Friday, 18 September 2020
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Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

We arrived in Istanbul during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God's command and praises the God who stayed his hand. It is a jarring holiday for me; I was taught that it was Isaac whom God saved. The distinction between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between Hagar and Sarah, between Abraham and the Jews and Abraham and the Muslims. It ties Muslims, Jews and Christians together. It also tears them apart.

Muslims celebrate Eid with the sacrifice of animals (sheep and cattle). Istanbul is a modern commercial city, stunningly large. On this day, as we drove in from the airport, there were vacant lots with cattle lined up for those wishing to carry out the ritual. There were many cattle and people. The ritual sacrifice is widely practiced, even among the less religious. I was told that Turkey had to import cattle for the first time, bringing them in from Uruguay. Consider the juxtaposition of ancient ritual sacrifice so widely practiced that it requires global trade to sustain it.

The tension between and within nations and religions is too ancient for us to remember its beginnings. It is also something that never grows old. For Turkey, it is about a very old nation at what I think is the beginning of a new chapter. It is therefore inevitably about the struggles within Turkey and with Turkey's search for a way to find both its identity and its place in the world.

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By Alex Shone, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Iran is a country firmly framed in Western perception as a state sponsor of terrorism, whose quest for a nuclear weapon is conceived for purposes of coercive regional diplomacy. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's regime drives this perception, and on the subject of Israel, his rhetoric stokes fears of a new war in the Middle East. This regime is the face of Iran that we in the Western world are presented with.

However, behind this is a far more complex and enigmatic nation. The 'real' Iran is clearly more than the 'Green Movement' of students and leftist intellectuals who were brutally suppressed in the wake of the country's presidential elections. The UK Defence Forum is commencing a new country series on Iran that will analyse all the country's history, society, economics and politics. This new series aims to comprehensively assess these wider aspects of Iran within and beyond the face of the regime.

The progress and extent of Iran's nuclear programme is reassessed continually as new intelligence enters into the public domain. Judgement as to the appropriate response oscillates between a pre-emptive military strike and continued diplomacy with sanctions. The conclusion seems to boil down to whether we choose to 'bomb Iran' or 'live with an Iranian bomb'.

Advocates for the military option have only to cite the indisputable failure of diplomacy to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. Economic sanctions have utterly failed to bring down the international support network available to Iran. Critically, the West has not been able to inflict the necessary pressure on Iran's energy sector, in great part due to the failure to secure the cooperation of other key states.

The military option is beset by concerns for the consequences. Airstrikes would end all diplomatic hopes, certainly for the near future. They would also put back any chance of eventual regime change, perhaps by decades, as Ahmadinejad's domestic propaganda would likely take an immoveable hold. There is also the problem of Iran's capacity to retaliate. Iran is a country with varying degrees of influence beyond its borders into Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran, as a state sponsor of terror, also has channels into a network of armed group proxies. The significance of Iranian influence here remains unclear but is still a great concern.

At centre of the problem is the opaqueness against which all assessments must be made. Iran is very much a closed country, regime and society to the West and the limits of our own understanding prohibit formulation of deeper judgements as to where Iranian intent lies. Diplomacy has failed with the Iranian regime and until sanctions develop real teeth, which key world powers genuinely rally behind, it is likely that Iran's government will be inconsolable from their nuclear path.

Rather, it is the Iranian people who are central to any resolution of this crisis. Ahmadinejad's regime and its political course must be de-legitimatised in the eyes of the Iranian population who do not have access to a free media. Understanding all aspects of Iran's society is therefore a paramount requirement if the West is to more effectively engage with the Iranian people to help steer the country from its current confrontational path.


By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate in residence for the UK Defence Forum

On the 28th September, 2010, Indonesia's House of Representatives unanimously approved the appointment of Navy Vice Admiral Agus Suhartono as the new Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI). Suhartono is now at the helm one of the world's largest armed forces and responsible for securing over 17,000 islands scattered over a distance comparable with London to Baghdad. Yet the TNI remains beset by some familiar problems. Suhartono's brief is to overcome a number of problems, starting with the integration of the three forces under a single line of command. But while force integration may shape the TNI into a more effective organisation this should not be Suhartono's first priority.

Whilst systemic reform of the TNI has been underway since the late 1990s emphasis was initially placed on depoliticising the military rather than changing its strategic outlook. This altered in 2002 with the passage of Law No.3/2002 on National Defence. Law No.3/2002 states that Indonesia's future defence planning should prioritise maritime security. This was expanded in 2007 when the Department of Defence (DoD) published a planning document analysing the TNI's force structure. The document identified the protection of Indonesia's sea lanes of communication (SLOC) as the TNI's main strategic consideration. This mainly focuses upon safeguarding SLOCs around the Malacca Sunda, Lombok and Makassar Straits.

Underpinning the DoD's strategy is the development of Defence Area Commands (KODAHAN) administered by a joint command structure. Implementing KODAHAN will inevitably mean that the TNI will have to increase naval and air capabilities at the expense of its traditional strategic approach. Since independence Indonesia has experienced significant challenges to domestic security. This has included separatist movements in Aceh, Papua and Maluku as well as sporadic communal violence throughout the islands. As a result, Indonesia's armed forces developed a hybrid strategy combining conventional and guerrilla warfare to gather intelligence and fight counterinsurgency campaigns. This prompted the development of territorial commands that disperse army units throughout Indonesia.

Yet despite increasing emphasis on the importance of Indonesia's maritime security, the TNI has shown little appetite for dismantling its territorial structures. This is because the TNI see territorial commands as fundamental to preserving Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, NKRI). As the ultimate guarantor of Indonesian identity, the 'idea' of the NKRI is in the eyes of the TNI a non-negotiable concept. The territorial command structure also has the support of the incumbent President, Army General (Ret.) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. According to President Yudhoyono territorial commands form part of the 'People's Defence and Security System' (Sishankamrata).

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