Archive for April, 2013

EUROPEAN COURT RULES UKRAINE’S JAILING OF EX-PRIME MINISTER TYMOSHENKO WAS RIGHTS ABUSE

April 30, 2013

AP on April 30, 2013, reported that Europe’s human rights court says Ukraine’s jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a politically motivated violation of her rights. Excerpts below:

A Ukrainian government official stormed out of the courtroom after Tuesday’s ruling in a case that has strained the former Soviet state’s ties with Europe and the United States.

Tymoshenko, an architect of Ukraine’s 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 after being convicted of exceeding her powers as premier while negotiating a gas contract with Russia.

Tymoshenko says her jailing was intended to keep her out of politics and that her rights were violated. The court found unanimously that her detention in August 2011 was arbitrary.

GUAM AND STRATEGIC GEOMETRY – KEYSTONE OF AMERICAN MILITARY STRATEGY IN THE PACIFIC

April 30, 2013

American policy in the Pacific continues to be based on Alfred Thayer Mahan’s precepts: forward operation bases, positioning assets around choke- points and main sealanes, deploying a navy presence on all seas, and maintaining the capability to intervene at key geostrategic points.

American strategic thinking is further influenced by geopolitician Homer Lea. In his books The Valor of Ignorance and The Day of the Saxon, Lea regarded frontiers are mobile lines.

Should this view be used to interpret recent American strategy in the Asia Pacific, it would appear there is an American desire to ensure America’s national interests. This translates into a triple line of defense:

• Japan-South Korea-Taiwan-Thailand-Singapore.

• Japan-Guam-Philippines-Australia.

• Alaska/Aleutian Islands-Hawaii-Samoa.

Lea insisted on the need to rely on forward operation bases in the form of a triangle. “Strategic geometry” was the key principle on which much of his work was based, a strategy that translates quite well into what is currently taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. His argument is that there is a need to take into account:

• The number of triangles the bases will form.

• The frequency with which the main base is at the intersection of these triangles.

• The presence or not of enemy bases inside this network.

• The increase of maritime power leading to an increase in the number of bases.

By forming numerous triangles with Guam as the potential center or node, the United States is actually executing the argument presented by Lea.

Other examples of strategic triangles are the “Guam-Japan-South Korea,” “Guam-Darwin-Pearl Harbor,” “Guam-Taiwan-Japan” triangles.

For further information on strategic geometry see “The Reassertion of the United States in the Asia- Pacific Region” byTanguy STruye de Swielande in journal Parameters of Spring 2012.

BBC News on its website describes Guam as an important staging post, allowing rapid access to potential flashpoints in the Koreas and in the Taiwan Strait. Excerpts below:

The largest military installation, Andersen Air Force Base, was used by B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. Nuclear attack submarines are based on the island.

The waters off Guam are the scene of major US navy war games.

The US plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014 as part of its global realignment of US forces.

Visitors from Japan are the mainstay of the tourist industry. Away from the resorts and shopping malls, coral reefs and waterfalls are among the natural attractions.

Guam’s diverse population includes Japanese, Chinese, and incomers from other Pacific islands. The indigenous Chamorro are a people of mixed Micronesian, Spanish and Filipino descent.

The island was settled in the second century BC. A Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521.

Guam was ceded to the US in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. The island was occupied by Japan during World War II. Many Guamanians died under the occupation before the territory was wrested from Japanese control in 1944.

Guam is vulnerable to storms. Typhoons swept across the island in 2002, leaving around 35,000 people homeless.

CHINA’S FIRST CARRIER TO GET BLUE WATER TEST VOYAGE AS BEIJING READIES MORE

April 29, 2013

The Washington Times on April 26, 2013, reported that China’s first aircraft carrier will get its first test on the high seas, as officials announced that Beijing will get a second, and even third, carrier soon, Chinese state media reported. Excerpts below:

The carrier Liaoning, which has been testing and training at Qingdao naval base in east China, is ready for its maiden ocean voyage, Col. Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Ministry of National

Defense, said at a briefing for reporters. He did not give a date or a location.

The Liaoning, which the People’s Liberation Army Navy built on the chassis of a Russian-made carrier Beijing bought from Ukraine a decade ago, displaces 50,000 tonnes and will carry up to 30 airplanes, according to Xinhua. It was commissioned last September.

Chinese naval officials say they are building a naval aviation force for the Liaoning, which will include fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine and electronic warfare planes and helicopters.

The carrier is part of the PLA’s plan for a “blue water” ocean-going navy that can project Chinese military power across the Pacific region.

At a reception for foreign military attaches this week, Rear Adm Song Xue, the PLA Navy’s deputy chief of staff, said that China would in due course have “more than one aircraft carrier.”

“The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters,” he said, according to Xinhua.

ISRAELI MILITARY SHOOTS DOWN DRONE LIKELY LAUNCHED BY HEZBOLLAH

April 28, 2013

The Washington Times on April 25, 2013, reported that Israeli officials said the drone shot down by the air force about 6 miles off its northern coast most likely was an Iranian-made aircraft that is part of Hezbollah’s armory. Excerpts below:

Analysts were largely agreed that the purpose of the unmanned aircraft’s flight was to distract attention from the Lebanese terrorist group’s involvement in Syria’s civil war by seeming to challenge the Jewish state.

“Hezbollah has battalions fighting in Lebanon for [Syrian PresidentBashar] Assad, and they’re being criticized for it throughout the Arab world, particularly in Lebanon itself,” said Ehud Ya’ari, Arab affairs commentator for Israel’s Channel 2 television.

Dozens of Hezbollah fighters reportedly have been killed in the fighting in Syria.

Some commentators suggested that the drone was heading farther south toward Israel’s offshore gas rigs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was flying north in a helicopter for a meeting when a sighting of the drone was reported, according to Israeli officials. His pilot landed the helicopter until the drone was downed.

An Israeli military spokesman said that radar had picked up the drone while it was over Lebanon and tracked it as it flew out over the Mediterranean Sea parallel to Israel’s coast.

Warplanes and armed helicopters were dispatched. After officials determined that the drone did not belong to a friendly power, the order was given to bring it down, the spokesman said.

The drone was flying at about 6,000 feet, and was downed near the northern city of Haifa.

Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz said in a speech last month that Hezbollah has a significant number of unmanned drones “which we may encounter in the future.”

SYRIA HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS, DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL SAYS – CALLS FOR U.S. INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

April 27, 2013

Washington Times on April 25, 2013, published an AP report on Secretary Chuck Hagel saying that the Syrian regime has likely used chemical weapons on a “small scale.” Excerpts below:

Hagel was speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi.

He says the White House has informed members of Congress that, within the last day, U.S. intelligence concluded with “some degree of varying confidence” that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons — specifically sarin gas.

Fox News reported on April 26, 2013, that the White House said that more evidence is necessary to confirm the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people, but if that proves to be true, it would be a “game changer.”

Much talk has been made of Obama’s suggestion that the use of deadly chemical agents could be the “red line” for the U.S.to intervene in the two-year-old Syrian war.

“I think that in many ways a line’s been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists, all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region,” Obama told reporters.

…White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the U.S. continues to investigate evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its fight against rebels, but he resisted setting a timetable for possible action.

Top-ranking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle declared on April 25 that the “red line” in Syria had been crossed, calling for “strong” U.S. and international intervention after administration officials revealed that the intelligence community thinks chemical weapons were used.

Senator John McCain, who has long called for more involvement in Syria, voiced concern that the administration would use “caveats” to avoid acting on the new intelligence. He said America’s enemies are paying “close attention” to whether the U.S. follows through, as the White House signaled it wanted to see more proof before responding to the new information.

“I worry that the president and the administration will use these caveats as an excuse not to act right away or act at all,” McCain told Fox News. “The president clearly stated that it was a red line and that it couldn’t be crossed without the United States taking vigorous action.”

He called for the U.S. to help establish a no-fly zone and “safe zone” in Syria, as well as provide weapons to the “right people.”

Secretary of State John Kerry further confirmed that there were two documented instances of chemical weapons use.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News the Defense Department has been preparing a wide range of contingency plans for military involvement in Syria for the past year. President Obama has seen the plans and is fully aware of those options.

The options, according to this official, range from establishing no-fly zones to creating humanitarian zones to launching strikes on chemical weapons sites, select regime leadership and other targets. The official emphasized that no decisions have been made about whether to further involve the U.S. military in Syria and that there are still many questions that need to be answered first.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said in a statement the assessment is “deeply troubling and, if correct, means that President Obama’s red line has certainly been crossed.”

MUCH-NEEDED U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE

April 26, 2013

Peter Brookes on April 25, 2013 in the National Review called for United States to upgrade its missile-defense technology. Excerpts below:

Our attention is focused on the terrorist attack in Boston last week, but just two weeks ago we were gripped by North Korean threats of a new Korean War and the possibility of New York’s being hit attacked by long-range missiles. While North Korean promises of thermonuclear war have faded from the news for the moment, the threat hasn’t gone away for good.

The national-security challenges our country faces from the advances in ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapon programs continue apace. Global missile- and nuclear-proliferation problems are real, and they can’t be ignored. So the development and deployment of missile-defense programs must be a priority for American security.

Take North Korea. Bluster, belligerence, brinkmanship, and blackmail are routinely directed at Washington. Yet Pyongyang’s actual ability to carry out threats against us is improving – and significantly.

There is plenty of debate within the U.S. intelligence community as to whether North Korea already has a functional nuclear warhead that it can mate with the missiles of various ranges currently in its arsenal. But there is little doubt that we will be near, or at, the top of the targeting list when they do have one.

Then there’s Iran. Although they are also out of the news at the moment, Iranian centrifuges continue to spin, producing kilograms of low- and medium-enriched uranium, which — if further enriched — could be used in nuclear weapons.

While publicly available intelligence estimates differ, Tehran may have the wherewithal to produce its first nuclear weapon in the very near future.

Iran’s ballistic-missile program isn’t any more comforting. In 2009, Tehran was able to put a satellite into space using its own launch vehicle. Today, the U.S. government estimates that Iran will have an ICBM by 2015, adding to what is already the largest ballistic-missile arsenal in the Middle East.

While seemingly obvious, it’s worth pointing out that the principles of physics that would allow North Korea to put a warhead anywhere on the Earth’s surface also apply to Iran.

We shouldn’t overlook the Chinese or the Russians, who are also modernizing their strategic arsenals.

The obvious question is: What should we do?

As we all know, diplomacy and punitive economic sanctions haven’t stopped North Korean or Iranian missile or nuclear programs — despite years of trying.

Nothing makes more sense than investing in American missile defenses.

With advances in missile defense, a robust, layered, capable system will not only protect us from enemy ballistic missiles and their nuclear and other payloads (e.g., chemical, biological, conventional, or electromagnetic pulse), but it will provide decision-makers with additional policy options beyond massive retaliation.

In addition, due to missile defense’s ability to blunt the effectiveness of the ballistic-missile threat, it may well deter aggression with these weapons against us in the first place.

The best option now is to move forward vigorously with funding, developing, and deploying American missile-defense systems to protect the homeland, to protect our troops overseas, and to protect our allies and friends from the growing nuclear and missile menaces around the world.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

REPORTS: 2 TIBETAN MONKS, 1 WOMAN, SELF-IMMOLATE IN PROTEST AGAINST CHINESE RULE

April 25, 2013

Fox News on April 24, 2013, published an AP report saying three Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule in a western region where authorities have imposed a heavy security presence. Excerpts below:

More than 100 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2011 to protest Chinese policies in the region and call for the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, from exile.

Exiled Tibetan monks Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering and the Free Tibet group said two of the latest three protesters were monks at a monastery in Ruo’ergai county of Aba prefecture.

U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported that a Tibetan woman in Rangtang county in the same prefecture also died after self-immolating.

LESSONS FROM BOSTON AND CHECHNYA – ON GOOD, EVIL, AND ISLAM

April 24, 2013

Dennis Prager on April 23, 2013, in National Review Online commented on Boston and Chechnya. Excerpts below:

After the events in Boston, we cannot bring back the stolen lives. We cannot bring back the lost limbs or the lost hearing. And we cannot mitigate the infinite grief of the victims’ loved ones.

But there is something we can and must do: We must learn all the lessons we are able to.

Here are some:

1. The gulf between the decent and the indecent.

The reason Tsarnaev didn’t understand Americans was not primarily cultural. Tsarnaev came to America when he was 14 or 15 years old, an age at which the vast majority of immigrants to America have assimilated quite successfully.

Rather, the reason was that the indecent don’t understand the decent, just as the decent don’t understand the indecent.

One of the greatest insights I learned as a young man came from reading Viktor Frankl’s seminal work, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a Jewish psychoanalyst who survived Auschwitz, where nearly every member of his family, including his wife, was murdered. His conclusion: “There are two races of men in this world but only these two. The race of the decent man and the race of the indecent man.”

Those “races” do not understand one another. But more important than understanding the indecent is overpowering and, when necessary, destroying the indecent.

2. Any religion or ideology that is above good and evil produces enormous evil.

For tens of millions of Muslims today, Islam is beyond good and evil: The infidel may be decent, but that is of no importance to the radical Islamist. For example, on becoming a more religious Muslim, Tamerlan Tsarnaev gave up boxing, marijuana, tobacco, and even not wearing a shirt in the presence of females. Tsarnaev believed Islam forbade those things — none of which is an evil. But when it came to the greatest evil — murder (of non-Muslims) — here his religion was not only silent, it was enthusiastically supportive.

Likewise, Communists in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere, and their many supporters in the West, raised the creation of egalitarian society and industrialization above good and evil. And Nazism elevated race above good and evil. The environmentalists who oppose Vitamin A–fortified rice in the Third World place their agenda above good and evil.

Unfortunately, most religious and secular ideologues find preoccupation with human decency boring. The greatest moral idea in history, ethical monotheism, doesn’t excite most people.

3. A victimhood identity produces cruelty.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ primary self-perception was that of being Chechen victims, and that combined with their religious convictions allowed them to blow up men, women, and children with a perfectly clear conscience.

4. Happiness is a moral issue.

Happiness is not an emotional state so much as it is a moral imperative. In general, those who act happy make the world better and those who act unhappy make it worse. This is equally true in the micro and macro realms.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was described by a cousin, Zaur Tsarnaev, in this way: “He was never happy, never cheering, never smiling.”

5. Boys will be bad men if they had no good men.

It is apparent to most observers that the younger brother Dzhokhar was deeply influenced by his brother, Tamerlan, who was seven years older. All of us who have an older brother, especially with a large age gap, know that he has a god-like status in the eyes of a young boy.

If good men do not inspire boys, bad men will.

6. Universities and the Left generally continue to deny any link between Muslim terrorists and their Muslim beliefs.

Just as in previous acts of Islamist terror, the Left in general and university professors in particular continue to argue that it is wrong — actually bigoted — to associate these terrorists’ religious beliefs with their terrorism.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino (and formerly an associate director of the Southern Poverty Law Center), to Bill Maher: “Look, it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and end up doing not so nice things.”

And that’s what our children are routinely taught.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.

U.S. PLEDGES TO DOUBLE SYRIAN AID TO 250 MILLION DOLLARS

April 23, 2013

Fox News on April 21, 2013, published an AP report on the United States saying that it will double its non-lethal assistance to Syria’s opposition as the rebels’ top supporters vowed to enhance and expand their backing of the two-year battle to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. Excerpts below:

The Syrian National Coalition had sought drone strikes on sites from which the regime has fired missiles, the imposition of no-fly zones and protected humanitarian corridors to ensure the safety of civilians.

Instead, the Obama administration’s pledged to provide an additional $123 million in aid, which may include for the first time armored vehicles, body armor, night vision goggles and other defensive military supplies. It was the only tangible, public offer of new international support as the foreign ministers of the 11 main countries supporting the opposition met in a marathon session in Istanbul.

The additional aid, which brings total non-lethal U.S. assistance to the opposition to $250 million since the fighting began, “underscores the United States’ firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition’s advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria,” Kerry said.

Kerry also announced nearly $25 million in additional food assistance for Syrians who remain inside the country as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian contribution to the crisis to more than $409 million.

Ahead of the meeting, the opposition said it wanted guns and ammunition. And, it said it wanted its friends to conduct drone strikes on Syrian territory to take out Assad’s missile capabilities and renewed appeals for the creation of no-fly zones and safe corridors.

“The technical ability to take specific action to prevent the human tragedy and suffering of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, is available in the form of specific intelligence and equipment,” it said. “Syrians understand that such ability is within the reach of a number of members of the Friends of Syria group, yet nothing serious has been done to put an end to such terror and criminality.”

European nations are considering changes to an arms embargo that would allow weapons transfers to the Syrian opposition. But European Union action is unlikely before the current embargo is set to expire in late May.

Britain and France have been leading the calls to amend the embargo to test the strategy that merely giving its members permission to supply arms may cause Assad to rethink his calculation to hold on to power.

In what appeared to be an attempt to soothe those fears, the opposition affirmed its commitment to an inclusive and pluralistic democracy that condemns extremism.

“Our revolution is for the entire Syrian people,” opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib told reporters, standing alongside Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The opposition also pledged in its statement that any military hardware it receives will be used responsibly.

…since February, the U.S. has shipped food and medical supplies directly to the Free Syrian Army and Kerry’s announcement marked the first time that Washington has acted on Obama’s recent authorization to expand that aid.

The U.S. and its European and Arab allies are struggling to find ways to stem the escalating violence that has led to fears that chemical weapons may have been used.

ISRAEL’S AIR FORCE DEVELOPING DRONES TO REPLACE AIRCRAFT

April 22, 2013

Fox News on April 21, 2013, published an AP report on Israel’s air force being on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday. Excerpts below:

The officer, who works in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence, said Israel is speeding up research and development of such unmanned technologies for air, ground and naval forces.

Isaac Ben-Israel, a former Israeli air force general, said however there was no way drones could entirely overtake manned airplanes. He said there are just some things drones can’t do, like carry heavy payloads needed for major assaults on targets like underground bunkers.

“The direction is drones playing a bigger and bigger role in the air force,” he said. “In a decade or two they should be able to carry out a third or half of all missions. But there are still certain things you cannot do without a piloted plane.”

Israel is a pioneer in drone technology.

The unmanned aircraft have been a major part of Israel’s arsenal in battling Gaza rocket launchers over the years. Drones were seen as crucial by giving soldiers eyes in the air, keeping watch over rooftops and alleyways in congested urban areas and notifying troops of threats or obstacles in their path.

The officer claimed Israel is second only to the United States in the range of unmanned aerial systems its produces. He said he was “aware” that American drones are capable of firing missiles, but refused to say whether Israeli drones could do the same.

The officer cited one technology recently unveiled: the unmanned Hermes 900 aircraft, developed by the Israeli military manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. and recently rolled out for Israeli military use.

It features double the performance capabilities of the previous generation of the same unmanned aircraft, the Hermes 450. It can carry up to 350 kilograms, features advanced systems of surveillance and reconnaissance and offers support to forces on the ground and at sea, according to a description of the technology on Elbit’s website.

Israel is also looking to develop small tactical satellites that warplanes could launch into the earth’s orbit, the officer said.

Unlike satellites in permanent orbit which are more easily monitored by other leading armies in the world, the tactical satellites Israel hopes to develop would be cheaper to build and less susceptible to interception because they would be launched during wartime and there would be less time for foreign armies to track their orbit, Israeli military officials said.