(CNN) US and Ukraine sign new security agreement; America, Arsenal of Democracy; Europe, Step Up!

(CNN) US and Ukraine sign new security agreement on G7 sidelines.

The agreement is not a treaty, and is not binding on the U.S. Let us hope that it will serve as an potent piece of symbolism, as did FDR’s fireside chat on December 29, 1940, which gave birth to the phrase, “arsenal of democracy.” Entering the real world as figuration, as many phrases do, the arsenal became an aspiration. A year later, when Pearl Harbor thrust America into war, aspiration became fact. Quoting,

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.”

Joining the Arsenal, Europe has made great strides in proactive support for Ukraine; this is the occasion to ask for more. See For Techies Only: (CNN) Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it. Inside the Pentagon’s plan to close the gap.

The process of making dumb artillery shells has changed little since 1939, when the documentary was filmed in Philadelphia. It requires little or no automation. How many shells could they make by such a primitive process? (Wikipedia) Second Battle of El Alamein is instructive. Quoting,

…The fire plan had been arranged so that the first rounds from the 882 guns from the field and medium batteries would land along the 40 mi (64 km) front at the same time.[43] … The shelling plan continued for five and a half hours, by the end of which each gun had fired about 600 rounds, about 529,000 shells.

529,000 shells in a single battle. The provision by the U.S. and/or Europe of a million shells in a year to Ukraine becomes a mere token. Perhaps a reminder is in order, courtesy of (full text of speech) American Rhetoric:

“This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk on national security; because the nub of the whole purpose of your President is to keep you now, and your children later, and your grandchildren much later, out of a last-ditch war for the preservation of American independence, and all of the things that American independence means to you and to me and to ours.

The only things holding us back from providing Ukraine with Russian shell parity are costs, regulations which are petty against the fight for life, and bureaucratic sloth.  All of these can be swept aside with economic war powers. Europeans, step up! You have nothing to lose but a future in chains!

(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say

(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say.  Quoting,

The intelligence raises the alarming possibility that a marriage of convenience could make things worse both in Somalia and in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where the Houthis have launched regular attacks on commercial shipping and US military assets since the war in Gaza began.

A specific motive was anticipated in US official: Iran has moved missiles to Persian Gulf. Quoting,

Where could missiles be emplaced and launched in a deniable way? A locale must be lawless, buyable, and deniable. It must adjoin the Red Sea,  which must be transited by the U.S. forces that use the Suez Canal. Lawless locations are implied by pirate activity. Most of the pirate havens have been cleaned out. Pirate activity  persisted in  the Galmudug region of Somalia  till at least 2017. (FP)  Somalia’s Pirates Are Back in Business. This shows what is possible. perhaps further up the coast towards Bab el Mandeb.

Eritrea, inside the Red Sea, above and adjacent to the strait Bab el Mandeb, is geographically perfect.  The Eritrean Islamic Jihad implies contested territory that Iran could rent for missile emplacements, which can be effectively camouflaged.

With missile emplacements on both shores of the Red Sea, the Houthis might hope for absolute interdiction  of maritime traffic. Quoting from CNN,

A potential deal could offer a new stream of financing for the Houthis, at a time when US officials say there are signs that the group’s primary patron, Iran, has some concerns about the group’s attack strategy. “Being able to sell some weapons would bring them much needed income,” the senior administration official said.

Highlighting the emergence of the Houthis as an independent actor, there are multiple hazards for Iran:

  • The ejection of French influence and Western militaries  from the Sahel was accompanied  by the substitution of Russian influence and mercenaries, considered more effective by the current crop of despots against Al-Shabaab. The Russians, allies of  Iran, are likely victims of Houthi weapon sales.
  • The effective closure of the Red Sea would be unacceptable to what used to be called the Third World.
  • The likely result of Houthi success would be a broader and more effective sanctions regime against Iran, which would indirectly diminish the Houthis and inconvenience major trading partner Russia.

In consequence, the Houthi problem will fester, going up, down, and sideways. It might motivate the West to empower ECOWAS.