US-Malaysia Alliance — Stronger Under the Surface

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

A key part of the evolving US strategic response to communist China’s nouveau-imperialist agenda in the Pacific is to strengthen its alliance with democratic Malaysia.

 

Malaysian P.M. Razak and US Secy. of State Kerry Image by US State Dept., public domain

Malaysian P.M. Razak and US Secy. of State Kerry
Image by US State Dept., public domain

 

At first glance, the relationship between the two nations can appear painfully complex and riddled with unresolvable contradictions.

Human rights issues and human trafficking in Malaysia remain the two major sticking points for the US congress in its outlook on Malaysia. On the other side, Malaysia is concerned about the successive US administrations’ bungling in Iraq. In reality, both governments have consistently maintained a clear understanding of each other’s motives, values, and actions.

Since the independence of Malaysia from the United Kingdom in 1957, a majority of Malaysians have considered the US to be Malaysia’s most important and reliable ally.

Overall, the US and Malaysian governments have done a good job in building a strong relationship between the two nations. The two countries don’t always agree on major policy issues, but neither has allowed those differences to prevent friendly cooperation.

The average Malaysian adult probably understands more about the US than the average US citizen understands about Malaysia. For Westerners to understand US-Malaysian relations, it is worth first considering how Malaysians view their own sense of political and cultural identity.

Religion is a big factor in Malaysian culture.

Malaysia is a majority Sunni Muslim nation, and Sunni Islam is the official national religion. However, its constitution guarantees freedom of religion. According to Malaysia’s last national census, 61% of Malaysians identify as practicing Sunni Islam. The rest of Malaysians are 19.8 % Buddhists, 9.2 % Christians, 6.3 % Hindus, 1.3% percent practitioners of traditional Chinese religions, and 0.5% Jews. Understanding Malaysian Muslim’s sense of religion is critical to understanding Malaysian foreign relations.

The Malaysian interpretation of Sunni doctrine is quite different from the Saudi Arabian or Pakistani interpretations.

The fact that Malaysians included freedom of religion in their constitution clearly sets them apart from most Sunni majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, where practice of all religions except Islam is outlawed. Radical Sunni jihadis can be found in Malaysia, but they are a small minority, and they receive far less sympathy in Malaysia than they do in other Islamic nations. However, individual Malaysians choose to define their own personal sense of their Sunni practice, and the net effect is clear. Overall, Malaysians are far better equipped to deal with the non-Muslim segments of their own society and with the larger world beyond Malaysia than are other Islamic nations.

A second major factor in Malaysian culture is its internal diversity.

Malaysia was formed from several different and distinct kingdoms, each with its own unique history and culture. Malaysians have always accepted that their fellow countrymen are not all the same in cultural terms. This seems to have left Malaysians with a fairly cosmopolitan outlook. For a Malaysian, being different is not synonymous with being “bad” or “wrong.” Malaysia’s ability to accept other religions and cultures has had a major influence on its foreign policy.

When the US is in conflict with other Sunni Muslim nations such as Iraq, the Malaysian government feels a need to publicly appear to be uncooperative with the US. In the case of Iraq, Malaysia has publicly disagreed with US foreign policy while quietly maintaining very close relations with the US.

Malaysian Prime Minister Naijib Razak has made it clear that a critical aspect of Malaysia’s response to communist China’s aggression in the South China Seas is to further strengthen Malaysian-US relations.

Razak is now facing new and substantial allegations of financial corruption, but thus far, they have not distracted him from his goal of further strengthening the US-Malaysian ties. On the US side, the US congress remains unhappy with human trafficking and human rights issues in Malaysia, but the White House has chosen to ignore those issues in order to further strengthen the US relationship with Malaysia.

While communist Chinese aggression in the South China Sea is a major factor in US-Malaysian relations, it is not a new factor in the relationship. Malaysia has always been leery of communist China. When other issues such as trade imbalances or the US war in Iraq have caused friction between Malaysia and the US, the “China factor” has been an overriding influence that keeps the two countries close.

A second major factor for Malaysia’s consistency in seeking close relations with the US is Indonesia.

Malaysia’s much larger Indonesian neighbors have consistently resisted close relations with Malaysia. Indonesia serves as a second near-guarantee that Malaysia will remain close to the US, but from the US point of view, it complicates efforts at building a strong regional cooperative response to China’s current imperialist agenda.

In practical terms, the strengthening alliance between the US and Malaysia will manifest itself in increased joint training and an increase in Malaysian military spending. Malaysia’s concern over the US war in Iraq will not derail US-Malaysia relations. The current US administration and the two major candidates for the next presidency will not allow human rights issues in Malaysia to define US-Malaysian relations. The US-Malaysian relationship will continue to appear fragile and complex, while in reality, it will remain strong. Communist Chinese dictator Xi Ping will continue to use intimidation as his primitive and blunt diplomatic tool of choice. Unfortunately for China, Malaysia is listening and taking him seriously.

In our next installment, we will consider the US-Indonesian relationship.

Chinese Aggression Spurs New Alliances for Japan

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Chinese aggression in the South China Sea is causing Japan to strengthen its alliance with the US and build new and unlikely partnerships with some traditional enemies.

 

US Pres. Obama and Japanese Emperor Akihito Image by State Dept., public domain

US Pres. Obama and Japanese Emperor Akihito
Image by State Dept., public domain

 

Building a stronger defensive alliance with Japan is the least challenging foreign policy task faced by the Obama administration. It is also the easiest foreign relationship from the point of view of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

Modern Japan and the US share similar political and social values, and both countries are strongly independent and democratic in structure and outlook. At times in the past, trade imbalances and the vast US presence in Okinawa have stressed the US-Japan relationship, but those issues never prevented strong military and diplomatic cooperation. The two countries have shared a consistently solid relationship since the founding of modern Japan in 1947.

To understand the US-Japan relationship, we should consider Japan’s geographic and political dilemmas.

Japan imports most of its fossil fuels and about sixty percent of its food. Free navigation of the seas is critical to Japan’s prosperity, and even to its very existence. To varying degrees Russia, China, and North Korea all pose serious threats to Japan’s national security. In a sense, Japan is the “Israel” of the Pacific. They have no allies in their region. Fortunately, this may be changing.

China remains bitter for the brutal invasion and occupation carried out by Imperial Japan during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

Japanese Soldiers with Broken Statue of Chinese Leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Image public domain.

Japanese Soldiers with Broken Statue of Chinese Leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen.
Image public domain.

 

China’s communist government has found it convenient for its political mythology to foment hatred toward Japan rather than seek reconciliation. Fifty years ago, Japan could afford to be less concerned with China’s hatred.

As the People’s Republic of China has begun to overcome its long history of inept and self-destructive government, it has been able to develop its massive population and considerable natural resources.

Having established a stronger economy and a stronger military, China has made itself more “relevant” in the Pacific. Unfortunately for them and for everyone else, they have chosen to seek “relevancy” and legitimacy through increased aggression toward their neighbors. As China’s military strength and aggressive attitude grows, so grows Japan’s concern for self-defense.

The one challenge that remains in US-Japan relations is Japan’s poor relationships with other US allies in the Pacific.

The US has had a close, though rather one-sided, relationship with South Korea since WWII. That relationship has been based on the US’s willingness to defend South Korea against its communist neighbors. While North Korea remains a menace and a constant nuisance to both South Korea and Japan, until recently that has not been enough motive to bring the two nations closer. Both South Koreans and North Koreans remain angry over the Japanese occupation prior to and during WWII.

However, there are now signs of a thaw in relations between South Korea and Japan.

To a degree, North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s increasing aggression are motivating Japan and South Korea to cooperate more on issues of trade and defense. It may take several more decades for South Koreans to form a more favorable view of Japan, but if the Japanese exercise some diplomatic skill, they may eventually be able to change their image in South Korea. This would enable more effective military cooperation against the growing threats from the North Koreans and China.

A similar three-way dilemma exists between Japan, the Philippines, and the US.

For the same historic reasons, Japan remains unpopular in the Philippines while the US maintains close relations with both countries. As with South Korea and Japan, the US has long hoped for and attempted to promote closer relations between the Philippines and Japan.

In the case of the Philippines, there have been strong signs of growing cooperation with Japan.

Recently, a Japanese warship took part in naval exercises with the US and the Philippine navies. Even as recently as two years ago, the presence of a Japanese warship in Philippine coastal waters would have been completely unwelcome in the Philippines. In another clear sign that China’s aggression is forcing Japan and the Philippines together, Japan is selling jet trainer aircraft to the Philippines. This sale is a major event in Philippine-Japan relations.

By quietly acting as a go-between, the US has been able to help Japan begin to build better relations with its Western Pacific neighbors.

In military terms, relations between Japan and the US are very good and getting better. Japan continues to allow the US to maintain considerable air and naval forces in Japanese territory, and the working relationship between US and Japanese forces is excellent. Senior military officers from both nations have a high degree of trust in each other’s ability and integrity. When the US and Japanese militaries make an agreement, both sides are confident that the agreement will be carried out.

Perhaps the single greatest impact thus far from China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea can be seen in Japan.

The Japanese constitution limits Japan to a relatively small self-defense force. While the Japanese self-defense force is small, it is high in quality. Whenever the Japanese government has committed to building ships for its maritime self-defense force, the ships have been well designed, well built, and delivered on time. Japanese politicians and voters are starting to consider expanding their military both in budgetary and doctrinal terms. In budgetary terms, Japan has made small increases in expenditures, and they are now developing their own stealth fighter. This new stealth fighter is in addition to Japan’s participation in the expensive US led F-35 program.

 

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base Image public domain.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base
Image public domain.

 

In doctrinal terms, Japan was willing to participate in naval exercises in the Philippines.

Until recently, the Japanese government and Japanese voters would have considered such a deployment unacceptable. The Japanese voters still have a deep aversion for involving themselves in another war of aggression, but they are beginning to accept that the security of the Philippines directly impacts their own national security.

Over eighty percent of Japan’s oil comes from the Mideast. Since the Fukushima nuclear power plant leak disaster in 2011, Japan’s oil import requirements have increased. Free navigation of the international waters of the South China/West Philippine Sea is even more critical to Japan than it is to the Philippines.

The US has announced that the linchpin for US strategy in the Pacific will be the Philippines.

In reality, that only appears to be the case because of how little Japan needs to improve its self-defense as compared to how desperately the Philippines needs to build a credible military. For diplomatic reasons, both the US and Japan prefer to publicly keep the focus on the Philippines.

The relationship between Japan and the US has evolved in to one of equality, shared values, and genuine mutual respect. Whatever problems might arise between the US and Japan, the relationship will remain strong.

The Japanese people have no desire to create a Japanese hegemony in the Pacific, but China’s expansionist agenda has forced them to accept a greater role in international affairs in the region.

In our next episode, we will consider the changing US-Malaysian relationship.

The Race for US/Asia-Pacific Alliances

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On November 23, 2013, the People’s Republic of China declared its East China Sea Air Defense and Identification Zone, which asserted expanded territorial boundaries. The new zone includes international waters as well as areas claimed by both Japan and Taiwan as sovereign territories.

 

East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone Image by Voice of America, public domain

East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone
Image by Voice of America, public domain

 

The Senkaku Islands southwest of Okinawa are a part of this new territorial grab. The Senkakus are uninhabited, but they are astride international navigation routes used daily by Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the US, and other nations. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea refused to recognize China’s claim to them.

As part of the new Defense Zone, the People’s Republic of China wants all aircraft to report to Chinese controllers and obtain their permission to fly through. Since China declared this, the USA and Japan have responded by increasing military flights through the zone without complying with China’s request. This is their way of asserting their continued right to access international waters and airspace without having to submit to illegitimate Chinese authority.

It might seem counterproductive for China to encourage resistance and distrust from its important trading partners in and across the Pacific.

None of China’s Pacific neighbors, except its “allies” in North Korea, pose China with a national security threat. However, by declaring the new Defense Zone, other Pacific nations have been energized to increase their defense spending and to seek closer alliances with each other and with the US.

So why set up an annoying “Defense Zone” only to have it ignored by other Pacific nations? Did China miscalculate?

In my opinion, the People’s Republic of China anticipated the international reactions and accepted those costs in order to begin enacting a broader long-term strategy. China is not playing at politics for this week or this year, but rather it is focused on slowly achieving important goals during the next few decades. In that context, their feeble Defense Zone takes on a different meaning.

The Defense Zone does not keep the US and Japanese military planes away, and, in fact, it attracts more of them. But in the minds of communist government rulers, it has a value in the realm of psychological warfare.

For one thing, those rulers can ignore the outcome of their declaration and proclaim it a victory to their imprisoned citizens. In Japan or the US, that sort of thing would not play well, and it would most likely inspire criticism from citizens. However, we should never forget that for despotic regimes like China, the greatest psychological warfare battles must be fought at home.

Since extending its imaginary sovereignty over the Senkakus, China has increased its ongoing imperial claims by occupying some of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The Spratly Islands range in size from “too small for people to comfortably inhabit” to “small wet tidal sand bars.” Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty and exclusive rights over the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys. These claims are absurd in the extreme, but communist China never shies away from absurdity in politics. (See US-Philippine Relations Hit Critical Threshold.)

The Spratlys are all closer to Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines than they are to China. In fact, in the Philippines, the sea area around the eastern Spratlys is referred to as the West Philippine Sea. When viewing a map of the Spratlys and their neighboring countries, it is easy enough to see how territorial claims for the Spratlys might be in dispute, but China is not in that neighborhood, so their claims are by far the least legitimate.

Because it expanded and militarized a few of the Spratly Islands, China claims that it now has exclusive territorial rights over the Spratlys. The United Nations rules – rules that China agreed to as a UN member nation – make it clear that occupation of artificially expanded reefs gives no right of territorial claims in the surrounding waters. However, the People’s Republic of China only recognizes rules and agreements when it suits its purpose. The Chinese rule has always has been, “We do whatever we can get away with.”

The impacts of the Chinese imperial ambitions in the Spratly Islands have been fairly predictable.

Important trade routes that include oil shipments to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the US run through the waters around the Spratly Islands. Before reaching the Spratly Islands, a tanker journeying from the Indian Ocean to Japan, China, Philippines, etc., would have to navigate the narrow Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.

Freedom of passage through the Straits of Malacca is important to all Pacific nations, but they are China’s most critical vulnerability. If oil tankers did not traverse the Straits to China on a regular schedule, the Chinese economy would soon be paralyzed.

Since the impacts of the China’s South China Sea campaign were obvious to me, then I have to assume that they were also obvious to the Chinese, but again, they are playing for the long game. The short-term diplomatic and political repercussions are acceptable costs to the communist Chinese regime.

The most obvious impacts of the newly declared Defense Zone have been the shift toward cooperation with the US by nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei, and a refocus on US relations in the Philippines and Taiwan.

From a US perspective, China’s expansionist strategy seems to require a clear and manageable response. The US government believes that the nations bordering the South China Sea should take reasonable steps to improve their military capabilities and their regional cooperation.

It’s all clear and simple when viewed from the Washington, D.C. universe. The situation is more complex when viewed from the shores of the SW Pacific nations.

Each of the Pacific nations has responded in its own unique way with its own unique goals and obstacles. Each of them wants to reshape its relationship with the US, and it is best that each be considered as a separate case. In our next installment, we will examine the evolving US-Philippine relationship.

Shifting Sands in the House of Saud

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Since Fahd ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa’ūd ascended to the throne of Saudi Arabia in 1982, relations between the West and Saudi Arabia have been fairly stable, if somewhat complicated.

 

Secy of Defense William Cohen (left) and King Fahd ibn 'Abd al-'Azīz Āl Sa'ūd (right) October 13, 1998 Image by Dept of Defense, public domain

Secy of Defense William Cohen (left)
and King Fahd ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa’ūd (right)
October 13, 1998
Image by Dept of Defense, public domain

 

The Saudi government has remained consistently willing to maintain close diplomatic, business, and military ties with the US and other Western nations. At the same time, it has supported Wahhabi religious leaders in maintaining extremely conservative Sunni religious dominance over Saudi citizens. While the West enabled technological and business modernizations in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government to a great extent allowed the Wahhabi religious leaders to define culture in their country.

Saudi Arabia’s dichotomy of petroleum-fueled modernization versus conservative Wahhabi cultural control has been somewhat baffling to Westerners from democratic nations.

In spite of these constantly conflicting forces, King Fahd managed to maintain a stable balance. From the US point of view, the Saudi Arabian government was one of two allies in the region, Israel being the other. Yet while relations between Riyadh and Washington remained warm, not all Saudis felt that warmth toward the US or the West. In fact, Saudi Arabia, thanks to Wahhabi influence, remained a breeding ground for violent jihadism.

Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 attackers hailed from Saudi Arabia, and wealthy Saudi Arabians have consistently been a leading source for terrorist funding. Yet the oil flowed to the West while Western cash fueled the extended Royal family’s lavish lifestyle. That oil wealth also fueled vast social programs and a bloated civil government that makes our US government seem almost efficient by comparison.

In 1993, King Fahd sent shockwaves through Saudi society when he instituted a sixty person consultative council.

All the members of the council were picked by him. It was nothing like “elected representation,” but by Saudi standards, but it was a huge step forward for Saudi society. Two years later, twenty women were allowed to attend the consultative council. To Westerners, it might seem like a miniscule token step toward liberalization, but to the Wahhabi religious leaders, it was wild heresy.

King Fahd suffered a major stroke in 1995. His brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, acted as his regent and unofficial prime minister. When Fahd died in 2005, Abdullah ascended the throne and continued the balancing act.

 

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud, January 2007 Image by Cherie A. Thurlby, Dept. of Defense, public domain

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud, January 2007
Image by Cherie A. Thurlby,
Dept. of Defense, public domain

 

Like his predecessors, Abdullah was willing to use the Wahhabi establishment to maintain order and enforce their version of Sharia law in his Kingdom, but like every Saudi King, he was leery of their power. He continued to use oil wealth to further drive modernization and hold up vast social welfare programs while simultaneously struggling with the domestic terror issues caused by the radical Wahhabi influence.

Gradually, King Abdullah implemented small steps toward liberalizing Saudi society.

In 2007, he banned the infamous religious police from making arrests and began to institute major judicial reforms. Two years later, Abdullah pushed ahead with reforms and fired most of the senior judges and leaders of the religious police system.

In 2011 the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Mid-East. When it reached Saudi Arabia, it was quickly stifled by police action.

To outsiders, it may have appeared to be simple oppression, but inside the kingdom, there was genuine fear that Al Qaeda and their many clones would hijack any Arab Spring. There was also concern that Iranian-backed Shia minorities in Saudi Arabia would agitate on behalf of the Iranian Ayatollahs. King Abdullah responded by announcing increases in social welfare programs in the hope of appeasing many of the potential “Springers.”

In September of 2011, King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to vote in municipal elections and run for office. While Saudi women were quietly celebrating their newfound empowerment, the Saudi courts sentenced a woman to ten lashes for driving a car. King Abdullah overturned the verdict.

In 2013, while Saudi Arabia continued to struggle to control domestic terrorism by homegrown jihadists, King Abdullah appointed thirty women to the consultative council.

The following year, fearful of Iranian-backed insurgents in Yemen and the simmering unrest of the Shia-backed majority in Bahrain, King Abdullah did an about face in policy and introduced strict anti-terror laws.

The new laws give the police the power to arrest anyone that protests against or speaks against the Saudi government or the Wahhabi religious establishment. The law even prohibits “thoughts” against the government or Wahhabi Islam.

When King Abdullah died in January of 2015, his brother, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, ascended the throne.

 

Saudi Arabian executions graph Image by Runab, wikimedia commons.

Saudi Arabian executions graph
Image by Runab, wikimedia commons.

 

Though Salman had supported King Abdullah’s reforms he was already eighty years old and in declining health. Instead of appointing one of his aging brothers as his acting regent, he appointed his thirty year old son, Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, as deputy crown prince and defense minister. The choice may prove to be an exceptionally bad one.

Unlike his father and uncles, Mohammed bin Salman was educated in Saudi Arabia rather than in the US, and he is not well travelled. He has a reputation for arrogance and ruthlessness.

Salman and his son face the same challenges that King Abdullah faced, but they lack one important resource that King Abdullah and his predecessors always relied on . . . They lack the cash. Oil prices have been down for the last couple of years, and that has forced the Saudi government to reduce the allowances of the extended royal family and to reverse the increases in social welfare programs that helped calm the attempted Saudi Arabian Spring.

The fear in the house of Saud is showing.

The new anti-terrorism laws are being rigorously enforced. Executions are at a two-decade high. There were 150 public beheadings in 2015. In the first week of 2016 alone, there were 47 executions by beheading or firing squad.

 

Human Rights Activist Samar Badawi Image from Int'l Women of Courage Awards 2012, Dept. of State, public domain

Human Rights Activist Samar Badawi
Image from Int’l Women of Courage Awards 2012,
Dept. of State, public domain

 

In addition, popular blogger, Raif Badawi, who urged Saudi society to be more liberal and secular, was imprisoned in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years and 1000 lashes. His lawyer, Wahleed Abu al-Khair, was imprisoned in 2014. Now, Samar Badawi – Raif Badawi’s sister and al-Khair’s former wife – was arrested on January 12, 2016, along with her 2-year-old daughter. A long time human rights advocate, Samar Badawi’s crime was running a Twitter account to raise awareness of al-Khair’s situation. At this rate, the Saudis might have to use any money left over from their campaign in Yemen and their weapons acquisitions to fund new prison construction.

On top of the domestic strain, on January 2, 2016, the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric led to an Iranian mob storming the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Iran and Saudi Arabia then severed diplomatic ties.

The current generation of Saudi leaders is under pressure, and it shows.

The growing influence of Iran in the new Shia government in Iraq, the Iranian-backed rebellion in Yemen, the rise of ISIL in Syria, the increased Russian military presence in Syria, all combine to present what the young Saudis likely perceive to be a menace to their rule and their physical survival. When they add to that the American and Western “accord” with Iran, they may see themselves as being isolated while facing unrest at home and increasing threats by Iran.

So where will the young Royals take Saudi Arabia?

Mohammed bin Salman is planning major economic reforms. He will have to implement those reforms while dealing with Saudi Arabia’s expensive support for Sunni (non-ISIL) rebels in Yemen, the war in Yemen, and the brewing opposition at home.

 

King Ibn Saud & President Franklin D. Roosevelt Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, 2-14-1945 Image public domain

King Ibn Saud & President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, 2-14-1945
Image public domain

 

In 1928, King Ibn Saud came to power on the back of a fierce Wahhabi tiger. The house of Saud has never been able to completely dismount from that tiger. Since 1928, governing in Saudi Arabia has required an acrobatic balance of Wahhabi interests versus Saudi national interests. The future of Saudi Arabia depends on how well Mohammed bin Salman can ride that tiger.

 

 

 

 

Germans Thrown Under the Migrant Politics Bus

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

When the crucible of reality proves political ideals to be harmful to the people, political leaders have two choices: they can own up to the issues, or they can suppress evidence in a bid to maintain their power. When leaders choose the latter, the dysfunction inevitably seeps through the cracks of the propaganda containment efforts, and when it does, the political leaders need someone to throw under the bus. In Germany, that “someone” is the German people.

 

Syrian refugees bound for Germany and Central Europe Image by Mstyslav Chernov, wikimedia commons.

Syrian refugees bound for Germany and Central Europe
Image by Mstyslav Chernov, wikimedia commons.

 

German Chancellor Merkel’s willkommenskultur open door policy resulted in 1.1 million North African and Arab refugees flooding into Germany in 2015 – over five times the number anticipated.

Overall, 72% of the migrants are men, 13% are women, and 15% are children. Germany admits it has already lost track of half of these refugees, and that many of them are not Syrian at all. This flood of humanity is not receding with the turn of the calendar year, and the Gatestone Institute predicts that, with family reunifications, the number of migrants in Germany could swell to as many as 7 million.

When we consider the fact that European countries haven’t even integrated with each other over the past thousand years, it’s no surprise that Germany and the rest of Europe are now in the grip of a culture clash. One of the nastiest elements of that culture clash is the spike in crime in the German refugee camps and surrounding areas, particularly in sexual assault rates.

While German officials and media have made frantic efforts to hide this crack in the practical applicability of their ideals, the dark truth came to a head on New Year’s Eve.

Organized groups of predatory “North African and Arab” men surrounded German women and men in New Year’s Eve crowds and sexually assaulted them in a practice known as “taḥarrush gamāʿī,” or taharrush gamea. This “sex game” is an Arab phenomenon first given a name in Egypt in 2004, and it is similar to what is known in the West as a gang rape.

While police recorded refugee-perpetrated sexual assaults and robberies throughout German cities on New Year’s Eve, 1,049 of those reports came from the city of Cologne. (For full police list see Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults.) Over 359 women reported being sexually assaulted in every way from groping, to hands up their skirts and down their pants, to fingers shoved inside them, to all out rape.

The following has been the official response of the German government to the sexual attacks:

  • News of the attacks was suppressed for days until nearly 100 women had come forward and social media had circulated the story.

 

 

  • The Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, advised that women should be more careful. The town would distribute guidelines to prepare women against sexual attacks. One “guideline” recommended by Reker was that women should keep strangers “at arm’s length.”
  • Mayor Reker refuted her own chief of police by insisting the mass, organized attacks had nothing to do with the migrants, although the police chief reported that 14 out of 15 of the attackers were of “North African and Arab” origin.
  • In spite of enormous security camera surveillance, only 30 suspects have been identified, and only two are behind bars. All are North Africans.
  • Flyers have been posted at public facilities with cartoon drawings attempting to educate refugees that they should not assault women.
  • Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger stated, “What happens on the right-wing platforms and in chat rooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women.” (Apparently, he is unfamiliar with the difference between disliking people and raping them.)

And from other quarters . . .

  • The German feminist response has been to say that German born men attack women, too. Blame German born men.
  • One Cologne New Year’s Eve sexual assault victim gave an interview to the news describing her attackers as dark-skinned Arabic speakers. A social media troll then took a clip from the interview and posted it on the Internet, suggesting her account was nothing but anti-Muslim propaganda. The video included her full name and her work place, and it went viral. The woman received threatening phone calls at work and was attacked on Facebook as being “racist” and a “right-winger.”
  • Imam Sami Abu-Musuf of the Al Tawheed mosque in Cologne declared the sex assaults were the women’s own fault for wearing Western clothing and perfume.

The New Year’s Eve attacks are not the first indication that Merkel’s open door policy is creating unforeseen trauma for the German public.

  • Sexual assaults are an “everyday event” at registration centers, including assaults on the staff, and women are sold for 10 Euros a trick inside the camps.
  • Having brought tribal, cultural, and theological divisions with them, warring gangs within camps frequently clash, and Christians and homosexuals suffer brutal attacks. One brawl at a Hamburg registration center involved 200 Syrians and Afghanis. Fifty police vehicles were called in to quell the violence.
  • In response to this violence inside refugee camps, Hamburg, Germany passed a law in October 2015, allowing the government to seize vacant commercial properties for migrant housing.
  • Small towns have awakened to 25% – 50% increases in their populations, with tent cities thrown up at their edges inside of a week. Those towns report increased crime and severely decreased business traffic, as well as residents afraid to leave their homes. Parents have been cautioned to not allow their children outside alone.
  • School gym classes and sports clubs in cities have been canceled as the gymnasiums have been filled with refugees.
  • Women across Europe have been advised to put away their midriff tops and short skirts to avoid “misunderstandings” with the migrants.
  • Groups of migrant women have attacked European women on the beaches for wearing skimpy clothing.
  • Immigrant men have arrived with brides as young as 12 – 14 years old. Some of these child brides already have children of their own. These marriages are not recognized in Germany, and the girls are are being treated as “unaccompanied minors,” to be cared for by the Youth Welfare Office.
  • The gun-control loving societies of Europe are now arming themselves in every way they can. Purchase of air-propelled firearms skyrocketed in Germany after the New Year’s Eve attacks, and rates for gun permits and pepper spray sales are unprecedented. The black market for firearms is booming Germany and the rest of the EU states that are dealing with the migrant crisis.

Rather than face the fact that the overnight influx of 1.1 million North Africans and Arabs has created severe social problems for Germany, German officials are continuing their narrative that the refugees are no different from Germans, and that suggesting they are is both “racist” and “counter to European values.” By insisting that it is inappropriate to imply that diverse African and Middle Eastern cultures might actually be diverse, having different values, mores, and norms from Europeans that would potentially make them incompatible, German officials are missing a few points.

  • Refugees are fleeing from desperate situations. They did not wake up one morning and say, “Hey. I think I want to be German. I want to give up my child brides and accept women and homosexuals as my equals.” Just because they leave North Africa and Syria, it doesn’t mean they want to put on lederhosen and embrace women’s rights, sexual freedom and equality, and German laws.
  • These refugees largely hail from countries where women and children have little or no rights and are, for all intents and purposes, themselves the property of their male relatives. Unless Germany meets this core difference head on and emphasizes to the migrants from their arrival that women are not the property of men, the male refugees will be unlikely to recognize or accept this fact, and the female refugees will be conceptually unable to exercise their freedom. This re-education is essential for integration into Western societies.
  • By hiding and excusing the crimes perpetrated by the migrants, the German government sends the message to the German people that it will not protect them. This shreds the social contract, and vigilantism and radical anti-government organizations prosper.
  • By hiding and excusing the behavior of these migrants, the German government perpetuates racism. It sends the message to both the German people and the migrants that the newcomers are not capable of behaving properly in German society – that they are not the equal of Germans and need special rules.
  • The German government is placing the burden of physical safety onto the public when it insists that women should change their dress and behavior and that parents should restrict their children’s movements to avoid being molested or raped by the large male migrant population. This is a suppression of the civil rights of all German citizens and sets back women’s rights, in particular, a good four hundred years.

Germany is not alone in excusing and covering evidence of crimes committed by North African and Arab migrants.*

Taharrush gamea attacks were first reported in Sweden at the 2014 We Are Sthlm music festival. At that time, Stockholm police were instructed not to reveal the ethnicity or nationality of the attackers for fear of being seen as “racists.” It’s worth noting that Sweden has now changed its open door policy for refugees as of November of 2015, reverting to EU minimum requirements.

Government suppression of evidence of the clash between European and migrant cultural practices and norms not only fails to address the needs of the migrants, but risks creating a severe backlash from citizens of the host countries.

The only hope the West has of successfully assimilating this massive flow of North African and Arab refugees is to demand that the migrants accede to their host countries’ customs and laws without exception. Migrants that break the laws of the host countries must be dealt with swiftly and unapologetically with the protection of citizens being the utmost priority. Social contract demands this from those who govern, but that is only possible when those who govern are willing to be flexible and resourceful enough in modifying their ideals to meet the demands of reality.

Unless Germany develops an open door policy for reality, either the people will turn on the migrants, turn on those whom they elected to provide common security, or both.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

This video statement by Paul Joseph Watson sums up the situation well:

The Rape of Europe

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*The practice of taharrush gamea reached Finland in 2015 after that country took in a record 32,000 refugees, giving Finland the fourth highest number of refugees per capita in the EU.

According to the deputy chief of police in Helsinki, Ilkka Koskimaki, sexual assault was unknown in Finland prior to the influx of immigrants, making the 14 sexual assaults in 2015 a record year. In response, unarmed groups calling themselves the “Sons of Odin” now patrol the streets in many towns where refugees are housed.

This past New Year’s Eve, staff at the asylum reception centers tipped off police about planned taharrush gamea attacks. In spite of the “massive” police presence sent to control approximately 1000 Iraqi refugees who had gathered in the tunnels around the central railway, security personnel reported unprecedented widespread sexual harassment. Thus far, Finland, unlike many European governments, does not appear to be attempting to cover up the ethnicities or nationalities of the perpetrators.

A Few of Our Sources:

1.  “Germany Registers Record 1.1 Million Asylum Seekers in 2015”  http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/1/6/refugees-germany-more-than-1million.html

2.  “Germany: Migrant Crime Wave, Police Capitulate”  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6668/germany-migrant-crime-wave

3.  “Taharrush gamea” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taharrush_gamea

4.  “Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/21/revealed-full-list-of-1049-victims-crimes-committed-during-cologne-new-years-eve-sex-assaults/

5.  “Cologne Mayor: Women Should Be More Careful After Migrant Mass Rapes, Promises ‘Guidance” So They Can “Prepare'” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/05/cologne-mayor-women-careful-migrant-mass-rapes-promises-guidance-can-prepare/

6.  “Germans Battle Refugee Sex Assaults with Signs, Cartoons”  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/22/germans-battle-refugee-sex-assaults-with-signs-cartoons.html

7.  “Cologne Assault: Cultural Difference Is No Excuse for Rape”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12087780/Cologne-assault-Cultural-difference-is-no-excuse-for-rape.html

8.  “Cologne Sexual Assault Victim Called a Rapist and Harassed After Identifying Her Attackers” http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/13/2770829/

9.  “Muslim Cleric Says Cologne Sex Attacks Were the Victims’ Fault Because They Wore Perfume” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3408033/Muslim-cleric-says-Cologne-sex-attacks-victims-fault-wore-PERFUME.html

10.  “Migrant Crisis: Women Sold for Sex for €10 in German Refugee Camps”  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/migrant-crisis-women-sold-sex-10-german-refugee-camps-1524515

11.  “Inside the ‘Refugee Centers:’ A Worker Speaks” http://newobserveronline.com/inside-the-refugee-centers-a-worker-speaks/

12.  “Horror as Christian Migrant ‘Brutally Beaten with Baton in Refugee Camp'”  http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/613479/Migrant-Refugee-Germany-Camp-Attack-Afghan-Iranian-Christianity-Koran-Syrian-Hamburg

13.  “A Refugee Riot Puts a German Town on Edge”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-refugee-riot-puts-a-german-town-on-edge/2015/10/01/fa9075bc-65f5-11e5-bdb6-6861f4521205_story.html

14.  “Hamburg to Seize Empty Commercial Properties for Migrant Housing” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/02/hamburg-to-seize-empty-commercial-properties-for-migrant-housing/

15.  “Empathy and Angst in a German City Transformed by Refugees”  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/world/europe/empathy-and-angst-in-a-german-city-transformed-by-migrants.html?_r=1

16.  “Child Refugee Brides as Young as Twelve Ordered to Stay with Men They Were Forced to Marry” http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/614083/Fatema-Alkasem-Child-Refugee-Brides-Netherlands-Paedophilia-EU-European-Union

17.  “Fears Rise Over Child Bride Epidemic as Young Girls Go Missing in Europe”  http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/22/syrian-child-brides-seeking-asylum-open-new-front-european-migrant-crisis/

18.  “Germans Stock Up on Weapons for Self Defense”  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7088/germany-weapons

19.  “Refugee Crime Driving Germans to Buy Guns” http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/refugee-crime-driving-germans-to-buy-guns-huge-influx-of-foreigners-has-frightened-many-people_12212015

20.  “Case Study on Middle East & North Africa. Women’s Property Rights in the MENA Region”  http://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/MENA

21.  “It’s Not Only Germany that Covers Up Mass Sex Attacks by Men…Sweden’s Record is Shameful” http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/its-not-only-germany-that-covers-up-mass-sex-attacks-by-migrant-men-swedens-record-is-shameful/

22.  “Sweden Slams Shut Its Open Door Policy Toward Refugees”  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal

23.  “Unprecedented Sex Harassment in Helsinki at New Year, Finnish Police Report”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/finland/12088332/Unprecedented-sex-harassment-in-Helsinki-at-New-Year-Finnish-police-report.html

Further reading:

1.  “Germany: Migrants’ Rape Epidemic” http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6527/migrants-rape-germany

2.  “Suspects in Cologne Sex Attacks ‘Claimed to be Syrian Refugees'”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12086473/Suspects-in-Cologne-sex-attacks-claimed-to-be-Syrian-refugees.html

3.  “Germany Shuts Its Open Door to Refugees” http://observer.com/2015/11/germany-shuts-its-open-door-to-refugees/

4.  “Is the Refugee Crisis Creating a European Rape Crisis?”  http://www.dailywire.com/news/1120/refugee-crisis-creating-european-rape-crisis-aaron-bandler

Taiwan’s Election is a Communist Rejection

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 16, 2016, Taiwan held national elections. The results were clear. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (“DPP”) chairperson and presidential candidate, won a landslide victory with 56.1% of the votes. Eric Chu of the Kuomintang Party (“KMT”) garnered 30.1% percent of the votes.

 

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen
Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

 

In the same elections, the DPP achieved a clear majority in the legislature, winning 68 of 110 seats. That is enough for the DPP to legally overcome any opposition in the legislature. Whenever a national election results in a landslide, usually at least one of two things is true – either the elections are the single candidate, North Korean style farce, or the voters are unhappy with the status quo. In the case of Taiwan, it is the latter, but there is more to it than that.

Prior to the elections, the Taiwanese public had made it clear that they were tired of the corruption and economic mismanagement that their government had inflicted on them. On January 16, they were largely voting for change.

At the same time, a significant portion of previously steadfast KMT loyalists had lost faith in their party because the KMT had shifted toward overt cooperation with the communist regime in Beijing. The KMT had bet heavily on the benefits of economic cooperation with Communist China. That bet did not pay off.

It is a mystery why the Kuomintang Party ignored the pathetic examples many Western nations have set by trusting Communist China in business and diplomatic dealings. A glance at the last thirty years of US history would have let them know what to expect. They either never took that glance, or they were serving interests other than those of the people of Taiwan.

Communist China’s reactionary response to the DPP’s victory was swift and predictable. The regime in Beijing publicly warned Taiwan that any attempt at declaring independence will result in an immediate, crushing military defeat by the Red Army.

To Westerners, this response might sound a bit severe and childishly undiplomatic, but nobody in Taiwan was surprised. The communists have been demanding the “return” of Taiwan to Communist China since the Chinese Nationalist Army retreated to that island in 1949. Since then, “obey our rule or die” has been Beijing’s standard mantra toward Taiwan.

 

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that pesky 110 miles of water. Image by CIA, public domain.

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that
pesky 110 miles of water.
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

One might wonder why, since the Maoist regime in Beijing was so easily able to invade and occupy Tibet, wouldn’t they do the same with Taiwan?

The answer is water – about 110 miles of it. That’s the distance from the mainland shores to the beaches in Taiwan. The Red Army did not require a navy to invade and occupy Tibet. Invading Taiwan, on the other hand, would require a strong enough navy, and China does not quite have that yet. They are working on it. For decades, Communist China has consistently declared its intent to “reunite” Taiwan “by force, if necessary.” So far, the threats have not caused the Taiwanese to surrender their freedom to Beijing. When the KMT decided to move closer to the communist regime the Taiwanese voters threw them out.

So what do the election results mean for Taiwan’s Western Pacific neighbors?

For South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Brunei, it’s good news. All of them have grown weary of Communist China’s increasingly aggressive policy. Taiwan’s increasing acquiescence to Beijing had been a worrying development for them.

What does it mean for the United States of America?

For the moment, the reaction in the US has been quiet relief. In diplomatic terms, here is the official US response:

“We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

Leave it to the folks at Foggy Bottom to simultaneously use the terms “profound” and “unofficial” when taking a “stand.” Or would that be a “non-stand?”

Diplomatic ambiguity aside, US leaders, albeit at the pace of a disabled snail, have come to realize that China has, in fact, been telling the truth for the last sixty-six years concerning its aggressive intentions, and that even the government in Beijing occasionally speaks the truth.

Hard core Beijing-lovers in Washington have fallen on hard times. Their cash is still welcome, but they are as out-of-fashion as integrity inside the Washington Beltway. In practical terms, the US government will continue to pretend to believe that fair and friendly cooperation with Communist China is possible. In the meantime, the US will allow a dribble of military aid to flow to Taiwan and the Philippines. Relations with Viet Nam will improve, and the US will send that country token military aid. The cost of the PR photo shoots in Viet Nam heralding in the new cooperation will be greater than the value of the equipment we send them.

In my view, the election results in Taiwan are good news. Let us hope that for the sake of the people of Taiwan, and for the sake of everyone in the Western Pacific, the DPP will use its power to truly represent the democratic will of the people of Taiwan.

 

Venezuelan Political Opera — Calling for a Coup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Opera is best enjoyed in an opera hall. Sadly, a majority of the world’s population has only experienced “opera” in the form of national and local governments. The performances are always expensive, the performers are usually shrill, and the opera is rarely satisfying. Government as government, as opposed to government as opera, would be nice, but overall, we humans are not quite there yet. In Venezuela, the government opera just became more contentious.

 

 

The current opera in Venezuela, Nicolas the Great Saves the People, is actually a sequel to the previous opera, which starred part-time clown and full-time dictator Hugo Chavez in his classic, When I Grow Up I Want To Be Like Fidel Castro. Chavez’s inability to sing a convincing tune and his skill at generating poverty combined to create low international ratings for his production.

Chavez, a.k.a. eso hijo de puta, came to power in Venezuela on April 14, 2003, campaigning on the tried and true “defeat poverty with socialism” platform. As promised, he instituted a socialist system in Venezuela similar to Cuba’s, and like Cuba, the socialist reforms led to a steep increase in poverty.

A glance at history explains how a poorly performing clown like Chavez ever took power. The colorful succession of incompetent and corrupt clowns that ruled before him never used Venezuela’s oil wealth to help the people of Venezuela. That made it easy for Chavez to sell the nearly universally discredited socialist revolutionary scam. The fact that he was able to peddle his scam was an indication of how disgusted the voters of Venezuela were with his predecessors.

In true comic opera fashion, Chavez managed to increase poverty while his oil rich nation enjoyed very high oil prices. His disastrous handling of Venezuela’s economy was high drama, breathtaking in concept and scale.

 

 

Finally, in early 2013, Chavez managed one award-worthy scene in his long and disastrous opera. He died.

Officially, he died on March 5, 2013. Unofficially, he died a month or so earlier than the announced date. His death was apparently concealed to allow his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, time to consolidate his position as the new dictator.

Maduro’s qualifications are twofold.

He did a stint as vice president during which, like most vice presidents, he did nothing. He also served as foreign minister for Venezuela. In that role, he managed to leave his distinctive mark. In keeping with dictator Chavez’s basic agenda, Maduro further destroyed relations with most of the New World’s nations while trying to forge closer relationships with Cuba and Libya.

The Cuba-Venezuela relationship can best be defined as, “Thanks for the free oil. You kind of suck, but we won’t tell anybody.” That might not sound like much in the way of international communist fraternal love, but it’s safe to consider the Cuba-Venezuela relationship to be the bright spot in modern Venezuelan foreign policy.

So, how have Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia “La Generalissima” Flores done with their vast power over Venezuela?

As promised, they continued their beloved dead leader’s policies. The results have continued to be disastrous for the people of Venezuela . . . It’s so easy to forget the people when critiquing political opera. In all operas, it’s about the people on the stage. The audience is expected to shut up and like it.

 

Cilia "La Generalissima" Maduro Flores Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

Cilia “La Generalissima” Maduro Flores
Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

 

When Chavez did Venezuela a favor by dying, Maduro ignored the constitution of Venezuela by sidestepping the President of the National Assembly and declaring himself President. The Chavez-stacked federal courts backed him.

On April 14, 2013, Maduro won a presidential election. By that time, the Hugo Chavez political opera was wearing thin with the increasingly hungry Venezuelan people. Maduro beat the opposition candidate by approximately 1.5%. There were widespread allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation that would make polling locations in Philadelphia look friendly by comparison. However, once again, the courts backed Maduro.

Thus far, Maduro has demonstrated that he is not really just a cheap Chavez copy in two ways.

First, he created a “Ministry of Supreme Happiness.” Perhaps he just doesn’t like his North Korean fraternal brother Kim 3.0 always winning the Biggest Jackass award.

Second, Maduro turned up the volume on the anti-USA rhetoric. If anyone was wondering, Venezuela is an economic hellhole, rapidly approaching North Korean standards, because the US government is evil. I halfway agree with the “government is evil” theory, but few Venezuelans think that the US government is running Venezuela.

How few? Last week, elections for the National Assembly resulted in Maduro’s Opera Troupe being knocked out of the majority.

In fact, the opposition now enjoys a supermajority in the National Assembly, which it holds by a single vote. This loss of majority does not bode well for the Maduro Opera. For one thing, the supermajority can rewrite laws and easily override any veto by the president with as little as 60% agreement of the assembly. They can also fire federal judges.

Maduro has responded to this threat to the socialist agenda by testing the waters for a political coup.

On Saturday, December 13, he publicly instructed the military of Venezuela to prepare for a struggle to defend the socialist government. The Opera is getting louder in Caracas, but the tenor sings poorly. In my view the Venezuelan military will not cooperate with Maduro if he attempts to suppress the National Assembly. In fact, if he calls the military to arms, it might well respond by putting a bullet in his head and in the head of his wife Cilia.

What does all this mean for Venezuela?

My best guess is that Maduro’s opera is nearly over. The National Assembly will have to contend with every imaginable roadblock by the Maduro gang, but Maduro’s lousy performance has created a substantial well of determination in the Venezuelan people.

Unfortunately for the people of Venezuela, neither the new National Assembly nor Maduro’s eventual replacement will perform any more efficiently than the US Congress or the US President. But they will do a better job than the Chavez-Maduro regime has done. Venezuela will not get much worse.

Venezuelans have seen their darkest hour. Their future will not be a bed of roses, but it will be better, and that matters – to Venezuela and to anyone who cares about its people.

Let the new Opera begin.

Crooked Line in the Sand — Russia and Turkey

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On Tuesday, November 24, 2015, two Turkish Airforce F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24. How will that incident impact Russia-Turkey relations, Russia-West relations, NATO response, and the fight against ISIS?

 

Russian Sukhoi SU-24 Image by US Dept. of Defense, public domain.

Russian Sukhoi SU-24
Image by US Dept. of Defense, public domain.

 

Not surprisingly, Russia and Turkey disagree on what occurred leading up to Turkey shooting down the SU-24.

Russia claims that its aircraft flew along the Turkish border, making sharp turns along the crooked and sharp-angled Northwestern Syrian border to avoid flying into Turkish air space. According to Russia, its pilot received no warnings prior to being shot down. The Russians claim they were hitting ISIS targets in the area.

Turkey claims that the Russian plane flew a two mile route across a small section of Turkey that borders Syria to the east and west. Turkey claims that it radioed ten warnings to the Russian pilot before shooting down the SU-24. According to Turkey, there are no ISIS terrorists in the area that the Russians were bombing – that ethnic Turks that do not support ISIS, but do oppose Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, inhabit the targeted area.

Russia’s claim that the downed SU-24 never flew across Turkish airspace is highly improbable.

The SU-24 lacks the maneuverability required to fly the route that the Russians are claiming that it flew. Also, the Russian claim that they were attacking ISIS targets in the area is most likely at least partially false. ISIS members would be scarce in that area. The Turks seem to be telling the truth about those elements of the shoot down.

However, the Turks could not have radioed ten warnings in the few seconds that would have elapsed while the SU-24 was crossing over Turkish airspace. It’s possible that they could have been broadcasting warnings as the SU-24 flew the long leg of its route that paralleled Turkish airspace. In any case, Turkey had previously warned Russia to keep their warplanes out of Turkish airspace in response to earlier incursions by Russian planes. (For one example, see Russia Upskirts Turkey.)

So why did Russia allow their pilot to fly over Turkish air space?

Given the highly regimented air combat control structure employed by the Russians, it’s not likely that the pilot acted on his own initiative. Russian avionics equipment is not cutting edge, but it is certainly adequate to prevent an accidental flyover on the particular route taken by the SU-24. My guess is that Russia had decided that their pilots should limit their incursions into Turkish air space, but that they approved the flight path that led to their plane being shot down. It seems that Russia miscalculated Turkey’s resolve concerning its incursions.

So how will this incident affect the famed “international coalition to combat ISIS”?

Since the famed coalition is more a product of rhetoric and wishful thinking than of substance, it’s not likely to matter much. Russia is in Syria to prop up the hapless Bashar Assad. Russia’s opposition to ISIS is secondary to that goal. The West opposes both ISIS and Assad. Non-ISIS rebels are receiving Western aid, and both Turkey and its Western allies are opposed to Russian airstrikes targeting non-ISIS rebels. None of this will be greatly impacted by Turkey’s shoot down of the Russian SU-24.

On the diplomatic front, Putin claimed that Turkey “backstabbed” them by shooting down the plane.

Given that no real cooperation between Turkey and Russia has occurred in Syria, and given that the Syrian regime previously shot down a Turkish F-4 on the Syrian Turkish border, it’s more accurate to describe Turkey’s actions as a “counter slash.”

Russia canceled some official meetings between Russian and Turkish ministers and has asked Russians to halt any tourist travel in Turkey. Russia is also claiming that it is scaling back plans for gas exports through a new Russian gas line across Turkey. This seems unlikely since the alternative is for Russia to continue to rely on gas lines crossing Ukraine to reach European markets. With the current low prices of crude, Russia cannot afford to scale back on energy exports. Their fragile economy needs the revenue generated by oil and gas exports.

In military terms, Russia has reacted by deploying better air defense missiles in Syria.

This, when combined with the uncertainty that Putin relies upon so heavily in his foreign policy tactics, may present a new threat to Western and Jordanian aircraft flying in Syrian airspace hunting ISIS targets.

Putin likely does not want to further escalate the situation in Syria by attacking Western or Jordanian aircraft, but he might feel justified in shooting down Turkish aircraft that fly into Syrian air space. The possibility that Russia might mistake a French or American aircraft for a Turkish aircraft cannot be ignored. In recognition of that, the West might, without much fanfare, inform Russian commanders in Syria of Western flight plans when attacking ISIS targets.

As for Russian relations with Western nations, the impact will be minimal.

The US views Erdogan as unreliable on his best day. If Erdogan has “backstabbed” anyone, it has been his NATO partners. Nobody in the US military community will forget that on the eve of the 2003 US-coalition invasion of Iraq, Erdogan withdrew his permission for US troops to invade Iraq via Turkey. More recently, Turkey has been inconsistent in dealing with the Kurds in their fight against ISIS. Erdogan claims to want to fight ISIS, but he has spent far more effort fighting Kurds both in Turkey and in Syria.

Turkey is a NATO partner, but thanks to Erdogan, it is the least trusted and least liked member. NATO will not ignore direct military aggression by Russia against Turkey, but given Erdogan’s long, ugly record of ignoring the interests of his “allies,” NATO partners are not going to allow Erdogan to control their agenda in Syria.

As for the war on ISIS and statements by US cabinet members and DOD spokesmen that “this further complicates our efforts against ISIS” – that’s more PR effort than reality.

The Obama administration’s opponents have been critical of Obama’s minimalist approach to combating ISIS. The White House now has one more excuse for not escalating efforts against the Islamic extremists.

Given the economic trouble at home and the expensive conflict in Ukraine, Putin does not want to escalate a conflict with Turkey. Given the growing discontent and political violence in Turkey, along with troubled relations with his NATO allies, Erdogan does not want to escalate a conflict with Russia. NATO does not want Turkey or Russia to escalate a conflict. Neither Erdogan nor Putin have demonstrated skill in foreign policy or diplomacy, but both have strong reasons to avoid a serious engagement with each other.

Most likely, the status quo will continue in Syria. The fight against ISIS will remain in low gear, and since Russia has few friends, economic convenience will prevent a long term freeze of Turkey-Russia relations.

Russia Peeks Up Turkey’s Skirts

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On Saturday, October 3, a Russian fighter flown from Syria entered Turkish airspace without Turkey’s permission.

 

Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft. Image by UK Royal Air Force, wikimedia commons.

Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft.
Image by UK Royal Air Force, wikimedia commons.

 

Turkey responded by summoning the Russian Ambassador to Turkey to receive a formal complaint from the Turkish government. The US, the UK, and NATO officials reiterated that they will stand by Turkey against any aggression. Naturally, Russia will pretend that the incursion was accidental.

Given the equipment used by Russian fighters, it is unlikely that the incursion was accidental or unknown to the Russian pilot. Given the command and control procedures enforced by the Russian Air Force, it is highly unlikely that the Russian pilot acted without the prior approval of bosses in Moscow.

So why would Russia look to annoy Turkey? It wouldn’t.

The incursion was not meant to insult or annoy the Turkish government. It was almost certainly an intelligence operation. Other Russian aircraft and ships in the area likely were listening to the Turkish reaction. The Russian GRU (military intelligence) will carefully analyze data collected, such as radar and radio signals from Turkey, along with a timeline of the mission. Apparently, the Kremlin felt that the information gained would be worth the minor diplomatic fallout.

Let’s see if Moscow risks the same trick with Israel. I doubt it will. Israel, given its small area, cannot afford to be so patient with aircraft incursions.

Russia Advances In Syria — What Does It Mean?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Stories and concerns are circulating about an escalated Russian military presence in Syria.

Many of the stories focus on the fact that Russia has sent four Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter jets and eight military helicopters to Syria. We know that Russia has also sent antiaircraft batteries. Less noticed, but possibly more important, is the fact that Russia has ramped up construction at an air base near Latakia, Syria. The construction upsurge appears to indicate facilities for a significantly larger military presence than Russia currently has in Syria.

 

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter. Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter.
Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

 

So what does this Russian buildup in Syria mean? The US just posed that same question to Russia.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu on Friday, September 18. This was the first official conversation between their two institutions since February 2014, when the US broke off military discussions with Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The purpose of this recent conversation was to discuss “de-escalating” any possible meetings between Russian and US forces in Syria.

While Russia’s presence in Syria might seem sudden and new, Russia has, in fact, been in Syria for over half a century.

Since the 18th century reign of Catherine the Great, Russia has sought military alliances in the Mediterranean. After over two centuries of effort, Russia’s presence in Syria is the only real, lasting diplomatic success that Russia has ever achieved in the Mediterranean. Small though Syria is, the Assad regime has always been a “Russia project.”

Current Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s dictator father, Hafez al-Assad, became president of Syria in 1971. The Soviets trained Hafez al-Assad both as a pilot and as a president. The Assad One-Party-Many-Secret-Police style of government is a copy of the Soviet model. It is the same model that Putin is doing his best to reinstate in Russia today.

 

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad in Moscow, March 26, 2008. Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad
in Moscow, March 26, 2008.
Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

 

The US and Europe are backing Assad’s enemies in Syria while they struggle to oust the Assad regime.

Russia does not want Assad ousted. The real impacts of Russia’s buildup in Syria will depend on how far Putin is willing to go in backing Assad. However, the recent Russian upgrade still leaves Assad and Russia at a tremendous tactical disadvantage against US and European forces in the area.

Because of this disadvantage, it is unlikely that the Russians will attempt to directly engage with any US or European aircraft that are flying missions in Syria.

The Russians are explaining their buildup in Syria as their attempt to help their ally Assad fight off ISIS.

Since ISIS is also the enemy of the West, then in theory, the West has nothing to worry about from Russian forces in Syria. The equation becomes much more complicated if and when Russian forces engage with Western-backed rebels, which are rebels who oppose both Assad and ISIS. Russia has offered no explanation as to how their forces will differentiate between Syrian rebels and ISIS fighters. They obviously won’t.

From my perspective, the only surprise about the Russian buildup in Syria is that Russia waited so long to go this far.

Russia has a lot to lose in Syria, and it needs Assad or an Assad-clone to remain in power for two major reasons. The first and most obvious reason is for Russia to keep its one Mediterranean naval base. The second and more subtle reason is that a critical part of Putin’s empire rebuilding strategy revolves around maintaining and creating allies. The ally-creation part of Putin’s grand strategy has failed miserably.

Most of Russia’s old Cold War European allies have either joined NATO or are trying to. Even the stubbornly neutral Swedes are considering joining NATO. Beyond Europe, most of Russia’s old allies have come to expect less aid from Russia in the post-Cold War environment. Russia’s popularity has, in most cases, plummeted amongst undeveloped nations around the world.

In the narrow and mostly closed mind of Vladimir Putin, keeping Assad in power has become a critical need for maintaining a facade of Russian relevancy in the 21st century.

This, of course, is more bad news for both the Syrian people and the Russian people. Putin is once again missing an opportunity to move past his Cold War childhood and embrace modern opportunities.

So how will the West respond to Russia in Syria?

The same way we have for the last half-century. The US and Europe will continue to support enemies of the Assad regime without directly confronting Russian troops in Syria. If Russian forces “mistakenly” fire on US or Western aircraft in Syria, the West will then likely upgrade the weaponry of Syrian rebels in order to make life more miserable, and more dangerous, for the Russians in Syria.

It appears that Putin is willing to invest heavily in propping up the Assad regime. As long as Czar Putin is able to maintain his stranglehold over Russia, I would not expect a Russian retreat from Syria in the near future.

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Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, to be re-released in September, 2015.

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