Wikistrat, where I am a senior analyst for their North America desk, has started a blog featuring their analysts and experts. We’ll see how the Wikistrat Blog evolves, but for now here are a few sample posts:
Q: Timothy Kelly- Dr. Barnett, how do you think nuclear proliferation will play out in the Middle East?
A: I think the Obama Administration’s oil-focused sanctions will put immense pressure on the Iranian regime to cave in on the nuke question, possibly to the point of striking out in some manner that Israel – and perhaps the U.S. – can use as a pretext for launching substantial strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But if I had to bet, I would lay money on Israel striking first for its own reasons versus Tehran providing the excuse. Iran has always struck me as incredibly aware of which line-crossing activities will elicit direct military responses, and, much in the vein of WS’s recent simulation on this subject, I think Tehran knows well that it needs to avoid any genuine threat to global oil markets – lest it trigger an “all-in” military response from the United States.
So I think Iran’s really stuck, as it were, and will likely have to suffer a beat-down from Israel sometime in the next 24 months. I think it can take that “licking” and keep on “ticking” in terms of its nuclear weaponization goals, which I think are real and – in structural terms – completely justified by the region’s current correlation of forces. So I’m still betting on Iran having the Bomb before Obama leaves office in 2017 (yes, I see him winning again in November), and when that happens, I do expect the Saudis to cash in their long-held promise from Pakistan to supply them with their own devices….
The 3 C’S Around The Pakistan Question (Abhijnan Rej)
In the Spring 2012 issue of The Washington Quarterly, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad proposed a strategy for dealing with Pakistan by imaging it to be in a class of countries that are both adversaries and allies at the same time – with some vectors of interests of the elites pointing towards the United States and some others that don’t. Ambassador Khalilzad’s analysis is macroscopic, to a large extent based on the evolution of the Pakistani nation-state at large. By way of a compliment to his analysis, I want to provide here a microscopic typology of Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism in terms of a complete union of three different groups with respect to interests in jihadi extremism. Each group is distinct and yet has a significant overlap with the other and all of them originate inside the Pakistani army.
The first group, which I will term complicit, is largely backed by former and serving Inter-Services Intelligence officers, conjecturally from its Directorate S, and with ties to jihadi groups going back to the 1980s. This group wants Pakistan as a model state for the entire ummah; it will not hesitate to harbor top al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, or for that matter directly engage American forces as it did in 2007 – not because it shares Salafist ideologies (it often doesn’t) but because of a deep sense of Muslim nationalism and therefore, per their logic, anti-Americanism. A simple fact of life in Pakistan is that even though the ISI was created as coordinating intelligence agency for the various armed services, it remains distinct from the army and to a very large extent autonomous from it. This could be one of the reasons why there was no contradiction when Admiral Michael Mullen had “given an A” to the Pakistani army during its fight with Taliban elements in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2009-2010 and the very next year, right before his retirement, described the Haqqani network as a “veritable arm of the ISI” to the Senate Armed Services Committee…..
Collection Item Of The Week: “Pentagon Report Finds Iran’s Ballistic Missiles Improving” (Lauren Mellinger, Caitlin Barthold, Steven Aiello, Zachary Keck and Zoya Sameen)
A Pentagon study that was submitted to Congress late last month finds that Iran has improved the accuracy and lethality of its short- and long-range missiles and is in the process of developing an anti-ship ballistic missile system.
According to the Pentagon’s report, Iran’s improved missile defense affords greater survivability against United States and Gulf Cooperation Council systems deployed in the region. Additionally, Iranian forces are becoming ever more competent in using these systems because of Tehran’s regular ballistic missile training, which “continues throughout the country.”
The report further notes that Iran is developing short-range missile systems with “seekers” — allowing missiles to identify and reposition themselves in flight to hit moving targets. Trackers noted the addition of “new ships and submarines,” while indicating that Iranian short-range ballistic missiles are in the process of evolving toward an operational ability to target maritime targets and vessels….
The Pentagon report signifies that any attack on Iranian soil will carry heavy risk and significant repercussions.
The Department of Defense’s earlier reports seem to have underestimated some of Iran’s military capabilities, particularly the accuracy and effectiveness of its ballistic missiles. This latest study more accurately highlights the threat that Iran could pose, if attacked. It cites the 2012 war simulations done by the Iranian armed forces, which illustrated their skills in offensive and defensive maneuvers….
….On the other hand, Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association who previously worked on intelligence matters for the Senate and the State Department, has noted that the report’s language implies that the Pentagon now believes that it is less likely that Iran will be capable of testing an ICBM by 2015, compared to an assessment made two years prior. Specifically, whereas the 2010 report on Iran’s military capabilities read, “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an [ICBM] capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” the 2012 report states, “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.” …..
Read more here.