Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 48

This week our Top-5 starts looking at the battle of Tikrit. According to The New York Times, “the hard lessons of the Tikrit offensive, with a heavy cost in casualties for the Shiite militiamen and soldiers involved, have Iraqi officials thinking more cautiously about their next steps”. In the article you’ll find also interesting maps of the ongoing battle.

The debate on the controversial F-35 is still lively. On the one hand, we have positive news regarding the Pentagon’s estimated procurement cost, while on the other hand the technical problems of the JSF are not vanished.

After the terrorist attack in Tunisia, a growing attention has been devoted to North Africa. The Monkey Cage provides an interesting perspective on an underrated case: Morocco.

Uk defense under reconsideration? As stated by the BBC: “The Commons Def Committee says Britain’s security strategy urgently needs updating, to ensure several different threats can be tackled at once”. We will look at the electoral debates to assess the effective role played by defense issues in the UK…

Finally, the account by Duck of Minerva of the most recent ISA Conference in New Orleans (Game of Thrones as a main issue..)

 

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Missioni internazionali. Qualche spunto di riflessione

Il 19 Marzo scorso il Ministro della Difesa, Roberta Pinotti, ha fornito un quadro aggiornato sulle missioni militari italiane di fronte alle Commissioni riunite Esteri e Difesa di Camera e Senato. Dopo aver osservato un minuto di silenzio per le vittime di Tunisi, il Ministro ha illustrato lo stato delle operazioni condotte dalle forze armate italiane, presentando alcune novità.

Come riportato dal sintetico resoconto fornito dal Ministero della Difesa, i principali nodi affrontati sono stati i seguenti:​”Potenziamento del dispositivo aeronavale nel Mediterraneo, sospensione della nostra attività in territorio libico, termine dell’impiego dei Nuclei militari di protezione imbarcati sulle navi mercantili italiane e stop alla partecipazione alla missione Nato Ocean Shield“.

Fermo restando l’attenzione rivolta alla crisi ucraina e alla missione “Resolute Support” in Afghanistan, è interessante notare almeno tre aspetti-chiave che emergono in maniera evidente dalla discussione:

1) Il Mediterraneo appare sempre più al centro della politica di difesa italiana. Le minacce che provengono dalla sponda sud, la crescente instabilità dell’area, i tradizionali legami con la regione, gli interessi strategici da difendere rappresentano i fattori esplicativi di questa rinnovata attenzione. Come ha evidenziato il Ministro, il Nord Africa rappresenta “la prima delle nostre preoccupazioni”. Nuove operazioni (“Mare Sicuro“) e nuovi scenari (dal punto di vista diplomatico e, forse, anche dal punto di vista militare) indicano come  questa regione sia davvero cruciale per il futuro della politica estera italiana nel suo complesso. La possibilità di un effettivo burden sharing con l’Europa appare ancora lontana dai desiderata di Roma, ma la necessità di un approccio “multidimensionale” alla crisi sembra dai più condiviso. Tra sciocco disinteresse e folle interventismo non si possono ripetere gli errori del passato e farsi rapire dalla dannosa logica dell’emergenza. L’ISIL (contro il quale l’Italia schiera già centinaia di militari nell’operazione a guida americana in Medio Oriente) non può rappresentare l’unica preoccupazione di una politica attenta verso la complessità della regione.

2)  L’impegno nazionale nella lotta alla pirateria, una delle attività cruciali della politica di difesa italiana degli ultimi anni, sta mutando. Come riportato dal sito del Ministero: “L’Italia continuerà a partecipare alla missione Atalanta, ma terminerà l’impiego dei Nuclei militari di protezione imbarcati sulle navi mercantili italiane e interromperà la partecipazione alla missione Nato Ocean Shield. Decisione presa “considerato il positivo trend rappresentato dalla diminuzione degli attacchi dei pirati negli ultimi mesi, nonché l’ormai avvenuto perfezionamento delle procedure che consentono di ricorrere alla difesa dei mercantili”. Quindi, se la complessa vicenda dei Marò appare in un certo senso congelata, la politica nazionale in materia di lotta alla pirateria sta invece cambiando. Data la centralità del tema, sarebbero auspicabili analisi dettagliate che guardassero a quanto fatto in questi anni, al fine di trarne preziose lezioni apprese. Ma il livello del dibattito italiano sulle questioni della Difesa rimane purtroppo molto basso (anche in “Accademia”).

3) Nell’attesa (adesso sinceramente lunga..) del prossimo Libro Bianco della Difesa, saranno numerose le missioni  che “vedranno una riduzione o sospensione dell’impegno italiano, in un’ottica di razionalizzazione, in linea con quanto annunciato al Parlamento lo scorso settembre”. Si tratta della conferma di una tendenza già in atto da anni, una riduzione complessiva dell’impegno militare oltre frontiera. Aspettiamo di leggere con ansia il Libro Bianco per capire se tale processo sarà guidato unicamente da considerazioni economico-finanziarie o se anche più ampie riflessioni strategiche avranno un peso rilevante. Cerchiamo di essere ancora ottimisti. Per un altro po’ almeno…

 

 

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Paris attacks and foreign fighters. A research agenda

The dramatic Paris attacks has raised attention (and concern) over the phenomenon of the so-called “foreign fighters“. Several scholars have already focused on the role played by foreign insurgents fighting on behalf of local rebel groups. (See for instance the detailed historical analysis, from the Texas revolution to Afghanistan, by David Malet). Since the end of the Cold War sub-national and transnational actors have played a growing role in global politics. The foreign fighters are the most recent and controversial example of the increasing relevance of transnational actors, especially in contemporary warfare.

Recent research has tried to track “Western” foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. For instance, the ICSR team has created a unique database with the social media profiles of nearly 200 British, European and Western fighters in Syria. Others consider the current conflict against the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as a “game changer” for the extremist threat to Western countries. The border between domestic and international security appears as blurring due to the possible menaces posed by those fighters, mainly in terms of consequences related to their experience on the ground (blowback effects, terrorist attacks, radical propaganda, etc.).

In next weeks/months also Venus in Arms will focus on the issue of foreign fighters. Through the case of the ISIL  we are interested in analyze the process of learning and adaptation of foreign insurgents in contemporary conflicts. In a forthcoming book chapter we investigate the effective extent of the role played by the foreign fighters in the process of elaboration and diffusion of approaches, tactics and lessons learnt in a cross-time analysis (2011-2014).

Despite a mounting interest over such issue, a scarce attention has been devoted to the mechanisms through which the foreign fighters are trained and, above all, the ways adopted for spreading military innovation and adaptation across conflicts and crises. From a bottom-up approach focused on foreign fighters, the book chapter (more details on the book  in next weeks..) examines how the lessons learnt derived from other conflicts have affected the ways through which insurgent organizations in Syria and Iraq changed to face new challenges on the ground. Thanks to primary and secondary sources, the study sheds light on the mechanisms of inter-organizational learning and the adoption of practices that come from the experience of foreign fighters.

Findings will allow to better assessing the role played by those fighters in contemporary warfare, illustrating the “institutionalization” of lessons learned in insurgent organizations.

Stay tuned…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 34

Just another massive financial crisis in Russia? According to The Economist: “The Russian currency crisis many feared is now a reality and the mood in Moscow close to panic. Russians are right to worry: they are heading for a lethal combination of deep recession and runaway inflation”. Yesterday in Moscow shops people converted roubles into goods. Here you can see how the Ruble Crisis looked like in the 90s.

Moving to Iraq, The New York Times provides a detailed report on the “Desert War on ISIS”. While in the initial weeks of the air campaign three out of every four missions still return with their bombs for lack of approved targets, in recent days the Iraqis “have been advancing, forcing ISIS to fight more in the open”.

Unredacted focuses on the Kennedy and Johnson Administration’s consideration of preventive military action to prevent or to delay China from acquiring a nuclear capability. Recently the National Security Archive published an Electronic Briefing Book of documents on the United States and the Chinese nuclear weapons program during the early 1960s.

The SIPRI just published the Top 100 arms-producing and military services companies fact sheet. Despite three consecutive years of decreasing sales for the Top 100, total revenues remain 45.5 per cent higher in real terms than for the Top 100 in 2002.

Finally, Venus in Arms honors again Nick Hornby and his idol, Thierry Henry, who has just announced his retirement from football. He has been really a fantastic player (we also appreciate the fact that his Italian experience was a failure because…ehm, at that time we did not support you Thierry…)

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 32

First of all, the end of South Stream. Putin announced that he would scrap the strategic gas pipeline. So Russia will abandon the project. As reported by The New York Times, South Stream was “a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West“. Here you’ll find the report of The Moscow Times.

Moving from Russia to Iraq, it is worth noticing that Iran is deeply involved in military operations against the ISIL. The Pentagon revealed that Iranian fighter jets (F-4E?) have bombed Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq in recent days.

Remaning in Arlington, Ashton Carter emerges as  the top choice to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel. Here you’ll find the scoop (CNN). Carter served as Deputy Defense Secretary under both Leon Panetta and Hagel. His main focus has been the management of the defense budget (should we expect some changes also for the F35 programme?).

“Vice” provided several funny articles on “how to invade or conquer” different countries, such as Scotland, France, Russia or the UK. A sort of paradoxical sic-fi perspective on current security affairs. Also ViA contributed regarding the case of Italy.

Finally, one of the most important news of the week: Star Wars. Here the “The Force Awakens” Official Teaser. A lot of discussion on the new lightsaber. A suggestion: Dont’ underestimate the power of the Dark Side…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 30

This week Venus in Arms will be in London to participate at the next ASMI conference (Association for the Study of Modern Italy) and for other stuff (see, among others: Stamford Bridge). So, this Top 5 focuses exclusively on the UK (in terms of sources of news, issues, etc.).

The British “The Guardian” provides an excellent report on the “Islamic State’s Oil Empire”. A very useful analysis on refineriesand smuggling for better understanding the current context in Syria and Iraq.

The Department of War Studies at the King’s College will host a conference on “NATO ISAF Civil-Military Relations“. The event is organized by the Afghanistan Studies Group, whose website if full of articles and analyses on Afghanistan.

Moving from Afghanistan to Iraq: here you’ll find a detailed account of the UK involvement in the air strikes against ISIL.

In the meanwhile, British troops (on exercise in Poland) have been ordered not to take mobile phones or computers amid fears they will be targeted by Russian cyber spies. Here you’ll find more info on the controversial case.

Finally, have a look again at the Tower of London Poppies. Each of the 888.246 poppies represents a Commonwealth soldier who died during the WWI. Some troubles occurred for their removal.

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