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NATO Beware: Turkey May Buy Russia's S-300 Air Defense System

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Turkey is still considering purchasing Russia’s S-300 air and missile defense system, a senior Russian defense industry official said on Wednesday.

According to TASS news outlet, Sergey Goreslavsky, the deputy head of Rosoboronexport— Russia’s state-owned arms exporter—Turkey continues to express interest in potentially purchasing Russia’s S-300.

Speaking at the IDEF-2015 arms exhibition in Istanbul, Goreslavsky said that Turkey’s defense minister, İsmet Yılmaz, stopped by Rosoboronexport’s booth at IDEF-2015 to discuss the S-300 and other Russian arms.

"He said that this country is ready for the continuation of cooperation in the sphere of technology transfer," Goreslavsky said, TASS reported.

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Turkey is currently looking to spend between $3.4-$4 billion on an air and missile defense system as part of its T-LORAMIDS program. Russia had put in a bid for its Antey-2500 air defense system (the export version of the S-300) for that contract, along with defense companies from Europe, the United States and China. However, according to Jane’s, Russia’s bid was for a whooping $9 billion.

In September 2013, Turkey shocked many by announcing it had selected the proposal submitted by China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp. (CPMEIC) to jointly develop its HQ-9 system (FT-2000). This raised the hackles of Ankara’s NATO allies, including the United States, who said the HQ-9 system was not interoperable with NATO’s larger, Patriot-based air defense system.

In addition, many NATO allies, including Washington, said that connecting the HQ-9 to NATO’s Patriot systems would leave the latter vulnerable to Chinese espionage. Furthermore, CPMEIC, the maker of the HQ-9, is under U.S. sanctions because of its arms sales to countries like North Korea and Iran.

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Because of these concerns, Turkey agreed to reconsider its initial decision and has since reopened talks with the second and third bidders—Eurosam, which makes Aster 30, and Raytheon/Lockheed Martin, which submitted a bid for the Patriot system—for the T-LORAMIDS program contract. It has extended the deadline for the companies to re-submit new bids a number of times, most recently in January of this year.

Ankara has continued to insist that the companies’ willingness to transfer technologies to Turkey will figure prominently in its decision.

"If Turkey opts for direct purchase of the system then it will be obliged to make new off-the-shelf purchases 15 or 20 years later. We will not settle for this. Our target is to gain national technological capability in the missile project," a senior Turkish defense official said earlier this year. Ankara has also threatened to integrate whichever system it purchases with the rest of the nation’s air defense systems while leaving it out of the larger NATO network. Some experts doubt the viability of this plan, however.

Both Eurosam and the American companies have resisted transferring technology to Turkey, while CPMEIC—as noted above—agreed to jointly develop the HQ-9 system with Turkish companies. Goreslavsky’s comments suggest that Russia would also be willing to transfer some technologies to Turkey.

Still, if some NATO members were concerned about Turkey trying to integrate Chinese defense systems into the alliance’s Patriot network, they are unlikely to support integrating Russia’s S-300 into the the network. After all, nearly all NATO members feel more threatened by Russia than China, and NATO was formed primarily to counter Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union.

Ultimately, despite Goreslavsky’s claims to the contrary, Turkey is extremely unlikely to select the S-300 system Russia appears to be willing to sell to just about anyone these days, North Korea excluded.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Wikimedia/Vovan

TopicsSecurity RegionsEurope

The Islamic State's Most Deadly Weapon of War: Water?

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As a requisite resource, water and its infrastructure are decisive targets in the self-declared Islamic State’s (IS) strategy for regional expansion in the Middle East. Although IS has not demonstrated the capacity to operate technologically intensive water infrastructure, it continues to pursue control of dams and water systems in Iraq and Syria that, if acquired and adequately maintained could partially legitimize its rule, or alternatively be exploited as a weapon. To counter this threat, the United States should prioritize the protection of major hydroelectric dams and water infrastructure in areas under or near IS occupation. It should also create viable alternatives to IS-supplied resources through increased water aid in Syria and Iraq, and support to allied infrastructure and supplies increasingly challenged by migration and water scarcity. Delaying this action poses added barriers to the coalition strategy to defeat IS because, as one Mosul resident stated, “if [IS] could only maintain services—then people would support them until the last second.”

Institutionalizing management of water resources and systems is a realistic means for IS to expand its sources of funding and further legitimize itself among local populations. Unlike IS’s production of oil that (illegally) operates within a global market, water is a regional commodity that is largely dependent on the operation of local hydroelectric dams. For IS, these dams are “the most important strategic locations in the country,”says Shirouk al-Abayachi, a member of the Iraqi parliament and former adviser to the Ministry of Water Resources in Iraq. “They should be very well protected because they affect everything—economy, agriculture, basic human needs and security.”

In the ongoing conflict, the desire to command water is nothing new. IS’s quest to seize water infrastructure began in 2013 with the occupation of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam that supplies electricity to rebel and government territories, including the city of Aleppo. Advancing toward a hydraulic state during its invasion of Fallujah, IS effectively employed surrounding dams, canals, and reservoirs as weapons—denying water to areas outside of its territory and flooding the route of the approaching Iraqi army. And in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, IS exhausted water reserves and disrupted distribution networks, forcing residents to rely on untreated water sources and leading to the spread of waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid.

Although other actors, including the Bashir al-Assad regime and Syrian rebel groups, target water systems and strategically withhold aid, IS’s endeavors have the potential to inflict greater damage. This was evident in the organization’s occupation of the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest hydroelectric facility that supplies water and electricity to the majority of the country and is considered “the most dangerous dam in the world.”A 2006 U.S. military survey concluded that its collapse would release a twenty meter-high wave on the city of Mosul, which could destroy the city and kill over fifty thousand people. During its occupation, IS ultimately did not have sufficient forces to sustain its control, and the dam was reclaimed by Kurdish forces with the help of U.S. airstrikes in August 2014. While the annexation of the Mosul Dam did not end in a devastating collapse, IS sufficiently damaged the region by failing to perform basic state functions—reports claimed that the city experienced dire shortages of water and food, and near economic collapse during the occupation. IS did, however, employ destructive flooding in the April 25 seizure of the Tharthar Dam near Fallujah. U.S. intelligence reports suggest that IS has opened at least one of the dam’s gates to flood nearby areas following an attack, which reportedly killed 127 Iraqi troops.

Reckless behavior in Fallujah, Raqqa, and Mosul are indications that IS does not possess the resources needed to employ soft power governance through the management of the region’s technologically intensive infrastructure. Unlike IS’s common forms of funding, such as cash from the plunder of antiquities and kidnappings for ransom, wealth accrued from the command of resources like oil and water is contingent upon infrastructural planning and a skilled workforce. Supervision of dams requires a highly specialized skill set, and, according to Russell Sticklor, a water researcher for CGIAR, “there is no indication that the Islamic State possesses it.” Rather than initiate its own civil workforce, IS has borrowed skilled labor from its predecessors—the Assad Regime and government in Bagdad continue to pay many engineers and skilled workers operating under IS supervision.

Although this unsustainable appropriation of labor prolongs the opportunity for the United States and its allies to build an alternative to IS command, as IS’s sources of revenue diminish, the organization may increasingly shift their focus towards state building tactics of water infrastructure management to maintain influence in the region. This would not be surprising given that, IS reportedly collects money from business owners in Raqqa in exchange for electricity, water, and security. Previously estimated at $1 million per day, the organization’s crucial revenue derived from oil has significantly declined due to airstrikes against IS’s already incapable industrial base—reducing production to 5 percent of its previous extraction capabilities. According to Iraq expert Michael Knights, the jihadis will have a hard time providing basic services without oil revenue: “Very quickly, Islamic State has gone from the richest terrorist group in history to the world’s poorest nation-state.” Colin Clark from the RAND Corporation argues, “Without this oil money they are going to have to maybe rethink some of the state building efforts that have been fairly ambitious up to this point.”

Unfortunately, water insecurity spreads beyond Iraq and Syria, to U.S. partner countries such as Jordan, increasing the risk that disenfranchised populations will turn to IS if the terrorist organization develops the capacity to provide adequate water resources. Syrian and Iraqi refugees are congregating in some of the most water stressed areas in the Middle East—the region now loses water at the second fastest rate worldwide, behind only northern India. Jordan has faced added stress with the influx of 750,000 Syrian refugees and 60,000 Iraqi refugees. The country is currently exhausting its supply of water at three times the recharge rate, facing extreme drought as it accommodates three thousand new refugees every day. This has left both refugees and Jordanian citizens water insecure. Without addressing this resource burden and insufficient standard of living, disenfranchised Jordanians believe IS will strengthen its territorial hold. “We are waiting for this moment,” said Abu Abdullah, an IS sympathizer in Ma’an. Should IS successfully govern this water infrastructure, refugees may be compelled to return home where there are more reliable sources of water and sympathize with IS—similar to the growing sympathy for IS among the Yarmouk population in Syria, which suffered from Assad’s extreme tactics that resulted in severe water and food shortages.

As the leader of the anti-IS coalition, the United States should prioritize the protection of water systems to prevent IS expansion and infrastructural abuse. Unlike the U.S. strategy to halt funding from oil by attacking oil refinement installations, the protection and reclamation of dams requires a strategy that preserves water infrastructure and continues the provision of basic services to the surrounding population. As these operations remain consistent with Obama’s pledge not to reintroduce ground combat in Iraq, the United States will need to rely heavily upon Iraqi ground forces and prioritize the prevention of IS incursion into areas of Iraq and Syria where there is standing water infrastructure.

Despite setbacks from airstrikes and counteroffensives across Iraq, IS attempts to broaden its arsenal continue as they pursue control of water infrastructure in Iraq and Syria with the potential to serve as a state building mechanisms or weapons in the ongoing conflict. The April 25 seizure of the Tharthar Dam and opening of one of the dam’s gates demonstrates the growing prioritization of water infrastructure in IS’s strategy. As the leader of the anti-IS coalition, the United States, in collaboration with Iraqi troops, should prioritize the protection of Iraqi-controlled water infrastructure and efforts to reclaim IS-occupied infrastructure. As stated by Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute, IS “understands how powerful water is as a tool, and they are not afraid to use it.”

This piece first appeared courtesy of CFR here

TopicsIslamic State RegionsMiddle East

Watch Out, China: Japan and Australia Are Getting Closer

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Under the banner of a new special relationship, we are currently witnessing a second evolution of Japan–Australia strategic relations. Looking back, the relationship’s evolution has had two distinct phases; the first phase of evolution started in 2007 which was marked by a deeper institutionalization of bilateral cooperation focusing on non-traditional security, culminating in the historic Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in Tokyo. The non-traditional security cooperation between Australian Defense Force (ADF) and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) is best represented by the past record of the frequent humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) cooperation between ADF and JSDF units, to name a few, in responding to the 2010 flood disaster in Pakistan, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the 2013 mega-typhoon disaster in the Philippines.

Building on those initial efforts, we are witnessing the second evolution of the bilateral partnership which is characterized by new cooperation in the sphere traditional security. This second evolution is ongoing, and is driven by the following three new areas of cooperation. First, discussions about security legislation in the ruling coalition in the Japanese Diet suggest the real possibility of legally allowing the JSDF to cooperate operationally with ADF in more traditional security situations by offering logistics support for ADF units and/or assisting with the ADF’s force protection. Such unprecedented operational collaboration might happen when Japan, Australia and the US conduct joint training or missile defense operations in the waters around Japan, or where ADF vessels operating in support of US military activities in South China Sea are at risk of attacks in Japan’s neighborhood.

Second, as debated on The Strategist (herehere and here, for instance), both countries are discussing the possibility of defense equipment cooperation—most notably in Australia’s Future Submarine project. It’s difficult to describe that kind of cooperation as ‘non-traditional’. Given that Australia’s submarine fleet regularly operates in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, the implication is that Japan’s supporting the modernization and expansion of Australia’s undersea warfare capability in waters of increasing strategic importance.

Third, Japan and Australia—together with the US—are focusing on maritime security in Southeast Asia by assisting states in building up their maritime capacities. In the recent report by the Stimson Center, Ken Jimbo argues that trilateral cooperation in such areas can be designed to enhance maritime domain awareness and common operational pictures. This would be good news for Japan and Australia for many reasons. For one, it would reduce some of the burden on the US if states like the Philippines and Vietnam could manage some of the challenges they face in the South China Sea and didn’t demand US intervention every time.

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As the second evolution of Japan–Australia strategic relations unfolds, both countries may face a wide range of challenges, particularly in managing mutual expectations. As bilateral relations move towards more traditional security, prominent scholars like Brendan Taylor and Nick BisleyDes Ball and Rob Ayson, and Hugh White have expressed their concern about the risk of entrapment: Australia being drawn into a Sino-Japanese conflict should the relationship continue to develop as it is currently. Likewise, fears that getting too close to Japan might damage Australia–China relations are much more widely expressed down under (this concern can be termed as the ‘China Gap’ issue as I argued elsewhere). Those assertions, particularly ‘fear-of-entrapment’ arguments, are worrying signs because both parties harbour no desire to transform the bilateral relationship into a formal alliance, complete with the obligatory commitment of mutual defense.

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Having said all that, some Japanese scholars and practitioners see the current strategic relations as a quasi Japan–Australia alliance, or see Australia as a de facto ally for Japan. This is not only misleading because these voices don’t in any way reflect Japanese government policy, but it’s also potentially dangerous because they risk fuelling fear of entrapment within Australia’s strategic community.

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Indeed, managing such potential dynamics of mutual perceptions and expectations could become more critical and more difficult as the second evolution of our bilateral relationship continues to deepen and the regional security order becomes more competitive. For this reason, in future both governments may need to consider creating guidelines for Japan–Australia defense cooperation. For those who aren’t familiar with such guidelines, the Japan–US and South Korea–US alliances uses them for the purpose of articulating situations under which allies are expected to cooperate operationally, while also listing the required preparations for such operational collaborations.

Given the current status and future trajectory of the bilateral partnership, the purpose of guidelines for the Japan–Australia defense cooperation would be twofold: first, to articulate the nature of operational collaboration and what peacetime preparations are required. Second, to clearly state what this relationship isn’t about. The first point is important not just because ADF and JSDF would likely aim to cooperate in traditional situations which is unprecedented in the history of bilateral cooperation but, more importantly, because the legal limits of Japanese security would remain complex and obscure (regardless of the results of the security legislation), especially to outsiders. The second point sends an unequivocal message to various audiences, including China and the domestic constituencies of both countries, that this partnership isn’t involved with the obligatory commitment of mutual defense—it isn’t an alliance. In order for Australia and Japan to embrace the opportunities and effectively deal with challenges of the ongoing second evolution, it’s better to get it right before the time comes.

This piece first appeared in ASPI’s The Strategist here

TopicsDefense RegionsAsia

No-Fly Zones: The Ultimate Guide

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When conflict rears its ugly head around the world, there is usually a call for the United States to “do something.” One option that is frequently mentioned is the no-fly zone. The United States and its allies enjoy a significant advantage over most potential adversaries in the air. No-fly zones, therefore, are attractive due to the perceived lower cost and risk when compared to other options. Despite this, setting up a no-fly zone is anything but a “no brainer.” Depending on the circumstances, there may be steep costs and unseen risks. This short primer is intended to introduce readers to the way no-fly zones really work.

What is a No-Fly Zone?

A no-fly zone is airspace designated as “off limits” to flight-related activities. There needs to be an explicit policy concerning which actions that are prohibited in the zone, and this should be communicated clearly. In addition, there must be some form of punishment in response to violations. Typically, this involves friendly military aircraft intercepting violators and escorting them away, forcing them to land, or shooting them down.

Why Would We Establish a No-Fly Zone?

There are many reasons, but the most likely is to stop adversary aircraft from attacking or harming people on the ground—including friendly forces and civilians. In addition, establishing a no-fly zone can negate an adversary’s military advantage, put pressure on an adversary to make concessions, give hope and relief to people who have been attacked, weaken and demoralize an enemy air force, or serve as a prelude to invasion. Furthermore, a no-fly zone could be combined with other actions—such as a naval blockade or closing of a border—to stop the flow of goods and people into an area, further weakening an adversary.

When is a No-Fly Zone Likely to be Effective?

In most circumstances, a no-fly zone is effective only if the adversary has significant air forces. If the adversary’s air force is too strong, however, it will be very difficult to set up an effective no-fly zone. Therefore, a no-fly zone is most likely to be effective against an adversary whose air forces are substantial, but not too substantial.

Moreover, a no-fly zone can alter the balance of power on the ground. If one side relies heavily on airpower and the other does not, a no-fly zone can level the playing field and bolster forces that have been subjected to invasive observation or painful attacks. Conversely, if airpower is not an important factor, it’s unlikely that establishing a no-fly zone will do much (unless the mandate is extended to destroying ground targets).

What are the Requirements for a No-Fly Zone?

In the past, the United States has sought international approval when establishing a no-fly zone, usually from the United Nations Security Council. This provides a form of legitimacy. Without it, the legal basis for the no-fly zone will be questioned, as will our commitment to international norms.

The next requirement is to decide upon rules of engagementthe set of guidelines governing how the no-fly zone is enforced. These guidelines define who is and isn’t allowed to fly in the airspace and they prescribe a process for determining if someone is in violation. They must also address the sticky situations: Are civilian airplanes allowed to fly? What if a civilian airplane wanders into the airspace with no flight plan? What if the adversary uses civilian airliners as screens? What if the adversary loads civilians into a plane, then violates the no-fly zone? What if the adversary shoots at friendly airplanes enforcing the no-fly zone? The answers must be clear to those enforcing the policy. If the guidelines are too broad, our aircrew will have to interpret them while dealing with murky situations in real time. If the guidelines are too complex, they may have difficulty keeping them straight when reacting to a tense situation.

Enforcing a no-fly zone usually requires a large amount of military forces, including aircraft, the operators who fly them, and support personnel to protect and maintain them. Unless the no-fly zone is relatively small, it will take multiple flying units operating different kinds of aircraft. This includes air-to-air fighters that can intercept adversary aircraft. Specialized aircraft are also required for suppressing or destroying the enemy air defenses that could shoot our aircraft down. We need to be able to know when someone violates the no-fly zone, which usually involves a combination of airborne and ground-based radar. Air refueling aircraft are required if our bases are far away from the no-fly zone, and they also extend patrolling time for our aircraft. We will need to monitor the adversary and look for dangerous actions (such as setting up surface-to-air missiles), which requires Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Since we will want to retrieve our aircrew should they be stranded due to mechanical failure or being shot down, we need combat rescue assets in the area.

In addition to these forces, we need bases to house and protect them, infrastructure to support them, and secure logistics lines for the flow of supplies and people. In the past, the United States has typically used a combination of land bases and aircraft carriers to support no-fly zone operations. It’s good to have several bases from which to fly, as a runway problem or bad weather could close a base and halt the operation.

coalition of participating states is almost always necessary for an effective no-fly zone. Putting together a coalition often involves arduous and time-consuming diplomacy, but the benefits of a coalition are vast. Coalition members provide bases and infrastructure, transit approval through their airspace, access to supply routes, and other support. A coalition can help to establish legitimacy for the overall mission, and coalition forces can share the burden of patrolling the skies, which reduces the cost for any one country.

How Much Will It Cost?

Enforcing a no-fly zone is expensive. In order to detect violators and take action against them, we must stand ready to respond at all hours, day or night. This means there is a lot of flying involved—perhaps more than in an attack campaign, where we can pick the times and places for our strikes (as in the campaign against the self-declared Islamic State over Iraq and Syria).

Even when airplanes aren’t flying, some aircraft and crews will need to be on alert status, ready to answer a provocation. This constant state of readiness is both expensive and taxing on our people. They must always be ready to fight, even as they endure long hours of boredom in the air—patrol sorties can extend eight to ten hours—and on the ground, far away from home.

There is also the opportunity cost associated with the no-fly zone. When large amounts of people and equipment are dedicated to enforcing a no-fly zone, they are not available elsewhere. This is an important consideration when you consider that many of the forces needed for the no-fly zones are both in high demand and limited in number. Air refueling, airborne radar, and ISR aircraft are good examples. Even fighter aircraft are limited in number today. For example, the U.S. Air Force had over 3,400 fighter aircraft in 1992, when the Iraq no-fly zones were put into place. Today, that number is less than 2000. The result is that implementing a no-fly zone in one part of the world will limit our options in other areas.

What Are the Risks?

There is a perception that a no-fly zone is less risky than other options. Despite this, decision makers should know they assume many types of risks when implementing a no-fly zone.

There will be significant risks to U.S. forces, especially if the adversary has equipment capable of shooting our aircraft down. Because of this, we may need to execute an operation to negate or destroy air defenses before we can start enforcing the no-fly zone. Given the increasing sophistication of air defenses around the world, this initial attack will not be a cakewalk. It will require a major offensive operation over many days of hundreds of high-risk sorties expending thousands of expensive munitions.

Once air superiority is established and the no fly zone in place, we must continue to stay alert to developments as the adversary learns and adapts to our tactics. They may try to establish ruses or deception plans to embarrass or attack us. In the 1990s, for example, Iraqi aircraft would violate the no-fly zone to lure us into the engagement envelope of a surface-to-air missile system they had recently repositioned.

If the adversary does shoot down one of our aircraft—or one goes down due to mechanical failure—there is a real possibility that our people will be captured and exploited. This will be difficult to resolve. It is quite possible that an unscrupulous adversary will torture or kill a prisoner in a gruesome, provocative way (as the Islamic State did when it burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot).

Perhaps the most significant risk is the risk of “mission creep.” It’s highly unlikely that the implementation of a no-fly zone will lead to the desired political outcome by itself. Inevitably, there will be calls to expand the mandate, perhaps to create a “no-drive zone” or to attack forces on the ground. For example, the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 also involved significant strikes against Libya’s government forces in the effort to protect the opposition forces and civilians. Depending on the circumstances, expansion of the mission may be the right thing to do, but it leads to a final question…

How Will It End?

The logical ending to a no-fly zone is when the situation on the ground changes so that it is no longer necessary. We will probably not be able to force this change, as there is generally not a direct link between implementing the no-fly zone and achieving lasting political outcomes. We are attracted to the no-fly zone option partly because it is limited in scope and risk. If this is true, it’s also likely to be limited in its ability to force change on its own. Therefore, a no-fly zone is best used as a part of a comprehensive political and military strategy. When used as the only tool in the toolbox, the likely result is a long, frustrating journey for everyone involved.

Colonel Clint Hinote, U.S. Air Force, is a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds a PhD in military strategy, and he recently returned from Korea, where he commanded the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base. He has experience enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq and he served as an instructor of weapons and tactics at the USAF Weapons School. The conclusions and opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government.

This piece was first posted in CFR’s blog Defense in Depth here


Exposed: Iran Faked Sinking Mock US Aircraft Carrier

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Iran faked destroying a mock U.S. aircraft carrier, new satellite images reveal.

According to Bellingcat, new satellite images show that the mock-up of the USS Nimitz nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that Iran claimed to destroy back in February was actually towed back to port.

“New satellite imagery shows that Iran’s mock-up aircraft carrier was not destroyed during naval exercises but was towed back to Bandar Abbas,” the report said. “The 16 mock aircraft previously visible on handhelds and satellite imagery were nowhere to be found.” The report and corresponding satellite imagery showed the mock-up had sustained extensive damage.

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Back in March of 2014, CNN first reported, citing satellite images, that Iran was busy constructing a mock-up of the USS Nimitz at the Bandar Abbas port. Unnamed U.S. military officials at the time dismissed the mock-up, comparing it to a Hollywood prop.

At first Iran claimed that the mock-up was being built for a movie being filmed in the country. However, during military drills held in February of this year, Iranian state-run media outlets claimed that the aircraft carrier had been destroyed.

“A mock aircraft carrier was destroyed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps missiles during the IRGC Navy's massive Payambar-e Azam 9 (The Great Prophet 9) wargames in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” Fars News Agency, which is close to the IRGC, reported at the time.

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“The model was built in real size and came under attack and was destroyed by missiles and rockets fired from tens of IRGC speedboats. Also a number of the IRGC cruise and two ballistic missiles were fired at the mock U.S. aircraft carrier,” it added.

Video footage of the mock U.S. aircraft carrier coming under attack from Iranian missiles was aired extensively on Iranian state television. The footage did not show the aircraft carrier sinking, although many Western news outlets reported that it had been sunk.

Long before the February war games, Iran had built and sunk mock-ups of many other types of U.S. naval ships. For example, in May of 2014, Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Navy, told Fars News Agency that: “We have been making and sinking replicas of U.S. destroyers, frigates and warships for many years."

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Fadavi also boasted at the time that Iran’s military is capable of sinking a U.S. naval ships in under a minute, and said, "We practice the same drills on replica aircraft carriers because sinking and destroying U.S. warships has, is and will be on our agenda."

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren dismissed Fadavi’s threats, joking to reporters that: "We are wholly unconcerned about the Iranians mockup of an American ship. My guess is you could sink the mock-up in 50 seconds."

U.S. naval ships, particularly aircraft carriers, boast significant air and missile defense to protect the huge capital investments.

Still, Iran’s targeting of replica U.S. naval vessels underscores its commitment to execute an anti-access/area-denial strategy towards the United States should Iran and America ever go to war. Although far less capable than other countries like China, Iran’s A2/AD capabilities could still create headaches for U.S. commanders in the Persian Gulf.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Wikimedia/U.S. Navy

TopicsSecurity RegionsMiddle East

Shinzo Abe's Excellent Adventure in America

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to the United States last week was about as productive and positive as a state visit could hope to be. The trappings and status of the visit were second to none. It affirmed the importance of the US-Japan partnership. It produced critical, forward-looking documents to chart the course of the US-Japan relationship. Abe delivered remarks to enthusiastic and approving audiences. Significantly, there were no gaffes to muddy the message or the image he sought to present to the United States, Japan, and the rest of the world. Prime Minister Abe and his entourage should be delighted with the results.

The atmospherics were outstanding. The weather was good, Abe landed on the White House lawn to stand side by side with President Obama for his press conference, and most of the questions addressed relevant issues. Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress and was given a state dinner with all of the associated buzz.

All statements, both scripted and informal, emphasized how the United States and Japan are in sync strategically and view the region and the world through the same lens. Both frame security challenges in the same way, are focused on the same sources of instability (without singling out any particular country), and back the same solutions to these problems. So, for example, Abe and Obama seek a strong international legal regime and protection for the international commons. They also see the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as not just a trade deal, but as a strategic tool to shape the Asia-Pacific region in both economic and security terms. 

The visit produced landmark documents for the alliance. They include a Joint Vision Statement for the two countries that explains their desire "to build a strong rules-based international order, based on a commitment to rules, norms and institutions," and that rests upon an "unshakeable Alliance that is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and a platform for global cooperation." It lays out a global agenda whose realization will more deeply integrate the two governments and their nations.

      That same desire for deeper integration and partnership animates new US-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation, the first re-articulation of those guidelines in eighteen years. The guidelines help modernize the alliance, reinforce deterrence, and better prepare the two countries for new security challenges. They also call for an integrated whole-of-government approach to alliance cooperation and reaffirm the US commitment to a long-term presence in Japan. Abe took particular pleasure when Obama repeated his statement last year that the Senkaku Islands fall under the ambit of the Mutual Security Treaty.

While alliance issues consumed much of Abe's visit (and are likely to have the most significance over time), his treatment of historical issues generated the most scrutiny. Abe is a conservative nationalist; some consider him to be historical revisionist, sympathetic to the Imperial Japanese regime. His speech in Washington, along with his address in Canberra earlier this year, is a window on his thinking about history. His remarks to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II may well define his administration and the way that history assesses him.

His speech to Congress was personal and sympathetic. Abe spoke "with deep repentance in my heart," to "offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II." He didn't say he was sorry but he noted that Japan's "actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that." That formulation suggests that he understands a connection between Japan's actions and the suffering that resulted; it implies responsibility. In addition, he explicitly said that he "will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard," a vow to honor the Murayama Statement and the Kono Statement that cannot be fudged. The speech was frequently interrupted by applause and Abe received a standing ovation more than ten times.

Some were not happy with the remarks; worryingly they spoke for groups that had the most at stake. Lester Tenney, a 94-year-old survivor of the Bataan Death March, acknowledged Abe's comments about the deceased but dismissed as "disgraceful" the failure to address the feelings of those still alive. Jan Thompson, president of American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, decried the speech as "so vague. He didn't give us one definitive sentence to send that message to us that he does know the true history."

Those who had hoped that he would address the comfort women issue were also angered. Abe noted that, "Armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most. In our age, we must realize the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses," a statement that is both correct and anodyne. Reaction in South Korea in particular was bitter as he made no reference at any point - and he was asked directly about this in an appearance in Boston - to Japanese state responsibility for the comfort women.

That silence reflects a larger failure by Abe, one of three clouds on an otherwise spotless horizon. Abe didn't take up Japan's relations with South Korea in any substantive way during his visit. Of course, this visit was supposed to focus on the US-Japan relationship, but this partnership is increasingly the cornerstone of a larger network of US relations with the region. In the new US-Japan Defense Guidelines, the two countries promise to "promote and improve trilateral and multilateral security and defense cooperation." Japan's first National Security Strategy [pdf], published in December 2013, acknowledged Seoul as a potential strategic partner to Tokyo.

Abe shouldn't have devoted his speech to US-Japan-ROK relations, but he missed an opportunity to transform this vital framework and lay the groundwork for a more substantial address later this summer. In advance of Abe's arrival in the United States, National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Evan Medeiros said to reporters that "we always stress that it's important to address history questions in an honest, constructive and forthright manner that promotes healing but also in a way that reaches a final resolution," an unmistakable signal that the United States places importance not only on Japan's steadfastness as an alliance partner, but also on Japan's ability to work effectively with other allies including South Korea. A more forward-leaning approach by Abe would have given momentum to efforts underway to strengthen Japan-South Korea cooperation during this sensitive anniversary year, since a strong relationship between Japan and South Korea will strengthen Japan's strategic position in Asia while bolstering the effectiveness of the US rebalance to Asia.

The second potential cloud is the reaction Abe's words generate in Japan. Will there be explanations, qualifications, and clarifications by Abe or his entourage that undercut his message? This should not happen given the significance of his remarks - and the fact that all involved know that every word will be closely scrutinized - but even before Abe had returned home, the Asahi Shimbun reported that the statement to Congress, "I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers" - a key phrase - was rendered in Japanese as "I feel exactly the same way as the previous prime ministers." The difference is striking. 

Finally, there is the largest problem of all: Will there be continued attention to the alliance from now on or will last week prove to be nothing more than a blip on Washington schedules and a high-water mark on Abe's travel schedule? The biggest issue for Abe, one that he acknowledged during his trip to Washington two years ago, is whether Japan will be a "first-tier country." If he and his government make the joint vision statement real, the answer will be yes. The trick is turning the fine words and photo ops in to something more concrete. And that demands effort from both leaders, both governments, and both publics.

Brad Glosserman is executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS. Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Their book, The Japan-Korea Identity Clash, will be released on May 26. This piece first appeared in the CSISI PACNET Newsletter here

TopicsJapan RegionsAsia

Dr. Ben Carson for President: What You Need to Know

The Buzz

Americans have had presidents who were lawyers (more than two dozen of them), soldiers, land surveyors, farmers, and schoolteachers. Even a newspaper publisher, a mining engineer, and an actor have made it to the White House. But never in its history has the United States had a president who was trained as a medical doctor. That will change if Ben Carson gets his wish. The path breaking, and now retired, pediatric neurosurgeon formally announced yesterday that he has joined the increasingly crowded race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. The campaign marks Carson’s first bid for elective office. In case you are wondering, the last person to win the White House in his first bid for office was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Name: Benjamin Solomon Carson 
Date of Birth: September 18, 1951
Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan 
Religion: Seventh-Day Adventist
Political Party: Republican Party 
Marital Status: Married to Lacena (“Candy”) 
Children: Murray, Benjamin, Jr., and Rhoeyce
Alma Mater: Yale University (BA), University of Michigan School of Medicine (MD)
Career: Commentator, Fox News (2013-2014); Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital (1984-2013)
Twitter Handle: @RealBenCarson

Campaign Announcement

Carson made his announcement in his hometown of Detroit. He got straight to the point:

I’m Ben Carson and I’m a candidate for president of the United States.

Carson targeted domestic issues in his announcement. He said nothing about foreign policy. He did take on the charge that he is a political neophyte. Indeed, he embraced it:

I am not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient and I am going to do what is right.

Carson won’t be hitting the campaign trail right away. Two days ago, while he was practicing his announcement speech, he received heartbreaking news: his mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease back in 2012, is likely to die in the next few days. He canceled a scheduled trip to Iowa so he can fly to Dallas to visit her one final time.

Carson’s Story

Carson’s life is a rags-to-riches story. He grew up in a broken home in inner city Detroit. His parents divorced when he was eight after his mother discovered that his father was a bigamist. He was raised by his mother, who had a third-grade education and married at thirteen. He had a violent temper as a teenager and once stabbed a classmate with a camping knife—fortunately, the knife broke on the victim’s belt buckle.

Carson eventually turned his life around, partly through prayer and partly because his mother pushed him to develop his talents. He attended Yale University as an undergraduate and then earned his medical degree at the University of Michigan. His specialty was pediatric neurosurgery. He became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, one of the finest medical schools in the world, when he was just thirty-three. In 1997, he led a team that was the first to ever separate twins who were born conjoined at the head.

Carson became an instant conservative hero in 2013 when he used a speech at the normally non-political National Prayer Breakfast to give a minute oration that mixed charming stories with a denunciation of President Obama’s philosophy and policies. The president was sitting just ten feet away.

Carson has kept up his criticism of Obama ever since, sometimes using inflammatory language. He has compared Obamacare to slavery and the United States to Nazi Germany. He has repeatedly refused to apologize for the latter comment. He has said that there might not be an election in 2016 because “there may be so much anarchy going on.”

Carson’s medical successes made him a hero to many African Americans. He has lost much of that support, however, as he has taken to criticizing Obama.

Foreign Policy Views

Carson has no foreign policy experience, and his foreign policy misstatements have made headlines in recent months. He freely admits that when it comes to world affairs “I’m in the process of acquiring a lot of information” and “there’s a lot of material to learn.” When his friend Chris Wallace suggested that “putting Ben Carson in the Oval Office [would] be akin to putting a politician in an operating room and having him perform one of your brain surgeries,” Carson answered:

I don’t think so. I think what is required for leadership is wisdom and the ability to assemble an appropriate team. An ability to listen and ability to make wise decisions.

The obvious question is how closely linked wise decisions are to knowledge.

Carson has talked about ratcheting up sanctions on Iran, putting troops on the ground to fight ISIS, and keeping Putin from “reestablish[ing] an empire” by driving down the price of oil. When it comes to the Pentagon, he argues that “we are now in the process of not cutting out fat, but cutting into the muscle and cutting into the bone.” He has yet to say, however, what he thinks is the right level of defense spending.

More on Carson

Carson has written a memoir, Gifted Hands (1996), which later became a TV moviestarring Cuba Gooding Jr. His other books include two quasi-policy books, America the Beautiful (2012) and One Nation(2014). Carson also has a website.

GQ has profiled Carson, as have Politico, the New York Times, and New York magazine. The Baltimore Sun has detailed Carson’s 2016 prospects. A December Gallup poll named Carson the sixth most admired man in America. The Blaze offers seven fascinating facts about Carson, while NPR offers up five things you should know about him.

This piece first appeared courtesy of CFR here. Rachael Kauss assisted in the preparation of this post.

TopicsU.S. Politics RegionsUnited States

China's AIIB: A Big Deal or a Big Headache?

The Buzz

 I've just returned from a two-week trip to the US. In my travels to New York and DC, it was almost impossible to find anybody who thought the US had handled the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank saga well. There was much pontificating on how things had been so badly mishandled. There was a lot of inside-the-beltway finger pointing. But among all of this, I heard what, to me, was a novel reason why we should enthusiastically embrace any Chinese move toward more leadership in economic governance.

We should welcome Chinese initiatives; this argument goes, because the Chinese will soon learn just how hard the caper is. Take the AIIB. Just for a start, what currency and what languages will the new bank use? There are now 57 founding members who will likely have an opinion. Also, how will the Bank handle the clamor of NGOs from developed countries, all with strong opinions and agendas on how the Bank should be doing its work? And we can imagine that the issue of bad loans is going to be fraught. How will renegotiation work? If debt relief is refused, how much will China be blamed?

These are headaches the Chinese, heretofore, have not had to deal with. The view is that the Chinese should deal with them. Why? I'm not sure the proponents of these views necessarily articulated why we would benefit from a Chinese headache, but I can guess. Perhaps, if the Chinese appreciate just how difficult leadership is, they will be more amenable to compromise in the future.

This blog first appeared in the Lowy Interpreter here

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons. 

TopicsChina RegionsAsia

Would America Risk a Nuclear War with China over Taiwan?

The Buzz

After a decade of relative harmony, tensions between Beijing and Taipei are rising again. As Taiwan's leaders and voters face big choices about their future relations with China, America must think carefully about its commitments to Taiwan.

Would America be willing go to war with China to prevent Taiwan being forcibly united with the mainland? J. Michael Cole, responding in The National Interest to a recent op-ed of mine in Singapore's Straits Timesexpresses a widely held assumption that it would, and should.

To many people it seems self-evident that America would honor the commitments enshrined in the Taiwan Relations Act. But the TRA was passed in 1979, when China's GDP was 1/20th the size of America's, its place in the global economy was miniscule, its navy and air force were negligible, and its prospects for progress depended completely on America's goodwill.

(Recommended: 5 Chinese Weapons of War India Should Fear)

So back then a US-China conflict carried much bigger economic and military risks for China than for America. That made the TRA's commitments both highly credible and very unlikely to be tested. Washington could safely assume that Beijing would back off to avoid a conflict in which China had so much more to lose than America.

Things are different today.

China's economy is now so big and so central to global trade and capital flows that the consequences of any disruption would be just as serious for America as for China. Militarily, America can no longer expect a swift and certain victory in a war over Taiwan. China's anti-access/area-denial capabilities would preclude direct US intervention unless those capabilities had first been degraded by a sustained and wide-ranging strike campaign against Chinese bases and forces.

(Recommended: 4 Chinese Weapons of War Taiwan Should Fear)

China would very likely respond to such a campaign with attacks on US and allied bases throughout Asia. The US has no evident means to cap the resulting escalation spiral, and no one could be sure it would stop below the nuclear threshold. The possibility of nuclear attacks on US cities would have to be considered.

These new realities of power mean that today a US-China conflict would impose equal risks and costs on both sides. And where costs and risks are equal, the advantage lies with those who have more at stake, and hence greater resolve. China's leaders today seem to think they hold this advantage, and they are probably right. It is therefore a big mistake to keep assuming, as many people seem to do, that China would be sure to back off before a crisis over Taiwan became a conflict.

(Recommended: 5 Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear)

US leaders must therefore ask what happens if Beijing does not back down as a crisis escalates. At what point would they back down instead? What would be the damage to US global leadership if Washington brought on a confrontation with China and then blinked first? What could happen if Washington didn't blink first? Is Taiwan's status quo worth a global economic collapse? It is worth a real risk of nuclear war with China?

(Recommended: Welcome to Chinese Nuclear Weapons 101)

These are the questions America's leaders would have to confront in considering military action to defend Taiwan, and their answer would very likely be that the status of Taiwan is not worth risking nuclear war or economic collapse over. And that means American leaders and policy analysts must confront these questions now, as they decide whether to maintain the old commitments to defend Taiwan. The promises that America was willing and able to keep in 1979 might not be ones it is willing or able to keep now.

What about America's allies and friends in Asia? Wouldn't they help America defend Taiwan, if only because they are so worried themselves about China? Many Americans seem to assume they would. But even Australia, America's most reliable ally in Asia, is uncertain about this. And if Australia is uncertain, it is pure wishful thinking to expect the likes of India, Singapore, Vietnam or even the Philippines to offer anything more than mild diplomatic support to America over Taiwan.

The exception is Japan, which under Shinzo Abe might be expected to join the fight, especially after last week's visit to Washington. But does Mr. Abe really speak for Japan? Will future Japanese leaders take the same view? And even if they did, how exactly would that help America? How would Japan's support change the answers to the hard questions posed above, and increase the chances that America would indeed come to Taiwan's aid?

So no one should lightly assert that America or its allies would help defend Taiwan from China. But should they? This is a big subject. Suffice to say here that the question is not answered simply by using the word “appeasement” to invoke the memory of Munich.

There are hard questions to be answered about how far we should be willing to go to accommodate (or, if you prefer, to appease) China's ambitions for a bigger regional leadership role as its power grows. Any substantial accommodation would mean a shift away from the US-led order of recent decades, which would be risky and unsettling. It seems much easier to evade these questions by refusing to contemplate any accommodation at all. But that would carry high costs.

Those who assume that those costs must be worth paying might not have thought carefully enough about just how high the price could go. And those who assume that it will be impossible to accommodate China because it proved impossible to appease Hitler perhaps assume that there are no material differences between the situations in Europe in 1938 and in Asia now, or between Nazi Germany and today's China. They perhaps also assume that there are no alternatives to the old US-led order in Asia except Chinese hegemony. The magnitude of the issues at stake – including for the people of Taiwan – suggest that these assumptions need more careful scrutiny.

This piece first appeared in the Lowy Interpreter here

Image: U.S. Air Force Flickr. 

TopicsChina RegionsAsia

Europe's Next Ukraine Nightmare: A Massive Financial Default

The Buzz

Ukraine's economy is in crisis. Experts warn that the country's gross domestic product could shrink by 6 to 12 percent and inflation could exceed 40 percent in 2015, although one prominent economist put that figure in triple digits already. The war in eastern Ukraine has throttled the country's industrial capacity. To prevent the country from default, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with a $40 billion international rescue package in March. 

As the government of Ukraine and the IMF inked the deal, Moody's Investors Service and the Standard & Poors rating agency downgraded Ukraine's credit rating. The bad marks signal the obvious: the loan failed to convince investors that Ukraine can restore its creditworthiness in the near future.

The rescue package consists of an IMF loan of $17.5 billion ($5 billion of which has already been disbursed), $7.2 billion in commitments from other multilateral and bilateral creditors, and a prospective $15 billion in savings to be negotiated as debt restructuring with Ukraine's sovereign bondholders.

In exchange for the package, Ukraine agreed to maintain exchange-rate flexibility, monetary policy aimed at restoring price stability, overhaul the country's energy sector, and fight corruption.

But no specific terms about the bond part of the deal have been officially announced, and that's the most important part. The debt deal has to be finalized in less than thirty days. If a deal cannot be reached, the IMF will likely suspend Ukraine's loan program in June.

"[W]hat people are really looking out for is the details on Ukraine's debt restructuring," William Jackson, a London-based economist at Capital Economics, told Bloomberg.

Little is known about the actual details of a deal. The government has warned that restructuring will likely involve a significant haircut. Early debt consultations with bondholders, including the US-based Franklin Templeton, indicate that Ukraine's government might be seeking a haircut as large as 30 to 40 percent for external debt due in 2015-2018.

So far, what we know of Ukraine's official debt restructuring strategy looks like arm-twisting: either its creditors accept or the country defaults; no other options are on the table. The IMF-led bailout is conditional upon the success of a debt deal that must be reached in less than thirty days. In addition to the uncertain outcome of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the country's economic and reform prospects depend on the outcome of rising domestic political tensions, a surge in violence, and behind-the-scenes battles among the oligarchs.

The current debt restructuring approach is not the right strategy for a country in crisis. Instead it should be complemented by four other steps, which could prevent Ukraine from defaulting:

First, the IMF should review its conditionality for another $5 billion tranche. Ukraine should have more time to negotiate a more balanced and fair debt retirement and restructuring strategy with its creditors.

Second, Ukraine's official creditors should do more. International figures such as George Soros have already written convincingly for the need to pledge more resources to support Ukraine.

Third, a debt-restructuring strategy should include a voluntary option for debt-to-equity swaps for those investors who may be willing to convert bonds into selected assets. In the 1990s, these types of swaps were instrumental in retiring some of Latin America's debt.

Finally, Ukrainians should be invited to contribute to the country's debt relief. Ukrainian households keep an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion under the mattress, while approximately $140 billion of Ukraine-related assets have accumulated abroad.

For households, the Ukrainian government could issue retail US-dollar-denominated bonds with no past tax liabilities, a no-questions-asked approach, and an external guarantee for the principal similar to bonds guaranteed by the US Treasury. An instrument like this might be an attractive alternative for many Ukrainians who purchase bank safes and additional house security arrangements to protect their assets. But without firm guarantees, many households that have already lost an estimated three to five billion hryvnias as a result of the hryvnia downfall, raging inflation, and huge deposit withdrawals are unlikely to agree.

For oligarchs, a similar approach should be developed. Despite the hard times, some continue to flourish.

A different approach to debt restructuring is needed—one that doesn't erode value or the trust of international investors. Of course it needs to be accompanied by market reforms aimed at boosting exports, the return of foreign exchange revenues, consistent financial regulation, better taxation and deregulation regimes, and a genuine fight against corruption. But for now, keep your eyes on the debt deal.

Dr. Yuri Poluneev is former deputy head of the Council of the National Bank of Ukraine. This piece first appeared on the Atlantic Coucil's website here

TopicsUkraine RegionsEurope