Posts Tagged ‘Persian Gulf’

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Prepared To Stop Hormuz Oil Exports After U.S. Threat

July 5, 2018
Strait of Hormuz is a chokepoint for 30% of global oil exports — U.S. wants Iran’s oil revenue to be zero: Brian Hook

Iran will stop oil exports from the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, if the U.S. succeeds in halting crude sales from the Persian Gulf nation, according to a Revolutionary Guards official.

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“Any hostile attempt by the U.S. will be followed by an exorbitant cost for them,” said Esmail Kowsari, deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran, according to the Young Journalists Club, affiliated with Iran’s national broadcaster. “If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz.”

The Strait of Hormuz is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the world’s biggest concentration of tankers that carry about 30 percent of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids during the year. President Donald Trump decided in May to back out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, with sanctions set to be renewed in November. The U.S. threats come amid rising tensions, pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations who maintain close ties with Trump.

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Esmail Kowsari

Kowsari comments follow remarks by Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, who said Monday that the U.S.’s “goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales.”

The U.S.’s threat recently to prevent Iranian oil exports “called for a swift and smart stance” from Iran, Kowsari said, praising Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reaction on Tuesday who said “it’s an incorrect belief that all oil producers would be able to export and Iran would be the only country unable to export oil.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-05/iran-guards-says-can-stop-hormuz-oil-exports-after-u-s-threat

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Europe Is Feeling Trumped

May 22, 2018

No American president has ever been as widely loathed among Europe’s political class as Donald Trump. But the Continent knows it still needs America.

President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, April 27.
President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, April 27. PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTE/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

London

The trans-Atlantic relationship is in trouble. No American president has ever been as widely loathed among Europe’s political class as Donald Trump. And not since the era of Freedom Fries and Axis of Weasels have so many European countries, this time including Britain, been spoiling for a fight with the U.S.

To the Europeans, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal and impose sanctions on European companies that trade with Iran is a profound betrayal. As they see it, the U.S. made a solemn commitment to observe the deal after European countries entered into it in good faith. Harming European commerce with Iran to serve American interests is the act of a bully and an overlord, not of an ally and friend.

The Trump administration’s apparent indifference to European concerns boils the blood of even the most placid of Eurocrats. Europe is now actively looking for ways to inflict pain on the Trump administration in the short term, and in the long term to ensure its increasing independence from the U.S.

From the White House, things look very different. The Iran deal was not a legally binding instrument but the result of President Obama’s overreaching freelance diplomacy—as if Woodrow Wilson, counting the votes against the Treaty of Versailles, unilaterally committed the U.S. to join the League of Nations. The Europeans should have checked the relevant clauses in the American Constitution, assessed the state of congressional sentiment, and realized that Mr. Obama simply lacked the authority, political or constitutional, to commit the country permanently to such an agreement.

For the Trump administration, the Iran decision was not about deserting allies or overruling their wishes. Mr. Trump’s Middle East policies, after all, are quite popular with most of America’s Middle East allies. The Gulf Arabs and Israel felt betrayed by the Obama administration’s pivot to Iran; they are thrilled about the American change of course. The question isn’t whether the U.S. should stand by its allies but whether the Middle East policy preferences of America’s European allies should be imposed on those allies that actually live in the region.

The suggestion that their wishes must be weighed against those of the Gulf Arabs and Israel is humiliating to European policy makers. Most European governments do not regard these postcolonial Arab monarchies and Zionist upstarts as anything near their equals. For a U.S. administration to take that view is a slap in the face.

But preventing a single power from dominating the oil resources and transportation routes around the Persian Gulf has been a central objective of American policy since the Truman administration. Iran is currently the largest, indeed the only, significant threat to these vital interests. The maintenance of the U.S. power upon which America’s European allies rely, the administration believes, depends on blocking Iran’s drive for regional primacy. From this perspective, it seems arrogant of European countries to so casually brush aside the claims of longtime U.S. partners like Israel and the Gulf Arab states, and ridiculous of Europe to demand a veto power over actions the American government believes are necessary to the preservation of the global system.

These strategic arguments cut no ice with Europeans, largely because Europe has lost all faith in the strategic coherence of the Trump administration. Most European policy makers believe the Trump administration is too impulsive and divided to develop a workable Iran strategy. They see its exit from the Iran deal as an irrational and self-defeating outburst of rage, not part of a coherent regional plan. The Trump administration, for its part, thinks Europe’s position is driven more by a short-term hunger for export markets in Iran than by any workable strategy for a stable Middle East.

Despite these troubles, Europe and the U.S. still need each other. Europeans, including Germans, can sound almost Trumpian when they criticize Chinese mercantilism, which they share with the U.S. an interest in countering. The deep economic integration between Europe and the U.S. helps underwrite global prosperity. Intelligence cooperation against jihadist criminals is, if anything, more important to Europe than to the U.S. And a host of external threats, from Russian revanchism to uncontrollable refugee flows in the Middle East and Africa, continue to remind Europe of its need for friendly allies.

The problems in the relationship are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. Mr. Trump will go on being Trumpian, and Europe will go on being European. One important test of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his new job will be whether he can protect essential U.S.-European cooperation from the political turbulence ahead.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-is-feeling-trumped-1526942156

Iran: Commander Threatens To Sink US Ships, Create “Catastrophic Situation” If Trump Kills Deal

April 27, 2018

President Donald Trump offered some of his most bellicose rhetoric yet about Iran on Tuesday when he said Iran would have “bigger problems than they have ever had before” if the country’s leadership dared to restart its nuclear program following a US pull-out of the JCPOA (otherwise known as the Iran deal), per the Times of Israel.

 Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

And today, a top Iranian general hit back at Trump with an aggressive threat to sink US Navy ships, while warning that the US would find itself in a “catastrophic situation” if it withdraws from the deal and reimposes economic sanctions.

“The actual information that the Americans have about us is much less than what they think they have. When will they figure this out? When it is too late,” the Revolutionary Guard Corps’s navy commander, Admiral Ali Fadavim, told Iranian television on Saturday.

“They will definitely figure it out when their ships are sunk, or when they find themselves in a catastrophic situation,” Fadavi threatened in an interview with IRINN TV, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

On Wednesday, a non-proliferation envoy confirmed that the US isn’t seeking to renegotiate the JCPOA. Instead, the White House would like to pursue a separate agreement like the one French President Emmanuel Macron proposed during a press conference with Trump. And apparently, Macron’s proposal took his European partners by surprise.

Admiral Fadavim’s remarks followed a similarly stern warning from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reiterated over the weekend his warning that Tehran was ready to swiftly resume uranium enrichment if the US ditches the accord.

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned that Iran would consider withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the US reimposes sanctions.

Of course, by leaving both the Iran deal and the NPT, Iran would only lend credence to its adversaries’ claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build a nuclear weapon – an accusation Iran has long denied. The White House has set a self-imposed deadline of May 12 for deciding whether to pull out of the deal.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-25/iranian-naval-commander-threatens-sink-us-ships-create-catastrophic-situation-if

Times of Israel:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/irans-navy-commander-threatens-to-sink-us-ships/

Gulf Shield-1: 23 countries take part in Gulf military drills in Saudi Arabia

April 1, 2018

The Gulf Shield 1 drill is a turning point in terms of the techniques used in accordance with the most modern military systems in the world.
RIYADH: A massive military exercise to support security, stability and cooperation in the region begins on Sunday when the Joint Gulf Shield-1 drill gets underway after leaders of the participating forces completed the command center exercises.
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“The field exercise lasts for four consecutive days,” said the spokesman for the Joint Gulf Shield 1, Brig. Gen. Al-Subaie, a live-fire exercise involving participating countries’ forces (ground, air, naval, air defense and special forces).
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Al-Subaie said the exercise aims to raise the competencies of the participating forces to face the challenges and threats within a joint operation environment, in order to achieve the concept of joint action, where many modern and sophisticated weapons are used.
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The Gulf Shield 1 drill, organized by the Ministry of Defense in Saudi Arabia, is attended by 23 brotherly countries. Last week, one of the largest military action plans in the world concentrated on field training.
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The Gulf Shield 1 drill is a turning point in terms of the techniques used in accordance with the most modern military systems in the world.
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Tens of thousands of soldiers have arrived in the Kingdom to join the military exercise, which is considered the largest in the region in terms of the number of participating countries and the equipment used.
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Various activities involving joint operational planning, training, demonstrations, seminars on professional topics, and cultural events will be conducted in the harbor phase of the exercise, with the aim of mutually benefiting the participants and generating goodwill.
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Irregular warfare, coastal defense, combat search and rescue, naval warfare exercises and extensive flying operations will also be conducted during the sea phase of the exercise.
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Observers from various participating countries will board Pakistan Navy ships during the sea phase. Warships from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the UAE and US will also participate.
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Pakistan is the leading contributor to Joint Gulf Shield-1, both in terms of personnel and assets, which is reflective of the strong bilateral defense relations between Islamabad and Riyadh.
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According to strategic experts, the month-long military drill in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is important for preparing to address any causes of instability and threats to the region.
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The exercise reflects the conviction of these countries that joint cooperation on the basis of integrated military understanding and coordination, both regionally and globally, is the cornerstone of confronting the threats and dangers that face the world.

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Report: Israeli stealth fighters fly over Iran undetected

March 30, 2018
F35 Adir fighter jet
Two IAF F-35 Adir fighter jets entered Iranian airspace undetected, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
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Two Israeli F-35 fighter jets entered Iranian airspace over the past month, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Thursday. The act is a signal of heightened regional tensions, especially in light of recent Israeli military attacks in Syria, including against Iranian bases in the country.
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Sources quoted in Al-Jarida stated that two stealth fighters flew over Syrian and Iraqi airspace to reach Iran, and even targeted locations in the Iranian cities Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz.

The report states that the two fighter jets, among the most advanced in the world, circled at high altitude above Persian Gulf sites suspected of being associated with the Iranian nuclear program.

It also states that the two jets went undetected by radar, including by the Russian radar system located in Syria. The source refused to confirm if the operation was undertaken in coordination with the US army, which has recently conducted joint exercises with the IDF.

The source added that the seven F-35 fighters in active service in the IAF have conducted a number of missions in Syria and on the Lebanese-Syrian border. He underlined that the fighter jets can travel from Israel to Iran twice without refueling.

Israel has admitted to launching about 100 air strikes on Syria over the past five years, targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapons convoys and infrastructure, and it is believed to be behind dozens more.

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On March 21, the IDF cleared for publication that Israel was behind the 2007 destruction of a nuclear reactor that was under construction in northern Syria.

In February, Israeli F-16 fighter jets entered Syrian airspace, striking 12 Iranian targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone that was shot down over Israel. Two Israeli crew members were wounded when they ejected from their jet before it crashed, which was later determined to be caused by pilot error.

In response to the Iranian drone, a senior Israeli official warned that Israel will react with force to Iran’s efforts to entrench itself further in Syria.

“…the Iranians are determined to continue to establish themselves in Syria, and the next incident is only a matter of time,” he said, warning that Israel does not rule out that that the Islamic Republic will continue to try to attack Israel.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report

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Fugitive Bahrain militants die at sea en route to Iran — Fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran are “lost at sea”

February 22, 2018

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Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Three suspected Bahraini militants wanted on terrorism charges died at sea in unexplained circumstances this month and another is missing, activists said, after they appear to have fled the country by boat headed for Iran.

The incident shines a light on alleged links between a small, armed fringe of Bahrain’s Shi‘ite Muslim opposition and Iran, which authorities in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom accuse of helping stoke years of attacks against its police.

An activist group in their home village called Youth of Karbabad hailed the four men as “holy warriors” in a statement, saying they sought to flee authorities by sea.

“They were martyred…in a sinking in regional waters near Iran on February 7 in hazy circumstances which remain unclear”.

A Bahraini security official, however, denied any involvement by its forces in the incident.

“It’s the latest in a pattern of fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran in coordination with authorities in Tehran and other exiles there,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Map of Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf)

Iranian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and Tehran has denied any support for Bahraini militancy.

Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni monarchy, has cracked down on perceived threats since pro-democracy Arab Spring protests in 2011 led mainly by the island kingdom’s Shi‘ite majority were quashed with help from Gulf Arab neighbors.

It has shut down the main opposition parties, jailed or stripped the citizenship of prominent dissidents and put the top Shi‘ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.

According to Bahraini security dossiers on the men lost at sea reviewed by Reuters, all had been convicted in absentia for attacking police and taking part in riots and were on the run inside Bahrain.

One, Maytham Ali Ibrahim, was wanted for killing a police officer with a fire bomb last April.

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Under pressure from authorities, many activists, clerics and some militants appear have moved to Iran and other countries in recent years.

A militant commander was killed in a Bahraini commando raid last year along with several comrades headed to Iran on a speedboat after they staged a prison break.

Three wanted militants who also took part in the escape did arrive in Iran. They appeared at a lecture in the Iranian holy city of Qom praising their slain fellows, according to a video filmed and distributed by activists.

At a wake held in Qom for the three militants lost at sea on Tuesday, an exiled Bahraini leader mourned their death in a videotaped statement.

“We heard about their departure but they were missing for a long time at sea and the boat was found after three days … from the first moments the Iranian authorities were looking for them,” Sheikh Abdullah al-Duqaq said.

The Iranian coast guard had no role in their deaths, he said. Calls by Reuters to Duqaq’s telephone went unanswered.

Reporting by Noah Browning; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson

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Iraq to build oil refinery in Al-Faw with Chinese companies — seeking investors to build three more

January 29, 2018

Above, a floating oil platform offshore from the southern Iraqi port city of Al-Faw. (AFP)
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BAGHDAD: Iraq plans to build an oil refinery at the port of A-Faw on the Gulf with two Chinese companies, and is seeking investors to build three more, the oil ministry said on its website on Monday.
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The refinery in Al-Faw will have a 300,000 barrel-per-day capacity and include a petrochemical plant, it said.
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Two other refineries, each with a 150,000-bpd capacity, are planned in Nasiriya, southern Iraq, and in the western Anbar province. A third, with a 100,000-bpd capacity, is planned in Qayara, near Mosul, the northern Iraqi city, which was taken back from Daesh militants last year.
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Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia. Its refining capacity was curtailed when Daesh overran its largest oil processing plant in Baiji, north of Baghdad, in 2014.
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Iraqi forces recaptured Baiji in 2015, but the place sustained heavy damage in the fighting. The country now relies on the Doura refinery, in Baghdad, and Shuaiba plant, in the south.
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Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military

January 25, 2018

Tehran halts dangerous encounters in Persian Gulf amid tensions over nuclear deal

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The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.

The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven’t done so for five months, U.S. military officials said.

The officials said they hoped the respite would continue. “I hope it’s because we have messaged our readiness…and that it isn’t tolerable or how professional militaries operate,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week. Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The fast boats, typically armed with .50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers, have come within shooting distance of American naval vessels, encounters that grew routine even though each one presents potential dangers to American vessels transiting through international waters.

In some of the more serious incidents, Iranian crews have directed spotlights at ship and aircraft crews, potentially blinding pilots as they conduct operations, according to U.S. military officials. In one case, an Iranian boat pointed a weapon at an American helicopter flying off a Navy vessel, officials said. In the most serious incidents, U.S. vessels have fired warning shots in return.

The Iranian boats are typically crewed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, U.S. military officials have said. The IRGC is Iran’s elite military unit and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the last two years, officials said.

A video grab from the U.S. Navy shows an Iranian vessel heading toward the USS Thunderbolt in the Persian Gulf in July, 2017.Photo: US NAVY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017.

The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering as President Donald Trump threatens to end U.S. sanctions relief provided to Tehran under the deal, signed under President Barack Obama.

Washington’s European allies are discussing ways of heightening sanctions against Iran for actions not directly related to the country’s nuclear program.

Gen. Votel said that the abatement in the Persian Gulf didn’t alone signal a broader “strategic shift” by Iran, noting activities such as Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I think we have to look at Iran in totality,” Gen. Votel said.

Read More

  • In Common Occurrence, Iranian Boats Veer Close to U.S. Warship
  • Trump to Extend Sanctions Relief to Iran, Keeping Nuclear Deal in Place—For Now
  • Navy Images Show Iranian Boats in Incident Involving Top U.S. General

The U.S. has publicly criticized what it says is Iranian backing of the Houthis. Iran also has sent forces to Syria and backs militants operating there on behalf of the Assad regime.

Military officials noted that while Iranian harassment in the Gulf had declined, the country’s forces weren’t idle. Iran has been observed by the U.S. conducting activities that approach but stop short of what would be considered harassment, a U.S. military official explained.

Officials at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, in Manama, Bahrain, were loathe to guess the reasons behind it.

“We are not going to speculate on the reason for this recent positive trend in interactions, though we hope it will continue in the future,” said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, in Manama, Bahrain.

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said the decrease in harassment is part of a broader pattern by Tehran to refrain from provoking the U.S. and providing fodder for the Trump administration to blame them for regional instability.

“I think they understand the administration’s policy at this stage is to put the spotlight on Iranians and portray them as the source of all evil in the region,” he said. “The Iranians are certainly part of the problem in the region, but they’d like to be portrayed as part of the solution, not just the problem.”

The lull in harassment coincides with an internal directive last summer in which Mr. Vaez said Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council had ordered the IRGC to stand its ground in the region, but not to harass U.S. Navy ships. The council is presided over by President Hassan Rouhani but Mr. Khamenei has the final say.

Capt. Urban said the U.S. Navy hadn’t modified its operations in the region and would continue to operate “wherever international law allows.”

The last incident, in August, occurred when an Iranian drone flew in the vicinity of aircraft conducting night operations on the USS Nimitz.

Capt. Urban expressed concern about Iranians’ use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to harass American vessels.

“Even with the decreased incidents, we remain concerned with the increased number of Iranian UAVs operating in international airspace at night without navigation lights or an active transponder as would be expected according to international norms,” he said. “We continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

The U.S. military currently is participating in a joint exercise called Native Fury with the United Arab Emirates, designed for training in ways to get essential supplies into the Gulf region over land if the Strait of Hormuz was ever blocked, as Iran has threatened to do in the past. Some military experts see Native Fury as a message to Iran.

It is “a demonstration of our resolve,” Gen. Votel said. The Iranians also are conducting a two-day exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/irans-fast-boats-stop-harassing-u-s-navy-baffling-military-1516897301

US Navy says it received Iran broadcast about naval exercise

January 23, 2018

Iranian ships on the Gulf (AFP/File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The US Navy says it only received a radio message from Iranian naval vessels about an ongoing Iranian exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, countering Tehran claims of a tense encounter between the two fleets.

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Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, says an American warship in the Gulf of Oman heard the message on Monday.
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Morgan said on Tuesday that the American vessel “continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission.”
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Iranian media had alleged its navy either “warned off” or fired “warning shots” at Saudi or American vessels during an ongoing two-day annual drill in the strait.
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The US Navy and Iranian forces routinely have tense encounters in the Arabian Gulf.
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The U.S. Navy Lowers Its Sights — Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

January 18, 2018

Has Trump given up on expanding the size of the fleet? If so, there’s still time to reverse course.

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The U.S. Navy announced Tuesday that it will court-martial the officers who commanded the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain last summer when they collided with other craft in the Pacific Ocean. They will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel. In response to the collisions Navy Secretary Richard Spencer ordered a fleetwide review of strategic readiness. An independent team of civilian executives and former senior military officers delivered their sobering report last month.

The episode should serve as a wake-up call to military and civilian leaders alike. The U.S. has entered a new age of peer and near-peer competition for which the Navy is unprepared, according to the review’s findings. A much diminished fleet has been overloaded with tasks in recent years, yet the number of ships deployed around the world has remained constant. The Navy has managed this by increasing the time that ships and their crews spend at sea. “The net result has been a dramatic increase in the operating tempo of individual ships, and accompanying reductions in the time available to perform maintenance, training, and readiness certification,” according to the review’s authors. “The growing mismatch between the supply and demand of ships taxed fleet personnel and consumed material readiness at unsustainable rates.”

Accidents are inevitable under these circumstances. While enlisted sailors are spending more time away from their home ports, junior officers are spending less time at sea than is necessary to develop what the review calls “deep maritime operating skills.” Sailing a desk on a headquarters staff has became a path to timely career advancement. The review recommends freeing up officers from staff requirements so they can spend more time honing their war-fighting skills. It also urges a better fiscal balance among the operation of ships, equipment maintenance and personnel training—all vital, all expensive.

The most problematic recommendation requires acknowledging a difficult political reality. The Navy must communicate to political leaders “that the higher cost and time to achieve established readiness standards will mean less Navy presence worldwide.”

In September, the Government Accountability Office told the House Armed Services Committee that more than a third of the ships in the Navy’s Japan-based Seventh Fleet had expired warfare-training certifications. The review calls this a “normalization of deviation,” a problem that will persist so long as the Navy lacks the resources to fulfill its obligations.

If implemented, the review’s recommendations would restore the Navy’s readiness to respond to threats and flare-ups as they present themselves. But how, and at what price?

One option—a bad one—is for the Navy to reduce its global presence. As the review’s first sentence acknowledges, the Navy’s global primacy “is being challenged as it sails into a security environment not seen since before the collapse of the Soviet Union.” If achieving naval readiness requires ceding control of the seas to aggressive rising powers like China, Russia or Iran, it won’t be worth it.

A better alternative is to increase the size of the fleet so that necessary maintenance, repairs and training can ensure America’s ability to project naval power from the Western Pacific to the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Arctic to the Arabian Gulf, and to other areas of current—and future—competition with rivals. At the top of this list must be the Baltic and Black seas, where Russian influence is expanding.

As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to increase the size of the Navy from approximately 275 combat vessels to 350 or more. But in December the administration’s national security strategy document signaled a shift in the president’s thinking. While the document claims the Trump administration supports modernization, acquisition reform, improved readiness and a “full spectrum force,” it does not call for a 350-ship fleet. When it comes to sea power, the U.S. is lowering its sights.

A flexible Navy that retains the ability to respond to threats as they emerge and a fleet large enough to defend vital U.S. interests are not mutually exclusive. But the Trump administration appears to have concluded that since lawmakers are unlikely to pay for construction of a large number of new warships, it won’t even ask them to. It’s a different vision for America’s naval future from the one Mr. Trump outlined on the campaign trail. He was right then; he is wrong now. There’s still time to reverse course.

Mr. Cropsey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center for American Seapower. He served as an officer in the Navy and as deputy undersecretary in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and is author of “Seablindness” (Encounter, 2017).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-navy-lowers-its-sights-1516234039

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A Larger Fleet Is Not Enough

Expanding the navy is a good idea, but only in service of a strategy to ensure U.S. dominance at sea.

Published on: March 14, 2017
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Seth Cropsey served as a naval officer and as Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower.
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Trump’s Seapower Contradiction

By Bryan McGrath

President Trump made many promises on the campaign trail, including one to greatly increase the size of the Navy. However, there is a “say/do” contradiction at work between Trump and expansion of American Seapower, one that manifests itself in his view of the role of the U.S. in the world, his key personnel choices, his view of the Russia threat, and his notable lack of public leadership necessary to build support for a larger fleet.The CampaignThe centerpiece of candidate Trump’s call to rebuild American military power was his call for a 350-ship fleet built around 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Trump fleet represented an increase in size of over 25% compared to the 276 ships in the fleet on Election Day and was fully 15% larger than the 308 ships called for in the final Obama fleet plan. He distinguished himself among GOP hopefuls in calling for a larger fleet, as both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were similarly inclined. Trump’s victory in November caused a great deal of anticipation among Seapower advocates who consistently called for a larger fleet, giving the Navy political cover necessary to release its December 2016 Force Structure Assessment calling for 355 ships, an increase of 47 ships from its 2012 review (which had been the basis for the 308-ship fleet).

There was little in the way of a strategic narrative to support an increase in fleet size in Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and given the much-reported lack of policy staff preparation within the campaign, there is little reason to believe such justification existed. Additionally, given candidate Trump’s positional flexibility and propensity to make things up on the fly, it was difficult to discern where a naval buildup fell among the many promises he made on the campaign trail, or even whether it was important to him at all. Nevertheless, as 2017 dawned, a President came to office who ran on a larger fleet, the Navy had promulgated its larger (355 ships) fleet force structure, and three Congressionally mandated fleet architecture studies reached the consensus view that the Navy’s planned fleet of 308 ships was insufficient. All the cosmic tumblers were clicking into place to support a significant fleet buildup.

Nearly a year later, there is little evidence to suggest that a fleet expansion beyond the Obama Administration’s number is underway, or under serious consideration. A careful reconsideration of facts in evidence leads to the conclusion that at best, the “350-Ship Navy” claim was a meaningless campaign promise, and at worst, was an opportunistic lie deeply at odds with the rare ideological underpinnings Trump possesses.

Seapower and Globalism

Globalism, and the expansion of free trade that underpins it is responsible for much of the growth of the global economy in the past quarter-century, as well as the dramatic decline in world poverty. The fall of the Warsaw Pact was the precipitating security event that contributed to this economic dynamism, but global freedom of the seas, over which most international trade travels, is what has kept the party going, freedom provided by a preponderant United States Navy. In fact, protecting global freedom of the seas is the most important mission of the U.S. Navy, mostly because no other element of military power has even a minor role in providing it, and how utterly dependent our prosperity is upon it. America is an outward-facing trading nation that still possesses the world’s largest and most vibrant economy. Our prosperity is directly tied to global free trade, and global free trade depends on freedom of the seas. There is only one Navy on Earth with the forces and basing structure to act as the global guarantor of freedom of the seas, and it does so because the nation’s economy and security demand it. Others prosper because of global trade carried over free and open seas, but no nation prospers more than we. Our future prosperity could be at risk without free and open seas, and no nation has a greater interest in guaranteeing them.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s dictum that “…whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself” has animated America’s naval strategy since World War II, although it has done so in a manner enriching the entire world. That strategy is under increasing pressure, and nowhere more so than in the South China Sea, where China’s naval and missile buildup is designed to challenge America’s ability to provide unimpeded movement for its commerce and that of others, enabling China to exercise de facto dominance over a region of great importance to the United States.

Finally, the U.S. Navy’s global posture provides the catalytic spark for U.S. led regional security in areas where our interests are most notable, and most threatened. Because the U.S. Navy is strong and forward deployed, smaller, less powerful nations are incentivized to join with us in cooperative maritime security efforts and can do so without fear of retribution from other powerful, regional actors (see China, Russia, Iran). Were the U.S. Navy less forward and less strong, regional powers could exert more pressure on these weaker nations resulting potentially in either destabilizing arms races or painful accommodation of the regional power in ways antithetical to our security interests. In other words, it is in our interest to be there, and it is in these lesser powers’ interest to be there with us.

What Trump Believes

Donald Trump’s political views have been flexible over the years. He has been both pro-life and pro-choice. He has been a gun-control supporter and guardian of the second amendment. He has been stridently anti-immigrant while stocking his resorts with foreign guest workers. Some of Trump’s supporters believe that this positional flexibility is a good thing, which the lack of ideological moorings leaves him free to “make deals.” And while the record is clear that Trump does not have many deeply held principles underlying his politics, one consistently held and vocally expressed strain of thought is that the United States is overextended, that allies are not paying their share, and more recently, that free trade often works against American interests. By way of evidence are two articles covering Trump nearly thirty years apart. The first was a recent piece looking back on a younger Donald Trump who took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Boston Globe on September 2, 1987. Here is how a portion of it went:

“For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States… “The saga continues unabated as we defend the Persian Gulf, an area of only marginal significance to the United States for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent….why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests…the world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.”

Nearly thirty years later while running for President, Trump said the following during a campaign speech in April 2016:

“Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share, and I’ve been talking about this recently a lot. Our allies must contribute toward their financial, political, and human costs, have to do it, of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us. In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries besides America, are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense. We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”

Thirty years apart, these statements bespeak the consistent view of a man with little understanding of how much the United States benefits economically from its forward-deployed military posture, and even less of an understanding of the choices those nations face in their regional security environments especially were we to abandon our alliances. Additionally, given that a naval expansion on the order of what he promised on the campaign trail would cost upwards of $40B a year in total costs, it begs credulity to believe that he would advocate doing so given the laggard performance of our friends and allies in paying for their own defense. If the Administration does begin to assert the need for a larger fleet, Congress must require it to explain the role of this dramatically expanded force, in light of the President’s clear disdain for forward operations.

The Russia Question

The Navy’s 355 Ship Force Structure assessment and each of the three congressionally-mandated fleet architecture studies shared an underlying threat assumption that contributed to their broad consensus on force levels. That assumption was that Russia posed a significant and growing threat to our interests in the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, in the CSBAstudy in which I participated, we considered the Russian threat to be more serious in the near term than the China threat, and our recommended naval force posture reflected it (see pp. 53-59)

Putting aside for the moment ongoing questions of Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and potential Trump campaign collusion therein, it is not at all clear the degree to which President Trump views Russia as a military threat to American interests. If Russia is not a threat, the Navy likely does not have to be 350 ships. If Russia is a threat requiring a Navy that large, the President should be required to say so—something he has not authoritatively done, but which would have to be made clear in a coherent justification for a naval buildup. The impending release of the Trump Administration National Security (NSS) Strategy should provide some indication of what the President believes, but Congress should not rely solely upon the NSS. It should insist that the President name a resurgent Russia as a clear national security threat to the United States and that the threat warrants additional buildup in U.S. forces.

Personnel is Policy

Perhaps the most obvious sign of Trump’s less than arduous attachment to his promise to grow the fleet was his selection of former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as his Director of Management and Budget. Originally elected with the Tea Party Class of 2010, Mulvaney earned a reputation for opposing the more hawkish elements of the GOP in the House. Clearly, Mulvaney works for the President and will carry out the President’s wishes, but in the absence of Presidential leadership, Mulvaney will be an unlikely supporter of increasing the size of the Navy. In fact, the original FY 18 budget submission to Capitol Hill in the spring of 2017 accounted for no additional ships above what the Obama Administration had planned for that year. A furor from the Alabama and Wisconsin Congressional delegations added a second Littoral Combat Ship to the budget—presumably against Mulvaney’s wishes.

The selection of retired Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense has also put a chill over the warm talk of naval expansion, as one of his initial acts upon taking office was to issue budget guidancethat made growing the force his third priority, behind current readiness and replenishing weapons stocks, and that more detailed plans for force growth would be held in abeyance pending the White House issuance of a National Security Strategy and the Defense Department’s submittal of a National Defense Strategy—neither of which is expected until early next year. It is difficult indeed to find anything other than generalized statements of support for a larger Navy from Mattis, a situation of some irony given his propensity as the U.S. Central Commander to demand the near-continuous presence of two aircraft carriers.

Finally, the only evidence we have thus far of the top-line management of the Department of Defense budget is the President’s 2018 Budget Submission, which represented only a 3% increase over the Obama projection for 2018. Three percent does not a massive military buildup make.

Presidential Leadership

The final evidence offered for the lack of priority afforded a naval buildup under President Trump is that he has done almost nothing to make it happen, and historically speaking, nothing is as important to growing a Navy as Presidential support. As stated earlier—building a larger Navy is an expensive proposition, and while Congress appears ready to provide the Navy with more resources, it will not do so in the absence of a clear plan of how that money will be spent and the sense that the President is dedicated to following through on it. A campaign promise is insufficient reason for the expense. A clearly articulated, consistently reinforced statement of need is central to the persuasive case that must be made for the American people to allocate massive resources in peacetime to a naval building program. That case has not been made, and the President must be the one to make it. Thus far in his Presidency, we have not seen active Presidential support for policies the President was believed to be personally invested in (see Health Care, tax reform), so it remains to be seen whether he will muster the effort to get behind a larger Navy.

Is All Hope Lost?

Given the conflict between the benefits of dominant American Seapower and the consistency of Donald Trump’s most long-standing national security belief, the dubious nature of the President’s view of the Russian threat, his appointment of senior subordinates not likely to be committed naval expansionists, and his own lack of leadership on the issue—the 350 ship Navy appears to be just another broken campaign promise.

The way forward is clear; Congress must assume a greater share of the lead in moving forward with a naval expansion. Uniformed Navy leadership must step forward and relentlessly reinforce the strategic benefits conferred by preponderant American Seapower. For the first time in its history, the nation must attempt to increase the size of its Navy in the absence of Presidential leadership or attention.

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https://www.hudson.org/research/14047-trump-s-seapower-contradiction

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Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

Donald Trump has pledged that he’ll lead the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration, but the details on what’s likely to be an expensive and potentially decades-long effort remain to be seen.

Trump vowed to build the 350-ship fleet Republican defense hawks have long sought and reverse decades of fleet contraction which has yielded today’s battle force of 272 ships. And while the politics of large increases to the defense budget are dicey in the best of times, Trump sees a naval build-up as part of his agenda to create jobs, according to an October internal Trump campaign memo obtained by Navy Times.

The plan, if enacted, would aim to restore the Navy to a size it hasn’t been since 1998, and would mean tens of thousands of new sailor jobs. So far, it remains unclear what mix of ships the incoming administration wants to build more of, from $10 billion Ford-class carriers or $3 billion Virginia-class attack submarines to $500 million littoral combat ships, and how that fleet composition is connected to a strategic vision.

Trump’s camp believes generally that if you have more ships and more capabilities, you give the government more options in a crisis to deter conflicts and defeat enemies. That’s what top Trump advisers told Navy Times’ sister publication Defense News in October ahead of the election.

“I think at this point in history with the credibility of president of the United States eroded, were they to suspect that the United States is abandoning its defense spending,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in the interview. “It takes more than a speech to turn this around.” 

Trump has pledged to build a much larger fleet that experts say will cost many billions more per year, as state-of-the-art technology raises the price of new ship classes.Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin”Trump’s plans are actually to build more ships and maintain a higher number of troops and aircraft. It will go a lot further than words to convince the world that we remain strong. It will help us to maintain the peace.

In the campaign memo, sent by a senior aide to Rep. Randy Forbes, an outgoing Virginia congressman and a top contender to be Trump’s Navy secretary, Trump promises to fund modernizing “a significant number of the Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers,” some of which the Obama administration has sidelined for months or years until they get their modernization overhauls.

The memo also lays out a plan to invest heavily in new submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and to revitalize the shipyards and get warships the maintenance that has been deferred in the last few years because of across-the-board budget cuts.

“Mr. Trump’s plan will require a significant partnership with a defense industrial base that has been strained by years of significant cuts to shipbuilding and ship repair,” the memo reads. “The nationwide infrastructure of yards, depots, and support facilities that created and sustained the World War II and Cold War-era Navy has been largely dismantled.”

The solution, the memo says, is to find places where old shipyards went out of business and have the ability to restart, an effort that would be led by the incoming Navy secretary. Trump also wants to build a robust training pipeline for skilled workers in the shipyards to increase the support base for the growing Navy.

Growing the fleet

Expanding the fleet is an idea that has gained currency both in the current administration, which is trying to boost the fleet to 308 ships up from 272, and among conservative defense proponents who have advocated for a much larger fleet.

The fleet could be grown to the size advocated by Trump, or at least close to it, by the 2030s, said Bryan Clark, a former senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

would need to start building three Virginia-class attack submarines per year and continue to pump out LCS and its follow-on frigates starting in 2019 to do low-end missions. The submarine build-up would need to continue even as the nation begins on the next-generation of ballistic missile submarines, which are estimated to cost at least $5 billion per hull.

The Navy, he said, could also accelerate the production of the aircraft carriers to get the fleet up to 12 by the 2030s. That buildup would get the Navy from an end strength of about 330,000 sailors today to more than 380,000 in Trump’s Navy.

One idea that wouldn’t work, Clark said, would be to bring ships out of the mothball fleet the way the Reagan administration did. Reagan famously recommissioned the World War II-era Iowa-class battleships to try and meet his 600-ship Navy goal.

“The difference between the ships in the fleet and the ships in mothballs is the technology is two or three generations removed from what’s in use today,” Clark said. “In the 1980s, the ships you could pull out of mothballs, the combat systems were not that far removed from the systems of the day. It wasn’t that dramatic.”

Clark said the modern-day equivalent would be to modernize all the existing cruisers to keep them in the fleet through the 2030s, an idea that has gained traction in the incoming Trump administration.

Now they just have to find a way to pay for it.

Navy and defense spending isn’t the only thing Trump wants to spend money on, and figuring out the winners and losers among Trump’s policy agenda is going to be a challenge, experts warn.

“There are going to have to be lot of trade-offs,” said Dan Palazzolo, a professor of political science at University of Richmond.

Donald Trump wants a lot of things: Big tax cuts, big infrastructure spending, doesn’t want to touch entitlements, defense spending. There are tensions here that are going to have to get unwound.

“Really this is going to be the challenge of Trump’s presidency: How do you translate these broad policy proposals into policies, and defense in that mix. It’s going to be on Congress to help him figure that out.”

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https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2016/11/15/donald-trump-wants-to-start-the-biggest-navy-build-up-in-decades/

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Does the US Navy have a strategy beyond hope?

The U.S. Navy begins the new year in crisis. By its own admission many of its ships and aircraft are in poor condition. Training is not where it should be, its ships can’t maneuver properly around other ships, and Navy leaders for years have complained the service is overstretched, constantly struggling to meet requirements and falling short in any number of areas. It is by no means clear that new ideas and concepts are being implemented to counter ever-growing military rivals.

Worldwide challenges abound. China is effectively moving the U.S. out of the western Pacific positions of influence held since the 1940s — ironically using a fast-growing and evermore effective naval force modeled on that of the United States. Virtually every country in the region is re-evaluating political and military realities as China’s influence grows. Russian sea power is reasserting itself in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic seas and most disturbingly in the undersea arena, where a growing threat could compromise or destroy the undersea cables upon which the internet relies. The Middle East remains problematic — stability in the region is threatened by the war in Yemen, eternal squabbling among Arab states and a restless Iran. Terrorist groups, humanitarian crises and natural disasters all increase instability. The list of potential conflict areas widens virtually every week. Above all, the very real threat of armed conflict with North Korea —nuclear or conventional —has many smart people convinced that some sort of clash is rapidly nearing.

Is the U.S. Navy ready? Is it up to the task? Do we see evidence that it is? In a word, no. Aside from resting on past laurels, there seems little reason to persuasively argue otherwise.

Looking for more on the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet? Get the latest here.

The world’s media abounds with stories, videos and images of the growing military capabilities of those who would challenge the U.S., much of them put out directly by those governments or with their support. Check out YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and it’s no problem to get an impressive and often detailed picture of what the other guys are doing.

Where is the U.S. Navy in all this? Pretty much nowhere. Sure, there’s lots of product coming from Defense Department sources, but increasingly it’s watered down, devoid of much real content. By decree, information about operational movements and war-fighting capabilities is largely stripped from official content — certainly whatever remains is a shadow of what was only a couple years ago a robust picture of U.S. military might.

The independent media, of course, would love to take up the slack, but it’s become harder as the Pentagon and service leadership — led by the Navy — warn against giving away too much information. The resulting desire to err on the side of caution means real information has all but dried up.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, noted in a March 1 memo to department personnel that public communications should be done to “communicate with purpose” — but, he added, “very often less is more.”

“Sharing information,” the CNO wrote, “even at the unclassified level, makes it easier for potential adversaries to gain an advantage.” Should there be doubt about a message, he continued, “bias on the side of caution. I am not asking you to throttle back engagement with the media or with the public.”

But make no mistake, the flow of information has indeed been throttled back. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis continued the clampdown in an Oct. 5 memo warning against leaks and divulging classified information. “We must be vigilant in executing our responsibility to prevent disclosure of any information not authorized for release outside the Department of Defense,” Mattis wrote.

There is no question that divulging military secrets would be a mistake, and the great majority of the media doesn’t seek to do so. But one of the goals of putting out information is deterrence, to portray expertise, capabilities, readiness and commitment to deter an enemy from provoking or prompting armed conflict. Mere pronouncements of strength — and the U.S. military leadership has become stridently adept at substituting clichés and slogans for substantive content — don’t deter anyone.

Media requests have become routinely stifled, delayed or denied. Interviews no longer take two or three weeks to arrange — two or three months has become the norm, if at all. A recent development, according to many reporters, is for interviews becoming qualified at the last moment. “We can’t talk about XXX,” officials tell reporters, sometimes a day or less before an appointment, “but we understand if you’ll want to cancel the interview.”

Another tactic to delay or avoid responding to questions is for officials to claim: “We don’t want to get out ahead of leadership,” meaning a topic or program can’t be discussed until higher-ups explain their position. But the higher-ups repeat the assertion, and the request is kicked up multiple levels to the point where executives don’t discuss such things because it’s simply beneath their level.

This information chill is not just about securing defense secrets. It is also about not attracting unwanted attention, particularly from congressional overseers. Heaven forbid some poor program manager mentions a problem and the next day several congressional offices want answers. Sure, no one likes people looking over their shoulder telling them what to do, but that’s exactly what oversight committees are charged with. It’s their job, and the system of checks and balances is a fundamental principal of our government.

Trust and confidence stem from sharing information and having faith the information bears something close to the truth. It is difficult these days to have much faith and confidence that the Pentagon and the Navy can deter war or successfully prosecute an armed conflict. One hopes so, but as someone once said, hope isn’t much of a strategy.

Christopher P. Cavas is a naval analyst and commentator. He was formerly the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/surface-navy-association/2018/01/04/does-the-us-navy-have-a-strategy-beyond-hope/

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