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.
Comprehension of the S-400 Crisis
Turkey’s air defence has had a severe weakness for decades. Hence, Turkey was in a position to base its air defence on fighter aircrafts. It proves the fact that Turkey has a lack of medium-altitude and high-altitude air defence systems. This is a critical vulnerability for a country like Turkey. The countries surrounding Turkey are considered to have ballistic missile capabilities. They also control the missile defence systems. Naturally, it demonstrates that Turkey is in a problematic geography for security. Therefore, Turkey must have an air defence system. For this reason, Turkey has requested from NATO, historical partners of Turkey since 1952, to reinforce its air defence system against the ballistic missile threat. Ergo, between 2013-2015, the U.S., German and Dutch’s Patriots took up military duty in various cities in Turkey.
Hereupon, because of the off-duty of these deployed Patriots systems, since 2015 and 2016, Spanish Patriots and the Italian SAMP-T‘s have been carrying out military duty at the southern part of Turkey under the umbrella of NATO.These solutions are evaluated to be temporal in order to meet Turkey’s air defence system needs; additionally, the strategic necessity of these systems are too vital to be left to another country’s control.
Ipso facto, Turkey initiated a tender and negotiated with several countries. As a result of this tender, in 2013, the Chinese company had won the tender, but due to some pressure of the USA and NATO countries, Turkey had to cancel the agreement. The displayed reason was that the Chinese company has previously penalized by Washington. At the meantime, the purchase of the Patriot missile defence system from the United States also negotiated in 2013, but due to the U.S. refusal to share the technical specifications of the Patriots with Turkey and the high cost of the system, Turkey desisted from the MIM-104 Patriot. Therefore, decision makers started to work with different countries in order to purchase the air defence system to fulfil its need. After several meetings, Turkey’s expectations in terms of price, delivery, co-production and technology transfer allowed Turkish bureaucrats to approach S-400 purchasing positively with Russia.
After the signing of the agreement between Turkey and Russia in September, 2017, Turkey acquired two S-400 systems with a total of four; two will be produced in Turkey and batteries from Russia for $2.5 billion. In line with statements made by Turkish officials, the first delivery of the S-400 took place in recent months, as of 2019.Some days after the parts of the S-400 system began to get transported to Ankara, the U.S. Department of Defence officially announced at a press conference by the Pentagon that Turkey would be removed from the F-35 Joint Air Strike Fighter program. The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to remove Turkey from the program formally. The decision was taken jointly with the founding partner countries of the F-35 program (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom). The only discernible difference here is that the move was taken against Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 air defence systems.The U.S.’ argument is that the use of the S-400, some sensitive information of F-35 technology and important electronic intelligence, might change hands. However, the same dangerousness also present for Russia because the S-400 system is at the centre of Russia’s air defence. Russia is also opening up the performance of its system to NATO member states and therefore to NATO.
Moreover, Russian weapons are still in active use in many countries. Eastern European countries have the most Russian weapons. Aircraft, tanks, even missile systems and helicopters are still on duty. Many of these countries are under the umbrella of NATO today. Moreover, Greece, Bulgaria and Slovakia, which are also NATO members, use Russian-made S-300s which is considered still among one of the most potent medium-range air defence systems in the world, while Turkey has been criticised for acquiring the S-400 air defence system from Russia. Further, Greece acquired the S-300 systems from the Greek Cypriot Administration while they were in NATO. Another NATO member, Bulgaria, is known to have S-300 systems. Slovakia has S-300 missile battery inherited from Czechoslovakia. Slovakia had asked for its air defence system to be modernised by Russia in 2015. Astonishingly, Greece system participated in the joint military drill conducted by the Greek and Israeli Air Forces. The fact that Slovakia’s Air Force, which participated in a joint exercise in France and Germany , also brought in S-300 missiles was welcomed as contributing to NATO countries’ experience with these missiles. Bulgaria also tested its S-300 missiles at 2015 in another military exercise with Slovakia. Obstreperously, the U.S. has not made a definitive comment on the activation of the S-300 missile system mentioned above when used by NATO countries. Notwithstanding, Turkey has been signalled by the U.S. to be devastated with additional sanctions while calling the missile purchase an “unacceptable” move. Herein, the application of double standards on Turkey is plain to see.
Turkey has played essential roles within critical operations under NATO. Turkey’s role within the organisation is remarkable. Turkey is a durable and robust country of NATO and has been a reliable ally of the USA, even though Turkey’s capacity to take responsibility for NATO is beyond dispute. It is Turkey’s own decision to buy the S-400. Every NATO member country can buy any weaponry in accordance with the decision of their state interests.
It is some kind of attempt to isolate the Republic of Turkey, even with its allies, by removing it from a programme it is a partner in and applying another standard to Turkey compared with some other NATO members. This is a significant point to highlight. While Turkey has fulfilled all its responsibilities to NATO, it is incredibly wrong that its acquisition of the S-400 should not be associated with the F-35. This is a negative image that contributes to Turkey’s disengagement from NATO. The political and economic pressures applied or that would be applied and would interfere with Turkey’s sovereignty rights do not coincide with NATO’s spirit of alliance. Turkey must decide its future and what type of weapons to buy without any political pressure from any country.
From Trade War to Strait War: China Warn U.S. Stop Stretching its Muscles in the Contested Waters
Up till now, no one distinguishes the actual explanations behind the hostile faces. If a trade war isn’t the exact cause, the rise of China, the Hong Kong and the South China Sea questions added further fuel to the fire.
War of words or trade war no one knows as the dust has not settled yet. When the dust settles, the practical ins and outs for the aggressive faces will appear. Peter Navarro, the US Director of Trade and Industrial policy, said Chinese wish to get Trump to the so the called bargaining table and let them keep having their will with the US. Whereas Wang Yi (王毅), China’s foreign minister, said, the US never desires to negotiate, and we still don’t know if they wish to transact over many issues or not?
More convincingly, the leading cause of the degraded relation isn’t just the trade war, America is trying to keep its universal notion fixed, for which the US considered China is a direct threat. To undermine Chinese strength, the US deliberately interfering in Chinese domestic affairs, recently in Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. China considers such actions a direct threat to China’s sovereignty and taking all possible measures to counterweight such moves. Such US actions are not just undermining Chinese strength but also pose a significant danger to regional stability and harmony. In the international arena, if power is essential for self-survival under the so-called anarchistic system, in the same vein undermining someone’s strength can be detrimental for both states, as China and the US are now not only economically abundant but also possess more sophisticated weapons then ever before.
As trade war favour China up to some scope, Trump Administration is looking for alternatives to overwhelm China of fortifying their universalism notion. The recent intervention in Hong Kong, the Human Rights and Democracy act by supporting the pro-democracy movement there, and more freedom of Navigation in the South China sea, Trump still losing all his strategies against China. To some degree, the dyadic relationship trapped in the cross-fire, the US aggressive actions against China, and the lenient Chinese response against the US dazed the rest of the world.
In the international arena, the US, instead of a trade war, now moving its muscles in the contested water in the South China Sea. The issue became more exposed when the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper concluded his Asian tour aimed to build a coalition against China in the South China Sea. Esper tour came amid annoying stiffnesses in the South China Sea, with China deploying its new aircraft carrier while warning the US against “moving its muscles” in the disputed waters. Recently both the states have increased their navy and used evermore armada, weapons and military assets in regional contested water.
As the US navy increased its freedom of navigation operations in the disputed water lately, the tension between the two power intensified. A few months ago, China, for the first time deployed domestically, builds aircraft called Type 001A to the disputed water through Taiwan strait. Responding to China’s action, the US deployed the USS Gabrielle Giffords littoral combat ship stationed in Singapore’s Changi naval base. Such action-reaction spiral is the leading cause of their fragile relationship. Chinese officials claimed that the deployment of new aircraft means to allows the crew to become familiar with water, where it will often sail in the future. In the same vein, the US officials claimed that deploying any combat ship to the South China Sea is not that we are opposing China. We all believe and stand for international rules and laws and want China should abide by them as well.
The possibility of a hot war between China and the US is inevitable, as argued by the legendary diplomat Kissinger. Pointing towards China and the US, he said that the two most powerful economies could spill over into a military conflict. He argued that the trade war is not the leading cause of hostility. The chief objective he mentioned is Honk Kong recently and the South China Sea. The devasted world war 1st was broke out because of the minor issue. Today, US-China hostile relation is because of a small issue but now the weapons are more potent than ever before he described.
The dyadic relationship between the US and China is getting shoddier day-by-day. The Chinese side has extended hands for peaceful resolution of the issues; being a dominant state, the US is always looking at the world more radically. Recently the US passed two bills into laws, supporting the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, and imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials alleged responsible for the human rights violation.
In response, the Chinese government suspended the US military and ships from visiting Hong Kong and spanked sanctions on some US-based non-governmental organisations believed for alleged spaying and encouraging Hong-Kong anti-government protest. Beijing also warns Washington to correct their mistakes and stop interfering in Chinese domestic affairs. Beijing correspondingly said, they would take all measures against any actors, who are allegedly interfering in China’s internal affairs.
The competition between the two significant power poses a great threat to regional stability. Since 2017 the US interference in the South China Sea increased than ever before. Till now, the US dispatched almost two or three destroyers to the contested water and enhanced their routine based freedom of navigation. Beijing warns such actions repeatedly and called the US to stop such illegal activities in the contested water; although the US never responded to Beijing. Probably such actions reactions would spill over into a hot war. For a reason, we know that, as long as there are potent nations with devastating weapons, conflict is inevitable.
Why Sri Lanka needs a “National Securitism” oriented National Security Policy?
“National Security” was one of the main discussion points in the propaganda campaigns of all major contenders of the Presidential election. War-time Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakshe, was elected as the 7th president of the country, stressing the security gap. The Easter Sunday attack brought attention to the security of the country that appeared as religious fundamentalism and extremism again after a decade of the end of the 30 years brutal war. Many have pointed this as a failure of the government and accused of dismantling the military intelligence service. Even the report of the select committee of parliament on the Easter Sunday attack (21st April 2019) has accused the President, former Secretary Defence as the Director of SIS and IGP as failed in fulfilling duties. “……. the PSC observes that the President failed on numerous occasions to give leadership and also actively undermined government and system including having ad-hoc NSC meetings and leaving key individuals from meetings…….”.
And regarding Defense Secretary and others, PSC noted as “that whilst the greatest responsibility remains with the Director SIS, others too failed in their duties. Within the security and intelligence apparatus, the Secretary MOD, IGP, CNI and DMI failed in their responsibilities. All were informed of the intelligence information before the Easter Sunday attacks but failed to take necessary steps to mitigate or prevent it…” However, now former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundara were arrested for further investigations. The victims are not pleased with the solutions tabled by the government, which created a trust deficit between the government and citizens.
Meanwhile, the country is in an alarming debt trap with China and a drastic economic downturn. India’s interest over strategic infrastructures such as Mattala Airport, newly open Jaffna International airport and Trincomalee harbor is becoming a challenge to the sovereignty and peace of the country. Also, other threats (apart from interest over infrastructure) coming from India is crucial, and that has historically proven. South India seems to be the key customer of Jaffna International Airport, and at the same time, the Southern Province of India is one of the primary breeding grounds for ISIS as well as for the LTTE. Thus the potential of the airport to be a floodgate for Islamic extremists and LTTE is high if the immigration is not carefully monitored.
Meanwhile, proposals coming from USA such as Status of Forces Agreement-SOFA, Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement – ACSA and now with the Millennium Challenge Cooperation- MCC. None of these agreements is completely evil, and the theory of conspiracy is not directly applicable for any of them. All pros and cons are visible if terms and conditions are prudently appraised. Practically, implementations of SOFA and ACSA are challenging to Sri Lanka as the power of negotiation with the USA is limited. The MCC is an important initiative addressing two of the crucial issues of the country; transport development and digitalizing land titles. Both are identified as key parameters of poverty reduction and human development initiatives of the government. However, the security concern is with the proposing GIS and CCTV monitoring systems which has the potential of accessing personal information of individuals. The closure or termination is also problematic to the country. Sri Lanka has no potentials to terminate the agreement, if a case, the grant will be converted to a loan and has to repay the grant, interest, earnings as well as assets. In case of a breach, the country will be financially trapped with USA and consequences will be similar or worse than the cancellation of the Colombo Port City project of China. Sri Lanka will be another significant case study digitalising to Djibouti of how massive investments go wrong for the hosting country and becoming a regional facilitator for Military bases. The results would be terrible if the SOFA has signed with no reviews.
Cyber is another source of threat which has capabilities of disabling vital websites and networks for the stability of the nation. Further, it has the potential to paralyze the economy by stealing and destroying classified information via hacking relevant data-banks. Illicit drugs and small arms are other two challenges which identified by Hon Maithreepala Sirisena His Excellency, the President of Sri Lanka as critical threats to peace and security. Climate change, modern slavery, corruptions, poverty, piracy, lack of identity, IUU fishing issue, racism, separatism, ethnic unrest, misinformation and unregulated social media networks are some of the other critical challenges to the present national security.
In this context, national security should be the prime duty of the President and also the government. Overall, it is proven that the lapses of the current policies are the foundation of the discussed coercions. Unclearness of national purpose, values and interests are also foremost roots. The National Security Policy, which defines the national purpose, values, interests, threats and challenges would be a pathway.
What is the National Security Policy?
The “National Security Policy” is considered as the “Grand Policy” where skills of soldiers, civilians and politicians merge to ensure the stability of the territory. In other terms, NSP can be characterized as the integration of military, foreign and domestic policies to coordinate its economic, political, social and military capabilities in preventing actual and potential external and internal adversaries. Thus, the NSP should be aligned with all ministerial portfolios to achieve the ultimate national purpose, values and interests of the island. The ministries related to defence, foreign affairs, economic and finance, socio-cultural, environmental and technologies and information should respectively convey their policies and strategies to reach the ultimate goal of NSP.
However, what type of Security Policy does Sri Lanka need is questionable? Defence and security theorists are coming up with the number of them and amongst them “National Securitism” oriented policy would be appropriate for Sri Lanka.
“National Securitism” oriented Security Policy for Sri Lanka?
“National Securitism” is for the states which practice democracy and continually using the law of emergency to resort conflicts. The characteristics of a democratic regime appear to exist and practically the civilian leader (political) of the country, the President controls over the tri forces and police. The rule of law is supreme, and the political leader directs military and civilians with the instructions of the constitution.
As the national purpose and interest of the island appreciate democratic “National Security State”, the National Security Policy should in line with the same. Thus, the NSP of Sri Lanka should not just a state of emergency to meet threats to the democratic process. It is a permanent policy with timely amendments, which combine civil and military establishments to safeguard the national security of the county in general. Further, the policy consists of the tools to stricter the control Political, Economic, Social, Technologies, Ecology and Military arms (PESTEM) during the exceptional state of emergency. Roles of civilian, military and police forces should blend to bring democratic approaches (human rights) to the mandatory military exercises in political conflicts. The NSP mandate to fill the gap between investment requirement for national developments and threats arising (internally and externally) due to the same. The military involvement in economic and social development projects also all other social welfare activities necessary to appreciate. Aligning with other policies in a democratic and political process such as defence, foreign, economic and finance, technology and information is necessary to ensure the democratic values of the nation. Line policies and strategies as mentioned above, should be interconnected and NSP should derive all of them. More importantly, defence, foreign and economic policies should interconnect as well as the strategies to ensure the success of the NSP. For example, National Defence Policy which is already compiled by the Ministry of Defence, should connect to the foreign policy of the country. If two policies interconnected, Sri Lanka capable of exercising foreign policy for the use of military, in the form of technical assistance, training, arms supply, sharing intelligence and also the military industry activities. Intelligence sharing through proper channels would be a more exceptional solution to mitigate threats coming from other territories which fires the home. Such as Islamic fundamentalism which exported from Saudi Arabia and fuelled by the fundamentalists living in South India and Sri Lankan.
Further, national securitism would bring up the approach of human rights to the national security of the country, which may ensure the practice of ordinary jurisdiction. In the context, NSP would be an excellent initiative for Sri Lanka to answer the Geneva Human Rights Council. However, NSP of Sri Lanka if it is under the ideology of securitism, will function the military and civilian establishments as moral censors to the government warring potential activities destabilizing the peaceful political arena of the country.
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