24 September 2019

It’s Really Hard to Buy Peace in Afghanistan


As the U.S. considers a troop drawdown in Afghanistan, many in NATO are looking for other ways to stabilize the country – whether or not there is some sort of peace deal. Could extra international assistance be the answer? Eighteen years since Operational Enduring Freedom first ousted the Taliban, there is now valuable research which brings into focus exactly how spending funds can quell – or, in some cases, exacerbate – an insurgency. The summary is: it depends…

First of all, it’s clear that flooding a relatively poor society with cash will rarely buy long-term loyalty or stability; it’s more likely to do the opposite. This is because impoverished local economies can’t absorb the money, leading to malign inflationary effects and myopic investment decisions. Important functions, in schools and clinics, become depleted as talent seeks out a share of the windfall. Leaders with visas will squirrel their new wealth abroad. Throwing money at an insurgency may create a sugar high, but it will send vital public services into a long-term coma

Saudi air defenses like Patriot & Aegis don’t match their advertised properties, unfit for real combat – Russian Army

Multiple Patriot launchers, Aegis destroyers and radars are guarding Saudi skies, but they failed to stop a massive strike on an oilfield because their actual properties aren’t what the US advertises, a Russian Army source says.

Benefiting from the US arms deliveries, Saudi Arabia managed to build up “the most powerful air defense system in the region that provides full radar coverage,” a high-ranking Russian military source stated on Thursday.

Nowadays, there are 88 Patriot launchers – 52 of which are the newest PAC-3 version – shielding Saudi Arabia’s northern border, he said. In addition to that, three guided missile destroyers, armed with 100 SM-2 missiles, are traversing Persian Gulf waters off Saudi shores.

Crocker on Afghanistan

by Jay Nordlinger
 ·U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army base in Logar Province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018. (Omar Sobhani / Reuters)A talk with former ambassador Ryan Crocker about America’s longest warRyan Crocker is one of the outstanding diplomats of our time. He was a constant in the Middle East for about 40 years. He served as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. George W. Bush hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck. Today, Crocker is a diplomat-in-residence at Princeton University.

I talked with him on Thursday, September 12. Our principal subject: Afghanistan. Quite possibly, the United States will withdraw in the near future, and President Trump invited the Taliban for talks at Camp David, until rescinding the invitation at the last minute.

Below is the bulk of our conversation.

Nordlinger: Recently, I was writing about the Afghan War — its current state. And someone said, “Don’t call it a ‘war,’ Jay. It’s something else. It’s more like what we do in Germany and South Korea.” I don’t know what Webster’s would say, or an international-relations professor would say — but the Afghan War looks like a war to me, still. How about to you?

Statement on Accountability and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghan government institutions and leaders must be transparent and accountable to the Afghan people. We stand against those who exploit their positions of power and influence to deprive the Afghan people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future.

We expect the assistance funds we provide to Afghanistan to serve the interests of all Afghan citizens. Due to identified Afghan Government corruption and financial mismanagement, the U.S. Government is returning approximately $100 million to the U.S. Treasury that was intended for a large energy infrastructure project. While we are still fulfilling our commitment to complete the project, which consists of five substations and other transmission infrastructure between Ghazni and Kandahar and Kajaki and Kandahar, we will be using a U.S. Government “off-budget” mechanism given the Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage U.S. Government resources.

Lack of transparency surrounding procurement decisions by the National Procurement Authority is also great cause for concern. We will be withholding $60 million in planned assistance due to the government’s failure to meet benchmarks for transparency and accountability in public financial management.

How to Win the Battle Over Data

By Eric Rosenbach and Katherine Mansted 

In recent years, a number of authoritarian governments have begun taking data very seriously. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping believe that the twenty-first century belongs to nations that control communications platforms, suppress independent media, and dominate the development of data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence. These regimes cordon off their domestic Internet space and shut off their citizens from global information flows, while undermining rival countries through disinformation campaigns and hacking. Authoritarian governments try to steal the intellectual property and databases of foreign organizations, but lock foreign firms out of their own data-rich sectors.

The United States has yet to show up to this information fight. U.S. cyberstrategists prioritize defending physical infrastructure—routers, servers, and endpoint devices such as laptops and smartphones—but consistently underestimate the economic and political significance of the information carried on that infrastructure. The U.S. private sector, which rarely acts in the American national interest, is primarily responsible for protecting data and information platforms.

Israel Shouldn’t Worry About Ilhan Omar. It Should Worry About Xi Jinping.

Far be it from me to dismiss the hullaballoo surrounding Israel’s decision last month to bar two U.S. congresswomen from entering the country. After nearly 35 years of working on national-security issues in Washington, I’ve come to put a high premium on the strong bipartisan support that undergirds the U.S.-Israel alliance. Leaders in both countries bear a heavy responsibility to preserve and protect it. But once emotions have cooled, I find it hard to imagine that Israel’s sovereign decision to keep out two first-term legislators with such deep-seated animus toward the Jewish state really poses a serious threat to the Democratic Party’s long and venerable pro-Israel tradition.

Which is why, when I think about the future of relations between the United States and Israel, my mind these days turns far more to China than to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. How the United States and Israel address China’s rising power could be a source of either great peril or great promise for the broader relationship. Get it wrong, and China risks becoming a point of chronic contention. Get it right, and the challenge of dealing with China could boost U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, which is already deep and expansive, to a new level.

The story of Hong Kong is a Shakespearean tragedy

Jeffrey A. Bader

Act 1: The United Kingdom creates a fantastically dynamic, business-friendly economy based on rule of law, respect for basic rights and property, and proximity to China. Chinese migrants from Guangdong province and Shanghai build it from empty rocks into one of the world’s most dynamic and prosperous cities. But the British prevent any political development or democracy to take hold, and allow the city’s taipans (tycoons), along with the governor, to run the colony.

Act 2: The People’s Republic of China takes over in 1997, and decides they are comfortable with the way the British ran the place for the previous 50 years. But, they don’t like what the last governor, Chris Patten, tried to do by introducing democratic reforms. The Chinese preserve the structure of the city, run by a chief executive with the help of the taipans, and constrain indigenous political development while maintaining the fundamental elements of Hong Kong’s autonomy. They accept the British notion that Hong Kong’s people care about economics, not politics, and they like it that way.

Act 3: As China becomes richer, Chinese officials, businessman, and tourists begin to penetrate and influence Hong Kong in ways large and small. Non-taipan Hong Kongers start to get uncomfortable with the realization that their high degree of autonomy doesn’t keep mainlanders — and mainland habits — out. The cozy relationships the taipans enjoyed with the British government are transferred to a Chinese government less shy about corruption and nepotism. The Communist Party begins to move slowly toward absorbing Hong Kong in 2047 by taking incremental steps that evade or infringe on Hong Kong law.

The story of Hong Kong is a Shakespearean tragedy

Jeffrey A. Bader

Act 1: The United Kingdom creates a fantastically dynamic, business-friendly economy based on rule of law, respect for basic rights and property, and proximity to China. Chinese migrants from Guangdong province and Shanghai build it from empty rocks into one of the world’s most dynamic and prosperous cities. But the British prevent any political development or democracy to take hold, and allow the city’s taipans (tycoons), along with the governor, to run the colony.

Act 2: The People’s Republic of China takes over in 1997, and decides they are comfortable with the way the British ran the place for the previous 50 years. But, they don’t like what the last governor, Chris Patten, tried to do by introducing democratic reforms. The Chinese preserve the structure of the city, run by a chief executive with the help of the taipans, and constrain indigenous political development while maintaining the fundamental elements of Hong Kong’s autonomy. They accept the British notion that Hong Kong’s people care about economics, not politics, and they like it that way.

Act 3: As China becomes richer, Chinese officials, businessman, and tourists begin to penetrate and influence Hong Kong in ways large and small. Non-taipan Hong Kongers start to get uncomfortable with the realization that their high degree of autonomy doesn’t keep mainlanders — and mainland habits — out. The cozy relationships the taipans enjoyed with the British government are transferred to a Chinese government less shy about corruption and nepotism. The Communist Party begins to move slowly toward absorbing Hong Kong in 2047 by taking incremental steps that evade or infringe on Hong Kong law.

Why the internet is yesterday's news in China's digital leap forward

In May 2017, China hosted the historical Go match between Ke Jie, the world’s No 1-ranked player and world champion, and the AI-enabled computer program AlphaGo, designed by Google’s DeepMind Lab. The Wuzhen showdown was ripe with suspense and symbolism – human vs. machine, intuition vs. algorithm, tradition vs. modern – and, with the AI machine’s straight 3-0 win over best human player, the sense of the unequivocal rise of the “digital economy”.

Almost overnight, the internet business community in China started discussing “the second half” of the mobile economy era, which in 2013-2016 drove a boom in e-commerce and mobile entertainment. In particular, the image of the top human player crying at his loss to an AI triggered a great sense of determination and urgency among Chinese businesses and companies in the field: Either adapt the fast-evolving technology of AI, big data analysis and computer chips to upgrade – or be destroyed. Since 2017, the new key words have been “data” and “intelligence”.

Across just about every industry sector, Chinese companies are investing heavily in research and development of the latest digital technology. The largest internet companies, such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, are investing billions in building new research centres, hiring experienced AI experts and young data scientists, and setting up labs to work on the latest algorithms, smart robotics and self-driving cars.

Huawei Is Suspended From The Global Cyber Security Forum

By Betty Joita
Source Link

Huawei has just launched the Mate 30 smartphone line, alongside the Vision TV and a new Watch GT 2 today but the company has been bathing in hot waters since a while ago and, in spite of what looks like what might turn out to be a successful new flagship, Huawei’s troubles are far from over. 

After having been excluded from the Android program thanks to the U.S-China trade war, Huawei was denied from making business with U.S companies. Now, it was announced that it has also been suspended from the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST). 

This forum was established in the 90’s to act as a first responder of sorts in the case of major hacks and other cyber security-related incidents by providing advice and information on how to deal with them or prevent them from happening altogether. The US Department of Homeland Security and UK’s National Cyber-Security Centre are also a part of this forum. 

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the tech giant is not a member of FIRST anymore and its membership has been suspended.

Chinese Investments in Africa: Four Anti-corruption Trends to Watch

U.S. enforcement authorities are increasingly targeting corrupt practices among Chinese companies in Africa. Four trends are worth watching, writes Chinwe Esimai in this opinion piece. Esimai is managing director and chief anti-bribery officer at Citigroup, where she oversees the firm’s global anti-bribery program. This article reflects her personal opinions.

Last March, Patrick Ho, former secretary for home affairs in Hong Kong and a Chinese national, was convicted on international bribery and money-laundering charges. He was fined $400,000 and sentenced to three years in prison in New York in connection with activities on behalf of a Chinese company, the China Energy Company, which was doing business in Africa. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Ho bribed and schemed to bribe government officials from Uganda and Chad respectively, in order to secure unfair business advantages for China Energy.


By Bill Gertz

China’s military is rapidly developing unmanned aircraft and recently disclosed one of its newest systems: a supersonic reconnaissance drone designed to defeat air and missile defenses.

The DR-8 drone, covered in a camouflage tarp on a flatbed truck, was seen for the first time in photographs published on Chinese social media. The drone was included in a rehearsal in Beijing for a major military parade set for Oct. 1, the anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party regime.

Satellite photographs of the rehearsal also showed two other drones with the DR-8, including the new Sharp Sword stealth attack drone, which is capable of firing air-to-ground missiles.

Oil Supply Showdown: Why America Must Stand Beside Its Saudi Partner

by Paul J. Saunders

Escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf—including an alleged Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry infrastructure—have thrust the kingdom to the center of American foreign policy, a position that Riyadh has not occupied to this extent since half-million U.S. troops were deployed there during the first Gulf War in 1990–91. This has focused attention on the longstanding, informal and turbulent U.S.-Saudi alliance. In an era of growing American competition with China and Russia, hard choices will be required in this international relationship and others.

While the U.S.-Saudi relationship has evolved substantially, its fundamentals remain constant. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading oil exporters and its supplies affect global oil prices significantly. Despite impressive innovation-driven growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production, the recent attacks demonstrate that domestic gasoline prices remain connected to international markets. This reality—as well as the simmering tensions between the United States and Iran since the latter’s 1979 revolution—are the principal drivers of U.S.-Saudi security and economic ties. In 2018, this meant almost $22 billion in Saudi crude oil exports to the United States and about $3 billion in U.S. weapons sales to Riyadh. Notably, however, America is no longer Saudi Arabia’s top customer—China’s crude oil imports from the kingdom reached nearly $30 billion last year, more than a third higher.

Saudi leaders thought the kingdom was safe — they were wrong

Bruce Riedel

The Saudi leadership has reacted to the attacks on the country’s critical oil infrastructure with deep concerns about its acute vulnerability. Despite spending a fortune on the military and the renewed presence of American troops in the kingdom, the crown jewels of the Saudi economy were delivered a deadly blow. The new Saudi energy minister has been challenged to get the infrastructure back on line as quickly as possible. Addressing Saudi military weaknesses is a more difficult problem.

The Zaydi Shiite Yemeni Houthi rebels immediately took credit for last Saturday’s attacks, claiming that they launched 10 drones to strike their targets. Very importantly, they said that the attacks were facilitated by Saudis in the kingdom, most likely Saudi Shiites in the oil-rich Eastern Province. The scale and sophistication of the attacks are beyond the known capabilities of the Houthis.

The Trump administration has said that they believe the attacks were launched directly from Iran and represented an unprecedented “act of war.” Both drones and cruise missiles were used. The Saudis have been more guarded, and say the weapons were Iranian-made and fired from the “north.” Saudi Shiite make up a sizable portion of the workforce in the Saudi oil business, and perhaps some provided information on the most critical nodes to attack.

Pentagon, Pompeo Diverge on Saudi-Oil Attacks


Defense officials say they won’t get ahead of Saudi Arabian investigators. The Secretary of State blames Iran.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman declined to definitively blame Iran for the weekend attack on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities — just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that it was “abundantly clear” Tehran was responsible for the attacks. 

“As of this time, all indications are that Iran is in some way responsible,” Jonathan Hoffman told reporters on Thursday, but he emphasized that the Pentagon hasn’t completed its investigation. “We need to make an assessment, we need to attribute the responsible party of this act,” he said. “That hasn’t taken place. We’re being deliberative about this.”

The nation’s top diplomat, by contrast, says there’s no question about it. 

Saudi Oil Attack Points to More Advanced Iranian Missiles and Drones

Shahryar Pasandideh

If Iran is in fact responsible for the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities, whether directly or through its proxies in Yemen, it suggests that Iranian cruise missiles and drones are getting more sophisticated. Unlike its ballistic missile program, which receives considerable international attention, Iran’s cruise missile capabilities have long stayed under the radar. That may change following the damage done to oil infrastructure in eastern Saudi Arabia. With more accurate strike capabilities, Iran’s cruise missiles have major implications for the military balance of power in the Persian Gulf.

Although Iran has one of the largest arsenals of ballistic missiles in the world, it is limited in how it can use them. While it has missiles that can strike targets up to 2,000 kilometers away, most have limited accuracy. Iran’s adversaries across the Gulf—including forward-deployed U.S. forces in countries like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—also have extensive ballistic missile defense systems. ...

Cyber threat from Iran ‘very active’ following tensions in Gulf

By: Andrew Eversden  

With tensions rising in the Persian Gulf after a summer of kinetic and cyberattacks, the director of the federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that the cyberthreat from Iran remains “very active.”

However, Chris Krebs, who leads the organization that provides cybersecurity services for federal agencies, said that the cyberthreats now aren’t has concerning as earlier this summer, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone.

“Do we see activity continuing out of Iran? Yes. But is it as alarming as it was in June? I’m not sure I’m prepared to say that,” Krebs said Sept. 19 at the CISA Cybersecurity Summit in National Harbor, Md. “But it remains a very active space.”

Krebs’ comments come just hours after Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif told CNN that any attack on Iranian facilities will result in “all-out war.”

Idlib Faces a Fearsome Future: Islamist Rule or Mass Murder

Source Link

In recent months, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the radical Islamist group that now controls Idlib—the last redoubt of Syria’s armed opposition—has shown a growing willingness to compromise. 

HTS was once as extreme as they come, with roots in al Qaeda. But with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s victorious Russian-aided forces bearing down, and mindful of the collapse of the ultra-hard-line Islamic State, the group’s leaders are taking a more lenient, pragmatic approach to enlistment. The rank-and-file composition of the group has also changed. Through several rounds of infighting with more moderate rebel groups, HTS absorbed thousands of nonobservant Muslim fighters into its ranks from the defeated factions. In addition, it welcomed more moderate fighters who have been displaced from further south—much to the surprise of some of the new enlistees.

“In Damascus I was sure that HTS are like the Islamic State, that no one smokes among them and they dress in Islamic garb, but honestly, I didn’t find any of that,” said one HTS fighter called Mazen, who smokes cigarettes and crops his beard. Like many of the remaining regime opponents, Mazen is a sort of warrior-refugee—a former Free Syrian Army fighter from the southern suburbs of Damascus who was displaced to Idlib in 2018 and then joined Hayat Tahrir al-Sham because, he said, “it was the biggest thing in control of the region.”

U.S., Saudi Security Forces Failed To Detect Attack On Oil Facilities; Drone Swarm Was Part Of A Targeted Strike Which Strongly Suggests Iranian Origin; Saudi Iron Dome In The Offing?

The title above is from a September 17, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by numerous authors. Despite a fairly sophisticated and robust air defense network, U.S. and Saudi security personnel failed to detect a swarm of at least a dozen drones that struck at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.

As the WSJ noted. “U.S. and Saudi forces have largely focused on the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen, where Riyadh has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war. The attacks originated from Iranian territory in the northern Persian Gulf,” the WSJ reported, citing anonymous officials with knowledge of the intelligence/investigative results thus far. “The Saudi’s are fairly confident that the drones and missiles were launched near Iran’s southern border with Iraq,” and flew below radar coverage, “low to the ground, on their way to slamming into the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Saturday.”

“U.S. and Saudi officials didn’t anticipate a strike coming from inside Iranian territory,” the WSJ noted, as opposed to originating from Iranian-back proxy forces inside Yemen and elsewhere.

Saudi Oil Infrastructure Offers a Target-Rich Environment for Iran

Iran has recently focused on building up its missile capabilities, putting Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure within its reach. Saudi air defenses have significant vulnerabilities to missile and air attacks by Iran, whether launched directly from Iran or via Iraq or Yemen. The Saudi oil and gas sector has numerous chokepoints Iran can target, and Iran could decide to expand its target set beyond the petroleum sector.

For years Iran has threatened that if it were no longer able to export oil because of U.S. sanctions, then no one else would be able to either. The Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Co.'s Abqaiq and Khurais oil processing complexes and two earlier attacks on the Saudi oil sector gave life to longstanding fears of Iranian attacks on Saudi critical infrastructure. Iran has clearly made the strategic decision to escalate its attacks against oil industry targets in the region in response to U.S. sanctions pressure and Washington's departure from the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The Big Picture

Rethinking Maximum Pressure on Iran

By Raymond V. Mason, Ari Cicurel

A possible Iranian link to the attack on a Saudi oil installation this past weekend is the latest example of Iran’s continued ability to threaten American interests in the Middle East despite robust U.S. sanctions. While the administration is applying maximum economic pressure, sanctions alone will not force Iran to the table and are insufficient to address resulting Iranian retaliation. Therefore, the Trump administration must use the full array of U.S. power: economic, diplomatic, informational, and, if required, military means.

Without the ability to gain economic or diplomatic leverage, Iran is increasingly responding to sanctions with military provocations. Therefore, the administration’s sanctions are not changing Iran’s behavior, and there is little hope of bringing Iran to the table or collapsing the regime. Instead, the administration should seek to amplify the success of its sanctions with an equally strong deterrent posture that removes Iran’s ability to vent their frustration and drives them towards negotiations on their nuclear program.

Last month, Secretary of State Pompeo doubled down on his previous twelve demands for a comprehensive future deal over Iran’s nuclear, missile, proxy force development, and human rights violations.

Drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities underlines the need for new kinds of counter-UAV air defenses

John Keller

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY – A coordinated drone attack on important Saudi Arabian oil-treatment facilities by weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on 14 and 15 Sept. are yet another warning that operators of vital infrastructure must get serious about anti-drone weapons.

The sophisticated drone attack, which involved 19 separate accurately targeted detonations, not only has sent world oil prices sharply higher, but also opens a new era of killer UAV attacks. This attack certainly won't be the last.

Could anti-drone defenses in and around these oil-treatment facilities at Saudi Aramco's oil plant in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, and two at the nearby Khurais oil field have thwarted these attacks? It's hard to say.

The issue involves not just air defenses against UAVs, but against many UAVs coming in from different directions at nearly the same time. Such saturation attacks have the potential to overwhelm standard handheld and mobile drone defenses, even if the attack can be detected in the first place.

The West Has a Resentment Epidemic


In 2014, the Hill newspaper rated Minnesota the second-most-liberal U.S. state. For decades, Minnesotans had reliably supported Democrats in the House, in the Senate, and for the presidency—in Ronald Reagan’s landslide presidential reelection of 1984, it was the only state in the country to support his opponent, former Minnesota Sen. Walter Mondale.

Yet in 2016, America’s second-most-liberal state did something unexpected. As the presidential campaign rolled on, Donald Trump picked up a surge of support, drawing level with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. In the end, Trump bettered Clinton in 78 of the state’s 87 counties. While Clinton eked out a narrow victory in the state by a 45,000-vote margin, it came almost entirely from the state’s largest city, Minneapolis.

On the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, progressives in Minneapolis woke up to find themselves on a lonely island of liberalism amid a sea of Trump-supporting counties. Drive 100 miles in any direction, and you’d be in Trump country. Keep driving, and you still would be.

Adapting institutions to meet the new geopolitical environment

Bruce Jones, Jeffrey Feltman, and Will Moreland

As the world shifts into a period of renewed geopolitical competition, the multilateral order is straining to adapt. Both governments and the institutions that serve them recognize that circumstances are changing, and that multilateralism must change too — but so far, they have not agreed on a way forward. Anticipating the 75th anniversary of the forging of the United Nations, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings is examining the dynamics that increasingly define the future of multilateral order. Our objective is to help key governments chart a path both for themselves and for the major international institutions that balances adapting to the realities of great-power politics with preserving the current system’s capacity to mobilize collective action and protect (albeit imperfectly) vital core values.

These are the best universities in the world

Kate Whiting

So vital is education to the future of society, billionaire Jack Ma has just stepped down from Alibaba to focus on it. But does it matter where you go to be educated?

The former teacher, who studied for a BA in English at Hangzhou Normal University, told the World Economic Forum he was rejected from Harvard Business School 10 times, but it didn't deter him from building a world-beating company.

Like Alibaba, universities in Ma's homeland China are starting to "expand their influence and presence on the world stage", according to the latest Times Higher Eduction World University Rankings 2020.

The Real Reason Trump Won’t Attack Iran

Source Link

Iran is widely assumed to be responsible for last weekend’s bombardment in Saudi Arabia, in which drone and missile attacks struck two critical Saudi oil facilities, cutting the country’s oil production by 5.7 million barrels per day and reducing global oil supplies by 5 percent. If the Trump administration decides to retaliate militarily for these attacks, the ensuing confrontation would likely to be labeled another U.S. oil war in the Middle East.

This would be a serious mischaracterization, however. In this case, oil interests are far more likely to prevent war than provoke it.

A war in the Persian Gulf would profoundly destabilize the global oil system. If the Trump administration strikes Iran, unilaterally or in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, and targets the state’s oil facilities, these attacks will take more resources offline. Although Iran’s oil output has declined significantly since the United States reimposed sanctions in 2018, the country still produces more than 2 million barrels of oil per day and exports about half a million barrels per day of petroleum products and liquefied petroleum gas to a variety of resource consumers. Airstrikes would remove these supplies for the market, while other oil producers are struggling to compensate for the loss of Saudi resources.

Competition Without Catastrophe

By Kurt M. Campbell and Jake Sullivan 

The United States is in the midst of the most consequential rethinking of its foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Although Washington remains bitterly divided on most issues, there is a growing consensus that the era of engagement with China has come to an unceremonious close. The debate now is over what comes next.

Like many debates throughout the history of U.S. foreign policy, this one has elements of both productive innovation and destructive demagoguery. Most observers can agree that, as the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy put it in 2018, “strategic competition” should animate the United States’ approach to Beijing going forward. But foreign policy frameworks beginning with the word “strategic” often raise more questions than they answer. “Strategic patience” reflects uncertainty about what to do and when. “Strategic ambiguity” reflects uncertainty about what to signal. And in this case, “strategic competition” reflects uncertainty about what that competition is over and what it means to win.

This is how the Air Force plans on improving its electronic warfare capabilities

By: Valerie Insinna  
Source Link

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force is taking action to reshape its electronic warfare enterprise after a recent assessment found that the service was too stovepiped and not responsive enough to emerging threats, its No.-2 general said.

“The goal is to make [electronic warfare] part of everything we do in the Air Force,” said Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, during an exclusive interview with Defense News on Tuesday.

Wilson announced in 2017 that the Air Force would conduct an internal study, known as an Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team or ECCT, that would assess whether the service was doing what was necessary to maintain superiority over the electromagnetic spectrum. Brig. Gen. David Gaedecke, the service’s director of cyberspace operations and warfighter communications, was tapped to lead the effort in 2018 and briefed the team’s findings to Air Force leadership in January.

The Air Force is creating 16th Air Force that will combine cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and information operations into a single organization.

Electronic Warfare Is Becoming the Most Lethal Counter Drone Technology

By Dan Gouré

There is a new urgency to the search for cost-effective counters to the growing threat posed by unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones. Large, high-flying UASs can be countered by anti-aircraft systems, although this is an expensive solution. But new answers are needed for medium and small drones, those that fly slowly and close to the ground. There has been a rush to field counters to the growing UAS threat which has produced dozens of potential solutions. As more candidate systems are tested and fielded it is becoming increasingly clear that one of the most cost effective and safest ways of countering the growing threat posed, in particular, by small and medium-sized drones is through electronic warfare.

U.S. great power competitors and rogue regional powers are rushing to acquire drones and integrate them into their military and unconventional forces. China is not only producing an array of sophisticated military drones but flooding the commercial marketplace with small, cheap and reliable UASs. Russia is fielding a series of increasingly sophisticated military drones. The Russian military employed some of these in eastern Ukraine to perform over-the-horizon targeting for its long-range fire systems. Iran is reported to have employed armed UASs along with cruise missiles in the recent attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

The place of military history in today’s defense planning

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Much of the recent public discussion around former Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s new book, as well as Mattis’s own opinion piece excerpted from that book in late August, focused on his policy disagreements with President Trump. That was natural, and appropriate in many ways. Specifically, Mattis made an impassioned defense of U.S. alliances, contrasting his own view with that of his former boss’. Many wanted Mattis to go further and pick a direct fight with the president; instead, he wisely made his return fire much more indirect and impersonal. In any case, that debate will go on.

But the book itself, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, is much more of a memoir about Mattis’ remarkable career than a rendition of his disagreements, or agreements, with President Trump, President Obama, President Bush, or anybody else. While the conversation is fresh, and impressions of the book are still malleable, it would be regrettable not to appreciate all the other types of wisdom within its pages.

What I find most intriguing, and instructive, in the book is Mattis’ use of military history throughout his career to spark imagination and inform big decisions — especially on matters involving combat. Citizens, scholars, policymakers, and educators would all do well to learn from Mattis on this point. After all, though Trump liked to call him “Mad Dog Mattis,” and though “Chaos” is the nickname that Mattis (and coauthor Bing West) chose to employ in the book’s title, the never-married and book-worm’ish Mattis also had a third sobriquet: “warrior monk.”