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Problems of US Military Presence in Middle East and Reasons Behind

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Authors: Yang Yizhong and Luo Yusen*

The United States has hundreds of military bases across the globe. It set bases in several countries such as Italy, Japan, Honduras, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Thailand, and Philippines. The  military presence secures US interest and regional stability. Yet the US faces obstacles to maintain the status quo. In Iraq, internal unrest and violent confrontation against protesters continue. Officials are debating the legal statues of US forces in the country. Popular pressure mounts against US military presence in Iraq. This represents problems and challenges for the United States. What are the problems regarding military presence in the region? What are the reasons for maintaining military presence? 

The situation of US encounters in Iraq and The Middle East Region

There are plenty of situations and problems that the United States encounters. First, anti-base protests occur frequently. Also, anti-US sentiments have become normal in Iraq politics. Additionally, terrorism is still a concern in the region. Besides, balance of power and regional conflicts require more resources to be projected to the Middle East, but the inconsistent American Foreign Policy complicates the situation.

The US military presence has touched the feeling of local residents from Asia-Pacific to the Middle East. In the case of Iraq, anti-government protests happened in October 2019 and anti-US protests that happened in January 2020 are the problems. The October anti-government protests were against foreign interference and aimed to overhaul the post-2003 political system established by the US military intervention. The January anti-US protests demand all foreign troops out of the country.

Even inside the Iraqi government, as officials raise more concern on sovereignty rather than security, anti-US opinion would not fade away. Iraq has declared that it would not allow its territory to be used as a launching pad against its neighbors. The Iraqi President Salih stated that “It’s our sovereign responsibility to abide by our constitution, not — Iraq not to be used as a base for any threat against our neighbors. Another example is Karim Alawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament security and defense committee made the statements that the US was going to bring “more than a thousand terrorists from Syria to Iraq through gaps in our borders and airspace” . President Salih and Karim Alawi’s speech indicate that the Iraqi government contains some reinforced internal opponents against the United States military presence.

Third, the inconsistency of the US foreign policy has worsened the situation. US alliances which used to rely on U.S. promise and generousness, start to question the validity of their tie with the US. Security is the main reason for countries to allow US military bases in their countries. However, it is unclear whether the US military presence secures the countries or increases hostility to neighbors. Iraq is extremely cautious about the US missile launched inside the country. Iraq was disappointed to witness the killing of Soleimani in Bagdad.

Fourth, radical extremism and terrorism are also problematic. Despite the defeat of ISIS, the elimination of terrorism has a long way to go. Radical extremists mobilize fighters under the name of jihad. The psychology of radicalism can trace back the Gulf War, in which most Middle East countries were furious about the successful involvement of the United States. The sense of Jihadism reemerged to defend the Muslim world from Western Invaders. On the one hand, the insecurity of a person, a family, and a state make the terrorism and extremism a choice. On the other hand, the unstable political environment enables the soil for terrorism to grow. Radical extremists and terrorists are then able to utilize religion as a political tool to achieve goals. They cause hundreds of civilians and US soldiers dead and wounded.

Fifth, from a grand strategy perspective, the balance of power in the Middle East is the problem for the US to maintain a military presence. As Russia and China seek more influence in the region, it would affect the US strategy. When considering regional affairs, countries do not rely on the United States anymore as they were. Rather, they prefer to gain benefits from both sides. The involvement of other powers undermines the effectiveness of US strategy. For instance, the US wants to sanction Iran and prohibit other countries from purchasing oil products. Iran now would have a choice to trade with China or other buyers. Since August 2019, China and Iran have discussed trade oil in Chinese yuan. It is said that China will invest $280 billion into Iran’s oil economy; an extra $120 billion will go toward improving transport infrastructure.

Reasons of United States Military presence in Iraq and the Middle East Region

Since 2011, the “Arab spring” historic changes have taken place in the Middle East: the Islamic extremist forces represented by ISIS emerged in the Middle East; the de facto fragmentation and failure of Iraq and Syria; losing its bellwether of the Arab world, Egypt was replaced by Saudi Arabia and Turkey; marginalization of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict; Iran’s rapid rise. Within America’s existence in the Middle East, Russia and China jumped in the region for their own stakes. The chaos in the Middle East remains the same, but the pattern has changed dramatically. Because of its great concerns, the United States persists in its military presence in the Middle East and North African Region, especially in Iraq. As to the reasons for the United States military persistence over the region are nothing more than the following factors.

First of all, The emerging issue of terrorism makes United States keep its military, United States is committed to fighting against terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The most obvious example is its limited low-intensity war with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. ISIS has been taking up the north part of Iraq and the east of Syria until last year that the United States and Syria government defeated all of them. Therefore, keeping a military presence is useful for United States to combat terrorism in Iraq and the region. Further, considering the sunk cost in the international political economy, the United States has invested trillions of dollars in building a regional order and hierarchy. If the order and hierarchy of the region were destroyed due to terrorism, the investment would become sunk cost, then United States national interest will be violated.

Second, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey see themselves as the heirs of the Persian, Arab and Ottoman empires, Israel as a symbol of the strong restoration of Zionism, and the region’s struggle for dominance has never ceased. The complex ethnic, religious and geographical conflicts in the Middle East determine that the balance of power in the region will always be a dynamic balance. In order to deter Iran, Palestine, Syria, the United States needs to stay in the region to support its alliances, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraqi government. America’s interest is in overthrowing Syria’s secular Government and replacing it with one that would be acceptable to the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family who own Saudi Arabia. In order to do this, America will therefore need to keep its forces in Iraq.

Third, to prevent other great powers from intervening in the region power vacuum after the US’s withdrawal, the United States needs to present its military force in the region. Other great powers such as Russia and China, from their own economic or security perspective, aims to build their networks and relationships. The game between China and US, US and Russia threaten the United States grand strategy to maintain its dominance in the region. At the same time, military force presence can deter Iran and Syria.

Fourth, military presence can secure United States economic interests and contain emerging countries. As is known to us all that United States dollars is the global currency since the 1970s. The economic hegemony is tightly connected and maintained by United States dollars, which greatly influenced by Iraq and the Middle East OPEC members. The demands of oil is soaring with the industrialization and globalization, the world demand per day in 2000 is 75.8 million barrels, while in 2018, according to data published by OPEC, the demand mb/d (Million barrels/day) is 98.82, in total 30.3% increasement tells the story of the surge of oil demand. Therefore, OPEC member states have the power to set discourse on the oil price and a certain capacity to affect America’s currency security. Given the fact that the United States used to be the No.1 country to import the oil from the region, to assure its oil security, it was reasonable for the United States to present their military force in the region. However, Shale gas revolution has endowed the United States independence of energy. China replaced the United States and became the No.1 oil-importing country around the world. Considering East Asia is the region that imports the most oil, to contain China and ensure Japan and South Korea to comply with the United States, U.S. should keep its military force to grasp the lifeblood of oil imports of East Asia. 

 *Luo Yusen, M.A in United Nations and Global Policy Studies, Political Science, Rutgers University, United States.

Yang Yizhong, M.A in United Nations and Global Policy Studies, Political Science, Rutgers University, United States.

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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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Defense

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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