Saturday, January 19, 2013
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Algeria Gas Field Attacked By Islamist Militants, 7 Americans Reportedly Among 41 Foreigners Held Hostage
ALGIERS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France's intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports.
The raiders were also reported to have killed three people, including a Briton and a French national.
An al Qaeda affiliated group said the raid had been carried out because of Algeria's decision to allow France to use its air space for attacks against Islamists in Mali, where French forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.
The attack in southern Algeria also raised fears that the French action in Mali could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets in Africa, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates across borders in the Sahara desert, and in Europe....
-bth: is this a surprise? al Qaeda is moving at will though North Africa.
Monday, January 14, 2013
mbattled Syrian President Bashar Assad has moved with his family and a select cadre of associates to a warship off Syria’s coast, where he is being guarded by Russian naval forces, a Saudi daily reported on Monday.
The Russian protection effectively amounts to political asylum for the Syrian president, unnamed intelligence sources told the Saudi daily al-Watan. Assad now travels by helicopter to mainland Syria for official meetings in his presidential palace in Damascus, having lost faith in his security detail, the report said....
Q: Are there really microwave missiles?
A: Yes. A three-year, US$40-million project to launch Boeing Phantom Works’ Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) became reality in the Utah desert last October. The missile — launched from an aircraft before flying over its target — sends out electromagnetic pulses that are designed to disable any electronics in a wide area — destroying an enemy’s computers and communications without killing enemy soldiers or civilians. In the October test, the missile fired microwaves at a two-storey building causing all the electronics and computers inside to go dark. Even the cameras monitoring the test were knocked out.
Q: Wow. Is this new technology?
A: It’s been around for a while.The microwave pulse — similar to an electromagnetic pulse — can damage electrical equipment rather like what happens after a nuclear bomb explodes. Pulses were first detected in the 1940s, and even expected by scientists during nuclear detonation tests.
Q: What’s been the reaction to the test?
A: Boeing CHAMP program manager Keith Coleman was elated. “Today we made science fiction science fact,” he said. “This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare.” Norman Friedman, a defence analyst and former deputy director of National Security Studies at the Hudson Institute, said, “It’s a very attractive idea. It’s a non-lethal weapon that could be extremely effective.”...
... Paris is determined to end Islamist domination of northern Mali, which many fear could act as a launchpad for attacks on the West and a base for coordination with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.
Launching a counter-attack far to the southwest of recent fighting, Islamists clashed with government forces on Monday inside the town of Diabaly, just 350 km (220 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.
Residents said the rebels had entered the town from the north overnight, approaching from the porous border region with Mauritania where al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM has camps.
"They have taken Diabaly ... after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television, adding that French and Malian forces were fighting to dislodge the rebels....
-bth: a consistent theme is the use of national borders by al Qaeda terrorists.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
... In other words, until one computes the domestic value added (DVA) present in the Chinese processing trade, the full significance of the role played by China in world trade can hardly be grasped. For example, the export of an iPod that is recorded in China’s trade statistics as having a value of $150 has actually gained an added value of only $4 after being processed in the Chinese manufacturing system. Its remaining value is simply the sum of the costs of the imported components. Moreover, a recent academic study reveals that, while the total manufacturing cost of an iPad is $275, the value added in China is only $10.
Since components for electronic products make up a significant quantity of the goods traded among Asian countries, the difference between the market value (final price) of China’s exported products and the value added by processing them in China has huge importance. Moreover, if trade statistics use the value-added criterion for calculating trade volumes, then some interesting numbers can be derived. For example, according to estimates by the weekly magazine The Economist, the use of the value-added method would significantly reduce the current account deficit incurred by the U.S. with China in 2011, from $300 billion to only $150 billion. In addition, a report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2010 stated that an appreciation of the renminbi would not necessarily lead to a reduction of the U.S. budget deficit, as it would make both Chinese imported goods and U.S. exported goods made with Chinese components more expensive. In essence, the U.S.-China trade imbalance is more due to multilateral then bilateral trade.
Finally, after delineating the value of the imported components, even in the period 2005 to 2006, over 80 percent of exports from China were still made up of labor-intensive goods, an indicator that showed that the rise of high-tech manufacturing would be a long process, and not a particularly obvious one....
.... More critically, China gained access to Burmese ports in the Bay of Bengal, which provided it with the ability to project power and establish a military foothold in the region. There are conflicting reports on Chinese activities on Great Coco Island, but some suggest the Chinese established a signals intelligence (SIGINT) station to monitor Indian naval activities and missile development. Whether this is the case or not, the military relationship with Myanmar was close enough for the Chinese to project influence in India’s backyard. Additionally, China has assisted in the development of a port at Kyaukpyu. This is significant, as the Chinese are developing an oil and natural gas pipeline directly to China. This pipeline would enable China to import oil from the Middle East while bypassing the Straits of Malacca. The Chinese have feared that the U.S. would block Chinese oil imports in a crisis by closing the straits, and this pipeline would safeguard against this. As the U.S. and Myanmar develop closer relations, these Chinese inroads into Myanmar are under threat, and the potential strategic losses for China are serious.
What the Chinese leaders will find more concerning is the potential invitation for Myanmar to participate in the Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand. Cobra Gold is the largest and oldest joint military exercise run by the U.S. in Asia. The 2013 exercise will include staunch U.S. allies in the region such as Thailand, Singapore, and Japan. For a Chinese government that fears encirclement by Washington, the inclusion of Myanmar in U.S.-run military drills and the notion of military to military ties with a former ally on a once-secure border are a troubling prospect. The Chinese are already concerned by existing U.S. defense ties with South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Australia, and the newly emerging ties with Vietnam and India; a military relationship between the U.S. and Myanmar would greatly upset Chinese leadership and military planners.
There are also numerous strategic benefits for the U.S. in growing closer to Myanmar. Primarily, the improvement in relations is an opportunity to separate Myanmar from its previous allies, North Korea and China. North Korea has provided arms to Myanmar for the past two decades, and there were concerns in the U.S. that these ties extended to nuclear weapons. As part of the normalizing of relations, the U.S. has requested that Myanmar cut military ties with North Korea. This is a condition that the Burmese leaders have agreed to in meetings with South Korean leaders. This will deprive North Korea of cash and further isolate their regime. By working to transform Myanmar from a military dictatorship dependent on China to an aspiring democracy with a more independent foreign policy, the U.S. will have experienced a net gain to the detriment of China.
America’s rapprochement with Myanmar is in its early stages. The reform efforts in Myanmar appear promising, and the developments since 2010 have set the stage for closer ties with Washington. The new American influence in Myanmar has already made one of China’s few allies in Asia into a less reliable friend. This change comes on the heels of China’s disputes with neighbors over the South China Sea and resistance from these countries to perceived Chinese high-handedness. These events demonstrate the success of the U.S. pivot over that of China’s attempts to be more assertive in the region; this provides Beijing with new headaches as the U.S. moves to become more involved in the Asia. Continued engagement with Myanmar could be a strategic coup for the U.S. For China, the transformation of a client state into a U.S. friend on its own border is a hindrance to its larger strategic objectives. It contributes to the Chinese sense of being strategically vulnerable and encircled. This forces China to devote more resources to its own borders at a time when it would like to be the dominant Asian power, and pursue its objectives in Central Asia and further into the South China Sea and Pacific basin. The Chinese have few good options to reverse this trend, and are watching the increased U.S. presence in the region warily. In the case of Myanmar, the American pivot to Asia is already yielding diplomatic and strategic benefits for Washington at the expense of China.
... In addition, Russia is fulfilling its obligations under the military contracts without revealing them. According to Jeremy Binnie, editor of Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor, Russia recently supplied to Syria missile launch system "Buk-M2" and "Pantsir-C1", equipped with radar systems. The author added that the C-300 also may have been delivered but are not yet operational. Thus, he was talking about the supply of modern air defense systems that are the main deterrent in Syria. The West won the wars in Yugoslavia and Libya by bombing from the air.
The Syrian air defense has a little over 900 launchers of anti-aircraft missiles, of which the vast majority are C-75 and C-125 units. The Syrian sky is protected by 48-200M launchers with a range of up to 200 kilometers. During deployment they are protected by 60 launchers SAM "Wasp" grouped into 14 batteries. The defense also has 60 plants SAM "Wasp" and about 4 thousand pieces of artillery. The country has a North and South defense zones controlled from three command centers fully equipped with computers, and the armed forces have 60 thousand people, Military News reported. This arsenal is twice as powerful as Gaddafi's.
Alexander Leonov, Major General and Chief of Defense Forces, said this week to the radio station Echo of Moscow that "air defense in Syria is a major force." "It is indicative that no one used an aviation group against it to this day," he added. If Syria does not repeat the sad story of Libya, where the rebels destroyed four air defense divisions and Gaddafi was afraid to use the fifth one, the West would not dare to start a full-scale war. The government will have enough courage to use its defense.
The only disadvantage of a powerful air defense of Assad's complex, according to military analysts, is poorly trained personnel working with sophisticated technology. Russia is providing help in this area as well. The Guardian on December 23 published an article entitled "Russian military presence in Syria poses challenge to US-led intervention."
According to confidential sources of the newspaper, Russian military advisers arrived in Syria, and will advise the Syrian troops on installation and implementation of new missiles "ground-to-air."
A senior fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Guy Ben-Ari, confirmed this information. The Guardian quoted him saying that Russia was not just selling equipment but also helped to create crews and train them.
The newspaper wrote that the depth and complexity of the Syrian air defense meant that any western campaign in support of a no-fly zone or in direct air strikes would be costly, time-consuming and risky. Possible Russian military losses in such a campaign could lead to unpredictable geopolitical consequences. It turns out that the West is afraid of Russia's possible involvement in the war. This is also a strong deterrent, and the West knows that Putin could respond adequately.
The author of the article further pondered whether the potential aggressor had sufficient forces and means to bring the war to victory. It turns out that the "Syrian campaign" would require stocks of precision weapons (missiles) that have been used in military operations in Libya. It would also require airplanes "Stealth" that track signals, satellite images and aerial reconnaissance. The U.S. is the only country that has all of the above, so this time, Washington cannot "play the role of an observer," as it was in Libya. Additionally, the West simply cannot afford a new full-scale war.
All this, Lavrov said, "does not incite the West's appetite" for an attack on Syria. In addition, Obama replaced the "hawks" with the people prone to compromise. State Department will be headed by a 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran John Kerry, and the CIA Director David Petraeus, one the most powerful advocates of intervention in Syria has left the organization. Reliable Syrian air defense in conjunction with military support from Moscow and the fragmented nature of the opposition and the global economic crisis explain why a Western intervention predicted by nearly all world's analysts a year ago has not taken place. It seems that it will not take place, despite the provocation of some media, sponsored by the American military industrial complex.
-bth: so the gist of this Pravda article is that Russia has thrown its support behind Assad via its air defenses and may even be manning it. Siince Russia thinks the US is the only country strong enough to crack those air defenses and the US is stacking its cabinet with those uninclined to get involved in the Syrian war, then as a result Assad will hold his power.