Archive for August, 2012

Over the last few years, the U.S. navy has had several “run ins” with Iranian maritime vessels, reinforcing the theory that the next great military showdown is most likely to occur within the confines of the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf. The strait, which has Iranian borders to the north and U.A.E. borders to the south, is critical to trade routes in and out of the Persian Gulf, with specific importance given to the large volume of oil which passes through its waters each day. With 20% of the world’s oil trade moving through the strait each year, it’s no wonder that Iran continues to posture the passageway’s closure as a focal point of the Islamic Republic’s wartime deterrent.

Reports of Iranian procurement of speedy new gunboats called “Challengers” seem startling at first, especially given the country’s history of harassment tactics against U.S. gunships in the area (like this: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/13/exclusive-u-s-harassed-by-iranian-ships/), but the situation needs to be looked at a bit more strategically. The U.S. remains THE, not “a”, premier naval superpower in the world today. The U.S.’s naval might far supersedes the resources of almost all other nations (both friendly and otherwise) COMBINED when talking about aircraft carriers, support aircraft, and SLBM capabilities. Granted, Iran’s asymmetrical approach to naval confrontation presents a new challenge to U.S. naval strategy in the region, and the approach bears a striking resemblance to the asymmetrical tactics being used against U.S. troops in Afghanistan today. Fortunately, the trivial methods used in the streets of Kabul are not easily implemented by enemies at sea. U.S. vessels have a wide array of long range detection and threat mitigation tools used thwart enemy ships no matter how fast, numerous, or unsuspecting they may be. Additionally, with long range U.S. bombing capabilities from sea and air, the Iranian navy would not be able to sustain a long term harassment campaign without incurring significant collateral damage to their mainland and conventional naval assets accordingly. Coupled with the almost certain probability of a multi-pronged war front when Turkey and the EU chime in from the west (as per NATO mutual defense guidelines), Iran’s best case scenario is to delay and/or impede an inevitable U.S. [naval] victory in the Gulf and onward.

In conclusion, to quote Mr. Millen from the source video, “Yes, modern navies are capable of dealing with situations and threats like this.” Good thing the U.S. Navy is “modern” eh?

(source: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/24/irans-new-super-fast-naval-gunships/)

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For anyone who’s seen the witty Starburst candy commercials depicting albino lifeguards and atypical dog behaviors (my favorite here: http://starburst.com/#/videos/dog), you already know that contradictions have become the new flavor of the month. As media focus in the Middle East perpetually looms over Syria and the al-Assad regime’s cling to power, new stories are shedding light onto Lebanon’s position amongst the turmoil. Having had the opportunity to watch a former coworker, and leading Syria expert’s, jarring account of Syrian “spillover” into Lebanon and the region at large (you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yho_m0HRa9c), my interest in the unique Mediterranean country inconveniently sandwiched between its most detested enemy and its war-torn “big brother” has understandably piqued. What I find fascinating is not the situation on the ground in Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs, but the political climate in Lebanon as a result of the violence to the east. Hezbollah, the US-condemned terrorist organization turned political contender, continues to draw in political support from the population (evidenced by their 12 seats in parliament as part of the opposition alliance), and is now expanding its roots into Syrian affairs.

While I do not find Hezbollah’s support of the al-Assad regime surprising, I find it perplexing that Hezbollah continues to deviate from its original intent as an organization. Hezbollah was founded in the mid 1980’s with a clearly defined mission outlined in an official ‘Hezbollah Manifesto’. Included in this Manifesto were 2 very clear and very poignant goals: 1) “to expel the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land“, and 2) “to permit all the sons of our people to determine their future and to choose in all the liberty the form of government they desire.” I understand the need for adaptability and modernity within an organization, especially one bent on the destruction of all things West and un-Islamic, but at what point will Hezbollah’s leadership find that their efforts in Syria are not only tangential to their very creation but downright contradictory? For an organization who’s sole purpose was to protect it’s territorial sovereignty and to enhance the freedoms of Muslim friends worldwide, they seem to be doing a poor job at both (listen to Jouejati and Fisks’s assessment of border violence in north Lebanon).

The Manifesto concludes “As for our friends, they are all the world’s oppressed peoples.” My Arabic is admittedly a little rusty, but I don’t think Bashar al-Assad wholly satisfies the idea of somebody who is “oppressed.” Maybe I’m wrong…

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/10/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html?hpt=hp_c1 (CNN article regarding new US sanctions against Hezbollah)

http://forabetterlebanon.blogspot.com/2008/02/hizbollahs-manifesto-english-version.html (English translation of the Hezbollah Manifesto)