Heather A. Conley writes: After two years of positioning, posturing, and politicking, we are entering British prime minister Theresa May’s so-called endgame. The United Kingdom and the European Union has just announced that a provisional withdrawal agreement has been reached. The negotiating cards (all 500 pages of text) will now be placed on the table, first for May’s cabinet to approve the agreement (or resign) and then onto the House of Commons to vote. – Center for Strategic and International Studies
North Korea missile bases outed in report that uUndermines Trump
(Bloomberg) Thirteen undeclared North Korean missile operating bases were identified in a new report, undermining the Trump administration’s claims that its outreach to Pyongyang is making progress in getting Kim Jong Un’s regime to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Russia announces Taliban’s demands for US
(Washington Examiner) Afghanistan’s Taliban will negotiate with the central government in Kabul only after the United States agrees to leave the country, according to a senior Russian diplomat.
Seth Cropsey writes: While England slept before WWI, its rivals grew in power and ambition. […] Today, Americans risk the same mistake. China’s aggression mirrors Germany’s; its economic expansion has translated into political ambition – Beijing seeks to bend the world to its will. – Hudson Institute
To respond to China’s artificial islands, it’s time to recognize a real one
Michael Rubin | Washington Examiner
Diplomacy only works when all parties are equally invested in it. China has gotten away with treating diplomacy as a warfare strategy to tie its opponents’ hands while it acts without regard for what its diplomats may say or promise.
US-backed fighters resume final offensive against ISIS after pause to deal with Turkish tensions
(Military Times) The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are returning to the battle against the Islamic State following a pause to deal with clashes between their northern troops and Turkey, which included cross-border shelling by Turkish forces.
John Lee writes: Vice President Mike Pence will be meeting with Japanese and Indian Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi while traveling to the region on behalf of President Trump for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. […] If Pence can get these two countries on board, then it is really ‘game on’ – and the odds are firmly with America and its allies and friends. – Hudson Institute
"Key take-aways from the new National Defense Strategy included: 1. The US Defense establishment would return, after almost two decades, to a recognizable military mission, and would rebuild its forces, its defense-related R&D, its doctrine, and its capabilities in line with the trajectory it had been on until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US, but taking into account the decline in its force structure caused by the 18-year diversion to the CT mission, and taking into account the totally transformed geopolitical and technological context;
2. To emphasize the geopolitical shift in the “competition” spectrum, the US had downgraded NATO to the second tier of its strategic alliance structures and raised to the first tier its existing and emerging alliances in the Indo-Pacific. This, by default, means the ANZUS Alliance (with Australia and New Zealand), its Japan and Republic of Korea alliances, and the emerging "Quadripartite" alliance structure linking the US with Japan, Australia, and India. Unspoken, but critical within this approach, would be — as Pres. Trump had already made clear — improved security relations with key ASEAN states and the Republic of China (ROC: Taiwan). The fact that the US has now moved to the “Indo-Pacific” contextual view, as opposed to the “Asia-Pacific” view was confirmed and important; it signals a shift in thinking1;
3. The Defense Dept. would substantially reorganize to improve flexibility, efficiency, and innovation, including improved relationship with private sector contractors. Indeed, private sector enthusiasm for working with Defense had essentially evaporated in recent years, with the exception of committed major contractors, because of the bias, difficulty, and bureaucratic morass which caused defense contracting to become something for most firms — particularly small-to-medium businesses — to avoid;
4. The document, apart from a few, non-substantive jingoistic comments, was low-key and professional and, if anything, played down the fact that it represented a total transformation of the US defense capability. Sec. Mattis presumably did not want the document to inspire concern among “competitors”, or for allies to think that the new strategic posture was anything other than a return to historical continuity;
5. The Strategy highlighted that Defense would act more frequently within an inter-agency context — a “whole-of-government” framework — rather than as a purely military instrument. This was particularly evident in the one brief paragraph devoted to the Western Hemisphere. “Supporting the US interagency lead, the Department will deepen its relations with regional countries that contribute military capabilities to shared regional and global security challenges,” it said, leaving open and ambiguous how the US would deal with the substantial growth of PRC strategic (but non-military) projection into the Caribbean and much of South and Central America;
6. With regard to Africa, the message was subtle, but clear: the Defense Dept would work to counter, among other things, “trans-national criminal activity, and illegal arms trade with limited outside assistance; and limit the malign influence of non-African powers”.
This phrasing clearly — but without naming names — emphasized the PRC’s “malign influence”, but also that of Turkey, which has emerged as a key driver of the illegal arms trade.
Lost in Sudan
by Cliff Smith and Sam Westrop
November 06, 2018
Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak is the worst in the country’s recorded history with 319 confirmed and probable cases, the health ministry said. – Associated Press
China’s government delivered a defiant defense of its mass detentions of Muslims at a United Nations human-rights panel in Geneva on Tuesday that turned into a showdown with the U.S. and other critics of the Chinese policy. – Wall Street Journal
John Lee writes: A better-coordinated effort by the U.S. and allied nations that blends hard power with greater soft power will serve as a more effective strategy to defend freedom of navigation and uphold international law. Conceding China the soft-power advantage in shaping the historical narrative will greatly diminish prospects for an enduring and just peace in the region. – Hudson Institute
Marc Champion writes: The U.S.-China realignment that began with President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing has been reversed in the most consequential geopolitical shift since the fall of the Berlin Wall. China and Russia are now as close as at any time in their 400 years of shared history. The U.S., meanwhile, has targeted both countries with sanctions and China with a trade war. – Bloomberg
Why a strategic port in Iran was exempted from sanctions
BY KAMBAIZ RAFI
For the US, it makes more sense to allow India to continue developing Chabahar port than for China to 'hijack' yet another strategically important port
Trump hesitant to cut off Iran from international financial system
The Donald Trump administration is reconsidering plans to compel the international financial messaging network SWIFT to cut off Iranian banks amid push-back from European allies. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Trump administration is holding internal discussions that indicate that the United States may relent on its pressure on the Belgium-based network ahead of the reimposition of sanctions on Iran’s oil industry next month. SWIFT sanctions on Iran were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which the United States withdrew from in May. Read More
David Albright, Olli Heinonen, and Andrea Stricker write: The documentation indicates that Iran’s nuclear weaponization efforts did not stop after 2003, following a so-called “halt order.” To conduct this assessment of the evolution of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the Institute obtained vital archive documentation from the media and during interviews with senior Israeli intelligence officials familiar with the archive. In this report, we assess and compare new information with other public documents and information. – Institute for Science and International Security
Eric Brewer writes: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that if Europe could not meet Iran’s demands for sustained economic benefits following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Tehran would be within its rights to resume some of its nuclear activities. […]If the Trump administration is to successfully manage the risks in this new environment while it tries to reach a better deal, there are six points that the White House, Congress, and American public would do well to keep in mind. – War on the Rocks
The SWIFT banking network, the backbone for international monetary transfers, said Monday it has suspended several Iranian banks from its service, after the United States reimposed nuclear sanctions on Tehran. – Agence France-Presse
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged Monday that his country would not buckle under the weight of newly re-imposed U.S. sanctions, calling the penalties on its oil and banking sectors “unfair” and “against the law, U.N. resolutions and international accords.” – Politico
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he wants to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil gradually, citing concerns about shocking energy markets and causing global price spikes. – Reuters
President Trump will let countries helping to overhaul three Iranian nuclear facilities escape sanctions that have been reimposed as part of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, the State Department confirmed Monday. – Washington Examiner
Michael Rubin writes: The basis of President Trump’s strategy on Iran is to coerce change through economic warfare. There are reasons to agree or disagree with Trump’s pull-out from the Iran nuclear deal, but to argue either that Tehran is impervious to pressure or that trade with Iran provides the best path to moderation are both false. – Washington Examiner
Stephanie Segal writes: The immediate impacts of sanctions on the Iranian economy are apparent–oil production and GDP growth are collapsing, Iran’s currency is weakening, and inflation is picking up. Longer-term impacts remain to be seen, including how partner countries adapt to forceful unilateral action by the United States and the role of the dollar as the world’s preeminent reserve currency. – Center for Strategic & International Studies
AFRICOM HITS AL-QAEDA STRONGHOLDS THROUGHOUT JUBBA VALLEY SOMALIA & RUSSIA TAKES HOLD OF THE AFRICAN CONGO
AN IRANIAN FAMINE CALLED YEMEN & THE US DISCOVERS ASSAD'S CHEMICAL WEAPONS LEADERSHIP, ITS AIR FORCE
Yemen crisis: Half of population facing 'pre-famine conditions'
(BBC) Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened after the rebel Houthi movement seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.
Gregory Waters writes: The Tiger Forces is a Syrian Air Intelligence-affiliated militia fighting for the Syrian government and backed by Russia. While often described as the Syrian government’s elite fighting force, this research portrays a starkly different picture. […]Despite a decentralized command structure, the Tiger Forces’ capabilities far exceed any other unit currently fighting in the Syrian civil war. – Middle East Institute
Inside the remote US base in Syria central to combating ISIS and countering Iran
(NBC News) Al Tanf's location is key to its role in preventing the Iranians from gaining a firmer foothold in the region. The base sits in the heart of what Iran hopes will be part of a "Shia Crescent," a continuous land bridge linking Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
Confronting the axis: Is the US prepared for a regional war with Iran and its allies?
(Defense News) Somewhere in Tehran, Qassem Soleimani is probably smiling. And looking at developments across the Middle East over the past month, it would be hard to blame the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force commander for feeling cheerful.
Marwan Kabalan writes: Putin’s remarks on Idlib were also an indication that his ultimate goal in Syria is to end all foreign military presence there, including Turkish, French, and particularly the US. […]With all these different agendas, interests and objectives, it is extremely difficult to see how the main powers in the Syrian conflict can reach an agreement. In the end, even if they do, it will certainly be at the expense of the Syrian people – Al Jazeera
Beijing Tells South China Sea Command: Prepare for War
// Annabelle Timsit
The Southern Theatre Command must "concentrate preparations for fighting a war," Chinese president Xi Jinping said this week.
Putin: Russia will target nations hosting U.S. missiles
(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) "If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind," Putin said at a news conference. "The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike."
Bolton says US will continue to support peaceful solution of Azerbaijan and Armenia conflict
(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) White House national-security adviser John Bolton says the United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Hungary and Poland’s multispeed Europe
Dalibor Rohac and Martin Miszerak | Politico.eu
Edward Lucas writes: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have all had problems with their banks. […]The biggest beneficiary of all this is Russia. The Kremlin loathes the idea of its former colonies becoming economic or political success stories. So it uses money to attack them. The financial malpractice pays an immediate dividend in terms of successful money-laundering, but also a political one in terms of damaged reputations. Local banks, in short, are a far graver threat to national security than the enemy’s tanks. – European Policy Analysis
The migrant caravan is a symptom of nagging challenges in Central America
Roger F. Noriega | AEIdeas
President Trump has said he will cut US aid to Central American countries because of their governments’ failure to turn back the growing march. Those aid programs are aimed at helping countries improve security and jump-start economic growth. Without progress on these fronts, the migrants will keep coming.
MISSING NIGERIAN SEPARATIST LEADER SHOWS UP IN ISRAEL, ETHIOPIA SIGNS COMPACT & EBOLA OUTBREAKS AGAIN
Missing Nigerian separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu has resurfaced in Israel more than a year after soldiers stormed his home. “I’m in Israel,” Mr Kanu said on Sunday in a broadcast on his outlawed pirate radio station – Radio Biafra. – BBC News
Ethiopia and the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have signed a peace deal, ending the ONLF’s 34-year armed rebellion. The deal stipulates that both sides will cease hostilities, with the ONLF agreeing to use peaceful political means to pursue independence for Ethiopia’s Somali-speaking region – known as Ogaden. – BBC News
Health teams responding to Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak are attacked three or four times a week on average, a level of violence unseen in the country’s nine previous outbreaks of the deadly virus, the health ministry said Monday. – Associated Press
Assessment of Current Efforts to Fight the Islamic State
By Ido Levy, Divergent Options: “International and regional forces have all but deprived the Islamic State (IS) of its territory, yet its apocalyptic ideology allows it to continue fighting despite these losses. IS’s goal to prepare the world for the end times does not require territory and will serve as a justification for its surviving members to maintain insurgencies in the Middle East and elsewhere."
The Easter Offensive of 1972
By W. R. Baker, Small Wars Journal: “The Easter Offensive of 1972, coming at the end of the Vietnam War, is usually an afterthought in most histories of the conflict, primarily because most U.S. troops had already left the country..”
AEI 'CRITICAL THREATS PROJECT' MAPS OUT AFRICOM SUCCESS IN EAST AFRICA & HOW THE US DESTROYS TRANSNATIONAL NETWORKS IN LATIN AMERICA
Al Qaeda’s affiliate in East Africa, al Shabaab, has weathered intensified U.S. direct action operations to retain its area of operations in Somalia and eastern Kenya, as a new map by Analyst James Barnett demonstrates. Al Shabaab continues to undermine the Somali state, conducting twin suicide bombings this week to derail a contentious regional election in southern Somalia. The latest attacks come one year after the deadliest terror attack in Somalia’s history, in which al Shabaab killed nearly 600 people in Mogadishu.
The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and ISIS, is growing in West Africa. The Mali-based branch of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is promoting its expansion into Burkina Faso, where attacks targeting security forces and the mining industry have escalated this year. Another group, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), has also expanded in Mali and Burkina Faso, as Senior Analyst Emily Estelle illustrates in a new graphic.
In the coming weeks, Research Fellow Katherine Zimmerman will release a report on how Salafi-jihadi groups have adapted to U.S. counterterrorism policy. Revisit Zimmerman’s work in “America’s Real Enemy: The Salafi-Jihadi Movement,” in which she argues that the U.S. has misdefined its enemy in the war on terror.
Unraveling the web: Dismantling transnational organized crime networks in the Americas
Pence's little-noticed speech marked a new US realism toward China
(Washington Examiner) A seismic shot across the bow, Vice President Mike Pence’s Oct. 4 speech on U.S.-China policy garnered surprisingly little coverage. But historians may well mark it as a significant turning point in great power relations.