9 August 2014

THE OTHER ILLITERACY - The Indian road to unsustainability

Ramachandra Guha 
Politics and Play 

In her recent book, Green Wars, the environmental journalist Bahar Dutt, writes: “The editor of a leading media house, everytime I pitched a green story, would invariably complain: ‘Environmentalism is stalling growth; all I am interested in is double-digit growth for this country.’”

The idea that environmental protection and economic progress are at odds is widely held among India’s elite. It is shared by newspaper editors, economists, businessmen, and, not least, politicians. The free-market thinker, Gurcharan Das, has written with disdain about what he calls “the fundamentalist and irrationalist nature of the ecology movement”. While he was minister for civil aviation, Praful Patel insisted that “in a developing country, environment standards laid down by developed countries can’t be taken as the thumb rule”. (This was in response to a question about the environmental damage that a proposed new airport in Mumbai would cause.)

This conventional wisdom has been challenged by scholars and activists who have field experience in different parts of the country. They make two central arguments. First, that industrialization and economic growth in Europe and North America was enabled in part — perhaps large part — by the access to the land and resources of the colonies that those countries controlled. Developing countries like India have no such colonies; and they have far higher population densities. Therefore, they must in fact be even more environmentally conscious than Europe or North America were at a comparable stage of their development experience.

The second argument focuses on the social consequences of unregulated economic growth. For, in countries like India, it is the poor who most directly bear the burden of environmental degradation. Depleting forests deprive peasants of fuel and fodder. Polluted rivers deprive them of irrigation water (and sometimes of drinking water too). Opencast mining brings debris to fields and dries up springs. Meanwhile, in the cities, air pollution makes the urban poor — badly housed, overworked, and undernourished — more vulnerable to respiratory and other diseases than their richer (and better-fed, better-protected) counterparts.

These two arguments were first made in the 1970s, by popular movements such as the Chipko Andolan, by scientists such as Madhav Gadgil (of the Centre for Ecological Sciences in Bangalore), and by campaigning journalists such as the late Anil Agarwal (of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi). The combined efforts of activists and scientists led to the formation, in 1980, of a department of environment and forests at the Centre, upgraded to a full-fledged ministry five years later.

The environment ministry was meant to be a regulatory as well as a prescriptive body. On the one hand, it had to frame laws to check environmental damage, monitor air and water pollution, and assess the environmental impact of proposed new mines, highways, dams, and factories. On the other hand, it was meant to fund scientific research so as to forge sustainable policies for forestry, wildlife, agriculture, energy management and so on.

Sadly, for much — if not most — of its existence, the environment ministry has not fulfilled either objective. The ministers who head it have generally ignored or disregarded the advice of India’s top scientists.

Touching foot in Pakistan

Khaled Ahmed | August 9, 2014

Who would have thought he would fail to communicate his thoughts, his ideas of reform, his vision for a new India?

An Indian-Gujarati friend of mine, with whom I share my enthusiasm for the Gujarati community of Karachi, has written something about me that needs only marginal correction. Writing in the Hindustan Times of May 12, 2014, Aakar Patel observed: “In a profile of his by a Western writer, I was alarmed to see that the columnist Khaled Ahmed, one of my heroes, actually paid one of the groups to keep them off his back. Such, then, is the lot of the writer of opinion in Pakistan.”

Off my back? The best way I could do that was not write at all. I have, in fact, done much worse to ruin my image. I have gone and touched the feet of my prospective killers, as unfortunately recorded by Karima Bennoune in her book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism (2013). She recounts how I went to Samanabad in Lahore and — it goes without saying — went for the foot of a now-terrorist organisation member offended by what my paper, The Frontier Post, had printed: an FIR saying the organisation’s founder used to molest madrasa children. The now-terrorist organisation was then in the Punjab government coalition and doing terrorism on the side.

It worked. So I got used to touching foot. It is like apologising abjectly to the judge after committing contempt of court: don’t argue. Many years later, I misread the signs and wrote something in The Friday Times that provoked a once-terrorist organisation to send me a legal notice for defamation. I was immediately grateful on receiving a notice and not a bullet in my head. After looking for a lawyer who would defend me in court and not finding a single one — all were either in sympathy with the said organisation or scared of it — I decided to do what had become habit: touch foot.

Creating a new Medina

Published: August 9, 2014

HISTORIC MEETING: The only solution to India’s problem, Jinnah asserted, was ‘to partition India so that both Hindus and Muslims could develop freely and fully according to their own genius.’ (From left) Picture shows Jawaharlal Nehru, the Adviser to the Viceroy, Lord Ismay, Lord Mountbatten, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the historic conference in New Delhi in 1947 in which Lord Mountbatten disclosed Britain’s partition plan for India.

In his forthcoming book on the idea of Pakistan, the historian Venkat Dhulipala argues that Pakistan was not simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was popularly imagined as a sovereign Islamic state, a new Medina, as some called it. In this regard, it was envisaged as the harbinger of Islam’s revival and rise in the twentieth century, the new leader and protector of the global community of Muslims, and a worthy successor to the defunct Turkish Caliphate. The following article has been excerpted from the book

The basic reasoning behind the assumption that Pakistan was Jinnah’s bargaining counter and not a demand for a separate sovereign state is that such a state would have been disastrous for the Muslim minority in Hindu India. As the argument goes, Jinnah as the Qaid of all of the Indian Muslims was hardly going to abandon the ‘minority provinces’ Muslims. However, his own public utterances on the matter seem to point to a different idea regarding the place of minorities. Never the abstract theoretician, the meticulous constitutional lawyer gave concrete examples to clarify what he meant by nations, sub-national groups or minorities. For Jinnah, Muslims in the ‘majority provinces’ were a nation with concomitant rights to self-determination and statehood since they constituted a numerical majority in a contiguous piece of territory. On the other hand, Sikhs, though distinct enough to be a nation, did not fulfill either of these criteria and hence were a sub-national group with no option but to seek minority safeguards in Pakistan. Jinnah specifically compared the position of Sikhs to that of U.P. Muslims. The U.P. Muslims, though constituting 14 per cent of the province’s population, could not be granted a separate state because

“Muslims in the United Provinces are not a national group; they are scattered. Therefore, in constitutional language, they are characterized as a sub-national group who cannot expect anything more than what is due from any civilized government to a minority. I hope I have made the position clear.”

Jinnah held out further hope for the Muslim minority in Hindu India by declaring that they could yet belong to Pakistan since they had the option of migrating to the new nation state.

Nepal: Promises to keep Modi visit has improved the atmospherics in bilateral relations

S.D. Muni

Modi did well in not mentioning China or India's security concerns in Nepal publicly in his addresses

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has had a highly successful visit to Nepal. The visit has radically changed the discourse in Nepal on India -- from being cantankerous to friendly and cooperative. This has improved the atmospherics in the bilateral relations between the two countries. He was the only foreign dignitary to address Nepal's Constitutional Assembly cum Parliament and the only Indian Prime Minister who performed a special prayer ("Basuki Puja" and "Rudra Abhishekam Puja") at Kathmandu's holy shrine of Pashupatinath Temple.

In his well-articulated addresses and wide ranging political and cultural engagements, he highlighted the civilizational bonds that exist between the Indian and Nepali people for centuries; he tickled Nepal's developmental aspirations and promised that India will stand by Nepal in harnessing its potential to reach the Himalayan heights of prosperity; he hailed Nepal's unique example of mainstreaming its Maoist insurgency into a peaceful democratic process, he urged Nepali lawmakers to frame a "federal, democratic and republican constitution" on time as not only India but the whole world is looking towards Nepal's efforts in this respect; and while underlining India's commitment to Nepal's sovereignty, he promised that India would never interfere in Nepal's affairs.

Most Indian leaders have always been doing so earlier but Modi's eloquent oratory and poetic presentation touched Nepali hearts and minds. Only mild murmurs could be felt from two sections; first, the Madhes groups, as he did not speak against their felt discrimination and instead asked them to work with the hill people for building a strong and united Nepal; and secondly the religious minorities who did not relish Modi's omission of the word "secular" in identifying the broad contours of Nepal's expected Constitution. Minorities might have found Modi's loud personal projection of Hindu identity a bit jarring. Recall Sushma Swaraj's crisp response to a Hindutva query in Nepal two weeks earlier in which she claimed her constitutional loyalty to a Secular Indian State.

Support: The Enemy Below In Gaza

August 8, 2014: The current war between Israel and Hamas was only partly about the persistent rocket attacks against Israel launched from Gaza. Israel made it clear, soon after the fighting broke out in early July, that one of its primary objectives was to find and destroy all the tunnels Hamas had dug into Israel over the last few years. This could only be accomplished if Israeli troops were inside Gaza and able to search for the places where the tunnels started. Hamas boasted about how it had lots of these tunnels and planned to use them to get terrorists into Israel to capture or kill Israelis. This is not a new problem. The Palestinians in Gaza have been building tunnels (mainly into Egypt for smuggling) since the 1980s. The Egyptians long tolerated this because the local Egyptian police and soldiers got bribed and that kept everyone happy. But tunnels into Israel were another matter, because these were not for smuggling but for killing or kidnapping Israelis. No bribes involved here, just murder and abduction (for ransom).

When Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 by defeating (militarily, and at the ballot box) the more moderate Fatah, they turned Gaza into a police state. Then they took charge of the economy by controlling what went through smuggling tunnels, and what people paid for it. While Hamas complains about the Israeli blockade, which is in place because Hamas refuses to stop demanding that Israel be destroyed, and bringing weapons (especially long range rockets) into Gaza to make that happen, they would go bankrupt if the blockade were lifted and the tunnel income disappeared.

These smuggling operations are so lucrative that Hamas deems them legal enterprises, and charges a large (several thousand dollars) fee for anyone who wants to build and operate a tunnel. In addition, armed Hamas revenue collectors stand at the Gaza entrance for each tunnel, demanding a payment for everything coming out of Egypt, or going there. Exactly how many tunnels there are is something of a mystery. Given that the Gaza border under Egyptian control is only about 14 kilometers long, it would appear that the actual number of operating tunnels is rarely more than a hundred. Israeli sources frequently say there are 300 or more. In the last year Egypt has destroyed most of the tunnels into Egypt because Gaza has become a sanctuary for a growing number of anti-Egypt Islamic terrorists.

India’s economic strength and business environment are of strategic importance to the US


Jul 30, 2014
By John Kerry & Penny Pritzker

The long-standing partnership between the US and India is on the cusp of an historic transformation. Working together, the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy can forge a new era of shared prosperity and security for hundreds of millions of people in India, across Asia and the world.

India's rise will help the Indo-Pacific region become more stable, more prosperous and more free. The strategic choices India makes on how to grow its economy and promote regional security will directly impact Asia's growth and US interests. As President Barack Obama has observed, America's economy and security will increasingly be influenced by events in Asia. India's economic strength and business environment are, therefore, of strategic importance to both our countries.

We are coming to India to deliver a single message: the US is prepared to be a full partner in this effort. We will work hand in hand with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to promote open and liberal trade and investment, job training and closer strategic ties.

Burgeoning Business

We are not starting from scratch. Since 2000, trade between our countries has increased nearly fivefold to more than $96 billion, Indian investment in the US has grown from just over $300 million to $9 billion, and US investment in India has risen from $2.4 billion to $28 billion. Ford is spending $1 billion to turn its new auto plant in Gujarat into a regional manufacturing hub. US subsidiaries of Indian-owned companies employ 45,000 people in the US. Citizens of both countries recognise the importance of our relationship. Half of all Indians see the US as their country's "most dependable future ally", according to a recent Pew poll. Similarly, a recent Gallup poll found that more Americans than ever have a favourable view of India.

Israel-Gaza: Why India should sit on the fence?

07 Aug , 2014

The conflict in Gaza is not new. This is not something which has happened suddenly. Since the creation of Israel, the region has been plagued with bloodshed. Uncountable lives have been lost on both sides of the divide.

India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment and is Israel’s largest defence market, accounting for almost fifty percent of Israeli sales.

It could be argued though that the sheer magnitude of the current crisis is massive. Since the launch of Operation Protective Edge by the IDF (Israel Defense Force) on 8th July, the scale of violence in Gaza has been unprecedented. The United Nations estimates the current death toll at well over 1,000.

In the midst of this carnage, the Indian political establishment has found itself in a peculiar position. In trying to act too smart, they seem to have found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Amidst the protests that she was impeding free speech, Sushma Swaraj’s refusal to discuss the contentious issue in Parliament was a well-thought out, clever move and needs to be applauded. Those screaming ‘murder’ somehow failed to miss an important point in what the Minister of External Affairs had pointed out: both the combatants, Israel and Palestine are friendly countries. Any discussion in Parliament would invariably lead to strong words against any of the sides. This really wouldn’t have benefited India in any which way.

Armor: Israeli Tech Torments Hamas

August 3, 2014

The current war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel proved to be a technological disaster for Hamas. This was especially the case with Israeli anti-missile systems. Hamas already knew that the Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system and Trophy APS (Active Protection System) anti-missile defense for vehicles worked. Most APS consist of a radar to detect incoming missiles and small rockets to rush out and disable the incoming threat. A complete system weighs about a ton. There is also a Trophy Light (weighing half a ton) for lighter, often unarmored, vehicles. 

It was hoped that when Hamas used a lot of rockets and anti-tank missiles the Israeli systems would display flaws and allow Hamas to do some damage. It has not worked out that way. During the first two weeks of the current war Iron Dome and Trophy kept working reliably. Worse, the Israeli intelligence efforts and air force operations were a lot more effective at finding and destroying rockets before they could be launched than Hamas expected. The only success Hamas has had is the higher (that previous wars) Israeli losses to bobby traps, mines, bombs and ambushes. 

Iron Dome and Trophy both entered service in 2010 and Iron Dome got a lot more publicity. But Trophy was more dangerous for Hamas gunmen because it made Israeli tanks virtually invulnerable and able to do a lot of damage to front line Hamas fighters. This was no secret, Hamas just refused to believe what was happening. By mid-2012 Israel had completed equipping all the Merkava (“Chariot”) tanks in an armor brigade with the Trophy APS (Active Protection System). These tanks came to be known as the Merkava 4 Windbreaker model. In 2010 the first battalion of Merkavas was so equipped. In 2011 Trophy defeated incoming missiles and rockets in combat for the first time. This included ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missile), possibly a modern Russian system like the Kornet E. This is a laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile's warhead can penetrate enough modern tank armor to render the side armor of the Israeli Merkava tank vulnerable. The Kornet E missile weighs 8.2 kg (18 pounds) and the launcher 19 kg (42 pounds). The system was introduced in 1994, and has been sold to Syria (who apparently passed them on to Hezbollah and Hamas). 

A few weeks before the ATGM intercept Trophy defeated an RPG warhead (an unguided rocket propelled grenade fired from a metal tube balanced on the shoulder). As designed to do, Trophy operated automatically and the crew didn't realize the incoming RPG warhead or missile had been stopped until after it was over. That is how APS is supposed to work. 

This first combat use is a big deal because APS has been around for nearly three decades but demand and sales have been slow. The main purpose of APS is to stop ATGMs but on less heavily armored vehicles, stopping RPG type warheads is important as well. The Israeli Trophy APS uses better, more reliable, and more expensive technology than the original Russian Drozd (or its successors, like Arena) APS. For about $300,000 per system, Trophy will protect a vehicle from ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) as well as RPGs (which are much more common in combat zones). Israel is the first Western nation to have a lot of their tanks shot up by modern ATGMs and apparently fears the situation will only get worse. 

Israel first encountered ATGMs, on a large scale, in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But these were the clumsy, first generation missiles that turned out to be more smoke than fire. More recent ATGM designs have proved more reliable and effective but no nation, except Israel, has yet made a major commitment to APS. That may now change because the Israeli APS has knocked down RPGs and ATGMs in large numbers under combat conditions. 

Russia pioneered the development of these anti-missile systems. The first one, the Drozd, entered active service in 1983, mainly for defense against American ATGMs. These the Russians feared a great deal, as American troops had a lot of them, and the Russians knew these missiles (like TOW) worked. Russia went on to improve their anti-missile systems but was never able to export many of them. This was largely because these systems were expensive (over $100,000 per vehicle), no one trusted Russian hi-tech that much and new tanks, like the American M-1, were seen as a bigger threat than ATGMs.

Competitive politics over illegal migration from Bangladesh


Anand Kumar

August 08, 2014

The issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh to India has been the most vexing issue in the bilateral relations of the two countries. This issue has been around for a long time but no solution was found because it gets communalised the moment it is raised. Thereon the two leading political parties in India – the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party – indulge in blame game which stops any rational debate from taking place over the issue. This important issue was raised to the great electoral effect by the BJP in the run up to the parliamentary elections. It helped them to show their best ever performance in Assam, in particular, and the northeast India in general. Realising the electoral significance of the issue, the Congress has now changed its stand and seems to be engaging in a competitive politics with its rival BJP. It is now talking of giving citizenship to even those migrants who came to India after 1971 but were persecuted in Bangladesh.

It is quite interesting to see the Congress take a stand similar to the BJP. In fact, the Congress has now tried to outdo the BJP over the issue of illegal migration. When Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj sometime back visited Bangladesh on her first standalone foreign visit, the government was contemplating giving visa on arrival to those Bangladeshis who are less than 10 years of age and older than 65 years. But this was criticised by the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam who stated that it would further encourage illegal migration from Bangladesh.

The Assam government also tried to create confusion by saying that the new central government was considering ‘visa free’ entry of Bangladeshis. The fact of the matter is that the visa free entry of Bangladeshis was never under consideration. What government ever considered was visa on arrival for certain sections of Bangladeshi population. Even this decision was probably taken by the earlier government which could not be implemented because of the elections. Gogoi was also critical of government’s decision to give this section multiple entry visa. Gogoi accused BJP of having a dual approach over the issue. He blamed them for following one policy while in opposition and quite another when in power. Actually duality was visible within Congress itself where Gogoi was criticising centre for giving travel facilities to Bangladeshis, on the other hand, at the Central level Congress leader Anand Sharma was critical of the BJP government for having no consensus over the issue.

The Dangerous Nexus Between Radicalism in Britain and Syria’s Foreign Fighters

Roger Farhat
August 7, 2014 · 

In the last few months, the United Kingdom has seen an intensified wave of online radicalism within its borders, particularly by British nationals advocating violent jihad. Combined with the substantial and growing cohort of British fighters joining combatant groups in Syria, this trend could portend a real change to the threat the country faces from jihadists.

Propaganda campaigns against the UK have increased considerably, whether on jihadi forums or social media platforms. This is being manifested through a profusion of messages circulating the jihadi web platforms, and may serve as an indication that Britain is on the agenda of violent jihad.

Extremists who selectively interpret Islamic scripture and issue religious rulings declaring jihad, defined as a call for violence against both non-Muslims and Muslims they deem ‘inferior’, have ramped up threatening rhetoric on jihadi forums and social media platforms. The United Kingdom, home to a large Muslim population, has lately become on the target list of terrorists advocating violence and bloodshed.

The UK has been on high alert, fearing a resurgence in Islamist terror attacks since homegrown Islamist hardliners started ‘migrating’ to the Syrian battlefield to participate in a holy war against the supposedly apostate and infidel regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Numerous Britons have found their way to Syria in numbers far exceeding their jihadi predecessors who participated in other foreign campaigns, although the exact figure is almost impossible to determine. Yet to date, between 400-700 people are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq. British fighters tend to join the most ruthless and brutal terror groups in Syria, such as ISIS (now the Islamic State, spanning from Iraq to Syria) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), which is leading to an increasingly significant potential source of future threats to the UK and British interests overseas.

Simultaneously, Jihadi sympathizers who remain in Great Britain are increasingly active on Facebook and Twitter, where they instigate violent reprisals against fellow infidel citizens and British soldiers, promote Sharia law in Britain and call for the installation of caliphate rule. These ambitions, of course, will remain unfulfilled. But the fact is that these media jihadists harbor alarmingly hostile sentiments and plans for the UK, its officials and people.

The UK: A Hotbed of Homegrown Terrorism

Chinese PLA Modernisation: Perspectives and Issues


Lt Gen (Retd) JS Bajwa

“Build strong National Defence and powerful Armed Forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the need of its security and development interests is a strategic task of China’s modernisation drive.

-President Hu Jintao At the 18th National Congress of CPC March 2013.

Armed forces of a nation constitute an element of National Power in synergy with diplomacy, economic development, education, technological base and Research and Development (R&D), industry and others. A distinguishing feature of China’s modernisation mission has been the national pursuit of “Comprehensive Power”. They wisely learnt that one key lesson from studying the experience of other previous powers - genuine global powers possess multidimensional strengths.

Chinese scholars and officials have used the term “Peaceful Rise” to describe China’s foreign policy to counter fears about its growing economic and political might. However, the ‘Rise’ has proved controversial as it has fuelled a perception that China is a threat to the existing established world order. Also, ‘Rise’ implies that others will decline in a relative sense. In the 2004 session of BFA (Boao Forum for Asia), President Hu Jintao used the phrase “Peaceful Development” which since has been the preferred term. ‘Development’ suggests that China’s advance can bring others along. The normative aspect of power being equally important as it is about projecting ‘soft power’ and relies primarily on resources of non-military nature. Recently Joseph Nye and Ernest Wilson developed the concept of ‘Smart Power’ which combines elements of soft and hard power to achieve foreign policy goals.

The past three decades of China’s economic rise has witnessed a similar and parallel rise of the Defence Budget translating into a phenomenal modernisation of the Armed Forces. The Defence Budget has risen at par and over a period at a higher rate than the economic growth rate. It has also remained steady at over five percent of total Central Government spending. The 2014 Government released data on Defence Budget indicates a 12.2 percent rise over the previous year (2014 - $131.6 billion; 2013 - $112.2 billion). There, thus, remains a concern of China’s potential for violent conflict with other states especially over territory.

In this context, it may be worthwhile to historically understand the circumstances when governments have exercised the option of war as an instrument of its foreign policy:-

(a) War is chosen even though no specific conflict of interest with another state or cacus belli may exist, only uncertainty about the future.
(b) Preventive Wars: Such a war is defined as ‘a war fought in order to avoid the risks of war under worsening circumstances later’.
(c) Territorial conflicts are dynamic contests. States actively compete to strengthen their claims in a dispute usually by improving their position in the local military balance.
(d) In territorial disputes, states will be able to match each other’s moves and maintain their relative balance and positions. Inaction could be more costly in the long run than using force in the short run.

Iraq: A Time to Act

By Anthony H. Cordesman
AUG 6, 2014

On June 10, 2014, the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to what is now called the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham or ISIS). Since that time, the Islamic State has shown a surprising ability to mix religious extremism with effective strategy and military action. It has not made the mistake of rushing into further military action in areas where it might take substantial losses, like a Shi’ite-dominated Baghdad or key Shrine cities like Karbala. It has not abandoned gains in Syria for gains in Iraq. It has not focused on Shi’ite “heretics” at the cost of failing to score gains against the Kurds. And it has done all too competent a job of capitalizing on its gains to win broad support from jihadist fighters and other violent Sunni extremist groups—much of it from al Qaeda affiliates like the al Nusra Front.

The Growing Dangers and Costs of Letting the Islamic State Go Unchallenged

It is still unclear what the overall strategies of the Islamic State are in Syria and Iraq. Also unclear is whether it can consolidate a lasting hold on power in the face of the Sunni backlash against its extremism and the challenges it faces in dealing with problems of economics and governance, as well as from other Sunni factions. So far, however, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has largely been pushed on the defensive, and other Syrian Sunni rebel factions have steadily lost ground.

As for Iraq, the Islamic State has shown that it can do an excellent job of focusing on pragmatic key infrastructure targets like refineries and dams, economic targets like some of the oilfields the Kurds had occupied, and move toward surrounding Baghdad and pushing down to the border with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is still far from clear how well it can secure the divided loyalties of the Sunni tribes or deal with competing armed Islamist factions and the former elite that surrounded Saddam—which are often called Baathists but are largely military and political figures displaced from power.

The United States has had some reasons to wait. It did need to examine its military options in view of the weakness of the Iraqi security forces and the authoritarian, self-seeking sectarian corruption of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and those around him. It is often far easier to talk about using U.S. military strength that create real world intelligence and targeting capabilities than to use U.S. air and missile power, kill key ISIS leaders and fighting cadres, and avoid killing Sunni civilians and collateral damage.

Sunni Extremists in Iraq Seize 3 Towns From Kurds and Threaten Major Dam

AUG. 3, 2014 

An Iraqi Army soldier on Sunday in Diyala Province. Militant forces focused on advancing to the north during the weekend. CreditAmer Al-Saadi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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BAGHDAD — Sunni extremists seized control of three towns in northern Iraq on Sunday after fierce battles with Kurdish security forces, sending thousands of people fleeing to the nearby mountains and threatening the country’s largest dam.

In the darkness of Sunday morning, the Sunni fighters swept in to take one of the towns, Sinjar, and set about their method of conquest, which is as familiar as it is brutal: They destroyed a Shiite shrine, executed resisters, overran local security forces and hoisted the black flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, above government buildings.

Hours later, as the militants demanded that the city’s residents swear allegiance to ISIS or be killed, the group’s social media campaign was underway, with photos posted online showing militants patrolling the city.

A Chechnya in the making

China’s far west 
An iron fist in Xinjiang is fuelling an insurrection. China’s leadership must switch tactics Aug 9th 2014 

THE Uighurs have never been particularly comfortable in China. Xinjiang, the region where these Turkic Muslims once formed the vast majority, came unwillingly into the Chinese empire. Rebels in parts of it even set up independent republics; a short-lived one was snuffed out by the Communist Party in 1949. Since then the regime in Beijing, 1,000 miles (1,600km) to the east, has sought to keep Xinjiang quiet. The policy is not working. The presidency of Xi Jinping risks sinking into a quagmire of ethnic strife. This could be China’s Chechnya.

Over the past few decades the party has used several tactics to assert control. First it encouraged massive migration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang from other parts of China. Later it poured money into infrastructure and beefing up industry; the jobs thus created have gone overwhelmingly to Hans, who now make up more than 40% of the province’s 22m people. In tandem the party has adopted a hard line towards the merest hint of dissatisfaction on the part of the Uighurs.

Discontent is spilling into the open, nonetheless. The past few days have been the bloodiest in Xinjiang since clashes in the provincial capital, Urumqi, left around 200 dead in 2009. It appears that nearly 100 people died in the violence. The dead include 59 alleged terrorists gunned down by police near Kashgar, the main city in southern Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are concentrated (and where the economy is weakest). These Uighurs had apparently attacked police stations and Han Chinese. Two days later a pro-government imam was stabbed to death outside the city’s main mosque.

Information Warfare: Chinese Hackers Are So Damn Useful

August 3, 2014

While China consistently denies any knowledge of or participation in numerous Internet based attacks a growing number of Internet security firms have succeeded in developing the ability to track the activity of some 30 Chinese hacking groups believed to be working for the Chinese government. Recently one of the more capable of these groups (Deep Panda) was detected searching Western research organizations for recent data on ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), a terrorist group that is seizing oil fields and refineries in northern Iraq. This is of great interest to China, which is a major customer for Iraqi oil and one of the largest investors in Iraqi oil industry projects. If ISIL manages to gain control over all of Iraq, China would want to be prepared to do business with this Islamic terrorist group. ISIL would want to sell their oil and China has demonstrated a willingness to buy oil from anyone. 

This indicates how China has come to treat its hacking resources as a handy intelligence tool for when there is a need for specific information that is not posted on the Internet but can be stolen via hacking organizations that are vulnerable to plundering by skilled hackers. 

Western Internet security firms have long known of Chinese hacker groups and in the last few years have often shared their knowledge with the public. For example, in early 2013 it was revealed (to the public for the first time) by Western Internet security researchers that a specific Chinese military organization, “Unit 61398,” has been responsible for over a thousand attacks on government organizations and commercial firms since 2006. China denied this, and some Unit 61398 attacks ceased and others changed their methods for a month or so. But after that Unit 61398 returned to business as usual. The Chinese found that, as usual, even when one of their Cyber War organizations was identified by name and described in detail there was little anyone would or could do about it. There was obviously a Chinese reaction when the initial news became headlines, but after a month or so it was realized that it didn’t make any difference and the Chinese hackers went back to making war on the rest of the world. Unit 61398 is believed to consist of several thousand full time military and civilian personnel, as well as part-time civilians (often contractors brought in for a specific project). Thus a year ago the Chinese thought they were safe despite this unwanted publicity for the secretive Unit 61398. 

China's Cyber War hackers have become easier to identify because they have been getting cocky and careless. Internet security researchers have found identical bits of code (the human readable text that programmers create and then turn into smaller binary code for computers to use) and techniques for using it in hacking software used against Tibetan independence groups and commercial software sold by some firms in China. These Chinese companies are known to work for the Chinese military. Similar patterns have been found in hacker code left behind during attacks on American military and corporate networks. The best hackers hide their tracks better than this. The Chinese hackers have found that it doesn’t matter. Their government will protect them. 

It's been noted that Chinese behavior is distinctly different from that encountered among East European hacking operations. The East European hackers are more disciplined and go in like commandos and get out quickly once they have what they were looking for. The Chinese go after more targets with less skillful attacks and stick around longer than they should. That's how so many hackers are tracked back to China, often to specific servers known to be owned by the Chinese military or government research institutes. 

Nigerian Army Trying to Recapture Two Towns in Northeastern Nigeria Held by Boko Haram

Nigerian Army Fights to Push Boko Haram Out of Two Northeast Towns

ReutersAugust 8, 2014

MAIDUGURI Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigeria’s military fought gun battles with Boko Haram Islamists in two key northeastern towns on Friday, after the militants killed dozens of people and drove soldiers out of Gwoza town two days ago, security sources and the military said.

On Friday the military launched strikes to push the rebels out of Gwoza, the security sources said, and the garrison town of Damboa, which the militants sacked a month ago.
Both towns lie on roads linking Nigeria to Cameroon and Chad.
The military has struggled to stamp out the highly mobile, combat-hardened fighters of Boko Haram, which wants to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria. The group is seen as the main security threat to Africa’s biggest economy and leading energy producer.
"The special operation which began early in the week is meant to restore law and order to the area and apprehend all terrorists who have been operating in the locality," police spokesman Frank Mba announced on his website.

"The remnants of insurgents are being cleared from the communities. The mop up phase will ascertain the casualties."
Large sections of remote northeastern Borno state are under siege by the militants, who have killed more than 2,000 people this year - mostly civilians - and displaced hundreds of thousands more, rights groups say.

Witnesses and two security sources said heavily armed Boko Haram fighters stormed Gwoza, which lies in a rugged hilly area seen as a Boko Haram stronghold, on Wednesday.
Resident Abdullahi Abubakar said the insurgents sprayed the town with automatic gunfire, burning houses and overrunning the palace of its traditional ruler, the Emir of Gwoza. A security source said at least 30 bodies had been counted, with many more in the bush. He put the death toll at “several dozen.”

"I could see the Boko Haram boys roaming the streets of Gwoza on motorbikes shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great), trying to shoot at us as we fled to the hill," Abubakar said by telephone. "Some of them were distributing food stuffs to the women and children left behind."

Iran: Dealing With America As The Hated Defender of Shia Islam


August 8, 2014: ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) continues to threaten Iranian influence (via the elected government in a country that is 60 percent Shia) in Iraq. In the last few weeks ISIL has shifted from threatening Baghdad, which is now largely a Shia city. ISIL has noted that Baghdad also has many Shia militias armed and trained by Iran and obviously determined to defend the capital of Shia controlled Iraq. So now ISIL is going after the Kurds who, while largely Sunni have been on good terms with Iran since the 1990s. ISIL sees the Kurds as a threat to their rear if they got tied down battling for Baghdad. ISIL may now regret its decision to go after the Kurds, who are on even better terms with the Americans, who announced today that they will begin providing air support for the Kurds, and the Iraqi forces, against ISIL. This air support, many experienced Islamic terrorists will tell ISIL leaders who have not experienced it, can be devastating to the kind of open military-type operations ISIL has been using for the last few years.

In Iraq the militias have replaced the army as the most reliable military force. But the militias lack offensive ability and that is being taken care of by hundreds of American and Iranian military advisors now working with the Iraqi Army and the militias. The Iranians are more effective because they speak Arabic and take direct control of Iraqi Army units and militias. The American Special Forces troops also speak Arabic but are not allowed to directly control units and must advise and persuade the many Iraqi officers who got their jobs because of their loyalty to Shia politicians, not their military skills or leadership ability. With better leadership the Iraqi troops are quite effective. As the old truism goes, “there are no bad troops, just bad officers.” Most Iraqi troops are Shia and, like all Iraqis, they don’t like being ordered around by foreigners. But in addition to speaking the same language the Iranian officers are Shia and, like their American counterparts, experienced and recognized as more competent than the Iraqi officers they replaced. The problem with the Iranian and American advisors is that they may be too few in number to quickly turn the situation around. The crises in Iraq also means that the Saudis and Iranians have to pause their growing Sunni-Shia feud because both countries have more to fear from ISIL Sunni Islamic terrorism than from each other. Western nations know they are already on the ISIL radar and are cracking down on ISIL fund raising and recruiting in the West. But in Arabia many, if not most, prominent Arabs firmly believe that Iran remains a long-term threat to Arabs and must be stopped.

Iran has admitted that three of its military personnel have died in Iraq since June. So far Iran has refrained from committing large numbers of combat troops to actually fighting ISIL. This is apparently something the Americans, Sunni Arabs and even many Iraqi Shia Arabs strongly oppose. Those Iranians killed so far have been trainers and advisors who accompanied those they trained into a combat area, something that is necessary to assess how effective the training is.

Iraq: Blood Feuds And Genocide In The North


August 7, 2014: ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) made a surprising move into northeastern Iraq in June, seizing control of Mosul. At first it was believed that ISIL would then move south against Baghdad. But ISIL instead turned to confront the Kurds, who had quickly taken control of Kirkuk and nearby oilfields. In the last week ISIL has taken advantage of this temporary disorder of Kurdish border security to advance into Kurdish territory and seize several towns and a hydroelectric and flood-control dam. The ISIL move north is also meant to kill or expel religious minorities like the Yazidis and Christians. The Yazidis are a particular target because many Moslems, and some Christians, consider the Yazidi pagans and devil worshipers. The Yazidi are Kurds who practice a pre-Christian religion related to the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion common in Iran (and now only found in India). The Yazidis are considered pagans by ISIL and to Moslems pagans must either renounce their beliefs or die. This resulted in over 30,000 Yazidis finding themselves trapped and surrounded on Mount Sinjar, which is basically a ridge providing good defensive positions for the few armed Yazidis but little water or shelter. Over a hundred Yazidis are dying each day from thirst and exposure. ISIL is content to let most of them die like this and the Kurds are making slow progress as they fight to open an escape route. The Kurds have always gotten along better with Yazidis, Christians and other minorities and many of those people have already fled to the Kurdish north.

The move into Kirkuk required the Kurds to adjust their borders and that required building new border defenses along hundreds of kilometers of new frontiers. This was essential because the Kurdish north has always been so peaceful that Western journalists, and just about anyone else, could move about freely, without fear of attack. This was mainly because the Kurds have tight controls on their borders and any Arabs entering are checked carefully. Arab Iraqis are welcome to visit, and many do, for vacations from the violence in the south or to do business (sometimes to meet with foreigners uneasy about coming to Baghdad).

When asked, Kurds attribute their peaceful neighborhood to the fact that Kurds are not Arabs. But this is not the main reason, for the Kurds have, in the past, been as factious and violent as the Iraqi Arabs are now. It was during the 1990s, when the U.S. and Britain agreed to keep Saddam's forces out of the north (to prevent another large scale massacre of Kurds), that the Kurds sensed a rare opportunity and sorted out their differences and learned the benefits of cooperation, rule of law and civil order. In effect, the Kurds had a ten year head start on the rest of Iraq in the "how to create peace and democracy" department. The Iraqi Arabs, Sunni and Shia, who come north on business, or for a vacation, note this. The Arabs believe they are superior to the Kurds ("a bunch of hillbillies," to most Arabs), and find it irritating that the Kurds have made things work, while down south, especially in central Iraq, things are still a mess. Given time the Iraqi Arabs will probably catch up. But this is not a popular solution to the "Iraq problem," and no career-conscious journalist is going to talk about what the Kurds have done and why the Arab’s haven’t.

The Re-Emergence of Fundamentalist Forces


By Maj Gen Afsir Karim
IssueCourtesy: Aakrosh| Date : 08 Aug , 2014

Capture of large parts of Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and declaration of establishing a Caliphate signals the start of a new phase of expansion of a powerful Sunni Islamic group in its well declared aim of establishing an Islamic empire encompassing the entire globe. The phenomenon of extremism and sectarian violence unleashed in Pakistan by the so-called strategic assets of the Pakistan army is not under anyone’s control now, and south and central Asian nations should be highly concerned about the shape of things to come after the ISAF’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have been a cause for concern for India since a very long time, but recently, the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh once again came into limelight because of a major communal clash between the settlers and ethnic Bodo militants in the backdrop of the general elections in Assam. Time has come to find an amicable solution to this problem.

After their ouster from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda retreated into Pakistan, went underground and decentralised. But it soon resurfaced in various countries of west Asia and Africa.

Declaration of Jihad against the West

In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden and associated militant groups shifted focus toward the West – the Far Enemy – calling them oppressors of Muslims worldwide. Osama called for a ‘global jihad’ against Western interests around the world to counter the enemies of Islam.

In 1996, Osama bin Laden issued a declaration of war against the United States and called on Muslims to drive out Americans and their allies from the Arabian Peninsula. In 1998, he widened the arena of war in a declaration made in the name of the World Islamic Front against the Crusaders and the Jews. He declared, ‘The ruling to kill Americans and their allies—whether civilians or military—is incumbent upon every Muslim who is able and in whichever country is easiest for him. . . . We also call upon Muslim ulema, leaders, youth, and soldiers to attack the American devil and those allies of Satan who have aligned themselves with [America].’1

US Airstrikes in Iraq: A Win-Win Situation for China


China is pessimistic that airstrikes will help, but stands to benefit if U.S. intervention stabilizes Iraq.

By Shannon Tiezzi
August 09, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama announced late Thursday night that he was authorizing targeted air strikes in Iraq. The decision sparked discussions around the world, including in China. Beijing has major interests in Iraq, and could potentially benefit should the airstrikes help halt or even roll back advances by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). On the other hand, China generally disapproves of U.S. intervention in other countries’ affairs, particularly when such intervention involves the use of military force.

Officially, China’s response has been neutral. According to China Daily, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry said that Beijing “takes an open attitude toward any actions that facilitates ensuring security and stability in Iraq on the precondition of putting respect in place for Iraq’s sovereignty.” In other words, China reserves judgment on the airstrikes until it becomes clearer whether the strikes provide a net positive for China’s two main goals: preserving Iraqi sovereignty and improving the general security situation.

Unofficially, state media are extremely doubtful that U.S. airstrikes will be able to achieve those goals. An analysis in Xinhua warns that IS may in fact become emboldened by U.S. military involvement, leading to even more violence. Xinhua predicts that Obama will be forced to choose between breaking his promise not to send in U.S. ground forces or watching as IS further destabilizes Iraq.

Chinese media outlets also point out that military attacks cannot address the root problem of the Iraq crisis. Only a political solution, one that unifies Iraq’s government and Iraqi Sunnis, can end the violence, Xinhua writes. On this point, at least, Chinese media and Obama are in agreement. In his remarks on the Iraq situation, Obama acknowledged that “there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”

Did Anyone Win the Latest Gaza Strip War? Despite What the Israeli PR People Say, Not Really.

Who Won the Gaza War?: Turns out the biggest winner wasn’t even fighting.

Aaron David Miller

Foreign Policy, August 6, 2014

When elephants fight, the old African proverb intones, it is the grass that suffers.

I think we can pretty well determine now who the big loser was in the third Gaza war: the 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza (53 percent of whom are under the age of 18). It will take years to rebuild the ruined landscape of the Gaza Strip. Factor in the 1,800 innocents and combatants killed, the thousands wounded, the tens of thousands displaced, and the damage to homes and infrastructure, and I think it’s a safe bet to conclude that Gazans lost.

But who won? The answer to that will only become clear in the weeks ahead. Will there be a durable peace agreement that brings greater economic prosperity to Gaza; creates greater security for Israel, even some form of limited demilitarization; and restores some measure of authority in Gaza to Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) — real or imagined?

It’s still too early to say, but for now, here’s how I’d score the performance of the five major parties to this crisis: Israel, Hamas, the PA, Egypt, and the United States.

Israel: B+

On a tactical level, the Israelis mowed the grass (again). And this time they cut it pretty sharply. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimates that in addition to the 900 Hamas fighters killed in action, it destroyed 3,000 rockets. Hamas launched 3,300 without great effect; and 3,000 remain. Thirty-two knowntunnels were destroyed, although the IDF admits that nine of the 12 exit shafts leading into Israel were not picked up by intelligence at the time the conflict started. Iron Dome worked to an extraordinary degree; there were only three Israeli civilian casualties, minimal economic damage, and a home front that remained resilient and energized. Moreover, Egypt remained a constant companion, while the rest of the Arab world basically held Israel’s coat while it rolled up its sleeves and pummeled Hamas. Finally, there is a growing support for the idea of “demilitarizing” the Gaza Strip, an action that two months ago would have never been taken seriously.

The World Will Blame President Obama if Iraq Falls

The White House is under intense pressure to use American force to save the people trapped by terrorists on the mountaintop. And it understands why.

An Iraqi Yazidi family that fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar sits at at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk.(SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

The world will not blame the Iraqi government if the children and women huddled atop Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq die of hunger and exposure. Nor will Pope Francis blame Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki if the Islamic extremists attacking the country slaughter the 40,000 Christians and other minorities who have fled to the mountaintop. The fact is that the world, from the pontiff in the Vatican to the coal miner in West Virginia, will blame President Obama.

That is why the president found himself under such intense pressure to act on Thursday, facing calls from around the world to marshal American might in a way to both rush humanitarian aid to the refugees in Iraq and punish the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who are trying to kill them.

It was notable that the pope's plea for help was not directed at Iraq's putative government. "His Holiness addresses an urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, to act to protect those affected or threatened by violence and to provide aid, especially for the most urgent needs of the many who have been forced to flee and who depend on the solidarity of others," said the statement issued by the Vatican on Thursday.

While the president was huddled with his military advisers in Washington assessing his options before making his decision, he could not help but feel the pressure. And perhaps no one could better understand that pressure than a man who routinely attended such meetings under three presidents and famously codified the "Pottery Barn Rule" prior to the launch of the Iraq War in 2003. According to author Bob Woodward, Colin Powell told President George W. Bush: "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." He distilled the rule as "You break it, you own it."

A decade later and after millions of American dollars, thousands of casualties, and seemingly hundreds of different policies, Iraq is very much broken. Even though he has boasted of "ending" the U.S. role in the war and even though he didn't create the situation, Obama very much owns the mess. And he finds himself on a timetable not of his choosing and very much at odds with his policy.

That policy has been clear ever since ISIS started gobbling up Iraqi territory and terrorizing the Iraqi people, meeting only ineffective response from the Iraqi military supposedly trained by the United States: First, force Maliki to reform his government, broaden his sectarian appeal, and send a signal to all of Iraq that Baghdad could represent and protect them all. Only then could military help come from the United States.

But this situation, which the White House concedes is an immediate humanitarian catastrophe with lives hanging in the balance, cannot wait for Maliki to get his politics together. As reporters repeatedly reminded press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday, these people are already dying.

The Smart Way to Bomb ISIS

August 7, 2014

Obama is reportedly weighing attacks on the Islamic State. What factors should shape his decision?

The Obama administration is reportedly considering airstrikes against the Islamic State after several days of advances by the putative caliphate. Also under consideration is the delivery of humanitarian aid to minority groups that fled as ISIS approached, with thousands reportedly trapped without food or water in rough terrain and scorching heat. France and Turkey may be joining in an American intervention—apparently, the Turks have already been delivering aid.

“Going back into Iraq” will be a tough sell for Obama at any scale. But a confrontation between America and the Islamic State is probably inevitable—if not now, then at some point in the future. ISIS’s gains profoundly destabilized the region, with diplomatic alignments put under pressure, vital infrastructure captured and large refugee flows. Kurdish independence and the broader breakdown of the region’s old colonial borders have both become more likely. The magnetic pull of jihad is growing. Iraq’s internal politics have grown even rougher; externally, Iran and Russia have increased their influence in Baghdad. An effort to contain or push back ISIS, in this light, is certainly worth considering. What factors should shape America’s approach?

Local leadership: Ideally, regional powers would bear most of the burden of an intervention. They have more at stake in the outcome and thus will be better at sustaining involvement. There are other benefits, too. As others have noted, it might not be smart for the United States to take the lead in crushing a proclaimed caliphate: among other things, it fits the narrative pushed by Osama bin Laden and others that attacking and defeating America must be the first step of an Islamist restoration. That narrative has lost its allure, with the Islamic State now the most prominent example of a trend back toward the more typical form of violent jihad: attacking local authorities first. A war initiated by France—rather like the war against Gaddafi—would address the first consideration. A war initiated by Turkey would address both.

ISIS Reportedly Captures Iraq’s Largest Dam

Alissa J. Rubin and Tim Arango 
New York Times 
August 7, 2014 

ISIS Forces Appear to Capture Iraq’s Largest Dam 
Civilians fleeing the fighting in northern Iraq on Wednesday arrived at a Kurdish pesh merga checkpoint between Erbil and Mosul. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times ERBIL, Iraq — Sunni militants appeared on Thursday to have captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, as their advances in the country’s north created an onslaught of refugees and set off fearful rumors in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital. 

An official in the office of Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government, said Thursday afternoon that Kurdish forces, or pesh merga, were still fighting for control of the dam. But several other sources, including residents of the area and a Kurdish security official, said it had already been captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a potentially catastrophic development for Iraq’s civilian population. 

The dam, which sits on the Tigris River and is about 30 miles northwest of the city of Mosul, provides electricity to Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory. A report published in 2007 by the United States government, which had been involved with work on the dam, warned that should it fail, a 65-foot wave of water could be unleashed across areas of northern Iraq. 

Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul, said in a telephone interview from northern Iraq, where he has fled, that ISIS had secured the dam after what he called an “organized retreat” of the pesh merga.