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Highlights Of OEWatch For November 2015

November 26, 2015

France Stormningen af Halle

Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine. It’s a superb brief that features excerpts from the latest news about ongoing wars and crises. These snippets gathered from various media outlets are accompanied by informed commentary that’s strong on context and analysis.

The FMSO releases OEWatch, together with its vast library of research papers on geopolitical issues, as free downloads.

The November 2015 issue of OEWatch runs 62 pages with a photo of President Bashar al-Assad and President Vladimir Putin on the cover. The headline is Russia in Syria: Perspectives of the Russian Intervention in Syria. According to the OEWatch staff list the content is prepared by Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilhelm, Editors Ray Finch and Harry Orenstein, and the magazine’s layout is done by Design Editor Keith French. This issue’s commentary is provided by 21 writers with region specific expertise.

There are 10 sections in the latest OEWatch beginning with Turkey, then Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Indo-Pacific Asia, China, Korea, Japan, Europe, Central Asia, and Russia, Ukraine. The longest section is Russia, Ukraine while the shortest is Europe spanning a single page.

The Russian military’s foreign adventures are well-documented in the pages of OEWatch. The November issue opens with three entries about Turkey: These discuss Russia’s efforts to build an alliance with Syrian Kurds, the aftermath of the October 10 terrorist attacks in Ankara, and the extended deployment of Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Middle East section has eight entries. Three deal with developments in Iran, whose leadership scored a diplomatic coup earlier this year. Another entry offers a lengthy analysis of sandstorms in Syria and its impact on local combat. Still another entry related to Syria discusses the organization of the “4th Assault Corps” to bolster the Syrian Arab Army. The new organization absorbs the National Defense Forces (NDF), i.e. local pro-regime militias organized by Iran. OEWatch suggests transforming the irregular NDF into a regular corps could boost the dwindling numbers of the Syrian army.

The Africa section is brief and its coverage spans the political unrest in Burundi, the spread of UAV use in the continent, Boko Haram’s activities, and the organization of a new rapid deployment peacekeeping force. The Latin America section is equally brief and references the usual woes of drugs and crime.

A highlight of the Indo-Pacific Asia section is a map tracing the route used by Syria-bound Indonesians who want to join ISIS. Additional quotes from an Indonesian counter-terrorism head reveal the strong presence of jihadis in Malaysia.

Given OEWatch’s preoccupation with Russia only three entries are related to China in this issue. They’re about relations with the US, an insightful discussion of the ties between China’s capital market and state-owned defense contractors, and Beijing’s sentiments towards Russian airstrikes in Syria.

The content in the Europe and Central Asia sections are unremarkable.  It’s the 20-odd pages about the Russian military in the Russia, Ukraine section that are crammed with detail. The lone item regarding Ukraine is about the reorganization of its defense industry. In this issue OEWatch reveals a pay scale for Russian soldiers that starts at $152 a month for a private. The amount increases up the ranks and further performance incentives are available. OEWatch notes:

“Russia’s economic situation has greatly improved since the early years of the Russian Federation and stories of destitute soldiers have long passed.”

According to OEWatch two months ago Russia’s intelligence agencies were given an “updated” Linux-based operating system for their computers called Zarya. A self-propelled 120mm mortar is in the works for airborne forces. Other investments are remote control vehicle turrets and better electronic warfare capabilities.

OEWatch cites an editorial from a Russian newspaper that discusses protecting an airfield from attack. The author is a veteran of the Soviet-Afghan War named Mikhail Khodarenok who recounts the terrific material losses caused by shelling on unprotected airfields. Such incidents, he argues, could befall the current deployment in Syria. In the following page (57) OEWatch provides an illustrated plan for airbase fortification from a Russian perspective.

OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download copies to find what’s most relevant to their curiosity.