Possible Chinese Nuclear Testing Stirs U.S. Concern
By Gordon Lubold, The Wall Street Journal: “China might be secretly conducting nuclear tests with very low explosive power despite Beijing's assertions that it is strictly adhering to an international accord banning all nuclear tests, according to a new arms-control report to be made public by the State Department."
Turkey’s intervention in Libya turns tide to Erdogan’s advantage, for now
Ankara has thrown in its lot with the Government of National Accord for reasons that have more to do with its own interests than Libya’s.
Turkey: Erdoğan's Post-Corona, Existential Economic Challenge by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
April 15, 2020
Why Is Turkey Embracing Hamas? by Khaled Abu Toameh •
Leak Reveals Jihadists’ Weakening Grip in Syria’s Idlib by Sam Heller
Counter-Terrorism in East Africa: The Death of Yusuf Jiis with Christoper Anzalone
AFRICOM kills ‘foundational’ Shabaab leader in strike
AFRICOM has stepped up its air campaign against Shabaab since the beginning of the year, targeting the group 33 times.
Generation Jihad: Ep. 4 – ISIS: A History of the Caliphate
Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss the rise of ISIS and how the idea of building a caliphate in Iraq evolved over time. Bill witnessed the jihadists' earliest state-building efforts during multiple embeds in Iraq.
Don’t Forget the Historical Context of Russo-Turkish Competition with Jeffrey Mankoff
Sukhoi to Deliver Stealth Fighter Su-57 This Year
By Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat: "Sukhoi Corporation aims to start deliveries of its Su-57 fighter aircraft, Russia’s first purported indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter, to the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2020."
Five Patterns of the Putin Regime
On March 26, IMR launched the “Russia under Putin” project, which includes a timeline of the country’s key political developments over the last 20 years. This factual digest serves not only to refresh one’s memory but also to retrace the Putin regime’s evolution and its modus operandi. IMR’s Olga Khvostunova highlights the key patterns of this regime and explains what they mean. ≫
In March, Russia’s Constitutional Court approved the proposed amendments to the Constitution, clearing the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power beyond 2024, with the upcoming referendum likely being a mere formality. The swiftness of the process signals that legitimacy through adherence to formal rules no longer matters to Putin, and, perhaps, never did. ≫
GREGORY COPLEY EDITOR/PUBLISHER DEFENSE AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON IRAN: TURKEY & RUSSIA, STILL FRENEMIES
Stealth is something that Iran just doesn’t do. In fact, capable and domestically-produced military planes are also something they don’t do. Is the Shafaq a truly new creation? That’s extremely unlikely. Is it stealthy? Also unlikely. Chances are the Shafaq charade is a rebadged Russian Yak-130. Still, if it could ever enter serial production, it could be a decent trainer airframe. – The National Interest
Pavel Luzin writes: Where Russia is really trying to improve its military space capabilities is in the following: opportunities for jamming and radio intelligence; sustainability of its command, control and communication systems; and the offensive capabilities against ground-based space infrastructure. The goal here is to prevent its adversaries from using of their space-related infrastructure. – Defense News
David Albright and Sarah Burkhard write: Apparently, the IAEA and Western governments did not know about this facility prior to the seizure of the Nuclear Archive. The site’s secrecy and documented involvement of Groups 5 and 7 of the Amad Plan suggest that Iran was not intending to declare this site to the IAEA, unless discovered, such as was the case with the Natanz enrichment plant and the Gchine uranium mine. – Institute for Science and International Security
Institute for the Study of War’s Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace: Iran's proxies accelerate Soleimani's campaign to compel U.S. withdrawal from iraq
Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace write: Iran continues to escalate proxy attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, demonstrating that it remains undeterred despite the January 3 strike that killed IRGC – Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and key Iraqi proxy leader Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis and subsequent U.S. strikes. Iran’s proxy network in Iraq is advancing its campaign to compel an American withdrawal by increasing the operational tempo of its attacks on U.S. and allied personnel. – Institute for the Study of War
Turkey pursues Libya campaign despite growing financial woes
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pressing ahead with his military venture in Libya even as the coronavirus pandemic is putting further strain on Ankara’s cash-strapped coffers.
Erdoğan Battles on Multiple Fronts in Risky Regional Power Bid
By Dr. James M. Dorsey, March 30, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at odds with just about everybody. He is on opposite sides with Russia in Syria as well as Libya and is trying the patience of his US and European allies. Turkey and Russia are testing the limits of what was always at best an opportunistic, fragile partnership aimed at capitalizing on a seemingly diminishing US interest in the Middle East, already evident under President Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump, who is haphazardly redefining what he sees as America’s national interests.
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Start the Negotiations, End the Afghan War Now by Sultan Barakat and Barnett Rubin
Turkey and Russia: Not Friends After All
By Burak Bekdil, March 26, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: After a three-and-a-half-year marriage of convenience, Turkey and Russia have come to realize that they are fighting on opposite sides of two proxy wars: one in Syria and the other in Libya. This comes after Russia sold Turkey $2.5 billion worth of S-400 air defense systems, won a multibillion-dollar nuclear plant contract, signed up for a lucrative natural gas pipeline, and widened the gap between NATO and its part-time member Turkey.
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The U.S. military said Thursday that air defense systems are “moving” into Iraq following attacks on American and coalition forces in recent weeks. The weapons include Patriot surface-to-air missiles and a variant of the Navy’s SeaRAM and CIWS, or close-in weapon system, which fires 3,000 rounds a minute, a defense official with knowledge of the order told Fox News. – Fox News
Zvi Bar’el writes: No sooner than one estimate is made of the economic damage the coronavirus epidemic is wreaking on the Middle East, a more dire forecast supercedes it. […]At the moment, these countries are split between those that are wealthy and hold huge foreign currency reserves that can help fund impressive economic assistance plans, and those that are poor and are now seeking to figure out how they will finance ongoing essential needs at a time when international financial institutions are concerned about making risky loans. – Haaretz
David Axe writes: On the night of July 15, 2016, elements of the Turkish military rose up against Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and very nearly succeeded in killing or capturing their controversial leader. A few military units remained steadfastly loyal to the embattled president. Among them — the 1st Main Jet Base in Eskisehir in northwestern Turkey. The base’s F-4E Terminator 2020 fighters flew to Erdogan’s aid during the direst hours of the daylong attempted coup. – The National Interest
Michael Rubin writes: Here’s the point for U.S. policymakers: To target groups like the Badr Corps, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq without first delegitimizing them allows these groups to depict themselves as martyrs and the United States as an enemy of Iraq. This enables recruitment and causes retrenchment. […]Only when this differentiation is achieved, will Iraqis broadly join in and accept the dissolution or destruction of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. – The National Interest
Tarek Megerisi writes: At its core, Libya’s war has been driven by the aspirations of regional powers, after its transition was hijacked and run aground by them. It is this dynamic that explains why the situation is deteriorating so rapidly and why the west is turning a blind eye to it. […]It is driving a dangerous race to the bottom, at an important intersection between the African and Arab worlds, and should be a wake-up call to those whose interests lie in stability. – The Guardian
China's Real Disease: Not Coronavirus by Gordon G. Chang
RUSSIA CAPTURES US ARTIC SUB EXERCISES; NUCLEAR WAR GAMES IN NEVADA & MILITARY EDUCATION GETS A RE-DO
Understanding a Resurgent Russia
Via Decision 2020
The ninth edition of the Decision 2020 Report highlights Hoover fellows’ research and analysis on the Russian Federation’s history, ideology, and global ambitions. It also covers the Russian economy and the dynamics of US-Russian relations.
Russia's Orthodox Grand Strategy
by Jakub Grygiel via The American Interest
Putin will leave sooner or—as it seems—later. But a revanchist Russia, shaped by a revitalized Russian Orthodox Church, will outlast him
Michael Knights writes: In parallel, the U.S. should toughen its mindset, quietly bringing the force protection assets into Iraq that it needs (i.e., Patriot missiles and anti-rocket close-in defenses) without further consultation with an Iraqi government that would rather adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. And finally, the U.S. should let the militias keep over-reaching, keep showing their hand as would-be dictators under Iran’s control, while the U.S.-led coalition keeps helping Iraq to defeat the Islamic State. This is a game we can win. – Politico
Yesar Al-Maleki writes: Iraq’s politics are complicated, but its economic prospects are attractive. The U.S. should support the development of an economically strong and politically independent Iraq. It is the sole successful model of America’s presence in the region. The administration’s short-to-medium-term strategy in Iraq will determine whether the U.S. is interested in sustaining a stabilizing role that is beneficial to both nations. Alternatively, there is a risk of throwing away years of involvement by reducing Iraq to a pawn in a larger geopolitical game with Iran, one which will likely have no winners. – Middle East Institute
Russia: Aircraft Spotted Near U.S. Submarine Exercise. NORAD reported on Saturday that it had intercepted two pairs of Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft near Alaska, the third time Russian aircraft has been spotted in the region this week. NORAD Commander Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy stated, ““We continue to see repeated Russian military aviation activity in the Arctic, and we will defend the U.S. and Canada against these threats emanating from our northern approaches." The reconnaissance aircraft have reportedly been spying on the U.S. ICEX exercise, a three-week exercise used to assess the readiness of U.S. submarines to operate in the Arctic. Military Times Military.com
F-15E Strike Eagle Spotted Flying With an Inert B61-12 Nuclear Bomb
By Tyler Rogoway, The WarZone: "Exercise Red Flag is underway with the U.S. and some of its tightest allies fighting a mock air war over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) in southern Nevada. Either in conjunction with the exercise or independent of it, there is a lot of testing currently going on over the same area."
Document Likely Shows SM-6 Hypersonic Speed, Anti-Surface Role
By Steve Trimble, Aviation Week: "A U.S. Navy document that cryptically describes a versatile and powerful new missile likely offers the first confirmation of the hypersonic speed and newly acquired, antisurface-warfare role for the Raytheon SM-6 Block 1B."
Rahim Hamid and Yasser Assadi write: Unfortunately, this is the reality for many Ahwazi children—not even 13 years old, compelled to work late nights in cemeteries and left to suffer from endless nightmares. […]The lack of education and socialization among the young threatens to create a lost generation that will propagate a cycle of poverty that could last for generations. The region, already stressed, does not need the added pressures of poverty, disease and hopelessness to become embedded in another minority. – Washington Institute
U.S. Navy and Special Operations Telegraph Message to Tehran
By Carl Prine, Navy Times: "A joint exercise launched March 8 and 9 in the Persian Gulf involving the Cyclone-class Monsoon and the two aircraft was designed to see how well a surface patrol ship and a long-range spy plane could select targets in the Persian Gulf for a Special Operations Command Central gunship to blast to bits."
U.S. Fighters Catch Russian Spy Planes Near Alaska for 2nd Time in Days
By Hope Hodge Seck, Military.com: “The world is steadily confronting the prospect of full-fledged Chinese domination in the world’s most important waterway, the South China Sea.”
Russia to Lay Down Additional Project 22350 Stealth Frigates
By Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat: "The Severnaya Verf shipyard in St. Petersburg, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), will lay down an additional series of Admiral Gorshkov-class Project 22350 guided missile frigates for service in the Russian Navy."
Where is the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command?
By Walker D. Mills, CIMSEC: “. . . with all the calls for integration, where is the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)? After all, the Marine Corps itself is a naval expeditionary force according to the Commandant."
The Moonshot Formula: Rediscovering Innovation in the U.S. Air Force
By Jacob Lokshin, Strategy Bridge: "The United States Air Force is in an arms race. Decades of dominance have allowed the force to slip into complacency, while near-peer adversaries have quietly developed capabilities to contest U.S. power across all domains."
As Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning
By Jeffrey Alston, Divergent Options: "The U.S. Military is overextending its intellectual resources regarding great power competition and is losing its focus on core warfighting concepts."
Mobilization to Demobilization: The Life of the Minuteman
By William Donnelly, War Room: “In recent years there has been much discussion about the Army’s refocusing on largescale combat operations, command at the division echelon, and the transformation of the National Guard from a strategic to an operational reserve."
Why We Need Philosophy in PME
By Christopher Wooding, Grounded Curiosity: " Professional military education (PME) underpins the study of the profession of arms within the defence community. It enables the transfer of knowledge, wisdom, and experience within services. Without PME, modern militaries would be failing as professional organisations given their responsibility to promote the development of ‘warrior-scholars.'"
China's Nuclear Arms Are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery
By Michael Mazza & Henry Sokolski, Foreign Policy: "Beijing's plans to build new missiles, expand anti-satellite capabilities and increase nuclear material production far above civilian needs have the world guessing.”
Syria’s brutal conflict enters its 10th year Sunday with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime consolidating its hold over a war-wracked country with a decimated economy where foreign powers flex their muscle. – Agence France-Presse
“There’s nothing now. Nothing at all,” said Yasser Aboud, as he looked away from his family’s few remaining belongings, dumped on the floor of the bare single room that would now be their home in the northwest Syrian city of Idlib.[…] The city of Idlib is the last urban area still under opposition control in Syria, located in a shrinking rebel enclave in the northwestern province of the same name. – Associated Press
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is allowing a “disastrous” coronavirus outbreak to fester due to his dependence on stricken Iran to win the long-running civil war, according to local reports and international observers. – Washington Examiner
Turkish and Russian troops began joint patrols Sunday on a key highway in northwestern Syria, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said, while both the Russian government and Syrian opposition activists said the patrols were shortened because of protests. Patrols on the highway known as the M4, which runs east-west through Idlib province, are part of a cease-fire agreement between Turkey and Russia signed earlier this month. – Associated Press
Michael Rubin writes: Fifteen years ago, diplomats and analysts denied Erdoğan sought anything more than to imbue democracy with some Islamic trappings. Perhaps fifteen years from now, the same analysts will question how they could have been blind to Erdoğan’s ultimate agenda. It is fine to quibble over the five end goals voiced above, but now is the time to discuss openly how Erdoğan visualizes Turkey fifteen years from now. – The National Interest
Why is the Army Preparing for 21st-Century War with a 19th-Century Approach to Learning?
By Franklin Annis, Modern War Institute: “The U.S. Army has had a historic problem in adapting the use of self-development. The concept is misunderstood, our definitions change frequently and often conflict, the graphic display of our leader development model is unclear, we lack practical guidance on how it could be executed, we confuse it with institutional learning, we lack supporting materials, and our leaders often lack the experience to mentor soldiers how to self-develop."
Germany, Wilsonianism, and the Return of Realpolitik
By Dominik Wullers, War on the Rocks: "Until now, President Woodrow Wilson was the American statesman and moralist who implicitly shaped German foreign policy thinking."
Europe’s dying center-right
Dalibor Rohac | The American Interest
The space between the cosmopolitan and progressive politics of the left and the vulgar nationalism of the populist right is shrinking. Dalibor Rohac's recent political experience attests to it.
Following last month’s Slovakian parliamentary elections, Dalibor Rohac took to the American Interest to argue that the space between the cosmopolitan and progressive politics of the left and the vulgar nationalism of the populist right is shrinking. Attesting to his recent political candidacy, Rohac concludes that that there is not much of an appetite for center-right policies among the public. That makes the question of what the future holds for European People’s Party, Europe’s largest coalition of political parties, all the more urgent. Read it here.
US stocks with stable cash flows that used to trade like bonds have fallen faster than the overall market during the past few days. That’s an alarm bell for the US economy, which for the past decade has gorged on cheap leverage provided by the Federal Reserve. Investors are running away from the credit risk of seemingly safe sectors like real estate and utilities. When the safest stocks aren’t safe anymore, the world looks a lot riskier to everyone. Read More
Iran Can't Hide Its Dystopian Hellscape by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
March 14, 2020
Crisis Of The Iranian Order
by Tony Badran via The Caravan
The “transnational”: this is how Qassem Soleimani, the former head of Iran’s Qods Force, who was killed in a January U.S. missile strike in Baghdad, is described in Hezbollah-run schools in Lebanon.
The Islamic Republic Soldiering On
by Sanam Vakil via The Caravan
A look back at the past few months of tumultuous domestic events in Iran and around the Middle East might lend favour to the view that Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic is destabilising and weakening Iran alongsi
Are the Forever Wars Really Forever? with Sarah E. Kreps, Paul Miller, Will Ruger, and Ryan Evans
Erdogan turns to oil in a bid to salvage Syria policy
Turkey’s president eyes oil-related bargains in Syria after failing to achieve his stated objectives in Idlib and acquiescing to a new deal with Russia in the rebel stronghold.
Turkey seeks Syria deal with Europe as it begins joint patrols with Russia
The leaders of Turkey, Germany and France are scheduled to gather in Istanbul on Tuesday to tackle the surge in refugees fleeing Syria as the Bashar al-Assad regime presses its offensive against the last rebel bastion in Idlib province. Frustrated by what it sees as Western inaction and lackluster support in a crisis that has seen more than 1 million Syrians flee toward the Turkish border, Ankara has opened its borders to migrants seeking to enter Europe, creating a crisis for Greece and other Turkish neighbors. Ankara is requesting air defense support to back its troops in Syria and wants more European funding to help defray the costs of the 3.5 million refugees Turkey now hosts. The summit is expected to focus mainly on financial assistance, with European leaders reluctant to get more involved in the war.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also join Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish officials said on Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic, however, may throw those plans in disarray. A German government official signaled today that the summit may be postponed as Europe copes with the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Russia, which declined to participate in next week's summit, is set to begin joint patrols with Turkish military forces along Syria's east-west M4 highway on Sunday, in accordance with the deal struck between Turkey and Russia in Moscow last week.
Erdogan’s war in Idlib faces uphill battle on the home front
Having failed to deliver on his ultimatum to the Assad regime, Erdogan now has a serious credibility problem domestically.
Some Syrian regime fighters defecting when forced to front lines
With renewed fighting in northern Syria, regime officers are transferring conscripted young men from Daraa in the south to the front lines of the battles, leading to defections.
Intel: Despite new Idlib deal, Russia, Turkey look to strengthen leverage in Syria
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke by phone with his Russain counterpart Sergey Shoigu March 10 about the progress of the bipartisan protocol over Idlib that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed in Moscow on March 5.
‘Let them cross’: Turkey’s president defiant on Europe border crisis
Turkey's president, after meeting with EU leaders, says Greece should open its border with Turkey to migrants and then let them cross into other European countries; Russian and Turkish patrols for a new security corridor straddling Syria's M4 highway also are set.
Libyan front looks bleak for Erdogan
While struggling to achieve its objectives in Syria, Ankara has helped Damascus gain a new ally in the opponents of the forces Turkey is backing in Libya.
Islamist Parties in Turkey: A Perpetual Matryoshka by Burak Bekdil
BESA Center Perspectives
March 9, 2020
EGYPT AFTER THE ARAB SPRING & MUBARAK: Finish it here.
Europe Must Not Fall Victim to Erdoğan's Blackmail by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
March 6, 2020
Erdogan's Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail by Con Coughlin
Don't Expect a Turkey-Russia War in Syria by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
March 6, 2020
Turkey launches military offensive against Syria
Turkey on Sunday launched what it called Operation Spring Shield against Bashar al-Assad's forces in northern Syria, shooting down two Russian-made Syrian air force jets. Turkey said it had destroyed several air defense systems and more than 100 tanks and killed more than 2,000 Syrian troops, including three generals, since Feb. 27 airstrikes killed three dozen Turkish soldiers in Idlib province, Syria's last rebel bastion. Turkish forces have also been hitting Syrian Kurdish positions.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today he hopes to reach a “cease-fire agreement” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they meet on Thursday. That same day, US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey will lead a delegation to Turkey for a summit on the Idlib escalation.
Iraqi prime minister-designate quits
Iraq's prime minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi withdrew his candidacy for the post on Sunday after parliament failed for the second time in a week to approve his Cabinet, deepening the political crisis in the country. President Barham Salih announced he would designate a replacement prime minister within 15 days. The country could be without a prime minister if Adel Abdul Mahdi, who had stayed on in a caretaker capacity since resigning in October, decides to step down.
Libya's eastern government visits Syria amid shared tensions with Turkey
Libya's eastern-based government sent a delegation to Syria on Sunday, the first such visit since the Syrian war broke out in 2011. Libyan officials met with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus and agreed to reopen diplomatic missions. The officials also discussed the “Turkish aggression against both brotherly countries,” Syria’s state news agency said. The visit comes as fighting escalates in Libya between the Turkish-backed government in Tripoli and forces loyal to eastern military commander Khalifa Hifter despite a cease-fire announced last week.
Tunisia hosts Arab interior ministers summit
The Arab Interior Ministers Council began its annual meeting in Tunis on Sunday. Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is heading the council, met with Tunisian President Kais Saied to discuss the “deep-rooted Saudi-Tunisian ties.” The two-day meeting will discuss ways to boost joint security cooperation between Arab countries to fight terrorism and prevent crime.
There's little left of Israel’s left
By deciding to join the Netanyahu-Gantz government, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz put the final nail in the coffin of the party that founded the State of Israel.
The Struggle for Israel's Jewish Soul by Efraim Karsh and Gershon Hacohen
BESA Center Perspectives
March 16, 2020
Beyond Netanyahu's TriumphE
ditorial of The New York Sun | March 2, 2020
Vladimir Gelman: “An intention to preserve the political status quo and Putin’s authority is seen in the constitutional reform”
In an interview with IMR, political scientist Vladimir Gelman, professor of the European University in St. Petersburg and the University of Helsinki, discusses the origins of Russia’s bad governance, the goals of Vladimir Putin’s recent political initiatives, and the Western elite’s “jealousy.” ≫
Ireland's Political Earthquake with Timothy D. Hoyt
Storms Over the Emerald Isle K. V. Turley
On the weekend of February 8, 2020, a storm ripped through Ireland. Storm Ciara was one of the worst of its kind for many years. Its winds, snows, and driving rains caused havoc with landslides and flooding. At the same time, a political storm ripped through the Irish political landscape. Sinn Féin up-ended the political […]
One Brexit effect is that the nation from which the Anglosphere ultimately derives is reassessing many of its most important relationships. Read More »
TURKEY INVITES A NATO RESPONSE TO SYRIA? Read more here.
Turkey launches Operation Spring Shield against Syrian forces
Turkey downs two Syrian jets in launching Operation Spring Shield while also sending refugees to the Greek border.
Russia explores way to draw UAE, Saudi Arabia to its Syria policies
As relations with Turkey stall, Moscow seeks ways to engage with the Saudis and Emiratis to have them back in the Syrian game.
Idlib and the collapse of Erdogan’s foreign policy
Gambling on Russia to secure results in Syria turns out to be Ankara’s biggest miscalculation
Explaining Washington's New Pro-Ankara Policy by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
February 12, 2020
Turkey's "Defense Line": An Ideological Front
By Irina Tsukerman, February 14, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey's latest moves in Libya and the eastern Mediterranean should be viewed in the context of the recent Kuala Lumpur Summit, which announced the emergence of a new ideological bloc to counter Saudi Arabia consisting of Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and Malaysia. Turkey's new geopolitical strategy is as much ideological as it is "defensive."
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Fresh currency fears loom over Turkey
Despite a series of unconventional measures to keep hard currency prices in check, Turkey appears headed for fresh currency turmoil.
AFRICAN CONTAINMENT OF MILITANTS, NOT COUNTER-TERROR IS NEW REGIONAL POLICY, WHERE TO PUT NEW INF MISSILES & THE SYRIAN REGIME HOLDS ON WITH AL-QAEDA REMNANTS
Does America Need an Africa Strategy? by Sam Wilkin
Libya: Merkel Meets With Haftar. German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with LNA commander Khalifa Haftar in Berlin on Tuesday where Merkel stressed that a political solution is important to ending the conflict between the LNA and the GNA. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert stated, “a ceasefire and progress in the political process, in line with the decisions of the Berlin conference, are necessary.” Merkel reiterated that there can be no military solution to the conflict. Al Jazeera
Nigeria: Child Trafficking Syndicate Shut Down. Nigerian police raided a “baby factory” on Thursday saving 24 babies and four expecting mothers. The illegal maternity homes hold pregnant women and attempt to sell their babies. "In a covert operation on Tuesday, our men burst a child trafficking syndicate at Woji in Port Harcourt where 24 babies between the ages of one and two, and four pregnant teenagers were rescued," police said. News 24
Sahel Region: African Union to Deploy 3,000 Troops. The African Union said that it plans to deploy 3,000 troops to the Sahel region for about six months. "On the decision of the summit to work on deploying a force of 3,000 troops to help the Sahel countries degrade terrorist groups, I think this is a decision that we'll be working on together with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS," head of the AU’s Peace and Security Commission said on Thursday. Many details, such as which countries will provide troops and who will fund the operation, have yet to be worked out. Al Jazeera BBC News
Senegal: Al Qaeda and ISIS Affiliates Collaborate. Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups may be cooperating in West Africa’s Sahel region and pose a threat to regional stability. “I believe that if it’s left unchecked it could very easily develop into a great threat to the West and the United States,” said U.S. Air Force General Dagvin Anderson. Military Times
With limited resources, US military shifts strategy from degrading militants in West Africa to containment
(Military Times) Violence by militant groups in West Africa has spiked 250 percent over the last two years but constrained resources and manpower has pushed the U.S. military to switch strategies from degrading terror groups to containment, according to a recent inspector general report.
Where could the US put its post-INF missiles?
(Defense One) The Trump administration said leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty would allow the development and deployment of strategically and tactically new missiles in the Pacific region. But it’s not at all clear that U.S. officials will be able to persuade its allies to accept these missiles in useful locations
Pentagon Slashes Funding for Islamic State Fight
By Jack Detsch, Al-Monitor: “The Pentagon’s request would slash funding for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to $200 million, down by a third from last year — money that will focus on “helping to provide wide-area security in liberated areas, addressing the ongoing [IS] threat, preventing [IS] re-emergence and setting conditions for long-term stability.””
Coronavirus Proves Immune to Political Correctness
By BETSY McCAUGHEY, Special to the Sun | February 12, 2020
The Political Effects of China’s Biological Chernobyl
By Bradley A. Thayer & Lianchao Han, RealClearDefense: "Much truth is revealed in a crisis. The continuing and ever-worsening effects of the coronavirus epidemic in China, and now the world, spark political facts about the true nature of the regime—how the country is really run—and why it caused a challenging problem to become a global catastrophe."
Shiro Ishii, commander of Unit 731, which performed live human vivisections and other biological experimentation
What America Can Learn From its Mistakes in Syria by Daphne McCurdy
Africa: The First U.S. Casualty of the New Information Warfare Against China by Caleb Slayton
The Grim Reality of the Cruel Seas by Claude Berub
MOSCOW'S MESS: TURKISH INCURSIONS INTO SYRIA; A REVIEW OF TRUMP'S PEACE OFFERING TO ABBAS; LOOKING AT SALIFS ON THE SUBCONTINENT AND WHO REPLACES AL-SISTANI IN IRAQ?
Turkey faces potential Russian blowback on Syria — and tomatoes are only the beginning
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself in a tough spot with Russia as tensions in Syria have escalated dramatically. In a rare direct military confrontation between Turkish and Syrian regime forces, 14 Turkish soldiers and over 100 regime troops were killed in two separate clashes in Idlib over the past 10 days.
Facing Few Obstacles and Scant Pushback, Russia Keeps Advancing in Africa
By Stephen Blank, Eurasia Daily Monitor: " According to numerous analyses published by think tanks and journals in the United States and Europe, Russia lost its African adventure before it even started."
The Result of 20 Years of Putin: Russia as a Mafia State
In January, Russia has gone through a political upheaval initiated by Vladimir Putin: proposal for constitutional reform, resignation of the government, appointment of a new cabinet. The pace and scale of these events led some commentators to call them a “constitutional coup.” However, if one is to follow the logic of the regime, the president’s latest decisions should not come as a surprise.
Nataliya Bugayova writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a new phase in his campaign to retain power after 2024 when his current term expires. Putin offered Russians a revised social contract. Putin is reconfiguring the balance of power within the Russian government as he seeks to carve out an optimal spot for himself. Putin is in uncharted territory, trying to create a new transition model for Russia. […]His approach is working so far, with the Kremlin’s opposition disarmed and the public unclear on the net implications of the changes. – Institute for the Study of War
Zvi Bar’el writes: So far, Russia is relating to Erdogan’s statements with cold politeness while continuing to talk about combating terror. Turkey is still an important ally, particularly in the diplomatic battle Russia is waging against the United States, but Russia is keen on ending the war in Syria quickly, so it can cut its outlays and transfer full control to Assad. If Turkey is perceived as an obstacle in Russia’s way, their alliance may be enveloped by a dangerous winter frost. – Haaretz
Gonul Tol writes: While Turkey dials up its criticism of Moscow, Erdogan, who is desperate to attract European investment in the country’s troubled economy, has welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel.[…] Despite the long list of problems in Turkey-U.S. relations, the worst that many expected in the form of U.S. sanctions has not materialized yet. And Ankara is threading cautiously to make sure it stays that way. – Middle East Institute
Daniel Pipes writes: So, while transferring the Galilee Triangle from Israeli to Palestinian control looks like an elegant and simple win-win solution, it is sadly infeasible. The Israeli government has apparently rejected it. Of course, this topic drips with irony. The same Israeli Arabs who bluster contempt for the Jewish state and praise the murderers of Jewish children (note the extremists who serve as their parliamentary representatives) also desperately hope to stay in it rather than become part of Palestine. – Jerusalem Post
David Makovsky writes: The Trump plan’s parameters on borders and Jerusalem suggest that the administration has moved the U.S. position sharply in the direction of Israel’s current government. In the most hopeful scenario, the combination of a tough new U.S. approach and the initial openness of Arab states to consider the plan as a point of departure could jolt the Palestinians to decide that time is not on their side, perhaps leading the parties to resume talks and find suitable compromises. In a less hopeful scenario, Palestinian anger toward the plan proves too strong to dispel, and unilateral Israeli annexations in the West Bank produce broad international opposition to the plan, essentially ending any near-term prospects of negotiations or a two-state solution. – Washington Institute
Ghaith al-Omari writes: All previous U.S. plans envisioned a solution for the Palestinian refugee issue consistent with the idea of two states for two peoples. […]By radically departing from certain key tenets seen in previous initiatives, the Trump administration may have undermined its ability to build an international coalition in support of its plan. This was on clear display at the aforementioned Arab League and OIC meetings, and will probably continue to shape the diplomatic discourse in days to come. – Washington Institute
Bobby Ghosh writes: Iraq’s senior-most cleric has no militia, but his huge Shiite following makes his blessing essential for any prime minister. Sistani has expressed sympathy with the protests, opposes Iranian and American influences alike, and has called for a cleansing of country’s politics. Like the protesters, he believes the country needs fresh elections. – Bloomberg
Ibrahim Jalal writes: While the GPC works to resolve intra-party divisions and the Sanaa-based branch struggles to oppose Houthi orders as per Saleh’s last statement, the Gulf countries have made their bet, viewing the GPC as useful even in post-war Yemen. […]Looking ahead to Yemen’s post-war political landscape, another party must emerge from the ashes of war, to heal the grievances of the Yemeni people that have accumulated over the last decade. – Middle East Institute
Mohammed Sinan Siyech writes: Two lessons can be derived from the comparative study of Salafists in India and Pakistan. First, no religious ideology can be considered a harbinger of violence. If this were true, then Salafists who are normally decried as conveyor belts to violence would have turned violent in India. Second, political externalities play a more potent role in radicalizing and militarizing movements than do ideologies. It is for this reason that, broadly speaking, the very same dynamics that radicalize small segments of the Muslim population in Pakistan do the same for some Hindus in India. – Middle East Institute
Suleyman Ozeren, Suat Cubukcu, and Matthew Bastug write: However, as Erdogan runs into more challenges and loses his popular support, he will likely resort to more authoritarian measures to keep a grip on power. He may also double-down on the AKP’s revolutionary Islamist agenda—with disturbing implications for the search for order in the Middle East, for the security of Europe, and for the future of Turkey itself. – Hudson Institute
Kayla Koontz writes: Despite the introduction of a new assembly in 2018, Turkey’s October invasion of northeast Syria provided ample incentives for the launch of new investigations into HDP members protesting the operation. The targeting of the HDP has set new legal and political precedents that could undermine the political capacity of the opposition coalition as a whole and create ideological divisions over the so-called “Kurdish Question.” – Middle East Institute
Brandon Wallace writes: Allawi is unlikely to gather the political capital necessary to execute reforms or fair elections. Indeed, Iraqi political parties may have agreed to his premiership precisely because they would prefer a weak caretaker prior to elections. Political elite are more likely to repress protesters with a weak PM in office. However, the designation of Allawi furthers the very conditions that protesters are demonstrating against. – Institute for the Study of War
Rockets hit US Embassy in Baghdad
Three rockets struck the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday, wounding one person in the first known direct hit inside the heavily fortified compound. Iraqi leaders condemned the incident and called for a quick investigation. Meanwhile, security forces shot at anti-government protesters in Baghdad over the weekend, killing at least one person and injuring dozens, while unidentified militiamen burned sit-in tents in the southern city of Nasiriya. Iraq has increasingly become a battleground between Iran and United States since after the assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, adding fuel to the unrest the country has witnessed since mass protests erupted in October.
Israel allows citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia
Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signed an order on Sunday allowing Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia in the latest sign of warming relations with the Gulf Arab monarchies. The new rules allow travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages or for business trips of up to 90 days. Travelers will need an invitation from a Saudi official.
Saudi Arabia denies Israel's claim that Israelis can now visit the kingdom
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan denied Monday that Israeli citizens can enter the kingdom after Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced Sunday that they can now travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages and business trips. “Our policy is fixed. We do not have relations with the State of Israel, and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the kingdom at the current time,” Prince Faisal told CNN. He added that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement must be reached first, before discussing relations with Israel.
Slain Iranian general Qassim Solemaini’s militias are secretly fighting in Syria’s final rebel stronghold, radio communications leaked to the Telegraph show. The rare recordings reveal how Iranian soldiers and Afghan mercenaries are directing military operations in Idlib, northwest Syria, in a battle they had promised not to take part in during peace talks. – Telegraph
Jeremy Hodge writes: Syrian activists report that the Assad regime has launched its most intense assault since the beginning of the war almost nine years ago. The target is Idlib, the last opposition holdout in northwestern Syria. All indicators suggest that the campaign will produce a new humanitarian disaster and be the beginning of a final confrontation between the Syrian National Army (SNA)—an alliance of Turkish-backed armed opposition forces—and Russian-Iranian-backed pro-Assad units. – Daily Beast
RUSSIA LEADS FROM BEHIND IN LIBYA, WHILE ASSAD AND HIFTER MOVES ON TO CONSOLIDATE & PUTIN'S LONG GOODBYE; israel and lebanon begin new governments
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lobbed a rare direct attack at the emirate of Abu Dhabi over its backing of Khalifa Haftar and the Russian mercenaries fighting on his behalf in Libya. – Bloomberg
Turkey is pushing a new “road map” for Libya, focusing on a conflict 1,000 km from Ankara, while a few kilometers from Turkey’s border refugees are being driven from their homes in Idlib by a Moscow-backed Syrian offensive. – Jerusalem Post
Aaron Y. Zelin writes: For all the reasons laid out here, Washington should continue to engage Tunis in addressing the range of jihadist challenges it faces. […]To thwart the reemergence of ISL, meanwhile, the United States should continue to coordinate airstrikes and share intelligence with its partners in Libya. This will help break up ISL camps and prevent an Iraq- or Syria-style resurgence, which could cut into Tunisia’s existing progress. Setting aside these challenges, the United States should publicly recognize and applaud Tunisia’s successes, thereby encouraging regional stability and stronger relations in areas of mutual interest. – Washington Institute
Russia’s 'leading from behind' strategy on Libya
Russia’s Libya policy is less about Libya and more about Europe, hence Moscow’s preference to let the Europeans take the public lead on the conflict.
What's in store for Iraq's PMU after death of top commander?
The Popular Mobilization Units will face fragmentation and division after the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the backbone of the Iran-backed organization.
Algeria strives to regain prominence as world powers debate Libya's future
Despite Algeria's best efforts, nine years of conflict in neighboring Libya have essentially brought an international proxy war to Algiers' doorstep.
Libya’s eastern forces advance toward Misrata
Heavy clashes between Libya’s rival forces erupted Sunday as troops loyal to eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter advanced toward the city of Misrata, threatening a shaky cease-fire. The fighting comes amid growing international diplomacy to uphold a lasting cease-fire in Libya, where Hifter has led a monthslong assault against the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
On Sunday, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Libya. At a press conference with Tebboune, Erdogan said Turkey is committed to stand by the UN-backed government in Libya, whose instability threatens Algeria. Erdogan next travels to Gambia and Senegal as part of a three-nation African tour.
Assad’s forces inch closer to key town in Idlib
Bashar al-Assad’s forces reached the outskirts of a key rebel-held town on Sunday, after taking control of several towns in the northwestern province of Idlib. Pro-regime media said government forces are “just around the corner” of Maaret al-Numan, through which passes a major highway linking Damascus to Aleppo. The regime’s renewed push, backed by Russian airstrikes, comes despite a Russian-Turkish cease-fire in the country’s last rebel stronghold.
Separately, at least seven people were killed and more than 20 others injured in a car bomb Sunday in the city of Azaz in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attack occurred in a busy area of the city, which is under the control of Turkish-backed rebels. No party has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, greeted to a fanfare arrival Sunday in Algiers, said the North African nation is “important for the stability of the region,” an apparent bow to Algerian efforts to play a key role in unwinding chaos in neighboring Libya. – Associated Press
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged international pressure to force the head of Libya’s eastern-based forces to abide by a tentative truce and said Turkey was determined to continue supporting Libya’s U.N.-backed government. – Associated Press
Rachel Avraham writes: One might ponder, how will all of this affect the State of Israel? Over the short run, it won’t affect Israel too much. Hezbollah is too busy consolidating power in Lebanon and trying to gain influence in Iraq in order to be bothered with Israel. Nevertheless, even though Hezbollah will be busy with other matters over the short run, that does not mean that Hezbollah does not pose a long-term strategic threat to Israel. […]For this reason, Israel should act now against Hezbollah when they are weak instead of waiting for them to attack once they get their house in order. – Arutz Sheva
Hanin Ghaddar and Matthew Levitt write: Against the backdrop of three months of political and economic protests, Lebanese politicians appear to have reached a deal establishing a nominally technocratic government in Beirut. […]The formation of a new Lebanese government has been a central demand of the international community and a necessary precondition for any international aid. But that is not enough. The government must quickly take action to fight corruption and enhance transparency. For a country that has run on corruption and political patronage, this will be a very heavy lift. – The Hill
Nathali Goulet writes: Lebanon’s stability concerns us all because it is an essential part of the stability of the Middle East — which is why the international community must place itself at the disposal of the new Prime Minister and ensure at the first request the implementation of its policy for recovery of stolen and misappropriated assets. – The Hill
Michael Rubin writes: Perhaps with Belgium taking a fresh look at the PKK, it is time for the United States also to reconsider the evidence that led to the PKK’s terror designation under U.S. law. It is now clear that Turkish evidence is not reliable and is often fabricated. Further, the circumstances of PKK designation in 1997 — thirteen years after its insurgency began and apparently timed to be a sweetener to a Clinton administration arms sale to Turkey — suggest that its original designation is more diplomatic than objective. – Washington Examiner
The guessing game is over. Ever since Vladimir Putin was reelected in 2018 to his final constitutionally allotted six year term of office, speculation abounded on how Putin would circumvent presidential term limits. […]Despite Putin’s in your face solution to the constitutional dilemma, the reaction aside from a handful of picket sign holders ranged from resignation to relief. – Middle East Media Research Institute
Editorial: Mr. Whether that is true is questionable. Mr. Putin’s approval ratings have been declining steadily in domestic polls; Russians perceive that the country’s economy has been stagnant in recent years, and that it lags far behind the West technologically. Many have grown weary of Mr. Putin’s foreign adventures in places such as Syria and eastern Ukraine, which have exposed the country to punishing sanctions – Washington Post
Joseph Bosco writes: But, on balance, Russia seems to prefer a change in Washington’s administration. Sanders offers an even more inviting target, given his aversion to U.S. military spending and foreign intervention and his attraction to Russian, Chinese and Latin American communist dictators. It’s no wonder, then, that both Russia and China may be exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to undermine the Trump administration during this critical election year. – The Hill
MAPPING IRAN'S BATTLE PLANS; GRAY ZONES MULTIPLY: US ENEMIES WAGE GLOBAL WAR & WHY MARKETS MATTER FOR THE LONG WAR
“New” Realities of Twenty-First Century Asymmetric Conflict
By Max G. Manwaring, Small Wars Journal: "A multi-polar world in which one or a hundred non-state and state actors are exerting differing types and levels of power, within a set of cross-cutting types and levels of power, is extremely volatile and dangerous. The security and stability of the global community is threatened, and the benefits of globalism could be denied to all. Thus, it is incumbent on the United States and the rest of the global community to understand and cope with the unconventional threats imposed by the diverse actors engaged in the destabilizing conflicts that are called asymmetric or hybrid conflict, or Grey Area Phenomena (GAP)—or what John Sullivan has called a ‘bazaar of violence’ that fuels the convergence of crime and war."
Grey zone is the new black
Too many smart people don’t grasp that a war is being waged against us
Propeller of Growth
Allison Schrager, City Journal
Technology and globalization are changing the nature of work and commerce, displacing workers, and altering the way of life for many people. In response to this uncertain economic environment, policymakers from both parties have become preoccupied with reducing risk. But many of their risk-management proposals go too far, address the wrong sources of risk, and would undermine America’s economic leadership. Read more here..
No market exists in a social vacuum, and hardly any market exists in a political vacuum.
Read More »
Iran’s Reserve of Last Resort:
Uncovering the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces Order of Battle
By Fred Kagan, AEI: "Qassem Soleimani’s death, the prospect of further U.S.-Iranian military escalation, and the reemergence of large protests in Iran in recent months raise the question of Iran’s capacity to conduct military operations beyond its borders while suppressing dissent within them."
The end of Obama’s Middle East
Matthew Continetti | Commentary
Trump's killing of Qassem Soleimani was the death knell for the yearslong failure of Obama's attempted rapprochement with the Iranian regime.
The arc of America’s history is bent by institutions
Timothy P. Carney | Washington Examiner
Trump rejects the fake separation between Iran and its militias
No longer playing Iran's game
HOOVER DIGEST ISSUE peruse the entire issue on the Hoover website.
Despite tentative government efforts to wrestle parts of the gold industry away from Sudan’s security services and back under state or private control, questions remain about whether Sudan can truly transition to democracy while the politically powerful RSF run a parallel economy all of their own. – The Guardian
America Shouldn’t Abandon Its Allies in the Sahel by Olivier-Rémy Bel
Olivier-Rémy Bel writes: Thus, a limited but critical American investment — airlift and surveillance assets — would go a long way towards ensuring that Europe remains both a willing and able ally in the great-power game. That investment needs not be endless. Europeans are stepping up. France purchased C-130J transport aircraft and Reaper drones to fill capability gaps. Denmark and the United Kingdom have sent lift helicopters. European forces, from Estonia to Germany, the Czech Republic to Spain, Finland to Portugal, are deploying in the Sahel to an unprecedented extent, either in Barkhane, the EU’s training mission, or the UN stabilization mission. – War on the Rocks
Sanctioned by the West and spurned by China, Zimbabwe has turned to the United Arab Emirates in its latest bid to find a savior that can arrest the collapse of its economy. Zimbabwe’s government has approached the U.A.E. in hopes of selling a stake in its national oil company, according to three company and government officials familiar with the plan. It also wants companies in the U.A.E. to buy more of its gold, they said. – Bloomberg
Algeria seeks coordination with neighbors on Libya
Algeria hosted officials from Libya’s neighbors on Thursday to discuss a fragile truce in the country and ways to limit foreign influence. The meeting aimed to strengthen “coordination between countries neighboring Libya and international players to accompany Libyans in reviving the political settlement process,” the Algerian government said. Foreign ministers from Egypt, Tunisia, Chad, Niger, Sudan and Mali attended the meeting, as well as Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Berlin over the weekend hosted a summit to discuss the situation in Libya, where eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter is leading a monthslong assault against the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
Separately, the Libyan capital’s only operational airport resumed flights on Thursday, one day after shutting down due to a rocket attack. The Mitiga airport has been repeatedly hit since the start of Hifter’s offensive last April.
Rwanda and neighboring countries in Africa’s Great Lakes region are at risk of worsening violence if the different countries back rival rebel forces to destabilize each other, according to a report by the International Crisis Group. – Bloomberg
The Sahel is facing an unprecedented wave of violence, with more than 4,000 deaths reported last year, and a bloody start to 2020. – The Guardian
Robert Burns, Abdi Guled and Cara Anna write: Islamic extremists are already exploiting possible U.S. military cuts in Africa that have caused a rare bipartisan outcry in Washington, with lawmakers stressing the need to counter China and Russia and contain a growing threat from Islamic State group affiliates. […]The Pentagon’s possible reduction of U.S. troops in Africa is part of a worldwide review by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who is looking for ways to tighten the focus on China and Russia. It is not known when a decision will be announced, but officials say Esper has made clear the U.S. will not withdraw from Africa entirely. – Associated Press