Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs.U.S. Relationship by Ari RUSILA
“It is not about ideology, democracy nor respect for borders – It is about money and global power.”
(AR viewpoint to issue)
Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs.U.S. Relationship by Ari RUSILA
“It is not about ideology, democracy nor respect for borders – It is about money and global power.”
(AR viewpoint to issue)
Odessa is not only Ukraine’s most important remaining port for access to the Black Sea. It has also allegedly been a key avenue for Russian companies to export, sometimes with illicit or controversial purposes, goods overseas. Russian arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad allegedly flowed through Odessa, for example.
In my earlier article Arms Trade: The Crux Of The MIC I described where U.S. and Russia were supplying their weaponry as part of geopolitical game. One part of international arms trade is made via semi-official channels or through clandestine operations. One example about these activities – from U.S. side – is described in my article – U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria . Now there is also an example of implemented practice from Russian side.
Russia’s biggest, money-making exports — after oil and gas and other natural resources — is weaponry. Russia’s state-owned defence equipment export company Rosoboronexport seemingly has had a record year, reporting exports of almost $39 billion in 2013-14. The regions of Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists are rebelling is home to more than 50 factories that have been building specialized military equipment for Moscow over the last two decades.
Most of Russia’s massive arms exports was channeled through the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk – about 100 km east of Odessa. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
At least until 2014 Oktyabrsk the highly secure, very Russian “specialized sea port” from which the Kremlin exported out Kh-55 cruise missiles to Iran, Pechora-2 surface-to-air missiles to Eritrea, T-72 tanks to Venezuela and South Sudan, even more tanks and rockets to Myanmar (Burma) … and all of the above to Syria.
The Odessa Network
A new study by independent conflict researchers describes a heavy volume of traffic in the past two years from Ukraine’s Oktyabrsk port, just up the Black Sea coast from Odessa, to Syria’s main ports on the Mediterranean. In late 2012, Farley Mesko and Tom Wallace – security analysts at C4ADS – began investigating an intricate network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Their report – The Odessa Network: Mapping Facilitators of Russian and Ukrainian Arms Transfers (later the report) presents a picture of a very opaque system, in this case the system of maritime arms transfers related to the Russian government and former Ukrainian government. C4ADS is a ,Washington-based, nonprofit research organization whose mission is to understand global conflict and security through on-the-ground research and data-driven analysis.
Despite being in Ukraine, Oktyabrsk “is functionally controlled by Russia,” and the port is headed by a former Russian navy captain and owned by a business magnate with close ties to the Kremlin, the report said. Major Russian weapons exporters have offices there, alongside Ukrainian and Russian shipping and logistics companies the report has dubbed the “Odessa Network”. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
The Odessa Network is a loose collection of logistics contractors for the governments of Russia and Ukraine, not independent arms dealers. Key companies and figures in Odessa include Kaalbye Group, Phoenix Trans-Servis. Affiliated EU and Russian shipping firms such as Briese Schiffahrts (and its subsidiary BBC Chartering) and Balchart play an important specialized role in transporting particularly large or sensitive shipments. To protect their weapons shipments, some of the Ukrainian and Russian firms own or contract with multiple private maritime security companies – such as Moran Security Group, Muse Professional Group, Helicon Security, Changsuk Security Group, and Al Mina Security Group – who also operate in African conflict zones. These companies’ business model revolves around staffing ships transiting dangerous areas (particularly the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea) with heavily armed FSU (Former Soviet Union) military veterans, who provide protection from pirates. The companies work with state weapons export agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport.
The Odessa Network is not a hierarchical, unitary organization. It is better characterized as a “contacts market:” clusters of individuals and firms geographically concentrated in a particular area, and performing a specific sub-task of the weapons-export process. For example, the primary logistics contractors for Russian and Ukrainian weapons exports are shipping companies headquartered in the city of Odessa, while the financial services sometimes used to ‘clean’ profits are located in Latvia.
According report there is evidence that some of these “Odessa Network” companies employ Latvian banks known or accused of money laundering and a series of Panamanian companies run by Latvian nationals who act as “proxy directors.”is a member of the EU, and so money cleaned through Latvia can readily be transferred into safe havens in Zurich or London. Over half of the $25 billion held in Latvian banks is held by foreign depositors; the IMF estimates FSU entities account for 90% of this.
The Weapons Shipment Data in report presents dataset on Russian and Ukrainian weapons shipments, and the ships, companies, and ports used to facilitate them. The dataset includes 43 separate shipment events, and at least 21 different purchasing countries. These shipments include weapons ranging from crates of surplus ammunition to state of the art SAM systems, customers ranging from countries in good international standing to states under active international sanction, and span over a decade of time. Some of these arms transfers are well-known, while others were previously undetected. These shipments were facilitated by a comparatively small group of Ukrainian and EU companies and individuals with close ties to one another, and to senior Russian and Ukrainian governmental and military-industrial officials. The report for example notes that Kaalbye -company carried arms to President Assad’s forces in Syria in 2012 and to the Venezuela government from 2011 to 2013. Previous shipments have included cruise missiles to China and Iran, assault rifles and grenades to Angola, and tanks and RPGs to South Sudan.
A network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies—referred to as the “Odessa Network” due to its key leadership being located in Odessa, Ukraine—is responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Odessa Network company leaders have personal and financial relationships with cabinet level officials in the Russian and Ukrainian governments.
According the report the Odessa companies’ greatest asset: connections. Link and network analysis reveals that the Odessa companies and personnel are the center of a rich network of businesses and individuals who provide all the services necessary for a weapons shipment to occur. The Odessa Network firms are logistics contractors for the Russian and Ukrainian governments. State agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport own the weapons and broker almost all foreign sales. The Odessa Network companies play a critical role in making these arms transfers happen, but they only do so on behalf of powerful customers in Moscow and Kiev. The key assumption is that there must be persistent links and contractual relationships between the Odessa Network and government officials. The Odessa Network has moved billions of dollars of advanced military hardware, which indicates a high level of government trust in its competency and honesty, implying contact between leaders on both sides.
Click HERE for bigger picture.
The maritime shipments by Odessa Network are only one part of Russia’s and Ukraine’s arms trade. The Norwegian firm Eide Marine Services is the second most frequent weapons transporter in our dataset (after Kaalbye). Eide is a perfect example of how EU firms provide specialized ships to handle large or unusual cargo the Odessa firms cannot, such as warships and submarines. Eide is one of the few firms which possesses exactly such a ship, the Eide Transporter, which has been used multiple times to move unusual Russian military cargo to foreign customers. This includes Tarantul-class missile corvettes, Gepard-class frigates, and Svetlyak-class patrol boats to Vietnam, and Kilo-class submarines to China. However Eide-Odessa connections are unclear.
Many of Russia and Ukraine’s customers are geographic neighbors or landlocked, making it impractical or impossible to use sea transportation. For example, when Russia exports weapons to neighboring Kazakhstan it does so by plane, rail, or truck. Similarly, even distant customers may be purchasing military equipment that is typically not moved by sea. For example, Russia has a $300 million contract to supply Su–30 MK2 and Su–27 SKM fighters to Indonesia, but these are transported on An–124 transport aircraft, not ships. Similarly, Ukraine has a contract to supply BTR–3E1 APCs to Thailand, but previous shipments have been flown on an Il–76 to U-Tapao Airport, not shipped.
Selling of advanced weapons also indicates the facilitator of weapons shipments are an important foreign policy tool. Governmental ownership of exported weapons since the early 2000s confirms a narrative of Russian politics that emphasizes reassertion of state control over national assets (defense plants, oil and gas, industrial concerns, etc.) and profits resulting from sale of these assets being distributed to regime stakeholders via sanctioned corruption in exchange for political loyalty.
The situation in Ukraine has its effect to arms trade – not only to Russian exports but to imports too.The volume of import substitution program in the defense sector is 22.8 billion rubles, “Kommersant” writes citing a senior source in the Russian defense industry. “The sanctions will encourage the expansion of the programme of import substitution and speed up the development and introduction of new domestic technologies.”
Downriver from Dnepropetrovk is Zaporizhia, home of Motor Sich. While Russia was annexing the Crimea from Ukraine the Motor Sich inherited most of the former Soviet Union’s aeronautical engine manufacturing capability Motor Sich signed a new, upgraded co-operation agreement with Rostec, the umbrella organization for Russia’s defence industry.
Speaking about sanctions it is a bit ironic that the embargo on the rotorcraft engine exports to Russia will not have a negative impact on one significant contract – the delivery of 63 Mi-17V-5 tactical transport helicopters for the Afghan armed forces ordered by the US for some $1.33 billion.
One aspect in geopolitical game is arms trade – from whom to buy and to whom to sell. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has studied for 2012-2013 to see to whom the two biggest military powers as well the two leading exporters of weapons – U.S. and Russia were supplying their weaponary.
The U.S. dealt to 59 nations that Russia doesn’t sell or send weaponry to, while Russia dealt to just 15 nations that don’t receive U.S. arms. Fifteen countries received weaponry from both the U.S. and Russia, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa.
The country that received the highest dollar amount of U.S. weaponry was the United Arab Emirates, with more than $3.7 billion in arms received over that period. Russia dealt the greatest value of weapons to India, sending more than $13.6 billion. Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations, while Russia sent weaponry exceeding $29.7 billion in value around the globe. (Source and more e.g. in Businessinsider )
One should note that the SIPRI’s totals – figures in table above – don’t measure the cost of the transaction but the cost of the weapons’ production. The numbers are listed as the production value of the weapons sold rather than the amount they were actually sold for. So the numbers represent the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer. In addition, SIPRI does not track the transfer of certain small arms.
SIPRI Arms Industry Database, which contains financial and employment data on the world’s major arms-producing and military services companies. Arms and military services sales (‘arms sales’) are defined by SIPRI as sales of military goods and services to military customers, including sales for both domestic procurement and export. Military goods and services are those that are designed specifically for military purposes and include the technologies related to these goods and services. Military goods are military-specific equipment and do not include general-purpose goods, such as oil, electricity, office computers, uniforms and boots. Military services are also military-specific. They include technical services, such as information technology, maintenance, repair and overhaul, and operational support; services related to the operation of the armed forces, such as intelligence, training, logistics and facilities management; and armed security in conflict zones. They do not include the peacetime provision of purely civilian services—such as health care, cleaning, catering and transportation—but supply services to operationally deployed forces are included.
Were the Soviet Union, to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military industrial complex would have to remain substantially unchanged until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” (George F Kennan, 1987 )
The industry of manufacturing weapons of death and destruction is a peculiar one; its continued profitability is dependent on wars and conflict. A military-industrial complex (MIC) is composed of a nation’s armed forces, its suppliers of weapons systems, supplies and services, and its civil government.
Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) – especially in U.S. – still rules the world. Global military industrial consumption represents a few percent of GDP and is still rising. U.S. share of the cake is about 40%. MIC is a concept commonly used to refer to policy relationships between governments, national armed forces, and industrial support they obtain from the commercial sector in political approval for research, development, production, use, and support for military training, weapons, equipment, and facilities within the national defense and security policy.
Picture above can be seen bigger HERE!
Today besides traditionel weaponery there is two important component in MIC: First is academia – only in U.S. about 350 colleges and universities are agreeing to do Pentagon-funded research. In Academic world neuro-weapons and diverse applications of numerous branches of research – such as the software guidance systems, general communications networking systems and robotics technology – that blur the distinctions between government, military, and medical, technological and scientific research. The second important factor is the media – to keep on MIC side. Media has been essential part of wars and conflicts last twenty years and media wars have been implemented before, during and after open conflicts for benefit of stakeholders and MIC. Indeed nowadays an better offshoot of the MIC is military–industrial -media-academy complex (MIMAC) as these two components have been widely integrated to the old MIC.
Largest arms-producing and military services companies (excluding Chinese companies) ranked by their arms sales in 2012 – Source SIPRI . Figures for arms sales, total sales and total profit are in millions of U.S. dollars.
More about MIC in my article BTW MIC Still Rules .
The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded” (Ban Ki-moon )
Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion – more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN’s budget for an entire year. While the West still spent over half of global defence outlays in 2013, this is down from two-thirds of global totals in 2010. Overall, although emerging economies continue to ramp up their defence-spending levels, defence-budget cuts in Western states and the drawdown of military operations in Afghanistan have meant that, globally, real defence spending fell in 2013.
Western states have been struggling with economic recession during the past years. To stimulate economic grouwth investment in construction contracts for the military apparatus might be an attractive idea as well economic stimulation through the purchase of military related commodities like oil, metals and other raw materials. This behavior is driven by the corporate world and not from the needs of defence. However the state has also important role while providing the justification for using the means to warfare.
One should note that figures above represent only information collected from official sources. The whole picture about arms trade is much more wider if clandestine operations, smuggling, illegal trade etc are added. One example about these activities is described in my article – U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria .
When the tensions, sanctions and counter-sanctions between the West and Russia over Ukraine are still high the Western mainstream media sure has noted Russia’s gas deal with China – btw which is expected to be worth more than $400 billion – but not its importance for petrodollar nor global security. Here I would like to share an exellent article “The Colder War and the End of the Petrodollar” by Marin Katusa, Casey Research’s Chief Energy Investment Strategist.
Jordanian Sheikh Ahmad al-Adwan adheres to his unconventional interpretation of the Koran, and is not afraid to enrage the Palestinians and their supporters. A Jordanian Quranic scholar, and former postal worker, cited the Quranic sources that affirm Islam and Judaism should have friendly relations and that ‘Palestine’ should be for Jews.
In December 2012, Sheikh al-Adwan visited Israel and met with Jewish Rabbis including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in order to discuss peace and reconciliation between the religions. He was interviewed after the visit, which was published a few months ago on the ‘Israel in Arabic’ site. ‘Mida’ (a news and intellectual website which aims to present the public with information and opinions not common in the Israeli media) has now presented an English translation of this important interview, which allows a look into unconventional positions and facts, which are not sufficiently well-known in the Israeli and worldwide media.
Allah may He be praised wrote in the Torah that this is the land of the sons of Israel, he bequeathed the Holy Land to the sons of Israel and called the land by this name (the Land of Israel) and so it is stated by the Holy Koran: “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.” [Koran 5:21]. This holy verse is a “Kushan” (deed) which confirms that this land is granted to the Jews. It is also said “We made the Children of Israel inheritors of such things.” [Koran 26:59], and in the following verse “And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land (of promise)”” [Koran 17:104] and there are many additional holy verses which prove and confirm this.
All should know that the Holy Land is their [the Jews’] land and that Jerusalem is the direction towards which they pray and during their readings and ceremonies, as God said in the Koran “Turn then Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque” (in Mecca) [Koran 2:144]. This verse effectively cancels out the prayer towards al-Aqsa (the Temple Mount) and all traditions regarding al-Aqsa for Muslims.
It is also said in the Koran “Even if thou were to bring to the people of the Book all the Signs (together), they would not follow Thy Qibla; nor art thou going to follow their Qibla;” [Koran 2:145]. That is, God created two directions for prayer [“Qibla” in Arabic]. One he designated for Muslims – this is the Kaaba in holy Mecca, while the Jews’ prayer direction is al-Aqsa which is holy to the Jews, this in spite of the nations of the world, because this is the command of God, the King of Kings who chooses how to run His world.
“The Palestinians are the killers of children, the elderly and women. They attack the Jews and then they use those (children, the elderly and women) as human shields and hide behind them, without mercy for their children as if they weren’t their own children, in order to tell the public opinion that the Jews intended to kill them. This is exactly what I saw with my own two eyes in the 70’s, when they attacked the Jordanian army, which sheltered and protected them. Instead of thanking it (the Jordanian army), they brought their children forward to (face) the Jordanian army, in order to make the world believe that the army kills their children. This is their habit and custom, their viciousness, their having hearts of stones towards their children, and their lying to public opinion, in order to get its support.” (Source: ‘Mida’ )
To the opinion that the Kingdom of Jordan in its present borders is the Palestinian State Sheikh al-Adwan has clear position:
The State (Jordan) was blessed with the glorious and honorable leadership of the Hashemites, a strong Jordanian nation connected to its land of tribes and families, and proud and brave men who support and embrace the present leadership and support its call for peace. Anyone who says this is the Palestinian State is either asleep or a daydreamer…a terrorist and a wicked person.
A quote from the answer to question if Sheikh al-Adwan believes that those who call themselves “Palestinians” have a right to establish a state on the Jews’ historic land?
How can they (the Palestinians) have the right to establish a State on the Jewish Land of Israel, which Allah granted and bequeathed to the Jews? More than that, even if all the inhabitants of the land forgot their right, or went crazy and collaborated with those who call themselves “Palestinians” to establish a state for the latter, they won’t succeed, and Allah will not allow this until the Day of Judgment, this because Allah Himself willed and specifically wrote in His book that this land will be the land of the People of Israel under Israeli sovereignty so that no-one would later dispute it.
With this question I have a bit different approach as I see Palestine in relation to British mandate. From Israeli point of view the legal rights to the land are based to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the League of Nations San Remo Conference of 1920. The geographical area called Palestine was to become a homeland for the Jewish Homeland. The land was administered as British mandate. Britain split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan on the eastern bank of the River Jordan. This part is now known as the modern Kingdom of Jordan. The Peel Commission of the late 1930’s endeavored to partition the western portion of the original Jewish Homeland into Jewish and Arab mini-states, the latter to mollify Arab rioters fomented by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, an close ally with Hitler during WWII
Coming back to the present time for example Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb (on 31st Oct. 2012) with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move , Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )
Besides Al-Adwan few other muslim scholars have similar approach. For example Abdul Hadi Palazzi – secretary general of the Italian Muslim Assembly – accepts Israel’s sovereignty over the Holy Land, and says the Qur’an supports it as the will of God as a necessary prerequisite for the Final Judgment. He accepts Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, if the rights of other religions are protected. He quotes the Qur’an to support Judaism’s special connection to the Temple Mount. (Source: Wiki) Also Muhammad Al-Hussaini (Leo Baeck Rabbinical College, London) has similar Muslim-zionist position as he understands the text of the Qur’an to award the Holy Land to the Jews for all time, and he holds that Muslims can be convinced of this interpretation. (Source: Wiki )
On the other hand the Islamic State (IS) – formerly known as ISIS – the terror group wreaking havoc and death across Iraq and Syria, has promised a Holocaust against the Jews. The Algemeiner brings us this report of a disguised Israeli reporter who interviewed an American-born member of IS, a report that shows the terrorists’ intentions, as well as the truth behind their many foreign-born members. Posing as “Abed al-Islam Afifi,” 26, from Paris, the reporter contacted Abu Turab via a cellphone app.
“From Syria, we’ll expand the caliphate, Allah willing, and Hizbullah and the Jews will meet their fate, and soon,” vowed an American-born 26-year-old Islamic State (IS) fighter in Aleppo, Syria …
IS boasts that dozens of American youths, and hundreds from various countries in Europe have joined its ranks and have already entered Syria and Iraq to fight alongside various factions, in part, thanks to easy access to information on the internet …
Dr. Muhammad Al Atawneh, a senior faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggested that these young people understand Islam and organizations like IS via non-religious sources. “For these young people, this is a protest. They see radical Islam as an alternative to the failure of nation-states. They go to the edge of the edge, talking about the caliphate, but no one there knows what ‘caliphate’ really means,” he said. “There is tremendous ignorance on the subject,” Al Atawneh said. “They’re very confused in matters of religion. The distortions and gaps are so abysmal, it is impossible to understand what texts people who chop off heads are following.” (Source: The Algemeiner )
Personally, from my perspective the religious aspects related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are insignificant. In my opinion the legitimacy of Israel is based on anti-Semitism through centuries and especially implementation of Holocaust during WWII. Based to this unique experience – as far as I can see – the Jews have all right to their newly established homeland; sure newborn Israel same time has violated the rights of Arabs living West side of the River Jordan but as said in my opinion the claim of Jews compared to Arabs is more justified in this region.
In Israeli-Palestinian conflict the policy “meet quiet with quiet” turned on July 2014 to violence leading to ongoing operation Protective Edge. Again one can see usual vicious cycle like few times before: Hamas terrorizes Israeli civilians with rockets, Israel responds and tries to disarm Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure, the innocent civilians on both sides of the border are paying the price, once again, and that military action will not guarantee long-term stability or peace.
Hamas is trying to claim a symbolic victory over Israel. But the longer the conflict lasts, the more complications the militants in Gaza face as they see their threat of force erode with time – that their tool is becoming less effective. Since the beginning of the operation, more than 2200 terror targets in Gaza have been eliminated, however the real conflict is yet to follow if all three possible stages – an integrated air and sea assault, a ground operation from the Army, and the third part if needed would be expanding the operation including recruiting more reservists- will be implemented. The coming days will show whether this conflict will end as earlier ones or is it sliding into a full-blown war.
Media attention in Israel and abroad is starting to shift to Ukraine for the first time in days after reports are flooding in that a Malaysian Airlines commercial jet was shot down. Already earlier there was competition for media space due IS(IS) activities in Iraq and Syria. My forecast is that in one to three weeks (depending how deep ground operation Israel implements) there will be a ceasefire for two-three next years.
End of story? Not yetas in my opinion this time there are few aspects which are significant in comparison to earlier operations. I would like to highlight three of them: Increased capacity of Hamas, critical attitude from Arab states which is making the political impact of Hamas operation less effective and civilian to combatant deaths ratio.
Reinforcements 1: New rockets
Hamas has now better capacity to implement its operations due two significant means – the new longer range rockets and the offensive tunnels. A novelty in this latest conflict is the apparent use by the Palestinians of an even longer-range system – thought to be a Syrian built-missile – the Khaibar-1. This was first used earlier this month and has a range of up to 160km which brings Israel’s northern coastal city of Haifa within reach. A weapon that crops up in some of the reporting has the designation M-302 which has a similar range. Range here is crucial. Bringing the population of major Israeli cities under threat, however inaccurate the weapon, causes huge disruption and fear.
Earlier Hamas has used shorter-range systems like heavy mortars and Grad and Qassam rockets with ranges of up to 48km (30 miles) and 17km respectively. They threaten towns and cities in southern Israel, like Sderot, Ashkelon and even Beersheba and the port of Ashdod. There is also the longer range Fajr-5, sometimes also designated the M75. It can reach up to 75km, threatening major population centres like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Here is a report from Israel Defence Force (IDF) intelligence on Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket arsenal:
Short range (15-20 km)
Medium range (up to 45 km)
Medium-Long range (up to 80 km)
Long range (100-200 km)
In Total: Approximately 9,000-10,000 rockets
The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza. However for example using the Fajr-5 brings huge practical problems. It is heavy and fairly large – some 6m (20ft) tall. It requires mechanical handling and needs to be pre-positioned in hidden launch sites and camouflaged from the prying eyes of Israeli drones.
Besides new rockets of Hamas there is also other increase of similar capacity. Armed groups linked to Fatah say they began launching rockets and mortar shells into Israel Wednesday 16th . The Nidal Al-Amody force of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for firing Grad and 107 millimeter rockets toward Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha and the Sufa Crossing from Gaza. Communiques specifying the attacks were published on Fatah’s official Facebook page. On 17thanother armed force associated with Fatah, the Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions, claimed responsibility for launching two Grad rockets at Ashkelon and four mortar shells at Kibbutz Nir Oz. Fatah’s FB title: “The Al-Aqsa Brigades and the Abdul Qader Husseini Brigades have proven today that they are the most loyal to the blood of the martyrs.”
For the first time in this conflict rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel, targeting the northern town of Metula early on Friday. According to defence sources they were likely fired by a Palestinian group, and not by Hezbollah.
In addition it’s now been discovered that what the IDF shot down on 14th July was not a rocket, but an unmanned drone launched from Gaza. This represent an escalation of Gaza’s capabilities and attempts to attack Israel. The drone was shot down by a Patriot missile and it was the first time a Patriot has been launched at a target in Israel in 20 years.
Reinforcements 2: Offensive tunnels
Offensive tunnels have become a strategic weapon for Hamas in recent years. Gaza militants were en route to ambush the string of agricultural communities that are just a few hundred feet of fields away from the border. Israeli border kibbutz became a war zone.It highlighted the potency of Hamas’ network of border attack tunnels: the Islamic militants penetrated Israeli territory three times in three days and want to open a new front in the battle against Israel by targeting the border kibbutz. (Source and more in WSJ )
Israeli sources admit that they have been surprised by the extent of the tunneling under the border. This “blind spot” in Israeli intelligence can be explained by the strict compartmentalization of the digging operation in Gaza, which was not carried out not by Hamas members, but by families from Rafah which specialize in tunneling. These families controlled the smuggling tunnels from Egypt and were brought in as contractors by Hamas. Israel is now claiming that a large proportion of the concrete it allowed into Gaza in recent years for civilian building was used in the tunnels’ construction. This tunnel system was designed to be the Palestinian Islamists’ highest strategic asset, Around 16,000 men, around 15 percent of Hamas’ fighting strength, were assigned to the tunnel project in the last five years and substantial funds.
On Oct. 10th , 2013 Israeli Army discovered a tunnel dug by Palestinians from east of Abasan, in southern Gaza.According Al-Monitorthe passageway lies 20 meters underground, is 2.5 kilometers long, and has a ceiling high enough to accommodate a man of average height. The tunnel is also remarkably wide. Its construction required 800 tons of concrete and cost an estimated $10 million. Some 100 workers toiled on it for more than two years. It was equipped with a communications network and electricity and contained stockpiles of cookies, yoghurt and other foods to allow for stays of several months.
Defense analysts admit that the threat of the cross-border attack tunnels is even more potent than Hamas’s rocket arsenal because of the risk of mass casualties or a kidnapping from the border. Israel’s military said destroying the Hamas tunnel network has become a main goal of their ground operation into the Gaza Strip, in addition to stopping rocket fire. (Source WSJ )
So far, Hamas has lost 13 of these kind of offensive tunnels, some of which Israel possesses both ends of, with Israeli troops having taken control of the entry points in Gaza. Still ahead of the Israeli operation, after the troops finish cleansing Shejaiya are similar challenges to dismantle Hamas’ offensive capabilities in another three of their Gaza City strongholds: Shaati, Al Bureij and Nuseirat, before Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure can be said to have been disarmed. Israel is making every effort to find and destroy all of the remaining tunnels before Operation Protective Edge comes to an end. It is estimated that construction similar tunnels takes around three years.
“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”(The Hamas guidelines to Gaza Strip social media users for reporting events and discussing them with outsiders)
The role of civilians during ongoing operation Protective Edge is traditional one: Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations intentionally target Israeli civilians and use the population of Gaza as human shields, storing and firing rockets from within populated areas. One example during this ongoing operation was when twenty rockets have been hidden in a Gaza school operated under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, officials from the organization confirm. UNRWA officials in Israel are summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where they apologize to Israel for the incident. Despite this United Nations officials handed the rockets found in Gaza school over to Hamas so they can be shot at Israel.
Israel aims to targets included buildings used by the Hamas leadership, the homes of senior Hamas members, tunnels, underground launchers, communications infrastructure, military bases, and weapons caches. The IDF and Shin Bet intelligence agency joint targeted the homes of a series of Hamas leaders that were used as command and control centers by the military wing of Hamas. Israel does not intentionally target Palestinian civilians; in opposite the IDF takes extraordinary measures to avoid Palestinian civilian deaths. This is the core difference between Israeli and Hamas approaches and in my opinion it will give justification to this discussion about disproportion.
The former Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, gives an insider view to civilian casualties in conflicts:
“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.”
As example Col.Kemp probably has earlier Gaza operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). The militants are hiding, and their weapons are located, among their own people. For example, Israel has bombed 1,100 targets in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, with an average of one civilian killed per 14-15 attacks. In the war in Kosovo, 500 civilians were killed in 900 air attacks by NATO forces, i.e. more than one fatality per every two attacks.
It is worth noting that many of the civilian casualties can be attributed to Hamas’s use of human shields, as they have encouraged civilians over and over again to become human shields as an “effective strategy” in the PR war against Israel. In addition, several of the rockets fired from Gaza have never made it on to Israeli soil, and may be partially responsible for Palestinian Arab deaths from within Gaza itself. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, over 100 rockets fired at Israel have fallen short of their targets, causing an unknown number of deaths. In addition Hamas has also during Operation Protective Edge executed many Palestinians due to collaboration or spying for Israel.
Israel is attempting to avoid civilian casualties with warning strikes (rockets which make a noise but do not explode), telephoned warnings to specific houses, as well as broadcasts to the civilian population urging them to distance themselves from armed groups and their infrastructure. (More in my articleMinimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict) Israel has kept open crossings for goods to enter the Gaza Strip, in contrast to Egypt which keeps its Rafah border with the Strip mainly closed. Medical patients from Gaza continue to enter Israel for life saving treatment on a daily basis. IDF warnings have been documented in certain cases, and even the civilians in Gaza admit in a number of instances that they were warned by the IDF. (More in Globes )
Saying all above I estimate that the civilian to combatant deaths ratio during Operation Protective Edge will be much higher than in previous operation as the targets are now better hide among civilian population and because of encouraging civiliansto become human shields.
Speaking about Israeli civilian deaths I expect them to be minimal like during earlier operations. Sure more people are in danger due to Hamas’ new rockets but also there is better Iron Dome system for protection. Iron Dome batteries are made up of interceptor missiles: radars and command systems that analyse where target missiles might fall and only intercept those deemed to be heading for civilian areas. ( More about Israel missile defence in my article ( More about Israel missile defence in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? ) . Israel has also invested – as opposite to Hamas – lot of efforts for warning signals and shelters for Israeli civilians. All this means that the death ones in Israeli side will be soldiers especially if ground operation takes more weeks to end.
Hamas losing political support
Hamas must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe. The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen. There weren’t automatic mass demonstrations against Israel and the West. No major riots or countless photographs of Israeli and American flags on fire across the region. (Source and more: ClarionProject )
The offensive waged by Hamas against Israel from the Gaza Strip has sparked intense criticism in the Arab media, reflecting the movement’s deteriorating status in the Arab world.Media in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt blame Hamas’ actions for inviting Israeli counter attacks and prioritizing conflict over the safety of the Gazan population and criticized the leadership for waging war far from the conflict, a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) report shows.
For example in an article titled “Gaza Is not All Hamas”, Dr. Nagla Al-Sayyid, a columnist in the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that Hamas was losing its legitimacy because it was trading in the blood of Palestinians while exploiting the financial aid it was receiving to promote its political and ideological interests. Dr. Amal ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Hazzani, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote that Hamas sacrifices the people of Gaza while falsely claiming victory over Israel. “Adding fuel to the fire of the Gaza victims is the repeated media hypocrisy and the disgusting tear-jerking speeches that we don’t stop hearing every time Hamas decides to sacrifice some of the people of Gaza. Only rarely do they speak the truth. The Arab street doesn’t want to hear anything aside from curses against Israel, and that is easy, because we’ve been cursing it for over 60 years. After Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash’al criticized Egypt’s Gaza policy by saying, “We expect the Egyptian army [to use its] spirit of heroism for the sake of its Arab nation,”many columnists in the Egyptian media responded with fury. For instance, in an article titled “Why Isn’t Khaled Mash’al Giving His Life In Gaza?”, columnist Hamdi Razaq argued that, while Egypt is defending the Palestinian cause, Hamas has “sold” it to the MB, and Mash’al himself is enjoying a life of luxury in Qatar. He wrote: “Where is your spirit of heroism, Abu Walid [i.e., Khaled Mash'al]? Join your brothers. The media in Syria, which is likewise resentful of Hamas and its leaders due to their support for the rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad, also slammed this movement, saying that it has abandoned the resistance in favor of a Western plan to destroy the Arab world, and that Mash’al has chosen to manage the war not from Gaza but rather from Doha, the capital of Qatar, a country known for its support for the MB and “in whose palaces the Israeli and Western intelligence cells nest.”
Finally also Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry blamed Hamas for the situation, telling Egyptian newspaper editors, “The parties that oppose the Egyptian cease-fire initiative bear responsibility for the Palestinian blood being shed.” (More about cease-fire intiative in Bicom article)
What’s motivating Hamas to commit suicide – or temporary one at least – now? One reason might be that the last few months it has become quite clear that the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip is dictating the fate of the movement and its leaders. Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing is closed; there aren’t enough tunnels to bring in ammunition, luxery items and other merchandise for profits of Hamas elite which lacks money to pay salaries to its bureaucrats and fighters.
The latestPew poll shows that only 35% of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hamas. About 63% of those in Gaza and 47% of those in the West Bank have an unfavorable view. That means that the political position of Hamas has done a 180 degree turn. The survey also found that 65% of Palestinians worry about Islamic extremism, consisting of 79% of those in the Gaza Strip and 57% of the West Bank.
When Hamas first took the Gaza Strip it presented itself as fighting the corrupt Fatah administration, but now the people of Gaza have seen that they are no different. Both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have been suffering for some time now from a serious loss of credibility. The decision to launch rockets on the part of Hamas represented a cynical attempt to regain the loss in credibility. One reason for weakening popularity might be that people in Gaza see how corrupt the ruling elite is. For example in contrast to most refugee families, in 2010 PM Haniyeh reportedly purchased a 2,500 square meter plot of land in Gaza City for $4 million. Globes reported that in order not to draw attention to the purchase, he registered the land in the name of his daughter, Nabil. Since then, he has continued purchasing real estate, under the names of his 13 children. The paper also reported that there is no shortage of million-dollar villas for sale in Gaza, and no shortage of people to buy them, mostly Hamas officials. According to Dr Ahmed Karima, a senior lecturer at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Hamas has transformed from a resistance movement to a political party representing no less than 1,200 millionaires. Other Hamas officials who have become rich since the group staged a violent coup in Gaza in 2006 include Politburo Chief Khaled Mashal, who enjoys a bank stash of $2.6 billion, much of which is stored in Qatari and Egyptian banks. (Source and more e.g in Jewishpress )
On the other hand in the West Bank residents speak admiringly of the Islamist militant group Hamas while despairing that Abbas’s advocacy for nonviolence has led nowhere. It is claimed from The Palestinian side that the timing of Protective Edge is aimed at derailing a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that brought together the various factions, including Hamas, under Abbas’s leadership. The battle between Israel and Hamas has laid bare just how little impact the unity deal had on the ground. Abbas has virtually no presence in Gaza, and he lacks the ability to influence events there. Anyway an indisputable loser of ongoing operation is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who this spring was Israel’s partner in U.S.-brokered peace talks but has now been relegated to bystander status.
From Israeli side the official justification for yet another shelling of the Gaza strip, after the 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defence” and the December 2008 “Operation Cast Lead” is the usual one. These strikes are necessary, the Israeli government claims, to destroy devices and bases used for the launching of rockets aimed at Israeli towns. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, terrorists from the strip have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel.
Military action, however, is not a long-term solution, as Israeli operations in 2012 and 2008-9 showed. Israel seized Gaza in 1967 and withdrew in 2005. It is hard to see how re-occupation would serve Israel’s interests. American-mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed in April 2014. After that, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reached a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, which has lost support in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. That moment could have been a chance to erode Hamas’s political standing further and boost Palestinian moderates like Mr. Abbas. The agreement created a government that had no Hamas members, reaffirmed the Palestinian Authority’s longstanding commitment to living in peace with Israel, and would have given the authority a foothold in Gaza.
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. Many Israelis however understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.The current escalation in Gaza is partly result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. In my opinion the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests.
The first step probably will be a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. After that a possible scenario could be implementing Palestinian reconciliation deal with Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections and start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations again on the basis of two-state solution. As this method has been used last twenty years without progress I have doubts also this time. The Palestinian leaders have “rejected several opportunities to establish a Palestinian state and develop Palestinian civil society.” They fear that “accepting reconciliation would transform the Palestinians … from the world’s ultimate victim into an ordinary nation-state, terminating decades of unprecedented international indulgence;” it would force them “into responsibility, accountability and the daunting task of state building.”
On basis of reading different analysis and looking the mood in some social media forums I think that the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground from the centre-left to the centre-right. One of the possible solutions is The Bennet’s sovereignty program. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed to apply Israel’s sovereignty to Area C, beginning with the major settlement blocs. After the recent breakdown in the negotiations with the PLO Bennet said that this was the time for Israel to put its own initiative on the table, and start to “move forward after 20 years of trying one track, which has met with no success.” Likud Ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, have spoken recently about applying Israel law to Area C of the West Bank.
The Oslo Accords divided Judea and Samaria into three areas: Area A, B and C. Area A comprises some 18 percent of the territory, and was transferred to the control of the Palestinian Authority, which enjoys most governmental powers. Authority in Area B, making up 22% of the territory, was divided between Israel and the Palestinians, with Israel retaining security control, and civil matters given over to the PA. Area C, comprising some 60% of the territory – including all the Jewish settlements – remained in Israeli hands. There are an estimated 350,000 Israelis and 70,000 Palestinians in Area C. Under Bennett’s plan, the Palestinians would be offered full Israeli citizenship.The proposal includes removing IDF roadblocks in the territory left under Palestinian control, Areas A and B, as well as investing in infrastructure there and pursuing massive economic development. (Source: Jpost )
So my conclusion about operation Protective Edge is that it updates Hamas capasity to terror Israel as well shows the ability of Israel to protect its civilian population. After too many civilian deaths on Palestinian side and after Hamas capacity is destroyd enough for couple of next years and when Hamas in their propaganda can show its strength to fight against Israel there will be ceasefire facilitated by Egypt, Qatar and/or USA in one to three weeks. After that there might be some peace talks round again without result and both parties start to implement their unilateral actions. Is this forecast right or wrong remains to see, but this kind of scenario is from my perspective very possible.
Materials regarding IDF’s efforts to avoid harming civilians
(Communicated by the Israeli Government Press Office)
IDF call to warn the population prior to attacking in the Gaza Strip
Warning Flyer distributed by the IDF to warn the civilian population of Shuja’iya before an operation
Israeli Air Force cancels a planned strike due to civilians being in the area
Hamas gathers civilians on a rooftop, to serve as human shields, causing the IDF to avoid an attack
IDF transfers humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip
Video showing the warning given to “Wafa” hospital prior to attack, and the large secondary explosions indicating that the place served as a hiding place for weapons
Materials indicating Hamas use of civilians as human shields and other violations by Hamas of International Law
IDF video explaining the issue of human shields in Gaza, and placing civilians within the line of fire
Hamas Spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri admits: The human shields policy is effective
Hamas Spokesman, Mushir El-Masri, calls civilian population not to leave their homes
Spokesman of the Hamas Military Section, Abu Ubeida admits to using youth as warriors: We manufactured a quarter of a million hand grenades and our boys will throw them instead of throwing rocks
Flyer by the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior calling civilians not to comply with IDF evacuation warnings
Gaza citizens admit that Hamas forbids them from leaving their homes (3:15 mins) <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMUdU3AqlyQ&feature=youtu.be>
Violations of International Law by Hamas
Hamas uses an ambulance to help militants escape a battle area
Stockpile of ready-to-fire rockets hidden by Hamas next to a school in Gaza
Hamas militants shoot from residential homes
Video proving that Hamas uses explosive tunnels
Aerial photo of shooting next to a hospital and a mosque
Infographic: Terror tunnels in Shuja’iya
IDF infographic of an aerial photo about Shuja’iya
Journalist in Gaza tweets: Hamas militant in Shuja’iya fighting wearing women’s clothing
Washington Post report: Hamas militants placing rockets in a mosque in the north of the Gaza Strip
UNRWA admits: Hamas hid rockets in one of our schools in Gaza <http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-strongly-condemns-placement-rockets-school>
A second case in which UNRWA admits to finding a stockpile of rockets hidden in one of their schools
Collection of photos of tunnels dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip <https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=45644610@N03&q=tunnel>
Article on Hamas use of civilians as human shields
Article on Hamas use of mosques for military purposes
Article on Hamas use of schools for military purposes
Article on use of the home of a Hamas terrorist for storing weapons
Article on use of medical facilities and ambulances for military-terrorist purposes