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21 septembre 2016 3 21 /09 /septembre /2016 10:55
Henri IV à la bataille d'Arques, 21 septembre 1589

Henri IV à la bataille d'Arques, 21 septembre 1589


21.09.2016 source SHD
 

21 septembre 1589 : bataille d'Arques (Normandie). Henri IV, roi de France, repousse les assauts des ligueurs catholiques. Il ne doit cependant sa victoire qu’au débarquement de renforts anglais et écossais dépêchés par Elisabeth I pour prêter main forte au nouveau roi de France (23/09).

 

21 septembre 1711 : Duguay Trouin prend Rio de Janeiro (Brésil). A la tête d’une escadre sept vaisseaux (financée par un groupe d'armateurs malouins et par le comte de Toulouse), le corsaire Duguay-Trouin force la rade de Rio de Janeiro, fermée par un goulet plus étroit que celui de Brest et protégée par sept vaisseaux portugais. A l’issue d’un débarquement appuyé par ses navires, ses 3 200 hommes de troupe s’emparent des sept forts défendant la rade, pourtant tenus par 12 000 soldats. La ville de Rio est prise le 21 septembre puis rançonnée ; 5 navires de guerre et 60 marchands sont pris ou détruits. Cet exploit parmi les plus extraordinaires de la marine à voiles marque la fin de la vie embarquée d’un des plus incroyables marins français. Il servira encore la marine avec le grade de Lieutenant général de la Marine, commandant successivement la Marine à Saint-Malo, la Marine à Brest, puis l'escadre pour le Levant et enfin le port de Toulon.

 

21 septembre 1792 : abolition de la monarchie française par la Convention

 

21 septembre 1793 : bataille de Montaigu (guerre de Vendée). Les révoltés vendéens infligent une sévère défaite aux Républicains.

 

21 septembre 1860 : bataille de Palikao (Chine). La France et la Grande Bretagne voulant s'ouvrir le marché chinois, ont envoyé un corps expéditionnaire de 5000 hommes commandés par les généraux Grant et Cousin-Montauban qui marche vers Pékin. Le fort de Ta Kou à l’embouchure du Pei Ho est tombé le 21/08 dernier.  A Palikao, les Chinois lancent plus de 40 000 soldats contre les franco-britanniques qui ne rompent pas les lignes et obligent même l'assaillant à se replier. La combattivité et le nombre des Chinois ne peuvent pas grand-chose contre la discipline et l'armement moderne des Européens. C’est le 2ème bataillon de chasseurs à pied qui prend le pont de Palikao. Ces derniers ne déplorent que 5 tués alors que les Chinois perdent 1200 hommes. Le général Cousin-Montauban est fait comte de Palikao par Napoléon III. L'Empereur Xiangfan s'enfuit lorsque les européens entrent dans Pékin, le 12 octobre. Le palais d’été est malheureusement mis à sac, sur ordre de Lord Elgin. La destruction du palais d'Eté reste, dans l'optique chinoise, la preuve de la barbarie occidentale; il faut comprendre que sa destruction et son pillage ne pourraient se comparer qu'avec celles du Louvre et de Versailles combinées.

 

21 septembre 1918 : prise de Naplouse (actuelle Palestine). Durant la bataille de Megiddo (16 – 21 septembre), le détachement français de Palestine et Syrie (DFPS) commandé par le colonel de Pieppape et constitué principalement d’unités des 4ème Chasseurs, 1er Spahis, d’éléments de la Légion d’Orient et de tirailleurs algériens fait une brèche de 25 km de large dans le front et sur 8 km de profondeur prenant Naplouse et 2400 prisonniers ottomans. Cette victoire s’inscrit dans la vaste opération que le général britannique Allenby a entrepris contre le général allemand Liman von Sanders (commandant 3 armées turques) pour repousser les Ottomans vers le Nord-Est et finalement prendre Damas (1er octobre). A noter aussi la belle coordination des actions de sabotage du colonel T.E Lawrence sur les lignes ferroviaires (qui auraient pu permettre un repli général) et les bombardements des flottes britannique et française (CA Varney) sur les troupes ottomanes du littoral (et débouchant sur la conquête de Beyrouth).

 

21 septembre 1931 : les Japonais occupent la Mandchourie.

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20 mars 2015 5 20 /03 /mars /2015 17:35
China: setting the agenda(s)?

 

06 March 2015 Alice Ekman Brief - No4 - EUISS

 

Under President Xi Jinping, China is pursuing a dual regional policy characterised by firmness on territorial and maritime disputes, on the one hand, and a more alluring economic diplomacy, on the other. The latter is mainly being conducted through two official concepts, the ‘New Maritime Silk Road’ and the ‘New Silk Road Economic Belt’, named after the 2000-year-old trade routes which connect East and West. The overland route aims to link China with Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, whereas the maritime corridor would flow from China to Southeast Asia, eastern Africa and, ultimately, Europe.

According to official communications, at the core of both these projects lays large-scale infrastructure development, in particular the improvement of transport links. This will be financed by, among other institutions, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a Chinese alternative to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which was launched last year with representatives from 20 other Asian countries (Japan, Australia, and South Korea were, however, notably absent). Beijing has emphasised that European countries, too, have a vested interest in supporting these new projects and related institutions, in part because the new Silk Road Economic Belt would facilitate trade flows between Chinese and European markets. But with individual EU member states beginning to seriously consider China’s offer, the Union might look at how to shape a common approach based on its priorities in – and long-term views on – Asia.

 

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3 octobre 2014 5 03 /10 /octobre /2014 19:50
Britain names Alex Younger as new head of MI6

 

30 Oct., 2014  worldbulletin.net

 

Younger, an economics graduate, has been working for Britain's foreign spy agency MI6 since 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

 

Britain has named Alex Younger, a career spy who helped lead London's counter-terrorist defence of the 2012 Olympics, as chief of its MI6 Secret Intelligence Service - Britain's most prestigious intelligence job.

An economics graduate and former soldier, Younger has worked for MI6 in Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan since 1991, according to a short biography released by the government.

 

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18 avril 2013 4 18 /04 /avril /2013 19:30
La Jordanie met en garde contre l'internationalisation du conflit en Syrie

 

18.04.2013 Le Monde.fr(AFP, Reuters)

 

Après l'annonce par les Etats-Unis du renforcement de leur dispositif militaire en Jordanie et l'avertissement lancé par le président syrien sur un débordement du conflit dans le royaume voisin, Amman rappelle qu'il s'oppose à toute intervention militaire en Syrie. "Nous demandons instamment une solution politique pour mettre fin à l'effusion de sang en Syrie", a indiqué le ministre de l'information et porte-parole du gouvernement, Mohamed Momani.

 

Dans une interview à la chaîne officielle Al-Ikhbariya diffusée mercredi, Bachar Al-Assad a prévenu que la guerre dans son pays pourrait gagner la Jordanie voisine, qu'il accuse d'entraîner les combattants rebelles et de faciliter l'entrée de "milliers" d'entre eux en Syrie.

 

RENFORCEMENT DU DISPOSITIF AMÉRICAIN EN JORDANIE

 

Washington, qui avait déjà déployé en octobre environ 150 militaires des forces spéciales en Jordanie, renforce son dispositif militaire. Le Pentagone avait alors précisé que les soldats américains aideraient notamment à "établir un quartier général" pour diriger les opérations relatives à la Syrie. "Cela fait partie de la coopération militaire entre les Etats-Unis et la Jordanie", a indiqué M. Momani. Les troupes américaines sont en Jordanie "pour renforcer les forces armées jordaniennes face à la situation en Syrie qui se détériore", a-t-il ajouté.

 

Chuck Hagel, le secrétaire américain à la défense, doit quitter samedi les Etats-Unis à destination de la Jordanie, d'Israël, de l'Arabie saoudite, de l'Egypte et des Emirats arabes unis. La Jordanie, un allié clé des Etats-Unis dans la région, dit accueillir plus de 500 000 réfugiés syriens sur son territoire. Dimanche, le premier ministre jordanien, Abdlallah Nsour, avait indiqué au Parlement que l'impact de la guerre en Syrie présentait une menace pour la sécurité du royaume et que la Jordanie pourrait demander l'aide du conseil de sécurité de l'ONU.

 

MISE EN GARDE DE NÉTANYAHOU

 

De son côté, Benyamin Nétanyahou, le premier ministre israélien, met en garde contre la livraison d'armes aux rebelles syriens, indiquant que son pays se réservait le droit de les bloquer si elles tombent aux mains des groupes djihadistes, Al-Qaida ou le Hezbollah. "Armer les rebelles pose la question de quels rebelles et quelles armes", souligne le premier ministre israélien dans un entretien à la BBC.

 

"C'est une situation compliquée parce qu'il y a des mauvais qui combattent des mauvais, a précisé M. Nétanyahou. Nous sommes inquiets que des armes qui pourraient changer l'équilibre des forces au Moyen-Orient tombent entre les mains de ces terroristes." "Nous nous réservons le droit d'empêcher cela de se produire", a ajouté le premier ministre, se refusant à confirmer ou infirmer les informations sur un raid aérien israélien en janvier contre un convoi d'armes syriennes présumé destiné au Hezbollah. "Nos principales inquiétudes concernent les armes qui sont déjà en Syrie. Il s'agit d'armes anti-aériennes, des armes chimiques et autres, très très dangereuses qui pourraient changer la donne", a déclaré M. Nétanyahou.

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18 avril 2013 4 18 /04 /avril /2013 18:30
Syrie: l'armée resserre son étau autour des rebelles près de Homs

18.04.2013Romandie.com (ats)

L'armée syrienne a resserré jeudi son étau autour des rebelles dans la région stratégique de Homs, dans le centre de la Syrie, en s'emparant d'un village, selon une ONG. Le Koweït a décidé, lui, d'accorder une aide financière à l'ONU et au CICR en faveur des réfugiés.

Les troupes régulières concentrent depuis plusieurs jours leurs offensive sur Qousseir et les villages environnants pour tenter d'y étouffer la rébellion. Les violences en Syrie auraient fait 139 morts mercredi, dont une soixantaine de rebelles, 43 civils dont six enfants, et 36 soldats, selon un bilan établi par l'OSDH.

Mercredi soir, le président Bachar al-Assad s'est montré intransigeant, affirmant ne pas avoir "d'autres options que la victoire" face aux rebelles et que la fin de son régime signifiait la fin de la Syrie", pays ravagé par deux ans de conflit. Il a fait cette déclaration dans une interview accordée à la chaîne officielle syrienne Al-Ikhbariya.

Manne koweïtienne

De son côté, le Koweït a distribué jeudi à Genève des sommes d'un montant total de 300 millions de dollars (278 millions de francs) à neuf agences de l'ONU et au CICR pour financer l'aide aux réfugiés syriens et aux personnes déplacées à l'intérieur de la Syrie.

Le Koweit s'était engagé en janvier déjà à verser cet argent au cours d'une conférence des donateurs.

"Nous mettons nos actes en conformité avec nos paroles", a déclaré devant les journalistes l'ambassadeur koweïtien Dharar Abdul-Razzak Razzooqi. "Nous espérons que d'autres pays vont remplir les engagements souscrits à cette conférence", a-t-il poursuivi.

Environ 1,5 milliard de dollars avaient été promis par les participants à cette réunion, mais avant le don koweïtien seulement 30% de ce montant avait été versé. Les agences onusiennes multiplient les mises en garde sur leurs difficultés à financer une aide qui concerne de plus en plus de Syriens.

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23 janvier 2012 1 23 /01 /janvier /2012 18:05

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02116/HMS-Westminster_2116808b.jpg

HMS Westminster Photo: Chris Ison/PA

 

23 Jan 2012 The Telegraph

 

A Royal Navy warship is to set sail today on a seven-month mission to provide security in the Middle East.

 

Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster, which will be leaving its home port of Portsmouth Naval Base, will also carry out counter-piracy patrols during its deployment and police busy shipping lanes.

 

Commanding officer Captain Nick Hine said: ''It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get a complex and sophisticated warship ready for operations and I am extremely proud of my ship's company for the work they have done in getting us to this point.

 

''Operations are what the Royal Navy is all about and we are itching to get going.

 

''We sail into a region of heightened tensions and great challenges and we are ready and up for it.''

 

Last year HMS Westminster was deployed at short notice to the Mediterranean to assist in evacuating UK nationals from Libya and to conduct operations in support of United Nations Security Council resolutions against the Gaddafi regime.

 

Many of the ship's company who are deploying to the Middle East are still on board from the mission off Libya, including Operations Officer Lieutenant Commander Andy Brown.

 

He said: ''We learnt a lot last year on our successful involvement in the Libyan operations and we will carry that experience forward to our next mission.

 

''The ship's company are excited about the deployment ahead and we are all determined to make it a success.''

 

The move comes as Britain, America and France delivered a pointed signal to Iran, sending six warships led by a 100,000 ton aircraft carrier through the highly sensitive waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

 

This deployment defied explicit Iranian threats to close the waterway. It coincided with an escalation in the West's confrontation with Iran over the country's nuclear ambitions.

 

European Union foreign ministers are today expected to announce an embargo on Iranian oil exports, amounting to the most significant package of sanctions yet agreed. They are also likely to impose a partial freeze on assets held by the Iranian Central Bank in the EU.

 

Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation. Tankers carrying 17 million barrels of oil pass through this waterway every day, accounting for 35 per cent of the world's seaborne crude shipments. At its narrowest point, located between Iran and Oman, the Strait is only 21 miles wide.

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23 novembre 2011 3 23 /11 /novembre /2011 08:00

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/Middle_east.jpg/509px-Middle_east.jpg

 

22 November 2011 by Stratfor: George Friedman - defenseWeb

 

U.S. troops are in the process of completing their withdrawal from Iraq by the end-of-2011 deadline. We are now moving toward a reckoning with the consequences. The reckoning concerns the potential for a massive shift in the balance of power in the region, with Iran moving from a fairly marginal power to potentially a dominant power.

 

As the process unfolds, the United States and Israel are making countermoves. We have discussed all of this extensively. Questions remain whether these countermoves will stabilize the region and whether or how far Iran will go in its response.

 

Iran has been preparing for the U.S. withdrawal. While it is unreasonable simply to say that Iran will dominate Iraq, it is fair to say Tehran will have tremendous influence in Baghdad to the point of being able to block Iraqi initiatives Iran opposes. This influence will increase as the U.S. withdrawal concludes and it becomes clear there will be no sudden reversal in the withdrawal policy. Iraqi politicians’ calculus must account for the nearness of Iranian power and the increasing distance and irrelevance of American power.

 

Resisting Iran under these conditions likely would prove ineffective and dangerous. Some, like the Kurds, believe they have guarantees from the Americans and that substantial investment in Kurdish oil by American companies means those commitments will be honored. A look at the map, however, shows how difficult it would be for the United States to do so. The Baghdad regime has arrested Sunni leaders while the Shia, not all of whom are pro-Iranian by any means, know the price of overenthusiastic resistance.

 

Syria and Iran

 

The situation in Syria complicates all of this. The minority Alawite sect has dominated the Syrian government since 1970, when the current president’s father — who headed the Syrian air force — staged a coup. The Alawites are a heterodox Muslim sect related to a Shiite offshoot and make up about 7 percent of the country’s population, which is mostly Sunni. The new Alawite government was Nasserite in nature, meaning it was secular, socialist and built around the military. When Islam rose as a political force in the Arab world, the Syrians — alienated from the Sadat regime in Egypt — saw Iran as a bulwark. The Iranian Islamist regime gave the Syrian secular regime immunity against Shiite fundamentalists in Lebanon. The Iranians also gave Syria support in its external adventures in Lebanon, and more important, in its suppression of Syria’s Sunni majority.

 

Syria and Iran were particularly aligned in Lebanon. In the early 1980s, after the Khomeini revolution, the Iranians sought to increase their influence in the Islamic world by supporting radical Shiite forces. Hezbollah was one of these. Syria had invaded Lebanon in 1975 on behalf of the Christians and opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization, to give you a sense of the complexity. Syria regarded Lebanon as historically part of Syria, and sought to assert its influence over it. Via Iran, Hezbollah became an instrument of Syrian power in Lebanon.

 

Iran and Syria, therefore, entered a long-term if not altogether stable alliance that has lasted to this day. In the current unrest in Syria, the Saudis and Turks in addition to the Americans all have been hostile to the regime of President Bashar al Assad. Iran is the one country that on the whole has remained supportive of the current Syrian government.

 

There is good reason for this. Prior to the uprising, the precise relationship between Syria and Iran was variable. Syria was able to act autonomously in its dealings with Iran and Iran’s proxies in Lebanon. While an important backer of groups like Hezbollah, the al Assad regime in many ways checked Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon, with the Syrians playing the dominant role there. The Syrian uprising has put the al Assad regime on the defensive, however, making it more interested in a firm, stable relationship with Iran. Damascus finds itself isolated in the Sunni world, with Turkey and the Arab League against it. Iran — and intriguingly, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — have constituted al Assad’s exterior support.

 

Thus far al Assad has resisted his enemies. Though some mid- to low-ranking Sunnis have defected, his military remains largely intact; this is because the Alawites control key units. Events in Libya drove home to an embattled Syrian leadership — and even to some of its adversaries within the military — the consequences of losing. The military has held together, and an unarmed or poorly armed populace, no matter how large, cannot defeat an intact military force. The key for those who would see al Assad fall is to divide the military.

 

If al Assad survives — and at the moment, wishful thinking by outsiders aside, he is surviving — Iran will be the big winner. If Iraq falls under substantial Iranian influence, and the al Assad regime — isolated from most countries but supported by Tehran — survives in Syria, then Iran could emerge with a sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean (the latter via Hezbollah). Achieving this would not require deploying Iranian conventional forces — al Assad’s survival alone would suffice. However, the prospect of a Syrian regime beholden to Iran would open up the possibility of the westward deployment of Iranian forces, and that possibility alone would have significant repercussions.

 

Consider the map were this sphere of influence to exist. The northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan would abut this sphere, as would Turkey’s southern border. It remains unclear, of course, just how well Iran could manage this sphere, e.g., what type of force it could project into it. Maps alone will not provide an understanding of the problem. But they do point to the problem. And the problem is the potential — not certain — creation of a block under Iranian influence that would cut through a huge swath of strategic territory.

 

It should be remembered that in addition to Iran’s covert network of militant proxies, Iran’s conventional forces are substantial. While they could not confront U.S. armored divisions and survive, there are no U.S. armored divisions on the ground between Iran and Lebanon. Iran’s ability to bring sufficient force to bear in such a sphere increases the risks to the Saudis in particular. Iran’s goal is to increase the risk such that Saudi Arabia would calculate that accommodation is more prudent than resistance. Changing the map can help achieve this.

 

It follows that those frightened by this prospect — the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — would seek to stymie it. At present, the place to block it no longer is Iraq, where Iran already has the upper hand. Instead, it is Syria. And the key move in Syria is to do everything possible to bring about al Assad’s overthrow.

 

In the last week, the Syrian unrest appeared to take on a new dimension. Until recently, the most significant opposition activity appeared to be outside of Syria, with much of the resistance reported in the media coming from externally based opposition groups. The degree of effective opposition was never clear. Certainly, the Sunni majority opposes and hates the al Assad regime. But opposition and emotion do not bring down a regime consisting of men fighting for their lives. And it wasn’t clear that the resistance was as strong as the outside propaganda claimed.

 

Last week, however, the Free Syrian Army — a group of Sunni defectors operating out of Turkey and Lebanon — claimed defectors carried out organized attacks on government facilities, ranging from an air force intelligence facility (a particularly sensitive point given the history of the regime) to Baath Party buildings in the greater Damascus area. These were not the first attacks claimed by the FSA, but they were heavily propagandized in the past week. Most significant about the attacks is that, while small-scale and likely exaggerated, they revealed that at least some defectors were willing to fight instead of defecting and staying in Turkey or Lebanon.

 

It is interesting that an apparent increase in activity from armed activists — or the introduction of new forces — occurred at the same time relations between Iran on one side and the United States and Israel on the other were deteriorating. The deterioration began with charges that an Iranian covert operation to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States had been uncovered, followed by allegations by the Bahraini government of Iranian operatives organizing attacks in Bahrain. It proceeded to an International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s progress toward a nuclear device, followed by the Nov. 19 explosion at an Iranian missile facility that the Israelis have not-so-quietly hinted was their work. Whether any of these are true, the psychological pressure on Iran is building and appears to be orchestrated.

 

Of all the players in this game, Israel’s position is the most complex. Israel has had a decent, albeit covert, working relationship with the Syrians going back to their mutual hostility toward Yasser Arafat. For Israel, Syria has been the devil they know. The idea of a Sunni government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood on their northeastern frontier was frightening; they preferred al Assad. But given the shift in the regional balance of power, the Israeli view is also changing. The Sunni Islamist threat has weakened in the past decade relative to the Iranian Shiite threat. Playing things forward, the threat of a hostile Sunni force in Syria is less worrisome than an emboldened Iranian presence on Israel’s northern frontier. This explains why the architects of Israel’s foreign policy, such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have been saying that we are seeing an “acceleration toward the end of the regime.” Regardless of its preferred outcome, Israel cannot influence events inside Syria. Instead, Israel is adjusting to a reality where the threat of Iran reshaping the politics of the region has become paramount.

 

Iran is, of course, used to psychological campaigns. We continue to believe that while Iran might be close to a nuclear device that could explode underground under carefully controlled conditions, its ability to create a stable, robust nuclear weapon that could function outside a laboratory setting (which is what an underground test is) is a ways off. This includes being able to load a fragile experimental system on a delivery vehicle and expecting it to explode. It might. It might not. It might even be intercepted and create a casus belli for a counterstrike.

 

The main Iranian threat is not nuclear. It might become so, but even without nuclear weapons, Iran remains a threat. The current escalation originated in the American decision to withdraw from Iraq and was intensified by events in Syria. If Iran abandoned its nuclear program tomorrow, the situation would remain as complex. Iran has the upper hand, and the United States, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all are looking at how to turn the tables.

 

At this point, they appear to be following a two-pronged strategy: Increase pressure on Iran to make it recalculate its vulnerability, and bring down the Syrian government to limit the consequences of Iranian influence in Iraq. Whether the Syrian regime can be brought down is problematic. Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi would have survived if NATO hadn’t intervened. NATO could intervene in Syria, but Syria is more complex than Libya. Moreover, a second NATO attack on an Arab state designed to change its government would have unintended consequences, no matter how much the Arabs fear the Iranians at the moment. Wars are unpredictable; they are not the first option.

 

Therefore the likely solution is covert support for the Sunni opposition funneled through Lebanon and possibly Turkey and Jordan. It will be interesting to see if the Turks participate. Far more interesting will be seeing whether this works. Syrian intelligence has penetrated its Sunni opposition effectively for decades. Mounting a secret campaign against the regime would be difficult, and its success by no means assured. Still, that is the next move.

 

But it is not the last move. To put Iran back into its box, something must be done about the Iraqi political situation. Given the U.S. withdrawal, Washington has little influence there. All of the relationships the United States built were predicated on American power protecting the relationships. With the Americans gone, the foundation of those relationships dissolves. And even with Syria, the balance of power is shifting.

 

The United States has three choices. Accept the evolution and try to live with what emerges. Attempt to make a deal with Iran — a very painful and costly one. Or go to war. The first assumes Washington can live with what emerges. The second depends on whether Iran is interested in dealing with the United States. The third depends on having enough power to wage a war and to absorb Iran’s retaliatory strikes, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz. All are dubious, so toppling al Assad is critical. It changes the game and the momentum. But even that is enormously difficult and laden with risks.

 

We are now in the final act of Iraq, and it is even more painful than imagined. Laying this alongside the European crisis makes the idea of a systemic crisis in the global system very real.

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7 novembre 2011 1 07 /11 /novembre /2011 20:00
Trends in Military Buildup in the Middle East

Russian-built T-90s will be plowing the sands of Algeria, Saudi Arabia.

 

November 7, 2011 By Yiftah S. Shapir / Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) – defpro.com

 

INSS: The Middle East continues to be a major market for weapons

 

The shockwaves that have swept through the Middle East since December 2010 were primarily oriented toward internal issues, and for the most part did not deal with inter-state conflicts. Consequently, to date there has been no essential change in inter-state relations, even if in some cases there was increased intervention by one state in the affairs of another. Nonetheless, some armed forces began to disintegrate in the course of the clashes with the protestors; the armed forces of Libya and Yemen, for example, were divided between loyalists and rebels. The Syrian military did not disintegrate, but there were many reports of desertions of officers and soldiers who refused to take part in suppressing the uprising. Other than in these instances, the militaries of the region retained their primary frameworks.

 

At the same time, the socio-political shockwaves may well spark political changes in states that have hitherto appeared stable. Both new and veteran regimes will be called on to revamp economic agendas in order to quell mass popular protests. As a result, it is possible that in many states economic reforms will reduce the resources available for military acquisition. Nonetheless, in light of the ongoing regional tensions and conflicts, the region’s armed forces will likely try to continue the trends in buildup that have been evident in recent years.

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND THE REGION’S ARMED FORCES

 

EGYPT

The Egyptian military played an important role during the civil unrest that erupted in January 2011 and removed President Husni Mubark from power. Many prominent politicians in Egypt have been members of the armed forces. Indeed, the close ties between the military and the political establishment help explain the military’s interest in preserving the foundations of the existing order, even while it supported Mubarak’s removal from the presidency. During the demonstrations in January- February 2011, the Egyptian military labored to dispel the tension and avoided violence as much as possible. It ultimately helped the popular movement oust President Mubarak, even though Mubarak was of military background himself. The army was not damaged by the upheaval in Egypt, and through the Supreme Military Council and the transitional government that was appointed, it is administering the affairs of state until a new leadership is elected. The Council does not aspire to establish a military dictatorship in Egypt.

 

LIBYA

Inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt, civil unrest erupted in Libya in mid February 2011. The Libyan security forces reacted harshly and the events escalated rapidly. Forces loyal to Qaddafi’s regime used live ammunition against protesters, and the unrest turned into a full scale rebellion. Rebels in the eastern region stormed military installations and seized weapons, and other points of unrest erupted in tribal areas in the mountains off the western coast of Libya, near the border with Tunisia. The rebels in the eastern provinces set up the interim Transitional National Council (TNC), which was recognized by some foreign governments as a legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Some military commanders and their units joined the rebels, which enabled the popular forces to advance westwards through the country. However, the regular army largely remained loyal to Qaddafi and managed to recapture some of the towns from the rebels’ and advance towards Benghazi, using artillery and air strikes against the rebels, even in populated areas.

 

On March 17 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya – in part to protect the local population from attacks by the army – and authorized use of force to enforce the zone, as well as to defend the civilian population. Air strikes by coalition forces began on March 19 within the framework of Operation Unified Protector and targeted Libyan air defense and air bases, as well as command and control and logistics installations. On March 31 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took control over the military operations in Libya, and on June 1 NATO announced that it was extending the operation for an additional 90 days. The foreign intervention did not include any land forces, although assistance to the rebels included the positioning of French and Italian military advisors, who dealt mostly with training and assisting the rebels’ logistics and command and control. Forces loyal to the TNC are equipped with light weapons, as well as single and multiple rocket launchers, some of them improvised. Although the arms embargo on Libya is still in effect, some NATO and Arab states began to supply arms to the rebels. Overall, however, the rebels lack organization, discipline, and adequate training.

 

The NATO air strikes comprised thousands of sorties, including combat sorties, and have caused much damage to the Libyan military. Most of the Libyan air force has almost certainly been destroyed, as well as a substantial part of the air defense and the regular army’s infrastructure. The air strikes enabled the rebels to withstand the advance by Qaddafi’s forces and achieve a victory in the military campaign. Nevertheless, Libya’s political future remains unclear, and consequently, the ramifications for the military are uncertain.

 

SYRIA

Civil unrest in Syria began in early February with small scale demonstrations in a number of cities. On March 18 a large scale demonstration in Dar’a, in southern Syria, was met by live fire from the security services, and a number of demonstrators were killed. The following day their funerals turned into a large demonstration against the regime of Bashar al-Asad. Since then demonstrations have been held in many cities throughout Syria, and the regime has responded with heavy handed repression. Beginning in June 2011, several cities in Syria were placed under military siege.

 

In its effort to counter the demonstrators, the regime has employed mostly its internal security forces, and in some cases, military units – usually the Republican Guard and the 4th division, commanded by Maher al-Asad, Bashar’s younger brother. The soldiers in these units are primarily Alawite, the ethnic community of the Asad family. There have been some Reports of desertion, as well as report of offricers who were killed following be determined from the limited available information, the armed forces have not been seriously affected by the domestic unrest. The strength of the army, which relies on the Alawite minority, explains the ability of the regime to retain its power over many months of violent demonstrations. The question remains how long the regime will be able to keep the army, which comprises mostly Sunnis, distanced from the domestic grievances, and as such, guarantee its loyalty to the regime.

 

YEMEN

At the same time that protests began in Libya and Syria, Yemen too experienced civil unrest. Although the early demonstrations were relatively quiet, in the months that followed the violence between military forces and demonstrators escalated as opposition parties demanded the removal of President Ali Saleh. Mediation attempts by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were unsuccessful. Meanwhile Saleh began to gradually lose his power base, and some of his long time allies and supporters, including a number of generals, defected. Tribes loyal to Saleh’s regime likewise withdrew their support.

 

Yemen’s military forces are divided between those remaining loyal to Saleh and those supporting the opposition. The country’s civil unrest should be seen in the context of the fragmented Yemenite society divided between the north and the south (which were two separate states until 1990), and between Sunni and Zaidi Muslims, with each group subdivided into competing tribes and competing clans within each tribe. It is possible that the continued weakness of the central government will lead to the repartition of the country into North and South Yemen, or perhaps to total anarchy. Meantime, al-Qaeda and separatist militias are exploiting this civil conflict to take control over different areas in the state.

 

THE PERSIAN GULF

 

The Gulf states were mostly spared the internal strife of other Arab states, although some regimes were propelled to try to quiet the unrest, out of fear that it would spill over to their territory. The popular uprising in Bahrain, for example, threatened the regime and pitted the Sunni royal family against the Shiite majority. The uprising in Bahrain was seen as a severe threat to other Gulf monarchies, especially since it was perceived as an Iranian sponsored revolt. At the Bahraini government’s request, the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, sent military forces to help the Bahraini royal family suppress the revolt.

 

Another interesting development was the decision by both Qatar and the UAE to take an active role in the international effort in Libya. Both countries sent combat aircraft to Italy, where they joined NATO’s Operation Unified Protector over Libya’s air space. This reflected the two countries’ desire to assume a higher profile in the world affairs than would be expected from their size and location.

 

MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS IN MILITARY BUILDUP

 

Since arms deals are processes that proceed slowly, trends in arms acquisitions presented in previous recent INSS annual publications are still valid. These include: acquisitions of the most advanced and sophisticated weapon systems, primarily by oil-rich countries; efforts to develop indigenous military industries; and reduction of expenses by upgrading older weapon systems rather than purchasing new ones. The countries in the region with limited monetary resources that do not receive defense assistance from the US cannot compete in the advanced weaponry market. Instead, they tend to adopt asymmetrical approaches that enable them to counter the technological advantages of their rivals. They rely on guerilla warfare and terrorism on the one hand, and on the other hand, on strategic capability offered by ballistic missiles, artillery rockets, and weapons of mass destruction. Non-state actors such as Hizbollah and Hamas continue to develop semi-regular military forces with large inventories of artillery rockets, as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities.

 

The US remains the biggest weapons supplier to the region. Russia has also made attempts to extend its market share in the region, but so far with limited success. Other important players are key European Union countries, particularly France and the UK. In addition, indigenous military industries play an important role in some states in the region. Israel and Turkey operate the most advanced industries, while the UAE is investing extensive resources to build its own military industry. Iran too aims to be as autonomous as possible in its weapons production, although its industry’s actual capability is far smaller than what is officially declared.

 

What follows is a concise review of the leading recent developments in some of the region’s countries.

 

ALGERIA

Algeria is in the midst of a massive military expansion. At the heart of this expansion is a large weapons deal with Russia (approximately $8 billion). Within the framework of this arms deal Algeria received 180 T-90 tank and 28 Su-30MKA combat aircraft. The first batches of these aircraft arrived in 2007 and are already operational. Recently Algeria signed a further contract for additional Su-30. Algeria received two Il-78 refueling aircraft and its air defense forces received some Tunguska and Pantsyr point defense systems, although no heavy systems, such as the S-300 PMU-2, arrived. Aside from the Russian deal, Algeria signed a large deal for some 30 utility helicopters of several types from Italy. This deal follows a previous deal for ten helicopters that were already supplied.

 

The Algerian navy received two Type 636 submarines, but there is no news regarding its intention to acquire four frigates. This deal is still under negotiations with potential suppliers in France, Germany, Italy, and Great Britain. Meanwhile Algeria began taking deliveries of its FPB-98 small patrol boats from France.

 

Another significant development was the launch of Algeria’s first satellite with some military capabilities: the ALSAT-2A. This satellite carries a multi-spectral camera with resolution of 2.5m, manufactured by EADS Astrium. A second satellite is being assembled in Algeria.

 

EGYPT

Egypt, like Israel, benefits from ongoing American defense aid and receives $1.3 billion a year. An agreement signed in 2007 ensures Egypt continued aid at least until 2018, which enables Egypt to purchase American-made weapons without having to worry about economic difficulties. The future regime in Egypt will likely make efforts to maintain this aid, and therefore Egypt’s armament programs will not change course abruptly.

 

Egypt, which already boasts a substantial fleet of 217 F-16s, has ordered 20 more of these multi-role combat aircraft for $3.2 billion. Apart from this deal, Egypt’s primary deals in recent years have included AH-64D Apache attack helicopters (though the acquisition of the Longbow radar system for these helicopters has not yet been approved) and additional M1A1 Abrams tanks. These tanks are bought as kits for assembly in Egypt. Since starting to purchase these tanks, the Egyptian defense industry has assembled 880 tanks, and the new transaction, now underway, includes an additional 125 tanks.

 

Egypt also buys weapons from other sources, finances permitting. It is negotiating with Germany to buy Type 214 submarines (a model quite similar to the Israeli Dolphin class submarines). It maintains military contacts with Russia and other former Soviet Union countries – both for the upgrade of its aging Soviet era weapons (such as the recent upgrade of APCs in the Ukraine), and for acquisition of new weapon systems – such as the recent acquisition from Russia of Strelets point defense SAMs. In addition, the Egyptian navy has a standing order for four fast missile patrol beats from the US, the first of which is scheduled to be delivered in mid 2012.

 

IRAN

Iran is in the midst of a long process of rearming its military, although reliable weapons suppliers are scarce because of the Security Council sanctions in force. Hopes for large arms deal with Russia were shelved as Russia, in light of the sanctions, officially declined to supply Iran with S-300 air defense systems ordered (and paid for) by Iran.

 

Iran continues to arm itself with locally produced arms, mainly missiles and rockets. In the field of long range ballistic missiles, Iran has made progress on two tracks: in the first track, Iran based its efforts on liquid fueled missiles, such as the Shehab-3. On the basis of this technology Iran developed the Safir-e-Omid satellite launcher, a two stage missile that launched the Kavoshgar research capsule and the Omid satellite in February 2009. A further development in the same direction was the heavy satellite launcher Simorgh, which was displayed in public but not yet tested. Another development in this direction was the Qiam-1 missile, test-launched in August 2010, probably to test new guidance and control systems. In the second track, Iran is also developing a two stage solid fuel powered surface-to-surface missile intended to reach a range of up to 2000 km. This missile, alternatively known as Ghadr, Sejjil, or Ashura was tested for the first time in November 2007 (and again in May and December 2009 – and possibly in early 2011 as well). These missiles will likely become operational within a few years.

 

It is harder to estimate Iran’s true R&D and production capabilities in other fields. The Iran media report regularly about the development of innovative weapon systems – tanks, armored personnel carriers, fighter planes, helicopters, various missiles (sea-to-sea, air-to-air, air-to-ground, surface-to-air), and more – but it is difficult to distinguish between propaganda and actual progress. For example, only recently the Iranian media reported on new precision guided munitions for combat aircraft and helicopters, new air defense systems, and new versions of coastal defense missiles, as well as the construction of a new destroyer and mini submarines. It does not seem that Iran is in fact capable of producing all the types and models it professes to produce in significant quantities. Iran is certainly capable of producing several models of artillery rockets and perhaps some anti-tank and sea-to-sea missiles (based on Russian and Chinese designs). However there is no evidence, for example, that Iran is producing fighter planes with real capabilities of engaging in a modern battle, although it claims to have this capability.

 

IRAQ

The process of rebuilding the Iraqi military is taking longer than expected, and has been accompanied by a host of problems, including the lack of suitable personnel and graft and corruption connected to questionable arms deals. In purchasing, the Iraqi army is mostly engaged in basic outfitting of a military force. However, investment in rebuilding the army will also be complicated by the withdrawal of the remaining US forces, which have thus far guaranteed the day to day security of the country.

 

Sources for arms acquisitions are varied. The US supplied Iraq with its first M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, APCs, T-6A training aircraft, helicopters, and fast patrol boats. France supplied helicopters; Ukraine supplied APCs; Russia supplied Mi-17 helicopters, and Serbia supplied more training aircraft. The Iraqi government also announced its intention to procure F-16 combat aircraft, but no contracts have yet been signed.

 

ISRAEL

Israel’s military buildup occurs according to a multiyear plan, based in part on a fixed sum of annual American aid. Accordingly, Israel’s rearmament is a fairly continuous process that does not portend any unexpected reversals, and is also less affected by changes in the global or local economic situation than are acquisitions programs in other countries.

 

The US military aid to Israel for 2011 is in the amount of $3 billion. This sum is intended almost entirely for military buildup. On top of this, Israel receives $440 million for its various ballistic missile defense programs such as the Arrow-3, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome. On the basis of an agreement reached with the US in August 2007, this aid is slated to increase gradually and in the decade ending in 2018 will total $30 billion.

 

After the Second Lebanon War (2006), the IDF invested heavily in restocking weapons and munitions, with an emphasis on procurement of large quantities of modern types of munitions for the air force, such as the GBU-39 small diameter bombs and GPS-guided JDAM bombs. As for new large arms deals, Israel announced its intention to equip its air force with F-35 planes in the coming decade. There are still numerous obstacles to the deal at the moment, mostly because the F-35 program itself suffers from delays and runoffs. The price of a single unit is rising as delays accumulate, and is now estimated at over $130 million. Recent reports spoke of further delays that pushed the possible date of delivery to 2018. Other possible hurdles are Israel’s demands to access the aircraft’s software codes, as well as the ability to install Israeli-made systems – requests that have not been granted.

 

The Israeli air force ordered three advanced C-130J transport aircraft – with the intention to eventually buy up to nine of these aircraft, estimated at $1.9 billion. The air force has also retired its Tzukit training planes after more than 50 years of service and replaced them with the US-made Beechcraft T-6A Texan II, which received the name Efroni (“lark”) in the IAF. In addition, the Israeli navy ordered two more Dolphin class submarines, which are being constructed in Germany, and is negotiating purchase of a third submarine (which will be Israel’s sixth such submarine).

 

In many areas Israel is rearming with locally produced arms. Recent emphasis has been on development and production of active anti-ballistic missile defense systems and anti-rocket defense systems. Israel ordered more Arrow batteries on top of the two operational batteries it already deploys. At the same time the entire Arrow project is undergoing a process of upgrading to help it achieve greater success in handling the long range missile threat from Iran. Similarly, Israel is investing in two additional active defense systems. The first is David’s Sling, meant to provide defense against rockets and short range ballistic missiles with a range of 40-200 km (particularly heavy rockets of the kind fired from Lebanon in 2006). The second is Iron Dome, meant to defend against shorter range rockets and missiles such as the Qassams and Grads fired both from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. David’s Sling is scheduled to finish the development stage in 2012, while Iron Dome is already operational and has scored its first successful intercept.

 

Israel is still leading the region in space assets, with the Ofeq-9 and TECHSAR reconnaissance satellites in orbit, as well as the Amos-3 communication satellite. Preparations for the launch of an advanced reconnaissance satellite and another communication satellite (the Amos-4) are underway. In the area of UAVs, Israel likewise has little competition. Recently the air force deployed the new Heron and Heron TP (called by the IAF Shoval and Eitan, respectively) long endurance UAVs, capable of loitering in the air for extended missions – over 40 hours long – for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions. Side by side with the larger UAVs, IDF units are being equipped with the Skylark – mini UAVs, made by Elbit. These are small, quiet, and easily operated systems, carried by soldiers in combat units for the purpose of intelligence gathering from “the other side of the hill” at short distances (up to 10 km). Recently the Skylark I LE, with somewhat extended endurance, was chosen as the model for additional military units.

 

Finally, Israel has expanded its acquisition of indigenously produced weapon systems for the ground forces. One of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War led to the military starting to equip itself with the Namer IFV, based on the hull of the Merkava MBT. In addition, both the Merkava Mk IV and the Namer are being equipped with active defense systems. The Trophy system installed on the Merkava Mk IV MBTs has already scored Its first intercept.

 

MOROCCO

Morocco is yet another country in the region that has undergone a substantial military buildup in recent years. After long and heated competition between suppliers, the Moroccan air force decided to procure 24 F-16 multi-role combat aircraft. These aircraft have apparently already been supplied. In addition, the Moroccan air force procured 24 T-6A Texan II trainers (12 of which have already been supplied), as well as four C-27J transport planes.

 

The Moroccan navy became the first export customer for the new French made FREMM frigates when it signed a deal for one such frigate, which is now being constructed in France.

 

SAUDI ARABIA

When the deal was signed in 2007, Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of 72 Typhoons from the UK, at an estimated cost of $7.9 billion, was the most impressive deal in the Middle East. At the same time, Saudi Arabia also ordered upgrades for its Tornado and for its F-15S combat aircraft. Other major deals that exceeded the Typhoon deal have since followed. Another major deal, signed in mid 2009, involves an upgrade to the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). The contract, worth some $2.2 billion, is for the acquisition of different types of combat armored vehicles. The upgrade program is typically divided between the US and France, from which SANG ordered new artillery pieces.

 

Additional arms orders include more M1A2 tanks from the US, as well as upgrades for existing tanks – a transaction of some $3 billion. This project also includes setting up a large facility that will assemble the tanks in the kingdom. In late 2010 the US administration approved further sales valued at $60 billion. These include the sale of 84 new F-15S combat aircraft, as well as upgrade of the existing F-15S in Saudi inventory, and hundreds of helicopters – AH-64D Apache attack helicopters and UH- 60 M Black Hawk utility helicopters, as well as light reconnaissance helicopters – for the Saudi land forces and for the Saudi National Guard. These authorizations have yet to be turned into actual contracts but they are indicative of Saudi intentions, as well as US willingness to support the country.

 

UAE

The UAE armed forces are among the military forces that have grown most intensively. The UAE, like other Gulf States, prefers to deal with a variety of vendors and buys primarily from the US and France. The UAE beefed up its air force with 63 Mirage 2000-9 planes from France and 80 F-16E/F planes, a model developed specifically for the Emirates, and the country has continued to procure equipment for the air force, navy, and air defense forces. It signed a deal to upgrade the 30 Apache helicopters to the AH-64D model, and ordered three Airbus A330 refueling aircraft. More recently it ordered twelve C-130J tactical transport aircraft as well as six C-17 Globemaster strategic transport aircraft.

 

The Baynunah ships project has been underway for several years. These corvettes were designed in France, and the first of them is being built by the CMN shipyard in Cherbourg, France. The rest are constructed in Abu Dhabi by ADSB. Despite the French design and local manufacture, some of the armaments will actually be American-made. Thus, for example, the UAE has ordered RAM missiles from Raytheon Corporation to defend the ships against cruise missiles.

 

The UAE is investing heavily in air defense systems and ballistic missile defense systems that will be supplied in the coming years in different deals estimated at some $9 billion. In the realm of air defense, the UAE was scheduled to receive the Russian-made Pantsyr S-1 systems, short range mobile air defense systems developed in Russia at the UAE’s request and with its funding. It will also include in the short term upgrades for the Patriot missile batteries it already has and purchases of the PAC-3 interceptors (for ballistic missile interception) for these batteries. In the longer run it will include the purchase from the US of THAAD dedicated anti-ballistic missile defense systems. The value of this transaction is estimated at about $7 billion.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Middle East arms acquisitions are dominated by Persian Gulf markets, as these states perceive a growing threat from Iran’s drive toward regional hegemony. The fact that all the countries along the coast of the Gulf procured and deployed Patriot SAM batteries with added capabilities against ballistic missiles testifies to the severity of the threat they perceive. Iraq is investing large amounts of money to rebuild its military from scratch, while Iran, unable to acquire weapons in the open markets is relying mostly on its indigenous industry. The Arab Maghreb is also arming itself. Algeria is absorbing its acquisitions from Russia and from Europe, while Morocco is making an effort and stretches its limited resources to renew its military with acquisitions in the US and Europe.

 

Israel continues to implement the lessons of the Second Lebanon War (2006) and Operation Cast Lead (2008-9). It continues to buy advanced fighter jets and surveillance and early warning planes and expand its satellite capabilities. At the same time, it has accelerated the rate of outfitting the military with anti-rocket systems and with better protected armored personnel carriers and tanks.

 

As a result of the recent developments in the region, most of the Arab states that are not monarchies are undergoing changes. In some cases these changes have already affected the command structure and the military forces (e.g., in Libya, Syria, and Yemen), and are expected to affect existing and future programs (e.g., in Egypt). Yet the uprising in many Arab states notwithstanding, the Middle East continues to be a major market for weapons, and of late there have been no substantial changes in the main trends of arms procurements. [...] States with financing capabilities will continue to arm themselves with precision guided weapon systems, aerial warning systems, and intelligence. At the same time, the threats of guerilla warfare and terrorism originating in the region and in neighboring countries will increase the importance of arms dedicated to fighting terrorism, defending against rockets and missiles, and protecting population centers.

 

 

----

 

(First published in INSS’ 2011 Edition of its “Strategic Survey for Israel”, which can be viewed in full at http://goo.gl/xg1W2)

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