By George Friedman
Speaking of the situation in Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama said June 26, "We don't yet know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what has happened inside of Iran." On the surface that is a strange statement, since we know that with minor exceptions, the demonstrations in Tehran lost steam after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for them to end and security forces asserted themselves. By the conventional wisdom, events in Iran represent an oppressive regime crushing a popular rising. If so, it is odd that the U.S. president would raise the question of what has happened in Iran.
By Nathan Hughes
North Korea tested a nuclear device for the second time in two and a half years on 25th May. Although North Korea's nuclear weapons program continues to be a work in progress, the event is inherently significant. North Korea has carried out the only two nuclear detonations the world has seen in the 21st century. (The most recent tests prior to that were the spate of tests by India and Pakistan in 1998.)
By Elayne Jude, Great North News Services
Turning up to hear former US Secretary of State for Defense William Perry address a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society at the House of Commons the other day, I had it mind to investigate the following:
Sir: when you took office in 1994 as Clinton's first Defense Secretary, you stated these three reasons for so doing: To work to end the nuclear threat to the United States, while avoiding a return to the Cold War; to advise the President how and when to use military force, or to reject its use;and to manage the reduction of forces in the post-Cold War era.
By George Friedman
In 1979, when we were still young and starry-eyed, a revolution took place in Iran. When I asked experts what would happen, they divided into two camps.
The first group of Iran experts argued that the Shah of Iran would certainly survive, that the unrest was simply a cyclical event readily manageable by his security, and that the Iranian people were united behind the Iranian monarch's modernization program. These experts developed this view by talking to the same Iranian officials and businessmen they had been talking to for years — Iranians who had grown wealthy and powerful under the shah and who spoke English, since Iran experts frequently didn't speak Farsi all that well.
Written by George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama released a video offering Iran congratulations on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday. Israeli President Shimon Peres also offered his best wishes, referring to "the noble Iranian people." The joint initiative was received coldly in Tehran, however. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the video did not show that the United States had shifted its hostile attitude toward Iran.
by James Phillips and Baker Spring
Iran announced yesterday that it had successfully launched its first domestically produced satellite into orbit using an Iranian-built rocket. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed in a televised speech that "the official presence of the Islamic Republic was registered in space." This technological milestone, combined with Iran's accelerating efforts to enrich the uranium required for a nuclear weapon, is extremely worrisome. Only ten other countries have successfully launched satellites into orbit. Iran's new satellite-launching capability demonstrates rapid progress toward developing a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)--an advancement that would greatly extend Tehran's military reach. Iran's growing missile capability strengthens the case for making missile defense a high priority for the United States and its allies.
The topic that we're trying to address is the subject of Iran and looking ahead to the next Administration, so I want to try and focus on the issues that the next Administration is going to face. But I think that neces sarily involves looking back a little bit at some of what's happened over the past several years and how we got to that point and to identify some of the things that I think the next President, whoever it turns out to be, has to address, and in a very urgent manner, because the threat posed by Iran's effort to acquire deliverable nuclear weapons capability is an urgent threat for which there's not much room for error.
Dr Robert Crowcroft
The last week has offered a stark reminder of the persistent threats to peace and stability in Northern Ireland. While Afghanistan rightly garners the headlines, Britain's oldest conflict may not be over just yet. The province is certainly no beacon of harmony. Recent days alone have witnessed three car-bomb incidents linked to dissident Republican terrorists. All received significant national news coverage. On 3 August, a taxi was hijacked, loaded with 200lb of explosives, and parked outside a Londonderry police station. In the early hours of the morning, the bomb went off. No-one was injured, but several nearby businesses were badly damaged. Oglaigh na hEireann, an offshoot of the Continuity IRA – itself a splinter group – claimed responsibility. Whether this was a gesture of the 'We are still here' variety, or an attempt at launching something more serious, remains unknown. On 4 August, a car bomb attack on a soldier in Bangor failed. And on 7 August, a bomb was found attached to the car of a Catholic police officer. As of
By Scott Stewart
When we discuss threats along the U.S./Mexico border with sources and customers, or when we write an analysis on topics such as violence and improvised explosive devices along the border, a certain topic inevitably pops up: Hezbollah.
We frequently hear concerns from U.S. and Mexican government sources about the Iranian and Hezbollah network in Latin America. They fear that Iran would use Hezbollah to strike targets in the Western Hemisphere and even inside the United States if the United States or Israel were to conduct a military strike against Tehran’s nuclear program. Such concerns are expressed not only by our sources and are relayed not only to us. Nearly every time tensions increase between the United States and Iran, the media report that the Hezbollah threat to the United States is growing. Iran also has a vested interest in playing up the danger posed by Hezbollah and its other militant proxies as it tries to dissuade the United States and Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities.
By George Friedman
Public discussion of potential attacks on Iran's nuclear development sites is surging again. This has happened before. On several occasions, leaks about potential airstrikes have created an atmosphere of impending war. These leaks normally coincided with diplomatic initiatives and were designed to intimidate the Iranians and facilitate a settlement favorable to the United States and Israel. These initiatives have failed in the past. It is therefore reasonable to associate the current avalanche of reports with the imposition of sanctions and view it as an attempt to increase the pressure on Iran and either force a policy shift or take advantage of divisions within the regime.
My first instinct is to dismiss the war talk as simply another round of psychological warfare against Iran, this time originating with Israel. Most of the reports indicate that Israel is on the verge of attacking Iran. From a psychological-warfare standpoint, this sets up the good-cop/bad-cop routine. The Israelis play the mad dog barely restrained by the more sober Americans, who urge the Iranians through intermediaries to make concessions and head off a war. As I said, we have been here before several times, and this hasn't worked.
The worst sin of intelligence is complacency, the belief that simply because something has happened (or has not happened) several times before it is not going to happen this time. But each episode must be considered carefully in its own light and preconceptions from previous episodes must be banished. Indeed, the previous episodes might well have been intended to lull the Iranians into complacency themselves. Paradoxically, the very existence of another round of war talk could be intended to convince the Iranians that war is distant while covert war preparations take place. An attack may be in the offing, but the public displays neither confirm nor deny that possibility.
The UK Defence Forum has published the above regional study, a joint collaboration between Seckin Baris Gulmez (PhD Candidate at Royal Holloway University of London) and Adam Dempsey (Research Associate, UK Defence Forum).
Their report can be read here.
By Chris Newton
It has been a long, strenuous, and difficult summer in the Ministry of Defence. As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), it and the entire defence community has been grappling with two fundamental questions about the future. What will the future strategic environment look like? And what does this mean for our Armed Forces? There are those commentators who can, with a remarkable degree of confidence, say that they can predict what the future character of conflict will look like. Future conflict will be similar to the wars we have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 9/11 was a significant date that heralded a new kind of warfare.
But is this certainty in predicting the future justified when history always teaches us to expect the unexpected? History does not follow a linear, pre-determined path; it is about men and women making choices between alternative futures and scenarios. A gunshot in 1914, for example, completely destroyed an entire European and world order. So we should at the very least be open to alternative scenarios and future pathways. Moreover, there is another significant date has passed us by that could signal the change the world is about to face, and we could risk harming our future security and prosperity if we choose to ignore its significance.
By Scott Stewart and Nate Hughes
Over the past decade there has been an ongoing debate over the threat posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to modern civilization. This debate has been the most heated perhaps in the United States, where the commission appointed by Congress to assess the threat to the United States warned of the dangers posed by EMP in reports released in 2004 and 2008. The commission also called for a national commitment to address the EMP threat by hardening the national infrastructure.
There is little doubt that efforts by the United States to harden infrastructure against EMP — and its ability to manage critical infrastructure manually in the event of an EMP attack — have been eroded in recent decades as the Cold War ended and the threat of nuclear conflict with Russia lessened. This is also true of the U.S. military, which has spent little time contemplating such scenarios in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. The cost of remedying the situation, especially retrofitting older systems rather than simply regulating that new systems be better hardened, is immense. And as with any issue involving massive amounts of money, the debate over guarding against EMP has become quite politicized in recent years.
We have long avoided writing on this topic for precisely that reason. However, as the debate over the EMP threat has continued, a great deal of discussion about the threat has appeared in the media. Many STRATFOR readers have asked for our take on the threat, and we thought it might be helpful to dispassionately discuss the tactical elements involved in such an attack and the various actors that could conduct one. The following is our assessment of the likelihood of an EMP attack against the United States.
By Reva Bhalla
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut on Oct. 13 for his first official visit to Lebanon since becoming president in 2005. He is reportedly returning to the country after spending a stint there in the 1980s as a young Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer tasked with training Hezbollah in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. A great deal of controversy is surrounding his return. Rumors are spreading of Sunni militants attempting to mar the visit by provoking Iran's allies in Hezbollah into a fight (already the car of a pro-Hezbollah imam who has been defending Ahmadinejad has been blown up), while elaborate security preparations are being made for Ahmadinejad to visit Lebanon's heavily militarized border with Israel.
Rather than getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Iranian president's visit, we want to take the opportunity provided by all the media coverage to probe into a deeper topic, one that has been occupying the minds of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah officials for some time. This topic is the durability of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance, which STRATFOR believes has been under great stress in recent months. More precisely, the question is: What are Syria's current intentions toward Hezbollah? Read more »
(c) Stratfor. Reproduced with permission.
By George Friedman
We are a week away from the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. The outcome is already locked in. Whether the Republicans take the House or the Senate is close to immaterial. It is almost certain that the dynamics of American domestic politics will change. The Democrats will lose their ability to impose cloture in the Senate and thereby shut off debate. Whether they lose the House or not, the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership. The large majority held by the Democrats will be gone, and party discipline will not be strong enough (it never is) to prevent some defections.
Should the Republicans win an overwhelming victory in both houses next week, they will still not have the votes to override presidential vetoes. Therefore they will not be able to legislate unilaterally, and if any legislation is to be passed it will have to be the result of negotiations between the president and the Republican Congressional leadership. Thus, whether the Democrats do better than expected or the Republicans win a massive victory, the practical result will be the same.
When we consider the difficulties President Barack Obama had passing his health care legislation, even with powerful majorities in both houses, it is clear that he will not be able to push through any significant legislation without Republican agreement. The result will either be gridlock or a very different legislative agenda than we have seen in the first two years.
These are not unique circumstances. Reversals in the first midterm election after a presidential election happened to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. It does not mean that Obama is guaranteed to lose a re-election bid, although it does mean that, in order to win that election, he will have to operate in a very different way. It also means that the 2012 presidential campaign will begin next Wednesday on Nov. 3. Given his low approval ratings, Obama appears vulnerable and the Republican nomination has become extremely valuable. For his part, Obama does not have much time to lose in reshaping his presidency. With the Iowa caucuses about 15 months away and the Republicans holding momentum, the president will have to begin his campaign.
Obama now has two options in terms of domestic strategy. The first is to continue to press his agenda, knowing that it will be voted down. If the domestic situation improves, he takes credit for it. If it doesn't, he runs against Republican partisanship. The second option is to abandon his agenda, cooperate with the Republicans and re-establish his image as a centrist. Both have political advantages and disadvantages and present an important strategic decision for Obama to make.
By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate in Residence, UK Defence Forum
Russia's search an alternative buyer for S-300 air-defence missile batteries originally earmarked for Iran appears to have been hastily resolved. On 18th October Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez announced to journalists in Kiev, Ukraine, that his country intends to purchase five S-300s. The deal is expected to cost Venezuela $800 million. Russia's compliance with United Nations Resolution 1929 vindicates international consensus that Iran would use the S-300s to protect nuclear facilities. As it is highly unlikely that Venezuela has a similar nuclear programme the sale of the S-300s to Caracas should be comparatively easy. Yet why would Venezuela need to make such a purchase?
An overview of the S-300 suggests that Venezuela will be purchasing one of the most formidable air-defence systems currently available. The S-300 is capable of engaging six incoming targets simultaneously at ranges of up to 300km. According to the Federation of American Scientists the S-300 is also able to counter intensive air raids at low-to-high altitudes. The system can also be used to target low altitude objects such as cruise missiles and possibly to intercept strategic ballistic missiles.
Should Iran have completed the purchase of the S-300s the dynamics of the Middle East security environment would also have changed. As Iran's outdated air defences remain in place both the United States and Israel can retain the option of a pre-emptive strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities. Whilst the deployment of S-300s would do little to deter a larger-scale American bombardment it is likely that Tel Aviv would reassess its options. Yet this makes Chavez's decision to purchase the S-300s all the more mystifying.