AGORA

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saab Adds Capabilities In New Recoilless Rifle

 | Aviation Week & Space Technology - Defense Technology Edition

Saab Dynamics’ new M4 recoilless rifle  is compact, lightweight, and fires programmable rounds.
Saab Dynamics



Saab Dynamics used its first ground combat systems demonstration day here to show the newest iteration of the Carl-Gustaf M4 recoilless rifle, a man-portable, multirole weapon system. Also on display at the event last month were new rounds for the 84-mm weapon and its sister system, the disposable, shoulder-launched AT4 anti-armor weapon. 
The M4 is the latest in a family of 84-mm recoilless weapons from Saab that dates to 1948. The M4 will be on display at the Association of the U.S. Army show in Washington, Oct. 13-15. 
The M4, which is finishing qualification trials and should be available for sale in 2015, has major product improvements over the M3 version. At 6.6 kg (14.5 lb.) for the basic system (without advanced sights), the M4 is 3.4-kg lighter. 
It is also shorter than the M3—950 mm (37.4 in.), as opposed to 1,065 mm. Peter Hellekant, who provides technical support for the Carl-Gustaf program, explains that the shorter length was partly driven by the need for a weapon that is easier to wield in urban areas.
The weight saving was achieved by analyzing each component of the weapon and using lighter-weight parts where possible. A titanium tube liner, for example, saves 1.1 kg; the carbon fiber tube saves 0.8 kg; and a new venturi design saves 0.9 kg. Ongoing developments in materials aided in the lightweight design, and this process is likely to continue. 
New options have also been added. A red-spot sight is one addition to the firing capabilities. There is also a travel safety catch, which allows the Carl-Gustaf to be carried loaded, thus saving time in firing the weapon. A shot counter lets armorers know how many rounds have been fired, to better manage the weapon’s 1,000-round barrel life. There is a remote round management function, so intelligent sights can “talk” to programmable rounds in the barrel and create greater targeting accuracy. And Picatinny rails for grips and sight mounts permit options for better operator ergonomics, as well as a wide range of sighting systems. 
There have, as well, been improvements to ammunition for the AT4 and the Carl-Gustaf. At the firing demonstration, both the new AT4 high-explosive round and extended-range HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank) round were on display. The former has a 1,000-meter (3,281-ft.) range and a lethal blast area of 400 sq. meters (4,300 sq. ft.); the latter has a 600-meter range and enhanced armor penetration. For the Carl-Gustaf, the 655CS round was displayed, which reportedly achieves more than 500 mm of armor penetration, although with confined space-firing options. 
These follow developments of the last few years that have seen customers ask for rounds capable of tackling the mud walls of Afghan compounds, either to deal with enemy troops taking cover behind them, or to make entrance holes. Saab Dynamics executives note that European forces are showing a renewed interest in anti-armor capabilities.
Increasingly, rounds for both the AT4 and Carl-Gustaf are being made confined-space-capable. And work is underway to ensure that future rounds will be compliant with insensitive munitions directives. 
Saab Dynamics demonstrated the future direction of the Carl-Gustaf and AT4 with a concept project, the Ultra-Light Missile (ULM). At this stage, two years into development, areas where elements are being refined include the handling and storage systems, which are planned to be as similar as possible to the current Carl-Gustaf version. Packaging for the ULM uses the tube that packs the simulator system. The ULM’s range is about 1,500-2,000 meters. Apart from these areas, most options—including warhead and guidance—are very much open.
“You could have an anti-armor role,” says Johan Ekroot of Saab Dynamics, about the ULM. “But it is easier to see a system that has greater range, greater accuracy and lower collateral damage possibilities. You can see this as useful for countering, say, snipers at range.” 

Although work so far has focused on the Carl-Gustaf, as with so many areas of development at Saab, there are options to adapt such technologies to future versions of the AT4. Increasingly, the company sees the two products as complementary, rather than rivals, although as several executives admit, this has not always been the case. 
Read more at: http://aviationweek.com/defense/

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk

In June 1919, aboard an Allied warship en route to Paris, sat Damat Ferid Pasha, the Grand Vizier of a crumbling Ottoman Empire. The elderly statesman, donning an iconic red fez and boasting an impeccably groomed mustache, held in his hands a memorandum that he was to present to the Allied powers at the Quai d'Orsay. The negotiations on postwar reparations started five months earlier, but the Ottoman delegation was prepared to make the most of its tardy invitation to the talks. As he journeyed across the Mediterranean that summer toward the French shore, Damat Ferid mentally rehearsed the list of demands he would make to the Allied powers during his last-ditch effort to hold the empire together.

He began with a message, not of reproach, but of inculpability: "Gentlemen, I should not be bold enough to come before this High Assembly if I thought that the Ottoman people had incurred any responsibility in the war that has ravaged Europe and Asia with fire and sword." His speech was followed by an even more defiant memorandum, denouncing any attempt to redistribute Ottoman land to the Kurds, Greeks and Armenians, asserting: "In Asia, the Turkish lands are bounded on the south by the provinces of Mosul and Diyarbakir, as well as a part of Aleppo as far as the Mediterranean." When Damat Ferid's demands were presented in Paris, the Allies were in awe of the gall displayed by the Ottoman delegation. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George regarded the presentation as a "good joke," while U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said he had never seen anything more "stupid." They flatly rejected Damat Ferid's apparently misguided appeal -- declaring that the Turks were unfit to rule over other races, regardless of their common Muslim identity -- and told him and his delegation to leave. The Western powers then proceeded, through their own bickering, to divide the post-Ottoman spoils.


Under far different circumstances today, Ankara is again boldly appealing to the West to follow its lead in shaping policy in Turkey's volatile Muslim backyard. And again, Western powers are looking at Turkey with incredulity, waiting for Ankara to assume responsibility for the region by tackling the immediate threat of the Islamic State with whatever resources necessary, rather than pursuing a seemingly reckless strategy of toppling the Syrian government. Turkey's behavior can be perplexing and frustrating to Western leaders, but the country's combination of reticence in action and audacity in rhetoric can be traced back to many of the same issues that confronted Istanbul in 1919, beginning with the struggle over the territory of Mosul.

The Turkish Fight for Mosul

Under the Ottoman Empire, the Mosul vilayet stretched from Zakho in southeastern Anatolia down along the Tigris River through Dohuk, Arbil, Alqosh, Kirkuk, Tuz Khormato and Sulaimaniyah before butting up against the western slopes of the Zagros Mountains, which shape the border with Iran. This stretch of land, bridging the dry Arab steppes and the fertile mountain valleys in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been a locus of violence long before the Islamic State arrived. The area has been home to an evolving mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyro-Chaldeans and Jews, while Turkish and Persian factions and the occasional Western power, whether operating under a flag or a corporate logo, continue to work in vain to eke out a demographic makeup that suits their interests.


At the time of the British negotiation with the Ottomans over the fate of the Mosul region, British officers touring the area wrote extensively about the ubiquity of the Turkish language, noting that "Turkish is spoken all along the high road in all localities of any importance." This fact formed part of Turkey's argument that the land should remain under Turkish sovereignty. Even after the 1923 signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, in which Turkey renounced its rights to Ottoman lands, the Turkish government still held out a claim to the Mosul region, fearful that the Brits would use Kurdish separatism to further weaken the Turkish state. Invoking the popular Wilsonian principle of self-determination, the Turkish government asserted to the League of Nations that most of the Kurds and Arabs inhabiting the area preferred to be part of Turkey anyway. The British countered by asserting that their interviews with locals revealed a prevailing preference to become part of the new British-ruled Kingdom of Iraq.

The Turks, in no shape to bargain with London and mired in a deep internal debate over whether Turkey should forego these lands and focus instead on the benefits of a downsized republic, lost the argument and were forced to renounce their claims to the Mosul territory in 1925. As far as the Brits and the French were concerned, the largely Kurdish territory would serve as a vital buffer space to prevent the Turks from eventually extending their reach from Asia Minor to territories in Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia. But the fear of Turkish expansion was not the only factor informing the European strategy to keep northern Iraq out of Turkish hands.

The Oil Factor

Since the days of Herodotus and Nebuchadnezzar, there have been stories of eternal flames arising from the earth of Baba Gurgur near the town of Kirkuk. German explorer and cartographer Carsten Niebuhr wrote in the 18th century: "A place called Baba Gurgur is above all remarkable because the earth is so hot that eggs and meat can be boiled here." The flames were in fact produced by the natural gas and naphtha seeping through cracks in the rocks, betraying the vast quantities of crude oil lying beneath the surface. London wasted little time in calling on geologists from Venezuela, Mexico, Romania and Indochina to study the land and recommend sites for drilling. On Oct. 14, 1927, the fate of Kirkuk was sealed: A gusher rising 43 meters (around 140 feet) erupted from the earth, dousing the surrounding land with some 95,000 barrels of crude oil for 10 days before the well could be capped. With oil now part of the equation, the political situation in Kirkuk became all the more flammable.

The British mostly imported Sunni Arab tribesmen to work the oil fields, gradually reducing the Kurdish majority and weakening the influence of the Turkmen minority in the area. The Arabization project was given new energy when the Arab Baath Socialist Party came to power through a military coup in 1968. Arabic names were given to businesses, neighborhoods, schools and streets, while laws were adjusted to pressure Kurds to leave Kirkuk and transfer ownership of their homes and lands to Arabs. Eviction tactics turned ghastly in 1988 under Saddam Hussein's Anfal campaign, during which chemical weapons were employed against the Kurdish population. The Iraqi government continued with heavy-handed tactics to Arabize the territory until the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003. Naturally, revenge was a primary goal as Kurdish factions worked quickly to repopulate the region with Kurds and drive the Arabs out.
Even as Kirkuk, its oil-rich fields and a belt of disputed territories stretching between Diyala and Nineveh provinces have remained officially under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, the Kurdish leadership has sought to redraw the boundaries of Iraqi Kurdistan. After the Iraqi Kurdish region gained de facto autonomy with the creation of a no-fly zone in 1991 and then formally coalesced into the Kurdistan Regional Government after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kurdish influence gradually expanded in the disputed areas. Kurdish representation increased through multi-ethnic political councils, facilitated by the security protection these communities received from the Kurdish peshmerga and by the promise of energy revenues, while Baghdad remained mired in its own problems. Formally annexing Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh and Diyala, part of the larger Kurdish strategy, would come in due time. Indeed, the expectation that legalities of the annexation process would soon be completed convinced a handful of foreign energy firms to sign contracts with the Kurdish authorities -- as opposed to Baghdad -- enabling the disputed territories to finally begin realizing the region's energy potential.

Then the unexpected happened: In June, the collapse of the Iraqi army in the north under the duress of the Islamic State left the Kirkuk fields wide open, allowing the Kurdish peshmerga to finally and fully occupy them. Though the Kurds now sit nervously on the prize, Baghdad, Iran, local Arabs and Turkmen and the Islamic State are eyeing these fields with a predatory gaze. At the same time, a motley force of Iran-backed Shiite militias, Kurdish militants and Sunni tribesmen are trying to flush the Islamic State out of the region in order to return to settling the question of where to draw the line on Kurdish autonomy. The Sunnis will undoubtedly demand a stake in the oil fields that the Kurds now control as repayment for turning on the Islamic State, guaranteeing a Kurdish-Sunni confrontation that Baghdad will surely exploit.

The Turkish Dilemma

The modern Turkish government is looking at Iraq and Syria in a way similar to how Damat Ferid did almost a century ago when he sought in Paris to maintain Turkish sovereignty over the region. From Ankara's point of view, the extension of a Turkish sphere of influence into neighboring Muslim lands is the antidote to weakening Iraqi and Syrian states. Even if Turkey no longer has direct control over these lands, it hopes to at least indirectly re-establish its will through select partners, whether a group of moderate Islamist forces in Syria or, in northern Iraq, a combination of Turkmen and Sunni factions, along with a Kurdish faction such as Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party. The United States may currently be focused on the Islamic State, but Turkey is looking years ahead at the mess that will likely remain. This is why Turkey is placing conditions on its involvement in the battle against the Islamic State: It is trying to convince the United States and its Sunni Arab coalition partners that it will inevitably be the power administering this region. Therefore, according to Ankara, all players must conform to its priorities, beginning with replacing Syria's Iran-backed Alawite government with a Sunni administration that will look first to Ankara for guidance.
However, the Turkish vision of the region simply does not fit the current reality and is earning Ankara more rebuke than respect from its neighbors and the West. The Kurds, in particular, will continue to form the Achilles' heel of Turkish policymaking.

In Syria, where the Islamic State is closing in on the city of Kobani on Turkey's border, Ankara is faced with the unsavory possibility that it will be drawn into a ground fight with a well-equipped insurgent force. Moreover, Turkey would be fighting on the same side as a variety of Kurdish separatists, including members of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Ankara has every interest in neutralizing.

Turkey faces the same dilemma in Iraq, where it may unwittingly back Kurdish separatists in its fight against the Islamic State. Just as critical, Turkey cannot be comfortable with the idea that Kirkuk is in the hands of the Iraqi Kurds unless Ankara is assured exclusive rights over that energy and the ability to extinguish any oil-fueled ambitions of Kurdish independence. But Turkey has competition. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is not willing to make itself beholden to Turkey, as did Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, while financial pressures continue to climb. Instead, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is staying close to Iran and showing a preference to work with Baghdad. Meanwhile, local Arab and Turkmen resistance to Kurdish rule is rising, a factor that Baghdad and Iran will surely exploit as they work to dilute Kurdish authority by courting local officials in Kirkuk and Nineveh with promises of energy rights and autonomy.

This is the crowded battleground that Turkey knows well. A long and elaborate game of "keep away" will be played to prevent the Kurds from consolidating control over oil-rich territory in the Kurdish-Arab borderland, while the competition between Turkey and Iran will emerge into full view. For Turkey to compete effectively in this space, it will need to come to terms with the reality that Ankara will not defy its history by resolving the Kurdish conundrum, nor will it be able to hide within its borders and avoid foreign entanglements. 

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Reva Bhalla, vice president of Global Analysis.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stunning image of two Russian T-50 stealth planes during weapon integration tests



T-50 053 and 054 take off with external weapons during a test flight

On May 20, Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA – Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii—Future Tactical Air System) program entered a new phase with the external weapons integration tests.
Two aircraft are involved in the testing campaign with external stores: “053″ and “054″.
Noteworhty, the two prototypes of Russia’s 5th generation stealth fighter plane, still wearing the standard color scheme and not the brand new “shark” camouflage, carried: R-73 short range air-to-air missile and R-77 medium range, air-to-air, active radar-guided missile system (T-50 “053″); KH-31 antiship missile and R-77 air-to-air missile (“054″).


India's Air Force Modernization Worries Rival Pakistan

By Dan Parsons



India’s ambitious military modernization program to upgrade its Cold War-era vehicles and equipment is viewed as saber rattling by its neighbor and perpetual adversary Pakistan, a scholar of the region said June 3.
 
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, program coordinator of the Centre for Strategic Studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said India is modernizing its air force with newer, more-capable jets but not downsizing its ranks, according to its newly purchased capabilities. 
 
The country is on the cusp of a $20 billion deal to purchase nearly 130 Dassault Rafale fighter jets that could be signed within three months, according to media reports. At 1,500 aircraft, the fleet would be 30 percent bigger than its Pakistani counterpart. 
 
“Even though the air force is buying more expensive things, it should be downsizing in numbers like every Western air force has done, because you can do more things with fewer planes,” he said. “This is not happening.”
 
“Pakistan has been, traditionally, the quality air force and India has been the numerically superior air force,” he added. “So now, what you see is India is basically disrupting the balance. It is becoming supposedly qualitatively better and quantitatively better and that is scaring the living daylights out of the Pakistanis.”
 
The Indian air force also has purchased the Dassault Mirage single-engine multi-role aircraft that replaced a portion of its fleet of British-built Jaguar fighters and plans to soon finalize the purchase of more than 100 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters. Both the Mirage and Rafale are upgrades from the Soviet-era MiG-21s, MiG-29s and Sukhoi aircraft the service also has in its inventory.
 
“With the Jaguar, we had a very organic game plan,” he said. “We planned that purchase. We got it. It was upgraded about four times in its service progressively with more accurate weapons. … But it never got a proper electronic warfare system. 
 
After the Indian air force began flying the Jaguar in 1982,  Pakistan bought a fleet of superior General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons from the United States. 
 
“Our purchase of the Mirage 2000 was something of a panic reaction,” Iyer-Mitra said. “Its only aim was to defeat the F-16 because we never expected something that advanced to be introduced into South Asia that quickly.”
 
The Mirage was meant to fly into Pakistani territory to fight that country’s air force over its own soil, he said. The small, more agile MiG 29 — purchased from Soviet Russia around the same time — was meant for dog fighting incoming Pakistani jets over Indian soil.
 
The Mirage was not upgraded until after the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999. In that three-month conflict, the jets outperformed both the MiG and Jaguar, pushing India to upgrade and expand its Mirage fleet. But the modernization effort devolved into an arms race based on numbers rather than capability, Iyer-Mitra said.  
 
“This is where things start falling apart, because this again degenerates into a numbers game,” he said. “It’s no longer about effects. It’s not about capability. It’s purely about ‘Western technology is superior and we need it.’”
 
The Indian air force and civilian leadership were unclear on what capabilities they desired and could afford, he said. Aircraft manufacturers likewise described the available technologies poorly, which resulted in a request for proposals from the Indian Defense Ministry for a medium-size, multi-role combat aircraft that rolled all of the service’s aircraft requirements into one — a single aircraft that could replace all of its various Soviet-built jets. 
 
U.S., Russian and European aircraft manufacturers made bids and India ultimately settled on the French Rafale in January 2012. 
 
Iyer-Mitra, also a visiting research scholar at the cooperative monitoring center at Sandia National Laboratories, said the aviation arms race is alarming because air power is deployed in the region only in high-end conflicts. Because India shares borders with rivals China and Pakistan, ground forces rather than air strikes are typically employed to settle territorial disputes, he said. 
 
“In the West … you tend to view technology, specifically air power, as something that localizes effects to a certain area with minimal collateral damage,” he said. 
 
The U.S. “escalation chain” begins with drone strikes, cruise missiles, manned aircraft and ends with boots on the ground as the most extreme offensive option,” he said. 
 
“In India, it is really quite different because air power … is perceived to be extremely destructive, disruptive and it’s not quite as precise,” Iyer-Mitra said. “What you have is this convention in India that you don’t use air power in internal conflicts in spite of the fact that … boots on the ground can be extremely destructive to the environment around it.”
 
“There is a much more ominous aspect to this because ground forces are our only real means of escalation,” he added. “If you send a division into Pakistan, you know the fighting is going to be localized around the periphery of that division, whereas if you go in for an air strike … [India has] absolutely no way of predicting what the Pakistanis are going to do. Is the response going to be to that one plane … or are they going to come back?” 
 
In the event of a territorial or regional conflict, the Indian air force will not be able to give the country’s political leadership viable options for controlling escalation, he said. 

Photo: Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 (Credit: Wiki photos)

SOURCE: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/

Egypt buys four Gowind corvettes

by  in Ares

Egypt has signed a €1bn contract with French naval systems group DCNS to buy four Gowind 2,400 ton corvettes with an option for two more, a reliable source has confirmed to Ares. Three of the corvettes will be built locally by a shipyard in Alexandria. It was apparently the newly elected Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, a former defense minister, who decided these were the ships he wanted rather than the Meko A200 being offered by German group ThyssenKrup Marine Systems (TKMS) or the Sigma corvette proposed by Damen of the Netherlands.
Uruguay is another serious contender for the Gowind. It is believed to be seriously interested in procuring three of the smallest Gowinds, the Offshort Patrol Vessel (OPV) variant, including the 87-meter long, 1,000-ton Adroit which was designed and built in 2008 on its own funds by DCNS. It has been on loan to the French Navy for the past three years, but will be handed back to DCNS later this year.
In a rearrangement of its catalogue of products, however, DCNS has decided to remove the OPV from the Gowind class and develop the OPVs as a class of their own with the Adroit top of the range. To do so it formed the Kership joint venture with the Piriou shipyard in Concarneau, Brittany in May 2013 to build and market lightly armed and armoured OPVs for customs, fishing and other home security missions. DCNS said this would enable it to concentrate on "developing relations" with clients seeking, heavily armed and armoured warships while Kership handles the more civilian-standard OPVs.
The OPV Adroit. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Too optimistic? Israel’s and Palestine’s gas and oil

Obstacles still block the flow of oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean
ARE governments of the Levant fooling their people with false promises of an offshore gas bonanza? From the proceeds, Lebanon hopes to fund a bullet train that will end Beirut’s traffic snarl-ups. Across the water, the Cypriot government has equally grandiose plans. By 2020 a vast new complex in Vasilikos, on Cyprus’s southern coast, is supposed to start shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe and even Asia, salvaging the country’s finances. Gas reserves, say Cypriot optimists, amount to 96 trillion cubic feet.
Yet most oil analysts say this is all wildly over the top. Even Israel, whose development of offshore gas is most advanced, is unlikely, they reckon, to start exporting large amounts by 2020, as it hopes.
The sceptics say that the main brake is a lack of regional co-operation rather than a shortage of oil and gas. The Americans’ official Geological Survey estimates that from Gaza’s coast to southern Turkey the eastern Mediterranean holds 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, comparable to the reserves of Iraq. But Lebanon’s caretaker government lacks the authority to pass the legislation needed to persuade foreign oil companies to start drilling; a heralded auction is again likely to be delayed. America’s effort to mediate over a disputed maritime boundary between Lebanon and Israel is stalling progress. The civil war in Syria is scaring away big oil companies. And drilling off the Lebanese coast has yet to begin.
It has done so off Cyprus, but estimates of the amount of gas and oil to be found there have been inflated, too. Delek Drilling and Avner Oil, two Israeli firms involved in exploration, say that Aphrodite, Cyprus’s only proven gasfield, has reserves of just 4.1 trillion cubic feet—barely enough to meet long-term local demand.
Oil companies, including Italy’s Eni and France’s Total, may find more gas there. If not, Cyprus’s LNG venture will depend on getting it from elsewhere, perhaps from Israel’s Leviathan field. In any case, Turkey and Cyprus both claim some of the same stretches of water. The Israelis, for their part, have prevented the Palestinians from developing Gaza Marine, a field off the coast of Gaza where BG (formerly British Gas) found gas a decade ago.
Israel, alone, is romping along. It has verified finds of 35 trillion cubic feet, though the recoverable figure may be lower. Noble, an American company that has so far dominated Israel’s production, says that gas from its Tamar field, which began flowing this year, already supplies 45% of the country’s electricity. But development of the much larger Leviathan field, farther west, is slow. Fearing an outcry over the sale of public assets, Israeli ministers have delayed the timetable.
There are other obstacles. Asian buyers, who tend to pay the highest prices, are reluctant for security reasons to ship Israeli gas through the Suez Canal. Turkey, whose energy needs are soaring, might have been an attractive export market for Israel. Construction of a pipeline on the seabed between Turkey and Israel could prove more profitable than an LNG plant, because upfront costs are lower and Turkish gas prices quite high, says Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy, an advisory firm in Dubai. But such a pipeline might have to pass through officially recognised Greek Cyprus and the Turkish-ruled north of the island, so an agreement with both would be needed. That will be tricky. An alternative route, under Syrian and Lebanese waters, would be trickier still.
In any case, Israel is loth to strike an export deal with Turkey at a time when that country’s foreign policy has become unpredictable and its prickly prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could turn off the tap whenever he feels piqued. An Israel-Cyprus deal could make matters worse. Egypt’s decision to discard a Mubarak-era agreement to supply 40% of Israel’s gas serves as a warning against doing business amid unresolved conflicts. “Without peace with the Palestinians, we can’t sell our gas to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and—who knows?—maybe even to the Europeans,” says an Israeli former energy minister, Josef Paritzky.
Tangled in red tape and regional disputes, even oil companies in Israel may flag. Woodside Petroleum, an Australian firm with LNG expertise, is still pondering an ambitious plan to build a floating LNG platform. Noble lacks the capacity to go it alone. Few developers will invest without secure long-term contracts. And buyers in Asia, the best market, are banking on getting an alternative deluge of gas from new finds in the United States. Without exports, regional prospects are less sunny. Ploughing billions of dollars into platforms, rigs, offshore pipelines or costly LNG plants is feasible only if drillers are confident of shipping gas to foreign markets.
For the moment, Noble’s investors say they will be happy with smaller pickings. Israel’s government may have underestimated its own country’s demand for natural gas. Its fast-growing population may need more of it as its economy shifts to gas, for instance to power buses. Jordan, though a smaller market, yearns for a more reliable supplier than turbulent Egypt, and could easily be connected to Israel’s system. Noble has already discussed supplying a Jordanian industrial zone near the Sea of Galilee and the potash plant on the Dead Sea. A short pipeline linking the two countries may be online by 2016. Earlier this month the Leviathan partners signed a deal to supply a Palestinians power station in the West Bank city of Jenin with gas from their field.
Egypt, which until 2012 supplied Israel, might also buy Israel’s gas as demand surges. The idle pipeline that used to pump gas from Egypt to Israel through the Sinai peninsula could be used in reverse, were the local Bedouin to resist the temptation to sabotage it yet again. An undersea pipeline to Egypt’s Nile Delta might offer a safer route. Both routes might one day offer links to LNG plants. Jordan is planning a terminal for LNG at Aqaba, its Red Sea port. British diplomats have also been promoting a plan to link Noble’s fields off Israel’s shore to the LNG plants run by two British companies, BG and BP, at Damietta, on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.
But even these plans may not come to fruition fast. Mr Netanyahu has yet to endorse a second pipeline to northern Israel, which Noble must build if Israel’s domestic needs are to be met. “Without the pipeline,” says an Israeli close to Noble, “Leviathan will not go ahead.”
Source: http://www.economist.com/

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy

Editor's Note: The following Geopolitical Weekly originally ran in January 2013. We repost it as recent turmoil in North Korea returns it to the spotlight.
By George Friedman
North Korea's state-run media reported Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the country's top security officials to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," which has been widely interpreted to mean that North Korea is planning its third nuclear test. Kim said the orders were retaliation for the U.S.-led push to tighten U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang following North Korea's missile test in October. A few days before Kim's statement emerged, the North Koreans said future tests would target the United States, which North Korea regards as its key adversary along with Washington's tool, South Korea.
North Korea has been using the threat of tests and the tests themselves as weapons against its neighbors and the United States for years. On the surface, threatening to test weapons does not appear particularly sensible. If the test fails, you look weak. If it succeeds, you look dangerous without actually having a deliverable weapon. And the closer you come to having a weapon, the more likely someone is to attack you so you don't succeed in actually getting one. Developing a weapon in absolute secret would seem to make more sense. When the weapon is ready, you display it, and you have something solid to threaten enemies with.
North Korea, of course, has been doing this for years and doing it successfully, so what appears absurd on the surface quite obviously isn't. On the contrary, it has proved to be a very effective maneuver. North Korea is estimated to have a gross domestic product of about $28 billion, about the same as Latvia or Turkmenistan. Yet it has maneuvered itself into a situation where the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea have sat down with it at the negotiating table in a bid to persuade it not to build weapons. Sometimes, the great powers give North Korea money and food to persuade it not to develop weapons. It sometimes agrees to a halt, but then resumes its nuclear activities. It never completes a weapon, but it frequently threatens to test one. And when it carries out such tests, it claims its tests are directed at the United States and South Korea, as if the test itself were a threat.
There is brilliance in North Korea's strategy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea was left in dire economic straits. There were reasonable expectations that its government would soon collapse, leading to the unification of the Korean Peninsula. Naturally, the goal of the North Korean government was regime survival, so it was terrified that outside powers would invade or support an uprising against it. It needed a strategy that would dissuade anyone from trying that. Being weak in every sense, this wasn't going to be easy, but the North Koreans developed a strategy that we described more than 10 years ago as ferocious, weak and crazy. North Korea has pursued this course since the 1990s, and the latest manifestation of this strategy was on display last week. The strategy has worked marvelously and is still working.

A Three-Part Strategy

First, the North Koreans positioned themselves as ferocious by appearing to have, or to be on the verge of having, devastating power. Second, they positioned themselves as being weak such that no matter how ferocious they are, there would be no point in pushing them because they are going to collapse anyway. And third, they positioned themselves as crazy, meaning pushing them would be dangerous since they were liable to engage in the greatest risks imaginable at the slightest provocation.
In the beginning, Pyongyang's ability to appear ferocious was limited to the North Korean army's power to shell Seoul. It had massed artillery along the border and could theoretically devastate the southern capital, assuming the North had enough ammunition, its artillery worked and air power didn't lay waste to its massed artillery. The point was not that it was going to level Seoul but that it had the ability to do so. There were benefits to outsiders in destabilizing the northern regime, but Pyongyang's ferocity -- uncertain though its capabilities were -- was enough to dissuade South Korea and its allies from trying to undermine the regime. Its later move to develop missiles and nuclear weapons followed from the strategy of ferocity -- since nothing was worth a nuclear war, enraging the regime by trying to undermine it wasn't worth the risk.
Many nations have tried to play the ferocity game, but the North Koreans added a brilliant and subtle twist to it: being weak. The North Koreans advertised the weakness of their economy, particularly its food insecurity, by various means. This was not done overtly, but by allowing glimpses of its weakness. Given the weakness of its economy and the difficulty of life in North Korea, there was no need to risk trying to undermine the North. It would collapse from its own defects.
This was a double inoculation. The North Koreans' ferocity with weapons whose effectiveness might be questionable, but still pose an unquantifiable threat, caused its enemies to tread carefully. Why risk unleashing its ferocity when its weakness would bring it down? Indeed, a constant debate among Western analysts over the North's power versus its weakness combines to paralyze policymakers.
The North Koreans added a third layer to perfect all of this. They portrayed themselves as crazy, working to appear unpredictable, given to extravagant threats and seeming to welcome a war. Sometimes, they reaffirmed they were crazy via steps like sinking South Korean ships for no apparent reason. As in poker, so with the North: You can play against many sorts of players, from those who truly understand the odds to those who are just playing for fun, but never, ever play poker against a nut. He is totally unpredictable, can't be gamed, and if you play with his head you don't know what will happen.  
So long as the North Koreans remained ferocious, weak and crazy, the best thing to do was not irritate them too much and not to worry what kind of government they had. But being weak and crazy was the easy part for the North; maintaining its appearance of ferocity was more challenging. Not only did the North Koreans have to keep increasing their ferocity, they had to avoid increasing it so much that it overpowered the deterrent effect of their weakness and craziness.  

A Cautious Nuclear Program

Hence, we have North Korea's eternal nuclear program. It never quite produces a weapon, but no one can be sure whether a weapon might be produced. Due to widespread perceptions that the North Koreans are crazy, it is widely believed they might rush to complete their weapon and go to war at the slightest provocation. The result is the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea holding meetings with North Korea to try to persuade it not to do something crazy.
Interestingly, North Korea never does anything significant and dangerous, or at least not dangerous enough to break the pattern. Since the Korean War, North Korea has carefully calculated its actions, timing them to avoid any move that could force a major reaction. We see this caution built into its nuclear program. After more than a decade of very public ferocity, the North Koreans have not come close to a deliverable weapon. But since if you upset them, they just might, the best bet has been to tread lightly and see if you can gently persuade them not to do something insane.
The North's positioning is superb: Minimal risky action sufficient to lend credibility to its ferocity and craziness plus endless rhetorical threats maneuvers North Korea into being a major global threat in the eyes of the great powers. Having won themselves this position, the North Koreans are not about to risk it, even if a 20-something leader is hurling threats.

The China Angle and the Iranian Pupil

There is, however, a somewhat more interesting dimension emerging. Over the years, the United States, Japan and South Korea have looked to the Chinese to intercede and persuade the North Koreans not to do anything rash. This diplomatic pattern has established itself so firmly that we wonder what the actual Chinese role is in all this. China is currently engaged in territorial disputes with U.S. allies in the South and East China seas. Whether anyone would or could go to war over islands in these waters is dubious, but the situation is still worth noting.
The Chinese and the Japanese have been particularly hostile toward one another in recent weeks in terms of rhetoric and moving their ships around. A crisis in North Korea, particularly one in which the North tested a nuclear weapon, would inevitably initiate the diplomatic dance whereby the Americans and Japanese ask the Chinese to intercede with the North Koreans. The Chinese would oblige. This is not a great effort for them, since having detonated a nuclear device, the North isn't interested in doing much more. In fact, Pyongyang will be drawing on the test's proverbial fallout for some time. The Chinese are calling in no chits with the North Koreans, and the Americans and Japanese -- terribly afraid of what the ferocious, weak, crazy North Koreans will do next -- will be grateful to China for defusing the "crisis." And who could be so churlish as to raise issues on trade or minor islands when China has used its power to force North Korea to step down?
It is impossible for us to know what the Chinese are thinking, and we have no overt basis for assuming the Chinese and North Koreans are collaborating, but we do note that China has taken an increasing interest in stabilizing North Korea. For its part, North Korea has tended to stage these crises -- and their subsequent Chinese interventions -- at quite useful times for Beijing.
It should also be noted that other countries have learned the ferocious, weak, crazy maneuver from North Korea. Iran is the best pupil. It has convincingly portrayed itself as ferocious via its nuclear program, endlessly and quite publicly pursuing its program without ever quite succeeding. It is also persistently seen as weak, perpetually facing economic crises and wrathful mobs of iPod-wielding youths. Whether Iran can play the weakness card as skillfully as North Korea remains unclear -- Iran just doesn't have the famines North Korea has.
Additionally, Iran's rhetoric at times can certainly be considered crazy: Tehran has carefully cultivated perceptions that it would wage nuclear war even if this meant the death of all Iranians. Like North Korea, Iran also has managed to retain its form of government and its national sovereignty. Endless predictions of the fall of the Islamic republic to a rising generation have proved false.
I do not mean to appear to be criticizing the "ferocious, weak and crazy" strategy. When you are playing a weak hand, such a strategy can yield demonstrable benefits. It preserves regimes, centers one as a major international player and can wring concessions out of major powers. It can be pushed too far, however, when the fear of ferocity and craziness undermines the solace your opponents find in your weakness.
Diplomacy is the art of nations achieving their ends without resorting to war. It is particularly important for small, isolated nations to survive without going to war. As in many things, the paradox of appearing willing to go to war in spite of all rational calculations can be the foundation for avoiding war. It is a sound strategy, and for North Korea and Iran, for the time being at least, it has worked.

Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Sultanate Warns Fresh Conflict in Sabah Possible

Last year’s violence may be repeated if Esmail Kiram II sends troops across the border.
By 
Sultanate Warns Fresh Conflict in Sabah Possible
Image Credit: Beach in Sabah via Shutterstock

Supporters of Filipino claims over North Borneo are again threatening to send armed men to the East Malaysian state of Sabah if Kuala Lumpur refuses to negotiate with Manila, raising fears of a repeat of the violence that erupted there almost a year ago.
The threats came from Sulu Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani, who said the sultanate’s strategy to reclaim Sabah in a peaceful way remains yet warned there might be no choice but to again send troops into the East Malaysian state.
“That is the possibility, if cessation of hostilities will not be resolved,” he said.
His remarks came after Esmail Kiram II, a newly crowned sultan – of which there have been many – urged the government of President Begnino Aquino to pursue negotiations with Malaysia over his family’s claims of ownership over Sabah.
Those claims are based on historical deals where the islands were leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1878. It subsequently passed to Malaysia.
Ownership was never negotiated, however, ancient and indigenous claims are not recognized by international courts when determining sovereign borders, thus limiting any future talks over sovereignty in the region to bilateral talks between Malays and The Philippines.
Esmail became Sultan in October last year following the death Jamalul Kiram III, aged 75.
“Owing to historic and legal facts, it is now incumbent on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to do what he has to do if our president reckons the inhabitants of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Zamboanga peninsula and Palawan as citizens of the Republic of the Philippines,” Kiram II said recently.
Much of the dispute is also about money. Malaysia has traditionally paid a peppercorn rent to the sultans, who once ruled the area, of about $1,500 a year. However, sources have previously told The Diplomat that much more had been paid in secret to keep the peace.
Those payments stopped after the Philippines rejected a Malaysian request to have the issue dealt with as an addendum to peace talks held between Manila and the Moro National Liberation Front aimed at ending much of the conflict which plagued the troubled south for decades.
It was at that point Jamalul sent hundreds of well-armed mercenaries across the maritime border to Lahad Datu – a hotbed of illegal immigrants from the southern Philippines – on Sabah’s east coast, most carrying Malaysian identity papers.
More than 70 soldiers were killed by Malaysian forces while the rest melted in with the ethnic Filipino locals and refugees who control the surrounding water villages, raising fears that the insurgency could again turn bloody on the sultan’s orders.
Further threats have arisen since then but for most Sabahans and millions of others who live on North Borneo, which is shared between Malaysia and Indonesia, the long-absent sultans and their clans hold little relevance in the modern age. In fact, given the death toll that arose at the start of the insurgency, Sabahans would be justified in wondering why Jamalul was not jailed.
Source: http://thediplomat.com/

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Gaza Withdrawal and Israel's Permanent Dilemma

Editor's Note: The following analysis originally ran in August 2005. We repost it today in light of the recent death of Ariel Sharon.
Israel has begun its withdrawal from Gaza. As with all other territorial withdrawals by Israel, such as that from Sinai or from Lebanon, the decision is controversial within Israel. It represents the second withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war, and the second from land that houses significant numbers of anti-Israeli fighters. Since these fighters will not be placated by the Israeli withdrawal -- given that there is no obvious agreement of land for an enforceable peace -- the decision by the Israelis to withdraw from Gaza would appear odd.
In order to understand what is driving Israeli policy, it is necessary to consider Israeli geopolitical reality in some detail.
Israel's founders, taken together, had four motives for founding the state.
  1. To protect the Jews from a hostile world by creating a Jewish homeland.

  2. To create a socialist (not communist) Jewish state.

  3. To resurrect the Jewish nation in order to re-assert Jewish identity in history.

  4. To create a nation based on Jewish religiosity and law rather than Jewish nationality alone.
The idea of safety, socialism, identity and religiosity overlapped to some extent and were mutually exclusive in other ways. But each of these tendencies became a fault line in Israeli life. Did Israel exist simply so that Jews would be safe -- was Israel simply another nation among many? Was Israel to be a socialist nation, as the Labor Party once envisioned? Was it to be a vehicle for resurrecting Jewish identity, as the Revisionists wanted? Was it to be a land governed by the Rabbinate? It could not be all of these things. Thus, these were ultimately contradictory visions tied together by a single certainty: None of these visions were possible without a Jewish state. All arguments in Israel devolve to these principles, but all share a common reality -- the need for the physical protection of Israel.
In order for there to be a Jewish state, it must be governed by Jews. If it is also to be a democratic state, as was envisioned by all but a few of the fourth strand of logic (religiosity), then it must be a state that is demographically Jewish.
This poses the first geopolitical dilemma for Israel: Whatever the historical, moral or religious arguments, the fact was that at the beginning of the 20th century, the land identified as the Jewish homeland -- Palestine -- was inhabited overwhelmingly by Arabs. A Jewish and democratic state could be achieved only by a demographic transformation. Either more Jews would have to come to Palestine, or Arabs would have to leave, or a combination of the two would have to occur. The Holocaust caused Jews who otherwise would have stayed in Europe to come to Palestine. The subsequent creation of the state of Israel caused Arabs to leave, and Jews living in Arab countries to come to Israel.
However, this demographic shift was incomplete, leaving Israel with two strategic problems. First, a large number of Arabs, albeit a minority, continued to live in Israel. Second, the Arab states surrounding Israel -- which perceived the state as an alien entity thrust into their midst -- viewed themselves as being in a state of war with Israel. Ultimately, Israel's problem was that dealing with the external threat inevitably compounded the internal threat.

Israel's Strategic Disadvantage

Israel was at a tremendous strategic disadvantage. First, it was vastly outnumbered in the simplest sense: There were many more Arabs who regarded themselves as being in a state of war with Israel than there were Jews in Israel. Second, Israel had extremely long borders that were difficult to protect. Third, the Israelis lacked strategic depth. If all of their neighbors -- Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon -- were joined by the forces of more distant Arab and Islamic states, Israel would find it difficult to resist. And if all of these forces attacked simultaneously in a coordinated strike, Israel would find it impossible to resist.
Even if the Arabs did not carry out a brilliant stroke, cutting Israel in half on a Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line (a distance of perhaps 20 miles), Israel would still lose an extended war with the Arabs. If the Arabs could force a war of attrition on Israel, in which they could impose an attrition rate of perhaps 1 percent per day of forces on the forward edge of the battle area, Israel would not be able to hold for more than a few months at best. In the 20th century, an attrition rate of that level, in a battle space the size of Israel, would be modest. Israel's effective forces rarely numbered more than 250,000 men -- the other 250,000 were older reserves with inferior equipment. Extended attritional warfare was not an option for Israel.
Thus, in order for Israel to survive, three conditions were necessary:
  1. The Arabs must never unite into a single, effective force.

  2. Israel must choose the time, place and sequence of any war.

  3. Israel must never face both a war and an internal uprising of Arabs simultaneously.
Israel's strategy was to use diplomacy to prevent the three main adversaries -- Egypt, Jordan and Syria -- from simultaneously choosing to launch a war. From its founding, Israel always maintained a policy of splitting the front-line states. This was not particularly difficult, given the deep animosities among the Arabs. For example, Israel always maintained a special relationship with Jordan, which had unsatisfactory relations with its own neighbors. Early on, Israel worked to serve as the guarantor of the Jordanian regime's survival. Later, after the Camp David Accords split Egypt off from the Arab coalition, Israel had neutralized two out of three of its potential adversaries. The dynamics of Arab geopolitics and the skill of Israeli diplomacy achieved an outcome that is rarely appreciated. From its founding, Israel managed to prevent simultaneous warfare with its neighbors except at a time and place of its own choosing. It had to maintain a military force capable of taking the initiative in order to have a diplomatic strategy.
But throughout most of its history, Israel had a fundamental challenge in achieving this pre-eminence.

Israel's Geopolitical Problem


The state's military pre-eminence had to be measured against the possibility of diplomatic failure. Israel had to assume that all front-line states would become hostile to it, and that it would have to launch a pre-emptive strike against them all. If this were the case, Israel had this dilemma: Its national industrial base was insufficient to provide it with the technological wherewithal to maintain its military superiority. It was not simply a question of money -- all the money in the world could not change the demographics -- but also that Israel lacked the manpower to produce all of the weapons it needed to have and also to field an army. Therefore, Israel could survive only if it had a patron that possessed such an industrial base. Israel had to make itself useful to another country.
Israel's first patron was the Soviet Union, through its European satellites. Its second patron was France, which saw Israel as an ally during a time when Paris was trying to hold onto its interests in an increasingly hostile Arab world. Its third patron -- but not until 1967 -- was the United States, which saw Israel as a counterweight to pro-Soviet Egypt and Syria, as well as a useful base of operations in the eastern Mediterranean.
In 1967, Israel -- fearing a coordinated strike by the Arabs and also seeking to rationalize its defensive lines and create strategic depth -- launched an air and land attack against its neighbors. Rather than risk a coordinated attack, Israel launched a sequential attack -- first against Egypt, then Jordan, then Syria.
The success of the 1967 war gave rise to Israel's current geopolitical crisis. Following the war, Israel had to balance three interests:
  1. It now occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which contained large, hostile populations of Arabs. A full, peripheral war combined with an uprising in these regions would cut Israeli lines of supply and communication and risk Israel's defeat.
  2. Israel was now dependent on the United States for its industrial base. But American interests and Israeli interests were not identical. The United States had interests in the Arab world, and had no interest in Israel crushing Palestinian opposition or expelling Palestinians from Israel. Retaining the industrial base and ruthlessly dealing with the Palestinians became incompatible needs.

  3. Israel had to continue manipulating the balance of power among Arab states in order to prevent a full peripheral war. That, in turn, meant that it was further constrained in dealing with the Palestinian question by force.
Israeli geopolitics created the worst condition of all: Given the second and third considerations, Israel could not crush the Palestinians, but given its need for strategic depth and coherent borders, it could not abandon the occupied territories. It therefore had to continually constrain the Palestinians without any possibility of final victory. It had to be ruthless, which would enflame the Palestinians, but it could never be ruthless enough to effectively suppress them.

The Impermanence of Diplomacy


Israel has managed to maintain the diplomatic game it began in 1948 -- the Arabs remain deeply split. It has managed to retain its relationship with the United States, even with the end of the Cold War. Given the decline of the conventional threat, Israel's dependency on the United States has actually dwindled. For the moment, the situation is contained.
However -- and this is the key problem for Israel -- the diplomatic solution is inherently impermanent. It requires constant manipulation, and the possibility of failure is built in. For example, an Islamist rising in Egypt could rapidly generate shifts that Israel could not contain. Moreover, political changes in the United States could end American patronage, without the certainty of another patron emerging. These things are not likely to occur, but they are not inconceivable. Given enough time, anything is possible.
Israel's advantage is diplomatic and cultural. Its ability to split the Arabs, a diplomatic force, is coupled with its technological superiority, a cultural force. But both of these can change. The Arabs might unite, and they might accelerate their technological and military sophistication. Israel's superiority can change, but its inferiority is fixed: Geography and demographics put it in an unchangeably vulnerable position relative to the Arabs.
The potential threats to Israel are:
  1. A united and effective anti-Israeli coalition among the Arabs.
  2. The loss of its technological superiority and, therefore, the loss of military initiative.

  3. The need to fight a full peripheral war while dealing with an intifada within its borders.

  4. The loss of the United States as patron and the failure to find an alternative.
  5. A sudden, unexpected nuclear strike on its populated heartland.
Therefore, it follows that Israel has three options.
The first is to hope for the best. This has been Israel's position since 1967. The second is to move from conventional deterrence to nuclear deterrence. Israel already possesses this capability, but the value of nuclear weapons is in their deterrent capability, not in their employment. You can't deal with an intifada or with close-in conventional war with nuclear weapons -- not given the short distances involved in Israel. The third option is to reduce the possibility of disaster as far as possible by increasing the tensions in the Arab world, reducing the incentive for cultural change among the Arabs, eliminating the threat of intifada in time of war, and reducing the probability that the United States will find it in its interests to break with Israel.
Hence, the withdrawal from Gaza. As a base for terrorism, Gaza poses a security threat to Israel. But the true threat from Gaza, and even more the West Bank, lies in the fact that they create a dynamic that decreases Israel's diplomatic effectiveness, risks creating Arab unity, increases the impetus for military modernization and places stress on Israel's relationship with the United States. The terrorist threat is painful. The alternative risks long-term catastrophe.
Some of the original reasons for Israel's founding, such as the desire for a socialist state, are now irrelevant to Israeli politics. And revisionism, like socialism, is a movement of the past. Modern Israel is divided into three camps:
  1. Those who believe that the survival of Israel depends on disengaging from a process that enrages without crushing the Palestinians, even if it opens the door to terrorism.

  2. Those who regard the threat of terrorism as real and immediate, and regard the longer-term strategic threats as theoretical and abstract.

  3. Those who have a religious commitment to holding all territories.
The second and third factions are in alliance but, at the moment, it is the first faction that appears to be the majority. It is not surprising that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is leading this faction. As a military man, Sharon has a clear understanding of Israel's vulnerabilities. It is clearly his judgment that the long-term threat to Israel comes from the collapse of its strategic position, rather than from terrorism. He has clearly decided to accept the reality of terrorist attacks, within limits, in order to pursue a broader strategic initiative.
Israel has managed to balance the occupation of a hostile population with splitting Arab nation states since 1967. Sharon's judgment is that, given the current dynamics of the Muslim world, pursuing the same strategy for another generation would be both too costly and too risky. The position of his critics is that the immediate risks of disengagement increase the immediate danger to Israel without solving the long-term problem. If Sharon is right, then there is room for maneuver. But if his critics, including Benjamin Netanyahu, are right, Israel is locked down to an insoluble problem.
That is the real debate.
The Gaza Withdrawal and Israel's Permanent Dilemma is republished with permission of Stratfor

Read more: The Gaza Withdrawal and Israel's Permanent Dilemma | Stratfor
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