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Highlights Of OEWatch For July 2016

July 28, 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 featuring 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 July 2016 issue of OEWatch runs 68 pages. The headline is Iran-Russia Relations with a photo of President Vladimir Putin meeting with his counterpart in Tehran.

According to the OEWatch staff list the content is prepared by Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilhelm together with Editors Ray Finch and Harry Orenstein. The magazine’s layout is done by Design Editor Padric Hall. This issue’s commentary is provided by 21 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”

July’s OEWatch has eight sections and concludes with a Special Essay. There are no longer entries on European affairs but the sensitivity to Russian topics remains strong. This issue’s slimmest offering is the Turkey section with just three entries. Excerpts on page 4 along with their accompanying analysis share details of the multinational Efes 2016 exercises that included non-NATO countries like Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Qatar. On page 5 is a neat update on Turkey’s naval expansion, including the upcoming arrival of an amphibious assault ship.

The Middle East section runs four entries about Iran. These include a snippet on a locally-made vacuum coating plasma device (page 6) and a strange tandem–a short-range UAV called the Siraf and the absurd Fallagh light tank–of new systems (page 7). On page 9 is a description of a manufacturing plant for bomb fuses needed by the Iranian military’s ordnance, i.e. dumb bombs and rockets.

Pages 10 and 11 give lengthy analysis of the Egyptian navy’s Mistral amphibious assault ships–the one’s built for Russia and then withheld by sanctions–and how these allow Cairo a force projection ability. On page 12 is a lone update on the war against ISIS and how US-backed Kurdish forces are threatening its capital Raqqa. On a related note is the entry on page 13 on Russian attempts to lure Syrian rebels into “Awakening” alliances to fight jihadi factions.

The Africa section is very short, featuring entries about the ongoing rebellion in the Niger Delta (pages 14 and 15) and an interesting analysis of how government counter-terrorism efforts in Kenya and Nigeria are viewed by common citizens. (Page 16.)

The Latin America section is a very colorful one this issue. On page 20 is the news about Russia selling Nicaragua 10 T-72B1 tanks, thereby giving the latter country the best armor in Central America. Page 21 gives the reader excerpts that shine a light on government corruption in Argentina, an otherwise rich Latin American state stricken by an anemic economy. Page 22 is a short snippet on food riots in Venezuela. Pages 23 to 25 are focused on narco-trafficking in Central America.

The Indo-Pacific Asia section is heftier than usual. On page 26 and 27 are detailed analyses of recent breakthroughs for India’s space program. Entries about the infiltration of ISIS across Southeast Asia are on pages 30 to 32.

China, Korea, Japan offers nil on the two other countries it’s supposed to cover. On page 37 is a short brief on China’s upcoming quantum satellite test launch in July. Page 39 is devoted to a lengthy discussion of Beijing’s anxiety over international arbitration for the South China Sea, a measure that resulted in a diplomatic row with the Philippines over maritime claims.

The Central Asia section should’ve been labeled “Kazakhstan.” Its two entries on pages 40 to 41 are focused on the regional giant; a bizarre terrorist attack in Aktobe and Astana’s military modernization post-KADEX 2016.

It isn’t surprising how the Russia, Ukraine section command’s the lion’s share of OEWatch’s attention. The action starts on page 42 with a deep analysis of Russia’s naval infantry. Page 45 details plans for improving “space-based capabilities” for detecting objects in near orbit. Pages 47 and 48 are a welcome break from the section’s techcentrism as these discuss corruption in Russia’s armed forces and law enforcement.

Page 51 is a refreshing treat, serving as an announcement for the coming Army Games. It mentions how the annual event has grown from a weekend mechanized warfare PR blitz to a regional military Olympics. Page 61 reveals the Russian military may deploy unspecified “kamikaze” drones. These are UAVs armed with bombs and used as guided missiles. This is an interesting development after the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh where an Israeli-made Harpy drone was deployed against Armenian forces. The following page gives another nice scoop on the Russian MoDs fixation with ground combat vehicles and mentions a blueprint for acquiring such by 2025.

This July issue concludes with a Special Essay titled Iran-Russia Relations. In it, Michael Rubin gives a detailed historical perspective on why Moscow and Tehran seem to be allies today. It’s a connection that likely stems from a “shared enmity towards the United States.”

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

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