Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Europe's army? Despite defense cuts, few European countries come close to France for military power.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — French military prowess isn't always fully appreciated in the United States.

But there are few troops anywhere in the world better prepared for their task than the marines, foreign legionaries, and other elite French units rolling north to confront the Jihadist militants controlling much of Mali.

"The French special forces are tip top, they’re up there with the best of them," says Brooks Tigner, chief policy analyst at Security Europe, a specialist newsletter.

"They also have vast experience in expeditionary forces in West Africa," he adds. "They really know the territory, the boundaries, the topography and the ethnic problems. They are very well placed."

Among America's European allies, only the British can match France's ability to project significant military force overseas. However, not even they have much experience operating in the string of former French colonies across North and West Africa — where the recent rise of Islamist groups is posing the international community’s latest security threat.

Air force faces strike fighter gap

Australia will almost certainly be forced to buy 24 new Super Hornet fighter planes for about $2 billion to plug a looming gap in its air defences caused by delays in the purchase of the cutting-edge Joint Strike Fighter.
According to a leaked draft of the 2013 defence white paper, Australia will take delivery of just two Lockheed Martin JSFs by 2020, indicating the government will need to buy a batch of rival Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, which are cheaper but older and less stealthy than the fifth-generation JSF (pictured).
''By the end of this decade, the ADF will . . . take delivery of three air warfare destroyers, two landing helicopter dock amphibious ships and the initial two F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft,'' the white paper states.
While switching to the Super Hornets would not be a slug to the government budget - each is about $40 million cheaper than a JSF - it may mean money is wasted on training and maintaining two different types of fighters. And some experts say the Super Hornet would be challenged by some of Australia's neighbours' growing air combat capabilities.

Japan puts pair of new satellites into orbit

The rocket lifted off at 1:40 p.m. from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, and put the satellites into orbit, the agency said.

The radar satellite, designed for information-gathering, is capable of detecting objects on the ground at night and through cloud cover. The optical satellite is designed to demonstrate higher resolution shooting technology.

The optical satellite is reportedly able to distinguish objects on the ground as small as about 40 cm, like U.S. commercial satellites.

Japan now has one radar satellite and three optical satellites in operation. Japan is trying to expand its satellite network so that any specific point on the ground can be viewed at least once a day.

Japan began the intelligence satellite program after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Honshu in 1998.

South China Sea code of conduct between Asean and China in peril

Greg Torode fears that the maritime pact between China and Asean - which has been years in the making - is now in peril

If China needed any further excuses to place on the back burner negotiations with Asean over worsening tensions in the South China Sea, the Philippines' actions in the past week may have provided them with one.
Manila's move to use the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to force a ruling on China's controversial claim to virtually the entire South China Sea is as bold as it is intriguing, setting the stage for several years of legal exposure that will not be welcomed by a Beijing increasingly determined to bend the region to its will.
It may also complicate an already fractious situation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, further imperiling already delayed talks over a once-vaunted code of conduct, according to insiders.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Military has to decide which combat jobs for women

The Pentagon's decision to lift the ban on women serving in combat presents a daunting challenge to top military leaders who now will have to decide which, if any, jobs they believe should be open only to men.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce Thursday that more than 230,000 battlefront posts — many in Army and Marine infantry units and in potentially elite commando jobs — are now open to women. It will be up to the military service chiefs to recommend and defend whether women should be excluded from any of those more demanding and deadly positions, such as Navy SEALs or the Army's Delta Force.

The historic change, which was recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

The change won't take place overnight: Service chiefs will have to develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.

General Dynamics announces $2.1B loss

Defense industry titan General Dymanics reported on Wednesday a $2.1 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The announcement comes on the heels of three major submarine contract awards to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division that amounted to more than $4 billion.

In 2012, General Dynamics lost $332 million compared to the profit of $2.55 the company reported in 2011.Defense analysts expect similar calls throughout the industry as the Pentagon braces for the coming defense budget cuts that could be more severe if sequestration is executed. Industry executives worry that sequestration combined with the extension of the Continuing Resolution will put contracts in jeopardy.

General Dynamics reported $31.5 billion total revenue for 2012 and $8.1 billion for the fourth quarter. The company’s operating margin was 2.6 percent through 2012 after taking a 23.5 percent hit in the fourth quarter. The defense firm credited additional Styrker orders and the contract to develop the next generation Ohio-class submarine for not creating a greater fourth quarter loss.

Army delays GCV program

Army acquisition leaders moved Jan. 16 to delay its top modernization program, the Ground Combat Vehicle, in hopes of making it more viable in the face of expected defense budget cuts.

The Army issued a memorandum Jan. 16 announcing the addition of a six-month extension of the Technology Development phase of the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle program. Defense companies will have more time to “refine vehicle designs,” according to an Army statement.

Company executives will have to review those designs as the Army has removed a possible contract later in the development program. Army officials chose to shrink the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase down to a single vendor while also not authorizing planned procurement of long lead items for EMD prototypes.Army leaders don’t plan to make a Milestone C decision for the program until 2019, according to the memorandum.

The Army hope to use the GCV to replace the aging Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. The Bradley has been in service since 1981.

Sweden Looking To Build Nordic Defense Pact

 The Swedish government wants to accelerate the pace and depth of Nordic cooperation, urging moves that could create joint air, naval and army units with Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Sweden’s intent is backed by a joint positional statement by Defense Minister Karin Enström and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt that was expanded at the annual Sälen Society and Defense conference Jan. 14.

This statement proposes Nordic states “pool and share” their military equipment and capacities, effectively creating joint air, naval and land forces units to undertake Nordic defense roles.

“Sweden wants to create a more efficient use of resources, higher quality, better effects and an expanded variety of defense capabilities through cooperation,” it states. “Joint ownership and use of military capacities and resources, or so-called pooling and sharing, is a central part of the Swedish vision for a Nordic defense cooperation.”

But questions remain about Sweden’s own level of defense spending, broader interest in this sort of defense pact and how it could work with NATO-member Nordic nations.

What next for Russia’s military air transport force?

Historically, most of Russia’s military transport planes have been Antonov makes – from Antonov-26 to Antonov-124 – developed and built at design bureaus and plants located in Russia and Ukraine. Dependence on cooperation with the latter country may compromise Russia’s ten-year programme to supply its armed forces with over 100 new transport jets.

Forty should be Ilyushin-476s (the latest modification of the Ilyushin-76), assembled at the aviation plant in Ulyanovsk. The rest should be Antonov makes, mostly Antonov-70s and superheavy Antonov-124s. The fate of both Antonovs, however, is now in question. The Russian military appears to have deemed the Antonov-124, or Ruslan, jet an unnecessary luxury. It will continue to maintain its existing Ruslan fleet, but will not procure new Ruslans.

Unending delays on the Antonov-70 programme, which is yet to be accomplished, remove the prospect of assembling such planes at the aviation plant in Kazan to the period after 2015.

China’s Intelligence Reforms?

In the wake of China’s leadership transition at the 18th Party Congress in November, rumors floating around in Chinese cyberspace suggested ministerial restructuring could be in the works. Now, administrative restructuring to improve government efficiency always seem to be floating around as an idea. Even if Western-style political reforms are not in cards, the Chinese Communist Party is painfully aware of the need to improve governance. What is remarkable about the recent rumors is that they include changing the Ministry of State Security (MSS), China’s civilian internal and external intelligence service that is more akin to the KGB than the CIA.

The MSS supposedly would become the State Security Administration (guojia anquan zongju), reporting directly to the State Council and presumably not to the Political-Legal Committee, now officially headed by Meng Jianzhu. If true, these rumors present a significant change to China’s domestic intelligence and preserving stability apparatus. Not only would this reform dilute the power of the Central Political-Legal Committee by cutting out the MSS, but it also would give the senior-most leaders an alternate source of domestic intelligence.

Chinese - Japanese Tensins Are Escalating Dangerously In The Sky

Japan scrambled fighter jets against Chinese planes far more frequently in the last quarter of 2012, underscoring growing concerns that the territorial dispute between the two nations is escalating into more dangerous tensions in the sky.
The increase shows Tokyo is responding aggressively to Chinese planes entering areas inside and outside of what Japan considers its airspace over the East China Sea, where the two neighbors have squabbled bitterly over a group of small uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Japan's Self Defense Forces on Thursday said the air force conducted 91 scrambles against Chinese aircraft in the three-month period, the largest quarterly tally since Tokyo started disclosing such data in 2005. For decades, Japan has routinely dispatched fighter jets to keep foreign aircraft—mostly Russian jets—out of its airspace, but the rising number of scrambles against Chinese planes is relatively new.
During the first three quarters of the year that ends in March, Japan conducted 160 scrambles against Chinese planes, compared with 156 in the year ended March 2012, and 54 in the prior year. The latest quarterly number was up from 54 scrambles for the July-September period and 15 for April-June.
Diplomatic dialogue between the two nations aimed at resolving the dispute has been largely put on hold following a Chinese leadership change in November and a Japanese one in December.
In a subtle initial effort by Japan's new government to reach out to China, the leader of a small party in the ruling coalition is visiting Beijing this week, carrying a letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Xi Jingping, China's new leader.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

While the company is saving procedure, it continues to demonstrate its know-how very special. Industries for Tamaris is a project that should demonstrate the capacity of the company to produce exceptional pieces.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said unidentified groups had entered the country with the aim of assassinating him and the head of the National Assembly as President Hugo Chavez recovers from cancer in Cuba.
Maduro provided no proof of the claim , made at a rally on Wednesday to mark the end of a dictatorship in the OPEC nation 55 years ago, but he said action would be taken shortly.
"For several weeks we've been following groups that have infiltrated the country with the aim of making attempts on the life of (Assembly head) Diosdado Cabello and my own," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted "Chavista" supporters. "They will not manage it against either of us."
Chavez named Maduro as his preferred successor before he went to Cuba in early December for surgery, his fourth operation in 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvis that was first diagnosed in mid-2011.
Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from since then. Venezuela's government says his condition is improving after he suffered multiple complications caused by the December 11 surgery.
Officials say he is in "good spirits" but no date has been set for his return home. Maduro said he and the energy minister would travel to Havana on Wednesday to see Chavez.
Uncertainty over the 58-year-old president's fragile health has raised the specter of political instability in the deeply polarized South American country of 29 million people.
During his 14 years in power, Chavez has repeatedly accused Venezuela's "traitorous" opposition leaders of plotting to kill him, but offered little proof.
The opposition says the charges are a smokescreen to distract from Venezuela's daily problems such a shortages of staple goods, high inflation and one of the worst crime rates in the world.

Australian Defence Force to enhance security of resource-rich regions

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is focusing on enhancing the security of the remote, resource-rich areas in the country's north and western regions.

A leaked defence white paper draft was cited by Australian Financial Review as saying that intensification of operational exercises in north and western part of the country was being planned by the military to help boost security of the region's oil, mining and gas assets.

" Work is already under way to enhance the ADF's preparedness for operations in the north-west," the document stated.

"A strategic level of war game focused on the security of Australia's energy resources and infrastructure was carried out in 2012 and more regular exercises and war games will follow."

Plans to enhance resource region's security follow a recent attack on a gas plant in Algeria.

French military strategy in Mali

The wheels of armored Sagaie crush shrubs. The small column of the French army left slowly Airport Sévaré . Few hundred meters and it is the bush. The detachment will not go far. On a rocky promontory, five Malian soldiers around a tent, watching the horizon. Under the command of captain, Sagaie maneuvering, looking for shooting angles to counter a possible but unlikely attack. Must still find positions to defend the airport, unique region, located more than 700 km from Bamako.

Attacking by surprise Konna , 70 km away, the Islamists were probably intended to seize the airport. Mirage does not let them time to put their plan into action. "Sévaré is a strategic bolt. There are, of course, the airport. But it is also an important city for the control of roads leading from East to Bamako, "said Captain Sebastian. The officer arrived in the city on Saturday with a detachment shielded. Almost every day, other people, other vehicles land to build the unit as the operation is " Serval ". According to the newspaper The Ec ho s, France is preparing to send Leclerc tanks.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Should U.S. Military Aid To Israel Be Cut?

In a recent interview, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said, “I think, generally, we need to free ourselves from [U.S. military aid].” He implied that perhaps at one time this assistance was necessary, but added that “our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago. Israel is much stronger, much wealthier, and we need to be independent.” On the other side, American politicians like Rand Paul argue that in the face of the crushing U.S. debt, foreign aid to Israel needs to be cut.
Some drawing down of American military support is probably healthy, but for practical reasons—not the ideological reasons Bennett and Paul propose. These politicians want to reduce the ties between the two countries on the basis of two different minority views. Bennett’s goal of extending Israeli sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel is hampered by Washington’s opposition; for him, aid is more a chain than a bond. Paul’s neo-isolationism requires a reduction in close ties to other countries, to avoid being dragged into their affairs.
In theory it shouldn’t be difficult to reduce U.S. military aid to Israel, if policymakers in both countries really wanted to make it happen. After all, Washington provided hundreds of millions of dollars of economic aid from the 1940s, until this assistance was phased out by 2008. But military aid is an important pillar of the Israeli-American relationship, with benefits for both, and powerful actors on each side share that belief.
The Congressional Research Service estimates that since 1949, the U.S. has given Israel about $115 billion in aid. U.S. military assistance has come in different forms. Over the years, chunks have been provided as emergency responses to specific events (like the 1967 and 1973 Wars) or as incentive for positive developments (the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the Wye River Memorandum, the 2005 Gaza withdrawal). Regular installments of about $1.8 billion in military assistance began in 1987, and the American defense budget itself provides separate funding for specific programs like Israel’s missile defense systems (the Arrow, Iron Dome), which in fiscal year 2013 stood at $99.8 million.

Latest U.S. military incident in Japan: apparent game of ding-dong ditch

Was it a game of ding-dong ditch, or just a misunderstanding?
A U.S. sailor stands accused of ringing doorbells in the middle of the night and breaking into a 72-year-old woman's property while drunk, say police in Yokosuka, Japan.
Authorities arrested Manuel Silva, 20, early Monday on the elderly woman's property in the city, located south of Tokyo.
The arrested sailor is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, the Navy said. A Navy spokesman said he wasn't allowed to identify the sailor by name.
Being off-base without permission could put Silva in breach of a standing curfew for all U.S. military service members in Japan. U.S. officials imposed the curfew in response to widespread outrage over rape accusations in October against U.S. sailors on the Japanese island of Okinawa.
The incident started after police received several late night emergency calls. Somebody in the neighborhood where Silva was found was ringing doorbells and running away before the doors were answered.
Police say they later discovered Silva on the elderly woman's property.
The Navy said it is "currently reviewing the incident to determine if there was a violation" of regulations for U.S. service members serving in Japan.

Russia ready for seeking a compromise with NATO on air defense

Russia is ready to discuss the prospects of further cooperation in air defense with NATO, the head of the Russian army's General Staff General Valery Gerasimov says. On Wednesday, Mr. Gerasimov took part in a meeting of heads of General Staffs of Russia and NATO countries in Brussels.
NATO's plans include creating a network of air defense facilities and radars near Russia's European borders. Russia is concerned that this may break the balance of force between it and NATO.
Russia-NATO: bolstering partnership or playing trust? A session of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of chiefs of General Staff is to be held in Brussels on January 16. High on the agenda will be the approval of a bilateral cooperation plan for 2013. At the same time, both sides remain at odds over a spate of issues, something that prompted some analysts to speak of the sides 'playing trust' rather than bolstering full-blown cooperation.
According to NATO's press service, the sides will discuss a wide array of issues of common interest to better address modern-day challenges. The Russian delegation is headed by Colonel General Valery Gerasimov, Russia's military chief of staff. Additionally, the sides will deal with the situation in Afghanistan, NATO's transformation and the implementation of the so-called Smart Defense program. It stipulates effectively using defense potential amid restricted financing.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Taliban executes 2 as US spies

Taliban militants executed a girl and a man in the Wardak province of Afghanistan for ‘espionage in favour of the US’, the Pajhwok Afghan News agency reports.

According to the agency, the girl made photographic surveying in the Chak district. She had recently returned home from the US.
The two bodies were found in a small place where the Taliban usually leave their executed victims.
There was a note on the dead girl’s body that she had been a US spy, the agency points out.

Status of the Russian early-warning radar network

Construction of new early-warning radars in Russia has really taken off in the last few years. With new radars coming online and some retiring, the shape of the radar network has changed quite dramatically since the last update. Also, some new good information has come out - for example, this story that described a visit to the Main Space Situational Awareness Center has a nice photo of a chart that lists early-warning and space surveillance assets that were operational in September 2011 (thanks to AS for this and other tips).
Key characteristics of the radars that are involved in early warning are in the table below. The ranges apparently assume some standard radar cross-section of a target - in the space surveillance context this would be a satellite. It would be different (smaller) against warheads.


Armavir Voronezh-DM 100-4200
Armavir Voronezh-DM 100-4200

Kaliningrad Voronezh-DM 100-4200


Barnaul Voronezh-DM

Baranovichi Volga 300-6500

In addition to the radars listed in the original chart, the table has information about radars that are not listed there - second Voronezh-DM in Armavir, Voronezh-DM in Kaliningrad and Voronezh-VP in Mishelevka. The radars in Armavir and Kaliningrad are assumed to be similar to the first Armavir radar. Orientation of the East-facing Armavir radar can be seen at The Kaliningrad radar is seen on Google Earth. The Voronezh-VP radar in Mishelevka is expected to be more powerful than Voronezh-M deployed in Lekhtusi - VP stands for "high potential" - so its range is probably larger than 4200 km. The radar is not yet seen on Google Earth, so its exact orientation is not known, but the radar fan can be seen on this photo, published in Novosti Kosmonavtiki. 

Russia has recently discontinued the use of the Daryal radar in Gabala, but I kept it in the table, if only because it was mentioned in the context of potential U.S.-Russian cooperation.

With so many radars in operation, making a reasonable map of coverage is not that easy. I did, however, put together a Google Earth file that shows the radar fans. You could download it here. The photo above gives a sense of what's in the file.

Iran confiscates over a ton of narcotics a day

 Iran's media are reporting that police confiscate over a ton of narcotics a day from smugglers.
Gen. Ali Moayedi, head of Iran's anti-narcotics police, is quoted by newspapers Sunday as saying that some 30 drug smugglers and addicts are identified and arrested every hour in Iran. He said over 200,000 were detained in the past nine months alone.
Iran lies on a major drug route between Afghanistan and Europe, as well as the Persian Gulf states.
Moayedi said that over 1,286 kg (2,835 pounds) are confiscated each day. This represents about a fifth of the total drugs that officials have previously said enter Iran --- of the rest, nearly 700 tons are consumed

Netanyahu vows to push on with E1 settlement

Israeli police release activists detained after setting up camp to protest illegal settlement in key West Bank area. 
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pledged to move ahead with building a Jewish settlement in a strategic area of the West Bank, speaking just hours after Israeli troops dragged anti-settlement protesters from the site marked for construction.
The planned settlement, known as E1, would deepen East Jerusalem's separation from the West Bank, both war-won areas the Palestinians want for their own state.
Netanyahu told Israel army radio Sunday that planning for E1 is moving ahead and that "there will be construction".
In a meeting with his Cabinet, Netanyahu said: "As soon as I was updated on the Palestinian gathering, I ordered the evacuation and it was indeed carried out last night in the best possible manner."
About 200 Palestinian activists had set up the camp, named Bab al-Shams, which means Gate of the Sun in Arabic, on Friday in the controversial E1 area between Israel-annexed East Jerusalem and the illegal settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
"We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim," said Netanyahu.
The protesters had defied Israeli orders to leave until police moved in at around 2:30am (00:30 GMT) on Sunday.
"Hundreds of Israeli police came from all directions, surrounding all those who were in the tents and arresting them one by one," Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouthi said.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said that no arrests had been made.
"They were told they were trespassing and carefully escorted from the site one by one," he said. "Nobody was hurt on either side."
About 500 police took part in the operation, he added.

Bomb hits convoy of Iraq's Sunni finance minister

Attackers detonated a bomb Sunday next to a convoy carrying the Iraqi finance minister, a central figure in more than two weeks of protests by minority Sunnis against the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government, police said.
The minister, Rafia al-Issawi, was not hurt in the bombing. The device exploded as the last car in his convoy was passing by.
Al-Issawi is one of the senior Sunni officials in the government. Arrest of his bodyguards set off a wave of protests in Anbar province, a huge, mostly Sunni area, once a haven for al-Qaida militants that targeted Shiites and U.S. forces during the American-led operation in Iraq that started in 2003. The last U.S. combat soldiers left Iraq a year ago.
The minister was heading to Fallujah to meet with tribal leaders. Fallujah is at the eastern edge of Anbar, closest to Baghdad.
The attack on al-Issawi could trigger another round of protests. Rare demonstrations by angry Sunnis on the main highway between Iraq and Syria caused disruptions over the past two weeks. Sunnis charge that the central government is discriminating against them.
In violence in Anbar on Sunday, police said a roadside bomb exploded next to a security patrol in Fallujah, killing a 7-year-old boy who was walking near the patrol. Three policemen were wounded.
Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualty figures.

Saudi criticises world reaction to maid's beheading

Saudi Arabia on Sunday criticised world reaction to its beheading a Sri Lankan maid convicted of killing her employer's baby, the official SPA news agency reported.
Riyadh "deplores the statements made... over the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death, one week after she arrived in the kingdom," the government spokesman said.
Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday in a case that sparked widespread international condemnation, including from rights groups which said she was just 17 when she was charged with murdering the baby in 2005.
Nafeek was found guilty of smothering the infant after an argument with the child's mother.
The case soured diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka which on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in protest.
The government spokesman condemned what he called "wrong information on the case," and denied that the maid was a minor when she committed the crime.
"As per her passport, she was 21 years old when she committed the crime," he said, adding that "the kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers."
He said the authorities had tried hard to convince the baby's family to accept "blood money," but they rejected any amnesty and insisted that the maid be executed.
Saudi Arabia "respects... all rules and laws and protects the rights of its people and residents, and completely rejects any intervention in its affairs and judicial verdicts, whatever the excuse," the spokesman said.
The UN's human rights body on Friday expressed "deep dismay" at the beheading, and the European Union said it had asked the Saudi authorities to commute the death penalty.

Libya, Algeria and Tunisia to Step Up Border Security

The prime ministers of Libya, Algeria and Tunisia agreed on Saturday to enhance security along their common borders in an attempt to fight the flow of arms and drugs and organized crime in the politically turbulent region.Meeting in the western Libyan border town of Ghadames, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his Algerian and Tunisian counterparts said measures would include setting up joint checkpoints and patrols along the frontiers, which stretch for thousands of kilometers (miles) through mostly sparsely-populated desert.
They also expressed concern over the crisis in Mali, where an international campaign to crush rebels who seized the north of the country was gathering pace.
Mali does not share a border with Libya but it has been affected by the spillover of weapons and fighters from the war.
Security on Libya's borders has deteriorated since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with its southern regions struggling with smuggling, lingering unrest and insecurity.
"We would like to send a message that we will not allow anyone to use our countries for terrorism or use our borders for weapons trade, drugs smuggling or illegal immigration," Zeidan told reporters.
In a joint statement, the premiers said they would meet several times a year and agreed to form teams to look into cooperation with neighboring countries over the Malian crisis, which they said required "political dialogue".

Haiti Remembers 2010 Earthquake in Subdued Ceremony

Haiti marked the third anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed much of the capital and killed more than 250,000 people with a purposely low-key commemoration on Saturday that included former U.S. President Bill Clinton.        Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, joined the country's president, Michel Martelly, for a simple wreath-laying ceremony held at a mass burial site on a barren hillside at the outskirts of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
"Today we're here so that we don't forget, and to do better," Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told reporters. "We were heavily hit, that's true. But we're standing strong to rebuild our country."
Earlier in the day, Haiti's government marked the occasion with a subdued ceremony on the grounds of the razed national palace in downtown Port-au-Prince. In a short address, Martelly paid homage to those who perished and praised the courage of those who survived.
"A little more lonely, a little more vulnerable," Martelly said. "I express to you my compassion."
He thanked donors and international aid organizations, and reassured them that the ongoing reconstruction effort would be closely evaluated to avoid waste and corruption. "I understand your concern," he said.
Martelly also announced the launch of a new building code, vowing that another tragedy like that of 2010 would never happen again.
This year's anniversary was a marked change from the hours-long commemorations organized by the government the first two years. The previous anniversaries included live musical performances, prayers from Haiti's spiritual leaders and press conferences.
Three years after the massive earthquake, reconstruction progress has been painfully slow, and barely half of the $5 billion in aid pledged by donors has been delivered.
About 350,000 displaced earthquake victims still live in camps, with little relief in sight. Only about 6,000 permanent houses have been built.

Russia Sees Al-Qaeda Growth in Lebanon

In preparation for any hazardous security developments, Moscow has formulated a plan to evacuate its nationals from Lebanon, an informed Russian source told Al-Monitor. The evacuation would encompass 33,000 residents and would be carried out by Russian sea vessels, given that the humble capacity of Beirut International Airport would not allow for the evacuation of such a large number of people in a short time.
  The Russian source revealed that similar plans to press ahead with evacuation were put on the agenda of other Western countries which, like Russia, would opt for naval evacuations for logistical reasons.
Moscow began studying modalities during the summer to ensure the safety of its citizens in Lebanon and Syria. The measures ranged between giving instructions through the Russian embassies in Beirut and Damascus, and setting emergency plans to be executed if need be. Many Russian citizens in Syria preferred heading back to their homeland. The sophisticated neighborhood of Tijara in Damascus — which had once housed many Russian families — stands witness to this fact, as it has become a ghost town in the two years since the breakout of conflict in Syria.
Meanwhile, Russian citizens in Lebanon did not follow the steps of their peers in Syria. Moscow believes that the stability of Lebanon is not at stake. However, it has voiced its concerns about radical Islamic groups targeting Russian interests in Lebanon, in a violent attempt to denounce Russia’s stance in regard to the crisis in Syria.
Last summer, in a meeting held at the office of the Lebanese Army Intelligence Department’s chief, Maj. Gen. Edmond Fadel, the military attaché of the Russian embassy in Beirut communicated to his French, American and Saudi counterparts the Russian “concern” about potential attacks by al-Qaeda cells in Lebanon. “In particular, we are worried about information indicating that some of these groups intend to target our embassy in Beirut,” he said.
The Saudi military attaché had reservations about the Russian statement, noting that it was essential to verify the information about the existence of al-Qaeda in Lebanon before voicing concerns.
This disparity points to a political, media conflict on the internal and regional level over the presence of al-Qaeda in Lebanon. More precisely, regional countries hold divergent opinions about the source of terrorism in Lebanon. Some, notably Saudi Arabia, see terrorism in Lebanon as a Syrian product, even if the perpetrators act under the auspices of al-Qaeda, since Syria and Iran have achieved breakthroughs into this organization. The opposite opinion warns that al-Qaeda is spreading in Lebanon, feeding on the rampant sectarian division and the weakness of the state in many regions, particularly the North governorate

Iran's Intelligence Agency Is Twice The Size Of The CIA

Iranian Intelligence is Twice as Large as the CIA


The CIA does not release any official numbers on the number of employees who work there, but estimates generally place it at somewhere around 15,000. Meanwhile a Pentagon report estimates the size of Iranian intelligence at around 30,000 or twice as large.
Iran’s intelligence service includes 30,000 people who are engaged in covert and clandestine activities that range from spying to stealing technology to terrorist bombings and assassination, according to a Pentagon report.
The report concluded that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, known as MOIS, is “one of the largest and most dynamic intelligence agencies in the Middle East.”
The ministry actively supports Iran’s radical Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that has been involved in terrorist bombings from Argentina to Lebanon.
The size of an intelligence operation does not necessarily correlate with effectiveness, for example the Israeli Mossad clocks in at 1,200 people, but it does indicate the level of commitment and investment in intelligence operations.
And everyone is dwarfed by China which takes a “Put more men on the job” approach to everything and whose “human wave” espionage operations involve millions of people working for overlapping networks of intelligence agencies vacuuming up every piece of intelligence in sight.
There are eight national intelligence colleges taking in thousands of new spies every year, many of whom then move to foreign countries or operate cyber attack operations domestically.

Backing it all up is a Chinese intelligence bureaucracy back home that is huge, with nearly 100,000 people working just to keep track of the many Chinese overseas, and what they could or should, be trying to grab for the motherland. This is where many of the graduates of the National Intelligence College program will work.

News Report: Japan to set up special unit to defend disputed Senkaku Islands

Japan has made a decision to set up a special-purpose coastguard unit comprising 12 naval ships that would guard the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea, the islands that China claims are part of its territory.

According to the Tokyo-based media, the unit will also comprise some 400 servicemen of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force, which is seen both as a border-guard and rescue service.

The conflict between Tokyo and Beijing was drastically aggravated when the Japanese Cabinet bought out several islands from private Japanese owners in September last year.

Chinese patrol ships have since repeatedly entered the water area near the islands.

China's State-Run Global Times Advises It's Readers To 'Prepare For The Worst' Over Disputed Islands In The East China Sea

After repeatedly flying surveillance aircraft into disputed airspace with Japan, which made Tokyo scramble F-15s in response, China sent fighters of its own on Thursday into the East China Sea. 
A Friday press release out of China confirms the incident began when Beijing was flying a Shaanxi Y-8 on a "routine Thursday patrol" over the "oil and gas fields in the East China Sea."
The fact that the aircraft was a Shaanxi Y-8 is interesting in that the Y-8 isn't necessarily any one particular aircraft.
The Diplomat calls the Y-8 a transport plane, and it can be, but the aircraft has more than 30 variants. The Y-8 performs everything from Mineral Research, to Geophysical Surveying, to Electronic Warfare to Intelligence Gathering and one variant is simply an innocuous but lethal fully loaded gunship, with two heavy cannons and three heavy machine guns.
It's the perfect plane for a game of cat and mouse because if the Y-8 ever received fire from Japan's F-15s, China could simply maintain it was an unarmed transport model carrying troops, or the Y8-F model that carries only livestock. In the meantime, the plane can perform all manner of sophisticated tests on the seabed floor, while eavesdropping on Japanese communications. China has been flying these planes consistently lately to surveil the contested island chain that's supposed to hold billions in oil and gas reserves.
So, again, on Thursday Japan spotted aircraft in its Air Defense Identification Zone (above the islands) that it believed to be Chinese J-7 interceptors, along with some J-10 fighters whose combat abilities rival that of Western jets. Japan responded with two F-15s scrambled from Naha, Okinawa — just a couple hundred miles away. There are minor variations from either side about who sent what first, but all agree the aircraft met above the islands.
The Chinese planes scattered soon after, but this marked the first time China and Japan flung military assets at one another over the East China Sea island dispute. A line was crossed and staying behind it in the future will only be more difficult.

The U.S. assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell announced that he will be traveling to Seoul, and Tokyo. What he decides in Tokyo will filter south to Naha and the Japanese unit confronting the Chinese.
An interesting fact about Naha, aside from its proximity to the contested territory, is that while being fairly remote, it is also home to Alfred R. Magleby, a United States Consul General who holds a M.S. in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. This is appropriate, since the Naha Port (formerly Military) Facility is part of U.S. Forces Japan and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is less than nine miles from where Japan's F-15s scrambled.
It looks like the islands everyone's talking about are a few dots in the middle of nowhere, but all of this is taking place close to the U.S. Consulate and a contingent of several thousand U.S. Marines whose former commanding general told Time in 2010: "All of my Marines on Okinawa are willing to die if it is necessary for the security of Japan."

In the future, when responding to China's fighter deployment, if Japan considers permitting its F-15 pilots to fire tracer bullets as warning shots against Chinese planes, it is now reasonable to assume that U.S. forces at Futenma may have an indirect say in that decision.
Firing tracers, which usually contain phosphorous or some highly flammable material, sends a line of light through the air like a laser. Tracers are usually loaded in about every tenth round to let gunners know where they're shooting, but in this case they would be fired to show Chinese pilots they're being fired upon. An editorial in China's state-run Global Times called this possibility, "a step closer to war," warning a military clash is "more likely" while its people need to prepare "for the worst." With a U.S. presence so close at hand to where these Japanese decisions are being made, and tactical practices employed, we can hope for at least a bit of immediate tempering.
The Chinese jets are likely flying from air base Shuimen, built east of the islands in Fujian Province, not too much farther from the islands than Naha, Okinawa. So both sides have assets equally within reach of the islands.
Satellite imagery of the base  came to light in 2009, and experts believe it was completed late last year.
The Taipei Times reported in May 2012 that J-10 combat aircraft, Su-30 fighters, and various unmanned drones were arriving at the base.
In addition to aircraft, experts believe Russian made S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles ring the
airbase, providing some of the best missile protection in the world. The S-300 is comparable to the U.S. made Patriot missile recently sent to Turkey for its first line of missile defense against Syria.
The Shuimen airbase compliments China's East Fleet that maintains 35 ships in the region, including its newest warship the Type 054, seven submarines, and eight additional landing craft.
Among the subs are four Kilo-class diesel-electric Russian made submarines capable of the most advanced underwater warfare.
All of this located just 236 miles from the contested islands, which have been in dispute between Japan and China for some time. Han-Yi Shaw writes an interesting history of the dispute, for those interested in more background.
While the U.S. takes no official position on who owns the Islands, it would be expected to honor its U.S.-Japan security treaty signed in 1960.
Though this is a formal agreement that the U.S. will aid Japan if it comes under attack, there are few who believe the U.S. would risk a full-blown war with China over a few uninhabited islands, regardless of how much oil and gas lies beneath them.
But with a U.S. presence so closely intertwined in these events, and a contingent of Marines standing by, it seems that whatever happens could involve American input — one way or another.

British stealth drone to undergo first test flight

An unmanned combat aircraft has been built for the British military is to undergo its first ever test flight later this year.

It can fly faster than the speed of sound, cannot be detected by radar and has no pilot. This is the new robotic plane that will become the next generation of front line bombers for the British military.

The drone, which is named Taranis after the Celtic god of thunder, has been designed to fly intercontinental missions to attack targets and can automatically dodge incoming missiles.

The aircraft, which has cost £125 million to build, is intended to be the first of a new generation of aeroplanes that will reduce the need to risk human lives on long, dangerous missions.

It is to be flown for the first time in a series of tests over the Australian outback in the spring in an attempt to demonstrate the technology to military chiefs.

Currently the Royal Air Force uses Tornado GR4 bombers as its front line strike aircraft, although the Typhoon Eurofighter is expected to replace it in the coming years.

Remote controlled drones such as Reaper are also used by the Ministry of Defence and US military to attack targets.

But the Taranis is expected to provide a prototype of a new kind of bomber that will replace piloted planes and the current drones.

With a shape more similar to the US B-2 Stealth bomber, it intended to fly automatically using an on-board computer system to perform manoeuvres, avoid threats and identify targets. Only when it needs to attack a target will it seek authorisation from a human controller.

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programmes at BAE Systems, which has been developing Taranis, said the new drone could change the way aircraft are used by the MoD in the future, which currently uses manned planes for combat missions.

He said: “I think that the Taranis programme will be used to inform the UK MoD thinking, regarding the make up for the future force mix. I anticipate that the UK will chose to have a mix of manned and unmanned front-line aircraft.

“This decision will have a major impact on the future of the UK military.”

The Taranis uses stealth technology, including a highly secretive coating that helps it slip through radar undetected. It will be able to carry a series of weapons on board including missiles and laser guided bombs.

The use of drones, however, has come under intense criticism from human rights groups, who claim their use as weapons contravenes international laws as often innocent targets can be killed.

The Reaper and Predator drones currently used by the British and US military are operated by remote control using pilots based at a command centre.

Although they fly relatively slowly, with a maximum speed of 287 miles per hour, less than half the speed of sound, their ability to perform “hunter-killer” missions or support ground troops in Afghanistan without risking human pilots has seen them increasingly used.

Unmanned aircraft are now being seen as a way of producing planes that can fly further, faster and higher than is currently possible with human pilots, who can grow tired or blackout in manoeuvres that produce high g-forces.

There are concerns, however, that as drones are made more autonomous, they will pose more of a risk if they go out of control and leaving computers to make life or death decisions is highly controversial.

Taranis, however, will still rely on instructions from a central command centre before attacking targets.

The tests on Taranis, which is powered by a Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine used on Hawk training jets, will see it flying a simulated mission where it must automatically avoid unexpected threats such as ground to air missiles and seek out potential targets.

Once identified, the operators will send instructions to Taranis to attack the targets before performing a flying past to confirm the damage and then landing safely.

Mr Whitehead added: “There is one demonstrator aircraft. The mission plan will be loaded onto the vehicle. The aircraft will then fly the mission. Taranis will fly to the search area and sweep the area to identify targets.

“The air vehicle will be presented with unexpected “pop up” threats and its evasive response will be monitored.

“Target information will be relayed to mission command and the aircraft will hold off until given the next instruction to prosecute, send more data or ignore the identified target.

“In the event of a command to attack, this will be carried out followed by a battle damage inspection and then further interaction with command to confirm the instruction to attack again, prosecute other targets or to come home, avoiding further pop-up threats.”

A spokesman for the MoD added: “Taranis is the first of its kind in the UK. Unmanned Air Vehicles play an important role on operations, helping to reduce the risks faced by military personnel on the front line.

“Forthcoming Taranis flight trials will provide MoD and industry with further information about the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.”

Tornado GR4
Thrust: 32,000lbs
Max speed: Mach 1.3
Length: 56ft
Wingspan: 28ft
Max Altitude: 50,000ft

Thrust: 6,500lbs
Max speed: Classified but supersonic
Length: 37ft
Wingspan: 32ft
Max Altitude: Classified
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