Beyond the Cusp

February 15, 2016

Radically Changing Power Structures in the Middle East

 

First allow us to note the passing of a great Constitutional scholar and jurist, Antonin Scalia, who was seventy-nine and had served for twenty-nine years on the Supreme Court. There will be a ton of second guessing on whom exactly President Obama will pick to replace the conservative, Constitutional scholar but the one thing we would like to put forth is they will mostly be wrong. President Obama’s previous choices of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan surprised almost all in his previous Supreme Court appointments. Our guess is of a more general nature as we believe his choice will be an academic who shares the leftist view of a living and ever mutating Constitution in which all forms of new and existing rights can be found to be implied if only the founders had the wisdom of the leftists of today. Whoever President Obama chooses will have the effect of changing the nature and status of the Supreme Court likely for a long while into the future. President Obama has had the rare opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the Supreme Court as he has had the opportunity of appointing one third of the current members sitting on the Supreme Court. This will be the true legacy next to Obamacare and the initiating the accepting of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other Middle Eastern “refugees” and potentially resulting in millions by the time the entire story becomes known. One can hope to be pleasantly surprised that the President’s appointment turns out to be more of a purist when interpreting the Constitution as being appointed to the Supreme Court has shown some strange and unexpected results as people take the honor to heart and have the importance of the position lay heavily on their minds and their direction of thoughts on the exact definition of protect and defend the Constitution will inevitably mean to them. We can only hope for a discerning and wise person who weighs all the ramification of their decisions.

 

 

Antonin Scalia Supreme Court Judge 79 years old, 29 years on Supreme Court

Antonin Scalia Supreme Court Judge
79 years old, 29 years on Supreme Court

 

 

Everyone has, including us to some extent, expressed their feelings on the path to nuclear weapons power that Iran received in the Iran Nuclear Agreement 7/14/2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the inevitable ways it will change the entire makeup and distribution of power across the Middle East and many, again including us, have attempted to predict what the wholesale introduction of nuclear weaponry across the Middle East and potentially slowly seeping across Norther Africa and whether it will make Nuclear Armageddon more likely or usher in an understanding of the new and ruinous implications of starting a war might cause to bring as the outcome. Of course if anyone was looking to bring the greatest possible turmoil, chaos, death and destruction on the world as a whole and not care about the consequences because that turmoil, chaos, death and destruction actually was their only goal, then the nuclearization of the Middle East and beyond is exactly what the doctor ordered. A nuclear armed apocalyptic maniac is the exact formula to a future which could act to set human development back ten centuries or potentially lead to the next round of massive mutations across all surviving life forms eventually leading to the next apex predator to rise to the top of the food chain and with any luck also me closer to human development than the simple brute power of T-rex had attained before they and their species being brought down by an assumed impact wiping clean the slate of development leading to mankind’s rise to eventual dominance.

 

There have been other changes which are probably not as dire or noticeable as yet on how these developments will play out. The biggest has been the introduction of highly effective antiaircraft missile batteries at both ends of the Middle East with Iran to soon have delivery of the Russian S-300 antiaircraft batteries to Iran and the recent deployment by the Russian forces defending their port and the Alawites in the area including Bashir al-Assad of the S-400 antiaircraft batteries. These systems render an air assault or targeting within their range far riskier and problematic. Further, with Russians manning the S-400 antiaircraft batteries in Syria, they are far less likely to be shut-down as was the entirety of the Syrian air defense network by the Israelis when they bombed the nuclear development complex facility in September 6, 2007. These changes in the balance of power brought by these changes are going to be difficult to discern as the variables are significant. One also has to add two other important notes to this volatile mix of conditions, one from the Middle East and the other affecting the Middle East.

 

 

Russian S-400 Antiaircraft Batteries Now Stationed Around Latakia, Syria Placing Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport Easily Within Range for Interception

Russian S-400 Antiaircraft Batteries
Now Stationed Around Latakia, Syria
Placing Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport
Easily Within Range for Interception

 

 

The first is the affect that North Korea may play onto the Middle East puzzle as well as the future of the United States. As we and numerous others have pointed out is the fact that both Iran and North Korea have practiced and actually placed satellites into low earth orbits which have polar orbits rather than an equatorial orbit which makes them pass over the United States mainland alternately from the direct north and from the direct south. The northern approach is not that important as it would pass over the teeth of the United States NORAD and other defensive systems placed to intercept any Russian attack during the cold war and thus would be facing formidable defensive structures. The interesting passes are the one approaching from the south, particularly those passing over Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico and crossing over the United States anywhere from New Mexico to Arizona where the entirety of the United States monitoring systems have one of the largest blind-spots and thus vulnerability. Both Iran and North Korea have practiced what is understood by military strategists to be the perfect height and orbit for delivering an EMP, or Super EMP which is the latest craze, device to explode near the center of the United States and southern Canada taking out the entirety of the North American power grid. The resultant damages to the transformers and other high voltage system hardware as well as destroying virtually all of the software run control systems would result in as high as ninety-five percent civilian deaths in the first decade with the largest loss being at the front end two years having the greatest impact.

 

Such an assault could effectively take out almost all of the ground based systems the United States would be reliant on for its defense from invasion or to retaliate against their attacker. This would not mean the perpetrators of such an assault would be free and clear of retribution raining down on their heads as the United States has a large enough contingent of its forces located around the globe that United States power projection would remain credible. The large nuclear missile carrying submarines, often called Boomers (hey, we do not make up these names, honest) would still carry in their tubes sufficient nuclear strike capabilities of destroying virtually the entirety of human existence globally and definitely could remove the populations of North Korea and Iran without losing their critical and definitive threat against any others planning in taking advantage of the problems back home caused by such an attack. Where this would bring little solace to the Americans facing brutish conditions as their entire food and other supply networks would have been destroyed in such an attack, this deterrent power of the United States nuclear powered Navy that eventually the United States would return onto the world stage meaner and leaner but even more determined to take vengeance unto which the world has never known. The last part in this section of the puzzle is that Iran and North Korea have had a high level of cooperation in nuclear development and rocket/missile technology. Keeping such in mind, the recent test carried out by North Korea of a hydrogen powered nuclear device now believed to be, here comes the new buzzword, Super EMP device capable of on detonation generating a series of EMP Gama-radiation waves which could destroy if detonated over Kansas City or St Louis or anywhere between which would be sufficiently potent to effect sensitive electronics in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D. C., Norfolk Naval Base, Andrews Airforce Base, the Pentagon (except for its shielded emergency generators), Richmond on down to Atlanta, Georgia. That would include the East and West Coasts leaving potentially the Coronado Naval Base and Marine Base intact and slight possibility of not destroying the Bremerton shipyards. Still, such a wide ranging area of destruction of electronic devices would be devastating and would be felt world-wide as there would be other ramifications such as GPS satellites not receiving update information largely controlled by the United States and a loss of large sectors of the Internet, phone networks and any other functions which pass through the United States communications hubs which carry the largest volume of the entire world’s communications. This would have far reaching effects many of which are irreplaceable and even unpredicted. The best case scenario, and only best case scenario, is that such an attack never occurs; but with a child-like egotistical and maniacal megalomaniac in charge in North Korea who believes himself one of the most powerful people ruling a giant amongst nations who murders any general or even family member who attempts to implant even the slightest glimmer of reality into the equation being executed on the spot, who knows? Just think about the day, which might be today or tomorrow, when Kim Jung-un decides it is time to teach the United States a lesson. Just ponder that for a moment and then try to return to your normally scheduled day as such would never happen, would it? Adding the Iranian fanatical and suicidal Mullahs in Iran and have fun sleeping tonight, they do not really mean it when they claim to desire bringing chaos, turmoil, misery and a general state of conflagration worldwide just so their messiah the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who will emerge from his hiding place down a well in Qom where he has been hiding since before the year 1000 AD. You cannot make this stuff up. So there is that threat and they share technology and many believe the tested nuclear Super EMP device tested by North Korea recently was actually an Iranian design and was carried out by North Korea for the Iranians so they would not break their treaty quite yet.

 

 

North Korean President for Life Kim Jung-Un Signaling that He’s Number One!

North Korean President for Life Kim Jung-Un
Signaling that He’s Number One!

 

 

The other side of the coin is Israel. The Israelis have not been taking all these developments as fait accompli but instead have been working, one could say feverishly, on their layered missile and aircraft defense systems. The world was given a demonstration of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome on locally launched missiles, mortars and rockets during the last Gaza war. Since then there have been further upgrades made possible by the data acquired during that conflict. Many of the upgrades were software but the other was a new interceptor which would improve the accuracy and lethality of the system, a system which already proved to be over ninety percent accurate in its initial deployment during the last Gaza Hamas war. Israel also has a multi-layered system of interceptor which would make interception possible on an ICBM or Continental Ballistic Missile such as what Iran would need to use if launching from within their borders. Should they launch from Syria or Lebanon then the intercept would be performed by a faster reacting system such as the Iron Dome or other slightly more encompassing system. The kind of layered system which will be required to keep Israel and the Israeli population safe from any device with the emphasis on early detection and removal of threats on their ascendant prefecture over the downward flight as it is most often on the approach to target after apogee that missile systems deploy avoidance technologies. While the Israeli nuclear capability has been pondered and guessed at, it is still not 100% proven if such systems exist or where and how they would be stored and/or deployed, what delivery systems exist and whether these systems kept in hardened bunkers atop ICBM and Continental Ballistic Missiles or if they exist, are they simply bombs requiring aircraft to fly the mission to deliver these weapons which may not even exist. As we covered recently on February 13, 2016 in our article What Israel Must Learn from President Obama concerning, amongst other items of importance, the F-35 JSF and its serious limitations and no freedom of action when using these fifth generation fighters that they make second guessing any nation relying on these systems to come under United States control potentially at the most critical of moments. Further, the fact that an EMP device would necessarily affect the very support systems which would allow the F-35 JSF to deploy would be destroyed or isolated such that they could not release the aircraft when most needed, the F-35 JSF would become just so much advanced electronics and composites composited dead on the runway. There are a number of other links to other articles both ours and outside corroborative articles all worth a quick read as they lay out much of the thought patterns since even before 2010 when we first finally got around to addressing the next generation of aircraft which are going to become a necessity for air defense at close range and possibly further missions run from a control aircraft. Perhaps another article is due on such future systems; we will try to look into such but no absolute promises on when.

 

 

The Mouse that Roared A comedy to lift the spirits

The Mouse that Roared
A comedy to lift the spirits

 

 

As is noticeable the world is changing, the sides are lining up and one errant move could force ramifications too dire to face but face them we must; otherwise, they could occur and have no mitigating systems in place to avoid hostilities falling into place where one act creates another leading to a more vigorous act which forces a full deployment and the next thing you know the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick will order Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy to deploy their finest archers to voyage across the seas and attack to defend the honor of the wines of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick from a California cheap imitation. The troops under Field Marshal Tully Bascombe, a recent promotion of sorts, assault the United States and , well, you will need to rent the movie “The Mouse that Roared” and enjoy Peter Sellers at his hysterical best, well, next to the Pink Panther. Unfortunately the world today is almost as insane as the Mouse that Roared but all too dangerous to really joke about, but we must keep a balance and our sanity so some light hearted entertainment might mitigate the sense of dread, well, for around an hour and a half. Think we will make some buttered popcorn and watch a movie, later.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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November 29, 2015

NATO and the Turkey Problem

 

We here at BTC have warned about the eventual problem that Turkey was going to pose for NATO any number of times over the years going back to our article The Turkey Problem for NATO, though we never envisioned it might mean war with Russia to be honest. We saw the problem coming between Turkey and Israel which only was heightened after the Mavi Marmara blockade running confrontation between Israeli Special Forces and the terrorists placed on the lead ship intentionally by IHH terrorist groups posing as a human rights group in our article Let’s Talk Turkey. The problem we saw forming between Turkey and NATO remained centered on their different Middle East views particularly when it came to Israel. This became heightened once again over Iraq and the Second Iraq War when once again the ever more so drifting from a secular state into an Islamic state when at the onset of the second Iraq War Turkey’s entrenched leader refused NATO ally the United States from launching the second pincer of the initial engagement from within Turkey, as originally planned, in the article Turkey Needs to Prove They Belong in NATO Now. Turkey has continued their slide into an Islamic state replete with a strongman with near dictatorial powers in Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was here in September of 2014 we continued to question the reason for continuing to have Turkey in NATO. The initial reason had been as a stalwart NATO member who could bottle up the bulk of the Russian Mediterranean fleet by refusing them access to the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, originally and often still referred to as the Strait of Constantinople, through which any ships docked in the Black Sea would necessarily have to pass to make their way from the Black Sea through the Mediterranean Sea and onto the Atlantic Ocean, the only passage once the northern route freezes every winter. It was partially due to having a docking and repair facility which was one of the factors in the Russian seizure of the Crimean and the docks at the port city of Sevastopol and the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards which is the resting and repair port for the Russian Atlantic Fleet during the winter months. One can see the tactical necessity the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles in the map below.

 

 

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards Across the Black Sea then Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

From the Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards
Across the Black Sea then
Through the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles
to the Mediterranean Sea and thus the Atlantic Ocean

 

 

After the Cold War ended, or at least ended until the current outward weakened appearance of the United States under President Obama, this tactical necessity for containing the Russian Atlantic fleet became far less important. Since the increased strength of the Russian naval forces, particularly its Atlantic and Mediterranean fleet the passage through these Turkish chokepoints had appeared to have lessened. That was before the current madness which is Syria and the Russian presence with both boots in the war in support of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. Suddenly fleet access to Sevastopol Docks and Shipyards has once again become of importance, or at least would have except for the lead from behind, well behind, foreign policy, or lack thereof, once again could have blockaded the heavy vessels of the Russian fleet. As it stands currently, the Russian Navy has been sending one of their large cruisers and battleships through these waters in order to have them in the Mediterranean Sea just in case they may be required in Syria. This is also the reason that the Russians are so concerned about their and the Iranian’s puppet in Syria, Bashir al-Assad. The Russians have set up forces both land and sea around the most important area in Syria, the western strip from Damascus with its international airport to the dock city of Latakia as seen in the map below.

 

 

Area West of Demarcation Line is Minimal Area for Russia to Control which Includes Most Military and Dual Use Areas Including the All-Important Area Around Damascus and Latakia Granting Access to Damascus International Airport and the Latakia Shipyards and Docks

Area West of Demarcation Line is Minimal Area
for Russia to Control which Includes Most Military
and Dual Use Areas Including the All-Important
Area Around Damascus and Latakia Granting
Access to Damascus International Airport
and the Latakia Shipyards and Docks

 

 

As the fighting in Syria worsened, especially for Assad and the Russian interest back in February of this year and it began to appear that the Alevites who are the tribe, which the Assad Family belongs, supporting Bashir al-Assad and in turn the Russians we noted the necessity for any outside forces, primarily the United States and NATO, in our article Battle for Middle East and Beyond Are Now Choosing Sides. This article included the Iranian influence as well as the Kurdish forces the neighboring situation in Iraq, ISIS, now calling themselves the Islamic State, but had not included the Russians as their main concerns back then included areas around Latakia and its naval base which was Russian built and was not exactly intended for the Syrian Navy, like they have one. At that time Turkey was less concerned with Assad as they were the Kurdish forces which had actually begun to merge between the Syrian Kurdish fighters and areas with their considerably stronger Kurds in the northern third of Iraq. This was the set-up which leads us directly to the present situation.

 

The sides have been aligned and the battle lines drawn. Russia has ended any pretense of soft support of Bashir al-Assad and the Iranian influence and can be expected to only increase their footprint. Where such may end is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, the Islamic State appears to be mostly cementing their control over the large area they have carved out between Syria and central Iraq and cleaning house while trying to hold their own against the pressures from the Kurdish Militias, the Peshmerga Militias, who have retaken some of the major cities formerly under Kurdish control or belonged to the Yazidis. The areas liberated from Islamic State forces have revealed the true horrors which are the Islamic State including mass graves. The group presumably vetted and supported by the United States, the so-called Free Syrian Army has proven to be more embarrassment than force to be feared. These forces have been degraded to the point of virtual uselessness but these are still President Obama’s reason d’etre for being even minimally involved in the fight against the Islamic State. Whatever remnants of the Free Syrian Army can be fielded, are being attacked by Russia. This is important for another reason, these were the side backed by Turkey as well as the United States which have served as the conduit for United States aid monies and equipment has been placed into the battle. Much of what was sent presumably for the American trained forces but ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda. The ultimate joke of the entire tragedy which is the Syrian Civil War has been the training and equipping of the Free Syrian Army which had become all but useless as a force in Syria all while the United States invested millions upon millions of dollars and succeeded in training as few as five soldiers and definitely under a dozen. This is the force President Obama has supported and trained almost completely out of existence. These were also Turkey’s best hope for defeating al-Assad and the Turkish pipeline now feeds al-Qaeda forces and very likely is still allowing supplies to flow to the Islamic State just as Turkey has been selling their crude oil and mixing into the Turkish supplies which are piped to refineries and on to Europe. So, the lines have been drawn and the different sides defined even to include the double-dealing of Turkey at the orders from Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A state of status-quo has seemingly set in with the Russians now enforcing al-Assad which includes siding with Iran and fighting the presumably vetted fighters of the Free Syrian Army.

 

This is the force along with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood presumably supported through the United States efforts and also by Turkey’s efforts and which the Russians have invested their main efforts of their attacks. This has placed the United States technically allied with the Russians against the Islamic State while also supporting those selfsame groups which includes the remnants of the Free Syrian Army all of which being made insignificant due to the efforts by the Russian efforts to degrade their abilities to fight. These forces receive some weak-willed support from Turkey as well as the majority of the United States as these were the forces which were to bring free and open elections to the remnants of the Syrian people who remain. The interesting alignments come to the fore with the Kurds who are despised by Turkey, supported to some extent by Europe and the United States, though most of this aid goes to the Kurdish forces in Iraq; have neutral relations with the Russians and are despised for their success in resisting even some of the greatest efforts by the Islamic State which revolved around Kobane. It was this front of fighting which melded together the two separate Kurdish groups into one Kurdish nation, well, at least as much a nation as is the Islamic State or the remnants of what was Iraq which has had its central region taken by the Islamic State which is now closing in on Baghdad, the Iraqi Capital City. The support structure of the Syrian campaign which has been defined as intended to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, ISIL as President Obama refers to them as well as the Junior Varsity, is confusing to say the least.

 

But much of this all fell by the wayside in the last few days as this was the week that somebody took their stand as solidly as possible and then immediately reassured itself of the backing of the group to which they belong and had a pivotal role to play previously. We are referring to the shoot-down of the Russian fighter-bomber by Turkish anti-aircraft weapons. There were initial reports that one of the Russian pilots managed to parachute from the stricken jet after it was struck by Turkish fire and was captured and executed by Turkish forces but those reports have been found to be false. The pilot in question was rescued in a twelve-hour operation involving Special Forces according to Russia sources. This may help to deescalate the crisis which is Turkey at the moment. It has been suspected, actually a lot stronger than suspected all the way past known and into certitude, which Turkey has been key for Islamic State recruitment allowing them to set up interviewing sessions in hotels which were moved every few weeks to give the appearance of having to avoid being too overt. It is a shame that Turkey did not follow this charade up by having heavily armed police storm the room in the hotel which was used right after they had moved on. This covert on-the-sly support for Islamic State’s most important business, recruitment and their sale of oil, to be channeled through Turkey who makes out financially well due to these facts. Everyone knows that Russia, especially under Putin, does not let things lie unbalanced from their favor even if it takes decades for them to serve-up their cold dish of retribution, some might call it revenge or even vengeance. Turkey must expect some payback from Putin; the only debate is how serious the Russian vengeance will be. What was distressing was that within a few hours Istanbul (Constantinople) had placed a call to Brussels, Belgium in order to request that NATO forces and nations stand ready to support Turkey in the case of any overly overt acts by Russia such as an invasion to take control of Turkey’s greatest asset, the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, the gateway which separates Europe from Asia. This has been the classic line between the two continents. Now it could become the initial battle in a much greater conflict should it become a reading of blows with each one made to be one measure harder than the previous measure. The main question NATO may need to answer is whether that old remnant from the first Cold War has any teeth or validity now in what is rapidly becoming the second cold War and may go hot at any moment as long as threats of escalation or simply this for that trade-offs to continue.

 

 

Various Stages of Russian Fighter/Bomber During Turkey’s Provocation Over Claimed Airspace Violation by the Russian Pilot

Various Stages of Russian Fighter/Bomber
During Turkey’s Provocation Over Claimed
Airspace Violation by the Russian Pilot

 

 

Where this will go nobody at this moment other than Russian leader Putin and potentially Turkey’s leader Erdogan can say. Both men are strong willed and willing to go to any lengths to maintain their power. Putin switched the job descriptions for the offices of President and Prime Minister in order to get around the term limit and switched everything back as he returned to his previous position. On the other hand, Erdogan used his party and influence to prevent any government from taking power in order to force new elections where through intimidation and other frauds was able to return his party to absolute power with a majority of the seats in the Turkish Parliament. These are the extents these two men have used to remain in power for most if not all of this young century. We can be assured that neither will back down nor will they let such assaults lie without some form of retribution. Meanwhile, there has already been ramification with Russian Foreign Minister cancelling his visit to Turkey which was scheduled for early next month. There have also been a number of trade deals backed out of and voided placing financial pressures on a nation which can ill afford any such disruptions. Truth be told, both nations are financially vulnerable at the moment and this could have further ramification on a world financial situation where very few nations are sitting particularly safe from fallout if a trade war ensues between Turkey and Russia as this would mean potentially Russia refusing to use the oil pipelines which cut through Turkey which would be a major blow to the Turkish economy. One can bet that for as long as this is a contentious issue that Russians will not be vacationing on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, another financial hit on Turkey. Relations and actions will be measured and may quiet as long there are no future provocations between Turkey and Russia though I expect that Russian aircraft may avail themselves of taking bombing routes dangerously close and likely over the Syrian Turkey border rendering that border being crossed by Russian aircraft making raids on Syria acceptable and this be Putin’s revenge because it is the also on the face with the gauntlet followed by throwing at the feet of Erdogan just daring him to take another shot at one of the Russian aircraft ignoring the border at their leisure. This could get intense and seriously large real fast, especially if these two leaders start to play the international form of the game of chicken as neither one of these leaders will even flinch, let alone swerve away at the last moment; this situation would produce a clash of massive proportions which Turkey would be well-advised to avoid because against Putin, Erdogan would lose and Turkey be irrevocably damaged, perhaps destroyed would be more appropriate a term.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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