Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Intelligence subscribers.
In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (3,635 words)
- U.S. threatens to destroy banned Russian warheads
- Syria opposition rejects Idlib demilitarization
- US terminates 1955 treaty with Iran
- Israel working to reduce threat of Russian missile system in Syria
- Russia’s MiG-31 might be used to kill American satellites
- America’s newest nuclear bomb
- Russian buildup worries Norway ahead of NATO exercise
- Britain to bolster Arctic defense to counter Russia
- What’s going on in the South China Sea?
- Syria FM says Iran coordinated its ballistic missile strikes
- Seoul says North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons
- North Korea tells US it will not denuclearize for peace treaty
- And more…
Priority Intelligence Requirements:
PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?
PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?
PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)
PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?
U.S. threatens to destroy banned Russian warheads
According to U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, Russia is in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans medium-range missiles capable of hitting Europe or Alaska. Hutchison said that although the U.S. is committed to a diplomatic solution, it is prepared to consider a preemptive military strike on the banned missiles if necessary.
Prior to a scheduled two-day meeting with counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, “I cannot forecast where it will go, it is a decision for the president, but I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in State Department, there is a lot of concern about this situation and I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage in that discussion to determine the way ahead.” [source
Syria opposition rejects Idlib demilitarization
Three Syrian opposition groups, Faylaq Ash-Shaam, Jaysh Al-Izza, and Hurras Al-Din, have rejected the Idlib demilitarization agreement reached on September 17 in Sochi, Russia between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The largest opposition group in Idlib, Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam, has not yet announced its position on the agreement.
Skirmishes continue between opposition groups and forces allied to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad despite the stipulation of a total ceasefire in the agreement.
Erdogan announced on Monday that a meeting between Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany would be convened in the next month to discuss the conflict and the future status of Idlib. [source
Iran pledges not to cut oil production ahead of US sanctions
Ali Kardor, the Director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said on Monday that Iran does not intend to reduce its oil production in spite of U.S. sanctions targeting the Iranian oil sector that are scheduled to take effect on November 4. Cargo data indicates that Iran’s oil exports have fallen from a high of three million barrels per day this year to about two million barrels per day in September as an apparent result of U.S. pressure on buyers. [source
US terminates 1955 treaty with Iran
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the cancellation of the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran, which established economic relations and consular rights between the two countries.
The action comes after a ruling by the United Nations’ highest court ordering the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iran that affect the importation of humanitarian goods, a case brought by Iran that Pompeo characterized as an abuse of the court for political and propaganda purposes. [source]
Turkey condemns Israel use of force against Palestinian protestors
As many as seven Palestinian demonstrators were killed and more than 500 injured by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the occupied Gaza Strip on Friday. “We strongly condemn the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli security forces against the innocent civilians using their right to peaceful assembly in Gaza,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. The statement went on to call for implementation of the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the protection of Palestinian civilians. [source
PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?
Philippines, US, Japan conduct joint military exercise
The Philippine-led exercise KAMANDAG 2 is being held October 1-10 at several locations on and off the island of Luzon in the Philippines and will include participation by U.S. and Japanese forces with a primary focus on counter-terrorism and disaster relief. The name KAMANDAG comes from an acronym for a Filipino phrase that translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea.”
“In its first iteration last year, KAMANDAG gave rise to many inaugural advancements between our militaries,” Brig. Gen. Christopher A. McPhillips, commanding general for the U.S. 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said in a statement.
Separately, Japan Prime Minister Abe appointed Takeshi Iwaya, 61, a veteran politician, as Japan’s new defense minister. He replaced Itsunori Onodera, who had been in the office since August 2017. Other key government position remained largely unchanged following Abe’s reelection as leader of his Liberal Democratic Party last month. [source
Israel working to reduce threat of Russian missile system in Syria
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Russia’s reported plans to deliver its S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria as “irresponsible,” but he said Israel would continue to cooperate with Moscow regarding its operation in Syria. Israel’s focus is currently on improving its abilities to defeat the S-300 system rather than preventing its deployment in Syria. [source
China working on laser satellite
China is reportedly working on a surveillance satellite that would use high-powered lasers to locate submarines at ocean depths of 500 meters. In theory, the laser would send pulses back to the satellite from a targeted submarine, enabling the satellite to pinpoint the vessel’s location, shape, and speed.
Challenges to the technology include clouds, fog, murky waters, and fish, all of which could result in inaccurate data or no data at all. It is not clear when the technology is scheduled to go live. Chinese researchers indicate that are still many obstacles to be overcome. [source]
Russia’s MiG-31 might be used to kill American satellites
A modified Russian Air Force Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor was photographed by a civilian aircraft spotter both in the air and on the ground at an airfield 40km southeast of Moscow. The aircraft was armed with what appeared to be an anti-satellite weapon under its belly.
According to researchers at the Russian think-tank Centre for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), this likely represents the resurrection of a Soviet anti-space defense program that involved a modified MiG-31D version of the Foxhound, the 79M6 anti-satellite missile and the 45Zh6 Krona space-tracking radar. The MIG-31 is seen as an ideal platform for such a project because of its speed, altitude, and payload capabilities. Little more is publicly known about Russia’s efforts to revive its old anti-satellite program. [source]
13 Allies to cooperate on the introduction of Maritime Unmanned Systems
In a NATO statement released on October 3, it was reported that the Defense Ministers from 13 NATO Allies signed a declaration of intent to cooperate on the introduction of Maritime Unmanned Systems, described as “a potentially game changing leap forward in maritime technology.” The statement went on to say, “They will enable us to be significantly more effective in crucial areas such as detecting and clearing mines, and finding and tracking submarines. Working alongside traditional naval assets, these unmanned systems will increase both our situational awareness and our control of the seas.”
Signatories of the agreement were Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. [source]
America’s newest nuclear bomb
According to a statement by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb has completed its final design review and is set for production in March 2020. This review certified that the B61-12 design meets Defense Department standards.
NNSA is a Department of Energy agency that has oversight over the development, maintenance and disposal of nuclear warheads, while the Defense Department manages the delivery systems such as ships, planes, and missiles.
The B61-12 consolidates and replaces the older B61-3, -4, -7 and -10 variants. Proponents of the new weapon say it will update aging parts and drive down upkeep costs. It is certified for the B-52 and B-2 bombers, America’s F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft, and British and German Tornado aircraft under a NATO agreement. Expectations are that the F-35 will be added to this list in the next decade. [source]
The Navy is getting 10 new destroyers
As part of a plan by the Navy and Pentagon to speed up the delivery of new warships and expand the surface fleet to 355 ships on an accelerated timeframe, the US Navy has awarded contracts for 10 new high-tech DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers. They have also built in options to add even more ships and increase the “build rates” for construction of new warships.
Two contractors, Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, will build the 10 new DDG 51s. Huntington will build six of the new destroyers in a $5 billion deal, and General Dynamics will build four of them for $3.9 billion, according to a Navy announcement. The acquisition is a multi-year procurement intended to reach from this year through 2022.
The new Destroyers have many defining new technologies not included in current ships. These technologies include more on-board power, new engines, improved electronics, fast-upgradeable software and a much more powerful radar that will enable the vessels to see and destroy a much wider range of enemy targets at farther distances. [source
Japan and the UK are teaming up for the first time to gain an edge on China
Japan and the United Kingdom kicked off Exercise Vigilant Isles with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill. The exercise will continue for two weeks on Honshu, Japan’s largest island. This represents the first time the country has hosted non-U.S. military personnel for military exercises. Although the Japanese have exercised with the British navy and air force, “this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company.
This exercise comes roughly a year after a visit to Japan by British Prime Minister Theresa May, which culminated in the release of a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which both countries pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises.
May described the two countries as “natural partners,” and this partnership appears to be born of mutual concern regarding China’s ambitions in the South China Sea and beyond. [source
US to pull out of provision allowing countries to take Washington to UN court
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, citing a case brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague by the “so-called state of Palestine,” announced the U.S. would withdraw from an international treaty provision that allows countries to sue the United States at the ICJ. In the case cited, the Palestinians had challenged the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Bolton characterized such provisions as violations of U.S. sovereignty and said the U.S. would examine all international agreements that leave the country open to decisions in international courts or panels. [source
PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)
Russian buildup worries Norway ahead of NATO exercise
Norway’s urging of NATO allies to focus on internal defense rather than interventions outside its borders has apparently paid off as Norway serves as the central staging ground of Trident Juncture, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s biggest military exercise since 2002. The two-week exercise, which began on October 25, will involve 40,000 troops and 30 countries. The exercise will include air, sea and land operations from Finland and the Baltic Sea in the east, to Iceland in the west. There will also be a command post exercise from November 14-23.
This exercise comes as Norway and its NATO allies, including the United States, become more wary of Russian ambitions with regard to the Arctic’s oil, gas, and shipping routes, particularly in light of Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic which has included the creation or reopening of six military bases there. The U.S. has agreed to double the number of marines assigned to Norway. “Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this year. [source
Britain to bolster Arctic defense to counter Russia
Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, speaking at an annual conference of the ruling Conservative Party conference on September 30, emphasized the importance of strengthening the Royal Marine training commitments in Norway. “Currently, the Royal Marines conduct cold weather training in Norway on an annual basis, with around 800 due to deploy in 2019. As part of the new Arctic strategy, the Marines’ training will become joint with Norway on a long-term basis and integrated into Norway’s defense plan, providing U.K. troops a unique opportunity to train alongside a key ally,” Williamson said.
Williamson indicated that Russian militarization of the Arctic region has made the Arctic and High North central to British security. This region has been the subject of “benign neglect” since the end of the Cold War according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). The neglect has come as the result of military commitments elsewhere and a lack of economic incentives to defend the northern regions. [source
Analyst Comment: This week’s reporting has included a fair amount of information regarding Russia, especially related to current activities in Syria. There has also been reporting on the development of new weapons systems by the Russians.
With regard to Russian activities in Syria, we see that the Syrian opposition is evidently not on board with the recent agreement between Putin and Erdogan on a demilitarized zone in Idlib. Considering the patchwork of opposition forces, this lack of consensus should surprise no one. Also related to Russia and Syria, Israel’s decision to allow the deployment of a modernized Russian air defense system to Syria may indicate that the Israeli’s believe they are already capable of defeating the system. This may also indicate that Israel does not feel it can prevent the deployments without escalating hostilities.
Two articles are related to Russia’s efforts to modernize its military capabilities. First, we learn that the Russians may be resurrecting a Cold War era anti-satellite program using a modified MiG-31 platform combined with an anti-satellite missile and a space-tracking radar system. Separately, the U.S. ambassador to NATO has accused Russia of being in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, warning that military action could be taken to eliminate the missiles if a diplomatic solution is not found.
NATO reporting has included a seeming renewed emphasis on Arctic defense and the continued modernization of military systems—particularly by the U.S.—but also among NATO allies.
Two articles illustrate the refocusing on Arctic defense. One article describes NATO’s ongoing exercise Trident Juncture, and the other discusses Britain’s decision to bolster its Arctic defense after years of “benign neglect.” Both articles cite continued Russian militarization in the Arctic.
U.S. and NATO modernization news has included the signing of an agreement by 13 NATO Allies to introduce unmanned maritime systems to augment and enhance current maritime technology. There is also news of a modernized U.S. nuclear gravity bomb that is planned to go into production in March 2020. Finally, a lengthy article describes the capabilities of 10 new DDG 51 Destroyers that are being built for the U.S. Navy between now and the end of 2022.
What’s going on in the South China Sea?
In this three-minute CNN video, a short synopsis of events in the South China Sea is provided. The video focuses on China’s claims to almost the entirety of this body of water and its construction and militarization of artificial islands to enforce those claims in spite of rulings to the contrary by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
The US has stepped up its naval operations in the South China Sea over the past year, including the flying of Navy reconnaissance aircraft. Audio and video recordings of in-flight conversations between Chinese and U.S. military personnel during one such flight are provided.
Time may be running out to effectively counter China’s claims in the South China Sea. According to the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Philip Davidson, “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.” [source
China free to move but no battleships in South China Sea
According to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, China has the right to move freely in the South China Sea, but it must not restrict navigation by others through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. “Our policy is to not have battleships and warships in the South China Sea because if people start stationing their warships there, there will be tension, there will be conflict and it may result in a war,” Mahathir said. The U.S. has recently conducted “freedom of navigation” operations near Chinese built artificial islands to ensure continued access to key shipping and air routes. [source
Syria FM says Iran coordinated its ballistic missile strikes
According to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, the Iranian missile strike that targeted militants in eastern Syria on Monday was coordinated with Syria. According to Iranian officials, the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on a military parade in Iran in September. The Iranian strike reportedly killed eight people. [source]
IAEA ignores Netanyahu’s demands for Iran nuclear inspection
During a speech to the United Nations on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites. During the speech he showed photos of a building near Iran’s capital that he referred to as an “atomic warehouse” full of material related to Iran’s nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) responded in a statement by saying, “All information obtained, including from third parties, is subject to rigorous review and assessed together with other available information to arrive at an independent assessment based on the Agency’s own expertise.”
Korea’s begin removing DMZ mines
It is believed that about 2 million mines are scattered in and near the 155-mile long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea. An agreement to clear mines was part of a deal struck by Korea’s defense chiefs during a meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea last month in Pyongyang.
On Monday, South Korean army engineers were deployed to the border village of Panmunjom. They were also sent to another area called “Arrow Head Hill” where there are plans for the two Koreas to jointly search for the remains of soldiers killed in the Korean War.
South Korean troops began removing mines in the southern part of the two sites on Monday. Also on Monday, the South Korean military detected what appeared to be North Korean mine clearing operations on the northern part of the sites. [source
Seoul says North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, in response to a question in Parliament on Monday, estimated the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal to range from 20 to 60 bombs. This estimate is close to those of civilian estimates, which are largely based on the amount of nuclear materials the North is believed to have produced.
South Korean officials continue to insist that they will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state and that South Korea’s efforts to rid the North of its nuclear program would continue.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit Pyongyang this month to set up a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. [source
North Korea tells US it will not denuclearize for peace treaty
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said of a suggested proposal to exchange North Korean denuclearization for a formal end to the Korean War, “it can never be a bargaining chip for getting the DPRK denuclearised.”
The statement said the North was willing to dismantle its nuclear program “if the US takes a corresponding measure,” but as in similar previous statements, details of the proposal were not provided.
Last month, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations that his country would not disarm first as long as the U.S. calls for tough enforcement of sanctions against the North. [source
Pompeo to visit North Korea again this weekend
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to North Korea this weekend for denuclearization talks with that country’s leader Kim Jong Un. The meeting comes despite recent North Korean statements by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the U.N. calling into question the trustworthiness of the United States as a bargaining partner amidst deepening U.S. sanctions.
Pompeo will also visit Japan, South Korea and China from Octobter 6-8 to brief counterparts on the Pyongyang talks. This trip by the Secretary of State was originally planned for August but was cancelled by President Trump. At that time, the President acknowledged publicly for the first time that denuclearization talks with North Korea had stalled. This most recent Pompeo trip to North Korea comes ahead of a planned second summit between Kim and Trump. [source
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