Top 3 takeaways from Mattis on Capitol Hill
(Defense News) Geopolitics dominated Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Here are three highlights:
Mattis: New defense strategy won’t work under budget caps
(Defense News) Who’s the top enemy of America’s new National Defense Strategy? The answer may be Congress, if lawmakers fail to act.
Russia’s Armed Forces Strive for Command-and-Control Superiority
By Roger McDermott, Eurasia Daily Monitor: “Russia’s General Staff has a long-established interest in automatizing and enhancing command and control, which has shown remarkable advances since the reform of the Armed Forces was initiated in 2008.”
THE RISE OF THE REVISIONISTS: IRAN, CHINA & RUSSIA REBOUND & NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR TEST SITE COLLAPSES
'Rise of the Revisionists: Russia, China, and Iran'
Gary J. Schmitt | AEI Press
While al Qaeda, ISIS, and North Korea present serious problems, America's geopolitical situation is unique in that we are confronted by the rise of revisionist powers in each of the three regions seen as crucial to our own peace and prosperity: Russia in Europe, China in East Asia, and Iran in the Middle East.
With Islamic State in Decline, What’s Al-qaeda’s Next Move?
By Tore Refslund Hamming, War on the Rocks: “In the past five years, only one attack in a Western country — the Kouachi brothers’ attack against Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 — can be connected to al-Qaeda.”
How Trump should define success in Syria
Danielle Pletka and Jack Keane | The National Interest
There is a way forward in Syria, and Donald Trump has the courage to stand up to those inside and outside his administration who have urged retreat. With a strategy that consolidates and strengthens moderates who reject jihad and tyranny and engages our Arab regional allies, we can help Syrians win back their nation and turn the tide against ISIS, Russia, and Iran.
Why the head of Pacific Command will be the next US ambassador to South Korea instead of Australia
(The Associated Press) Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday that the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, will not become Washington’s next ambassador to Australia and will be posted to South Korea instead.
Chinas Territorial Stratagem
By S.A. Cavanagh, Small Wars Journal: “China’s Aggressive Move to Occupy the Spratly regional waters through Reclamation has proved an effective stratagem, for projection of political, economic and military power.”
Rivalry in Rejuvenation?
Seeking New Paradigms for U.S.-China Strategic Competition
By Elsa B. Kania, Strategy Bridge: “Looking to the future, the U.S. must not fear but rather should embrace a new era of competition.”
ISRAEL, IRAN: Is Israel-Iran Clash Imminent?
By Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor: “Senior members of the Israeli security establishment are predicting that the month of May will be one of the most volatile periods in the current era. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence Directorate, said in an interview published April 22, “I have not seen a May this dangerous since May 1967.””
U.S., AFRICA: U.S. Builds Drone Base in Niger
By Carley Petesch, AP: “On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America’s battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa’s vast Sahel region.
Syrian army pummels southern Damascus
The Syrian army pummeled southern Damascus on Monday in an effort to isolate Islamic State militants and force them to surrender or evacuate, state media reported. The area is the last part of the capital outside the regime’s control.
This comes as Russia said Monday that its Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria has helped more than 1,000 rebel fighters and their families evacuate from nearby eastern Qalamoun. Meanwhile, the European Union and United Nations kicked off the seventh annual conference on Syria today in Brussels in hopes of collecting more than $6 billion in new aid pledges and reviving the Geneva peace process. Read More
Houthi leader killed in Saudi airstrike
A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen's eastern province of Hodeida last week killed the head of the Houthi rebels' Supreme Political Council, Saleh al-Sammad, the Houthi-run Saba news agency confirmed Monday. This comes a day after airstrikes on a wedding in Yemen’s northern Hajjah province killed dozens of civilians, including children. On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decried the airstrikes and called for an investigation.
Meanwhile, five pro-government soldiers were killed in clashes with jihadis in the southern city of Taiz on Monday. The clashes follow the killing of Lebanese aid worker. Read More
Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington: Recommendations for President Trump
(Heritage Foundation) French President Macron’s three-day state visit to Washington from April 23 to 25, 2018, will be an important opportunity for the Trump Administration to strengthen the transatlantic alliance and reinforce U.S. priorities in Europe. Macron will be the first foreign leader hosted by the Trump White House for a state visit, and his trip comes in the wake of France’s participation alongside the United Kingdom in U.S.-led airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria.
White House announces new deputy national security advisor
(Defense News) The White House has announced Mira Ricardel will be the new deputy national security advisor.
Middle East Missions to Accomplish
By Clifford D. May, The Washington Times: “Can we at least agree that President Trump’s decision to strike three chemical weapons facilities owned and operated by Bashar Assad — vassal of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia — was consistent with American values?”
After Ghouta, Syria Army To Target Cradle Of Revolt In Daraa
quoting Fabrice Balanche via AFP
The capture of Eastern Ghouta is a significant milestone for Syria's regime and paves the way for government troops to shift south to where the seven-year uprising first began: Daraa.
Syria a Symptom of a Broken International Order
By Ramesh Thakur, The Strategist (ASPI): “Others will discuss the strategic context and consequences of the allied air strikes on Syria. As a student of UN-centric global governance, I want to make the larger ‘structural’ argument that—considered in its totality—the strikes reflect and will further contribute to a broken system of international order.
Competitive strategies against Russia are seductive, dangerous and unnecessary
(War On The Rocks) In 1987, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger told Congress, “Wherever possible, we should adopt strategies that make obsolete past Soviet defense investments. We should devise programs for which an effective Soviet response would be far more costly than the programs we undertake.”
Trump's Syria Strategy Actually Makes Sense // Kori Schake
And it does not involve a commitment to change the horrible and predictable outcome of the civil war.
The Syrian regime is massing troops and armored vehicles to prepare to retake from Islamic State the Yarmouk area in southern Damascus, according to local sources and media. Yarmouk was home to large numbers of Palestinian refugees before the country’s civil war, but has been under siege by the Syrian regime for many years. - Jerusalem Post
Brent Eng and Jose Ciro Martinez write: It is worth remembering that the imminent downfall of Assad’s regime was proclaimed several times since the onset of violence in Syria in late 2011. Each time, Assad defied such predictions. How has his government, which several times looked so close to being toppled, weakened its rivals and ensured its continuity? - Washington Post
PATRIARCH KIRILL AND MR. PUTIN
By EPPC Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel
The Russian Church suffered terribly under Lenin, Stalin, and their heirs. Its martyrs, who number in the millions, are dishonored when the bishops of a putatively free Church play the role of chaplain to the omnipotent and infallible czar, rather than speaking truth to power. Read More
What Trump's Syria decision means for East Asia
(The Diplomat) As the Trump administration prepares for its mandatory military response to Syria’s latest poison gas attack against Syrian civilians, it is undoubtedly weighing not only its intended targets, but the reactions of the other players in the grisly strategic game.
Does the West have a vision for the Western Balkans?
(War On The Rocks) Large, burly men sat in the front rows of the parliament building in Banja Luka last December, their bulging muscles revealing elaborate tattoos under their black T-shirts and hoodies. These were the “little green men” of the Balkans — only they were not little and wore black outfits instead of green camouflage uniforms. They certainly looked intimidating, sitting in the parliament of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Members of a group called “Serbian Honor” (Српска ЧАСТ), they claim to be involved in “humanitarian” work in Republika Srpska and neighboring Serbia.
Trump said U.S. forces acted together with France and the U.K., retaliating for a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens near Damascus last week.
According to the Pentagon, targets included:
How will Sinjar crisis end as tensions mount between Baghdad, Ankara?
(Al-Monitor) Turkish troops in northern Iraq have begun building military bases to confront the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), according to an April 3 report by Al-Hurra TV that included video footage of construction. This comes after Turkish troops reportedly advanced about 6 miles into Iraqi territory last month in order to fight the PKK in the northern regions of Iraq.
Turkey's running out of time to pick a partner in Syria
Turkey's been playing the field in Syria, but as the crisis escalates, Ankara may have to make a commitment to either its NATO allies or Moscow.
Have Iran, Russia and Turkey reached agreement on future Syrian state?
The second trilateral summit between the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey appears to have ushered further movement toward an understanding on the political endgame in Syria.
Deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow resigns
(CNN) Nadia Schadlow, the US deputy national security adviser for strategy, has resigned and will leave her position at the end of the month, multiple administration officials told CNN.
As President Donald Trump considers air strikes on Syria, Amb. James Jeffrey—former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey—believes the strike could “show the value of switching from U.S. ground troops to a mostly air-focused campaign” in the country.
The Syrian reality show
(Asia Times) Russia is the biggest geopolitical winner, and US deployment of financial power to pressure Moscow is likely to backfire in the long run
Arms Control Hostage to Skripal and Syria Attacks
By William Courtney, RealClearDefense: “The Skripal poisoning and shrill Kremlin denials of asphyxiating gas attacks by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad raise doubts about Moscow’s commitment to the purposes of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Russia is also violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Never has the future of negotiated arms control involving Russia been at greater risk.”
Syria relocates military assets in anticipation of US strikes
The Syrian military is preparing for possible missile strikes by relocating its air assets, US officials acknowledged Wednesday in the wake of unusually public threats from US President Donald Trump to retaliate for last weekend’s suspected chemical attack. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that regime forces were emptying airports and military air bases. And the Russian military said on Wednesday that it is tracking the movement of the US naval strike force expected to reach the Gulf in early May. Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told Lebanese media on Wednesday that Damascus and Moscow are discussing options to respond. “Consultations are ongoing between the allies and they will not let matters progress as Washington wants,” she said. “The rules of engagement have changed in favor of Damascus.”
Meanwhile, the escalating threats of military action sparked a flurry of last-minute diplomacy even as White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that Trump has not set a timetable or made a final decision on military action. On Wednesday evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump spoke about the Douma gas attack, and Russian parliamentary officials say Ankara is helping to mediate the situation between Washington and Moscow through NATO channels. The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned the Israeli leader not to take any action that could further destabilize Syria. Netanyahu replied that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in the country. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned a Cabinet meeting today to discuss the possibility of Britain joining the US and France in a military response.
President Trump has promised a "big price to pay" for "Animal Assad" and his foreign backers, but CIA veteran Emile Nakhleh says “short of regime change, an American strike will be viewed as a pinprick.”
What China gained from hosting Kim Jong Un
Oriana Skylar Mastro | Foreign Affairs
On the surface, Xi Jinping appears driven by a desire for improved Sino–North Korean relations. But although the summit signals Beijing’s interest in pursuing productive relations with Pyongyang, Xi’s decision to meet with Kim represents less of a strategic shift than appearances might suggest.