WAR 05-01-2021-to-05-07-2021___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****


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(468) 04-10-2021-to-04-16-2021___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****

(469) 04-17-2021-to-04-23-2021___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****

(470) 04-24-2021-to-04-30-2021___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****


Editors' Pick|Apr 30, 2021,06:13am EDT|35,057 views
U.S. Navy Destroys Target With Drone Swarm — And Sends A Message To China

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Bodies of 3 Europeans killed in Burkina Faso arrive in Spain

Published on April 30, 2021

The bodies of three Europeans killed in Burkina Faso were flown to Spain on Friday, with Madrid pledging to keep up a “relentless” fight against the jihadist insurgency raging in Africa’s Sahel region.

The two Spanish journalists and an Irish wildlife activist were ambushed during an anti-poaching patrol in the impoverished West African nation which has been struggling with a surge in Islamist attacks since 2015.
Journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile were with Rory Young, head of the Chengeta Wildlife group, in the Arly National Park in eastern Burkina Faso when the attack occurred on Monday.

They were with a group that included soldiers and forest rangers when the assailants turned up in pickup trucks and on motorbikes, with the three Europeans initially reported missing.

The Burkina authorities said they had been “executed by terrorists”, becoming the latest victims of the ruthless Islamist insurgency gripping one of the poorest countries in the world.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya and Defence Minister Margarita Robles were on the tarmac at Torrejon de Ardoz airbase as three wooden coffins were carried off the plane by 24 air force officers.

“These are the heroes of the day: David and Robert, who have done so much to give a voice to those who do not have one, who have done so much to shed light on the realities that surround us and that are sometimes invisible,” Gonzalez Laya said.

The pair had been working on a documentary on conservation in Burkina Faso.

The Irish ambassador to Spain, Sile Maguire, was also at the airbase.

Young’s body was to be flown back to Ireland later on Friday, the Spanish foreign ministry told AFP, without giving further details.

– ‘We will be relentless’ –
Hailing the pair for “doing so much to give a voice to the voiceless,” Gonzalez Laya said the government was posthumously awarding them the Order of Civil Merit “for their work in pursuit of a journalism that enhances our democracy”.

The violence had highlighted the importance of Spain’s continued involvement in “efforts for peace and stability” in the war-torn Sahel region, she said.

Extending condolences to the families who were also at the airport but not on the tarmac, Robles said Spain would do “everything possible to find out who was behind these appalling acts”.

She vowed that Spain would press ahead with efforts to help those fighting the Islamist insurgency in the region.

“The fight against terror in these areas is not going to stop, we will be relentless,” she said.

– Hotbed of lawlessness –
Burkina, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have joined forces in a French-backed alliance called the G5 Sahel to fight jihadism on the southern edge of the Sahara, with the initiative also backed by Spain, Germany and Italy.

In a joint statement on Friday, Spain, France, Germany and Italy pledged continued security support for nations in the Sahel region which stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has turned into a hotbed of lawlessness over the past decade.

“We will continue existing initiatives to support the armies of the region, as well as the gendarmerie and internal security forces in their operations, training and capacity building,” they said.

Since 2015, more than 1,300 people have been killed and one million have fled the violence in Burkina Faso, which has ravaged this land-locked nation’s once-vibrant tourist industry

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If the Jerusalem Post is publishing his now then things are very soon to go very dumb considering the number of Obama retreads now working out of the White House and Foggy Bottom......

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Biden to green-light intifada if Israel opposes Iran deal - opinion
As the number and severity of Palestinian and Iranian attacks against Israel increase, US President Joe Biden moves quickly to restore former president Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal.

MAY 1, 2021 19:20

Over strong Israeli opposition, and despite Iranian promises to destroy the Jewish state, US President Joe Biden is moving quickly to restore Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, paving the way for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

At the same time, there has been a decided uptick in the number and severity of Palestinian and Iranian attacks against Israel. My sources inside the US government suggest one factor behind this may be tacit Biden permission or support for increased violence from Gaza and a new intifada if Israel refuses to accede quietly to a new Iran deal or takes “unapproved” steps to defend itself against the Iranian threat. This would be a catastrophic mistake and horrific breach of trust. But on the facts, the idea the Biden government would pressure the Israeli government by green-lighting Iranian or Palestinian terror attacks against innocent Israelis cannot lightly be dismissed.

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The evidence of Biden/Obama duplicityregarding Iran is hard to miss. Recently, The New York Times reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was recorded on recently leaked tapes saying John Kerry, secretary of state during the Obama administration, informed him of more than 200 secret Israeli operations in Syria. This report is credible given Kerry’s happy collusion with Iranian leaders to undermine the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the mullahs, impose an effective sanctions regime, and choke out their nuclear and conventional weapon programs.

That Kerry, who has a seat on Biden’s National Security Council, was passing US intelligence information on Israeli defense activities to a regime sworn to wipe Israel from the map might seem to be an unseemly betrayal of America’s closest Middle-Eastern ally. But when it came to Iran, the Obama administration did not merely betray the Israelis. It also lied repeatedly to Congress and the American people.

For example, Obama famously failed to disclose the existence of secret side-deals on inspections when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. They were only uncovered by chance when then-representative Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton learned about them during a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna. Then, the Obama administration secretly sent a plane to Tehran loaded with $400 million in Swiss francs, euros and other currencies on the same day Iran released four American hostages, which was followed by two more secret flights carrying another $1.3 billion in cash.

The Obama administration worked closely with the Iranians to indirectly transfer billions of dollars, subsequently used to fund Iranian activities in Syria and to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. For example, it signed a secret agreement with Iran to lift UN sanctions from two Iranian banks that helped finance Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

In 2018, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), revealed the Obama administration secretly tried to help Iran use US banks to convert $5.7b. in Iranian assets while promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the US financial system. Treasury official Adam Szubin played a key role in this effort.

Months before Szubin testified in front of congressional committees promising Iran would not have access to the US financial system, the Treasury Department issued a specific license to Bank Muscat permitting the conversion of Iranian assets in precisely that way. Portman’s report noted a 2016 email showing Szubin taking steps to facilitate Iranian access to the money. For his efforts, and almost certainly to delay and obstruct incoming Trump officials, Szubin was rewarded with an appointment as acting Treasury secretary.

At roughly the same time Kerry was passing intelligence on the Israelis to the Iranians, and Szubin was misleading Congress and working to bypass Iran sanctions, the Obama administration was directing US taxpayer dollars to build a political campaign infrastructure to subvert Israel’s government. Obama was caught and exposed by the bipartisan Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer grants to a nonprofit front group to build Israeli voter databases, train activists, and hire Obama campaign political operatives, all to take down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem was informed of these activities in emails, but the official, then-consul general Michael Ratney, claimed never to have seen them. Not surprisingly, this overt and poorly executed foreign election interference was buried by the American media.

This history is instructive because the Biden administration is staffed by many of the same individuals responsible for executing Obama’s policies. And the evidence is Obama’s Iran playbook is back in use.

To begin with, Biden has ended the Trump administration’s policies of strong support for Israeland vigorous opposition of Iran. “Negotiations” are back in full swing to relax Iran sanctions and ensure Iran again has a clear path to a nuclear weapon by hamstringing Israel’s defense. And once more, American officials are working to stop Israel from defending itself. According to The Wall Street Journal, “unnamed” US government officials recently leaked information on longstanding covert Israeli efforts to stop Iranian oil and weapons shipments. Biden’s people have informed Jerusalem of their displeasure over recent attacks against Iranian targets attributed to Israel for interfering with a quick deal. What John Kerry did, it seems, is being done again.

Also, “indirect” funding of the Iranian government may again be on the table. Republican legislators recently asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for information into foreign reports that the United States is facilitating “ransom” payments of over $1b. from South Korea to Iran. Yellen never answered, directing Congress to the State Department for additional information. What Adam Szubin did, it seems, is being done again.

For now, the Biden administration has the benefit of working in the shadows. Congressional Republicans are in the minority with limited oversight tools and leverage. During the Obama years, Democrats, even (or especially) those claiming to be “pro-Israel,” fought meaningful steps to expose, oversee or oppose that administration’s support for Iran. Given their extraordinary silence about the metastasizing anti-Israel/pro-Iran Biden foreign policy and national security apparatus, there is no reason to believe they will do anything to oppose the Biden administration either.

Israel is not entirely on her own in confronting Iran and its Palestinian proxies. But it is time to tell the truth: In Biden’s administration, Israel’s security will be sacrificed, and happily so, for a deal with Iran.

The writer is a former Trump administration official who served as deputy associate attorney-general, senior adviser to the Treasury secretary, and general counsel at the US Department of Education.


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In the November Sierra column....

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DIA: China Capable Of Mounting Nuclear Weapons To Planes To Dominate Northeastern, Western Africa

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 10:40 AM PT – Friday, April 30, 2021

The Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, found China has been rapidly expanding its military force. DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, China appears to have developed the capability to mount nuclear missiles to its warplanes.

“Is China capable of arming its hypersonic glide vehicles with nuclear warheads, and if so, what kind of risk does that pose to the united states and our interests?” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked.

“The answer to that question is yes, and that poses a significant risk,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier answered.

Berrier added, hypersonic glide vehicles are Russian technology, which Moscow has improved in recent years. For its part, China is seeking a similar modernization of its nuclear forces by the year 2030. Berrier went on to say, China is working to establish a base in Djibouti, which is a country in northeastern Africa, to threaten U.S. interests.

“Senator, I believe the Chinese — in order to safeguard their Belt and Road Initiative — will emplace military forces where they see they need that kind of capability,” Berrier continued. “Africa is certainly one of those places they have done that.”

The DIA director also confirmed previous reports that Beijing has bought political influence in western Africa, as well, in order to begin building a naval base there.

“The way they look at Africa is sort of this long-term developmental approach, which will allow them over a long period to put more forces there,” Berrier said. “So, I do agree with General Townsend, but in the extent that Africa is one area where strategic competition will play out, it will also play out in Latin America, in South America and wherever they extend their markets, you will find that activity.”

Lt. Gen. Berrier also said China is following a simple scheme by investing millions of dollars into poor countries first and then deploying its military there as part of a global power play.


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Russia’s Soft Takeover Of Belarus Completes Anti-NATO Military Buffer
By Sarah White
May 01, 2021

After protracted domestic unrest in 2020 in the form of massive protests attempting to oust Belarus’ president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the country’s government is teetering on the verge of collapse. Moscow has rushed in to fill the vacuum. Lukashenka has suddenly fallen in line with Moscow’s agenda, despite years of resistance to encroaching Russian economic influence. Now it is probable that Russia is facilitating a soft takeover of the former Soviet republic.

This week, NATO was alarmed at an announcement by Belarus’ defense ministry that a tank battalion would be moved near the border with Poland. Just a week earlier, there was news of an alarming buildup of Russian tanks on its Crimean border with Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned NATO that “additional measures” would be taken if troops were sent to aid Ukraine. On April 14 Russia warned the U.S. to stay out of the escalating situation “for its own good.”

Multiple high-level Russian officials (the Kremlin spokesperson, the outgoing Secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union State, and the outgoing Russian ambassador to Belarus) have issued statements denying the existence of plans to, for instance, merge the Russian and Belarussian states or armed forces. Because of these denials, NATO is in a hypervigilance mode of coordinated military activity near the Polish border. Nevertheless, the political situation in Minsk is transparent: Moscow has already deployed new diplomats to Belarus that have strong relationships with Vladimir Putin.

Moscow’s twenty-first-century ambitions to expand its sphere of influence were first tested in 2008 with the invasion of Georgia and then again with the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Since then, Russia has moved into the Donbas region of East Ukraine, where skirmishes between Russian-backed separatist militias and Ukrainian forces have been ongoing. The international community has come to expect an exercise of hard power from Russia.

This time, Russia’s strategy is much subtler than in previous iterations of expansionist acts. What is happening in Belarus amounts to soft aggression against the Belarusian people, who mobilized en masse to force Lukashenka out of office in 2020, and against NATO. The strategy, in this case, involves the movement toward cementing Belarus’ dependence on Russian transport networks, which Lukashenka previously avoided by moving exports through the Baltics. This is a significant sign of the Kremlin establishing economic control.

There are also ideological motives at play in this strategy. As was the case with Western Ukraine, civil society in Belarus has become considerably more pro-European in recent years. Belarusians are also re-examining their country's history from the lens of periods before Belarus was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the late eighteenth century; then, it was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This shared history draws a straight line from modern Belarus to modern Poland and Lithuania, both solid NATO members.

According to Warsaw’s Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), over sixty percent of Belarusians believe their country should draw inspiration from periods when they were not ruled by Russia. Along with those imperial predecessors, a smaller number of respondents pointed at the Belarusian People’s Republic as a relatively positive example of a state that is independent in more than name, despite a brief existence as an anti-Bolshevik entity amid the fallout of the Russian Revolution.

Simultaneously, approval rates for Vladimir Putin in Belarus have been on the decline. A Chatham House poll reported a 34.6 increase in negative viewpoints of the Russian president since the beginning of the August 2020 protests.

Despite the difference in Moscow’s method for seizing control, the consequences will likely be the same as for its other adventures. There is currently a sanctions regime in place in Belarus, imposed by the U.S. and Europe, but no overt military action will follow because of the heavy Russian military presence, as was the case for Georgia, for Crimea, and for Eastern Ukraine.

For Russia’s military, having a presence in Belarus facilitates the creation of an enormous, relatively coherent bulwark against the West, and its position between the Baltics and Poland renders those countries even more accessible. Nor is Belarus far from the already-heavily armed oblast of Kaliningrad, also in the Baltic region.

Ultimately, the U.S. and NATO will have to continue to be vigilant and step up preparations for an outbreak of direct conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe, which is quickly becoming a potential war theater.

They will also have to continue building up defenses and deterrence measures in the region, particularly in Poland, which faces the most pressure on the most fronts from the presence of Russian troops.

Fortunately, that process had been underway prior to the coalescence of Russian forces in Belarus and Ukraine. As the “frontline” state which devotes the required two percent of GDP to NATO defenses, Poland has been gradually shifting its military spending toward increasing preparedness for overt Russian aggression. Poland has acquired both the F-35 fighter and the Patriot air defense system from the U.S., which are used by other NATO countries. The F-35 is especially important in European defense because it collects more intelligence than any other tactical aircraft—and is invisible to Russian radar.

What remains under discussion is whether Poland will also acquire the M1 Abrams tank to replace its 500 or so Russian-made tanks from the Soviet era. Being able to acquire the M1 would immediately alleviate some of the stress that Poland is under to find a replacement for those tanks in the face of the current predicament; Germany has no available Leopard tanks for sale, and Poland has not been able to become part of France and Germany’s Main Battle Tank coalition.

Sarah White is a Senior Research Analyst at Arlington’s Lexington Institute. The views expressed are the author’s own.


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Pilot Wounded as Cartel Shoots at Border State Police Helicopter in Mexico
Chopper Shooting 1
Nuevo Leon Government
A group of gunmen suspected of being part of Los Zetas shot at a Mexican state police helicopter injuring the pilot. The wounded pilot quickly landed the aircraft while bleeding profusely.

The attack took place on Friday afternoon when a helicopter belonging to Nuevo Leon’s State Police forces carried out air reconnaissance over an area northwest of the Monterrey Metropolitan area. The region has seen a heavy presence of cartel activity in recent weeks.

Just one day before the attack, Mexico’s National Guardsmen raided a narco-camp where members of the Cartel Del Noreste faction of Los Zetas held up. This comes as the criminal organization seeks to gain new territories.

As the flight crew flew over the area where the seizures took place, a group of gunmen on the ground began shooting at the aircraft. Some of the bullets struck the pilot, injuring him. The gunfire forced the pilot and co-pilot to take evasive maneuvers and return to the headquarters while they radioed for help.

By the time the helicopter landed, emergency medical personnel were waiting to treat the injured pilot. The pilot is reported to be in stable condition. Law enforcement sources revealed to Breitbart Texas that the pilot lost two fingers from one of the shots that struck him.

As Breitbart Texas reported, the areas northwest of Monterrey witnessed a heavy presence of CDN-Los Zetas gunmen as they seek to take new territories by force from their rivals with the Gulf Cartel. The gunmen utilize large convoys of gunmen in armored vehicles to fight with their rivals and, at times, clashing with police forces who routinely are under-gunned when facing up against the gunmen.

Gerald “Tony” Aranda is an international journalist with more than 20 years of experience working in high-risk areas for print and broadcast news outlets investigating organized crime, corruption, and drug trafficking in the U.S. and Mexico. In 2016, Gerald took up the pseudonym of “Tony” when he joined Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles project Since then he has come out of the shadows and become a contributing writer for Breitbart Texas.

Border / Cartel ChroniclesCrimeLaw and OrderCartel Del NoresteLos ZetasMexican National Guardnuevo leon



passin' thru
Escobar: US, Europe, & The Vienna JCPOA 'Shadowplay'
Tyler Durden's Photo

by Tyler Durden
Sunday, May 02, 2021 - 07:00 AM
Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,
None of the actors can admit that revival of JCPOA pales compared with the real issue: Iranian missile power...

Few people, apart from specialists, may have heard of the JCPOA Joint Commission. That’s the group in charge of a Sisyphean task: the attempt to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal through a series of negotiations in Vienna.
The Iranian negotiating team was back in Vienna yesterday, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi. Shadowplay starts with the fact the Iranians negotiate with the other members of the P+1 – Russia, China, France, UK and Germany – but not directly with the US.
That’s quite something: after all, it was the Trump administration that blew up the JCPOA. There is an American delegation in Vienna, but they only talk with the Europeans.

Shadowplay goes turbo when every Viennese coffee table knows about Tehran’s red lines: either it’s back to the original JCPOA as it was agreed in Vienna in 2015 and then ratified by the UN Security Council, or nothing.
Araghchi, mild-mannered and polite, has had to go on the record once again to stress that Tehran will leave if the talks veer towards “bullying”, time wasting or even a step-by-step ballroom dance, which is time wasting under different terminology.
Neither flat out optimistic nor pessimistic, he remains, let’s say, cautiously upbeat, at least in public: “We are not disappointed and we will do our job. Our positions are very clear and firm. The sanctions must be lifted, verified and then Iran must return to its commitments.”

So, at least in the thesis, the debate is still on. Araghchi: “There are two types of U.S. sanctions against Iran. First, categorized or so-called divisional sanctions, such as oil, banking and insurance, shipping, petrochemical, building and automobile sanctions, and second, sanctions against real and legal individuals.”

“Second” is the key issue. There’s absolutely no guarantee the US Congress will lift most or at least a significant part of these sanctions.
Everyone in Washington knows it – and the American delegation knows it.
When the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, for instance, says that 60% or 70% has been agreed upon, that’s code for lifting of divisional sanctions. When it comes to “second”, Araghchi has to be evasive: “There are complex issues in this area that we are examining”.

Now compare it with the assessment of informed Iranian insiders in Washington such as nuclear policy expert Seyed Hossein Mousavian: they’re more like pessimistic realists.
That takes into consideration the non-negotiable red lines established by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself. Plus non-stop pressure by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are all JCPOA-adverse.

But then there’s extra shadowplay. Israeli intel has already notified the security cabinet that a deal most certainly will be reached in Vienna. After all, the narrative of a successful deal is already being constructed as a foreign policy victory by the Biden-Harris administration – or, as cynics prefer, Obama-Biden 3.0.
Meanwhile, Iranian diplomacy remains on overdrive. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is visiting Qatar and Iraq, and has already met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al Thani.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, virtually at the end of his term before the June presidential elections, always goes back to the same point: no more US sanctions; Iran’s verification; then Iran will return to its “nuclear obligations”.

The Foreign Ministry has even released a quite detailed fact sheet once again stressing the need to remove “all sanctions imposed, re-imposed and re-labeled since January 20, 2017”.
The window of opportunity for a deal won’t last long. Hardliners in Tehran couldn’t care less. At least 80% of Tehran members of Parliament are now hardliners. The next President most certainly will be a hardliner. Team Rouhani’s efforts have been branded a failure since the onset of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Hardliners are already in post-JCPOA mode.

That fateful Fateh
What none of the actors in the shadowplay can admit is that the revival of the JCPOA pales compared to the real issue: the power of Iranian missiles.
In the original 2015 negotiations in Vienna – follow them in my Persian Miniatures e-book – Obama-Biden 2.0 did everything in their power to include missiles in the deal.
Every grain of sand in the Negev desert knows that Israel will go no holds barred to retain its nuclear weapon primacy in the Middle East. Via a spectacular kabuki, the fact that Israel is a nuclear power happens to remain “invisible” to most of world public opinion.

While Khamenei has issued a fatwa clearly stating that producing, stockpiling and using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear included – is haram (banned by Islam), Israel’s leadership feels free to order stunts such as the sabotage via Mossad of the (civilian) Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.
The head of Iran’s Parliament Energy Committee, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, even accused Washington and London of being accomplices to the sabotage of Natanz, as they arguably supplied intel to Tel Aviv.

Yet now a lone missile is literally exploding a great deal of the shadowplay.
On April 22, in the dead of night before dawn, a Syrian missile exploded only 30 km away from the ultra-sensitive Israeli nuclear reactor of Dimona. The official – and insistent – Israeli spin: this was an “errant”.
Well, not really.
Here – third video from the top – is footage of the quite significant explosion. Also significantly, Tel Aviv remained absolutely mum when it comes to offering a missile proof of ID. Was it an old Soviet 1967 SA-5? Or, rather more likely, a 2012 Iranian Fateh-110 short range surface-to-surface, manufactured in Syria as the M-600, and also possessed by Hezbollah?

A Fateh family tree can be seen in the attached chart. The inestimable Elijah Magnier has posed some very good questions about the Dimona near-hit. I complemented it with a quite enlightening discussion with physicists, with input by a military intel expert.

The Fateh-110 operates as a classic ballistic missile, until the moment the warhead starts maneuvering to evade ABM defenses. Precision is up to 10 meters, nominally 6 meters. So it hit exactly where it was supposed to hit. Israel officially confirmed that the missile was not intercepted – after a trajectory of roughly 266 km.
This opens a brand new can of worms. It implies that the performance of the much hyped and recently upgraded Iron Dome is far from stellar – and talk about an euphemism. The Fateh flew so low that Iron Dome could not identify it.

The inevitable conclusion is this was a message/warning combo. From Damascus. With a personal stamp from Bashar al-Assad, who had to clear such a sensitive missile launch. A message/warning delivered via Iranian missile technology fully available to the Axis of Resistance – proving that regional actors have serious stealth capability.
It’s crucial to remember that when Tehran dispatched a volley of deliberately older Fateh-313 versions at the US base Ayn al-Assad in Iraq, as a response to the assassination of Gen Soleimani in January 2020, the American radars went blank.
Iranian missile technology as top strategic deterrence. Now that’s the shadowplay that turns Vienna into a sideshow.

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Smaller Mexico Cities Now Most Violent in the World

Mexico has once again dominated a list of the most violent cities in the world but smaller towns have now shot up the rankings, reflecting new hotspots where criminal groups are fighting for control.

The most violent place in the world in 2020 was Celaya, a city of around half a million people in the central state of Guanajuato, according to the report by a Mexican non-governmental organization, the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal).

The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) have been battling around Celaya over control of oil theft, drug trafficking and other criminal economies.

A few years ago, Celaya wasn’t even on the list. But since 2018, it has shot up more than thirty places, with 699 killings in 2020, or a homicide rate of over 109 per 100,000 habitants.

The situation is similar in nearby Irapuato, also in Guanajuato, which has gone from newcomer to fifth-most violent city in the world, with 823 homicides last year.
Located only a few hours away from Celaya and Irapuato, the city of Uruapan has climbed to eighth in the rankings, with a homicide rate over 72 per 100,000 habitants. It is the deadliest place in the state of Michoacán, which has seen regular clashes between the CJNG and about a dozen other criminal factions, all seeking control of key cocaine and fentanyl trafficking routes.

And the city of Zacatecas, in central Mexico, only appeared on the list in 2019 but broke into the top 15 most violent cities in 2020. This coincided with the CJNG invading 17 municipalities in Zacatecas state in April 2020, during the country’s first lockdown and clashing with the Sinaloa Cartel and other groups throughout the year.

Latin American and Caribbean cities made up the overwhelming majority of the list, claiming 46 of 50 spots. But notably, some of the most murderous cities of past years, such as Kingston, Jamaica or Caracas, Venezuela, have dropped below smaller Mexican newcomers.

InSight Crime Analysis
Bloodshed in Mexico has reached such a level that continued outbreaks of violence in individual, medium-sized cities can register on a global scale, due to larger cartels with a national presence facing smaller but entrenched adversaries.

In August 2019, InSight Crime reported that Irapuato, an important industrial and trade center in central Mexico, had become an unfortunate model for similar cities in the country. At the time, clashes between the CJNG and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel had already been raging since 2018.

Despite the arrest of Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel leader, José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro,” in August 2020, shocking acts of violence have not stopped.
The fighting is brutal but fragmented, having broken down into neighborhood- and street-level feuds that appear endless. With the fall of Yépez Ortiz, his group began to internally fracture, with smaller groups claiming pieces of the illicit oil economy, leading to additional violence at the same time that the government was executing a plan to militarize the area.

Uruapan tells a different story as the climb in homicides there has been more sudden. While located in the western state of Michoacán, which has consistently been a patchwork of rival clans, Uruapan saw violence spike in late 2019 when the CJNG moved in and faced off against Cárteles Unidos. The latter is an alliance between members of Los Viagras and Cartel del Abuelo, two Michoacán-based groups, who have teamed up to defend their control of drug trafficking routes.

Similarly, Zacatecas had actually seen homicides drop by 9 percent in 2019 before they spiked again in 2020 after the CJNG moved in.


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01.05.2021 CHAD
Chad army says killed 'several hundred' rebels

The army in Chad said Friday it had wiped out "several hundred" rebels over two days of fighting in the country's west, where President Idriss Deby Itno suffered mortal wounds at the front line this month.

The army has since mid-April been fighting the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), drawn mainly from the Goran ethnic group, in the Kanem desert region along the border with Niger.

"On April 29, the defence and security forces finished dealing with the rebel band that intruded towards Nokou in northern Kanem," army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement.

Nokou is around 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the capital N'Djamena.

Agouna tallied "several hundred rebels neutralised (and) 66 taken prisoner" while six soldiers were killed.

The military earlier said it had lost a helicopter during the fighting due to a "technical fault" but the rebels say they shot it down.

The rebels have threatened to march on N'Djamena, where a team from the African Union arrived Thursday to assess the situation and examine ways of a speedy return to democratic rule.

Immediately after Deby's death, a junta dubbed the Transitional Military Council (CMT) was quickly formed, chaired by Mahamat Idriss Deby, the late president's son, and made up of generals.

Assuming the title of president, the younger Deby dissolved the National Assembly and vowed to hold "free and democratic" elections in 18 months.

Deby, 68, died on April 19 from wounds he suffered fighting the Libya-based rebels, according to the authorities.

A career soldier who seized power in 1990 and exercised it ruthlessly for 30 years, Deby died on the day that the electoral commission confirmed that he had won a landslide victory, the authorities say.

FACT is led by Mahamat Mahadi Ali, a veteran insurgent who previously lived in France. It was formed in 2016 and has been based in southern Libya.

The group vowed to pursue its offensive after a pause for Deby's funeral on April 23. Experts believe FACT has between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters.

'National dialogue'

Protests immediately erupted after the junta took power and claimed the lives of at least six people, according to officials.

Chadian police have denied opposition claims that they fired live bullets on demonstrators.

The younger Deby, under domestic and international pressure, has offered a "national dialogue" on the way forward.

Chad is a kelly ally of the West in the fight against jihadists in the restive Sahel region.

It has well-respected armed forces and hosts the headquarters of France's 5,100-strong Barkhane anti-jihadist mission.

It also partners Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a regional anti-jihad coalition called the G5 Sahel.

The unrest in Chad has once again put the spotlight on lawlessness in neighbouring Libya.

The UN Security Council on Thursday held its first meeting on the risk of mercenaries in warn-torn North African nation.

The closed-door session was requested by members Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, before Deby's death.

According to diplomats, there are estimated to be "more than 20,000" foreign mercenaries in Libya, whom Libyan authorities, UN officials and world powers have demanded leave.

However dispersal of the mercenaries -- who diplomats say include 13,000 Syrian and 11,000 Sudanese fighters -- could represent a new risk for the region.


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The March 2021 Palma Attack and the Evolving Jihadi Terror Threat to Mozambique
May 2, 2021 Homeland Security Today

On March 24, 2021, about 200 fighters of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jamma’ah (ASWJ) attacked the northern Mozambican town of Palma. For four days, they were rampant, killing at least dozens of local people and destroying much of the town’s infrastructure, including banks, a police station, and food aid warehouses. The attack reverberated around the world because Palma was home to hundreds of foreign workers, most of them contractors for the Total liquefied natural gas (LNG) project on the nearby Afungi Peninsula. Dozens of foreigners were trapped at a hotel in the town and under fire for at least 36 hours. The attack was another stunning failure for Mozambique’s security forces, which proved unable to hold a town of 70,000 against a couple of hundred young militants.

This article builds on research and reporting for a previous study published by this author in CTC Sentinel in October 2020. That piece explored the origins of the insurgency and the factors that enabled it to flourish: a traditional Islamic leadership out of touch with younger Muslims; economic and social deprivation in northern Mozambique amid a wealth of natural resources; and corruption and ineffective governance. The insurgency in Mozambique officially became part of the Islamic State’s Central Africa province (ISCAP) in June 2019. In a short video the following month, a group of Mozambicans are shown pledging allegiance to then Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but there has been no public pledge from any purported ASWJ leader to the central leadership of the Islamic State.

This article focuses on the attack on Palma after a lull in activity during the rainy season—and what it portends for the insurgents, the security forces, and Mozambique’s economic future, which is tightly bound to the exploitation of its LNG potential. It examines the tactics and goals of the attack, the involvement of private military contractors in the response, and the failings of the security forces. The analysis draws from a range of sources, including witnesses to and survivors of the attack, local sources, regional analysts who follow the insurgency, and officials with aid organizations who are based in Mozambique. Some have preferred to speak on background.

Read more at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point


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Is China Done With Salami Slicing?

Beijing appears to have given up its incremental strategy in favor of more sizable power grabs.

By Tobias Burgers and Scott Romaniuk

May 01, 2021

Is China Done With Salami Slicing?

Soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy let out a yell as they march in formation during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
China’s recent activities and behavior in and around its periphery have shown that its current regime seems intent to push its foreign policy and security boundaries. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis China has sought to expand its influence at an unprecedented pace, across all domains and in a multitude of locations.

China has escalated its border conflict with India, leading to violent clashes between Indian and Chinese armed forces. China has also conducted offensive cyber operations, targeting India’s critical infrastructure, including vital seaports and the state’s critical power grid. Furthermore, it has significantly increased its operations against Taiwan: It has sent its People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) past the long-mutually-respected median line in the Taiwan Strait and has escalated the situation further by intruding into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) with ever-increasing numbers of military aircraft. In addition, China deployed its carrier force to the eastern waters of Taiwan to conduct drills, while casually remarking that such entrancement-and-encirclement operations would become the norm in its foreign relations and interactions with other, principally neighboring, states.

In its conflict with Japan, China has also increased its operations, now regularly sailing its Coast Guard into Japanese territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands at a rate that seems to double its present tempo of naval incursions compared to 2020. Finally, it has sought to expand its footprint and control in the South China Sea, recently dispatching nearly 200 boats from its para-military maritime militia to the Whitsun Reef, entering the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Observing the sum of these actions, it is apparent China has changed course in its security policy. Its security policy approach in the Indo-Pacific was long-seen as centering on the use of salami slicing tactics. We have previously discussed the various possible aspects and angles of how China was, and could further pursue, salami-slicing with the aim of advancing its security interests in adjacent regions. Yet it is evident that China has given up on its salami slicing tactics in favor of a more aggressive approach in and around its periphery. Indeed, several locales within the Indo-Pacific domain have already played host to more assertive foreign and security policy approaches that have little in common with China’s previous salami slicing tactics.

In his 2012 article for Foreign Policy, Robert Haddick defined salami slicing as “the slow accumulation of small actions, none of which is a casus belli, but which add up over time to a major strategic change.” Haddick and Erik Voeten, building on the work of scholars such as Thomas Schelling and James Fearon, emphasize how the success and effectiveness of salami slicing tactics is found is the minor size of any single action. As Voeten notes the “key to salami tactic’s effectiveness is that the individual transgressions are small enough not to evoke a response.”

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This divide-and-conquer tactic is efficient over a longer period of time, slow and subtle enough to avoid evoking an unwanted response by states that might oppose both the policy as a means and its goals. While the gains are important, the actions are too minor to compel any state to go escalate significantly and potentially risk a (military) conflict that would otherwise result in far more destructive outcomes. The awareness of the reluctance of other states is an important element for the salami-slicing actor. This was best illustrated in the South China Sea, where China’s salami slicing tactics, and the absence of strong responses from its adversaries, primarily other claimant states, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has facilitated China’s military control over the area.

Yet, the recent Chinese actions are neither “small actions” nor “small transgressions,” and they have generated responses. The volume of China’s actions has grown sufficiently large and visible enough that its adversaries should take notice – and they have. While it is one thing to sail several ships in and through contested waters, it is an entirely different level of action to sail a fleet of 200 ships into contested waters – and to remain there. Similarly, crossing the median line with a few aircraft represents an entirely different magnitude of assertiveness as opposed to sending a squadron of fighters and bombers into an ADIZ. China has changed its modus operandi from “small actions and transgressions” to more dramatic, sweeping moves, the primary aim of which appears to be conjoined with heightened visibility.

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Concurrently, it is evident that China’s actions are evoking responses among its biggest adversaries. Indeed, the initial reluctance to respond to Chinese actions has changed and opposing actors are now responding in various ways. First, on the political level, China’s adversaries are increasingly seeking to form partnerships and other cooperative initiatives with the aim of counter China’s growing power. The Quad, the Australia-Japan-India-U.S. alliance, long regarded as a diplomatic exercise, seems to have been revitalized in the wake of recent Chinse assertiveness.

Japan, generally a cautious actor when it comes to its China policy, recently, for the first time since 1969, affirmed the necessity for a secure and stable Taiwan in a joint statement with the United States. Meanwhile, Taiwan-U.S. relations strengthened under former President Donald Trump, and President Joe Biden has demonstrated that his administration is intent on bolstering the relationship further. The Philippines, which under President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued a pro-China, anti-United States approach, recently opted to extend the visiting forces agreement with the United States, and is seeking similar agreements with Australia and Japan. The latter two nations have signed their own agreements that cover the exchange of military forces – a novelty for Japan, which has not signed any such agreement since its first and only agreement with the United States in 1960. Across the Indo-Pacific, nations are increasing their political and military collaboration as a result of China’s highly visible pressure tactics.

On the military level, we likewise find strong responses to China’s actions. Taiwan has increased its defense budget; so have Japan and Australia. Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s government approved Japan’s ninth consecutive increase in military spending, putting money into the development of a stealth fighter and long-range missiles in response to China’s growing military power and capabilities. Australia’s defense budget continues to grow, with a view to increasing its defense spending by 40 percent over the course of the coming decade. Finally, the United States is further increasing its presence in the Indo-Pacific and seems intent on countering the growing Chinese military power. Chief among its most recent initiatives is its new anti-access/area denial A2/AD) missile plan, which aims to deploy medium- and long-range missiles as a tool to counter growing Chinese naval power.

The sum of these responses makes it obvious that China is now facing a new resoluteness among its adversaries to counter its security policies. In this environment and under these security dynamics, it seems unlikely China will be able to advance its security policies as successfully in the region, because its current tactics have violated the principles that make salami slicing effective. At times, the slices have become too thick and too frequent. These factors have played a considerable role in exposing the threat posed by China’s foreign policies. China’s incrementally bolder and sometimes clumsily blatant moves have resulted in a deeper awareness in its neighbors about the dangers of Chinese policies beyond China’s borders. At the same time, other states’ perceptions of China’s strategic outlook and intentions show little signs of being shaped and formed by Beijing, leaving China with less room to craft an alternative explanation for its actions.

While our view is that China by no means can be regarded as the sole perpetrator of assertiveness, aggression, and hostility with its neighbors and their strong allies (notably the United States), we find that salami slicing has possibly run its course. Hence, the Chinese regime has looked to increasing the pace and portion of its interests. This has created an acquisition spiral with the pursuit of its claims at its core.

What has now become more apparent than ever is that China’s objective of establishing itself as a superpower is at stake. To reach that goal, salami slicing may no longer seem a relevant tactic – after all, it requires time for the state to see the slow but steady accumulation of gains. Chinas’ stridently aggressive approach signals the end of any period of timidity for Beijing. As the regime moves to more aggressive posturing, it may expect to see its moves translate into rapid gains and influence over other states.

However, it remains to be seen how other actors in the Indo-Pacific (and further abroad) will react to China’s new approach. For now, we can conclude that its new foreign policy approach increases the risk of misperceptions and miscalculations, and increases the potential for conflict escalation throughout the Indo-Pacific.

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Missile multinational: Iran’s new approach to missile proliferation
How does Iran equip its proxies and allies with increasingly sophisticated and longer-range ballistic missiles and artillery rockets? Fabian Hinz considers Iran’s new missile-proliferation strategy.

The proliferation of ballistic missiles and artillery rockets to non-state actors by the Islamic Republic of Iran is a constant source of tension in the Middle East. Yemen’s Houthi rebels conduct ballistic-missile strikes on Saudi Arabian cities, airports and oil installations; Hizbullah’s ever-growing rocket and missile arsenal sparks Israeli consideration of military options; and Iranian proxies rocket the United States’ installations in Iraq on an almost weekly basis.

But how does Iran equip its proxies and allies with increasingly sophisticated and longer-range ballistic missiles and artillery rockets? For years, the answer has been through smuggling. In one example, on 19 March 2021 Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir claimed that all Houthi missiles fired at the Kingdom were ‘made in Iran’, and there is ample evidence that Houthis were the recipients of weapons such as Iran’s short-range Qiam ballistic missile. Iran doubtlessly continues to directly transfer missiles outside its borders to some degree. However, in recent years smuggling has been augmented by two other transfer methods: the provision of guidance kits to modify existing stockpiles of artillery rockets, and the wholescale provision of manufacturing capabilities.

Iranian support for enabling local rocket production is not new. Reports about the rocket arsenals of Palestinian factions in Gaza regularly cite Iranian assistance for domestic manufacturing, and Hizbullah’s alleged missile factory in the Beqaa Valley became the topic of competing accusations in the Israeli–Hizbullah relationship. However, closer examination of Iranian sources, documents likely leaked by Israeli intelligence and the missiles unveiled by the Houthis reveal a strategy of empowering Iranian proxies that is more comprehensive than previously thought. In cooperation with Iran’s missile industry, the Quds Force (QF) of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) appears intent on enabling all its main proxies to be able to autonomously manufacture artillery rockets and precision-guided missiles. Also, a special development effort seems to be aimed at creating simple artillery rockets and short-range-missile systems and production units custom-tailored for local production.
For more about Iran's missile proliferation, read 'Open-source analysis for Iran's missile and UAV capabilities and proliferation'.
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Spike in Russian aircraft intercepts straining Air Force crews in Alaska, three-star says
Rachel S. Cohen
5 days ago
An F-22 Raptor from the North American Aerospace Defense Command intercepts a Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber in international airspace near Alaska on Oct. 19. NORAD said F-22s intercepted two Tu-95s, as well as a pair of Russian fighters, but that they did not enter American or Canadian airspace. (NORAD)

Intercepting record numbers of Russian aircraft off of North America’s west coast has stretched Air Force units thin, a top service official in Alaska said Wednesday.
“We have certainly seen an increase in Russian activity. We intercepted over 60 aircraft last year. … We monitor more than that,” Lt. Gen. David Krumm said from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, during an online forum hosted by the Air Force Association.

That’s the most action the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone — a region spanning 200 nautical miles that reaches past U.S. territory and into international airspace — has seen since the Soviet Union fell in 1991. In comparison, the Anchorage Daily News reported in 2015 that the ADIZ averaged about 10 incursions by Russian aircraft each year, like Tu-95 Bear bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence-collection planes.

In response, the Air Force deploys F-22 fighter jets, E-3 airborne surveillance planes and KC-135 tankers to escort Russian aircraft away. The flights come as world powers jockey for influence in the Arctic, a growing hotspot of domestic and military activity.

“While there is a strain on our units, I will tell you that they’re managing it very, very effectively,” said Krumm, who serves as head of U.S. Northern Command’s Alaska branch, NORAD’s Alaskan region, and the 11th Air Force under Pacific Air Forces.
An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018. The F-22 Raptor is the U.S. Air Force’s premium fifth-generation fighter asset. (Photo by Jamal Wilson)

F-22s intercept Russian maritime recon aircraft near Alaska
“COVID-19 or not, NORAD continues actively watching for threats and defending the homelands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year."
Shawn Snow

The military sends F-22s from JBER to meet up with the Russians because the Raptors are based nearby in Alaska, but Krumm indicated the Air Force may be open to dispatching other types of jets in the future so Raptors can focus on more complex missions and training. The F-16 Fighting Falcons at nearby Eielson AFB, Alaska, could offer a fourth-generation jet alternative.

“F-22s are our frontline air superiority fighter,” he said. “There is a cost. … I don’t know all the options that we’re going to pursue yet.”

NORTHCOM and NORAD boss Gen. Glen VanHerck warned House lawmakers on April 14 that the U.S. must be able to detect and respond to all potential airborne threats as Russia improves its bomber fleets and other long-range aircraft. The Defense Department is considering its options for modernizing a network of satellites, radars and other sensors and assets that would help the military pick up on suspicious behavior sooner and to collaborate across the force to address it.

Aspects of that network will be tested at the upcoming Northern Edge exercise that begins May 3, including technologies like the new F-15EX Eagle II fighter jet, SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites, inventions from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and electronic signal jammers.
Airmen use a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender to refuel an F-15C Eagle as part of exercise Northern Edge in May 2019 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. (Master Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/Air Force)

‘Northern Edge’ brings firepower to Alaska, with an eye on Arctic jockeying
Pacific Air Forces will lead the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps in the biennial, 12-day Northern Edge exercise beginning May 3.
Rachel S. Cohen

The spike in intercepts could factor into the scenario that participants face at Northern Edge, Air Force Times previously reported.

“We are looking at what modern warfare could be in the future, and that includes scenarios like [Russian incursion into American airspace],” Lt. Col. Michael Boyer, the lead planner for Northern Edge, told reporters March 31. “Obviously, we see a lot of interest and value in our nation’s interest in the Arctic and we want to make sure that those are protected and preserved in an appropriate manner.”

About Rachel Cohen
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.


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Panama- 17 dead 800 injured in Colombia tax riots
Date 5/3/2021 11:32:31 PM

(MENAFN - Newsroom Panama) At least 17 people died and more than 800 were injured in the riots that followed five days of massive protests in Colombia against a tax reform project promoted by the government of Iván Duque, authorities reported Monday.

According to the Ombudsman, 16 civilians and a policeman were killed in the demonstrations that began on April 28 throughout the country. The Defense Ministry in turn counted 846 injured people, of which 306 are civilians.

The authorities arrested 431 people during the excesses and the government ordered the deployment of the military to the most affected cities. Some NGOs accuse the police of shooting civilians.

Defense Minister Diego Molano assured that the acts of violence are "premeditated, organized and financed by dissident FARC groups" that departed from the peace agreement signed in 2016, and by the ELN, the last guerrilla movement in Colombia.

Pressured by the demonstrations President Duque on Sunday ordered the withdrawal of the proposal that was debated with skepticism in Congress, where a broad sector rejected it for punishing the middle class and being inappropriate in the midst of the crisis unleashed by the pandemic.

Despite the announcement, on Monday morning there were already people on the streets and roadblocks in Bogotá.

On April 15, the government presented a tax reform to Congress as a measure to finance public spending in Latin America's fourth-largest economy.

But criticism rained down from the political opposition and its allies, and discontent soon spilled out onto the streets.

With the reform, the government aspired to raise about $6.3 billion dollars between 2022 and 2031, to rescue the economy.

In its worst performance in half a century, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plunged 6.8% in 2020 and unemployment climbed to 16.8% in March. Almost half of the 50 million inhabitants are in informality and poverty affects 42.5% of the population.

Duque proposed on Sunday to draft a new reform project that discards the main points of contention: the increase in the VAT tax for services and goods and the expansion of the taxpayer base with income tax.


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Metus Hostilis: Sallust, American Grand Strategy, and the Disciplining Effects of Peer Competition with China - War on the Rocks
Iskander Rehman

41-52 minutes

In May 1781, a cantankerous John Adams, still smarting after his public falling-out with Benjamin Franklin and humiliating ejection from the French court, sat down to write a stern letter to his teenage son, the young John Quincy Adams. Now based in Amsterdam, where he served as the fledgling American republic’s envoy to the Netherlands, the classically educated New Englander was intent on ensuring that his eldest boy kept up with his homework, and more specifically, with his detailed study of the greatest texts of antiquity. The doting paterfamilias urged his talented offspring to focus his intellectual energies on the works of the first century B.C. Roman historian Gaius Sallustius Crispus — more commonly known as Sallust;
You go on, I presume, with your Latin Exercises: and I wish to hear of your beginning upon Sallust who is one of the most polished and perfect of the Roman historians, every period of whom, and I had almost said every syllable and every letter is worth studying. In company with Sallust, Cicero, Tacitus and Livy, you will learn wisdom and virtue. You will see them represented, with all the charms which language and imagination can exhibit, and vice and folly painted in all their deformity and horror. You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen. This will ever be the sum total of the advice of your affectionate father.
Part of a revolutionary generation steeped in the classical tradition, John Adams was hardly the only founding father to express a fierce admiration for the depth and elegance of Sallustian prose. Indeed, in 1808, an aging Thomas Jefferson would dispense remarkably similar advice to that of his great frenemy from Massachusetts, encouraging his grandson to distill from a close reading of Sallust the “valuable art of condensing his thoughts and expressing them in the fewest words possible,” adding that the Roman historian never omitted a necessary word, nor used an unnecessary one.” This was a rare quality which made him worthy of constant study.”

In their effusive praise for Sallust, the founding fathers were merely the latest in a succession of thinkers and statesmen, from Saint Augustine to Thomas Hobbes, who — over the course of the centuries — viewed the brooding politician as one of the late Roman Republic’s most pungent observers of domestic polarization and decline as well as its most forceful political moralist.

Especially popular in the medieval and early modern eras, Sallust’s mordant phrases were eagerly harvested by generations of admirers, liberally strewn across Florentine histories or etched across coats of arms. In the 15th century, more manuscripts of his texts were produced and annotated than of any other classical historian. One cautionary maxim, in particular, which also serves as a neat encapsulation of Sallust’s thought, appears to have acquired an almost viral quality: Concordia Res Parvae Crescunt, Discordia Maximae Dilabuntur, orSmall states grow with concord; discord causes great ones to dissolve.” The strength of the Sallustian legacy revolves around the scholar-practitioner’s treatment of the theme of public morals and civic-mindedness — a Roman élan vital whose faltering health, in his mind, had come to undermine almost every aspect of the late republic’s domestic and foreign policy.

Indeed, in addition to being one of the most accomplished wordsmiths of Latin literature, Sallust remains, first and foremost, the grim pallbearer for the slow, rattling demise of Roman virtue — a phenomenon which he famously associated with the jarring absence of a unifying threat (metus hostilis, or fear of the enemy) in the wake of the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. For Sallust, as for so many of his intellectual forbears and successors, great-power rivalry was fundamentally a two-level game — and it was impossible to disentangle a state’s domestic values from its foreign policy. Actions in one domain inevitably bled into the other. The existential nature of the Carthaginian threat had not only unified the Roman populace in a shared struggle; it had also provided them with a valuable counter-model — a refractive mirror against which they could continuously contrast, define, and ultimately perfect their own distinct tradition of republican governance.

In the wake of the Punic nemesis’ eradication, that energizing focus had been lost, while territorial expansion and a glut of foreign money had encouraged avariciousness, licentiousness, and corruption. Widening socioeconomic disparities and incessant intestine political feuding had sapped the moral foundations of the republic, polluted its political vocabulary, and warped its statecraft. Out of this sorry state of affairs had slithered an ouroboros of decay and self-sabotage, as Rome’s increasingly dissipated and hubristic foreign policy progressively widened the republic’s suppurating internal fissures.

It is this aspect of Sallust’s hugely influential body of thought that is the most instructive for our own post-unipolar moment — his searing critique of the dangers of domestic factionalism and complacency along with his provocative defense of the disciplining or restorative virtues of peer competition. Among all the classical historians, Sallust’s ruminations are perhaps the most relevant to Washington’s current predicament, as a deeply divided nation seeks to both refurbish its battered democracy and prevail in a long-term competition against a ruthless authoritarian rival. Indeed, the former Roman senator provides some of the best insights into why American domestic renewal and a more proactive and values-based foreign policy are, in fact, indissolubly linked, rather than in tension or opposition.

Rome’s Enigmatic Pessimist-in-Chief
Sallust left us with two fully completed major works, the Bellum Catilinae and the Bellum Jugurthinum — both in the form of historical monographs — along with scattered fragments from a third, more epic history: the Historiae. Bellum Catilinae, or Catiline’s War, recounts the abortive insurrection of the noble Sergius Catilina in 63 B.C., its bloody suppression, and the dramatic trial of the plot’s high-ranking conspirators. Sallust’s second masterpiece, the Bellum Jugurthinum, or the War with Jugurtha, describes, in granular detail, a grueling six-year campaign in North Africa against an insurgent Numidian warlord, Jugurtha, from 112 to 106 B.C. The Historiae, or Histories, which regrettably remained unfinished at the time of Sallust’s death, were intended to be the historian’s great masterpiece, and the fragments we possess cover the turbulent period ranging from the death of Sulla in 78 B.C. to about 67 B.C.

Figure 1: “Cicero Denounces Catiline” by Cesare Maccari

Source: Wikicommons

Although we have only a relatively limited knowledge of Sallust’s political career, especially in its early years, we do know that he was a supporter of Caesar and served under him during the civil wars, even commanding a legion in Illyricum (the Balkans). This fact led some 19th century historians, such as Theodor Mommsen, to argue that his works, while superbly written and historically significant, had been almost irredeemably tainted by association. His flattering portrayal of Caesar, memorably depicted as a voice of reason and moderation in Catiline’s War, has been viewed as especially suspect. Others pointed to the fact that the historian, while deploring the rampant corruption of his time, had himself been accused of engaging in extortion and financial malfeasance during his tenure as governor of North Africa in the mid-40s B.C. For a long time, therefore, the image many had of Sallust was that of an embittered Tartuffe, who, having withdrawn from politics after Caesar’s assassination, had spent his final years secluded in his villa, pacing its famously luxuriant gardens, and furiously pouring his barbed disillusion onto the open page.

Contemporary classicists, however, would argue that this is a reductive way of approaching the work of such a complex and multilayered writer. There is no doubt that Sallust formed part of the extended network of clientage that gravitated around Caesar, and that — for a time, at least — he was “Caesar’s man.” Sallus was a novus homo, or “new man,” and an equestrian from the Italian countryside, and he may well have temporarily seen in the figure of Caesar the social reformist a redemptive figure for the republic, one who could overcome the more entrenched interests of the corrupt and self-satisfied higher aristocracy he relentlessly flays throughout his works.

That this fact should be allowed to cast a pall over his entire body of writing, however, is a more dubious proposition. With his checkered, labyrinthine political motivations, and battered conscience, Sallust was in many ways a man of his time — and one whose life’s details still remain too enigmatic in the eye of the historian to warrant an unequivocal condemnation. And indeed, Sallust himself is remarkably forthright about his own failings — most famously in the opening to Catiline’s War, which takes on the chastened tones of a confessional, with the historian grudgingly admitting that, as a young man, he had been “led astray” by an “ill-starred ambition.”

Although Caesar is presented in a largely positive light, the overwhelming impression one derives from Sallust’s histories is that of his nuance and evenhandedness. As the late classicist Paul Harvey noted, although “[Sallust’s] histories show a democratic bias, and he sometimes distorts the facts, he is on the whole impartial and can recognize merits in political adversaries and faults on his own side.” Like a wan light trickling through a greasy windowpane, a certain pained candor filters through, lending psychological depth to his narratives and their core protagonists. There are no cartoon villains or shining paragons of virtue in Sallust’s world for him, such neatly etched figures belonged to an earlier, less murky era. Rather, his Shakespearean portraits are treated in chiaroscuro, laboring under the weight of mixed motives and combining fine qualities with deadly flaws. As Catalina Balmaceda observes in her superb study of politics and morality in Roman historiography:
[Sallust] does not present a simple, neat account of the struggle between good and evil; the situation is much more complicated and not completely under control: the ones who are supposed to behave like heroes show signs of weaknesses and even vices; the criminals, on the other hand, display noble virtues on several occasions […]
In the midst of this caliginous political environment, writing and reading history clearly took on something of a redemptive quality. Indeed, as Sallust states, somewhat defensively, in Catiline’s War, although it was glorious to “serve one’s country by deeds,” to “serve her by words” was not “something to be despised.” History could serve a vital social function, providing future generations of citizens with a precious repository of inspiring and ethically uplifting exempla. A people severed from its past and the mos maiorum (way of its ancestors) would eventually lose its moral footing and find itself slowly sinking into the gloomy depths of its own listlessness.

In the Republic, Sallust’s great contemporary, Marcus Tullius Cicero, compared the dying Roman Republic to a beautiful painting whose once vibrant colors had slowly started to fade away. Writing in a time of even greater turmoil and political persecution, Sallust’s tone is more crepuscular. His famously distinct and much-emulated style — cutting, abrupt, and epigrammatic — is brutally elegant, his narrative continuously propelled forward by what an awe-struck Quintilian described as Sallust’s immortal velocity.” In its very terseness and jaggedness, his prose reflects the harshness and disorder of a benighted era. It is as if the historian, grimacing and grunting with exertion, has unceremoniously wrenched Rome’s portrait from the wall to reveal the dark tendrils of mold that have crept their way across the back of the frame.


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Sallust’s Theory of Metus Hostilis
Figure 2: “Battle of Zama” by Cornelis Cort

Source: Wikicommons

When, precisely, had Rome’s moral mildew set in? Famously, for Sallust, with the fall of Carthage. Over the course of the 118-year span of the Punic Wars, multiple generations of Romans had battled, at times desperately, against the polyglot hosts of a formidable peer competitor. The North African state’s sudden and total annihilation in 146 B.C. had not only been a system-shattering event; it had also profoundly marked the collective psyche of Rome’s elites, for whom the bipolar rivalry with Carthage, however destructive, had — in its very urgency — fulfilled a vital clarifying and unifying function. Sallust’s regret at Carthage’s eradication was profound and far-reaching. Indeed, for the Roman historian, the issue was not so much the act of sanguinary liquidation in and of itself — but rather, its long-term consequences.

The loss of Rome’s sole remaining peer competitor had resulted in hubris and euphoric expansion, as the triumphant victor turned to the Eastern Mediterranean and finally cemented its hegemonic control over Greece and its congeries of feuding statelets. Its coffers now groaned under the weight of the plunder torn from the charred ruins of Carthage and Corinth, while a dark torrent of foreign money continuously inundated Roman politics. Unevenly distributed, this viscous flow of riches corrupted Rome’s elites and antagonized its people, reviving long-dormant class hatred and socioeconomic tensions. Private wealth, rather than merit, had become the principal measure of social standing among the nobiles, and, in Catiline’s War, Sallust is excoriating in his portrayal of their crass materialism — their “leveling of mountains, to erect vulgar villas bloated “to the size of cities,” and their “scouring of the land and seato satisfy their gluttony for exotic foreign foods.

In both Catiline’s War and the War with Jugurtha, Sallust stresses the extent to which the conclusion of the Punic Wars constitutes, in his mind, a hinge point in the Roman history. In Catiline’s War, the historian memorably likens the moral deterioration that follows to a visible, almost physical process, drawing on the imagery of a virulent disease that gradually infects the Roman body politic:
When our country had grown great through toil and the practice of justice, when great kings had been vanquished in war, savage tribes and mighty peoples subdued by force of arms, when Carthage, the rival of Rome’s sway had perished root and branch, and all seas and lands were open, then Fortune began to grow cruel and to bring confusion into all of our affairs. Those who found it easy to bear hardship and dangers, anxiety and adversity, found leisure and wealth, desirable under other circumstances, a burden and a curse. Hence the lust for money first, then for power, grew upon them; these were, I may say, the root of all evils. […] At first these vices grew slowly, from time to time they were punished; finally, when the disease had spread like a deadly plague, the state was changed and a government second to none in equity and excellence became cruel and intolerable.
In the War With Jugurtha, Sallust doubles down on this theme and pines for a mythologized golden age — or plupast — when a fear-rooted internal consensus had helped channel and discipline the rambunctious Roman people’s natural ambitions:
For before the destruction of Carthage the people and senate of Rome together governed the republic peacefully and with moderation. There was no strife among the citizens either for glory or for power; fear of the enemy (metus hostilis) preserved the good morals of the state. But when the minds of the people were relieved of that dread, wantonness and arrogance naturally arose, vices which are fostered by prosperity. Thus, the peace for which they had longed in time of adversity, after they had gained it proved to be more cruel and bitter than adversity itself.
The core component of what has been described as “Sallust’s theorem(i.e., that fear of an external enemy can foster greater national cohesion) was not exactly novel. Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, and Posidonius had all previously identified what was perceived as a common social phenomenon. Other contemporary writers, such as Diodorus Siculus, had also pointed to the important role the Carthaginian threat had played as a restraining and disciplining factor in Roman grand strategy. And already in the Histories, Polybius, having observed firsthand Rome’s extension of its dominance over the entire oikoumene, or known world, had begun to cautiously adumbrate some of Sallust’s later critiques.

Interestingly, in the fraught months leading up to the cataclysmic siege of the Third Punic War, some Roman statesmen were later depicted as having been torn over the necessity of Carthage’s obliteration and have been — probably retroactively — credited with a line of reasoning almost identical to that laid out by Sallust almost a century and a half later. This is most famously described in the heated “debate of the figs” on the Senate floor, when Cato the Elder, brandishing a fresh and allegedly Carthaginian fig for dramatic effect, warned his fellow legislators that the city in which it had been plucked lay only three days away by sea, would always remain a mortal threat, and must therefore be destroyed. In this, he was purportedly opposed by his fellow senator Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, who argued in favor of continued peace negotiations and Carthage’s preservation. As Plutarch recounts in his life of Cato the Elder:
[Scipio Nasica] saw, probably, that the Roman people, in its wantonness, was already guilty of many excesses, in the pride of its prosperity, spurned the control of the Senate, and forcibly dragged the whole state with it, wherever its mad desires inclined it. He wished, therefore, that the fear of Carthage should abide, to curb the boldness of the multitude like a bridle, believing her (Carthage) not strong enough to conquer Rome, nor yet weak enough to be despised.
Cato the Elder was one of the few historical figures for whom the misanthropic Sallust appears to have professed a genuine esteem. Yet, for all of the historian’s admiration of Cato’s dour virtues and trenchant literary style, it is clear that, in the case of Carthage, he believed the warmongering octogenarian to have been gravely mistaken. As Saint Augustine would later approvingly remark, Scipio Nasica, with his tragic sensibility, had been the better connoisseur of human frailty. By voicing his concern that “security was an enemy to weak souls,” he had seen that fear was a necessary and suitable teacher for citizens just as it is for small children.”

Even though the argument that Carthage’s destruction had indirectly led to the decline of the Roman Republic was not wholly original, Sallust went down in history as its most compelling and articulate proponent, directly influencing thinkers ranging from the Church Fathers to Machiavelli. Indeed, where the retired senator distinguishes himself from his predecessors is in his clinical dissection of the dangers of combining overwhelming military dominance with a lack of shared civic-mindedness. Perhaps most importantly, he is remarkably effective at shedding light on the interactive effects of domestic and foreign affairs, providing timeless insights on how issues such as corruption, polarization, and populism can come to permeate — or in Sallustian terminology, “infect” — both spheres of human endeavor.
Moral Decay as a Two-Level Pathology
In the eyes of Sallust, the sudden gift of uncontested primacy had been a poisonous one. Its financial, territorial, and political dividends had overstressed Rome’s administrative system, which had been ill-equipped to manage an empire of such magnitude. The citizenry, which had been so invested in their city’s struggle for survival during the dark days of the Hannibalic War, was now distracted by material pleasures and no longer had reason to pay close attention to the management of foreign policy. As a result of this ambience of solipsistic frivolity, “affairs at home and in the field” had increasingly been captured by only “a few men, in whose hands were the treasury, the provinces, public offices, glory and triumphs.” Domestic and foreign affairs were increasingly irrigated by the same brackish flows of illicit funds — something Sallust chronicles remarkably effectively in the War with Jugurtha.

Figure 3: “Jugurtha’s Capture” by Joachin Ibarra

Source: Wikicommons
As the classicist Ronald Mellor notes, what is ostensibly a monograph on a foreign war soon morphs into a biting analysis of how Rome’s internal factional strife and corruption corroded its statecraft. Jugurtha, the adoptive son of King Micipsa of Numidia, was initially a much-respected ally of Rome, fighting alongside the Roman legions during the Numantine Wars in Spain. Valiant in war” and wise in counsel,” the Numidian warlord became a close companion of Scipio Aemilianus, the great hero of the Third Punic War. Over the course of the campaign, however, the ambitious young man fell into more unsavory company. A group of venal and unscrupulous Roman commanders “who cared more for riches than for virtue and self-respect, intriguers at home, influential with our allies, notorious rather than respected” began to cultivate Jugurtha’s friendship. “Firing his ambitious spirit,” they urged him to launch a coup d’état upon his return to Numidia and wrest control of the country from Micipsa’s two sons, Hiempsal and Adherbal.


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In an arresting moment, a troubled Scipio Aemilianus quietly takes his hotheaded friend aside and warns him not to consort with some of Rome’s more crooked elites in order to pursue his own growing ambitions. Sadly, Scipio Aemilianus’ advice falls on deaf ears, and Jugurtha, upon his return to Numidia, soon engineers the assassination of Hiempsal and launches a bloody civil war against Adherbal. Despite the blatant illegitimacy of the usurper’s actions, Rome’s response was initially hampered by divisions within the Senate, where Jugurtha’s envoys succeeded in buying off a large number of senators. Emboldened by the corruption he saw all around him, the Numidian became increasingly dismissive of Rome’s formal security guarantee to Adherbal, as he felt convinced of the truth of what he had heard from his (Roman) friends at Numantia, that at Rome anything could be bought.”

Overly confident, Jugurtha eventually overreaches when he invades the territory Rome had allotted to Adherbal, tortures him to death, and engages in an indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and foreign tradesmen. Despite the power of Jugurtha’s influence and money,” which threatens to protract the senatorial deliberations “until all indignation had evaporated,” the Senate “from consciousness of guilt began to fear the [Roman] people.” Gaius Memmius, a tribune of the Plebs, animated by a sense of “independence and hatred of power the nobles,” urges his compatriots to not prove false to their country and their own liberties” by letting such an act of naked aggression against a key ally go unpunished.

According to Sallust, it was only as a result of the Roman people’s righteous indignation that the aristocratic senators whose “love of money had attacked their minds like a pestilence” were finally stirred into military action against the foreign war criminal. Thereupon followed a bruising six-year campaign against the wily, elusive Numidian who, with his intimate knowledge of the Roman military, proved a formidable opponent. Sallust takes pains to demonstrate how Roman military performance was chronically undermined by the petty rivalries and grubby jostling between commanders. The fact that the war occurs on formerly Carthaginian territory also lends it a depressingly kaleidoscopic quality — immediately conjuring up unflattering comparisons with the glorious wars fought by Rome’s greatest generations across those same sunbaked landscapes.

Indeed, nested deep within Sallust’s gripping narrative the discerning reader can already see —stirring like a brood of vile grubs — the rampant corruption, knee-jerk partisanship, and toxic class hatreds that would eventually lead to the Marius/Sulla civil wars, and then, further down the road, to the end of the republic. As a survivor of vicious internecine conflicts, Sallust is less interested in their narration than in the examination of their root causes. A recurrent theme, or topos, in his work is the loss of civic-mindedness and the steady subordination of the mos maiorum (way of the ancestors) to the mos partium et factionum (way of parties and factions). As class hatreds and contending political factions grew more ossified, partisan affiliation progressively took precedence over merit.

Thus, as Sallust glumly notes in the War with Jugurtha, during the two rivals Metellus and Marius’ rancorous campaign for military high office, the determining factor was not their own good or bad qualities” but “party spirit.” Similarly, when a tribune puts forward a bill to sanction senators having accepted bribes from Jugurtha, the “commons passed the bill with incredible eagerness and enthusiasm,” not so much “from love of country” as out of “hatred for the nobles, for whom it boded trouble […] so high did party passion run.”
Figure 4: “The Discovery of the Body of Catiline after the Battle of Pistoia” by Alcide Segoni

Source: Wikicommons

One of the most interesting aspects of Sallustian thought is how, within such a charged political environment — where fellow citizens are viewed almost solely through the prism of clan, class, or faction — language itself is distorted as virtus (virtue) dissolves into vitius (vice). His commentary on the corrosive effects of the subversion of shared political vocabulary brings to mind George Orwell’s well-known later ruminations on the issue, and most notably, the English writer’s acrid observation that when the general atmosphere is bad, the language must suffer.” Addressing his fellow senators during the Catilinarian conspiracy, Cato the Younger becomes the mouthpiece for one of the most well-known pieces of Sallustian rhetoric, lamenting the fact that words have now mutated beyond recognition and “in truth we have long lost the true name for things.”

Sallust viewed himself as a philosophical historian in the tradition of Thucydides, whose archaizing prose and penetrating psychological themes he emulated and latinized for a contemporary Roman audience. This intellectual heredity is most visible in Catiline’s War, when the historian lambasts the partisan hypocrisy now rife across the political spectrum — whether among the fire breathing populists or the reactionary nobility:
For, to tell the truth in a few words, all who after that time assailed the government used specious pretexts, some maintaining that they were defending the rights of the people, others that they were upholding the prestige of the Senate; but under pretense of the public welfare each in reality was working for his own advancement. Such men showed neither self-restraint nor moderation in their strife, and both parties used their victory ruthlessly.
As many classicists have noted, this passage is remarkably similar — indeed, in some cases, almost identical in its language — to Thucydides’ description of Corcyra’s descent into internal chaos, or stasis, in Book III of the Peloponnesian War. Both men were seasoned observers of politics, valued clear and incisive prose, and had seen in the debasement and manipulation of language clear signs of decadence and disunity.

Sallust and Contemporary Great-Power Competition
Sallust was one of the Roman Republic’s most perceptive writers on the dangers of strategic dissipation, corruption, and political polarization. What tentative insights can we draw from him today?
First of all, Sallust’s warnings of the risks tied to foreign influence campaigns and weaponized or “strategic” corruption appear especially relevant at a time when the Biden administration and several key U.S. allies have stated their determination to curb the corrosive influence of dark money and illicit financing on our democratic institutions.

In the War With Jugurtha, Sallust engages in a granular analysis of how foreign lobbying and dark money undermined Rome’s statecraft, sapping it from within and preventing it from initially taking a robust and principled stance against Jugurtha’s acts of aggressions against a treaty ally. One could tease out certain eerie similarities with the Trump administration’s ethically compromised Ukraine policy, a sordid tale of sleaze, foreign influence, and corruption which eventually led to a full-blown domestic political crisis in the United States. In one striking passage of journalist Catherine Belton’s recent investigation into Putin’s kleptocratic networks of influence, a smug Russian operative is quoted as commenting on the Ukrainian scandal with the exact same words as Jugurtha in Sallust’s 2,000-year-old monograph, sneering that “t looks as though the whole of U.S. politics is for sale.” Could there be any clearer indication of the timelessness of Sallust’s warnings on the pernicious role of foreign money in domestic politics or the urgency of moving forward with bipartisan anti-kleptocracy initiatives such as the Combatting Global Corruption Act?

What should one make, however, of Sallust’s controversial theory of metus hostilis, the notion that intensified great-power competition can foster greater internal cohesion?
Sallust’s theory of social change has been rightly criticized, notes one classicist, for ignoring or downplaying earlier episodes of discord,” and for revolving around an “overly rigid,” almost mechanistic conception of historical decline. Indeed, in his nostalgia for a remote, quasi-Hesiodic golden age, Sallust often appears to be indulging in what the intellectual historians Arthur Lovejoy and George Boas memorably termed chronological primitivism — the notion that the earliest stage of human history was necessarily the most morally pristine. Interestingly, Sallust himself appears to backpedal somewhat in his final work, the Histories, conceding in one of its surviving fragments that the republic had been plagued by instances of disputes between plebs and nobles[] and dissensions within the city” from the very beginning. Once again, though, Sallust remained convinced that it was only the presence of a common threat — that of a return of the Tarquin monarchy with Etruscan military support — that had temporarily defused these centrifugal pressures. Later, toward the mid-republic, it was the Punic Wars that momentarily put an end to the discord and struggles between the classes,” until, with the destruction of Carthage, Rome’s citizens were free to resume their quarrels.”

Sallust’s theory remains starkly unforgiving, almost uncomfortably so, for a modern reader. As political scientist Daniel Kapust notes, this creates a dilemma whereby “the coherence of a community may become linked to the existence of a dangerous foreign enemy.” Healthy democracies should be able to guarantee the conditions of their own success without fear of a great-power competitor, and no sensible individual would argue in favor of cultivating foreign enmity for its own sake.

And yet, Sallust’s grim insights, however unsettling, may hold some truth to them. It is possible to acknowledge that an unwelcome new strategic dispensation — the emergence of China as a redoubtable near-peer competitor — may paradoxically provide a clarifying and restorative sense of purpose to a deeply fractious American democracy. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, U.S. security managers have frequently struggled to set clear priorities, define an overarching vision, and manage bureaucratic infighting. Meanwhile, intense domestic polarization has rendered U.S. foreign policy more volatile, unpredictable and — in the eyes of international observers — unreliable.

As contemporary political scientists such as Jennifer Mitzen and Emily Goldman have noted, physical security is not always coterminous with “ontological security,” and relative quiescence in great-power rivalry paradoxically increases uncertainty.” Highly diverse threat environments, with little to no ordering of potential adversaries, can complicate strategic assessments, and undermine political-military coordination. Threat-based defense planning — particularly if oriented primarily toward only one or two major opponents — is less intellectually burdensome than so-called portfolio planning, which demands consistent adjudication between myriad competing risk assessments and force structure variants. The absence of a major challenger can also cause restless policymakers to elevate, and perhaps even artificially inflate, formerly second-order threats. As John Mueller has sardonically noted:
The post-Cold War jungle had snakes whereas the Cold War jungle was inhabited not only by the snakes but by a dragon as well. Some people might consider that a notable improvement and, as jungles go, a palpable reduction in the complexities of daily life. However, when big problems (dragons) go away, small problems (snakes) can be elevated in perceived importance.
The urgency of the China challenge has already led not only to a downsizing of America’s formerly open-ended commitments in other theaters but also to demonstrations of bipartisanship that have remained more elusive in other areas of foreign policy. Although the U.S. public remains depressingly tribalized, a shared, albeit belated, recognition of the fact that competition with China requires internal as well as external balancing has given birth to some surprising new manifestations of cross-party consensus — such as on the need for the U.S. to devise a more robust industrial policy or revive its moribund infrastructure. It would appear, therefore, that Sallust’s assessment of a peer competitor’s elucidating function and dampening effect on the “spirit of faction” has proven to be at least partially correct.


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That being said, there are also certain key risks tied to rigidly subscribing to the theory of metus hostilis. By viewing every geopolitical development through the prism of a bipolar rivalry, American defense planners might neglect or underestimate secondary theaters along with other less formidable, but still consequential, challengers. By construing every regional crisis as a test of national will in a globe-girdling struggle with China, analysts in Washington also risk overly simplifying local conditions and disregarding the value and agency of small and mid-ranking powers. Last but not least, couching the U.S.-China relationship solely in terms of geopolitical enmity risks encouraging less wholesome and more nationally divisive sentiments. During certain periods of the Cold War, for example, thinkers such as Rienhold Niebuhr warned of the “spiritual aberrations which arise in a situation of intense enmity” amidst a public temper of fear and hatred.” The ugliness of certain current developments, from a recent explosion of anti-Asian xenophobia and violence to misguided attempts, in some quarters of the previous administration, to frame the U.S.-China rivalry in “civilizational” terms, serve as a valuable reminder that a spirit of knee-jerk hostility toward a foreign competitor can engender its own unique set of domestic perils.

All of which brings us to the final, and most essential, aspect of Sallust: the importance of grounding foreign policy in clear values and of continuously reminding the American people that their nation’s struggle lies with the People’s Republic of China’s ideologically driven revisionism rather than with the Chinese people or some antiseptically framed Asian great-power rival. Indeed, distinguished Sinologists have repeatedly drawn attention to the ideational drivers behind Beijing’s assertiveness and vision in which “tianxia [imperialism with Chinese characteristics] meets Leninism,” with the latter’s traditional focus on power, cynicism, and subversion. To this mixture one might add an unhealthy dose of Han chauvinism, which is reflected not only China’s abhorrent treatment of its own ethnic minorities but also its disdainful attitude toward fellow Asian states. Meanwhile, Chinese officials and spokespeople regularly take to social media to tout the purported superiority of their political system and heap scorn on American democracy. Earlier this month, the Chinese Communist Party announced a new campaign of “patriotic education” aimed at purging “Western ideas” from primary and secondary school libraries.

And yet — somewhat astonishingly — calls have been growing in some quarters of the U.S. academic and policy community to sideline, minimize, or deny the role of values in Sino-U.S. competition, almost as if American government officials could singlehandedly erase or redraw the conflict’s preexisting ideational parameters. Some have even drawn haphazard historical parallels — arguing that the U.S. should seek to promote an alternative international governance architecturein the form of an informal steering group” incorporating China and loosely modeled on the supposedly ideologically ecumenical Concert of Europe. These efforts are both historically and strategically unsound.

Indeed, a close reading of the history of protracted great-power competition reveals that virtually all such contests either fuel or stem from profound ideological differences. One of the key reasons why many enduring rivalries exist is precisely because preexisting ideational divergences, often driven by non-instrumental motives, frustrate bargaining and preclude mutual accommodation. For instance, one cannot comprehend England’s multigenerational rivalry with France during the Hundred Years’ War without also taking into consideration the potency of Angevin revanchism on the one hand and French royal exceptionalism on the other. Similarly, one cannot come to a full understanding of Franco-Spanish statecraft during the Italian Wars without acknowledging the fact that both powers’ competing strategies of primacy were often undergirded by millenarian and messianistic beliefs.

Meanwhile, the notion that the Concert of Europe was unideological would flummox any serious 19th century historian — after all, the grouping was initially founded as an alignment of hereditary monarchies who sought not only to establish a European balance of power but also stymie the spread of revolutionary and liberal movements across the continent. Some of today’s self-designated “realists” seem to have forgotten what the Old World’s first articulators of realpolitik had clearly understood — that man, for better or for worse, is a fundamentally ideological creature. From time immemorial, the burdensome duty of any statesman has consisted of gingerly weighing the balance between their country’s material and ideational interests, all while striving to find a way to reconcile the two. As Robert Osgood, one of the more sophisticated thinkers of the Cold War, once observed:
The utopian, anxious to assert the claims of idealism and impatient with reality, or the realist, exasperated by the inability of the utopians to perceive the reality of national egoism, may be tempted to simplify the troublesome moral dilemma of international society by declaring that ideals and self-interest are mutually exclusive or that one end is the only valid standard of international conduct. […] But […] in very few situations are statesmen faced with a clear choice of national self-interest; in almost all cases they are faced with the task of reconciling the two. [..] To recognize the points of coincidence between national self-interest and supranational ideals is one of the highest tasks of statesmanship.
This holds even more true for democracies, whose leaders are accountable to their electorate, and who — in order to muster the requisite support for a policy of protracted competition — must appeal to both reality and ideology, and, in so doing, combine the two strains not only in their speeches but in their soul.” As a recent Pew poll shows, the clearest bipartisan consensus with regard to America’s China policy is in the field of values, with over 70 percent of Americans expressing support for promoting human rights in China, even if such support should jeopardize economic relations with Beijing. As Sallust well knew, no great power can muster the will and determination to prevail in a multigenerational struggle without drawing on such inner reservoirs of moral strength. Like the Roman Republic of old, America has its own “mos maiorum” — one inextricably bound up with the universalist ideals of its classically educated founding fathers.

The notion that American foreign policy elites can disregard this fact and pursue some desiccated brand of academic realism toward China, whereby America’s democratic values are somehow surgically removed from its grand strategy, is whimsical. It is an Olympian fantasy — an elitist vision of statecraft untethered from the messy complexities of domestic politics and of human nature more broadly, and therefore, from geopolitical reality. It is also self-defeating. The People’s Republic of China is certainly a formidable adversary, capable of exerting enormous political and cultural influence through its financial clout and brute economic force. In the field of public diplomacy, however, its current leadership provides Washington with an ideal sparring partner.

Brash, vulgar, and profoundly unappealing, Beijing’s ideological commissars display little of the sophistication or agility so characteristic of their more worldly Russian counterparts. Why should the United States refuse to compete in an area in which its vociferous opponents are so comically inept and in which — for all its very real challenges and flaws — America holds an overwhelming advantage?

Washington’s most capable partners in Asia are all robust democracies, frontline states that will increasingly be required to justify to their domestic populaces the growing military costs of their alignment with the United States. Absent a continued emphasis on the threat posed by Beijing to our shared democratic values and cherished international norms, the elected leaders of these states are unlikely to be able to muster sufficient levels of domestic support for more forward-leaning defense postures. Granted, some authoritarian regional actors such as Vietnam might be discomforted by a more values-driven U.S. foreign policy. Vietnam’s attitude toward its Chinese neighbor, however, is colored by a long and complex history — one in which an ardent Vietnamese nationalism has traditionally played a much more consequential ideological role than the shared communist authoritarianism of Beijing and Hanoi’s ruling classes. Vietnam will continue to independently balance against the behemoth at its borders, regardless of the nature of American public diplomacy.

Moreover, Washington can adopt a more measured and tailored approach to value promotion, countering authoritarian disinformation and corruption, and highlighting the benefits of its model without ranging over the world like a knight-errant, protecting democracy and ideals of good faith,” or arguing in favor of regime change. It is possible to selectively partner with some authoritarian states while systematically privileging the democratic allies who also happen to be the most militarily redoubtable actors in the region. This is what the 16th century humanist Justus Lipsius famously called “prudentia mixta,” or “mixed prudence,” combining the “good and pure liquid” of values with “the sediment” of interests. As Sallust forcefully argued, though, it remains impossible to disaggregate the two.

Protracted competition with China must be tied to domestic political renewal — jolting a complacent and polarized American populace into recognizing its shortcomings, rediscovering its first principles, and striving toward a more perfect union. Absent such a collective restorative effort, the great American experiment risks falling prey to the “way of faction” so powerfully depicted by one of Rome’s greatest historians.

Iskander Rehman is the senior fellow for strategic studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, where he leads a research effort on applied history and grand strategy. He can be followed on Twitter: @IskanderRehman.
Image: “The Catapult” by Edward Poytner

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3 minutes

Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs / Published May 05, 2021

MINUTEMAN III TEST LAUNCH ABORTS PRIOR TO LAUNCH BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch. The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch. The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met. The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. -30- For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil. For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact

MINUTEMAN III TEST LAUNCH ABORTS PRIOR TO LAUNCH BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch. The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch. The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met.

The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. -30- For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil. For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch.
The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch.

The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met.
The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective.
For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil.
For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact AFGSC Public Affairs at 318-456-1305 (After Hours 318-532-1215) or afgsc.paworkflow@us.af.mil.


On TB every waking moment

3 minutes

Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs / Published May 05, 2021

MINUTEMAN III TEST LAUNCH ABORTS PRIOR TO LAUNCH BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch. The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch. The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met. The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. -30- For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil. For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact

MINUTEMAN III TEST LAUNCH ABORTS PRIOR TO LAUNCH BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch. The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch. The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met.

The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective. -30- For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil. For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, experienced a ground abort prior to launch.
The cause of the ground abort is currently under investigation, and Air Force Global Strike Command is assessing the potential to reschedule the launch.

The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met.
The test launch program helps the command evaluate the Minuteman III and gather data to keep the system effective.
For questions regarding the launch window or Vandenberg AFB range operations, contact 30th Space Wing Public Affairs at 805-606-3595 or 30sw.pa.workflow@us.af.mil.
For queries regarding the ICBM test launch purpose and missile, contact AFGSC Public Affairs at 318-456-1305 (After Hours 318-532-1215) or afgsc.paworkflow@us.af.mil.
That this press release was made is as much of interest as the abort and its causes.


passin' thru
Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Test Aborted Due To Undisclosed Issue
The aborted launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base comes amid debate about the future of the ICBM force.
By Thomas Newdick May 5, 2021
Minuteman III Silo

The U.S. Air Force’s latest Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test ended in failure after a “ground abort” prior to launch. While the cause is under investigation, the news comes at a time when a debate is raging in Congress and elsewhere about whether to proceed with developing a replacement for the missile, which has been in use since the early 1970s.

The unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was due to be test-launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on May 5, between 12:15 AM and 6:15 AM Pacific Time. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) has confirmed that it’s “assessing the potential to reschedule the launch.” No comment has yet been made about the nature of the “ground abort,” and we can’t really even say it was a malfunction at this time. It could have been a technical failure of the missile or its launch system, or it could have involved a tracking system loss, a broken communications link, or even a range “fouler,” when an unauthorized asset strays into the missile’s planned path, for all we know.

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Clayton Wear

Successful launch of an unarmed Minuteman III from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in February 2020.

Test launches of the Minuteman III are a fundamental part of evaluating the ICBM and gathering data to keep the system effective, including validating its readiness and accuracy. Furthermore, aborted tests and outright failures are also not unheard of, with the last mishap coming in 2018, again out of Vandenburg, when an unarmed Minuteman III suffered a failure over the Pacific. In that instance, Air Force personnel utilized the weapon’s self-destruct feature to safely destroy it in flight.
“The Air Force adheres to strict protocols while performing operational test launches, only launching when all safety parameters with the test range and missile are met,” AFGSC said in the release about the latest incident.

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Updating America's Land-Based Ballistic Missile 'Nuclear Sponge' Is A $100B+ Waste By Tyler Rogoway Posted in The War Zone

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While it’s too early to say how critical the latest failed test launch was, it does come at a time in which the future of the land-based arm of the U.S. nuclear triad is under considerable scrutiny.
The Air Force and Pentagon have long called for a replacement for the Minuteman III under the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, or GBSD, planned for initial operational capability by 2029.

However, the Biden administration is likely to review the status of GBSD, based on the costs involved, and the possibility of modernizing the Minuteman III for further years of service. The total cost of GBSD could reach $264 billion, excluding warhead development, which might add around $15 billion more.

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Eydie Sakura

An airman uses a hand-held controller to lower a Minuteman III solid-propellant replacement booster into a launch facility under the Propulsion Replacement Program, an earlier missile life-extension effort.

Last September, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract to develop the GBSD and the service approved the company’s missile design, under the EMD baseline review, two months later.
Northrop Grumman recently announced the completion of the integrated baseline review for GBSD, which provides the Air Force with details on expected costs and schedules, and any potential risk.
In the meantime, Northrop Grumman continues work to sustain the current Minuteman III fleet. In April the company received a $2.3-billion contract to maintain the propulsion system through 2040.

U.S. Air Force/Rick Goodfriend

An inspection of the solid-propellant rocket motor for the Minuteman III prior to testing.

If the Air Force and Pentagon get their wish, Northrop Grumman will complete around 660 of the new GBSD missiles, also known as the LGM-182A, to replace the Minuteman IIIs in silos across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and to provide spares and test missiles.
It’s currently unclear exactly how the GBSD will improve on the Minuteman III, but we do know that it will accommodate the Mk 21A reentry vehicle, carrying a W87-1 nuclear warhead, which The War Zone has examined in detail here.


A Boeing data slide detailing the key points of the GBSD, prior to that company leaving the bidding process.

There is also the potential for the GBSD to become a more versatile weapon than the current ICBM fleet. For example, various new kinds of capabilities could be integrated, including a nuclear-armed hypersonic boost-glide vehicle that the Air Force has studied in the past.
However, recent polls suggest the majority of U.S. voters oppose GBSD and instead believe that alternative options — including a service-life extension effort for the Minuteman III — should at least be addressed.

At the same time, lawmakers have made efforts to challenge GBSD, including an unsuccessful proposal last summer to redirect $1 billion from the program to a pandemic preparedness fund. Others are demanding a study on the future of the land-based leg of the triad.
But while scrapping the ICBM force altogether has found traction among some lawmakers, at least, the reality of relying on ballistic missile submarines and strategic bombers for nuclear deterrence brings its own problems, as we have looked at in the past in regard to putting manned bombers back on nuclear alert.

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sean Martin

A B-52H Stratofortress starts its engines during a rapid takeoff exercise at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

The question of whether the land-based portion of the nuclear triad even makes sense is something The War Zone has tackled before. This is based on the fact that America’s ICBMs today serve as a “nuclear sponge,” designed to absorb enemy warheads and thereby “save” other potential targets. They also offer a static nuclear strike option that can be activated and deployed against targets around the globe quickly.
At the same time, the ICBM force is currently targeted, by default, out to sea, as a failsafe against accidental launches that could trigger a nuclear war.

U.S. Air Force /Josh Aycock

Missile combat crew members work in the launch control center of missile alert facility Alpha-01 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Again, it should be stressed that until we know more about the reasons for today’s “ground abort,” it’s not possible to say whether it will provide ammunition to those seeking to replace the Minuteman III with GBSD.
Regardless, the Pentagon has already argued that the Minuteman III is now too old to be realistically upgraded in a cost-effective way, while the Biden administration has, so far, indicated it is committed to retaining the nuclear triad. That said, it is still possible that a modernized ICBM may feature a reduced number of new missiles.

While an aborted test launch might not have an immediate impact on the future of the GBSD program, the Minuteman III replacement certainly seems to be at a critical crossroads.
Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com

Posted for fair use