The summer is upon Washington and many think tanks limited their publication schedule this week.
In our ongoing look at the growing level of civil unrest in the US, we look at a spate of military exercises being held in the US and concerns that they are training for future civil unrest. We also look at why Americans are radically against using the military in domestic enforcement.
Think Tanks Activity Summary
The Washington Institute argues that limits on Iran’s nuclear program must include limitations on its missile R&D work. They note, “in 2004, Iran began deploying triconic (or “stepped”) RVs — a design almost exclusively associated with nuclear missiles — on its Shahab variants…These reports underscore why Washington and its partners must insist that Tehran respond to the IAEA’s questions about past engineering studies, design work, tests, and other elements of the PMD file prior to the lifting of sanctions. They also highlight the need for a UN Security Council resolution (as called for in the Lausanne parameters) that would impose limitations on Iran’s missile R&D work and threaten real consequences for those who assist Iran’s missile program. Failure to do so would signal tacit acceptance of activities that could enable Iran to deploy its first nuclear weapon atop a medium-range missile — an achievement that took most nuclear weapons states, including the United States and Soviet Union, about a decade to accomplish. This development would in turn magnify the destabilizing impact of an Iranian breakout, while incentivizing other regional states to either take preventive action or move toward nuclear capabilities of their own before Iran crosses that threshold.”
The Carnegie Endowment looks at the escalating Arab Wars. They note, “Shutting out citizens from formal democratic processes is forcing political discontent further into the shadows, where it risks becoming militarized. In Egypt, there have been growing calls for more violent and radical responses to the government’s clampdown. In Jordan and Morocco, the authorities are facing a rising challenge in containing militant tendencies. Indeed, as political leaders choose military repression over engagement, they will increasingly lose ground to groups like the Islamic State, the only entities in the region offering a clear – albeit brutal, and regressive – vision of the future. At this point, an end to current hostilities in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen requires national, regional, and international consensus. But averting further catastrophic violence in the region will require that governments go back to basics, introduce inclusive political processes, end state-sanctioned violence, ensure due process, and address socioeconomic injustices.”
The CSIS argues for a revolution in military affairs. They note, “It is violent religious extremism and international terrorism, the new roles of non-state actors, and the new emphasis on asymmetric warfare, however, that are now doing most to make us rethink almost every form of cooperation in national security, the tools we use in meeting these threats, and the way in which we train and educate. The rise of non-state actors and the linkages between growing civil problems and civil conflicts force us to rethink the role of national security force and the need to link civil-military operations. It forces us to think, educate, train and act far beyond the limits of what we once called the “Revolution in Military Affairs,”, or RMA.
The Washington Institute looks at the Libyan/Tunisian jihadi connection. They conclude, “with the continued Tunisian government security concerns as well as the difficulty in securing the Tunisian-Libyan border over the past four years, it is likely that we will see future IS attacks that emanate from or are connected with Libya. What we have seen already did not come out of nowhere; it has a history that stretches back decades and represents a problem too often ignored, taken lightly, or blamed on others by Tunisian officials prior to and after the 2011 revolution.”
The Washington Institute looks at why Turkey’s Erdogan may push for early elections. They conclude, “In recent years, Erdogan has turned Turkey’s regulatory institutions into censorship and sanctions bodies. Without an AKP majority in the parliament or cabinet, however, he would be forced to accept a gradual decline in his power as these institutions undergo membership changes. In some agencies (e.g., RTUK), the AKP could lose its dominance altogether, while in others, a potential stalemate with the opposition would likely be in the offing. Ultimately, new laws guaranteeing these bodies’ independence from the executive branch would be the best way to ensure their neutrality. In the meantime, Erdogan will likely push for early elections — the forty-five-day clock for that scenario will start ticking once parliament meets to select its deputy speakers, which is expected to happen soon. He no doubt hopes to once again endow his party with a legislative majority and full control of the executive branch. Preliminary indications — such as the election of the parliamentary speaker — suggest that early elections could indeed be in the offing.”
The American Foreign Policy Council argues that if North Korea can get the nuclear bomb with strict sanctions imposed, so will Iran. They conclude, “Tehran is in a much better position than Pyongyang was to develop a nuclear weapon even after the deal is signed. Iran has a larger economy and better infrastructure. Iran will reportedly be given a $50 billion no-strings-attached “signing bonus” once a deal is concluded, which could be spent on weapons programs. (By contrast, North Korea had only demanded a $1 billion per year payment for getting rid of its missile program.) And Iran benefits not only from its own cadre of technical experts, but also from the knowledge base of the North Korea’s, with whom it has been collaborating for years on nuclear and weapons programs. Iran has the capability to go nuclear even under the current punishing sanctions regime. In an April interview with Charlie Rose, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted that despite sanctions, Tehran had amassed enough nuclear material to build eight nuclear weapons. He said they have not tested a weapon yet because they don’t want to. But if they don’t want to, why did they amass the nuclear material in the first place?”
The Carnegie Endowment looks at the Islamic State’s strategy. They note, “The rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS and ISIL, for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has signaled the start of a new jihadist era. The Islamic State has declared a long-term goal, which is to establish an Islamic state, or a caliphate, based on an extremist interpretation of sharia, making it more than just a terrorist organization despite its origins as an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group. It has appropriated the radical Islamist ideology of al-Qaeda while implementing the centralized command model of the paramilitary Hezbollah and some tactics from the Taliban’s local governance structures. Its strategy for survival and growth has relied on a number of components: pragmatism regarding the Syrian regime; the control and development of territories as a method of commanding local populations and attracting foreign fighters; the use of ideology and the media as tools to control populations, recruit fighters, and raise funds; and a centralized military strategy.”
Rash of Domestic Military Exercises Beginning to Concern Americans
A rash of military exercises in the US this summer has raised concerns from a number of Americans. In fact, the concerns have grown so much that a Washington Post article, clearly with ties to the White House tried to downplay the increased military activity and tie it into racism and disapproval of Obama.
The biggest of these exercises is Jade Helm 15, which will occur in the Southwest US from July 15 to September 15.
The Washington Post talked to locals in Bastrop, Texas where Jade Helm will be headquartered. “If it were any other president but Obama, it would not be an issue…The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,” said Terry Orr, who was Bastrop’s mayor from 2008 to 2014. “People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.”
However, with the growing threat of civil unrest, as has been seen recently in Baltimore and Ferguson, many are wondering if these exercises may be training for the US military to intervene in possible riots. These concerns have grown as several urban exercises (Michigan, Florida, and California) have been held recently that are focused on urban fighting and civil unrest. And, since American cities are drastically different from those in the Middle East, the explanation that they are being used for training prior to deployment sounds suspicious.
And, though many insist that concerns over these exercises are overblown, polls show that many Americans are worried about its meaning.
In response to these concerns, Texas Governor Abbott sent the Texas State Guard to monitor the Jade Helm 15 military exercises. “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” the governor wrote in his letter to the Guard’s commander at the time.
Despite the criticism from Washington and the governor’s critics, the move proved more popular with Texas voters. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll taken last month showed while a third of the registered voters in the poll had no opinion about the governor’s action, 39 percent agreed with it and 28 percent opposed it, the poll found.
Texas voters’ suspicions about the federal government and its use of the military don’t stop at Jade Helm, the survey found. Asked whether federal military intervention is likely in certain circumstances, large numbers said yes. A majority said military intervention is “very” or “somewhat” likely to arrest political protesters, and 50 percent said it is likely that the feds would send the military to violate citizens’ property rights. Smaller but significant numbers said the military would likely be used to impose martial law (44 percent) and to confiscate firearms from citizens (43 percent).
Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say the government might send troops in those situations, those concerns don’t always obey party lines. Forty percent of Democrats think the federal government would come to break up political protests. Needless to say, Tea Party Republicans were most likely to say the government would use the military inside the United States. The conservatives were more intense about it, but they were hardly alone. “It cuts into everybody’s suspicion,” poll director Daron Shaw said. “Nobody trusts the federal government. About a third of Democrats are concerned about the government going nuts. Among Republicans, it’s between 55 percent and two-thirds.”
Although Texas may not represent the whole US in views, it does show there is considerable concern. The question is why and how valid it is?
The American Aversion to Military Intervention in Domestic Affairs
American’s aversion to military intervention in domestic affairs goes back 240 years to the early days of the American Revolution. As British colonies, the British had used soldiers to enforce the law in America – something Americans hated and were eager to abolish when they won their independence. This led in great part to their reliance on the militia instead of maintaining a large military. It also let to the Posse Comitatus Act that bars the federal government from using military to police domestic America.
The result is that until recently, very few military units were seen outside military reservations. Exercises were held on government land and training sites that were similar to potential theaters of combat like the Middle East, were constructed there.
Many Americans were concerned when post 9-11 laws eliminated some of those Posse Comitatus protections and have given the president more authority to employ the military domestically. Given the civil unrest seen in the last year, which threat has become more real.
The History of Military Exercises in Civilian Areas
Despite the concerns about training in civilian areas, it is not unheard of, especially in Special Forces exercises. In fact, every Green Beret has gone through an exercise called “Robin Sage.”
Robin Sage is the U.S. military’s premiere unconventional warfare exercise and culmination phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course. During the exercise, Special Forces candidates infiltrate the notional country of Pineland, which encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina including Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Guilford, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly and Union counties.
Robin Sage is conducted by the 1st Special Warfare Training Group and is designed to provide realistic training in unconventional warfare tactics and techniques.
It is the final training exercise before candidates earn their Green Berets and has been held for nearly half a century.
US Special Forces also hold exercises around the country – usually in an attempt to sharpen their ability to infiltrate and sabotage critical infrastructure. These aren’t announced to the target and the operators usually only find out that they were a target when they find a sign that says, “This equipment has been blown up” on a critical piece of communications, radar, or electrical power equipment. These exercises help the Special Forces hone their skills, while helping to plug security weaknesses in the American infrastructure network.
The one difference between those exercises and what is occurring today is visibility. Few are even aware of a Special Forces exercise, while many military exercises today leave a large visible footprint.
For instance, the largest military convoy since World War 2 took place in Colorado in May. The exercise was called “Raider Focus,” and it involved the 1st Brigade combat team, which consisted of more than 4,000 soldiers and more than 300 Stryker armored vehicles and other support vehicles from Fort Carson. Given the fact that the US isn’t involved in a war of WW II magnitude and the Army is much smaller today, skeptics ask why the maneuver took place. Others note that the local geography is unlike potential warzones like Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Civil Unrest Concerns
Although few think the Jade Helm exercise is an invasion of Texas, as some conspiracy theorists think, many more think there is more to these exercises than the Pentagon is willing to admit. Veterans admit that what the DoD says about exercises often is designed to circumvent the real reason for the event – either for political or tactical considerations.
There is also the lack of candor by the DoD on these operations. Congress has failed in its attempts to investigate U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the division in charge of Jade Helm, and very little is known about the scope and purpose of the SOCOM operations, given the extreme secrecy that often shrouds them.”
This lack of transparency was highlighted when SOCOM refused to allow the Washington Post to go along on Jade Helm, even though they had allowed journalists along on other exercises. The Washington Post argued that allowing journalists was the best way to address concerns about the operation.
Such secrecy bothers many journalists, even those on the left side of the political spectrum. “Whom does this exercise serve: the American public? Special Forces soldiers training for some current or future mission? Defense contractors peddling new weapons for wars that are increasingly being fought by remote control?” asked Justin Peters in Slate (hardly a conservative conspiracy publication) in May.
The Pentagon does have plans to respond to civil unrest with military tactics, as national security scholar and investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed revealed last year in a report for The Guardian.
In 2008, the Department of Defense first funded the “Minerva Research Initiative,” an effort that continues today. Minerva’s efforts included examining “social contagions” in order to understand how protest movements grow, with researchers studying Twitter posts by participants in the Arab Spring and other revolutionary movements.
Ahmed criticized the work funded by Minerva for failing to differentiate between constitutionally-protected protest and armed insurrection, citing a recent project that “conflates peaceful activists with ‘supporters of political violence’ who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists.”
The idea that this research might be linked to exercises like Jade Helm 15 or used against domestic groups is not unrealistic, either. Ahmed interviewed David Price, a St. Martin’s University anthropologist, who cited examples of Pentagon exercises designed to quell protest and free speech. Ahmed reported: “One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club.”
“Security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists,” concluded Ahmed, underscoring that it’s only through the outcry of journalists and regular citizens that we can protect our essential freedoms from military control.
These concerns are heightened by the motto of Jade Helm, “Mastering the Human Domain.” The concept of Human Domain refers to the tactic of discovering your enemies and friends in an unsettled area based on their lifestyle characteristics and their interrelationship with the social media.
It goes without saying that Americans use the social media more than either Afghans or Iraqis, which indicates that the US is gearing up for more domestic civil unrest.
Future Israeli Air Superiority Fighter losses to Older F-16
In news that has shaken up many, the F-35, which is America’s future air superiority fighter and also the choice of Israel’s air force lost in a dog fight against the much older F-16 (Block 40).
Information has been leaked that says that the F-35 can’t beat its predecessor in a dogfight, suggesting that the advanced new fighter might put lives at risk during close battles.
The news comes from a five-page brief that an F-35 pilot wrote after a war exercise against the F-16. The problem with the F-35 appears to be related to maneuverability, as the plane isn’t able to get the upper hand in combat against an older fighter.
More troubling is the fact that during this particular test, the F-35 should have been superior to the F-16 not only because of its more aerodynamic design but also because the old fighter was carrying extra fuel tanks. Still, the F-35 was not able to shoot down the F-16 or evade the attack, even though it should have been significantly nimbler than its opponent.
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the pilot wrote, revealing he couldn’t target the F-16 with the F-35’s 25mm canon. Meanwhile, when having to escape the old fighter’s aim, the F-35 wasn’t able to do that either.
Cockpit space is also a problem. Apparently, the cockpit was so cramped that it was hard for the pilot to move his head, which allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him.
The Islamic State’s Strategy: Lasting and Expanding
By Lina Khatib
June 29, 2015
The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group with a declared goal of establishing a “lasting and expanding” caliphate. Its strategy for survival and growth blends military, political, social, and economic components. Yet the U.S.-led international intervention against it has largely been limited to air strikes. The gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand. Understanding the Islamic State. The Islamic State faces significant internal challenges, including grievances about its brutality and unpredictable ruling behavior, a limited governance capacity, and tensions between foreigners and locals within its ranks.
The Escalating Arab Wars
By Maha Yahya
July 1, 2015
The violence unleashed in Arab countries in the last four years may turn out to be just a first taste of what is to come. Escalating brutality and the actions of governments have put Arab citizens under immense pressure. Without a change of course, the outcome could easily be further conflict and a new wave of uprisings – this time not peaceful. Not since the end of World War I have Arab countries undergone such a momentous upheaval. Conflict has broken out in no fewer than nine Arab countries, and the carnage has reached unimaginable levels of inhumanity. Tensions are mounting even in countries that are nominally at peace. Long-standing value systems are weakening, and once-solid societal foundations are crumbling.
If North Korea Got The Bomb, Iran Will Too
By James S. Robbins
American Foreign Policy Council
July 7, 2015
U.S. News & World Report
If North Korea could develop and test a nuclear weapon, even under a stringent arms control regime, why can’t Iran also build a bomb under a far less ample nuclear deal? It seems like we have been here before. In the early 1990s, concerns were growing that North Korea was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons capability. In 1994, the United States and North Korea adopted an agreement called the “Agreed Framework,” which called on Pyongyang to freeze and dismantle its nuclear program, place its spent uranium fuel under international control and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify compliance through “special inspections.” In return, North Korea would receive two light water reactors that had no weapons applications, shipments of fuel oil and a promised move toward normalization of political and economic relations.
21st Century Conflict: From “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) to “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs” (RCMA)
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
July 2, 2015
The U.S. and its allies need to take account of the radical changes taking place in 21st century conflict and what has now become a “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs,” or “RCMA.” One only has to look at a given day’s headlines to see how urgent this topic is, how much national security threats are changing, and how important cooperation can be in enhancing security and stability. The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs or “RCMA. This need to redefine security is being driven by a wide range of factors. They include the new uncertainties in Europe, the rising tensions in Asia, and the brutal ongoing civil-military conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Each region is experiencing new threats and the need for new forms of security.
The Tunisian-Libyan Jihadi Connection
By Aaron Y. Zelin
July 6, 2015
It should have come as no surprise that Seifeddine Rezgui, the individual who attacked tourists in Sousse, Tunisia, more than a week ago, had trained at a camp in Libya. The attack represented the continuation of a relationship between Tunisian and Libyan militants that, having intensified since 2011, goes back to the 1980s. The events in Sousse are a stark reminder of this relationship: a connection that is set to continue should the Islamic State (IS) choose to repeat attacks in Tunisia in the coming months. Brief History on the Tunisian-Libyan Militant Nexus. Although Ennahda did not explicitly call for individuals to fight against the Soviets during the Afghan jihad, militants in the mujahedeen were regularly involved in facilitation and logistical networks that brought Libyans to the region. Additionally, according to Noman Benotman, a former shura council member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Libyans alongside Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the Afghan leader of Ittihad-e-Islami, attempted to help the Tunisians create their own military camp and organization. This would not come to fruition until 2000.
Why Erdogan Could Push for Early Elections: Turkey’s Regulatory Bodies in a New Era
By Soner Cagaptay and Mark Bhaskar
July 7, 2015
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its thirteen-year legislative majority in the June 7 elections, now faces a new reality: working with other parties to form a coalition government. In addition to affecting Turkish policy on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues (e.g., see the recent PolicyWatch series “Turkey’s Political Scene Post-Election”), the ongoing negotiations with opposition factions could weaken the AKP’s control over state regulatory institutions.
Missiles and the Nuclear Negotiations with Iran
By Michael Eisenstadt
July 6, 2015
According to the latest reports stemming from the P5+1 talks, Iran is now insisting that UN sanctions on its ballistic missile program be lifted as part of a long-term nuclear accord. In addition to further complicating already fraught negotiations, this development highlights the importance Tehran attaches to its missile arsenal, as well as the need to answer unresolved questions about possible links between its missile and nuclear programs. Iran is believed to have the largest strategic missile force in the Middle East, producing short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, a long-range cruise missile, and long-range rockets. Although all of its missiles are conventionally armed at present, its medium-range ballistic missiles could deliver a nuclear weapon if Iran were to build such a device.