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Highlights Of OEWatch For February 2016

March 15, 2016

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 of 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 February 2016 issue of OEWatch runs 69 pages and commemorates the publication’s 30th anniversary–OEWatch in its current magazine format was launched during the Cold War’s waning years. On the cover of this month’s edition is a stock photo of a location in the Western Sahara. This coincides with the headline Is The Western Sahara Dispute Nearing An End?

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 24 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”

This month’s OEWatch is divided into nine sections and a separate “Special Essay” about Russia’s National Security Strategy. The longest section is Russia, Ukraine. But the degree of coverage for the remaining eight sections is quite substantial.

Turkey remains a fixation and three entries are devoted to various aspects of its foreign policy. The first deals with snippets on revived Russia-Armenia defense ties as a response to the diplomatic fallout between Ankara and Moscow over the downing of a Russian Su-24 in November last year.

Moscow has now convinced Yerevan to join a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) air defense system. It’s worth mentioning that after the publication of the February 2016 OEWatch a $200 million arms deal between Moscow and Yerevan was announced.

The second entry for the Turkey section discusses its alliance with Saudi Arabia and how this might impact its robust commercial (and very peaceful) relations with neighboring Iran. The third entry is about the Otokar Altay MBT and its potential export to nearby countries.

The Middle East Section is still dominated by Iran but also focuses on US allies. It begins with an entry about the influx of foreign military aid to Jordan, which shares a long border with Syria and hosts more than 600,000 refugees from there.

Three entries about Iran follow. The first speculates whether Iranian UAVs were deployed during the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Ramadi from ISIS. The second evaluates anti-American propaganda and the third entry offers a glimpse into Iranian law enforcement’s approach to cybercrime.

The entry titled The Slums of the Arab World tackles the security threat posed by urban slums in major Arab cities. The next entry blows the lid off Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and reveals its estimated cost: $60 billion and 2,000 plus of its soldiers killed. Losses include 450 tanks and APCs, four Apache gunships, and an F-15. In connection to the Yemen war the last entry for the Middle East section tries making sense of bilateral ties between Cairo and Riyadh.

The Africa section is equally substantial. It begins with a long assessment of Gambia’s sudden political transition toward an “Islamic Republic.” There’s an entry on the African Union’s response to the unfolding crisis in Burundi. The next four entries explore topics related centered in West Africa: the rise of the shadowy terrorist group Al-Murabitoum, the impact of oil prices on Nigeria’s security and its war on Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda’s spread in the Sahara.

The Latin America section is very diverse in this issue and spans the continent’s length. The entries feature the ongoing peace process in Colombia and the prosecution of former narcoguerillas, examining the legacy of Guatemala’s civil war, Venezuela’s political problems, drug violence in Costa Rica and narcotics trafficking in Argentina. Two entries are about Mexico’s ongoing war against cartels–one is about laundering drug money and another highlights the acquisition of body armor for the Mexican army.

The Indo-Pacific Asia section is short but covers lots of ground. India is undertaking the launch of its IRNSS orbital mapping system as an alternative to GPS. Two entries are about Indonesia. The first explains why Jakarta opted out of the Saudi-led anti-terrorism coalition launched in 2015. The second is on the Indonesian navy’s anti-piracy efforts. The section wraps with a brief on risks posed by climate change to the region’s coastal cities.

The China, Korea, Japan section is five entries devoted to China’s emerging hard power. The best parts are a scoop on the PLAN’s second aircraft carrier, which uses a newly-designed hull but displaces at the same tonnage as the Liaoning. There’s also a review of Chinese author Qiao Liang’s book on curbing US hegemony titled Unrestricted Warfare.

The sections for Europe and Central Asia are equally brief and deal with local issues related to disputes, business, and criminality. As usual the Russia, Ukraine section is the largest. Five pages examine Russia’s National Security Strategy in detail.

There are additional gems on Russia’s military modernization, including an analysis of the T-72B3 MBT, as well as the advanced state of air defense missile technology and fresh breakthroughs in robotics. The issue concludes with a two-page essay by Michael Rubin about the Polisario movement in Western Sahara. Rubin’s bibliography is impressive and worth checking.

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