The Rise of the Islamic State: Four Key Factors for its Unexpected Success – part one

by Andrin Hauri. He graduated from the University of Lausanne with a Master’s Degree in Political Science and holds a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the University of Basel.

The Islamic State (IS) [1], until 2014 a terror group little known outside of security circles, has fought its way up to the leadership position of the global jihadist movement. The terror group has achieved this feat within a very short period of time, ignoring the historic lessons learned from insurgencies around the world. Thus, the difficulty lies in explaining this rise against all odds and identifying the factors enabling IS to achieve this. In this series of articles, the author argues that there are at least four interrelated key factors, which were and continue to be central for the success of IS. The first one is the continuous recruitment of two groups of supporters.


Rather than slowly sinking into insignificance after losing 95 per cent of its manpower by the time US troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the Islamic State (IS) has carved itself a terror state in the Greater Levant, which wiped clean the 100-year-old colonial border between Iraq and Syria. IS’ forces size, skills, and weapons, as well as its ability to seize and hold territories, control the population, and impose its own law, are without precedent in the history of Islamic terrorism.

IS has achieved this despite ignoring the historic lessons learned from virtually every insurgency around the globe. After its expansion into Syria in 2011, the terror group deliberately provoked almost every country and faction within reach into joining the fight on the side of its enemies, thereby further increasing the asymmetry of power. Still, IS was not overpowered on the battlefield, instead expanding its influence and territories. Rather than hiding among the local population and dissipating when confronted by stronger regular forces, IS held on to ground and fought pitched battles against the Iraqi military, while even increasing the size and military clout of its forces. Through the proclamation of the caliphate, the terror group made itself even more assailable, and turned the control of territory into a strategic necessity for preserving its legitimacy. Nevertheless, despite the constant attacks, IS has been able to establish elaborate governmental structures in its self-styled state, while successfully defending most of the caliphate’s territory. Rather than relying on their support as other insurgencies have, IS has alienated large segments of the local population by imposing rigid social codes, and enforcing its draconian rule. Yet, it seems, the support of locals has not wavered decisively. Instead of hiding or denying its brutality and violence, as many other terror groups have done, IS has created a sophisticated propaganda machine to broadcast its atrocious practices to anyone willing to watch. Despite condemnatory media coverage, the terror group continues to enjoy considerable popularity and is able to recruit followers in almost every world region. Today, rather than suffering the backlash of its seemingly self-defeating strategic choices, IS is still the most successful Islamic terrorist group in the world. The first key factor for this continued success of IS is the recruitment of two groups of people: ex-Ba’athists and foreign recruits.

Early on in the evolution of IS, its leadership and ranks were swelled with ex-Ba’athists and former Saddam-era officers. This unlikely cooperation between the former security personnel of Saddam’s mainly secular regime and one of the most radical Islamic extremist groups in existence can be largely explained by two events over the last 25 years. The first was a state-sponsored initiative under Saddam in the mid-1990s, the so-called Faith Campaign, which intended to Islamise Iraqi society. Thereby, Saddam hoped to garner political support from the religious establishment in the aftermath of the devastating defeat in the Gulf War 1990/1 and the popular uprisings that followed. (Hamza Hendawi and Abdul-Zahra Qassim, “ISIS Top Brass Is Iraqi Army’s Former Best and Brightest“, Haaretz, 08.08.2015).

As a consequence, piety and even radical religious views were suddenly tolerated among the personnel of Iraq’s notorious security agencies. The second event was the “de-Ba’athification” policy during the US occupation of Iraq. As senior and mid-ranking ex-party officials were banned from joining the new security services, many of them joined the anti-American insurgency, which in the beginning was still relatively secular. Some of them did so to earn a living, others out of hatred for the new Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Over the years, however, Islamic militants grew in prominence within the insurgency, while many ex-Ba’athists became radicalised, either on the battlefield or in prison cells – such as those at the notorious Bucca camp. (Isabel Coles and Ned Parker, “How Saddam’s men help Islamic State rule“, Reuters, 11.12.2015).

Following the death of IS’ first leader, Abu Musʼab al-Zarqawi, in 2006 and the purge of the group’s ranks between 2007 and 2010, IS commanders killed by US and Iraqi troops were often replaced by ex-Ba’athists from Saddam’s military or intelligence services. (William McCants, “How ISIL Out-Terrorized Bin Laden“, Politico Magazine, 19.08.2015). They would prove helpful in running an authoritarian state. Today, it is estimated that around 100-160 Saddam-era veterans are holding mid- and senior-level IS leadership positions, in the terror group’s Military Council or as governors of IS’ wilayah or “provinces” for example. Furthermore, they run IS’ battles and oversee its intelligence activities. (Hamza and Qassim, “ISIS Top Brass Is Iraqi Army’s Former Best and Brightest“).

These men are some of the brightest and most experienced minds that have sprung up from the Iraqi security establishment, forged by a military staff college education and steeled by more than three major wars over the last 35 years. Their knowledge and experience has been absorbed into IS’ DNA and increased the terror group’s tactical prowess and intelligence capabilities manifold. This has been pivotal to IS’ success in recent years. The Saddam-era veterans provided the necessary organisation and discipline to transform IS from a terrorist group to today’s ruler over a self-styled state. They drilled the ragtag volunteers, drawn from across the globe, into an effective fighting force. Their tactics too are much more refined than the ones of average jihadists. They have years of experience in waging asymmetrical campaigns in Iraq and Syria — and a weapons stockpile fit for conventional warfare. By integrating terror tactics like suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices with conventional military operations, they devised a highly successful approach with which to assault the Iraqi and Syrian army.

Thanks to the Saddam-era veterans, IS intelligence capabilities are also remarkable, with operations showing a high degree of sophistication. The terror group’s intelligence agencies conduct classic intelligence infiltrations, execute targeted assassinations in government controlled areas, and organise stay-behind cells when on the defensive. (Hamza and Qassim, ISIS Top Brass Is Iraqi Army’s Former Best and Brightest). They also run an extensive network of informants, often using young children as spies in public spaces, such as markets or mosques, and women in private spaces, such as funerals or family gatherings. Many Saddam-era officers are also respected members of their communities with close links to tribal leaders, providing IS with critical tribal ties, as well as a support network. Hence, the ex-Ba’athists joining IS have not only strengthened the terror group’s intelligence network and fighting tactics, but are also instrumental in running the caliphate.

Flow of foreign fighters to Syria by Gene Thorp and Swati Sharma, The Washington Post, January 27, 2015. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, nearly a fifth of the fighters come from Western European nations.

Flow of foreign fighters to Syria by Gene Thorp and Swati Sharma, The Washington Post, January 27, 2015. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, nearly a fifth of the fighters come from Western European nations.

Foreign Recruits
True to its ideology, IS has committed itself to constant territorial expansion of the caliphate. This necessitates enormous manpower, drilled into an effective and devoted fighting force. Foreign recruits fulfil this function. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the later unrest in Syria already drew veteran jihadists from other war theatres to the region. The land gains of IS in 2014, however, suddenly gave the terror group a territory with which to attract and house them, which greatly intensified this influx. Ever since, a continuous stream of men and women — from over 90 countries as diverse as Norway and Yemen — has been flocking to the region to join IS or Syrian rebel groups. (Karen Krüger, “Die IS-Jugend: Generation Dschihad“, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22.11.2015).

Aside from putting boots on the ground, the recruitment of foreigners offers the advantage of bringing a wide range of linguistic and professional skills to the group. It is estimated that IS has more than 20,000 foreign fighters among its ranks, mostly from Arab but also from Western countries. (Daniel Byman, “ISIS‘ Big Mistake“, Foreign Affairs, 15.11.2015; Nicholas J. Rasmussen, “Hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security ‘Countering Violent Islamist Extremism: The Urgent Threat of Foreign Fighters and Homegrown Terror’“, 11.02.2015). Thus, IS recruitment of internationals has far exceeded the number of foreign mujahedeen fighting Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They are a mix of veteran jihadists and new, inexperienced volunteers. (Bruce Hoffman, “ISIL is Winning“, Politico Magazine, 10.09.2015).

The foreign veteran jihadists fighting for IS come mainly from the Middle East and North Africa region. They are former soldiers or fighters with combat experience from other war theatres, such as Libya. Many veterans also hail from Central Asia and the Caucasus region, like Chechnya or Dagestan, where they have been fighting Russian troops for over a decade. Military experience and tactical adeptness combined with the fanaticism of radical Islam has made them very capable and highly regarded soldiers. IS draws on their experience and prowess to carry the day for IS on the battlefield. It is them, alongside some new volunteers, who usually lead the charge in the first wave of an attack. Local Arab fighters, on the other hand, often only move in once a territory has been cleared or to shore up defensive positions. The new, inexperienced volunteers, coming from places like the West, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries, join IS for different reasons to the veteran jihadists or the native recruits. These may include the youthful yearning for adventure, the search for identity or to give humanitarian assistance to fellow Muslims. (Scott Gates and Sukanya Podder, “Social Media, Recruitment, Allegiance and the Islamic State“, Perspectives on Terrorism, Volume 9, Issue 4, August 2015, p. 110-1).

Previous career training is extremely valuable for IS, as it is in need of many experts to run its self-styled state. Besides fighters, the terror group has also called for doctors, engineers, and construction workers to join the group. (Katherine Brown, “Analysis: Why are Western women joining Islamic State?“, BBC Online, (06.10.2014). Foreign recruits who lack any valuable skills however quickly end up as cannon fodder at the front. Alternatively, they may be used as suicide bombers, who are commonly unexperienced foreign recruits. This offers IS the double benefit of employing an effective military tactic while at the same time getting rid of incompetent recruits or fighters who have fallen from grace. (Stephan Pruss, “Terroristische Verlockung“, Tages-Anzeiger, 20.08.2015).

ISIS Regional Map May 2016-01_5

Expansion and Attacks outside the Middle East
In a major change of tactics in 2015, IS now no longer asks all recruits to travel to the caliphate to join them. (Ramsay Stuart, “IS Bombers in UK ready to attack“, Sky News, 07.09.2015). Instead, they urge some supporters to remain where they are in order to either found new IS provinces or execute local attacks. The terror group also sends foreign recruits back from the caliphate to their countries of origin — a practice that was denounced by IS supporters in 2014 who referred to returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts who should “review their religion”. (Graeme Wood, “What ISIS really wants“, The Atlantic, March 2015). Besides using foreigners as part of its primary campaign in Iraq and Syria, this new strategy allows IS to employ them for two additional tasks that are critical for its strategy: expansion and attacks in the west.

IS is expanding its sphere of control outside Iraq and Syria by providing general guidance and support to the local campaigns of other jihadists which at first appear to have no ostensible connection to IS. If thereby IS can successfully integrate itself into the power vacuum of a conflict zone, this will sooner or later be made official through the acknowledgment of the local jihadists as official affiliates of IS and/or the public announcement of a new province. IS is pursuing this strategy in Libya and Afghanistan, for example. To date, IS has established provinces in almost a dozen countries stretching from West and North Africa to Southeast Asia and the Caucasus. In addition, about thirty countries have jihadist groups that claim allegiance to IS, including Nigeria and the Philippines. (“The Mystery of ISIS“, The New York Review of Books, 13.08.2015). Expansion gives IS a number of benefits. For a start, it allows the terror group to absorb losses while maintaining its narrative of “God-given” success; setbacks on one front can be conveniently masked by successes on another. (Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS Global Intsum“, Institute for the Study of War, 07.05.2015). It also allows IS to adapt to new fronts and environments, adding to the terror group’s skill set. Furthermore, a presence in various places increases the resilience of IS’ primary campaign in Iraq and Syria. Should IS lose the urban centres in Iraq and Syria, the terror group can move to their beachhead in North Africa, Libya. Should the security situation in this country stabilise, IS could instead start destabilising Tunis next door to build a base of operations there, moving southwards into the Sahel, or eastwards to Yemen and Afghanistan. (Jonathan Githens-Mazer, “To Defeat Daesh Start with Their Strategy“, Royal United Services Institute, 06.07.2015).

Assessment of the affiliation and current status of terror groups (klick to enlarge; Clint Watts, "When The Caliphate Crumbles: The Future of the Islamic State’s Affiliates", War on the Rocks, 13.06.2016).

Assessment of the affiliation and current status of terror groups (klick to enlarge; Clint Watts, “When The Caliphate Crumbles: The Future of the Islamic State’s Affiliates“, War on the Rocks, 13.06.2016).

For attacks in the West, IS counts on three different types of foreign recruits. The first are battle-tested foreign fighters, returning from Iraq and Syria in order to execute terror attacks in their home countries. The second are longstanding jihadist sympathisers with some loose contact to the terror group, who often receive some formal training or logistical support but operate semi-autonomously. The third are so-called “lone wolves”, individuals who sympathise with the cause of jihadism, but have no formal training or direct affiliation with IS. (Prem Mahadevan, “Resurgent Radicalism“, Center for Security Studies, 01.04.2015). IS encourages all three types of recruit to carry out lethal terror attacks against “soft targets” in the West and elsewhere. Such attacks have become an important element of IS strategy. Besides receiving significantly more media coverage than attacks in the Middle East, they are important in maintaining the morale of the terror group’s members and sympathisers. Furthermore, the polarisation such attacks likely create between the general public and local Muslim communities confirms IS’ narrative of a global fight against Islam. They are intended to provoke responses among western governments and societies that alienate and radicalise more Muslims. (Gambhir, “ISIS Global Intsum“).

In conclusion, the recruitment of both ex-Ba’athists, after the US invasion in Iraq, and foreign recruits has been instrumental in the rise of IS, making it one of the decisive factors for the success of the terror group. The former lent it the necessary knowledge and experience to morph from a terror organisation into a totalitarian ruler of a self-styled state with a capable fighting force and intelligence service. The latter provides IS not only with the necessary human resources to run the caliphate but also the volunteers to fight its battles. Furthermore, foreign recruits who do not travel to Iraq and Syria or return from there help IS to expand its influence abroad and take their campaign into the cities of its many enemies around the globe.

In the second part of this series of articles, the author argues that the caliphate is the second key factor for the success of IS.

[1] Since its beginnings as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, the terrorist group today known under the name Islamic State, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Daesh has changed its leader and name several times. For reasons of clarity, throughout this series of articles, it is referred to only as Islamic State or its abbreviation IS.

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Libya: The Next Pirate Haven?

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

USS Philadelphia burning at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor during the First Barbary War in 1804.

USS Philadelphia burning at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor during the First Barbary War in 1804.

At the start of the 19th century, pirates based in what is now Libya prompted in part the re-establishment of the United States Navy (USN). The Barbary Wars saw the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies fighting against the Northwest African Berber states, quasi-independent entities within the Ottoman Empire, which had been harassing commercial shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. After two major conflicts in North Africa, the threat of piracy was more or less ended by 1816. Two hundred years later, piracy off the Libyan coast could again become a major threat to international peace and security, requiring an American response.

Under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan Navy was a sufficiently potent force to secure Libya’s territorial waters and coastline. But a combination of NATO airstrikes during the 2011 multilateral intervention in Libya and the lack of national unity has left Libya’s maritime forces in shambles. According to the limited information available on the state of the Libyan Navy, it has only one Koni-class frigate remaining: al-Hani. That vessel, a Soviet frigate built in the early 1980’s and with a displacement of 1,900 tonnes, arrived in Malta for extensive repairs in October 2013. According to the Oryx Blog, the single Natya-class minesweeper already sunk a couple of years ago due to a lack of maintenance (see photo below), but not before it was deprived of both of its AK-230 gun emplacements, which were subsequently installed on the Kamaz and Scania trucks. Beyond that, a Polnocny C-class landing ship is reportedly undergoing a refit in Toulon, France, while a second is undergoing repairs at Cassar Ship Repair, Malta, which is the same facility hosting al-Hani. As such, the Libyan Navy likely has only one landing ship with which to patrol more than 1,700 kilometres of coastline.

The poor state of the Libyan Navy is further compounded by the lack of coherent command and control – or in fact the lack of a functioning state. Although Libya does nominally have a Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Hassan Ali Bushnak, the Government of National Accord (GNA) to which he reports does not have control over all of Libyan territory. Opposing the internationally recognized government of Libya is a collection of Islamist groups, including factions loyal to the terror organisation “Islamic State” (ISIS). Although a United Nations brokered peace agreement has secured some degree of power sharing, the democratically elected Council of Deputies could withdraw its support for the GNA at any time, deepening the conflict.

The remains of the unfortunate Natya-class minesweeper (Photo: Oryx Blog).

The remains of the unfortunate Natya-class minesweeper (Photo: Oryx Blog).

In short, it is difficult to say who is in charge in Libya anymore, especially regarding some of the Gaddafi regime’s naval bases. Major bases in Tripoli, Sirte, and Khoms were devastated by airstrikes. Tobruk has been the last refuge of the Council of Deputies in the midst of the civil war. Misrata is more or less GNA controlled. Benghazi remains a battleground between GNA forces and the Islamist coalition known as the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. Derna is also a battleground, albeit between ISIS and another Islamist group known as the Shura Council of Mujahedeen in Derna.

In this context, Operation Sophia, also known as European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med), is a naïve approach to addressing the threat of Libyan piracy. One of the stated objectives of Operation Sophia is to address the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean by fostering the establishment of a professional Libyan Navy. But such an initiative will clearly take many years to reach fruition. The European Union Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) has been training Libyan officers and personnel in just such an effort to develop a capable Navy or Coast Guard, but the training has been strictly limited to rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB). If Libya is to successfully intercept or deter homegrown pirates, vessels with greater range will be necessary, as well as the ability to crew and operate ships with that kind of reach.

The European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia) was originally launched in April 2010 with similar objectives, training the forces necessary for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to exert its sovereignty over Somali territory and put an end to piracy. More than six years later, the Somali Maritime Force is a ragtag collection of Soviet-built Osa-II missile-armed fast attack craft, resembling the current state of the Libyan Navy, and is mostly under the authority of the breakaway Puntland administration.

Operational area of EUNAVFOR Med.

Operational area of EUNAVFOR Med.

The immediacy of this threat should be abundantly clear. In April 2015, a Sicilian fishing boat and its seven crew members was apparently seized by pirates approximately 60 kilometres off the Libyan coast. In March 2014, Libyan rebels hijacked MV Morning Glory, a crude oil tanker, and loaded it with 234,000 barrels of state-owned crude for illegal sale abroad but the vessel was interdicted by the USN and turned over to the Libyan authorities. Even if rebels do not turn to piracy for new sources of revenue, ISIS affiliates could take advantage of the security vacuum to mount destructive attacks against commercial shipping. Such an attack could be similar to the suicide bombing perpetrated by al-Qaeda against USS Cole, a USN guided-missile destroyer, while it was harboured for refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.

Although training assistance could play a role in improving Libya’s maritime security situation as part of a larger state-building effort in the country, it is vital to Mediterranean commercial shipping that the US and EU mount a joint effort to patrol the Libyan coastline, blockade rebel-held ports like Derna, and develop partnerships with regional neighbours. NATO signed a Tactical Memorandum of Understanding (T-MOU) with Morocco in 2009, while Morocco also participates in Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s effort to increase surveillance on freight traffic in the Mediterranean. The Tunisian Navy is also a robust force and could be incorporated into an effort to address piracy, especially as Tunisia has repeatedly come under threat from Libya-based terrorist groups. In the absence of a concerted response, it is only a matter of time before commercial shipping comes under attack.

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Rouhani moves to slash IRGC budget, empower army

by Abbas Qaidaar. He is an Iranian international security and defense policy analyst. This article was first published on al-Monitor and re-published here by Qaidaar’s permission — thank you!

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (L) submitting the draft budget bill to Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani (R).

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (L) submitting the draft budget bill to Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani (R).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented a general budget bill to parliament January 17one day after the formal lifting of nuclear-related sanctions — for the current Iranian fiscal year, which began March 20. More than three months later after its introduction, the bill is still being reviewed, in part because of the Iranian New Year holidays, with members of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission taking a particularly close look at the details.

After the Management and Planning Organization released official budget documents for the current Iranian year in mid-March, shock spread through right-wing media outlets and publications. Many of them lashed out at Rouhani under headlines such as “The administration has decreased the defense budget“. Despite such assertions, was there actually a proposed decrease in the defense budget?

Based on the number of personnel employed by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the army has the most troops, weapons and military installations at its disposal. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), possessing about one-third of Iran’s military power, is ranked second. Following them are the paramilitary Basij organization, the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces General Staff. Although the army’s capabilities far exceed those of the IRGC, the latter always receives almost two times as much funding as the former.

In the fiscal year that began March 20, 2013, the first five months of which took place during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s last year in office, Iran’s total defense budget was $6.24 billion. In the following fiscal year, beginning March 21, 2014, marking Rouhani’s first full year in office, the defense budget grew by $1.85 billion, bringing the total to more than $8 billion.

The increase was mostly because the Rouhani administration had to allocate additional funding to the IRGC for its spending in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In other words, the IRGC, which was allocated $3.3 billion for fiscal year 2013-14, saw its budget grow to some $5 billion during Rouhani’s first year in office. This amount is separate from the revenue the IRGC brings in from the major economic enterprises in which it is involved.

Military expenditure of the Islamic Republic of Iran 1988 - 2015 (% of GDP).

Military expenditure of the Islamic Republic of Iran 1988 – 2015 (% of GDP).

Nevertheless, the Iranian defense budget reflects some major changes in the current Iranian fiscal year. Based on past trends, the army’s spending would typically be increased by 2-5% each year. For the first time in decades, however, the army’s budget is being increased by about 15%, from $1.5 billion to $1.75 billion. The Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for supplying military equipment, will also see an increase in allocated funding, from $770 million last year (ending March 19) to $890 million in the current fiscal year. The Basij and the General Staff have meanwhile each been allocated some 10% more in spending.

In contrast, the IRGC has had its budget decreased by some 16%. The $900 million cut brings its total budget allocation to some $4.1 billion. Although the decrease is considerable, the IRGC’s budget in 2013-14 clearly shows that the funding allocated is sufficient to cover all its costs, except for foreign expenses.

The changes sought indicate that the Rouhani administration is looking to implement structural reform in military spending. Unlike his predecessors, Rouhani wants to increase the quality of the armed forces by supporting the Ministry of Defense and the domestic arms industry and by paying more attention to the dilapidated army. Due to decades of negligence, the regular army is worn down and in dire need of funding to be reinvigorated. The current administration is very much aware of this reality and has therefore resisted demands by the IRGC for more funding even though it already has a bigger budget than the army.

New Iranian armament: a recent-generation Mohajer-4 UAV.

New Iranian armament: a recent-generation Mohajer-4 UAV.

Nonetheless, Iranian parliamentarians, especially members of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, many of whom are retired IRGC generals, are looking to modify the budget bill. At an April 8 session, lawmakers decided that 10% of funds related to Amendment 3 — which sets the upper limit of foreign expenditure credits at $50 billion in local currency — will be allocated to the defense industry. The change is based on a proposal by Esmaeil Kowsari, a retired general and commission member, that 10% of the country’s financial credit be used to buy new military equipment.

Hassan Sobhani Nia, deputy head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said March 23 in an ICANA interview, “With the decision made by the MPs in the joint commission, in the [current Iranian] year 1395, about 5,000 billion toman ($1.65 billion) from the released [foreign-held] assets [unfrozen as part of the nuclear deal] will be used for strengthening and supporting the country’s military and defense capabilities.”

The budget submitted to parliament clearly demonstrates that the Rouhani administration is determined to address Iran’s domestic and international military and security needs. As such, the bill can analyzed in two ways. First, by reducing the overall military budget, the administration has shown its interest in decreasing the country’s military expenses as well as its interest in alternative investments in other economic sectors. More important, it has clearly demonstrated that it is not interested in increasing military expenditures abroad, including in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Second, by noticeably increasing funding for the army and the Ministry of Defense, the administration has shown its determination to implement structural reforms by providing more money to poorly maintained organizations, such as the army, and by increasing the quality of training, equipment and weapons, as well as offering more support to the Ministry of Defense. Indeed, this government has supported and strengthened the ministry more than any other administration in the history of the Islamic Republic. It has even engaged in intensive negotiations with other countries with the aim of purchasing new equipment, including fighter jets.

All in all, the government’s proposed budget bill and its relationship with the armed forces show that the administration is seriously looking to improve the structure of the military and to ensure that the structure holds. This is particularly important since Iran’s rivals in the region — Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — are constantly increasing their military expenditures, fueling an arms race.

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Decoding Jamaica’s National Security Policy

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

Most discussions of security in the Americas tend to focus on the Colombian peace process, gang crime in Mexico, and the deteriorating socio-economic situation in Venezuela. Rarely do the Caribbean countries draw much attention or concern. However, Jamaica, which is otherwise regarded as an idyllic tourist destination, saw 1,192 murders in 2015 alone. In 2005, Jamaica experienced 1,674 murders, attaining the highest murder rate in the world even as the United States and its coalition partners struggled with insurgencies across Iraq. Given this context, as well as Jamaica’s status as the largest of the Caribbean states, it is worthwhile examining the defence policies pursued by successive Jamaican governments.

The National Security Policy (NSP), entitled “Towards a Secure and Prosperous Nation“, was introduced in 2006 under the left-leaning People’s National Party government of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and has remained in place across a succession of governments, including the current centre-right Jamaica Labour Party government of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. The document contains several moralist pronouncements about the “erosion of social and moral values” and how “many define social status by the amount of wealth that one possesses”, which the reader is encouraged to believe are important factors in the rise of armed violence in Jamaica. However, the substantive portions of the strategic document offer valuable insights about how the Jamaican security apparatus is employed.

In particular, the NSP identifies organized crime and terrorism as Jamaica’s most prominent security threats, noting that there are no challenges to Jamaican territorial integrity. The document does not make any reference to the territorial disputes over the Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla Banks in the western Caribbean Sea, the former of which is disputed by Colombia, Jamaica, and Nicaragua and the latter of which has been claimed by Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and the US. Since the rival claims to these uninhabited islets are not explicitly mentioned in the NSP, it can be assumed that Jamaica does not anticipate any escalation in these long-standing disputes.

Police patrol near the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, turf of crime boss Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

Police patrol near the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, turf of crime boss Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

The focus on organized crime and terrorism is well-deserved. According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Jamaica has emerged as the largest producer and exporter of cannabis herb in Central America and the Caribbean, accounting for approximately one-third of the region’s marijuana exports. Jamaica has also become an important transit hub for cocaine trafficked from Colombia and elsewhere in Central America to the US and Canada. The INCB attributes the attractiveness of Jamaica as a transit hub to “corruption, along with porous maritime borders”, noting that Jamaican authorities seized 1,230 kilograms of cocaine in 2013 but that significant volumes continue to pass successfully through Jamaica bound for North America.

There have been several past incidents involving pirate attacks on cruise ships, though these have taken place in the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca. In November 2005, Seabourn Spirit came under fire from rocket propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons 115 kilometres from the Somali coast. In April 2008, the French luxury yacht Le Ponant was hijacked by Somali pirates. Oceania Cruises’ Nautica also had a close scrape with pirates off Somalia’s coast in November 2008. Clearly, a cruise ship could be a “soft target” for a terrorist group targeting tourists from the United States and other countries opposing the terrorist group “Islamic State” (ISIS) or some other extremist cause. The NSP is careful to mention that Jamaica does not have a terrorist presence, but the lack of domestic intelligence and surveillance capabilities also presents a risk that a determined terrorist network could establish and train a cell in Jamaica for the sake of launching an attack on a cruise ship near Jamaican territorial waters.

Both threats discussed in the NSP are of concern primarily due to the poor maritime capabilities of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the combined military branches of Jamaica’s Army, Air Wing, and Coast Guard. The JDF Coast Guard currently can only boast three County-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), each manufactured by Dutch-based Damen Shipyards Group and with a displacement of roughly 250 tonnes. These unarmed patrol vessels have also been shared with the Jamaican Fire Brigade since 2012 in order to fill in for a lack of fireboats. Beyond this, the JDF is believed to have four more fast patrol craft, small in size and similarly unarmed.

Two of the Jamaican County-class offshore patrol vessels.

Two of the Jamaican County-class offshore patrol vessels.

With more than 1,000 kilometres of coastline, these seven vessels are insufficient to conduct effective patrols. To partially mitigate this, the JDF Air Wing offers some aerial surveillance of the coastline and territorial waters. A fleet of seven helicopters, of various Bell designs, mostly offer search-and-rescue capabilities but can also provide some other forms of support to the Coast Guard. Two Diamond DA40 and two Diamond DA42 propeller-driven planes are the main source of any JDF aerial surveillance at the time of this writing. This underscores how vulnerable Jamaica is and reveals why the island country has become so attractive to the region’s traffickers. With such a lack of equipment and personnel available, the JDF can only offer a token deterrence for traffickers seeking to use Jamaica as a link in their supply chains into the American and Canadian markets. Yet the NSP does not draw much attention at all to the lack of equipment, mostly focusing on the socioeconomic factors that lead individual Jamaicans to participate in organized crime networks.

Fortunately, there seems to be a renewed interest in investing in JDF capabilities. In May 2016, Prime Minister Holness spoke of an “expanded role” for the military. In 2014, the Jamaican authorities also initiated a procurement program for new aircraft to expand the Air Wing. One can only hope that Jamaican policymakers will also seek a deeper relationship with regional institutions in order to preserve Jamaica’s security. The NSP fails to describe how Jamaica will leverage these bodies in order to cultivate “soft power” and obtain assistance in countering security threats. For example, Jamaica enjoys membership in the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), among others. Although these bodies have limited involvement in security matters, effective engagement in each could elicit international support for Jamaican efforts to combat narcotics traffickers and secure its coastline. Although Jamaica’s littoral-focused fleet would be unable to participate meaningfully in most Central American maritime exercises, it is unclear why Jamaica has not seized on the opportunity to participate in the annual Inter-American Naval Conference (INAC) – which draws participation from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and the US – in order to develop institutional contacts.

It is important that Jamaican policy-makers and defence planners return to the drawing board and develop a new strategic document that realistically assesses the JDF’s current capabilities, identifies ways to close any gaps between what the JDF has and what it needs, and mandates Jamaica’s diplomatic service to pursue a more active role for the country in the inter-American system. The murder rate remains extraordinarily high a decade after the original NSP was introduced. Evidently, the issue of organized crime requires more than rhetoric about “materialism” and an alleged propensity among youth toward “selfishness”.

Posted in English, International, Jamaica, Paul Pryce, Sea Powers, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How vulnerable are Russia’s air assets in Syria?

Satellite photos released by Stratfor last month reveal what appears to have been quite a significant Islamic State (ISIS) attack against Russian aircraft at the Tiyas (T4) base east of the Syrian city of Homs (see video above or this comment). At least four Russian helicopters and twenty supply trucks were destroyed by what appears to have been rocket or artillery fire, possibly an ISIS attack.

While Russia has dismissed the attacks as propaganda it’s worth asking the salient question: How vulnerable are the Russian Federations air assets in Syria to militant attacks? This question is of particular importance in light of the fact the Russians appear to be constructing a forward operating base further east in Homs province in Palmyra to use as a launchpad to fight rebels and militants further east in Syria.

It’s no secret that since Russia announced it was drawing down its forces in Syria last March that it simply reshuffled its deployed hardware. It has deployed more helicopter gunships to give close air support to its Syrian military allies and to provide security for its bases and is relying significantly less on its jet fighters and attack planes – gunships played a large role in the recapture of Palmyra late last March.

Two abandoned Syrian Airforce MiG fighters in a shelter in al-Tabqa airbase after it fell into ISIS hands in 2014.

Two abandoned Syrian Airforce MiG fighters in a shelter in al-Tabqa airbase after it fell into ISIS hands in 2014.

Missiles seized by the Islamic State at al-Tabqa in 2014.

Missiles seized by the Islamic State at al-Tabqa in 2014.

Crates of munitions seized by the Islamic State at al-Tabqa in 2014.

Crates of munitions seized by the Islamic State at al-Tabqa in 2014.

As the Syrian military approaches ISIS-occupied Raqqa province it’s worth remembering that their initial loss of that province serves as a possible precedence to a possible future attack against one of Russia’s bases in Syria. In August 2014, likely buoyed by its successes in Northern Iraq earlier that summer – when the Iraqi Army withdrew in disarray and ISIS captured a large stockpile of their abandoned military hardware – ISIS managed to capture all of Raqqa province by laying siege to Syria’s remaining stronghold there, al-Tabqa airbase. The regime assumed it was secure from an attack by the militants, which they had a somewhat undeclared ceasefire with since both ISIS and the regime were both killing other mutual enemies. However ISIS were able to overrun the base after a deadly 18-day battle. At least 300 Syrian servicemen were killed and the base fell to ISIS who celebrated that significant victory. The reverberations of the fall of al-Tabqa were felt as far west in Syria as the coastal province of Latakia where even supporters of the regime condemned the authorities for such a humiliating defeat.

More recently ISIS have shown they can infiltrate one of Syria’s most secure and stable regions, the coastal province of Latakia. A series of coordinated bomb attacks, carried out in Tartus and Jableh in late May, cities near Russia’s naval depot and main airbase in Syria, Hmeimim. Those bomb attacks not only killed hundreds but showed that Latakia is still vulnerable to well-planned terrorist attacks. In the near future Hmeimim could well fall victim to a well-planned assault carried out by ISIS or some other militant group.

During the Russian build-up in Syria Hmeimim came under attack from Ahrar al-Sham Islamist militants who targeted it with Grad rockets but did not succeed in making any significant damage. Such projectiles could be devastatingly lethal if they successfully impacted on their targets.

Simple mobile Katyusha rocket launchers fielded by determined fanatics could well do serious damage if the militants got them close enough to unleash on Russian bases. While unguided a single impact of the rockets on their intended targets could have devastating effects if they managed to hit one of Russia’s Su-24, or even some of their newer Su-34’s at Hmeimim.

ISIS have shown before they are capable of mounting such rocket attacks. Using a drone they recorded successful rocket attacks they managed to carry out against the Camp Bashiqa base in Northern Iraq last December. Such surprise rocket attacks have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Or perhaps Russia’s militant and rebel enemies in Syria could simply replicate the Camp Bastion Raid when the Taliban attacked the Camp Bastion base in on the night of September 2012, managed to kill two US Marines and take eight parked US Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers out of action before they were killed.

Such precedents should serve as a warning to the Russians not to take the safety of their aircraft in Syria for granted.

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52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz – Teil 5: Kalter Krieg 2.0

Zwischen dem 12. und dem 14. Februar 2016 fand die 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz statt. Es ist eine der wichtigsten sicherheitspolitischen Konferenzen während des Jahres. Sie wurde in einer umfassenden Studie der University of Pennsylvania erneut als beste “Think Tank Conference” der Welt ausgezeichnet. In einer mehrteiligen Artikelserie werden die interessantesten Panels und Diskussionen der Konferenz beleuchtet. Im ersten Teil fassen wir die Eröffnungsreden der deutschen Verteidigungsministerin, Ursula von der Leyen und des französischen Verteidigungsminister, Jean-Yves Le Drian zusammen. Im zweiten Teil, geht es um die Herausforderungen im Nahen Osten, im dritten Teil um die europäische Flüchtlingskrise und im vierten Teil um den “Health-Security Nexus”. Der fünften Teil, welcher angereichert mit aktuelleren Informationen etwas später veröffentlicht wurde, befasst sich mit dem neuen Kalten Krieg zwischen dem Westen und Russland. Mit einem Blick auf das kommende NATO-Gipfeltreffen vom 8./9. Juli 2016 in Warschau versucht dieser letzte Teil der Serie auch die Frage zu beantworten, was von der NATO zur Bewältigung der momentanen Herausforderungen erwartet werden kann.

Schwergewichte der NATO: Dialog und Verteidigung
csm_MSC16_Mueller_2000x1191px_Quote-Stoltenberg_10ab5d8206Der zweite Tag der 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz konzentrierte sich auf die NATO und die Beziehungen zwischen dem Westen und Russland. Kurz vor Konferenzbeginn, am 10 Februar 2016 haben die NATO-Verteidigungsminister in Brüssel drei wichtige Entscheidungen getroffen:

In der Ansprache am Anfang des Tages machte der NATO Generalsekretärs Jens Stoltenberg klar, dass die NATO weder eine Konfrontation noch einen neuen Kalten Krieg mit Russland suche. Trotzdem müsse die NATO auf die Destabilisierung der europäischen Sicherheitsordnung durch Russland eine adequate Antwort finden. Er sehe dabei insbesondere zwei zu ergreifende Massnahmen, welche parallel zu einander vorangetrieben werden müssten: Einerseits brauche es auf Seiten der NATO höhere Verteidigungskapazitäten, andererseits aber auch mehr Dialog mit Russland.

Die am NATO-Gipfel im September 2014 in Wales im Bereich der Verteidigung beschlossenen Massnahmen (NATO Readiness Action Plan) leiten sich interessanterweise aus den Erfahrungen des Kalten Kriegs ab und bestehen aus der Ausweitung der temporären multinationale Truppenpräsenz in den osteuropäischen Staaten, der Durchführung von Manövern und der Bereitstellung von schnell verlegbaren Eingreifkräften. Während des Kalten Kriegs begegnete die NATO der Bedrohung substanzieller Grenzverletzungen durch die Sowjetunion an der innerdeutschen Grenze durch die grenznahe Stationierung von NATO-Truppen, welche keinen Zweifel hinterliessen, dass eine sowjetische Aggression zu einer nuklearen Eskalation führen würde. Die NATO-Truppen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland nahmen damit die Funktion eines “Stolperdrahtes” ein und waren primär als Zeichen des Willens der kollektiven Verteidigung gemäss NATO Artikel 5 zu verstehen. Die temporären multinationale Truppenpräsenz in den osteuropäischen Staaten hat die gleiche Aufgabe — es muss der NATO abermals gelingen Russland unmissverständlich klar zu machen, dass eine russische Aggression nicht nur den betreffenden osteuropäischen Staat, sondern die NATO als ganzes betreffen würde.

csm_MSC16_Hildenbrand_2000x1191px_Quote-Duda_974133cf51Stoltenberg erwartet für den NATO-Gipfel zwischen dem 8. und 9. Juli 2016 in Warschau zusätzliche Massnahmen. Insbesondere Polen verlangt eine permanente Stationierung und eine höhere Präsenz von NATO-Truppen sowie ein Ausbau der Führungsinfrastruktur mittels Bau von permanente Militärbasen in Osteuropa. Dies kam in einer späteren Podiumsrunde durch die Aussagen des polnischen Präsidenten Andrzej Duda klar zur Geltung: Russland stelle für Polen, aber insbesondere auch für die NATO, eine wichtige Herausforderung dar. Er sei überzeugt, dass die NATO Polen zur Sicherung der Ostflanke stärken müsse. Polen hat dazu die rechtlichen Vorarbeiten bereits geleistet: Mit einer Ende März vom polnischen Sejm verabschiedeten und am 19. Mai von Duda unterzeichneten Gesetzesnovelle wurde eine rechtliche Barriere für die dauerhafte Stationierung ausländischer Truppen im Land in Friedenszeiten beseitigt (Joseph Croitoru, “Nato-Gipfel in Polen: Ein Land im Waffenrausch als Vorbild für Europa“, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 04.06.2016).

Auch der polnische Aussenminister Witold Waszczykowski fand in einem Statement am späteren Nachmittag klare Worte. Er unterstrich, dass Polen sich in einer besonderen geografischen Lage befinde und sowohl mit Kaliningrad an den russischen Aggressor sowie im Südosten an dessen Opfer Ukraine angrenze. Damit unterstreicht er die Sichtweise Polens, dass es beim Krieg in der Ostukraine nicht um einen Bürgerkrieg sondern um eine russische Aggression gegen die Ukraine handelt. Zusammen mit der Diplomatie sei diese Aggression ein Instrument Russlands die internationale Ordnung neu zu definieren. Da die russische Wirtschaft langsam am Kollabieren sei, spiele Zeit eine wichtige Rolle und eine Ausweitung der Aggression im Osten Europas oder im Kaukasus sei durchaus möglich. Er sprach auch die Zapad-Übungen in West-Russland an bei deren Übungsverlauf die russischen Streitkräfte wiederholt einen regionalen, nuklearen Erstschlag vorgesehen hatten (auf Polen und andere Osteuropäische Staaten, aber auch im März 2013 auf Schweden; Jens Stoltenberg, “The Secretary General’s Annual Report 2015“, 28.01.2016, 19; siehe auch Patrick Truffer, “Strategic rearmament of the Russian armed forces after end of the Cold War“,, September 2015). Es sei deshalb wichtig, dass die NATO nicht zögerlich erscheine. Die im NATO-Gipfel in Wales vereinbarten Massnahmen seien dabei nicht ausreichend. Die NATO müsse durch permanente Präsenz Abschreckung erzeugen. Der Einwand, dass dies die Nato-Russland-Grundakte (bzw. die Grundakte über Gegenseitige Beziehungen, Zusammenarbeit und Sicherheit zwischen der Nordatlantikvertrags-Organisation und der Russischen Föderation) nicht zulasse, könne nicht gelten, denn die Grundakte wurde mit Russland 1997 unter komplett anderen politischen Bedingungen geschlossen. Polen erachtet deshalb die Nato-Russland-Grundakte als in weiten Teilen nicht mehr gültig. Abgesehen davon schliesse die Grundakte die permanente Präsenz im Falle einer Aggressionsdrohung nicht aus (siehe unten). Es müsse nichts anderes als selbstverständlich sein, dass Polen als vollwertiger NATO-Mitgliedsstaat behandelt werde, wozu auch die permanente Stationierung von Truppen und Militärinstallationen gehöre. Es könne nicht sein, dass die osteuropäischen Staaten einen niedrigeren Sicherheitsstatus als die westeuropäischen Staaten aufweisen müssten.

Die Mitgliedstaaten der NATO wiederholen, dass sie nicht die Absicht, keine Pläne und auch keinen Anlass haben, nukleare Waffen im Hoheitsgebiet neuer Mitglieder zu stationieren, noch die Notwendigkeit sehen, das Nukleardispositiv oder die Nuklearpolitik der NATO in irgendeinem Punkt zu verändern – und dazu auch in Zukunft keinerlei Notwendigkeit sehen. Dies schliesst die Tatsache ein, dass die NATO entschieden hat, sie habe nicht die Absicht, keine Pläne und auch keinen Anlass, nukleare Waffenlager im Hoheitsgebiet dieser Mitgliedstaaten einzurichten, sei es durch den Bau neuer oder die Anpassung bestehender Nuklearlagerstätten. Als nukleare Waffenlager gelten Einrichtungen, die eigens für die Stationierung von Nuklearwaffen vorgesehen sind; sie umfassen alle Typen gehärteter ober- oder unterirdischer Einrichtungen (Lagerbunker oder -gewölbe), die für die Lagerung von Nuklearwaffen bestimmt sind. […]

Die NATO wiederholt, dass das Bündnis in dem gegenwärtigen und vorhersehbaren Sicherheitsumfeld seine kollektive Verteidigung und andere Aufgaben eher dadurch wahrnimmt, dass es die erforderliche Interoperabilität, Integration und Fähigkeit zur Verstärkung gewährleistet, als dass es zusätzlich substantielle Kampftruppen dauerhaft stationiert. Das Bündnis wird sich dementsprechend auf eine angemessene, den genannten Aufgaben gerecht werdende Infrastruktur stützen müssen. In diesem Zusammenhang können, falls erforderlich, Verstärkungen erfolgen für den Fall der Verteidigung gegen eine Aggressionsdrohung und für Missionen zur Stützung des Friedens im Einklang mit der Charta der Vereinten Nationen und den Leitprinzipien der OSZE sowie für Übungen im Einklang mit dem angepassten KSE-Vertrag, den Bestimmungen des Wiener Dokuments von 1994 sowie gegenseitig vereinbarten Transparenzmassnahmen. Russland wird sich bei der Dislozierung konventioneller Streitkräfte in Europa entsprechende Zurückhaltung auferlegen. — die Grundakte über Gegenseitige Beziehungen, Zusammenarbeit und Sicherheit zwischen der Nordatlantikvertrags-Organisation und der Russischen Föderation, 27.05.1997

Der NATO Generalsekretär unterstrich in seiner Rede, dass auch die nuklearen Komponenten zu den Verteidigungsoptionen der Allianz gehören, auch wenn das Eintreten von Umständen bei denen der Einsatz von Atomwaffen in Betracht gezogen werden müssten, extrem unwahrscheinlich seien. Ein Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen auf russischer Seite bei einer konventionellen Auseinandersetzung würde den Konflikt jedoch grundlegend ändern. Um das zu verhindern sollen durch verstärkten Dialog die Absichten der NATO und die Erwartungen an Russland klar kommuniziert werden sowie die gegenseitige Transparenz gefördert werden. Das Problem dabei ist nur, dass die dafür vorgesehene Institution, der NATO-Russland-Rat, in Reaktion auf die russische Annektierung der Krim auf die diplomatische Ebene der Botschafter beschränkt wurde. Momentan wird mit Russland mehrheitlich nur noch über die NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten im UN-Sicherheitsrat, in der Organisation für Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa (OSZE) oder bilateral kommuniziert. Da hat sich die NATO mit ihrer verweigernden Haltung im NATO-Russland-Rat selber ins Bein geschnitten — bei allen Meinungsverschiedenheiten sind etablierte Dialogkanäle überaus wichtig zur Deeskalation bei Missverständnissen, Stör- und Unfällen — dies zeigte der Abschuss einer russischen Sukhoi Su-24M an der syrisch-türkischen Grenze durch einen F-16 der Türkischen Luftstreitkräfte beispielhaft auf.


Von Wales nach Warschau
Der rumänische Präsident Klaus Johannis sieht die Sicherheit und der Wohlstand im euro-atlantischen Raum gleichzeitig vom Osten und vom Süden herausgefordert. Die aktuelle Sicherheitslage sei auch ein Resultat des fehlenden Willens und der politischen Entschlossenheit einiger Staaten innerhalb der NATO. Darüber hinaus habe die Flüchtlingskrise die Zerbrechlichkeit Europas deutlich aufgezeigt. Waren früher Diskussion über die Erweiterung der EU auf der Tagesordnung, müsse jetzt darüber diskutiert werden, wie die Standfestigkeit der EU verbessert werden kann. Nur eine konsolidierte NATO könne die Sicherheit im euro-atlantischen Raum wahrnehmen. Dabei sollen die Anstrengungen und Investitionen sich auf die Bündnisverteidigung fokussieren — hier sind insbesondere eine Erhöhung der Verteidigungsausgaben der europäischen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten notwendig. Um mit einem guten Vorbild voraus zu gehen, wolle Rumänien spätestens ab 2017 wieder mindestens 2% des Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) in die Landesverteidigung investieren. Die Botschaft der NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten gegen aussen müsse unmissverständlich sein: Wir sind stark, geeint, stehen für einander ein und sind bereit unsere Werte zu verteidigen. Massnahmen betreffend der Absicherung der Ost- wie auch der Südflanke der NATO — und in diesem Sinne auch die Abschreckungsdoktrin — müssen am NATO-Gipfeltreffen in Warschau ausführlich thematisiert werden.

Die norwegische Ministerpräsidentin Erna Solberg stellte fest, dass Russland sich in den letzten Jahren gewandelt habe und internationale Spaltung die Welt vor eine komplett neue Ausgangslage stelle. Es sei deshalb wichtig, dass die NATO stark bleibe und die Bündnisverteidigung eine zentrale Rolle spiele. Für das Gipfeltreffen in Warschau sei ein geeintes Auftreten der Mitgliedsstaaten wichtig. Das Gipfeltreffen soll ausserdem die Frage beantworten, wie die NATO die Herausforderungen im Osten und im Süden anpacken will und welche Fähigkeiten gestärkt werden sollen. Nicht zu vernachlässigen sei aber auch die Verantwortung der NATO im maritimen Raum. Für Norwegen wichtig sei insbesondere die Absicherung im Norden und damit verbunden eine robuste NATO-Präsenz. Man dürfe nicht vergessen wie wichtig die nördlichen Seerouten für Russland im Zeiten Weltkrieg waren. Auch in Zukunft könnten diese Seerouten wieder von wichtiger Bedeutung für Russland sein. Trotz der Abschreckungsdoktrin müsse auch der Dialog mit Russland ausgebaut werden. Konkret solle die Zusammenarbeit bei der Bewältigung gemeinsamer Herausforderungen ausgeweitet werden. Koordinierende und vertrauensbildenden Massnahmen soll eine deeskalierende Wirkung entfalten und vermeiden, dass durch eine fehlerhafte Lagebeurteilung ungewollte Konfrontationen entstehen. Ausserdem soll die NATO ihre Partnerschaften zu nicht NATO-Staaten stärker ausbauen.

Verteidigungsausgaben im Jahre 2015 in Prozent des BIP einiger NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten. Nur 5 Mitgliedsstaaten befinden sich über dem 2% Soll.

Verteidigungsausgaben im Jahre 2015 in Prozent des BIP einiger NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten. Nur 5 Mitgliedsstaaten befinden sich über dem 2% Soll.

General Petr Pavel, Vorsitzende des NATO-Militärausschusses beschreibt einen “Bogen der Instabilität”, welcher sich von Osten nach Süden ziehe. Im Osten stelle Russland einen einen alten, grösstenteils traditionell-klassisch agierenden Konkurrenten dar, welcher eine statische, noch länger andauernde, Instabilität erzeuge. Im Gegensatz dazu entstand im Süden dazu eine neue, nicht-traditionelle, unberechenbare, sowohl staatliche wie auch nicht staatliche Instabilität. Um auf beide Herausforderungen reagieren zu können, müsse sich die NATO auf drei Kernaufgaben konzentrieren: die Bündnissverteidigung, das Krisenmanagement und die partnerschaftliche Sicherheit. Im Osten müsse schwergewichtig auf Abschreckung gesetzt werden — ein Instrument, mit dem die NATO langjährige Erfahrung habe. Ob darüber hinaus noch weitere Instrumente zum Einsatz gelangen würden — beispielsweise der Ausbau des Dialogs — sei schlussendlich eine politische Frage. Da die NATO und Russland gemeinsame Interessen hätten, sei dies durchaus möglich — somit würden Abschreckung und Dialog keine Gegensätze darstellen. Im Süden setze die NATO schwergewichtig auf den Fähigkeitsaufbau. Dabei seien die militärischen Aspekte zwar wichtig, doch Symptombekämpfung alleine reiche auf die Dauer nicht aus: langfristig müssten mit nicht-militärischen Mitteln die Wurzeln des Übels angepackt werden.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in Deutschland von 1988 bis 2015.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in Deutschland von 1988 bis 2015.

Der schwedische Verteidigungsminister Peter Hultqvist brachte die Sichtweise eines benachbarten Nichtmitgliedsstaats ein, auch wenn Schweden sich im Rahmen des Partnership for Peace stark engagiert. Er warnt davor, dass Russland versuche die Annektierung der Krim von der internationalen Agenda zu nehmen und so versuchen einen langfristigen Status quo zu etablieren. Ein provokatives Verhalten Russlands — nicht zuletzt durch die Zunahme der militärischen Übungen in Westrussland — würden auch die Spannungen im baltischen Raum seit Jahren zunehmen. Als Antwort auf die russischen Blitz-Übungen in der schwedischen Nachbarschaft stärke Schweden seine militärischen Fähigkeiten und suche die Zusammenarbeit mit Partnern wie beispielsweise Dänemark, Finnland, Island und Norwegen (NORDEFCO). Auch wenn Schweden kein NATO-Mitgliedsstaat sei, begrüsse es die zunehmenden Verteidigungsmassnahmen der NATO im Baltikum und der US-amerikanischen Truppen in der Ostsee-Region. Das Bestreben der USA ihre Streitkräftepräsenz in Europa wieder zu erhöhen sei sehr willkommen. Die regionale Stabilität sei aber schlussendlich von der Einheit der europäischen Staaten abhängig — deshalb sei es wichtig, dass die NATO zusammen mit der EU geeint die gemeinsamen Grundwerte verteidigen würden.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in der Schweiz von 2003 bis 2015.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in der Schweiz von 2003 bis 2015.

Der britische Verteidigungsminister Michael Fallon machte klar, dass Russland sich weigere die Souveränität der Staaten östlich der NATO/EU vollkommen anzuerkennen. Im Süden wiederum verbreite der IS Terror und gleichzeitig würden beide Herausforderungen von einer Migrationsbewegung aus dem südlichen Raum überlagert. Diese drei Faktoren würden die NATO mit der bis jetzt grössten Herausforderungen seit 25 Jahren konfrontieren. Alle drei Probleme müssten gelöst werden, eine Fokussierung auf ein einziges Problem sei nicht möglich. Dazu müsse sich die NATO jedoch verändern, so dass sie Bedrohungen aus allen geografischen Richtungen bewältigen könne und auch die neue Form der Kriegsführung, in der sowohl militärische wie auch zivile Mittel zum Einsatz kommen, bewältigen kann. Schliesslich müsse die NATO schneller reagieren (nicht in Tagen und Wochen, sondern in Stunden) und es müsse durch die Erhöhung der staatlichen Verteidigungsaufgaben dafür gesorgt werden, dass die NATO sich finanziell besser abstützen kann. Am NATO-Gipfel im September 2014 in Wales sei unter den Mitgliedsstaaten vereinbart worden, dass diejenigen Mitgliedsstaaten, welche weniger als 2% des BIP in die Verteidigung investieren, der Verringerung des Verteidigungsbudgets Einhalt gebieten und langfristig ihre Verteidigungsausgaben wieder auf 2% des BIP anheben würden. Seit dem hätten sieben Mitgliedsstaaten ihre Verteidigungsausgaben erhöht. Das sei ein erster Anfang, aber weitere Bemühungen seien notwendig. Es gehe prioritär nun darum die Versprechungen von Wales umzusetzen und einzuhalten.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in Österreich von 2003 bis 2015.

Zum Vergleich: Anteil der Militärausgaben am Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) in Österreich von 2003 bis 2015.

Der russische Botschafter bei der NATO Alexander Gruschko, merkte an, dass die Qualität der regionalen und globalen Sicherheit davon abhängig sei, ob die Staaten in der Lage seien miteinander zusammenzuarbeiten — und zwar auf Augenhöhe, auf der Grundlage von gemeinsamen Zielen und dem Völkerrecht. Es müsse erkannt werden, dass alle Staaten vor den gleichen Herausforderungen stünden, egal ob sie nun zur NATO gehören würden oder nicht. Beispielsweise Terrorismus: Russland sei ein vollwertiges Mitglied der Koalition gegen den IS. Auch in anderen Bereichen zeige sich, dass ein NATO-Alleingang ohne Zusammenarbeit mit Russland keine nachhaltigen Lösungen zu Tage fördern würde. Werde die Nato-Russland-Grundakte als Grundlage herangezogen, so sei offensichtlich, das die NATO ihren eigenen Grundsätzen nicht treu sei. Darin stehe beispielsweise, “dass die Sicherheit aller Staaten in der euro-atlantischen Gemeinschaft unteilbar” sei — trotzdem sei die NATO nicht gewillt mit Russland zusammenzuarbeiten. Gemäss den Aussagen auf den Diskussionspodien der 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz scheine in dieser Hinsicht kein Umdenken eingesetzt zu haben. Solange die NATO diesem Grundsatz nicht gerecht werde, gingen das Streben nach Sicherheit im Bereich der NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten auf Kosten der Sicherheit ausserhalb diesen Raumes. Beispielsweise würde die Stärkung der Abschreckungsdoktrin der Konfrontation einen Vorschub leisten und keine Probleme lösen. Eigentlich müsste ein solches Denken Teil der Vergangenheit sein. Russland habe seinen Beitrag zur gemeinsamen Sicherheit geleistet und alle russischen Truppen aus Osteuropa abgezogen (hier irrt der Botschafter; werden die russischen Truppen auf ukrainischem Territorium ignoriert, sind immer noch russische Soldaten auf dem Gebiet von Moldavien stationiert, deren Abzug Boris Jeltsin im Rahmen eines OSZE Gipfeltreffen in Istanbul im November 1999 zugesagt hatte, aber von Putin nie umgesetzt wurde; OSCE, “Istanbul Document 1999“, 19 November 1999, p. 49f; siehe auch Sandra Ivanov, “Transnistria: Russia’s pawn in the game for security“,, 02.01.2015). Ausserdem habe Russland seine Rüstung reduziert und in die Rüstungskontrolle investiert. Es sei absurd Russland als Bedrohung für die osteuropäischen Staaten darzustellen. Genauso fraglich sei der Ansatz einerseits die Abschreckung zu stärken und gleichzeitig einen Dialog mit Russland anzustreben.

Der frühere NATO-Generalsekretär Javier Solana bedauerte, dass die NATO momentan zu wenig in die Partnerschaften mit anderen Staaten, insbesondere im Nahen Osten, investiere — hier sei ein Ausbau nötig. Beinahe einhellig würden alle auf den Diskussionspodien der 52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz einen intensiveren Dialog zwischen der NATO und Russland wünschen. Genau dazu sei der NATO-Russland-Rat geschaffen worden und deshalb sei es kontraproduktiv, wenn bei Spannung der NATO-Russland-Rat faktisch ausgesetzt werde, wie es nach der Annektierung der Krim der Fall gewesen war. Der NATO-Russland-Rat basiere auf der Nato-Russland-Grundakte, welche gleichzeitig einen Ausbau der permanenten Stationierung von NATO-Truppen und Infrastruktur einschränke. Wenn nun die NATO am bevorstehenden Gipfel in Warschau entscheiden würde, dass mehr NATO-Truppen und Infrastruktur in Osteuropa permanent stationiert werden sollten, dann würde die Grundakte hinfällig und damit auch der NATO-Russland-Rat. Es sei also unrealistisch in Osteuropa aufzurüsten und gleichzeitig den Dialog mit Russland ausbauen zu wollen.

Kalter Krieg 2.0
csm_MSC16_Mueller_2000x1191px_Quote-Medvedev_01_799538e167Die kommunikativen Missverständnisse zwischen der NATO und Russland wurden bei der Rede von russischen Ministerpräsident Dmitry A. Medvedev einmal mehr offensichtlich. Die eher zurückhaltende Rede Stoltenbergs wurde von Medvedev eher als provokativ aufgefasst. Insbesondere die Stärkung der Abschreckungsdoktrin ist ihm ein Dorn im Auge. Aus Sicht Medvedevs sei der Dialog zwischen der NATO und Russland faktisch eingestellt worden. Auch die gemeinsame Kultur der Rüstungskontrolle sei komplett verloren gegangen — die NATO agiere gegenüber Russland nicht freundschaftlich, sondern Russland werde von der NATO als die grösste Bedrohung für NATO, EU, die USA und andere Staaten dargestellt. In der Retrospektive zeige sich heute, dass die kontroverse Rede von Wladimir Putin an der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz von 2007 (siehe Video unten) nicht pessimistisch war, sondern von der Realität im negativem Sinne noch überboten wurde. Ein einheitliches grosses Europa sei nach wie vor nicht vorhanden, die Wirtschaft wachse nur langsam, die Konflikte in der MENA-Region würden sich zunehmend verschärfen, was zu einem riesigen Migrations-Problem geführt habe, in der Ukraine tobe ein Bürgerkrieg und die Beziehungen zwischen der EU und Russland seien verdorben. Dies seien Anzeichen eines neuen, zweiten Kalter Kriegs.

Gemäss Medvedev stehe die internationale Wirtschaft vor einem Paradigmenwechsel. Das Regelwerk der internationalen, wirtschaftlichen Institutionen werde mutwillig ausgehebelt. So würden diese nicht mehr eingehalten oder beispielsweise im Falle der Verschuldung der Ukraine durch den Internationalen Währungsfond willkürlich neu definiert. Dies sei eine gefährliche Tendenz, denn der Zusammenbruch dieses Regelwerks hätte gravierende Konsequenzen. Sorgen bereite Russland die zunehmende Praxis durch wirtschaftlichen Druck politischer Willen durchzusetzen. Medvedev spricht damit explizit die Sanktionen gegen Russland an: Durch die internationale Vernetzung seien am Schluss alle auf der Verliererseite. Die noch immer bestehende Weltwirtschaftskrise schaffe den Boden für weitere Konflikte. Die Idee der EU als Sicherheitsgarantie um sich herum durch wirtschaftliche Anreize einen Kreis befreundeter Staaten zu schaffen, habe sich nicht erfüllt. Im Gegenteil sei die EU von einer “Entfremdungszone” umgeben, welche mit einer Reihe von Konflikten und Wirtschaftspannen aufwarte. Dadurch sei der Konflikt in der Ostukraine und in Syrien zu einem gemeinsamen Problem geworden.

Das Normandie-Format, eine semi-offizielle Vierer-Gesprächsrunde auf Regierungs- und Aussenministerebene zwischen Russland, Deutschland, Frankreich und der Ukraine, erlaube es die Verhandlungen zum Ukraine-Konflikt vorwärts zu bringen. Ausserdem gäbe es momentan kein geeigneteres Instrument zur Beilegung des Konfliktes in der Ostukraine als der Massnahmenkomplex zur Umsetzung der Minsker Vereinbarungen (Minsk II). Medvedev unterstrich jedoch, dass momentan die Ukraine bei der vereinbarten Verfassungsänderung in Verzug sei. Die humanitäre Lage in der Ostukraine bleibe sehr schwierig, weil die Region wirtschaftlich degradiere.

ce6f58bd4da1b6a1190550c7ce1f6feaRussland unterstütze ausserdem auch die Friedensgespräche im Syrien-Konflikt. Die Einheit des syrischen Staates habe für Russland jedoch Priorität. Es sei wichtig die Situation in Syrien zu bereinigen, denn ansonsten werde der Terrorismus die Welt ins Chaos stürzen. Der Kampf gegen den IS sei existenzieller Natur: wir oder sie — es gäbe kein Nebeneinander. Dem IS lägen nicht die islamischen Werte, sondern ein tierischer Instinkt zu Zerstören und zu Töten zugrunde. Das Aussetzen der Zusammenarbeit mit den russischen Spezialkräften spiele dem IS direkt in die Hände.

Die Gewalt in den verschiedenen Konfliktzonen führe zu einer Migrationsbewegung, welche alle betroffene Staaten — auch Russland — vor Herausforderungen stelle. Russland habe innerhalb von sechs Monaten über eine Million Flüchtlinge aus der Ukraine aufgenommen (siehe auch: Fred Weir, “Russia as safe zone for Syrian refugees? It’s not as odd as you’d think.“, The Christian Science Monitor, 16.09.2015). Aus Sicht Medvedev habe auch der Versuch westliche Demokratiemodelle einer komplett unvorbereiteten Gesellschaft überzustülpen ganze Staaten zerstört und damit zu den Migrationsbewegungen aktiv beigetragen — schliesslich sei vom “Arabischen Frühling” heute nicht mehr viel übrig.

Leider fehle die Bereitschaft der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft mit Russland bezüglich den gemeinsamen Herausforderungen zusammenzuarbeiten. Zwar würden die Einschätzungen der Ereignisse der letzten zwei Jahren divergieren, doch seien trotz gravierenderen Differenzen die Unterzeichnung der Helsinki-Akte vor 40 Jahren geglückt — das zeige doch, dass trotz den Auseinandersetzungen eine Zusammenarbeit mit Russland möglich sein sollte.

Der französische Ministerpräsident Manuel Valls gibt Medvedev im Bereich der Terrorismusbekämpfung und der Bekämpfung der IS Recht und unterstreicht dabei, dass Frankreich in diesem Bereich ununterbrochen mit Russland zusammengearbeitet habe und dies auch fortführen werde. Unabhängig von den Interessen der Grossmächte und der regionalen Mächte im Nahen Osten müsse die Priorität aller in der Ausmerzung des IS liegen. Die Aussöhnung der verschiedenen Kräfte hat für Frankreich momentan zweite Priorität. Doch auch in diesem Bereich ist Frankreich bereit mit Russland ohne Vorbedingungen den Dialog zu führen — auch wenn Frankreich selber der Meinung sei, dass Baschar al-Assad keine politische Zukunft in Syrien habe. Die Bombardierung von Zivilisten stehe diesem Ansinnen jedoch kontraproduktiv entgegen, weil so die gemässigten Opposition auch zukünftig nicht ins Boot geholt werden könnten.

Die Präsidentin der Republik Litauen, Dalia Grybauskaitė, akzentuierte die Aussage von Medvedev noch weiter und glaubt, dass Osteuropa nicht nur vor einem Zweiten Kalten Krieg sondern vor einem Heissen Krieg stehen würden. Die offenen militärischen Aktionen Russlands in der Ukraine und in Syrien seien bereits alles andere als “kalt”. Um auf solche und ähnliche Herausforderungen reagieren zu können, müsste die NATO aber auch die europäischen Institutionen entscheidungsfreudiger werden und bereit sein neue Verantwortungen zu übernehmen.

Etwas nüchterner und pragmatischer beurteilt der finnische Präsident Sauli Niinistö die Situation. Die Ereignisse seit 2014 hätten sich überraschend entwickelt — und auch wenn Medvedev Russland nicht als Ursache dieser Ereignisse verstehe, so müsse er doch zugeben, das Russland im Minimum bei all diesen Ereignissen beteiligt sei. Das heisse aber auch, dass Russland trotz der Differenzen konstruktiv bei der Bewältigung dieser Ereignisse mit eingebunden werden müsse.

Die ukrainische Sicht
csm_MSC16_Simon_2000x1191px_Quote-Poroshenko_f8be88e749Der ukrainische Präsident Petro Poroshenko kommentierte die Ansprache von Medvedev nicht direkt. Er gab jedoch zu bedenken, dass die hauptsächliche Bedrohung für Europa eine Änderung der Wertebasis hin zu Intoleranz, Isolationismus, fehlendem Respekt vor den Menschenrechten, religiöse Fanatiker, Homophobie usw. darstelle. Dies sei für ihn ein besonders wichtiger Punkt. Vor zwei Jahren hätten ukrainische Soldaten für den Entscheid sich den europäischen Werten anzuschliessen gekämpft — und zwar mit dem Einsatz ihres Lebens. Doch diese liberalen auf gegenseitigen Respekt basierende Wertebasis sei nicht in ganz Europa verbreitet. Die negative Alternative existiere und habe auch einen Führer: Putin. Ihm zudienen würden pro-russische, anti-europäische Partien in den europäischen Staaten. Dieser Kampf könne nur dann gewonnen werden, wenn die europäischen Staaten geeint für die europäischen Werte einstehen würden. Poroshenko seinerseits kritisiert Russland, dass es Minks II nicht einhalte. Die Vereinbarung sehe vor, dass die Ukraine wieder die vollständige Kontrolle über die russisch-ukrainische Grenze übernehme, doch jeden Tag würden russische Soldaten illegal diese Grenze passieren. Ausserdem habe Russland trotz anderweitiger Abmachung seine verdeckten Truppen aus der Ukraine nicht abgezogen. Poroshenko unterstrich noch einmal deutlich, dass es sich bei den Auseinandersetzungen in der Ostukraine und auf der Krim nicht um einen Bürgerkrieg sondern um eine russische Aggression handle. Er gab jedoch den bestehenden Handlungsbedarf der Ukraine zu: insbesondere die Korruption müsse noch intensiver bekämpft werden.

Der Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments, Martin Schulz, pflichtete Poroshenko zu, dass Russland versuche die EU von innen zu spalten und zwischen den einzelnen europäischen Staaten einen Keil zu treiben — ein Beispiel dafür sei die russische Finanzierung des Front National (siehe auch Michaela Wiegel, “Putin-Vertrauter finanziert Front National“, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 24.11.2014). Mit der Ankunft solcher Parteien auf der Regierungsebene von europäischen Staaten würden Grundprinzipien auf welche die EU aufbaue, die gegenseitige Solidarität, Achtung und Respekt, geschädigt — dies stelle momentan die grösste Krise der EU dar.

Was ist vom bevorstehenden NATO-Gipfeltreffen in Warschau zu erwarten
Kaum zuvor war die NATO mit so vielen Herausforderungen gleichzeitig konfrontiert. Auch wenn es zynisch klingt: das ist nicht unbedingt von Nachteil, denn kaum jemand in der westlichen Hemisphäre wird die Notwendigkeit der NATO heutzutage in Frage stellen. Dementsprechende Erwartungshaltung an den Warschauer NATO-Gipfel ist jedoch hoch. Der stellvertretende NATO Generalsekretär Alexander Vershbow liess am 4. Juni 2016 am Wroclaw Global Forum sogar verlauten, dass der Warschauer Gipfel wohl einer der schicksalhaftesten sein könnte. Das muss sich jedoch erst noch zeigen!

Euro-missile-defenseAus Sicht des Gastgebers Polen geht es bei Warschau-Gipfel insbesondere um eines: Bases, Bases, Bases! Polen lässt nichts unversucht um die anderen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten davon zu überzeugen, dass in Osteuropa permanent Truppen und Militäreinrichtungen stationieren werden sollen. Ob Polen damit Erfolg haben wird, ist zweifelhaft, denn insbesondere Deutschland und die USA (vermutlich aber auch Frankreich, Italien und Spanien) wollen das Verhältnis zu Russland nicht noch weiter belasten. Da die Sicherheit der osteuropäischen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten auch durch einen weiteren Ausbau des NATO Readiness Action Plan — welcher auf Truppenrotationen setzt — garantiert werden kann, ist eine permanente Stationierung auch nicht im Interesse der NATO. Sie wird sich vorerst eher auf den Ausbau der landgestützten Raketenabwehr konzentrieren, welche bereits für genügend Zündstoff mit Russland sorgt. So wurde auf der rumänischen Luftwaffenbasis Deveselu eine erste landgestützte Komponente der US-geführten Raketenabwehr in Betrieb genommen. Die Radaranlage ist innerhalb des Aegis Ashore BMD mit dem SPY-1D (V) Radar eingebunden und mit 24 “hit-to-kill” Abwehrraketen des Typs SM-2 (Block 1 B) mit einer Reichweite von 1’200 km ausgestattet. Die zweite Anlage in Slupsk-Redzikowo in Polen soll 2018 mit SM-3 (Block II A) Abwehrraketen, die eine Reichweite bis 3’000 km haben sollen, in Betrieb gehen. Laut Zusicherung der NATO sei es damit jedoch nicht möglich russische Interkontinentalraketen abzufangen. Trotzdem sieht Russland darin eine Verletzung des INF-Vertrages von 1987. (“NATO-Engagement im Mittelmeer-Raum”, IAP-Dienst Sicherheitspolitik, Vol 32, Juni 2016, S. 8, offline).

Was hinsichtlich der Südflanke unternommen werden soll, ist momentan noch nicht ganz klar. Insbesondere Italien und die Türkei verlangen ein grösseres Engagement der NATO im Süden. Betreffend der Eindämmung der Flüchtlingskrise soll die NATO die bestehende Anti-Terroroperation “Active Endeavour” im Mittelmeerraum ausgeweitet werden und zur Unterstützung der vor der Küste Libyens eingesetzte EU-Operation “Sophia” eingesetzt werden. Es soll die bisher engste Zusammenarbeit zwischen der EU und der NATO werden. Die Ausarbeitung der Operationspläne, die Schiffskontrollen nach Prisenrecht vorsehen, soll im Juni 2016 vorliegen. Ziel ist es, dabei auch den Schmuggel von Waffen für den IS oder andere Gruppen (Hamas) über das Mittelmeer abzuschneiden. Ein Kooperationsabkommen mit der EU wird in Warschau erwartet. (“NATO-Engagement im Mittelmeer-Raum”, IAP-Dienst Sicherheitspolitik, Vol 32, Juni 2016, S. 5, offline). Denkbar wäre auch ein Ausbau der eher für die Ostflanke vorgesehenen Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, so dass sie auch im Süden zum Einsatz kommen könnte, beispielsweise wenn der Suez-Kanal von terroristischen Gruppierungen angegriffen würde und die ägyptischen Truppen die Sicherheit nicht garantieren könnten (Karl-Heinz Kamp, “The agenda of the NATO summit in Warsaw“, Security Policy Working Paper No. 9/2015, Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik). Zusätzlich soll der Austausch von nachrichtendienstlichen Informationen verbessert werden. Dazu könnte womöglich sogar ein “Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence” geschaffen werden. Das dies nicht zwangsläufig auch zu einer besseren nachrichtendienstlichen Zusammenarbeit führt, zeigt der ziemlich machtlose EU INTCEN. Ausserdem zeigen sich Doppelspurigkeiten zu Europol, welche Ende Januar 2016 ein European Counter Terrorism Centre gestartet hat.

Erstmalig an einem NATO-Gipfeltreffen wird eine Delegation Montenegros erwartet. An der NATO-Aussenministertagung im Mai 2016 wurden die erforderlichen Beitrittsprotokolle unterschrieben, so dass dem obligatorischen Ratifikationsprozess aller 28 Mitgliedsstaaten einem NATO-Beitritt Montenegros nichts mehr im Wege stehen und bis 2017 vollzogen sein sollte (siehe auch Paul Pryce, “Should Montenegro join NATO?“,, 14.12.2015).

Weitere Informationen
Bruno Lété et al., “National Priorities for the NATO Warsaw Summit“, Transatlantic Take, no. 123 (Mai 2016).

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Predators Join Reapers at Jordan’s Muwaffaq

At least 6 MQ-1 Predator, 2 MQ-9 Reapers and 4 other unidentified drones at Jordan’s Muwaffaq airbase (Airbus Defense and Space, 04 March 2016).

At least 6 MQ-1 Predator, 2 MQ-9 Reapers and 4 other unidentified drones at Jordan’s Muwaffaq airbase (Airbus Defense and Space, 04 March 2016).

In February of this year, we reported that Jordan had quietly hosted a deployment of U.S. or Coalition MQ-9 Reapers, which were deployed to Jordan’s Muwaffaq airbase between February and March 2015. New satellite imagery released in Google Earth shows further developments at the airbase, located 33 miles south of the Syrian border. Newly erected clamshell shelters — often paired with U.S. drone deployments — can be seen in the March 2016 space snapshots, as well as new parking hardstands to support a greater numbers of unmanned aircraft.

The satellite imagery, acquired by Airbus Defense and Space, confirms that the Reapers were joined at the airbase by the smaller MQ-1 Predator UAVs. At least six Predator were identified in the March 2016 imagery, which suggests that at least two combat air patrols, comprised of a total of eight drones, were deployed. (A combat air patrol is typically composed of four drones.) Two Reapers are clearly visible in the new imagery, while four other unidentified drones are parked within their respective shelters, bulbous noses protruding. In total, 12 unmanned aircraft are observed not far from their manned counterparts. No Ku-band satellite links can be seen, which suggests that Muwaffaq remains a launch and recovery site.

The presence of the less capable Predator is notable, as it continues to speak to the growing strain on the U.S. air arm to put eyes in the sky to meet the growing demand for surveillance and strike operations. The U.S. Air Force has postponed the retirement of the platform to 2018, as the U.S. remains involved in troubled hotspots around the globe. Though more advanced than their smaller Predator counterparts, Reapers have struggled with an alarming crash rate. In 2015, at least 10 Reapers were badly damaged or lost due to accidents while 10 other “large drones” sustained at least $2 million dollars in damage, according to a recent Washington Post investigation. With the Reaper accident rate doubling since 2014, the Predator remains an important stop-gap solution.

Jordan's UH-60A & AH-1

Jordan’s UH-60A & AH-1

On March 4, shortly after the publication of our post, Jordan received eight UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. to bolster the Kingdom’s Quick Reaction Forces. Speaking anonymously, a U.S. official said the Black Hawks were provided as a “no-cost lease to Jordan”. The same official, when asked about the unarmed Predator drones Jordan requested in 2014 , said, “there is no request to purchase right now, but there is a request for pricing MK9” (likely a reference to the MQ-9 Reaper).  He added, “this is not an item that we are actually providing”. While it may be true that the U.S. is not providing Predators or Reapers to Jordan, the latest satellite imagery makes clear that both UAVs are operating out of Muwaffaq and likely playing a role in the Coalition’s fight against IS.

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Waging War with Tourist Maps: Lessons in (mis)planning from the invasion of Grenada (2/2)

by Sébastien Roblin. He holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States.

In Part 1 we explored the political roots of the U.S. invasion of Grenada as well as the planning for the invasion, known as Operation Urgent Fury, which was characterized by major failures in intelligence. In Part 2, we shall look at how the plan faired when confronted with reality and what lessons can be learned from the operation.

Parachute Landing at Point Salines
The Rangers of the 75th Regiment were in mid-flight bound for Point Salines airfield when their commander was informed that the landing strip was strewn with defensive obstacles preventing the transports from landing — and decided then and there they would have to make a parachute landing instead. Fortunately, the Ranger’s had brought their parachutes just in case. Unfortunately, the guidance system of the lead two transports failed on route, forcing them to abort mission — the headquarters unit would have to jump first!

Rangers parachute onto Point Salines early in the morning of October 25th (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense).

Rangers parachute onto Point Salines early in the morning of October 25th (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense).

On October 25th, 1983, at 5:30 AM, the MC-130 transports buzzed low over the airfield to drop the parachutists at the extremely low altitude of 500 feet to minimize their exposure to anti-aircraft fire—the first U.S. combat drop since World War II. Delta Force commando Eric Haney, who had landed in Grenada earlier by helicopter, described the sight in his book “Inside Delta Force” (p. 302f):

[…] as they [the C-130s] approached the leading edge of the airfield, the first two planes were plastered with automatic cannon fire. The lead plane broke away, but the others kept coming, and then you could see the Rangers pouring out the jump doors and into the sky. They were jumping at such a low altitude that their parachutes opened only a few seconds before they hit the ground. […] Rangers were scattered down the length of the ten-thousand foot runway, just getting out of their parachutes, when two armored vehicles rolled out onto the airfield and started firing their machine guns and heavy cannon.

Amazingly, none of the transports were shot down nor any of the Rangers hit coming down. However, they were immediately involved in a firefight with quad-.51 caliber anti-aircraft guns, Cubans positioned around the airport and two BTR-60 APCs. While fire rained down from above from an AC-130 gunship, the Rangers overran one of the anti-aircraft guns in an impromptu charge, knocked out the BTRs with 90 mm recoilless rifles, and managed to persuade over a hundred Cubans firing from the terminal to surrender.

One of the quad 12.7 mm DsHK machineguns at Point Salines (Photo by Ranger Roger Applegate, Air Liason Officer).

One of the quad 12.7 mm DsHK machineguns at Point Salines (Photo by Ranger Roger Applegate, Air Liason Officer).

However, they continued to receive sniper and mortar fire from the perimeter of the long airstrip, and still needed to clear the long, open runway of obstacles before reinforcements from the 82nd Airborne Division could land there. Lacking any vehicles of their own, a group of Rangers under John Abizaid, future commander of CENTCOM during the Iraq War, hotwired one of the Cuban bull dozers and drove it down the runaway, advancing behind it as it deflected enemy fire. By 8 AM, the runaway had been sufficiently cleared for the C-141s carrying the 82nd Airborne Division to begin landing.

Special Forces Raids
The Navy SEALs and Delta Force were less fortunate in their endeavors. Delta Force, staging on Blackhawk helicopters in Barbados, departed late on its mission and thus did not benefit from the cover of darkness. The raid to capture the commanders of the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) at Fort Rupert (today known as Fort George) proceeded successfully, but the lack of adequate intelligence doomed the mission to rescue the political prisoners at Richmond Hill. As the Blackhawks approached, the pilots discovered that hill was actually too steep to land a helicopter on—and that an anti-aircraft battery was located directly above the prison.

The Special Ops pilots tried to hover over the prison to lower operators in by rope instead. But one Blackhawk was so shot up it was forced to crash land in the tree line outside the prison, where it immediately came under fire which killed a crew member, while the other helicopters took so many hits they were forced to abort.

Blackhawk helicopters over Point Salines in their first operational use. At least one Blackhawk was shot down and three crashed in an accident on the 27th assaulting Calavigny barracks (Photo: Spc. Douglas Ide, U.S. Department of Defense).

Blackhawk helicopters over Point Salines in their first operational use. At least one Blackhawk was shot down and three crashed in an accident on the 27th assaulting Calavigny barracks (Photo: Spc. Douglas Ide, U.S. Department of Defense).

Siege at the Governor’s Mansion
The two Navy SEAL teams were able to insert into St. George’s despite being raked by anti-aircraft fire (several were wounded and the helicopter carrying the SEALs’ radio was damaged and forced to abort), but encountered another problem: neither team had anti-tank weapons. One SEAL Team seized the Radio Free Grenada station, but was driven out under fire by BTRs after a protracted firefight. Destroying the radio they had hoped to capture, they fought their way to beach and swam away under fire. Nonetheless, a backup transmitter interrupted the station’s routine of Reggae music to transmit a call to resist the American invasion.

Meanwhile, 22 men in SEAL Team 6 managed to secure Governor General Paul Scoon at his residence after inserting via fast rope — but were immediately surrounded by infantry and four BTRs-60s, which riddled the building with machine gun fire. Intending to rescue the governor and his family, they instead were besieged for nearly 24 hours under constant fire. Because their communication equipment was on a helicopter that had aborted mission, they only succeeded in calling air support by making an international collect call (paid for with a soldier’s credit card), which ultimately summoned an AC-130 which knocked out one of the attacking BTRs.

The deteriorating situation led Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III to dispatch A-7 Corsair attack planes and two AH-1 Cobras to strike at the defenses around the capital. The slower Cobras were raked by flak while dueling with the anti-aircraft guns of Fort Frederick. One of them crashed near the sea shore, prompting a helicopter rescue that succeeded in saving just one of the two crewmen. While providing covering fire for the rescue, the other Cobra was struck hard and plummeted into the sea with its crew. The invasion force had just lost half of its attack helicopters.

Painting by Lt. Col Leahy of Cpt. Seagle rescuing Cpt. Matthews from their crashed AH-1 Sea Cobra in Grenada. Seagle was later killed but Matthews was rescued.

Painting by Lt. Col Leahy of Cpt. Seagle rescuing Cpt. Matthews from their crashed AH-1 Sea Cobra in Grenada. Seagle was later killed but Matthews was rescued.

The A-7s ran into other problems: while attacking an anti-aircraft gun, one bomb struck a nearby mental hospital, killing 18 patients and releasing the dazed survivors on the streets of the city. Accounts differ as to how aware the Navy was of the hospital’s position.

Surprise at True Blue
Back at Point Salines, units of the 82nd Airborne Division continued to trickle into Point Salines, but only two aircraft could land at a time on the incomplete runway. The Rangers and paratroopers began advancing in the afternoon to secure the True Blue campus of Saint George’s medical college. One lone Jeep patrol was ambushed and its crew of four killed, and another died manning a machine-gun. The Rangers eventually did secure the True Blue campus — where they were stunned to learn from the students there that majority of their number were actually staying at another campus at Grand Anse.

At 3 PM, three BTR-60s counterattacked Point Salines airport. Racing past a forward patrol, which missed with its LAW rockets, the BTRs were eventually stopped by the Ranger’s 90 mm recoilless rifles and the intervention of an AC-130 gunship. The counterattack so alarmed General Trobaugh, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, that he told Fort Bragg “Keep sending battalions until I tell you to stop.” (Six would eventually come in all).

The Marine Landings
A SEAL team finally managed to reconnoitre Pearls beach early in the morning of the 25th — and reported it unsuitable for tracked vehicles. So the Marines airlifted the E and F Company to a nearby horse-racing track, and from there they swiftly advanced to capture Pearls Airport in the face of only minor resistance. As word of the Seal Team pinned down in Governor General Scoon’s residence reached Admiral Metcalf, he deployed G Company of the 22nd Marine Assault Unit (MAU) to an amphibious landing north of Saint George in Grand Mal bay. The noise from the Marine’s heavy Amtraks and tanks seemed to scare away the opposition, and the Marines rolled south towards St. George’s. They finally arrived to relieve the Navy Seals on the morning of the 26th, and Governor Scoon was finally evacuated.

Inter-service Meltdowns
Meanwhile, communications, logistical problems and interservice bickering accumulated between the Army, Marines, and Navy. Trobaugh, the ground commander, could literally see the ship Admiral Metcalf was on — but his radio couldn’t communicate with it. A Marine commander had to be threatened with court martial by General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. before he agreed to put Army soldiers on Marine helicopters. The Navy didn’t trust the Army helicopters to land safely on their ships to evacuate casualties, and then didn’t want to pay for refueling them. (Also, the fuel hoses turned out to be incompatible.) Ground  troops were not given adequate rations and dozens passed out from the heat and lack of water.

The Battle at “Little Havana”
By the morning of the 2nd day, the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division at Point Salines were already moving out to attack the Cuban compound at “Little Havana” near the airport, hoping to diminish sniper fire. While conducting a reconnaissance at 5 AM to make up for the poor maps, Captain Michael Ritz, commander of B Company, was shot and killed when he ran into a Cuban ambush. The main Cuban position was then hit by a heavy air and ground bombardment, as well as sniper fire, and hundreds surrendered, some immediately, and others after an intense firefight.

The Cuban compound as seen from Goat Hill, which was occupied by U.S. snipers (Photo by Ranger Christopher Marks).

The Cuban compound as seen from Goat Hill, which was occupied by U.S. snipers (Photo by Ranger Christopher Marks).

The camp’s commander, Colonel Orlando Matamoros Lopez later recounted in an interview the resistance he and Colonel Pedro Tortolo Comas put up:

At dawn, they threw mortars, aviation, cannon, machine guns […] at us. It was the fourth mortar shell that injured me […] Tortoló got to where I was, intending to evacuate me, [and] at the same time a grenade killed Carlos Diaz [Cuban Communist Party official] and another companion who was with him. Then I told Tortoló not to wait any longer, to retreat, that they were going to destroy us, that they should take advantage of a cloud of dust and smoke […] I kept on shooting until I ran out of bullets.

In all 16 Cubans were killed and 86 captured, while 8 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were wounded, and another died while attempting to disarm an SPG-9 recoilless rifle.

In the town of Frequente, the Army uncovered an arsenal of thousands of 1950s era bolt-action rifles, submachineguns and carbines that Communist countries had sent to Grenada. A platoon of four Jeeps armed with recoilless rifles ran into another Cuban ambush shortly after — but the jeep’s return fire, supported by a mortar unit, killed four attackers for no loss of their own. Cuban resistance on the island thereafter came largely to an end. Colonel Tortolo Comas later sought asylum at the door of the Soviet Embassy in Saint George. When he returned to Cuba, he was disgraced, busted to private and sent to fight in Angola — a fate more lenient then that accorded to the Cuban general in Angola, who was executed after his defeat in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

“Rescue” at Grand Anse
That afternoon, Trobaugh was told that he needed to move faster to evacuate the medical students at Grand Anse, three miles away. Accordingly, at 4 PM he embarked the Rangers on Marines CH-46 helicopters, and they stormed into the university campus, receiving some incoming fire that wounded one pilot, while another CH-46 crashed while landing after its rotor got tangled in some trees. The Rangers swiftly neutralized resistance, and found some of the medical students, 233 of whom were then loaded into CH-53 heavy transport helicopters and flown to Point Salines. The pictures of the jubilant students were well received by the U.S. public — though the students also revealed there were still more students spread out across the island. The operation was completed in 26 minutes, but the Army either “forgot” or “lacked enough helicopters” to evacuate one eleven-man Ranger squad guarding the perimeter; left behind, they escaped the campus by sea and their rubber raft were picked up by the USS Caron at 11 PM.

Jubilant medical students boarding transports heading back to the U.S. Images such as these led to domestic support for the invasion (Photo: Department of Defense).

Jubilant medical students boarding transports heading back to the U.S. Images such as these led to domestic support for the invasion (Photo: Department of Defense).

Fiasco at Calavigny
By the October 27th, the troops of the 82nd Airborne Division were fanning out, closing in on the capital of Saint George and occupying Grand Anse (where they discovered additional foreign students they had missed the day before), encountering only scattered resistance. However, after receiving sniper fire, a Navy liaison team accidentally called an A-7 strike down on the headquarters of the 2nd Brigade, wounding 17 (one of whom later died of wounds). The 82nd Airborne Division finally linked up with the Marines of the 22nd MAU, and narrowly avoided opening fire on them. Likewise, the Venezuelan embassy was spared a bombardment after a Marine thought to ask the “enemy stronghold” to surrender first.

U.S. intelligence suggested that PRA army units were assembling at the Calavigny training barracks, three miles away from Point Salines airport. General Trobaugh intended to approach it on foot the next day, but received orders in the morning from Washington to seize it more quickly. An air assault by the 1st Battalion of the Rangers was quickly improvised, preceded by a heavy preparatory bombardment from the USS Caron, A-7 Corsairs, AC-130s, and the 82nd’s 105mm howitzers. The howitzer unit, however, had forgotten to bring its aiming circles, lacked topographical maps of the island, and couldn’t communicate with forward observers, so the howitzer shells almost all fell into the sea.

After the storm of fire, the Blackhawks descended upon Calavigny at high speed in anticipation of enemy flak. They were going so fast that the third, fourth and fifth Blackhawks collided with each other while landing in the space of 20 seconds. Shrapnel and spinning rotors were sent flying in all directions. While medics worked frantically to treat the wounded, it was discovered the Calavigny barracks had been abandoned. While accounts contradict each other on whether there was any resistance at all (one theory is the U.S. forces fired on each other), the fact remained that 3 men and 3 helicopters were lost assaulting empty barracks.

American troops guarding suspected members of the PRA (Photo: Matthew Naythons).

American troops guarding suspected members of the PRA (Photo: Matthew Naythons).

There was no meaningful combat after the 27th. Guerilla resistance failed to materialize, and an amphibious landing on the island of Cariciao led to the prompt surrender of its garrison. A new government was swiftly installed, the Cuban engineers were repatriated a few weeks later, and the Cuban and Soviet embassies were expelled. 45 Grenadian soldiers, 24 civilians, and 25 Cubans were counted among the dead, as well as 19 U.S. soldiers. (At least 9 deaths from enemy fire, 4 from accidents, and 1 from friendly fire. However, there is some controversy as to whether this casualty total is accurate). Urgent Fury was over.


The elephant in the room remains that the invasion and overthrow of a sovereign state was in no way necessary to the extraction of the students (who had not been taken hostage), instead of pursuing a peaceful, and far less costly, resolution. The invasion itself put the students, and Scoon, in far more danger than the PRA ever did. The threat posed by the airfield was greatly exaggerated, either dishonestly or from poor analysis. Though Grenada was indeed building up weapon stockpiles, they were old weapons that did not allow it to project power against neighboring islands or meaningfully supply nearby insurgencies, as a CIA report concluded. These reasons were simply pretexts for replacing Grenada’s Cuban-allied government with one aligned with the United States.

Ronald Reagan himself later implied a connection to the Beirut Bombing in a speech: “The events in Lebanon and Grenada, though oceans apart, are closely related.” Moscow, he continued, had “encouraged the violence” in both countries through a “network of surrogates and terrorists.” Some see Grenada as the first use of the ‘preemptive war‘ doctrine later invoked in the Iraq War.

What of the purely military aspects of the invasion?

What Worked

  • The US troops were often met with genuine support by Grenadian civilians tired of the violence and chaos from Coard and Hudson’s coup. As a result, insurgency and guerilla warfare never took hold.
  • The Marines of the 22nd MAU steamrolled through the island, their armored vehicles dissuading PRA opponents from offering all but token opposition. They managed to secure the peaceful surrender of a number of Grenadian units, rather than resorting to preparatory bombardments and charging in guns blazing.
  • The landing at Point Salines took the defenders by surprise, who had prepared for an invasion by sea. It is possible that by deploying so aggressively in the heart of their positions, the Rangers and paratroopers disrupted the PRA defenses before they could solidify
82nd Airborne Division soldiers, Grenada, 1983.

82nd Airborne Division soldiers, Grenada, 1983.

What Went Poorly

  • Lack of intelligence and rushed planning: There was nothing secret about the multiple school campuses, the topography of the country, the steep nature of Richmond Hill’s slopes, or the condition of beaches. Yet, even though Grenada’s poor relationship with Washington had been known for years, the military and intelligence services were lacking all of these basic items. Furthermore, commanders failed to obtain vital information about the beaches and airfields they intended to land upon, and time and time again had to change their plans literally on the fly when condition was found to be unsuitable.
  • Poor Consideration of Force Protection: The planners of the Urgent Fury repeatedly sent out small numbers of vulnerable assets deep into hostile territory without adequate intelligence — decisions which cost lives:

    • A lone unarmored jeep dispatched on a reconnaissance patrol in dense terrain ambushed and its crew of four killed.
    • Four Navy SEALS drowned after being air dropped into a sea squall, a scenario they had never trained for.
    • Blackhawk helicopters sent charging into a hail of anti-aircraft fire around Richmond Hill and St. George’s — and both of the Cobras sent to aid them shot down.
    • Special Forces teams inserted in small numbers in a hostile city.

    Dispatching vulnerable scout teams and pitting helicopters against anti-aircraft guns might be warranted in situations of urgency, but under the condition at Grenada, a more methodical and prudent approach — such as made by the Marines columns — could have yielded the same results. In short, the U.S. plan over-estimated the need for haste, and underestimated the damage their opposition — or even the weather — could do.

  • Lack of armor and anti-armor weapons: Both Navy SEAL raids were foiled by a lack of anti-tank weapons, even though the presence of armored vehicles should not have come as a surprise. Furthermore, the deployment of air-transportable armored vehicles, such as M113 APCs or even the M551 Sheridan tank, might have diminished the losses suffered by the Army around Point Salines. This leads to another point…
  • Slow Tempo: While the Marines advanced at steady rate in the north, the Army spent three days advancing just four miles. Resistance was undeniably heavier in the Army’s sector, but if they had employed armored vehicles, they might have advanced more swiftly and securely, and not been forced to resort to the helicopter raids at Grand Anse (just 2 miles away) and Calavigny.
  • Poor inter-service cooperation: The services failed to coordinate and cooperate at the highest levels, high level commanders were unable to communicate with each other, and the troops at the low level suffered from it.
  • Poor Media Management: The Army denied journalist access to Grenada until the third day, leading to widespread criticism and doubts of the management of the conflict.
A CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter shot down by anti-aircraft fire on October 25 during Operation Urgent Fury.

A CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter shot down by anti-aircraft fire on October 25 during Operation Urgent Fury.

The Legacy
Urgent Fury evoked swift condemnation even from the United States’ own allies, who were not informed until after the attack had commenced. The United Nations voted 109 to 8 to pass a resolution “deploring” the invasion. But the intervention was supported by 71% of the public at home, and some on the right still see it as having “put […] the ghosts of Vietnam to rest”.

The 1986 Clint Eastwood film “Heartbreak Ridge” depicted (not entirely accurately) some of the episodes in the conflict, and was turned down for funding from both the Army and the Marines.

The military did not fail to grasp the seriousness of the snafus in Urgent Fury, and in 1986 Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichol Act which streamlined and centralized the chain of command of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, and required officers appointed to those positions to have experience in inter-service cooperation. The intent was clear: the different services needed to learn to work together.

Grenada did not fare poorly after the conflict, nor did it prosper brilliantly. The U.S. occupation proved relatively brief, and life on the island returned to normal by most accounts, though scars from the conflict remain. The airport at Point Salines was completed one year after the invasion. In 2009, it was renamed to Maurice Bishop International Airport after the Communist revolutionary who briefly brought the tiny island into the international spotlight.

Posted in English, History, International, Sébastien Roblin, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Drone Activity in Iran

by Dan Gettinger. He is co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. This article was first published there and re-published by Dan’s permission — thank you!

The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman have, for several years, been a nexus for Iranian military drone activity. At no time was this more evident than on January 29, the day Iran claimed that it had flown a drone over an American aircraft carrier. In a review of drone activity in the region, we have found that there are reasons to both doubt the legitimacy of the January 29 video and to believe that Iranian drone activity is more expansive than previously thought. Here’s what you need to know!


Background on Iranian Drone Bases
Iran has a long history of drone development stretching back to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Over the past few years, Iranian drones have been spotted at four airfields along Iran’s southern coastline. In June 2013, the now-retired OSIMINT blog reported that Iran was building a drone base on Qeshm Island. In April 2015, the Daily Beast reported that Iran was flying Mohajer drones out of Bandar Jask, approximately 150 miles (approx. 240 km) to the south of the Strait of Hormuz. Later that month, Bellingcat (remark by actually it was Chris Biggers) found that a small airstrip in Konarak, a coastal town near the border with Pakistan, was likely home to another Mohajer UAV. Satellite images confirm the probable deployment of drones at each of these bases.

A February 29, 2016 investigation by Galen Wright, an Iranian military specialist and author of The Arkenstone blog, for into a video of Iranian drone strikes in Syria found that some of the scenes in the video had been filmed at Tactical Air Base 10, the much larger Iranian air force base in Konarak approximately 7 miles (approx. 11 km) to the north of the airstrip housing the Mohajer. The scenes showed a Shahed 129, an advanced Iranian military drone that resembles the American Predator or Reaper, taking off and landing at the airbase.

In addition to Qeshm, Bandar Jask and Konarak, two other airstrips in south-eastern Iran have either served as drone bases in the past, or will in the future. The first is an airstrip outside of Minab, a town approximately 40 miles (approx. 64 km) to the south-east of Bandar Abbas. It was here when, in April 2010, the Iranian military flew an early version of the Ababil-3 drone in support of the Great Prophet 5 military exercises. According to Wright this exercise was the first documented operational flight of the Ababil-3 drone in Iran. A video of the event contains coordinates that place the drone in the approximate area of the Minab airfield, as well as other topographic and structural similarities to satellite images.


The second airstrip is located outside the Jakigur, a village near the border with Pakistan and approximately 90 miles (approx. 145 km) north of Konarak. The Jakigur region has been the scene of clashes between Iranian forces and Baluch militants. In February 2014, militants with the Jaish al-Adl Iran, a Sunni insurgency, captured five Iranian border guards. On October 10, 2015, the Iranian Ministry of Housing and Urban Development announced that local officials had attended the opening of a “UAV runway” outside of Jakigur. The announcement was followed by reports in Iranian state-run media outlets. Satellite photos from December 11, 2015 confirm the presence of a newly-constructed runway, but do not reveal any drones.

An Ababil-3 drone taking off from Bandar Abbas during the Velayat-4 military exercises in December 2013.

An Ababil-3 drone taking off from Bandar Abbas during the Velayat-4 military exercises in December 2013.

Drones at Bandar Abbas
There is a strong likelihood that Iran operates drones out of another location, Bandar Abbas, a coastal city on the Strait of Hormuz. According to satellite imagery analysed by the Center for the Study of the Drone, the Iranian military has flown drones out of an airfield at Bandar Abbas for at least two years. The drones first appear in an April 6, 2014 DigitalGlobe satellite image of Tactical Air Base 9, Bandar Abbas International Airport. They appear again in satellite images from January 10, 2015, November 8, 2015 and January 10, 2016. Drones may have indeed been operating from this location as early as 2013. Although no publicly available overhead imagery confirms the presence of drones at Bandar Abbas prior to April 6, 2014, a still photo reportedly shows an Ababil-3 drone taking off from Bandar Abbas during the Velayat-4 military exercises in December 2013 (see the image above).

The drones in the satellite images also match the description of the Ababil-3. The aircraft in the images have 16-18-foot (4.9 – 5.5 m) wingspans and are 11-13 feet (3.4 – 4.0 m) long. Unlike the rail-launched Mohajer drones that have been spotted at other Iranian airfields, the aircraft pictured at Bandar Abbas are wheeled, which means that they take off from a runway. With twin-boom tails, the drones are similar to the American-made RQ-2 Pioneer.


The Ababil is one of Iran’s most prolific drones. Variations of the drone have been spotted in Sudan, Venezuela, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Unlike the much smaller airfields at Qeshm, Bandar Jask and Konarak, Bandar Abbas is a major civilian and military airport at the heart of a city that is also home to Iran’s largest naval base. The Ababil-3s are slightly larger and more capable than the Mohajers that have been deployed at the other bases. According to Wright at the Arkenstone, the Ababil can carry three types of payloads, including a downward-facing camera for surveillance and a forward-facing camera for navigation. With a flight range of around 100 kilometres, the Ababils could handily surveil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The continued deployment of the drones at Bandar Abbas indicates Iranian drones are likely to become a familiar sight over this critical maritime juncture.

The Aircraft Carrier Video
On January 29, Iranian state-run news agency IRINN released a video purporting to show an overflight of a U.S. aircraft carrier by an Iranian military drone. This video was picked up by the Associated Press and circulated widely. The video shows a drone taking off, before cutting to aerial images of the aircraft carrier. Concerns about the accuracy of the video were first published on Twitter not long after the video was released. Twitter user Raj Kumar noted that the timestamp at the beginning was different from the timestamp later on the video (see below). Kumar placed the drone at Konarak, the same airstrip where Bellingcat found the Mohajer drones in 2015, based on topographical similarities.

A deeper look into Kumar’s initial observations suggests that the video is indeed a mash-up of two different videos, neither of which were taken by a drone on January 29.

  1. Date Discrepancies: According to a Mehr News Agency interview with Iranian Navy Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi, the drone overflight occurred on the “third day of Velayat-94 drills.” Velayat-94, a massive Iranian military exercise, began on Wednesday, January 27, putting the overflight on January 29, the same day that the video was released. Meanwhile, U.S. Navy spokesperson Commander Kevin Stephens told the Associated Press that an Iranian drone had indeed overflown the USS Harry S. Truman and a French warship, but that the incident had occurred on January 12, weeks before the Velayat-94 drills. The video that was published on Fars News Agency (see above) contradicts the Iranian and American timelines, as well as each other. The first segment, from the scene where the drone is taking off, contains the timestamp January 22, 2016; the second, from the aerial footage of the aircraft carrier, contains the timestamp December 26, 2015.
  2. Aircraft Type: Commander Stephens told the Associated Press that the drone that overflew the USS Harry S. Truman on January 12 was a Shahed 129, the advanced Iranian drone. This claim was reinforced after the Navy released video footage of what appears to be an S129 UAV to the Associated Press on February 10. The drone in the Iranian overflight video, however, is clearly not an S129. The video shows a drone on a rail launcher, meaning that it is a much smaller drone than the S129. It is most likely a Mohajer-2, the small reconnaissance drones that have been previously spotted at the Qeshm, Jask and Konarak airbases.
  3. Airfield Location: Based on the opening scenes of the video, the drone appears to be taking off from the airstrip outside Konarak. The absence of runway threshold or number designation markings and the short centerline markings on the runway suggest that the runway does not belong to a major airport. The proximity of the airstrip to the water, the placement of vegetation and nearby access roads, and the presence of a perimeter fence evident in the video correspond to satellite images of the Konarak airstrip from December. Missing from the satellite images are the short centerline markings which may have been painted in the time since the picture was taken.


  4. Aircraft Carrier Location: The still image from the second segment of the drone video identifies the aircraft carrier at 25°25.44’N and 57°02.13’E. This places the vessel in the Gulf of Oman, roughly 210 miles west of Konarak and 130 miles south of Bandar Abbas. According to Stratfor’s U.S. Naval Update Map from late January and early February, the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier was in the Persian Gulf, where it was supporting the air campaign against the terror organisation “Islamic State“. If the drone did indeed come from Konarak, the location of the carrier according to the coordinates would be outside the flight range of a small, rail-launched drone like the Mohajer-2. The Stratfor U.S. Naval Update Map does put the USS Harry S. Truman as transiting through the Gulf of Oman on its way to the Persian Gulf in the last week of December 2015. This would coincide with the location and date in the second still image from the video.

It is possible that two events took place and neither involved an Iranian drone overflight on January 29. The first event may have been an Iranian overflight by either a manned or unmanned aircraft of the USS Harry S. Truman as it was travelling to the Persian Gulf on December 26. The second event may have been the January 12 overflight of the USS Harry S. Truman by the Iranian Shahed 129 drone. Based on the available information, however, there are reasons to doubt that the January 29 video of the aircraft carrier is an accurate record of events or even a video from a drone at all.

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Niger: Agadez Airport Imagery Update

CSBiggers (20MAY2016) Agadez Annotations

New satellite imagery available in Google Earth shows progress being made refurbishing the airfield at Aérienne 201, otherwise known as Mano Dayak International Airport. Space snapshots acquired in May by Astrium show milling efforts complete as well as the runway and turnarounds fully repaved since the project began in September. Previous imagery shows that surface repairs and runway remarking activity has occurred incrementally which has kept the airfield operational and minimized downtime. Various surveillance and transport aircraft were noted on the parking apron during the previous construction period.

A probable hangar or temporary shelter measuring 20 x 25 meters was noted on the south side of the runway. It’s thought to be associated with a contract to support the Cessna 208 Caravan at the airfield. However, it appears workers may have encountered some difficulty finishing the structure. For example, the shelter’s roof was in place by March, but imagery in May shows sections removed. In October, the US presented the country with two more Caravan adding to the two received in 2012.

Other infrastructure includes a new roadway running adjacent to the shelter. The road width and probable hangar placement may suggest it will double as an aircraft taxiway. Stretching south for approximately 1,850 meters, the road leads to a bermed bivouac site which was initially established in late 2013. This site is believed to be part a part of Aérienne 201. Imagery from April suggests additional US troops have deployed as indicated by additional internal security and the erection of 40 new shelters. They may have arrived as troop labor to support the construction of an additional runway as reported in the Air Force’s Military Construction Program Budget Estimates. Their arrival comes just a few months after US sent about thirty instructors to help train local forces at the desert city.

DG (28APR16) Niamey

In the meantime, the US drone apron over in Niamey has shown some recent expansion with a new tension clam-shell shelter deployed since March. We noted that there were additional plans for the area back in April 2015. Imagery continues to show ongoing leveling and paving activity currently underway.

More information

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