5% Digest (week 16/03/15)

According to SIPRI’s latest report, there is a 16% increase in the volume of arms transferred around the world. The world’s biggest arms exporters in the past five years were the US, Russia, China, Germany and France. China’s exports of major arms rose by 143% in the five years to 2014 from the previous five years. Germany’s arms exports fell by 43% and France’s dropped 27% in the same time frame.

India was the world’s largest single arms importer. Four other Asian countries, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore, are also among the top 10 largest arms importers.

Sales of weapons to Gulf states have increased by more than 70% over the past five years.

“The GCC states, along with Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Turkey in the wider Middle East, are scheduled to receive further large orders of major arms in the coming years”, said Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher at Sipri.

Saudi Arabia bought four times more between 2010 and 2014 compared with the previous five years. The UAE is also among the world’s five largest importers of arms. The US accounted for nearly half of all arms sales to the Middle East, followed up by Russia and the UK.

Africa received 9% of all global arms deliveries between 2010-14, a 45% increase over the previous five years.

States in sub-Saharan Africa received 42% of all imports into the continent, led by rivals Sudan and Uganda as the largest importers, at 15% and 14% of the subregional total respectively. …

The three largest importers in the continent 2010-14 were Algeria which is in conflict with rebel groups and which took 30% of imports into the region, Morocco (26%) and Sudan, which took stock of 6% of arms. …

Ivor Ichikowitz, the founder of Africa’s biggest privately owned arms company Paramount Group, recently won an order to sell 50 armoured vehicles worth more than $1 million each to Jordan. He expects more business to follow with Middle Eastern governments looking to bolster their defences.

In all, 35 countries now have drones.

Israel and the US were the main suppliers of drones worldwide, though other countries, including Austria, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Africa and Sweden, also exported them.

Joseph Dana commented that

Mercenaries, mostly South Africans who once worked for the Apartheid-era regime, are turning the tide against ISIL- inspired terrorism in West Africa, according to the South African press. While Boko Haram has been engaged in a sophisticated media blitz driven by its new allegiance to ISIL, surely it is time for the international community to reconsider the wisdom of allowing the deployment of relics from apartheid-era South Africa, one of Africa’s worst regimes in recent history.

A new report Remote Warfare (RW): developing a framework for evaluating its use, by Dr Jon Moran of the University of Leicester, finds that

remote warfare is employed as a tactic rather than as a strategy by the UK, with a focus on short-term goals rather than any long-term thinking and concludes that it will only have the chance of being effective when part of a coherent defence policy and even then carries serious risks.

reveals a number of worrying consequences of remote warfare, including:

  • Blowback: Undermining regimes and destabilising countries leading to dangerous long-term solutions (e.g. Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  • Spreading or prolonging conflicts: This may be counter-productive and more harming to civilians to externally sustain a conflict that would otherwise see defeat for one side or exhaustion on both sides and a peace agreement (e.g. Libya, Syria)
  • Danger of a ‘forever war’ scenario whereby warfare is pursued on an ongoing basis with no end, involving the militarization of ‘everyday spaces’ (e.g. war on terror).

 In a recent interview, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson explains

“Fifty-one percent of the [Israeli] land belongs to the security complex, either outright or leased. Sixty families in Israel own about 75 percent of the wealth, which is unbelievable,” he explained. “They’re the most predatory capitalist state in the eastern Mediterranean, and that’s saying something because we [the U.S.], China, and Russia have exemplified predatory capitalism in the last 20 years, but Israel outstrips us all.” …

Wilkerson says the strategy toward the East Asian giant is to surround it. To achieve this, the U.S. has been opening up to and attempting to create deals with countries in the region like India and Myanmar, solidifying older relationships with countries like South Korea and Japan, supporting Indonesia, and showing concern about political turmoil in Thailand.

Another part of the tactical strategies being employed by the U.S. to confront the rise of China is what Wilkerson describes as “hedging.” He says the U.S. is attempting to ensure that China’s interests are peace, prosperity and stability, so that the world does not see the typical rise of a great power, which usually includes fighting to secure its place among the nations already established as powers. …

The most blatant sign that the U.S. does not have a coherent strategy in the Middle East, and is operating strictly through reactionary tactics, according to Wilkerson, is its support for Israel.

A sensible Middle East strategy, he explained, would include, first and foremost, a plan to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian situation. …

“You don’t solve Afghanistan, you don’t solve Pakistan ultimately, you don’t solve the increasingly dictatorial Erdoğan in Turkey, you don’t solve Egypt, you don’t solve Syria, you don’t solve Iraq — and by ‘solve’ I mean bring some sort of stability and potential for the future – without Iran’s help,” he asserted.

“It’s not really Iran’s nuclear weapon that Bibi fears, it’s what we just described.”

More details on the problems faced by the F-35:

The blizzard of testing required on the plane’s equipment and parts isn’t exactly going well, so the program’s administrators are moving the goal posts. … “As a result,” POGO writes, “the squadron will be flying with an uncertified avionics system.” …

The fuel tank system “is at significant risk of catastrophic fire and explosion in combat,” according to POGO. The plane isn’t adequately protected against lightning strikes (in the air or on the ground); it’s currently prohibited from flying within 25 miles of thunderstorms. …

The F-35’s fancy helmet-mounted display system, which is supposed to show pilots an almost 360-degree view that includes panel controls and threat information, has “high false alarm rates and false target tracks.” Its unreliability, combined with the plane’s design, make it impossible for pilots to see anything behind or below the cockpit.

When maneuvering at high speeds, the F-35 may drop and roll to one side. … The fixes, unfortunately, will “further decreas[e] maneuverability, acceleration, and range,” according to POGO.

For years the F-35s engines have suffered design and performance problems, and these problems have never been fully solved. Last summer these problems resulted in one engine ripping itself apart and destroying one of the planes. …

The plane’s software includes more than 30 million lines of code. Problems with the code are causing navigation system inaccuracies, false alarms from sensors, and false target tracks. … The software glitches also affect the plane’s ability to “find targets, detect and survive enemy defenses, deliver weapons accurately, and avoid fratricide.”

There is more, according to military.com,

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots will have to wait until 2022 to fire the U.S. military’s top close-air-support bomb after the Small Diameter Bomb II enters service in 2017, JSF officials explained. …

The JSF office has already discovered that the SDB II does not fit onto the F-35B — the Marine Corps variant — without modifications to the aircraft’s weapons bay. The Pentagon is not in a rush to make those changes before the F-35B reaches initial operating capability this year because the weapon won’t work until the right software package is installed.

The latest report of the Pentagon losing track of $500 million in weapons/equipment given to Yemen is just the latest of a series of similar incidences:

Libya: In late 2012, the New York Times reported that weapons from a US-approved deal had eventually gone to Islamic militants in Libya. The deal, which involved European weapons sent to Qatar as well as US weapons originally supplied to the United Arab Emirates, had been managed from the sidelines by the Obama administration.

Syria: More than once, American arms intended to help bolster the fight against ISIS in Syria and northern Iraq have ended up in the group’s control. Last October, an airdrop of small arms was blown off target by the wind, according to the Guardian. ISIS quickly posted a video of its fighters going through crates of weapons attached to a parachute.

Iraq: American weapons supplied to the Iraqi army have also found their way ISIS via theft and capture. And weapons meant for the Iraqi army have also gone to Shiite militias backed by Iran. This isn’t a new problem: As much as 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces between 2004 and early 2007 could not be accounted for.

Afghanistan: It’s been widely documented that American forces invading Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 had to face off against weapons the United States had once supplied to mujahideen fighters battling the Soviets in the ’80s.

Somalia: In 2011, Wired reported that as much as half of the US-supplied arms given to Uganda and Burundi in support of the fight against al-Shabaab was winding up with the Somali militant group.

Stephen M. Walt commented on U.S. nuclear weapons policy,

I used to be dead wrong about U.S. nuclear weapons policy. After reading the early nuclear strategists and books like Alain C. Enthoven and K. Wayne Smith’s How Much Is Enough?, I assumed that the United States was firmly committed to a policy of nuclear deterrence via mutual assured destruction. But the work of Desmond Ball, David Alan Rosenberg, Robert Jervis, Fred Kaplan, Bruce Blair, and many others revolutionized my understanding of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. We now know that the United States was never content with mutual assured destruction and that the Pentagon has always devoted vast sums to developing counterforce capabilities and wanted to be able to fight and win a nuclear war if it had to. This is not to say that the United States wants or intends to ever fight a nuclear war, but it sought nuclear superiority over any and all rivals since the very beginning of the nuclear age and continues to pursue that goal today.

Gregory Kulacki argued that “while nuclear weapons continue to play a marginal role in Chinese military planning, perceived U.S. efforts to negate China’s nuclear deterrent are pushing the Chinese military to adjust its nuclear strategy in ways that appear to be destabilizing.”

The Science of Military Strategy reaffirms that nuclear weapons continue to play a very limited role in Chinese military strategy. Their sole purpose is to deter other nuclear-armed states from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China. In the words of the authors:

“As it has been for a long time, the objective of China’s development and utilization of nuclear weapons is concentrated on preventing enemy nations from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against us.” …

It states that:

1. China will not use nuclear weapons to attack or threaten non-nuclear states,

2. China will not use nuclear weapons to respond to conventional attacks; and

3. China will use nuclear weapons only after it has confirmed an incoming nuclear attack. …

As a consequence, the Chinese military identifies the United States as the most important factor in China’s nuclear security environment:

“The United States is making China its principal strategic opponent and is intensifying construction of a missile defense system in the East Asia region, creating increasingly serious effects on the reliability and effectiveness of a Chinese retaliatory nuclear attack.” …

While nuclear weapons continue to play a marginal role in Chinese military planning, perceived U.S. efforts to negate China’s nuclear deterrent are pushing the Chinese military to adjust its nuclear strategy in ways that appear to be destabilizing. The most alarming is a Chinese decision to rely on early warning technologies that increase the possibility of an accidental or erroneous Chinese launch of a nuclear missile in a crisis.

A new EU report “warns that Jerusalem has reached a dangerous boiling point of ‘polarisation and violence’ not seen since the end of the second intifada in 2005.” Ali Gharib commented on the recent election victory of Netanyahu,

The problem for American policy-makers, with the illusion of “shared values” shattered, is that they have spent decades enabling Israel’s pursuit of its worst instincts. The US subsidizes about a fifth of Israel’s defense budget—the largest American foreign aid package—to help the country defend itself as it pursues peace, not for it to hold the Occupied Territories in perpetuity and create, as many Israeli officials have put it, a de jure Apartheid state where half the people under its control get no vote. The United States gives Israel diplomatic cover in international fora to prevent the Jewish state from being unfairly targeted and maligned, not to avoid criticisms of a state deserving of censure. How can we keep graciously offering these benefits to Israel if it has so blatantly defied its own claims—and ours—of being a strong, if flawed, democracy? …

So not much is likely to happen. In a way, it makes perfect sense. Netanyahu’s remarks during the campaign didn’t totally re-order how any half-witted observer of Israeli politics views the Prime Minister. He’s been acting this way for years and has now, belatedly, added word to deed. If America wasn’t willing to face up to these realities before, why should it now? Israel’s ardent defenders will no doubt dismiss Netanyahu’s comments and call for keeping up the status quo. But at this moment another step has been taken for Americans coming to realize what the status quo is: a belligerent American client state willfully careening towards apartheid with our help, trying, along the way, to drag us into disastrous conflicts in the region. It’s a small step, but for the principled American liberals increasingly fed up with Israel, this march is slow and steady.

Van Kackson analysed the motivations behind Japan recent enhanced militarisation,

A number of Asia scholars (this author included) have observed that Asian states are neither balancing against nor bandwagoning with a rising China, but instead pursuing hedging strategies. The evidence is there, whether diversifying military ties in the region, building up military capacity without aiming it at anyone in particular, or simultaneously moving closer to the United States (on security issues) and China (on economic issues). …

But if hedging is as pervasive as many claim, it also implies that the most pessimistic expectations about Asia’s fate — that China is hell bent on expansionism or that the region is “ripe for rivalry” — are not necessarily accurate either, at least not according to the judgment of the region’s middle powers.

Lee Fang reported that the prospect of the Iran nuclear deal has got some investors worried about its impact on profits of the defense industry,

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.

Hewson replied that “that really isn’t coming up,” but stressed that “volatility all around the region” should continue to bring in new business. According to Hewson, “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in both the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region means both are “growth areas” for Lockheed Martin. …

DefenseOne reports that over the next five years, “Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan are expected to spend” more than $165 billion on arms. And in the U.S., concerns over ISIS and Iran have prompted calls for an increase in the defense budget.

Brunei’s defense spending has been reportedly slashed by over 25 percent for 2015 as the state’s revenue is projected to decline partly due to falling global oil prices.