Turkey wants control

Russia and Iran oppose Turkey’s plans for Idlib- and Kurdish-held areas to the east in Syria. The Turks want permanent control over the Syrian side of the border to improve their own border security and, more importantly, cripple Syrian Kurdish efforts to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in northeast, which puts the Turks at odds with Syrians and, especially, the Iran-backed Assad dictatorship.

Turkey can’t be trusted

Now into its second generation, the Assad clan feels it has won a major victory that will not be complete until all foreigners are out of Syria. None of those foreigners want to cooperate because they feel the Turks, at least the current Islamic government, cannot be trusted.


The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to release 24 Ukrainian sailors and the three patrol boats they were on when they tried to use the Kerch Strait to enter the Sea of Azov in November 2018. The court ruled that Russia had violated international law by attacking and seizing the three Ukrainian patrol boats that were not violating any law. Russia refused to accept the ruling. Outlaws gotta outlaw.

Development problems

Russia continues to encounter development problems with its post-Cold War Yasen-class SSN (nuclear attack submarine) that was meant to compete with the American Virginia-class boats. Only one Yasen has entered service, and that was in 2013 after 20 years of construction and efforts to deal with a growing list of defects and shortcomings.

Defying sanctions

Russia has apparently defied sanctions and is not only keeping its Korean workers, but is accepting more. Many Chinese cross the border to work in the Russian Far East province and while Russia needs the workers, Korean workers are cheaper and less of a political threat. China has claims on the Russian Far East while North Korea does not.

Remain defiant

Russia and China are becoming a problem in Venezuela. The U.S. reminded Russia that foreign military intervention in the Western Hemisphere is not allowed and that the U.S. will continue its two centuries of supporting that — with military force if necessary. This warning came after the U.S. discovered that Russian special operations troops and security advisors in Venezuela had persuaded embattled dictator Maduro to stay in Venezuela rather than flee to Cuba. American officials told their Russian counterparts that the U.S. would use force to remove the Russian interference from Venezuela. Russia remains defiant.

Russia’s SSBN

Russia managed to get a new Borei-class SSBN (ballistic missile nuclear sub) into service in 2013, and now three are in operation. Another one is undergoing trials, and four more are under construction. This is another example of how limited development resources have been in post-Cold War Russia. The first Borei began construction in 1996 and it got more resources than the Yasen.

Turkey’s agenda

The same rivalry between Turkey and most Arab states in Syria is now becoming more visible in Libya. Turkish presence in Libya is nothing new, but now Turkey has increased shipments of military aid and is, apparently, sending advisors as well. The UN and some Western nations want the two rival Libyan governments to merge, but the Turks prefer the more terrorist-friendly Government of National Accord (GNA) even though GNA forces are much less militarily effective than the Libyan National Army (LNA). Turkey has been pushing its agenda in Libya since 2012, with little effect.

Iran the victim

Since the 1980s, Iran has tried to play the victim as it calls for the destruction of the U.S., Israel, and now the Saudi rule over most of Arabia. This indirect aggression is an ancient tactic long practiced in the Middle East and particularly by Iran. In the age of persistent surveillance and crime scene analysis, remaining anonymous is virtually impossible. The American military has used analysis of combat incidents since the 1960s and has a compelling collection of well-documented, fatal Iranian attacks against Americans, dating back to the 1980s in Lebanon. Of course, Iran denies responsibility.

Rockets fired, Baghdad

Someone fired rockets into an American military base outside Baghdad, Iraq. Similar attacks were made against oil facilities in the south. The chief suspects are Iran-backed PMF militias and the Iraqi government is putting pressure on these PMF units to behave or be disbanded. Iraq also repeated its demands that foreign forces in Iraq undertake no operations without Iraqi permission, though that was directed at Iranian IRGC personnel, not the 5,000 American troops.

U.S. airpower

American airpower is still active against the Islamic State targets in Iraq. In the last several months, 34 IS targets were hit from the air.

Up in smoke

Two retired Russian warships caught fire in May while being dismantled and burned for several days. The cause seems to have been a metal cutting torch igniting fuel that is sometimes found at the bottom of tanks in decommissioned ships. These ships entered service in 1989 and 1991 but were decommissioned in 2006-7 and, seven years later, were scheduled for scrapping rather than being refurbished and returned to service. At that point, Russia only had resources to get new nuclear subs into service and has largely given up on building larger surface ships like those that caught fire.

Somali violence

Somali violence, both from al Shabaab terrorists and clan disputes, is less frequent throughout Somalia but it persists in northeastern Kenya, mainly in the provinces that border Somalia. What is keeping al Shabaab active there and not elsewhere in Somalia are the lucrative smuggling operations along the border. Kenyans in the northeast want something done about the violence.

Self destructive

Rival Islamic terror groups in the northwest Kashmir region of India are feuding again and a Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorist was killed. This sort of violence caused the collapse of Islamic terrorist activity in Kashmir back in the 1990s. It has taken Pakistan over a decade to get the terrorism going again in Kashmir and now the self-destructive aspect of Islamic terrorism has returned, as it nearly always does.

Goads the Americans

Iran knows that its extensive involvement in attacks on American troops before 2011 is well documented, and that Iraqi and American leaders are ready to go after Iran if there is additional violence against Iraqi or American forces that can be directly linked to Iran, so Iran is making attacks that aren’t obvious, not for a while anyway. The anonymous rocket attacks on American bases are not a mystery because the rockets are usually launched from areas controlled by pro-Iranian PMF militias. American base defenses include sensors that can determine the location of the origin of hostile gun, mortar or rocket fire.

Video proof

Use of limpet mines and other weapons against tankers entering the Persian Gulf has led to the demand for armed guards who are normally employed by ships in pirate-infested Somali waters. Iranians have been caught on video placing and removing the magnetic mines on the sides of tankers, which are then detonated by timer or remote control. Armed guards will scan for mines, and stand watch at night, firing on any small boats that approach. Iran denies they are using these mines, but the video and past performance say otherwise.


Russia launched the first of three nuclear powered icebreakers, which will all be in service in the early 2020s, to replace their elderly Cold War-era nuclear icebreakers. Russia has always taken the lead in maintaining a force of heavy icebreakers in order to keep northern ports, rivers and coastal waters navigable during the several months a year they are frozen shut. This provides commercial and military advantages that Russia is willing to pay to maintain.

Under attack

The Russian-controlled Hmeimim airbase in coastal Syria came under attack by Islamic terrorists using armed UAVs and mortars. Most of the attacks were blocked or shot down by base defenses, but one person on the base was killed and another wounded.

Money and muscle

China is supporting deposed Venezuelan dictator Maduro, but in economic, not military terms, which does not violate the 19th century American Monroe Doctrine. China is willing to do business with the opposition regardless of what other countries think. China has no military forces in Venezuela but is working to revive the local oil industry, which Maduro has wrecked through corruption and mismanagement. Using this approach, China stands to profit no matter which way Venezuela’s revolution goes. Russia wants a piece of this and is willing to supply the muscle, while China supplies the money and oil field repair tech.

Keeping Iraq chaotic

The Iranian government and the Islamic State are, in effect, working together to keep Iraq chaotic and mired in violence and corruption. While Iran and IS seem like separate problems, they are, in practice, intertwined. The Iraqis are growing more aggressive in curbing the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) militias.

Pakistan a problem

The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism rather than a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members. India wants Pakistan put on the black list and continues to compile and submit evidence to support blacklisting.

Efforts hampered

Attacks on health care facilities and health care workers in eastern Congo by rebels, bandits and suspicious local militias have severely hampered Congolese and global efforts to end the Ebola virus epidemic.

Deal premature

After years of negotiations and delays, Iraq announced it had worked out a $53 billion deal for an American company to develop two new oil fields along with the necessary infrastructure. That announcement, however, turned out to be premature because there are still disagreements over how the firm will be paid and how security will be handled. The problem is corruption, something Iraqis like to play down but foreign firms can’t ignore, especially when this much money is being invested. Chinese oil firms offered similar deals in Iraq, but backed off because of payment and security problems.

Terrorists taken out

An American UAV attack against an al Shabaab terrorist base in Somaliland’s Golis Mountains left six Islamic terrorists dead. This is the seventh such attack in the last month against al Shabaab and IS targets.

Mission extended

The UN extended its Somali peacekeeping mission for a year, but cut the strength of the peacekeeping force by 1,000, leaving 21,000 troops. If violence increases, that cut could be restored; however, the UN expects the violence to decrease, leading to additional cuts in the peacekeeping force. Various foreign training missions are attempting to increase the skills and discipline of the Somali military but so far that is only working out with the small special operations force, which is about 10% of the 30,000 soldiers on duty. Desertion and corruption is still common.

Miss their empire

Many Russians miss their empire. When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved, many Russians refused to accept losing half of the Russian empire that the czars had spent several centuries putting together and the communists managed to hold onto for 70 years. By the late 1990s, a new generation of Russian leaders tried to exploit that sense of loss, which was somewhat encouraged by the fact that some of the newly formed states had reason to maintain close economic and military ties with Russia. These independent states didn’t want to rejoin the empire, but they wanted the benefits of being part of one.

Contains the violence

Saudi Arabia, despite producing more Islamic terrorists than any other country, has managed to contain such violence within its borders. Since 2006 there have been few attacks and none that were really successful, but there were still attempts. So far in 2019 there was one failed attempt in the capital city of Riyadh by four heavily-armed men against the Intelligence headquarters compound. Not only were the four attackers killed, but their base was found and raided, leading to the arrest of 13 supporters. This was not an exception, but the norm.

Persuade or coerce

The U.S. gave Pakistan a chance to restore some of their lost military and economic aid because of their support for Islamic terrorism. The U.S. wants Pakistan to persuade or coerce the Afghan Taliban to be more reasonable in the peace talk demands, taking place in Qatar. The talks are going nowhere and that suits Pakistan, although the best outcome would be if the Americans agreed to leave and accepted Taliban assurances that Afghanistan would not become a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists.

Two more down

Police surrounded a house near Moscow where two Islamic terrorists were hiding out, refusing to surrender. They were killed during a gun battle, after which police found many weapons, bomb components and plans for terror attacks as well as messages from foreign allies.

Mine collapse

Between 35 and 40 people were killed in late June when a copper and cobalt mine collapsed in southeastern Congo. The mine is on the Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mining concession, which is owned by China Molybdenum Co., Ltd.

CAR food crisis

Foreign aid groups believe that 1.8 million people in Central African Republic (CAR) now face an emergency food crisis. Donor nations have to be persuaded to pay for food and other aid supplies, which means convincing donors that the aid can actually be delivered to those who need it rather than be stolen by local officials and less organized outlaws. The chaos in CAR makes it difficult to do anything.

Russia feeds Venezuela

Russia is sending 16,000 individual combat rations to Venezuela, at a cost of $223,000. Venezuela’s Maduro plans to order more if these items will keep Venezuelan troops loyal.

USAF airbase complete

After five years of negotiations, followed by years of construction delays, the new American airbase in Niger is complete. Called Airbase 201, it cost $110 million and is one of the most expensive USAF foreign airbase construction projects ever undertaken. Construction began in 2016 and was supposed to be completed by 2017; however, the project took two years longer than expected because of its location, in Agadez, on the southern edge of the Sahara desert and there were unexpected complications because of the harsh climate.

Airbase 201

Some 600 American military personnel will be stationed at Airbase 201 in Niger, most of them Air Force and including air traffic controllers and security personnel. Flight operations will begin later in 2019 because details of how the UAVs will operate in an area where there is some commercial air traffic have not been completely worked out. That’s another unexpected delay, then there are the additional security issues.

A problem for everyone

Despite Pakistani pledges to cease further involvement with Afghan “internal conflicts,” the Iranians, Indians and Afghans generally agree that Pakistan has no interest in abandoning its use of certain Islamic terror groups to put pressure on neighbors. This is a problem for everyone, especially the Afghans. Worse, few people in the region expect the Taliban to agree to a ban on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan again becoming a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. Many Afghans wonder why the Americans are even negotiating with the Taliban, who have long demonstrated that they can’t be trusted.

Russia’s critics

The use of Russia’s police-state tactics on government critics makes the problem worse. Sacrificing good relations with the West for an alliance that includes traditional enemies like Iran, Turkey and China does not leave most Russians feeling better. That’s especially true as the economy continues to worsen. Living standards have been declining since 2014, the year Putin sought to forcibly make Ukraine pro-Russian, which backfired badly. Western trading partners imposed economic sanctions and a promising feature became an unwelcome revival of past mistakes.

Dam repaired

After three years of effort, and at a cost of $530 million, American and Italian engineers completed long-delayed repairs on the 3,600-meter-wide Mosul Dam. This structure holds back 32 billion gallons of water and is dealing with record rains and stress that would likely have caused the dam to fail if this much water was present before the repairs were completed. In early 2016 Iraq hired an Italian construction firm, for nearly $300 million, to make needed repairs on the Mosul Dam, which lies astride the Tigris River.

Rights reinstated

The Council of Europe, in response to Russia threatening to quit the organization, agreed to restore Russia’s ability to vote on resolutions and participate in debates. These rights had been suspended in 2014 because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which is still underway. As a result of the Council’s decision, Ukraine threatened to quit, as did other East European nations. Giving in to Russian threats was an effort to maintain better relations with Russia, which is still a major supplier of natural gas to Western Europe.

Ebola death toll

International aid agencies are trying to be as accurate as possible in tracking Ebola virus cases and Ebola virus deaths; however, the news that Uganda has confirmed cases and a confirmed death puts the current figures in doubt. In June, officials said Congo’s Ebola death toll is “nearly 1,400” people.

Losing support

Russia’s government, run by Vladimir Putin and his KGB cronies, is losing its popular support. With the restoration of the many police state aspects of the old Soviet Union, and a constant diet of “we are at war with NATO” propaganda, a growing number of Russians blame Putin and his policies for a growing list of problems. Worse are the Russians who are defying new laws against public demonstrations.

No mo’ money

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is reluctant to loan Pakistan any more money because of their excessive defense spending and lack of progress in getting wealthy Pakistanis to pay taxes. There are also accusations that Pakistan is financing Islamic terrorism, which, if verified, Pakistan would have more problems obtaining foreign loans.

Just a tool

After the 2018 election of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, he proved himself very much a tool of the military. Khan openly and enthusiastically supported the Islamic terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir and denies any responsibility for it. The Pakistani military can now do whatever they like without any risk of criticism from Pakistani politicians. The new head of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is noted for his enthusiastic support for Islamic radicalism and the use of Islamic terrorism against India. 

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