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Regional geopolitics

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  • September 6, 2019
    Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank in Syria Was Beaten Badly in Battle. Why?

    Here's what happened.
    by Sebastien Roblin

    This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel.
    Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank has a reputation as one of the finest in the world, competing for that distinction with proven designs such as the American M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2. However, that reputation for nigh-invincibility has faced setbacks on Syrian battlefields, and placed Berlin in a uniquely awkward national-level dispute with Turkey, its fellow NATO member.
    (This first appeared back in September 2018.)
    Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish Army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat. However, on January 24, public outrage over reports that Turkey was using its Leopard 2s to kill Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclaves of Afrin and Manbij forced Berlin to freeze the hostage-for-tanks deal.
    The Leopard 2 is often compared to its near contemporary, the M1 Abrams: in truth the two designs share broadly similar characteristics, including a scale-tipping weight of well over sixty tons of advanced composite armor, 1,500 horsepower engines allowing speeds over forty miles per hour and, for certain models, the same forty-four-caliber 120-millimeter main gun produced by Rheinmetall.
    Both types can easily destroy most Russian-built tanks at medium and long ranges, at which they are unlikely to be penetrated by return fire from standard 125-millimeter guns. Furthermore, they have better sights with superior thermal imagers and magnification, that make them more likely to detect and hit the enemy first—historically, an even greater determinant of the victor in armored warfare than sheer firepower. A Greek trial found that moving Leopard 2s and Abramses hit a 2.3-meter target nineteen and twenty times out of twenty, respectively, while a Soviet T-80 scored only eleven hits.
    The modest differences between the two Western tanks reveal different national philosophies. The Abrams has a noisy 1,500-horsepower gas-guzzling turbine, which starts up more rapidly, while the Leopard 2’s diesel motor grants it greater range before refueling. The Abrams has achieved some of its extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities through use of depleted uranium ammunition and armor packages—technologies politically unacceptable to the Germans. Therefore, later models of the Leopard 2A6 now mount a higher-velocity fifty-five-caliber gun to make up the difference in penetrating power, while the 2A5 Leopard introduced an extra wedge of spaced armor on the turret to better absorb enemy fire.
    German scruples also extend to arms exports, with Berlin imposing more extensive restrictions on which countries it is willing to sell weapons to—at least in comparison to France, the United States or Russia. While the Leopard 2 is in service with eighteen countries, including many NATO members, a lucrative Saudi bid for between four hundred and eight hundred Leopard 2s was rejected by Berlin because of the Middle Eastern country’s human-rights records, and its bloody war in Yemen in particular. The Saudis instead ordered additional Abramses to their fleet of around four hundred.
    This bring us to Turkey, a NATO country with which Berlin has important historical and economic ties, but which also has had bouts of military government and waged a controversial counterinsurgency campaign against Kurdish separatists for decades. In the early 2000s, under a more favorable political climate, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara. These represented a major upgrade over the less well protected M60 Patton tanks that make up the bulk of Turkey’s armored forces.
    However, the rumor has long persisted that Berlin agreed to the sale under the condition that the German tanks not be used in Turkey’s counterinsurgency operations against the Kurds. Whether such an understanding ever existed is hotly contested, but the fact remains that the Leopard 2 was kept well away from the Kurdish conflict and instead deployed in northern Turkey, opposite Russia.
    However, in the fall of 2016, Turkish Leopard 2s of the Second Armored Brigade finally deployed to the Syrian border to support Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s intervention against ISIS. Prior to the Leopard’s arrival, around a dozen Turkish Patton tanks were destroyed by both ISIS and Kurdish missiles. Turkish defense commentators expressed the hope that the tougher Leopard would fare better.

    The 2A4 model was the last of the Cold War–era Leopard 2s, which were designed to fight in relatively concentrated units in a fast-paced defensive war against Soviet tank columns, not to survive IEDs and missiles fired by ambushing insurgents in long-term counterinsurgency campaigns where every single loss was a political issue. The 2A4 retains an older boxy turret configurations which affords less protection from modern antitank missiles, especially to the generally more vulnerable rear and side armor, which is a bigger problem in a counterinsurgency environment, where an attack may come from any direction.
    This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed ISIS as apparently having destroyed ten of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s; five reportedly by antitank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.
    These photos confirm the destruction of at least eight. One shows a Leopard 2 apparently knocked out by a suicide VBIED—an armored kamikaze truck packed with explosives. Another had its turret blown clean off. Three Leopard wrecks can be seen around the same hospital near Al-Bab, along with several other Turkish armored vehicles. It appears the vehicles were mostly struck the more lightly protected belly and side armor by IEDs and AT-7 Metis and AT-5 Konkurs antitank missiles.
    Undoubtedly, the manner in which the Turkish Army employed the German tanks likely contributed to the losses. Rather than using them in a combined arms force alongside mutually supporting infantry, they were deployed to the rear as long-range fire-support weapons while Turkish-allied Syrian militias stiffened with Turkish special forces led the assaults. Isolated on exposed firing positions without adequate nearby infantry to form a good defensive perimeter, the Turkish Leopards were vulnerable to ambushes. The same poor tactics have led to the loss of numerous Saudi Abrams tanks in Yemen, as you can see in this video.
    By contrast, more modern Leopard 2s have seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan combating Taliban insurgents in the service of the Canadian 2A6Ms (with enhanced protection against mines and even floating “safety seats”) and Danish 2A5s. Though a few were damaged by mines, all were put back into service, though a Danish Leopard 2 crew member was mortally injured by an IED attack in 2008. In return, the tanks were praised by field commanders for their mobility and providing accurate and timely fire support during major combat operations in southern Afghanistan.
    In 2017, Germany began rebuilding its tank fleet, building an even beefier Leopard 2A7V model more likely to survive in a counterinsurgency environment. Now Ankara is pressing Berlin to upgrade the defense on its Leopard 2 tanks, especially as the domestically produced Altay tank has been repeatedly delayed.
    The Turkish military not only wants additional belly armor to protect against IEDs, but the addition of an Active Protection System (APS) that can detect incoming missiles and their point of origin, and jam or even shoot them down. The U.S. Army recently authorized the installation of Israeli Trophy APS on a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks, a type that has proven effective in combat. Meanwhile, Leopard 2 manufacturer Rheinmetall has unveiled its own ADATS APS, which supposedly poses a lesser risk of harming friendly troops with its defensive countermeasure missiles.
    However, German-Turkish relations deteriorated sharply, especially after Erdogan initiated a prolonged crackdown on thousands of supposed conspirators after a failed military coup attempt in August 2016. In February 2017, German-Turkish dual-citizen Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for periodical Die Welt, was arrested by Turkish authorities, ostensibly for being a pro-Kurdish spy. His detention caused outrage in Germany.
    Ankara pointedly let it be known that if a Leopard 2 upgrade were allowed to proceed, Yücel would be released back to Germany. Though Berlin publicly insisted it would never agree to such a quid pro quo, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel quietly began moving towards authorizing the upgrade in a bid to improve relations in the face of what looks suspiciously like tank-based blackmail. Gabriel presented the deal as a measure to protect Turkish soldiers’ lives from ISIS.
    However, in mid-January 2018, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Manbij in northwestern Syria. The attack was precipitated generally by Turkish fears that effective Kurdish control of the Syrian border would lead to a de facto state that would expand into Turkish territory, and proximately by an announcement by the Pentagon that it was recruiting the Kurds to form a “border security force” to continue the fight against ISIS.
    However, photos on social media soon emerged showing that Leopard 2 tanks were being employed to blast Kurdish positions in Afrin, where there have several dozen civilian casualties have been reported. Furthermore, on January 21, the Kurdish YPG published a YouTube video depicting a Turkish Leopard 2 being struck by a Konkurs antitank missiles. However, it is not possible to tell if the tank was knocked out; the missile may have struck the Leopard 2’s front armor, which is rated as equivalent to 590 to 690 millimeters of rolled homogenous armor on the 2A4, while the two types of Konkurs missiles can penetrate six or eight hundred millimeters of RHA.
    In any event, parliamentarians both from German left-wing parties and Merkel’s right-wing Christian Democratic Union reacted with outrage, with a member of the latter describing the Turkish offensive as a violation of international law. On January 25, the Merkel administration was forced to announce that an upgrade to the Leopard 2 was off the table, at least for now. Ankara views the deal as merely postponed, and cagey rhetoric from Berlin suggests it may return to the deal at a more politically opportune time.
    Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

    Last edited by Vrej1915; 09-08-2019, 07:10 AM.


    • Ռուսաստանը կարող է Թուրքիային տրամադրել միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաներ։ Ինչու է դա պետք Ռուսաստանին

      Մեր զրուցակիցն է ՄԱՀՀԻ ասոցացված փորձագետ, թուրքագետ Հայկ Գաբրիելյանը
      Թուրքիայի նախագահ Էրդողանը հայտարարել է, որ չի ընդունում միջուկային զենք ստեղծելու առիթով իր երկրի վրա դրված արգելքը: Նա անտրամաբանական է համարել այն, որ աշխարհի մի շարք երկրներ ունեն միջուկային մարտագլխիկով հրթիռներ, սակայն իր երկիրը չի կարող ունենալ: Որքանո՞վ է հավանական Թուրքիայի նկրտումների կյանքի կոչումը։
      Ընդհանուր առմամբ՝ Թուրքիայի միջուկային նկրտումները հայտնի էին դեռևս տարիներ առաջ։ Հստակ տեսնում ենք, որ Թուրքիան գնում է այնպիսի ճանապարհով, որ ժամանակին ունենա միջուկային զենք, որ կարողանա անհրաժեշտ պահի արտադրել այդ զենքը։ Ատոմակայան կառուցելը օգնության է հասնում այդ հարցում։ Առաջին ատոմակայանը Թուրքիայում կառուցում է Ռուսաստանը, և մեծ մտավախություններ կան, որ հենց Ռուսաստանը կարող է Թուրքիային տրամադրել միջուկային տեխնոլոգիաներ։
      Ինչու է դա պետք Ռուսաստանին. նախ նրա համար, որ ՌԴ նախագահ Վլադիմիր Պուտինը ամեն կերպ շահագրգռված է Էրդողանի վարչակարգի պահպանմամբ, երկրորդ՝ Պուտինը ցանկանում է սկսել ՆԱՏՕ-ն մասնատելու գործընթաց, իսկ այդ առումով ամենահարմար երկիրը համարվում է Թուրքիան։ Այսինքն գործարք կարող է տեղի ունենալ, որպեսզի Ռուսաստանը միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաները տա Թուրքիային, պայմանով, որ Թուրքիան լքի ՆԱՏՕ-ն։ Ըստ էության, Թուրքիան ՆԱՏՕ-ի կարիքն այնքան էլ չի զգա, և Թուրքիան հմտորեն օգտագործում է այդ հանգամանքը՝ ասելով, թե «ինչու Իսրայելը պետք է միջուկային զենք ունենա, իսկ ես ոչ։ Ո՞վ է ասել, որ ինձ արգելված է»։
      Այս պայմաններում ինչպիսի՞ն պետք է լինի մեր դիրքորոշումը։
      Շատ բարդ հարց է. ակնհայտորեն միջուկային Թուրքիան որոշ առումով ավելի վտանգավոր է։ Համարժեքը կլիներ այն, որ մենք նույնպես ունենայինք միջուկային զենք, բայց դա դժվար իրականանալի է։ Կարծում եմ՝ պետք է շարունակել աշխատել գերտերությունների հետ, մասնավորապես, օրինակ, Գերմանիայի հետ, որպեսզի վերջինս վերջապես զբաղվի Հայաստանի անվտանգության ապահովմամբ։ Ինչու հենց Գերմանիան, որովհետև հիշում եք, որ 2012 թվականին Գերմանիան ընդունեց Հայոց ցեղասպանության հարցում իր հանցակցությունը, այսինքն պատասխանատվության իր մասը։ Հիմա կարելի է պատասխանատվության այդ մասի չափով Գերմանիայից պահանջել համապատասխան փոխհատուցում, այսինքն զբաղվել նաև մեր անվտանգության ապահովմամբ։ Իր հանցակցության չափով Գերմանիան պետք է մասնակցի մեր անվտանգության ապահովմանը։ Դա կլինի տարբեր տիպի տեխնոլոգիաների տեսքով, թե այլ նախագծերի ֆինանսավորմամբ, դա արդեն այլ հարց է։ Այսպիսի պահանջով առաջին հերթին պետք է հանդես գան Սփյուռքում, հետո երկրորդ փուլում կարող է խաղի մեջ մտնել Հայաստանը։
      Այսինքն` Հայաստանը պետք է բազմավեկտոր անվտանգության քաղաքականությո՞ւն վարի։
      Ընդհանրապես, բազմավեկտոր քաղաքականությունը ավելի նախընտրելի է, քան մեկ բևեռից կախված լինելը։ Թուրքիայի օրինակը ապացուցում է դա, երբ անհրաժեշտության դեպքում Թուրքիան շատ հմտորեն օգտագործում է Ռուսաստանի և ԱՄՆ-ի միջև առաջացած խնդիրները։ Իհարկե, մեր հնարավորությունները դա թույլ չեն տալիս, բայց կարելի է փորձել հասկանալ, թե Ռուսաստանում ինչ են մտածում, արդյոք իսկապես կա նման վտանգ, որ Մոսկվան կարող է միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաներ տրամադրել Թուրքիային։
      Որքանո՞վ են իրական այդ վտանգները։
      Իմ անձնական կարծիքն այնպիսին է, որ շատ հարցերում չեն համընկնում Վլադիմիր Պուտինի և Ռուսաստանի շահերը, ինչպես չեն համընկնում Թուրքիայի և Էրդողանի անձնական շահերը։ Կան փորձագետներ, որ պնդում են, որ այսօր չկան Ռուսաստան-Թուրքիա հարաբերություններ, կան Պուտին-Էրդողան հարաբերություններ, և հենց դրանք են պայմանավորում կողմերի դիրքերը։ Էրդողանը գիտի, որ Պուտինն ամեն կերպ աջակցելու է իր վարչակարգի պահպանմանը, մինչդեռ ԱՄՆ-ի դերպքում վստահ չէ, որ այդպես կլինի։ Պուտինն էլ օգտագործում է Էրդողանին, փորձում է ամեն կերպ հաճոյանալ նրան, բավարարել նրա պահանջները և հասնել նրան, որ ի վերջո, Թուրքիան դուրս գա ՆԱՏՕ-ից։ Պուտինի համար իդեա-ֆիքս է դարձել Թուրքիային ՆԱՏՕ-ից պոկելը, և դա հնարավոր է բացառապես այն դեպքում, եթե Թուրքիան ունենա միջուկային զենք։ Այլ դեպքում չեմ պատկերացնում, որ Թուրքիան համաձայնի դուրս գալ ՆԱՏՕ-ից, որքան էլ Մոսկվան իրեն սիրաշահի։
      Թուրքիայում ՏԻՄ ընտրություններից, մասնավորապես Ստամբուլի քաղաքապետի ընտրություններից հետո խոսվում էր Էրդողանի իշխանության դիրքերի թուլացման մասին։ Որքանո՞վ են իրական կանխատեսումները, որ Էրդողանը կարող է պարտվել հաջորդ ընտրություններում։

      Էրդողանը նորից նախագահ ընտրվելու, ըստ էության, ցմահ նախագահ մնալու մեծ շանսեր ունի, եթե ֆորսմաժորներ չլինեն։ Նա կարող է անընդհատ վերընտրվել մինչև 2033 թվականը։ Ճիշտ է, վերջին ընտրությունները ցույց տվեցին, որ Էրդողանի և նրա կուսակցության հեղինակությունը նվազել է, բայց ամեն դեպքում Թուրքիայում բոլորը պատրաստվում են 2023 թվականին կայանալիք խորհրդարանական և նախագահական ընտրություններին։ Այդ տարի լրանում է Թուրքիայի Հանրապետության 100-ամյակը, և Էրդողանը, ըստ ամենայնի, կցանկանար, որ 2023 թվականին Թուրքիան արդեն լինի որպես միջուկային զենք ունեցող երկիր։ Էրդողանը բազմիցս հայտարարել է, որ առաջիկայում կունենան նոր Թուրքիա։ Ըստ ամենայնի, նա նկատի ունի միջուկային զենք ունենալը։


      • Yemen's Huthi Rebels Claim Drone Strikes On Saudi Oil Sites

        September 14, 2019

        Videos apparently shot in Buqyaq showed smoke rising over the skyline and glowing flames could be seen at the Abqaiq oil-processing facility.

        Yemen's Huthi rebels have claimed responsibility for two drone attacks on oil facilities operated by Saudi Aramco earlier on September 14.

        Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said an oil field in Khurais Province and an oil-processing facility, the world’s biggest, in Abqaiq Province, were targeted in the drone strikes.

        The attacks sparked fires, which Saudi authorities later said were brought under control.

        Several hours after the predawn attacks, Aramco has issued no statement and the authorities have not reported on casualties.

        State television said exports were continuing.

        Abqaiq is located 60 kilometers southwest of Aramco's Dhahran headquarters. It contains the world's largest oil-processing plant, handling crude from the giant Ghawar field and for export to terminals Ras Tanura -- the world's biggest offshore oil-loading facility -- and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

        Khurais, 190 kilometers further southwest, contains the country's second-largest oil field.

        Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Sunni Muslim countries that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Shi’ite Huthis.

        Riyadh has blamed regional rival Shi'ite Iran for previous attacks, which Tehran denies. Riyadh accuses Iran of arming the Huthis, a charge denied by the group and Tehran.

        The war has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict.

        Since the start of the Saudi-led war, Huthi rebels have been using drones in combat.

        The rebels have flown drones into radar range of Saudi Arabia's Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Huthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

        UN investigators said the Huthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers.
        With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP


        • Meet the Quds 1

          by Fabian Hinz | September 15, 2019
          On September 14, several explosions rocked the Khurais oilfield as well as the Abqaiq refinery, one of Saudi Arabia’s most vital petrochemical installations. Several hours later, the Houthis claimed that they had targeted both facilities with ten drones as part of their “Balance of Deterrence” campaign.
          What made this attack different from other recorded Houthi drone attacks was not only the unprecedented amount of material damage caused but also lingering doubt about the nature and the attribution of the attack. First, a video allegedly showing flying objects entering Kuwaiti airspace led to speculation that like a previous “Houthi” drone attack this strike might actually have originated in Iraq or even Iran. While the video remains unverified, the fact that the Kuwaiti government launched a probe into the issue lends some credence to the idea that something might have happened over Kuwait that day. Speculation about the origins of the attack was further fueled by a tweet by Mike Pompeo in which he claimed that there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
          Then the question arose whether drones had been used at all, or whether the attack might in fact have been a missile strike. Previous Houthi drone strikes against oil facilities tended to result in quite limited damage which could be an indication that a different weapons system was used this time. Indeed, Aramco came to the conclusion that its facilities were attacked by missiles. Even more curious, several pictures began to emerge on social media purportedly showing the wreckage of a missile in the Saudi desert. While the images appear real, neither the date the photos were taken nor their location can be verified. Social media users quickly claimed the images showed a crashed Iranian-made Soumar cruise missile. The Soumar and its updated version, the Hoveyzeh, are Iran’s attempts at reverse-engineering the Soviet-designed KH-55 cruise missile, several of which the country illegally imported from Ukraine in the early 2000s. Others claimed it was the Quds 1, a recently unveiled Houthi cruise missile often claimed to be a rebranded Soumar.
          While at this point there are still more questions about the attack than answers, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the Quds 1. Do the pictures in the desert actually show a Quds 1? And is the Quds 1 really just a smuggled Soumar?
          The story of the Quds 1 begins in mid-June 2019, when a cruise missile fired by the Houthis hit the terminal of Abha Airport in Southern Saudi Arabia, wounding a total of 26 passengers. Not long afterwards, Saudi Arabia held a press conference showing images of the missile’s wreckage and claiming that the missile in question was an Iranian Ya Ali cruise missile. The Ya Ali is a much smaller missile than the Soumar and while the newest version of the Soumar has a range of up to 1350km, the Ya Ali’s range is limited to about 700km. With Abha airport being located only 110km from the Yemeni border, using a smaller, shorter-range system seemed to make sense. However, there was an inconsistency. The rounded wings and stabilizers shown in the Saudi presentation did not match the Ya Ali. Instead they were more reminiscent of the Soumar.
          Only a few weeks later, in early July, the Houthis opened a large static display of their ballistic missile and drone arsenal. One of the surprises unveiled at the show was a cruise missile named Quds 1 (Jerusalem 1) which the Houthis claimed to have indigenously developed.
          Noting the overall similarity in design with the Soumar, many observers claimed Iran had simply smuggled it to Yemen where the Houthis gave it a new paint job and a new name, as they had done before with the Qiam. Well, it turns out cruise missiles are a lot like wines or pictures of Joe Biden. At first they all appear to be the same but once you spend enough time on them, you realize there are quite a few differences. Differences between the Quds 1 and the Soumar include the entire booster design, the wing position, the Quds 1’s fixed wings, the shape of the nose cone, the shape of the aft fuselage, the position of the stabilizers and the shape of the engine cover and exhaust.
          The differences in the shape of the aft fuselage and the position of the stabilizers make it clear that the wreckage in the desert is much more likely to be a Quds 1 than a Soumar.
          There is yet another apparent difference between the Quds 1 and the Soumar/Hoveyzeh: size. A quick measurement using MK1 Eyeball reveals that the Quds 1 seems to be smaller in diameter than the Soumar.
          But while MK1 Eyeball works fine, measuring is always a little more objective. So let’s go back to the Saudi presentation for a second. When describing the remnants of the alleged Ya Ali that hit Abha airport, the Saudis mentioned that among the wreckage they found a jet engine named TJ-100.
          A quick search reveals that there indeed is a small turbojet engine called TJ100. The engine is produced by the Czech company PBS Aerospace which describes it as being especially suitable for applications in UAVs, one of its uses being the Spanish/Brazilian Diana target drone. Oh yeah, and you can also totally use it to convert your glider into a jet, which is pretty cool.
          When comparing the engine seen on the Quds 1 and the TJ100 it seems pretty clear that whatever powers the Quds 1 is either a TJ100 or pretty much an exact copy of it. An engine displayed at an Iranian drone exhibition again shows stunning similarities with the TJ100, implying that Iran is producing a copy of the Czech engine for use in some of its drones.
          Knowing the dimensions of the TJ100, one can precisely measure the diameter of the Quds 1. With 34cm it is significantly smaller than the Soumar, which retains the original KH-55’s diameter of 51,4cm.
          However, the Qud 1’s use of a TJ100 is interesting for more reasons than just measurements. First, the fact that the Quds 1 uses the same engine type that was found in Abha makes it highly likely that the missile that hit Abha’s terminal was a Quds-1 simply mislabeled by Saudi Arabia. The Quds 1’s design also corresponds to the rounded wing and stabilizers found at the scene.
          Second, knowing more details about the engine gives us some insights into the performance of the missile. Both the KH-55 and the Soumar use fuel efficient turbofan engines. The TJ100 however not only has much lower thrust than the original KH-55 engine but also is just your regular old turbojet. This leads to some questions about range. Both the missile’s smaller size and its more fuel-hungry engine make it seem unlikely it’s range would be anywhere close to the the Soumar’s/Hoveyzeh’s range of 1350km.


          • If the pictures showing the Quds 1 wreckage in Saudi Arabia are indeed connected to the recent Abqaiq attack, it would seem more likely that the attack originated from a place closer to Eastern Saudi Arabia than Northern Yemen – potentially Iraq, Iran or perhaps even from ships. But then again that is a big if at the current moment.

            All of this leaves the question of just who developed and built the Quds 1. The idea that impoverished war-torn Yemen would be able to develop a cruise missile without any outside assistance seems far-fetched. Iran’s previous supply of missiles to the Houthis and the fact that the country uses TJ100 engines in its drone program do imply that the Iran could be behind the Quds 1.

            However, so far we haven’t seen any trace of the Quds 1 in Iran proper. This riddle is not unique to the Quds 1. Beginning in 2018, several missile systems began to emerge in Yemen that while broadly similar to Iranian-designed systems have no exact Iranian equivalent. These missiles include the Badr-1P and the Badr-F precision-guided solid-fuel short range missiles

            Is Iran secretly designing, testing and producing missile systems for exclusive use by its proxies? We might have to wait for Tehran Timmy to show up in Sanaa or the Donald to tweet another high-res satellite pic to find the answer



              US Considering Ways To Remove B61 Nuclear Bombs From Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: US Media Click to see full-size image
              The US is allegedly looking into ways to remove 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs that it keeps in the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
              This, expectedly, is a result of the Turkish advance on Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, and the US attempts to disown responsibility for abandoning the Kurdish and being the underlying reason for the entire debacle.
              The NYT reported that officials from the Pentagon and from the US Department of Energy were looking into what exactly to do with the B61 bombs at Incirlik.
              These bombs were a serious concern in the past as well, especially in 2016 during the alleged coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
              US Considering Ways To Remove B61 Nuclear Bombs From Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: US Media Incirlik Air Base, back in 2015. Click to see full-size image
              There are also conspiracy theories that the US played a part in the failed coup, and there’ve been calls in Turkey for investigations into American military personnel and raids onto the American portions of the base to collect evidence.
              According to various estimates, there may be from 35 to 50 nuclear weapons that have been stored there since the Cold War.
              The reason for the interest in moving nuclear weapons from Turkey is commonplace – the introduction of very stringent sanctions against Turkey, both ordered by Trump and likely incoming from the US Congress, is likely to lead to the closure of Incirlik base for use by the US military.
              Furthermore, the alleged shelling near the US base near Kobani, Syria also makes US officials worry that the first country to host US nuclear weapons is actually targeting US forces indiscriminately. Regardless of how true it is.
              Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek would not answer questions about possible nuclear weapons at Incirlik and whether they would be moved in an email.
              “The mission of the 39th [Air Base Wing at Incirlik] is to provide persistent surety and continuous air operations for the U.S., our allies and our partners and helps protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based airpower,” Stefanek said.
              An unnamed senior official reportedly told the Times that the weapons “were now essentially [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan’s hostages” since removing the weapons would effectively spell the end of America’s alliance with Turkey, but keeping them there would leave them vulnerable.
              Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons there. But she speculated what would be done if anything had to be done with the bombs.
              If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James said, it would have to take “the greatest of care” in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the facilities or security necessary, James said, it would require a significant construction effort. And NATO would likely be involved.
              “Any time nuclear weapons are moved from point A to point B, it is a major logistical challenge,” James said. “The security is enormous that goes with this.”
              The topic is already being discussed in full in Turkish media in the context of the fact that Turkey will not bend and respond to sanctions harshly, including by closing the Incirlik air base for US aviation.
              During the Obama administration, the US mulled the idea of removing the nuclear bombs from Turkey, but then Ankara said that, if that were the case, then it could strive to become a nuclear power itself.
              The current cooling of relations between the US and Turkey could potentially lead to Ankara returning the acquisition of nuclear weapons of its own back on the agenda. That is more than likely why the situation of taking the B61 nuclear gravity bombs out of the country is most complicated, and it doesn’t specifically come down to technical means or the financial cost of such an operation.



                Play Video

                Syrian Kurds' Protection Deal With Assad, Explained
                The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reached a groundbreaking deal with the Assad government.
                This happened on October 13 evening after the US-led coalition expectedly abandoned their ‘local partners’ in face of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring and an ‘accident Turkish shelling’ of a US military garrison near Kobani. Turkey is a NATO member state and a key US ally in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara considers the SDF to be a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. So, it was hard to expect that the US would really fight the Turks on behalf of the Syrian Kurds.
                Units of the Syrian Army already deployed in Manbij, Tabqah, Tabqah Dam, Ain Issa and other key areas in eastern Aleppo, western al-Hasakah and southern Raqqah. Russia, which was the main mediator between the SDF and Damascus, also sent its military police to Manbij. Official details of the agreement are yet to be revealed and all the sides involved in the northeastern Syria standoff seem to have own versions of events.
                The SDF and affiliated Kurdish political organizations say that the deal with the Assad government was a least-evil solution and it was related to the defense sphere only. A political agreement still has to be reached and the sides are going to start negotiations in the coming days. SDF sources see Russia as a guarantor of the agreement and the only power that is able to prevent the further Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria. According to this version, the Syrian Army will be deployed along the Turkish border and its presence there will guarantee Syrian territorial integrity. The areas captured by the Turkish military and pro-Turkish groups will remain a zone of military actions until their liberation. They name the liberation of the Turkish-controlled region of Afrin as one of the points of the agreement. Sources close to Damascus say that the SDF will have to hand over to the government the control of oil fields on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
                In the political sphere, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the only real military political power within the SDF, will seek to get recognition of their self-proclaimed Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria by Damascus. The format of this recognition and a possible Kurdish autonomy will depend on the course of negotiations and the development of the Turkish offensive.
                The Syrian government has not released official comments on the deal with the SDF so far. The Syrian Army is also not hurrying up to start a fully-fledged war with Turkey on behalf of the SDF. In these conditions, the best strategy is to block directions of possible Turkish-led advance rather than engage the Turkish Army and Turkish proxies in an open battle. This turns the Turkish advance in northern Syrian into a race against time, whose main goal is to capture as much area as possible, while the Syrian Army has not come. The situation in Manbij is a demonstration of this approach:
                On October 14, the Syrian National Army, a coalition of Turkish-backed armed groups, officially announced the start of advance on Manbij. However, no real advance happened, because the Syrian Army and the Russians came.
                The Turkish behavior demonstrates that Anakra knows the rules of this game. On October 15, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the operation was ongoing successfully and Turkish forces ‘liberated’ 1,000km2. Erdogan added that his country aims to clear northern Syria of ‘terrorists’ (i.e. Kurdish armed groups) stretching from Manbij to the Iraqi-Turkish border. Nonetheless, this is just an official rhetoric that should not fully comply with the real actions. Turkey will likely gain control of the area between Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, and the M4 highway south of these towns. What really matters is who will get control of the city of Ayn al-Arab (Kobani). In the current conditions, Ayn al-Arab is the only area, where clashes between the Syrian Army and Turkish-led forces can start if they reach it simultaneously. The fate of the town will likely be determined by some kind of behind the scenes deal among Ankara, Moscow and Damascus. At the same time, all the sides will continue to employ their formal rhetoric as if such a deal has never existed.
                In own turn, US President Donald Trump used the Turkish operation to deliver his repeatedly delayed promise to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country, at least formally. US forces indeed abandoned their military garrisons in northern Syria about 1,000 personnel are withdrawing. However, the reduced contingent of about 150 troops will remain in place in the al-Tanf area as a part of Trump’s anti-Iranian strategy in the region. The US does not want the Damascus-Baghdad highway to be used by Iran to supply its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Additionally, the US-Israeli bloc uses the al-Tanf base to project its power on the Syrian-Iraqi border and monitor supposed Iranian operations in the area.
                Another factor behind the US move is the need to improve its relations with Turkey. US military support to Kurdish armed groups in Syria used to be a factor of constant tension in the relations between Washington and Ankara. Now, it is removed. A new round of anti-Turkish sanctions announced by President Trump is mostly a formal move aimed at the US internal audience.
                Meanwhile, the United States and Russia blocked attempts of the UN Security Council to condemn Turkey’s military action in northeastern Syria. If this was really a part of some unpublicized coordination, key powers involved in the conflict may be on the edge of reaching a long-expected wide political deal on settling the conflict in Syria


                • turks are worried of the US shifting its bases to Greece. Will the new NATO border be Greece? I do not not like the fact turkey is shifting to the Russian sphere.

                  Google Translated.

                  "The US military continues to turn Greece into a giant military base. The Pentagon recently deployed an air combat brigade to the country's city of Volos. The US military sent 1700 troops, 50 UH-60 and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 10 CH-47 Chinooks, 20 AH-64 Apache helicopters and more than two thousand wheeled vehicles to the Stefanovikio base."


                  • Ադրբեջանական զորքը ներխուժել է Վրաստան. ելք չկա

                    ՀԱԿՈԲ ԲԱԴԱԼՅԱՆ, Մեկնաբան

                    Բաց աղբյուրների վրա հիմնված Bellingcat հետաքննական կայքը արբանյակային լուսանկարների ուղեկցությամբ հրապարակել է տեղեկատվություն, ըստ որի Ադրբեջանի սահմանապահ զորքը դիրքեր է զբաղեցրել Վրաստանի տարածքում, առաջ շարժվելով մոտ 200 հեկտար: Ըստ տեղեկության, Ադրբեջանի սահմանապահները՝ որոնց ռազմատեխնիկական հագեցածությունը գործնականում չի տարբերվում ցամաքային զինուժից, դիրքեր են տեղակայել Վրաստանի Քվեմո-Քարթլիի շրջանում:
                    Ադրբեջանը Վրաստանի հարավ-արեւելյան տարածքների հանդեպ հավակնությունը արդեն ամիսներ շարունակ արտահայտում է բաց տեքստով: Դա իհարկե անում են ոչ թե պաշտոնյաները, այլ պատմաբանները՝ Ադրբեջանի ԳԱԱ անդամները: Սակայն, նաեւ մի հատկանշական հանգամանք կա: Օրերս պաշտոնից հեռացել է Ադրբեջանի ամենաազդեցիկ գործիչներից մեկը՝ Հիքմեթ Հաջիեւը, որը հայր Ալիեւի ժամանակից գտնվում էր այդ պաշտոնին: նախագահի աշխատակազմի ղեկավարի պաշտոնը թողնելուց հետո Հաջիեւը դարձել է Ադրբեջանի Գիտությունների ազգային ակադեմիայի նախագահ: Դա վկայում է, որ պատմաբանները պարզապես արտահայտել են պաշտոնական Բաքվի ռազմավարությունը:
                    Միեւնույն ժամանակ, արդեն պաշտոնապես Վրաստանի հանդեպ դե ֆակտո սպառնալիք հնչեցրել է Անկարան, որտեղ օրերս ընդունել էին Վրաստանի վարչապետ Գեորգի Գախարիային: Թուրքիայի նախագահ Էրդողանն ասել է, որ Վրաստանը Թուրքիան եղբայրների հետ կապող կամուրջ է եւ իրականացնում է նրանց հետ նախագծեր, որոնք կարեւոր են կայունության համար: Էրդողանը Վրաստանի վարչապետին փաստացի սպառնացել է, որ Թուրքիայի եւ Ադրբեջանի միջեւ «խելոք կամրջի» դերը չկատարելու պարագայում Վրաստանը կունենա խնդիրներ: Իհարկե, Էրդողանը չի ասել, որ Վրաստանն այդ իմաստով դիտարկում են ժամանակավոր կամուրջ, քանի որ Ադրբեջանն ու Թուրքիան իրենց ռազմավարական տեսլականում անկասկած այդ կամրջի երկու ծայրերից շարժվելու են միմյանց ընդառաջ: Ադրբեջանի սահմանապահները Քվեմո Քարթլիից սկսել են դա:
                    Մի քանի օր առաջ էլ Թուրքիայի ու Ադրբեջանի նախագահները Բաքվում տեղի ունեցած Թյուրքալեզու պետությունների Վեհաժողովում հայտարարում էինբ պանթուրքիստական ապագայի մասին: Նրանք այդ ապագայի արգելք դիտարկում են ոչ միայն Հայաստանը, այլ ոչ պակաս նաեւ Վրաստանը:
                    Հայաստանի հարցում կա ռազմա-քաղաքական կարծր դիմադրություն, մի շարք գործոններով ուղեկցվող, իսկ Վրաստանի պարագայում Թուրքիան ու Ադրբեջանը կարծես թե չեն հանդիպում դիմադրության, եւ դրա վկայությունն է այն, որ ադրբեջանցի սահմանապահները Վրաստանի տարածք են խորանում առանց արգելքի եւ պաշտոնական դիմադրության:
                    Թբիլիսին անշուշտ այդ իմաստով գտնվում է երկու քարի արանքում: Երբ նա դիմադրում է Բաքվին ու Անկարային, ընկնում է Մոսկվային դիմադրելու կարողությունը, եւ հակառակը: Դրա վառ վկայությունն էր ամռանը հակառուսական ալիքի հանկարծակի բռնկումը այն ժամանակ, երբ Ադրբեջանը ագրեսիա էր դրսեւորել Դավիթ Գարեջիի վանական համալիրի նկատմամբ:
                    Արեւմուտքն այդ հարցում Թբիլիսիին կարծես թե չի ցուցաբերում ուղիղ եւ անմիջական օժանդակություն, ինչը Վարդերի հեղափոխությունից ի վեր ակնկալում է Թբիլիսին ու գործնականում չի ստանում իր ակնկալիքի չափով: Դա հուշում է, որ ռեգիոնալ անվտանգության համակարգի համատեքստում Վրաստանի հարցը բաց է: Արեւմուտքը հրաժարվում է Վրաստանի ամբողջական խնամակալության տարբերակից, համարելով, որ Թբիլիսին ինքը պետք է ձեւավորի իր անվտանգության միջավայրն ու Արեւմուտքին ներկայանա ոչ թե որպես անվտանգության սպառող, այլ մասնակից, ձեւավորող:
                    Արեւմուտքն այդ հարցում ապահովել է իր համար կարեւորն ու նվազագույնը՝ Վրաստանի հարցում առանց իրեն չի ստացվի ոչինչ: Թբիլիսիին չեն թողնում Ռուսաստանի հետ պայմանավորվելու այլընտրանք: Բայց այստեղ փոխշահավետ աշխատելու գործնականում միակ տարբերակը մնում է Ռուսաստանի հետ հարաբերության խորքային առողջացման գործընթաց սկսած Հայաստանը:


                    • Ռեգիոնում տեղի են ունենում շրջադարձային վերափոխումներ, դրանք չեն կարող չառնչվել ՀՀ-ին․Հակոբ Բադալյան

                      [COLOR=var(--yt-spec-text-secondary)]9 jan. 2020[/COLOR]