Highlights Of OEWatch For November 2016
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 November 2016 issue of OEWatch runs 65 pages. This issue conforms to the redesign that began last month. Rather than a stock image corresponding with the headline’s subject matter a symbol is used as a backdrop for the table of contents. The Special Essay for this issue is Ray Finch’s The Mobilization of Russian Society.
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 is Keith French. This issue’s commentary is provided by 17 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”
November’s OEWatch is divided among eight sections and just like past issues this month’s longest is Russia, Ukraine. The Middle East section quickly dives into the war against ISIS with Who Wants What In Mosul? on page 4 examining all the factions, including Shia militias, who have a stake in recapturing the city. This is followed by a detailed examination of the dispute between Baghdad and Ankara over the Turkish Army’s uninvited presence in Northern Iraq. On page 6 is a sobering reminder that Turkey and the EU are trying–and failing–to find a viable agreement over the migrant crisis that could flood the Balkans with refugees.
The Middle East section offers three entries on Iranian military technology. The first, on page 7, is an update on an Iranian turbojet engine. The next entries deal with Iran’s advanced UAV program and the debut of a ballistic missile called “Zulfiqar.” On page 11 is a minor update on the Syrian conflict. The text deals with a ground-based portable radar system called “Aistenok” or “Little Stork” delivered to pro-regime forces.
The short Africa section is more of a current events primer this time around with entries about the AU’s funding, Ethiopia’s internal problems, the conflict in Niger, and the war against Boko Haram.
The Latin America section is almost entirely devoted to organized crime across Central and South America. The situation in Colombia does command a serious amount of attention, with three entries across page 17 and 18. The decay of Venezuela, by comparison, is almost a footnote in the latter page.
The best of the Latin America section are four pages about the civil war in Mexico between the government and the drug cartels. Trends in the Mexico Drug Cartel Landscape on page 21 is a worthwhile read as it shows the crippling loses criminal groups have suffered in recent years.
The sections for Indo-Pacific Asia and China, Korea, Japan offer slim pickings at best. On page 25 is a short analysis of UAV development in Thailand for use against Muslim terrorists. A mysterious and almost non-existent “Strategic Support Force” to assist the Chinese PLA is discussed on page 29. Its role is somewhere between DARPA and the Pentagon’s cyber command. The Central Asia, Caucasus entries are inconsequential.
The Russia, Ukraine section is varied and extensive. The Two Faces of Russia’s Operational Reserve from page 37 to 39 discusses Moscow’s efforts at creating new auxiliaries for the regular army. A companion piece is Russian Personnel Developments about the changing role of conscripts from page 40 to 41. Possible Force Structure Changes for Russia’s Combined Arms Armies is the section’s best entry. Spanning four pages (42-45) it goes at length explaining the re-organization of Russia’s ground forces.
Pages 47 and 48 has entries on Russian army logistics. Page 50 is about the new stringent fitness requirements for Russian military officers that extends to fines and even dismissal from jobs if candidates don’t meet testing standards. Activities in the Arctic Circle are scrutinized on page 57 and a small update on modernization, Improving Russian Camouflage, on page 61 that mentions Russia’s armed forces modernization has cost $660 billion since 2010.
The Special Essay by Ray Finch examines the degree of government propaganda used to inspire anti-Western sentiment among Russians. It concludes by alluding to the likelihood that such a national climate paves the way for future conflict. OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download copies to find what’s most relevant to their curiosity.