Fighter Jet Engines ‘Stolen from Israeli Base’

Israel’s military police on June 13 opened an inquiry into the theft of airplane parts, a spokeswoman said without confirming press reports that eight fighter jet engines had been stolen.

“The military police have opened an inquiry into the matter,” she told AFP without giving further detail or confirming reports of the theft from Tel Nof airbase near Tel Aviv.

Air force officials quoted in the Maariv newspaper said the stolen parts were eight engines from F-15 and F-16 fighter jets which were taken from Tel Nof air base.

They said it was not immediately clear when the theft took place but said the parts were no longer in use and had most likely been stolen for their value as scrap metal, the paper said.

Investigators quoted by the paper said each engine weighed “several tons” and could only have been taken away on large trucks, prompting speculation that the thieves had help from inside the base.

Military officials quoted by Israel HaYom newspaper described the theft as “very serious.”

AFP

Turkey’s options in handling the Syrian crisis

by Hasan Karaahmet

As Syria’s Assad regime continues to struggle in containing the widespread uprisings and demonstrations for a more democratic, progressive political system throughout the country, neighboring Turkey is facing an increasingly difficult humanitarian crisis just north of the long border.

Last Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu spoke with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, about the changing security environment in Syria and implications for Turkey. Movement of Syrian troops north near the Turkish border in an attempt to control the outflow of Syrian refugees into Turkey was among the critical subjects the two ministers discussed. It is no secret now that the situation at the border and increasing numbers of Syrian refugees in Turkey, now approaching some 20,000, is creating tensions between the two countries.

Thus far, Turkey’s AKP government has followed a bi-polar political strategy in handling the Syrian crisis. It publicly criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while quietly advising the same regime on how to contain and eliminate the opposition using tangible, progressive reforms. On the other hand, Turkey also hosted open platforms for Syrian opposition leaders on Turkish soil, in order to provide guidance and discuss their strategies in toppling the Assad regime and achieving a higher political presence in Syria.

Currently, Turkey seems to have three options in peacefully diffusing the threatening situation beyond its southern border and stopping the inflow of Syrian refugees.

  • (1) The first option Turkey is suggesting to Syria involves removal of Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad, who leads the Syrian Republican Guard and is primarily responsible for killing and mistreatment of a great number of Syrian opposition members. Turkish authorities have wisely avoided condemning Bashar al-Assad and kept their focus on Maher instead. According to a June 18th report by Al Arabiya, an emissary of Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Syria to ask Bashar to fire his brother. This suggestion requires Maher to be exiled to Turkey or another suitable country where he would be monitored and kept away from militancy and interfering with Syrian internal politics. Turkey points out that such a move would portray Bashar as a truly progressive, reformist leader who is willing to exile his brother for the greater good of Syria.

Some western analysts generally unfamiliar with the region point out that this option undermines the role of Maher in keeping different factions of the Syrian Armed Forces together and suggest that exiling Maher may push Syria into an explosive infighting and eventually even partitioning. I, however, disagree with this observation as I believe it is the Assad family as a whole and its surrogates within the Syrian state that provide the said unifying function. Power of the al-Assad clan is currently personified in Bashar al-Assad, and any decision he makes, even as radical as firing his brother, will be readily digestible by the forces in Syria that determine the political and economic dynamics in that country. So long as the Alawites’ traditional hold of economic power in Syria’s western coastal cities is not damaged, their support of Bashar and the al-Assad family in general will remain strong.

That said, we should not forget that the former Syrian President, Bashar’s father Hazef al-Assad did successfully exile his younger brother Rifaat al-Assad, also a military man, after a coup attempt, a move that demonstrated the reach of his power and strengthened his regime for years to come. I believe the same may as well be the case for his sons.

  • (2) The second option Turkey is working on for Syria is similar to the Lebanese political model, where a confessional system based on a 1932 census is in effect that just about equally divides power among Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim factions. Proposal for Syria would similarly allocate the power, and hence resources, somewhat equally among the country’s majority Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds, and minority Alawites, Christians and Druze. This new system would create strong checks and balances that would prevent either side from dominating the economy or monopolizing the politics of Syria.

Turkey is ready to provide all the assistance needed for accomplishing this. If completed successfully, it would score an important point for Turkey in the country’s ambitious mission to become a prestigious leader and a secular democracy model for the Islamic world.

  • (3) The third option proposes the legalization of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). At the moment, membership in the group is not only outlawed in Syria, but also punishable by death. Turkey says legalization of the Syrian MB and turning the group into a legitimate political party would limit its militancy and draw the movement closer to a more peaceful, political struggle. This would, in effect, dramatically defuse the Syrian crisis.

Al-Assad is however seems to be currently against the idea as it bears the potential for eventually growing in power via unification of the majority Sunni base turning into electoral votes and undermining the established power of Al-Assad’s Baath party and the economic monopoly of Syria’s Alawites.

It will be interesting to see the events unfold and watch Turkey make its moves before the crisis grows into an even bigger refugee crisis, and with the movements of even more Syrian military units into the border region, starts posing a national security danger for Turkey.

TR Defence

US Army’s Maxie McFarland Vacates: Turkey Goes for US COIN/HTS

Maxie McFarland, an unrelenting supporter of the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS 1.0), has left his position as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), G-2.According to TRADOC Public Affairs Officer Greg Mueller, “Mr. McFarland has left government service after many years of dedicated service as both an Army officer and a senior government executive. Mr. McFarland made a personal decision to leave government service and pursue other opportunities.”

The former US Army Colonel managed to keep HTS 1.0 funded, marketed, and publicized with a positive spin–thanks mainly to the exceptional media/presentation skills of Montgomery McFate–during its most troubled years from 2008 to early 2011. But turbulence and dissension was the story behind the scenes. HTS personnel within the program were alleging fraud, waste, abuse, sexual harassment, mismanagement of recruiting and training, gun running, and much more. The stories were often tragic and astonishing; the stuff of movies.

Their comments were dutifully reported and carried by many media outlets in and out of the USA. It was HTS personnel that were largely responsible for the initiation of internal US Army investigations of the program, plus independent assessments (one mandated by the US Congress) by the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Defense Analysis. The American Anthropological Association added its weight officially disavowing HTS. That was the least of McFarland’s problems.

Former HTS Technology Director Colonel Daniel Wolfe, USA (Ret.) and a principal of the Asymmetric Warfare Division, ARCIC, is said to be facing a bumpy road ahead due to actions whilst at HTS.

According to some observers, it’s not clear how much training has changed since Colonel Sharon Hamilton took over as HTS 2.0 program manager. Supposedly, the regional studies component of HTS 2.0 training, considered by many students to be the best part, was removed and has not been replaced. Improvements apparently include training that may reduce the “liability factor” of civilians working outside the wire and possibly help ensure their safety. A course on weapons familiarization appears to have been introduced. Others say it doesn’t appear that a “whole lot has changed although time spent training has been reduced.”

According the HTS website, the Pentagon/OSD continues to plan for an aggressive expansion of the Human Terrain System 2.0/MAP HT across the geographic combatant commands. There is a “DIA and USD-I initiative to expand socio-cultural capabilities beyond CENTCOM to [AFRICOM], EUCOM, PACOM, and SOUTHCOM.” HTS 2.0 is a key part of the USA’s counterinsurgency campaign in the CENTCOM AOR against assorted insurgent groups.

HTS 2.0 expansion into SOUTHCOM means it will join in the War on Drugs.

Planners maintain their intent to sell HTS 2.0 to other militaries around the globe.

For example, Turkey has been interacting with the US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center for some time now in an effort to revamp its counterinsurgency doctrine. “January 2010 COIN consultations with the Turkish [Army] highlights the desire of partner countries to exchange operational insights, better understand counterinsurgency concepts, and build COIN capabilities,” said the director of the Center. That means foreign military officers are being exposed to, one hopes, the best elements/practices of HTS 2.0 and its MAP HT capabilities.

“In January 2010, US COIN Center principals met with the Chief of the Turkish delegation, MG Orhan Turfan (Chief, General Plans and Policies, Turkish Army) and U.S. lead, BG Ed Donnelly (DAMO-SS). Discussions focused on developing agility in leaders and soldiers…to operate in complex Operating Environment through education, introduction of non-military conditions…in training environments, and stressing the importance of situational understanding prior to task execution in order not to solve the wrong problem. MG Turfan was interested in processes to disseminate lessons across the force. Proposed agreed to actions (ATAs) under consideration include: adding Turkish Army POCs to distribution of monthly COIN SITREP; invitation of Turkish officers to participate in future COIN Leader Workshops; COIN Center engagement with Turkish ILE students (ongoing); and potential Subject Matter Exchanges tied to implementation of NATO [meaning US] COIN doctrine. Next step: continue collaboration with the Turkish Army by executing ATA’s from HQDA.”

Greek Privatization Drive and Strategic Opportunities for Turkey

The Parthenon, Athens

As economic indicators point to an imminent threat of painful restructuring of the Greek public debt and conseuently significant loss of capital for major lenders in the Eurozone, pressure on Greece’s ruling party PASOK and Prime Minister George Papandreou keeps piling on. Even though the austerity measures the PASOK government has been trying to implement have caused widespread protest and resistance from just about every sphere of the Greek society, Papandreou has no choice but to push for the implementation of further measures and accelerate sales of certain Greek government and public assets.

This creates a rare opportunity for cunning countries with strategic interests in Greece, and in a larger sense in the rest of Europe. Russia and China are two of them, Turkey with its rising economic star and increasingly independent, aggressive foreign policy is another.

Chine sees Greece as an extremely efficient gateway into Europe via which the Asian superpower can ship and distribute its immense line of consumer goods, dramatically increasing its reach to the European markets in the continent’s north and west. It has already shown interest in acquiring controlling shares for the Thessaloniki (Selanik) and Pireas ports.

Russian energy giant Gazprom is aiming at DEPA Gas in order to strengthen the Bear’s grip on the European energy network at large, while RWE of Germany is gunning after Greece’s Public Power Corporation in collaboration with French and Czech investors.

Turkey seems to be in an adventageous position to make similar moves as well, for the same motivations as China and Russia plus three more: (1) Its considerably large economy and GDP growth rate in the region, (2) close geographic proximity to Greece, and (3) historical sensitivities and certain national security concerns of its own.

Timing could not have been better for Turkish firms, with or without support from the AKP government, to invest in Greece. Among the publicly owned assets lined up for privatization by Greece are LARCO, a major mining company, TrainOSE, a railway company, Hellenic Telecommunications, which already signed an agreement with Germany’s Deutsche Telekom for 10% of its shares, Athens International Airport, Thessaloniki Water Supply & Sewerage and four Airbus A340-300 passanger jets. These assets present a buying opportunity below market place.

Beyond these companies mentioned, there are two other strategic assets at the moment that pose a very special opportunity for Turkey from a national security perspective: Hellenic Aerospace and Hellenic Defense Systems.

Let’s face it. Even though Greece has never posed an existential threat for Turkey in the last 1,000 years, it has managed to be somewhat of an annoyance, forcing Turkey to set aside billions of liras to create and maintain its Aegean army. Greece’s territorial attempts in Greece, menacing politics in regards to the Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul or the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, as well as continuous violations of Turkish territorial waters and airspace in the Aegean Sea have kept Turkey on both diplomatic and military red alert.

Combined with the advancements in Turkey’s own defence industry and its exponential growth in recent years, acquisition of these two Greek national assets by Turkish firms can be both economically rewarding and strategically incisive.

If Turkey means to become a true regional power, this opportunity in Greece cannot be passed for only China, Russia and a few others to spoil. Time has come for Turkey to take bold steps.

Hasan Karaahmet

Turkey sets up $100 mln fund to help Libya rebels

Libyan Rebels

Turkey has established a $100 million fund to support Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday.

“There is a real need for humanitarian access as well as for the natural needs of Libya like schools, hospitals and all those facilities,” Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu was speaking to reporters at a summit of Western and Arab countries backing Libya’s rebels and aimed at preparing for a political structure after the departure of leader Muammar Gaddafi from power.

Reuters

US presses Turkey to join Libya air bombing

The Obama administration criticized five key military allies Wednesday to take on a greater share of the NATO-led air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, illustrating the strains of a three-month intervention in Libya that has no time frame for an exit.

The pressure on Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey and Netherlands comes as the alliance continues with intensified airstrikes on Libya’s capital.

Gates said Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands should enhance their limited participation in noncombat operations by joining in strike missions against ground targets, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal NATO deliberations. They said Gates pressed Germany and Poland, the two countries not participating at all militarily, to help in some form.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton likely will restate Gates’ argument Thursday when NATO nations and Arab governments participating in the air campaign meet in the United Arab Emirates.

Responding to the US criticism, Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Thursday that the Turkish prime minister, government and Turkish president would decide on a possible role for Turkey in air bombing of Libya when the issue came up on the agenda of the government.

I have not yet received Mr. Gates’s demand and his words on the issue, Gonul told reporters in southern province of Antalya on Thursday.

Our decision on Libya has two dimensions. One of them has to do with the embargo while the other involves humanitarian assistance. We are contributing to the embargo with four frigates, one submarine and six F-16 jets. We have a principled decision on not participating in the “No Fly Zone”. The decision is valid today. Once Mr. Gates’s demand reaches the Turkish government, our Prime Minister, the whole government and our President would assess the situation, Gonul also said.

Agencies

Military Backlash Sends More Syrians Fleeing to Turkey

A group of Syrians head towards Turkey as they wait for the authorization to cross the border near Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, June 8, 2011

A rising number of Syrians in the north are fleeing into neighboring Turkey amid fears of possible military retaliation for the killing of Syrian security force members amid an anti-government backlash.

News organizations say at least 130 more Syrians entered Turkey on Wednesday, raising the number who have crossed in recent days to at least 350.

Residents began to leave a region near the Turkish border after the Syrian government accused “armed gangs” of massacring 120 security force members, last week, and vowed to take decisive action.  There were media reports of Syrian forces moving to fortify positions in the north on Wednesday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Syria to take a more “tolerant” position towards its civilians as his nation faces the increasing tide of Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, the United States says it is backing a draft United Nations Security Council resolution that condemns the Syrian government’s “repression” of its citizens.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday the measure is designed to put additional pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Britain and France are the resolution’s main sponsors.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown against the anti-government campaign that began in March. More than 10,000 people have been arrested.

Also, the United States and its allies are drafting a separate United Nations resolution that says Syria has failed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear program. Syria has failed to allow international monitors to inspect its facilities to determine if they are being used for military purposes.

VOA News

Arab unrest boosts Turkey’s NATO role

A Rafale jet fighter from the French Navy is about to land on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. AFP photo

The pending transformation of the NATO air base in İzmir into a key land base for the alliance reflects concerns about security amid the ongoing Arab Spring, security experts have said.

The Aegean base was chosen for its new mission because of its strategic location, Nihat Ali Özcan of the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Thursday.

“NATO’s command restructuring has a lot to do with the Arab Spring,” Özcan said. “The West places the utmost priority on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa. And it appears this process will take a long time, resulting in a serious security vacuum.”

The important role for İzmir in NATO comes as the 28-member alliance is shrinking the number of its major bases from 11 to seven to reduce costs and duplication. The agreement to transform the İzmir base, which was reached at a meeting of NATO defense ministers Wednesday night, will also include the closure of the joint force command in Lisbon – one of three such installations.

In addition to İzmir, Turkey’s air base in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, which has been used since 2009 for air refueling for AWACS aircraft joining the Afghanistan operation, will see a new institutional restructuring as part of the reform strategy.

In announcing the agreement, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it would make the alliance “leaner, more flexible” and “more affordable.” A NATO statement said the reforms would mean a reduction in headquarters posts from 13,000 to 8,800.

“NATO’s transformation is under consideration. The goal is to establish a cost-effective and active system as well as to reform the command structure,” Mehmet Yegin from the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, another Ankara-based think tank, told the Daily News.

He said the new reform was linked to the economic crisis in some of the European Union member states.

“European countries are mostly cutting from defense expenditures due to the financial slump. This is also prompting these countries to take less responsibility within NATO. But this is not the case for Turkey,” Yegin said.

Under the reform, land bases at Heidelberg in Germany and Madrid will close, as will a naval base at Naples in Italy. As compensation to Portugal for the loss of the Lisbon base, it will be the location for a deployable naval headquarters, NATO officials said.

Joint command headquarters will remain at Brunssum in the Netherlands and at Naples, while the main maritime headquarters will be at Northwood in Britain and the main air command at Ramstein in Germany.

The reforms will also see a reduction in the number of NATO agencies responsible for specific areas such as ground surveillance and strategic airlift from 14 to four, three of which will be located in Belgium and one in Luxembourg.

AFP

Russia Says NATO Not Listening on Missile Shield

General Missile Defence Architecture

NATO and Russia failed to reach a breakthrough on a missile shield project in Europe on June 8 with the Russian defense minister complaining that Moscow’s demands were falling on deaf ears.

After talks between NATO defense ministers and their Russian counterpart in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed Russian demands for a legal guarantee that the project was not directed at Russia.

“It would be in the interest of Russia to engage in a positive cooperation with NATO and focus on real security challenges instead of some ghosts of the past that don’t exist anymore,” Rasmussen said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed at a NATO summit in November to explore the possibility of cooperating with the former Cold War foe on a system to protect Europe’s population from the threat of ballistic missiles.

Fearing that the system would undermine its nuclear deterrent, Moscow has since then demanded a legally binding guarantee that the missile shield was not aimed at Russia.

The Western military alliance has also rejected Medvedev’s idea of dividing the European continent into sectors of military responsibility, with Rasmussen saying the two sides should keep their systems separate.

“NATO is not hearing us for the moment,” said Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. “NATO’s position is not acceptable to Russia,” he said, adding however that Russia still hoped to reach an agreement.

Despite the lack of a breakthrough, Rasmussen said he was optimistic that a deal could be reach in time for the next NATO summit hosted by the United States in May 2012.

“The Russians have their positions and their interests, we have our positions and our interests, and now the political challenge is to build a bridge and we still have some time,” he said.

“I would expect us to make steady progress. It would be hard work but I’m still optimistic. I think at the end of the day we can reach a solution.”

In the meantime, NATO defense ministers adopted an action plan on June 8 to forge ahead with the missile shield project, which an alliance official said is expected to be completed by 2018.

AFP

NATO Meeting in Talinn Addresses Cyber Security

Three hundred global cyber experts gathered in Tallinn on June 7 for a NATO Cyber Conflict conference focused on the legal and political aspects of national and global Internet security amid a rise in attacks.

“The special focus at the conference this year is on generating cyber forces (…) the technologies, people and organizations that nations require to mitigate cyber threats that have been increasing with rapid speed,” Col. Ilmar Tamm, head of NATO’s Tallinn-based Cyber Defence Centre told AFP as the forum got underway.

According to Tamm, the Symantec cyber security firm recently reported that “web-based attacks in 2010 were up 93 percent from 2009.”

“This calls for frameworks in both legal and strategic aspects which would guide the decision makers on how to act on these cases,” Tamm said.

The Tallinn conference will coincide with a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels where a new cyber defense policy for NATO will be adopted.

Meanwhile, at the third annual Tallinn meeting, experts from 37 countries are to share cutting-edge cyber security research, Tamm explained.

Among others, Ralph Langner, the German computer scientist who conducted much of the ground-breaking research on the Stuxnet worm, will present an analysis of what has been called the world’s first cyber weapon.

Keir Giles from the U.K. Conflict Studies Research Centre is to analyze global cyber attacks from Russia and whether they can be seen as acting under a so-called Russian Cyber Command.

Talks will also focus on the recent U.S. government decision to treat cyber attacks as military attacks and make relevant legislative changes.

“The support the U.S. initiative has got in many other states, including Estonia and the U.K., indicates nations’ increasing willingness to discuss military responses to cyber attacks,” Tamm told AFP.

“With cyber incidents becoming more and more intrusive, it is a logical step for militaries to develop capabilities to counter cyber attacks and be prepared to engage in proportional response to cyber attacks,” he added.

Though in practice, “it will be challenging to tailor a cyber response that would respect the rules of combat related to civilian objects and collateral damage,” he added.

AFP