Tuesday, 21 April 2015
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Marking the passing of those who served this country in its Armed Forces. Contributions from comrades and families welcome

The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict by Christopher Coker
Published by C. Hurst and Company, Publishers, London, 2015. Reviewd by Dr. John M.Callahan

The central point of this book is NOT that there will be war between the U.S. and China. Rather, the author utilises historical examples and theoretical constructs of international relations to examine how and why great powers have gone to war in the past, and then shows how such past events could have relevance to a conflict between China and the U.S. in the near future. While specifically noting that he does not expect a war, Coker does remind the reader of other authors such as Kagan and Luttwak who decry the widespread academic opinion that warfare is on the wane as a tool of policy.

Coker focuses on what can happen when a newly rising power challenges a status quo power for dominance of the international order. The example of the rise of Imperial Germany and its eventual challenge to the United Kingdom for the mastery of Europe, and the world is the primary prism through which he looks at these problems. One of the key lessons of the work is that, while stacking up all of the reasons why there should not be a war between the U.S. and China, policy makers and academics must not allow these trends to turn into exactly the kind of complacency which was shattered in August 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War.

Yemen remains the most unpredictable of Arab lands, a country with a more tortuous recent history almost any other state in the Arab World. But after ten years of on-off fighting, the last thing I would have predicted was that the Huthi movement would be able to effectively conquer Yemen from their mountain stronghold in Sa'dah province, writes Charlie Pratt. The Huthi, nominally a Shi'a Zaydi revivalist movement, but effectively a coalition of disaffected and marginalized tribes from Sa'dah linked to the al-Huthi family, are organised and effective, but the door they pushed it is an open one; their advance exposing the state machinery of Yemen for the sham it was, and is, and revealing much grimmer prospects for the future than previously anticipated.

It's a nuclear deal that is good for Iran and bad for everyone else, argues Nehad Ismail

Iranians poured onto the streets in the capital Tehran early Friday to celebrate a landmark agreement between Iran and world powers that could bring an end to the country's 12-year-long nuclear crisis. In Washington U.S. Republicans expressed skepticism about Thursday's deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, with House Speaker John Boehner demanding Congress be allowed to review the accord before crippling economic sanctions are lifted.

The latest round of talks in Lausanne Switzerland was aimed at agreeing the outlines of a major deal to be finalised by June 30 to ease concerns that Iran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian programme, an aim it denies. The negotiations between Iran and the six nations US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China should have ended by 31st March but had gone two days beyond the deadline for reaching a preliminary framework of a deal aimed at blocking Tehran from making a bomb, in return for lifting UN sanctions.

President Obama is rushing to sign a nuclear deal with Iran at any price. Iran's negotiators have won generous concessions from the Obama administration. They will happily sign a deal that will inevitably enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons at some point in future. Some Arab countries notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE will seek to have their own nuclear programmes. Cynics believe that Iran has not offered any tangible concessions apart from agreeing to slow down or postpone its nuclear enrichment programme.

In his speech on 24 June 2002 launching the "Roadmap for Peace" US President George W. Bush called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. Essentially the "Roadmap for peace" was a plan to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict proposed by the Quartet of the Middle East: the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The final text was released on 30 April 2003. The process reached a deadlock early in phase I and the plan was never implemented, writes Nehad Ismael.

The then Israeli Prime Minister raised some fourteen reservations which scuppered the plan. In an opinion piece in the New York Times 24 September 2003 the Israeli historian Professor Avi Shlaim said this: "The Palestinian Authority embraced the road map and started implementing it even before it was issued. Sharon obtained from Bush three delays in issuing the road map and then submitted 14 amendments designed to wreck it".

Many observers of the Middle East believe that that entire peace process was a charade. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has by his pronouncements confirmed this view. According to a recent Washington Post report "Netanyahu made the sensational promise that he would not support the creation of a Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister, a stunning reversal of his earlier stance supporting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict".

Fighting so called Islamic State DAESH/ISIS will continue to dominate the news. The US administration has come to the conclusion that without ground troops it would not be possible to defeat DAESH in Iraq or even Syria. By necessity this will require the US local partners in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan, to make tangible military contribution. Saudi Arabia was the largest importer of arms last year.

Whether Turkey will agree to be drawn into the conflict remains to be seen. The Turkish role remains ambiguous, but it is clear that Turkey has taken a neutral role in the battles in and around Kobane in the Turkish Syrian border region.

Salman Aldossary Chief Editor of the Pan-Arabic Asharq al Awsat Newspaper is of the opinion that there are many problems in the region but the worst and most intractable is Syria.

Promotions and retirements in the UK Armed Forces. One star on the second page

Brig M J Gaunt to be promoted Maj Gen, succeed Maj Gen R J Semple CBE as Director Supply Army HQ wef April 2015

Maj Gen R J Semple CBE to be Director Information Army HQ (new post) wef April 2015

Honorary ranks : Geoffrey Lord Sterling of Plaistow GCVO CBE to be promoted Honorary Vice Admiral RNR wef 2nd April 2015

Sir Donald Gosling KCVO to be promoted Honorary Vice Admiral RNR wef 2nd April 2015

Russia's current military position in Ukraine is very exposed and has come at a great cost relative to its limited political gains. The strategic bastion of Crimea is defensible as an island but is subject to potential isolation. The position of Ukrainian separatists and their Russian backers in eastern Ukraine is essentially a large bulge that will require heavy military investment to secure, and it has not necessarily helped Moscow achieve its larger imperative of creating defensible borders. This raises the question of whether Russia will take further military action to secure its interests in Ukraine.

To answer this question, Stratfor examined six basic military options that Russia might consider in addressing its security concerns in Ukraine, ranging from small harassment operations to an all-out invasion of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper River. They then assessed the likely time and forces required to conduct these operations in order to determine the overall effort and costs required, and the Russian military's ability to execute each operation. In order to get a baseline assessment for operations under current conditions, they initially assumed in looking at these scenarios that the only opponent would be Ukrainian forces already involved in the conflict.

In the run up to the British 2015 General Election, there have been calls from defence-related organizations and individuals for the major political parties to maintain the Defence Budget at 2% GDP or even increase its volume. It has been claimed that present threats—such as the radical so-called militant group Daesh or ISIL, the Ukrainian crisis, Russia's military rise—and future unknown threats indicate that the defence budget should no longer be slashed. After all, Prime Minister David Cameron urged all NATO member states to adhere to the 2% target at the 2014 NATO conference. With the UK predicted to spend less than the target, commentators have been urging the political parties to recommit to the NATO target. There has yet to be any commitment by any of the three main parties.

Conversely, the Coalition government has met the 1970 UN target of providing 0.7% of GDP for development assistance. [1] A parliamentary bill has passed all its stages in the House of Lords to ensure future governments provide this proportion of aid. With the aid budget continued to be ring-fenced, several groups, especially those of the far right, have called for the aid budget to be educed or aid expenditure. In this article, Jisheng Li argues that it would be a mistake to simply transfer money from the development budget to defence, even though the latter is in dire need of funds.

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