T-90 (Bhishma) army tanks during a dress rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 2014. (Mohd Zakir/HT File Photo)
India has dropped plans to buy Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems worth Rs 3,200 crore from Israel, defence ministry sources said on Monday. Instead, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been asked to develop the ATGMs for the army’s infantry and mechanised infantry units to provide impetus to the Make in India plan, the sources said.
India was negotiating the purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 fire-and-forget missiles with Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.
However, a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a Rafael spokesperson as saying that the Israeli firm had not been officially informed of any change in the decision to buy Spike missiles. Rafael already “began the transfer of development and manufacturing knowledge as part of the Make-in-India program. This activity will continue as planned,” Rafael deputy spokesman Ishai David told Haaretz.
With the defence ministry retracting the tender to buy the ATGM systems, the army’s wait to induct the weapon is likely to get longer, army sources said. The DRDO could take up to four years to develop the next-generation ATGMs.
The Spike missile can destroy armoured vehicles and bunkers from a distance of 2.5 km and the army was planning to equip more than 400 units with the third-generation ATGM systems.
The decision not to buy the missiles comes around 10 months after the defence ministry appointed a committee, headed by a major-general, to examine various aspects related to the deal.
India had chosen the Israeli ATGM over US defence and aerospace firm Raytheon’s Javelin system nearly four years ago. The army currently uses the older Milan and Konkur ATGMs built by public sector undertaking Bharat Dynamics Limited under license from French and Russian firms, respectively.
Hoping that it would bag the order, Rafael had stitched up an alliance with India’s Kalyani Group to produce the missiles in Hyderabad.
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HARARE, Zimbabwe — After ruling Zimbabwe for nearly four decades, leading the country from the triumph of its independence struggle to economic collapse, the world’s oldest head of state became a prisoner of the military he once commanded.Robert Mugabe, 93, was detained along with his wife, according to a military announcement Wednesday. The move appears to end one of Africa’s most controversial political dynasties while raising questions about what might come next — military rule, a transitional government or a settlement that would allow Mugabe to return to power.
No matter what happens, this appears to be a watershed moment for Zimbabwe and southern Africa, which have suffered from the tumult of Mugabe’s reign, even as his hold on power sometimes seemed unshakable.
Zimbabweans awoke early Wednesday to a televised announcement from an army general promising that there was “not a military takeover,” although Mugabe had been detained and armored vehicles were rolling into Harare, the capital.
Despite the assurances, the events bore all the signs of a coup. Troops were stationed around the city. The army took over the television station. The army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, said in his televised statement that “criminals” in Mugabe’s regime were being targeted. Although there was little indication of violence by Wednesday night, many residents of the capital remained paralyzed — unsure whether they should celebrate Mugabe’s ouster or prepare themselves for a new era of undemocratic rule.
The commander of Zimbabwe’s military forces, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, made the move as a struggle over who will succeed the country’s elderly leader came to a head.
Mugabe led the country to independence from Britain in 1980, fighting in a guerrilla war that put an end to white minority rule. Upon becoming president, he galvanized the population with fiery speeches promising that “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.”
But that mantra lost much of its power in recent years, as Mugabe’s presidency was marred by allegations of corruption, nepotism and repression. Zimbabwe went from being one of Africa’s wealthiest nations to a country reeling under one of the highest inflation rates in modern history, its currency so devalued that it had to print a $100 billion note.
Mugabe recently purged some key officials from the ruling party, ZANU-PF, paving the way for his 52-year-old spouse, Grace, to succeed him. Many see that move as a major miscalculation, alienating Mugabe from the civilians and military leaders on whom he had long depended.
As of Wednesday night, the fate of Mugabe and his wife was unclear. Neither had released a statement.
The scene in Zimbabwe as the military takes control of the country
Zimbabwe’s military took control of the country and detained President Robert Mugabe. While the army insisted the move was “not a military takeover,” the intervention had all the signs of a coup.
“Mugabe and his family are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed,” Moyo, the Zimbabwean general, said in the televised statement. An armored vehicle blocked the road in front of Mugabe’s offices as soldiers milled around.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering,” Moyo continued.
The statement was played over and over on state television and radio, but no more details were provided. Rumors spread that a number of cabinet ministers had been arrested. At least one, Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, was taken from his home by soldiers, according to an aide.
But the military remained tight-lipped about Mugabe, his wife and other members of Mugabe’s inner circle.
“We are not saying these names now,” said Overson Mugwisi, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Defense Forces.
World leaders were monitoring the situation. The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said that “nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next.”
The U.S. State Department refrained from calling the action a coup but said Washington was “concerned by recent actions taken by Zimbabwe’s military forces” and called on authorities to exercise restraint.
For decades, Mugabe had a reputation as an unwavering critic of many Western policies and international institutions. His supporters hailed him for actions such as the seizure of white-owned farms. Although the farms were meant to be given to black families, many ended up in the hands of Mugabe’s close associates, and within years a large number had fallen fallow because their new owners had no background or interest in farming.
On the streets of Harare, the news of the military takeover was greeted with cautious optimism by many.
“We are happy that we are going to have another leader,” said a man in Harare’s Chitungwiza neighborhood who called himself Yemurai. “Even if it’s going to be another dictator, we accept a new one. Look, we are jobless, hungry and poverty-stricken. All we want is something different.” Like most people interviewed, he spoke on the condition that his full name not be used.
But some people worried that the military intervention could lead to violence.
“This is a disaster,” said Baxon, a man from the Glen View area. “Solving one problem by creating another. We don’t want another war, but it seems we are headed that way. We have heard there are people in the army not in agreement with what Chiwenga did.”
But there were mounting signs that Mugabe’s former allies were quickly turning against him.
Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of the powerful War Veterans Association, thanked Chiwenga for intervening and said Mugabe should be dismissed.
“We will be recalling President Robert Mugabe as the first secretary of the party and the head of state for the crimes he has committed,” Matemadanda said in a news conference.
In Harare’s central business district, residents said all seemed normal.
Across the country, Zimbabweans exchanged frantic text messages asking for updates, debating whether Mugabe had finally been toppled.
Political analyst Mike Mavura said it was important for the military to say this was not a coup for reasons of international legitimacy.
“We are not in the 1960s and 1970s anymore, when coups in Africa were left, right and center — I think they are trying very hard to appear progressive,” he said. “However, of interest to democracy, the elections scheduled for next year, will they take place?”
Mugabe told supporters he had dismissed Mnangagwa for disloyalty and disrespect, as well as using witchcraft to take power. Mnangagwa later fled to South Africa.
The move exacerbated divisions in the ZANU-PF party, where the youth faction is firmly on Grace Mugabe’s side, while many older veterans of the struggle against white rule look to Mnangagwa. As a former defense minister, Mnangagwa has strong support in the military.
Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said by phone that the military will probably try to pressure Mugabe to step down in favor of Mnangagwa as acting president.
“But this plan may not pan out, as Mugabe might resist this. So the whole thing may be messy,” he warned.
Didymus Mutasa, a former presidential affairs minister who was fired by Mugabe in 2014, said he hoped that the military takeover would “help us start on a democratic process.”
What’s most important from where the world meets Washington
Zimbabwe was once a breadbasket for the region, but its economy and especially the agricultural sector have suffered in recent years.
Meanwhile, Mugabe was seen as being increasingly under the influence of his wife, who is also known as “Gucci Grace” for the rumored extravagance of her foreign shopping trips. The country’s per-capita gross domestic product is $1,008, according to the World Bank.
In recent weeks, there have been signs of an increased sensitivity to criticism of the government. Four people were detained for booing Grace Mugabe at a rally, and an American woman was arrested for allegedly tweeting insulting comments about Mugabe.
Schemm reported from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.
Paul Schemm is the Post’s overnight foreign editor based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, joining the paper in 2016. He previously worked for the Associated Press as North Africa chief correspondent based in Morocco and prior to that in Cairo as part of the Middle East regional bureau.
File: Palestinians protesting in Gaza, November 12, 2012. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)
On November 1, against all expectations, Hamas officials dismantled the checkpoints the organization maintained inside the Israeli-controlled crossings on the Israeli-Gazan border.
It was a dramatic step. No longer would Palestinians leaving Gaza for Israel or the West Bank face questioning by Hamas intelligence officials about their business. No longer would Palestinians entering Gaza face the exorbitant import taxes and other fees imposed by Hamas.
That bears repeating. In taking this step, Hamas, a group choked on almost every side by enemies foreign and domestic, willingly surrendered a lucrative source of income that fed many millions of shekels each year into its coffers.
More startling still: it was a step beyond what Hamas was strictly required to do at this stage under the reconciliation agreement signed with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Cairo last month that handed some control over Gaza to the PA.
A Hamas security man walks inside a border checkpoint building after it was decommissioned at the northern entrance of the Gaza Strip just past the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, on November 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
It is not enough to simply say these actions are part of “reconciliation.” Hamas’s commitment to “national reconciliation” has never extended this far in the past. What changed? What could possibly drive Hamas to surrender part of its rule over Gaza and renounce vital sources of influence and money?
Winners and losers
At first glance, it is Fatah, not Hamas, that appears the clear winner from the agreement. In the reconciliation deal, Fatah regained a foothold in Gaza for the first time since its forces were summarily routed from the Strip in 2007.
The advantages for Fatah are many. Its chief, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, now has an answer to the complaint occasionally heard from Israeli officials that he cannot negotiate a peace agreement because he neither controls nor represents half of the Palestinian body politic. Similarly, his standing on the world stage is boosted by the sheer fact of movement. There is a crack in the status quo. If Fatah and Hamas can reconcile, some diplomats have quietly suggested, perhaps wider gulfs, such as those separating Israelis and Palestinians, can also be bridged.
The ability to show progress also has financial implications. Incorporating Hamas into a new PA government would probably cost the PA dearly, as some countries and international institutions would find it difficult to fund Palestinian agencies linked to Hamas or its officials. On the other hand, if Fatah can incorporate Hamas sufficiently for “reconciliation” to be realized, while maintaining a firewall between Hamas and aid-receiving institutions, the takeover of Gaza could yet turn out to be a financial boon. International assistance to Gaza all but dried up under Hamas. If it picks up again under PA auspices, there’s a lot of money, institution-building and political capital to be gained for Fatah.
Palestinians in Gaza City wave Palestinian and Egyptian flags to celebrate the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in Egypt, October 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
And what has Hamas gained for all that? The answer, ironically, is that the very things it lost are its most significant gain.
When it seized Gaza from Fatah in 2007, Hamas declared that the takeover validated its vision of an Islamic Palestine, that its rise against all odds, against the express wishes of the PA, Israel and much of the international community, proved that these opponents, for all their immense power, could be pushed back, and that pious Muslims could find themselves on the ascendant in their wake.
Hamas’s troubles may have begun when it made the mistake of believing its own propaganda. In the name of its pious devotion to the cause, it drove Gaza from one ideological clash to another, dragging its long-suffering population not only into repeated rounds of war with Israel, but even, inexplicably to outsiders, into the bloodstained mess of the civil war between the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s one-time patrons and ideological forebears.
Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Facing an Israeli blockade from the start of Hamas’s rule in 2007, as of 2014 Gazans found themselves under a ruthlessly tightening Egyptian one as well — the Egyptian army’s response to Hamas’s meddling. And beginning in 2017, Abbas’s PA began imposing its own financial stranglehold, denying the Hamas-led government in Gaza funds from the PA for the provision of basic services such as electricity.
Hamas could blame and bluster, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for it to argue it was leading Gaza to a better place.
Hamas’s political leadership has spent the past 10 years attempting to prove that the movement was more than a narrowly conceived paramilitary organization. By 2017, its military wing, which took control of the organization with the rise of Yahya Sinwar in the last internal elections in February, had concluded that the attempt to expand Hamas’s agenda and vision beyond the narrow confines of its guerrilla war against Israel had become a trap, a distraction. It saddled the organization with the thankless monotonies and shackling responsibilities of civilian leadership. It was suddenly in charge of the economic wellbeing, health, education and safety of millions — and for what?
A Palestinian man blows fire as Gazans gather at an intersection to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, on August 26, 2014, in Gaza City. (AFP/Roberto Schmidt)
And so both sides in the reconciliation deal believe they are gaining something important. Fatah restores some of its lost privileges and powers after 10 long years of embarrassment in Gaza. Hamas sheds the distracting albatross of civilian rule that so diminished its standing and, many feel, set it up for failure.
Abbas’s predecessor, former Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority founder Yasser Arafat, passed away in 2004 having watched his efforts come to ignominious failure. His PA all but crushed, and with much of the post-9/11 West, usually so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, exasperated at the Palestinian resort to the mass-killing of Israeli civilians, Arafat’s bitter end led to a reexamination of his fundamental strategy by the Palestinian elite.
US President George W. Bush listening to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, speaking at a joint news conference following their talks about the Middle East peace process at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, April 11, 2005. (J. Scott Applewhite /AP Images/JTA)
By the time of Arafat’s death, the man who had destroyed him, who had humiliated him by demolishing part of his Muqata headquarters building in Ramallah with him inside, who had sent Israeli forces marching into Palestinian population centers with one purpose: to capture and dismantle the terror groups and end the wave of suicide bombings detonating in Israeli cities – that man, Ariel Sharon, had become the most popular Israeli leader in decades. Sharon attained that popularity through a simple expedient: amid a wave of detonating pizzerias and mass-murders of Israeli children, he ended the decade-old experiment of negotiating with Palestinian leaders on the assumption that they were capable or willing to offer peace.
Arafat’s failure, and Sharon’s parallel success, drove home something important about the nature of that failure. It was in large part a failure to understand Israelis.
Arafat spent those final years of his life apparently believing that the relentless campaign of bombings and shootings that began in 2000 would convince the Israelis that the Palestinian spirit was indomitable and ultimately irresistible, that they could never be safe in this land and so, eventually, were destined to lose the long war between the two peoples.
A Palestinian woman walks past a portrait of Yasser Arafat at the start of celebrations marking the 13th anniversary of his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
But Israelis drew the opposite lesson from that experience: according to countless and exhaustive polls, most Israelis concluded from that violence that Palestinian politics could not resist the temptation to transform any gains at the negotiating table into a staging ground for violent jihad against Israeli civilians. Palestinian demands were thus unfulfillable, because they did not end at the Green Line. It did not matter if one found a Palestinian moderate and began negotiating with him. There would always be Arafats, Marwan Barghoutis and Yahya Sinwars in the wings preparing to turn any peace gains into further and deadlier war.
Most Israelis came to believe, in other words, that Palestinian violence was not susceptible to policy or concession, that there was nothing they could afford to give to the Palestinians that would end it — and that therefore it was up to the Israelis themselves to take the necessary steps to crush the Palestinian capacity for violence.
The point here is not to argue that this mainstream Israeli belief is correct. Palestinian society and politics are complex, and Palestinian attitudes have themselves changed over the years. Whether this Israeli view is objectively true is a judgment call, one usually made with insufficient evidence either way. The point here is simply to note that this is what mainstream Israelis have come to believe about the Palestinians — and that this belief carries strategic implications for the Palestinian future.
The Palestinians have yet to recover from Arafat’s miscalculation about Israeli psychology, his misreading of how Israelis would respond to the terrorism of the Second Intifada. They have yet to regain the economic integration and political potential that once drove the Palestinian economy and thrust its cause upon the world stage.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at a peace conference in Washington, DC, on September 2, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Yet, ironically, it was in the 13 years since Arafat’s death, under the less-than-inspiring, less-than-competent rule of his heir Mahmoud Abbas, that the Palestinians engaged in an even more fundamental miscalculation. Arafat misunderstood the Israelis. Abbas misunderstands the Palestinians.
Abbas has spent most of the years since 2004, the year when Arafat’s strategy of violence might be said to have begun its long, slow, comprehensive collapse, pursuing the alternative policy he had long championed: replacing Palestinian terrorism with internationalism, replacing a type of pressure that cost Palestine its allies and any gains it had made under the Oslo process with a different sort of pressure geared toward restoring those allies and augmenting those gains.
His policy, in short: to throw the Palestinian cause at the feet of the world.
But Abbas’s internationalization strategy rests on two unexamined assumptions. First, that the Israeli resistance to withdrawing from the West Bank is a relatively weak sentiment, weak enough to be swayed by international opprobrium or sanctions; second, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that his fellow Palestinians would play along with the strategy.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
Abbas grasps that the two Palestinian strategies — violence and internationalization — counteract each other: that terrorism bolsters Israeli resistance to withdrawal, and so fatally undermines the capacity of international pressure to deliver results. Yet this understanding has only ever expressed itself at the tactical level. Abbas’s security services have spent much of the past 10 years cracking down on Palestinian terror groups in areas controlled by the PA.
Abbas’s problem, however, extends far beyond the piecemeal challenge of preventing the occasional act of violence. Among Palestinians, the violent “resistance” is no mere tactic employed by a small handful of violent extremists. It is a fundamental pillar of their narrative of national liberation, a vehicle for reclaiming the dignity lost by their history of dispossession, a crucible that for many lends the sheen of redemptive theology to their long suffering.
This vision of a violent reclamation of national honor is reified in Hamas, funded by cash from Qatar, Iran and elsewhere, and sustained by the religious leadership of Palestinian society in most Palestinian towns and villages. Indeed, it often seems to be the only narrative left standing that still teaches Palestinians that they have agency in deciding their fate, or that victory against immovable Israel is even possible.
After Arafat’s death, Abbas turned away from the tactic of terrorism, but never seems to have given serious thought to the strategic problem posed by the reservoirs of ideology and identity that still lionize that violence in the Palestinian body politic.
Palestinian supporters of Fatah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (portrait) gather in Gaza City as Abbas addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
In the end, Abbas lives in a kind of ideological purgatory. He cannot pursue the violent strategy he has watched fail so spectacularly, nor can he acknowledge the flaw at the heart of his diplomatic strategy — the sad fact that Israelis who could not be frightened off by waves of suicide terrorism are not likely to be dislodged by waves of international tut-tutting. Worse, the trap is permanent. Israeli recalcitrance is shored up against foreign pressure by the very expectation of more waves of terrorism. The one Palestinian strategy fatally undermines the other.
And so he is left trying to sell Palestinians on the shallowest of the strategic visions available to them, and they know it. (A recent poll found that 67 percent of Palestinians want him to resign, a result that surprised no one.) Salvation will come from New York and Geneva, he insists, even as Israelis remain distinctly unimpressed by his international efforts. And the longer salvation is delayed, the more he is identified with yet another drawn-out failure of the Palestinian national movement.
In the unity deal struck between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority last month, Abbas effectively swallowed into his PA, into his vehicle for restoring Palestinian dignity by — not to put too fine a point on it — ignoring the causes of Palestinian self-defeat, the very architects of that defeat, the party most responsible for the hardening of Israeli politics against Palestinian aspirations.
And, as might be expected, he has done so without any capacity to control what Hamas does or says in Palestine’s name. Hamas, after all, seems eager to surrender every instrument of sovereignty it possesses in Gaza – except the one that matters: its armed wing will remain intact, and under its control.
This was not Hamas’s “red line,” as some commentators suggested, implying that Hamas was being magnanimous with its other concessions. It was the original point and purpose of the entire exercise of reconciliation. Hamas could not give up its military wing because it was in the process of becoming its military wing, shorn of the extranea of civil politics.
The leader of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, waves as he arrives for a meeting with the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister and other officials in Gaza City on October 2, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
It is no accident that in the delicate days leading up to the November 1 transfer of Gaza’s border crossings to the PA, Hamas leaders took painstaking care to assure their Fatah counterparts that, more than anything else, they should not fear the continued existence of a separate Hamas military.
The nation is “still in the throes of our national liberation efforts,” and therefore “we cannot surrender our weapons,” Sinwar himself said on October 25. But, he assured, “our weapons must be under the umbrella of the [Fatah-dominated] Palestine Liberation Organization.”
“The weapons of the Qassam Brigades [Hamas’s military wing] belong to the Palestinian people,” he added for good measure. They were meant “to be used for the liberation effort, and not for internal conflict.”
Those words, meant to soothe the nerves of Fatah officials who understand how small is their victory if Hamas retains its 25,000-strong military, were a signal of the tension within Fatah over the reconciliation. Indeed, just a week earlier, Sinwar was decidedly less magnanimous: “Disarming us,” he quipped, “is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons.”
Fatah leaders are not stupid; they understand that their retaking of Gaza is coming at the cost of liberating Hamas from its civilian responsibilities and freeing it to better lead the military side of the Palestinian agenda. They are worried.
Some analysts have suggested that Hamas will still be able to play “spoiler” to any peace initiative. This is true, of course, but it was also true before the reconciliation.
Members of Hamas’s military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
What worries Fatah is not Hamas’s ability to spoil peace talks. Hamas has won something more important in Palestinian terms. By granting it a reprieve from its civilian rule in Gaza, and thus unshackling it from responsibility for the consequences of its narrative, Abbas has ensured that no matter what he says or does, it is Hamas and its ilk, the proponents of sacred, violent resistance, who will tell his story. They are now the emancipated bearers of the only Palestinian narrative actively being told in Palestine, a narrative whose basic tenets Abbas has not even attempted to challenge.
Abbas’s entire vision and legacy now lie at Hamas’s feet. He can never crush them enough, nor suppress their narrative about Palestinian resistance sufficiently — in part because he believes much of it himself — to win the war of ideas. He has now backed himself into the unenviable corner of trying to push ahead with his internationalization strategy while an unfettered Hamas operates without the slightest check to undermine him.
And he did it to himself, all for the paltry benefit of restoring the lost dignity of Fatah’s 2007 collapse in Gaza.
Hamas’s leaders are surely breathing easier now that the responsibility for Gaza’s desolation is being lifted from their shoulders. But for them, too, the reconciliation comes at a vast price. Hamas has effectively acknowledged that it is unable to steer the territory under its control to freedom and prosperity. The hard-bitten tacticians of its military wing may scoff at such considerations, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. In its abdication of civil leadership, Hamas reveals its own underlying strategic weakness, a weakness it shares with its new ally Hezbollah. Both groups are powerful enough to drag their nations into war, but not ideologically flexible or curious enough to be the bearers of better days.
Hamas has acknowledged that it cannot build a Palestine where Israel has withdrawn. It no longer even wants to.
An Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba in 2014. (Flash90/File)
A number of Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in central Israel on Monday, the military said, amid heightened tensions with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad since the army demolished the terrorist group’s border-crossing attack tunnel last month.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the anti-missile systems had been installed in central Israel, but would not elaborate on their exact location, citing army policy.
The Iron Dome system, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets and, in some cases, mortars was deployed to counter the threats made by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which has vowed to avenge its members killed in the tunnel blast and its aftermath.
Israeli officials have tried to dissuade the terrorist group, warning of a harsh retaliation by the IDF.
On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who runs the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison officer with the Palestinians, publicly warned Islamic Jihad in a video posted to YouTube. He addressed by name the terror group’s leader, Ramadan Shalah, and his deputy, Ziad Nakhaleh, who run the Gaza-based group from Damascus, and said they would be “held responsible” should Islamic Jihad attack Israel.
In the video, Mordechai said that Israel is “aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is planning against Israel,” and warned that “any attack by the Islamic Jihad will be met with a powerful and determined Israeli response, not only against the Jihad, but also against Hamas.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad responded to Mordechai’s video on Sunday, saying the Israeli threats against its leaders constituted “an act of war,” and vowing to continue to try to carry out a revenge attack against Israel.
The “threats to target the movement’s leadership is a declaration of war, which we will confront,” Islamic Jihad said, according to a statement carried by its media affiliate Palestine Today News Agency.
Islamic Jihad said it would not back down on its “right” to retaliate against Israel for the tunnel explosion, which led to the death of 12 members of the terrorists group, including two commanders, as well as two members of Hamas’s military wing.
“We reaffirm our right to respond to any aggression, including our right to respond to the crime of aggression on the resistance tunnel,” the terror group’s statement said.
The Israel Defense Forces blew up the tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim, on October 30.
According to the army, the tunnel had been under surveillance the entire time that it was inside Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.
The army said later that killing the terrorists was not the primary objective of the tunnel demolition.
The bodies of five terrorists who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory were recovered by the IDF, the army said.
According to Palestinian media, Hamas encouraged Islamic Jihad to abstain from retaliating both in order to prevent further escalation with Israel and to prevent the reconciliation talks it has been conducting with the Palestinian Authority from falling apart.
Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement terrorist Arafat Abu Morshed during the funeral at the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza of Palestinians killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on October 31, 2017. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
In his YouTube message, Mordechai referred to those reconciliation efforts, saying the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was “playing with fire” and potentially threatening them, as well as the safety of Gaza Strip residents.
Earlier this month, a senior officer in the IDF’s Southern Command warned that the military suspected the terror group may retaliate for the tunnel demolition with attacks on soldiers serving near the border, rocket fire at southern Israeli communities or terror attacks in the West Bank.
“The [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad will have a hard time holding back,” said the unnamed senior official.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, November 12, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ABIR SULTAN)
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his words of warning against those contemplating an attack. “These days, there are still those who toy with trying renewed attacks on Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We will take a very strong hand against anyone who tries to attack us or attacks us from any sector.”
“I say this to every entity, rogue faction, organization — every one. In any case, we see Hamas as responsible for every attack that emanates from, or is planned against us in, the Gaza Strip,” he said.
US Air Force official: Missile targeting Saudis was Iranian
Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital, says the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast.
Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.
“There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”
The Associated Press
Houthi Military Media Unit | Reuters
A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station on November 5, 2017, shows what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport on Saturday.
Iran manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital and remnants of it bore “Iranian markings,” the top U.S. Air Force official in the Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.
The comments by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, further internationalizes the yearslong conflict in Yemen — the Arab world’s poorest country.
Saudi Arabia long has accused Iran of giving weapons to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, though Tehran has just as long denied supplying them.
“There have been Iranian markings on those missiles,” Harrigian told journalists at a news conference in Dubai ahead of the Dubai Air Show. “To me, that connects the dots to Iran.”
There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.
Saudi Arabia says it shot down the missile Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest yet to reach into the kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry later said investigators examining the remains of the rocket found evidence proving “the role of Iranian regime in manufacturing them.” It did not elaborate, though it also mentioned it found similar evidence after a July 22 missile launch. French President Emmanuel Macron similarly this week described the missile as “obviously” Iranian.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement Tuesday that the July launch involved an Iranian Qiam-1, a liquid-fueled, short-range Scud missile variant. Iran used a Qiam-1 in combat for the first time in June when it targeted Islamic State group militants in Syria over twin militant attacks in Tehran.
Harrigian declined to offer any specifics on what type of missile U.S. officials believed it was, nor did he show any images of the debris. He also didn’t explain how Iran evaded the blockade by the Saudi-led coalition, which intensified after the missile targeting Riyadh.
“How they got it there is probably something that will continue to be investigated over time,” the lieutenant general said. “What has been demonstrated and shown based on the findings of that missile is that it had Iranian markings on it. That in itself provides evidence of where it came from.”
The Houthis have described using Burkan-2 or “Volcano” Scud variants in their recent attacks, including the one Nov. 4. Those finless missiles are reminiscent of the Qiam, wrote Jeremy Binnie of Jane’s Defense Weekly in a February analysis.
“The Burkan-2 is likely to heighten suspicions that Iran is helping Yemen’s rebel forces to develop their ballistic missile capabilities,” Binnie wrote.
Adding to that suspicion is the fact that Yemen’s missile forces previously never had experience in disassembling and rebuilding the weapons, said Michael Knights, a fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen.
It is “not a stretch to believe that Tehran is supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice and specialized components,” Knights wrote in an analysis Thursday. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions and international blockade.”
The U.S. already is involved in the war in Yemen and has launched drone strikes targeting the local branch of al-Qaida, though it stopped offering targeting information under the Obama administration over concerns about civilian casualties. That prohibition continues today, though the Air Force continues to refuel warplanes in the Yemen theater and offers support in managing airspace over the country, Harrigian said. The Saudi-led coalition also uses American-made bombs and ordinance in its attacks.
Yemen long has had ballistic missiles, dating back to the 1970s when Yemen was split between the socialist South Yemen and North Yemen. After unification in 1990 and a later civil war, Yemen largely moved its ballistic missile stockpile to a mountain base in Sanaa, the capital. It also purchased more from North Korea.
When the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, their allied fighters also held control of the ballistic missiles. The Yemeni military was widely believed to possess around 300 Scud missiles at the time, though exact figures remain unknown.
The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. It then attacked the ballistic missile base in April 2015, touching off massive explosions that killed several dozen people. Saudi Arabia implied at the time that the Scud arsenal in Yemen had been seriously degraded, if not entirely destroyed, as a result of the airstrikes.
It soon would become clear that wasn’t the case. In June 2015, the rebels fired their first ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia near the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait. In the time since, Yemen’s rebels have fired over 70 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ missile defense project.
For its part, Iran long has denied offering any arms to Yemen, though it has backed the Houthis and highlighted the high civilian casualties from the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign of airstrikes.
But others in Iran have been coy about the ballistic missiles in Yemen. Mehdi Taeb, an influential hard-line cleric who is a brother to the intelligence chief of the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, said in April that Iran tried three times to send missiles to Yemen. The Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, oversees Iran’s missile program.
“We did it one time via an airplane, one time via a Navy boat and one time with a ship,” Taeb said in an online video.
The cleric said ultimately the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the transfers stopped over negotiations on the nuclear deal with world powers, without offering a specific time for the attempted shipments.
“They said come back because the Americans said, ‘If you send missiles to Yemen, we will end the negotiations,'” Taeb said.
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The PA is due to retake control of the Strip, still run by the Hamas terror group, by December 1.
“We are talking about one authority, one law, one gun,” Atallah told journalists in Ramallah in the West Bank, echoing a line from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked whether he could allow Hamas’s armed wing to maintain its weapons while being in charge of police in Gaza, he said: “No way.”
Major General Hazem Attallah (C), the head of the Palestinian police in the occupied West Bank, speaks with journalists following a press conference in Ramallah on November 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
“It is impossible. How can I do security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.
“Otherwise how can I be in charge? Who is going to be standing and saying ‘I am the chief of police, I am in charge,’ if I am not controlling everything?”
He said the 8,000-9,000 Palestinian police who worked in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007 would return to their posts, rejecting the idea of merging with the existing Hamas-led police.
This, he added, would need major financial support as the police’s budget would effectively double.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 following a near civil war with Fatah, which currently dominates the PA.
Last month the two parties signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement under which Hamas is meant to hand over control of Gaza by December 1.
The agreement signed in Cairo does not specify the future for Hamas’s vast armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas has made clear it is not prepared to disarm.
On November 1, Hamas handed over control of border crossings in a first key test.
But in a sign of tension, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Tuesday the PA still did not have full control of the crossings, with Hamas dominating the police and security inside Gaza.
Hamas rejected that, with a statement saying it had fully transferred power.
Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, publicly seeks the destruction of Israel and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.
Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade in order to prevent the import of weapons, while Egypt has also kept its border largely closed in recent years.
Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.
Donald ‘the fraud’ Trump’s political base is uneducated white males of which I am considered one of. Because I am very technology challenged I guess I am one of ‘those people’, you know whom I mean, the deplorable’s. The political talking heads say Trump’s base are white males with only a high school education or less. I have an Associate Degree in Sociology and Anthropology but I had to work my behind off to obtain a 2.72 GPA. What I am saying is that I am not a genius, I am just an average person. I do try my best to be a good Christian person, I know that I fail at my efforts constantly though. I do say these things to you so that you know that I do not consider myself as being better than you, or anyone else, well, except for the IDIOT in Our White House. It is a bit difficult to believe that anyone on the planet is more clueless than ‘the Donald.’
Now let us get down to the reason for this article today. Our glorious ‘habitual Liar in Chief’ is on a 12-day trip to Asia. Yesterday he made a speech to the South Korea Congress and today he is in China with his “good friend” President Xi Jinping. Before he went to South Korea he spent time in Japan with their leader Mr. Abe and I hear that they spent time on a golf course together. You know the only place that you normally hear more lies told than on a fishing boat, is on a golf course. This is especially true when Donald Trump enters the course. I read a lot of newspapers from all over the world almost every day and one of the things that is very clear is that no one anywhere believes anything that comes out of this mans mouth. It does seem that the only place you may find anyone here in the States who actually believes anything he says is on the Fox News Network.
If you are an ally of the United States these days, Mr. Trump has very plainly made it clear that he doesn’t give a flip about such things as longstanding treaties or friendships. Remember the fiasco/lies about the US Aircraft Carrier battle group that was “speeding toward Korea” as a sign of strength to our friends in South Korea and as a warning to North Korea? The same battle group that was actually heading in the opposite direction headed toward Australia to take part in ‘war games’ off of Australia’s northeast coast! This ‘bluff’! Do you remember the anger of the South Korean people and government officials when they found out that Mr. Trump had basically set them up as bait? Mr. Trump lies so often and changes his mind so often people with any sense at all have trouble remembering the last time he ever told the truth about anything. Just as our Ally’s have learned they cannot trust his word on anything, government leaders have also learned this same truth. President Putin and President Jinping both must be giddy as all heck realizing that there is an ignorant fool in the White House, it is obvious that both of these men are a whole lot wiser, smarter, and intelligent than Mr. Trump. You know what else, even the ‘Little Rocket Man’ knows all of these things about him also. The only question is, will the Republicans in the Senate grow a set and impeach this Fool before he starts a nuclear war with North Korea and their friends in China? I used the word ‘Fraud’ in the headline because to me, if you cannot believe a single thing that comes out of a persons mouth not only are they a habitual liar, they are a FRAUD and to me, these terms fit Mr. Trump perfectly!
For those of you who do not like it that I am calling out Mr. Trump for the person that he is please take a moment and get your Bible out. Now in the index look up the words Fraud and Fool. I was going to use a couple of passages that describe what the Bible says about these two kinds of people so that you could match them up with Mr. Trump’s actions. As you can see I didn’t waste the writing space because there were so many that describe Mr. Trump so perfectly that I decided to simply request that you see/read them all for yourself.
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BEIJING — For more than a year, China has railed against South Korea, calling for boycotts of its products over Seoul’s decision to let the United States deploy an anti-missile system, which Beijing fears threaten its own security.
On Tuesday, however, China abruptly changed course, essentially saying “never mind,” as the two countries agreed to end their dispute even though South Korea is keeping the system in place.
China’s unexpected move to settle the rancorous dispute could scramble President Trump’s calculations about how to deal with allies and North Korea on the eve of his first trip to Asia.
The decision, by the newly empowered Chinese president, Xi Jinping, appeared to reflect a judgment that China’s continued opposition to the deployment of the American missile defense system was not succeeding in fraying the South Korean government’s alliance with Washington.
But it could also pose a fresh challenge to Mr. Trump, as he attempts to build support in the region to put greater pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programs.
South Korea’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, is more receptive to diplomacy with the North Koreans than either Mr. Trump or Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Drawing Mr. Moon closer to Beijing, analysts said, could create a new alignment on how to deal with the North, with China and South Korea facing off against Japan and the United States.
“It’s going to undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build solidarity among the U.S., Japan, and Korea to put pressure not only on North Korea but on China to do more on North Korea,” said Michael J. Green, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Much about the rapprochement is not known, Mr. Green cautioned, and the Chinese could be exaggerating the implications of the agreement. But it adds yet another volatile element to Mr. Trump’s 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia, which begins this weekend.
Formally, the Trump administration welcomed news of the thaw. The State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, told reporters on Tuesday, “We see that as providing better stability, greater stability for a region that desperately needs it because of North Korea.”
Ms. Nauert, however, said she did not know whether China’s move indicated it no longer had objections to the deployment of the antimissile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad.
The White House has not publicly addressed the rapprochement. A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue, acknowledged it could complicate matters, but said there should be no inherent conflict in South Korea restoring its relations with China while at the same time pushing to keep maximum pressure on North Korea.
In restoring better relations with South Korea, Mr. Xi appeared to have decided that he could afford to blink. But he also does not face a vigorous political opposition or press, which could accuse him of flip-flopping on the issue.
Even under Mr. Moon, whose outlook toward China had been more favorable than his predecessor’s and who has called for a more balanced diplomacy between Beijing and Washington, Mr. Xi made no headway in achieving his stated goal of stopping the deployment of the Thaad.
A second phase of the missile defense system, intended to defend South Korea from the escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, was installed despite China’s protests in September, just four months after Mr. Moon took office. China had insisted it would not tolerate Thaad’s powerful radar so close to its own missile systems.
Mr. Xi’s tough stance against South Korea also included the informal, though punishing, economic boycott that helped reinforce the American relationship with Seoul, undermining China’s long-term goal of replacing the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia.
“This is the reversal of an ineffective and costly policy on the part of China,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China.
In agreeing to restore cordial relations, South Korea pledged not to accept additional Thaad launchers and agreed not to join a regional missile defense system with the United States and Japan. The agreement not to accept any more Thaad deployments had been a longstanding policy stance of Mr. Moon anyway, a South Korean government official said on Wednesday.
South Korea also promised not to join a trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan. Mr. Moon, like his predecessors, had shown no interest in expanding military relations with Japan, its former colonial master.
With the increased threat from North Korea, Mr. Moon had aligned himself more closely with Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe.
The three leaders met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany in July and agreed to enhance their defense capabilities against the North Korean threat.
In warming up to South Korea, Mr. Xi probably recognized that Mr. Moon would be more malleable to favoring dialogue with North Korea than was his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye.
At the recent party congress in which he was elevated to a second five-year term as president, Mr. Xi showed himself determined to project China’s power in a “new era.” Resolving the North Korea crisis dovetails with that theme, and any move toward talking with the North would be easier with Mr. Moon by his side.
South Korea and China announced their decision to restore relations just before Mr. Trump’s visit.
The timing was interpreted in Beijing as a way to blunt some of the impacts of the American president’s stop in Seoul, where he is expected to deliver a speech to the National Assembly.
Indeed, the rapprochement between China and South Korea carries risks for the United States. How far Mr. Moon would now lean toward China is something that Washington needs to watch closely, said Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department official who has dealt with the Korean Peninsula.
In agreeing not to join a regional missile defense system, South Korea is addressing China’s concerns about what it views as the United States’ aim to “contain” China.
“Beijing was worried that Thaad would eventually be succeeded by ‘son of Thaad’ — a regional missile defense system involving the United States, South Korea and Japan and others that would be aimed at dealing with China’s offensive missile force, unlike the current Thaad, which it is not,” Mr. Revere said.
For Mr. Moon, the Chinese government’s efforts to discourage the purchase of popular South Korean goods as punishment for the Thaad deployment has taken a toll. China is by far the biggest trading partner of South Korea; two-way trade is bigger than South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan combined.
The Hyundai Research Institute found that the Thaad dispute was likely to have cost South Korea $7.5 billion so far this year, a 0.5 percent hit to its gross domestic product. China lost $880 million, just a 0.01 percent drop of its G.D.P., the institute said.
South Korean car sales plummeted in China. Lotte, the retailer, recently put 112 of its stores in China on the market after customers abandoned it. South Korean movies and cosmetics also suffered.
The government-encouraged boycott — coupled with what was perceived as Beijing’s interference in South Korea’s internal affairs over Thaad — hardened the view of China as a bully among the South Korean people.
“We have seen anti-Chinese sentiments rising in South Korea,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor at the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul. “So did the approval ratings for the Thaad deployment, and calls mounted for strengthening the alliance with the Americans.”
Despite the apparent resolution of the standoff between the two countries, there was no guarantee that the accord would stick.
People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, issued a somewhat friendly, but mostly stern, editorial. “Only proper resolution of the Thaad issue can bring the Sino-Korean relationship back onto the right track,” it said.
It was possible that both sides agreed to resolve their differences so the two leaders, Mr. Xi and Mr. Moon, could meet in Vietnam next week during an Asian economic summit meeting. After that, there is the talk of Mr. Moon visiting China before the end of the year.
“This is a direct result of South Korea’s efforts to mend fences,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University. “China also realizes that Thaad should not hold hostage the whole relations between the two nations. But I think the Thaad issue is just shelved, not resolved.”
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But on Tuesday, Air Force Academy officials said that one of the black cadet candidates actually wrote the racist messages.
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“We can confirm that one of the cadet candidates who was allegedly targeted by racist remarks written outside their dorm room was actually responsible for the act,” the Academy said in a written statement. “The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation.”
The vandalism was written in black marker and said “Go home” with the N-word, according to CNN affiliate KRDO.
Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, director of public affairs with the Academy, said that the cadet responsible admitted his guilt when confronted. The individual has “received administrative punishment” and is no longer at the preparatory school, Herritage said.
The four other students that were the target of the vandalism are still at the Prep School, which is on the same campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the Air Force Academy. The Prep School helps ready about 240 cadets each year to enter the academy.
‘This is our institution’
Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen Jay Silveria speaking to Cadets in Sept 2017.
Silveria, the Academy’s superintendent, made clear in his speech in September that there would be no tolerance for racist rhetoric at the Academy.
“If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
“This is our institution, and no one can take away our values,” Silveria added. “No one can write on a board and question our values. No one can take that away from us.”
Although the hateful graffiti was revealed to be a hoax, the Air Force Academy affirmed that same message of dignity respect in a statement on Tuesday.
“Racism has no place at the Academy, in any shape or form. We will continue to create a climate of dignity and respect for all, encourage ideas that do so, and hold those who fail to uphold these standards accountable.”
Silveria said in a statement on Tuesday that his speech remained relevant despite the investigation’s outcome.
“Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed,” he said. “You can never overemphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect and those who don’t understand those concepts aren’t welcome here.”
CNN’s Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.
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Peter Enav, a former Taiwan correspondent for The Associated Press, on Tuesday last week published an article on the Web site Taiwan Sentinel, entitled: “Taiwan Under the Gun: An Urgent Call to Action,” in which he warned that the three conditions required for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to consider an attack on Taiwan are close to being fulfilled.
Enav believes that as soon as the middle of next year, China’s military will have completed its readiness to the extent where it could decide to launch an invasion of the nation.
The three major conditions, as Enav sees it, are: One, China must feel certain that the “political option for unification” is now impossible; two, China’s military must be ready and able to launch an unimpeded amphibious attack across the Taiwan Strait — and feel confident that it can crush any post-invasion resistance; and three, Beijing must believe the international fallout and economic sanctions following an invasion of Taiwan would not outweigh the gain of unifying the nation with China.
These three conditions tally with the basic criteria for an invasion that have been put forward by Beijing in the past.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said that China would experience a political and cultural renaissance that could endure for up to 200 years. Implied within this overall goal is a timetable for the unification of Taiwan.
Looking at this timetable, China would not be ready by launch an attack on Taiwan until 2021 at the earliest. In reality, while the PLA’s Rocket Force possesses long-range missile strike capability, China’s military still lacks sufficient transport and lift capability and also still needs to first shore up its core strategic interests in the East and South China seas and further increase the strength of its forces before it can consider invading the nation.
At present, it would be difficult for the PLA to muster sufficient forces to mount a successful invasion. For these reasons, Enav’s warning that the PLA would be ready to attack Taiwan by next year seems somewhat alarmist.
Furthermore, as the recent high-level economic dialogue between the US and China shows, the two countries are still at loggerheads on trade, as they have been for some time.
Economic issues never exist in isolation but are invariably part of a wider political, military and diplomatic picture. If the trade dispute between the US and China is not resolved and the relationship sours, Washington would use the prospect of warships from the US military’s Pacific Fleet forces stopping over in Taiwan to deter Beijing.
US President Donald Trump recently approved a plan by the Pentagon that allows the US Navy to conduct full-year passages through international waters in the South China Sea illegally claimed by China as its own.
The White House clearly intends to use freedom of navigation as a means to respond to Beijing’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. It is also clear that containment of China has already become established US policy. The US would not easily allow the PLA to attack Taiwan.
The US is still the only superpower and, while willing to cooperate with Beijing in many areas, Washington is increasingly wary of China and employs military and diplomatic means to contain it. Competition between the two nations is intensifying, which could benefit Taiwan.
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