Global Security Headlines

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Place for Hope in Intl Policy

credit: AFP/File

Naive, at best

White House Press Conference, Feb. 9, 2009:

"What I've also said is that we should take an approach with Iran that employs all of the resources at the United States' disposal, and that includes diplomacy.

And so my national security team is currently reviewing our existing Iran policy, looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with them. And my expectation is in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face to face, diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction.
" - President Barak Husein Obama

Then, we read this AP article today: " Clinton holds out hope for useful talks with Iran." One may conclude the new Administration is naive, at best.

Leaders of democracies often believe unwisely they alone can tame a determined foe. "Peace in our time" has proven illusive by mere words alone.

Iranian Foreign Policy

Iran has engaged the United States since the hostage crisis of 1979 with multiple terrorist attacks from Beirut marine barracks to Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the attempted destabilization of Iraq with Qods Force operations.

Is there any indication from Tehran that it is reviewing its policy toward the United States? Is there any hope Iran wants to change its policy?

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton may want to review the State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, Chapter 1:

"Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism. A critically important element of Iranian national security strategy is its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad."

Going Forward

President Obama pledged in his first primetime news conference to sit down across the table "face to face" with state sponsors of terrorism against US citizens and interests abroad.

We hope he reconsiders.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, reports exhibition of the MiG-35 (Fulcrum F) at Aero India 2009 on February 11-15, 2009 at Yelahanka, Bangalore, India.

The largest air show in south Asia allows Russia to showcase its Multirole Front-Line Fighter offering an extremely maneuverable, all-axial deflected vectored thrust "DTV" engine which first debuted in 1999.

Speaking of maneuverability, Russia was the first to master real thrust vectoring and build it into a serving combat aircraft design: the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which uses single-axis or up-and-down vectoring.

The move comes as India contemplates buying 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) in a multi-billion dollar deal (largest since early 1990s) to replace its ageing MiG-21 aircraft.

India and Russia share a 50 year military relationship. The Indian military is full of Russian aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and tanks.

Attractive Options

The MiG-35 is an attractive option for New Delhi. Along with improvements in keeping maintenance costs lower, the MiG-35 also comes with "modern glass cockpit designed with three 6x8 inch flat-panel LCDs and full HOTAS controls, digital map, helmet-mounted sight."

The latest Zhuk-AE active electronically scanning array (AESA) is "one of the most important, if not the most important development in radar technology since the 1940s."

The MiG-35 builds on the MiG-29 which India flies about 65. Ease of part acquisition, training, etc. favor the acquisition of the MiG-35s over the US F/A-18s and/or F-16s.

In Sum

India's multidirectional international policy engages the major powers on a somewhat equal basis from China to Russia to the United States. As India develops as a major world power in its own right, its arms purchases from 1998 to 2005 topped all of the developing world.

The US would like to cultivate an arms supplier relationship as close as Russia's with India.

However, it appears unlikely as New Delhi's expected green light to Moscow on the MiG-35 will demonstrate.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tehran to World: "Shah Mat"

credit: IRNA

Triumphantly celebrating the occasion of its 30 years of revolution, Iranian grand master Ehsan Qaem-Maqami beat former Russian World Champion Anatoly Karpov in the old Persian game of chess on Monday.

However, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has the true pleasure in declaring "Checkmate!" (Shah Mat) to the world community in hailing the successful launch of a rudimentary communication satellite using the Safir-2 rocket later in the evening.

So, to the forlorn meeting on Wednesday in Frankfurt of the so-called " 5 Plus 1" Group (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China plus Germany), Iran sends its emissary (Safir) - a rocket launch - right in your face.

Russia apparently will not attend dooming the discussion about the Iranian nuclear program and leaving the Western powers to chat among themselves. While chatting, Tehran plans its next three moves in the complex chess match with the international community.

Significant Satellite Launch

The significance of the successful satellite launch (video) cannot be discounted. Iran joins the elite list of now 11 countries that have done so. National pride to satiate internal regime critics is very valuable to President Ahmadinejad.

However, the satellite is not the issue. The capability of shooting a payload and the type of payload into the heavens are.

Despite strict international sanctions to blunt such activity, the Iranian breakout as discussed in my previous post continues with the latest launch. Obviously economic sanctions have failed to deter Tehran.

The next firing of a missile could carry a nuclear warhead. Indeed, a satellite launch vehicle (SLV) is required infrastructure and technology to lob a projectile anywhere in the world - the scariest result of Tehran's latest technical demonstration.

Shah Mat

Tehran is not moved by diplomatic discussions, deterred by economic sanctions, or fearful of any military moves by the international community.

The Western powers have no will to challenge Iran directly.

Russia and China have interlocking political, economic, and military goals in concert with Tehran's steely-eyed defiance of its enemy number one, the United States. Iran is their proud proxy to challenge perceived US hegemony.

Any confrontation with Tehran risks also consequences with Moscow and Beijing. That point cannot be underestimated in the policy calculus. Moscow's skipping the Group Plus 1 talks is telling.

Going Forward

Those countries who oppose Iran's date with its nuclear destiny are checkmated. No incentives short of regime change in Tehran amuse the ruling elite.

As soon as the international community understands that point, the sooner a resolution of the Iranian issue can be had.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bangkok Bungling

credit: Bangkok Post

Thailand continues in crisis as up to 30,000 United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) redshirts filled the Government House compound to deliver three demands to their ruling government Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (third PM in five months) to remove Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, dissolve the House and take action against its rival People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

Gnawing political instability negatively impacts the Thai economy that contracted by as much as 2 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2008, according to its central bank.

Indeed Thailand is borrowing $2 billion to boost an ailing economy nearing its first recession since 1999.

Bangkok Bungling in political and economic affairs is sending the wrong signals to the international community and certainly tourists whose spending comprises 30% of GDP.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Havana-Moscow Tango on Washington's Doorstep

credit: AFP

The Russia-Cuba tango is an extension of Moscow's push to strengthen ties with Latin America at the expense of Washington.

Perceived and real deficiencies in the former Bush Administration's policy toward the region provided an opening to not only Russia, but China, too.

What are the motives for rekindling a relationship that for the most part languished after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991?

Observers point to three key reasons: 1) oil, 2) money, and 3) Russian mischief in Washington's backyard.

Cuba is aggressively exploring oil in the Gulf of Mexico and Russian oil company Lukkoil wants a share.

Cash-strapped Cuba gladly accepted a recent $20 million loan to buy construction materials and equipment. Cuba is desperate from cash and a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Russian mischief is highlighted by the visit of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin on July 30 to Havana, an old Cuban hand in the KGB responsible for many secretive arms transfers in the region during the Cold War. Sechin is also a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Cuba, laying off the southern US coast, could return to be a linchpin in Moscow's strategy to bring Russian influence to Washington's periphery.

Certainly there exist enough motives for an even closer Havana-Moscow partnership going forward given a regional climate at the moment tilted against Washington and more open to outsiders.