Forget valentines – the Year of the Tiger starts today
Power, beauty, danger
The US Air Force Drones program might perhaps be congratulated for properly updating and automating the clunky railway, cattle truck, and gas chamber program of the last claimant to a “thousand year empire.” (“Das Tausend Jaehrige Reich.”) With the establishment of the CIA candidate of choice in the unitary presidency the reduction of the USA to a banana republic is essentially complete – unfortunately without actually producing any bananas.
(Anyone who doubts this should consult Dana Priest’s Washington Post article that describes how the Obama administration has adopted the Bush policy of targeting selected American citizens for assassination if they are deemed to be Terrorists. Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair said in each case a decision to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen must get "special permission" before an American citizen can be placed on the assassination list; that "permission" is obtained from the President, or someone under his authority within the Executive Branch. The President claims the power to assassinate American citizens without charges, trials, or judicial oversight of any kind, common practice in banana republics, but not often so bluntly acknowledged.)
The trouble with technology, once invented, however, is that it can not be controlled. Stolen, leaked, copied, it immediately proliferates. Truman’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left the Japanese without a comeback, and indeed, sixty years later, still feebly trying to move the US military out of their country, (and the Germans aren’t even trying) but the list of countries that now possess nuclear weapons is a long one, some of them, like India and Pakistan, grimly ignoring the automated slaughter of their own populations while eyeball to eyeball, nukes in hand, they face each other.
So also with drones.
Sudan/Iran - The Drones Club – Africa Confidential
Iran is supplying Khartoum with military equipment for its attacks in Darfur, in clear breach of the United Nations arms embargo, Africa Confidential has learned. On 28 August, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Unity Command shot down an Iranian-made Ababil-111 unmanned > aerial vehicle (UAV) which was probably controlled by Iranian technicians, say aviation and military sources.
Khartoum admitted the ‘accidental’ loss of the drone, which it claimed was made in Sudan. It told diplomats it was crop spraying in Darfur.
Last September, Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein had declared that Sudan manufactured drones, would soon produce ‘missiles’ and now ‘ranks third’ in ‘military industrialisation’ in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa. Military agreements with its fellow Islamist regime in Tehran (AC Vol 49 No 17) in January 2007 and March 2008, include technology transfer and secondment of Iranian experts.
Iran’s Military University now trains Sudanese, including on UAVs. Iran has made drones for over a decade, at Qods Aviation Industries and Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA). Britain and others have listed both as ‘of concern’ over weapons of mass destruction and proliferation. Qods (‘Jerusalem’) is run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which welcomed Lieutenant General Abdel Rahim in 2007, as did HESA; that year, the UN listed the Revolutionary Guards as of proliferation concern, formally freezing most of their assets.
The Ababil-3 (or ‘T’; in the Koran, ababil are birds sent by God to attack the enemy) is an early model, usually equipped with an Iranian designed guidance-and-control system, ‘Shahid (“Martyr”) Noroozi’. Command and control requires long training and, since this is Sudan’s first known military use of a drone, Iranian involvement seems likely. UAVs mean ‘a whole new set of requirements for both sides,’ said a military source. Khartoum took three to El Fasher, we hear, also in breach of the UN embargo. One flew high over the crash site on 29 August at 16:20, said the SLM-U, but was out of range of SLM weapons.
The first drone was shot down with a Dushka heavy machine gun, SLM-U Vice-Chairman Ahmed Kubbur told Africa Confidential from the field, then hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, ‘because it tried to go up again’.
His men had captured such weapons from government forces in Abu Jabra and Abila, he said.
He had taken the black box to a safe place, said Commander Ahmed, along with two sturdy cameras, both stamped ‘Made in China’. A ‘shaft’ under the engine had ‘Made in Ireland’ on it. This could be a pipe for a camera or missile, say experts, perhaps added in Khartoum since Eire has no aerospace industry. AC vol49 No18 - 5 September 2008 \\ extract:
Dubai-based Mousaei Product Company, supplier of the video recorder in one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that the government used to spy on Darfur rebels. ...The UAV in question,... may be the Iranian-designed Ababil drone shot down by SLM-Unity (AC Vol 49 No 19).
It was to Mousaei Product Co., ... that UK video surveillance firm Ovation Systems sent some US$200,000 worth of recorders and ‘flash cards’ in 2007-08. In 2009, Ovation won the prestigious Queen’s Award for International Trade.
Battalions ‘as big as you want’
The NCP cannot pursue its military strategy without breaking the UN embargo but infringements are often hard to prove. A sovereign government can easily move equipment into Darfur and claim it was there before the embargo. To comply with the 2005 Darfur Peace Agreement, it reorganised SAF in the region, disbanding the Western Military Command and deploying three divisions, one in each state capital: El Fasher, El Geneina and Nyala. The Report says these include infantry, mechanised and armoured units, with attack helicopters, jets and Antonov cargo planes (mainly used for bombing; cargo and troops are carried by aviation firms). The regime needs UN permission to deploy troops in Darfur: since 2005, it has not asked. Instead, it claims the eight battalions it has deployed are returning from Southern Sudan after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. When asked how big a battalion was, a military source said, ‘As big as you want!’
Without continual monitoring, which the international community will not pay for, it is impossible to measure troop or insurgent movements and the regime refuses to provide any information. Much of the materiel is post-embargo, though, and ammunition is easy to trace. The UN Report goes into rigorous detail about bullets and fuses, nearly all from China, including those used by rebels.
What is harder to pin down is the ‘trading chain’: was this materiel sold legally to the NCP regime which then moved it illegally into Darfur? While the Beijing government has often stalled on questions from the Panel, the companies receiving specific questions on this year’s transactions – China National Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation, North Industries Corporation and Xinshidai Company – simply failed to reply. Also silent was Dubai-based Mousaei Product Company, supplier of the video recorder in one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that the government used to spy on Darfur rebels. This is because the company does not exist. Its real name is Millennuim [sic] Product Co. LLC, and while its main shareholder is one Ayoub Mohamed Abdullah, its leading managers are Iranian: Mojtaba Sadegbi and Saeid Mousaei. The UAV in question, AC understands, may be the Iranian-designed Ababil drone shot down by SLM-Unity (AC Vol 49 No 18).
It was to Mousaei Product Co., however, that UK video surveillance firm Ovation Systems sent some US$200,000 worth of recorders and ‘flash cards’ in 2007-08. In 2009, Ovation won the prestigious Queen’s Award for International Trade. This raises a subject dear to the Panel’s hearts: due diligence, i.e. assessments of the deeper ramifications of any commercial deal. ‘Even for well-intentioned companies, it has to be understood that when you do business in Sudan, you are likely to end up doing business with government,’ the Panel Coordinator, Enrico Carisch, a veteran of UN panels on Somalia, Liberia and Congo-Kinshasa, told AC.
An emphasis on corporate social responsibility requires support from UN governments, especially the 15 on the UNSC which mandates investigative panels on arms and resources (AC passim). Yet though the Council renewed the Panel’s mandate until October 2010, it displayed the carrot approach which now characterises international dealings with Sudan, urging and encouraging rather than using the Panel’s detailing of torture and sanctions-busting to build more robust policies. Someone may be listening, though. In an unprecedented case on 4 November, the owner of one of the world’s largest second-hand military equipment dealers, Andrew Jackson, a Briton, was sentenced to two years eight months’ gaol after trying to send some £500,000 (US$840,000) of military vehicles to White Nile Petroleum, thereby breaking the European Union’s arms embargo. The Swedish troop transporters are designed for rough terrain and, said a military source, superior to those Sudan might buy from Russia or China. The White Nile in question was the Sudan government oil company, not the outfit of former England cricketer Phil Edmonds in South Sudan, an enforcement official at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs assured us.
The tiger, one of 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, stands for power, beauty, and danger - which means that the year ahead could be a wild ride. The ox plods, the tiger pounces.
Of the five basic elements - metal, wood, water, fire and earth - that rotate through the zodiac, creating a 60-year cycle, metal and wood are the key actors this year. Metal, whose symbol is a sword, is stronger than wood in what is considered a conflicted relationship. While the tiger pounces and metal and wood clash, expect a year of heightening international tension.
On the positive side, however, the tiger and its "seed of fire" are considered signs of economic strength.
Tiger-friendly sectors that are expected to prosper include energy, airlines, and entertainment. Remember, this is also a metal year, so metal-related industries – machinery, automobiles, [and drones] - stand to gain. Since earth produces metal, mining, and property development should also be on the upswing.
But the year will be tough on those employed in occupations associated with wood. Foresters, furniture-makers and fashionistas should prepare for hard times. For those working for newspapers and magazines, it may be time to give up the ghost.
The Year of the Tiger favors people who like to take risks and take charge.
Those born in pig, horse, and dog years are in harmony with the tiger and can look forward to the year ahead. Monkeys and snakes, on the other hand, face dimmer prospects.
Meanwhile, love will bloom. With an extra boost from Valentine's Day, rabbits will be out in force - but their first choice of a partner should, of course, be a tiger, strange and awkward as that might sound.