Jim Webb, Iraq war critic in Senate, running for president


WASHINGTON (AP) — Jim Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and accomplished novelist who became a fierce critic of the Iraq war in the Senate, announced Thursday that he’s challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton and other rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination….

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The South China Sea is now a ‘core interest’ of Beijing — and that’s a problem for its neighbors


China navy PLAChina’s aggressive posture toward the South China Sea has been stirring tensions in the region, and a new national security law suggests that Beijing is just getting started.

The new law calls for security to be maintained in all fields, including culture, education, and cyberspace.

Moreover, as reported by The New York Times, the law’s passage indicates that there has also been a meaningful shift in how Chinese leaders view their country’s “core interests.”

In years past,  China’s core interests were believed to mean specific and limited territorial matters, such as those regarding Taiwan and Tibet, that the communist country determined to be internal matters.

The new law is reportedly an indication that the “core interests” have been stretched.

“In 2010, Chinese and foreign officials and scholars began debating whether the South China Sea was now a core interest,” The Times’ Beijing bureau chief Edward Wong writes.

Under the new definition … the term does encompass the South China Sea and any other sovereignty issues of importance to China (think Arunachal Pradesh in India, and the islands in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu).”

If the shipping channels and islands of the South China Sea are now counted as “core interests” by China, then it is likely to continue to push for greater control over the sea and the $5 trillion in shipping that passes through it each year.

south china seas

US officials, for their part, have repudiated China’s posture toward the region.

“As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust and undermining investor confidence,” said US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in late May.

In recent months, Chinese ships have clashed with vessels from Vietnam, with both governments naming the other as aggressor in several incidents. 

Spratly Islands

The Philippines has also reported confrontations with Chinese ships in disputed waters. China has accused the Philippines of escalating the situation.

“Certain countries are roping in countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea issue … deliberately exaggerating the tense atmosphere …” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in late June.

At the center of those disputed waters, land reclamation projects on the Spratly Islands, started by China last year, have begun to reach completion, producing 1,500 acres of land in just in 2015. 

“[China’s] behavior threatens to set a new precedent whereby larger countries are free to intimidate smaller ones, and that provokes tensions, instability and can even lead to conflict,” Blinken said.

China’s new security law will only amplify those concerns.

SEE ALSO: China is turning the tables on Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute

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NOW WATCH: 11 facts that show how different China is from the rest of the world

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Could India’s Military Really Crush Pakistan?


Walter C. Ladwig III

Security, Asia

India’s conventional military superiority over Pakistan is exaggerated.

Following a raid by Indian special forces into Myanmar early this month, increasing attention has been given to the prospect that India might use similar means against Pakistan to pressure it to end support for anti-Indian militant groups. India’s on-going military modernization and headline-grabbing increases in defense spending have already raised concerns that it threatens to upset the delicate conventional military balance in the region and make military action a more attractive prospect for New Delhi.

Taken at face value, there appears to be some validity to this line of thinking. Indian defense spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 percent per year. The Modi announced a further 11 percent hike, raising the 2015–2016 military budget to $39.8 billion. Moreover, India is presently the world’s largest buyer of conventional weapons, with upwards of $100 billion expected to be spent on modernizing its defense forces over the next decade.

Consequently, a number of scholars and analysts have suggested Indian military modernization is threatening Pakistan’s conventional deterrence and pressuring Islamabad to embrace battlefield nuclear weapons as a tool of self defense. Yet, this line of thinking overlooks the fact that the Indian military is beset by obsolete platforms.

(Recommended: If Pakistan and India Clash: 5 Pakistani Weapons of War India Should Fear)

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Just How Strong Will China’s Military Be in 2025?


Robert Farley

Security, Asia

The big question Asia—and the world—needs an answer to.

The People’s Liberation Army and its constituent branches have undergone extraordinary change over the last fifteen years.  Doctrine, equipment, training, and strategic orientation have all evolved to the point that the PLA, the PLAN, and the PLAAF have become nearly unrecognizable from the vantage of the 1990s, when they used antiquated equipment, concentrated on making money rather than preparing to fight, and still looked for threats from the north rather than from the east.

The PLA has taken great steps forward over the past decade, just as it took great steps forward in the previous decade. What might it look like ten years from today?  What trends do we expect to continue?

Increased Operational Experience:

One area in which China remains dramatically behind the United States is in operational experience.  For good or (mostly) ill, the United States has embroiled itself in a series of “wars on terror” which have given its armed forces tremendous experience in the day-to-day execution of military force.  These wars have not, to be fair, allowed the military services of the United States to engage in high intensity combat against a peer competitor, but they have nevertheless illuminated key concepts, provided the opportunity for training under fire, and forced the various elements of the U.S. military machine to figure out how to work together. This is experiential, tacit knowledge, and it sets functional military organizations apart from ones that look good but have never been tested under fire.

The PLA lacks such hands on experience, and it’s not clear that China is planning to start an endless, pointless series of wars in order to acquire it. However, there’s little question that China has stepped up its efforts at building experiential knowledge through improving its realistic training procedures (China’s version of Red Flag) and by conducting more overseas deployments of air, land, and naval forces.

Increased Focus on Jointness:

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The world’s most anti-Russia country? Canada, says Moscow lawmaker


MOSCOW — America, you can rejoice, at least for a while, because the Kremlin has found a new object for its vitriol: Canada. That’s right. The United States’ Mountie-loving, maple-syrup-toting neighbor to the north —the one whose flag Americans love to pin on their backpacks when they travel abroad so as to look innocuous — […]


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Egyptian Assassinations and Islamist Escalation


On June 29, Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat died in an orchestrated blast that targeted his convoy in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. The attack was forceful; the leader of Barakat’s security team also perished while eight others were injured. This incident raises many questions as to how President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi will deal with the loss of a main pillar in his regime and a major representative of the constitutional state. It is also unclear how the assassination will impact the political struggle and escalation of violence that began between the state and Islamists after the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi.

Barakat’s murder is one of the most successful Islamist political assassinations in the last several decades, which included the assassinations of former president Anwar Sadat and former speaker of the People’s Assembly, Rifaat al-Mahgoub. In the aftermath of each attack, Hosni Mubarak’s regime tightened its grip against Islamist groups by cracking down on member activities and speeding through trials against major Islamist leadership. The escalation continued until Islamist groups declared a truce in 1997, sixteen years after President Sadat’s assassination.

However, Islamist violence is once again escalating. The Barakat assassination must be viewed as the most recent incident in a string of judge assassinations and as part of the Islamists’ retribution against the regime’s new crackdown on them. Last month, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis — an ISIS affiliate — assassinated three judges in al-Arish, the provincial capital of Northern Sinai. This attack targeted a vehicle carrying a number of civilian judges and prosecutors, also killing the driver and causing several injuries. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis intended for the attack to serve as reprisal against the Egyptian judiciary’s decrees that Morsi and 104 Muslim Brotherhood members receive the death sentence in mid-May.

The Islamist community’s response to the rulings demonstrates their impact — 150 Muslim scholars and 10 Islamic bodies with close monetary ties to the Brotherhood issued a joint statement on May 30 titled “Call of Egypt: Muslim Scholars’ Statement on Crimes of the Coup in Egypt and the Stance Towards It.” The statement called for revenge against the judges for their endorsement of the execution of innocent souls: “Rulers, judges, officers, soldiers, muftis, media persons, politicians, and any other party proven beyond any doubt to be involved in the crimes of violating honor, bloodshed, and illegal killing, even if through inciting such acts, are considered, from Islamic perspective, murderers to whom all rulings related to the crime of murder are applicable. They must receive qisas [retribution] within the Islamic Law limits. Allah Almighty says that ‘whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind entirely’ (al-Maidah 5:32).”

While Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had already attempted at least one major assassination targeting former interior minister Muhammad Ibrahim before Morsi’s sentence, the successful assassination of Barakat marks a major shift in Islamist tactics. The targeting of major state figures, ministers, judges, and politicians appears to be a key new Islamist strategy. The Muslim scholars’ statement serves as a political, religious, and intellectual cover for these assassinations and supports the idea that political killings are now within the repertoire of accepted Islamist actions. Unfortunately, this trend is not likely to end with this most recent assassination.

And it is clear from Sisi’s recent statements that the great concern about the continuation of political assassinations will tighten state policies against Islamists. Directly after the prosecutor-general’s funeral, Sisi gave a speech stressing the importance of the judicial process and vowing to enact new laws to help Egyptian judges obtain quick execution of their decrees. The president addressed judges directly in his speech, saying, “The way tribunals have been working over the last two years is ‘inefficient’; if a death sentence is issued, it should be carried out, the same goes for life in prison.” Then Sisi indirectly referenced Morsi by claiming that “some people issue commands to kill from behind bars,” alluding to Morsi’s hand gesture during his trial, which is now perceived to have been a signal to kill Barakat.

There are many indications that tensions between Islamists and the state will continue to escalate both publicly and behind closed doors. Based on the recent judicial assassinations, the Muslim scholars’ statement of condemnation, and Sisi’s suggestion of free rein for the judiciary, it seems that Egypt’s judges will be key in this new escalation.

Mohamed Soliman is an engineer and a member of the Dostour Party’s political bureau. This article originally appeared on the Fikra Forum website.

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Dempsey to Pentagon: Prepare For the Never-Ending War


In what is likely his last significant strategy decision before retiring, America’s top general urges the Pentagon to reorganize war efforts for prolonged battles of terrorism and proxy wars.

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Thailand places $1bn dollars order for Chinese submarines


Thailand Navy Chief, Kraisorn Chansuvanich, said on Thursday that the country has placed a- 36 billion baht, approximately 1.1 billion dollars order for three Chinese-made submarines as it seeks to boost its naval power.

The Navy picked the Chinese offer after looking at alternatives bids from six countries, including Germany, France and Russia.

The subs, the first in the Thai fleet, are to be commissioned in the next 6-7 years.

The Thai government has in the past said it needs a bigger navy to protect its 3,219-kilometre coastline.

NAN

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Video shows Su-30MK2 fighter jet fly over people rafting on the Nile River in Uganda


Su-30MK2 Uganda AF

A Sukhoi of the Uganda People’s Defence Air Force makes a low pass over raft.

Uganda People’s Defence Air Force (UPDAF) operates a small fleet of Su-30MK2 aircraft.

Six such multirole jets have been delivered to the Ugandan Air Force by Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms company, starting in 2011.

The aircraft, based at Entebbe, can carry air-to-air missiles as well as various general purpose bombs for air-to-surface missions. The six Su-30s are believed to have conducted missions against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia, to provide support for UPDF acting under the Africa Union/UN mission (AMISOM), and  have reportedly launched airstrikes against opposition forces in South Sudan.

In spite of its quality, the following video is quite interesting as it one of the few available on the Internet showing a Ugandan Su-30s at work: the aircraft was filmed from a raft as a group of people were rafting on the Nile in Uganda.

According to the author, the jet flew over the raft twice; the second time he filmed it. “It did a couple spins after it passed us. I think it was about 50 meters high, maybe lower,” the author says on Youtube.

H/T Alex Wambogu for the heads-up!

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Russia cuts number of T-50s ordered to one squadron


Russia has decided to reduce the number of Sukhoi T-50s to be ordered and reduce the buy to just a single squadron, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said.

Sukhoi T-50, Russia - Air Force AN2308066
By Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team [CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Borisov highlighted the fact that the Su-35 is cheaper and the money will be channeled towards buying more aircraft of that type.

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