INTPolicyDigest: Russian Military Adventures

Grand Strategy is the harnessing of military, political, and economic power over a significant period of time to achieve goals that have been dictated by history or indicated by the future. American presidential administrations tend to pre-occupy themselves with fighting crisis after crisis rather than expending limited resources on strategic visions that may not pay dividends for generations. In contrast to this, Russia tends to be more organized in the long view and often appears challenged by the here and now. History has dictated harsh realities to Russia ranging from geographic deficiencies to powerful and aggressive neighbors on its borders. A country with a dark history, and a sinister political culture, often creates strategic success out of necessity.

Soviet grand strategy was governed by creating and exploiting the “constellation of forces,” which included overseas power projection. The Putin Doctrine, which has been as patient as it has been successful, is attempting to resurrect aspects of this. The Russian media announced the doctrine in 2007. It declared policies embraced by the United States and NATO as threats to Russian national interests.

Putin particularly called attention to NATO’s expansion and warned that the deployment of a US antiballistic missile system into Eastern Europe would be a precipitous step toward a new arms race. Russia has endorsed the use of energy as part of a coercive diplomacy strategy and the old Soviet method of using arms control and reduction agreements to achieve Russian national interest.

Throughout these declarations is the need by Russia to be treated with the respect granted the old USSR.

Sometimes this is demonstrated by single “celebrity” actions, such as the decision to launch the new RC-28 Sarmat (“Satan 2”) ICBM on Good Friday. In a deeper sense, the new Russian aggression can be demonstrated by an analysis of their defense budget and military acquisitions. This was demonstrated by their ZAPAD military exercises in 2017 which debut a reconstituted 1st Guard Tank Army and military hardware like the Iskander-M missile, the RS-24 YARS ICBM, and T-14 Amrata tank. More importantly, Russia was telegraphing its ability to drive a military wedge through NATO forces between Kaliningrad and the Baltic. This, combined with the modernization of its navy, and the development of hypersonic missiles, should all be of great concern.

Russia’s continuing threat against the Baltic is well documented. However, this is not the only geopolitical concern. In some areas, Russia seeks to fill perceived vacuums or areas of weakness in American grand strategy: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. It continues to use the crisis over North Korea to gain greater leverage there. In two places, in particular, one can see bolder moves.

Russia’s continued support of the Assad regime in Syria is one area that demonstrates Russian motivation abroad, and in concert with the Iranians, Russia has altered the entire tenor of the Syrian Civil War. The expansion of the base at Tartus to accommodate larger ships indicates a desire for a deeper Russian footprint in the Mediterranean as well as Russia’s lease renewal of the Syrian airbase in Khmeimim following Russia’s announcement that intended to draw down Russian forces.

Nowhere is this new projection as forceful as in the Arctic. The amplification of Russia’s military presence in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, the opening of three new Arctic bases, the creation of an Arctic Brigade (80th Motor Rifle Arctic Brigade), and the expansion of its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet demonstrates Russia’s goal to dominate the oil-rich strategic route.

Although far from being able to project power worldwide, the steps taken now are the building blocks to return Russian grand strategy to a global footing.

Praeger Security International: The necessity of a tactical, operational, and strategic response

The American response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was a political and moral failure. Ethics and morality are fundamentally based on religious principles. This applies equally to individuals, nations and international systems. We use the term “civilized world” to denote those same human demarcations that use ethics and morality in their decision-making, and those who do not are by default “uncivilized.” Contemporary American culture is bombarded with messages promoting a hazy relativism that is embarrassed by such terms, let alone starker terms like “good” and “evil.” American foreign policy has been equally embarrassed by stark realism that emphasizes only calculated interests or weak liberalism overly obsessed with multilateralism. It is the most unique aspect of American foreign policy that it has always attempted to combine realistic goals with liberal values. This tension created here from the founding of the Republic until today continues to bedevil the nation as it struggles to create a new grand strategy. However, regardless of partisanship, one cannot ignore the dictates of history. The United States was founded on an anti-relativistic vision of absolute natural law where clear markers of good, evil, freedom, and tyranny are severely defined. It is in this broad context that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons must be viewed. There must be a base premise that is absolute: the use of weapons of mass destruction upon innocent civilians is an act of pure evil. The Barack Obama administration’s failure to act upon its own named “red line” was not only a failure of credible American foreign policy but also a violation of natural law that governs civilization. The failure to act signaled that there would be no punishment for the use of weapons of mass destruction and created the vacuum to prolong the Syrian civil war by inviting greater involvement from Russia. It was the darkest hour of American foreign policy during the Obama presidency.

This essay focuses on the American response to the Syrian regime of Bashir Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Chemical weapons are a separate horror and are part of the classification of weapons commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction. In this grouping are nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological, and now cyber weapons. The world focuses most of its attention on nuclear, especially the use of a nuclear bomb. Syria was pursuing the nuclear option until that option was decisively ended by the Israeli Air Force. Sometimes referred to as the poor man’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction), chemical weapons are the easiest alternative to nuclear weapons. They are also one of the oldest forms of WMD, chronicled in antiquity in the wars between Athens and Sparta. Chemical weapons had been banned by various western international agreements in 1675, 1874, 1899, 1907, and 1925. They received their greatest attention during and after World War I, responsible for 1.3 million casualties of the most horrific nature—the horror of which was so great that no western power used them against another western power during World War II. They would be used by Benito Mussolini against Ethiopia, by the Nazis in their concentration camps, by Japan against other Asian (especially Chinese) troops, and in the late 20th century by Iraq against Iran and the Kurds. It should be well noted that there is good evidence that the Soviet Union—keeping in mind that Russia is the major backer of the Assad regime—used chemical weapons against its own citizens in 1989 in Georgia and during its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. In 1993, many nations adopted the Chemical Weapons Convention, with Syria dubiously joining in 2013.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011, and to be clear, had the United States made a proactive decision to assertively engage with the anti-Assad forces, the enormous casualties and use of chemical weapons would not have happened. No nation has successfully challenged American use or threat of use of hard power. However, the Obama administration made the decision, as it had with the Green Revolution in Iran, and the Arab Spring, in general, to let the vacuum grow. Before the war, the United States intelligence community assessed that Syria had chemical weapons, specifically mustard gas, blister agents, and VX. In July 2012, Syria confirmed ownership of chemical weapons. Obama drew his famous “red line” on August 20 of that same year, declaring “that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Diplomatic “red lines” come from the story of the Roman who faced off the Seleucid Empire, which was threatening the Roman protectorate of Egypt in 168 BCE. The old consul’s mission was to force the king to return to Syria. After making the Roman demand and being mocked, the Roman responded by drawing a circle in the sand and saying that when the Seleucid king stepped across the line, he had better be marching toward Syria and not Egypt. The king retreated, and the red line was born; history comes full circle in the strangest ways.

By December 6, 2012, the red line was unilaterally shifted in favor of the Assad dictatorship by removing the injunction on the transportation of chemical weapons, as intelligence indicated had already occurred. This is where the red line stood until reports surfaced in January 2013 that the Syrians had already used chemical weapons (specifically Agent 15) against their own population in the city of Homs on December 23, 2012. On March 19, 2013, 26 people were killed in chemical attacks against two Syrian cities. Six days later President Obama stated that this attack was a “game changer.” In the summer it was estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed by chemical attacks. It was only until the end of August that President Obama announced his intention to ask the Congress for an Authorization of Military Force to respond to the attacks with military force, minus ground combat operations. At this moment, history was at the crossroads: it is clear that the Obama administration believed that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons and that this use required an American (unilateral if necessary) military response. On the other hand, rather than utilizing clear constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, the president handed responsibility over to Congress knowing that his Democratic base was opposed to any military action and Republicans would be unhappy with the limitations. Further, many in Congress openly questioned the need to go through Congress at all. It is beyond this article to speculate on the intentions of the administration, but it is clear that had the Obama administration ordered the American military into action, there would have been no hesitation and thousands of lives saved. No action was taken, and the red line, as Senator John McCain suggested, had been written in disappearing ink.

In September and October 2013, the UN and OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) ordered Syria to destroy its chemical weapons, and with the “help” of Russia, the international community declared victory in this disposal. It is noteworthy that the Assad regime would use chemical weapons on numerous occasions from 2015 through today, including the use of chlorine gas and sarin. The international deal not only gave the Assad regime breathing room internationally, but also served the twin evil purposes of laying out a red carpet for greater Russian intervention and protection from the condemnation for the tens of thousands killed by conventional weapons under the cynical observation that at least those people did not die at the hands of chemical WMD.

Ultimately, the Obama administration engaged in a policy of appeasement. This was not out of character, as it happened in all the major policy decisions regarding Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Libya, Russia, and China. It was more blatant over Syria and will provide future historians with a case study in practical and moral failure. The unwillingness to respond to the chemical attacks was coupled with the Obama administration’s choice to not seriously support the moderate resistance movement in Syria. This led to the rise of the Islamic State group and vacated America’s position in Iraq which allowed the Iranians in.

This context is necessary before anyone can assess the American response to the use of chemical weapons by Syria. However, there are three responses to play: tactical, operational, and strategic. The media and most in the political class focus on the tactical and operational. In line with this limited thinking, the options are manifold: the use of air strikes (manned, unmanned, cruise missiles) to take out the regime’s ability to store, transport, and use chemical weapons. Syrian air defense was less than it is now and a concerted air campaign on a unilateral American timetable would have crippled much of Assad’s ability to continue the use of WMD. A tactical decision such as this would have been far better than any of the responses by the Obama administration. At the operational level, the United States could have added to this the destruction of command and control actors, a psyop to not only undercut the obvious illegitimacy of the regime but to warn those ordered to use chemical weapons that they will be held personally accountable. Special Forces could be used to bolster all of these efforts to gain battlespace advantage. However, neither of these options matter unless the strategic picture is developed. The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime should have been the final scene, not the opening act. This action should have led the Obama administration to make the decision that the solution to the problem was the removal of the Assad regime from power. In effect, American strategic response was the exact opposite of history. The United States should have openly supported the anti-Assad Syrian and Kurdish forces to remove the Ba’athists from power while using its presence in Iraq to forestall any Iranian and Russian adventurism. The American military would have had to establish no-fly zones and safe zones within the region and proactively crushed any attempt by Islamic extremist like ISIS and Al-Nusra in exploiting the chaos. Many analysts and scholars engage on this topic in either a vacuum or by over-compartmentalization. The solution to chemical weapons use was and is never the chemicals themselves. It is the people who have used them and will continue to do so, through this means or any other to civilians. It has always been a problem of the regime and the type of fascist tyranny the Ba’athists represent, or the type of Bolshevik tyranny to which the Islamic extremists aspire. Any attempt to focus purely on the tactical or operational level is focusing on the symptom and not the disease.

The establishment of a “red line” to act as a clear marker for American foreign policy was done, once done, all American credibility hung in the balance. This “red line” response to the use of chemical weapons necessitated not only a tactical and operational hard power response but also a geostrategic imperative to remove the regime that used chemical weapons in the first place. The American response was muted and resulted in a gross act of appeasement towards a war-criminal regime.

AMINewswire.Org: North Korea a key factor in Syrian Chemical Weapons program

View the article on AMINewswire.Org

A new U.N. report identifies 40 “previously unreported shipments” sent between 2012 and 2017 from North Korea to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre — the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons.

The report shows that the North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development.

This evidence contradicts Syria’s promise in 2013 to abandon its chemical weapons program by agreeing with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118. At the time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the resolution as a “strong, enforceable, precedent-setting” effort that showed how diplomacy “can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war.”

The report issued, last month, is taking on new significance as President Trump works to gather international support and for action against Syria in response to it claims was the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. The U.S. is also in “detailed” talks to arrange a meeting between Trump and North Korea’s President, Kim Jong-un.

State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said, “Whether we like it or not, there are countries around the world that are cheaters [but that] doesn’t mean that we can’t deal with them.”

The U.N. report is not surprising. Substantial ties between Damascus and Pyongyang dated to the 1960’s when North Korean pilots assisted the Syrian Air Force and when then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, imported North Korean experts and armaments. North Korean pilots and other military “advisers” fought with Syria against Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

North Korea has also played a role in Syria’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

In 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. According to news reports first from NHK, at least ten North Koreans were killed in that attack.

The U.N. report also identified other close ties between the two governments, including how the sale of weapons are facilitated by two North Korean front companies used to avoid sanctions, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) and Glocom. An official U.N. reports states, “KOMID representatives in the Syrian Arab Republic have also been importing military goods via commercial air cargo services and, in that regard, attempted in July 2016 to import military communications antennas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from Glocom” [another front com

North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold. The North Korean regime seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons and it also believes that focus on the Assad regime draws American attention from East Asia. Finally, the armaments trade provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell.

“The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy,” said Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh, according to a Syrian news agency. “The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

The UN report was released before the apparent chemical attack this past weekend on Douma, the final town in the Eastern Ghouta region still in the possession of anti-Assad rebels.

The attack and the UN report make clear that Syria rather than abandoning its chemical weapon and ballistic missile aspirations during its ongoing civil war has continued to develop its capacity regarding weapons of mass destruction.

The Washington Times: How North Korea flouts international sanctions

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The Syrian civil war has dropped off of most people’s radar. When it does intrude, reports primarily concern themselves with tactical advances of one side (currently victory favors the Assad regime) or the other. Some reports highlight the human rights atrocities and the effect of the war on the civilian population.

A U.N. report was delivered to the U.N. Security Council on March 1, 2018, which has not been publicly released, but obtained by the author, highlights the military cooperation between North Korea and the other rogue regimes. Further, the report also highlights cyberwarfare (including attacking the U.N. panel of the report) designed to steal military secrets and conventional weapons sales.

It highlights four methods that North Korea uses to flout international sanctions: “exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system.”

Although the relationship with the Assad regime in Syria over WMD (weapons of mass destruction) cooperation is the most critical, the report also illustrates the North Korean military relationship with Mozambique for conventional weapons and parts, as well as a murky military relationship between North Korea and Sudan, despite official Sudanese denials.

More disturbing is the relationship with the genocidal regime in Burma. This includes not only banned conventional weapons but ballistic missiles. The panel continues to be concerned about Angola, Uganda, Libya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. These military deals emanate from North Korea’s governmental unit that engages in this, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

The U.N. report makes clear that North Korea does not need to rely on foreign engines for its ballistic missile program, indicating the upward advance of its domestic arms capabilities.

It is the relationship with Syria that is most concerning. There is history to this alliance dating back to the 1960s when North Korean pilots flew missions for the Syrian air force and when the elder Assad imported missiles and North Korean experts to assist in Syria’s weapons program. North Korean soldiers assisted Syria against Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Syria leaped into nuclear weapons in the 21st century. As a result, in 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. This North Korean/Syrian complicity is reinforced by the fact that at least 10 North Koreans were killed in that attack.

Currently, North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development. The report highlights 40 North Korean shipments from 2012 and 2017 to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons. The report also demonstrates North Korean personnel operating chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria. Interdicted shipments by U.N. member states confirm this pattern of behavior.

The report does not explain the geo-strategic situation. North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold: It seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons; it understands that a strong Assad regime can frustrate American foreign policy goals; American attention drawn to conflict in the Middle East weakens it position in East Asia; it provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell, and bolstering the Assad dictatorship hurts America’s ally Israel.

Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh stated, “The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

It is clear from the report that the much-touted sanctions regime is failing, providing a thin veil for U.N. member states like Russia and China that continue to assist North Korea’s trade exports in iron, coal, steel, silver, copper, zinc, nickel and imports of oil. It outlines elaborate efforts by North Korea and complicit partners to use false flags and documentation, evasive travel routes, transshipment and ship-to-ship transfers.

The U.N. report should be publicly and widely disseminated, but more importantly, it is the final nail in the vampire’s coffin of the 2013 agreement that the Assad regime abandon chemical weapons. It provides proof positive that rogue regimes such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and now Burma, bolstered by Russia and China are the prime actors of instability dooming the world to further chaos and violence — this is state terrorism at its worst. Russia Is Cozying Up to Egypt

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Due to the whirlwind of attention paid to the weather, North Korea, Iran and domestic American politics, an event erupted that received little attention. Last November, as a result of the Russian defense minister’s visit, the Egyptian government agreed to a five-year reciprocal arrangement to allow Russian military planes to use Egyptian facilities and airspace as long as either side provides a five-day notice. This was followed up by a warm meeting between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in December that resulted in a deal to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant. Of note to those with an appreciation for diplomatic history, Russian (or, then, Soviet) advisers were expelled from Egypt by President Anwar Sadat in 1972. Russia’s return to Egypt returns the old specters of the Cold War on to watchers’ radar screens.

Analysts point to a trajectory that began in 2015 when el-Sissi agreed to an expanded military relationship and the purchase of Russian war equipment. For the first time ever, Egyptian troops trained in Russia last September.

This is particularly concerning in light of Russia’s bid to prop up, so far successfully, the Assad regime in Syria and reports that Russia has deployed special operations forces near the Libyan/Egyptian border combined with their attempt to influence Libyan strongman, Gen. Khalifa Hifter. “Russia is attempting to increase their influence throughout the Middle East, as we have seen in Syria,” Gen. Joseph Votel, Centcom’s commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last March. “We have seen them do things certainly with our longstanding partner Egypt and others across the region. So it is my view that they are trying to increase their influence in this critical part of the globe.”

The military concern is that Russia could utilize these gains to project more power into the Mediterranean and create greater advantages in Syria. Naturally, both Egypt and Russia play up the counterterrorist aspect of their partnership. Economically Russia may be attempting to circumvent the negative effect of sanctions by ramping up arms sales to the region. Diplomatically this continues Russia’s bid to reassert its worldwide presence and prestige.

This strategic calculus was created by the Obama administration’s withdrawal (perceived and real) from the region. The Russians have utilized their success in Syria to regain certain foreign policy goals left over from Soviet strategic objectives. Some analysts have missed the point by stressing Russia’s more limited current strategic capabilities rather than looking at long-term (and historical) Russian goals and trends. Stop Being Complicit

The United Nations Security Council proved its worthlessness once again. It met in emergency session last week to discuss the protests against the Iranian regime. Instead of taking action against the illegitimate Iranian theocracy, the U.N. focused on the positive nature of the Iranian nuclear deal. The Security Council did nothing, yet again, against a tyranny.

This downward focusing has been the consistent problem in international affairs since the end of the Cold War: the inability of leaders, media outlets and academics to appreciate the strategic battlespace. The recent Iranian protests, the Iranian nuclear and missile program, Iranian-North Korean joint activity, Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism, and the existential threat Iran poses to Israel are all part of a triangle: the religious fervor of Iranian Shiism at one angle, the desire for an Iranian empire at another angle, and the regime itself, which makes up the apex. This is the identical problem as with North Korea: If the regime ceases to exist, all the inherent problems cease as well.

The attention paid to Iran until the recent protests and the deaths of at least 22 civilians has been over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is known. This deal has been soundly criticized by many over its verifiability and enforcement mechanisms. Lost in the tumult is Iran’s consistent activity to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, the rebels in Yemen, and terrorism in Gaza. Focusing on the nuclear deal and even focusing on the protests does not answer the greater question of U.S. foreign policy towards Iran.

Iran is bent on domination of the region, state sponsorship of terrorism and the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Instead of focusing on the “comprehensive” plan for action, there needs to be support of the Trump administration’s goal of a comprehensive Iranian policy.

This is demonstrated by Ambassador Nikki Haley’s remarks at the U.N. that reinforced American foreign policy’s values: “The voices of the Iranian people should be heard. … Human rights are not the gift of governments. They are the inalienable right of the people themselves. Freedom and human dignity cannot be separated from peace and security.”

Those that tout the nuclear deal over the interests of the Iranian people and U.S. foreign policy need to be reminded that this is the one regime in the world that has a marginal chance of making the North Koreans look tolerable. (Although it should be noted, nothing can do that in reality.) The release of an Osama bin Laden intelligence trove has heightened confirmation of the al-Qaida /Iranian connection. Iran employs Hezbollah as a full-fledged terrorist surrogate army. It supports Hamas, the quasi-government and terrorist organization in Gaza, and makes common cause with both al-Qaida and the Taliban when it is convenient. Notably, the number one area of convenience is killing Americans and America’s allies.

Iran is jointly involved with North Korea in nuclear weapons and missile technology development; it continues to prop up the second worst regime in the Middle East, that of Assad in Syria, and continues to destabilize Yemen. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Qods Force (the Revolutionary Guard force abroad)-Hezbollah axis is active worldwide, maintaining cells in the United States and Western Europe, bombing synagogues in South America and undermining the governments of Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

These actions are all part of a strategic goal. The Iranian government is pursuing a “Pax Iranica” in the Persian Gulf, especially in the geographical location knows as the Shiite Crescent stretching from Lebanon in the west, through Iraq, the Gulf States, and eastern Saudi Arabia in the center and Iran to the east. The potential for dominance and disruption (most notable in Iraq) is extreme.

All of this might be bad enough were it not for the type of regime that exercises de facto control over Iran. This “Mullacracy,” which possesses the faint window dressing of democracy, is in reality an abhorrent dictatorship where ultimate power rests with the 12-member Iranian “politburo,” the Islamic Guardian Council, under the thumb of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Sayyid Khamenei. Khamenei controls the armed forces, intelligence services, security services, judiciary, media networks and appoints half of the Islamic Guardian Council. Iran has no substructure of democratic institutions and no civil society.

In philosophical terms, the democratic institutions of the United States and our civil society are founded on immutable natural law concerning human dignity, rights, property and liberty under law, all of which are non-existent in Iran. The problem for the United States is fundamentally the maniacal policies of a repressive rogue regime that abuses its people in a quest for greater control and power.

Simply put, Iran is not only a terror state terrorizing its own populace, but also the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Any deal kept or made with such a regime makes those nations complicit in Iranian actions. Any nation placing this deal over the lives of the protesters is worse than the regime itself. The Militarization of Qatar

On December 18, the Qatari military stunned strategic analysts by displaying their purchase of Chinese short-range ballistic missiles at a military parade. The SY-400 missile has a 150-200 kilometer range which puts neighbors like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in range.

According to Theodore Karasik, who is also an adviser at Gulf State Analytic, Qatar approached China in 2014 once relations with their neighbors began to sour due to Qatar’s support for Islamic extremist groups and Iran.

Qatar is the second-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas to China, and China is one of Qatar’s top five (some say number one) trading partner.

Although receiving less attention, Qatar also showed off other acquisitions such as German-made Leopard tanks, German self-propelled guns and Turkish armored vehicles. This illustrates the results of Qatar’s new hard power spending spree. Even less attention has been paid to China’s news service reporting that it was People’s Liberation Army trainers that enabled the Qatari military to produce the fancy formations presented in the parade.

The real issue is not the missiles themselves, as China is a major exporter of missile technology around the world. The real question is why. Is China simply amassing as much currency as it can through trade? Is it attempting to bolster Chinese arms prestige? Most importantly, is China attempting to gain a strategic advantage or strategic foothold?

Further, what message is Qatar sending? Most analysts believe it is an aggressive posture to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE who all pulled back their ambassadors and engaged in an economic and transportation boycott. One of the results of the souring relationship with these moderate Arab states is China’s upgrade in relations with Qatar from (primarily) an economic partner to a “strategic partner,” signaling closer military ties.

Although China often attempts to balance its relationships, the continuing relationship with Syria and Iran may signal a shift and Qatar could be one of those further signals. Qatar is a major proponent and part of China’s One Belt One Road strategy, which is the umbrella for every major Chinese strategic goal worldwide under the guise of an economic development plan that can coerce or cajole many of their third-world clients. A twist in the story may be Turkey’s increasing military presence in Qatar, which may also not be good for American interests depending on Erdogan’s actions. Turkey plans on a deployment of 3,000 troops possibly accompanied by aircraft and warships. Similar to Erdogan’s Turkey, Qatar embraces radical Sunni Islam when it suits their interests.

The two great questions for American national security are: Will Qatar become a lynchpin in China’s imperialist agenda in the Middle East? And will Qatar be the canary in the mineshaft illustrating the divide between a vision of the Middle East that is opposed to American interests led by Turkey and Iran against the other axis of Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

The various hard power sales and deployments by China and Turkey are only important if one assesses the strategic intent and trajectory of the nations involved.

AMINewswire.Org: Obama Administration prevented crackdown on Hezbollah terrorists

President Obama colluded to prevent the arrest of a known Hezbollah terrorist. That is the bombshell dropped just last week in a story from Politico.

The story uncovered the Obama administration’s relationship to a DEA operation named Cassandra. Launched in 2008 the operation sought to document Hezbollah’s transformation into a narco-terrorist organization trafficking in cocaine. Cocaine that was sold in Europe and the United States.

“Terrorists have long been engaged in large scale criminal enterprises to finance their operations – this is well known to our law enforcement and intelligence communities,” said Daniel Gallington, former DOJ official in an interview with the American Media Institute, “ To exempt whole categories of these criminal activities from enforcement would require a persuasive explanation consistent with our national security. I can’t imagine what that would be, and I’ve heard just about everything!”

Politico reports that the Obama administration systematically blocked efforts to neutralize Hezbollah’s drug smuggling efforts, a clear national security threat, in order to preserve the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement. Under the terms of that agreement, Iran agreed to delay certain aspects of its nuclear energy program.

Then CIA Director John Brennan is mentioned in the article as appearing to believe that the U.S. could support “moderate elements” of Hezbollah and assist in their integration into the Lebanese political landscape. Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization by since 1997.

In light of the revelations contained in the article Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) & Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) are calling for a congressional investigation which may shed more light on the Obama administration’s role in nixing the operation aimed at Hezbollah

“I’ve long believed that the Obama administration could not have done any more to bend over backwards to appease the Iranian regime,” said congressman DeSantis in a statement, “yet news that the Obama administration killed the investigation into a billion dollar drug ring that lined the terrorist group Hezbollah’s pockets in order to save its coveted Iran deal may very well take the cake,”

Hezbollah’s ties to the Iranian state are well established. Experts say Hezbollah serves the interests of the Iranian MOIS (Ministry of Intelligence and Security).

Hezbollah emerged as a terrorist organization in the 1970s in Lebanon. Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mugniyah organized the 1983 attack on the United States Marine compound in Beirut that killed 241 American soldiers. However, since 2013 it has become increasingly involved in the Syrian Civil War where its military units have fought to support the dictatorship of President Bashir Al Assad.

To fund these and other operations, the report suggests that Hezbollah is increasingly relying on the international drug trade.

“…,[Hezbollah is] as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is (al Qaeda’s) equal, if not a far more capable organization,” said then CIA director George Tenet in 2003.

Between 1995 and 2002 Hezbollah was involved with cigarette smuggling in the United States — buying in lower tax states and selling them in high tax states in order to fund terrorist activities according to the ATF.

This is not the first time that Iran has tried to use proxies to destabilize America’s national security. The United States attorney general prosecuted two individuals linked to the Iranian government who were planning to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in 2011.

View the article on AMINewswire.Org

The Hill: New security strategy could signal the beginning of a ‘Trump’ doctrine

This week, President Trump formally unveiled his National Security Strategy. Much has been made of the Trump administration’s ability to introduce this document (something required by Congress since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act) in the first year of its first term, and for good reason. Trump’s predecessors often struggled to articulate a coherent path forward on national security, and none have done so so quickly.

Already, many observers are analyzing specific parts of the Trump NSS and attempting to parse its language. But perhaps the best way to assess the document is to take a long-term view. Successful national security strategies usually transform into doctrine over the course of a given administration. It is still far too early to talk about a “Trump Doctrine.” Those take time to form and are an amalgam of rhetoric, policy, practice, and institutional commitment. But we now have a window into what that might look like.

This is both new and significant. In hindsight, experts claim that each of the past three presidents had a coherent national security and foreign policy doctrine. In practice, however, their actions were often widely at variance with their stated strategic objectives. Thus Clinton’s “holiday from history,” which religiously embraced globalization and “feel-good” multilateralism, was only slightly less shocking than Obama’s “leading from behind,” which was typified by penance, contrition, and a lack of strategic foresight. Only President George W. Bush articulated what could be called a coherent and successful doctrine — one that revolved around the principles of preemption, prevention, primacy and democracy promotion.

It boldly names five specific threats: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and jihadism. And it seeks to reverse the military decline of recent years in order to better counter them. Underpinning these ideas is the understanding that United States cannot afford to allow a foreign existential threat to pose an immediate danger (such as the one posed by ISIS), or a long-term one (like that posed by North Korea), to itself and its partners, and must be confronted head-on.

To a much greater extent than its predecessors, the Trump NSS also embraces the idea that economic security is national security, and that prosperity at home (through positive actions on taxes and regulation, as well as negative actions against intellectual property rights and economic espionage) is a fundamental prerequisite for our standing in the world.

The new NSS also recognizes that the best way to “advance American interests” is to support in others the very values that made America itself great. Although not full of the soaring rhetoric that typified the Bush years, it does not run from the past when it declares: “We support, with our words and actions, those who live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom, individual dignity, and the rule of law.”

At its core, then, the Trump strategy essentially argues the same conservative internationalist military policy delineated clearly by both presidents Reagan and Bush. This should not come as a surprise; the history of national security doctrine and therefore successful national security strategy has always gone beyond merely realist calculations for the United States. In addition to safeguarding its citizens, land, and way of life, American national security includes the expectation of protecting individual freedoms and national values.

Applying these ideas in the years ahead to American engagement with the world will be the clearest test of the Trump strategy — and will determine whether it does become a true doctrine. But the groundwork for a renewed commitment to a strategy that combines American democratic values with American interests has now been laid by the new administration.

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The Washington Times: Choosing favorites in ‘Star Wars’

On May 25, 1977, the original “Star Wars” movie, “A New Hope,” made its debut. It immediately had an impact that is hard to measure, especially on the generation that would, unfortunately, be called “X,” itself a seemingly sci-fi moniker.

Watching that film and the subsequent two sequels, there was no question whom one would root for. Everyone wanted the forces of the Republic to win, cast as science fiction versions of the American revolutionaries. The dark side, represented best by Darth Vader, was no British officer serving George the III, but a minion of the likes of Hitler or Stalin.

The Force has a good side and an evil side. The dark side represents violence, torture, repression, death — evil. The light side is attracted to order based on morality, ethics, courage and justice. The dark side is attracted to order based on power, treachery and greed.

It is, therefore, astounding to witness the rise in popularity of the dark side among the makers of the “Star Wars” movies and merchandising offshoots. There is a reason that the dark side’s foot soldiers are called “storm troopers,” and that young Darth Vader commits mass murder of children in Episode 3. This is a disturbing trend whose roots run far deeper than movie criticism. Now is the right time for consideration since on Dec. 14, “The Last Jedi” will hit the silver screens, arguably the most anticipated movie in years.

The effect on children is worth considering. We have Disney stores that give equal time to toys and costumes of the dark side; we have video game companies like Electronic Arts whose expected blockbuster game, Star Wars Battlefront II, forces players to take the role of a dark side champion, and a host of department stores that promote equally, if not more partiality given to the evil side, toys and games that enhance the “coolness” of Vader and the storm troopers.

As a father and a “Star Wars” fan who has watched this trend over time, the appropriate reaction can only be a reprise of the famous phrase, uttered by Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” It is not something that can be accurately quantified, not in dollars and cents, not in psychological studies. The very fact that any sane person could venerate Darth Vader (before he recants at death), Emperor Palpatine (who gives Caligula a run for his money), or Grand Moff Tarkin (who kills every man, woman and child on an entire planet, regardless of the brilliant performance by Peter Cushing,), is beyond comprehension.

The primary cause of all this is an attempt by the left to force moral relativism down the throats of every American, combined with a dogma called Red Puritanism, in which there are no absolute goods except for the laundry list they have created: multiculturalism, tolerance, atheism, socialist realism, skepticism, activist science, anti-Western ideology (extra piety points for being anti-American) and collective white guilt. There are no immutable goals except for those prescribed by their dogma: ending white privilege, destruction of conservatism, the cult of victimization, a reduction of American military power, and the glorification of anything that shocks.

One can anticipate four criticisms of this analysis. The first is that I am overreacting to a pop culture science fiction movie. Americans in this camp should realize the power of epics, storytelling, legends, myths and language. “Star Wars” changed all of this from 1977 onward and continues today with the release of the newest film.

Second is that only a political scientist or historian would read so deeply into a movie. Perhaps, but perhaps not. The “Star Wars” franchise has millions of followers, generates billions of dollars, and consumes untold hours of conversations and, dare one say, heated arguments. It has the lasting power of a story like “The Lord of the Rings” upon the Western, especially American, psyche. It is debated and discussed more than any other fictional story among large sectors of the population, perhaps more than any current debate or issue in politics today.

Third is the idea that moralizing against “Star Wars” is antithetical to free choice because no one is forced to root for Team Vader. This is reasonable if you embrace the relativistic argument that one can be as easily attracted to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or militarist Japan as to America in World War II or the Cold War. Only as a historical parallel can this argument make sense, but it falls under its own intellectual weight.

Finally, one can argue over which ideas filmmaker George Lucas is attempting to promote. Whatever his politics (reportedly anti-Nixon, anti-Republican and anti-conservative), they are not as relevant as the impact of the films’ cultural phenomena.

One does not need to lapse into hysteria to raise these concerns, nor is there any solution that could or should be mandated by government or the entertainment industry. However, that should not stop those who prefer the virtues of the Force to the dark side from asking Americans to reflect on the effects of their silver screen infatuation.

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