Analysis 07-20-2021

ANALYSIS

The Assassination of Haiti’s President
Provides more Questions than Answers

 

The murder of Haiti’s President Moise seems to be something out of a novel.  It has the intrigue of a Fredrick Forsyth novel and the complexity of an Agatha Christie murder.  It has Americans, Columbians, and Venezuelans involved. It has mercenaries trained by the US military and informants who worked for the FBI and DEA.  It has Canadian security personnel.  But the one thing it doesn’t have is an answer to the mystery of who was behind the plot.

What we do know is that last Wednesday, a team of gunmen had broken into the president’s residence, yelling” DEA” (The American Drug Enforcement Agency).  They quickly found his bedroom and riddled his body with bullets.

How they got into the presidential grounds without wounding or killing the guards is a mystery and leads one to believe that this was either an inside job or had someone helping on the inside.

The Haitian police quickly started to chase them and within a day, most of the suspects were either caught or dead.  As of this writing, only three suspects are at large.

 

Dr. Sanon

The mystery man at the center of this while plot is a Haitian who has lived in the US for two decades.  He is Dr. Christian Emmanuel, Sanon.  Sanon had expressed a desire to become president in the past, although he has no political experience.  He had made it clear that he was an anti-corruption person, which would pose a problem in a country that thrives on corruption.  People who know him in Florida call him very honest and upright – rarely a description for someone plotting an assassination.

In June, Sanon flew into Haiti in a private plane, with a bodyguard that he had secured from CTU Security, a Florida based security firm owned by a Venezuelan national.  Dr. Sanon then started to contact influential Haitian people.

Here is where the first mystery comes.  Sanon had filed for bankruptcy in 2013.  Where did he get the money to hire bodyguards and fly to Haiti?  Security firms  do not provide credit and require money ahead of time.  There are too many problems with collecting their money when a person is in another country.

Bodyguards are also expensive in nations with civil unrest.  American bodyguards with military Special Forces experience can cost $20,000 per person, a month.

Then, there was the fact that he was unknown in the political or Florida expat community.  If he were expected to rally support after the assassination of the president, he wouldn’t be the one to inspire the population.

Obviously, Sanon was a front man.  But who was he fronting for?  And was he a gullible person who wasn’t aware he was merely a front for someone else?

If Sanon was acting as a front for someone else, chances are that the people behind this whole operation are unsavory.

The most likely benefactor would be the one to take control after the assassination.  However, there is a problem.  There are three potential leaders of Haiti, but none of them are constitutionally able to claim the leadership of the nation.

Of course, President Moise wasn’t totally legitimate as his term of office ended last February.

The fact is that the Haitian government is a basket case more like Somalia.

Here are the three with the biggest claim to the presidency:

There is the Interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, who could legally take over the presidency, except he was never confirmed by the Haitian Senate (which lacks a quorum anyway).  He does control the military and police.  He is also recognized as the legitimate leader by Canada, the European nations, and the US.

However, his position as PM was to end next week and Ariel Henry was to become the PM.  However, he was not confirmed by the Haitian Senate either.  If Moise had died next week, he would be the logical leader.

Then there is Senate Leader Joseph Lambert (If there was a Senate – which there is not as only 10 of 30 seats are occupied).  A group of well-known politicians have recommended he become interim president.

And, to confuse it more, the opposition parties are calling for the creation of the “Independent Moral Authority,” which would make the choice.

All three of the potential leaders have met with the US delegation, but it appears that Claude Joseph remains the favorite.

One could argue the Claude Joseph would be the likely candidate for the instigator of the murder since he was scheduled to leave as PM next week and the murder keeps him in power.  However, that does not hold water because Joseph was only chosen as interim PM in April and the coup attempt was already in motion as some of the coup mercenaries were already stationed in Haiti six months ago.

Of course, if Henry or Lambert had chosen to carry out a coup, they would have assembled a team larger than the 30 or so mercenaries because they would be expected to face off with the military and police after the assassination.

 

The Team

A better idea of the culprit behind the assassination may be gained by looking at the team of mercenaries.

The bulk of the team was former Columbian soldiers who, in some cases, had military training in the US.  However, although the US Army has admitted that they trained them, they declined to say what training they participated in.  At this time, there is no evidence that these soldiers had any special forces training.

But there are others with interesting back stories.

There was a man named Salagas who had provided entertainer Sean Penn security for his aid organization.  It also appears that he spent some time as security for the Canadian Embassy in Port au Prince.  The Canadians have said that he was only temporary security for an event.

Salagas, who was captured by the Haitian police claims that the plan was to arrest President Moise, not kill him.

There are also stories that the two Americans were informants for the US Government (FBI and DEA).  This is not an indication of their goof character as federal informants are usually criminals who are receiving money or leniency and as untrustworthy as the criminals they are informing on.

It is interesting that one was a DEA informant as the raiding party of mercenaries called out that they were DEA agents to keep the presidential guards from returning fire.  This may have been done to imply that the US government was complicit in any assassination.

There are three suspects still at large.  One is a former Haitian senator, John Joseph, who opposed the party that President Moise belonged to.

Another fugitive is Joseph Bando, who once worked for the Haitian Ministry of Justice’s anti-corruption unit.  He was fired in 2013 for being corrupt.

The suspect that has familiarity with the DEA is a felon with a conviction for cocaine smuggling.  He is probably the DEA informant.  The man is Rodolphe “Whiskey” Jarr.   He plead guilty in 2013 to smuggling cocaine from Columbia and Venezuela, through Haiti to the US.  Haiti is a popular cocaine smuggling route because the customs officers are easily bribable.  During his sentencing in 2015, Jarr told the judge that he had been a DEA informant.

Frequently the cocaine goes from Haiti to Porto Rico, which is a soft entry into the US.  In fact, Haiti is a key cocaine smuggling station for drugs coming from Columbian and Venezuela.

This suggests the probable killers of the Haitian president.  The South American drug cartels have the cash to create a team of mercenaries and they would have a financial interest in who runs the country, especially if they are determined to stamp out drug traffic.

This also explains the team of Columbian mercenaries, hired through a security company owned by a Venezuelan national.

Stepping back, we see Columbians and a Venezuelan national.  We also see a convicted drug smuggler and a former corrupt policeman.  These all indicate drug cartel involvement.

It may also explain the arrest of Dr. Sanon.  He has accused the current leadership of being corrupt – which would not endear himself to the drug cartels or the Haitian government.

Although there may be more intriguing theories about the assassination of President Moise, it appears that the South American drug cartels wanted to ensure that Haiti would remain a key and profitable part of America’s illegal drug industry and they might have some accomplices in US.

Analysis 07-13-2021

ANALYSIS

America Withdraws from Afghanistan
One Chapter ends, Another One Begins

 

In what one could call a “Middle of the Night” withdrawal, the US abandoned its largest military base in Afghanistan, Bagram air base, last week.

The sudden withdrawal surprised everyone, including America’s Afghan allies.  The Afghanistan base command was unaware of the withdrawal until after the last American left.

The Afghans were left with a treasure trove of weapons like armored vehicles, small arms, and ammunition.  The only problem was which Afghans would take possession of it.  The Taliban started making rapid advances across the nation as pro-American Afghan soldiers abandoned their posts.  The result was that the Taliban forces quickly found themselves with modern military equipment left behind by the US.

The rapid withdrawal sparked some criticism in the United States as video of the Taliban parading around with US equipment reached American TV.

However, that criticism ignored many of the facts on the ground.  The US has already made it clear that they were in the final stages of withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The only question was how the final stages of the pull out would take place.  There was too much equipment on the ground to return to the US; a product of 20 years of war.  Either the US troops would have to destroy it, which takes time, creates a public spectacle, and leaves the final group of troops vulnerable.

The other choice, which the US took, was to quickly and quietly pull out so the Taliban and other anti-American forces would have no chance to attack vulnerable US troops as they left.

The final panicked withdrawal of US forces from the top of the US Embassy in Saigon is still seared in the minds of many Americans.  At least this was not the final image Americans would remember of Kabul.

However, the US still has not totally left Afghanistan.  There is about a battalion of Army and Marines stationed at the US Embassy and the Kabul airport.  Command of US forces in Afghanistan will revert to General Frank McKenzie, who is head of US Central Command.  A new command structure will direct operations that do not deal with diplomatic security out of the US Embassy in Kabul.

The US Central Command said on Tuesday that most of the withdrawal was complete.  “While the withdrawal is over 90% complete, it is not done,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.  “Temporary enabling forces remain in theater that are focused on providing security for a safe and orderly withdrawal.  If these forces and certain contract support are still there, the withdrawal is still ongoing.”

The key to this new structure will be maintaining control of the Kabul airport.  As a landlocked country with a poor road infrastructure, the airport is the key exit for any foreign interests in Afghanistan.  Therefore, a large part of the US military presence will be at the airport.

However, the US is not the only nation with a battalion of forces remaining in Afghanistan.  Turkey has agreed to help the US retain control of the Kabul airport.  This was an important part of the talks between the US and Turkey at the NATO meeting last month.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke with American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to work out details.  Akar later said the two had constructive talks, but the details remain to be ironed out.

While the US will be providing airport security along with Turkish forces, the operation of the airport is in Turkish hands.  The Afghans had asked for the Turkish help as one Afghan official said, “We don’t have the capacity to run the airport with Afghans alone due to the lack of expertise, nor do we have the financial ability to bring in private contractors.”

The Turkish deal includes $130 million per year, which is probably going to be paid by the US.  This also includes a commitment by Turkey to defend the airport.

The US-Turkish deal appears to be helping relations between the two nations.  Relations have been cooling with Turkey buying a Russian air defense system, the US cancelling Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program, and operations in Syria.

However, Turkey’s help in Afghanistan is not as altruistic as it appears.  Turkey and the Ottoman Empire have had good relations with Afghanistan for centuries.  Afghanistan has been a critical part of Ankara’s attempt to limit Russian and Persian influence in Central Asia.  The relationship was so tight that Afghanistan was frequently called “The Little Brother of the Ottoman State.”  In fact, three hundred years ago, to weaken the Persian ruling family, the Ottoman’s recognized the chieftain of the Afghans Ashraf Hotaki as Shah of Persia.

Afghanistan became a modern state over a hundred years ago and it was Turkey that stepped in to help the new country with advisors and money to build infrastructure.  The first public hospital was built in 1913 with the help of Ottoman advisors.

Ottoman advisors, with the concurrence of the Afghan ruling family, helped write the Afghan constitution, while including many more modern ideas of government.

Ankara’s help is also evident in the modernization of the Afghan Army.  In 1920, Ottoman military leader Djemal Pasha came to Kabul to modernize the Afghan Army on more European lines, considering the lessons of WWI.

The relationship became very warm.  Ghazi Khan would say when Turkey won its independence over Ottoman forces, “Turks and Afghans are brothers. Turks’ joy is our joy; their sorrow is our sorrow.

This relationship continued during the last 20 years.  Although Turkey left the fighting to the other NATO countries, Turkey was involved in rebuilding the nation.  In fact, Afghanistan has been Turkey’s largest international project.  About 15,000 military and police officers have been trained by Turkey.  There are 21 Turkish schools and four education centers helping over 7,000 students.  Many NATO operations that dealt with non-military affairs and required familiarization with Islam and cultural affairs were handled by the Turks.

Given this background, it is not a surprise that Turkey is remaining in Afghanistan and keeping a military presence at Kabul’s airport.

This fits Ankara’s historical relationship with the Afghans and Erdogan’s wish to mold Turkey into a modern Ottoman Empire.

Although Turkey and Russia are currently on good terms, historically, the two nations have been at odds for the last several centuries.  A strong position in Afghanistan gives it a border and influence in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.  All three nations are considered critical in Russia’s (and China’s) desire to control central Asia.

Afghanistan also has a long border with Iran, which has been a competitor for influence in the Middle East.

And, although the US has withdrawn from Afghanistan, it still wants to have some influence in that country, while also limiting the influence of Russia and Iran.  Therefore, it is natural that the US will support Turkey’s position in Afghanistan.

The next few months will be critical.  If the Afghans government and the Turks can come to some sort of accommodation with the Taliban, it could help squeeze out Iran, who has helped the Taliban in the past to cause the US problems.

If the Taliban decides to try to control the whole of Afghanistan, it will have problems due to the nation’s tribal character.  Turkey and Erdogan will not want to withdraw from the airport (and all foreign groups, who rely on the airport for an emergency exit and supplies).  And, as was seen in recent events, it will be easy for the US and Turkey to supply arms to pro-western tribes to confront Iranian and Taliban.

It is also important to remember that US airpower remains just over the horizon in the Arabian Gulf.  The Americans have made it clear that they are ready to carry out military operations in Afghanistan if necessary.  If Turkey finds itself in trouble, it is expected to call for the nearest American aircraft carrier.

While the withdrawal of America from Afghanistan means the end of one chapter, the remaining Turkish influence means the beginning of a new chapter.  This chapter may not have the combat operations of the past, but it will join the many chapters written in the past about Ottoman and Afghan cooperation. One factor should be considered is Taliban declared position that all foreign forces including Turkish must leave the country or will be forced out by military means.

Analysis 07-08-2021

ANALYSIS

The Race for the Senate in 2022

 

In a year and a half, a crop of new senators and old incumbents will be making dramatic changes to the political composition of the US Senate.  Today, it is perfectly balanced with Republicans and Democrats both holding 50 seats.  For ties, Vice President Harris becomes the tie breaker,

That means each senate seat is critical and a shift of one senate seat in the 2022 election will dramatically impact the Biden agenda and the Republican opposition to the Democratic agenda.

Although it is early in the election cycle and many potential candidates, especially the most electable ones, are still measuring their chances, we can look at the trends that will determine the control of the Senate.

It is a sort of a tradition that the president’s party will lose both house and senate seats in an off year election.  These off year elections give voters an opportunity to voice their concerns about how the country is being run.

This should be true in 2022; however, there are other factors to consider.  Unlike House elections, which take place across the nation, only 34 states will have a senate election.  Therefore, those 34 states will have a bigger impact on the results and those results will depend on incumbency, the state’s leanings (Republican or Democrat), and specific personalities.

Off year elections are more dependent on who turns out to vote – called turnout differential.  Traditionally, voters who oppose the president are more likely to vote because they are more enthusiastic.  Voters who like the incumbent are more likely to stay home.

That enthusiasm for the president is critical.  A popular president does encourage his voters to come out in off year elections.  Those who support the president but are not that enthusiastic are more likely to stay home on Election Day.  The same can be said about the president’s key legislative agenda.  Excitement about the president’s agenda will encourage his supporters to turn out.

This poses a problem for Biden.  Polling shows him to be running around the 50-55% in approval – and much of that is soft.  These are not the numbers that indicate Biden voters rushing to the polls on Election Day.  Unless the economy kicks into high gear, he will have problems given the fact that many of his programs are stuck in legislative limbo.

One problem for Biden is college educated white voters, who are reliable voters in off term elections.  They went for Biden in 2020 by 54% to 46%, which is a thin margin.  A shift in who votes will give this demographic to the GOP.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of these voting demographics will not really show up until the first 2022 polls start coming in.

Although the “off year election” factor is in the Republican favor, the makeup of the senate seats up for election this year favors the Democrats.  There are 34 seats that will have elections this year – 20 seats are held by Republicans and 14 for Democrats.  That means that Republicans have more seats to protect, and Democrats have more seats that they can pick to focus their energy and money on.

Two of those seats are in states that voted for Biden in 2020 (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).  However, both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania only went to Biden by about one percentage point, so if Biden voters stay home, the Republicans hold those seats.

The Democrats also have some seats that could be taken by Republicans.  They are Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and New Hampshire.

Here is a run-down of these vulnerable six states.

 

Arizona. 

Senator Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords defeated Senator Martha McSally for the remainder of the late Senator McCain seat’s term.  Although Kelly painted himself as a moderate, he has come across to be labeled by opponents as the most liberal of the two Arizona Democratic Senators.

Kelly is also anti-gun in a state that consistently ranks in Guns and Ammo magazine, as the most gun friendly state.

The fact is that McSally was a weak campaigner and Kelly only won 51.2% of the vote.

Although several people have expressed interest in the senate seat, only one Republican, with serious credentials has announced he will run – Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General.  He has a record fighting undocumented immigration, fighting Google on privacy issues and election reform (which he won at the Supreme Court this week).  In a state with more Republican voters than Democrat voters, he has a good chance to turn this seat Republican again.

 

Georgia. 

Senator Rapheal Warnock won this seat in January with 51.04% of the vote.  He is filling the unexpired term of former Senator Isakson.  This will be a battleground election with the polls remarkably close.

Although three Republicans have declared, the state is waiting for Herschel Walker, a former professional football player to announce.  Walker is a friend of former President Donald Trump and served on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.

Walker was a star football player for several professional football teams, including the Dallas Cowboys.  He played college football at the University of Georgia, is Black and will receive the endorsement of Trump.  He has also received the endorsement of Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC).

Walker is a successful businessman, and arguably the best football athlete to ever play for the University of Georgia.  In a state where SEC college football is a passion, that gives him a strong start for winning the senate seat.

Expect Trump to be making a lot of visits to Georgia next year.

 

Nevada

Although Nevada is trending Democratic, this is considered a potential pick-off by the GOP.

The incumbent is Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who won in 2016 by 47.19% of the vote.  Having won by a minority of the vote, she is considered vulnerable.

Her likely opponent is Adam Laxalt, former Nevada Attorney General.  Laxalt has endorsements from Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Republican Florida Senator Scott.

Nevada only went for Biden in 2020 with 50.06% of the vote.

 

New Hampshire

Only 2 out of 5 voters in New Hampshire view Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan favorably according to a poll taken earlier this year.  For an incumbent, those are disastrous numbers.

So far, she has only one declared candidate to run against her on the Republican ticket – Donald Bolduc, a former special forces Brigadier General.  However, the current Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has expressed interest.

A poll taken in February shows Hassan leading Bolduc with 52%.  However, Sununu would be a more competitive candidate.

 

Pennsylvania

Republican Senator Pat Toomey has announced that he will not run for reelection, which leaves this Republican held senate seat in a state that voted for Biden very vulnerable.

Five Republicans have declared for the seat and about 16 have expressed some interest.

On the Democrat side, eight have declared.  Nine others have expressed interest in running.

None stand out in the race.  Biden won the race with 50% of the vote.

 

Wisconsin

Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson won by 50.17 percent in 2016.  He has not declared that he will run again and once said that he only wanted to serve two terms in the US Senate.

By not declaring, he has held up several potential Republican candidates from declaring.  Five Democrats have announced.

The pool of candidates does not have any big names – just several state politicians and some representatives.  The big names are awaiting a decision from Johnson.

 

Summary

At this time, it is impossible to tell who will come out ahead on election night 2022.  Biden’s administration will have an impact on the results as well as the economy.  Much will depend on how the candidates campaign.

Stay tuned!

Analysis 06-28-2021

ANALYSIS

The New Brinkmanship

 

Brinkmanship between the military forces of major powers has been a part of international relations for centuries.  Although they risked war, these provocations also allowed militaries to train their forces and see how the potential enemy reacted.

However, by the Cold War, the forces of NATO and the Soviets had taken this type of brinkmanship to new heights, with naval land and air forces coming close to shooting incidents on a regular basis.  The answer was an understanding about what was considered acceptable behavior and what was considered overtly hostile.  Some of these rules were common sense: military aircraft and naval vessels would follow international rules concerning “rules of the road,” not using fire control radar to target a warship on the other side, not carrying out dangerous maneuvers that could cause a collision, cutting back on hostile military exercises during diplomatic summits, etc.

The rules worked well and both sides were able to carry out their exercises without risk of war.  The Cold War ended without any accidents leading to a major conflict.

That has changed.  In the last week alone, several incidents have gone beyond the old rules of behavior.

One was the Russian naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii – the largest since the Cold War.  Although they did not enter American territorial waters, they came close enough that American fighter aircraft were scrambled on at least two occasions.  The Russians made it clear that the purpose of the exercise was to destroy a naval task force – the type that could be found at the naval base at Pearl Harbor, just a few miles away.

Ironically, this happened just as Biden was sitting down with Putin for their summit talk – talks that the White House insisted were successful.  Biden had given Putin the “go ahead” on the Russian pipeline, backed down on the ransomware issue, and the stationing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Former Deputy National Security Advisor K T McFarland later said that Biden should have walked out of the talks immediately.

This was not a “one time” event.  Just this week, Russian bombers, escorted by Russian fighter aircraft, entered the Baltic Sea airspace.  The Russian move forced fighter aircraft of several nations (Denmark, Sweden, and Italy) to scramble from bases in Estonia to intercept them.

On Wednesday, Russian ships and aircraft are alleged to have fired warning shots at the British warship HMS Defender, an air defense destroyer.  The Russian Su-24 attack aircraft dropped four bombs near the ship according to the Russians.

The British Ministry of Defense denied that and said the firing was part of a scheduled naval exercise that was nearby.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also released video footage of a Russian fighter buzzing the British destroyer.

This would be the first time since the Cold War that Russia used live munitions to deter a NATO vessel.

The Russians claimed that the ship had entered Russian waters off the Crimean Peninsula.  However, Britain has not recognized the Russian control of the Crimea and claims that the ship was not in Russian waters.  The Royal Navy said that the ship was taking the most direct course from the Republic of Georgia to the Ukraine.

A BBC correspondent was on the Defender at the time and verified the aggressive action by Russian aircraft and patrol boats.  However, the video did not show any bombs or cannon fire.  There, however, was aggressive maneuvering by the Russian ships – something that was not permitted under the Cold War rules.

But what was the most provoking incident of the week, was the Russian naval exercise just off the coast of Hawaii.  It was the largest Russian exercise in the Pacific since the end of the Cold War.  It included 20 warships, fighter aircraft and long-range bombers.

The exercise showed that Russia is attempting to develop a post-Cold War ability to project power well beyond its borders.

Although most of the exercise took place 300 miles off Hawaii, some warships came as close as 20 nautical miles off the Hawaiian coast.

The fleet was not unescorted.  Three American Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers and a Coast Guard cutter monitored the exercise.  When Russian “Bear” bombers approached US territorial waters, the Hawaii National Guard scrambled F-22 stealth fighters.  The bombers never entered US airspace and turned around after being intercepted.

The Russian Defense Ministry described the exercise as “destroying an aircraft carrier strike group of a mock enemy.”  The most powerful Russian warship was the Slava class Cruiser, which carries 16 S-300F anti-ship missiles.  Obviously, the Russian bombers would also be carrying anti-ship missiles that they would launch as they enter the missile’s range.

Exercises like this provide information for both sides.  It gave the Russians a chance to carry out some of the tactics that would be used against an American naval task force.  It also gave the Americans an idea of what to expect.

Both sides can learn radio frequencies that may be used in an operational situation and what bands of radar are used.

It appears that Russian naval tactics have not changed much since the Cold War.  Back then, the idea was to fire massive salvos of anti-ship missiles that would overwhelm American Navy air defense systems.  This, in turn led to the American development of the Aegis air defense system that could track multiple targets and launch several missiles at the same time.  With the multi-layer air defense system of Navy F-14 aircraft and their Phoenix missile system and the Phalanx close-in weapons system, the naval task force could destroy most of the aircraft before they launched their missiles and then intercept any anti-ship missiles that did get launched.

The Russian tactics still focus on overwhelming the carrier air defense systems.  But, this time, the Russians have another technology – hypersonic missiles, which will be harder to intercept.

However, American aircraft carriers are not defenseless.  Navy video footage of shock tests on the newest American aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, demonstrated that it can absorb considerable damage and continue operating.  In the shock test, a 40,000-pound high explosive charge (equivalent to the combined weight of about 20, S-300F anti-ship missile warheads) was detonated underwater and 500 feet from the carrier.  The ship remained operational, even though the blast caused an earthquake in Florida.

American aircraft carriers are known for their ability to absorb damage.  In 1967, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal had a fire that killed 134 men and wounded 161 men.  The fire caused 10 bombs with a high explosive weight of about 10,000 pounds to explode on the flight deck.  Despite the damage, the carrier sailed to the Philippines for repairs before returning to its homeport.  Although the rear part of the flight deck was seriously damaged, the USS Forrestal could have continued limited air operations within a few hours if it had been necessary.

Pentagon war planners while alarmed by Russian maneuvers they project confidence in US military power, they insist that American carriers are tougher than many thinks.  And the air defense systems of the carrier task force are better than they were in the Cold War. They believe that the current defense doctrine would call for destroying hypersonic missile launcher systems like bombers and warships before they are launched.  There are also electronic warfare tactics that would try to confuse the missiles in flight.  Finally, there are maneuvering tactics for the warships that would make it harder for the missile to hit its target.

They point out that redundancy is important.  Since there is the risk of a carrier being damaged, most carrier task forces that are intended to go into a major conflict are expected to operate with two aircraft carriers.

In the end, they are claiming that hitting an American carrier enough to put it out of action would be harder than many imagine.

A former high ranking U.S. navy official commented on the Russian latest exercise: “Another factor that Putin must account for is the growing Western fleet of aircraft capable ships.  There are the British carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.  There is the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, and the Italian carrier Cavour.  The American Navy has several amphibious ships that can carry smaller numbers of the F-35 stealth attack aircraft. The Spanish, Japanese, and Australians also have ships that can carry the American F-35”.

To him Putin must answer the question: Can Russia launch another Pearl Harbor attack – one that could cripple the American Navy unlike the Japanese attack?

He added “Although the Russian exercise was just off the coast of Hawaii, the size of the force was not anything like the Japanese fleet that hit Pearl Harbor at the beginning of WWII (the Japanese had six aircraft carriers and 353 aircraft on December 7, 1941).  The only Russian aircraft carrier (which was not in the exercise) has a history of mechanical problems and aircraft that have been lost in operations.  The only other aircraft were bombers that were launched thousands of miles away in Siberia.

In the end, the naval provocations that Putin and Russia engaged in this last week make for great headlines, but do not indicate the real power of the Russian Navy, which has a history of being unable of operating beyond the coast of Syria, which is only a few hundred miles from Russian territory”.

Washington pundits seemed to be miscalculating Putin determination to advance Russian power globally, they are downplaying his actions by resorting to the thinking that Successful brinkmanship requires having the assets to project sufficient power on the other side of the world.  And insist that lessons learned after the Cold War, proved that the Soviet Union did not have that power.  And, despite “Putin’s boasts”, post-Cold War Russia does not have the reach or power yet. But the fact that Biden administration is trying hard to contain Putin prove that reality is otherwise.

Analysis 06-21-2021

ANALYSIS

Biden’s First Trip OverseasPart Two

 

Biden’s trip to the G-7 meeting, the NATO gathering, and finally the summit with Russian President Putin was hailed as an “America is back” tour.  However, the tour showed to the world an American president that is in his dotage.

From being led out of a restaurant by First Lady Jill Biden, to confusing Libya with Syria, to embarrassing press conferences, to shouting at a CNN reporter who asked an inconvenient question, foreigners saw a president far different than the one covered by the American media.

One member of Parliament, who never had good things to say about President Trump in the past said of the former president, “At least he could stay awake in meetings.

While the G-7 meeting was limited to six other world leaders, the NATO meeting was more difficult.  Several Eastern European nations like Poland remain pro-Trump, even though they agree with Biden that Russia remains a major threat.

Biden’s most important task was to reassure NATO allies, after his predecessor had threatened several members for not paying their fair share, that the US remained committed to NATO.

One thing rarely mentioned at this meeting was that the number of NATO nations that had raised their defense commitment to 2% of their GDP had grown under the Trump Administration.

Much of the NATO meeting targeted Russia.  Biden noted in his press conference that, “I’m going to make it clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses.  And, if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past, relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond.  We will respond in kind.

One topic that came up in the NATO talks was Belarus.  Events came to a head recently when Belarus fighter aircraft forced a commercial aircraft flying in its airspace to land to arrest an opponent of the current Belarus regime.

There is growing concern that Belarus could join Russia in an attack on the Ukraine.  Belarus also borders NATO members Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.  Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Belarus has had close relations with Russia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stollenberg told an audience that NATO was prepared “to protect and defend any ally against any kind of threat coming from Minsk and Moscow.”

Lithuanian President Nauseda said of Belarus, “We see that this country is losing its last elements of independence and could be used in the hands of Russia as a weapon…for foreign aggressive activities towards NATO allies.”

Despite these warnings about Russia and Belarus, the Ukrainian request to join NATO was put off as Biden said Ukraine was not ready to join alliance.  Government corruption was cited as a reason.

China was not left out.  A NATO communiqué warned that the rising power of China presents “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.”  “We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation,” the document said,

While there was the focus on Russia, one important part of the NATO meeting was the face-to-face meeting between Erdogan and Biden.  There has been considerable tension between the two nations after Turkey bought a Russian S-400 air defense system and the US cancelled Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter aircraft.

While the Biden-Erdogan meeting was described as “positive and productive” by Biden, many issues like the Armenian genocide remain stumbling blocks to better US-Turkish relations.

“We had detailed discussions about how to proceed on a number of issues,” Biden said.  “Our two countries have big agendas.”

Although Syria was undoubtedly on the agenda, neither leader was willing to give details on the discussions.  Biden indicated that the two nations will establish diplomatic teams to try to work out solutions to Syria and other bilateral issues.

 

Meeting Putin

Although the G-7 and NATO meetings were important, the highlight of the trip was the meeting with Putin in Switzerland.  Bilateral meeting between US and Russian leaders have been a regular event for over 60 years.

Before the meeting, the question was how aggressive Biden would be with Putin and his aggressive foreign policy.

However, everyone had forgotten that Russia could play the aggressive card just as well.  While Biden and Putin were meeting, Russia was holding the biggest Pacific exercise since the Cold War just 300 miles off the coast of Hawaii.  The exercise forced the US Air Force to scramble F-22 stealth fighters from its base in Hawaii to intercept a contingent of Russian military forces that included long range bombers, surface ships, and anti-submarine aircraft.

Although the Russian aircraft did not enter the US Air Defense Identification Zone, the provocation was clear.  Since the Cold War, Russia has limited its military reach to territories close by.  By holding military exercises close to the US they are clearly indicating that Russia has once again become a military power with global reach.  And, by holding these exercises in the Pacific, they are indicating that they can have an impact in current disputes with China in the South China Sea and Taiwan.

Although Russia and the US have many issues to discuss, ranging from the Ukraine to nuclear arms limitations, the meeting between Putin and Biden was shorter than planned – just two and a half hours instead of the planned five hours.

The shortness of the meeting indicated the lack of agreement between the two on most issues.  In a post meeting briefing by a State Department official, the discussions were described as “very direct,” which is diplomatic speak for a lack of cordiality and willingness to negotiate.  Later, the official said, “We are not flipping a light switch,” which indicates that serious negotiations are needed in the future.

Given the number of subjects that the State Department official mentioned as being discussed, it was clear that each issue was probably only given a few minutes in the short 150-minute meeting.  Some of the subjects were Afghanistan, Belarus, the Ukraine, Covid, Freedom of Navigations, China, media foreign agents, Climate, Cybersecurity, Restoring ambassadors in both countries, electronic attacks on American personnel like those seen in Havana Cuba, The Russian gas pipeline, the Arctic, nuclear weapons negotiations, Iran, and the humanitarian corridor in Syria.

This does not include the list of 16 infrastructure targets that Biden said should be “off Limits” to cyberattack.

Putin also had issues that he brought to the table, including the growing number of NATO warships that are entering and patrolling the Black Sea, once considered a “Russian lake.”  During the summit meeting US and NATO warships were patrolling the Black Sea.

Clearly, there was little time to hold meaningful discussions on any subject.  In fact, the State Department merely referred to “forward motion” from the summit.

However, the meeting was not a loss.  Russia and the US agreed to return ambassadors, which will make additional negotiations easier.  They will begin consultations on cybersecurity, a point that the US considered critical.

Other issues included an exchange of convicts and mutual recognition of covid-19 vaccines.

The two leaders also released a document calling for strategic stability and pledged future talks on arms control and reducing the risk of war.

So, how was Biden’s first trip overseas?  Although his meetings had their fair share of gaffs, it wasn’t as bad as some thought it would be.  Biden’s staff kept him on subject and kept him away from embarrassing questions.

The G-7 meeting was bland, especially as the same people were to meet a day later at the NATO conference.  There were the usual pledges to act on issues like climate control, but the only big agreement was on a global corporate tax (and that will need ratification by the counties’ legislatures).

The NATO meeting was more important given the number of potential flash points across Europe and the world.  The focus was on Russia, as it has been since the end of WWII.  The Ukraine and the Baltic states remain at risk.  However, this time, Belarus was added to the list of concerns.

The meeting with Putin could be better than some of the US-Soviet meetings of the last 60 plus years.  However, it did not rank as one of the best.

While US-Russian relations usually focused on nuclear arms treaties, today’s US-Russian relations are more complex.  Russia is now part of the world economic system, so economic issues must be considered.

Both nations have interests that collide.  Russia considers Syria as its most important ally in the Middle East and is committed to keeping the legitimate President Assad in control despite US desires and hundreds of US troops on the ground in Syria.

China remains a difficult issue.  Russia wants good relations with China to offset the decades of good US-China relations.  However, Biden is hoping and counting on the notion that Russia sees China as a competitor in many areas like the Arctic and Northern Pacific.  And that Russia remembers several border incidents several decades ago.

Then, there is the desire of Putin to restore the grandeur of the Soviet Empire.  That includes reducing US influence around the globe.

One the other hand, the US also wants to reduce Russian influence.

These problems remain.  However, the joint decision to return ambassadors means that Russia and the US are talking again at a diplomatic level.  And ambassadors and embassy staff that talk to each other daily is more important than 2 ½ hour talks between Putin and Biden. It seems that the next 6-9 months ahead are crucial test of the future direction of US-Russian relations.

Analysis 06-15-2021

ANALYSIS

Biden’s First Trip OverseasPart One

 

Biden’s trip is scheduled to take in talks with Western leaders, the G-7 meeting, a visit to NATO headquarters, and a meeting with Russian President Putin.  This analysis covers the first part of the trip and will be continued in next week’s report.

After being in the White House for nearly half a year, Biden is making his first trip overseas.  It started with the G-7 meeting of major Western leaders in Britain, preceded by a meeting with his host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Biden Administration made the trip’s theme: “America positively engaged with its European allies after four years of Trump.”  Polls came out saying Biden was more popular with foreigners than Trump (although they downplayed the fact that German Chancellor Markel) is seen as a better leader than Biden.

 

Biden reaffirming the “Special Relationship” with Great Britain

The first meeting with Johnson – and the leader of America’s closest ally started with some diplomatic bumps that are usually avoided prior to such meetings.  Biden and his State Department issued a diplomatic demarche (something usually reserved for unfriendly governments) over the lack of hard trade borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.

The issue is a domestic one for Britain and has been dubbed the “Sausage War.”  The EU, still upset with London’s Brexit, now wants to stop the movement of chilled meats (sausage and bacon) from the island of Britain to Northern Ireland.

Why Biden chose to involve the US in this issue is a mystery. The EU intransigence on the issue could also cause an outbreak of hostilities in Northern Ireland again.

Bilateral relations were not helped when Biden previously called Johnson a “Physical and Emotional Clone” of President Trump and had criticized the British decision to leave the EU.

Despite these problems overhanging the meeting of the two leaders, the meeting went off without a hitch.  British foreign secretary Raab told reporters that the two did not “linger” on the Sausage War issue.

“The prime minister wanted to raise it and be very clear on our position,” Raab said.

The press conference afterwards was very positive.

To give a positive spin to the meeting, Biden and Johnson held a ceremonial signing of the Atlantic Charter, which was first signed by Churchill and Roosevelt during WWII.  It addressed human rights and the right of self-determination.

The one signed by Biden and Johnson was not as historic.  Rather than focusing on human rights, it talked about climate change and technology.

After the ceremonial signing of the Atlantic Charter, the two leaders held their private talks.

One issue that was sure to come up was the growing tensions with China.  While the US has strengthened its ties with Taiwan and challenged Chinese control over the South China Sea, Britain has seen China break the treaty with the UK that turned the colony of Hong Kong over to the Chinese.  The treaty guaranteed Hong Kong’s special status and human rights for a period of 50 years.  The Chinese have broken the treaty with the crack down on (what has been considered by US and its allies) as human rights in Hong Kong in the past few years.

One issue for discussion is the Western naval presence off the Chinese coast during the next few months.  The only US supercarrier in the Western Pacific is the USS Ronald Reagan.  However, it is moving to the Indian Ocean to cover the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.  The US wants the Reagan on station if the Taliban or other radical groups tries to attack the US forces while they are leaving.

Although the US has an amphibious assault ship (USS America, LHA-6) in the Western Pacific, it can only carry 6 F-35 fighter aircraft.  It is designed for amphibious missions like attacks on the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea.  It does not have the air capability for countering a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan (however, it might be ideal for countering ground attacks on US troops in Afghanistan).

During this Afghanistan mission, the US is expecting the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and her two squadrons of F-35 fighters to provide needed air support to the American, Japanese, and Australian naval forces around China.

This is also a subject sure to come up in private talks at the NATO meeting next week.  Should France’s nuclear aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, move towards China or should it remain in the European theater as tensions with Russia remain high?

 

G-7 Talks Begin

Friday was the opening of the G-7 talks in Cornwall, England.  The G-7 nations include Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.

However, the reality is that the G-7 nations are not as important as they once were.  These top 7 Western nations once controlled much of the world’s economy.  However, as other nations outside of the G-7 nations have grown economically (China being a prime example), their economic clout has declined considerably.

That is one reason why South Korea, South Africa, Australia, and India have been invited to attend the G-7 meeting this year.

And, unlike the unity shown during the Cold War, national differences have created major wedges between the nations.  France and Germany are advocates of the European Union, which Britain left, and Italy threatens to leave.  Japan, the US, and Britain are concerned about Chinese hegemony while Germany pushed the EU-China Investment Agreement.

These differences and loss of economic importance did not stop the G-7 nations.  One example is the idea of having a global tax of 15% on companies – an idea that will not go anywhere.  The taxes will not be implemented by nations that have lower corporate taxes since it destroys their competitiveness.  There is also the fact that the taxes will have to be approved by the various legislative bodies of the respective nations.

Some see the global tax to tax more of Amazon’s profits.

It is also important to remember that the global tax has been under discussion for over a decade without any results.  And, as proof that the idea of a global tax is not fully accepted, it will be a subject of discussion at the G-20 meeting in July.

There will also be many more issues discussed at the G-7 talks.  China will be a target as the G-7 nations will push for an investigation into the Covid pandemic and the claims that it was created as a bioweapon in China.  There will also be talks about claims of Chinese slave labor.

China passed a law during the G-7 meeting that penalizes countries that sanction China.

Russia will also be a subject as there will be a call for Russia to hold cyber criminals to account for ransomware attacks as well as other cybercrimes.

The G-7 nations are also expected to endorse the Iranian nuclear talks, even though there are still many obstacles to a final deal.

Covid issues will be discussed, including common standards for covid vaccine documents and trade restrictions on vaccine exports.  There will also be a call on stricter public sector spending as the world recovers from the covid virus.

Now that the US has a president that believes in climate change, the G-7 nations will be making major announcements on global warming.  There will be a commitment to shift to zero emission vehicles.  There will also be vague talk about climate funding and financial assistance to poorer nations.  They will also advocate initiatives like carbon markets to restrict carbon emissions.

And there will be talk about the “Sausage War” between the EU and Great Britain.

The world awaits the results with breathless anticipation.

Analysis 06-06-2021

ANALYSIS

Reading Gentlemen’s Mail

 

When the United States began reading coded diplomatic communications of its allies, President Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, stopped the practice saying, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

The concepts of accepted diplomatic behavior have changed in the last 100 years.  Today, gentlemen do read each other’s mail.  Gentlemen read their closest friend’s mail.  Gentlemen team up with other gentlemen to read their friend’s mail.  Gentlemen swap other’s mail with each other.  Gentlemen set up false internet sites to make it easier to read other gentlemen’s emails.  And gentlemen let other gentlemen read the mail of its citizens to circumvent laws.

In 2009, the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ set up fake internet cafes for delegates to the G20 meeting in 2009.  The British logged their keystrokes, broke into their Blackberries, and recorded all the phone calls.

Not to be left behind, the Americans monitored the phone calls of Russian leader Dmitri Medvedev (and undoubtedly many others).

Even though all nations have their communication intelligence services that intercept and crack other nation’s secret communications, everyone acted surprised this week when it was learned that the American NSA had tapped Danish underwater internet cables (with the assistance of the Danes) from 2012 to 2014.  The targets were the leadership of Germany, Sweden, Norway, and France.

This should not have been a surprise to anyone since Edward Snowden had revealed that the NSA had broken into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Blackberry during the Obama Administration, although there is the question if Obama had any say so about the spying.

The European leaders who were spied upon were quick to condemn the act, even though these nations are also guilty of intercepting their allies’ communications.

“This is not acceptable between allies, and even less between allies and European partners,” said French President Macron.  “I am attached to the bond of trust that unites Europeans and Americans,” Macron said, adding that “there is no room for suspicion between us.”

Merkel added, “We requested that our Danish and American partners provide all the information on these revelations and on these past facts. We are awaiting these answers.”

Merkel did not mention that Germany had spied on Turkey and had even intercepted phone calls made by Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Merkel should not expect any apologies from Obama or his former Vice President, Joe Biden.  During his administration, the president, Barak Obama spied on his own Congress.

If everyone spies on each other, why the clamor?  As French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said, it was not those nations spying on their allies, it was that the United States was better at it.

“Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too,” Kouchner confessed while being interviewed by French radio.  “But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

In many cases, the eavesdropping is to learn what an ally is saying to an enemy.  Reports surfaced that Israel was spying on the Iran-US nuclear talks during the Obama Administration.  One target was intercepting the communications of Secretary of State John Kerry.

Much of the intelligence was then passed on to US senators and congressmen.  This upset the Obama Administration more than the original spying.  Obama was trying to keep the negotiations secret, even though the US Constitution requires the Senate to confirm treaties made with foreign nations.

One unnamed Obama Administration official told the Wall Street Journal, “It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other.  It’s another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US lawmakers to undermine US diplomacy.”

Of course, the reason the US learned that Israel was spying on the Iranian nuclear talks was that US intelligence agencies were intercepting Israeli communications amongst Israeli officials.

Do not be surprised if Israel is spying on the current Iranian nuclear talks.  In fact, be surprised if they are not spying.

A lot of communications are intercepted and broken by the cooperative effort of two or more nations.  The “Five Eyes” – the English-speaking nations of the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand is a good example.  However, it is England’s sophisticated communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, that is the most valuable for US intelligence.

According to a report by the Guardian, Edward Snowden provided documents showing that the US was paying GCHQ hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its capabilities.  The Guardian went on to call GCHQ more aggressive than the American NSA.  It is also called GCHQ, an intelligence superpower.

One reason the Americans like to team up with the British GCHQ is that Britain doesn’t have a constitution and a Bill of Rights that protects its citizens or citizens of other nations from unlawful spying.

Although it is illegal for the NSA to monitor the communications of Americans, unless they have a warrant, it is perfectly okay for the British to monitor American communications and pass information on to the Americans (although this is a very grey area of the law and likely a violation of the US Constitution and its Bill of rights).  In fact, one Snowden document was a pitch from GCHQ to the NSA and other US spy agencies noting that the legal and regulatory environment in Britain made electronic spying easier.

It is not illegal for the UK to spy on Americans, although it should be discouraged by the US government.

Another nation that spies on the US, while cooperating with them is Israel.  American intelligence names Israel as the third most aggressive espionage threat to the US (China and Russia have the top positions).  A 2013 American intelligence document called Israel a “hostile” foreign intelligence service.

A former NSA Global Capabilities Manager for Countering Foreign Intelligence praised the US relationship with Israel, but said, “one of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services like Israel.”

Israel is an equal opportunity spy.  The French newspaper La Monde claimed that NSA documents indicate that a massive computer hack in the French presidential palace in 2012 was carried out by Israel.

The NSA says that Israel targets the US government for invasive electronic surveillance, including fake cell phone electronics, called “stingrays,” installed in sensitive locations in Washington to catch American bureaucrats using their cell phones for confidential conversations.  These stingrays mimic regular cell towers, capture the contents of the calls and data, and even give the location of the cell phone.

However, since 9/11, the US has tempered its condemnation of Israel for practical reasons.  It has relied on Israel’s intelligence contacts in the Middle East and justifying it by claiming to fight terrorism and seeking to stop the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Israel is spying on the US right now.  They want to know what is being discussed between the Iranians and Americans in the nuclear talks.  They want to know what the response is to a more aggressive Israeli approach to sabotage inside Iran.  They want to know how much money will be given to them by Congress (especially the additional $1 billion needed to replenish the Iron Dome interceptors used in the past few weeks).  They want to know what the Biden Administration is saying to Hamas now.  And they want to know how American lawmakers are responding to the recent fighting in Gaza.

Israel also understands the US spies on Israel.  A former American intelligence official admitted Israel was spying on the US government.  However, he noted, “on the other hand, guess what we do in Tel Aviv?”

Former State Department coordinator of counter terrorism under Obama Daniel Benjamin once told Politico that a former Mossad official told him that Israel did not spy on the US.  “I just told him our conversation was over if he had such a low estimate of my intelligence.”

The famous quote by Stimson nearly 100 years ago about gentlemen not reading each other’s mail has gone to the board.  In today’s intelligence game, not only do gentlemen read everyone’s mail, but it is also expected of them.

Analysis 05-30-2021

ANALYSIS

Palestinian Rocket Arsenal and The Iron Dome

 

Although the ceasefire between Palestinian resistance and “Israel” appears to be holding, it is obvious from the recent conflict that the resistance organizations in Gaza has a vast rocket arsenal as well as the ability to build rockets inside its borders.

This analysis looks at the type of rockets that have been used, which ones have been built in Gaza, and their capabilities.  It also looks at Israel’s Iron Beam anti-missile system and how the recent fighting may change Israel’s missile defense strategy.

Before going further, we want to look at the type of solid fuels used in these rockets because they determine the range and efficiency of the rockets.

The easiest fuel to make and the basic propellant for the Palestinian rockets made in Gaza, is what is commonly known as “Candy” propellants.  These contain an oxidizer (usually Potassium Nitrate) and a sugar fuel (dextrose, sorbitol, or sucrose), which are cast by melting the constituents, mixing them and pouring the liquid into a mold.  These are low to medium specific impulse fuels and are frequently used in amateur rocketry.  They have a specific impulse 30% lower than composite propellants that would be used in a more sophisticated rocket produced in Syria or Iran.

These sophisticated fuels use components like ammonium percholrate and aluminum or magnesium as a fuel.  Some contain a rubber binder like Hydroxyl-terminated polybutane.

As one can see, using a simple rocket fuel will seriously degrade the performance and range of the Palestinian built rockets.

Rockets used by Palestinians in Gaza.

Qassam 1

The oldest and most basic Hamas’s rocket design is the Qassam 1.  It has a diameter of 115 mm, is 1.8 meters long, a range of 4.5 km and carries a warhead of 5 kg.  It is made in Gaza and uses a “Candy” propellant. It is considered a less accurate rocket and has been superseded by better rockets.

 

107 mm rocket

This rocket is made in Iran and has better performance than the Qassam because of its composite propellant fuel.  It is less than a meter long, is 107 mm in diameter, has a range of 8.5 kilometers and a 18 kilogram warhead.  It is spin stabilized and is more effective than the Qassam 1.

 

Qassam 2

The Qassam 2 has a longer range than the Qassam 1.  It uses a “candy” propellant, is 1.8 meters long, 115 mm in diameter and has a 10 kg warhead.  Like the Qassam 1, it is made in Gaza.  However, it remains inaccurate and is unreliable.  It is used to target populated areas.

 

Qassam 3

The Qassam 3 is a family of improved rockets built in Gaza.  It is 2.2 meters long, 115 mm in diameter, and has a 20 kg warhead.  It is powered by “Candy” fuel like its predecessors and has a range of 16 km.  It has an estimated cost of $800.

 

122mm Rocket

This rocket is built in Iran or Syria and has a range of 30 km.  It has a diameter of 122 mm, length of 2.8 meters and a warhead size of 18.4 kg.  It uses a composite propellant.  It can carry a chemical warhead.

 

S-40.

This missile was first used this year and was responsible for 2 Israeli deaths and 60 injuries.  140 were fired.  It is a new design, and little is known about it, however, its length is less than 3 meters and it has a range of 40 km.

 

Fajr-3

The Fajr-3 is Iranian built but based on a North Korean design.  It has a range of 43 km, a diameter of 240mm, a length of 5.2 meters, weighs 407 kg, and carries a 90kg fragmentation warhead that contains 4 to 5 kg of explosive (the rest is fragmentation materials).  It is spin stabilized but doesn’t have any guidance system.  Its composite propellant engine burns for 4 seconds and reaches over 530 meters per second.

 

S-55

This is an Iranian built rocket.  Little is known about it.  It is shorter than 3 meters and has a range of 55 km.

 

M-75

This is produced in Gaza, using smuggled Iranian components.  It is less than 3 meters in length and has a range of 75 km.

 

Fajr-5

This is a long range, one or two stage rockets with a length of 6.4 meters, with a diameter of 333mm.  It has a 175 kg warhead and a range of 75 km.  It is a Chinese design, and the critical components are made in Iran.

This rocket uses a double base propellant. These are usually compounding like nitroglycerin dissolved in nitrocellulose and have a specific impulse 10% higher than composite propellants.  However, a study of the Fajr-5 exhaust indicates that the Iranians have added aluminum to the fuel, which causes metal oxide nucleation, which will also boost the specific impulse by another 10%.

Some pictures show it has movable nose fins that indicate it may have a guidance system.  This is probably the Fajr-5C model, which uses GPS for guidance.  Without the guidance system, it is very inaccurate.

There is no evidence that the Fajr-5C has been acquired by  Hamas.

 

J-80

First fired in 2018.  It has a length of less than 3 meters and a range of 80 km.  It is produced in Iran and is reputed to be better at avoiding Israel’s Iron dome due to its trajectory.

 

Qassam Sh-85

First used against Ben Gurion International Airport in May.  It is 5 meters long and has a range of 85 km.

 

J-90

This Iranian built rocket is about 3.5 meters long and has a range of 90 km.

 

A-120

A rocket used in May 2021 is the A-120.  It is supposed to be built in Gaza and has a range of 120 km.

 

M-302

This is a Syrian built rocket that can deliver a 150 kg warhead up to 180 km.  It is 6.3 meters long and has a diameter of 302 mm.  It can hit any target in the entire occupied Palestine.

 

Ayyash 250R

Hamas recently announced that it was using a new rocket called the Ayyash.  It is reported that it can reach all of “Israel” from Gaza and it is thought to have been used to hit Eilat.  It is 7 meters long and has a range of 250 km.  It was made in Iran and its range is due to its size and the use of component propellants.

Little is known about some of these rocket families and it is possible that they are similar – differing only in warhead weight, fuel quantity, and some modifications in dimensions.  The modifications could be merely to boost range or warhead weight.

 

Iron Dome

Much is made of the number of Hamas rockets that penetrated the Israeli Iron Dome system.  However, the psychological and political effects caused by the rockets has the same effect if not more than inflicting a similar death toll that resulted from Air attacks by the Israeli planes on the Palestinians.  Needless to mention, the tradeoff between expensive Israeli interceptors ($40,000 each) and cheap ($800 each) Hamas rockets meant that Israel has spent more money than Hamas.

However, it is also important to remember the limitations built into the system.  It is designed to be part of a layered anti-missile system, including Arrow 2 & 3, Iron Beam, Barak 8 (a project between Israel and India), and David’s Sling that can intercept everything from long range ballistic missiles to drones.

One weakness that limits its sale to other nations is that each system only protects 100 – 150 square kilometers, which is ok for a small nation.  Thus, it can only be part of a more extensive layered air defense.

Although the IDF claims that 90% – 95% of the missiles aimed at populated areas were intercepted and destroyed, the cost is proving to be a problem.  As a result, Israel is pushing ahead on the Iron Beam System, which will defend against rockets, artillery, and mortars.  It will use a directed high energy beam to destroy targets up to 7 kilometers away.  The cost is about $2,000 per shot compared to the $40,000 per interceptor used in Iron Dome.

Given its limited range, it will be a “point defense” weapon and hundreds would need to be deployed to protect all of Israel’s populated areas.  That could make it as expensive as Iron Dome and its interceptors.

Iron Beam could be fielded along the Gaza border to destroy the rockets as soon as they are launched.  However, the Iron Beam laser must remain fixed on the rocket for a couple of seconds to destroy it.  Therefore, it is possible that the system could easily be swamped with more rocket targets than its laser could hit before they hit their targets.  That makes it useful as a “last ditch” system that could target the few missiles that would lead through the Iron Dome.  But it would not have the flexibility of Iron Dome.

The other problem is that Iron Beam has not been fielded yet. And, given the number of Hamas rockets that could be fired at one time, it may prove to be too limited for a practical rocket defense.  Israel may prefer to design an advanced “multi-laser” system that could acquire and target several rockets at a time.

As one American analyst observed, “in the end, the best investments for Israel are bunkers for its citizens to cower in”.

Analysis 05-25-2021

ANALYSIS

Western Militaries Speak Out

 

Western militaries tend to be apolitical.  While the soldiers and officers may have political opinions, they tend to hold them back and focus on their job of protecting the nation’s interests.  Commanders are told to focus on the task at hand and not the political beliefs of their subordinates.

Not anymore.  In the past few weeks, officers, and soldiers of two major NATO nations have spoken out about the political trends in their nations.  And, undoubtedly, there are several other Western nations who have retired officers that have serious concerns about the direction of their nations.

The first was an open letter by 20 retired French generals that warned of a civilian insurrection – fueled by claims of French President Macron’s concessions to fundamentalist Islam.  Polls taken since then showed that the French public agrees with the generals.

The next letter was published a week ago by the French publication Valeurs Actuelles by an anonymous group of soldiers serving in the army.  They noted that they have fought fundamentalist Islam in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic, only to see Macron caving into radicals at home.

The letter endorsed the previous letter and criticized the president for disrespecting the officers.  However, the letter did note that the military will maintain order should civil war break out.

This is a dramatic course for a military that has stayed out of politics for 60 years – since the Algerian Civil War.

Now the US military has taken a similar turn – not only protesting national politics, but the politicization of the US military.

Just over a week ago, an open letter by from 124 retired generals and admirals complained about a political “hard left” turn in national politics and forced politicization of the US military.

The group called Flag Officers 4 America accused the Biden Administration of “Using the US military as political pawns…forcing politically correct policies like the divisive critical race theory into the military.”

“Under a Democratic Congress and the Current Administration, our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government that must be countered.”

The retired officers also questioned Biden’s “mental and physical condition” as Commander in chief.  “The mental and physical condition of the Commander in Chief cannot be ignored.  He must be able to quickly make accurate national security decisions involving life and limb anywhere, day or night.”

The letter also questioned the validity of the election.  It stated, “Without fair and honest elections that accurately reflect the ‘will of the people’ our Constitutional Republic is lost…Election integrity demands insuring there is one legal vote cast and counted per citizen…Today, many are calling such commonsense controls ‘racist’ to avoid fair and honest elections.

Amongst those signing was Lt. General Boykin, who was Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration and Vice Admiral Poindexter, who was Deputy National Security Advisor under President Reagan.

Although critics denounced the retired flag officers criticizing the president, these same critics approved of retired flag officers denouncing Trump – for instance, in 2017, 55 retired flag officers saying Trump was unfit to be president.

The criticism that the US military has become politicized was highlighted this week when Lt. Colonel Matthew Lohmeier of the US Space Command was relieved of his command of the 11th Space Warning Squadron.  He was removed for writing the book Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of the Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military, that claimed that the US military was promoting Marxist ideologies.  He noted that the Secretary of Defense said that extremist ideologies must be rooted out of the military.  Lohmeier maintained that Marxism is an extreme ideology.

Lohmeier maintained that the spread of Marxism in the military was not a new trend, but something that occurred over many years.  In 2017 it was revealed that a West Point cadet, now a commissioned officer in the Army was an avowed Communist.  He showed pictures taken during his commissioning with him wearing a t-shirt with the picture of Communist Revolutionary Che Guevara.  In the inside of his cap, it said, “Communism will win.”

The officer, Spensor Rapone, was discharged with a less than honorable discharge.  However, others asked how a communist could make it through a 4-year course without anyone of his fellow cadets or members of the faculty noticing.  Further investigation uncovered the fact that several members of the facility were Marxists and many of the cadets, who would become the leaders of the US Army, also had Marxist beliefs.

There are several instances that the military academies are encouraging principles of Marxism like systemic racism that is used to divide and create the dialectic that communists use to create revolution.  In June 2020, recent graduates of West Point (and now commissioned officers in the US Army) decried West Point’s many failures specifically in regard to systemic racism.  They demanded that the military academy “normalize anti-racism” and “racial inclusion.”  That would have institutionalized a witch hunt against anyone of a different skin color or political ideology.

The political desires in this West Point document mirrored those of the Port Huron Statement that led to the formation of the Socialist Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s.  The president of SDS, Carl Oglesby later publicly proclaimed that the organization’s intention was to destroy capitalism and “trying to launch” a communist civil war.

This radicalism is not limited to West Point.  The US Air Force Academy football team came out with a statement that it wasn’t enough to be not racist.  “It’s time to be anti-racist.”  In other words, any politics that were not “anti-racist” enough were to be condemned.  The team also endorsed the Black Lives Matter organization, which has been involved in numerous protests in recent years.

At the US Naval Academy, a midshipman was expelled this year for expressing pro-police and anti-riot views – an unsurprising stand since both of his parents were police officers.  His discharge was delayed until Biden was in office so the midshipman couldn’t be pardoned by Trump.

Some conservative analysts claims that this Marxist ideology has hit more than the military academies.  Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are leaving the military in large numbers because they oppose the new political ideology being thrust on them.  Even veterans, who have been responsible for encouraging young people to join the military, are telling potential recruits to avoid the current politicized military.  The result is that enlistment and reenlistment rates are down, and the US military finds itself unable to meet its manpower needs.

They believe also that the result is that the world’s most powerful military is undergoing a transformation that will weaken it.  Only third world nations cull military members that support the opposition candidate.  And the result is a substandard military that is only useful for suppressing domestic opposition.

In Lt. Colonel Matthew Lohmeier’s book Irresistible Revolution, he notes Americans are becoming radicalized and shifting to either the extreme left or right.  In many cases, it is respected flag officers that are causing the extremism.  General Stanley McChrystal, who headed operations in Afghanistan, compared Trump voters with al Qaeda in Iraq.

These are not words that will smooth the political waters or encourage national unity, since more than 75 million American voted for Trump.

So, what is in the future?  In their letter, the French soldiers note that the military will maintain order should civil war break out.  However, the American military, as it is currently being politicized, will not do the same.  They are more likely to pick their side based on political considerations, not the Constitution which every soldier swears an oath to support and defend.

Analysis 05-13-2021

ANALYSIS

Britain’s New Aircraft Carrier
and the Growing Naval Cooperation with US and Other Allies

 

The HMS Queen Elizabeth and her task force left the naval base of Portsmouth, England on May 1, 2021 for a worldwide cruise called Carrier Strike Group 21.  It is the first British naval aviation exercise in nearly a decade (since the last British carrier HMS Illustrious was decommissioned) and the largest naval task force in four decades – since the Royal Navy recaptured the Falkland Islands in the early 1980s.

The task force is international.  10, F-35 fifth generation fighters from the US Marine Corps are onboard the Queen Elizabeth, One of the three destroyers, USS The Sullivans, is American (providing the task force with protection from high altitude, long range ballistic missiles), and one of three frigates is Dutch (HNLMS Eversten).  During the cruise, ships from India, France, Australia, the US, Japan, and South Korea will be involved in joint naval exercises.

After NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, the task force will travel to the Mediterranean for exercises with the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle.  One British and one Dutch ship will detach to enter the Black Sea.  The task force will carry out air operations against ISIS before transiting the Suez Canal and stopping at a British naval port in Oman.  It will visit India and carry out joint naval exercises with the Indian Navy before travelling to Singapore.  It will then move to the South China Sea for freedom of navigation exercises with US, Japanese, Australian, South Korean, New Zealand, Malaysian, and Singapore navies.

The operation is meant to be a show that Britain is committed to a global reach and is not limiting itself to an Atlantic mission.  Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the strike group said, “HMS Queen Elizabeth is at the center of this operation; it’s an international operation with the Americans and the Dutch, but to have the Royal Navy at the heart of something like this shows that we are well and truly back on the global stage.”

But, in an era where many navies, including small nations like Thailand, have aircraft carriers, is the new British carrier that much of a threat?  Or is it just a high-profile target?

 

HMS Queen Elizabeth – Not Just Another Small Deck Aircraft Carrier

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is named for Queen Elizabeth I, not the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.  Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) saw the rise of the Royal Navy as a force in naval power, especially after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  The first warship named the Queen Elizabeth was a WWI battleship.

Britain was a pioneer in naval aviation and still has corporate knowledge in the shipbuilding industry and the Royal Navy to build and operate large carriers.

In a world of many carriers, the Queen Elizabeth class carriers are larger and better than all but the American nuclear supercarriers.  It is the largest Royal Navy ship built and it displaces 66,000 tons.  That makes it larger than the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle at 42,500 tons, Russian Admiral Kuznetsov at 42,000 tons (this class includes the two active Chinese carriers), and the domestically built Chinese carriers of 50,000 tons displacement.

British shipbuilders used new technologies in the Queen Elizabeth Class of carriers (the second ship of the class is the Prince of Wales, which is currently operational).  It has solved the age-old question of where the ship’s superstructure should be (forward for ship operations or aft for air operations) by building two superstructures – each with back up for the other superstructure in case of battle damage).  By making each superstructure smaller, it reduces air turbulence over the flight deck and provides more deck space for aircraft.  The super structures are also curved to improve “stealth” capabilities.

Although it is not nuclear powered, it does have a range of 10,000 nautical miles – further than that of its potential competitors (Russia and China).

To make it harder for enemy submarines to detect, it has integrated electrical propulsion, which lessens the engine noise because it decouples the engines from the electrically driven propellers.  It also has diesel engines for fuel conservation and gas turbines for high speed.

It was also designed to operate seamlessly with US nuclear carriers.  As a result, it was designed in conjunction with American Navy input.

The ship class has two ships, and it is planned that one ship will be always available for operations.

The ships were designed to carry about 36 F-35 joint strike fighters and launch 75 sorties a day for five days.  This, it was felt, would allow the ship to have the same “clout” as one of the American nuclear carriers, but without the extra classes of aircraft (ASW, transportation, helicopters, cargo, etc.).  Clearly, this ship class was designed to fill in for an American nuclear carrier – a class of ships which is frequently overextended in today’s volatile world.  In fact, the US had to call upon the French to deploy their carrier during the Afghan campaign.

What makes this ship class a serious strategic force is its use of the fifth-generation fighter the F-35.  Like the Harriers, which the British carriers used for vertical takeoff and landing, the F-35 can operate by taking off and landing vertically.  However, since vertical takeoff uses so much fuel, the Queen Elizabeth class of ships use a “ski jump” ramp that allows the aircraft to get airborne quickly without using as much fuel.

The ship uses what is known as a “rolling landing” to reduce fuel consumption during landing.

Except for US nuclear carriers, this is the only carrier class that is currently carrying a fifth-generation fighter.  The US and UK governments have signed an agreement that allows British F-35 aircraft to be stationed aboard US carriers, while US F-35 aircraft can be stationed onboard UK carriers (as is happening with the US Marine F-35s stationed onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth for this deployment).

About 250 American Marines and sailors are currently onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The ship also fields four Merlin helicopters that carry airborne radar (Crowsnest) that will be used as an airborne early warning system.  The British learned during the Falkland Islands operation that airborne radar is critical to protecting its task force from enemy aircraft.

The ship class can also integrate with the American E-2C airborne warning radar.

One of the interesting facts about the F-35 is that it appears to be the naval aviation fixed wing fighter choice of the West.  The two Italian aircraft carriers, Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi will be F-35 capable.  The Cavour (which has gone through its F-35 integration exercises in the United States) will be able to handle up to 15 F-35s in its hangar and on its flight deck.  It appears that Spanish and Australian carriers may also carry small numbers of F-35s.

Although the Japanese Constitution prevents the production of aircraft carriers, the Japanese have a helicopter class ship, (Izumo and Kaga) that is designed for anti-submarine warfare.  Despite some political opposition it appears that both ships are F-35 capable and could embark about a dozen F-35s per ship.

Japanese naval doctrine is to establish a blockade stretching from the Philippines to Japan and to pursue Chinese submarines that break that blockade.  The Japanese carriers would use the F-35 to provide air defense for a task force and establish air supremacy at a “theater level.”

So, what we see is not purely American naval aviation.  Several American allies are intending to use the F-35 as a quick way to establish a naval aviation presence.  At one end of the spectrum are the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which are designed to fill in for an American supercarrier.  At the other end are American allies like Japan and Italy that can assist in naval operations.

Then, there are some allies like Spain and Australia that are still considering ship borne F-35s.

Despite stories of the aircraft carrier’s demise, they remain as popular as ever.  Although only the US and France can afford the cost of a nuclear carrier and only the US can build a large deck, multipurpose carrier air arm, several Western and NATO countries are investing in smaller carriers and modern fifth generation aircraft which will give them a serious combat capability and the ability to operate seamlessly with American naval aviation.

While the American nuclear supercarriers may remain the major target for Russia and China, it appears that there will be more than enough ships to base modern fighter aircraft in the world’s oceans.

It appears that the naval chessboard is getting more crowded.