Weekly Snapshot

1-7 July 2018

1. President Trump Requests a “Space Force” be Established

On Monday, 28 June, President Donald Trump requested the United States Department of Defense to begin work on a proposed 6th military branch which would revolve around operations in outer space. The proposal still has a long way to go before any manifestation can begin, but it is still a significant step in moving towards ensuring American security in outer space.

The proposal in itself has some implications, both domestic and international. Domestically, largely from the American left, the outcry about an arms race and the militarization of outer space was almost immediate. Internationally, Russia was the first nation to respond, claiming that the “militarization of outer space is the path to disaster.” An ironic statement from a country which has maintained its own space oriented military branch since 1992. Further reaction from the international community, both good and bad, can be expected shortly and this situaiton develops.

2. 30 Afghan Soldiers Dead after Ceasefire Ends

From 12 to 19 June the Afghan government participated in a ceasefire between themselves and the Taliban Forces operating within the country. The ceasefire extended over the Eid Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, and was claimed by the Afghan government as a way to show the Taliban that their attempt to win over the populace support was not working.

After the ceasefire officially ended, Taliban Forces raided multiple government compounds and conducted one convoy ambush via small arms fire and improvised explosive devices. Local officials have since released statements expressing that the success of the attacks may have been linked to the ceasefire itself, giving the Taliban valuable intelligence and planning time.

3. South Korea to end Military Drills with the US due to North Korea Talks

On Tuesday, South Korea announced that it would put a hold on the military exercises conducted with the United States, backing up earlier ideas by President Trump. South Korea rationalized the decision by claiming that it was necessary in order to support the current and future peace talks between the US, North Korea, and themselves.

The decision to end military training operations in order to support the negotiations between the US and North Korea has comes with heavy criticism. Most who disagree with the decisions claim that there is a standard to be set by not backing down – the same standard which drove Kim Jong-Un to come to the table with the United States in the first place. Those who praise the decision are declaring a win for diplomacy.

The deeper implications of ending military training and joint operations in South Korea come from the Chinese front. China’s strategic interests are served if the U.S. has a lighter footprint in Asia.

4. Iran Responds to US Ultimatum

On the 8th of May, 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran Deal. This withdrawal sent a strong message with literal consequences and was met with unilateral outcry within Iran. Recently, on Monday, 18th June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a list of 12 demands to the Iranian regime which, if not abided by, would garner a US reaction of the “strongest sanctions in history.”

Inside Iran, the decision to accept these US demands was met with debate. Some individuals, viewing the North Korean case, believe in the legitimacy of US power and strive to reach a compromise while others view Pompeo’s remarks as a bluff. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, currently takes up the latter of the opinions, responding to the US demands with his own list.

Iran’s response contained 15 different demands of the United States, to include halting relations with Saudi Arabia, stopping support for Israel, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and returning to the JPCOA. The reaction is in itself a bold statement and another non-starter in the ongoing tumultuous relations between the United States and Iran.