North Korea said on Monday it had successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile which met all technical requirements and could now be mass-produced, indicating advances in its ambitions to be able to hit the United States. The North fired the missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South’s new liberal government under President Moon Jae-in for peace between the neighbors. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of the Pukguksong-2, which confirmed reliable late-stage guidance of the warhead and the functioning of a solid-fuel engine, the KCNA state news agency said.
Following an apparent chemical attack against innocent civilians by President Assad’s regime and the US missile strike in response to it on Friday, Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the Kingdom’s support for the military operations against military targets in Syria. On Thursday US President Trump ordered a massive military strike on a Syrian air base and the Saudi Ministry described this action as “a corageous decision” after the failure of the international community to stop Syrian regime. Moreover Bahrain also expressed support to the military US response, saying that the action was necessary to save the lives of Syrian people.
Russia warned on Friday that U.S. cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have “extremely serious” consequences, as President Donald Trump’s first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington. The warships USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles that hit the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations of Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack this week. It was Trump’s biggest foreign policy decision since taking office in January and the kind of direct intervention in Syria’s six-year-old civil war his predecessor Barack Obama avoided. The strikes were in reaction to what Washington says was a poison gas attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 70 people in rebel-held territory.
A few hours before the summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese equivalent Xi Jinping, in Florida, the North Korean leader has ordered the launch of a KN-15 medium-range which missile which concluded its trajectory in the Sea of Japan waters, after a short flight of about 60 kilometers.
South Korea strongly condemned the new provocation of Pyongyang, and the US Defense Secretary, Rex Tillerson, coldly addressed the episode: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” The most decisive response came instead from Tokyo, speaking through Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “Japan can never tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative actions. The government strictly protested and strongly condemned it. “
After five nuclear tests, two of which were conducted in 2016, today’s launch has renewed fears of the international community on the North Korean missile program. Pyongynag is still far from the objective of realizing a long-range warhead that can deliver a nuclear weapon on American soil , but analysts have speculated that the KN-15 missile was propelled by a solid propellant, easy to handle and transport, which would increase the striking capacity of the Asian regime.
The show of force occurs in the aftermath of two events that Pyongyang interpreted as serious threats. In recent days, Trump launched its warning: if China decides not to cooperate in containing the inconvenient regional ally, the US is ready to act alone against the enemy. At the same time, a joint military drill between the US, Japan and South Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for a possible invasion, just came to an end.
According to a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry, the actions of enemy powers are bringing the Asian Peninsula on “brink of war”.
The current crisis, which undoubtedly will be the focus of talks between Trump and Jinping, was preceded, in February, by the launch of four ballistic missiles by North Koreans who have fallen close to the Japanese coast, and from an SLBM ( Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) launch system test that would allow Pyongyang to bring its warheads into enemy waters and have an unprecedented second-strike capability, in case of destruction of its terrestrial arsenal. However, this hypothesis, according to analysts, is currently only theoretical and years will occour before Kim Jong Un will be able to rely on such an offensive capability.
In an increasingly overheated scenario, the Chinese government try to throw water on the fire. On the eve of Jinping and Trump summit, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, owned by the US president, a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry has denied any link between the North Korean missile launch and the meeting between the two powers, urging all actors involved to avoid any further escalation.
China, at this moment, seems to be the only force able to put a stop to the conflict between Pyongyang and its many enemies.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry will conduct over 100 exercises this year, to practice coherence among antiaircraft missile units, in particular, a live fire exercise with Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems will take place in Kherson region. “To ensure coherence among our anti-aircraft missile units, we are planning to conduct around 50 tactical exercises with command staffs of brigades, regiments and core units, almost 25 tactical exercises with Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile batteries and around 35 tactical-specific exercises with logistic units”, Hutsuliak said at a briefing in Kyiv on Friday.
On September 20, Saudi Arabian authorities authorised air strikes against Houthis rebel positions in the Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Around a dozen bombs or missiles hit the Headquarters of the National Security Bureau -it is the first time since the beginning of the conflict- the defence ministry, a checkpoint in the capital’s north-western suburbs and two rebel military camps in the southeast district of Sanhan.
This attack comes as a response to a missile fired by the rebels on Monday evening. According to Saudi Arabia (SA), the Qaher-1 missile was aimed at SA’s King Khalid Air Base, 60 km north of the Yemeni border, in the city of Khamees Mushait. SA reports the missile was intercepted by the kingdom’s air defence before it could cause any damage to the base and neighbourhood, though Houthis-run Saba News Agency discloses the missile actually hit the target.
Regardless, SA immediately responds to the attack, causing at least one civilian death and some wounded, witnesses said. It is not the first time that the hostilities cause civilian deaths, proving once again the heavy criticism for high civilian death toll since the beginning of the Saudi Arabia-led air campaign.
Houthis and government forces have battled on-and-off since 2004 but it was in 2014 that a civil war eventually broke out. Indeed, in September 2014, Houthis -a rebel group known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) that adheres to the branch of Shia Islam called Zaidism- took control of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, and forced President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.
Security forces split in two groups, one supporting the international recognised government, the other backing rebels. The scenario was deeply worsen by the emergence of two other actors. On one hand, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which gained grip in the south and south-east region. On the other, a Yemen affiliate of the Islamic State, which was trying to overrun AQAP and claimed responsibility of some suicide bombings in Sana’a.
Conflict escalated in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and her allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen in order to restore Hadi’s government. Since then, more than 6,600 people have been killed, while the number of displaced people has risen to 3 million.
To date, fighting has not stopped and the situation in Yemen is still unstable. The United Nations often report alarming data on civilian deaths, recently accusing Saudi Arabia-led coalition to be responsible of 2/3 of those and Houthis to be involved in mass civilian casualties due to the siege of the city of Taiz.
In addition, several foreign countries have taken part -though with different means- in the fighting. The international coalition includes SA, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. United States, United Kingdom and France are supporting the coalition providing supplies, with the US also carrying air strikes targeting ISIS and AQAP positions in Yemen. On the other side, Iran has been accused of arming Houthis rebels, though the country has always denied it.
It should be added that the conflict in Yemen cannot be reduced to a civil war or a terrorist battlefield, but it is the result of several and conflicting dynamics involving multiple actors and opposite interests. Indeed, despite the civil war and the terrorist threat, Yemen is the theatre of the proxy war between the two major powers in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, thus dragging into the scene alliances and games of powers that escalate tensions and foster instability in the region.
Whoever thought that, after the signature of the nuclear deal and the lifting of the international sanctions, Iran would have become a docile and friendly country, well, probably made a wrong calculation. Indeed, in the last weeks, we’ve seen a strong and resolute nation, aimed to restore its position in the international area and to pursue its national interests, no matter what.
The spotlight is on the Islamic Republic in particular due to its recent ballistic missile tests, which have raised new fear and concern among Western countries and the Gulf monarchies. Last month, indeed, during a military large-scale drill –codenamed Eqtedar-e-Velayet-, the Islamic Revolutin Guards Corps (IRGC) tested two ballistic missiles class Qadr, the Qadr-H and the Qadr-F. Both the missiles were launched from the heights of East Alborz Mountains, northern Iran, hitting targets on the southeast coasts of the country. According to reports, missiles have a range of 1,700 km and 2,000 km respectively.
The international reaction wasn’t long in coming. On the one hand, the condemnation of the United States and Europe, which saw tests as a breach of UNSC resolution 2231; on the other, Russia stated that these tests do not violate the mandate of the document. Even Western powers failed to raise actions against Iran at the UN. It seems that Washington later withdrew its accusation, confirming that the tests do not represent a breach of the resolution.
According to the latter, indeed, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designated to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology…”. Questions arise whether these technologies could be able -as Israel affirms- to carry nuclear warheads. However, recent declarations from the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif state that the country does not have any missile capable of carrying this kind of warheads.
Several Iranian personalities have spoken about this topic. The Expediency Council (EC) Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stressed that the Iranian missile programme only has deterrent purposes and is aimed to exercise the country’s right to self-defence in case of an armed attack. According to the Secretary, it is easily understandable that disarm could not be an option for Iran: indeed, if the country gives up investments in defence, it would be subjected to attack and there are several enemies that could take advantage from this situation.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the air forces of the IRGC, has even a stricter position. The Islamic Republic will continue to strengthen defensive and missile capabilities, which ensure Iran’s security and deter enemies from attacking the country. These enemies are also the ones, which have boosted the country’s defence power for more than 30 years; and US new sanctions just confirm this idea. Missile capabilities are a matter of national security and Iran clearly states that there is no room for negotiation or compromise over it. “No wise individual will negotiate over his country’s security” said the Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi.
It is clear that similar statements can raise concerns, especially among countries such as Israel and the Gulf monarchies. The first has been a target of Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini and the rhetoric of “wiping out” the Jewish country has recently come out several times. The Gulf countries do not support the economic and military growth of a country that not only aims to achieve regional hegemony but also backs and fosters several fundamentalist groups, drivers of instability in the region. Tensions are likely to arise in the coming months: it is to be seen how Arabic countries will react to an Iran not so prone to cooperation and aimed to achieve its national goals, the consequences on the relationship among these actors and the role that powers such as US and Russia could play in fostering or hampering these relations.