Sunday, October 18, 2015

Russian and Iranian Misadventures in the Middle East



The Russian and Iranians are pouring in military resources into Syria with their version of “shock & awe” in a joint coalition to neutralize anti-Assad forces which have been armed by the Americans for several years. It’s the 21st century version of the Cold War using proxies in global hotspots. Although many are lambasting the Obama administration for inaction in the Syrian campaign the US has learned the bitter lessons through multiple surges, the training of the Iraqi military and the furnishing of materiel with no positive results.

For years Iran has had a military presence in Syria furnishing the Assad regime with materiel and military advisors. Now it upgrades this support with combat troops which can operate more effectively because of Russian air power. This could establish a deeper Iranian (aka Shiite presence) in Iraq, making it almost a de facto region of Iran. Iraq would serve as a sort of offshore banking account because Iraq produces considerable oil (aka revenue producing) and serves as an insurance policy in case there are sanction snapbacks.

Russia uses their military as political cover by rescuing their long-time Syrian ally. Interestingly the Syrian regime has been steadily shrinking and on the brink of collapse for 4 years defended by an undermanned and dispirited military. Through these high-profile and audacious military operations, Russia probably intends to gain significant influence in the Middle East with respect to any future agreements.

Overseas military adventures are shockingly expensive and become a drain on the invading nation’s treasury the longer these wars continue. Iran is counting on the west to lift sanctions and unfreeze their assets so that they can affordably finance their immediate ground support efforts. Russia, for the moment, is limiting their participation to an air campaign with operational support staff and a large security contingent. Yet servicing, maintaining and protecting high-end equipment in a war environment is expensive. Neither Russia nor Iran has the deep financial pockets to militarily assert their influence beyond the short-term.

It’s a rarity that brief military campaigns neatly obtain their objectives. Historically they always last far longer and become far messier than anyone projected which drags the invading nation, politically and militarily, into a quagmire. Eventually they arrive at the inevitable crossroads when they either must choose between two regrettably unpalatable choices: double down or withdraw.

In the not too distant future, both Russia and Iran will pay a heavy political price domestically. I’m sure that neither the Iranian nor Russian citizenry is excited about these overseas adventures particularly when these respective countries’ resources can be dedicated domestically in their weak economies. The result may be anti-war protests and possibly civil unrest that will alarm their leadership.

On the other hand you can be sure that privately the Obama administration and Pentagon brass are chortling about Russia’s Middle East misadventure that will only weaken Putin.  With far greater firepower, the US failed to win the peace in Iraq in over a decade. For this reason that is why Iran and Russia will fail miserably.




Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges. We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops.




Saturday, October 3, 2015

Occupy Europe – The Coming Refugee Maelstrom on the Continent



With hundreds of thousands of migrants already wandering through Europe desperate for a better life preferably in Germany and the Nordic countries, hundreds of thousands more are projected to arrive. With winter arriving governmental and humanitarian organizations are overwhelmed with providing them food and shelter. For this reason the more uncomfortable question not addressed, at least publicly, is security for the housing of a large, ethnically diverse yet mostly Muslim refugees.

Any sudden large influx of refugees regardless of their origin is destabilizing on the economic and societal levels. The sheer numbers of refugees and unlikelihood of their return to their home countries in the near future will result in a gradual resentment of their presence by all except the most liberal Europeans particularly in countries where economic growth has been stagnant. And because of the vast cultural and religious differences between the arriving refugees and Europeans, even limited or controlled integration into European societies will be difficult.

Those refugees who successfully survived the perilous and arduous journey from their homeland are now desperate to survive in countries whose resources are extraordinarily plentiful compared to theirs. Exacerbating this trend is that their expectations will increase the longer they remain in Europe particularly as they travel north to the richer European countries.

Human nature will inevitably take over which demands that historically the most effective way for protection is the creation of tight knit groups, probably along ethnic or tribal lines. And should the basic necessities be insufficient, this could spawn aggressive gangs within these groups. The local residents will call them criminals. The refugees will call it acts of survival.

Such a volatile situation could create a nasty, possibly violent backlash with the local population and law enforcement. The refugees will be misconstrued as terrorists even though this struggle is a normal reaction to surviving. The perpetuating misconception would be that any Muslim who engages in violence must be a terrorist even if he is justifiably protecting his family.

By next spring you could have a series of civil maelstroms in many European countries not seen since the 1960s. All that’s needed is an incident similar to what happened to a Tunisian fruit vendor that sparked the Arab Spring. For Europeans it may feel like “Occupy Europe”.

Politically conservative and rightwing parties which have made considerable gains in almost every European country by conveniently blaming on the immigration as the cause of each country’s economic stagnation, may find even greater support from undecided voters. The far-fetched perception they’ve created is morphing into reality resulting in a heavily right-leaning Europe on the cusp of assuming power in their respective upcoming elections.



You may view my participation with several expert panelists on this growing humanitarian dilemma on the Emmy-award winning international TV talk show “Fresh Outlook.”





 Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at http://www.indobrazilian.com

Russian Military in Syria – Beyond the Near Abroad



Russia’s aggressive military buildup in and around the Syrian airbase and port of Latavia is their first foray in such strength beyond the Near Abroad since their 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. And it’s the first one beyond the Near Abroad done with gusto which has little to do with dealing with a country that’s an imminent military or political threat to Russia. Russia’s relationship with Syria was established decades ago with solid military and commercial ties including a large number of Russian ex-patriots who lived and worked in Syria.

Even with a limited contingent, the Russians are now the so-called “boots on the ground” in Syria. Russia’s robust military presence provides Putin with a bevy of short and long-term military and political options and opportunities. Additionally, Putin can easily shift his public relations campaign to emphasize one or several objectives whichever one is bringing him success and dismiss those which are failing.

For the short-term:

With the arrival of an array of their latest modern aircraft, tanks and other weapons systems, it gives Russian an opportunity to test them under battle conditions. Their performance will provide them invaluable knowledge for future battles wherever they may take place and a terrific marketing opportunity to sell those weapons in the future as battle-tested.
Their latest weapons utilization would be against ISIS, a group that’s hated by almost everyone.
Their Middle East military participation can be “sold” domestically as a security issue by battling an evil organization in ISIS which they can claim could foment and inspire unrest in their own Muslim population.

This large military support is politically symbolic in that Russia is aggressively protecting its client states militarily beyond the Near Abroad regardless how ruthless and venal, even at the cusp of collapsing. In other words, the public relations spin is that the Russians support their allies through thick and thin.

The political issue is whether Russian aircraft and military personnel operated by Russians, at the request of Syrian President Assad, will interfere with Israeli attacks on Hizbollah operating from Syrian territory even though their activities take place in the south, far removed from the Russian airbase. Certainly the topic of the recent meeting between Netanyahu and Putin in Moscow probably covered such probabilities and the scope which the Russians will allow Israel to conduct their anti-terrorist operations in Syrian territory.

For the long-term:

Russia’s Syrian adventure is a political maneuver by Putin to establish Russia as a world power and influencer by projecting cutting edge military power and prowess beyond the Near Abroad under the political cover of battling an enemy loathed by many. Because Iran is an important Syrian ally, it gives Russia more leverage with the west as a future go-between. Overseas military adventures always expensive endeavors so this Russian participation is a long-term investment forcing the American coalition to deal with Russian interests in any future negotiation.
The upgraded Russian military bases can serve as an early warning system for any potential Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear installations should the nuclear deal fall apart in the future. Their flight path would come very close to the Syrian border en route north thus reducing the Israeli’s air force element of surprise.

There are always notable downsides to such bold overseas military adventures as Russia will eventually find out. “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes,” said Mark Twain. Sets up interesting déjà vu historical scenario when the French established a major base in Indochina in 1954, then a French colony, called Bien Dien Phu that was overrun by the Vietnamese. The historical parallel is that the French and Russians have had decades of military and commercial ties with a dictatorial host country. The question is not whether, rather when ISIS will undertake selective attacks against a new player in the region for the purposes of enhancing their reputation.

Whatever the actual objective(s) a strong Russian military presence in Syria is there to stay for the long-term to insure that Russian has a strong Middle East presence.


 Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2015.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

Available for speaking engagements and workshops. Contact us at http://www.indobrazilian.com