Unrealistic demands on Qatar reveal the real reasons behind the blockade

by Patrick Truffer (originally published in German). He has been working in the Swiss Army for more than 15 years, holds a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zurich), and a master’s degree in international relations from the Free University of Berlin.

Among other things due to pressure from the USA, Friday last week, Qatar was presented with a list of thirteen demands compiled by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The four countries require implementation of these demands until next Tuesday in order to lift the blockade that has been ongoing for more than two weeks. In the highly unlikely event of Qatar submitting to these demands, in the first year compliance with the demands would be checked by the four countries on a monthly basis, in the second year quarterly, and in the following ten years annually (“Arab states issue list of demands to end Qatar crisis“, Al Jazeera, June 23, 2017). In point of fact, this would amount to a relinquishment of sovereignty, and is from this aspect alone hardly acceptable. In view of this far-reaching attempted influence by the four countries on an independent sovereign state, the demand that Qatar should no longer interfere with the internal affairs of the four countries seems almost cynical. In addition, Qatar would have to pay reparation payments to the four countries for the consequences of its policy of recent years, without mentioning any sum. The list of demands clearly shows that the four countries are less concerned with limiting terrorism in the sense of western thinking, but more with extending their regional power, disciplining Qatar, and eliminating oppositional trends and voices critical of the regimes. However, no further consequences have been formulated in the event of Qatar not meeting the demands. There would probably be a lasting diplomatic and economic separation — military escalation is currently unlikely.

After the first panic purchases in Qatar, everyday life has returned to normal. The missing foodstuffs from Saudi Arabia have been replaced with products from Iran and Turkey.

After the first panic purchases in Qatar, everyday life has returned to normal. The missing foodstuffs from Saudi Arabia have been replaced with products from Iran and Turkey.

Not only is there demand that Qatar break off diplomatic relations with Iran, but also that it refrain from military cooperation with Turkey and a Turkish military presence in Qatar. But Qatar will hardly comply with this demands. On the contrary, the blockade has increased the importance of Qatar’s economic relations with Iran and Turkey. According to the Iranian Financial Tribune, Iran has been shipping around 1,100 tons of fruits and vegetables to Doha every day since imposing the blockade. In fact, this is only the beginning: to date, 66 tonnes of beef have been delivered, and a further 90 tonnes are expected. The delivery of large quantities of eggs, and steel for Qatar’s ambitious infrastructure projects could follow. Iran has also opened the airspace, which is crucial for deliveries from Turkey. In the roughly two weeks of the blockade, Turkey has been able to export around 32.5 million US dollars worth of goods to Qatar, 12.5 million US dollars of which were spent on foodstuffs — amounting to approximately three times the exports before the blockade and around 100 cargo aircraft (Daren Butler, “Turkey Rejects Call to Shut Military Base in Qatar“, Reuters, June 23, 2017). Even if Saudi Arabia does not want to allow interference in its regional sphere of influence either on the part of Iran or on the part of Turkey, the kingdom has achieved exactly the opposite with the blockade: strengthening of relations between Turkey, Iran and Qatar to the detriment of Saudi Arabians, along with opening up a lucrative sales market for the two supplying countries.

Adjustment of the flight route from and to Doha due to the blockade is clearly evident.

Adjustment of the flight route from and to Doha due to the blockade is clearly evident.

With the strategic support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar attempted to cleverly utilise the dynamics during the Arab Spring in order to expand its regional political significance. However, in hindsight, this project must be regarded as not having been particularly successful. On the contrary, in doing so it triggered the ire of the monarchs, initiating a challenge to its power. To date, relations with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have not recovered from this. Qatar’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring, not least with the help of Al Jazeera, led also to a disagreement in 2014 among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and withdrawal from Doha of the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. According to the four countries’ demands, support of the Muslim Brotherhood should now definitely cease. Together with the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood should be designated as a terrorist group and be sanctioned by Qatar.

How do I reach as many people as possible with as much information as possible? It is a difficult balancing act. Yes, there are things we must keep silent about. But we are achieving 90 percent, and we do not lie. — Yasir Abu Hilala, director of the Arabic channel of Al Jazeera, on the need for a certain degree of compromise to maintain an office in a country; Monika Bolliger, “Der Medienkrieg am Golf“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 24, 2017, own translation.

Qatar’s regional influence is also to be restricted. In this context, there is additionally the almost medieval-seeming demand that Al Jazeera, along with Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and Middle East Eye be shut down. In addition to the financial resources resulting from the extraction and export of oil and natural gas, Al Jazeera is an important instrument of political power for Qatar. After all, the news channel reaches some 50 million Arabic-speaking and 200 million English-speaking viewers. But Al Jazeera is more than this: it is currently the most professional and pluralistic news channel in the region (Monika Bolliger, “Der Medienkrieg am Golf“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 24, 2017). According to the four countries, the Arab population should only be hearing and seeing what the official media in the Gulf and the Nile provide them with (Inga Rogg, “Katar will nicht nachgeben“, NZZ am Sonntag, June 25, 2017). The fulfilment of this demand is just as unrealistic as the rest of the demands — if only because Middle East Eye, for example, has its offices in London. The supporting attitude of US President Donald Trump for this blockade casts a shadow over international protection of freedom of expression, but fits his own problematic attitude towards critical, free media.

The other gulf states see Qatar as this extremely rich child that has got all this money and all these big toys and wants to play but doesn’t know how to do it”. — Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, cited in David D. Kirkpatrick, “3 Gulf Countries Pull Ambassadors From Qatar Over Its Support of Islamists“, The New York Times, March 05, 2014.

The blockade imposed on Qatar and the demands are not about the fight against terrorism, but about the suppression of Qatar’s sometimes stubborn, non-compliant politics in comparison to the other GCC states. The goal of Saudi Arabia is containment of Iran and expansion of its regional power. It is using the GCC in order to achieve this goal, and is demanding unrestricted allegiance from its member countries. As in January 2016, the embassy of Saudi Arabia was stormed in Tehran, and Riyadh utilised this as a thrust to engage its GCC partners in a tough confrontational policy against Tehran, calling for the abolition of all diplomatic and economic relations between the GCC countries and Iran (Björn Müller, “Der Golfkooperationsrat – Bündnis der ‘negativen Solidarität’“, Pivot Area, June 11, 2017). Qatar did withdraw its ambassador from Tehran, but neither diplomatic nor economic relations were broken off. Iran still maintains an embassy in Doha, and Qatar one in Tehran. Moreover, Saudi Arabia wants to prevent Turkey from interfering, in particular also because the political roots of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan are within the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a party close to the Muslim Brotherhood. In this respect, the intergovernmental relations between Turkey and Egypt have been bad since the overthrow of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by el-Sisi. This upheaval was supported by the Saudis, which also led to a cooling of Turkish-Saudi relations. The slow improvement of the Saudi-Turkish relations of the last two years now seems to have come to an abrupt end – not entirely to Iran’s displeasure.

Turkish armored personnel carrier drives at Ankara's military base in Doha, Qatar June 18, 2017. Turkey has begun military drills in Qatar amid a Saudi Arabia-led international boycott against its fellow, oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbor.

Turkish armored personnel carrier drives at Ankara’s military base in Doha, Qatar June 18, 2017. Turkey has begun military drills in Qatar amid a Saudi Arabia-led international boycott against its fellow, oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbor.

 
Conclusion
From a regional point of view, a dangerous power game is developing in the Middle East between the regional powers, with Saudi Arabia (together with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain), Turkey and Iran more or less stepping on each other’s toes. This especially involves expansion of its regional power, primarily at the expense of Iran, as well as the complete neutralisation of groups opposing and critical of the regime in the Middle East — this actually being the second phase of neutralising the Arab Spring and the few remaining groups in the Middle East. The blockade and the demands placed on Qatar have nothing to do with an intensified fight against terror in the region — this reasoning is merely an excuse. A long-term continuation of the blockade could, however, have a highly counter-productive effect on Saudi Arabia. Not only is Qatar benefiting from the situation, it is also delivering the emirate into Iran’s arms, strengthening the Turkish influence in the region, simultaneously straining Saudi-Turkish relations, and endangering the continuity of the GCC in its present composition. If there is further escalation, someone in Washington may end up being caught with his pants down.

More information

• • •

The 13 demands in full

  1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
  2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  3. Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
  5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
  6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
  7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
  8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  11. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
  12. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

Source: Patrick Wintour, “Qatar given 10 Days to Meet 13 Sweeping Demands by Saudi Arabia“, The Guardian, June 23, 2017.

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Posted in English, Patrick Truffer, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Security Policy, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Liaoning Departs Qingdao

Imagery of Qingdao acquired on 26JUN17 by Planet.

Imagery of Qingdao acquired on 26JUN17 by Planet.

China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has departed its home port of Qingdao, recent imagery acquired by Planet confirms. China’s Ministry of Defense said the carrier would conduct routine training while also making a two-day port call in Hong Kong. This year marks the former city state’s 20th anniversary under Chinese rule since being handed back over from Great Britain.

According to imagery and news reporting, the carrier sets out with its co-located flotilla, which includes the destroyers, Jinan (152) and Yinchuan (175), the frigate Yantai (538), as well as several other vessels. Equipped with a detachment of J-15 fighters, the carrier’s visit to the former British colony also coincides with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the special administrative region since taking office in 2013.

The visit is expected to put China’s military achievements on display in an attempt to strengthen patriotism tied to the mainland. However, that may be difficult with younger generations — particularly since most of Hong Kong’s recent pro-democracy movement has been youth-driven. Of Hong Kong residents aged 18 to 29 years old, recent polls suggest that only 3.1 per cent identified as Chinese, compared to 3.4 percent six months ago. That’s the lowest rating since the University of Hong Kong began the polls in 1997.

China’s Liaoning, and its future carrier which launched in April at Dalian, represents a significant step forward as Beijing develops capabilities for a blue-water navy. Previously, China’s sole operational carrier deployed for training in December 2016 in the Bohai and Yellow Sea, before making an appearance in the South China Sea at a new pier at Hainan Island.

“In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines,” Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association wrote in the PLA Daily in April. “China will build about ten more bases for the for the six aircraft carriers [and] […] could have bases in every continent”, he went on to write.

Posted in Armed Forces, China, Chris Biggers, English, Sea Powers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Drone Revolution Revisited

by Dan Gettinger and Arthur Holland Michel. Both are co-directors of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.

In September 2016, the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College released a 45 page long report called “The Drone Revolution Revisited: An Assessment of Military Unmanned Systems in 2016“. It covers the evolving ecosystem of unmanned systems technologies as it stands in 2016 and the ways in which the technology has evolved and matured over the past seven years since the publication of the best-selling book “Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century“. If you have not read the report yet, it will be high time to make it up.

In 2009, not many people were talking seriously about robots in war. Even though every U.S. armed service operated drones either in the air, on the ground, or undersea, and though numerous initiatives to develop the next generation of advanced systems were already publicly underway, there was very little broad public dialogue on the topic. By 2012, the year that the Center for the Study of the Drone was founded, news stories about unmanned systems technology and its implications were appearing regularly, and a vibrant public debate around the use of these systems was increasingly filling the airwaves.

What put drones into the the public spotlight? One factor was undoubtedly the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration quickly expanded the military’s use of drones. Another significant factor was the book “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century” by Peter W. Singer. Published in 2009, “Wired for War” offered a comprehensive portrait of the influx of drones into the U.S. military at a critical time in the history of the technology, and the many ways in which they would transform the battlefield. By presenting the rapidly expanding menagerie of drones in both the sky and on the ground, Singer demonstrated that the field of military robotics had matured to a point where it was disrupting the status quo. He described proliferating technologies that were already presenting significant challenges and opportunities — one example being the psychological impact of remote warfare on drone pilots and sensor operators — as well as programs and fields of research that were likely to yield new transformative capabilities in the near future. One such track was the development of autonomous weapons systems that can identify and engage targets without human intervention.

The book served as a core text in the class “The Drone Revolutions“, an undergraduate seminar held at Bard College in the spring 2016 academic semester. The class sought to lay out a broad overview of unmanned systems technology in both military and civilian spheres, and equip students with the analytical tools to conduct original research on unmanned systems. As a final assignment for the seminar, we asked each student to research two platforms or technologies described in “Wired for War” in order to determine whether the program still exists, how the system has developed, and how the technology is currently being used (and by whom).

“The Drone Revolution Revisited” offers a guide to the evolving ecosystem of unmanned systems technologies as it stands in 2016, and reflects the ways in which the technology has evolved and matured over the past seven years since the publication of “Wired for War”. The research produced by our students served as the basis for Chapter I, which consists of portraits of 30 systems that Singer presented as the harbingers of the drone revolution. Some of the systems — for example, the U.S. Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scout — have grown into large multi-billion dollar military acquisition programs, while other systems that seemed promising, such as the Boston Dynamics BigDog or the Foster Miller SWORDS, have fizzled. Of these 30 systems, 13 are active or deployed, three remain in development, and 14 have been cancelled or are inactive. By revisiting these systems, we have sought to update, expand upon, and interrogate Singer’s 2009 portrait of the drone revolution.

For each system, we explain what it does, which military service or agency developed it, its specifications, its history, and (if the information is available) its cost. We also describe whether the system remains in development, has been deployed, or was cancelled. For deployed programs, we describe the extent to which they have been used, and by whom. For cancelled programs, we identify the reasons for their cancellation. It should be noted that the benchmarks “developmental”, “deployed”, and “cancelled” that we present on page 5 refer to the formal military programs under which a particular system was managed, rather than the actual system. If a particular program is cancelled by the military, that does not necessarily spell the end for the particular drone or robot. For example, prototypes of a cancelled system may remain in contractors’ inventories; though the Pentagon cancelled the Global Observer program in 2012 the manufacturer, AeroVironment, is actively seeking alternate customers for the drone. Or new programs may emerge that build on technologies that were matured through earlier cancelled program. Though the U.S. Air Force is phasing out its MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper — essentially a larger, faster variant of the Predator — is slated to remain in use far into the foreseeable future.

The Navy's unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight.

The Navy’s unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight.

The systems and programs in this report represent only a sample of the many drones that exist today. Some of the most significant trends that we are currently witnessing are not fully reflected by the systems that existed or were already under development in 2009. The maritime domain has become more important in recent years; unmanned undersea and surface vehicles are slated to play a prominent role in naval operations in the near future, and numerous high-profile maritime drone development programs are currently underway. Likewise, certain ground and airborne unmanned systems programs that already existed in 2009 have evolved in dramatic ways, or given rise to entirely new programs. For example, the Northrop Grumman X-47A, an in-house prototype combat drone, has since given rise to the X-47B, an impressive demonstrator combat drone developed for Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, which was recently reconceived as the MQ-25A Stingray, an aerial refuelling drone with strike capabilities. Finally, and crucially, non-U.S. drone programs have expanded significantly; China and Europe, for example, are seeking to develop advanced aerial drones that can match the capabilities of U.S. systems. In order to reflect these trends, we present portraits of six platforms not mentioned in “Wired for War” that are representative of important shifts in the recent history of drone technology development. These platforms are highlighted in light blue.

In Chapter II, Peter W. Singer revisits the book and reflects on the trajectory of the drone evolution in the time since it was published. Singer points to trends that have emerged since 2009, such as the growth in the use of drones in the U.S. targeted killing program and the emergence of swarming technology programs, and predicts the ways in which the field is likely to evolve in the near future.

This report points to numerous possible avenues for future research. Why do some technologies fail while others thrive? How have the priorities for certain drones changed over the years and how are these priorities reflected in the defense budget? By reviewing programs side by side, our hope is to foster dialogue about the broader patterns that can indicate whether or not a system is likely to be successful or not, as well as lessons regarding the types of point failures that can cause a program to be cancelled. In doing so, we are looking to spark a conversation about where the most significant technological advances are likely to happen and to inform predictions on the next seven years of drone technology development.

This video preview of the report shows some of the profiled systems in action:

Download: Arthur Holland Michel and Dan Gettinger, “The Drone Revolution Revisited: An Assessment of Military Unmanned Systems in 2016” (New York: The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, September 2016).

Posted in Dan Gettinger, Drones, English, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unrealistische Forderungen an Katar verraten die wahren Gründe der Blockade

von Patrick Truffer (English version). Er arbeitet seit über 15 Jahren in der Schweizer Armee, verfügt über einen Bachelor in Staatswissenschaften der ETH Zürich und über einen Master in Internationale Beziehungen der Freien Universität Berlin.

Unter anderem auf Druck der USA wurde letzten Freitag Katar eine von Saudi-Arabien, Ägypten, den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten und Bahrain zusammengestellte Liste mit dreizehn Forderungen übergeben. Die vier Staaten verlangen eine Umsetzung dieser Forderungen innerhalb der nächsten 10 Tage, um die Aufhebung der seit zwei Wochen andauernde Blockade zu erwirken. Im höchst unwahrscheinlichen Fall, dass Katar bei diesen Forderungen einwilligen sollte, würde die Einhaltung der Forderungen durch die vier Staaten im ersten Jahr monatlich, im zweiten Jahr vierteljährlich und in den darauf folgenden zehn Jahren jährlich überprüft werden. Faktisch käme diesem einen Souveränitätsverzicht gleich und ist nur schon von diesem Aspekt her kaum akzeptierbar. Angesichts dieser weitreichenden versuchten Einflussnahme der vier Staaten auf einen unabhängigen souveränen Staat mutet die aufgestellte Forderung, dass Katar sich zukünftig nicht mehr in die inneren Angelegenheiten der vier Staaten einmischen dürfe schon beinahe zynisch an. Ausserdem solle Katar für die Folgen seiner Politik der letzten Jahre den vier Staaten Reparationszahlungen entrichten müssen, wobei keine Summe genannt wird. Die Liste der Forderungen zeigt deutlich auf, dass es den vier Staaten weniger um die Eindämmung des Terrorismus im Sinne westlicher Denkweise geht, sondern mehr um die Ausweitung ihres regionalen Machtanspruchs, der Disziplinierung Katars sowie dem Ausschalten oppositioneller Strömungen und regimekritischen Stimmen. Für den Fall, dass Katar den Forderungen nicht nachkommen sollte, werden jedoch keine weiteren Konsequenzen formuliert. Wahrscheinlich wäre eine dauerhafte diplomatische und wirtschaftliche Trennung — eine militärische Eskalation ist momentan jedoch eher unwahrscheinlich.

Nach den ersten Panikkäufen herrscht in Katar wieder normaler Alltag. Die fehlenden Lebensmitteln aus Saudi-Arabien wurden mit Produkten aus dem Iran und der Türkei ersetzt.

Nach den ersten Panikkäufen herrscht in Katar wieder normaler Alltag. Die fehlenden Lebensmitteln aus Saudi-Arabien wurden mit Produkten aus dem Iran und der Türkei ersetzt.

Nicht nur wird von Katar verlangt die diplomatischen Beziehungen mit Iran abzubrechen, sondern auch von einer türkischen Militärpräsenz in Katar und einer militärischen Zusammenarbeit mit der Türkei abzusehen. Katar wird auch dieser Forderung kaum nachkommen, denn im Gegenteil haben durch die Blockade die wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen Katars zu Iran und der Türkei an Wichtigkeit zugenommen. Gemäss Angaben der iranischen Financial Tribune, verfrachtet der Iran seit Verhängung des Blockade täglich rund 1’100 Tonnen Früchte und Gemüse nach Doha. Doch das ist nur der Anfang: bis jetzt wurde 66 Tonnen Rindfleisch geliefert und weitere 90 Tonnen werden erwartet. Die Lieferung grosser Mengen Eier und Stahl für Katars ambitionierten Infrastrukturprojekten könnten folgen. Ausserdem hat der Iran den Luftraum geöffnet, was für Anlieferungen aus der Türkei entscheidend ist. Die Türkei konnte in den rund zwei Wochen der Blockade Güter für rund 32,5 Millionen US-Dollar nach Katar exportieren, wobei davon 12,5 Millionen US-Dollar auf Nahrungsmittel fallen — das entspricht ungefähr dem Dreifachen der Exporte vor der Blockade und umfasste rund 100 Frachtflugzeuge (Daren Butler, “Turkey Rejects Call to Shut Military Base in Qatar“, Reuters, 23.06.2017). Auch wenn Saudi-Arabien eine Einmischung in seine regionale Einflusssphäre zulassen will weder von Seiten Irans noch von Seiten Türkei zulassen will, hat das Königreich mit der Blockade genau das Gegenteil erzielt: Eine Stärkung der Beziehungen zwischen der Türkei, Iran und Katar zum Nachteil Saudi-Arabiens sowie die Öffnung eines lukrativen Absatzmarktes für die beiden anliefernden Staaten.

Die Anpassung der Flugroute von und nach Doha aufgrund der Blockade ist deutlich zu erkennen.

Die Anpassung der Flugroute von und nach Doha aufgrund der Blockade ist deutlich zu erkennen.

Mit der strategischen Unterstützung der Muslimbrüder versuchte Katar die Dynamik während des Arabischen Frühlings geschickt zu nutzen um damit seine regionale politische Bedeutung auszuweiten — im Nachhinein muss dieses Vorhaben jedoch als nicht sehr erfolgreich bewertet werden. Im Gegenteil zog es damit den Groll der Monarchen auf sich, unter deren der Thron langsam zu wackeln begann. Auch die Beziehungen zum ägyptischen Präsidenten Abdel Fattah el-Sisi erholten sich davon bis heute nicht. Katars offene Unterstützung der Muslimbrüder während des Arabischen Frühlings, nicht zuletzt mit Hilfe Al Jazeera, führte 2014 zu einem Zerwürfnis unter den Staaten des Golf Kooperationsrat (Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC) und zu einem Abzug der Botschafter Saudi-Arabiens, der Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten und Bahrains aus Doha. Geht es nach den Forderungen der vier Staaten soll mit der Unterstützung der Muslimbrüder nun definitiv Schluss sein. Zusammen mit dem Islamischen Staat, der al-Qaida und der libanesischen Hisbollah sollen die Muslimbrüder von Katar als terroristische Gruppierung bezeichnet und sanktioniert werden.

Wie erreiche ich möglichst viele Leute mit möglichst vielen Informationen? Es ist eine schwierige Gratwanderung. Ja, es gibt Dinge, die wir verschweigen müssen. Aber wir bringen 90 Prozent, und wir lügen nicht. — Yasir Abu Hilala, der Direktor des arabischen Kanals von al-Jazeera über die Notwendigkeit eines gewissen Grads an Kompromissen um ein Büro in einem Land behalten zu können; Monika Bolliger, “Der Medienkrieg am Golf“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 24.06.2017.

Auch sonst soll Katars regionaler Einfluss eingeschränkt werden. In diesem Kontext steht auch die nahezu mittelalterlich anmutende Forderung Al Jazeera zusammen mit Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed und Middle East Eye zu schliessen. Neben den finanziellen Ressourcen, welche sich aus dem Abbau und Export von Erdöl und Erdgas ergeben, stellt Al Jazeera ein wichtiges machtpolitisches Instrument Katars dar. Immerhin erreicht der Nachrichtensender rund 50 Millionen arabischsprachige und 200 Millionen englischsprachige Zuschauer. Doch Al Jazeera ist mehr: Es handelt sich bei diesem Nachrichtensender um den momentan professionellsten und pluralistischen in der Region (Monika Bolliger, “Der Medienkrieg am Golf“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 24.06.2017). Geht es nach den vier Staaten soll die arabische Bevölkerung nur noch das hören und sehen, was ihnen die offiziösen Medien am Golf und am Nil servieren (Inga Rogg, “Katar will nicht nachgeben“, NZZ am Sonntag, 25.06.2017). Die Erfüllung dieser Forderung ist genauso unrealistisch wie der Rest der Forderungen — nur schon deshalb, weil beispielsweise Middle East Eye seine Büros in London stationiert hat. Die unterstützende Haltung des US-Präsidenten Donald Trump bei dieser Blockade wirft ein schlechtes Licht auf den internationalen Schutzes freier Meinungsäusserung, passt aber in seine eigene problematische Haltung gegenüber kritischen, freien Medien.

The other gulf states see Qatar as this extremely rich child that has got all this money and all these big toys and wants to play but doesn’t know how to do it”. — Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Qatar, cited in David D. Kirkpatrick, “3 Gulf Countries Pull Ambassadors From Qatar Over Its Support of Islamists“, The New York Times, 05.03.2014.

Bei der über Katar verhängten Blockade und den Forderungen geht es nicht um den Kampf gegen den Terrorismus, sondern um die Unterbindung der zuweilen eigensinnig störrischen Politik Katars im Vergleich zu den anderen Staaten im GCC. Das Ziel Saudi-Arabiens ist die Eindämmung Irans und die Ausweitung seiner regionalen Macht. Um dieses Ziel zu erreichen instrumentalisiert es den GCC und fordert von dessen Mitgliedsstaaten die uneingeschränkte Gefolgschaft. Als im Januar 2016 die Botschaft Saudi-Arabiens in Teheran gestürmt wurde, nutzte das Riad für einen Vorstoss, um seine GCC-Partner auf eine harte Konfrontationspolitik gegen Teheran einzuschwören und verlangte den Abbruch aller diplomatischen und wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen zwischen den GCC-Staaten und dem Iran (Björn Müller, “Der Golfkooperationsrat – Bündnis der ‘negativen Solidarität’“, Pivot Area, 11.06.2017). Katar hat zwar drauf folgend seinen Botschafter aus Teheran abgezogen, jedoch weder die diplomatischen noch die wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen abgebrochen. Nach wie vor unterhält der Iran eine Botschaft in Doha und Katar eine Botschaft in Teheran. Ausserdem will Saudi-Arabien die Einmischung der Türkei verhindern, insbesondere auch deshalb, weil sich die politischen Wurzeln des türkischen Präsidenten Tayyip Erdoğan mit der Justice and Development Party (AKP) in einer der Muslimbrüder nahestehende Partei befinden. Dementsprechend schlecht sind auch die zwischenstaatlichen Beziehungen zwischen der Türkei und Ägypten nach dem Sturz des ägyptischen Präsidenten Mohamed Morsi durch el-Sisi. Dieser Umsturz wurde von saudischer Seite gestützt, was auch zu einer Abkühlung der türkisch-saudischen Beziehungen führte. Die langsame Verbesserung der saudisch-türkischen Beziehungen der letzten zwei Jahre fanden nun wohl ein jähes Ende — nicht ganz zum Leidwesen Irans.

Turkish armored personnel carrier drives at Ankara's military base in Doha, Qatar June 18, 2017. Turkey has begun military drills in Qatar amid a Saudi Arabia-led international boycott against its fellow, oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbor.

Turkish armored personnel carrier drives at Ankara’s military base in Doha, Qatar June 18, 2017. Turkey has begun military drills in Qatar amid a Saudi Arabia-led international boycott against its fellow, oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbor.

 
Fazit
Regional betrachtet entwickelt sich im Nahen Osten ein gefährliches Machtspiel zwischen den Regionalmächten, wobei Saudi-Arabien (zusammen mit Ägypten, den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten und Bahrain), Türkei und der Iran sich mehr oder weniger gegenseitig auf die Füsse treten. Besonders ersterem geht es um die Ausweitung seiner regionalen Macht primär auf Kosten Irans sowie um die komplette Neutralisierung oppositioneller und regimekritischer Gruppen im Nahen Osten — als eigentlich um die zweite Phase der Neutralisierung des Arabischen Frühlings und dem wenigen, was im Nahen Osten übrig geblieben ist. Die Blockade und die an Katar gestellten Forderungen haben nichts mit einer verstärkten Terrorbekämpfung in der Region zu tun — diese Begründung bildet bloss einen Vorwand. Eine langfristige Fortführung der Blockade könnte sich für Saudi-Arabien jedoch höchst kontraproduktiv auswirken. Nicht nur kommt Katar mit der Situation gut zurecht, sondern es treibt das Emirat in die Armen Irans, stärkt den türkischen Einfluss in der Region, belastet gleichzeitig die saudisch-türkischen Beziehungen und gefährdet den Fortbestand des GCC in der jetzigen Zusammensetzung. Bei einer weiteren Eskalierung könnte schlussendlich auch einer in Washington dumm aus der Wäsche gucken.

• • •

The 13 demands in full

  1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
  2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  3. Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
  5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
  6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
  7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
  8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  11. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
  12. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

Quelle: Patrick Wintour, “Qatar given 10 Days to Meet 13 Sweeping Demands by Saudi Arabia“, The Guardian, 23.06.2017.

• • •

Posted in Patrick Truffer, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Security Policy, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cost of Cutting off Qatar

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.

On 5-6 June 2017, a crisis emerged in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with its neighbour Qatar. Soon after, the governments of Bahrain, Comoros, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen followed suit in cutting ties with Qatar. The governments of Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Jordan, Niger, and Senegal have also downgraded the status of their diplomatic relations with the estranged Emirate. In the midst of these announcements, United States President Donald Trump claimed credit for isolating Qatar, insinuating that the country has been supporting militant Islamist organizations, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Despite these comments by President Trump, Qatar signed a $12 billion US deal a little over a week later, on 14 June 2017, to purchase F-15QA fighter jets from the US (see Paul Iddon, “The Gulf crisis and future of Qatar’s military“, offiziere.ch, 19.06.2017).

Without addressing the merit of Trump’s claims that he pushed for this isolation during the Riyadh Summit in April 2017, the US President’s comments present a substantial risk to American interests in the Gulf region and the broader Middle East. Much of the media commentary to date has speculated on whether recent developments will “push” Qatar into closer security ties with Iran. A more pressing concern, however, is the impact this crisis will have on the American presence at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Al-Udeid is an important link in the logistical chain for ongoing American military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, serving as a forward headquarters for US Central Command (CENTCOM), US Air Forces Central Command, and the 379th Expeditionary Air Wing of the US Air Force (USAF). It is also worth noting that Al-Udeid continues to host a British presence and was an important base for Royal Australian Air Force operations in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008. The sale of F-15QA fighter jets, as well as the start of a joint US-Qatar naval exercise on June 15, seems to suggest that defence relations between the two countries will endure, but further declarations of support for Saudi Arabia’s actions against Qatar could lead to the expulsion of some, or all, of the approximately 11,000 American military personnel at Al-Udeid Air Base. Such a development would severely undermine the effectiveness of coalition operations against ISIS at a crucial time, as ISIS’ traditional “capital” of Raqqa, Syria is under siege.

This would not be unprecedented. In the initial years of the American-led intervention in Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in southeastern Uzbekistan played a crucial role. The USAF’s 416th Air Expeditionary Operations Group was hosted there, along with ample contingents from the US Army and US Marine Corps. However, in response to an alleged insurrection by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in May 2005, Uzbek forces massacred civilians, possibly in the hundreds, in the country’s eastern city of Andijan. Criticism of the human rights situation by US authorities prompted Uzbekistan’s then-President Islam Karimov to expel American forces from Karshi-Khanabad in July 2005. US officials were subsequently left reeling, exploring the potential of using bases in Latvia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe as staging points for future operations in Afghanistan.

American power projection in Central Asia and the Middle East was once again undermined in 2014, when Kyrgyzstan caved to pressure from the Russian Federation and ordered US forces to vacate Manas Air Base, which had emerged as a new logistical hub for operations in Afghanistan following Karshi-Khanabad. As the experiences in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan demonstrate, the loss of major overseas airbases is costly as large contingents of troops and supplies must be transported great distances in a very short period of time, while American officials must also struggle to find new bases suitable to long-term operational requirements. Failing to do so can have a devastating impact on the effectiveness of ongoing operations, much as the loss of Al-Udeid would give ISIS some breathing room in Raqqa.

It may well be that careful negotiations behind-the-scenes between American and Qatari officials have forestalled such a scenario. But it is evident that, if Trump is to deliver on his promise of dismantling ISIS, a more sophisticated approach to relations in the Gulf region is needed – one which ensures that the logistics of American power projection is protected from whatever disputes Qatar might have with its neighbours.

Correction
On the imagery above, we wrongly identified the 30 Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker as Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Thanks goes out to Youri L for his feedback and the detailed explanation.

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The Gulf crisis and future of Qatar’s military

by Paul Iddon

In any potential war pitting Qatar against the militaries of its Saudi and Emirati neighbours it’s clear Doha would face two adversaries with superior militaries, in terms of both quality and quantity.

A Qatari Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Dassault Mirage 2000-5. (Photo: US Air Force).

A Qatari Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Dassault Mirage 2000-5. (Photo: US Air Force).

The tiny resource-rich sheikdom, the wealthiest country in the world, has a relatively modest military made-up of a handful of French-made Mirage 2000s multi-role jets fighters and some aged light armor, also French-made.

The Saudis, on the other hand, have 72 Eurofighter Typhoons and 70 American-made F-15C Eagles (Riyadh has also ordered 84 lethal derivatives of the F-15E Strike Eagle) while the Emiratis have 80 F-16 Block 60 fighters. Riyadh’s armored forces have about 400 American-made M1 Abrams main battle tanks while Abu Dhabi has 388 French-made AMX Leclerc main battle tanks. Such firepower could devastate Doha’s armed forces were war to breakout.

Given this reality, and the fact its neighbours are prepared to blockade and threaten it to change its foreign policy, Qatar may shore up its military in the future to more adequately deter any potential attacks. It is already taking steps in this direction.

[T]he production of complex fighter jets will take a period of years. [Washington is] confident that Qatar can address its remaining issues within this timeframe, prior to delivery. — A U.S. State Department official cited by Foreign Policy.

Just last week the tiny sheikdom signed a $12 billion deal for F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) Eagle jet fighters, which one Qatari official said was “proof that US institutions are with us but we have never doubted that. […] Our militaries are like brothers. America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.” (“This is proof that US institutions are with us: Qatar on fighter jets deal“, Business Standard, 15.07.2017).

In November 2016, Congress approved a sale of a whopping 72 F-15s to Qatar in a deal worth $21.1 billion, under this current deal Qatar is reportedly set to receive up to 36 of the warplanes. It’s unclear if they are connected or if the November deal was downsized.

One of the 24 SNIPER integrated Dassault Rafale jets ordered by Qatar undergoing flight trials in France. Along with 3 external fuel tanks the fighter jet is equipped with six GBU-12 laser-guided air-to-ground bombs, two air-to-air MICA IR missiles and two MICA EM (Photo: Swingwing / Defens'Aero).

One of the 24 SNIPER integrated Dassault Rafale jets ordered by Qatar undergoing flight trials in France. Along with 3 external fuel tanks the fighter jet is equipped with six GBU-12 laser-guided air-to-ground bombs, two air-to-air MICA IR missiles and two MICA EM (Photo: Swingwing / Defens’Aero)

The tiny sheikdom also completed a deal last year worth at least $6.9 billion to purchase 24 advanced Dassault Rafale jet fighters from France. “The deal has been made for the same number of jets purchased by Egypt in 2014, but the Qatari deal is priced higher due to the provision of long-range cruise missiles as well as Meteor [beyond-visual-range air-to-air] missiles,” Defense News reported. The Qatari Rafales are currently engaged in flight trials in France and will be delivered beginning in mid-2018.

One reason Qatar may have opted to buy fewer Eagles is the upcoming delivery of these Rafales. After all, an air force with 36 Eagles and 24 Rafales is an air force to be reckoned with, especially for such a tiny country.

The F-15QA jets are a variant of the Eagle built specifically for Qatar and are possibly similar, or identical, to the aforementioned Saudi F-15SA Strike Eagle derivative. “The proposed sale improves Qatar’s capability to meet current and future enemy air-to-air and air-to-ground threats,” a November Defense security Cooperation Agency news release on the proposed 72 Eagle deal stated. “Qatar will use the capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. Qatar will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.”

While most US press releases concerning arms sales to the Persian Gulf states note that such arms sales help deter Iran a brand new fleet of Qatari F-15s, bolstered by Rafales, may well be used to deter Saudi Arabia and the UAE as much, if not more so, than Tehran.

The November release claims, as such statements invariably do, that an influx of F-15s into the Qatari Emiri Air Force (QEAF) “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.” It also insists that US foreign policy and national security interests would be served “by helping to improve the security of a friendly country and strengthening our strategically important relationship.”

U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers at Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar (Photo: US Air Force).

U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers at Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar (Photo: US Air Force).

Qatar is indeed an important strategic US ally in the region. It’s home to the Al-Udeid airbase, the most significant airbase used by Washington in the Middle East outside of Incirlik in southeast Turkey. Al-Udeid may even exceed Incirlik in importance given its greater reliability of use. The present US relationship with Saudi Arabia, as illustrated by US President Donald Trump’s rather brash visit to the kingdom last month, is also important.

An armed standoff between two US allies and client states certainly would not be unprecedented. For decades the US has sold military hardware to its Greek and Turkish NATO allies in full recognition that many of these weapons have been used in standoffs between Athens and Ankara over the status of islands in the Aegean Sea. Greek and Turkish F-16s frequently intercept each other over these disputed territories. In October 1996 a Greek Mirage 2000 jet shot down a Turkish F-16 killing the pilot. Later, in May 2006 two Hellenic Air Force F-16s intercepted two of their Turkish counterparts, which were escorting one of their RF-4 reconnaissance planes, the same kind Syria shot down in May 2012, resulting in a midair collision that killed a Greek pilot.

Another precedent worth considering is Washington’s military dealings with Egypt and Israel over the last four decades. Since the implementation of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Washington has provided both countries billions to spend on American weapon systems. Peace has endured and today the inventories of both sides are predominantly American-made. Any potential war between the two could, for example, see Israel and Egyptian F-16s shoot at each other. Nevertheless, that’s a highly unlikely scenario since both countries benefit from continued peace and possession of vast military arsenals.

Washington may well continue to beef up the Qatari military while diplomatically mediating a cold peace between Doha and its neighbours. Then, ultimately it can reap the benefits of having wealthy client states that are increasingly eager to shore up their armed forces.

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French Air Force 2017 – Infographic

by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

The infographic at the end of the article displays all the flying squadrons of the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air), Naval Aviation (Aéronautique Navale) and Army Light Aviation (Aviation légère de l’Armée de Terre) as of May 2017.

The French Air Force aircraft inventory typifies France’s historically strong defense industry. Indigenous designs from Dassault or Sud-Aviation (now Airbus), like the Mirage 2000, the Rafale and the SA330 Puma are widespread in the inventory. European designs also make up a large part of the force, underlining a strong European integration with collaborative projects like the A400M, the NH90, the EC665 Tigre and C-160 Transall.

Some critical support roles, however, were left to foreign suppliers. The Airborne Command and Control and Aerial Refuelling Squadrons are equipped with US-made E-3F and KC-135. Additionally, MQ-9 drones were ordered to address shortcomings in the area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance plaguing France’s intervention in Mali (see also David Axe, “Lessons of the Mali War“, offiziere.ch, 15.02.2013). Two MQ-9 Reaper stations (3 drones and one command station each) were received as of 2017 and two more will be delivered by 2019 (total of 12 drones and four command stations; Beth Stevenson, “France orders third Reaper system“, Flight Global, 17.12.2015).

Two C-130J and two KC-130J were also ordered in 2016 (Beth Stevenson, “French government confirms C-130J buy“, Flight Global, 04.02.2016). Those aircraft were purchased to close a capability gap resulting from delays in the A400M program. As of May 2017, France received 11 A400M, of which only 6 were equipped to the latest standard able to perform tactical missions (Frédéric Bergé, “Enfin une bonne nouvelle pour l’A400M d’Airbus“, BFM Business, 15.06.2016). Furthermore, the A400M will not completely remove the dependency on Soviet-era cargo aircraft, as it have a relatively small payload capacity (about 30 tons at 4,000 km, the distance from France to Mali, compared to close to 120 tons for the AN-124-100 for the same range; see also here: Björn Müller, “Battle for the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution“, offiziere.ch, 30.04.2016).

France currently has a serious airlift deficiency and must rely heavily on allied platforms and charters (British and American C-17 supported the initial deployment to Mali in 2013 and chartered Ukrainian and Russian aircraft are vital elements of the supply chain).

The Navy Aviation is composed of a Carrier Air Wing for the Charles de Gaulle, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters for
Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System duties aboard surface ships, ASW patrol aircraft and search and rescue aircraft, as well as the usual training and liaison aircraft. The Carrier Air Wing recently parted with its Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM) aircraft and turned to an all-Rafale fleet based on the Rafale Marine.

Some of the few foreign aircraft in the French Navy are the three E-2C Hawkeyes carrying Airborne Early Warning duties aboard the Charles de Gaulle. The Navy Aviation still retains an ASW patrol capability with two squadrons of aging Bréguet Atlantique 2, despite their age they proved to be valuable ISR and strike platforms thanks to several upgrades in optronics. However with no replacement planned so far, France might lose this capability in the 2020s. The aging helicopter fleet of Lynx, Alouette and Dauphin is being replaced by the European NH90.

In the Army Light Aviation, French and European aircraft are prevalent, one of the sole exception being a handful Pilatus PC-6. Flight School, based on EC120 Colibiri, is externalized to Hélidax through a Public-Private Partnership — the first Partnership of this kind launched by the French Ministry of Defense (now Ministry of the Armed Services). The French Army Light Aviation Special Forces Helicopters Regiment was formed in 2009 to support special forces operations. It is one of the handful such units worldwide, and the only one with a couple of purely combat helicopters (the EC665 Tigre).

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

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International Cooperation at U.S. Africa Command

by Major Arnold Hammari. He is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer specializing in Sub-Saharan Africa who has worked at the U.S. embassies in Senegal, Uganda, and Chad as well as U.S. Africa Command and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2007 in order to oversee U.S. military operations and engagement on the African continent. AFRICOM was designed and manned differently than other geographic combatant commands such as U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in order to give AFRICOM a greater focus on working with the interagency and non-military entities in Africa.

This interagency emphasis radiates from the top leadership of AFRICOM, which has two deputy commanders: a three-star Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations and a senior Ambassador as the Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagements. In addition U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supplies to the command a Senior Developmental Advisor responsible for providing advice related to development, stabilization, reconstruction, and humanitarian assistance. Ten other U.S. agencies are also represented at the command and collaborate on activities on the African continent.

U.S. Soldiers representing the 805th Military Police Company from Cary N.C participate in crowd control training with Alpha 3rd Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) and Royal Moroccan Armed Forces during Exercise African Lion 17 April 23, 2017, at Tifnit, Morocco. Exercise African Lion is an annually scheduled, combined multilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures. (Photo: Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel).

U.S. Soldiers representing the 805th Military Police Company from Cary N.C participate in crowd control training with Alpha 3rd Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) and Royal Moroccan Armed Forces during Exercise African Lion 17, April 23, 2017, at Tifnit, Morocco. Exercise African Lion is an annually scheduled, combined multilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures. (Photo: Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel).

 
History of African Collaboration
The U.S. has a long history of engagement with Africa, starting with Morocco being one of the first countries to recognize the newly independent United States of America in 1786. The earliest account of the U.S. military working with coalition partners in Africa is during the Barbary Wars from 1801-1805 when U.S. Marines along with European allies fought the Barbary States of northern Africa. Other instances of Americans and coalition partners working together in Africa are the establishment of Liberia in 1822 with blacks freed from slavery in the western hemisphere and the invasion of Northern Africa during World War II.

Prior to the Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the largest U.S. engagement in Africa was in Somalia from 1992-1994 first as Operation PROVIDE RELIEF then later as Operation RESTORE HOPE and Unified Task Force (UNITAF) in conjunction with NATO and African partners. After transitioning to the United Nations mission UNOSOM II in 1993 the coalition was joined by Indian and Pakistani troops. U.S. troops departed in 1994 and the UNOSOM II mission was terminated in 1995.

The largest current American force in Africa, CJTF-HOA began operations in Djibouti in 2002 as an operation combined with international partners to combat piracy in the waters near Somalia. The mission of CJTF-HOA has evolved to countering violent extremist organizations in East Africa. This includes supporting African Union (AU) troops in their efforts to stabilize Somalia in order to allow for the establishment of a Somali national government.

AFRICOM Mission
The mission of AFRICOM is to “along with partners, disrupt and neutralize transnational threats, protect U.S. personnel and facilities, prevent and mitigate conflict, and build African partner defense capability and capacity in order to promote regional security, stability, and prosperity” (Thomas D. Waldhauser, “Advance Policy Questions for Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser, United States Marine Corps Nominee for Commander, U. S. Africa Command“, 21.06.2016, p. 1). The U.S. strategic objectives in Africa are to “(1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development” (Waldhauser, p. 6).

The Monrovia Medical Unit, an Ebola treatment unit built specifically for the care of medical workers who become infected with the virus, sits about 30 miles outside the capital city of Liberia, on November 4, 2014. The 25-bed facility was constructed from the ground up by a team of Navy Seabees, Soldiers and Airmen from Joint Forces Command – United Assistance and will be operated by personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, said Lt. Col. Lee Hicks, the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance command engineer. (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins).

The Monrovia Medical Unit, an Ebola treatment unit built specifically for the care of medical workers who become infected with the virus, sits about 30 miles outside the capital city of Liberia, on November 4, 2014. The 25-bed facility was constructed from the ground up by a team of Navy Seabees, Soldiers and Airmen from Joint Forces Command – United Assistance and will be operated by personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, said Lt. Col. Lee Hicks, the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance command engineer. (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins).

The primary method AFRICOM utilizes to achieve these objectives is through security force assistance such as exercises, military to military engagements, defense institution building, conferences, liaison officers, and U.S. military teams embedded in the U.S. Embassies throughout the continent. The goal of this security force assistance is to “strengthen democratic institutions by promoting accountability, transparency, and responsiveness in security institutions” (Waldhauser, p. 6) in the hope that stronger, more responsive, and accountable security forces will increase regional stability and create an environment for economic growth and prosperity.

Another AFRICOM key mission is to develop the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief capacity of African nations. U.S. National Guard units have been paired with select African partner nations to share expertise and train African disaster relief workers in the State Partnership Program. U.S. efforts in 2014-2015 during the West African Ebola outbreak were initially spearheaded by AFRICOM, with more than 2,800 U.S. military personnel deploying to West Africa or in support of the mission. International partnership with the EU, WHO, UNHCR and many other non-U.S. government organizations was key to the success of this endeavor.

Current Operations
Another essential effort for AFRICOM is combat operations within the AFRICOM area of responsibility: “along with regional partners, U.S. Africa command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat”.

AFRICOM is currently conducting operations in Somalia in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and in Libya. U.S. military forces are also deployed in the Lake Chad region to provide assistance to the counter-Boko Haram missions.

Until end of March 2017, U.S. forces were deployed to Central Africa as part of Operation OBSERVANT COMPASS in support of counter-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) efforts. This operation has dramatically weakened the LRA in numbers and overall effectiveness. Where the group once boasted nearly 2,000 fighters, efforts of the African security forces, with U.S. advice and assistance, have reduced the group’s active membership to be estimated under 100. While its leader Joseph Kony remains in hiding, the African Union-led Regional Task Force has captured four of the five key LRA leaders. As a result of this success, Operation OBSERVANT COMPASS will remove U.S. military forces specifically focused on counter-LRA and transition to broader scope security and stability activities.

An additional AFRICOM mission is to respond to crisis in Africa, as demonstrated last year with the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy, Americans, and others in South Sudan. AFRICOM works closely with the U.S. Embassies to monitor the security situation and provide assistance as requested by the Ambassadors. If requested AFRICOM will launch an operation to provide assistance.

 
International Partners
Working with international partners is key to U.S. efforts in Africa. AFRICOM provides assistance to the French Operation BARKHANE in the Sahel-Maghreb as well as with the Multi-National Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin against Boko Haram. The Multinational Cooperation Center (MNCC) at AFRICOM Headquarters attempts to synchronize U.S. and international efforts by military forces on the African continent. The MNCC comprises liaison officers from Germany, France, UK, Denmark, Spain, Turkey, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. There is also a liaison officer from the European Union and the African Union has been invited to send a representative to the AFRICOM headquarters. The MNCC also works with the United Nations and NATO.

An additional group of international liaison officers is hosted by CJTF-HOA in Djibouti that involves AMISOM troop contributing countries as well as their non-African partners. African liaison officers from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda work to synchronize combat and support operations to neutralize al-Shabab in Somalia. Many of the same countries that have liaison officers at the AFRICOM headquarters also have representatives at CJTF-HOA.

While AFRICOM is the recipient of liaison officers that its Headquarters it sends liaison officers to the African Union, European Union, and the African regional communities such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In each individual country the Senior Defense Official / Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy has responsibility for coordinating bilateral military to military relations and engagements.

The Senior Defense Official also works with other Defense Attaches from other nations to synchronize efforts in support of the African host nation. This has been increasingly important as budgets for foreign engagement have decreased across most governments despite the increase in domestic threat from foreign-based threats. Some like-minded nations that face similar threats and share common security outcomes regionally are collaborating with U.S. forces. For example, in 2013 U.S. and French forces worked together to train the Chadian unit that deployed to Mali under MINUSMA. Multiple nations contribute in Uganda each year to train the units that deploy to Somalia.

Combined Exercises
Exercises are another security force assistance effort where U.S. and international partners have teamed up to develop African military forces. A prime example of international cooperation is with the annual Exercise FLINTLOCK (see video below), where U.S. and international special operations teams are paired with African special operations teams to conduct simulated operations.

The maritime exercises OBANGAME EXPRESS (focusing on the Gulf of Guinea), CUTLASS EXPRESS, and PHOENIX EXPRESS (both with a changing regional focus) involve as many international partners that would like to participate. African partners bring their own boats or may find themselves working with American, Danish, French or other nations on their boats.

The land-based ACCORD series of exercises also combine U.S., African, and other international partners in conducting simulated operations. For example the 2014 Exercise CENTRAL ACCORD combined troops from Cameroon, Burundi, Chad, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Netherlands, and the U.S. military. Exercise SOUTHERN ACCORD involves African nations from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as well as other international partners.

Exercise AFRICAN ENDEAVOR tests the interoperability of communications equipment across the continent. This is a key exercise as African armies bring their own communications equipment to peacekeeping operations and need to be able to communicate across diverse brands of manufacture. Exercise AFRICAN ENDEAVOR usually involves participants the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, the African Union, NATO, the European Union, and regional economic communities.

Ongoing International Cooperation
International cooperation and collaboration in Africa is primarily highlighted through ongoing operations in Libya and Somalia. Cooperation with U.S. and NATO partners is increasingly coupled with expanding new partnerships Middle and Far Eastern countries. These emerging security actors are contributing troops, logistics support, funding, and training. As combat operations slowly draw down in Libya, another combined joint task force similar to CJTF-HOA in Djibouti may be necessary to assist in the stabilization of the region as jihadists and fighters displaced from Libya seek to disrupt other less governed spaces. AFRICOM, as per its mission statement, will continue to seek to work with partners “in order to promote regional security, stability, and prosperity”.

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NATO & Trump: relationship status – complicated

by Patrick Truffer (originally published in German). He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freie Universität Berlin.

The agenda was clear-cut for the NATO Summit of the heads of state and government of the Member States, on Thursday, 25 May 2017: Strengthening the fight against terrorism, discussions on defence spending, introduction of the new 1.1 billion-euro NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the summit was held, and reception of the new heads of state and government, such as British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and of course US President Donald Trump. The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, was present at a NATO Summit meeting for the first time, because Montenegro will become the 29th member of NATO in June 2017. The objective of the exercise: To demonstrate unity. However, Trump’s presence resulted in the NATO Member States being seen as anything but united.

Trump criticised NATO during the presidential election: After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the defence alliance did not fulfil the originally intended purpose anymore, and the associated costs were too high for the United States, especially compared to the contribution other NATO Member States. As president, he would consider withdrawing the United States from NATO if the alliance is not restructured, the fight against terrorism is not actively supported, and if the costs are not distributed more equitably (D’Angelo Gore, “What’s Trump’s Position on NATO?“, FactCheck.org, 11.05.2016). After being elected US President, his Vice President Mike Pence tried to smooth the ruffled feathers at the Munich Security Conference: “The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance.” At the same time, he underlined the demand for a more balanced distribution of costs: “The promise to share the burden of our defense has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long, and it erodes the very foundation of our alliance. When even one ally fails to do their part, it undermines our ability to come to each other’s aid. […] Let me be clear on this point, the President of the United States expects our allies to keep their word to fulfill this commitment, and for most that means the time has come to do more.”

Trump’s priorities were also clear at the meeting with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in mid-April. Trump honoured the role of NATO during the Cold War, but saw the present and future role of the defence alliance primarily in the fight against international terrorism and in the prevention of migration flows. Specifically, he expects NATO to be active in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), and in ending the civil war in Syria. Furthermore, as agreed, each NATO Member State has to invest at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in defence. According to his logic, the NATO Member States would even have to settle open bills: the difference to the 2% of GDP which they have not raised in recent years.

Mr President, I thank you for your attention to this issue. We are already seeing the effect of your strong focus on the importance of fair burden-sharing in the Alliance. — NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg

Even though Trump will hardly care, his reflections on the last point are wrong. The “2 percent target” is based on a non-binding guideline adopted by the Member States in 2006 at the NATO Summit in Riga. This rule was reaffirmed at the NATO Summit in Wales in autumn 2014: All NATO Member States wish to invest 2% of GDP in their defence by 2024. However, this declaration has more to do with a political than with a realistic promise – thus, there is no binding obligation (Jan Techau, “The Politics of 2 Percent: NATO and the Security Vacuum in Europe“, Carnegie Europe, 02.09.2015). And yet it is problematic that Stoltenberg praised Trump at the joint press conference in Washington: Trump’s criticism has made the fair distribution of costs a major theme. Stoltenberg even went so far as to assert that the first positive effects of this have become evident (“Joint Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the United States, Donald Trump“, NATO, 13.04.2017).

Diplomatically, [Trump’s] speech was inept at best and deliberately insulting at worst. — Jeff Rathke, deputy director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Of course this is about “soothing diplomatic language”, but for Trump diplomacy is a foreign language. In other words: Stoltenberg has unintentionally empowered Trump in his role as a debt collector. His criticism addressed to the other heads of state and government during the speech in honour of the 9/11 memorial at the NATO headquarters, that they are not going to meet their financial obligations in relation to NATO, is thus not surprising. However, taken together with his failing to affirm the article 5 mutual assistance clause, this was met with little sympathy from the other heads of state and government (Rosie Gray, “Trump Declines to Affirm NATO’s Article 5“, The Atlantic, 25.05.2017).

The rest of the NATO Member States were clearly taking pains to please the new US president. Not only were topics about Russia systematically avoided, but one of Trumps’ priorities was addressed before the NATO summit: NATO announced its intention to join the US-led coalition to fight IS. This is primarily a symbolic gesture, because many NATO Member States and NATO allies are already part of the coalition, and directly support the fight against IS. Since the last summit, NATO has supported the coalition with AWACS aircraft equipped with modern radar and communications technology, which will be further expanded. NATO is also conducting a training mission in Iraq. However, there is no plan for a direct combat effort. In addition, the NATO Member States want to better combine their efforts in this area with a newly created counter-terrorism coordinator.

There was also some movement on the issue of a more balanced distribution of costs. Each Member State has to submit an individual plan to answer three questions:

  1. How will the “2 percent target” with an investment of at least 20% of that money in new equipment be achieved?
  2. What additional financial resources will be directly invested in key NATO systems?
  3. What contribution will be made to the NATO missions, operations, and other efforts.

The first planning documents have to be available in December and examined by the defense ministers in February of next year.

The times when we could completely rely on others are basically over. I have come to realise this in the last few days. […] We Europeans must take our fate into our own hands.” — Deutsche Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

Conclusion
The NATO Summit in Brussels was conceived as a small, brief meeting, which primarily was for “bringing the new US President on board”. Strategic decisions were neither expected nor made. Despite symbolic concessions, the relationship with Trump remains complicated, which Trump’s lack of support for NATO’s mutual assistance clause clearly demonstrates. The public affront to the other heads of state and government during the speech in honour of the 9/11 memorial at the NATO headquarters should also not be overstated. At the moment, the effective engagement of the US armed forces in Europe is unambiguous: The US is behind NATO (see also: Louis Martin-Vézian, “Operation Atlantic Resolve: Back to Europe“, Offiziere.ch, 11.03.2017). This is also demonstrated by Trump’s submitted proposal for the US national budget of 2018. This involves extending the financing of the European Reassurance Initiative, which includes Operation Atlantic Resolve, from this year’s 3.4 billion to 4.8 billion US dollars (David M. Herszenhorn, “NATO Cheers Trump’s Military Budget“, POLITICO, 24.05.2017). However, Trump is not a patient person, and will hardly want to wait until 2024 until the other member states (perhaps) raise their defence spending to 2% of GDP. If, in the medium term, the European NATO member states do not invest significantly more for their own security, the US financial support could quickly and noticeably decrease. Essentially, Trump can hardly be contradicted with regard to one point: Why should US taxpayers be financially responsible for the security of Europe, if taxpayers are not prepared to do so in Europe? However, Trump would have needed to engage in real persuasive efforts, rather than adopt a school master-like attitude. In the long term, this has has been a disservice, which especially became apparent in the context of the meeting with the EU and the other G7 countries.

• • •

Info box: Noble Jump 2017
The NATO exercise Noble Jump 2017 will take place in June, after somewhat more than a month of preparation. The engagement of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force will be practised in Romania with around 4,000 soldiers from 9 Member States. The exercise will start with an Alert Exercise, whereby the troops and equipment from military bases in Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania will be relocated over a few days within the exercise area by rail, air, and sea. This exercise is not only a challenge in terms of infantry; it is especially a logistical challenge. For NATO, this represents a milestone in its ability to defend itself against an external aggressor.

• • •

More information
Trump evidently continued instructing the other heads of state and government during the subsequent dinner: Judy Dempsey, “Trump Leaves NATO“, Carnegie Europe, 26.052017.

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Can Saudi Arabia become America’s new gendarme in the Persian Gulf?

by Paul Iddon

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud take part in a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. According to Trump this "tremendous" arms deal with the Saudis will bring billions worth of jobs and investment in the United States. ( Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP).

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud take part in a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. According to Trump this “tremendous” arms deal with the Saudis will bring billions worth of jobs and investment in the United States. (Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP).

Over the next decade the United States may provide the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with as much as $350 billion worth of military hardware, which would dwarf the already exorbitant deals carried out in the last decade which have lavished Riyadh’s military with large quantities of hi-tech weapons.

US President Donald Trump’s already put his name to an agreement of various “intended sales” worth $110 billion during his visit to the kingdom last month. According to ABC News “only approximately $25 billion of the $110 billion [is] in the actual pipeline, and future sales are not guaranteed”.

There has also been talk about the Saudis taking a leading role in countering Iranian military power in the Gulf region by building up its military. This is another highly dubious prospect, but one worth evaluating all the same since it has an informative historical precedent.

“The package of defense equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats,” read a statement on the State Department’s official website. “Additionally, it bolsters the Kingdom’s ability to provide for its own security and continue contributing to counterterrorism across the region, reducing the burden on U.S. military forces,” the fact sheet adds (Emphasis ours).

The fact sheet’s language, whether intentional or not, echoes the Nixon administration’s policy towards the Shah’s Iran in the early 1970s. Under the Nixon Doctrine, aimed at reducing the US’s then overstretched role in the world, the Shah became the predominant military force in the region. This in turn saved the US from having to send forces to secure its interest in, and keep the Soviets out of, that region following the withdrawal of the British in 1971. US President Richard Nixon, an old friend of the Shah before his presidency, summed up the responsibility his administration was delegating to Iran when he asked the Iranian ruler to: “Protect me”.

The Shah of Iran oversees his navy when Tehran was America's gendarme in the Persian Gulf in the 1970s (Screenshot from BBC documentary "The Last Shah").

The Shah of Iran oversees his navy when Tehran was America’s gendarme in the Persian Gulf in the 1970s (Screenshot from BBC documentary “The Last Shah“).

“Nixon’s choice of words were extraordinary. The president of the United States had traveled to the court of the shah of Iran to ask Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to protect him” noted Roham Alvandi in his book on the period, “Nixon Kissinger and the Shah“. Shortly thereafter the Shah began his manic military build-up. In the 1970s Tehran bought advanced non-nuclear US military hardware, including a large fleet of sophisticated F-14 Tomcats air superiority fighter jets. The Shah, as Alvandi also points out, rightly boasted to his court minister, Asadollah Alam, that Nixon “gave me everything I asked for”.

Nevertheless, as his power and relevance grew as a result of this policy, the Shah had his frustrations. His military – made up as it was by an impressive array of American-made warplanes and British-made armor and naval vessels – depended largely on the importation of spare parts, which he frequently complained, in interviews with the Western press, he could only purchase at inflated prices. So, while a rising military power in the region Iran still relied heavily on its Western allies to keep their hi-tech hardware operational.

Today the Saudi military relies on the West for almost everything when it comes to maintaining their military hardware. Riyadh is trying to rectify this by establishing a state-run company to manufacture its own arms, ammunition and radars. Even if they succeed in this endeavor they will nevertheless remain heavily reliant on outside assistance. Throughout their bombing campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, for example, they relied on the Americans for midair refueling.

To practically “police” the Gulf the Royal Saudi Navy has eight French-built frigates (the newer La Fayette-class and older 1980s Al Madinah-class), four American-made corvettes and nine patrol boats, along with three British-made minesweepers at its disposal. They do not possess any submarines. Riyadh also intends to purchase American littoral combat ships.

Saudi Navy ships in the King Abdul-Aziz Naval Base of Jubail in 1990.

Saudi Navy ships in the King Abdul-Aziz Naval Base of Jubail in 1990.

The Iranians, on the other hand, have three aged frigates from the Shah’s time, several small attack craft, three Russian-made Kilo-class diesel submarines, purchased in the 1990s, and 21 domestically-produced midget submarines. While modest Tehran has focused heavily on self-sufficiency in its navy.

It is possible to make some broad analogies between the Nixon Doctrine and President Trump’s current contention, voiced numerous times during the presidential election, that US allies, especially NATO states, should take greater responsibility for their own defense. Nevertheless, Riyadh can still count on, and will probably have to count on for years to come, Washington to come to its aid if attacked and more generally to maintain its military in both peace and wartime. It’s unclear if the Trump administration has any specific security roles it wants the Saudis to play in the region in coming years.

Talk of an Arab NATO is surely premature. The historic analogy to the ineffective and ultimately failed Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) alliance doesn’t inspire much confidence, nor does the fact that the 34-nation Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism announced by Riyadh in December 2015 hasn’t yet amounted so much, if anything at all. The Saudis did form a much more tangible multinational coalition of regional states, along with Egypt and Sudan, to bomb the Houthis in Yemen in early 2015 but failed to convince Egypt and Pakistan to contribute large numbers of ground troops.

All state which were part of the CENTO alliance (in green) throughout its existence, 1955-79.

Nevertheless, the Trump administrations’ instilling of a belief in Riyadh that its regional role is being elevated by spending even more on American hardware, flawed as it is, has already yielded windfalls for major American arms firms. CNN Money pointed out that shares in Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have already risen as a direct result of Trump’s latest deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, predictably, denounced the move, going so far as to depict the Saudis as a “cow being milked” by the United States.

Another analogy to Iran in the 1970s is of crucial importance to consider. During that time the Shah’s continued rule appeared a sure thing to the US government. Many questioned the stability of the Saudi regime and believed the House of Saud, which in the late 1970s struggled to combat militants who dug themselves into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, was the regional regime most at risk of collapse – while the Shah’s Iran, in US President Jimmy Carter’s famous misjudgement, represented “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas in the world.” Today, nearly four decades later, the House of Saud stands and the Pahlavi Dynasty remains in exile and long out of power.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi speaks to people about principles of White Revolution in 1963.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi speaks to people about principles of White Revolution in 1963.

The Saudis are fundamentally diversifying their economy, to lessen their overwhelming reliance on income from oil exports, as part of their Vision 2030 program. The top-down implementation of wide-ranging reforms in such a deeply-rooted conservative society in a relatively short period of time, less than 15 years, is bound to have repercussions, albeit not necessarily revolutionary, as happened in Iran just under four decades ago.

The Iranian ruler sought to rapidly transform and modernize the country in a short period of time: from the wide-ranging top-down land reforms, known as the White Revolution, introduced in 1963 to the rapid build-up and modernization of the country, largely made possible by the increase in the price of oil in the mid-1970s, until his fall from power in 1979.

Not unlike this Saudi Arabia is undertaking “a revolution” which they have “disguised as economic reform”. Also like the Shah’s Iran these fundamental reforms will not include the introduction of political freedoms for the kingdom’s subjects. As with Iran these fundamental changes could produce destabilizing and tumultuous results at a time as the kingdom’s military arsenal grows exponentially larger and larger. If this proves so in the foreseeable future Riyadh will certainly not fit the bill as a reliable and competent power to police the wider neighborhood.

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