Sunday, September 30, 2012

Midrats 30 Sep 12: Episode 143: J. Michael Barrett and a New Middle East Realism (5pm Eastern U.S.)

Syria refugees UNCHR photo
Join us 30 Sep 12 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 143: J. Michael Barrett and a New Middle East Realism on Blog Talk Radio:
The "Arab Spring" has not turned out as well as many hoped, and in much of the Arab and Muslim world, the will of the people does not necessarily translate in to freedom and a pro-Western leadership.

With many more years to go in the Long War struggle, how do we navigate through the rapidly changing world which is mostly beyond our control?

While we cannot back away, we also cannot control. Is there a better way - and how do we more towards a more honest discussion of the world as it is, not how we wish it to be?

Using his latest article in Defense News, Navigating Chaos, as a starting point for our discussion, our guest for the full hour will be returning guest J. Michael Barrett, CEO of Diligent Innovations and a former director of strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council.
Listen live or later (or download the mp3) here or pick the show up from our iTunes page.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Somali Pirates: Dhow Attacked Off Oman

Reported as Fresh attack as pirate season off coast of Somalia begins:
The first incident of the pirate season came on Monday when an Omani dhow was attacked near the port of Salalah.

Ian Millen, director of intelligence, said that despite industry optimism that the threat had diminished in the region, attacks were still likely in the area.

He said: "Somali pirates are not out of business, even if times are hard when compared to the success of earlier years.

"The pirate business has suffered a few setbacks, but the threat remains a very real one.

"The capability is intact and the motivation of those engaged is unlikely to have been diminished to the point of defeat.

"The message is clear - complacency is the greatest threat and constant vigilance, the greatest weapon in the fight against Somali pirates."
Funny how just this week there were all these news reports declaring the piracy threat ended off Somalia (see i.e.,"Party seems over for Somali pirates").

However, to be perfectly honest, the coast of Oman is not just "off the coast of Somalia" and the spokesman addressing the issue is from a security company that might have a slight interest in keeping the threat of piracy in the news.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Iran: Grand Scale Press Puffery

Iranian press releases concerning their military capabilities never cease to amaze - much like the lurid covers of the lamented World Weekly News - the simple absurdity of the puffed up claims is, if nothing else, captivating.

For example, here's a interesting story: PressTV - Iran Navy plans to expand presence near South Pole
Iran’s Navy has launched plans to extend its presence in the international waters near the South Pole, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says.
Iran wants to visit the polar bears!

“We have the capability to hoist Iran’s flags in different regions from the North Pole to the South Pole and we are preparing plans for presence near the South Pole,” Sayyari said on Friday.
Well, since the South Pole sits on top of a rather large land mass, covered with ice 2700 meters (9000 ft) deep, the Iranian Navy must have some really special ships.

If he means Iran has ships that can sail off the coast of Antarctica, so do the clowns of Whale Wars, and pretty much every other sea-going county in the world. All of which points out how modest these plans are, I suppose. Might as well announce plans to go to the grocery store. As far as I can tell, there is no one standing in their way.

The real question is why the Iranians would want to make the effort to go to polar regions. For that, I have no answer, unless it's "because they are there."

Of course, the Iranians also plan to expand their force to provide protection for the U.S. coast by patrolling the Atlantic, though they seem to couch it in different terms:
Earlier this month, Sayyari said Iran aims to put warships in international waters off the U.S. coast "within the next few years." He also said Iran's navy would be "present anywhere in international waters in order to safeguard the Islamic Republic's interests."
Portions of the Iranian Navy
We know it is "peaceful" because they keep reassuring us that is the case:
Tehran has repeatedly clarified that its military might is merely based on the nation's defense doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries.
So, if they are not a threat, they must be planning to put a force off our coast in international waters to lend us a hand in patrolling the sea lanes of commerce to keep them open for free commerce between nations of good will . . . .

The Iranian Islamic Revolution Guard Guard Corps Navy also likes to provide tales of their heroic prowess to gullible minds. Here's an example of a joint press release from the IRGCN itself:
Iran keeps a watchful eye on naval moves of the enemies in the region and is fully informed of all their military actions due to its intelligence supremacy over the enemies, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said.

"We have good intelligence and security supremacy over enemies' moves in the Persian Gulf given our modern and advanced equipments, and our operational and intelligence patrols deep into the Persian Gulf have increased the capability," Commander of the IRGC's Second Naval Zone General Ali Razmjou told reporters in Iran's Southern port city of Bushehr.

He said that the Persian Gulf has become "an unconquerable stronghold" for Iran, but at the same time noted that Iran's military capabilities are only meant to promote the country's deterrent power.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari had also earlier this week stressed Iran's intelligence supremacy over US moves in the region, and noted that Iran is well informed of the details of the US naval moves in the region.
Do they know about this?

"We are well aware of the exact number and the position of the US surface vessels, aircrafts, submarines and minesweeping warships in the region," Sayyari underscored on Friday.
You know, for a peace loving country the Iranians seem to have lots of "enemies."

"Intelligence supremacy." Snort.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Midrats Sunday 23 Sep 12, 5pm (E US): Episode 142 - IA, E-2, FEF, EDU and the 21C Career Path

Join us on Sunday for Episode 142 - IA, E-2, FEF, EDU and the 21C Career Path 09/23 by Midrats
What does an officer do with the opportunistic "white space" the Navy can provide you in your career path?

What does a curious intellect and an operational mindset need to look at doing to meet both?

What are some of the demands and opportunities out there who want something a bit different in their career path?

To discuss this for the full hour as well as a bit about the last props on the carrier deck, will be Captain Herb Carmen, USN.

CAPT Carmen is Naval Aviator with over 4,000 flight hours in the E-2C Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound, previously commanding the VAW-116 "Sun Kings." He is an Executive MBA student at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, and he was previously a senior military fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

His views are his own and do not represent the Department of Defense or the United States Navy.
Join us live (or listen later) here or pick it up off our iTunes page.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Good Read on Somali Pirates: "Hijacked: How the U.N. saved the Somali pirates from the brink of extinction." - By Robert Young Pelton

How an effort to do what virtually everyone agrees needs to be done - defeat the Somali pirate on the land side - was thwarted by a UN program and an apparently overzealous administrator, is nicely set out in Somali Report's Robert Young Pelton's Foreign Policy piece Hijacked: How the U.N. saved the Somali pirates from the brink of extinction:
In addition to going after Puntland, SEMG has also gone after the maritime security industry, the CIA (which supports three antiterrorism units in country), the United States (which trains and supplies Somalia security forces), the TFG (for corruption), even aid organizations (for excess food sold) and the charcoal industry (the taxes on which funds al-Shabab). The arms embargo was originally created to stop the flow of weapons to warring militias. But two decades on there have been no significant or measurable reductions in the flow of arms to Somalia or any real penalty to pirates or al-Shabab.
In a classic no-win situation, the Puntland government found itself being encouraged to fight piracy by the United Nations at the same time those very actions were being considered by another wing of the U.N. to be contributing to security destabilization.
Just as the PMPF had the pirates on the run, the United Arab Emirates -- under massive U.N. pressure -- shut off their funding for the only anti-piracy program that had a real chance of success. As of June 6, Somali's largest indigenous attempt to control its own security appeared to be dead. To put the nail in the coffin, the SEMG then leaked its 2012 report on July 15, which vociferously demanded sanctions against the South African contractors -- but did not recommend sanctions on the pirates they were hired to defeat.

When asked what their logic was for this conundrum, the SEMG response was "Pirate leaders cannot be sanctioned otherwise it would criminalize ransoms payments, (which) could have a negative impact on the release of crew members."

At the very last moment, the good intentions of the United Nations had managed to save the pirates of Puntland and shut down Somalia's only land based anti-piracy program.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nigeria and Malaysia: Pirates Lose Two Far Apart Rounds

A couple of reports of the criminal crowd taking losses - one from Nigeria and one from Malaysia.

First, Nigeria: Army, Navy arrest sea pirates:
A combined team of Nigerian Army in Okitipupa and men of Naval base in Igbokoda in Ondo state yesterday jointly arrested about 16 sea pirate who have been tormenting the waterways with illegal bunkering activities.

The arrest followed a tip off from a private security outfit on waterways, GlobalWest Fleet who had earlier apprehended one of the pirates in Lagos who dealt in illegal activities on the high seas.
The said suspects were said to be involved in hijacking of crude oil ship on high seas and selling off the contents.
And, now, Malaysia: MMEA Foil Pirates' Sale of Syphoned Bunkers"":
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Friday prevented an attempt by six pirates from syphoning off and selling bunker fuel from a hijacked vessel in the waters off Tanjung Piai in Pontian, Malaysia, the New Straits Times reports.
MMEA southern region enforcement chief First Admiral Adon Shalan said they spotted unusual ship-to-ship activity between MT Scorpio and MT Sea Jade at 2.15pm and as a nearby MMEA patrol boat approached the two vessels, six masked men were seen fleeing in a wooden boat installed with a high-powered engine, which was next to MT Scorpio.

Investigations onboard MT Scorpio indicated that the vessel had been hijacked, and all 12 crew members, which consisted of 10 Indonesians, a Chinese national, and a Sri Lankan, had their hands tied.
Additional investigation showed fuel-siphoning activity and indicated that the pirates, having tied up the crew, impersonated crew members of MT Scorpio and offered to sell fuel to MT Sea Jade at a below-market price.
The six pirates were believed to be members of a syndicate with a wide network in monitoring vessel movement along the Straits of Malacca, especially off the west coast of Johor, the report said.
Small wins in a big fight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Somali Pirates: Were innocent fishermen killed by counter-pirate forces?

Bloomberg report, "Fighting Piracy Goes Awry With Killings of Fishermen", in which it is alleged that "Russian soldiers" riding a Norwegian ship fired upon and killed a Yemeni fisherman:
From 500 meters (1,640 feet) away, gunshots erupted from the tanker toward Quanas’s skiff and its unarmed fishermen. Two rounds pierced the water on the motorboat’s starboard side, and a third slammed into Quanas’s face, just under his right eye, according to survivors on the boat and a Yemeni Coast Guard investigation. As the bullet came through the back of his neck, Quanas moaned, held out a hand, collapsed and died.
Russian soldiers aboard the Norwegian-flagged ship fired the bullets that August day, according to a report from a private security team that was also on the tanker. The soldiers had been temporarily assigned to the Nordic Fighter by their country’s navy to protect the vessel as part of a Russia-led convoy navigating toward the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, which some 23,000 ships use to move goods between Europe and Asia annually.
Quanas, who was about 38 when he died, is one of at least seven Yemeni fishermen who have been shot and among five killed since 2009 by soldiers assigned to deter pirates, according to records supplied by the Arabian Peninsula nation.
The Russian Navy denies responsibility for Quanas’s death, as does the company that owns the Nordic Fighter.
This incident is reported to have occurred in the Red Sea, placing it in interesting jurisdictional territory.

No one is being prosecuted, a noted in the Bloomberg piece:
Generally, incidents in international waters are governed by laws of a ship’s flag state, says Christoph Hasche, managing partner of Fleet Hamburg, a law firm specialized in international shipping and trade.

Prosecutors in Norway decided against opening an investigation, in part because of the hurdles in taking soldiers to trial, says Siri Frigaard, chief public prosecutor and director of the Norwegian National Authority for Prosecution of Organized and Other Serious Crime. She said information in the file indicated the Russian soldiers fired their weapons, but declined to provide other details, citing Norwegian police secrecy laws.
While the piece asserts that such incidents are "likely" in a sea with lots of armed men protecting ships from other armed men, it avoids placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Somali pirates, whose actions, after all, are the primary reason all those armed men protecting ships are out there.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Midrats Episode 141: "In the Shadow of Greatness" 09-16-12, 5pm (E U.S.)

Join us 09-16-12, 5pm (E U.S.) for Episode 141: "In the Shadow of Greatness" on Blog Talk Radio:
In their formative years from 10 to18 – they rose in a different world; the post-Cold War world. No 30-minutes from nuclear annihilation, no existential threat to their existence.

As they approached adulthood, they made the decision to join the military of the world’s only superpower; a superpower at peace, economically strong, culturally vibrant. They were admitted to the United States Naval Academy in 1998; the class of 2002.

Roughly nine months prior to graduation and commissioning, it all changed.

Our guest for the full hour to discus the journey, acts, and experiences of the United States Naval Academy Class of 2002 will be Graham Plaster, a member of the class of 2002 and one of the editors of the book - In the Shadow of Greatness: Voices of Leadership, Sacrifice, and Service from America's Longest War.
Join us live (or pick it up later) here or you can listen (or download) from our iTunes page.

Weekend Reading

Krugman needs one of these
When your model is proving to be wrong, insult the people who have a found a plan that works for them: Paul Krugman's Baltic Problem - By Anders Aslund | Foreign Policy

North American energy independence possible, House panel told:
It’s not unrealistic to expect abundant oil and gas resources to help make North America energy independent within a decade, witnesses told a US House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on Sept. 13.

“The United States has become the world’s second-largest oil producer,” said Harold G. Hamm, chief executive of Continental Resources Inc. in Enid, Okla. “We just passed Russia and are behind only Saudi Arabia. I don’t think a lot of people realize this.”

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have helped the US reduce its crude oil imports from 60% of its total consumption a few years ago to 45%, he told the committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee. US natural gas reserves have grown from a 7-year supply to one that’s more than a century, Hamm added.

“The technology that allows us to drill 2 miles down, turn right, go another 2 miles, and hit a target the size of a lapel pin has unlocked the resources that make energy independence a reality,” he said.

Iran is complaining about "terrorists" in Syria receiving shipments of weapons from stocks in Libya. "Terrorists" being those who oppose the Iranian-supported Assad regime. Irony knows no bounds.

Especially since About Those Blacklisted Iranian Ships Calling at Libyan Ports...:
Over the past two months, at least three Iranian-linked container ships, all blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury, have called at the Libyan port of Benghazi.
The U.S. government has described Iran as the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism.” The U.S. State Department, in its most recent annual report on terrorism, released in July, noted that Iran had “increased its terrorist-related activity, likely in an effort to exploit the uncertain political conditions resulting from the Arab spring.” The same report noted that “Iran continued to provide financial, material and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.” This includes “weapons, training and funding” for Palestinian terrorist groups, and “weapons and training” to help Syria’s Assad regime in a crackdown that has cost many thousands of lives.
In remarks Wednesday on the deaths of American personnel in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed that “A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security, and we will not turn our back on that.” Surely, regardless of who was behind the Sept. 11 attack, the aspirations for a free and stable Libya are better served without the presence of blacklisted IRISL vessels dispatched from terror-linked ports in Iran.

Drug submarines continue to make news,
Use of sophisticated drug subs spikes in the Caribbean
. There was a time when such drug running subs where operating only in the Pacific. Things change, but the threat is high:
American authorities have recently discovered at least three models of a new and sophisticated drug-trafficking submarine capable of travelling completely underwater from South America to the United States, and the use of these covert vessels has spiked in the Caribbean over the last year.

Older models pressed into service by drug barons were only semi-submersible, requiring a snorkel for air intake, but three newer captured vessels were fully submersible, capable of hauling 10 tons of cocaine and, by surfacing at night to charge their batteries, could sail beneath the surface from Ecuador to Los Angeles.
“These vessels are seaworthy enough that I have no doubt in my mind that if they had enough fuel, they could easily sail into a port in the United States,” according to Cmdr Mark J Fedor of the US Coast Guard, who commands the cutter Mohawk, a 200-foot vessel whose fast boat and helicopter interdicted a submersible in the Caribbean last September.

Last year, interdiction missions coordinated by the joint task force captured 129 tons of cocaine en route to the United States — more than five times the cocaine seized over the same period by operations in the United States, where agents and officers stopped about 24 tons of the drug.

Despite these advances, three-quarters of potential drug shipments identified by the task force are not interdicted, simply because there are not enough ships and aircraft available for the missions. “My staff watches multi-ton loads go by,” Admiral Michel said.
And, as noted here,
The drug trafficking quandary is bad enough, but officials worry that these subs could also be employed by terrorists. “If you can carry 10 tons of cocaine, you can carry 10 tons of anything,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Nimmich of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, which polices drug-interdiction efforts in the waters south of the United States.
Though I think it is safe to assume the drug kings would rather have a healthy U.S. economy to allow their profitable business to grow rather than a even more wounded U.S. . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Of course, the "Long War" hits U.S. presence in Egypt and Libya

Now, let's play a little game of probabilities.

What do you think the odds would be of near simultaneous attacks on both a U.S. consulate and a U.S. embassy in two different countries occurring "spontaneously" on 9/11/12?

If you smell a rat, then welcome to the "Long War."

How do you intimidate modern societies?

Riot - and claim it's the modern society's fault for not being sensitive enough to your "civilization."

And,yes, it is time for you to go get a copy of Samuel Huntington's book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and read the darn thing, if you want to have clue as to what sort of asymmetric war we've got going on.

 And the ability of the opponents in this war to use our own "fairness" against us is judo-like. We are beating ourselves by being useful idiots.

UPDATE4: What follows is a discussion of the sideshow issue in this matter that pertains to who said what when about "abuse" of "the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

You can read it below the break, but the point of my post was (1) the attacks were unlikely to be spontaneous and (2) how we shouldn't let the use of riots cause us to restrict the free speech rights of even useless human detritus like the clown who made the movie that was used as an excuse to stage the riots.UPDATE: See here:
But the mob violence and assaults should be seen for what they really are: an effort by Islamists to garner support and mobilize their base by exacerbating anti-Western sentiments.
Protests orchestrated on the pretext of slights and offenses against Islam have been part of Islamist strategy for decades. Iran's ayatollahs built an entire revolution around anti-Americanism. While the Iranian revolution was underway in 1979, Pakistan's Islamists whipped up crowds by spreading rumors that the Americans had forcibly occupied Islam's most sacred site, the Ka'aba or the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Pakistani protesters burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Violent demonstrations in many parts of the Muslim world after the 1989 fatwa—or religious condemnation—of a novel by Salman Rushdie, or after the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, also did not represent spontaneous outrage. In each case, the insult to Islam or its prophet was first publicized by Islamists themselves so they could use it as justification for planned violence.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Philippines; The Big Bad Wolf Is at the Door of Our House of Straw

Now that China is knocking on the door, the Philippines wonders where its military went.

Reported at PhilNews,"Decades of Mistakes Are Highlighted by the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal Issue":
Among the nations that claim ownership to parts of the Spratly and the Paracel Islands, the Philippine military appears the least able to stand up to China's military might. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no air force or navy that can pose a credible counter-threat to the Chinese. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) no longer has fighter jets that fly while the Philippine Navy (PN) ships are mostly of World War II vintage-except for the two Coast Guard Cutters the United States recently turned over to the Philippines, which were built in the late 1960s.

As noted in the piece, the Philippines can call on a long-term ally, but . . .
The Philippines can run to Uncle Sam for help but the US is saddled with its own problems. In addition, the wars it pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken such a heavy toll in lives and resources that the American public seems to have no appetite for involvement in yet another conflict, especially with a world-class military power like China, regardless of what the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty states.

Weakness does not, contrary to what some people assert, insure peace. More likely it means your lands will be taken and then other bad things happen.

Ambassador John Bolton talks China in "As China Muscles Into the Pacific, the U.S. Lacks a Strategy" at WSJ.com:
The U.S. is already perilously close to the point strategically where China will simply run the table with its claims.

Potential hostilities are no longer hypothetical. Last week in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated the usual U.S. bromides, namely: resolving the region's maritime disputes peacefully through negotiation consistent with international-law principles regarding freedom of navigation.

Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi replied bluntly that China was sovereign over the territories, and government media mouthpiece Xinhua warned the U.S. that "strategic miscalculations about a rising power could well lead to confrontations and even bloody conflicts, like the war between ancient Athens and Sparta. To avoid such a catastrophic scenario, Washington has to change its obsolete and doubt-ridden thinking pattern and cooperate with Beijing to settle their differences."

China sees these waters through a prism of increasing confidence based on geographical proximity; the weakness of, and competition among, the other territorial claimants; decreasing U.S. Navy capabilities due to draconian budget reductions; President Obama's diffidence in protecting U.S. interests abroad; and, for most Americans, the uninspiring abstractness of "freedom of the seas."

"Piracy" in the First World

Drunks trying to steal yachts.

First world problem.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Venezuela: Gun trafficking charges dropped against U.S. merchant captain, ship and crew

US Ship Captain, Crew Free After Venezuela Drops Trafficking Charges:
A U.S. cargo ship and its crew are expected to head home Monday or Tuesday, after being held for over a week by Venezuelan authorities on suspicion of arms trafficking.

Venezuelan authorities dropped arms-trafficking charges against the 14 American crew members and the captain of the Ocean Atlas on Sunday.

Captain, Jeffrey Michael Raider, 45, of Texas, was arrested Aug. 29 when they found weapons during a search. The remaining 14 members of the cargo vessel were required to stay aboard the ship during the captain's detention.
The ship had the proper documentation.

I'm sure it was all just an unpleasant misunderstanding.

The problems of carrying weapons, even anti-piracy" weapons into port or territorial waters is one that shipowners and crews need to bear in mind as not every country appreciates their introduction.

This is especially true of anti-U.S. tin-pot quasi-dictators who can't figure out that if the U.S. really wanted to run guns into his country, there are about a billion better ways than putting 3 of them in a merchant ship . . .

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Simple Geography

Of course, there is never anything simple, but sometimes it takes someone stating the obvious to focus attention in the right place (You know, like "Why is the emperor naked?" Got the attention of that exalted being). So, along comes Robert Kaplan with one of those things - in this case, an op ed in the Wall Street Journal, "Geography Strikes Back":
If you want to know what Russia, China or Iran will do next, don't read their newspapers or ask what our spies have dug up—consult a map. Geography can reveal as much about a government's aims as its secret councils.
Read it.

It won't hurt and there will not be quiz afterwards.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Someone in Somalia Shoots and Hits an Italian Navy Helicopter - Was it 'Pirates?'

Well, the headline acts as if there might be some doubt as to the shooter's career choice, as seen at 'Pirates' fire on Italian navy helicopter from News24. Reuters (or perhaps The Star of Malaysia) goes with "Suspected Somali pirates fire on Italian navy helicopter":
Suspected pirates opened fire on an Italian navy helicopter on patrol off the east coast of Somalia, hitting a window and slightly injuring a pilot, the force said on Friday.

The attack from a small boat broke the window, spraying out glass that hit one of the pilots in the neck, the navy said.

The helicopter, which was taking part in a European Union anti-piracy operation named 'Atalanta', did not return fire to avoid endangering any possible hostages, it added.

It later returned safely to the Italian navy's ship San Giusto, said European Union Naval Force spokeswoman Jacqueline Sherriff.
Well, if not "pirates" - what?

I suggest "Thugs on a boat." You don't even has to use the word "suspected."

Join Us for Midrats on Sunday: Episode 140: NORTHCOM and Disaster Response 09-09-12, 5pm (Eastern U.S.)

Join us on Midrats for Episode 140: NORTHCOM and Disaster Response:
Everyone knows CENTCOM, many know PACOM or EUCOM ... but what about NORTHCOM?

What is their role in national defense, and what special role does it have inside the United States - specifically in disaster response?

This Sunday, September 9th from 5-6pm EST, our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Brigadier General Donald A. McGregor, the Deputy Director of Operations for Domestic Operations, Headquarters, United States Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
As in
USNORTHCOM’s civil support mission includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Support also includes counter-drug operations and managing the consequences of a terrorist event employing a weapon of mass destruction.
NORTHCOM has been busy with forest fires, hurricanes and a whole lot more as it works with civilian agencies in the disaster area. Because hurricane season continues, earthquakes never stop and who knows what else can happen on a major level, this is a timely topic.

Join us by clicking here on Sunday at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) or listen later to the recorded show by hitting that same spot or by visiting the Midrats iTunes page.

Things to Read Over the Weekend

Robert Haddick's (Small Wars Journal)analysis of China's moves in the South China Sea - Salami Slicing in the South China Sea | Small Wars Journal
But what about an adversary that uses "salami-slicing," the slow accumulation of small actions, none of which is a casus belli, but which add up over time to a major strategic change? U.S. policymakers and military planners should consider the possibility that China is pursuing a salami-slicing strategy in the South China Sea, something that could confound Washington's military plans.
Japan is moving to increase its maritime security:
Japan plans to deploy new patrol vessels to bolster maritime security around its far-flung islands in the wake of the recent landing of Chinese activists on its Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Land Ministry has decided to seek a budgetary provision of about $130 million in the 2013-14 fiscal to strengthen the country's Coast Guard with a fleet of four new 1,000-ton class patrol vessels and three midsize helicopters, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

The Ministry also proposes to equip patrol boats with video transmission systems so that they can immediately send images of suspicious vessels to the Coast Guard headquarters.
A crtique of the current administration's national security efforts, "Taking the easier path to a worse place":
The most important national security problem facing our nation -- the crushing load of debt that will crowd out discretionary spending by our government -- was addressed in the context of cutting military spending. The president who has doubled our national debt in three years now claims "I will use the money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways, because after two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it's time to do some nation building right here at home." That is, defense is the bill payer for his domestic programs.
U.S. maritime security is looking at some new robotic helpers as set out in "Ocean Power Technologies to Work with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Wins New Autonomous PowerBuoy Grant" which may be a boring headline, but is about an interesting topic:
... a joint technology transfer initiative to show how the Autonomous PowerBuoy can be used with multiple surveillance technologies. OPT will leverage its experience from the LEAP program in surface vessel detection to demonstrate an enhanced tracking technology covering a wider variety of vessels. This technology will feature an acoustic sensor system in addition to the existing HF RADAR. This will allow the PowerBuoy to collect data for ocean observing applications at the same time as it performs its enhanced surveillance duties, demonstrating the dual use of the PowerBuoy technology.
Oh, "spybots" of sort - or perhaps "dectobots?" More on the Navy's LEAP project here. Pictures of LEAP buoy nearby, including one of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel placing the buoy.

An explanation of the LEAP buoy mission:
17-06 - TOME

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Global Energy: Russian Offshore Exploration

Reported by Ocean News, announced planned offshore Russia oil and gas exploration, including in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk here:
Statoil will fund 100% of costs in the exploration phase, which includes an obligatory work program of six wildcat wells to be drilled during the period 2016-2021.

A fiscal reform package providing incentives for the development of Russian offshore , including through geological survey, was outlined in a Russian government decree of April 2012. Enactment and implementation of these measures will facilitate the conduct of more capital intensive exploration work.
According to this,
The Shareholder and Operating Agreements are identical for the four license areas. Rosneft will have an equity share of 66.67% in each of the operating joint ventures and Statoil´s share will be 33.33%. Statoil will fund 100% of costs in the exploration phase, which includes an obligatory work program of six wildcat wells to be drilled during the period 2016-2021.
Statoil is a Norwegian company with world-wide operations. Rosneft is a Russian company, 75% state owned.

The Perseevsky license block is located in the western part of the Barents Sea. Prospective recoverable resources stand at over 2 bln toe.

The Magadan 1, Lisyansky and Kashevarovsky license blocks are located in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk. Prospective recoverable resources at these fields stand at over 1.4 bln toe.
One more step in the Arctic.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Somali Pirates: What Spain is sending as a pirate fighting ship

EUNAVFOR Photo of Relampago
EUNAVFOR is welcoming a Specialised Spanish Counter Piracy Patrol Vessel to Join EU Naval Force in Gulf of Aden | European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation Atalanta:
The RELAMPAGO, a member of Spains newest BAM class of warships, is a high performance, modular vessel capable of being adapted to a number of roles . . .
Much more about the BAM class here.

Basically, though, what you have is a highly automated 20 knot ship with a small crew with enough weaponry for self defense +,
The ship is armed with a OtoBreda 76/62mm gun, two Mk38 25mm automatic cannons and two 12.7mm machine guns. The OtoBreda 76mm compact can fire 85 rounds a minute, while super rapid can fire 120 rounds a minute.
Helicopter system
The BAM has a helicopter deck measuring 24.7m by 13.5m. It supports the operations of AB-212, NH-90 or SH-3D Sea King helicopters. The hangar can accommodate an AB-212 or NH-90 helicopter.
The ship's state-of-the-art command and control system allows the crew to operate the vessel in littoral environments. The BAM can carry six containers accommodating UAVs, firing targets, signal simulators, anti-pollution assets, divers support and workshops.
The vessel is equipped with a helicopter platform, rescue equipment and medical facilities and can be deployed in a range of missions including patrols and protection.

The ship design can also be modified for non-oceanic missions such as hydrographic research, intelligence gathering, divers support and submarine rescue operations.
I am not sure why EUNAVFOR is using the term "specialised" in connection with what seems to be a very versatile addition to the counter-piracy fleet off Somalia.

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Gasoline Tanker Hijacked Off Nigeria

UPDATE: Nigerian Navy has recaptured this tanker, as set out here:
Nigeria's navy says it has rescued a Singapore-owned oil tanker hijacked by pirates on Tuesday night with 23 Indian sailors on board.

A navy spokesman told the BBC the crew was safe, the hijackers had fled and the vessel, the Abu Dhabi Star, was being escorted into the port of Lagos.
Navy spokesman Commodore Kabir Aliyu said no shots were fired before the hijackers abandoned the Abu Dhabi Star.

Earlier the navy had sent two ships and a helicopter to the scene.

"We want to commend the superb effort of the Nigerian navy in securing the safe release of the Abu Dhabi Star. There were no casualties and the cargo is intact," Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau, told the BBC.

"It is very important that the Nigerian authorities apprehend, investigate and try those who carried out the attack," he said.

Reported here:
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement that armed pirates boarded the vessel Tuesday night, attacking the crew members.

The pirates forced the ship to sail into the open sea, the IMB added.

Harrison said the tanker was coming from Bonny port town and was heading to the US.

According to him, the company has since received contact from the crew onboard the vessel and can confirm that all crew members are currently safe and uninjured, but that the vessel has been boarded by suspected pirates.
The pattern in these gasoline product tanker hijackings has been for the cargo to be stolen (transferred to another vessel or vessels) and the ship released with the crew relatively unharmed. UPDATE: Martin Murphy has a good post on Gulf of Guinea piracy at The Most Lucrative Piracy in the World.

Past patterns, however, do not guarantee future results.

UPDATE: More here:
Abu Dhabi Star
© Gena Anfimov
A spokesman for the firm that manages the hijacked Abu Dhabi Star said the vessel's location at the time of the Tuesday evening attack had not yet been established.

"We only got one message from the seafarers on board saying that they were being boarded.... We don't actually know the exact location of where she was hijacked," said Pat Adamson of Maritime Technical International.

Adamson said the vessel could have been carrying up to 45,000 tons of gasoline at the time of the attack.

A tracking device placed the tanker 31.4 nautical miles (60 kilometres, 35 miles) away from the Lagos port at roughly 1100 GMT on Wednesday, Nigeria's navy spokesman, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, said.
A security analyst said such attacks near Lagos and other ports in the region are becoming a worsening problem.

"Over the last few months we've seen an increasing number of incidents," said Peter Sharwood-Smith, west African regional manager for risk management consultancy Drum Cussac.

"For the last year and a bit we've been seeing high-level piracy off of Lagos, where they've been targeting tankers to steal their fuel oil cargo," he added.

Pirates hijacked and looted two oil tankers off nearby Togo last month. The two ships and all crew members were later freed.

The IMB's Choong said the same criminal syndicate could be behind the latest attack since the modus operandi was the same.

"They would seize the ship for about five days -- ransack the crew's cabin and syphon the oil to another pirate vessel," he said.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Things to Read

About the current administration's policy toward Iran and Israel: In From the Cold: Feckless and at "Shadow Government" portion of the Foreign Policy website, Hand-wringing while the Middle East burns

CDR Salamander's Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XLII with a link to a bit on the Chinese push in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea and the attendant claim to "2 million square kilometers of water" surrounding the islands. Ah, that exclusive economic zone stuff - a simple concept that could cause war.

Professor James Holmes piece at The Diplomat on Viet Nam's look at buidling "Model Maritime Militia Force" for . . . responding to China's moves in the Paracel Islands. (h/t Information Dissemination)

Map above is from news reports following the Chinese harassment of USNS ship Impeccable in March 2009.

Somali Pirates: "What is slowing the piracy? Onshore or at-sea actions?"

"What is slowing the piracy? Onshore or at-sea actions?" is sort of the question posed at Shiptalk's "Who Killed the Pirates":
The New York Times published a piece last week describing the “sharp” decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia It cited data provided by the US Navy demonstrating that attacks had significantly fallen off in 2012 compared to 2011 and 2010. The decline was attributed to industry having implemented better security measures, the large-scale participation by forces from many world navies in counter-piracy operations in the region, and raids conducted to rescue hostages.

Conspicuously absent, however, is any mention of how events ashore may have impacted piracy. The only mention in the piece as to how actions on land are related to piracy was that “renewed political turmoil” or “further economic collapse” could cause more Somalis to pursue piracy as a livelihood.

In June Matt Hipple made his case in this blog that international naval operations had little or nothing to do with the current decline in piracy. He argued that the Kenyan invasion of Somalia and continued operations by the multi-national forces of AMISOM, as well as armed private security forces onboard commercial vessels were the decisive factors behind the recent drop in pirate attacks. Another June piece by the website Somalia Report attributed the decline to internal Somali factors, primarily declining financial support by Somali investors in the pirate gangs, and increased operations of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF).
Many of us have argued for years that the solution to the Somali pirate issue lay inside Somalia and that the international navy flotillas bobbing around offshore are less responsible for reducing piracy than in forcing the pirates to innovate and move to the less patrolled areas through the use of "mother ships" to carry their attack skiffs further to sea.

I do note that since there has been more naval concentration on stopping these mother ships there has been a decline in pirate attacks, so the naval forces do have that going for them.

Further, in the last few months, the weather (thank you, monsoon!) has made the seas unsettled enough to hinder the pirate small boat operations. And, of course, those private armed security guards mentioned in the article have played a major role (it's hard to believe now how controversial they were at the beginning of their use).

More on the weather from the last ONI "SOMALIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report (Horn of Africa) for 23 – 29 August 2012":

UPDATE (5 Sept): Martin Murphy also plowed this ground at Piracy attacks drop to zero – why? and issues a warning:
The world is dealing with an adaptable and intelligent adversary that watches and listens to what we do. So long as the potential for significant profits remains – and so long as the pirates’ on-land support infrastructure and international negotiating capacity remains intact – then the incentive to wait until the current counter-measures are stood-down will remain. Baring action against these assets the pirates will be back. Piracy is not over.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Somali Pirates: Kill Hostage to Demand Faster Ransom Payment

Reported as a deadly temper tantrum from a thug in Somalia as in "Pirate boss: Somali pirates kill Syrian hostage and wound another over delayed ransom payment""
Somali pirates who have been holding a hijacked ship for nearly two years killed a Syrian hostage crew member and wounded another to protest delayed ransom payment, a pirate leader said.

This is believed to be the first time Somali pirates have killed a hostage because of a delay in ransom.

Hassan Abdi, a pirate commander in Haradhere town, a key pirate centre, said Friday that the killing on Wednesday was a message to the owners of the ship MV Orna that was hijacked off Seychelles in 2010.

"The killing was a message to the owners of the ship who paid no heed to our ransom demands," Abdi said by telephone.

"More killings will follow if they continue to lie to us — we have lost patience with them. Two years is enough," he said angrily.

The MV Orna is a Panama-flagged, bulk cargo vessel owned by a company in the United Arab Emirates.

Report on 2010 capture of MV Orna here.