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Chinese aggression

India’s military planners are growing more concerned about Chinese aggression, especially a two-front war in which Chinese ally Pakistan would actively join in fighting India if there were another conflict between China and India. China uses its economic power to increase its presence, and influence, in nations bordering India, especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and Nepal.

China’s eye in the sky

On 31 July, China put a new type of photo satellite into orbit, the Gaofen 11, an optical remote-sensing satellite with a claimed resolution of 10cm; previously only American photo satellites had that degree of resolution. China describes its Gaofen photo satellites as being for non-military use and to reduce Chinese dependence on commercial photo satellites, and, while that is largely true, what makes a photo satellite a military-grade photo reconnaissance satellite are the many additional features that rarely make it into official press releases.

Walled off

Pakistan has agreed to build a walled and restricted residential area near the port of Gwadar to house the half million Chinese who are working in Pakistan. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China.

China gets the lease

In early 2017, China and Pakistan finally signed the agreement that grants China a 40-year lease on new facilities China is building in the southwestern port of Gwadar. The lease grants China most of the revenue brought in by port and free trade zone operations.

China gets privilege

Construction on Pakistan’s new Gwadar Port facilities is visible to anyone on the ground or flying by, and some features of the new port and airport facilities are clearly intended for military use. India has long accused China of planning to use Gwadar as a base for Chinese warships and naval aircraft. Pakistan never had a problem with Chinese military using Gwadar as it helps keep local troublemakers out.

Cut military ties

The U.S. continues to cut military ties with Pakistan because of their refusal to shut down its support of Islamic terror groups that, in effect, do the bidding of the Pakistani military. The latest cuts include training for Pakistani officers in American military schools; Russia immediately stepped in and offered to replace the American training with equivalent Russian training. This is a major loss for Pakistan as their officers gained more useful instruction and more useful contacts at the American schools.

Pushing towards war

Pakistani aggression in Kashmir is pushing the two nations towards war, despite the possibility of both sides using nukes, and has brought more pressure on the Pakistani military to behave. Pakistani generals see Kashmir as a victory for Pakistan, but one that Pakistan cannot take proper credit for because supporting Islamic terrorism and sending those Islamic terrorists into India is a violation of international law. While the Pakistani military denies culpability, evidence has piled up to the extent that most of the world is convinced that the Pakistani military is, indeed, violating international norms and supporting Islamic terrorism.

GPS banned

In early August 2018 the DOD banned all personnel in “operational areas” from using commercial devices with GPS, including cell phones and PSMs (Physiological Status Monitors) like Fitbit. Triggered by the discovery that Strava, an athlete social network, had developed software allowing anyone to track users wearing GPS-enabled PSMs, which intelligence agencies could not only detect PSM users anywhere in the world, but often identify users by name. Many intelligence and military personnel used their PSMs while overseas, often on secret missions. From January to July 2018 the extent and implications of this became quite clear.

New trade route

Renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran will hurt Afghans working in Iran but won’t interfere with the new trade route from Afghanistan, via Iran to the port of Chabahar. The U.S. makes exceptions for these sanctions and, in this case, Pakistan is seen as a larger threat to Afghanistan than Iran. Most of the truck traffic that used to go to Pakistan’s port of Karachi is now using the new route to Chabahar, and at least $5 billion worth of trade to and from Afghanistan will use Chabahar each year.

Protests in Iran

Anti-government protests inside Iran continue, despite increasingly desperate measures by the government to calm things down. Worsening economic woes are the main reason for the protests, and senior clerics running Iran are divided over what to do. Iran can no longer posture and negotiate from a position of strength because their potential is diminishing along with their local and foreign support.

The dragon grows

China is putting more emphasis on economic cooperation because greater economic power means that China is replacing Russia as the principal investor and trading partner throughout the region, and this is particularly true in Pakistan. On paper, China is now the dominant military power in Eurasia, a fact that Russia likes to downplay. Many Russians fear that the aggression China is demonstrating toward India and everyone bordering the South China Sea will eventually be turned toward Russia. As the old saying goes: “Hold your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

Payment hampered

Because of new U.S. sanctions, India has not been able to pay Russia for their military equipment purchases since April, but Russia is trying to work out a way to get paid. Like most international trade, most goods are paid for in dollars and India and Russia are certain they will work something out. In the meantime, sanctions have made it more difficult for Russia to sell new weapons systems to India.

Taliban hideout

The remnants of the Pakistani Taliban hide out in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border in Nangarhar province, a favorite for all sorts of Islamic terrorists, smugglers and outlaws. There, the Afghan military and American forces are constantly seeking out all manner of terrorists and on 25 August, an American airstrike killed the head of the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. This is one reason ISIL has not been able to spread into Pakistan, but yet Pakistan insists that Afghanistan and the Americans aren’t doing enough to suppress Islamic terrorists.

Iran a liability

Russia is backing away from Iran because they have become more of a liability than an asset. Working closely with Iran in Syria was mainly about the 2015 treaty that lifted most sanctions on Iran and enabled Russia to do a lot more business in Iran, but that did not work out. Corruption inside Iran delayed a lot of the expected new business and the Arab oil states pointed out that anyone who was really close to Iran would be getting a lot less business from the Arab states in general, and the Arab oil states which controlled more oil than Iran, in particular.

Iran has issues

Pakistan is willing to discuss improved relations with Iran, but they already have considerable financial and military ties with Saudi Arabia. Many Pakistanis would prefer to improve relations with Iran and India, and back away from Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a close ally of the United States. The reality is that Iran is broke, run by an unstable religious dictatorship facing growing internal unrest and is at war with the Sunni Arab world.

Unobtainable goals

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister, stated his goals: reduce corruption, reduce debt and make peace with India by negotiating a deal on Kashmir. Most telling was what was not mentioned: the dominant political power of the Pakistani military, the military’s use of Islamic terrorists to get Kashmir from India by force and to keep Afghanistan in a constant state of disorder because the Pakistani military prefers it that way. The unmentioned issues have much to do with the high levels of corruption and India’s determination to hang onto Kashmir and deal with the Pakistani use of Islamic terrorists.

Pakistan’s the problem

Afghan’s prime minister is demanding that his Pakistani counterpart do something about the Taliban attack in Ghazni province, but the official Pakistani response is, “It wasn’t us.” Imran Kahn will eventually meet with his Afghan counterpart, but first he has to meet with national leaders who are more important to Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia and China. To Pakistanis, Afghanistan is more of a potential problem than anything else, but, to Afghanistan and most of the world community, the biggest problem in Afghanistan is not the Taliban or the drug gangs, it’s Pakistan.

Internal unrest

Problems with peace talks between the U.S. and factions of the Afghan Taliban aren’t the only obstacle facing the Afghan Taliban. There is also a growing internal unrest, mainly between factions who believe they are serving Pakistan at their own expense. On an individual basis, more Afghan Taliban veterans are quitting to join the Islamic State because they see the Afghan Taliban becoming more of a drug gang security force, while others just quit. The Afghan Taliban is gradually losing its true believers in the original goal to establish a religious dictatorship in Afghanistan, and instead have turned into mercenaries.

Peace not possible?

A growing number of Afghan Taliban leaders want peace and an end to Pakistan’s manipulation; however, senior Afghan Taliban leader and the Pakistani generals are not inclined to consider peace talks because of all the money from the drug gangs as well as the ability to “control” Afghanistan. Direct peace talks between Afghan Taliban leaders and the U.S., which is now a possibility, are very risky for the Taliban and their Pakistani patrons because the existence of their sanctuaries in Pakistan, of which the Pakistani military denies. It is obvious, however, that the Pakistan military and its intelligence agency, ISI, handle these sanctuaries.

Fire in the sky

Hamas “fire kite” and balloon attacks from Gaza have diminished, largely because balloon shipments are no longer allowed into Gaza and Israeli attacks on construction and launching sites have disrupted and discouraged this still-popular form of attack. The kites and balloons are more of a nuisance than a threat, but they get a lot more attention in Arab media than in the Israeli press. Arson is not a new tactic for the Palestinians, and by launching kites from inside Gaza one is unlikely to be arrested for arson, but risk getting killed by Israeli air or artillery attacks.

Getting out of Syria

Russia, the U.S. and Israel have agreed to cooperate in getting Iran out of Syria; something Turkey and Iraq would also prefer. Until recently, there were few press releases or other official announcements about this, but you can see the plan unfolding as Iran finds itself abandoned in Syria and under growing attack. Russia has long-term interests in the Middle East and opportunities in Syria because of deals already made with the Assad government. Russia has been on good terms with Israel for a long time and sees that as more important than anything Iran has to offer.

Factionalism

Egypt has been frustrated by its attempts to broker a unification deal for Hamas and Fatah, as well as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The unification talks are currently suspended and the ceasefire discussions unable to overcome factionalism inside Hamas.

No peace possible ever

A growing number of senior Israeli politicians is giving up on trying to make peace with Hamas. The Israeli leaders are going public with this and joining the majority of Israelis who have also come to this conclusion.

Better use for aid

The U.S. is going to cut its aid to Gaza and the West Bank by another $200 million a year, and assign those funds to aid projects elsewhere in the world. The U.S. has always been a major contributor of economic aid to the Palestinians, but given their continued corruption and calls for the destruction of Israel, the U.S. has better uses for its aid money.

Donors cut ties

The UN says it has no more aid money to pay for fuel to keep hospitals and water supply facilities working in Gaza. The UN needs $4.5 million for the fuel and is running out of donors who will respond to “emergencies” in Gaza, the result of aid donors cutting ties with Gaza because so much of the money is diverted by Hamas to support terrorism and other illegal activities.

Russia will cooperate

Russia made it clear that it sides with Israel when it comes to Syria and a long-term peace deal. Despite that, Israel has concluded that Russian pressure will not persuade Iran to back off on their efforts to increase Iranian-controlled military forces in Syria and then launch attacks on Israel. But Russia will cooperate with Israel.

Egypt improving

Egypt’s government has succeeded in doing what it was elected to do: fix the economy. GDP growth has increased and is now nearly 6% a year, with a goal of 7% by 2022. Unemployment is lower; borders are mostly safe, and neighbors non-threatening. Gaza, Libya and Yemen are still violent but Egypt has sealed its Gaza border and tightly restricted access. All this economic success is important if Egypt is to develop its natural gas fields and export the gas it doesn’t need. Currency reforms and effective counter-terrorism efforts have brought back foreign investors. Egypt is now considered a safe place to visit, and invest in.

No Iranian presence

The United States, Israel and Russia agree that Iran must not be allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. The Syrian government also agrees, as there have been some recent clashes between Assad forces and Iranian mercenaries.

Massive damage

Israel released satellite photos showing the massive damage done by a 22 July attack on an Iranian-run missile assembly plant in northwest Syria.

Indonesia copes

Indonesia continues to cope with violence caused by religious and ethnic disputes. Islamic conservatism and radicalism are largely under control, but Islamic terrorist groups still survive. Ethnic unrest and separatism are a more serious problem. Bitter memories of losing nearby East Timor to a separatist uprising that, after more than 20 years of unrest, resulted in East Timor becoming independent; Indonesia is trying to avoid a similar fate for Papua. There have long been periodic outbreaks of ethnic violence in Papua, but now it is getting worse. Papua was long seen as less of a problem, and a more distant one, than Islamic terrorism.

Novel solution

The U.S. is proposing a novel solution to the Palestinian problem: cancel the unique status that the UN granted Palestinian refugees after Israel was created that enables them to pass their refugee status on to their descendants; something no other refugee group has ever been granted. As a result, the original 700,000 Palestinian refugees has grown to over four million. The UN established the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to provide for the support the original refugees and succeeding generations, and the U.S. is the largest contributor to that effort — at $350 million a year.

IS fails

On the Syrian border, an Israeli airstrike killed seven Islamic State men belonging to the Khaled Bin Walid Army as they approached Israeli territory. A larger number of IS men was trying to get into Israel and Jordan and most were heading for Jordan. All these IS efforts were apparently failing because Israel and Jordan knew they were coming.

Weapons seized

In late July, three police operations near Cairo, Egypt, left five Islamic terrorists dead, five arrested and a stockpile of weapons seized. This operation was against Hasm, a radical faction of the Muslim Brotherhood that has been carrying out terror attacks since 2016.

Pulling back

Iranian forces appear to be pulling back on the Syrian border with Israel, but the problem is constantly monitoring and verifying compliance. The Iranians regularly make peace deals like this and then devote a lot of effort to developing ways to violate the terms of their agreement and not get caught. Russia has also told Israel that Iran has rebuffed Russian suggestions that Iran withdraw its forces from Syria.

Mosque used as base

Israeli troops entered al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and arrested 24 Palestinian men who were trying to use the mosque, which is rarely entered by Israeli troops, as a base for attacks using fireworks and rocks on Jewish pilgrims below.

Flotilla halted

Israel’s navy intercepted one of the four boats of another Gaza Aid flotilla 88km from Gaza City. There was no violence from the people on the former Norwegian fishing boat carrying medical supplies and an international collection of Hamas supporters seeking to break the blockade or, failing that, show the world what noble and heroic advocates they were. This is reminiscent of the 2010 flotilla of six boats, some of them containing Turks who supported Islamic terrorism as well as Hamas, that did not end well.

Not much sympathy

Israel has told the Assads that if they stick with Iran they will be destroyed. The Assads realize that the Iranians are fanatics about destroying Israel and that the Israelis have demonstrated their ability to counter any move the Iranians make. Moreover, all the other Arab states consider the Assads traitors for aligning themselves with the Iranians, who are quite openly at war with Arab control of Arabia and much else. Worse, no one has much sympathy for the Assads, who have very few good qualities.

Crippling IS

While the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was raging during 2016, Indonesian counter-terrorism forces crippled IS efforts to expand into Indonesia. Counter-terror forces crushed Mujahadeen Indonesia Timur (MIT), the last of the older Islamic terrorist organizations still active in Indonesia. MIT was led by Santoso, who openly declared MIT part of IS in 2014; however, in 2016, a series of raids and arrests left Santoso dead and MIT reduced to fewer than 10 active members. Since 2014 MIT concentrated most of its efforts on recruiting and setting up trained cells of terrorists in other parts of the country.

Patrolling the DMZ

In northern Syria, Russian military police are operating with UN peacekeepers so that, for the first time since 2014, the peacekeepers can patrol the 1974 UN demilitarized zone. By the terms of the 1974 deal, any Syrian violation of that zone would be considered an act of war and would be met with force from Israel. Russia has also agreed to keep Iranian forces 85km from the Israeli border, including Hezbollah and other Iranian mercenaries. The Russian military police are also taking possession of the abandoned Syrian observation positions, which, along with their Israeli counterparts, monitored the border and the actions of the UN peacekeepers. The Russians will turn over these observation posts to the Assad forces.

The smoking gun

Israel released more documents on Iran’s nuclear program. Many intelligence and nuclear weapons experts from foreign nations have been allowed to examine all the documents and the consensus is that they are authentic and reveal details of Iran’s effort to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Mossad carried out a well-planned and -executed operation in January that took the material from a well-protected warehouse and hustled them out of Iran overnight.

Bad behavior surfaces

When it comes to dealing with Iran, the U.S. and Israel are on a roll and intent on exposing much more of Iran’s bad behavior. In some cases, Iranians will be a source, but in all cases Iranians will be consumers of such news and that weakens the control the Iranian clerics have over the Iranian government. More evidence of Iran’s bad behavior has surfaced because Israel allowed European nations to send their own intel and nuclear weapons experts to examine the huge trove of Iranian documents Israel got out of Iran earlier in 2018.

Unskilled loyalists

As Venezuela’s overall economic situation gets worse, the government is replacing a growing number of key officials with unskilled loyalists. This is not helping deal with the massive foreign debt Venezuela has and is now unable to repay, nor the problems with economy and crumbling infrastructure.

Venezuela blackouts

In February, a power outage hit Venezuela’s capital, where, in addition to lights, 10 subway stations were blacked out and trains could not operate. The government blamed “saboteurs,” saying that someone cut a cable that caused an explosion. This came a month after an even larger blackout was caused by a failed cable between a power plant and transmission lines. In the rest of the country, electricity is only provided a few hours a day at most, and while the wealthy have generators, everyone else suffers.

One world government

“There is a plan to induce the gradual surrender of American sovereignty, piece-by-piece and step-by-step, to various international organizations — of which the United Nations is the outstanding but far from the only example — until one day we shall gradually realize that we are already just a part of the world government….” — Robert W. Welch, “The Blue Book of The John Birch Society,” October 1958

Many news items courtesy of strategypage.com & James Dunnigan. All material ©2019, StrategyWorld, Inc.