Saturday, October 12, 2013


T. A. Martin, February 2013


This study was originally intended to contribute to my own understanding of why regional groups of states create regimes of maritime security, conversely, why they appear to find cooperation so difficult on what is clearly a security issue of particular interest to the actors involved. By investigating forces that have ‘pushed’ groups of states towards and ‘pulled’ them from maritime security cooperation, I might get a sense of the dynamics involved. In the post-Cold War era, as the emphasis of maritime security shifted away from strategic alliance and towards maintaining global order, recognition that regional security is increasingly significant to global order has refocussed international attention on non-traditional facets such as transnational crime and violence. This comparative study of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, investigates the post-Cold War development of two distinctly different maritime security regimes. Sovereignty concerns have hindered security cooperation between states in both regions, yet Caribbean and Southeast Asian states managed to achieve at least a modicum of cooperation regarding their maritime security. It appears that maritime security regimes formed in these regions because the states involved were able to overcome the limitations imposed by power politics, and come to negotiate terms and build regimes based on the principles of international maritime law.

Paper available at:

Friday, January 11, 2013

The South China Sea: Flashpoints and the U.S. Pivot

January 11, 2013
By Elsa Kania

Claims and Concerns

The South China Sea has long been a flashpoint for regional rivalries and tensions. Subject to a range of competing territorial claims—including from Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, the South China Sea is at the nexus of competing and converging interests. Through these contested waters flows over one-third of world trade, and within it lies a plethora of natural resources—including oil, natural gas, and fishing reserves. Here too, a seemingly inane but critical distinction for the claimants has been the difference between a “rock” and an “island,” the latter of which must be able to support human habitation. This is a concept subject to contention, as various tenuous outposts have been established, often overlying reefs that would otherwise be submerged. While a rock only commands a 12 nautical mile expanse of territorial waters, an island may be the basis for a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that grants rights over the resources within. Recent developments—including an estimate by the Chinese oil company CNOOC that the disputed areas could contain up to 17 billion tons of oil as well as 498 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—have raised the stakes.

Beyond the relevant regional players, the United States too has much at stake. At the July 2010 meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Vietnam, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton articulated the United States’ “national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.” As the U.S. now ‘pivots’ to the Pacific, it has sought a more active role in this dispute. This past July, at an ASEAN forum in Cambodia, following “intense” and inconclusive discussions on the South China Sea, Clinton warned, “None of us can fail to be concerned by the increase in tensions, the uptick in confrontational rhetoric and disagreements over resource exploitation.” The trajectory of this longstanding dispute may prove to be a test for the development and potential stability of the region.

Equilibrium and Interdependence?

One paradox at the heart of the South China Sea is the uneasy equilibrium that has largely been maintained. Despite the occasional confrontation and frequent diplomatic squabbling, the situation has never escalated into full-blown physical conflict. The main stabilizing factor has been that the countries involved have too much to lose form turmoil, and so much to gain from tranquility. Andrew Ring—former Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Fellow—emphasized that “With respect to the South China Sea, we all have the same goals” in terms of regional stability and development. With regional trade flows and interdependence critical to the region’s growing economies, conflict could be devastating. Even for China—the actor with by far the most to gain from such a dispute—taking unilateral action would irreparably tarnish its image in the eyes of the international community. With the predominant narrative of a “rising” and “assertive China”—referred to as a potential adversary by President Obama in the third presidential debate—China’s behavior in the South China Sea may be sometimes exaggerated or sensationalized. Dr. Auer, former Naval officer and currently Director of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, told the HPR that “China has not indicated any willingness to negotiate multilaterally” and remains “very uncooperative.” Across its maritime territorial disputes—particularly through recent tensions with Japan in the East China Sea—Auer sees China as having taken a very aggressive stance, and he claims that “Chinese behavior is not understandable or clear.”

Nonetheless, in recent incidents, such as a standoff between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal this past April, as Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, emphasized, “this is not an either or.” Multiple parties are responsible for the tensions, yet the cycle of action and reaction is often obscured. Nonetheless, Glaser believes that “The Chinese have in every one of these cases overreacted—they have sought to take advantage of the missteps of other countries,” responding with disproportionate coercion. In addition, China has begun to use methods of “economic coercion” to assert its interests against trade partners.

A Tipping Point?

Has the dynamic in the South China Sea shifted recently? Perhaps not in a fundamental sense. But with the regional military buildup, governments have developed a greater capacity to pursue longstanding objectives. According to Peter Dutton, Director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College,  “China’s recent behavior in the East China Sea and assertive policy in the South China Sea” is “a serious concern.” He believes that China’s willingness to resort to force in defense of its territorial claims has been increasing over time, partially as a consequence of its rising power. As such, Dutton sees the situation as reaching a “tipping point in which China is…no longer satisfied with shelving the dispute.” Is confrontation or resolution imminent? Worryingly, Dutton observes, “the international dynamic in the region is motivated largely by fear and anger.” However, the use of unilateral military force would be a lose-lose for China,” particularly in terms of its credibility, both among its neighbors and in the international community.

The Pivot in the South China Sea

From a U.S. perspective, a sustained American presence in the region has long been the underpinning of peace and stability. However, excessive U.S. intervention could disrupt the delicate balance that has been established. Although the U.S. has always sought to maintain a position of neutrality in territorial disputes, remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that referred to the South China Sea as the “West Philippine Sea” led China to challenge U.S. impartiality. If the U.S. engages with its regional allies without seeking enhanced engagement with China, then U.S. actions in the region may be perceived by China as efforts at containment. Moreover, as the U.S. strengthens ties to partners in the region, there is risk of entanglement if conflict were to break out.

There has long been an undercurrent of tension between the Philippines and China—most recently displayed in the standoff over the Scarborough Shoal in May 2012. Shortly thereafter, in a visit to Washington D.C., President Aquino sought U.S. commitment to military support of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China on the basis of the 1952 Mutual Defense Treaty. However, despite providing further military and naval support, the U.S. has refrained from making concrete commitments. Although the U.S. would not necessarily be dragged into a dispute, if a confrontation did break out, it might feel compelled to respond militarily to maintain the credibility of commitments to allies and partners in the region. Strong ties to the U.S. and enhanced military capacity could also provoke more confrontational behavior from U.S. partners. Yet, Ring emphasizes that the U.S. navy and military are also unique in the “ability to facilitate military cooperation and communication among all of the claimants” and particularly to “be that bridge…uniquely situated to build some flows of communication” that could facilitate a peaceful resolution to future incidents.

Long-term Options

Beyond these tensions and speculations, one must also consider the long-term prospects of a viable solution. Speaking on the record at a Weatherhead Center seminar at Harvard, Michael Dukakis raised the question, “Why isn’t the United States urging that these disputes be resolved in the International Court of Justice? Isn’t that what it’s for?” However, in addition to U.S. ambivalence, China and other main players would also oppose such a step. Traditionally, in cases of territorial disputes, the ICJ has tended to privilege longstanding administrative presence. China’s claims to over 80 percent of the South China Sea, on the other hand, have been framed in terms of a historical narrative—expressed in the “nine-dashed line” first drawn on a map in 1947 by the Kuomintang government then exiled to Taiwan—rather than the rules and norms established through UNCLOS. According to Dutton, “China is abrogating these principles [of international law]…and pursuing its own version of history in the region [with] frankly coercive policies in order to press its neighbors.”

In the adjudication of this patchwork of competing claims, ASEAN has long played a mediating role, as through its issuance of a “Declaration of Conduct” in 2002. According to Ring, “ASEAN is the key” to resolving this dispute and “one of the few organizations that has the pedigree” to serve as a legitimate mediator, with its foundational norms of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and freedom from external intervention. However, ASEAN, which relies on full consensus, is unlikely to move quickly. The next chairs of the bloc—Brunei as of 2013—are unlikely to press this issue. Moreover, China has tended to resist settlement of the territorial disputes in a multilateral forum and instead has sought direct bilateral negotiations, which would maximize its relative leverage.

Although a long-term solution and the protracted process of redrawing the map could take years yet, with mounting economic pressures and a voracious appetite for natural resources, economic factors may induce the establishment of some sort of profit-sharing mechanism in the short-term. For instance, Taiwan suggested in the 1990s that a joint development company for the South China Sea be established.

Looking to the Future

The South China Sea will likely remain a focal point of tension for years to come. China’s increased naval power may make a more assertive stance natural and inevitable. In this environment, Glaser sees that “the U.S. is more welcome in the region today than it has ever been.” The United States must find a balance between accepting this welcome and not overreaching—maintaining a stabilizing presence without provoking further suspicion from China or arousing concerns among regional partners. All in all, the South China Sea may prove to be a test, not only of whether China will be a “responsible stakeholder” in its own neighborhood but also of American strategy as it relates to a rising China.

Article: Asia, Online, World

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Piracy plunges as more ships start carrying armed guards

Michelle Wiese Bockmann Posted: 12/1/2012

LONDON -- Pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean fell 81 per cent this year as the use of armed security guards on ships acted as a "game-changer," according to the European Union's naval force.
There were 34 attacks by Somali pirates, with five vessels hijacked so far in 2012, compared to a record 176 assaults in the whole of last year that resulted in 25 ships seized for ransom, according to Peter Olive, the EU Naval Force's chief of staff.
Ransom payments to Somali pirates totaled $36 million so far this year, compared with $147 million last year, he said Thursday at a briefing at the EU's naval force headquarters at Northwood, England. As well as more aggressive military operations, the increasing deployment of private guards over the last 18 months on vessels transiting high-risk areas contributed to the declines, Olive said.
"In 2011, the numbers of private armed security teams went up significantly and that has been a big game-changer as well, though not the only factor," Olive said. "If that pressure is taken off it can all start to be unpicked relatively rapidly," he added, referring to industry and military measures to combat piracy.
Naval forces from three missions are deploying as many as 20 ships at a time, patrolling an area larger than Europe, to disrupt pirates who threaten international trade. The cost of piracy last year was estimated at $6.9 billion, including $1.3 billion spent on military operations and $1.16 billion on armed guards and vessel security, according to a report in February by One Earth Future Foundation. About 42,450 vessels transit the region each year, with as many as half using armed guards by the end of 2011, the Broomfield, Colo.-based nonprofit said.
"The fact there is private armed security employed in the region, there's nobody who's happy with that," said Hank Ort, chief of staff for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's counter-piracy mission. "From a NATO point of view, it's not something we take a position on. Having said that, it does help; ships that get attacked that have security have always been able to get away."
Trade through the region is valued at $1 trillion, according to the EU naval force, known as EU Navfor. About 35 per cent of crude oil shipped by sea and 20 per cent of oil traded worldwide transits through the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Twenty per cent of the world's liquefied natural gas from Qatar also passed through the strait, it said.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Coalition leaders float nuclear navy

     USS Hawaii 


10 NOV 2012

Top Coalition leaders want to open the debate over the purchase of nuclear submarines to replace the navy’s diesel fleet, a huge step up in Australia’s military capability in response to China’s plan to become a major maritime power in the Pacific Ocean.

Senior Coalition frontbenchers told The Weekend Financial Review that acquiring or leasing Virginia-class nuclear submarines equipped with conventional weapons, such as cruise missiles, would be supported by the Obama Administration.

Purchasing the submarines is not yet Coalition policy but some shadow ministers have discussed the idea with United States officials. Australia’s dependence on seaborne trade and China’s ambitions make a powerful submarine fleet the most sensible naval strategy, some Coalition leaders believe, and nuclear submarines would be more reliable and lethal than Australia’s existing submarines.

In discussions with defence experts US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich reiterated American willingness to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which could receive technical support at US naval bases in Hawaii and Guam. In the longer term, this could lead to a joint Australian-US submarine base in the west or north of Australia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta fly to Perth next week for annual defence talks with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

Privately, some defence ministers in Asia support Australia obtaining nuclear-powered submarines because of mounting tensions with China, which has territorial disputes with India, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines, sources said.

“Putting all submarine options on the table will lessen the chance we end up with a hollow force in 25 years’ time,” said James Brown, a military fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. “But Australians should understand that nuclear propulsion does not mean nuclear weapons.’’

China launched its first aircraft carrier in September. Analysts think it operates up to 10 nuclear and 60 conventional submarines.

“China continues to build submarines at a rate unmatched anywhere in the world whilst the quality and capability of [its] fleet increases faster than [its] GDP,” said James Harrap, a former captain of two Australian submarines.

Nuclear submarines were ruled out by the Labor government in its 2009 Defence White Paper, which advocated 12 “blue-water” conventional boats. A nuclear fleet would be cheaper than the white paper plan, which the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated at about $36 billion.

Alongside the National Broadband Network it would be the biggest public works program in Australia’s history. In February The Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Bleich said that “whether [Australia] pursues diesel power or nuclear power … the US is willing to help”. The strategy fits with the current US policy to “pivot” military forces towards Asia from Europe. It would contribute to the US costs of maintaining regional stability.

There is a precedent for the move. In the late 1980s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan agreed to export the design, nuclear reactors, and technical know-how necessary to permit Canada to build 12 Trafalgar class nuclear submarines.

As part of a review of the Defence Department’s submarine project, which could include a commission of audit, a Coalition government would also evaluate Britain’s Astute class nuclear submarines. They are, however, believed to be inferior in cost, capabilities, and suitability to the Virginia class, which the US produces at the rate of one or two a year.

Rear Admiral Peter Clarke, who was commander of Australia’s Collins Class Submarine Force Element Group, and is the only Australian to have commanded a nuclear submarine and a conventional submarine, said it was in America’s interest for the Royal Australian Navy to operate nuclear submarines.

“Australia would be much better served with nuclear rather than conventional submarines based on our strategic requirements and my experience commanding both,” he said. “Provided the right questions are asked at the right level, I’d be very surprised if the US did not favourably consider this.”

Senior Coalition frontbenchers believe Australia suffers from a maritime capability “gap”. Recently retired Collins class commander James Harrap does not believe Australia’s submarines are sustainable in the long-run and “will most likely be so technically obsolete by 2022 that the credibility of the capability it offers will be seriously eroded”.

Another idea gaining traction in the Coalition is a bridging solution for Australia’s submarine fleet. Under the plan Australia would build a limited number of second-generation Collins class submarines that resolve the propulsion chain problems that have plagued previous vessels. Alternatively, it could construct an “off-the-shelf” design with proven operating experience.

Since the highly regarded Japanese Soryu class submarines are not available for export, a leading off-the-shelf candidate is the German Type 214 boat, which has similar range to the Collins.

Close US ally South Korea has bought nine Type 214s, which it is building locally. The Type 214 has a fuel-cell based “air-independent propulsion” system that allows it to remain underwater for two to three weeks without the need to “snort”. The current Collins class have a maximum underwater operating endurance of around two to three days.

Former submariner Rex Patrick, who trains the Australian, Malaysian and Singaporean navies in undersea warfare, says, “Australia’s annual submarine cost is approaching $1 billion. This has given us a pedestrian capability that usually delivers only two deployable boats. For $2 billion, we could build four Type 214s, which would supply navy with a dependable, high-end platform that meets 90 per cent of our requirements.”

Commander Harrap concludes, “Lack of platform reliability is the single most limiting factor for the Collins. Let’s never repeat that mistake. A submarine capable of most of the tasking available most of the time is better than one that claims to do all of the tasking but is only available some of the time.”

Link to Article Here

Thursday, October 18, 2012


October 18, 2012 | 0900 GMT

Article from Stratfor

By Scott Stewart

The Obama administration's efforts to counter the threat posed by al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement have been a contentious topic in the U.S. presidential race. Political rhetoric abounds on both sides; administration officials claim that al Qaeda has been seriously crippled, while some critics of the administration allege that the group is stronger than ever. As with most political rhetoric, both claims bear elements of truth, but the truth depends largely on how al Qaeda and jihadism are defined. Unfortunately, politicians and the media tend to define al Qaeda loosely and incorrectly.
The jihadist threat will persist regardless of who is elected president, so understanding the actors involved is critical. But a true understanding of those actors requires taxonomical acuity. It seems worthwhile, then, to revisit Stratfor's definitions of al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement.

A Network of Networks

Al Qaeda, the group established by Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, was never very large -- there were never more than a few hundred actual members. We often refer to this group, now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, as the al Qaeda core or al Qaeda prime. While the group's founders trained tens of thousands of men at their camps in Afghanistan and Sudan, they initially viewed themselves as a vanguard organization working with kindred groups to facilitate the jihad they believed was necessary to establish a global Islamic caliphate. Most of the men trained at al Qaeda camps were members of other organizations or were grassroots jihadists. The majority of them received basic paramilitary training, and only a select few were invited to receive additional training in terrorist tradecraft skills such as surveillance, document forgery and bombmaking. Of this select group, only a few men were invited to join the al Qaeda core organization.

Bin Laden envisioned another purpose for al Qaeda: leading the charge against corrupt rulers in the Muslim world and against the United States, which he believed supported corrupt Muslim rulers. Al Qaeda sought to excise the United States from the Muslim world in much the same way that Hezbollah drove U.S. forces out of Lebanon and Somalia forced the U.S. withdrawal from Mogadishu.
Al Qaeda became a network of networks -- a trait demonstrated not only by its training methods but also in bin Laden's rhetoric. For example, bin Laden's 1998 "World Islamic Front" statement, which declared jihad against Jews and Crusaders, was signed by al-Zawahiri (who at the time was leading the Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and leaders of other groups, including the Egyptian Islamic Group, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan and the Jihad Movement of Bangladesh.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States applied against the al Qaeda core the full pressure of its five counterterrorism levers: intelligence, military, law enforcement, diplomacy and financial sanctions. As a result, many al Qaeda members, eventually including bin Laden, were captured or killed and their assets were frozen. Such measures have ensured that the group remains small for operational security concerns. The remaining members of the group mostly are lying low in Pakistan near the Afghan border, and their isolation there has severely degraded their ability to conduct attacks. The al Qaeda core is now relegated to producing propaganda for guidance and inspiration for other jihadist elements. Despite the disproportionate amount of media attention given to statements from al-Zawahiri and Adam Gadahn, the al Qaeda core constitutes only a very small part of the larger jihadist movement. In fact, it has not conducted a successful terrorist attack in years.
However, the core group has not been destroyed. It could regenerate if the United States eased its pressure, but we believe that will be difficult given the loss of the charismatic bin Laden and his replacement by the irascible al-Zawahiri.

In any case, the jihadist movement transcends the al Qaeda core. In fact, Stratfor for years published an annual forecast of al Qaeda, but beginning in 2009, we intentionally changed the title of the forecast to reflect the isolation and marginalization of the al Qaeda core and the ascendance of other jihadist actors. We believed our analysis needed to focus less on the al Qaeda core and more on the truly active and significant elements of the jihadist movement, including regional groups that have adopted the al Qaeda name and the array of grassroots jihadists.

Franchises and Grassroots

An element of the jihadist movement that is often loosely referred to as al Qaeda is the worldwide network of local or regional militant groups that have assumed al Qaeda's name or ideology. In many cases, the relationships between the leadership of these groups and the al Qaeda core began in the 1980s and 1990s.
Some groups have publicly claimed allegiance to the al Qaeda core, becoming what we refer to as franchise groups. These groups include al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Even though these franchises bear the al Qaeda name, they are locally owned and operated. This means that the local commanders have significant latitude in how closely they follow the guidance and philosophy of the al Qaeda core.

Some franchise group leaders, such as AQAP's Nasir al-Wahayshi, maintain strong relationships with the al Qaeda core and are very closely aligned with the core's philosophy. Other leaders, such as Abu Musab Abd al-Wadoud of AQIM, are more distanced. In fact, AQIM has seen severe internal fighting over these doctrinal issues, and several former leaders of Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat left the group because of this conflict. Further, it is widely believed that the death of Somali al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was arranged by leaders of Somali jihadist group al Shabaab, which he had criticized sharply.

The last and broadest element of the global jihadist movement often referred to as al Qaeda is what Stratfor refers to as grassroots jihadists. These are individuals or small cells of individuals that are inspired by the al Qaeda core -- or increasingly, by its franchise groups -- but that may have little or no actual connection to these groups. Some grassroots jihadists travel to places such as Pakistan or Yemen to receive training from the franchise groups. Other grassroots militants have no direct contact with other jihadist elements.

The core, the franchises and the grassroots jihadists are often interchangeably referred to as al Qaeda, but there are important differences among these actors that need to be recognized.

Important Distinctions

There are some other important distinctions that inform our terminology and our analysis. Not all jihadists are linked to al Qaeda, and not all militant Islamists are jihadists. Islamists are those who believe society is best governed by Islamic law, or Sharia. Militant Islamists are those who advocate the use of force to establish Sharia. Militant Islamists are found in both Islamic sects. Al Qaeda is a Sunni militant Islamist group, but Hezbollah is a Shiite militant Islamist group. Moreover, not all militant Muslims are Islamists. Some take up arms for tribal, territorial, ethnic or nationalistic reasons, or for a combination of reasons.
In places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and northern Mali, several militant groups are fighting foreign forces, their government or each other -- and sometimes all of the above. Some of these groups are jihadists, some are tribal militias, some are brigands and smugglers, and others are nationalists. Identifying, sorting and classifying these groups can be very difficult, and sometimes alliances shift or overlap. For example, Yemen's southern separatists will sometimes work with tribal militias or AQAP to fight against the government; other times, they fight against these would-be allies. We have seen similar dynamics in northern Mali among groups such as AQIM, Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, various Tuareg groups and other tribal militias in the region.

Taxonomy becomes even more difficult when a group uses multiple names, or when multiple groups share a name. Groups adopt different names for discretion, confusion or public relations purposes. AQAP called itself Ansar al-Shariah during its fight to take over cities in southern Yemen and to govern the territory. But radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was arrested in the United Kingdom in 2004 and extradited to the United States in 2012, has long led a movement likewise called Ansar al-Shariah. Even the Libyan jihadist militia that attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi uses the same name. But just because these groups share a name, and just because members or leaders of the groups know each other, does not necessarily mean that they are chapters of the same group or network of groups, or that they even subscribe to the same ideology.

As we mentioned long before Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in Libya, jihadists and other militants thrive in power vacuums. This assertion has proved true in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, and more recently in Libya, northern Mali and now Syria. Weapons flooding into such regions only compound the problem.
Militant Islamists have seized the opportunity to grow in influence in such places, as have the subset of militant Islamists we call jihadists. So in this context, while the al Qaeda core has been crippled, other portions of the jihadist movement are thriving. This is especially so among those that aspire to mount local insurgencies rather than those more concerned with planning transnational attacks. The nuances are important because as the composition and objectives of jihadist groups change, so do their methods of attack.

[For more on TERRORISM from STRATFOR click here ....]