Sunday, February 28, 2021


 News outlets report that this past Sunday, Iran signed an interim deal with the IAEA also known as the International Atomic Energy Agency, giving them access to observe nuclear activity in Tehran for only 3 months. To prevent any negative effects of this decision, Director- General of the IAEA Rafael Grossi agreed to a temporary deal with Tehran, limiting the access of IAEA inspectors to nuclear facilities but the number of inspectors will remain the same. Grossi states that “this is not a replacement for what we used to have. This is a temporary solution that allows us to continue to give the world assurances of what is going on there, in the hope that we can return to a fuller picture."

This will eventually lead to Tehran and the Biden administration meeting to discuss nuclear operations. This interim deal came after last week as an immediate response to Iran announcing that it would stop enforcing any additional protocol. This protocol can be found in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)- and the aim was to put a limit on Iran’s nuclear program by conducting inspections and it gave the IAEA access to anywhere in Iran in exchange for reducing the sanctions against them despite Iran saying that they do not intend to do harm with their nuclear program.

The current US President Joe Biden wants to have meetings with Tehran to discuss Iran’s nuclear deal in order to reestablish compliance, but I am doubtful that Iran will agree to backing down on their nuclear program after years of compliance and the fact that the US has a history of not holding its end of an agreement.

by Shalom Simon-Okube


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Special Ops & War Crimes

In January of this year, the Inspector General’s Office from the Department of Defense issued a memo saying an inquiry had been submitted to investigate whether  U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) were in line with the Pentagon’s “law of war program”. Essentially, the Inspector General’s Office wants to conduct an investigation to ensure CENTOM and SOCOM have not engaged in or enabled any war violations under code of U.S. military conduct. The trouble with investigating potential war crimes committed by the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF), is that investigations are typically overseen by JSOC; very rarely are cases taken on by Navy investigators. If JSOC is overseeing Seal Team 6 operations, which are highly classified clandestine missions, it is fair to say Senior Navy officials may have doubts in JSOC finding any wrongdoing. The issue of JSOC oversight paired with maintaining highly sensitive mission material from Special Ops teams, access to case information like civilian casualties becomes unattainable. 

Should there be more oversight with Special Ops, this could hinder the effectiveness of the teams. Former members of Seal Team 6 had said that their teams, while potentially over-utilized at times, thrive when given flexibility and cover under shadow. Many Pentagon officials see clandestine operations as better to free from scrutiny. If the SOF need the ability to operate with little oversight in order to retain flexibility, so be it. Others in the DOD disagree. 

With regards to the current investigation underway, the Inspector General’s Office will focus the evaluation on operations in Afghanistan. Everything under CENTCOM is under scrutiny for the investigation, although Defense officials have said the investigation should not be a confirmation that any war crimes were officially committed. Some speculation has risen if the investigation is in response to servicemen recently pardoned by former President Donald Trump. The individuals pardoned were servicemen accused of killing of civilians and drug use, among other crimes. 

With the IGO’s investigation underway, President Biden may be signaling a move towards accountability in military operations, attempting to distance himself from President Trump’s rhetoric and attitudes towards military conduct. While Biden himself is now under scrutiny for his administration’s bombing in Syria, a shift towards accountability may have its merits. The necessity for SOF to operate loosely and discretely will however hinder the likelihood of finding any evidence of wrongdoing. During the remainder of the IGO’s investigation, CENTOM and SOCOM must remember that while the Special Forces are a useful tool for the U.S. military in precise delicate matters, oversight is still required.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

India and Pakistan - Ceasefire and Counterinsurgency

On February 25th, 2021 India and Pakistan announced a joint statement agreeing to a ceasefire along the de facto border of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. This development comes on the tail of de-escalation measures agreed to by India and China along their respective disputed border in northeast Kashmir earlier in the month. 

        The last such agreement, made in 2003, began to visibly deteriorate around 2008 when Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, committed a series of deadly terrorist bombings in Mumbai. Escalation of tension between India and Pakistan as terrorist attacks occur has led to increases in skirmishes along the disputed Kashmir border, known as the Line of Control: a hotbed of low-grade conflict since the United Kingdom divested itself of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. In 2019, tensions culminated in the first aerial dogfight in 48 years between Indian and Pakistani forces after India bombed Pakistani territory in response to another terrorist attack. Pakistan’s capture of an Indian pilot following this incident brought the two countries to the brink of open warfare--an untenable option for two nuclear powers. Pakistan released the pilot in a bid to de-escalate tensions just days afterward, but diplomatic relations between the two nations remained antagonistic with 5,133 ceasefire violations in Kashmir in 2020 alone.

        The importance of this recent agreement as a signal of mutual willingness to avoid perpetuating the catastrophic tit-for-tat spiral of recent years is hard to understate, but likely does not indicate a shift in India’s defense posture toward Pakistan or vice-versa. Both countries will retain conventional forces in situ and Indian officials maintain the "right to respond” to terrorist attacks, alluding to past operations involving Pakistani territory. India remains suspicious of state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan, and cooperation on counterterrorism efforts between the two are precluded by the presence of pro-Pakistan insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir, which are often connected to terrorist attacks in India. 

         Past experience suggests that, while promising, any drastic changes in Indian-Pakistani relations remain unlikely. This newest ceasefire will, at best, modestly reduce the number of ceasefire violations from the previous year, but will also struggle to be effectively implemented. India's aggressive counterinsurgency strategy risks spillover into Pakistani territory on top of recent domestic policies that will further alienate Muslim and minority representation in Jammu and Kashmir according to UN human rights experts. Despite rebuffs from the Indian government questioning the criticism and citing India's sovereignty over the region, the ramifications of these actions may further intensify support for separatist groups and negatively impact prospects for de-escalation between India and Pakistan.

        It remains to be seen how successful enforcement of the new ceasefire with Pakistan will be despite the history of India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir. The alternative of open conflict presents unacceptable costs to both parties. What is clear is that, although the appetite of both nations for conflict is on the wane, Pakistan and India's choice of action on Jammu and Kashmir has troubling implications for achieving lasting peace.

Stress at Play in Special Operations Units

It is clear that soldiers that operate under special operations units have to be the best of the best. For purposes of this blog post, there will be a focus on Navy SEALs. On a physical level, these soldiers must be able to withstand physical challenges that would be impossible for most common people, but on a psychological level, these troops must also be exceptional. 

Mental toughness is one of the phrases that is often thrown around when referring to Navy SEALs, and the truth is that they in fact react differently to circumstances. For instance, Veterans Affairs carried out a study that evaluated the reaction of Navy SEALs to stress. One of the effects of stress on people is anxiety prior to the actual event that is causing the stress, such as, an exam. The results of the study demonstrated how these elite soldiers managed stress differently than a regular person or soldier would. The brain areas that would raise levels of anxiety did not operate as they would for a regular soldier. This allows Navy SEALs to keep their emotions in check even under the worst scenarios of combat for sharper decision-making and therefore more effectiveness as a soldier.

Nevertheless, another way in which soldiers may acquire this trait is through experience. When a soldier has undergone these stressful situations of combat, the soldier becomes accustomed and the anxiety prior to the event is better controlled. Experience compounded on top of a Navy SEALs training would ultimately deliver the best results for stress management, therefore, resulting in a better soldier in the process.

For context, on the other side of the spectrum, soldiers that experience PTSD would react in the opposite way. High-stress levels would cloud the subject’s judgment and jeopardize his decision-making even before experiencing the potential situation as the anxiety experienced would be enough to decrease the effectiveness of said soldier under circumstances of combat. That being said, Navy SEALs are not immune to PTSD, depicting the urgency of diagnosing soldiers across all branches for the soldiers’ health and effectiveness of the armed forces.

Stress is only one of the several psychological factors at play when facing combat. However, stress management is one of the ways in which Navy SEALs surpass regular soldiers on the battlefield.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Are Supersonic missiles in Our Best Interest?


It is the goal of any society to continue to grow and adapt with the times. For the arms race this bring hypersonic missiles into the picture, which is being widely discussed among scientists and politicians around the world. The topic of discussion being the development of hypersonic missiles and if through the exploration start the next arms race. Tom Mahnken, president of the respected Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), has been urging on the side of caution when getting overly excited. As there is not enough information currently to properly give the pros and cons of these missiles being developed. Hypersonic missiles are created when we combine the speed of ballistic missiles coupled with the maneuvering capabilities of cruise missiles.

             The discussion has caused controversy within the DOD over the study released by Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which criticized the “effectiveness of hypersonic missiles”. The study contained a poll, which consisted of mainly DOD officials, that laid out four viewpoints ranging across the political sphere. The viewpoints were simple, first, there is the viewpoint of getting ahead. This of course would urge us to, by any means possible, advance our technology with regards to hypersonic technology. A second viewpoint says that the country should be on the defensive and advance the technology to protect against the usage of them from other countries. Third, is the idea of “draw the line” between what will be tolerated and will not be. Which means that we should be able to advance the technology but be mindful not to cross boundaries that prevent certain weapons to be created. Lastly. There is the view that weapons, such as the Avangard, should not be created. Rather, we should be able to stick with what we have and prevent possible catastrophe. Avangard being the Russian hypersonic glide vehicle that is said to be fully functional and have been tested several times.

            With the advancements in science continuing, it stands within reason that countries would address questions of if this type of technology should be invested in. It seen back when scientists were working on the Atomic Bomb when there debates on whether nuclear arms should continue in the trajectory they are. This brings into play questions of morality and the amount human life they are willing to give up.

Which side of the fence are you on?

Where do you see the exploration hypersonic technology leading us?