Week in Review - September 12, 2014

Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central Eurasia

Middle East and North Africa - ISIS

  • In a prime-time speech, President Barack Obama announced his administration's new plan to combat "Islamic State" (ISIS/ISIL) militants including equipping and training the Iraqi army in conjunction with Iraqi Sunni militias and Kurdish forces. The Pentagon said it would send an additional 475 U.S. military advisors to Iraq to help. The President’s plan will try mobilize Sunni Iraqis against ISIS fighters similar to what militias did against al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) during the “Sunni Awakening” in 2006-2007, although the military hopes to better link the militias into the Iraqi military.
  • The President’s new plan also calls on a coalition of allies to work with the United States to combat ISIS. Partners will help with intelligence, humanitarian aid, stopping the flow of money and foreign fighters, and combating the extremist ideolody. In addition, part of the President’s plan calls for air strikes within Syria significantly expanding the ongoing air campaign that up until now has been confined to targets inside Iraq. The counterterrorism strategy will resemble U.S. actions in Yemen and Somalia according to the President.
  • In addition to training the Iraqi military and militias, the President’s plan asks Congress to approve the training and equipping of Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia has offered to host the training of some of these forces. However, arming Syrian rebels risks such equipment falling into the hands of ISIS like reports have recently noted. Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) pledged support for the President’s plan, however, some Congressional Republicans are against arming rebel forces in Syria, and instead support more aggressive measures such as the deployment of U.S. Special Forces. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are hesitant to approve the equipping of rebels. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “I would not support the arm-and-equip request as it stands today.”


Latin America

  • The U.S. State Department approved Brazil’s request for additional military equipment including Black Hawk helicopters, machine guns, global positioning system/inertial navigation systems, and related training, logistics and support equipment. Brazil indicated that it needs the equipment for internal security and search-and-rescue operations. The equipment is valued at $145 million.
  • Diálogo Americas reported this week that Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama have been working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation under the rubric of the Central American Community Impact Exchange (CACIE) program established in 2013. CACIE aims to increase cooperation between U.S. and partner law enforcement agencies in order to combat violent gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M-18), which operate in Central America as well as the United States. The program also provides “concrete and specific” training in anti-gang tactics.
  • The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report this week calling for an end to criminalized, prohibitive drug policies and advocating the legalization and regulation of psychoactive substances. The commission, which is comprised of former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland as well as other prominent figures such as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and businessman Richard Branson, released its first report in 2011, which claimed that the “war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."



  • Nigeria’s military launched air and ground attacks to recapture the northeastern town, Michika. There are growing fears that Boko Haram is taking cues from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by mirroring similar tactics and political ambitions. Like ISIS, Boko Haram has made its desires known that it seeks to establish a caliphate in West Africa.

  • President Barack Obama promised military aid to help West Africa with the Ebola epidemic. However, the military may not be prepared to adequately address the epidemic, as the military does not have much expertise dealing with a major disease according to a top U.S. official coordinating the response. Meanwhile, the African Union has called for travel restrictions to be lifted in West Africa so more international assistance can arrive.

  • Following the recent U.S. strikes in Somalia that killed al-Shabaab’s leader, the terrorist organization threatened to retaliate in East Africa and the United States, which included twin attacks in Somalia already carried out. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused African Union (A.U.) forces of raping Somali women and girls. The African Union expressed concern with the report and the Somali government promised to thoroughly investigate the charges.


Central Eurasia

  • Following the 2014 NATO Summit where Georgia became a “NATO enhanced-opportunities partner,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited the country’s capital, Tbilisi. Mr. Hagel, who is the first Defense Secretary to visit the country in more than a decade, pledged U.S. assistance to improve Georgian security. Although Mr. Hagel avoided making specific promises, talks with top Georgian military officials included discussion of Tbilisi’s interest in purchasing U.S. Blackhawk helicopters. Since the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, a de facto embargo on U.S. arms transfers to Georgia has been in place, and Georgia’s Defense Minister welcomed the apparent move away from that policy.
  • Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made an unannounced two-day visit to Azerbaijan this week in order to “strengthen strategic ties” with the Caucasian nation.  Ya’alon’s visit coincided with Azerbaijan’s first international arms exhibition, ADEX-2014, which showcased defense systems from 16 Israeli firms and Ministry of Defense export officials.  Azerbaijan has purchased almost $4 billion worth of arms from Israel over the last three years, making the country one of the top markets for Israeli military equipment.
  • Meanwhile, also at the ADEX-2014 expo, Paramount Group, a privately-owned company based in South Africa, signed a joint venture agreement with Azerbaijan’s AirTechServices Corporation. The agreement established Paramount Aerospace Azerbaijan, through which Paramount intends to transfer “skills, technology and advanced aerospace capability to Azerbaijan and the wider region,” according to the company’s Executive Chairman. The agreement coincided with the delivery of an additional 6 armored vehicles by Paramount to Azerbaijan’s armed forces, which was the latest tranche of the total purchase of 60 vehicles.