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Highlights Of OEWatch For October 2016

October 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 October 2016 issue of OEWatch runs shorter than usual at 56 pages. A surprise for longtime readers is the complete redesign of the cover. Gone is the stock image and in its place is a composite illustration of the African continent to symbolize the Special Essay on page 54 about ISIS’ influence on local militant groups.

According to the OEWatch staff list the content is prepared by Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilhelm together with Editors Ray Finch and Karen Kaya. The Design Editor for this issue is Keith French. This issue’s commentary is provided by just 15 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”

October’s OEWatch is divided into seven sections and a Special Essay elaborating this month’s headline. Africa appears to have taken a backseat with its slimness and the usual favorite–Russia, Ukraine–hogs pages and pages of coverage.

The Middle East section begins with a strong analysis of Turkey’s ground offensive in Syria, known as Operation Euphrates Shield, to thwart ISIS. This is followed by an update on Israel’s deployment of Iron Dome batteries along its shared border with Syria. Activities by Iran preoccupies the rest of the section with entries on its military industries, its purchase of AK-103 rifles, and Tehran’s role in the Syrian conflict.

For some reason coverage of Africa is whittled down to three entries about domestic security threats in specific countries. There’s a speculative article on Boko Haram’s fracturing cohesion. An analysis of the current civil unrest plaguing Ethiopia. Then a short brief on the African Union’s (AU) role in stabilizing Mali.

The substantial Latin America section offers a fine variety of organized crime reportage. Exceptions are a half-page essay on the emerging military-backed dictatorship in Venezuela and a refresher on Nicaragua’s upcoming national polls.

The Indo-Pacific Asia section is a purely Southeast Asian affair. Aside from two entries on the political climate in Thailand various topics relating to Indonesia dominate the editorial focus. There are briefs on Jakarta’s new role as the maritime enforcer of “Philippine waters,”  the appointment of a new spy chief in Jakarta, and the Navy’s participation in the much hyped Armada exercises in September.

The China, Korea, Japan section is meatier than usual. It starts with A Japanese View on Limited War and Escalation on page 27. Another Tokyo-centric entry is found on page 29 discussing Japan’s preparations to enforce its maritime claims in its southern waters.

A new section is called Central Asia, Caucasus. Though slim its coverage is broad, spanning Afghanistan’s politics, the leadership transition in post-Karimov Uzbekistan, and the circumstances behind Georgia’s acquisition of Israeli-made Spyder SAMs.

As usual the Russia, Ukraine section packs an enormous amount of content. Pages 34 to 35 focus on Russian ballistic missile countermeasures. A further two pages are dedicated to the immense Kavkaz-2016 exercises in early September. A series of excellent scoops follow concerning improvements on Russia’s military communications grid. The detailed essay on page 38 is a genuine revelation: electronic warfare countermeasures are being installed on the civilian telecom grid. There’s further writing on Kavkaz-2016 on page 47 and 52.

Readers are in for a real shock on page 40 as the comment offers a glimpse into the Russian military’s adoption of a “network-centric” command and control system. This means the wide variety of intelligence devices used by the ground forces can be integrated within a mobile battlefield command center.

A lengthy discussion on what the Russians consider “sixth-generation warfare” ensues on page 42. The airborne forces are in the spotlight again with a detailed profile of the Sprut-SDM1 tank destroyer and its probable relationship to the upcoming BMD-5.

Moscow’s preoccupation with Syria is brought into focus on page 48 where the role of “private” soldiers and contractors fighting for the Assad regime gets scrutinized. Page 50 offers a small nugget of valuable intelligence. A “coastal defense division” is being planned for deployment on an obscure landmass called the Chukotka Peninsula to guard the Bering Strait. There’s a small update on page 51 about the mysterious long-range Altair UAV and its future deployment.

This issue of OEWatch concludes with Jason Werner’s Choosing Alliances, Creating Fissures: Understanding How The Emergence of ISIS in Africa Affects the Relationships Between Boko haram, al-Shabab, and al-Qaeda. The lengthy treatise running from page 54 to 56 is a treat for counter-terrorism buffs and War on Terror nostalgists.

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