G-2/WC/BC

Chinese technology
In November, China showed off one of its J-10B fighters equipped with a locally made WS-10 engine featuring, for the first time, thrust vectoring. This WS-10 engine was a development prototype and had apparently been flying for a while because the J-10B pilots demonstrated skill and experience in getting the most out of what was a very basic vector capability. For those who follow Chinese technology development, what was recently demonstrated is solid progress and indicates that China is on its way to achieving the more complex thrust vectoring it needs to match what Russian and Western jet engines can handle.

Not operational
Israeli commercial satellite photos show that the Russian S-300 air defense systems delivered to Syria are still not operational.

Deputy caught
In eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province, SDF forces captured Osama Abu Zeid, known to be ISIL founder and leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s deputy and one of the few men who knows where Baghdadi is. Zeid was caught east of the Euphrates River, possibly headed for Iraq.

Iraqi F-16 attacks
In November, Iraqi F-16s again hit Islamic State targets in Syria, destroying an IS base and a warehouse used for storing weapons and ammo in two separate attacks. At least 40 IS members were killed, and Iraqi artillery units also fired across the border at approaching IS forces.

Joint patrols
Egypt and Sudan have agreed to conduct joint military patrols as both nations are concerned about spillover violence from Libya. The joint border forces will also combat terrorism and cross-border crimes.

Similar to the Harpoon
Turkey has begun production of the new locally designed Atmaca anti-ship missiles. Atmaca is similar to the U.S. Harpoon missile, but heavier, and has similar range with a 440-pound warhead. Turkish warships are equipped with the older Harpoon missile, with a 124-kilometer range, and Atmaca will replace Harpoon on the new Turkish-built Ada-class corvettes.

China still dependent
In 2011, China believed it would be free from dependence on Russia for military jet engines by 2016, which implied that Chinese engine manufacturers still had a way to go. Now the most the Chinese will admit to is that there will be no need for Russian engines by the end of the decade. Maybe.

Warning Iran
The U.S. sanctioned four companies and many individuals involved in smuggling Iranian oil to Syria. This serves as a warning to Iran that their illegal dealings with Iraq were not as secret as the Iranians and Iraqis had hoped. Sanctions on Iraqi companies and individuals can be very effective and costly to the Iraqis involved.

Copycats
China has been seeking to master and implement thrust vectoring for a long time. While China can steal the technical specs for thrust vectoring on Russian and Western aircraft, manufacturing it is another matter and requires training engineers and workers for the task, as well as figuring out all the crucial design and manufacturing details that are not written down. This takes a long time. China has shown a willingness to spend the time it takes to master manufacturing methods for gear that only a few nations can produce.

Desperate for a win
Syria is apparently granting citizenship and Syrian passports to thousands of Iranian mercenaries like Hezbollah from Lebanon, in addition to Iranians and Shia from other countries Iran recruited to fight in Syria. These “new” Syrians will be wearing Syrian Army uniforms as they take up positions near the border with Israel. Israel suspected that Iran was planning this and now has to respond before these Iranian forces can carry out any attacks, as Iran has vowed to do, on Israel itself. Iran is desperate for a win because their recent efforts to hurt Israel have all been very embarrassing failures.

Dependence
China has long sought to eliminate its dependence on foreign suppliers, especially Russia, for high performance jet engines. The biggest problems have been with the WS-10 series, designed and produced in China. The government has been pressuring the aircraft manufacturers to use Chinese-made engines like this instead of Russian imports, but it hasn’t worked out the way the government wants.

Sturdier engines
The Chinese have built nearly 300 WS-10s for J-11 type aircraft, which the J-15 is based on, and have found the engines reliable enough to keep using. The WS-10 is still a work in progress, but is less reliable than the Russian-built engines, and China is willing to undergo the hassle of maintaining and replacing the WS-10s more frequently as they learn how to design and build sturdier engines of this type.

Master the techniques
Since the 1990s, Chinese engineers have managed to master the manufacturing techniques needed to make a Chinese copy of the Russian AL-31 engine. This is part of a program that has also developed the WS-13, to replace the RD-93 as well. While the Chinese have been able to build engines that are durable, they have problems with reliability. Apparently, it is still worth buying more Russian engines because the Chinese models are out of action too often, which keeps the jets grounded for repairs, or, worse, an engine change.

China’s deep pockets
China is again proposing to fund the construction of the 135-kilometer Kra Canal, at a cost of $30 billion, to connect the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. A canal through the narrowest part of Thailand has been proposed for centuries, but the expense and lack of sufficient economic incentives thwarted earlier efforts. The emergence of major economies in East Asia has changed that calculation. A canal that would shorten voyages by 2,200 kilometers, compared to going through the Malacca Strait makes it worthwhile for about 30% of the current Malacca traffic to pay a large canal transit fee.

No one is winning
Israeli military leaders believe they are winning their battle to keep Iran from establishing a permanent presence in Syria via a combination of force and diplomacy, while other diplomatic activities involved the Americans and Arab nations. There is general agreement by Israel and their Arab allies that the forces Iran has assembled in Syria and Lebanon are a far greater threat than Hamas, but this war is not yet won. Whether it is depends more on what happens in Iran, but no one is really winning in Syria.

No press freedom
Foreign non-government organizations (NGOs) accuse Sudan of systematically arresting and harassing reporters and censoring print and broadcast media outlets. From January to October 2018, 15 journalists were arrested or detained by the government. On more than two dozen occasions, the entire print runs of 10 newspapers have been seized and confiscated by Sudanese security organizations.

Blames U.S.
Everyone in Sudan assumes that President (dictator) Omar al Bashir will run for a seventh term in 2019. However, the economic decline that returned in 2017 has accelerated, an economic crisis that could become a political crisis and topple even an entrenched dictator like Bashir who has been in power for three decades. Moreover, 2019 looks rather dire as inflation is increasing and economic analysts think hyperinflation is a possibility. Bashir of course blames U.S. sanctions, but those are being relaxed. Bashir’s critics blame his regime’s mismanagement and corruption.

Sudan’s crybaby
Sudan’s President-for-life Bashir complained that it is unfair for the U.S. to continue designating Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. He also said the remaining political and economic sanctions are unfair and unjust.

Removal from list
The U.S. has discussed a plan with Sudan that would eventually lead to their removal from the U.S. “state sponsor of terrorism” list, where they have been since August 1993. According to the U.S., Sudan’s government took measures to combat terrorism, has begun opening foreign aid corridors in rebel-held areas and is making an effort to reduce armed conflict within its borders.

Sudan’s prerequisites
According to American and Sudanese foreign officials, Sudan must do six things before it will be removed from the terror sponsor list: 1) increase cooperation on counter-terrorism; 2) improve protections for freedom of the press and religion that Sudanese are already supposed to have; 3) assure foreign aid access; 4) end fighting with rebel groups and seek peace agreements; 5) demonstrate it no longer supports terrorism, and 6) end cooperation with North Korea.

Improve security
UN officials met with the state governor in southern Sudan in an effort to improve the security for aid delivery in areas where SPLM-N rebels are active. The U.S. has made safe delivery of such aid one of its key requirements for removing Sudan from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Array of deceptions
Once more Iranian oil exports are hit by sanctions and Iran is reviving its usual array of deceptions to try and hide efforts to illegally export to customers who are willing to risk discovery and punishment when the Iranian deceptions fail. The last time Iran got hit by an oil export ban, shipments dropped from 2.6 million barrels per day to a million barrels per day. As the sanctions were once more imposed in late 2018, Iranian exports quickly fell from 2.8 million barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels. It won’t be until mid-2019 before legal shipments decline to a million barrels per day.

Evidence
A vast trove of Iranian weapons or fragments of ballistic missiles, naval mines, remote-controlled bomb boats or UAVs collected from countries throughout the Middle East was put on display in Washington, DC, as evidence of illegal Iranian arms exports. Most of the items have markings in Farsi, the Iranian language. Opening the display in Washington makes it accessible to many foreign embassy personnel and journalists.

Spin cycle
In November, an Israeli airstrike hit an Iranian base south of Syria’s capital of Damascus. Or, at least, that is what Jordanian media first reported and later eyewitness accounts confirmed, there were numerous large explosions that went on for about an hour. Syria said its air defenses shot something down, but could not produce any wreckage. Israel would only say they had not lost any aircraft or sent any into Syria.

Alliance with Israel
While Iran has shifted most of its hostile propaganda towards Israel and America lately, the Arab states in the region are still well aware of how Iran continues seeking to dominate or even occupy and rule some of its Arab neighbors, which led to the acceleration of their economic and military relationships with Israel by those Arab states. These growing links had long been kept secret or simply denied, however the Iranian threat made it possible for Arab governments to go public with their efforts to make an ally, as well as a trade partner, out of Israel.

Changing tides
A surprising number of Arabs see the alliance with Israel as a plus.

Bully next door
In Iraq, the anti-Iran election results created some initial confusion among Iranian leaders but now Iran is pushing Iraq hard to ignore U.S. sanctions and help Iran evade them. Iraq is cooperating, but not out of sympathy for or fear of Iran, but because there is money to be made — it’s a dangerous game because the U.S. can go after the Iraqi corruption in addition to invoking banking and other financial restrictions. At the moment, most Iraqis see the U.S. as the good guys and the Iranians as the bully next door.

Unreliable and incompetent
Gulf Arabs have long supported Hamas, but no longer because they found Hamas to be unreliable and incompetent. In desperation, Hamas allied itself with Iran, even though Iran is at war with Sunni Arabs, which includes most Palestinians. Most Arab states do not want to see another Israeli invasion of Gaza as thousands of Gazans would be killed, as well some Israelis. There is general agreement by Israel and their Arab allies that the forces Iran has assembled in Syria and Lebanon are a far greater threat than Hamas.

Don’t trust Iran
Russia notified the U.S. and Israel that Iran was willing to withdraw its troops and mercenaries from Syria in return for the U.S. lifting some sanctions. Neither Israel nor the U.S. trust Iran to observe the terms of any such deal and it was unclear how many sanctions Iran wanted lifted. Syria and Turkey also have their say in the matter, but the big problem is trust an d the fact that Iran is in big economic and political trouble back home because of how the corrupt religious dictatorship has mismanaged the economy for decades. Subsequently, the U.S. made it clear that they had no intention of lifting sanctions.

Threatened to leave
Despite earlier threats to leave, the UN agreed to keep its peacekeepers in the disputed Abyei border area claimed by Sudan and South Sudan until May 2019. Both countries claim the area and peace is maintained by 4,500 Ethiopian peacekeepers, a force the UN can no longer afford. The new arrangement reduces the peacekeeper force by about 200 troops.

Iran bans dollars
At the request of Iran, Iraqi banks banned the sale of dollars to anyone traveling to Iran.

Negotiated a deal
The Kurdish-led SDF agreed to resume its offensive against the Islamic State, which was halted at the end of October near Hajin city. The SDF had to move more of their forces to the Turkish border where the Turks were again threatening to attack SDF-controlled Syrian territory. The U.S. negotiated a deal with the Turks that reduced the Turkish threat to the SDF by placing American observation posts near the border to serve as a buffer between Turkey and the Kurdish-controlled areas of northeast Syria. With that agreement, the SDF could move more troops south to deal with the remaining IS groups.

Iranian hostility
Iran threatened to send troops across the Pakistani border to find and destroy Iranian Jaish al-Adl Baluchi rebel camps in Pakistan if Pakistani security forces did not take action. The religious dictatorship in Iran is hostile to Sunnis, and the Iranian Baluchis don’t like that. Iranian Baluchi rebels have become bolder and more successful in their attacks on Iranian security forces, and Iran’s response has been to execute captured Baluchi rebels, resulting in even more Baluchi violence. A similar situation occurred in 2014 when Pakistan went after the Baluchi rebel camps, but that was only a temporary fix because the ethnic and religious tensions tend to persist.

Face the consequences
Israel has warned Lebanon and Iraq that Iranian use of their territory to upgrade unguided rockets with GPS guidance kits will result in airstrikes to destroy those operations unless local governments act. Lebanon is more of a problem because of its relationship with Iran and Syria.

New trade route
The U.S. confirmed that renewed sanctions on Iran will not interfere with the new trade route from Afghanistan to Iran’s Indian Ocean 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.

Pressure on Pakistan
The U.S., India, Afghanistan and the UN have increased pressure on Pakistan over Pakistani support for terrorism.

Dramatic effect
Prices for basic goods in Iran went up nearly 50% in October and, inside Iran, the financial situation is made much worse by the accumulated bad debts created by decades of corrupt business deals. Those uncollected debts and the continuation of the corrupt business deals that create them leaves their banking system unable to be much help in hard times. Smuggling has increased, but that has a minor impact on the situation.

Attack repelled
In eastern Syria, Syrian Kurd rebels (SDF) repelled a complex and desperate attack by as many as 500 IS fighters seeking to protect their last stronghold near Hajin city and the Iraqi border. The three-day offensive was stopped by stubborn SDF defensive tactics, which had American artillery and airstrikes on call. Over 100 IS were known to be killed, but many IS bodies remained in IS territory where airstrikes target any group seen moving during the battle. As a result, many IS attackers never reached SDF positions, though some did get close by claiming to be civilians fleeing IS.

Last stronghold
In late November, as SDF forces advanced into IS’s last stronghold, they had to deal with landmines, explosive traps and suicide bombers. The hundreds of IS fighters near Hajin are all diehard and desperate Islamic terrorists who realize the possibility of getting out is very low. After this most recent battle and the heavy losses SDF suffered, there is even more resolve to ensure that none of the IS personnel escape. Taking prisoners is unlikely because the trapped fighters know about the growing number of captured IS men and women being sentenced to long prison terms or execution.

Peace conference
Russia hosted an Afghan peace conference in Moscow and, in addition to the Taliban (which prefers to be called the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”), 11 countries were invited, including Iran. The Taliban does not consider Afghanistan’s elected government as legitimate and insists on negotiating with the U.S. first to ensure that all foreign troops are withdrawn. The Taliban also wants all military aid for the Afghan government halted.

Iranian apocalypse
The economic and political apocalypse caused by decades of corruption and revival of economic sanctions in Iran has become the focus of government attention. The resumption of sanctions created major declines in economic activity months before the trade curbs actually went into effect, and Iranian GDP is expected to decline nearly 2% in 2018 and at least 4% in 2019. Inflation rose faster than expected, hitting 35% in November rather than sometime in 2019.

Tightening the noose
As part of its revived Iran sanctions, the U.S. will go after Iranian monetary and other aid for Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom are internationally recognized as Islamic terrorist organizations and legitimate targets for the U.S. The U.S. has also expanded its list of Hamas and Hezbollah officials subject to individual sanctions, or even multi-million dollar rewards for the death or capture.

GPS jamming
Finland and Norway publicized their accusations against Russia for deliberately jamming GPS signals in northern Finland and Norway from a location near the Russian military bases in the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea. The jamming took place between 25 October and 7 November as NATO held its largest training exercise since the Cold War ended in 1991. Russia denied any responsibility, even though they are known to possess long-range jammers.

Iran turns up pressure
Iran has pressured Iraqi leaders to ignore U.S. sanctions and pointed out that complying with the sanctions would hurt Iraq’s economy, so Iraq is seeking an exemption to some of Iran’s sanctions because their economy would suffer. There has been no U.S. response yet.

Protests growing
While visiting Europe, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, admitted that Iran would have to reconsider its current nuclear program if it was the “will of the people” to do so to solve economic problems. The protests in Iran are growing in numbers and persistence and are mainly about the corruption and mismanagement of the Islamic dictatorship. The revival of sanctions has just made more of that corruption and mismanagement obvious to more Iranians that that is why the government is willing to admit that giving in to U.S. demands is a possibility.

Classified activities
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that there are classified activities underway to deal with Hamas and Iran. Israelis are willing to accept that because Israel has pulled off some spectacular victories against Iran in 2018, and in the past, and need to be kept secret in order to work, so the most Netanyahu can do is admit that new operations exist. The view from Iran is different and senior Iranian leaders, especially supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been privately exhorting the military to be more effective.

U.S. Embassy closed
The U.S. received a credible terrorist threat to its embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital of Kinshasa. On 24 November, the U.S. State Department began issuing terror alerts to Americans in the country and the embassy was closed to the public on 26 November.

 

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