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The Hydra of the Caspian Sea: Iran’s Naval Strategy

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The Iranian military is predominately thought of for its capabilities and strategy in the Gulf. Though the competitors differ in the Caspian Sea, the Iranian Military has a similar composition and strategy in this theater.

The Strait of Hormuz is a global chokepoint for the flow of oil in which Iran is able to leverage the asymmetric tactics of its comparatively small navy to conduct area-denial operations. Although the Caspian Sea doesn’t have a chokepoint that would be the focus of the Iranian military, it utilizes these same tactics and capabilities to enforce their holdings and claims in the Caspian Sea.

Although the Caspian Sea states haven’t officially come to terms on their respective maritime claims, Iran currently firmly controls about 12% of the Caspian Sea. The current Iranian holdings are very difficult from an economic perspective as they are resource rich but also much deeper than the rest of the Caspian Sea, which makes extracting these resources far more difficult. This is a major contributing factor to the Iranian claim to fully 20% of the Caspian Sea, which conflicts with other states’ claims. There are essentially two threats to Iran in the Caspian Sea over these territorial claims: Russia and Azerbaijan.

During the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union the Caspian Sea was primarily under Moscow’s control. Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has consistently sought to be the major power in the Caspian Sea. This is reflected in three ways. The first way is that the Russian Navy maintains the largest fleet in the Caspian Sea. The second way is through gearing the other Caspian states against Iran, being Russia’s main regional competitor, through soft power moves such as joint military exercises and trade agreements. The third way is through overtly blocking Iranian attempts to build up its navy in the Caspian Sea, such as when Russia denied Iran the use of its rivers to transport a warship from the Gulf to the Caspian Sea. Being that Russia is the major military power in the Caspian Sea, an asymmetric defense similar to Iranian strategy in the Gulf would translate well.

The second threat to Iranian claims in the Caspian comes from Azerbaijan. Although not a large military threat, Iranian claims in the Caspian Sea overlap mostly with the Azeri claims. This is primarily due to the contested areas having prime depth for resource exploitation. In particular the proposed Western-backed pipeline, which Iran opposes, would traverse this area and head through Azerbaijan towards the West. Iran has tested these waters with an incursion by an oil platform which was virtually unopposed by the lackluster Azeri Navy. With this type of incursion Iran has shown it is ready to engage in its preferred naval strategy of area-denial to enforce new acquisitions.

Even the mighty US Navy, the world’s strongest and a sign of global American power, is frustrated by the Iranian Navy. The Strait of Hormuz is able to be blocked off by Iran due to its leveraging of asymmetric tactics to conduct area denial. Although this scenario hasn’t been tested in actual combat it has shown to be worrisome to the US with the adoption of doctrines such as AirSea Battle which focus on countering anti access/area denial capabilities. Therefore it is logical that this Iranian strategy would be employed in the Caspian Sea to enforce its claims against local neighbors.

The Iranian chain of command is decentralized in that small unit commanders have enough autonomy to carry out the overarching strategy even with infrequent communication between itself and central command, which creates capacity to absorb attempts to decapitate the command structure from its constituent units. The Iranian military copies this strategy with all of its serving units beyond the navy, meaning its entire military could operate in this manner within a Caspian Sea conflict.

To supplement the decentralization of the Iranian military command structure is a culture of sacrifice within the Iranian military. This is in reference to the motivation for service-martyrdom that is highly emphasized within the Iranian military. To get the most out of its asymmetric strategy it is important that the Iranian military is able to rely on their personnel to put everything on the line to be able to accomplish their mission even if they are cut off from their command structure. This is also rumored to involve the planned usage of suicide attacks as part of Iran’s military strategy. Regardless of the use of suicide attacks or not, the Iranian military has plenty of tools at its disposal to secure its claims in the Caspian Sea.

Iranian surface ships are capable of extensive mine-laying operations which deny an area to their enemy and serve as a deterrent to any other waters that the Iranian Navy operates. Iranian submarines also serve this purpose in that their existence is a deterrent to enemy naval movements. Closer to the coastlines, small attack boats have the capacity to ambush naval ships from concealed positions in suicide or hit-and-run attacks. Further inland Iran still has land-based missiles and aircraft which are able to be deployed to secure and deny their claims against enemies. Finally, Iran has the ability to deploy Special Forces to conduct sabotage, hit-and-run, and suicide attacks against enemy military facilities. Therefore, the Iranian military has the ability to at least significantly frustrate the ability of an aggressor to encroach upon Iranian claims within the Caspian Sea, similarly to their strategy in the Gulf, even when faced by a supposedly superior military rival like the United States or Russia.

The growing geostrategic importance of the Caspian Sea has been reflected in the growing Iranian military emphasis on it. Whether it is the threats of the powerful Russian Caspian Flotilla wanting to retain power over the Caspian or Azerbaijan’s overlapping claims with Western backing, Iran feels backed into a corner. Thus having a doctrine of being able to operate with ‘the command head cut off’, pushing a martyr morale throughout their military, and emphasizing tools to conduct area-denial operations makes the Iranian military a formidable opponent. It is potentially the hydra lurking beneath the surface of the Caspian’s contested waters, making an impact far beyond the immediate region.

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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