter @lemax13. Material from this article was first published on October 22, 2017.

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    Iraq as a ‘client state’ of Iran

    7 Mar 2018|Isaac Kfir

    Iraq is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in May. At least 28 Iraqi political parties associated with paramilitaries that fought Islamic State (IS) have registered to run candidates. Many of these parties, like their ‘parent’ militias, have close ties to Tehran.

    Most of these militias formed after IS captured Mosul. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric, issued a fatwa proclaiming that fighting against IS was ‘a sacred defence’. Those who died would be revered as ‘martyrs’.

    The fatwa led to the formation of the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)), which attracted around 60,000 fighters organised into some 60 units. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directs at least 44 of these 60 Shia paramilitaries; others are under the authority of Sistani or are affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr. These fighters played a central role in countering IS in Fallujah, Ramadi and Baiji. Many in Iraq believe the PMFs probably ‘saved’ Baghdad from IS.

    To understand why Iran is determined to see a sympathetic government in Baghdad, it’s important to recall two key events that took place soon after the Iranian Revolution began in 1979, and which have come to define Iranian national security considerations.

    First, the US government attempted to free the 53 diplomats who had been taken hostage in November 1979 after students had overrun the US embassy in Tehran. In April 1980, as diplomatic negotiations continued to secure their release, Washington sent a military force into Iran in a failed attempt to free the hostages. Iran has come to see Operation Eagle Claw as typifying American perfidy.

    Second, within months of the revolution, Saddam Hussein launched an all-out war against Iran. Between 300,000 and 1 million Iranians died in the eight-year conflict.

    These experiences have instilled in Iran’s ruling elite (many of whom were alive during the war) a sense that Iran is always under threat. One Iranian strategy to ensure its security has been the development and support of proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan , Shia militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. These entities promote Iranian national interests by engaging Iran’s enemies, whether they are Israelis, Americans or Saudis.

    After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Tehran held the view that a pro-US administration in Baghdad was unacceptable. Iran fears encirclement by the Americans. It already shares a 920-kilometre border with Afghanistan and a 960-kilometre border with Pakistan, both American allies.

    Now the regime wants a pro-Tehran government in Baghdad. That would give Iran a safe western border, allow it to influence oil prices (Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest proven oil reserves with 140 billion barrels), and enable Tehran to continue to challenge Saudi dominance in the region.

    In the early 2000s, Tehran preferred that both Iraq and Afghanistan should remain in a state of manageable chaos that kept the Americans occupied and unable to focus on Iran. Thus, from the moment that the Americans took charge of rebuilding Iraq, the Iranians sought ways to bleed the Americans dry, primarily through their campaign in Anbar province.

    Iran’s growing influence in Iraq became clear in 2008 when David Petraeus, then-commander of US Central Command, received a text message from Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force. The message read:

    General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.

    The message highlighted the brazenness of Suleimani and of Iran when it came to dealing with Iraq. And it illustrates why Iraq’s former national security minister, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, later noted that nothing got done in Iraq without the approval of Suleimani.

    Following the 2010 parliamentary elections, when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was struggling to form a government, a group of Iraqi parliamentarians went to Qom to celebrate the Eid al Fitr holiday. They met with Suleimani, who then persuaded Moqtada al-Sadr to support Maliki. In return, Maliki agreed to work towards removing US forces from Iraq.

    Seven years later, Iran’s influence across Iraq remains obvious. With the rise and fall of IS, Tehran has another opportunity to shape political developments in Iraq. This is bound to concern Iran’s neighbours, particularly the Saudis, who appear determined to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region.

    AUTHOR
    Isaac Kfir is the director of the National Security Program and head of the Counter-terrorism Policy Centre at ASPI. Image courtesy of Tasnim News Agency via Wikemedia Commons.

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    Saudi Arabia and the high-stakes nuclear game
    #SaudiStruggle


    In his eagerness to make a deal with Riyadh, Trump’s reckless disregard for decades of caution on nuclear affairs could bring disastrous consequences

    Bill Law
    Tuesday 6 March 2018 08:34 UTC
    Tuesday 6 March 2018 14:51 UTC

    Show comments
    For the better part of the last 15 years, Saudi Arabia has mulled over building nuclear reactors. Indeed, in 2011, the late King Abdullah announced an ambitious plan to build 16 reactors that within 20 years would generate nearly 18 gigawatts of power, more than a quarter of the kingdom's projected energy needs.

    But little happened with the project until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - the president of the powerful Council for Economic and Development Affairs, defence minister and deputy prime minister - incorporated it into his radical remake of the Saudi economy, Vision 2030.

    What had been yet another grand strategy gathering dust in a bureaucrat's file has within the last two months taken wing with the announcement that the Saudis have a shortlist of qualified bidders and will award contracts by the end of this year for two nuclear reactors.

    Playing hardball
    Russia, China, South Korea, France and the United States are all angling for deals. That's not surprising. The stakes are huge, with the anticipated cost of building 16 reactors coming in at around $90bn. With all those competitors, Mohammed bin Salman finds himself in an advantageous position, one that allows him to play hardball with the bidders.

    And those bidders are eagerly lining up to do business with him, none more so than the US. President Donald Trump's energy secretary, Rick Perry, abruptly cancelled a trip to India in order to meet with senior Saudi energy executives in London on 2 March.

    That meeting happened ahead of Mohammed bin Salman's visit to the United Kingdom the following week. The crown prince is then scheduled to spend three days from 19 March in talks with the White House and senior administration officials, before touring several US cities, including Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

    For Trump, securing contracts would help his election promise to bail out America's ailing nuclear industry and would, without doubt, be used to burnish his self-proclaimed image as a great dealmaker. The only question that really matters at this stage is the demand by the Saudis to be allowed to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel, processes that are necessary in the development of nuclear weapons.

    It's called the 123 agreement, so-named after a section of the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act. In essence, it says you can buy our reactors, but before you do so, you must sign an agreement not to enrich and reprocess.

    Previous administrations' insistence on the clause meant that discussions never got out of the starting gate - until, that is, Trump arrived in the White House.

    Moving towards nuclear weapons
    Trump has already shown a reckless disregard for decades of caution on nuclear affairs from both Republican and Democratic administrations, most publicly in his Twitter taunts of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. So it is unlikely that he or his energy secretary will give much thought to the 123 agreement.

    The Saudis are already irked that the Iran nuclear deal allows the Iranians to reprocess and enrich, though at levels far below what is needed to build a bomb. However, both Trump and the Saudis are deeply suspicious of the Iranians and believe that they are already in violation and moving towards nuclear weapons.

    And in the unlikely event that the Americans decide to stick to 123, the Saudis will simply turn to other countries. Russia's Vladimir Putin would relish the opportunity to build the reactors with state-owned Rosatom. The company signed a $21bn deal with Egypt in December last year, having already clinched a $10bn deal with Jordan in 2015.

    The final nail in the coffin of the 123 agreement - which, after all, was designed to prevent nuclear proliferation - is Trump's small problem with another campaign promise: his commitment to overhaul America's ageing and decrepit infrastructure of roads, bridges, airports and railways.

    Thanks in large part to his tax bill, which has substantially shrunk the Treasury's corporate and wealthy individuals tax base, there is no money for the rebuild. No money in America.

    But then along come the Saudis to remind Trump of something they said just over a year ago: We are happy to help out to the tune of $40bn. Heck, we think it is an attractive investment.

    As the Saudi energy minister put it at the time: "The infrastructure programme of President Trump and his administration is something that we're interested in because it broadens our portfolio and it opens a new channel for secure, low-risk yet healthy return investments that we seek."

    Pressure on Iran
    So trebles all around then. But there is one very worrying downside to the deal: The Iranians, already under threat from Trump, would see the sale of US reactors without the 123 agreement as both a provocation and affirmation that he does indeed intend to tear up the deal.

    That being so, the pressure on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to yield to the hardliners and move towards a nuclear weapons build would be intense. For their part, the Saudis have always said that if the Iranians acquire the bomb, then they will too - by whatever means necessary.

    While it is true that the process of switching a civil nuclear enrichment programme to a nuclear weapons programme is highly complex and time consuming - anywhere from one to five years dependent on technology capabilities - the Saudis have an option.

    In order to acquire the technological know how, they can turn to Pakistan, the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons and one with which the Saudis have close relations.

    Indeed, it is now widely accepted that Pakistan's successful development of nuclear weapons, a goal achieved in 1998, was accomplished with substantial financial assistance from the Saudis.

    In 2013, the BBC revealed that Pakistani nuclear warheads were available to Saudi Arabia in an "off the shelf" arrangement should the need arise. The trigger for delivery would be Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

    We shall know soon whether Trump, in his eagerness to do a deal, will toss out the 123 agreement.

    The Middle East already has one nuclear-armed power, Israel. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Israelis have a stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads. So if Trump does drop the clause, as the Saudis are demanding, then 1,2,3 - the Middle East nukes club is set on a path to tripling its membership.

    In an unstable region and at a time of increasing volatility, with the Saudis and the Israelis lining up shoulder-to-shoulder against Iran, it is a scenario that should give all of us pause for thought.

    - Bill Law is a Middle East analyst and a specialist in Gulf affairs. He tweets @billlaw49.

    The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

    Photo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pictured in the capital Riyadh on 21 February 2018 (AFP)

    1 Comment

    Dan Yurman • a day ago
    The current narrative has it that if Westinghouse doesn’t make the Saudi sale, certainly Russia is most likely to. The strikes me as improbable.

    First, take a look at what happened in Turkey and in South Africa with the Russians. You get the impression that if you let Russians into your house you may lose possession of it – – South Africa’s government actually collapsed due to the corruption Russia engaged in; Turkey now has no private investor financing to complete their Russian nuke plant. One of the issues is cost of the units, 1200 MW VVERs, which are new to the Rosatom export marketing effort.

    Second, and most important, who in their right mind in Saudi Arabia would be willing to trust the Russians? Aren't they the same folks that are building the reactors in Iran? How trustworthy might the Russians be about the nuclear activities that the Saudis might engage in? Even, and especially if, the Saudis were behaving properly, would they really want the Russians to be running their nuclear program spying on them and telling the Iranians that? The mind boggles. Certainly, at a minimum, this -- they-are-sure-to-buy-Russian argument -- ought not to be driving U.S. nuclear policies.

    Insofsar as China is concerned, they are building two reference units of the Hualong One, a 1000 MW PWR, which is slated for export. China has deals in the UK (Bradwell) and Argentina, for this design. I would place China as being in second place behind South Korea for KSA business

  21. #21
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    And the kettle is what color?....

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    http://time.com/5189385/saudi-prince-turkey-iran-evil/

    Saudi Prince Says Turkey and Iran Anchor a 'Triangle of Evil'

    By BLOOMBERG 10:01 AM EST

    Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said Iran, Turkey and extremist groups represent a “triangle of evil,” and predicted the kingdom’s confrontation with Gulf Arab neighbor Qatar could last for years.

    Mohammed Bin Salman, in an interview with Egyptian newspaper editors in Cairo this week, also accused the Muslim Brotherhood of exploiting democracy in the region and said Turkey, its patron, is trying to revive a caliphate, the Al-Shorouk daily reported. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

    The prince’s comments were the latest broadside in a heated rhetorical battle among Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey as the three Middle East powerhouses vie for predominance at a time of deepening confrontation. Since his father became king in 2015, Prince Mohammed has leapfrogged other Saudi royals to become his Sunni kingdom’s undisputed leader. Along the way he has overhauled foreign policy, largely in an effort to contain the influence of Shiite Iran.

    Lumping Turkey along with radical groups and the kingdom’s main regional foe is a sudden escalation by the 32-year-old crown prince against the NATO member.

    ‘Project Collapsing’
    Turkey has acted to undermine the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also sheltered members of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country.

    In Cairo, the crown prince asserted that his policies were working. Iran’s “project is collapsing and we are besieging it in every place,” the paper cited him as saying.

    For more than three years, a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting to defeat Shiite Houthi rebels backed by Iran in neighboring Yemen after they ousted a government friendly to Riyadh. The war has plunged Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe with no end to the conflict in sight. In Syria, Saudi-backed forces have largely been defeated by President Bashar al-Assad’s army, supported by Russia and Iran.

    In June last year, the oil-rich kingdom, along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar accusing it of aiding militant groups and maintaining close ties with the Islamic Republic. Qatar has denied the claims and says the four nations are leery of another nation flexing its muscle in the region.

    Prince Mohammed compared the standoff among key members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to the decades-long isolation of Cuba by the U.S.

    It’s “wrong to focus on this very trivial problem as it could continue for a long time,” he said in the Egyptian capital, according to Al-Shorouk. The Saudi official responsible for handling the dispute holds a position lower than a government minister, he said. Saudi Arabia wouldn’t accept outside mediation, he said, “but this doesn’t mean that we will prevent Qatar from attending the next Arab summit.” Both Kuwait and the U.S. have attempted to bridge differences between the sides.

    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who spearheaded the military-backed popular uprising that ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi from office in 2013, has been a staunch backer of Saudi Arabia.

    El-Sisi has launched a broad crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which fielded Mursi for office, leaving hundreds dead and thousands in jail. The Brotherhood, which advocates Islam via the ballot box, is perceived by the absolute Gulf monarchies as a threat to their rule.

  22. #22
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    https://www.longwarjournal.org/archi...ed-network.php

    Bahraini raids arrest over 100 members of alleged Iranian-backed network

    BY CALEB WEISS | March 7, 2018 | weiss.caleb2@gmail.com | @Weissenberg7


    https://www.longwarjournal.org/wp-co...es-768x432.png
    Explosive material captured by Bahraini security forces in Saturday’s raids

    The Bahrain Interior Ministry reported on March 3 that its security forces arrested 116 members of a militant cell operating in the Gulf kingdom. The weekend raids are the latest in a series of major arrests of reportedly Iranian-backed militants in Bahrain over the past few years.

    According to the Bahrain Interior Ministry, the cell was linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Additionally, it said that the members belonged to different militias in the island but the IRGC “unified them in a single framework.” Moreover, the ministry accused the IRGC, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Asaib Ahl al Haq in Iraq of training the militants in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. On state TV, suspected militants repeated the same claim and alleged they were trained by the aforementioned three groups, as well as Kata’ib Hezbollah, before returning to Bahrain.

    These claims cannot be independently verified by FDD’s Long War Journal, however, this is a longstanding accusation of Bahrain. This also fits with a larger trend of Iranian support of various groups across the Middle East, including in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen.

    In Jan. 2016, a cell linked to a militant group was arrested by Bahraini authorities. According to officials, the two-person cell was planning to execute “a series of dangerous bombings” in Bahrain. They traveled to Iran on several occasions for financial and logistic support with the IRGC. In 2012, Bahraini authorities alleged that members of Saraya al Ashtar met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon and received $20,000 “in support of their organization.”

    Last year, the US State Department designated two members of Saraya al Ashtar as global terrorists. State noted that one of the individuals, Hasan Yusuf, is an Iran-based senior member of the group. Bahraini officials have accused the group of receiving training in improvised explosive devices (IED) from the Hezbollah Brigades, a US Treasury designated Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq.

    Saraya al Ashtar has become increasingly transparent about its ideology and branding, as last month it officially adopted the IRGC branding seen in several different Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraq’s Badr Organization. Ashtar’s new reported goals also syncs with how Hezbollah operates within Lebanon.

    Also captured in Saturday’s raids were copious amounts of weapons and explosives. According to the Interior Ministry’s statement this includes, “42kg of C4 and TNT, 757kg of urea nitrate [used in improvised explosive devices], magnetic and manual bombs, RPGs, and anti-personnel and anti-vehicle ammunition.” Photos provided by the Interior Ministry appear to confirm large amounts of explosives were captured.

    In recent years, Iran has redoubled sponsorship of militant groups in Bahrain. Bahraini security forces have intercepted large quantities of advanced Iranian weapons shipments and explosives, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). Since 2015, Manama has detained dozens of Bahraini nationals linked to the IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah.

    Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

    --

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    https://www.longwarjournal.org/archi...s-red-unit.php

    German captured while fighting with Taliban’s Red Unit

    BY BILL ROGGIO | March 6, 2018 | admin@longwarjournal.org | @billroggio

    The Afghan military said it captured a German citizen who was fighting in Helmand province and belonged to the Taliban’s Red Unit, which the terrorist group fancies as an elite unit that spearheads attacks on Afghan forces.

    The German national, who goes by the name Abdul Wadood, was captured along with two other Taliban fighters during a raid in the Gereshk distirct in the southern province of Helmand on Feb. 27, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense told reporters. Five Taliban fighters were also killed during the raid in Gereshk, which was described by Afghan officials as “an insurgent safe haven,” TOLONews reported.

    Wadood was “the military adviser of Mullah Nasir,” who was described as the commander of the Taliban’s Red Unit (also known as the Red Group or the Blood Unit) in Helmand province, according to ATN News.

    The US military claimed it killed the head of the Taliban’s Red Unit during a strike in Helmand on Dec. 1, 2017. The US military identified the leader of the Red Unit in Helmand as Mullah Shah Wali, who was also known as Haji Nasir.

    The presence of a German in the ranks of the Taliban should come as no surprise. The Taliban has worked closely with foreign jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union. German jihadists are known to have served with all three groups.

    Perhaps the most prominent German to have served with al Qaeda in Afghanistan is Bekkay Harrach, who served as both a senior member of al Qaeda’s external operations branch and as a leader in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan before his death in an assault on a US air base in Afghanistan in 2010. Harrach carried out the attack on Bagram along with the Taliban. One of the multitude of documents seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, detailed Harrach’s role and importance to al Qaeda as well as his cooperation with the Taliban’s Haqqani Network during the raid on Bagram.

    Other prominent Germans known to have operated in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region include the two Mounir brothers, Yassin and Mounnir.

    Background on the Red Unit

    The Red Unit, which is the Taliban’s version of special forces, operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

    Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group or Danger Group, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

    The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

    While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

    In Helmand, where the Red Unit has been very active, the Taliban currently controls six of the province’s 14 districts (Baghran, Dishu, Khanashin, Now Zad, Musa Qala, and Sangin) and contests another six, including the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah, Nahr-i-Sarraj, Kajaki, Nad Ali, Marjah, and Garmsir), according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

    Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.
    Last edited by Housecarl; 03-07-2018 at 07:46 PM. Reason: added second article

  23. #23
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    https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...ghanistan-mali

    Germany Extends Military Missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali

    Germany is extending six overseas military missions, including its long-running involvement in Afghanistan.

    March 7, 2018, at 7:52 a.m.

    BERLIN (AP) — GERMANY is extending six overseas military missions, including its long-running operation in Afghanistan.

    Cabinet agreed Wednesday to increase the maximum number of troops deployed as part of the international "Resolute Support" mission by 320 to 1,300.

    The German army has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near the central city of Kunduz.

    Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the number of German troops involved combating the Islamic State group in Iraq will be reduced to 800, but the military training mission will be expanded to include the Iraqi army. Previously training was only provided to Kurdish forces fighting IS.

    Cabinet also extended the German military's missions in Mali, Darfur, South Sudan and the NATO-led "Sea Guardian" operation in the Mediterranean.

  24. #24
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    https://www.insightcrime.org/news/an...alifornia-sur/

    Expanding Mexico Violence Hits Previously Peaceful Baja California Sur

    ANALYSIS
    Written by Patrick Corcoran - MARCH 6, 2018

    After years of flying beneath the organized crime radar, the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico has fallen into a spiral of bloodshed during the past 12 months, sparked by a broader underworld upheaval involving two of the country’s most powerful crime groups.

    Best known to the rest of the world as home to the Los Cabos beach resorts, Baja California Sur has experienced a surge in violence in the last year. As a February report from Justice in Mexico details, the number of murders in the state leapt to 560 in 2017, a nearly 300 percent increase over the 192 registered the prior year.

    Baja California Sur is Mexico’s second-least populous state, with just over 700,000 inhabitants. But its 2017 murder rate of 78.6 per 100,000 residents was the second-highest figure in the nation — more than triple the national average of 22.5 per 100,000.

    SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

    This represents a sudden acceleration of a long-building trend. For most of the 2000s, Baja California Sur registered somewhere between 25 and 50 murders per year. In 2014, however, the state set a local record with 70 murders. The following year, the figure climbed to 151. Now, the state is one of Mexico’s most deadly on a per capita basis.

    Much of the violence has been the sort of pseudo-military spectacle typically associated with places like Juárez and Acapulco. In January, for instance, videos of an intense gun battle that lasted half an hour in the state capital La Paz were uploaded to the internet. After the event, five alleged members of a criminal group were detained in possession of an arsenal of high-powered weapons and tactical gear.

    The killings have been accompanied by surges in other illicit activities associated with organized crime, such as extortion.

    This wave of violence has tested the social fabric. In October 2017, hundreds of municipal police in La Paz threatened to walk off the job in protest of the termination of 65 officers who failed anti-corruption measures. Local civic organizations have called for the resignation of top security officials, and the state’s attorney general left his post in December. A former governor labeled the worsening situation a “crisis of insecurity” following the murder of a human rights activist in November last year.

    InSight Crime Analysis
    According to the Justice in Mexico report, the violence in Baja California Sur is one of the many ripples in the criminal landscape generated by the arrest and extradition of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

    Two competing factions, one led by Guzmán’s sons and another by an influential lieutenant named Dámaso López, alias “Licenciado,” have fought to take over the organization following El Chapo’s demise, with neither side achieving success. This has fueled violence across the expanse of territory the Sinaloa Cartel has dominated, including Baja California Sur.

    López’s clique has persisted even after his arrest in May 2017. It also sought support from the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG), which has emerged as one of the largest organizations in the country over the past several years. This has served to aggravate the challenges, as the group’s gunmen have inundated Baja California Sur and its northern neighbor, Baja California.

    The bloodshed in Baja California Sur is part of a broader dynamic of rising criminal violence across the nation. The CJNG’s emergence coupled with the Sinaloa Cartel’s deterioration has upended stability in many previously peaceful areas. Baja California Sur is one example. Another is Colima, a tiny Pacific state that was previously an afterthought in the criminal landscape but now has the highest murder rate in the nation. The dramatic spike in killings there has also been linked to the CJNG-Sinaloa Cartel conflict.

    SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Homicides

    What this shows is that the violence in Mexico is metastasizing. Not only is the nation more violent than at any other point in its recent history, but the bloodshed has invaded more of the country. In 2010, in contrast, nearly 20 percent of the total murders occurred in a single state (Chihuahua), the vast majority of them in a single city (Juárez) whose residents accounted for just a bit more than one percent of the nation’s total population.

    This made it possible to argue that the security challenges, while dramatic, were largely isolated. This was never a winning argument, but it is far less true today.

    It does not appear that the government strategy reflects this evolution. The response in Baja California Sur has been to flood the area with soldiers and marines. The government sent 1,000 troops to the state in April 2017, and military leaders announced plans to build a new barracks in La Paz in February, which will be a permanent deployment of 600 combat troops starting in August.

    Such an approach not only has a dubious track record in stemming the tide of violence elsewhere, but it is also less viable the more widely the violence is dispersed. If the whole nation is a hotspot, it is difficult to concentrate resources in a way that produces a significant impact.

  25. #25
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    http://www.france24.com/en/20180307-...ion-rio-favela

    07 March 2018 - 21H20

    New Brazilian army operation in Rio favela

    RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - The Brazilian army swept into a crime-plagued Rio de Janeiro favela Wednesday, in its third major law enforcement operation since President Michel Temer put the military in charge of security in the former Olympic host city.

    About 900 soldiers, backed by armored vehicles, aircraft and heavy engineering equipment were deployed in the western Rio favela of Vila Kennedy, the state's security command said.

    Civil police "could make some arrests," and the military had authority to clear roads and restrict airspace, it said.

    The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, issued a statement in Geneva expressing concern over the decision to put the military in charge of security.

    "The armed forces are not specialized in public security or investigation," he said. "I deplore calls by high-ranking army officials for measures amounting in effect to a preventive amnesty for any troops who may commit human rights violations."

    Army troops had gone into Vila Kennedy on Saturday to remove street barricades erected by drug traffickers but they were rebuilt shortly after the troops left.

    On Wednesday, an armored vehicle stopped at a small plaza in the favela and dozens of heavily armed soldiers poured out.

    Other soldiers stopped riders on motorcycles to check their papers.

    "When the military is here the situation is peaceful, but when they leave it turns into a hell again," said Rosanne Pinheiro, who was running a newsstand.

    "The government should have other priorities like improving education so that young people don't see selling drugs as their only option," the 49-year-old said.

    "I can't even remember all the times I had to hide because shooting broke out," she said.

    Vila Kennedy was the scene of a previous military intervention on February 23 when some 3,200 troops were sent in to support the police.

    That operation sparked protests by rights groups when troops took pictures of residents with their identity documents to determine whether they had criminal records.

    Citing a breakdown in law and order, President Michel Temer ordered the army to take over the command of security in the whole of Rio state last month.

    It was the first time the military has been put in charge of a state's security since the restoration of democracy in 1985.

    "I urge the Government to ensure that security measures respect human rights standards, and effective measures are taken to prevent racial profiling and the criminalization of the poor," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

    by Louis Genot
    © 2018 AFP

  26. #26
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    https://www.realcleardefense.com/art...ht_113168.html

    The Need for Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapon Systems: The NPR Got It Right

    By Bradley A. Thayer
    March 08, 2018

    The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released last month called for the development of a new low yield warhead and new delivery systems to address shortfalls in existing deterrent capabilities. It proposed that a present capability, dual-capable aircraft, to deliver low-yield nuclear weapons be augmented by the development of a low-yield ballistic missile. For sea-based weapons, the NPR called for using existing D-5s to carry a modified, lower-yield W-76 nuclear warhead within the next few years, and a new sea-launched cruise missile added in the 2030 timeframe. These capabilities are sought to address current limitations in the U.S. non-strategic force posture in the face of potential Russian aggression against NATO.

    The concern is heightened due to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, aggression against Ukraine, and bellicose declarations and statements directed against NATO. Russian capabilities and doctrine are also worrisome. Specifically, the number of Russia’s non-strategic nuclear weapons, the deployment of new tactical ballistic missiles, nuclear doctrine regarding the use of those forces, including first use and “escalation to de-escalate,” and conventional and dual-use Russian Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities, especially near the Baltic states and Poland.

    The suggested response to Russia’s actions has attracted criticism from authors who argue Russia does not possess such a doctrine. Yet, the significant growth in the Russian low-yield arsenal, delivery systems, military exercises, and doctrine suggest the reverse—that Russia places considerable weight on these weapons to achieve its military and political objectives, and, therefore, logically would have a doctrine devoted to their use. It is probable that the Russians have detected a seam in NATO’s deterrent which may permit Moscow to aggress against NATO members, perhaps one or more of the Baltic states, with an expectation that superiority in low-yield systems would allow them to change the status quo without causing a larger conflict.

    The low-yield capabilities identified by the NPR are needed by the United States for six reasons. First, non-strategic nuclear weapons provide a deterrent by denial capability. Deterrence by denial centers on the ability of the defender to deny territorial gains to the enemy, in contrast to deterrence by punishment, which centers on the threat and capacity to inflict nuclear punishment. Denial capabilities—typically, conventional ground, sea, and tactical air forces—deter chiefly by their effect on the aggressor’s calculus. They adversely influence the enemy’s estimate of the probability of gaining the objective. Any conventional attack would be met with non-strategic nuclear forces to blunt the attack, and thus deny the attacker its military objective. Due to their physical effects, non-strategic nuclear weapons are seen as being exceptional deterrence by denial weapons. They were used in that capacity by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and this rationale remains.

    Naturally, another aspect of deterrence is to keep the enemy from using its weapons, whether they are conventional or nuclear. Accordingly, the second political and military role played by non-strategic nuclear weapons is that they serve to deter their use by opponents. But to do so is challenging, U.S. non-strategic weapons must be present in sufficient numbers and on survivable platforms.

    Third, should deterrence fail, non-strategic nuclear weapons are perceived as the most “useable” of nuclear weapons due to their low yield, which would augment conventional forces in stopping an attack on land, at sea, in the air, or destroying targets too hardened for conventional weapons. Their low yield would also permit limited escalation against a higher-level target set, such as Russian leadership targets, to compel termination.

    Fourth, non-strategic nuclear weapons served an important doctrinal role for NATO armies today, as they did in the Cold War. They bridge the nuclear-conventional interface, maintaining linkage up the ladder of escalation. Were a conventional attack to occur, NATO would want the capabilities to use non-strategic nuclear weapons to defeat it, should conventional weapons fail to do so. This mission overlaps to some degree with deterrence by denial since NATO would want to deter such an attack in the first instance. However, should conventional weapons be unable to stop the attack, NATO would escalate and resort to a nuclear “signal,” or the limited use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to arrest the attack. If low-yield nuclear weapons failed to halt the attack, then escalation to the strategic level would be a possibility. In this manner, conventional weapons, non-strategic nuclear weapons, and strategic nuclear weapons use would be “coupled” together, with a clear military logic dictating escalation to the next level. Thus, non-strategic nuclear weapons serve an important role as the likely connecting tissue between conventional and strategic nuclear forces.

    Fifth, non-strategic nuclear weapons serve as a powerful and costly political symbol of the United States extended deterrent commitment to NATO allies. Non-strategic nuclear weapons serve the grand strategic role of the political “coupling” of the alliance members in two major ways. First, major European states are linked together by hosting the weapons, by the possibility of their use, and through nuclear planning within NATO. Thus, there is shared responsibility and risk, which in turn signals commitment to the alliance. Second, the United States is coupled with its NATO allies by virtue of their deployment to Europe and the United States commitment to their use should deterrence fail, and if the foe is unable to be stopped at a lower level of conflict. Born of the Cold War, the political role of non-strategic nuclear weapons for the NATO alliance remains important.

    Sixth, non-strategic nuclear weapons will also have a role in strengthening the ability of the U.S. to coerce its opponents, should that be necessary. This capability is particularly important concerning China. Over many years now, China has acted against U.S. interests, and indicated that it is not a status quo power but seeks substantial changes to the present international order. Its expansion in the South China Sea has gone unchecked, and this has had profound and unnerving effects on U.S. interests, its allies, and other states in the region. It may be necessary to use U.S. power to compel China to change its posture. U.S. non-strategic capabilities are insufficient to meet immediate and likely strategic requirements against China and Russia. Thus, it is essential that the small number of non-strategic weapons in the U.S. arsenal need to be augmented by the NPR’s proposed systems.

    Chinese and Russian non-strategic and strategic capabilities continue to grow, and China continues to expand in the South China Sea, build bases in Africa and the Indian littoral while challenging the position of the U.S. in global politics. The United States needs the expanded capabilities illuminated in the NPR as soon as possible to meet these considerable challenges. The roles of non-strategic nuclear weapons are many, and the United States needs to possess an arsenal suitable to the reality of contemporary international politics where both Russia and China are hostile to its interests.

    Bradley A. Thayer, P.hD., is the author, with John M. Friend, of the forthcoming How China Sees the World: The Rise of Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.

  27. #27

    4 Large US landing ship with 500 marines enters the Black Sea

    On Wednesday, March 7, the USS Oak Hill LSD 51 landing ship entered Black Sea waters. A photograph of the vessel’s passage through the Bosphorus Strait was published by the Istanbul information portals, Interfax reports.

    “A large American landing ship, with divisions of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit with roughly 500 marines on board, is currently moving north towards the coast of Romania,” the report states.

    The command of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet said that the ship is going to take part in the Spring Storm 2018 drills (March 8-15), during which the marines will practice landing on the Romanian coast.

    “The frequent presence of the Navy and naval marines in the Black Sea demonstrates the Sixth Fleet’s firm commitment to ensuring regional stability, security at sea and collective security with our NATO allies,” said Colonel Farrell Sullivan, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

    The Oak Hill is in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the US Navy’s amphibious landing group (which also includes the USS Iwo Jima amphibious assault ship and the USS New York amphibious transport dock ship).

    There are roughly 2,500 marines on board the group of ships, which entered the Mediterranean on March 1. After the drills, the ships will proceed to the region of the Persian Gulf that is the responsibility of the US Fifth Fleet.

    Black Sea, USS Oak Hill, US Navy http://uawire.org/us-landing-ship-wi...ers-black-sea#

  28. #28

    4 Nuclear Attack On USA Imminent – Pentagon

    Posted By: Eugene Boaheneon: March 08, 2018In: Breaking News, Nation, News, NigeriaNo Comments Print Email
    The Pentagon has raised an alarm of a compelling evidence of possible nuclear weapon strike against the United States (U.S.).

    “There is compelling evidence that at least one of our potential competitors in this space believes they can get away with striking us with a low-yield weapon.

    “We cannot allow that perception to persist,” Gen. Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

    Selva said the recent Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) ensured the U.S. could match any nuclear threat, including that of a low-yield nuclear weapon.

    “The review makes it clear that the United States will respond in kind to any nuclear threat,” Selva said at the ninth annual Defense Programs conference hosted by McAleese and Associates and Credit Suisse.

    The vice chairman underscored that the goal of the NPR was to maintain a safe, reliable, dependable and secure nuclear arsenal.

    “We reviewed the world as it is, not the world as we wished it could be,” Selva said.

    The NPR projected what capabilities might be useful to supplement the existing delivery systems in the nuclear triad to “raise the bar for all adversaries who might contemplate use of nuclear weapons against the U.S. or our allies,” he explained.

    The new capabilities are the sea-launched cruise missile and a low-yield nuclear weapon that could be delivered from a submarine platform, Selva said.

    “Don’t mistake the discussion of new capabilities for growth in the nuclear arsenal.

    “And please don’t fall in the trap of having the conversation that low-yield lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

    Selva pointed out the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force 48 years ago but fewer than 10 countries possessed nuclear weapons or the capabilities to field them.

    “We’ve actually created a safer world. That’s not to say that we’re free of the threat from nuclear weapons,” he said.

    The NPR, which was released on Feb. 2, 2018, is nested in the other new national security strategies: the National Security Strategy, National Defence Strategy and a National Military Strategy, Selva explained.

    “All of those set a vector for where we want to move the department, and they are all nested in how we built the fiscal year 2019 budget request,” he said.

    The nuclear strategy and acquiring the best and most advanced technologies are vital elements as the U.S. seeks to apply its power and influence around the world, Selva told the conference audience.

    The U.S. must continue to build strong alliances, and another important aspect in national security is to maintain the capability and capacity to deploy forces anywhere in the world and project American power where necessary to defend U.S. interests, he said.

    “If there is no other reason to bring new technologies and capabilities into our force today, it’s to make sure that no asymmetry from an outside force can prevent us from projecting American force, power and influence at the point in place of our choosing,” Selva said.

    The general commended the men and women who serve, saying they make up less than one per cent of the population and are the “secret sauce” to the successes of the Defense Department.

    “They’re a unique group of young men and women. What we owe them is good leadership, sound decision tools, the technology that matters on the future battle space, the tools and the training to do the work that we ask them to do,” he said.http://www.thebreakingtimes.com/nucl...nent-pentagon/

  29. #29

    3 Israel, US troops train together to counter missile threats

    AP|Published: 03.08.18 , 17:26
    HATZOR AIR BASE, Israel -- Some 5,000 American and Israeli troops are participating in a joint missile-defense exercise, preparing for the threat of attacks from across the region.



    The "Juniper Cobra" exercise began March 4 and is taking place in Israel over several weeks. It includes field exercises, computer simulations and live-fire drills. https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,...150905,00.html

  30. #30
    DIA: China, Russia Engaged In Low-Level Warfare Against U.S.
    'Gray Zone' conflict outlined at Senate hearing

    BY: Bill Gertz
    March 7, 2018 5:00 am
    Free Beacon

    The Pentagon's top intelligence official warned that China and Russia are engaged in information and cyber attacks against the United States as part of an undeclared low-level conflict.

    Army Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during a Senate hearing the character of war is changing as technology facilitates greater global reach with weapons such as cyber attacks.

    War is no longer carried out as it was during Europe's 30 Years' War when forces lined up for battles, he said.

    "So the line of which you declare hostilities is extremely blurred, and if you were to ask Russia and China, 'Do you think you're at some form of conflict with the U.S.?' I think behind closed doors their answer would be yes," Ashley said.

    The three-star general was commenting when asked what would constitute an act of war, such as a cyber attack or use of space weapons against satellites.

    "It's hard to make that determination to definitively say what constitutes an act of war when you're in the gray zone in a lot of the areas that you operate," Ashley said.

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Ashley, also voiced concerns about the growing threat posed by China's military buildup and global influence operations.

    "I think it's been very clear over the past few years that China is willing to take pretty extraordinary means in terms of expanding its influence, not only over the region in South China Sea, but throughout the globe," Coats said.

    In a 35-page prepared statement, Ashley provided new details of a growing list of military and information threats to the United States posed by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups.

    The threat posed by China dominated much of his testimony, however.

    According to Ashley, the ruling Communist Party of China has streamlined and upgraded both China's huge military forces and its command structure. The result is China is preparing for operations he described as fighting "short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from the Chinese mainland."

    The military buildup has produced improvements to warfighting capabilities for all domains of conflict, including air, sea, space, electronic warfare, and information operations, he said.

    A key worry is China's advanced long-range land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles that can be fired from ground launchers, aircraft, ships, and submarines, he said.

    Ashley also disclosed for the first time that China is augmenting its land- and sea-based missile capabilities with two new air-launched ballistic missiles, including one that will be nuclear-armed.

    China's nuclear forces also include ultra-high speed hypersonic strike vehicles launched from missiles and silo- and rail-based long-range missiles. Nuclear missile submarines and bombers also pose a threat to the United States, Ashley said.

    Additionally, China has space weapons capable of shooting out satellites during the early stage of a conflict, including anti-satellite missiles, maneuvering satellites and lasers and electronic jammers.

    The space weapons are aimed at crippling military communications, navigation, and weapons targeting.

    Ashley said the Chinese military buildup is being carried out in concert with a global economic, commercial, and infrastructure development program Beijing calls the Belt and Road Initiative.

    Coats, the DNI, said the global infrastructure program is costing Beijing about $8 trillion in 68 nations, and that the program will be used for "geostrategic positioning" for trade, economic, and military purposes.

    "They definitely are expanding their regional influence, as well as their global influence," Coats said. "They're spending an extraordinary amount of money on that as well as on upgrading their military, and it's become a world power and that is their goal."

    Ashley said China's nuclear program also is expanding along with other advanced weapons. "A modern, effective nuclear deterrent and substantial investment in advanced cyber, electronic warfare, and space capabilities will bolster China's ability to fight and win modern military engagement across multiple military domains," the general said.

    On Russia, Ashley warned that Moscow is also building up nuclear forces and other high-technology strategic weapons, such as hypersonic, cruise and ballistic missiles.

    "Russia views the United States as the primary threat to its national security and its geopolitical ambitions," he said.

    "The Kremlin seeks to establish a sphere of influence over former Soviet Union states, prevent further eastward expansion of NATO, and ensure that no major international issues are addressed without Russia's input or at its expense."

    Russia's information operations against the United States, including meddling in the 2016 presidential election, was a topic of the hearing.

    "There obviously is concern about this ongoing effort of Russians to interfere with our elections," Coats said. "The White House is well aware of that, as we all are, and agencies have been tasked to address this."

    Ashley said artificial intelligence combined with the weaponization of Big Data----mass amounts of data that can be used for strategic purposes----is an emerging threat as well as a U.S. tool.

    "So, as we start seeing what's changing hourly in the character of war, you have speed of decision," he said. "So there's all these disparate things that are happening globally, all the information that's moving around. For us, from the intelligence standpoint on military side, it's being able to see the indications or warning, being able to see the faint signals of conflict that may be coming your way. And so, to take all that disaggregated information, and aggregate it in a way where you can start to see trends, indications, and warnings, and it gives the analyst time to start to think about what he or she is seeing."

    He called efforts to utilize Big Data for military purposes "a critical capability that we're focused on."

    Coats was asked about China's use of soft power, like the Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes that are spread out around the United States and the world to influence colleges in support of Chinese policies.

    "There has been significant interest in this," Coats said when asked if Chinese students in the United States are being used as Beijing spies. "We take that very seriously in assessing where China is and where's China going."

    "In fact, we have some investigations going on relative to what China is doing and what their real intent is and how much of it is linked to the Chinese government policies, rather than just students wanting to come to get a good education here," Coats said.

    Coats said he doubts China would agree to allow reciprocal U.S.-funded Alexander Hamilton Institutes in China in exchange for permitting Confucius Institutes in this country.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-secur...e-against-u-s/

  31. #31
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    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.ab176a8fbdf2

    WorldViews

    State Department warns of ‘security threat’ in Playa del Carmen, popular resort city in Mexico

    By Amy B Wang
    March 8 at 4:46 PM

    Citing a security threat, the State Department has closed its consular office in a popular Mexican resort city and warned Americans to “consider this information” before traveling to the area.

    The State Department on Wednesday night issued a security alert for Playa del Carmen, a tourist draw on the Caribbean coast, saying the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City had received “credible information” about a threat to the city.

    “Effective immediately, U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen until further notice,” the security alert states. “The U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen will be closed until further notice.”

    A State Department official did not elaborate on what the threat was.

    “Our priority is the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad,” the official, who spoke on background, said Thursday in an email. “We urge all travelers to review our information on travel.state.gov before they travel. We will continue to provide safety and security updates as they become available.”


    Travel - State Dept

    @TravelGov
    #Mexico Security Alert: On March 7, the US Embassy received information about a security threat in #PlayadelCarmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Effective immediately, US Government employees are prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen until further notice. http://ow.ly/SvAw30iOR0r

    4:30 PM - Mar 7, 2018
    151
    271 people are talking about this
    Meanwhile, officials in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, where Playa del Carmen is located, have insisted that the city is safe. Playa del Carmen's beaches and resorts have typically been a huge attraction for spring break travelers from the United States.

    “All tourism and economic activity in Playa del Carmen continues in a normal manner,” the state government said, according to the Associated Press.

    In addition, Quintana Roo officials noted that hotel occupancy in Playa del Carmen was at 80 percent and emphasized that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was scheduled to attend a conference in the city on Thursday, the AP reported.

    Following the United States' lead, Canada on Thursday also issued a new security alert for Playa del Carmen and urged travelers to “exercise a high degree of caution.”

    The advisories come about two weeks after an explosion on a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen injured 26 people, including at least five U.S. citizens. Mexican authorities are investigating the blast.

    Last week, undetonated explosives were discovered on another ferry that, like the first one, shuttled tourists between Playa del Carmen and nearby Cozumel island. Shortly afterward, the U.S. Embassy said its employees were banned from using all tourist ferries on that route until further notice.

    While the U.S. alert does not explicitly discourage citizens from traveling to Playa del Carmen, it does tell people to buy travel insurance that specifically covers Mexico and includes medical evacuation insurance.

    “Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution,” the alert states. “Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you need assistance.”

    With the consular agency in Playa del Carmen closed, the nearest consulate would be in Merida in the state of Yucatan, about 175 miles to the west.

    Earlier this year, the State Department rolled out a new tiered travel advisory system to warn U.S. citizens of potential dangers while traveling abroad. Now, travel advisories range from Level 1 (“exercise normal precautions”) to Level 4 (“do not travel”). Previously, the department had used “travel alerts” for short-term dangers and “travel warnings” for long-term concerns, a distinction that was often confusing.

    The State Department official said Wednesday's security alert for Playa del Carmen is different from a travel advisory and is meant to inform U.S. citizens “of specific safety and security concerns in a country, such as demonstrations, crime trends, and weather events.”

    The State Department's travel advisory for Mexico remains at Level 2, which comes with a note to “exercise increased caution.” The state of Quintana Roo also comes with a Level 2 warning.

    “According to Government of Mexico statistics, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016,” the warning for Quintana Roo states. “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.”

  32. #32
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    And the "Great Game" continues....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-z...-idUSKCN1GK2JK

    WORLD NEWS MARCH 8, 2018 / 9:46 AM / UPDATED 5 HOURS AGO

    Russia seeks military cooperation, diamond, platinum projects in Zimbabwe

    MacDonald Dzirutwe
    3 MIN READ

    HARARE (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday his country was pursuing military cooperation with Zimbabwe and looking at opportunities in the diamond sector as well as fully implementing a $3 billion joint platinum project near Harare.

    Lavrov, who is on a tour of Africa, held meetings with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and senior government officials, and signed an agreement to establish a special economic zone for Russian firms to manufacture goods for export.

    “We have also talked about prospects for military and technical cooperation. We have a special group working on this particular subject,” Lavrov told reporters through an interpreter.

    Western countries, which had traditionally supplied military equipment to Zimbabwe, including fighter jets and vehicles, stopped in 2000 after imposing sanctions on ex-president Robert Mugabe’s government over accusations of human rights abuses.

    Chris Mutsvangwa, Mnangagwa’s special advisor, later told reporters that Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Defence was in talks with Russia over the procurement of military hardware. He did not provide details.

    A Russian consortium including arms conglomerate Rostec in 2014 partnered a Zimbabwean group to develop a $3 billion platinum operation near the capital but the project had stalled.

    Lavrov’s visit is expected to revive the mining venture, which is one of the single biggest investments the southern African nation has seen since independence in 1980.

    “We have laid particular emphasis on implementation of the joint project of exploring the Darwendale platinum deposit, the largest in the world and which is currently operated by a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Russia,” Lavrov said.

    Zimbabwe has the second largest known deposits of platinum after South Africa and the Darwendale project is considered to be the largest single deposit.

    Mnangagwa is desperate to attract foreign investors to kickstart the economy and has promised reforms to safeguard investments.

    Editing by Ed Stoddard and David Evans

  33. #33
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    The article title is arguably over the top/click bait but it does indicate things aren't thawing out...

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    http://www.businessinsider.com/finla...vasions-2018-3

    Finland developing horrific jumping land mine to deter Russian or other land invasions

    Jussi Rosendahl, Reuters
    4h

    • Finland is developing a remotely-detonated mine designed to deter enemies with its "horror", the country's defense minister said on Thursday.
    • "This is a remotely tripped explosive, which bounds in the air and fires steel or tungsten bullets downwards," the minister told reporters.
    • Finland shares a 1,340km (833 miles) border and a difficult history with Russia, and following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has stepped up military spending.


    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland is developing a remotely-detonated mine designed to deter enemies with its "horror", the country's defense minister said on Thursday, referring to a device that springs into the air and fires projectiles at its target when triggered.

    Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto said the defense forces were developing the so-called bounding mine to replace landmines banned by a 1999 international treaty. Its main targets would be soldiers and vehicles.

    "This is a remotely tripped explosive, which bounds in the air and fires steel or tungsten bullets downwards," the minister told reporters.

    "This gives quite a good regional effect and deterrence effect, the so called mine horror. This is being tested now."

    In 2011, Finland became the last European Union country to ratify the 1999 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

    Finland's ratification has lately come in for criticism domestically from some Finns who argue landmines could be effective in defending the country's long borders.

    Finland shares a 1,340km (833 miles) border and a difficult history with Russia, and following Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has stepped up military spending.

    Niinisto said he was not aware of a similar explosive being used somewhere else, and the Finnish weapon would always be fired by its operator.

    According to the Ottawa Treaty, the launcher of such a mine must have direct visual contact with the location upon triggering it, a ministry official specified. The mines banned by the convention involve explosives set off by the proximity of, or contact with, the target.

    "This is an explosive that fits well into the Finnish terrain... traditional mines explode upwards or sideways. This fires downwards, so it is more difficult to take cover from it," Niinisto said.

    He added that he had seen international interest for the weapon.

    Niinisto, who considers the ratification of the Ottawa convention to have been a mistake, also said that Finland could relinquish the landmine ban during a crisis where "all agreements have become meaningless papers".

    Finland has compulsory military service for all men and it is one of six members of the EU that have not also joined NATO.

    In recent years, however, it has forged closer ties with the Western military alliance, while stepping defense cooperation with other Nordic countries.

    While backed by most countries, the Ottawa treaty has not been signed by a number of countries including the United States, China, India, and Russia.

  34. #34
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    Hummm.....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news...es-hybrid-war/

    OPINION/COMMENTARY

    Ukraine’s hybrid war

    By Wesley Clark and Jack Keane - - Tuesday, March 6, 2018
    ANALYSIS/OPINION:

    Four years ago this week, Moscow launched its hybrid war against Ukraine and seized Crimea. Six weeks later, it began its not-so covert military operation in Donbas. One of the great, if unheralded stories of this war has been the largely successful effort of Ukraine to defend itself against this hybrid war in the east.

    Ukraine has been on the front lines of a new generation of warfare where Russia blurs the lines between peace and war. Moscow’s aggression began with the seizure and then annexation of Crimea in February and March, and then the not so-covert war in Donbas in April.

    While the Kremlin has claimed that this was an uprising of Donbas’ ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers against the government in Kyiv, the truth is that this has been a war led, financed and armed from Moscow. Thousands of regular Russian troops stopped Kyiv from retaking the entire Donbas in the late summer of 2014 and thousands of Russian troops remain in the occupied territories today. Moscow controls the military activity of the so-called separatist forces.

    We have watched carefully the evolution of Ukraine’s armed forces since the war began and it is impressive.

    We were in Kyiv in the first half of December at the invitation of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation for discussions with senior politicians, military representatives and representatives of civil society. We were impressed by their competence, dedication and energy.

    Ukraine’s army has largely fought Kremlin forces to a stalemate. The old, static, Soviet-style army that Ukraine had in 2014 has been transformed into a capable fighting force. Part of that is due to the training provided by NATO members and especially the U.S. But most of this is due to the exigencies of wartime and Ukraine’s creative response.

    Ukrainian officers have adapted well to battlefield developments and proved ingenious at countering Moscow’s clear advantages in tanks, artillery, cyber and electronic warfare.

    For instance, reluctance on the part of Western countries and Israel to provide state-of-the-art drones prompted Ukrainian engineers to create their own, less complicated versions that have proved quite serviceable; and Ukraine’s own formidable cyber community has done a stalwart job shutting done Russian attacks on electricity grids and other infrastructure. Ukrainian hackers also got into the files of senior Putin-aide Vladislav Surkov and revealed embarrassing details about Kremlin operations in Ukraine.

    In short, the Russian campaign in Ukraine is the face of future, hybrid war; and Ukraine has gained valuable experience that NATO and the U.S. are currently absorbing. This knowledge is critical for our own defense against an aggressive Kremlin.

    Ukraine’s security depends on more than just a sound defense against Russian and separatist troops around the line of contact in Donbas. It also touches on the controversial questions of Ukraine’s relations with the West and the progress on internal reform. Under President Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine has decided that it would like to become a member of NATO; and in recent years a majority of Ukrainians have come to support this objective.

    The reluctance of certain NATO members to consider this possibility, however, make this, at best, a long-term goal. Ukraine would be wise to take this into account and seek specific measures and cooperation with NATO and Western governments that would boost its security in the short term.

    At the Warsaw Summit in 2016, NATO endorsed the decision to put well-armed battalions in each of the Baltic states and in Poland. In other words, it shored up its northeast flank. Its actions on the southeast flank, however, were not as robust. Ukraine’s interests would be served by a stronger NATO presence in that flank and in the Black Sea.

    Ukraine could encourage such policies and, as a Black Sea state, discuss ways that it could facilitate a greater presence there. It should consider naval exercises and other forms of cooperation with Romania, a Black Sea state that recognizes the dangers posed by Moscow’s occupation and militarization of Crimea.

    Ukraine also has substantial transport capacity, a capacity greater than nearly all NATO members. Kyiv would be wise to consider how, once its own war-related needs are met, it could put this capacity at the service of NATO. Ukraine correctly claims that the West should be providing more support as it battles Moscow’s aggression. At the same time, Kyiv should search for additional ways to demonstrate how it can be helpful to the West.

    Reform is the other great issue drawing attention in Ukraine, and it too has a security dimension. The two directly overlap in Ukraine’s defense industries. Ukroboronprom, the huge state conglomerate that oversees defense production, is, despite a makeover or two, still a vestige of the Soviet era that gets in the way of fast and efficient decisions in the defense sector. The abolition or substantial overhaul of this company would free up the entrepreneurial instincts in defense industries, encourage foreign investment and lead to the better supply of Ukrainian forces.

    The great questions of reform also bear on Ukraine’s security. The courageous decision by Ukraine’s leaders to move to market pricing for natural gas ended the country’s dependence on Gasprom and knocked out most of the government’s budget deficit.

    Ukraine’s fight against Kremlin aggression and the old corrupt order is one fight. Strong anti-corruption measures would not only improve life in Ukraine, but strengthen Ukrainian society against Kremlin blandishments, subversion and worse. Such measures would also make Ukraine a more attractive partner for NATO and the EU.

    Ukraine certainly deserves more Western support — evident in the Trump administration’s wise decision on defensive weapons supply — and the Ukrainian people deserve less corrupt governance. These outcomes will be more quickly achieved together.

    • Wesley Clark is a retired U.S. Army general, former NATO supreme allied commander and a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center. Jack Keane, a retired U.S. Army general, is a former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army and chairman of the Institute for the Study of War.

  35. #35

    4 ‘Urgently engage with Russia’: US senators call for dialogue after new nuclear arsenal unveiled

    A group of US lawmakers have called for strategic dialogue with Moscow. They feel that the matter is “more urgent” following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unveiling of a number of cutting-edge weapons systems.
    “A US-Russia Strategic Dialogue is more urgent following President Putin’s public address on March 1st when he referred to several new nuclear weapons Russia is reportedly developing, including a cruise missile and a nuclear underwater drone,” a letter signed by US Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reads. The letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was published on Thursday. The senators stressed that while the countries have many “significant” disagreements, including alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections and the “annexation” of Crimea, Moscow and Washington need to come to the negotiation table.

    “Due to these policy rifts, not in spite of them… the United States should urgently engage with Russia to avoid miscalculation and reduce the likelihood of conflict.”The lawmakers are concerned that some of the brand-new Russian nuclear weapons are not covered by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, commonly known as the New START, and thus call for the agreement to be extended. The weapons in question include a cruise missile with virtually no range limit and a nuclear-powered underwater drone.

    However, the letter did not miss a chance to accuse Russia of non-compliance with the 1982 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and called on the State Department to address the alleged violation. Moscow and Washington have traded accusations of INF-Treaty violations for several years. The US constantly accuses Russia of developing missile systems with ranges prohibited by the agreement, without providing any specific information to support such allegations.Moscow has its own list of complaints regarding US shortcomings in relation to the INF Treaty. These include the US drone program, and the ground placement of a naval vertical-launch system in Europe as part of the Aegis Ashore program. Russia contends that these constitute violations of the treaty. In December 2017, Putin said that Washington was apparently creating conditions to leave the accord, and said that the process of its withdrawal has actually already begun.There had been rumors that the Russian and American top diplomats, Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson respectively, may meet while they are both in Africa. However, the US State Department denied that there had been any discussion of possible bilateral talks. When asked about it, the Russian Foreign Minister said the claims that such discussions never happened are “untrue.”

    On March 1, the Russian leader presented a set of advanced Russian nuclear weapons, some of which are not yet named. During his state of the nation address, Putin stressed that Russia would not need all these new weapons had its legitimate concerns been heeded by the US and its allies. “Nobody wanted to talk to us about the root of the problem. Nobody listened to us; so listen to us now!” he said.The speech drew a hysterical reaction from the Western media and accusations of saber-rattling and starting “a new arms race,” Putin told NBC Washington was in fact to blame for it. The Russian president referred to the US decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) back in 2002. https://www.rt.com/news/420839-us-ru...clear-arsenal/

  36. #36

    4 Slovakia at boiling point. In dozens of cities there are demonstrations against the government

    At eighty-four Slovak and seventeen foreign cities, protest rallies are held on Friday, whose participants demand an investigation into the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová. The largest gathering takes place in Bratislava's Náměstí Slovenského národního povstání, where several tens of thousands of people came. It also protests in Prague. Today 16:57 - Bratislava
    (Updated: 18:05)

    The events take place under the common name "Let's Build a Fair Slovakia" . There are no politicians in the congregations, but the first political demands appeared. One of the organizers, Peter Nagy, said they were requesting double-homicide investigations with the participation of international investigators."We also demand a government that we can trust, in which people will not be suspected of corruption and the link to organized crime," Nagy said.

    People have brought banners on the square of SNP in Bratislava with inscriptions such as (minister of the interior) "Kaliňák = mafia" and "watch the government". Representatives of teachers spoke at the demonstration. They said that Slovakia is at a crossroads. "We have to endure. We must not give up, "said one of them.The Prime Minister has no confidence
    The participants in the event made it clear that, in particular, Prime Minister Robert Fico (Social Democrats) and Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (Direction) lost their confidence. Students, teachers, nurses, representatives of NGOs and business stand out on stage in Bratislava.

    "The government, which is not linked to organized crime and the corrupt environment, is the foundation of maintaining democracy so that people believe in democracy," said another organizer Juraj Šelig.Rectors of some Slovak universities and universities have given the students leave for free on Friday to take part in the protests.

    State Security Council
    In connection with protest actions, Prime Minister Fico called on Friday a session of the State Security Council. The government and the police have expressed concern about possible violence at mass events.

    In recent days, Fico has repeatedly warned that the murder of a journalist and his girlfriend is being sought by the opposition and President Andrew Kiska on a coup d'état. He even suggested that everything is organized from abroad.

    It also demonstrates in Prague. Hundreds of people met on Friday with the Slovak embassy. https://www.novinky.cz/zahranicni/ev...oti-vlade.html

  37. #37

    4 Russian spy: Military deployed after poisoning

    About 180 military personnel have been deployed to Salisbury to help in the investigation into the attempted murder of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter.

    The military personnel - drawn mostly from the Army, but also from the Royal Marines and RAF - are experts in chemical warfare and decontamination.

    Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed on Sunday afternoon after being exposed to a nerve agent.

    Home Secretary Amber Rudd has described the attack as "outrageous".

    Those deployed include instructors from the Defence Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centre and the 29 Explosive Ordnance Group, who are experts in bomb disposal.

    The military has also sent 18 vehicles.

    Russian spy: What we know so far

    State TV anchor warns 'traitors'The Metropolitan Police said the counter-terrorism unit has requested the military's assistance "to remove a number of vehicles and objects from the scene", including ambulances that may have been contaminated while assisting the victims.

    The public should not be alarmed and there is no evidence to suggest a wide public health risk at this time, the police added.Valery Morozov, a Russian exile, told BBC News that Mr Skripal was working in cyber security.

    The former Russian military security colonel and his daughter remain in a critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital.Det Sgt Nick Bailey - who attended the scene on Sunday - is conscious but "very anxious" about being exposed to a nerve agent.

    Director of nursing Lorna Wilkinson said Mr Bailey was in a serious but stable condition.

    Specialist investigators wearing protective suits have been seen examining the bench that Mr Skripal and his daughter collapsed on.

    Mr Skripal's house and his car have also been cordoned off.It is known that Mr Skripal and his daughter had visited the Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon, before they were found near the Maltings shopping centre.Analysis
    By Jonathan Beale, BBC defence correspondent

    Some of the 180 military personnel who have been sent to help the investigation are specialists in chemical biological radiological and nuclear (CBRN) warfare.

    They include Falcon Squadron from the Royal Tank Regiment, which uses specialist Fuchs vehicles - effectively mobile laboratories - to carry out tests and decontamination.

    "Sensitive Site Exploitation" will look for any further traces of the nerve agent.

    Royal Marines from 40 Commando have also just completed the UK's biggest chemical warfare exercise - called Toxic Dagger - involving 300 personnel and including scientists from Porton Down.

    The existence of these units - some of which had suffered under defence cuts - highlights a growing concern in the military about the use of chemical weapons by individuals, terrorist groups and "rogue states".

    But the public is being told not to be alarmed.

    Many of the military personnel will be working behind the scenes and helping the police with relatively straightforward tasks, such as securing sites and removing objects, including ambulances, for decontamination.

    Ms Rudd visited some of the sites cordoned off by counter-terrorism police in Salisbury on Friday.

    She also visited Salisbury District Hospital where Mr Skripal, his daughter, and Mr Bailey are being treated.

    The home secretary, who met Mr Bailey in hospital, would not give any further details of the nerve agent used or how it was administered. Ms Rudd visited some of the sites cordoned off by counter-terrorism police in Salisbury on Friday.

    She also visited Salisbury District Hospital where Mr Skripal, his daughter, and Mr Bailey are being treated.

    The home secretary, who met Mr Bailey in hospital, would not give any further details of the nerve agent used or how it was administered.The graves of Mr Skripal's wife and son at a Salisbury cemetery have also been taped off.

    Mr Skripal, 66, was convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to MI6, but given refuge in the UK in 2010 as part of a "spy swap".

    Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Blair said the "extraordinary attack in Salisbury" is a good reason to investigate whether there is a pattern of former British intelligence collaborators dying in the UK.

    Former First Sea Lord and security minister Lord West said: "If it is a nation which has done it, it is completely unacceptable. It's almost like an act of war.

    "To actually allow something like a nerve agent to be used in another country for some reason is outrageous."

    Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied his country's involvement in the attempted murder of the ex-spy.The attempted murder of Mr Skripal has drawn comparisons to the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, who ingested the rare and highly radioactive Polonium 210 in London.

    On Tuesday Labour MP Yvette Cooper asked the home secretary to review 14 other deaths that had not been treated as suspicious by UK police, but have reportedly been identified by US intelligence sources as being connected to the Russian state.

    Ms Rudd has refused to speculate on whether the Russian state might have been involved in the attack, saying the police investigation should be based on "facts, not rumour". http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43344725?...e=news_central

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