Iraq is looking to equip itself with western military arms to fill the looming power vacuum that will be left as the US-led coalition withdraws over the next three years. Foremost on the Iraqi shopping list is a request for a core armoured force of 140 m1a1 Abrams main battle tanks – this model was used by the West against Iraq during the Gulf War. The vehicles tore through Iraq’s Russian tank forces around Kuwait in 1991. The Abrams will mark a significant step-change in Iraqi war-fighting capability over their existing Soviet-era t-72 variants. Some of these are survivors of Iraq’s earlier campaigns, but others were donated to help rebuild Iraqi forces post- invasion. Hungary for example, handed over 77 t-72s, along with a fleet of 66 btr-80 apcs (armoured personnel carriers), while Jordan and Greece followed suit and gifted Iraq 66 btr-94s and 100 bmp-1s respectively. It was considered important to pro- vide the Iraqis with Russian equipment in the short term, as the army already had a wealth of experience with it and there was a surplus (especially as new Nato members were looking to recapitalise their own fleets along western lines). The Iraqi Abrams request is currently sitting with the US Congress’ Foreign Military Sales committee – along with a request for 392 light armoured vehicles, similar to the US Strykers. Other deliveries have already begun, including early mine resistant ambush- protected vehicles, Polish Dziks and Turkish Cobra apcs.
Amid concerns over rising anti-Semitism around the world, wealthy Jewish people are investing in luxury boltholes in Israel. In the past two years, 25 towering blocks full of apartments designed by the likes of Philippe Starck have sprouted in Israel’s business capital. Another 20 blocks are going up soon. And while in much of the world house prices are falling they are soaring in Tel Aviv (up to €10,000 a sq m). In the US, where the property market has slumped, investors now see Tel Aviv as a safer option. Rents in the city have risen more than 25 per cent in the past year. “In countries like Britain and France, Jews feel less secure and are looking for a safe haven,” says Emmanuel Vatari, whose agency Bayit (Hebrew for “home”) in Israel markets the properties worldwide.
Women on the march
Only 58 years after enfranchising women with the vote, India has announced that it is prepared to grant women permanent commissions, but only from 2013 and then not in frontline combat units, flying fighters or sailing with submarines. Women were first admitted to Indian military service in 1992 and at present there are just over 5,000 female officers on the military roll, who can only serve a maximum of 14 years.
Delta blues The Nigerian Navy stepped up operations against militants in the Niger Delta, who are kidnapping workers and blowing up pumping stations. The militants claim their region is being plundered by the oil firms. Several people have been killed and a boat and small arms were seized just days after the head of operations, Major-General Mohammed Sani Sule, said the army would support a “minimum-force” initiative to help the government settle the dispute “without stress and without pressure”.
A new X-band radar warning and tracking system from the US is set to enhance Israel’s BMD (ballistic missile defences). It will complement the Green Pine radars already scanning the skies for missiles over Israel. The new radar features a narrower beam than Green Pine, offering better discrimination between actual warheads and decoys. The US is also offering Israel a permanent feed from early-warning satellites.
Taiwan appears to have lost patience with the US freeze on its plans to sell the F-16s and is now debating rolling out a major upgrade programme for at least half of its 128 F-CK-1 IDFs (indigenous defence fighters). But only two aircraft have been converted so far. Taiwan is still perhaps overly ambitious, as it hopes to use the IDFs as a bridge to membership of the exclusive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter club.
USS Freedom, the US Navy’s first of a planned fleet of up to 55 radical new LCSs (littoral combat ships) capable of 45 kts, finally embarked on its first set of sea trials on 28 July. The LCS programme was supposed to be a poster child for a new way of rapidly designing warships and getting them into service, but the plan has been foiled by spiralling costs, supplier issues and even a fire aboard Freedom. Much of the building of these ships has had to be abandoned or shelved.
World leaders drew up their most important environmental treaty in Kyoto but global warming has carried on regardless. The drizzle that was once common in the city has fizzled out, leaving gardeners at the celebrated moss gardens forced to apply man-made moisture with watering cans.