Monday, October 29, 2012

DTN News - SYRIA UNREST: Syrian Militants Violate Truce

Defense News: DTN News - SYRIA UNREST: Syrian Militants Violate Truce
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources The Voice of Russia
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 29, 2012: In Damascus’s suburbs, militants have attacked 3 army block posts and shelled several army headquarters. In the city of Ain Terma, 4 servicemen have been killed.

According to the Al Jazeera TV channel, commanders of the so-called “Syrian Free Army” claim that they have seized the city of Silkin in the Idlib province.

Initially, it was planned that the truce would last until Monday, but political observers doubt that the government will refrain from using force until that time in such a situation.

Saudi authorities quickly dispersed a protest by hundreds of Syrian pilgrims calling for the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and denouncing what they said was international failure to stop bloodshed in Syria.

Protesters held up rebel flags and marched toward the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, east of the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, where more than 3 million Muslim pilgrims congregated for the annual haj.

No one was hurt when two police vehicles drove slowly in the direction of the protesters with the sirens on as the officers asked the crowd through loudspeakers to leave the area. The protesters swiftly dispersed and merged with thousands of other pilgrims in the area, the witness said.

Saudi officials made it clear in recent days that they want a politics-free pilgrimage and urged pilgrims to focus on performing the rituals.

The haj pilgrimage is one of the Muslim faith's so-called five pillars and a religious duty for all Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime if they are capable. It started on Wednesday and ends on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad's government and has supported the rebels with money and logistics.

At the protest, dozens of security guards already deployed in the area stood by without interfering.

"Syria lives forever despite of you Assad," the protesters shouted as the streamed by a giant wall at Jamarat Bridge used for the ritual stoning of the devil, one of the main rites of the haj. Another slogan went: "We don't want Bashar, all Syrians raise your arms up!"
The imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims on Friday to take "practical and urgent" steps to stop bloodshed in Syria, which has killed some 30,000 people, and urged world states to assume their moral responsibility toward the conflict.

Saudi Arabia has instructed its embassies to issue haj permits for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, but most of the Syrians who made it to Mecca were those who live in the Gulf Arab region.

Almost 150 people died on the first day of a barely-observed truce between the warring parties in Syria, a watchdog said, adding that a fresh clashes on Saturday claimed more lives.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said of the 146 people killed in bombings, artillery fire and fighting on Friday, 53 were civilians, 50 were rebels and 43 were members of President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

State media blamed "terrorists," the regime term for rebels, for a car bomb attack in Damscus hat killed at least eight people and wounded 30, and a rights watchdog reported another deadly bombing in Daraa.

Rebels accused regime forces of opening up with artillery in the ebbattled north, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fighting near the key army base of Wadi Deif and shelling and clashes near Damascus.

Three people were killed by tank fire and snipers in the Damascus suburb of Harasta on Friday, activists said, in another violation of a ceasefire intended to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Rebels in a northern town close to the Turkish border also reported one of their fighters was shot dead by a sniper early on Friday and a Reuters journalist in the town heard what sounded like four rounds of tank fire.

Heavy fighting broke out around a Syrian military base on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, in the first major violation of a ceasefire marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The Observatory said rebel fighters were trying to storm the base, which is less than 1 km (half a mile) from the main north-south highway linking Damascus to Aleppo, and President Bashar al-Assad's forces had fired artillery at a nearby village.
Voice of Russia, TASS, Reuters, AFP

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources The Voice of Russia
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

DTN News - SPECIAL REPORT HURRICANE SANDY: Hurricane Sandy Hammers The Northeast USA

Defense News: DTN News - SPECIAL REPORT HURRICANE SANDY: Hurricane Sandy Hammers The Northeast USA
* A region-by-region look at the destruction so far and what to expect
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources National Post
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy is churning off the East Coast and is expected to join up with two other weather systems to create a huge and problematic storm affecting 50 million people. Here’s a snapshot of what is happening or expected, region by region.
Ontario residents are urged to make preparations ahead of the heavy rainfall and high winds from Hurricane Sandy. Southern and eastern Ontario are expected to be hit by the super storm, with heavy rainfall and potentially damaging winds up to 100 kilometres per hour. “The Canadian Red Cross encourages all Canadians to take some steps to ensure their safety. Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours in an emergency,” Denis Dion, national director of disaster management for the Canadian Red Cross, said in a statement. “By taking some time now to store emergency food, water and other supplies, you can provide for your entire family during a power outage or evacuation.”
Along with Ontario, Quebec will likely see the strongest winds, with gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour and between 20 to 40 millimetres of rain, although higher amounts are possible in some areas. That will make for a soggy day, but that level isn’t enough to trigger a rainfall warning.
Starting Tuesday morning, the Maritime provinces will see a lot more rain — up to 100 millimetres — and weaker winds than Ontario, though still strong at an expected 70 kilometres per hour.
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 members of a crew forced to abandon a Canadian-built tall ship about 144 off the North Carolina coast and continued to search for two other crew members. The storm lashed barrier islands and rendered several homes and businesses nearly inaccessible.
The University of Connecticut is closing Tuesday, joining a hundreds of other schools and school systems across the state. The closure includes UConn’s law school and the UConn Health Center, though the John Dempsey Hospital will remain open during the storm. Power outages: 55,000.
Dover Air Force Base has relocated some aircraft in anticipation of the storm, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested that the base be used as a staging area for support and supplies. Some residents of low-lying areas of the base have been ordered to evacuate.
Sandy is expected to bring snow to far southeastern Kentucky. A winter storm warning is in effect in Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties through Wednesday morning. Forecasters say snow could accumulate from 4 to 10 inches in high elevations and 1 to 3 inches in lower elevations.
Virtually all Maine public schools opened Monday but some were closing early before the heaviest rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy. State officials say the biggest concern is wind, which is expected to cause widespread power outages. The state’s utilities say they have crews poised to deal with expected power outages, including some from Canada. Power outages: 5,700.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has closed the Bay Bridge because of the storm. The bridge spans the Chesapeake Bay, connecting the state’s eastern and western shores. Hurricane Sandy already has caused heavy damage to a large, iconic ocean pier in the Maryland beach resort of Ocean City.
Voluntary evacuation recommendations have been issued in Scituate, Lynn, New Bedford and Plum Island. The recommendations are for just certain sections of the communities that could be affected by flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy. A Red Cross spokeswoman said just a few people stayed at its shelters Sunday night, but she expects more people Monday night and into Tuesday. Power outages: 56,000.
REUTERS/Gary HershornA workman cuts a tree in pieces after it fell on top of a car in Hoboken, New Jersey, October 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, battered the densely populated East Coast, shutting down transportation, forcing evacuations in flood-prone areas and interrupting the presidential election campaign.
Michigan utilities say high winds could cause power outages in the state and they’re keeping an eye on the weather to respond to power problems. DTE Energy Co. said gusts of 50 mph Monday evening and Tuesday could affect some it its 2.1 million customers.
Gov. John Lynch has urged all drivers to be off the roads by 3 p.m. as Hurricane Sandy approaches. Lynch declared a state of emergency and directed that non-essential state workers be released from work Monday afternoon. He urged employers to consider releasing workers early. The governor has put 100 New Hampshire Guard soldiers on active duty. Power outages: 47,400.
Kevin Lamargue / ReutersA wall of water batters what remains of the fishing pier in Ocean City, Maryland as Hurricane Sandy intensifies October 29, 2012. About 50 million people from the Mid-Atlantic to Canada were in the path of the nearly 1,600-km-wide storm, which forecasters said could be the largest to hit the mainland in U.S. history.
All roads into and out of Ocean City are closed due to flooding that has cut off the popular Jersey shore resort community. Hurricane Sandy already had flooded most of Atlantic City, sweeping away an old section of the city’s famed boardwalk. Power outages: 95,000.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s public schools will remain closed on Tuesday after being shut down Monday. Earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and Holland Tunnel would close at 2 p.m. Monday. Airports in the metropolitan New York City area are open, but air carriers are not operating. Power outages: 263,000.
Residents of low-lying areas and along Lake Erie were told to watch for flooding; utilities are anticipating high winds that could blow down trees and poles. Snow is forecast in some areas.
Officials from the state transit agency and the Pennsylvania Turnpike have instituted speed restrictions over concerns about high winds and ordered certain vehicles, including empty trucks and motorcycles, off some highways. The National Weather Service says southeastern Pennsylvania could get winds reaching 75 mph and rainfall up to 10 inches. Power outages: 25,000.
Officials are concerned about wind driving water north up Narragansett Bay, which could create flooding in low-lying areas of the upper bay, including Providence, Warwick and Cranston. About 2,600 National Grid customers were without power, mostly in Barrington and other parts of Bristol County. Power outages: 12,000.
Snow is expected in higher elevations, where a freeze warning has been issued. High winds are expected in many areas.
Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency to provide access to National Guard troops in a state still recovering from the devastating effects of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. Culverts and storm drainage basins in some spots have been cleared of debris. Power outages: 4,000.
A curfew is in place on Virginia’s swamped Chincoteague Island. Officials say the entire 37-square-mile island is underwater, and there is no way off the island because a causeway to the mainland has been closed. The 3,500 islanders who decided to tough out Hurricane Sandy have been told to keep off the streets. Power outages: 9,500.
Taxis that originate in Washington are authorized to add an emergency flat rate of $15 per trip because of Hurricane Sandy, starting Monday. The price is supposed to expire at noon Tuesday, but can be extended if considered necessary. The capital area’s transit system shut down rail service for the first time since 2003. Power outages: 2,300.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency Monday for West Virginia, where Sandy is expected to bring high winds and heavy rains and leave behind flooded towns and as much as 3 feet of snow on the state’s highest ridge tops. Eastern parts of the state can expect to get up to 6 inches of rain. Fourteen counties are under blizzard warnings.
With waves expected to reach as high as 33 feet Tuesday on Lake Michigan, the Port of Milwaukee is taking steps to protect its docks and boats. The superstorm bearing down on the East Coast Is expected to create dangerous conditions on the Great Lakes. The National Weather Service issued gale and storm warnings for the lakes through Wednesday.

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources National Post
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: New Pakistan Outreach Could Aid Afghan Peace Deal

Defense News: DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: New Pakistan Outreach Could Aid Afghan Peace Deal
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Sebastian Abbot and Heidi Vogt - Associated Press
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 28, 2012: Pakistan has increased efforts to reach out to some of its biggest enemies in Afghanistan, a significant policy shift that could prove crucial to U.S.-backed efforts to strike a peace deal in the neighboring country.

The target of the diplomatic push has mainly been non-Pashtun political leaders who have been at odds with Pakistan for years because of the country's historical support for the Afghan Taliban, a Pashtun movement.

Many of the leaders fought against the Taliban when the fundamentalist Islamic group seized control of Afghanistan in the 1990s with Pakistan's help, and have accused Islamabad of maintaining support for the insurgents following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 — allegations denied by the government.

Many experts agree that Pakistan continues to see the Taliban as an ally, albeit a shaky one, in countering the influence of archenemy India in Afghanistan. But they also say Islamabad no longer believes the insurgents can take over the country or wants them to, a common misperception in the West.

"A Taliban victory on the other side of the border would give a huge boost to domestic militants fighting the Pakistani state," said Zahid Hussain, a journalist who has written extensively about Islamabad's war against the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan is also worried that unrest in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of most foreign troops in 2014 could provide the Pakistani Taliban with greater space to establish sanctuaries across the border.

The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are allies but have focused on different enemies. The Afghan Taliban battle local and foreign forces in Afghanistan, while the Pakistani Taliban mainly wage war against Islamabad.

These concerns have led Pakistan to the conclusion that a peace agreement that includes all Afghan groups is in its best interests, and contact with its traditional foes among the non-Pashtuns is necessary to achieve that goal, said Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser for the United States Institute of Peace.

"I think the fundamental point here is that there is a serious realization among some people who matter in Pakistan that they can't continue to put all their eggs in the Taliban basket because it is too shaky," said Yusuf. "This is a major shift, and a shift that I think everybody should welcome."

The outreach comes as Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. have stepped up efforts to breathe new life into the Taliban peace process, which has been hamstrung by distrust among all the parties involved.

The U.S. and Pakistan recently set up working groups to identify which Taliban leaders would be open to reconciliation and to ensure those holed up on Pakistani territory would be able to travel to the site of talks. Pakistan and Afghanistan have been in discussions to revive a joint commission set up to discuss the peace process.

Pakistan is seen as key to a peace deal because of its ties with the Taliban, and there is hope that Islamabad's increased engagement with non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan will facilitate the process.

"I think one of Pakistan's realizations is that if you want to play a bigger role to reconcile all these groups, you need to reach out to every group," said Rahimullah Yousufzai, a Pakistani journalist and expert on the Taliban. "They will be pushing the Taliban to share power with all these people, but it won't be easy because the Taliban aren't known to share power and the U.S. doesn't want to give them a major share."

Islamabad's historical support for the Taliban and other Pashtuns in Afghanistan, who make up about 40 percent of the population of 190 million, is partly rooted in the sizable number of Pashtuns who live in Pakistan. The ethnic group has always been seen as the best bet for furthering Pakistan's interests in the country.

Pakistan first advertised its overtures to non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan in February when Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met with a range of ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders during a visit to Kabul. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf followed suit in July when he traveled to Afghanistan and invited the group to the opening of the new Pakistani Embassy in Kabul.

There have also been less publicized contacts by Pakistan's ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Sadiq, and the country's army and intelligence service, according to Pakistani and Afghan officials.

Khar said the policy shift had been in the works for a while but was like a steering a large ship in a new direction.

"You're not able to do it immediately," said the foreign minister.

Pakistan's powerful army is the true arbiter of the country's Afghan policy, but experts expressed doubt that the Foreign Ministry would have pushed ahead without the support of the generals, who have historically had the closest relationship to the Taliban.

One key Afghan leader who has met with the Pakistanis, Abdullah Abdullah, said he appreciated the country's recent attempt to reach out because it was done publicly. The influential politician, who was runner-up to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 election, said Pakistani intelligence officials contacted him in previous years, but he refused to speak with them because he did not believe communication should be carried out in secret.

"I see a lot of good in reaching out, in engagement, in dialogue," said Abdullah, who is half Pashtun but draws much of his support from the Tajik community.

The outreach has rattled the Taliban, who have warned Pakistani officials that they can't trust the non-Pashtuns, Yousufzai said.

Pakistan will have to overcome significant distrust among the non-Pashtuns. The government has old ties to some of the leaders, who worked with Pakistan in the 1980s to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but Islamabad's subsequent support for the Taliban created a huge amount of bad blood.

Despite that, the Pakistanis are hopeful.

"The Pakistani side's view of Afghan negotiations is that you kill on one day and kiss on the next, so while this will be very tough, they think that it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that they may actually get somewhere," said Yusuf, the South Asia analyst.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Sebastian Abbot and Heidi Vogt - Associated Press
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

DTN News - JAPAN NEWS: Autumn Garden Party At Royal Imperial Palace Tokyo

Defense News: DTN News - JAPAN NEWS: Autumn Garden Party At Royal Imperial Palace Tokyo
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith DTN News
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 27, 2012: London Olympics gold medalists Kaoru Matsumoto (5th right), Saori Yoshida (6th right) and Ryota Murata (8th right) talk with Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and Crown Prince Naruhito at the annual autumn garden party in Tokyo on Thursday. 

About 2,100 people were invited to the garden party. Crown Princess Masako did not attend the party. (Photo - REUTERS/Issei Kato)

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith DTNNews
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

DTN News - COLD WAR ERA IMAGES: Fidel Castro In New York City, 1959

Defense News: DTN News - COLD WAR ERA IMAGES: Fidel Castro In New York City, 1959
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources New York Daily News
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 27, 2012: A Florida doctor claimed on Oct. 19 that Cuban strongman Fidel Castro had suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to speak, recognize anyone or fend for himself.  

As rumors gain strength that the reclusive leader may be on death’s door, we look back to an earlier era - before the Cuban Missle Crisis - when he toured New York City as a young man.

He came, he saw, he conquered. In 1959, Fidel Castro came to New York, hired a public relations firm, ate hot dogs, kissed ladies like a rock star, and held babies like a politician. Loved by some, hated by others, his trips to the Big Apple were galvanizing. 

Take a stroll through the News' archives ... Here, Gladys Feijoo, 19-year-old Miss La Prensa of 1959, kisses Fidel Castro as he signs his autograph for her collection on April 22, 1959.

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources New York Daily News
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

Friday, October 26, 2012

DTN News - GEORGIA DEFENSE NEWS: How Russia And Georgia Started A Drone Arms Race

Defense News: DTN News - GEORGIA DEFENSE NEWS: How Russia And Georgia Started A Drone Arms Race
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Nicholas Clayton
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - October 26, 2012: On the night of August 7, 2008, (TBILISI, Georgia) what military experts and historians say is the world’s first two-sided drone war began.

Georgia, convinced Russia was about to annex its separatist region of South Ossetia, made the first move by bombarding and then invading the separatist capital, Tskhinvali.

What followed was a destructive five-day war that was to a great extent provoked and fought by drones, waking Russia up to the strategic importance of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.

The Georgian government lost control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the country’s chaotic first years of independence after the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

Four months before the war, as peace talks stalled between Georgia and the de facto governments of its breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia the Georgian government began conducting reconnaissance flights over the conflict regions using medium-sized Hermes-450 drones it had purchased from Israel.

Moscow and Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi have frequently clashed over Georgia’s aspirations to join NATO as well as Russia’s increasing support to Georgian separatists, but the conflict intensified as the drones started to go down.

Three to seven Georgian drones were shot down over Abkhazia in April and May 2008. Each side offered conflicting information on the number of incidents and aircraft involved.

Georgia accused Russia, which maintained a peacekeeping contingent in each of the territories, of committing a “military aggression” on sovereign Georgian territory by shooting down the drones. On one occasion, Georgia produced video transmissions from one of its downed drones, showing a fighter jet shooting it with a missile. A subsequent UN report found that video proved Russia had shot down the drone using either a MiG-29 or Su-27 fighter.

These drone incidents highlighted a grey area of international laws and treaties pertaining to disputed territories and the use of unarmed, unmanned aircraft.

The 1994 Moscow Agreement was signed by the parties of the 1993-1994 Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and dictated that heavy weapons and military aircraft would not be allowed in or around the conflict zone. Both the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had observers deployed in Abkhazia, found that Russia violated the Moscow Agreement by sending the fighter to shoot down the Georgian drone.

However, the UN found that Georgia also violated the ceasefire because “a reconnaissance mission by a military aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, constituted ‘military action.’”

US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff protested the decision at the Security Council saying the Moscow Agreement “at best is unclear on this issue” and highlighted that the shootdown was a “very dangerous development, highly provocative” and a “violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

On the ground, the UN argued, the drone flights were “bound to be interpreted by the Abkhaz side as a precursor to a military operation,” but in his book “A Little War That Shook the World,” which chronicles the conflict and its causes, Ronald Asmus asserted that by shooting down the drone over internationally recognized Georgian territory, Russia committed the first “military aggression” of the war. In the end, the incident reinforced the notion on each side that the other was preparing to attack.

In the three months following the UN’s ruling, border skirmishes continued and escalated leading to Georgia’s offensive against Tskhinvali and a massive Russian counterattack that killed hundreds and caused over $1 billion in damage to Georgia.

After the war, Russian officials and military analysts said much of the blame for the military’s performance was due to the poor quality of its drone fleet.

To begin with, Russia’s drones were late to the battlefield as Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov initially forgot to sign an order authorizing their use. Unable to gain real-time intelligence on the ground, the Russian top brass sent fighter jets and long-range bombers on reconnaissance and close air support missions before Georgia’s air defenses were neutralized, leaving them vulnerable to being shot down.

Russia defense expert Roger McDermott wrote that as “calamitous” as Russia’s losses due to poor intelligence were, they could have been much greater if Georgia used its air-defense platforms more efficiently.

By contrast, the Georgian military was viewed as effective in its initial maneuvers, backed by intelligence provided by its Hermes-450s and other smaller Israeli-made drone models. The Hermes-450 is similar in size and capabilities to the US military’s Predator, which has been heavily used for missions across the Middle East.

Russian officials later disclosed that the only drones it operated during the war were outdated domestic models developed in the late 1970s-early 1980s and several were lost. Furthermore, even the most advanced Russian-designed drone in the air at the time, “demonstrated many problems, among them a distinct acoustic signature audible from a long distance, which, coupled with its low [flight] ceiling, yielded high vulnerability to ground fire,” said Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Defense Ministry’s procurement wing.

However, if Russia was drone-poor and Georgia drone-rich before the conflict, everything changed when Israel switched sides.

Less than a year after the war, Russia announced it had bought 12 drones of varying sophistication for $53 million from state defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and in October 2010, the two sides agreed to a $400 million joint venture agreement to produce dozens more. Jamestown Foundation Russia expert Pavel Felgenhauer called the deal “the biggest defense technology transfer deal between Russia and a Western nation since 1945.”

Russia is expected to continue to expand its drone arsenal, although its attempts at producing quality drones domestically have been largely fruitless and hardliners in Moscow have strongly resisted the military’s limited foreign purchases. Nonetheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin specifically underlined the development of Russia’s drone capabilities as a priority in a campaign essay ahead of his election in March and has said that Russia intends to spend $13 billion on drones by 2020 as a part of its military modernization.

Meanwhile, the fate of the drone deals between Georgia and Israel played a major factor in the quick deterioration of what Caucasus expert Michael Cecire described as a “love affair” turned “messy divorce.” Pre-2008, Israel enjoyed arguably its strongest ties in the region with the pro-Western government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Israel sold Georgia 40 drones, anti-aircraft equipment, and trained Georgian infantry through private defense firms.

In the run-up to the war, however, Russia put heavy pressure on Israel to cancel its arms deals with Georgia, and publicly implied it would consider selling advanced equipment to Israel’s enemies if it did not give in. Israel acquiesced two days before the start of the conflict, a move that Georgian Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili, now ambassador to the US, slammed as “a disgrace.”

"Israel did it at the Russians' behest. It aided the terrorists, the Russians. It's a disgrace. I don't know what it received in return, I only see that Hezbollah continues to get Russian arms, and plenty of [them],” Yakobashvili told Haaretz at the time.

In April 2011, Israeli private defense contractor Elbit Systems, which supplied Georgia’s Hermes-450s and other drones, sued the country for $100 million for allegedly failing to pay for equipment. The two sides later settled the dispute with Georgia paying Elbit $35 million and returning “certain equipment and subsystems.”

Furthermore, in emails from private intelligence firm Stratfor leaked by WikiLeaks earlier this year, a Mexican source alleged that the Georgian government believed that Israel had also provided Moscow with the “data link codes” for its Hermes-450 drones, allowing Russian forces to hack them and force them to crash. This came supposedly in return for intelligence on air defense systems Russia had sold Iran.

The source, which Stratfor described as close to Mexican defense contractor Hydra Technologies, said Georgian officials were “frantically” looking for drones to replace its Israeli fleet, which they believed had been “compromised.”

Several defense industry sources told GlobalPost that it was extremely unlikely Israel would agree to such an intel exchange and doubted the credibility of Stratfor overall. Furthermore, Nick Turse, author of the ebook “Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050,” said that there are a number of things that could bring down drones in a conventional warfare scenario, and drones are not particularly difficult to hack even without data link codes.

“Even Iraqi insurgents were able to hack drone feeds. So, we’re not talking about sophisticated military technology here,” he said. “In a traditional air war, drones would be decimated by conventional piloted aircraft, and modern air defense systems would make minced meat out of Predator and Reaper [type drones].”

Nonetheless, while unveiling what he said were a new line of Georgian-designed-and-produced drones in April, President Saakashvili implied he believed Israel had given Russia the codes.

“When you procure from abroad, a seller may not give you a full technology or may share technology [bought] by you to your adversary,” Saakashvili said, as cited by news website “No one will share this [pointing to the Georgian-made drone] with others.”

A month earlier he was quoted as saying it was important Georgia was producing its own drones because “someone may cheat you or share data to others or refuse [to sell weapons] at a decisive moment.”

Contrary to Saakashvili’s claims, however, Georgia is still not fully self-sufficient in its drone technology. Shortly after the president presented the drones, military bloggers noted that the supposedly Georgian-designed drones bore a strong resemblance to the Swan, a small drone produced by private Estonian defense contractor ELI.

Estonian defense attaché to Georgia Riho Uhtegi confirmed to GlobalPost that the drones were designed by ELI and licensed to Georgia for production. Since the war, Georgia has complained of being under an unofficial arms embargo, even from its Western partners and has publicly demanded weapons systems to replace equipment it lost during the war — specifically drones, air defense and anti-tank weapons.

The Estonian drone contract was the biggest arms deal Georgia has made, albeit secretly, since the conflict and Uhtegi said it was necessary for Estonia to gain approval from other NATO member countries before making the sale.

Still, drone industry experts also emphasized that the Estonian Swans are a big step down from the medium-sized Israeli Hermes-450. The Swan has limited range and altitude and must be launched by a mobile catapult while only being able to land via parachute.

“It’s sort of like comparing a Yugo to a Honda. They’re both cars, they both carry people, but they’re not in the same class,” one expert said.

Nonetheless, Irakli Aladashvili, editor-in-chief of the Georgian military journal Arsenali, said that drones continue to be essential for Georgia because they offer the cheapest way for a small country to scout enemy territory.

“Drones are the best intelligence devices after satellite surveillance. Obviously, the small countries of the South Caucasus can’t afford to put satellites into space, so [drones] are important,” he said.

The first drone war showed that drones can have a major impact on combat, but Turse said they are not necessarily a game-changer on the battlefield.

“For the last 100 years or so, there’ve been these wonder weapons that come around that are supposed to revolutionize warfare and give one nation a tremendous advantage — from tanks to machine guns. But whenever wonder weapons appear, countermeasures develop. War always seems to find a way,” he said.

However, even if drones do not prove to be crucial in winning conventional wars, Turse says they are likely to help start some new conflicts as international law has been slow to adapt to the new realities and the US has “written the rulebook” on their usage. Those “rules,” he said, include the mentality that violating another country’s territory with a robot isn’t a violation at all.

“I think this is embedded in the thinking on this. The US has been violating the sovereignty and airspace of countries for decades now with airplanes and the fact that there are no pilots in these things, the leadership feels like that gives them license to do it, even though there is no fundamental difference between violating it with a piloted plane or a robot plane,” he said.

The legality of such actions is even less clear amid territorial disputes, and, the de facto government of South Ossetia announced in September that it was working on measures to shoot down the Georgian drones it frequently spots in what it considers to be its sovereign territory, leading to fears that an escalation similar to 2008 could repeat itself.

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Nicholas Clayton
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News