Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chinese Military Reform in the Age of Xi Jinping

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has embarked on its most wide-ranging and ambitious restructuring since 1949, including major changes to most of its key organizations.
The restructuring will also reduce the size of the PLA by 300,000 soldiers, cutting the ground forces and increasing the size of the navy and air force. The restructuring reflects the desire to strengthen PLA joint operations capabilities—on land, at sea, in the air, and in the space and cyber domains.
The reforms could result in a more adept joint warfighting force, though the PLA will continue to face a number of key hurdles to effective joint operations.
Several potential actions would indicate that the PLA is overcoming obstacles to a stronger joint operations capability.
The reforms are also intended to increase Chairman Xi Jinping’s control over the PLA and to reinvigorate Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organs within the military.
Xi Jinping’s ability to push through the reforms indicates that he has more authority over the PLA than his recent predecessors.
The restructuring could create new opportunities for U.S.-China military contacts.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

The Mexican DTOs are the major wholesalers of illegal drugs in the United States and are increasingly gaining control of U.S. retail-level distribution. This report examines how the organized crime landscape has been significantly altered by fragmentation and how the organizational shape-shifting continues.

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The Greek Debt Crisis

Since 2009, Greece has grappled with a serious debt crisis. Most economists believe that Greece’s public debt, 180% of Greek gross domestic product (GDP), is unsustainable. The ramifications of the debt have been felt throughout the Greek economy, which contracted by 25% from its pre-crisis level. A fifth of Greeks are unemployed, with youth unemployment at nearly 50%, and the Greek banking system is unstable. Although other Eurozone governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank coordinated a substantial crisis response, Greece continues to face serious economic challenges.

The economic crisis in Greece is also one of several major challenges currently facing the 28-member European Union (EU) that have heightened concerns about the legitimacy and structure of the EU and its institutions and raised questions about the bloc’s future shape and character. Acrimonious debates among European leaders about the appropriate response to the Greek crisis and other challenges have heightened political tensions in Europe that could negatively affect the EU over the longer term. In particular, the crisis in Greece has exposed problems with the institutional architecture of the Eurozone, whose member states share a common currency and monetary policy, but retain national control over fiscal and banking policies.

Recent Developments and Outlook

In the short-term, attention is focused on whether the Greek government can make 6.3 billion (about $6.7 billion) in debt payments falling due in July. The Greek government and European creditors are in negotiations to unlock disbursements of financial assistance to the Greek government that would allow it to make the July repayments. If an agreement cannot be reached, Greece may again default on its debt.

A key issue in current negotiations is the role of the IMF. The IMF did not participate in the third rescue package for Greece, but left open the possibility of doing so at a later date. The IMF is pushing the Greek government to implement pension and tax reforms and pushing European creditors to grant debt relief to Greece.

After seven years through the crisis, how the crisis will ultimately be resolved remains unclear. Possible scenarios could include (1) Europeans continue to “muddle through” the crisis, providing financial assistance to Greece in exchange for reforms, while keeping Eurozone membership in tact; (2) Europeans provide greater flexibility to Greece on debt relief and reforms, allowing Greece to grow out of the crisis while maintaining membership in the Eurozone; or (3) an eventual splintering of the Eurozone, with Greece choosing or being forced to leave the euro in favor of a national currency (“Grexit”).

Issues for Congress

Impact on the U.S. Economy: Although direct U.S. exposure to Greece is limited, Europe as a whole is a major economic partner of the United States. The pace of economic recovery in the Eurozone and in Greece is expected to pick up, albeit at a still relatively low rate, but should ease some of the pressure on financial stability and on the dollar.

IMF Involvement: Some analysts criticize IMF involvement in Greece, particularly extending large loans when questions surrounded the sustainability of Greek debt. Other analysts argue that IMF programs in Greece were critical for stemming contagion and ensuring stability in the global economy.

U.S.-European Cooperation: The United States looks to Europe for partnership in addressing a range of global challenges. Political tensions in Europe and a focus on the Greek crisis could prevent the EU from focusing more intently on other key U.S.-European policy priorities, such as deterring Russian aggression in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and responding to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

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American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics

This report provides U.S. war casualty statistics. It includes data tables containing the number of casualties among American military personnel who served in principal wars and combat operations from 1775 to the present. It also includes data on those wounded in action and information such as race and ethnicity, gender, branch of service, and cause of death. The tables are compiled from various Department of Defense (DOD) sources.

Wars covered include the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Military operations covered include the Iranian Hostage Rescue Mission; Lebanon Peacekeeping; Urgent Fury in Grenada; Just Cause in Panama; Desert Shield and Desert Storm; Restore Hope in Somalia; Uphold Democracy in Haiti; Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF); Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF); Operation New Dawn (OND); Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR); and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS).

Starting with the Korean War and the more recent conflicts, this report includes additional detailed information on types of casualties and, when available, demographics. It also cites a number of resources for further information, including sources of historical statistics on active duty military deaths, published lists of military personnel killed in combat actions, data on demographic indicators among U.S. military personnel, related websites, and relevant Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports.

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Iran's Nuclear Program: Status

The United States has assessed that Tehran has technological and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons, but has not yet mastered all of the necessary technologies for building such weapons. Whether Iran has a viable design for a nuclear weapon is unclear. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress in February 2016 that “[w]e do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors Iran’s nuclear facilities and has verified that Tehran’s declared nuclear facilities and materials have not been diverted for military purposes. The agency has also verified that Iran has implemented various restrictions on, and provided the IAEA with additional information about, its uranium enrichment program and heavy-water reactor program pursuant to the July 2015 Joint Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Tehran concluded with the P5+1.

On the JCPOA’s Implementation Day, which took place on January 16, 2016, all of the previous Security Council resolutions’ requirements were terminated. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Council adopted on July 20, 2015, comprise the current legal framework governing Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has complied with the JCPOA and resolution.

Then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman explained during an October 2013 hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that Iran would need as much as one year to produce a nuclear weapon if the government made the decision to do so. At the time, Tehran would have needed two to three months of this time to produce enough weapons-grade HEU for a nuclear weapon. Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA has lengthened this time to one year, according to Clapper’s February 2016 testimony. These estimates apparently assume that Iran would use its declared nuclear facilities to produce fissile material for a weapon. However, Tehran would probably use covert facilities for this purpose; Iranian efforts to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons by using its known nuclear facilities would almost certainly be detected by the IAEA.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Social Media - The Vital Ground: Can We Hold It?

The impact of social media on the media environment has been widely recognized; as has the ability of extremist and adversarial organizations to exploit social media to publicize their cause, spread their propaganda, and recruit vulnerable individuals. Supporting the growth of social media has been the phenomenal global increase in mobile telephone usage, and much of this increase is in areas where there are existing conflicts or conflicts are highly likely.

These combined revolutions will increasingly have a direct impact on virtually all aspects of military operations in the 21st century. In doing so, social media will force significant changes to policy, doctrine, and force structures. This Letort Paper explores the implications of social media for the U.S. Army.

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Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

As 2017 began, Cyprus entered its 53rd year as a politically separated nation and its 43rd year as a physically divided country.

Long under the auspices of the United Nations, unification talks progressed from a period of stalemate, suspension, missed opportunities, and general pessimism beginning in 2012 to a period of new energy and an atmosphere of “high but cautious optimism” by the end of 2016. This optimism was due to the apparent personal relationship between Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, leader of the Turkish Cypriots, and their commitment to achieving a settlement.

A flurry of intense negotiations between December 2016 and January 2017 in Geneva led many observers to note that the two Cypriot leaders appeared to have come closer to reaching a settlement. For the first time formal discussions took place on the sensitive issues of territory, including the presentation of maps noting territorial adjustments, and security. The Geneva talks also were historic because on January 12, 2017, a five-party conference was convened with the participation of the guarantor powers, Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey. For the first time, Turkey engaged in a dialogue with representatives of the Republic of Cyprus (which Ankara does not recognize). The European Union (EU) also participated in the meetings for the first time.

However, the Geneva negotiations ended over a dispute on an extraneous issue and because neither side appeared ready to make necessary concessions on security. Some also believed that the breakdown was due to the fact that Ankara could not seriously negotiate on security guarantees and troop withdrawals until after a mid-April vote on a constitutional referendum in Turkey.

After Geneva, talks between Anastasiades and Akinci resumed but quickly broke down in February 2017, when the Greek Cypriot legislature passed a bill instructing schools to remember a 1950 Greek Cypriot-led referendum on enosis (the union of Cyprus with Greece). The Turkish Cypriots reacted with outrage, and negotiations were suspended. On April 11, 2017, after eight weeks, both sides agreed to resume the talks and scheduled additional meetings into May.

With the referendum vote in Turkey concluded, time has again become an important factor in the negotiations. First, it is unclear where the Cyprus negotiations fall on Ankara’s priority list as the Turkish leadership begins to implement the provisions of the newly amended constitution. Some believe the positive outcome of the vote, which will strengthen the Turkish presidency, will harden Ankara’s positions on Cyprus. Others say the fact that the majority of Turkish voters in north Cyprus voted “no” to the changes may lessen Ankara’s interest in Cyprus for a while. Second, a proposed new round of hydrocarbon drilling approved by the republic could begin in July. This possibility has already provoked protests from Akinci and warnings from Ankara. Finally, the start of the upcoming presidential elections campaign in the republic for an early 2018 vote will soon be well under way, making any concessions by Anastasiades toward a settlement of the Cyprus issue more controversial.

The United States has long maintained interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue. Internal developments in Turkey, the continued threat from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the growing prospects that the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, can play an important role in regional energy development and supply have added to the urgency to achieve a solution. The Trump Administration has pledged continued support for the negotiations with the goal of a settlement. However, the level of active engagement by the United States in the early part of the new Administration has not yet been as high as the level of U.S. engagement in 2016.

This report provides a brief overview of the history of the negotiations and a description of some of the issues involved in those talks.

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