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Monday, June 10, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190610



USAF Upgrade, Service Life Programs Point To New Roles For B-1Bs

As Retirement Nears, USAF B-1Bs Gain New Roles

Nearly 18 years of almost continuous deployment as one of the world’s largest and most unlikely close air support aircraft have taken a toll on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B bomber fleet.

One inflight engine fire and two fleet-wide groundings in less than a year underscore the sustained, grueling pace of the last two decades on pilots, maintainers and, not least, the swing-wing aircraft itself.

Now a new national defense strategy is reorienting the B-1B fleet. Although it was designed for a “shoot-and-scoot” nuclear-strike mission, the heavy bomber now carries only conventional munitions, including direct-attack, precision-guided bombs and long-range cruise missiles.

As the fleet repostures for the more sophisticated adversary role postulated by the Pentagon’s long-term strategy, the Air Force must first address the wear and tear imposed by the activity of the last two decades on the B-1B’s structures and engines, even as some experts call for reassessing the aircraft’s value in the event of a high-end conflict erupting before 2036, the fleet’s scheduled retirement date.

But the focus now is mainly on repairs. Starting in fiscal 2018, the Air Force began a program to extend the service life of the bomber fleet’s 289 GE Aviation F101 engines through 2040.

As that program got underway, the Air Force also began a structural integrity analysis on the B-1B airframe. One aircraft was used to perform a complete durability test, which revealed a lengthy list of required work to keep the structure airworthy for two more decades. “It’s the main fuselage, the wing roots, the swing-wing gears, elevators,” says Col. John Edwards, commander of the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. “It’s what we need to do to keep the aircraft in the inventory for 20 years.” The service life extension program (SLEP) for the aircraft will get started by year-end, which is the first quarter of fiscal 2020, he says...

Autonomous, Air-dropped Vehicles Eyed For Rescue

The U.S. Air Force has described a possible new approach to rescuing downed pilots and wounded soldiers: Air-drop an autonomous aircraft to pick them up and fly them to safety.
The idea is disclosed in a solicitation released on May 2 for a “Personnel Recovery/Transport Vehicle” by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate.

The solicitation, which closes July 1, calls for proposals of a “low-cost aerial platform” with only a few design rules: No onboard traditional pilot, a combat radius of at least 100 nm, a speed in horizontal flight of more than 100 kt., space to carry one medical litter and up to four military personnel, and the ability to operate in density altitude conditions of 95F at 4,000 ft...





JUNE 03, 2019

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By Lara Seligman

Good morning and welcome to Foreign Policy‘s Security Brief.

What’s on tap today: How the admiral in charge of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet squashed a White House request to obscure the USS John McCain during Trump’s visit to Japan, U.S. officials shoot down reports that the president overruled his State and Defense department and agreed to work with Turkey on the S-400 purchase, and a dogfight between F-35 fighter jets leaves an x-rated shape in the sky.

For more security news and behind-the-scenes analysis, subscribe to Security Brief Plus, delivered on Thursdays. Let us know what you think at securitybrief@foreignpolicy.com.

U.S. Navy Stands up to White House Over USS John McCain

Shot down. When U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer received a request from the White House to obscure the USS John McCain during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan, his answer was crystal clear: No way.

A senior U.S. defense official told FP on Sunday that Sawyer, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, was the person who ultimately squashed the request, which sparked a global furor and threatened to overshadow Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan’s first major speech on the international stage.

Not an ‘unreasonable’ request. The directive, which was acknowledged by the Navy on Saturday, seems to have come from lower-level aides trying to avert an uncomfortable scenario — an effort that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney called not “unreasonable.” The president has made no secret of his dislike for Sen. John McCain, who emerged as one of his strongest Republican critics during his 2016 campaign.

But it raises questions about the politicization of the military, an organization that is traditionally apolitical. Trump has drawn the military into the debate over his long-promised wall on the border with Mexico, clashed with Gold Star families, and frequently used military events to deliver politicized speeches. Following the uproar Shanahan himself, Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of Defense, directed his chief of staff to tell the White House that the military “will not be politicized.”

Shanahan’s Asia speech overshadowed? The debacle likely came as an unpleasant surprise for Shanahan, who delivered a much-anticipated address at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue, Asia’s largest defense summit, over the weekend. In the speech, Shanahan blasted China’s efforts to bully its Pacific neighbors and steal other nations’ technology.

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U.S. Won’t Compromise Over Turkey Missile Purchase

Officials deny Trump will work with Ankara on S-400. U.S. officials shot down reports that Trump overruled his State and Defense departments and agreed in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart to discuss ways to allow Turkey to buy the Russian S-400 missile system, which the United States says is a threat to the F-35 fighter jet.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the National Security Council said the United States has been clear that the S-400 will create an “unacceptable risk” to U.S. pilots and hardware. Russia built the S-400 to try to shoot down aircraft like the F-35, said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesperson. Having the Russian system operating in the same vicinity as the F-35 also provides Moscow the opportunity to collect critical intelligence that could compromise the aircraft, officials say.

Running out of time. U.S. officials have suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program over the pending S-400 purchase, but Ankara is still trying to convince Washington that the Russian technology isn’t a threat, writes Al-Monitor. But the clock is ticking: The S-400 scheduled to arrive in Turkey as soon as June.









Iran Is Scaring Off Its Friends, Too
Even Tehran’s sympathizers in Europe and Asia are leery of its latest shifts in policy.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk past a portrait of founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as they arrive for a press conference after meeting in Tehran on Sept. 7, 2018.

This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the Trump administration’s ratcheting up military and economic pressure on his country by announcing that it would resume parts of its nuclear program. This partial rejection of the 2015 nuclear deal has been widely interpreted as a cry for help by Iran to the agreement’s remaining supporters to diplomatically isolate the United States and circumvent its sanctions to ensure Iranian oil and goods can still be sold internationally.

Tehran’s calculation, however, increasingly seems catastrophic. Rather than strengthening its relationships with other international powers, Iran’s recent behavior is undermining those countries’ faith in the Iranian government and their commitments to the Iranian economy.

Iran perhaps understood that its new approach would not effectively persuade the European signatories of the deal—the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Iran threatened to resume nuclear activities after a 60-day deadline unless EU countries found a way of circumventing U.S. sanctions and resuming normal trading relations. European companies, however, are more deeply entrenched in U.S. business than in Iran’s, and the EU’s new trade finance system, known as INSTEX, has been designed to only facilitate humanitarian trade.

Europe’s strategy had been to keep Iran in compliance with the deal at least until the next U.S. presidential election in 2020, when President Donald Trump might be replaced by someone whom Europe and the Iranians could trust again to uphold Washington’s end of the bargain. But Iran has spoiled that wait-and-see approach with its 60-day deadline, effectively undermining Europe as a potential ally. Still, Tehran likely did this intentionally, knowing full well that the EU would never openly defy U.S. policy.

Iran’s goal was instead to rally greater support from its trading partners to the east, some of which are less closely aligned with the United States. Iran seems to want to create a new international alliance, one centered on rising Asian powers willing to confront, or at least ignore, a newly nationalist and aggressive United States. This new alliance would include China, which already buys large quantities of Iranian oil, as well as Russia and India. Iran’s foreign minister visited the capitals of the latter two countries in recent weeks...

The Hidden Sources of Iranian Strength

Iran’s ties with its proxies are far deeper than the Trump administration understands.

“What Americans don’t understand is that the groups that we support in the region are not our mercenaries,” Ali, a high-ranking member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said when I recently asked him about one of the stated goals of the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran: to curtail the country’s ability to financially support militias in the region. He continued, “The Americans think everything is about money. They think we buy loyalty in the region, because that’s how they buy loyalty.”

In the decade that I did research with cultural producers in Iran’s preeminent military force, the IRGC, I saw a steady flow of filmmakers loyal to Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish groups travel through regime cultural centers in Tehran. (They all agreed to speak with me on the condition of anonymity. The first names used here are pseudonyms.) Mehdi, an Iranian pro-regime filmmaker, had lived in Lebanon to make films with Hezbollah media producers. When they visited him in Tehran, they spoke fluent Persian and navigated the city with familiar ease. Iraqi filmmakers would regularly come to spend time in Tehran at editing studios tied to the paramilitary Basij organization.

Although my research focused on cultural producers, I saw a similar flow of foreigners in the economic and military arms of the IRGC. The flow of goods, ideas, and people between Iran and its proxies is certain to continue amid President Donald Trump’s sanctions, facilitated by a spectrum of institutions that do not rely on heavy financial investments and by enduring friendships on all sides.

Historically, the connections between Iran, Iraq, and the Levant go back generations. Long-standing trade and pilgrimage routes, as well as a constellation of religious seminaries, meant that communities and entire families seamlessly traveled, lived, conversed, and created cultural and social ties. The mere existence of these ties, however, does not translate into politically active groups. Policymakers and the public misunderstand the nature of these ties, explaining them as ones bound by Shiism as a traditional, religious doctrine. This misunderstanding arises from a fundamentally flawed framework that undergirds Washington’s entire Iran and Middle East policy—a belief that what drove the 1979 revolution in Iran was a fanatical quest for Islamic politics. But what actually binds these groups together is not an adherence to specific theological doctrine—if that were the case, Iran would not have close relationships with certain Palestinian factions, nor with Iraqi Kurdish groups, to say nothing of ties to Bashar al-Assad in Syria or the Houthis in Yemen. In order to understand how a political quest for sovereignty, rather than an otherworldly quest for religious rule, animates Iran’s relations with its proxies, it is first necessary to unpack current assumptions about the revolution that led to the Islamic Republic...


Iraq Is Not an Iranian Vassal State

These days, Tehran is having trouble getting what it wants from its neighbor—a development Washington can encourage by backing off.

It almost goes without saying these days that Iran dominates its western neighbor. On April 27, for example, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed tweeted that Iran’s regime “controls” Iraq. Now-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton once compared Tehran’s grip on Iraq to the Soviet Union’s stranglehold over Eastern Europe during the late 1940s. And while she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley assailed Iran last September for working to “build an Iraqi government that is under the control of the Iranian regime.”

Yes, Iran wields significant influence in Iraq. It is the country’s third-largest trade partner, at approximately $12 billion annually. In the 2018 elections, Iran loyalists in the Fatah Alliance won 48 of the seats—14.6 percent—in Iraq’s parliament, making it the second-largest bloc in the legislature. And Iran has armed Shiite militias, which have cornered parts of the Iraqi economy and are responsible for security in some regions even after the territorial defeat of the Islamic State.

However, the limits of Iranian interference are quickly becoming clear.

In late 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Iraq’s Al Asad Air Base. Seeing this as disrespecting Baghdad’s sovereignty, Fatah lawmakers protested the move by intensifying their efforts to expel the 5,200 remaining U.S. troops from the country. They had the backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who later called on Iraq to evict the United States “as soon as possible.”

But despite Iran and Fatah’s demands, legislation to actually kick out the U.S. troops has stalled. Sunni and Kurdish parties have refused to back the bill, and without at least some of them, it is unlikely to pass. In March, Mohammed al-Halbousi, the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, even traveled to Washington to reaffirm Iraq’s appreciation for the U.S. military presence. And in late April, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs fighting in Iraq, to “honor her sacrifice...”




North Korea’s Newest Ballistic Missile: A Preliminary Assessment

On May 4, under the watchful eye of Kim Jong Un, North Korea launched a series of projectiles featuring two types of large-caliber, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and a new short-range ballistic missile. A few days later, North Korea released photographs of tested projectiles, which provides a basis for preliminary evaluations. The 240 mm and 300 mm diameter MLRS systems are not new to North Korea, nor do they alter the country’s battlefield capabilities. The short-range ballistic missile, depending on its origins, may significantly enhance Pyongyang’s capacity to conduct strategic strikes against targets in South Korea.

Artillery Rockets

The 240 mm diameter rocket has been part of the DPRK’s arsenal for several decades. It has an estimated range of about 40 to 50 km and carries a relatively small warhead of about 45 kg. Photographs reveal that it relies on a smokeless, double-base solid fuel that is common to most battlefield rockets.

The larger 300 mm diameter rocket, designated by US intelligence as the KN-09, is a newer, more capable MLRS. The rocket was first tested in 2013, with subsequent tests performed in 2014 and 2016. It has a reported range of 190 to 200 km and carries a light, conventional warhead. It is powered by a standard composite-type solid fuel. Photographs show that the rocket is steered during flight by four small canard fins mounted at the rocket’s front end, near the warhead section, which provides for precision strikes if the guidance unit includes a satellite navigation receiver to update the inertial navigation components...

A Proposal to Reduce Malaria Across the Korean Peninsula: Another Opportunity for Inter-Korean Cooperation


There is a malaria epidemic across the Korean Peninsula, and South Korea (Republic of Korea, ROK) and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK) have agreed to cooperate to fight this scourge. In September 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement on public health collaboration. Two months later the two countries unveiled a plan for a joint initiative to exchange health information through a liaison office in Kaesong near the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Both countries hope these exchanges will facilitate more effective responses to malaria incidents. Although this is not the first time that both countries have attempted to jointly tackle malaria, the agreement was a significant leap forward in addressing this public health issue, given that funds and collaborative efforts have been suspended in the past (Figure 2, Table 1).[1], [2], [3]

What’s Behind the Outbreak?

Although malaria cases in the DPRK declined between 2012 to 2015, reports indicate that they surged from 773 in 2015 to 2,184 in 2017, a 182 percent increase within only two years (Figure 1).[4] Likewise, the ROK experienced a resurgence of malaria cases from 2013 to 2016—an overall 56 percent increase from 386 cases in 2013 to 602 cases in 2016 (declining thereafter to 436 cases in 2017).

In the ROK, high numbers of malaria cases most commonly occur along the inter-Korean border at the DMZ, where ROK (and DPRK) soldiers are heavily exposed to low-lying, humid and swampy areas.[5], [6], [7] Some experts have suggested that the rise of malaria cases in the ROK can mainly be attributed to “insufficient antimalarial efforts by North Korea.” It is tempting to assume that infected mosquitos usually fly across the DMZ and infect ROK soldiers, thereby contributing to ROK’s surge of malaria cases. However, there are several epidemiological factors that prevent the identification of a specific cause. For example, many meteorological studies suggest a low probability for mosquitoes flying from the DPRK to the ROK, as the wind blows mainly from south to north in the summer along the DMZ...








Tinder faces Russian demand to share user data

Russian authorities have told dating-app Tinder it will have to comply with requests to hand over messages and photos of its users in Russia.

Under recent Russian laws, 175 companies have been put on a register that requires them to store data for six months on Russian servers.

Companies that refuse, like the private messaging app Telegram, risk being blocked in Russia.

Tinder said it had "registered to be compliant".

However, it was adamant that "this registration in no way shares any user or personal data with any Russian regulatory bodies and we have not handed over any data to their government"...




How a Climate Activist Group Is Following the Occupy Movement's Footsteps


- Since its first Extinction Rebellion protest in November 2018, the activist group Rising Up has continued to stage small demonstrations across the United Kingdom, and has increasingly targeted major cities across the world given that its ideology has found a receptive audience online.

- Its mid-April 2019 London occupation resulted in 1,130 arrests, and is estimated to have cost retailers $86 million in lost revenue and thousands of dollars in property damage.

- This success makes it highly likely the group will stage additional major protests in hopes of matching or exceeding the London occupation, and may try to hold simultaneous demonstrations in several major cities worldwide.

Rising Up, a left-wing activist group based in the United Kingdom, launched its first Extinction Rebellion protest during November 2018, blocking four bridges in London. The group was reportedly founded by former members of the Occupy movement and is managed by Compassionate Revolution Ltd., launched in 2015. It is seeking to replicate that campaign's occupation and direct action tactics. Since that first protest, it has continued to stage small demonstrations across the United Kingdom, and it has increasingly targeted major cities across the world as its ideology has found a receptive audience online...



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