Women’s rights in Yemen

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

Nisma Mansoor

Nisma Mansoor

Nisma Mansoor likes to watch “Game of Thrones” and wear make-up. She peppers her Facebook wall with emojis, memes, and selfies. She studies the same subjects that her parents did in college. She has a blog and a part-time job at an NGO. A feminist with liberal political convictions, Nisma wants to work as a hydraulic engineer. In Europe or North America, no one would think twice about such a typical collegian. It might shock Westerners, then, to learn that Nisma lives in Yemen.

At twenty-two years old, Nisma is finishing her last year at the University of Aden, the country’s second-largest city and one of the few that the Yemeni government still controls after Iranian-backed rebels seized the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014. The circuitous path that encouraged Nisma to become a hydraulic engineer and feminist parallels Yemen’s own complex history with women’s rights.

From 1967 to 1990, Yemen struggled with the same division that plagued Germany, Korea, and Vietnam during the Cold War. Pro-Western nationalists governed North Yemen from Sana’a while South Yemen, the only communist state in the Arab world, had its capital at Aden. Women’s rights in Aden flourished under the socialist regime. Some women even joined the army and the police.

The South’s progressive, secularist social policies encouraged women such as Nisma’s mother, herself a communist, to seek advanced degrees. Her parents met at a university in Baku, then part of the Soviet Union. Her father was studying hydrogeology, her mother petroleum engineering.

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels attend a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, June 20, 2016 (Photo: Hani Mohammed).

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels attend a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, June 20, 2016 (Photo: Hani Mohammed).

When Nisma was born in 1994, the year of a brutal civil war between northerners and southerners after Yemen’s 1990 unification, her parents emphasized the importance of female education in a country that had been at the forefront of women’s rights in the Arab world.

“My childhood was very good,” Nisma reflected. “I was raised by very caring parents. I grew up in a family that values education.” Her parents enrolled her in an international school because of the tribal conservatism that had started creeping into Yemen’s state schools. After the northerners defeated the southerners in the 1994 civil war, they imposed family laws restricting women’s rights on Aden.

Whereas Nisma’s parents had learned Russian, she studied English with the hope of one day attending an American or European university. Nisma could study civil engineering at the University of Aden, but only a foreign education could offer expertise in hydraulic engineering. “I want to be a women’s rights activist and engineer to be the voice of southern women while helping them with their quality of life,” she told me. Smiling behind a blue headscarf, Nisma plans to confront two of Yemen’s greatest challenges at once: gender apartheid and water scarcity.

“Yemeni women face severe discrimination in all aspects of their lives,” Human Rights Watch reported in 2013. “Women cannot marry without the permission of their male guardians; they do not have equal rights to divorce, inheritance or child custody, and a lack of legal protection leaves them exposed to domestic and sexual violence.” The ongoing civil war that began in 2015, meanwhile, worsened a water crisis in one of the world’s driest, poorest countries. “While the war is going on, the water level in the aquifer is going down, so the problem may end up being bigger than the war,” said William Cosgrove, a water expert and former World Bank water resources specialist for the Middle East.

The Gender Inequality Index represents the loss of achievement within a country due to gender inequality. It uses three dimensions to do so: reproductive health, empowerment, and labour market participation. In 2015, Yemen ranked on place 159 -- with other words: at the last place.

The Gender Inequality Index represents the loss of achievement within a country due to gender inequality. It uses three dimensions to do so: reproductive health, empowerment, and labour market participation. In 2015, Yemen ranked on place 159 — with other words: at the last place.

“Everyone can build a house, but being a hydraulic engineer means changing people’s lives,” Nisma observed over Facebook Messenger. “I’ve seen people who spend their entire days looking for something to drink. Girls who should be in school are instead searching for water.” For Nisma, fighting water scarcity equals fighting for women’s rights on her terms.

“Nisma’s approach to studying hydraulic engineering for development purposes actually fits very well within the framework Yemeni women’s movements have established since the outset—framing the issues as national duties, rather than women’s issues per se,” remarked Natana Delong-Bas, a professor at Boston College specializing in women and gender in the Muslim world. “This has long been a way for women to make a contribution seen to have national purpose.”

Hundreds of women like Nisma attend Yemeni universities, yet they face difficulties translating their education into employment. “All universities in Yemen have over 60 percent female enrolment, but it doesn’t transfer to the workforce,” said Fernando Carvajal, an academic who has lived in Aden and Sana’a and runs the blog Diwan. Extremists from al-Qaeda and ISIS have also threatened the University of Aden for failing to implement sex segregation. According to Nisma, they once kidnapped the dean.

For Nisma to become a hydraulic engineer, she will likely have to study in Europe or North America. She considered applying to American universities through the Fulbright Program, but Executive Orders 13769 and 13780, US President Donald Trump’s attempt at a Muslim ban, torpedoed those plans because they prevent Yemenis from obtaining visas to the United States. “I hope you get rid of Trump soon,” said Nisma. “He’s insane.”

While looking for alternative programs in other Western countries, Nisma is focusing her efforts closer to Aden. “She loves her city.” noted Mohammed al-Qalisi, one of her friends from Aden. “As a community activist, she’s become a decisionmaker, putting forward her vision to help our civil society fight different bad attitudes and habits,” added Nazar Nasser Ali Haitham, like Nisma an agitator for the South’s return to independence. Nisma’s job as a monitoring and evaluation assistance at RNW Media, a Dutch NGO promoting freedom of the press and speech, ensures that her community hears her voice.

“While most of the women in world enjoy their lives and rights, women in Yemen are fighting every day to get their basic needs,” Nisma wrote on Facebook. “They fight each and every day to ensure that their children will have clean water to drink and food to eat.” To her, the fight against gender apartheid and water scarcity are the same battle, and she plans to lead it.

Posted in Austin Michael Bodetti, English, Politics in General, Yemen | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The significance of Iran’s missile attack on Syria

by Paul Iddon

One of the missiles Iran launched at Deir Ezzor in Syria on night of June 18.

One of the missiles Iran launched at Deir Ezzor in Syria on night of June 18.

On the night of June 18 Iran fired six long range missiles from its western provinces at Islamic State (ISIS) to the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in retaliation for the June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran, which killed 18 people.

Iran’s retaliation strike (Operation Laylat al-Qadr; عملیات لیلةالقدر) demonstrates that it has the capability to hit targets more than 650 km away in relatively short notice. This is something the Iranians had difficulty doing until late in their bloody eight year war with Iraq back in the 1980s. Obviously, Iran’s missile capabilities have progressed ever since, in spite of US and international sanctions.

Iran’s leadership have eagerly sought to promote the strike as proof of their military strength. “They cannot slap us. We will slap them”, declared Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on his official website and in a widely-shared video on Instagram, which showed footage the terror attacks in Tehran and the retaliatory missile launches.

For Tehran, the missile strike serves two purposes: Retaliation against those attacks on Iran’s capital and a, not so subtle, warning to the United States and the Islamic Republic’s rivals in the region. “The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General Ramazan Sharif on Iranian state television. General Mohammad Hossein Baqueri, the Iranian military’s chief of staff, also declared that: “Iran is among the world’s big powers in the missile field.” He also warned the US that in the event of a war their military bases in the region will be targeted. “We are in permanent rivalry with them [the Americans] in different fields, including the missile sector,” Baqueri said.

The June 7 terrorist attacks in Tehran provided the IRGC an apt opportunity to test their missiles – all indigenously-produced – for the first time in an actual war zone. Since the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran only used their missiles against the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) militant group in Iraq hosted by Saddam Hussein. The most significant strike against MEK was in April 2001. The missiles used in that attack were the older Shahabs, an Iranian-made Scud derivative, which, in this strike, flew no more than 150 km to their targets.

Massive crater allegedly from an Iranian ballistic missile, which had fallen in western Iraq.

Massive crater allegedly from an Iranian ballistic missile, which had fallen in western Iraq.

The IRGC claim that aerial photographs taken from their Syria-based drones confirmed that in the attack on Syria all missiles, which reportedly included the new Zolfaghar, a missile unveiled just last September with a range of 700 km, struck their intended fixed targets – an ISIS command headquarters and arms and ammunition depots. There is reason to believe they were indeed relatively accurate, but also reason to be sceptical that all missiles successfully impacted on their targets as Tehran claims (see “Exclusive photos: Syria-bound Iranian ballistic missiles fall in Iraq“, The New Arab, 29.06.2017 and “Iran mocks reports its Syria missile strikes fell short“, The Washington Post, 25.06.2017).

In terms of both cost and effectiveness it’s not necessary to strike an adversary like ISIS from hundreds of kilometres away. Symbolically, on the other hand, such a strike is a perfect way to demonstrate ones reach — and not only Iran is using such an opportunity. On October 7, 2015, the Russians fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (the first of several intermittent cruise missile strikes, the latest one being on June 23) from vessels in the Caspian Sea to targets in Syria almost 1,500 kilometers away, shortly after intervening in that country’s civil war. As is the case with Iran’s Operation Laylat al-Qadr that was the first time the Russians used these long-range cruise missiles in combat and demonstrated to potential rival powers in the region, namely the United States, the range of their weaponry. This, and the opportunity to test these weapons in actual combat, likely motivated these strikes over any practical tactical considerations. After all, their jet fighter-bombers already based in Syria could strike any adversary much more cheaply with little risk of getting shot down.

But the US is not a bit better than the rest. When US President Donald Trump wanted to punish the Syrian regime for the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack last April, he fired an enormous payload of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the regime’s Shayrat airbase. Unleashing such a devastating payload against a single fixed target isn’t necessarily practical, but it’s a clear demonstration of strength.

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles -- click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography).

Trump’s bombardment of Syria’s Shayarat with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles — click on the image to enlarge (compiled by Louis Martin-Vézian of CIGeography (Facebook / Twitter).

Back in 2006 the Pentagon considered expanding the reach of the United States’ conventional missile arsenal by modifying their nuclear Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) to carry conventional payloads, to be used in case of a war against either Iran or North Korea. With a range of a mind-boggling 12,000km conventional Tridents would have enabled the US to readily strike adversaries from a whole continent away in short order, an unequivocal demonstration of both reach and strength. But the idea was scrapped due to the risk that any launch of these missiles would alert Russia’s early warning system for a nuclear attack. After all, it would have been difficult for Moscow to differentiate between the launch of conventional and nuclear-armed Tridents.

Iran’s Deir Ezzor strike may well prove to be a one off case. However, as Tehran continues to enhance, expand and test its missile capabilities – much to the consternation of Washington, which charges Iran with violating UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by doing so – it may readily seize another opportunity to demonstrate, to domestic and foreign observers alike, these weapons, or newer models and variants, capabilities in a combat situation.

Posted in English, International, Iran, Paul Iddon, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

• • •

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.

Posted in English, Paul Pryce, Qatar, Security Policy | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in English, International, Paul Iddon, Qatar, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in English, France, International, Louis Martin-Vézian | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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”.

Posted in Arnold Hammari, English, International | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment