SFTT News: Highlights for Week Ending Mar 31, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Lightweight Military Helmet

New Lightweight Combat Helmet Introduced
The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II will replace the legacy Advanced Combat Helmet, which was fielded about 15 years ago. The service earlier this month awarded Revision Military, based in Essex Junction in Vermont, a contract worth about $98 million to make 293,870 of the new helmets. Made of high-density polyethylene instead of the current helmet’s Kevlar, the ACH Gen II weighs about 2.5 pounds in size large — about a 24-percent weight reduction, officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.  Read more . . .

Iran Called a Destabilizing Influence in Middle East by Military Brass
The nation’s top military official in the Middle East on Wednesday said Iran is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today and has increased its “destabilizing role” in the region. “I believe that Iran is operating in what I call a gray zone,” Commander of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, told the House Armed Services Committee in testimony Wednesday. “And it’s an area between normal competition between states — and it’s just short of open conflict.”  Read more . . .

Kim - North Korea

Dissecting US Policy Toward North Korea
Since the Clinton years, the US has considered military action and imposed strict sanctions against North Korea in an effort to curb its nuclear program — but none of it has worked amid fundamental misunderstandings about the shadowy Kim regime. US and UN sanctions on North Korea have sought to cripple the regime through restricting access to commerce and banking, but despite limited successes here and there, North Korea now regularly demonstrates a variety of potent and expensive nuclear arms in open defiance of the international community at large.  Read more . . .

Chinese Military Growth and Sophistication Attracts Attention
China’s rapid development of new destroyers, amphibs, stealth fighters and long-range weapons is quickly increasing its ability to threaten the United States and massively expand expeditionary military operations around the globe, according to a Congressional report. A detailed report from Congressional experts, called the 2016 US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, specifies China’s growing provocations and global expeditionary exercises along with its fast-increasing ability to project worldwide military power.   Read more . . .

Highlights of NPR Interview with VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says the Department of Veterans Affairs “is on a path toward recovery.” “We have a clear mandate to do better, [and] to make sure that we’re honoring our mission to serve our veterans,” Shulkin told NPR’s Morning Edition. Shulkin discussed his current priorities for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including how the money from the Veterans Choice program has been spent, and his approach to the persistently high rate of suicide among military veterans, with NPR’s Rachel Martin. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.  Read more . . .

New Diagnosis Tools for Veterans with PTSD?
Researchers are working at brain banks around the country to see what is going on inside the heads of veterans like Fadley. They are examining the brains of deceased veterans in hopes of knowing more accurately what effects trauma ― psychological or physical ― has had on the brain. That could someday lead to better diagnostic tests, treatments, clues into where PTSD originates and evolves.  Read more . . .

Agent Orange Effects Still Felt Today
An estimated 11.4 million gallons of the chemical pesticide known as Agent Orange were sprayed over millions of acres of Vietnam forests from 1962 to 1970. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has long acknowledged the link between the substance and diseases like cancer in veterans, but when veterans began reporting having children with birth defects, the VA stayed mostly mum. But a joint investigation by ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot published Friday revealed the odds of having a child born with birth defects were found to be a third higher for veterans exposed to Agent Orange than for those who weren’t. The investigation also determined that the VA had collected information about the link between birth defects and Agent Orange during examinations of more than 668,000 veterans but never adequately scrutinized it.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

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Iran and the Straits of Hormuz

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The following article was published  April 24th on  Crosshairs – Military Matters in Review at www.milmat.net by Fred Edwards.  I have recently “discovered” Mr. Edwards and believe that he supplies much needed context and insightful analysis of military matters.  This recent article by Mr. Edwards focuses on a possible military response by Iran in the event they are threatened or attacked.   The analysis is sobering.

“On the final day of its three-day war games in the Straits of Hormuz, Iran reportedly stopped and boarded a French and an Italian vessel. On April 24, Iranian state media announced that naval forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) boarded the vessels and inspected them to see if they were complying with environmental regulations. Finding no violations, they let the two vessels continue.

In a report the same date, Stratfor, a company that collects and analyzes worldwide political, economic and military intelligence, wrote that if the incident happened, it was a signal from Iran that it was willing to disrupt traffic in the Straits in case it was attacked. The Straits carry some 40 percent of the international oil supply, and Iran routinely threatens to halt shipping there if it is attacked. They could do it only temporarily, Joint Chiefs vice chair Marine Gen. James Cartwright told the Senate Armed Services Committee April 14.

Does such brinkmanship smacks of strategic insanity? Not necessarily. Maybe Iran is warning the United States and its friends that, if they attacked, Iran would create an international financial crisis by closing the Straits even though the shutdown would mean that Iran itself would stop its own oil exports, and imports of almost everything it needs. In other words, Tehran is saying, “Hey, if you try to destroy me, I’ll destroy myself, but I’ll take you all down with me, along with the global financial system.”

But Iran also might be playing the sly fox. As the United States debates about placing sanctions against Iran to pressure it from continuing its nuclear program, the sly fox may simply be saying, “If you think you can hurt me with sanctions, at any time I decide you are squeezing too hard, I’ll just close down the Straits for a few months. Now there’s a sanction for you that will stick.”

The last time Tehran played a similar sort of brinkmanship was on March 23, 2007, when Iranian military forces seized seven British marines and eight sailors. The Brits were aboard two inflatable patrol boats in the northern Persian gulf, boarding merchant vessels, and Iranian officials claimed they were trespassing in Iran’s territorial waters. Before releasing them, the Iranians put them on public display where some “confessed” and apologized for entering Iranian waters.

This time the chips are on the table — or perhaps in the Straits of Hormuz: Iran failed to meet the December deadline for nuclear talks; the United States is deciding which sanctions to apply; and Iran is saying America wouldn’t dare.”

This is certainly high-stakes poker in a troubling part of the world and argues for caution and vigilance.

Richard W. May