Posts Tagged NATO

Drones are the tool of choice for new death squads

There is a growing awareness of the vast covert campaign being operated by the CIA and NATO to assassinate people they perceive as enemies, in several countries across Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Death squads have long been the preserve of authoritarian governments who kill their enemies at will without reference to human rights or the rule of law. But western governments have increasingly been using the technique, often with the help of armed or unarmed drones.

Documented evidence is coming to light, often in documentary films such as Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill. Seumas Milne in the Guardian wrote a scathing commentary on the practise recently.

While revelations are emerging that drone death squads often kill ‘civilians’, including women and children, there is less attention paid to the daily arbitrary killing of men who are not fighting, but are designated for death because they appear to be in a proscribed group. Often the decision to kill someone is left to a small team of operators thousands of miles away, who carry out death sentences on people who have may or not be actively  involved in military activities.

Minister of Armed Forces Mark Francois recently said that drones would continue to be used to kill people deemed to ‘pose a risk’ to UK armed forces, a disturbingly wide definition that seems to permit the armed forces to kill almost anyone preemtively.

American special forces and the CIA have a long history of assassinating people, in the pursuit of American foreign policy. But it is only recently that NATO has been drawn into this practise, and it appears to be facilitated by the ease with which drones can be used to conduct assassinations, with safety and anonymity for the assassins.

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US cancels drone deal with NATO Turkey

In the continuing fallout from Israel’s attack on the Gaza rescue ship Mavi Marmara a couple of years ago, the US Congress has cancelled an agreement to sell Predator drones to its NATO ally Turkey.

When Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters and assassinated several Turkish citizens, it set off a flurry of angry reactions from Turkish authorities, and scuttled the increasing friendship between the two countries. Not only did plans for Turkey to buy drones from Israel collapse, but there were numerous other diplomatic conflicts.

At about that time the identies of 10 agents working for Israeli Mossad were claimed to be revealed to Iran, allegedly by the head of a Turkish intelligence agency. Turkish officials claim that the allegation was simply ‘black propaganda’ by Israel.

An article in Today’s Zaman suggests that no action was taken by the US and Israel at the time because Turkey’s cooperation was needed gathering intelligence in Syria. With the need to spy on Syria lessened, the US was free to retaliate against Turkey on behalf of Israel.

Today’s Zaman also suggests that the move by Washington was in retaliation for Turkey buying long range missiles from a Chinese arms company, instead of Russian, American or European bidders.

It may also be retaliation for Turkey’s broader rejection of Israel’s use of Turkish airspace, and the probability that it is curtailing its cooperation with Israel’s efforts to infiltrate Iran via the Turkish border areas.

Ironically the US supplies Turkey with a great deal of surveillance in parts of eastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically aimed at the PKK. This latest move appears to be an attempt to limit control of surveillance by Turkey as well as force Turkey to return to its policy of cooperating with Israel with respect to Iran, and purchasing arms from it. The move wasn’t totally a surprise, it was rumoured last year in Turkey, and in the United States. 

Unless Turkey flinches, the cancellation would ironically appear to be a good thing for peace in the region. Turkey has been making inroads to solving its conflict with the PKK, so has less need for drones to survey and attack rebel fighters. And the US reaction may simply harden Turkey in its resolve not to be used by Israel to threaten or actually attack Iran. The NATO alliance, which is less about mutual aid and more about foreign intervention,  has been weakened yet again. Probably not what the US congress wanted, but a plus for the world at large.



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‘NATO’ to buy costly drones

Apparently NATO ministers have agreed that the organisation would acquire a fleet of unarmed drones. This is unusual, in that generally the organisation relies on in-kind contributions of its members.

According to the Wall Street Journal NATO would buy five Global Hawk drones and a ground control station, produced by Northrup Grumman, at a cost of $1.5 billion, or $300 million each. The Global Hawk is a high altitude, long endurance jet powered drone capable of very high and very long sorties.

According to Defense Industry Daily, the unit cost of the Global Hawk is as low as $35 million each. But at a quoted price of $300 million each, the NATO partners appear to be being asked to pick up a share of the staggering development costs for the high tech drone. Also needed would be a range of surveilance equipment.

Surprisingly, the purchase came as some portions of the US military appeared to be ‘warehousing’  their existing Global Hawks. Colin Clark in AOL described US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz as saying the Global Hawks would be taken out of active service because the sensors weren’t as good and the operating costs higher than the U-2 aircraft also being used. An article by Reuters in Aviation Week claimed that the programme would be scrapped completely, except for a version being developed by the US Navy.

The cost would be shared by 13 of (mostly) smaller NATO members, with the US picking up 40% of the cost. The drone will be based in Italy.

Few countries would have a use for an expensive drone of this type, but the US no doubt pressured them to pay for part of the costs of supplying high altitude surveillance for NATO’s many interventions.

Perhaps equally interesting, and puzzling, are the reasons why certain other members of NATO didn’t participate.


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Friendly Fire Deaths Expose NATO Drone Deception

The death of two US soldiers to friendly fire from their own drones, coupled with the revelations that US/NATO drone masters killed a family of civilians in Afghanistan exposes just how dishonest the NATO and US officials are with respect to drones.

Disregarding the morality of extra judicial assassination with drones of people viewed as enemies, these newly exposed events show that the concept of ‘precision attacks’ is outrageously incorrect. Whenever there has been a drone attack in Pakistan, there are always ‘unnamed military officials’ on hand to declare to the press that all of the targetted individuals were insurgents. Continuously they deny that civilians are killed or that there are ‘accidents’. It beggars belief that the ‘success rate’ of drone attacks would be so high, and the military is only able to maintain this illusion by controlling the information flow about these events.

Whether or not drones are capable of the pin point accuracy that their proponents claim, it is clear that the weakest link is in the ability of the drone controllers to identify and distinguish between targets. Clearly the ‘intelligence’ that manages the drones is unable to distinguish between the targets they want and the targets they don’t want. We should assume that this has always been the case, and that the military has covered over earlier tragedies by simply labelling the dead as ‘insurgents’ without any way for the public to know any different.

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Israeli Arms Industry Absolutely Dependent on EU and NATO Cooperation

(Note: a portion of this article was based on this briefing paper, author unknown, which was then expanded)

Despite its rapid growth and extreme assertiveness, Israel’s arms industry is completely dependent on the cooperation of the EU and NATO. 75% of Israeli arms sales are to foreign militaries. Israel sees Europe as a major market.

Many military products are highly technological and are made from parts from many suppliers in many countries. Furthermore their use must involve  matching the interoperability standards of various military organisations, especially NATO. Furthermore, Israel must retain access to technological transfer, the right to have technology which is denied to ‘enemies’ of the US, and European countries.

Without access to widely enhanced and protected trade, without access to standards, without access to trade opportunities, without access to research results, Israel’s arms industry would wither and die.

Despite the fact that Israel is a major competitor to European defence industries, and despite Israel being in violation of many European and UN policies and directives, Israel has been given favoured nation status in many European defence initiatives.

Here is an account of some of the research grants to Israeli companies with a role in the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Palestine.

Some of the means by which Israel maintains its integration with European and North American arms industries are as follows:

European Security Research Programme. ESRP is a joint security research programme of EU members and invited non members. Israel is the most active non member participant. Although it has to pay to be a member, Israel benefits by being able to contribute to the control of the defence research programmes of the EU, and to make widespread contacts among the defence and security industries. As well, it has access to the research that is produced. The ESRP is active in promoting drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for military and civilian purposes, and this merges nicely with Israel’s key position as the world’s (arguably) lead drone producer. As a ‘associated country’ Israel has a role in evaluating projects under the ‘Seventh European Framework Programme (FP7).” As a result, FP7 is the second largest academic research funder in Israel.

Frontex. Frontex is the ESRB agency charged with coordinating research specifically related to border security. Much of Frontex’s interest at present is with respect to drones, where Israeli has a leading role.

Capecon. (Civil Applications and Economical Effectiveness of Potential UAV Configurations) Elbit Systems is part of this multinational project to develop UAVs for civlian use.

Clean Sky Project. The Clean Sky Project is aimed at more environmentally friendly aircraft engines. Israel Aerospace Industries participates, and will be eligible to take out patents on innovations developed in this programme.

Critical Infrastructure.

Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows.

“The framework programme is designed to improve management of migratory flows at the level of the European Union and to strengthen solidarity between Member States. It has four dimensions. The first concerns integrated management of external borders, with the setting up of an External Borders Fund. The second concerns asylum policy, with the prolongation of the European Refugee Fund. The third concerns the social, civic and cultural integration of Non-EU Member Country nationals, with the setting up of a European Integration Fund. The fourth concerns the fight against illegal immigration and the return of Non-EU Member Country nationals residing illegally in the EU, with the setting up of a European Return Fund.” (Source)

Despite the fact that Israeli policy with respect to migration of people under its direct control is extremely contentious in European terms, Israel is a participant in this programme.

European Space Programme. The European Space Program has a large defence component. However Israel’s participation is not large. How important this is to Israel is illlustrated by the following passage from NatureNews:

“Israel has no formal agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA), and that prevents Israel from participating in many other ESA projects. Ben-Israel and others told the committee that investing in ESA membership is vital if Israeli space research and industry is to grow.

Dan Blumberg, head of the department of geography and environmental development at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, adds that the lack of government investment in space research and development makes university-based researchers more dependent on country’s military industries and satellite programmes. However, military secrecy prevents the publication of much research done through military–academic cooperation.” (Source)

This illustrates how integrated the Israeli Space Agency is with the Israeli military and Israeli arms companies. While deeper association association with the European Space Agency would allow Israeli space scientists some distance from their own arms industry, it would also allow their arms companies more access to European research.

In 2007 Israel and the ESA entered into negotiations on a framework agreement for Israeli participation in the European civilian space programme.

In July, 2010, the Israeli government announced the intention of spending $77 million to jump start the ‘civilian’ space industry in Israel, ‘to help the 25 Israeli firms in the civilian space sector expand their market.’ (source) (It isn’t stated whether some of those 25 firms are also firms involved in the military space industry).

Israel also has myriad research and cooperation agreements with NATO.

This is largely under the unbrella of the Individual Cooperation Programme, (ICP), which details the nature of cooperation in the following areas:

“counterterrorism, including the exchange of intelligence and security expertise, increasing the number of joint NATO-Israel military exercises, broadening cooperation in the fight against nuclear proliferation, improving cooperation in the areas of armament and logistics, connecting Israel electronically to the NATO system” (source)

Israel has adopted the NATO Codification System, allowing it to have part and parts ordering systems compliant with NATO standards.

Israel participates actively on many NATO exercises, for example Operaton Active Endeavour.

There have been efforts in the European parliament to end EU military cooperation with Israel, especially after the January 2009 attacks on Gaza. Here is one. However here is the amended text, which doesn’t call for suspension of military cooperation. In fact, the resolution has been gutted.

In early 2010 there was a conference the Herzliya Conference, The US-Europe-Israeli Trilateral Relationship: The Strategic Dimension, which made it clear just how important to Israel that military relationships with the EU and NATO are to Israel.

Israeli is also pursuing bilateral military cooperation with NATO and EU member states, for example with Greece, and Cyprus.

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Elbit Tests Robotic Killing Sentry

Elbit has tested its robotic ‘unmanned turret’ in Finnland, at a firing range owned by the Finnish Armed Forces. The automated turret tracks targets and fires 30mm rounds at them automatically, with a 90% accuracy rate. The system is contracted to several  NATO countries.

One NATO country, with the system mounted on its Piranha tanks is Belgium. Elbit works with Mowag, a General Dynamics subsidiary to provide the turrets and a electro-optical fire control system.

The article does not suggest how the turret would distinguish between a small child, a stray dog, or an armed intruder.

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Israel stops exporting weapons to Turkey.

Israel has implemented a tempory freeze on sales of advanced weapons systems to Turkey, apparently as a result of scathing criticism of Israel by Turkey after the 2008-09 attack by Israel on Gaza. After the attack on Gaza the military cooperation agreement between the two nations was terminated. There has also been problems between Israel and Turkey resulting from the sale of Heron drones to Turkey, which has had many contractual problems.

Here is an excellent UPI article on recent Israel Turkey arms trading issues.

One of the problems outline for Israel is the effects that it has on Israeli air systems testing and training. Turkey had provided airspace for training, and now Israel must find other places, of which Roumania and Hungary have been tried, and India suggested. Turkey’s banning of Israeli training from Turkish air space probably hampered training for a possible air strike on Iran.

This issue provides a window on Israel’s attempts to bully trading partners to get what it wants. It also suggest’s Israel’s vulnerability, since it can obviously be influenced by the actions of its trading partners.

This is one of the few tangible negatives that Israel has sustained as a result of Operation Cast Lead, as Turkey has become more closely aligned with Israel’s most vocal enemies, Syria and Iran.

In terms of drones however Israel gets plenty of training and development opportunities by its drone rentals and sales to many countries in NATO. Israeli arms company personnel are often intimately involved in the deployment of these drones, and thus get valuable experience in operating them in a wide theatre of war.

Turkey has been a valuable ally for Israel, and could be a dangerous enemy. Not because it is likely that Turkey and Israel would ever be in armed conflict, but because Turkey is in NATO, and can veto Israel’s involvement in NATO. Israel values its ties with NATO, and uses its agreements with NATO to integrate its weapons systems with NATO. Without being able to integrate its weapons systems with those of NATO, Israel would be hampered in making weapons sales, especially with NATO countries.

Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. General Amos Yadlin deflected focus on Israel’s attack on Gaza, and blamed the cooling of relations on Turkey’s drift away from secularism towards ‘radical Islam’.

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