ISIS: Here to Stay! – Part 3/3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unidentified Iraqi militants.

Unidentified Iraqi militants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the time being: ISIS is here to stay.

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

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

Hassan Rouhani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F-16 Support Area Confirmed in Pekanbaru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TNI F-16C/D.

TNI F-16C/D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

India: INS Hansa’s SBTF In Operation

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

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

MIG-29K Catches Arresting Cable at INS Hansa.

MIG-29K Catches Arresting Cable at INS Hansa.

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

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

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

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

Veranstaltungshinweis: Fordert die vorgesehene Unterstellung der Infanterie flankierende Massnahmen?

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


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

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

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

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

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Posted in Switzerland | 1 Comment

Paul Kagame auf dem Weg zum Machterhalt

von Peter Dörrie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Peter Dörrie, Rwanda | Leave a comment

Sea Control 52 – EUCAP NESTOR and Piracy

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

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

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

Listen to episode #52 immediately

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

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

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

How to make the ‘Ebola Bomb’ and why you should stop worrying about bioterrorism

by Sandra Ivanov. Sandra Ivanov is from New Zealand with a postgraduate education in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is currently an editor of the blog “Conflict and Security“, and primarily works in the non-government sector. You can find her through Linkedin or follow her updates on Twitter.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the deadliest epidemic since the virus was discovered in 1976, crossing international borders, it has claimed over 2’600 lives (as of September 18, 2014). There is no vaccine and there is no cure. Aid and medical personnel are sought from all over the world, borders have been contained, and risks of rising violent conflict continue to develop out of the Ebola eruption. However, there have been other interesting analyses of this issue on the side – media and opinion pieces are claiming that terrorist groups could get a hold of the virus and spread it around their regions, and the world (see for example Rick Noack, “Why Ebola worries the Defense Department“, The Washington Post, 05.08.2014). Well, I wanted to test this claim for myself, so with a bit of research and optimism, I’ve created a recipe to examine what a potential terrorist group would need to do to make this so-called “Ebola Bomb” – how hard could it really be?


Many studies from a health, as well as a humanities perspective, assume that terrorists could successfully generate biological or chemical agents and weaponise them. Taking this initial premise, a lot of literature has been based around this looming threat, subsequently offering policy advice, public health recommendations, and technological investment to avoid such catastrophes. However it would be useful to deconstruct this claim entirely. So I’ll begin by offering a baking recipe, to explore at the very core, what a group would need to do to successfully create a biological weapon, in this case, utilising the Ebola virus.

Firstly, any terrorist group wanting to create and weaponise a biological or chemical agent will need to have an appropriate kitchen. In the case of the Ebola virus, a standard biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) scene will be required (Adeline M. Nyamathi et al., “Ebola Virus: Immune Mechanisms of Protection and Vaccine Development“, Biological Research For Nursing 4, No. 4, April 2003: 276-281). Some features of these laboratories include decontamination mechanisms, pest management systems, air filters, and special suits. Sometimes the kitchen will have to be in a separate building, or in an isolated area within a building to meet the safety requirements. Not only will the kitchen be under strict conditions, the baking process will need to be kept in total secrecy. The constant threat of law enforcements raiding facilities, and intelligence and secret services detecting activities will have to be avoided. Also, there are only some fifty of these laboratories successfully maintained worldwide.

Before starting, make sure there is a baking dish of ‘uncertainty’ readily available to just throw all of the following ingredients into:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Proper Agent

Initially, a terrorist group must decide what kind of agent they would like to use in a bioterror attack. This is one part of the recipe which can be modified, but the other ingredients will be standard for all types of attacks. The recent spread of the deadly Ebola virus will be the agent of choice for this bomb. Ebola is a virus which is passed to humans through contact with infected animals. The spread of the virus from person-to-person is brought about through blood and bodily fluids, as well as exposure to a contaminated environment. An infected live host with Ebola would need to be maintained in a human or animal – only a few animals are able to be used as hosts, such as primates, bats, and forest antelope. Although Ebola infection of animals through aerosol particles can be effective, it has not successfully been transferred with this method to humans (Manoj Karwa, Brian Currie and Vladimir Kvetan, “Bioterrorism: Preparing for the impossible or the improbable“, Critical Care Medicine 33, No. 1, January 2005: 75-95).

  • 1 Bucket of Resources and Money

In order to develop a biological weapon, a substantial amount of material and money is required. Investment is needed from the very outset – taking into account membership size and capabilities of a terrorist group, financial assets of a group, and making sure territory and proper infrastructure is available for the biological agent. For a successful bomb to be created, a group must think about the resources they will need for each stage of the baking process, such as weapons production, potential testing phases, and logistics, such as transportation and communications technologies (Victor H. Asal, Gary A. Ackerman and R. Karl Rethemeyer, “Connections Can Be Toxic: Terrorist Organizational Factors and the Pursuit of CBRN Terrorism“, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2006). Resources needed for an “Ebola Bomb” will most likely need to be imported from the outside, and a group must determine the feasibility of acquiring the materials and technologies needed for the bomb (Jean Pascal Zanders, “Assessing the risk of chemical and biological weapons proliferation to terrorists“, The Nonproliferation Review, Fall 1999: 17-34). A surplus of money would also be a smart idea in case technical difficulties arise.

  • 5 Cups of Expertise

With all the correct resources and necessary amount of monetary support, the recipe will require the right kind of know-how. For an operation like this, a terrorist group should have members with high levels of education and training in science, engineering, and technological development, to deal with highly virulent agents, and for successful weaponisation (Zanders). A group may need to be integrated into knowledge flows and institutions, or be able to recruit members to their cause with this specific expertise (Asal, Ackerman and Rethemeyer). Knowledge and expertise is required to create the correct strain, handling the agent, growing the agent with the desired characteristics, and maintaining the agent. Taking Ebola specifically requires synthesising proteins which make it infectious, and becomes a task that is difficult and unlikely to succeed (Amanda M. Teckma, “The Bioterrorist Threat of Ebola in East Africa and Implications for Global
Health and Security
“, Global Policy Essay, May 2013). If Ebola is successfully created in the kitchen, it is not itself a biological weapon – an expert will be required to transform the virus into a workable mechanism for dissemination.

  • A Teaspoon of Risk

The decision to use biological weapons for an attack is in itself extremely risky. There is a risk that bioterrorism could cause dissenting views among followers, and that public approval and opinion may channel the way a group operates. After all, terrorists are political communicators, wanting to bring attention to their grievances. If a group becomes polarised or resented by their actions, they will not see the benefits of pursuing certain methods. Terrorists want to send powerful messages, gain more members, in which these members assist to bring about certain plans and demands. Therefore, public opinion and political opportunism will be risked in a quest to create a bioweapon such as an “Ebola Bomb” (Zanders). Secondly, a terrorist group may be subject to more scrutiny or attention. This is why keeping activities covert will be a key to success. States will be more vigilant towards groups that are known to be seeking and acquiring biological and chemical capabilities (Asal, Ackerman and Rethemeyer). And finally, risk will always cling on to funding requirements, and potential technical difficulties in all stages of the bioweapon making process.

  • A Fist of Time

Now this recipe is going to take a while to prepare and bake in the oven, and there is no particular moment to determine when it should be removed from the baking dish. So, whatever group wants to make this bomb, will need to realise this is a long-term and complex effort. It will not work like most conventional weapons, which produce a high number of casualties with a single explosion, and that could be a reason why bioterrorism is not the most popular means for a violent attack – demanding time, effort, and resources without guarantees of a concrete result. A fist full of time may be needed so that knowledge, both tacit and explicit, can be acquired, as well as accounting for the various mistakes and learning curves to overcome (Asal, Ackerman and Rethemeyer). It can also refer to how long it will take to cook up, maintain and prepare a virus for an attack. It will take time to create a successful weapon with prior testing, and wait for the correct environmental conditions when it comes to dissemination. Time will have to be a group investment – it is not the kind of bomb that will detonate immediately.

  • A Pinch of Curiosity of the Unknown

The teaspoon of risk coincides with uncertainty, and there will need to be a commitment to potential unknown factors. It is unknown what will happen once a virus is disseminated. Will the weapon even work in the first place? Weather conditions are unpredictable and Ebola will not have a prominent effect in certain environments. What happens to the terrorist group if the attack fails? What happens to the reputation of the group and its membership, or will the group cease to exist? If the recipe is a success, it is impossible to control the biological agent which is released – not only can it affect the targeted population, but it may annihilate the terrorist group itself. There will be an unknown into potentially losing local and international support, and donors if this causes widespread catastrophe.

Scientists from the Southern African Development Community region, including a sponsored postdoctoral research fellow by the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance, working in the only biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory in Africa, which is located at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Scientists from the Southern African Development Community region, including a sponsored postdoctoral research fellow by the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance, working in the only biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory in Africa, which is located at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Method: Weaponisation and Dissemination
Mix that up good in your baking dish of what is now “deep uncertainty” and pop it in the oven to bake. But as time passes, it seems as though the ingredients are not rising. The process of turning a biological agent into a weapon for attack is the phase with the most hurdles for terrorist groups. In order for a virus to inflict a lot of harm, it has to be disseminated through an effective delivery mechanism. As mentioned previously, the Ebola virus needs a live host. Weaponising a live host is more difficult than other agents which can be cultured on dishes of nutrients. The process has many stages which involve testing, refining, upgrading, and toughening. The methods to disseminate an agent are only known to few people, and rarely published – it is not a basement project (Teckman).

Let’s take Aum Shinrikyo as an example of conducting a bioterrorist attack (even it was “only” a chemical attack). This apocalyptic religious organisation in Japan managed to release sarin gas inside a Tokyo subway, killing a dozen people, and injuring 50. However, even with money and resources, they failed to effectively weaponise the chemical. Factors which led to their failure included internal secrecy and breakdown in communication; selecting members only solely dedicated to their cause to work on the weapons, ultimately employing unskilled people to operate and maintain the project, causing accidents and leaks (Zanders). Aum Shinrikyo’s attempt to disseminate botulinum toxin into Tokyo using a truck with a compressor and vents, did not work because they had not acquired an infectious strain (Sharon Begley, “Unmasking Bioterror“, Newsweek, 13.03.2010; “Chronology of Aum Shinrikyo’s CBW Activities“, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 2001). Finally, a major obstacle to successfully disseminating Ebola, is because this virus requires a specific environment in order to thrive. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, and Ebola particularly needs high temperatures and humidity to remain effective.

The emergency service tend to victims of the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack on Tokyo's subway in 1995 (Photo: Rex Features).

The emergency service tend to victims of the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway in 1995 (Photo: Rex Features).

Decoration: Results and Conclusions
Obviously, this “Ebola Bomb” has not come close to containing the right requirements needed to explode. Looking back historically, pathogens, and all kinds of toxins have been used as tools in sabotage and assassinations since the beginning of time. Now, it would be silly to say this recipe will never work – there will always be a possibility that Ebola or other viruses may be used as biological weapons in the future. However, the likelihood of its development and use by a terrorist group is quite improbable.

Mentioning Aum Shinrikyo again, they are an organisation which at the time, had a war chest of more than $300 million, with six laboratories and a handful of biologists, in the end having insurmountable difficulties with the weaponisation and dissemination processes, and killing a dozen people (Begley). There is a greater amount of knowledge and technology available in our day and age than in 1995 with the Aum Shinrikyo attacks, but it is still unlikely that this will be the weapon of choice. Examining state biological weapons programmes, Soviet Russia had almost 60,000 personnel employed in their weapons development, with only about 100 people that actually knew how to take an agent through the full production process. In the United States, at Fort Detrick, there were 250 buildings with 3,000 personnel, and it took them a while to weaponise a single agent, such as botulinum (Manoj Karwa, Brian Currie and Vladimir Kvetan).

Nowadays, the narrative has assumed a worst case scenario analysis, and subsequently narrowed down bioterrorism to a single threat prognosis. There is little distinction made between what is conceivable and possible, and what is likely in terms of bioterrorism. Anything can be conceived as a terrorist threat, but what is the reality? The “Ebola Bomb” is not a danger. The likelihood of a bioterrorist attack remains highly unlikely (Teckman). The focus should be on preventing natural pandemics of human disease, such as tuberculosis, SARS, AIDS and influenza – emphasis placed on how we can cure diseases, and how medical training could be improved to contain, and avoid viruses such as Ebola altogether. Resources are being pumped into biodefence in the security as well as the medical sector, but preparedness and investment in bioterrorism needs to be in proportion to actual threats, otherwise, funds are diverted away from much needed public health programmes:

Diversion of resources from public health in the United States include diversion of funds needed for protection against other chemical risks – spills, leaks and explosives – and infectious diseases. Each year in the United States there are 60,000 chemical spills, leaks and explosions, of which 8,000 are classified as ‘serious’, with over 300 deaths. There are 76 million episodes of food-borne illness, leading to 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, most of which could be prevented. There are 110,000 hospitalisations and 20,000 deaths from influenza, a largely preventable illness, and there are 40,000 new cases and 10,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS. Diversion of resources for public health outside the US reduce the resources that can help provide protection against diseases rooted in poverty, ignorance and absence of services. — Victor W Sidel, “Bioterrorism in the United States: A balanced assessment of risk and response“, Medicine, Conflict and Survival 19, No. 4, 2003: 318-325.

The effectiveness of biological weapons has never been clearly shown, the numbers of casualties have been small and it is likely that hoaxes and false alarms in the future will continue to outnumber real events and create disruptive hysteria (Manoj Karwa, Brian Currie and Vladimir Kvetan). Emphasis needs to be back on medical research, as well as social science investigations into the roots of why terrorist groups would even want to pursue biological weapons, and the lengths they would go to use them. Let this be an avenue for further pondering and exploring, the realities of bioterrorism.

Posted in English, Proliferation, Sandra Ivanov, Security Policy, Technology, Terrorism | 4 Comments

U235, 90%, 600 Kilos – Project Sapphire

Von Danny Chahbouni. Danny studiert Geschichte und Politikwissenschaft an der Philipps-Universität Marburg.

Schematische Darstellung der Operation “Project Sapphire”.

Der post-sowjetische Raum zu Beginn der 1990er Jahre: In einem kaum gesicherten Lagerhaus in Kasachstan liegen die nuklearen Hinterlassenschaften der ehemaligen Supermacht. Gleichzeitig durchstreifen Terroristen und die Geheimdienste diverser geächteter Regime die jungen Staaten – wie einen riesigen Trödelmarkt – und versuchen Teile der brisanten Überbleibsel aufzukaufen. Die perfekten Zutaten für einen Tom Clancy Roman? Durchaus, die folgende Geheimoperation, die der Öffentlichkeit später unter der Bezeichnung “Project Sapphire” bekannt wurde, ist allerdings keineswegs Fiktion. In Zeiten von ISIS und der Atomprogramme Nordkoreas und Irans könnte die Bedrohung auch 20 Jahre später nicht aktueller sein.

Kasachstan: abgelegen, doch bedeutungsvoll
Für die sowjetische Militärmacht spielte das Land eine gewichtige Rolle. Neben 104 SS-18 ICBMs mit 1’400 Sprengköpfen, befand sich auch das Atomtestgelände Semipalatinsk, quasi das sowjetische Alamogordo, auf dem Staatsgebiet der ehemaligen Sowjetrepublik. Daneben gab es noch zwei weitere Testgelände für Nuklearwaffen. Bis heute werden das Raketentestgelände Saryschagan und das Kosmodrom Baikonur durch Russland genutzt.

Nach dem Ende des Kalten Krieges richteten sich die Augen des Westens vor allem auf die Interkontinentalraketen, die neben Kasachstan, auch in der Ukraine und in Weißrussland stationiert waren. Sehr schnell wurde jedoch klar, dass die eigentliche Gefahr für die internationale Sicherheit nicht von den Raketen ausging, sondern von den Massen an Nuklearmaterial, die schlecht oder kaum gesichert über die ehemalige Sowjetunion verstreut waren. Daneben befanden sich eine große Menge an chemischen Waffen im Bestand der Roten Armee und die Sowjetunion forcierte bis in die Ära Gorbatschow ein ernstzunehmendes Biowaffen-Programm. Als das Ende der Sowjetunion absehbar war, bemühte sich Russland, vor allem aus politischen Gründen, taktische Kernwaffen und andere Sondermunition schnellstens auf das eigene Staatsgebiet zu schaffen. Die schiere Menge dieser Kampfmittel stellte sich allerdings als unlösbares logistisches Problem dar. In der Folge blieben insbesondere Abfallprodukte, vereinzelt aber auch überzähliges Nuklearmaterial, in verlassenen Forschungseinrichtungen und Fabriken liegen.

Cooperative Threat Reduction Program
Die Senatoren Sam Nunn (Demokrat, GA) und Richard Lugar (Republikaner, IN) etablierten sich schnell als eifrigste Fürsprecher eines Hilfsprogramms, um die Gefahr der unkontrollierten Verbreitung von ABC-Waffen bzw. Bauteilen oder sonstigen Stoffen, einzudämmen. Das als Nunn-Lugar-Act bekannt gewordene Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR) bot den Staaten der ehemaligen Sowjetunion finanzielle Hilfen, um im Gegenzug die gefährlichen Hinterlassenschaften zu sichern und zu entsorgen. Gelder gab es auch dafür, die nötige Infrastruktur für die sichere Lagerung von Atommüll und Chemikalien, aufzubauen. In der Ukraine, Weißrussland und in Kasachstan lag ein besonderes Augenmerk darauf, die verbliebenen ICBMs außer Dienst zu stellen und zu zerstören, damit vor allem die Trägersysteme nicht in die falschen Hände gerieten. Seit 2003 konnten auch Staaten dem Programm beitreten, die nicht unmittelbar Teil der Sowjetunion waren. Auf diese Weise entledigte sich u.a. Albanien seiner C-Waffen Bestände.

Seltenes Bildmaterial der Geheimoperation. Kasachische Arbeiter und ein Soldat der USAF (erkennbar am N-3b Parka) verladen Uranfässer in eine C-5b Galaxy.

Seltenes Bildmaterial der Geheimoperation. Kasachische Arbeiter und ein Soldat der USAF (erkennbar am N-3b Parka) verladen Uranfässer in eine C-5b Galaxy.

Project Sapphire
Eine besondere Situation ergab sich 1994 in der Stadt Ust-Kamenogorsk, in Ostkasachstan, die seit 1947 durch die Metallindustrie geprägt war. Innerhalb der Industrielandschaft befanden sich auch die Ulba-Werke, die u.a. Beryllium für die Nuklearindustrie verarbeiteten. In diesem Industriekomplex wurde auch hochangereichertes Uran für die Reaktoren der sowjetischen U-Boote der Alfa-Klasse produziert. Die Alfa-Klasse wurde bis 1975 gebaut und nach dem Ende des Projekts blieben ca. 600 Kg hochangereichertes Uran, in Kanistern und Eimern, in einer Lagerhalle liegen, die nur mit einem einfachen Vorhängeschloss gesichert war. Wer zu diesem Zeitpunkt über das brisante Inventar der Lagerhalle Bescheid wusste, ist nicht genau klar. Überhaupt gab es in dem gerade souverän gewordenen Staat nur eine überschaubare Zahl an Offiziellen, die sich dem Problem der sowjetischen Hinterlassenschaften bewusst waren. Dazu zählte u.a. der Direktor der Ulba-Werke, Vitali Mette, der am Rande eines Besuchs von U.S. Vize-Präsident Al Gore im Dezember 1993 dem US-Diplomaten Andy Weber einen Zettel zukommen ließ, mit der folgenden Nachricht:

90 Percent
600 Kilos

Das war genug hochangereichertes Uran um ca. 20 Atombomben zu bauen. Weber leitete die Nachricht umgehend weiter, aber eine schnelle Reaktion blieb zunächst aus. Erst am Rande des Besuchs von Nursultan Nasarbajew bei Präsident Clinton im Februar 1994 kam das Thema wieder zur Sprache. Nasarbajew wollte den Fall möglichst geheim halten und das Uran an Russland zurückgeben. Die Russen wollten es allerdings nicht nehmen, da sie selbst größte Probleme hatten, ihre Bestände zu sichern. Zwischenzeitlich war Weber mit einem Experten des US-Energieministeriums nach Ust-Kamenogorsk geflogen und hatte Proben des Materials zu sammeln. Dabei bestätigte sich auch ein von der CIA lange gehegter Verdacht: In einer anderen Lagerhalle der Fabrik standen Kisten, die mit Beryllium, welches als Neutronenreflektor in Atomwaffen gebraucht wird, gefüllt waren. Die Fracht war bereits abgefertigt und die Kisten waren mit Teheran, Iran beschriftet. Vermutlich hatte nur ein dummer Zufall verhindert, dass das Material noch nicht in den Iran gelangt war. Ab diesem Zeitpunkt war allerdings klar, dass schnelles Handeln von Nöten sei. Das war der Startpunkt für die “Project Sapphire” genannte Geheimoperation, um das Material zu bergen.

Erfolgreiche Abrüstung: Auf einem ehemaligen ukrainischen Raketensilo werden im Juni 1996 Sonnenblumen gepflanzt. v.l.n.r.: Der russische Verteidigungsminister Grachev, der ukrainische Verteidigungsminister Shmarov und US-Verteidigungsminister Perry.

Erfolgreiche Abrüstung: Auf einem ehemaligen ukrainischen Raketensilo werden im Juni 1996 Sonnenblumen gepflanzt. v.l.n.r.: Der russische Verteidigungsminister Grachev, der ukrainische Verteidigungsminister Shmarov und US-Verteidigungsminister Perry.

Während im Hintergrund diplomatische Verhandlungen zwischen den Regierungen der USA und Kasachstans liefen, wurde im Pentagon ein so genanntes “Tiger Team” mit Vertretern des Verteidigungs-, Energie- und Außenministeriums gebildet, um die weitere Vorgehensweise zu beraten. Als wirtschaftlichste Alternative wurde eine Luftbrücke vorgeschlagen. Das Uran sollte durch die US-Air Force aus Ust-Kamenogorsk nach Oak Ridge in die USA geflogen werden, wo eine sichere Lagerung gewährleistet wurde. Bevor diese Operation beginnen konnte, musste allerdings noch eine Übereinkunft mit der russischen Regierung gefunden werden. Zunächst, weil der russische Luftraum benutzt werden musste und – auch wenn das Uran quasi vergessen worden ist – der russische Staat Eigentümer des Materials war. Die politischen Schwierigkeiten konnten schließlich bilateral durch die Präsidenten Nazabayew und Jelzin gelöst werden. Die operativen Vorbereitungen begannen im Sommer 1994. 32 Nuklearexperten des US-Energieministeriums wurden für den verdeckten Einsatz ausgewählt.

Die eigentlich Operation wurde am 07. Oktober 1994 mit einer “Presidential Directive” befohlen. Mit drei C-5B Galaxy Transportern von der Dover Air Force Base wurde das Team am folgenden Tag über die Türkei nach Ust-Kamenogorsk geflogen. Diese erste Phase gestaltete sich bereits äußerst abenteuerlich, da der kleine Flughafen nicht die nötige Infrastruktur für die riesigen Transportmaschinen bot und keiner der Fluglotsen englisch sprach. Mit einiger Improvisation konnte die Mannschaft abgesetzt werden und die Arbeit in der abgelegenen Industrielandschaft aufnehmen. Dabei wurde die gesamte Zeit unter Legende gearbeitet. Erschwerend kam hinzu, dass durch die Länge des politischen Entscheidungsprozesses, der Winter nahte und die Arbeiten möglichst vor dem ersten Schnee beendet sein sollten. Das Uran musste umgelagert und für den Lufttransport in sichere Behältnisse gefüllt werden. Dieser Prozess dauerte bis zum 11. November 1994 und die letzte Galaxy verließ Kasachstan am 19. November 1994, bereits in dichtem Schneefall. Insgesamt waren sechs Flüge notwendig, um 448 Uran-Behältnisse und das Team wieder in die USA zu fliegen. Dabei wurde aus Sicherheitsgründen kein Zwischenstopp eingelegt, sondern die Maschinen wurden zweimal in der Luft betankt.

Preventive Defense
Um das Projekt zu ermöglichen ist erwartungsgemäß eine Menge Geld geflossen: 27 Millionen Dollar wurden an Kasachstan gezahlt und drei Millionen an die Ulba-Werke, in deren Lagerhallen das Uran gelagert war. Am 23. November wurde die Operation in einer Pressekonferenz der Öffentlichkeit publik gemacht. U.S. Verteidigungsminister William Perry hob dabei in einem kurzen Statement besonders folgendes hervor:

We have just transferred approximately 600 kilograms of weapons grade highly enriched uranium out of Kazakhstan at the request of the government of Kazakhstan, and delivered the material to the Department of Energy’s Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge in Tennessee for safe and secure storage. In other words we have just placed in safe hands enough nuclear material from the former Soviet arsenal to make more than 20 nuclear devices. In fact, some of this material was in a form that could be used directly to make nuclear weapons.

By removing it from the Ulba Metallurgical Facility in Kazakhstan where it was stored, and placing it at the Y-12 plant, we have put this bomb-grade nuclear material forever out of the reach of potential black marketeers, terrorists, or a new nuclear regime. — William J. Perry et al, “DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, et al“, 23.11.1994.

“Project Sapphire” war nicht nur eine erfolgreiche Operation zur Bekämpfung von Proliferation, sondern vor allem Ausdruck eines neuen Denkens in der amerikanischen Sicherheitspolitik, das als “preventive defense” bezeichnet wurde. Die Doktrin der Abschreckung war zwar niemals gänzlich suspendiert, der Fokus der einzig verbliebenen Supermacht lag in den 1990er Jahren allerdings stärker auf einer Mischung aus präventiven und offensiven Maßnahmen. Eine Hinterlassenschaft dieser Zeit, die gesamte Bush-Ära und die erste Administration Obamas überdauerte, war das CTR. Im Jahr 2012 bekundete Russland das Abkommen auslaufen zu lassen, wobei im Jahr 2013 eine neue Übereinkunft zur Bekämpfung von Proliferation zwischen den USA und Russland getroffen wurde.

Weitere Informationen


Posted in Danny Chahbouni, History, International, Proliferation, Security Policy | Leave a comment

US foreign policy: muddling through, satisficing or boiling frog?

by Andrew Smith. He published the following article August 25, 2014 on The Strategist, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog. In the meantime, US President Barack Obama formulated, how he wants “to degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Obama’s statement was meant as a strategic communication to the nation and not as a comprehensive strategy, which will address the root causes of the problem (see also Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Noah Bonsey, “To Stop ISIS in Syria, Support Aleppo“, The New York Times, 14.09.2014). Therefore, thinks that the main criticism on the decision making of the Obama administration in foreign policy, formulated in Smith’s article, is still valid. Do you agree or disagree with our view? Use the comment section below to express your own thoughts!

West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen briefs President Barack Obama prior to the United States Military Academy at West Point commencement (Photo: Pete Souza).

West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen briefs President Barack Obama prior to the United States Military Academy at West Point commencement (Photo: Pete Souza).

The last couple of months have provided an opportunity to see in action President Barack Obama national security strategy articulated in his 28 May speech at West Point which was elaborated subsequently, and less formally, with a complementary doctrine of “don’t do stupid (stuff)…“.

Considerable effort has gone into analysing that strategy, both in these pages and elsewhere. Policy tragics are honour-bound to try to place a stated approach within established theory. Early on, Joshua Rovner attempted to classify Obama’s foreign policy approach as “muddling through“, the alternative term for Charles E. Lindblom’sincrementalism” model of public-policy decisionmaking. Under that model, most policy is made in “baby steps”, embracing improvements at a rate the polity can handle—albeit one that never quite achieves the desired objective.

That approach is contrasted often with “maximisation”, in which expansive, rational examination of all possible options leads to the selection and bold implementation of the “best” one. Maximisation could describe some of the administration’s domestic policy initiatives, where it’s shown an appetite for strong, risky action: the Affordable Care Act was certainly bold, as are some of the ideas mooted for immigration reform. In this field, the president has led change aggressively—but not in foreign policy.

Some say Herbert Simon’s model of “satisficing” or bounded rationality may better describe Obama’s foreign policy approach. Satisficing involves making policy decisions that are simply satisfactory for an adequate number of interested parties at the time, rather than optimal for the whole over the long run. As Robert Kagan has pointed out, the president tends to aim for the “dead centre” of public opinion in foreign policy matters—to make decisions that minimise dissatisfaction in the electorate rather than produce the optimal long-term outcome. In this context, the “stupid stuff test” for foreign policy decisions is the extent to which they unsettle current public opinion rather than the danger they may add to a future situation. So far, the electorate hasn’t demanded more of this administration’s foreign policy.

Since the West Point speech, circumstances have certainly led Obama to do some things that weren’t anticipated then, both in Iraq and in relation to Ukraine. But among some shrewd commentators there is a growing sense that responses aren’t keeping pace with developments—that the circumstances require bolder action, even if most people don’t want it, and that the administration must inform the popular debate more effectively. And those voices are coming from close to—or within—the administration: Secretary of State John Kerry and retired General John Allen have said as much in relation to ISIS in Iraq, while Hillary Clinton has pointed out the inadequacies of “don’t do stupid stuff” as an organising principle for a great nation.

Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. — Hillary Clinton in Jeffrey Goldberg, “Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS“, The Atlantic, 10.08.2014.

A preference for satisficing decisions is particularly risky given a background of shrinking US defence capacity. Projected downsizing means America won’t be able to field as much force in the future, making it all the more critical to understand the opportunity costs of satisficing (or muddling through) and to seize chances to arrest deteriorating situations (like Iraq and Ukraine).

This rather pessimistic picture calls to mind the popular American metaphor of the boiling frog, swimming happily in its pot of gradually warming water until it’s too late to jump out. For a frog, with limited options, jumping out of the pot maximises the outcome. A great power like the US, leading like-minded but less powerful countries, should instead be looking for ways to turn down the heat. Satisficing might prevent the pot from boiling over, but the water is likely to be uncomfortably hot for a long time.

Posted in Andrew Smith, English, Politics in General, Security Policy | Leave a comment