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12 June 21. DOD Statement on the Appointment of Benjamin “Benny” Gantz as Minister of Defense in Israel’s 36th Government. Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby provided the following readout: Defense Lloyd J. Austin III congratulates Benjamin “Benny” Gantz on his appointment as the Minister of Defense in Israel’s 36th government today. Secretary Austin looks forward to continuing the important cooperation and dialogue with Minister Gantz to deepen the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership. The U.S. commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad. (Source: US DoD)
08 June 21. Foreign Secretary signs UK-Iraq Strategic Partnership on visit. On his visit to Iraq, the Foreign Secretary underscored the UK’s support to the country’s efforts tackling Daesh. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has met with Prime Minister Kadhimi, President Salih, Foreign Minister Hussein and other high-ranking officials in the Iraqi Government.
Foreign Secretary Raab reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to Iraq through signing the UK and Iraq’s Strategic Partnership. He met commanders from the Global Coalition against Daesh in which the UK is a leading member and from NATO.
In addition, he discussed the UK’s £17m contribution to battle Covid-19 in Iraq and UK support for Iraq’s ambitious and much-needed economic reform plans, building the UK’s launch of the inaugural Iraq Economic Contact Group on 21 October.
Foreign Secretary Raab said, “The UK will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government of Iraq as it works to rebuild from Daesh, make progress on reform, and deliver a more peaceful and hopeful future for its citizens. I am pleased we were able to sign the UK-Iraq strategic partnership today to further deepen and strengthen our friendship.”
The UK will provide £1m of UK aid to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq ahead of the upcoming elections to help ensure a free and fair process for the Iraqi people. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
08 June 21. US, France, Arab Allies Rush Help To Floundering Lebanese Armed Forces. While U.S. increases FMF to $120m, France prepares international conference to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces whose budget was wiped out by collapse of country’s economy.
Ravaged by 110 percent inflation, the Lebanese military has run out of money to feed its troops and troops salaries have plunged in value to the point where they are no longer enough to cover the cost of living.
The dire conditions prompted LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun to ask global powers, friends and allies for help. He spoke with senior U.S. military and government officials in virtual meetings early last May. He later flew to Paris to meet with senior defense officials and President Manuel Macron in a rare move that reflects the severity of the situation in Lebanon.
In response to these overtures, the United States and its Western and Arab allies are scrambling to boost aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). How bad are things? A captain in the LAF’s monthly salary has shrunk from about $2,340 at end of 2019 to $270 at end of May 2021, leaving him and his colleagues unable to pay for food, housing and other essentials.
There’s little prospect of this getting fixed any time soon since Lebanese political parties are paralyzed and can’t form a new government, further undermining the country’s financial and economic systems.
“The collapse of the central government, which would certainly impact the LAF, would leave the borders wide open for refugees and terrorists to move in and out towards Europe,” said Khalil Helou, a retired Lebanese brigadier general and defense analyst. “So, now, countries seeking to assist the LAF are not only focusing on supplying arms and equipment, but also food and medical supplies to keep the military establishment functional.”
Military transporters carrying food and medical supplies to the 84,000-strong LAF have been making frequent flights to Beirut from Arab and Western capitals, including the UAE, Egypt, Oman, France, the US and Jordan.
“For the US, Lebanon is a unique case where a national military has improved almost at an inverse rate to the central government in a fragile state,” said Aram Nerguizian, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Nerguizian pointed out that the U.S. sees a distinction between the professional LAF and the largely corrupt Lebanese government which is why it remains actively working with the military to maintain its role as a stabilizing factor and to fend off any efforts by Lebanese to degrade the military establishment in an attempt to control it, and possibly make it fall under the hegemony of players such as Russia and Iran.
French officials announced May 27 they will organize an international conference to support the LAF this summer. “The sort of support we expect to address the impact of the socio-economic conditions on the LAF,” said Helou who pointed out that “the general concern now is about how to ensure that the regular troops and officers have sufficient salaries that enable them to feed their families, in order to remain efficient and obedient to the chain of command and perform their duties.”
Local Lebanese news outlets have reported cases of desertions within the military by troops seeking better livelihood inside and outside the country. However, these reports were never verified and were denied by the LAF. “International donors could even consider donating cash to enable the LAF to raise wages, or offer its member subsidized products such as gas, food and health services,” said Helou.
“From an LAF perspective, it is clear that it owes far more to the US than to any internal force or faction for its continued stability,” added Nerguizian. According to the US Embassy in Beirut, since 2006, the United States has provided more than $2.5bn in military grant aid to Lebanon.
U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon Dorothy Shea said May 28 that “the U.S. Department of State announced the intended transfer of $120m in Foreign Military Financing for Fiscal Year 2021. This military grant assistance will provide the Lebanese Armed Forces with critical defense systems, services, and training. This award marks a $15m increase over prior-year levels.”
“In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will donate three U.S. Coast Guard Protector-class patrol boats to the Lebanese Navy next year. These (27-meter long) boats will greatly strengthen Lebanon’s maritime patrol capabilities. Lastly, the Department of Defense initiated the transfer of $59m in Section 1226 funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which will be used primarily to strengthen the army’s border security capabilities along the eastern border,” Shea said.
The ambassador spoke at the conclusion of a 9-day-long joint Lebanese-U.S.-Jordanian naval exercises off the Lebanese coast. “This was the 21st iteration of Resolute Union and the first time we’ve conducted Resolute Union as a multilateral exercise with three participating militaries,” Shea said. The ceremony was attended by Rear Adm. Curtis Renshaw, deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command.
Although emphasizing the naval component within the newly announced U.S. military aid was noteworthy to many observers, others saw it as part of an already set plan.
“The U.S. decision to grant the Lebanese naval forces three patrol vessels is in line with the Lebanese Naval Forces development plan that was laid out by the Lebanese military command few years ago and presented to the U.S. military,” the former commander of the Lebanese Navy, retired Rear Adm. Nazih Baroudi, said.
“This interest in naval capabilities is by no means sudden,” Nerguizian noted, saying that the fact the Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL) has reduced the number of its vessels operating off the coast has made it more pressing to increase Lebanon’s own maritime capabilities.
UNIFL has been deployed in south Lebanon since 1978 to police the area along Israel’s northern borders. A Maritime Task Force was added to it in 2006 to patrol the coastline and prevent weapons smuggling. The U.S. is currently trying to broker talks between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate the maritime borders to enable both to start excavating for gas and oil that supposedly exist in large quantities in the eastern Mediterranean basin.
“Even a clear agreement between Israel and Lebanon will mean that Lebanon should have some additional ability to do SAR (search and rescue) and interdict in the maritime domain, especially if offshore exploration is to become a reality,” said Nerguizian. “The counter-terrorism and counter-migration dimensions to this are at best anciliary, but having those capabilities certainly helps the LAF in terms of managing both expectations and optics of partners in Europe, to say nothing of the US and other allies.”
The Lebanese Navy has received a 44-meter Lebanese Coastal Security Craft (LCSC-42) under the U.S. military aid program, built by Riverhawk in Tampa, Fla. Over the past 25 years, the French, British, German and UAE navies have all donated patrol boats to the Lebanese Navy, which now operates seven patrol boast that are between 20 and 34 meters long, in addition to the LCSC-42, and a dozen fast interceptor boats less than 20-meters long, two 59-meter landing crafts, and 45 small multi-purpose support boats.
Lebanon hosts more than one million Syrian refugees and about 300,000 Palestinian refugees that live in worsened socio-economic and security conditions. The country faces tough challenges in preventing additional Syrian refugees escaping civil war in their country from moving in or using its coastline to escape towards Europe. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
07 June 21. Next steps for supporting peace and stability in Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon. Statement by Ambassador James Roscoe at the Security Council briefing on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa.
Thank you Mr President.
On behalf of the United Kingdom, I want to express our thanks to SRSG Fall for his continued efforts to support and promote peace, stability and security in Central Africa, particularly amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts.
We welcome recent progress in the region, particularly the establishment of the new ECCAS Commission. But as SRSG Fall has set out, Central Africa continues to face serious political, economic and security challenges which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.
We commend UNOCA’s ongoing efforts to coordinate with UN country teams across the sub-region, and deploy the UN’s good offices to prevent, mediate and resolve conflicts across Central Africa. I would like to focus on the next steps needed in this respect in three of the country situations we have heard about today.
Firstly, Mr President, let me turn to Chad. The United Kingdom deplores the violence and repression of protestors in Chad in April. We support the AU’s recommendation that the Transitional Military Council should respect human rights, provide an inclusive constitutional framework and conduct free and fair elections within 18 months. A stable Chad is pivotal for the Chadian people as well as the wider Sahel region.
Secondly, turning to the Central African Republic, I understand that we will have the opportunity in closed consultations to discuss the recent very troubling clashes across the border between Chad and the Central African Republic. The last thing the region needs is increased instability and mistrust between neighbouring countries, and so all actors should encourage de-escalation of those tensions.
Within the Central African Republic itself, following the recent presidential and parliamentary elections there is an opportunity to build on this democratic trajectory towards peace and reconciliation. We hope that all stakeholders will redouble efforts to strengthen political inclusivity, protect and promote human rights and meet the needs of the population, including with respect to basic security and humanitarian needs.
Thirdly, Mr President, The United Kingdom also remains deeply concerned by the ongoing crisis in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon. In March the UK’s Minister for Africa visited Cameroon and met President Biya and Prime Minister Ngute, encouraging them to renew efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
On his visit our Minister saw first-hand the profound impact of the crisis on civilians. Over a million people have been displaced due to the conflict, and over two million are in dire need of humanitarian support. Unimpeded humanitarian access is desperately needed. At the same time, we continue to receive deeply concerning reports of human rights violations and abuses committed by both sides in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon. Accountability for perpetrators is essential for building long-term peace. And in the short-term, armed actors should heed the UN Secretary-General’s call, and cease attacks against civilians.
We welcome the steps taken by the Government of Cameroon to grant special status for the Anglophone regions and convene the inaugural regional elections in 2020. However, all parties should do more to end this protracted conflict in Cameroon. The UK stands ready to support parties to engage in good faith dialogue and peacebuilding efforts. And we are supporting efforts to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable civilians through UK funding, currently totalling US$19m, for vital assistance, food, sanitation and medical supplies.
Finally Mr President, I do want to acknowledge the very real threat that Cameroon and its neighbours continue to face in terms of terrorist attacks on civilians across the Lake Chad Basin region. The recent attack in Yagha province in Burkina Faso where over one hundred civilians were reportedly killed is a stark reminder of the grave threats facing civilians across this region. We strongly condemn all such attacks, and continue to support the efforts of the Multi-National Joint Task Force to tackle Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa. We urge the governments of the Lake Chad Basin countries, with the support of international partners, to improve governance, demobilise and reintegrate former combatants, and mitigate the impacts of climate change on regional security.
I’d like to finish with a thank you as I began to SRSG Fall for his extraordinary efforts across this region. We know that his personal interventions across the region with countries, with governments and with Heads of States have a serious and significant effect on the trajectory of the region and we’re very grateful to him. Thank you, Mr President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 June 21. Putin confirms Russian exit from Open Skies Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a bill to withdraw from an international treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities, following the U.S. exit from the pact.
The bill was endorsed by Russian lawmakers after U.S. officials told Moscow last month that President Joe Biden’s administration had decided not to reenter the Open Skies Treaty that the U.S. left under President Donald Trump.
As a presidential candidate, Biden had criticized Trump’s withdrawal as “short-sighted.” Moscow had signaled its readiness to reverse the withdrawal procedure and stay in the 1992 treaty if the United States returned to the agreement, but now Putin’s signature seals the Russian withdrawal that would take effect in six months.
Putin and Biden are to have a summit in Geneva on June 16, a meeting that comes amid soaring tensions in Russia-U.S. ties that have hit post-Cold War lows after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections, hacking attacks and other issues.
The Open Skies Treaty was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord’s more than three dozen signatories to carry out surveillance flights over each other’s territories to oversee troop deployments and other military activities. More than 1,500 flights have been conducted under the treaty since it took effect in 2002, helping foster transparency and monitor arms control agreements.
President Donald Trump made good on his decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, but it looks like President-elect Joe Biden, who opposed that move, may have a path to revive the pact.
Trump pulled out of the pact last year, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for Washington to remain a party, and the United States completed its withdrawal in November.
Russia has rejected any violations, arguing that a few restrictions on observation flights it imposed in the past were permissible under the treaty and noted that the U.S. imposed more sweeping restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.
As a condition for staying in the pact after the U.S. pullout, Moscow has unsuccessfully pushed for guarantees from NATO allies that they won’t hand over the data collected during their observation flights over Russia to the U.S. (Source: Defense News)
07 June 21. Ukraine Making Progress on Defense Reforms, Official Says. America is unwavering in its support for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro Atlantic aspirations, said the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Laura K. Cooper spoke virtually today at the Democracy in Action: Zero Corruption Conference.
Ukraine is a critical partner on the frontline of Russian aggression, she said. Russia occupies Crimea and fuels conflict in the Donbas in its attempt to change borders by force.
“We must not accept this as a fait accompli. Russia’s aggression is not only a matter for Ukraine, it is a threat to Europe, to the United States and to the stability of the international order,” Cooper said.
The United States has long understood that the projection of strength and unity among its NATO allies and partners are vital components to deter Russian aggression and coercion, she said. In that vein, the United States is committed to ensuring that NATO’s door remains open to aspirants such as Ukraine, when they are ready and able to meet the commitments and obligations of membership and to contribute to security in the Euro Atlantic area.
To that end, the United States will continue to work with and urge the government of Ukraine to implement the deep, comprehensive and timely reforms that are necessary to advance its Euro Atlantic aspirations in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine, Cooper said.
Ukraine has made tremendous strides in its reform efforts over the last 30 years of its independence, she said, citing some examples:
- Ukraine’s passage of the law On National Security in 2018 provided a legislative framework for aligning its national security architecture with Euro Atlantic principles, and constituted a major step forward toward its goal of achieving NATO interoperability.
- In March 2020, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an amendment that separates the positions of the chief of the general staff from the commander in chief of the armed forces. This new system of command and control separates force generation from force employment functions, which is a core feature of Western military structures.
- Kyiv passed a law on defense procurement, and advanced a bill that could remake the Security Service of Ukraine into a modern security service guided by Western democratic standards.
- Ukraine adopted both a national security strategy and national military strategy, which codified national strategic objectives and set conditions for reforms across Ukraine’s defense enterprise.
While the Government of Ukraine has made substantial progress, there are some areas that require further attention, she said, mentioning some:
- The United States encourages Ukraine to pass legislation that clearly delineates the duties of the ministry of defense and the Ukrainian armed forces. This will better align Ukraine’s defense enterprise with the core NATO principles of democratic civilian control of the military.
- Regarding defense industry, the United States urges Ukraine to adopt a strategy to better support the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces and Ukraine economic objectives, while implementing effective corporate governance and supervisory board principles that are in line with global best practices.
- The United States believes that the adoption of foreign direct investment controls based on national security interests are vital to protecting Ukraine’s critical civil and defense infrastructure from foreign exploitation. Effective defense industry processes and institutions will lead to sustained improvement in combat capability, reduce corruption and open the door to increased Western investments.
- The Defense Department strongly encourages Ukraine to continue to implement its law on defense procurement to create a globally competitive process, increase efficiency and enhance transparency in the defense procurement cycle.
- While there have been promising human resource management reforms, Kyiv must continue to advance these reforms to truly transform the Ukrainian armed forces and pave the way for a Western style career management system.
“The United States is committed to assisting Ukraine with the implementation of these reforms, and we maintain a robust advisory effort to help modernize Ukraine’s military in line with NATO principles and standards,” Cooper said.
The Annual National Program under the NATO Ukraine Commission is an invaluable resource to take forward the reforms that are needed to advance Ukraine’s NATO membership aspirations, Cooper added.
“I encourage Ukraine to make the best use of this dedicated forum, as well as the benefits of capacity building programs, through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package, and more recently, through enhanced opportunities for partner status to promote greater interoperability through exercises and training,” she said.
“I also want to underscore that the United States remains committed to continuing our political, economic and military cooperation with Ukraine in support of an even stronger and more enduring strategic partnership between our two great nations,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
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