Vice News: The Islamic State

During an interview broadcasted Sunday, 28 September 2014 on CBS US President Barack Obama admitted “that the U.S. underestimated the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off the militant group” (“Obama: U.S. underestimated rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria“, 60 Minutes, CBS, 28.09.2014). It seems that the U.S. didn’t learn much in the last months because they still do underestimate the Islamic State. With air strikes, but without “boots on the ground”, Obama still tries to muddle through the problem (see also: Andrew Smith, “US foreign policy: muddling through, satisficing or boiling frog?“,, 16.09.2014).


In the article series “ISIS: Here to Stay!” (part 1, part 2 and part 3), Sascha Bruchmann analyzed the Islamic State and in this regard some of the international and regional actors. Finally, he shows that these actors, for a variety of reasons, are reluctant to directly fight against the Islamic State. The battle over Ayn al-Arab will sadly show that air strikes will not be enough to stop the Islamic State.

Public reports from inside the Islamic State are rare. Very interesting (but also disturbing) is a 45′ documentary by Vice News. Its reporter Medyan Dairieh (Facebook | Twitter) spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings. Nevertheless, because Dairieh was accompanied by the ISIS spoke person, Abu Mosa, who decided where and what Dairieh could film and because of the brutally oppression of critics, you cannot hear any critical voices in the documentary. Another video secretly filmed by a Syrian woman shows that there is minor resistance against the Islamic State in Ar-Raqqa. Also in Dairieh’s report you can sense the disaffection among the marketeers, when the “Hisbah” did their inspections.

[...] it’s very dangerous to take photos inside the city. [...] ISIS put cameras all over the city, so they can know who is taking photos and there are a lot of checkpoints. Also, the internet in the city is very, very slow so we use internet cafes and it’s very dangerous because all the internet cafes are monitored by ISIS. — Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi cited in Alice Speri, “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, And These Guys Are Risking Their Lives To Document It“, Vice News, 26.09.2014.

The Islamic State builds up a terror regime in the occupied territories. Hopefully the people will realize in the long term that in the case of the regions in Syria, who are now under the control of the Islamic State, one oppressing regime was toppled only to have another similar brutal one. Nevertheless time is running against the approach to stop the spread of the ideology of the Islamic State. In this regard, the indoctrination of children is very alarming. With this strategy, the Islamic State is building up the future terrorists. That’s why it is urgent that the allegedly U.S. formed coalition reacts fast and decisive.

By the way: the Islamic State spoke person, Abu Mosa, who bragged that they “will raise the flag of Allah in the White House” has allegedly been killed during an air strike, according to a pro-ISIS Twitter account.

Posted in English, Iraq, Syria, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Sea Control 53 – Indonesian Security Policy

On 9 July 2014, the 3rd Indonesian presidential election was held. Voters had to decide between Prabowo Subianto, a former Lieutenant General in the Indonesian National Armed Forces and the governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, who finally won the election. Widodo’s election is a positive development 15 years after the first free elected president. In Sea Control 46, Natalie Sambhi and her guests covered particularly the domestic political challenges, which the new designated Indonesian president will face.

Nevertheless, the article “Benny Wenda: ‘West Papuans are living in a prison’” by Mischa Wilmers shows that there is still lot to do. As Indonesians prepared to vote for a new president, dozens of West Papuan activists were reportedly attacked by security forces for urging local people to boycott the elections.

In this episode, Natalie Sambhi focus on the Indonesian Foreign and Strategic policy. She discusses with Lieutenant General (rtd) Agus Widjojo (Indonesian Army), Brigadier General (rtd) Gary Hogan, former Australian Defence Attaché to the Republic of Indonesia from 2009 to 2012, and Jim Della-Giacoma, former head of International Crisis Group operations in Southeast Asia, the Indonesia’s defence and security, and maritime security strategy.

Listen to episode #53 immediately

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CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

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Europe Needs the UK’s Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent

by Felix F. Seidler. Felix is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany and runs the site Seidlers Sicherheitspolitik“. This article was published there at first.

The no-vote on the Scottish independence referendum has saved Britain’s Scotland-based nuclear deterrent. This is great news for Europe. Because in a multipolar and increasingly chaotic world, the UK’s sea-based nuclear deterrence will remain essential for Europe’s freedom and security.

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde.

Her Majesty’s Naval Base, Clyde.

Nuclear deterrence remains a source of stability…
Thank you, Scotland. Due to your no, the Royal Navy saves billions of Pounds. The base for Britain’s four nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) does not have to be relocated. The four Vanguard Class boats are going to remain in Clyde, Scotland. This is good news, because nuclear deterrence will remain necessary throughout the coming decades.

Even after the Cold War, strategic stability in the international order is ultimately guaranteed by the nuclear balance of power. With Russia and China becoming more assertive, sea-based nuclear deterrence will serve as a source of stability. Why? What would finally prevent Russian president Vladimir Putin from marching through the Baltic to Poland are not Brussels’ words and tiny sanctions. Instead, it is, as it was during the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear escalation, which is likely to deter Putin and will therefore keep Europe safe and free.

…for Europe, too.
For legal, political and financial reasons, there will never be any kind of multinational European sea-based nuclear force. However, European countries still need a nuclear umbrella for their security. If you do not believe that, please consult our Baltic and Polish friends.

Illustration of the US Navy's new SSBN.

Illustration of the US Navy’s new SSBN.

Some European observes would argue that there is no need for nuclear deterrent provided by European countries, because the cheaper approach would be to free-ride under Uncle Sam’s nuclear umbrella. Even though US-president Barack Obama has paved the way for the modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal and the construction of a new class of SSBN serving up to the year 2085, it is yet unclear, if the US Navy’s future sea-based deterrent will be large enough to span up a worldwide nuclear deterrent as we have it today. Hence, Europe and the UK cannot afford to rely on that America provides nuclear free-rides forever.

Without nuclear forces in the back, European countries would be even weaker than they already are. Moreover, as European decline keeps marching on, abandoning nuclear weapons would leave the Europeans, in Obama’s words applied on an other case, as a regional power struggling for influence. The only reason why Russia in 1990s and early 2000s was still seen as a major power was its nuclear arsenal.

Moreover, with its declining conventional forces, a Europe without nuclear weapons could easily become an object of blackmailing by Russia and a nuclear Iran, maybe even by China. Instead, sea-based nuclear deterrent provides a position of strength and, therefore, creates a stable strategic environment four pursing regular foreign and security policy.

Why an UK nuclear deterrent?
Some readers may argue, why should Britain bear the costs on her own? However, beside the truth that a multinational European nuclear force is a pure and undesirable fantasy, it is clear that Britain would not be willing to share control over its nuclear weapons. An addition, a demur is, if a UK deterrent applies on more than the UK. Would Britain retaliate against Teheran, in case Iran nukes Berlin, Rome or Brussels? Maybe not. However, it makes Mullah’s life much harder, if they at least have to take the risk of retaliation into account.

Moreover, an other object might be that France also continues to operate its own sea-based nuclear deterrent. France’s four SSBN commissioned between 1997 and 2010 are relatively new. However, with an eye on the French economy and public debt, France’s defense budget’s future remains uncertain. Future governments in Paris might decide for financial reasons to sacrifice parts of or the whole nuclear force. Hence, it would be a risky game to rely on France. Given a life cycle of 30 years, France would face a SSBN-replacement discussion while the UK’s Vanguard-Class successors are entering service.

Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard passes HMS Dragon as she returns to HMNB Clyde, Scotland.

Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard passes HMS Dragon as she returns to HMNB Clyde, Scotland.

Thus, the UK Government should go for four new SSBN. Of course, that will be financially difficult, but without new SSBN, parts of Britain’s shipping industry and its expertise will inevitably die. In response, the Vanguard replacement program might be postponed and the new SSBN class will be paid off by the skin of Britain’s teeth. However, that is not be a bad thing. The longer the Vanguards remain in service and the later the new SSBN are commissioned, the better: This would guarantee a UK sea-based nuclear far into the second half of this century. New British SSBN, commissioned in the late 2020s or early 2030s, with an estimated lifetime of 30-40 years, would guarantee an active UK SSBN force at least until the 2060s.

Finally, it is good that the UK’s nuclear deterrent remains independent. “Brexit” does not matter in any way for nuclear deterrence (EU never had and will never have any role in that anyway). Even in NATO, the Royal Navy’s SSBN are considered an independent nuclear force. However, in a multipolar, increasingly chaotic and unsecure world (Brzezinski 2012: 75 et sq.), sea-based nuclear deterrence will prevent Europe from being blackmailed. Britain is the only country left in Europe, which at least tries to think and act strategically with global ambitions. If the UK does not remain a credible European source of strategic stability, then no one else in Europe will ever be – and that might one day turn out to be a disaster.

Posted in English, Felix F. Seidler, International, Security Policy | Leave a comment

ISIS: Here to Stay! – Part 3/3

by Sascha Bruchmann. Sascha Bruchmann studied International Law and International Politics in Germany and in the US. He worked as an analyst, covering the MENA region.

A geopolitical analysis of the larger situation in the Middle East reveals that the currently embattled ISIS will not be defeated like its predecessor Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The current environment in the region will allow it to prevail as the dominant actors are either reluctant or unable to crush it. ISIS will be contained and pushed back into Syria, where it will be allowed by most players to continue its role, primarily as a faction in the civil war dividing the Assad-opposition. The following analysis will highlighting the relevant actors’ strategies in today’s conflicts and is divided into three parts: The first part deals with ISIS itself and the US as an international power, followed by the dominant regional powers in the second part. The third part investigates Iraq, its subnational forces and concludes the series.

Turkish soldiers stand guard as Syrians wait behind the border fences near the Turkish town of Suruc on September 18, 2014. Thousands of men, women and children arrived at the Turkish border roughly 10 km from the besieged city of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, a Reuters witness said, as Turkish forces initially stopped the crowd from crossing. (Photo: Kadir Celikcan).

Turkish soldiers stand guard as Syrians wait behind the border fences near the Turkish town of Suruc on September 18, 2014. Thousands of men, women and children arrived at the Turkish border roughly 10 km from the besieged city of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, a Reuters witness said, as Turkish forces initially stopped the crowd from crossing. (Photo: Kadir Celikcan).

Iraq – Suppressing the Others, Business as Usual
The Iraqi central government has not been too concerned about ISIS as long as the Islamist were still fighting the Assad regime and the Kurds in Syria. Baghdad was seeking the peace dividend after a decade of war. It used al-Qaeda in Iraq and ISIS as examples of Sunni extremism to justify sectarian policies in front of the international community. It is an unfortunate trend that helped Nouri al-Maliki as well as Bashar al-Assad use the “terror threat” more frequent and the West could barely raise its concerns.

Baghdad was unprepared for ISIS. The reports from inside the formerly in Mosul stationed 2nd Division give an insight into incompetence and corruption. Higher officer posts were given to friends and family members not according to merit. The army was neither prepared for war nor for the terror of ISIS. As Iraqis might eventually push back ISIS once they decide for what price each of the groups fights, it does not seem probable that the situation will get any better. The sectarian divide is even greater. The Sunnis once fought alongside Americans and the Iraqi Army expecting returns in the future and were disappointed. They will now expect pay in advance. The Kurds have thoroughly institutionalized their proto-state for the last decade and have now captured even more territory. The negotiations between Baghdad, Sunnis, and Kurds are based on balance of power. This style is typical of international relations, which in itself tells a lot about the state of Iraq. This means that even if Iraqis want to learn from this crisis the tense sectarian situation will force them to continue their current policies. Shias will try to strengthen their grip on power, excluding Sunnis and keeping Kurdistan in Iraq. Sunnis will try to regain some of the lost powers, bargaining with support against militias and terrorists like ISIS. Kurds in some form will work for de facto independence.

Kurdistan – A Conundrum of Forces
The Kurds are no single faction. More than seventy years of fighting against four different states and the different paths these groups have taken divided the Kurdish forces. In Turkey where they have only marginal power the PKK is the dominant faction which upholds militias. In Syria the Kurds are a threatened minority. The People’s protection Units (YPG) fights against ISIS for its survival. In Iraq the Kurds have achieved significant gains. These have led to a separation of forces along to party lines, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani.

There are reports of Yazidi refugees that have recently arrived in Germany giving testimonial to the different behavior of several Peshmerga units affiliated with either of the two competing Kurdish parties and similar stories of singular survivors of massacres of ISIS against Yazidis. They say that Syrian Kurdish forces helped by fighting a corridor from Mount Sinjar whereas the Iraqi ones retreated before and led them into this situation.

The Kurdish forces in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah are reluctant to fight ISIS without beforehand having secured spoils of war like Kirkuk and the surroundings and having secured concessions from Baghdad. In some of the VICE Reports about Iraq Sunni tribal leaders in Kirkuk even accuse Erbil of a more direct complicity with ISIS (see the video below). Even though this might just be the Sunni local misinterpretation of Kurdish reluctance, they perceive a lack of action on the Kurdish side.

In sum, the media have put the Kurds as the force bearing the brunt of fighting against ISIS, but journalists failed to distinguish who is actually fighting and did not ask why. Erbil is using the ISIS incursion into Iraq to gain power (weapons from the West and territory from Baghdad) and all Kurdish actions must be assessed from a Kurdish perspective, not a Western. They do not fight against ISIS to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq, they fight either to protect their territory or to gain from Baghdad, in terms of independence rights or oil revenue shares if not the right to sell their oil. Right now they are preparing a referendum for independence. How should Baghdad act against that after the Peshmerga took the Tigris dam north of Mosul?

In fact Kurdish leaders perceive an alliance between “Arabs” and ISIS – thus see their own actions as legitimized. Underestimating the complexity of intra-Iraqi relations with the Kurds and intra-Kurdish strives for the sake of convenience or to please a temporary ally should not have us forget the reality of a quasistate on Iraqi soil with all the consequences of statehood.

Sunni Iraq – The Empire Strikes Back
Sunni tribes in Iraq in 2007 participated in the surge and helped defeat AQI. However, after their victory the militias and soldiers, called “Sons of Iraq” themselves came under fire from the Maliki central government. Instead of a reward for their contribution they were unemployed or even persecuted. The subsidies were scaled down or cut and politically the Sunnis were sidelined. Maliki continued sectarian politics much like the Sunnis did under Saddam Hussein, but now the Sunnis were the ones out of power. They thought fighting AQI might help them to integrate Sunni tribal leaders into higher government positions, gaining at least some of the lost power since 2003. Now the Sunni tribal leaders again bargain for these denied revenues. Two demands expressed are control of the Defense Ministry and the release of prisoners. For the first half of 2014 the Sunni tribal forces had aligned themselves with ISIS:

By virtue of its structure in Iraq, ISIS is linked both to local tribesmen and old Baathist military officers. For instance, Abu Bakr al-Iraqi, the head of the ISIS military council who was killed in Aleppo a few months ago, was a former Baath general. What the media reports as the capture of cities in Iraq by ISIS is a phenomenon with a political and social background going well beyond ISIS. An armed rebellion against the Maliki government involving various Sunni groups is underway in Iraq. — Rasim Ozan Kutahyali, “Turkey: ISIS magnifies Iraq’s Sunni crisis“, al-Monitor, 17.06.2014.

With Maliki gone, the Sunni-Shia divide is slightly dampened, but not resolved. They will join the fight against ISIS in Iraq if cost-benefit analysis is positive and the risk analysis permissive. ISIS understands this as the core of the contemporary Sunni-Shia dynamic and negotiations. It can influence the Sunni risk assessment strongly. ISIS brutally massacred 700 Syrian Sunni tribesmen of the Al-Sheitaat tribe in Deir ez-Zor Governorate, just an hour up the Euphrates of the Sunni tribes in Iraq that are currently negotiating with Baghdad.

Additionally, ISIS posted videos of captured Al-Sheitaat where these are heard pledging allegiance to ISIS while the Sheikh of the Al-Sheitaat calls to resist ISIS. These actions are designed to put pressure on Sunni tribal leaders. Both sides, ISIS and Baghdad, try to convince the Sunnis who is going to win and whom to support if they want to be on the winning side.

Summed up, the Sunni tribes in Iraq do not perceive ISIS as an existential threat and try to profit from the situation, otherwise they could not bargain. They want power in Iraq. Eleven years ago Sunnis ruled the country, now they barely feel secure of Iraq Army night raids on their homes. ISIS is not their primary strategic interest; Baghdad is.

Unidentified Iraqi militants.

Unidentified Iraqi militants.

For most actors in the Middle East, particularly for Syria and Iraq, ISIS is a threat to their interests but it is as much a threat to their enemies’ interests. Turkey, Saudi-Arabia and Iran dislike ISIS, but for neither of them it is the primary strategic concern in the region. As long as ISIS is not directly at ones own throat, the threat appears limited and everyone tries to use their existence and terror to gain concessions. The Syrian and Iraqi governments are directly targeted, but each of them have larger enemies to deal with. Only for smaller groups like the Syrian Kurds, Yazidi and Christian minorities, is ISIS a vital threat.

ISIS is allowed to exist in a realm between all those competing regional powers. As the US is trying to leave the region, the consequences of the Arab spring have been overtaken by the struggle for regional dominance between Saudi-Arabia and Iran as well as Turkey as the new player in the region since it changed its approach to foreign policy. It is no coincidence that ISIS physically exists between the Iran-friendly capitals Damascus and Baghdad in the West and East and Sunni backers Turkey and Saudi-Arabia in the north and south. Their powers neutralize each other in Deir Az-Zor (Syria) and Niniveh (Iraq), right were ISIS has its stronghold.

Thus, the defeat of ISIS is not so much dependent on the tactical capabilities of the Iraqi Army, but on a shift in regional power politics. Some of the scenarios that could through political chain reactions lead to a coalition that destroys ISIS:

  1. ISIS attacks Turkey;
  2. Fall of Assad regime in Syria through FSA/NC;
  3. Defeat of armed opposition by Assad regime;
  4. Iran ends support for Assad (e.g. refocus of foreign policy after regime change or bankruptcy);
  5. Refocus of the US to Middle East;
  6. ISIS captures Baghdad.

ISIS might well attack Turkey again and the next time Turkey might react. Sooner or later either Assad or the opposition will fall, meaning option two and three might take years but one will essentially come. In between the larger players it is more likely that Iran is afraid of raising costs and has to cut its support than the US running out of air strike capacity and the ability to shape alliances. The capture of Baghdad is unlikely, but war is always unpredictable. However, more gains by ISIS will mean that all actors have to recalculate the balance of power in Iraq. Capturing Baghdad means that Kurds and Sunni tribal leaders will probably align to counter the growing threat of ISIS.

Eventually, none of these scenarios is likely in the short run. Thus, the most probable alternative is that a coalition of Syrian Kurds, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Army supported by US intelligence and air strikes will push ISIS back further. Once ISIS is being pushed back, the Sunni tribes will join the fight against ISIS to be on the winning side. However, none of those players want to be dragged into the Syrian war. Therefore, ISIS will survive in Syria, where it has ever since 2007. For the time being, until the geostrategic situation in Syria and Iraq changes, it is a product of those crises, even fueled by them. Unless the Syrian civil war ends and Iraq finds a new modus vivendi there will always be a safe haven for the group or its successor by name.

To close with the strategic view that has been at the start of this series we should not forget that in order to strike ISIS in Syria the US might want to have the invitation of the government – by all accounts still Assad – or a UN mandate to intervene. Just hours after the first US air raids in Syria Russia’s foreign minister has questioned the legality of those, another issue of tension amongst the US and Russia these days. The second round of strikes was directed against ISIS’ oil infrastructure, which Assad wanted to retake intact or at least buy supplies form there. The prompt public critique from Russia, an Assad ally, is the consquence. Thus, three rounds of US air strikes in Syria are not the end of the strategic conundrum over how much to do against ISIS in Syria, they are only the beginning. The Chinese will not actively work against a crisis where they have only marginal interests and the US is pinned down instead of free to manoeuvre assets towards Asia-Pacific. The regional as well as the strategic powers’ constellation still opens a window of opportunity in which the Islamists can survive.

For the time being: ISIS is here to stay.

Posted in English, International, Iraq, Sascha Bruchmann, Security Policy, Syria, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Islamic State Alone Won’t Bring Iran, Saudi Arabia Together

Hassan Rouhani

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting of the Cultural Revolution High Council in Tehran, September 16, 2014 (Presidency of Iran)

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria might have given Iran and Saudi Arabia a common enemy but that alone is unlikely to put a stop to their cold war. Just after the foreign ministers of both countries met in New York, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen stormed through the capital city Sanaa and threatened to unseat the government there that is allied to Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, spoke hopeful words in New York, saying, “Both my Saudi counterpart and I believe that this meeting will be the first page of a new chapter in our two countries’ relations.”

As the Reuters news agency points out, there were also hints of a detente last month when the Middle East’s rivals both welcomed the departure of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his replacement by the more conciliatory Haidar al-Abadi. While the Saudis considered Maliki an Iranian ally, even the mullahs in Tehran recognized that his exclusion of Iraq’s Sunnis from power had given rise to the Islamic State’s insurgency which threatened their close ties with Baghdad. According to Reuters, “Once Iran came to see Maliki as too divisive and withdrew its backing, it removed a thorn in relations with Riyadh.”

But the agency recognizes much mutual suspicion remains. Iran sees the ruling family in Riyadh as stooges for their American foes and hasn’t forgotten their support for Iraq in its eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s. Saudi Arabia, for its part, still fears that Iran’s leaders remain determined to export their 1979 Islamic Revolution, “not least to Lebanon or the wealthy Sunni-ruled monarchies of the Gulf.”

The foreign policies of both countries have become more sectarian. Saudi Arabia competes for leadership of the Sunni world with Qatar and Turkey and supports Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Syria. Iran backs the Shia opposition in Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, and the Houthis in Yemen.

The Houthi belong to a particular offshoot of Shia Islamic and have important religious differences with the Twelver Shiism the Iranian regime adheres to. But as The American Interest notes, “sectarian distinctions within Shiism have certainly not stopped Iran from backing Syria’s Alawite-dominated Assad regime.”

Distribution of Shia and Sunni Muslims across the Middle East (Source: The Gulf/2000 Project).

Distribution of Shia and Sunni Muslims across the Middle East (Source: The Gulf/2000 Project).

The Iranian-Saudi rivalry, then, is not purely sectarian. It is as much about interests. The Iranians worry about being almost surrounded by an informal alliance that ties together Azerbaijan, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies — perhaps even Afghanistan. The Saudis are apprehensive about Iran disturbing the status quo where-ever it can: in Iraq, by propping up a Shia government in Baghdad, in neighboring Gulf states, by fueling Shia discontent, and in Yemen, by supporting the Houthi uprising.

The New York Times reported back in 2012 that “a relatively small but steady stream of automatic rifles, grenade launchers, bomb-making material and several million dollars in cash” was flowing from Iran into Yemen. That steady support now appears to have given the Houthis the upper hand. Al Jazeera reports they have seized much of the capital, “capping a decade-long uprising against the government.” The prime minister reportedly resigned. Some military units appear to have sided with the rebels.

The surprise Houthi offensive could set off a struggle with the dominant Sunni Islamist party in Yemen, al-Islah, which, according to Al Jazeera, they have identified as their arch-enemy — bringing the sectarian war that engulfs most of the Middle East to Yemen as well.

Iranian-Saudi rapprochement, it seems, will have to wait.

Posted in English, Iran, Nick Ottens, Yemen | Leave a comment

F-16 Support Area Confirmed in Pekanbaru

DG (12JUL14) Pekanbaru F-16 Support Area.

DG (12JUL14) Pekanbaru F-16 Support Area.

The latest satellite imagery on 12 July 2014 acquired by DigitalGlobe shows a new aircraft support area at Indonesia’s Pekanbaru Airbase.

The Indonesian Air Force received the first three of 24 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D upgraded aircraft on 25JUL14. The US transferred the aircraft under the excess defense articles program.

The F-16 were donated by the Obama Administration to strengthen bilateral ties, with Indonesia paying just under USD 750 million for aircraft upgrades which included new avionics, engines, landing gear, and other components. The Hill AFB Ogden Air Logistics Complex located in Utah carried out the upgrades.

The upgrades bring the F-16s up from the Block 25 to the Block 52 standard with the Indonesian press reporting an upgraded AN/APG-68 (V) fire control radar and Block 52 Link 16 datalink, AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management System, ALR-69 Class IV Radar Warning Receiver, a Modular Mission Computer Version 5 and ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser Set.

Indonesian sources are reporting the transfer as the Peace Bhima Sena II agreement after the 1980s foreign military sales program which initially provided Indonesia with their first unit of F-16 aircraft.

TNI F-16C/D.

TNI F-16C/D.

Last month, the USAF sent out a four man Mobile Training Team to support six Indonesian Air Force instructors. The instructors will reportedly provide training to Squadron 3 at Madiun and Squadron 16 at Pekanbaru, the two squadrons splitting the 24 aircraft.

Partly in confirmation, satellite imagery from July 2014 shows a new support area on the south side of Pekanbaru Airbase, a location in western Indonesia near the Malacca Strait. New aircraft shelters and a maintenance hangar were confirmed. No additional construction activity was observed on imagery from late September 2013 at Madiun.

Prior to the F-16 arrival, the Indonesian air force in June sent officials to observe RED FLAG – Alaska, one of the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air fighter exercises.

Despite going ahead with additional Flanker purchases to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II fighters, the US is hoping to revitalize the relationship with the F-16s.

According to a USAF statement, the remaining 21 aircraft will be transferred to Indonesia by the end of 2015.

Posted in Chris B, English, Indonesia, Intelligence, International | Leave a comment

India: INS Hansa’s SBTF In Operation

The latest imagery acquired in May 2014 of INS Hansa, a location on India’s western coast in Goa, confirms that the Navy’s Shore Based Testing Facility (SBTF) is operational. Although India inaugurated the facility back in March, it was unknown at the time if the arresting cables had been fully installed allowing for both take-off and aircraft recovery. Satellite imagery (above) confirms cable installation and shows tire marks from MIG-29K landing. At the time of capture, seven MIG-29K were observed parked on the aircraft apron in front of three new support hangars built over the last several years.

According to the press, India’s SBTF construction was managed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and built with the help of various others, including Goa Shipyard Limited, under the supervision of specialists from Russia. Other agencies associated with the project included R&D Engineers (Pune) and Chief Construction Engineer (R&D West). Much like Russia’s (reclaimed) NITKA carrier training facility in Crimea, INS Hansa sports a single ski jump take-off ramp and a new runway extension for an arrested landing strip for training Indian Navy pilots in short take-off but arrested landing (STOBAR) operations. This is different from operations on India’s current aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, which uses short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft in the form of the BAE Sea Harrier.

MIG-29K Catches Arresting Cable at INS Hansa.

MIG-29K Catches Arresting Cable at INS Hansa.

After mastering STOBAR, Indian Navy pilots will be able to land their MIG-29K aircraft on INS Vikramaditya, a modified Kiev class aircraft carrier based in Karwar, a location just over 40 nautical miles to the South.

In the future, India will put the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) naval variant through its paces at this facility in order to land on INS Vikrant which also features a STOBAR configuration. INS Vikrant is currently under construction at Cochin shipyard in Kerala. In the meantime, LCA naval prototype 1 (NP-1) was reported to start training at INS Hansa as early as May 2014, though nothing has been confirmed.

Since completing the additions at INS Hansa, India has become the world’s fourth country to setup a naval pilot program to land on aircraft carriers following the United States, Russia, and China.

Posted in Chris B, English, India, Intelligence, International | Leave a comment

Veranstaltungshinweis: Fordert die vorgesehene Unterstellung der Infanterie flankierende Massnahmen?

Gemäss der “Botschaft zur Änderung der Rechtsgrundlagen für die Weiterentwicklung der Armee” sollen zivile Behörden ausschliesslich durch Territorialdivisionen (neue Bezeichnung) unterstützt werden. Sie sind das Bindeglied zwischen der Armee und den Kantonen. Dazu werden den Territorialdivisionen mit der Weiterentwicklung der Armee (WEA) ein Stabsbataillon, vier Infanteriebataillone, ein Geniebataillon und ein Rettungsbataillon unterstellt. Als Konsequenz sollen sämtliche Infanteriebrigaden aufgelöst werden. Damit soll nicht nur eine stärkere regionale Verankerung erreicht werden, sondern es widerspiegelt auch die Bedeutung der Einsätze zur Unterstützung der zivilen Behörden, bei denen primär die Territorialdivisionen zum Zug kommen werden.


Mit dieser grundlegenden Umstrukturierung bereitet insbesondere die Zukunft der Infanterie Sorgen, denn damit droht die Ausbildung zum Kampf der verbundenen Waffen marginalisiert zu werden und die Infanterie dürfte ihre Vielseitigkeit einbüssen. Ausserdem würde die Armee dadurch an Verteidigungsfähigkeit verlieren, weil die geplante Wegnahme des jeweiligen Infanteriebataillons die mechanisierten Brigaden empfindlich schwächen würde. Mit der WEA werden Korrekturmassnahmen nicht mehr ohne weiteres möglich sein, weil die Gliederung der Armee neu im Militärgesetz geregelt werden soll und dadurch Veränderungen einem Parlamentsentscheid unterliegen.

In einer Veranstaltung, am Donnerstag 2. Oktober 2014 von 1800-2030 im Hotel Bern in Bern, will die Chance Schweiz mittels Kurzreferaten und einer Podiumsdiskussion die Ausgangslage und die strukturellen Varianten beurteilen. Die Kurzreferate werden durch Brigadier Lucas Caduff, Kommandant Lehrverband Infanterie und Oberst i Gst Jean-Claude Brossard, ehemaliger Kommandant des Infanteriebataillons 13 gehalten. Anschliessend stossen zur Podiumsdiskussion zusätzlich Divisionär Hans-Peter Kellerhals, Kommandant Territorialregion 4 und Oberst Thomas Hugentobler, Vorstand der Schweizerischen Offiziersgesellschaft dazu. Die Leitung wird durch Eugen Thomann, Vizepräsident der Chance Schweiz sichergestellt.

Der Anlass ist offen, wir bitten Sie jedoch sich aus organisatorischen Gründen bis 30. September 2014 mit folgendem Formular oder per Email anzumelden.

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Engagiert, reflektiert, differenziert – das ist die Stossrichtung von “Chance Schweiz – Arbeitskreis für Sicherheitsfragen“. Wir sind nicht allein der Tagespolitik verpflichtet, sondern wollen mit einer langfristigen Perspektive aktuelle Reformprozesse begleiten und fördern, und – wo nötig – auch dazu ermuntern. Dabei bringen wir eine ganzheitliche Sicht von Sicherheitspolitik ein.

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Posted in Switzerland | 1 Comment

Paul Kagame auf dem Weg zum Machterhalt

von Peter Dörrie

1280px-Paul_Kagame,_2009_World_Economic_Forum_on_Africa-2Der ruandische Präsident Paul Kagame will noch mal, das wird immer deutlicher. Eigentlich müsste sich der seit 2003 regierende Staatsmann 2017 aus Amt und Würden verabschieden, denn die ruandische Verfassung sieht maximal zwei siebenjährige Amtszeiten für den Präsidenten vor. Die Zeichen mehren sich allerdings, dass Kagame entweder die Verfassung ändern, oder dem Modell Putin folgend aus einer anderen Position die Fäden in der Hand behalten will. Schon seit geraumer Zeit fordern politische Verbündete und staatliche Medien entsprechende Schritte und auch Kagame selbst schließt eine erneute Kandidatur, anders als früher, nicht mehr aus. Besonders deutlich wird der Drang zum Machterhalt allerdings im zunehmend rabiaten Umgang ehemligen Mittsreitern Kagames, die der Präsident offenbar immer stärker als Bedrohung wahrnimmt.

Kagame ist als Führer der Rebellengruppe Rwandan Patriotic Front 1994 an die Macht gekommen. Lange dominierten Veteranen der Rwandan Patriotic Army, dem bewaffneten Arm der RPF, die Regierung und Armee des Landes. In den letzten Jahren kam es allerdings zu einer Entfremdung zwischen ex-RPA-Kadern und dem Führungskreis um Kagame. Eine ganze Reihe hoher Offiziere wurden in den letzten Jahren festgenommen oder haben sich ins Ausland abgesetzt. Darunter befinden sich unter anderem Ruandas ehemaliger Armeechef und ein ehemaliger Geheimdienstchef. Am 18. August traf es dann Frank Rusagara, einen ehemaligen Brigadegeneral und angesehenen Akademiker, dessen militärhistorische Arbeiten das Selbstverständnis der ruandischen Armee nach dem Genozid entscheidend geprägt haben. Er wurde zusammen mit zwei anderen ehemaligen Offizieren festgenommen. Allen dreien werden “Verbrechen gegen die Staatssicherheit” vorgeworfen.

Kagame with the other four East African Community Heads of States in April 2009. From left to right: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi.

Kagame with the other four East African Community Heads of States in April 2009. From left to right: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi.

Offenbar werden Individuen wie Rusagara durch Kagames inneren Kreis zunehmend als Gefahr wahrgenommen: Als Veteranen des Befreiungskampfes und Helden im Kampf gegen den Genozid 1994 gehören sie zu der kleinen Schicht, die Kagame politisch gefährlich werden könnte. Informationen von gut unterrichteten Quellen mit Kontakten in das politische und militärische Establishment Ruandas zufolge versucht die ruandische Regierung seit einiger Zeit planmäßig, Rusagara und andere entweder zu kooptieren, ruhig zu stellen oder zu liquidieren. Das prominenteste Opfer dieser Kampagne ist der ehemalige ruandische General Faustin Nyamwasa, der im südafrikanischen Exil schon drei Attentate überlebt hat.

Das Signal ist deutlich: Kritik an den Plänen zur Machtkonsolidierung von Paul Kagame, und sei sie noch so leise, wird nicht toleriert. Schon gar nicht von ehemaligen Weggefährten.

Posted in Peter Dörrie, Rwanda | Leave a comment

Sea Control 52 – EUCAP NESTOR and Piracy

A new voice! James Bridgers, Director of Publications at CIMSEC, is filling in for Matthew Hipples. He talks with Marko Hekkens, a Captain of the Royal Netherlands Navy on the EU project EUCAP NESTOR. EUCAP NESTOR is a civilian mission augmented with military expertise to enhance the maritime capacities of initially three to five countries in the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean. The start-up phase began in September 2012 and the three main objectives are…

  • to strengthen the Rule of Law in countries of operation;
  • to improve the maritime capacity of Djibouti and the Seychelles (and if possible additional countries) in particular through trainings for coast guard bodies;
  • to support the development of a coastal police force and the judiciary in Somalia.

By mid 2014, around 100 international staff are working in the mission, which includes personnel in the Headquarters in Djibouti as well as in the country offices. The current Head of Mission, Etienne de Poncins, was appointed on 16 July 2013. The mission’s annual budget is €12 million (Nov 2013 – Oct 2014).

Listen to episode #52 immediately

Latest: Episode #52 – Archive: all episodes – Don’t miss any future episodes and subscribe on iTunes.

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CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

Posted in English, International, Piracy, Sea Control, Sea Powers, Somalia | Leave a comment