Archive for September, 2017

Iran Supplies Hezbollah with More Missiles

Iran stated on September 23, 2017 that it successfully tested a medium-range missile. However, both the U.S. and Israeli military think that Iran reused old footage from a ballistic missile test from January. Iran is preparing for the day the nuclear deal ends. Iran is continuously funding the Hezbollah terrorist group with accurate missiles for a future war with Israel. Hezbollah is now thought to have around 120,000 missiles and rockets in Lebanon. These missiles and rockets could be used on strategic sites and in future attacks against Israel. Accurate missiles can also allow Hezbollah to have quick launches on Israel or other places of interest. Iran funding the Hezbollah group with accurate missiles could potentially change the nature of the conflict. With the proxies, Syria would have the ability to support Hezbollah as well as open a second front against Israel. Israel may be worried about Iranian entrenchment or building hegemony in certain regions.

– Caroline

ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Resurfaces in Audio Release

ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has seemingly resurfaced after nearly one year of silence. In an almost 46 minute audio release, Baghdadi urged ISIS militants to keep fighting and not to give up even though ISIS has lost a lot of territory in both Syria and Iraq.  He stated that their mission, to remain the caliphate, has not changed and urged his fighters to target the “infidel media” and Western forces. Russia had claimed that they had possibly killed Baghdadi in a May attack targeted at a meeting of ISIS commanders in Raqqa. It is believed that Baghdadi is hiding somewhere between Raqqa in Syria and Mosul, Iraq–where anti-ISIS drone attacks are more easily detected.

As we discussed earlier this week in class, the more bureaucratic an actor is and the more public support they have, the less affected they are by decapitation. ISIS has both bureaucracy and support (depending on location) and is arguably more powerful than Al Qaeda. ISISs’ presence in Syria has been largely wiped out, but ISIS is still a formidable threat worldwide– having many fighters in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and various places in Africa. It is unlikely that if Baghdadi is ultimately killed that it will have a huge impact on ISIS as a terrorist organization, but his recent resurfacing will undoubtedly bolster the resolve of many of his fighters who may have been weakening under more serious and frequent attacks by both the U.S., Russia, Britain and Iran.



The Abe government has elected not to sign the BAN treaty that made the rounds of the U.N. General Assembly earlier last week. This was a decision glossed over by the current escalating North Korean Crises and issuing of snap elections on Monday. Tokyo has sighted two reasons for its refusal to join the treaty (which calls for all signatories to immediately end any research, development, testing, stockpiling, etc. of Nuclear Weapons). Their first is that “most U.S. allies” also made the decision to not participate and their second – the treaty was close to matching the road plan that Tokyo has for world-wide disarmament but not quite the same.

In reality, the refusal to sign the BAN treaty speaks to a growing trend of militant right-wing nationalism that the Abe government has been trying to foster for ages. Article 19 of the Japanese constitution forbids the building of any military capacity outside of a self-defense force, which the current Tokyo administration has fought against. With the current crises in their neighborhood, Abe hopes to use this period to push for a greater role for Japanese officers overseas. While the dove/pacifist wing of the government should not be counted out yet, it is likely to come under increasing fire in the coming weeks should there be no improvement in tensions. Signing the BAN would forbid Japan from building a bomb itself in the foreseeable future, should the Trump Administration and America’s promise of a nuclear umbrella be deemed useless.



NATO denounces effectiveness of UN nuclear weapons ban

The article presented by Armin Haracic reports on and criticizes the United Nations new treaty banning nuclear weapons on Sept. 20. It is in reaction to the DPRK’s proliferation efforts and blatant aggression in using its newly found missiles. The Trump administration reacted by boycotting the signing event, it was joined by France, Britain, and other nuclear-armed countries. Although this article was presented in a NATO context, I found Mr. Haracic became to tangential in guiding the discussion to North Korea. The main focus of the article is to highlight the North Atlantic Council’s position, and therefore the United States’ position, that this treaty does not reflect an emerging international law that will be heeded by the organization.

-E. Hicks

Increase in CIA drone Capabilities

At the beginning of his term, Trump discussed with CIA Director Mike Pompeo that he wants the agency to take more of an aggressive stance with the use of drone strikes. Soon afterward, the CIA began carrying out drone strikes that might not have been authorized under the Obama administration, including in Syria. The CIA’s airstrikes in Syria replaced where the military had taken the lead on targeting militant leaders. The White House granted CIA officers more autonomy to decide on whether and when the U.S. can pull the trigger in various places around the world, including in Yemen, where the military carries out most of the airstrikes.

Now, the Trump administration is contemplating additional policy changes that will continue to expand the CIA’s authority to conduct drone strikes, both in and out of war zones. Additionally, the White House is drafting a new written policy on counter-terrorist operations outside of war zones, contradicting the drone playbook that the Obama administration had created with the hope of governing the decisions of future presidents. Overall, it seems like a legitimate change in policy, in reference to how the foreign policy of the Obama administration caused the international community to perceive the United States as weaker than it really is. Therefore, increasing drone strikes will restore the global view of American strength.


China Threatens Foreign Petroleum Operations in South China Sea

Summary: A Spanish owned Vietnamese energy firm subsidiary was ordered to stop drilling by the Vietnamese government after China threatened military action. The area the drilling was occurring was within the vast ‘Nine-dash line’ sphere of influence claimed by China in the South China Sea. It is believed this could lead to further threats to similar operations in the South China Sea. Currently 71.2 percent of discovered reserves are not yet economically viable to exploit.

Analysis: There was always a risk this could happen as a result of the garrisoning of troops on man-made islands throughout the SCS. Incidents have occurred in the past over fishing rights and freedom of navigation, as well as claims over disputed islands. Securing this sphere of influence has likely always been about long-term resource gathering in the form of fisheries and petroleum exploitation. China requires these resources to attempt to shore up and renew the decades long high growth trends in the Chinese economy, which began to slow in late 2014, a trend that has continued in recent years. By extending military force projection in the region through their man-made island bases, China has hopes of securing the gas deposits that are currently viable, and sitting on the others until they are. The first step is to replicate the success as they have had in this case.


No Entry for the Maduro Regime

On Sunday President Trump announced that he had expanded the travel ban to eight  countries, one of which was Venezuela. The ban was specifically placed on Venezuelan officials and their families, due to Trump’s claim that the Maduro regime is uncooperative with American goals. The United States has listed Venezuela as a threat to national security, and along with the already existing sanctions, the government is continuing to put pressure of the authoritarian regime in hopes that it will topple. The Trump administration cited that the government’s failure to “share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately” is to blame for this new ban. The White House’s decision to target officials rather than all citizens is slightly surprising, however it’s reassuring to see that he does not blame the people for the hostile regime. This move, made in an attempt to further isolate the nation’s leaders, seems to be a better option then shutting the citizens out completely when so many are suffering and looking for a way to escape the crisis. It is unclear how substantial this ban will be on the government; the Venezuelan officials who are on the list are predictably angry, and the foreign minister has accused the United States of directly threatening their country. Some also question how the ban will affect relations with other Latin American nations in the region. President Maduro has both expressed a willingness to negotiate with the US as well as a willingness to defend his country if necessary against the “major human rights violater.”


U.S.-Backed Coalition Forces Capture Important Gas Field in Syria–Another strategic Victory in the Fight Against ISIS

U.S.-backed coalition forces fighting to oust ISIS in Syria have recaptured their first oil/gas field from the terrorist organization. In the last three weeks much fighting has been going on between the U.S. led-coalition forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the regime backed Russian and Iranian forces fighting against ISIS strongholds in the region. ISIS forces have been largely eradicated in the country, yet some highly contested areas remain up for grabs for their strategic and oil rich value. The United States maintains that it has no interest in “land-grabbing’ in the area of Deir al-Zor where this gas field was taken.

Analysis: In the past few weeks, coalition forces have clashed with Russian pro-Assad regime forces and tensions have been high as these forces get closer and closer to each other and continue to push out ISIS. Both Russia and Iran stand to gain economic and strategic advantages if they are able to take control of such valuable areas in Syria. And the U.S. would gain if this were not to happen. From a security standpoint, there are concerns that each side fears the other stepping on each other’s toes and that an “accidental” clash may occur. Russia has stated clearly that any clash with coalition forces would spell bad news for relations between the U.S. and Moscow. Each side maintains the they are doing al they can to communicate clearly with the other to avoid any mishaps, but just two weeks ago Russian forces injured 6 SDF militia men in airstrikes the the U.S. says they clearly denied permission for. It remains to be seen if the U.S. can (or will) pull out of Syria once the threat of ISIS is gone and which forces take over the region. President Trump maintains that U.S.s’ sole focus is to rid Syria of ISIS.


The UN Warns Iraq of Possible Destabilizing Effects from Referendum


As tensions have been rising in Iraq due to the Iraqi Kurds vote in the independence referendum, the United Nations warns of possible destabilizing effects. Polls for the vote closed on Monday and has been effecting support for independence for several weeks now. Although the vote is not expected to result in immediate independence, Kurdish leaders say that they will be open to negotiations with Baghdad for greater autonomy. The Turkish military confirmed that along with Iraq, they will conduct joint military drills in Turkey and along the “border” of Iraq and the Kurdish region starting Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Kurdish independence was unacceptable to his country.


The overwhelming possibility that the Iraqi Kurds vote for independence from Baghdad may result in deploying Iraqi troops in all areas and closing all border crossing with the Kurdish region. This has affect all of the citizens in Iraq as there was a mandatory curfew following the closing of the polls until 6 A.M Tuesday morning. Baghdad and the international community tried to call off the vote last week since they fear it will lead to instability and the outbreak of violence, but failed to do so. Countries such as Syria, Turkey, Iran, and the United States have all expressed their concerns. The United States has strongly opposed the vote worrying that it will destabilize the region and among the fight with the Islamic State. Syria’s foreign minister stated that their country does not recognize the Iraqi Kurdish referendum and rejects any measure that could potentially break up Iraq. Turkey and Syria are also fearful that the Kurdish communities within Syria might attempt to achieve independence. The vote has caused great worry around the globe. If the Iraqi Kurds are granted independence from Baghdad, the fight against ISIS may become more difficult, other Kurdish groups such as ones in Syria and Turkey might seek independence, citizens will feel unsafe on their own territory, and potential wars could break out. If the Kurds vote “yes” to independence (which is more than likely) the Iraq government needs to do everything they can to keep their citizens safe and make compromises with the Kurds so more conflicts do not arise.


$700 Billion for the DoD

The New York Times reports that last Monday, the Senate passed a $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act. This bill would grant the DoD $640 billion for basic operations and $60 billion for operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and etc. The bill must be reconciled with the version passed in the House of Representatives, but the last I heard was that both versions were very similar. Despite many attempts, the bill has remained mostly amendment free. John McCain fought hard for the budget increase. Anthony N. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that McCain “has lived with underfunding of the military.”

If that is the case, it certainly could not have been any time in recent history. The more than $80 billion dollar increase is enough to cover three and a half years of expenses for the bloated F-35 program (using its $1.5 trillion lifetime cost projection, divided by 69 years [2070-2001]). If the DoD is underfunded, perhaps the Senator should look to recover the cash pouring into Lockheed Martin’s coffers rather than bleeding more funds out of taxpayers that have funded military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq for the better part of two decades despite economic conditions worsening for many here. Or is the extra $80 billion expected to come from the tax cuts planned as part of the ACA repeal? Honestly, this so-called “muscular vision of America as a global power” is looking more like a roid-rage global America.


Return top