China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers

emp

China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against U.S. aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday.  Portions of a National Ground Intelligence Center study on the lethal effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons revealed that the arms are part of China’s so-called “assassin’s mace” arsenal – weapons that allow a technologically inferior China to defeat U.S. military forces.

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U.S. finalizing plan to boost support for Syrian rebels

(Reuters) – The U.S. government is finalizing a plan to increase training and small-arms shipments for Syrian rebels, two U.S. security sources said on Friday, as Syrian government troops gain momentum following the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks.  The United States would increase assistance and send the shipments to moderate rebel factions mostly based in Jordan, along Syria’s southern border, the officials familiar with the plan told Reuters.  The additional supplies are likely to be modest and will not include surface-to-air missiles, the officials said, raising questions over the impact in a civil war that has killed an estimated 136,000 people, produced nine million refugees and threatens to destabilize the region.

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Mistrust overshadows Obama’s Saudi trip

Obama-Saudi

Riyadh (AFP) – US President Barack Obama meets Saudi King Abdullah Friday as mistrust fuelled by differences over Iran and Syria overshadows a decades-long alliance between their countries.  Obama, who is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia late in the afternoon on a flight from Italy, is expected to hold evening talks with the monarch on a royal estate outside Riyadh.Saudi Arabia has strong reservations about efforts by Washington and other major world powers to negotiate a deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.  It is also disappointed over Obama’s 11th-hour decision last year not to take military action against the Syrian regime over chemical weapons attacks.Saudi analyst Abdel Aziz al-Sagr, who heads the Gulf Research Centre, said Saudi-US relations are “tense due to Washington’s stances” on the Middle East, especially Iran.The recent rapprochement between Tehran and Washington “must not take place at the expense of relations with Riyadh,” Sagr told AFP.  Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, long wary of Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions, views a November deal between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme as a risky venture that could embolden Tehran.

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By 2015, Russia Wants To Establish A Eurasian Union To Rival The EU

Is Moscow’s proposed Eurasian Union an initiative to revitalize stagnant economies, or an attempt to re-establish a Soviet Union “lite?”  After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world suddenly had 15 more nation states, some of whom had not been sovereign territories since the 19th century.  Nevertheless, calls for a re-integration of the Eurasian region were soon heard, often led by Russia, according to (pdf) a Chatham House paper.  In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the fall of the USSR “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”  There’s been a smattering of different attempts at unification, including the Commonwealth of Independent States security union, but a lack of commitment to creating the institutions have stalled efforts, Chatham House writes.

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Putin, Party of One: Obama ‘Leads’ Ousting from G-8, But Russia Finds New Friends

Leaders of the G-8 met at the Dutch prime minister’s residence Monday night and decided to reduce the size of their fraternity to seven.The White House was quick to paint the meeting and its outcome as the president’s idea.

In what is called The Hague Declaration, leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission, affirmed support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”

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Shots fired as Russian troops force their way into Ukrainian base in Crimea

Reuters) – Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base’s commander for talks.

A Reuters reporter said armored vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades.  Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.

Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: “That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base’s storage.”  Belbek was one of the last military facilities in Crimea still under Ukrainian control following Russia’s armed takeover and subsequent annexation of the peninsula, which has a majority ethnic Russian population and is home to one of Russia’s biggest naval bases.

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Afghanistan finds reason to back Russia on Crimea referendum

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan this weekend joined Syria and Venezuela and became the newest member of a select club of nations: those that have publicly backed the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” the office of President Hamid Karzai said, “we respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.”

To the casual observer, becoming the first Western-backed democracy to express support for the widely denounced referendum in Crimea might seem an odd tack for Afghanistan, which depends heavily on assistance from the United States and European countries. Those nations wholeheartedly condemned the Russian takeover of Crimea and were unlikely to be supportive of Karzai’s decision.

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Ukraine crisis: Russia warns West over Crimea sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued the warning in a telephone call to US Secretary of State John Kerry.  It came hours after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation following a disputed referendum.  On Wednesday there were reports an army base in Sevastopol had been stormed.  An Associated Press reporter at the scene said pro-Russian self-defence forces had broken into the building – the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy – and raised the Russian flag.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told the BBC the treaty signed on Tuesday was already in effect, and Crimea was now part of Russia.  The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says that although it must be approved by Russia’s constitutional court and ratified by parliament, there is no doubt MPs will give their full backing when they vote on Friday.  On Monday, the US and the EU imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea peninsula.

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US rejects Crimea vote, warns Russia on new moves

WASHINGTON —President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine and join Russia “would never be recognized” by the United States, as he and other top U.S. officials warned Moscow against making further military moves toward southern and eastern Ukraine.

The two leaders spoke after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favor of the split in a referendum that the United States, European Union and others say violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin. But the White House said Obama reminded Putin that the U.S. and its allies in Europe would impose sanctions against Russia should it annex Crimea. U.S. and EU sanctions are expected to be announced Monday.

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Russian warships pass through Istanbul’s Bosphorus sea

Two Russian warships on their way to the Black Sea have passed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus staits.  Russia’s ‘Saratov’ and ‘Yamal’ ships sailed unaccompanied through the Marmara Sea before entering the Bosphorus straits at 07:30 local time (05:30 GMT).  The two ships, which were usually based in the eastern Mediterranean to monitor developments in Syria, are now on their way to Crimea due to the latest situation there.

At the same time a Ukrainian ship called ‘Hetman Sahaidachny’ entered the straits at Canakkale (Gallipoli) on its way to the Marmara Sea.  Thousands of Russian troops have been deployed to the Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine, after Russia’s Parliament passed a motion on Saturday.  Due to prior agreements, the Bosphorus straits are recognized as international waters despite cutting through the middle of Turkey’s most populated city, Istanbul.  The Bosphorus is a key strategic passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

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Watch Turkey in Crimea

If you thought that in Ukraine we finally had a global crisis sans Islam, think again. My first clue was hearing “Allah Akbars” on a Youtube of some anti-Russia protestors (not in news media). Then, a Ukrainian e-pal from Kiev wrote in, noting, “The Kirimli (Tatars) can ask for help Turks and other Muslim peoples. With Hisb-ut-Tahrir or Wahhabites. It could be a new `hot point.’ ”

The Tatars of Crimea — at least the ones who have returned to Crimea in the aftermath of Stalin’s mass deportations of nearly 200,000 Tatars in 1944, which would kill nearly half of the population  — are Muslim and speak Turkish.

According to Al Monitor, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu recently met in Kiev with the former speaker of the Tatar National Assembly, Mustafa Abdulcemil Kirimoglu, and declared: “If the term is appropriate, we are in ‘mobilization’ to defend the rights of our kin in Crimea by doing whatever is necessary.”

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Ignoring West, Crimea readies vote on joining Russia

Crimea

Simferopol, Ukraine (CNN) — The pro-Russian government of Ukraine’s southeastern Crimea region declared independence Tuesday ahead of a scheduled referendum on whether to join Russia, ignoring international warnings that the vote won’t be recognized.

 

In the regional capital Simferopol, pro-Russian militiamen guarded the airport and train station, some wearing armbands that proclaimed their allegiance to “the autonomous republic of Crimea.” Flights into the region from Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, were canceled Tuesday, while flights from Moscow appeared to be landing as scheduled.  A guard at the railway station told CNN that he and his comrades were looking out for weapons being shipped in from the rest of Ukraine.

 

Crimea will hold a vote Sunday on whether to remain in Ukraine or become part of Russia; in Moscow, the Russian parliament announced it would debate whether to accept Crimea as part of the country on March 21. Ukraine’s interim government, backed by the United States and European powers, has said the upcoming vote is illegitimate.

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Global military spending is now an integral part of capitalism

  China’s surge in military spending gains headlines, partly because of the ominous implications regarding its regional contest with Japan, but it’s the deeper structures of military spending in general that are far more compelling.

There are few surprises about the distribution of military spending: for all the current focus on China’s growing military outlays and it is significant that they have embarked on a sequence of double-digit increases as a percentage of GDP the United States still accounts for 40 per cent of such expenditures. However, the distribution is not the only thing that matters; it’s the sheer scale of such investment $1.756tn in 2012. The “peace dividend” from the end of the cold war has long since bitten the dust. Global military spending has returned to pre-1989 levels, undoubtedly a legacy of the war on terror and the returning salience of military competition in its context. In fact, by 2011 global military spending was higher than at any year since the end of the second world war.

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U.S. moves closer to sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis

KIEV, Ukraine, March 3 (UPI) — If Russia continues its military incursion into Ukraine, it will be on the “wrong side of history” and violating international law, President Obama said Monday.

Even with strong cultural and commercial ties between Russia and Ukraine, “what cannot be done is for Russia with impunity to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world,” Obama said during a media availability with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “And I think the strong condemnation that has proceeded from countries around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is on the wrong side of history.”

Russian leaders maintain it is their right and obligation to protect Russian citizens and pro-Russian people in Ukraine where Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovych was ousted as president two weeks ago, fled Kiev and took refuge in Russia. There have been no verifiable reports of violence against Russians in Ukraine.

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Obama warns Moscow of ‘costs’ if Russia intervenes in Ukraine

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, Feb. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Friday cautioned Russia “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”  In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said his administration is in daily communication with Russian officials, “and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.”  ”However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” he said. “Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.”

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Report: Saudi Arabia Wants Uranium-Enrichment Capacity

Intelligence officials and issue analysts report signs that Saudi Arabia wants to develop a capacity to enrich uranium, despite proliferation concerns.  Riyadh is understood to be worried that world powers will agree to allow Iran to maintain some limited uranium-enrichment capability in a potential lasting deal on its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has an established interest in developing an atomic-energy program, but its concerns about Iran could be causing the Persian Gulf kingdom to consider a more expansive domestic nuclear capability, the Daily Beast reported on Friday.  Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright told the news website he had learned from an unidentified European intelligence agency of Saudi Arabia’s pursuit in recent years of the scientific and engineering expertise necessary to carry out activities in all parts of the nuclear fuel chain.  The full cycle for producing atomic fuel includes uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel — two processes that could be used to create both more fuel for civil energy needs and fissile material suitable for powering warheads.  Albright said Riyadh was employing technical experts capable of constructing the centrifuge cascades required to enrich uranium.  ”They view the developments in Iran very negatively,” he said. “They have money, they can buy talent, they can buy training.”

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Erdogan Loses It

Erdogan

The Turkish state changed hands a decade ago, when Islamic conservatives (supported by the liberals) prevailed in elections against the country’s old guard, the rightist nationalists known as Kemalists. It may be about to do so again. The conservative alliance of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the movement of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who leads his congregation from self-imposed exile in the United States, has imploded. As it does, the military is gearing up to insert itself into politics once more.

 

The trouble started in 2011, when Erdogan decided to purge most Gülen supporters from the AKP party list ahead of the general election in June. No longer willing to share power with anyone else, Erdogan also ousted most liberals and supporters of the moderate President Abdullah Gül. Then, a subsequent reform of the public administration served as an excuse to remove many Gülenists from key bureaucratic posts.

 

The Gülenists’ response came in February 2012, when a prosecutor believed to be affiliated with the movement tried to summon Hakan Fidan, the head of the National Intelligence Organization and a close confidant of Erdogan, for questioning over his role in then-secret negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Gülenists had made their opposition to talks with the Kurdish movement known and wanted to derail them by charging Erdogan’s envoy — and by implication the prime minister himself — with treason.

 

Last summer, the rift between the two groups widened as protesters occupied Gezi Park. Gülen-affiliated media criticized Erdogan, comparing him to a “pharaoh.” The government, with its reputation tarnished and Gülenists gaining the upper hand, announced in late 2013 that it would shut down Gülen-operated schools. That would have deprived the movement of its main source of revenue and recruits. Not ready to take the hit lying down, the Gülen movement retaliated by supporting a corruption probe, led by the prosecutor Celal Kara, against relatives of several cabinet ministers and businessmen with close ties to the government. Upping the ante, Erdogan launched a full-scale purge of any suspected Gülen sympathizers from sensitive positions in the bureaucracy, judiciary, and police.

Gülen, of course, insists that he does not wield any power over state officials and claims that his only concern is for the public. Yet in an exceptionally fiery sermon last December, Gülen excoriated those “who turn a blind eye to the thief while punishing those who prosecute the thieves,” beseeching God to “consume their homes with fire, destroy their nests, break their accords.” Even Gülenists do not deny the existence of an informal network of devotees within the state. That was the bargain between the AKP and the Gülenists all along: In return for its support — votes and the endorsement of the AKP by Gülenist media — the Gülen movement would get to staff the state bureaucracy. In fact, the AKP needed the Gülenists’ well-educated cadres to run Turkey, especially its police and judiciary. And since 2008, Gülenist sympathizers in the police and among prosecutors have helped put hundreds of regime opponents in prison.

Now, with the AKP-Gülenist relationship broken, Erdogan accuses his former allies of having established a parallel state that defies the authority of the elected government and of staging a coup against him. His most recent move against the so-called parallel state was his attempt last month to enact a law that would subordinate the judiciary to the executive, disabling his enemies from launching further probes. That will suit the Erdogan family just fine: A prosecutor tried to detain Erdogan’s son at the end of last year. The police, instructed by the government, refused to carry out the order, and the prosecutor was subsequently reassigned. More than 2,000 police officers and nearly 100 prosecutors have been reassigned since last December.

The conflict between Erdogan and the Gülen movement might sound quite byzantine. But remember that this is the land that gave us the term. Indeed, the dispute follows a historical pattern. The Ottoman Sultans feared autonomous powers such as religious congregations. Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, was particularly repressive; he curtailed economic freedoms in a bid to disempower religious fraternities. Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, was obsessed with pacifying religious congregations, wanting to ensure that they could never rival the state. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu even defended the ongoing purges by pointing to history. Turkish state tradition, he said, includes the practice of “sacrificing sons for the state,” to eliminate potential rivals for the throne.

Now, leading commentators in the AKP’s media inform that the ruling party hopes to forge new alliances — particularly with the military, its old enemy. But Erdogan should remember that turning to the military to help quash opposition is not risk-free. In 1971, conservative Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel solicited help from the military to quash the left, only to end up out of power. Erdogan has instructed the Ministry of Justice to prepare for a retrial of imprisoned military officers. The generals may very well be acquitted.

It is easy to see how this will play out. After several years of silence, the Turkish General Staff has once again taken to issuing political statements. The military high command has called the judiciary to task after Erdogan’s chief adviser confessed that several military officers had been convicted on trumped-up charges. It has demanded a retrial of the officers and issued sharp condemnations of critics. Many observers fear that the state’s institutional breakdown will invite the generals to intervene and “restore order,” as they have done so many times before. Stoking those fears: In a letter to a newspaper editor last month, Necdet Özel, the chief of the General Staff, wrote that ensuring the functioning of the parliamentary system has been “the basic principle” of the armed forces, stressing that the military is determined to uphold it because “we want peace in our country.” The statement begged the question of what the military will do if there is no peace in the country. Military interventions in the past have always been motivated by an alleged determination to ensure the preservation of democracy.

The return of the old military is not the only risk. There is also a new military to take into account. Since Islamic conservatives won control of the state apparatus and subdued the military in 2007 and 2008, purges from within the military of suspected Islamists — which used to take place once a year — have ceased. It may be inferred from this that there are now likely many within the military who sympathize with Gülen. His message, which combines Islam and Turkish patriotism particularly appeals to officers, who generally hail from conservative family backgrounds. And mass imprisonments of top generals, which have depleted the military’s upper ranks, have made it possible for younger officers to rise further and faster than ever. The Gülenist clout within the military might be considerable. Erdogan would hope that the top brass, to whom he now appeals, will succeed in keeping Gülenists among the lower ranks in check. But he must also fear a move against him by younger officers acting outside the chain of command. That was what happened in 1960, when the authoritarian Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was toppled.

Beyond that, the AKP-Gülenist backbiting represents a massive and collective failure of the Islamic conservative movement, from which none of its components may be able to recover. The corruption charges have deprived the AKP of any remaining moral authority. And the turf war has shattered the government’s reputation for managerial competence. The Gülenists have lost moral capital, too. The movement has always taken pains to show itself as standing above petty politics. But revelations of the extent of its power within the state undermine that point. The Gülenists have shaken Erdogan, but they may have also undone themselves. Their maneuvering does not inspire confidence in all of Turkey: According to a recent poll, only six percent of the public supports the Gülenists’ case against the AKP, whereas 28.5 percent supports the ruling party, and 45 percent thinks that both the AKP and the Gülenists are at fault.

Coalitions may come and go, but authoritarianism is forever — or so it seems in Turkey. The Turkish Islamists’ failure as managers of the state will most likely catapult the traditional custodians of the state, the rightist nationalists in the military and the bureaucracy who enjoy a considerable following in society, back to power.

 

Iran Sends Warships to US Maritime Borders

TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior Iranian Navy commanders announced on Saturday that the country has sent several fleets of warships to the US maritime borders.  ”The Iranian Army’s naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa,” Commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced on Saturday.  The admiral, who is also the commander of the Iranian Army’s 4th Naval Zone said, “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message.”  In September 2012, Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari reiterated Iran’s plans for sailing off the US coasts to counter the US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.  Sayyari had earlier informed of Tehran’s plans to send its naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along the US marine borders, and in September 2012 he said that this would happen “in the next few years”.  The plan is part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain – across the Persian Gulf from Iran – and the US has conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years.  In September 2011, Sayyari had announced that the country planned to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup “near maritime borders of the United States”.  ”Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders,” Sayyari said.  Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.  Sayyari had first announced in July, 2011 that Iran was going to send “a flotilla into the Atlantic”.  The Iranian navy has been developing its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.

China buys up Russia’s backyard

Russia spent the end of last year battling the EU for control over Ukraine. But should the Kremlin have been paying more attention to what was going on its southern border instead? In the last three months, the Chinese have swept through Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Central Asia, buying up Russia’s backyard in a string of billion-dollar deals.  Chinese President Xi Jinping was set for a summit in Moscow in September last year, where Russian President Vladimir Putin was hoping to conclude a crucial natural gas deal that would see a gas pipeline built to connect Russia’s Siberian fields with China’s underdeveloped northwest territories. The pipeline project was agreed on years ago, but the deal has been held up, as the two sides can’t agree on the price of the gas that will flow through it.  However, instead of flying directly to Russia’s northern capital, President Xi went on a whirlwind tour of Central Asia. It was like a visit from Santa Claus as Xi distributed billions of dollars of deals along the way.  In what must have come as a shock to the Kremlin, during his last stop in Turkmenistan Xi signed off on a $60bn energy investment deal that includes $10bn to develop the massive Galkynysh gasfield which has gas reserves of some 1.3 trillion cubic metres – enough to meet China’s needs for several years. The Turkmen deal makes Gazprom’s deal largely superfluous.

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