Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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Marking the passing of those who served their country. Memories from friends and colleagues are welcome.

ALEXANDER-SINCLAIR Maj Gen David B Alexander-Sinclair CB 2 May 1927 - 7 Feb 2014

Cdr 1st Armoured Divn, Commandant Staff College Camberley

DUNN Lt (Sir) Robin Horace Walford Dunn MC MiD (2) 16 January 1918 - 5 March 2014

Royal Artillery. Dunkirk. Western Desert (wounded) Normandy (wounded). Rhine crossing

FISHER Major Rev Adrian C P Fisher died 15th April 2014 aged 90

GREGG Colonel Tresham Dames Gregg 7 April 1919 - 17 March 2014

Wounded in defence of Calais 1940, withdrawl from Greece 1941 (wounded), captured in Libya, escaped in Italy 1943, fought with Italian partisans 1944. Twice MiD. Post war army

HOLLINS Rear Admiral Hubert Walker Hollins CB died 31 January 14 aged 90

HOLROYD Air Marshall Sir Frank Holroyd KBE, CB 30 August 1935 - 18 January 2014

MILLARD Robert Millard 1 January 1923 - 15 March 2014

GHQ Auxilliary Unit resistance group, Fleet Air Arm attack on Tirpitz

SPRACKLING Maj Gen Ian Oliver John Sprackling OBE 3 Oct 1936- 28 March 2014

Royal Corp of Signals.  Singapore, Germany, Dofar

STRAWSON Maj Gen John Michael Strawson CB CBE 1 Jan 1921 - 21 Feb 14

Western Desert, Italy, River Po. North Borneo. Chief of Staff HW UK Land Forces

SUTCLIFFE Col Patrick Malcolm Brogden Sutcliffe CBE, TD,DL died 31st January 2014 aged 91

Senior promotions, new appointments and retirements. One stars are on the next page.

Brig B J Bathurst OBE to be promoted Maj Gen and to succeed Maj Gen J R Hockenhull OBE as Dir MoD Min Adv Gp HQ ISAF wef June 14

Brig R H Talbot Rice to be promoted maj Gen and take new post of Head of Armrd Vehicle Progs, DES in April 2014

Brig M L Smith MBE to be promoted Maj Gen RM and succeed Maj Gen E G M David OBE as Cdr UK Amphib Forces and CGRM wef June 14

Brig M A Armstrong to be Actg Maj Gen, and Dir Service Delivery DIO

Nehad Ismail trys to make sense of the tangle of participants in the Syria conflict. Three years on, there is no end in sight to it. Over 140,000 people have died in what we must now call a civil war, while 2.5 million have fled the fighting, many of them to other countries. The United Nations says Islamist militant groups in Syria linked to al Qaeda are killing civilians and preventing aid delivery. The regime is fighting for survival, and without Iranian and Russian substantial help, it is clear it would not have lasted. It would appear that some groups have a vested interest in prolonging the conflict, particularly those who control the borders, the oil fields, the car and drug rackets. There is no plain and simple, black and white picture.

Apart from the regular army, there are Iranian and Iraqi militias fighting alongside the regime. Hezbollah is heavily involved on the government side. Also there are the so-called "Shabbihas, the regime's paramilitary group which is known for its brutality against innocent civilians including women and children. To complicate the picture further there are several Jihadist groups who are supposed to be anti-regime but are in fact working and co-ordinating with the regime. The most prominent is ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) which is funded by Tehran and controlled by the Syrian military intelligence. Its remit is to discredit the true revolution.

It would be impractical and unwieldy to include every group and gang that is fighting in Syria. I restrict myself to the main and most active groups in the field. Not all groups are fighting the regime. Some of them are openly fighting alongside the regime and other Islamic groups are secretly working with the regime and are fighting the secular Free Syrian Army and its moderate Islamic allies.

Drone Wars for March 2014 is ompiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service

The month opened with a series of attacks in Yemen, following a long winter hiatus.

MBDA has also announced its successful demonstration of the Dual Mode BRIMSTONE missile on an MQ-9 REAPER , scoring nine direct hits against a range of targets including very high speed and manoeuvring vehicles. Dual mode Brimstone has been widely praised by UK ministers and RAF personnel for its contribution to the Libyan campaign. More on both on next page.

Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP asks if the use of force is less acceptable in a democracy. 

General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of Defence Staff, told the House of Commons Defence Committee in October 2013 that "The armed forces have never been held in higher respect by the nation, but perhaps the purposes towards which we have most recently been put have never been more deeply questioned."

This comment strikes me as being at the heart of the strategic communications challenge facing the military and more broadly reflects a challenge to the democratic legitimacy of maintaining Armed Forces to carry out the work that society wants them to do. The Defence Committee concluded in its preliminary report aiming to inform the 2015 Defence and Security Review that

"One of the greatest strategic threats to defence is the disconnect between the Armed Forces and the public caused by a lack of understanding of the utility of military force in the contemporary
strategic environment."

An ethnically-divided country in central Africa has experienced a revolution in which the elected government has been overthrown. A new government has been formed including in key positions representatives of extreme ethnic nationalist parties, posits Anatol Lieven.

In previous speeches and publications their leaders have expressed strongly hostile attitudes towards national minorities. Their volunteer groups have taken an often menacing stance, including the beating and forced resignation – on camera – of the chief of a television station. Moves have been proposed to reduce the status of minority languages.

The result has naturally been to increase the fears of the principal national minority. A large neighbouring state which believes it has a right and duty to defend this minority, and which also has ambitions to keep its smaller neighbour in its orbit, is encouraging these fears to further its agenda. It has already seized and annexed a province which used to be part of its own territory, and has suggested the possibility of further military action. There is a growing risk that armed ultra-nationalist militias and those claiming to represent the minority will come into conflict.

In response the West, through the United Nations, puts forward a political settlement intended to restore legitimate democratic government, prevent civil war and deprive the neighbouring state of any pretext for further aggression.

The chief elements of this Western proposal are the following: constitutional guarantees for the status of minority languages; the creation of a federal system with elected regional governments to ensure the rights of local populations; the exclusion of ultra-nationalist forces from government; the placing of the defence and interior ministries under neutral control; and new presidential elections under international supervision, to be recognized by all the neighbouring countries. The West makes its aid to the country concerned conditional on its government'sagreement to this settlement.

All of this is such a normal way of trying to prevent conflicts, and is so completely in accordance with Western values, that these proposals have full support from Western political, media and policymakers. Except...

The next roulement of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan is due to take place in June 2014.  As HQ Task Force Helmand will have integrated into Regional Command (South West) on 1 April 2014, around half of the units deploying (as 20 Armoured Brigade) will come under Command of a UK 1* within the United States Marine Corps Commanded Headquarters.  The remainder will deploy elsewhere within Camp Bastion and in Kandahar and Kabul as part of the UK's overall contribution.  The forces deploying include un its listed on the next page

Afghan News Roundup for March 2014 is compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service

On the playing fields of Khorasan

FIFA and the International Football Association Board have lifted a ban on female players wearing head coverings.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, praised the decision. Officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan assume that the ending of the ban will result in more orthodox Muslim women competing in sports.

Head scarves were banned because of fears that players who wore them risked injury to their head or neck. New designs with safety features began testing in 2012.


The state of the UK's defence and security exports is in resilient shape according to Richard Paniguian Head of the UK Trade and Industry's Defence Sales Organisation (UKTI DSO). In the sphere of defence and security exports the UK is a significant force. The UK's principal defence export successes recently have been in the aerospace sector, with notable achievements for Typhoon and Hawk over the past two years. So too for Agusta Westland in the rotary sector. But there have also been notable successes in the maritime sector, particularly in Offshore Patrol Vessels. The defence market is becoming increasingly competitive, so Paniguan is encouraged to see the extent to which the market for the UK's security sector is growing. In 2012 the UK secured new defence business worth £8.8 bn, and security business worth £ 2.7 bn. On the next page is more of his interview with Nick Watts, Deputy Director General of the U K Defence Forum.

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