Red Sea Rising
By Rebeccah L. Heinrichs, RealClearDefense: “Iran has been prohibited from exporting arms and related material since 2007 under UNSCR 1747 and has been violating it since.”
Iranian Cruise Missiles Also a Proliferation Threat
By Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD: “Since the conclusion of the nuclear deal in July 2015, Iran has launched as many as 23 ballistic missiles, despite the prohibition of such activities by UN Security Council 2231.”
AUTHOR TWITTER ACCOUNT @milaniabbas
P-8 Poseidon: Countering Chinese Aggression in the Indo-Pacific
By Rathna K. Muralidharan, RealClearDefense: “As Beijing’s military continues to encroach on its neighbors’ naval territories and claim international waters for itself, Pacific countries are looking for systems to monitor and secure their borders.”
America Needs to Reorient Its South Asia Policy
By Akhilesh Pillalamarri, RealClearDefense: “South Asia is at the center of global geopolitical and economic trends. It is a rapidly developing region, containing a quarter of the world’s people. India, soon to be the world’s most populous country, is the fastest growing major economy in the world, having surpassed China last year.”
Trump's Aimless War in Afghanistan Expands, Again // Danny Sjursen
Why is the U.S. bombing Chinese separatists, and what does it say about the flailing war effort in Afghanistan?
The Key to Success in Afghanistan Is Logistics
By Daniel Gouré, RealClearDefense: “A competent and sustainable ANDSF is essential to the U.S. strategy of eventually transitioning security responsibilities to the Afghan government.”
Jon B. Alterman writes: But those looking to see where U.S. Middle East policy is heading should look to Yemen, not Syria. In Yemen, the U.S. government has treated the conflict at arm’s length. - Center for Strategic and International Studies
New ‘Hybrid’ Plots Revealed in Russian Anti-Western Policy
By Pavel K. Baev, Eurasia Daily Monitor: “The stunning defeat in the Euphrates valley signifies a further mutation of the multi-party Syrian war, where Russia sought to augment its reduced intervention with expanded “hybrid” engagement.”
At a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last September, word spread that Saudi Arabia had identified a handful of countries that could build two nuclear reactors in the kingdom. The U.S. wasn’t among them -- until Energy Secretary Rick Perry buttonholed the Saudi delegates and told them America wanted in. - Bloomberg
Evelyn Gordon writes: Today, the Arab world still has the numbers and the oil, but it’s siding with Israel against Iran. So for any realist who holds that America should align itself with Arab concerns because numbers and oil are crucial considerations, the top priority now shouldn’t be another fruitless Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but reining in Iran’s malignant behavior. - Commentary Magazine
Saudis hire legal muscle for US nuclear negotiations
Saudi Arabia has hired an international law firm specializing in energy regulation in its efforts to extract a favorable agreement on civil nuclear cooperation from the United States. Newly published lobbying disclosures reveal that the Saudi Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources hired Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in the past few days to “advise” it on “a potential bilateral agreement with the United States concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” Saudi insistence on retaining certain capabilities that could be used to produce nuclear weapons faces steep resistance in Congress even as some elements of the Donald Trump administration seem open to a more flexible deal. Read More
Below are the takeaways from the week:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that his country will hit Iran directly if Tehran uses Syria to test Israel. - Wall Street Journal
History’s Real Lessons on Iran
By Tzvi Fleischer, The Strategist (ASPI): “Several recent articles have called on President Donald Trump to change the Iran policy of the United States based on ‘past lessons’ and Persian history.”
Earlier today, Kenneth Pollack released the final essay in his new six-part series, “Pushback: Countering Iran in an evolving Middle East.” This series addresses why the US needs a comprehensive strategy to push back on Iran and proposes specific policy prescriptions that will limit Iran’s influence in the region. Pollack argues that in Syria, the US should adopt a “Mujahideen strategy” by resuming support to opposition groups to drain Iran’s resources and strain their economy. On the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal, Pollack concludes that although the JCPOA has significant shortcomings, there isn’t a better agreement yet, and the US should remain committed for now. Lastly, regime change in Tehran is ultimately desirable but is not the primary goal of this strategy, as the costs of being overtly focused on regime change are too high. The US should reserve this option as a deterrent. Access the series here.
National University of Iran’s Mahmood Sariolghalam on Iran’s foreign policy
Iran general’s profile rises as Tehran flexes Mideast muscle
Katherine Bauer writes: By focusing on Tehran's struggle to reach an acceptable legal definition of terrorism, Washington can avoid further politicizing the traditionally technocratic effort to bring Iranian banks in line with international norms. - Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Winning Battles, Losing Wars:
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Revolution
By Joseph Hamond, Modern War Institute: “At the height of the 2011 uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood made a fateful decision. The Brotherhood’s senior leadership decided to stage a protest in front of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, long the symbol of state oppression, with the ultimate goal of storming the building.”
"Everyone knows the good guys lost:" From Kabul to Baghdad and Back: PART 1 of 2: The U.S. at War in Afghanistan and Iraq. by John R. Ballard and David W. Lamm
From Kabul to Baghdad and Back provides insight into the key strategic decisions of the Afghan and Iraq campaigns as the United States attempted to wage both simultaneously against al-Qaeda and its supporting affiliates.
It also evaluates the strategic execution of those military campaigns to identify how well the two operations were conducted in light of their political objectives. The book identifies the elements that made the 2001 military operation to oust the Taliban successful, then with combat operations in Iraq as a standard of comparison, the authors analyze the remainder of the Afghan campaign and the essential problems that plagued that effort, from the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2002, through the ill-fated transition to NATO lead in Afghanistan in 2006, the dismissal of Generals McKiernan and McChrystal, the eventual decision by President Obama to make the Afghan campaign the main effort in the war on extremism, and the final development of drawdown plans following the end of the war in Iraq.
No other book successfully compares and contrasts the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan from a national strategic perspective, analyzing the impact of fighting the Iraq War on the success of the United States campaign in Afghanistan. It is also the first book to specifically question several key operational decisions in Afghanistan including: the decision to give NATO the lead in Afghanistan, the decisions to fire Generals McKiernan and McChrystal and the decision to conduct an Iraq War-style surge in Afghanistan.
It also compares the Afghan campaigns fought by the Soviet Union and the United States, the counterinsurgency campaigns styles in Iraq and Afghanistan and the leadership of senior American officials in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the final chapter, the key lessons of the two campaigns are outlined, including the importance of effective strategic decision-making, the utility of population focused counterinsurgency practices, the challenges of building partner capacity during combat, and the mindset required to prosecute modern war.
Aaron Y Zelin and Michael T Franken write: Over the past several years, Libya's influx of foreign fighters has become the fourth-largest mobilization in jihadist history, behind only the Syria war, the Afghan jihad of the 1980s, and the 2003 Iraq war. - Washington Institute
Libya’s Revolution Seven Years On: As Good As It Gets?
Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Benghazi rallies that spread across the nation, when Libyans took to the streets to protest the arrest of a human rights lawyer. Fueled by the success of demonstrators in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the crowds also demanded the release of political prisoners and an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule.
Norm Roule, former senior CIA official covering the Middle East, offers takeaways on what went right, and what went wrong with international intervention.
Libya Faces Crossroads Seven Years after Revolution
by Emily Estelle
Libyans commemorated the seventh anniversary of the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi on February 17. Libya appears increasingly stable on the surface, with oil production rising and embassies returning to Tripoli. Negative trends will likely shatter this apparent progress in the coming year. The current stalemate in Libya will escalate to renewed conflict in 2018, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis, worsening regional instability, and empowering U.S. enemies and adversaries.
Libya is in a period of superficial calm that obscures condition-setting for a renewed struggle over power and resources. The 2014 civil war between eastern and western coalitions has evolved, not ended. Coalitions are fragmenting and realigning. The strengthening of independent militias is increasing tensions and worsening social divisions in key localities that will determine Libya’s broader stability. Militants are reactivating an insurgency in Benghazi, the largest city in eastern Libya, as would-be strongman Khalifa Haftar struggles to control a fractiouscoalition that is alienating parts of the population. Tribal conflict resumed in Sebha, the regional capital of the southwest, as coastal powers extend their influence inland.
Moderate and hardline forces are jockeying for control in Misrata, a military and economic center in the northwest. Tripoli, Libya’s capital, is subject to a competing web of militias and criminal organizations that wield influence over the anemic UN-backed government in the west. Citizens are protesting poor living conditions in multiple cities, and the number of Libyan migrants attempting to reach Europe is growing.
The UN is pursuing elections as a panacea for the Libyan political crisis even as UN experts acknowledge that a peaceful solution is unlikely. Election preparations have already led to violence and repression. Libya lacks a constitutional framework for elections, a minimum requirement to prevent the post-election power struggles the country has seen before. Recent progress towards a constitutional referendum does not neutralize the multiple spoilers that are capable of preventing elections or delegitimizing their results. The Salafi militias overtaking the security sector are another block to free-and-fair elections, as well as a source of sectarian and ethnic conflict.
Libya will dissolve into a renewed war—or several wars—in the absence of a significant course-correction, causing Salafi-jihadi expansion, increased migration, humanitarian crises, and regional destabilization. Elections, if they occur, will not resolve Libya’s political crisis and may lead to more violence. A victory by a polarizing figure, like LNA commander Haftar, could spark armed backlash akin to the 2014 parliamentary elections. The election of a weak consensus candidate, or the splitting of votes between regions, will preserve or deepen Libya’s current regional, political, and ideological faultlines. Armed groups may also move to secure their interests—and salvage fragmenting coalitions—by taking action before elections occur, making conflict over Libya’s major cities and oil resources increasingly likely in 2018.
Salafi-jihadi groups in Libya, among them ISIS and al Qaeda, will regain momentum in 2018. ISIS is recovering from the loss of its coastal stronghold in late 2016 and has established a safe haven in central Libya. ISIS will conduct attack campaigns intended to derail Libya’s oil production and destabilize urban centers in 2018. It will also shift even more external attack planning to Libya as it loses freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda and affiliated groups in Libya, including Ansar al Sharia, are currently keeping a low profile following losses in 2016-2017. These groups will seize on the opportunity of local and national conflicts to regain influence by infiltrating and leading insurgencies in central and eastern Libya in 2018. The LNA’s campaign to seize Derna city in the northeast will also be a rallying cry for the al Qaeda network.
The involvement of regional and extra-regional powers will prolong the Libya conflict. The UAE, Turkey, and Qatar will engage even more episodically in Libya as they prioritize wars and power struggles in the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and East Africa. Egypt, for which Libya is a higher priority, will still find its engagement limited by competing priorities at home and in the Nile River Valley. These states will periodically provide military, economic, and political support to their proxies in order to defend their interests in Libya, but will not dramatically escalate their involvement to a level required to resolve the conflict in their favor. Russia, which will prioritize Syria and Eastern Europe, will nevertheless seize the opportunity to establish a military footprint in eastern Libya, using counterterrorism operations as justification to gain another strategic foothold on the Mediterranean.
The U.S. must recognize the coming dangers in Libya and develop a policy to change its course. Libya has not yet fallen off the brink. The U.S. should rally the international community behind a political solution to the Libya conflict and pressure regional states to cease military support for Libyan spoilers. Ending the Libya crisis will also require an overhaul of the Libyan security sector that includes both training and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs. A smart intervention now could avert another tragedy for the Libyan people and put the U.S. in a position of strength against both terrorist groups and geopolitical foes in North Africa.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday barred former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from leading his political party, the latest setback for the embattled politician since his ouster from office last year. - New York Times
Saudi Arabia joined Turkey and China in a move to block a U.S.-led attempt this week to place Pakistan on an international terror-financing watch list, according to officials involved in the process, in a rare disagreement between Riyadh and the Trump administration. - Wall Street Journal
An Afghan official says Taliban fighters have attacked a police security post in central Ghazni province, killing eight local police. - Associated Press
Pakistan has been given a three-month reprieve by a global watchdog over a U.S.-led motion to put the South Asian country on a terrorist financing watchlist, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said late on Tuesday. - Reuters
U.S. Demands Pakistan Arrest 'Hit List' of Top Haqqani & Taliban Leaders
By Kimberly Dozier, The Cipher Brief: “The Trump administration has given Pakistan a new “hit list” of nearly a dozen top militants to detain, to show its willingness to fight terrorism, but the U.S. won’t share intelligence that would help lead to their capture, and has snubbed Pakistani requests to meet CIA chief Mike Pompeo in Washington, a senior Pakistani official tells The Cipher Brief.”
The Trump administration has given Pakistan a new “hit list” of nearly a dozen top militants to detain, to show its willingness to fight terrorism, but the U.S. won’t share intelligence that would help lead to their capture – and has snubbed Pakistani requests to meet CIA chief Mike Pompeo in Washington, a senior Pakistani official tells The Cipher Brief.
For more background on the breakdown in U.S.-Pakistan relations, read today’s brief.
Pakistan slipping out of US influence, say intelligence agencies
(Dawn News) Seventeen US intelligence agencies have warned Congress that Pakistan will continue to slip out of America’s influence and into China’s orbit in 2019, and will become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asian region.
Pakistani terror groups launch multiple attacks in Jammu and Kashmir
(Long War Journal) Pakistani terror groups Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) launched two attacks against security forces this week in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Both attacks targeted Indian military facilities and together resulted in the deaths of six Indian security personnel and one civilian.
Rouhani embarks on India state visit
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has departed on his first state visit to India. He is slated to meet with senior officials including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as India hopes to strike a deal to use Iran's Chabahar free trade zone on the Gulf of Oman to trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia while bypassing archrival Pakistan. Rouhani will visit New Delhi and the southern city of Hyderabad. Read More
Pushing back on Iran, part 1: The why
Kenneth Pollack | AEIdeas
Kenneth Pollack writes about why the US needs a more confrontational approach toward Iran. One of the most profound threats is that Iran is actively struggling to push the transformation of the Middle East in directions that best suit Iranian interests, not the interests of the US or the people of the Middle East. This is the first in a series of essays that flesh out the idea of pushing back on Iran.
Pushing back on Iran, part 3: The Syrian civil war
Kenneth Pollack | AEIdeas
Syria is the ideal place for the US to take on Iran. However, Americans have debated the wisdom of playing a more active role there. As the Israeli air strikes last weekend remind us, the situation in Syria remains uncertain and complex, meaning that any American policy toward Syria is likely to run certain risks and incur certain costs that should be addressed.
Campaign against Pashtuns undermines rule of law
For the last six decades, Pakistan's Pashtuns have been oppressed by the establishment. Marking opponents with the black stamp of treason has been the establishment's most effective tool for silencing the ethnic group's leaders when they dare to criticize state policy-makers. The promotion of Pashtun cultural stereotypes – the portrayal of the Pashtuns as a violent and extremist ethnic group – has led to them being internally exiled as the war against militancy is waged...
There are good reasons for the army’s popularity in Pakistan
ATTA RASOOL MALIK
The ideological origins of the Pakistan Army can be traced back to what is known in British histories as the 'The Indian Mutiny.’ Its objective was to reinstate to power in Delhi the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah. This was India’s First War of Independence and was mainly fought by Muslims, although many Hindu troops also took part as a result of crude treatment by their British officers. When partition came around in 1947, the formations, units...
In Afghanistan, Hard Is Not Hopeless—but Time Is Running Out
By Rep. Mike Gallagher, RealClearDefense: “Now is the time to be honest about what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan, what it will cost, how we measure progress on the ground, and how this will be different from the last 17 years. ”
Pakistani Taliban confirms US killed deputy emir in North Waziristan drone strike
Sajna Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, not in Afghanistan like some Pakistani officials have claimed. Sajna lead the group's powerful Mehsud faction, was close to al Qaeda, and was responsible for murdering thousands of Pakistanis.
Pakistani General talks tough on terrorism, but remains short on action
General Bajwa and Pakistani officials can pontificate all they like about how their country has eliminated terrorism and no longer permit terrorists to use its soil to attack another country. A look at the facts tells another story, and that is one of Pakistani duplicity.
The Major Flaws in Afghanistan's Intelligence War
By Javid Ahmad, The National Interest: “For Afghanistan, the recent spate of violence signifies important intelligence failures.”
The Obama-Trump foreign policy
Thomas Donnelly and William Kristol | The Weekly Standard
Pentagon plays down Russian influence in Syria after clash with US-backed forces
Secretary of Defense James Mattis insisted that Moscow had little control over Syrian troops that attacked US allies. Mattis also dismissed fears that the United States is getting dragged into another Middle East war.
US maintains mystery about long-term intentions in Syria
Remember that "border force" the US said it was, and then wasn't, forming in Syria? Apparently, it's already there
US support for Kurds in Iraq and Syria unaffected by tensions with Turkey
The Pentagon is standing by Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria despite growing political pressure to back off, according to a government audit.
'Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again': The Author’s Respond
By David G. Bolgiano & John Taylor, U.S. Naval Institute Blog: “One critic stated: “Killing our way to victory is a simplistic notion that appears to totally ignore the real-world complexities and challenges of the current war on terror.” On the contrary, U.S. military personnel have created their own complexities by trying to be diplomats instead of warriors.”
Tillerson embarks on Middle East tour to put out foreign policy fires
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads out on a marathon tour of a half-dozen Middle East countries next week as US foreign policy faces crises across the region. The top US diplomat’s first stop will be Sunday in Jordan, where he’ll try to salvage crumbling Israel-Palestinian peace talks with King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi(see story below). Tillerson is also expected to sign a bilateral memorandum of understanding on economic and security assistance with the cash-strapped US counterterrorism ally.
Then it’s off to Turkey, where Tillerson is expected to raise “some of the more difficult issues” with Turkish leaders, a senior State Department official said in a background call today – a possible reference to Ankara’s military incursion into northern Syria to battle US-backed Kurdish forces.
After that, Tillerson flies to Lebanon for the first visit by a US secretary of state in four years. He’s scheduled to meet with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Haririand parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri. With tensions rising between Lebanon and Israel as the Shiite militia Hezbollah stockpiles rockets, the visit aims to “underscore our commitment to Lebanese national institutions, principally the Lebanese Armed Forces and internal security forces” as a bulwark against instability and Sunni extremism, according to officials on the call.
Next, Tillerson heads to Egypt for a meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Hot topics include the conflicts in Libya and Syria, terrorism, and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with some discussion expected on the March elections and the silencing of Sisi’s main challengers.
Finally, Tillerson wraps things up with a visit to Kuwait, which is hosting both a ministerial meeting of the anti-Islamic State coalition and a reconstruction conference to help rebuild Iraq after the terrorist group’s defeat
Iran’s stealth drone was shot down in a new way
BY STEPHEN BRYEN
It appears the drone was destroyed by a missile controlled with an electro-optical sensor
As the ongoing dispute between Qatar and Arab countries enters its eighth month, the U.S. has been forced to strike a delicate balance in its dealings with critical allies in the Middle East.
Deputy emir of Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan reportedly killed in US drone strike
Sajna Mehsud, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Paksitan and the leader of its powerful Mehsud faction, it reported to have been killed along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. However his death has not been confirmed by the US government or the Taliban.
Peace Through Bombings: The US Strategy in Afghanistan // Krishnadev Calamur
The goal of negotiating with the Taliban is at odds with President Trump's statements.
China’s latest move in the graveyard of empires
BY PEPE ESCOBAR
Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent ETIM fighters exiled in Afghanistan crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations in Xinjian
The United States' attempt to cut Pakistan's military or civilian aid may lead to further complications in the relations between the two countries, Pakistan's interior minister said Thursday. - Voice of America
Air Force Sets Another B-52 Smart Bomb Record in Afghanistan
By Oriana Pawlyk, Military.com: “The B-52 Stratofortress this week set another record for the number of smart bombs dropped from the iconic bomber, officials said Tuesday.
US conducts 10 counterterrorism strikes in Yemen
US forces conducted a record 120 strikes in Yemen in 2017 and appears to be operating at a similar tempo thus far in 2018.
America's war in Afghanistan is the longest war the U.S. has ever fought. Beginning a month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the initial mission was to remove the Taliban from power and destroy the al-Qaida terror network. Now, nearly 17 years later, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll points out that the war's goals have changed. - National Public Radio
Jessa Rose Dury-Agri and Omer Kassim write: The U.S. should reassess military and political plans that rest on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s continued premiership after Iraq’s May 12, 2018 elections. Abadi’s failed political alliance with Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and inability to maintain the confidence of Ammar al-Hakim’s political allies signals that Abadi is unable to manage varying political interests and will struggle to hold together a post-election coalition. - Institute for the Study of War
Ayatollah Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi, a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts who is thought to be the designated successor of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, visited Lebanon and Syria at the end of January 2018. Raisi toured the border between Israel and Lebanon accompanied by Hezbollah military commanders and Iranian officers. - Jerusalem Post