15 April 2015

The myth of ‘Greater China’


Apr 14, 2015

India’s claim over Arunachal doesn’t rest on any historical tradition or cultural affinity. We are there because the British went there. But then the Chinese have no basis to stake a claim, besides the notion of China among some of the hangers-on in the Qing emperor’s court.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon be in Beijing following up on the Chumar incident blighted visit by Chinese’s President Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to be either testing the waters or ratcheting up the dispute over control of either the whole of Arunachal Pradesh or part of it. They have made a string of pronouncements on the subject, including strongly protesting the recent visit to Itanagar by the Indian Prime Minister.

The Chinese have based their specific claim on the territory on the premise that Tawang was administered from Lhasa, and the contiguous areas owed allegiance to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. Then the Chinese must also consider this. Sikkim, till well into the 19th century, was a vassal of Tibet and Darjeeling was forcibly taken from it by the British! By extending this logic could they realistically stake a claim for Sikkim and Darjeeling? Of course not. It would be preposterous. History has moved on. The times have changed. For the 21st century to be stable our borders must be stable, whatever be our yearnings.

At the crux of this issue is the larger question of the national identities of the two nations and when and how they evolved. The Imperial India of the Mughals spanned from Afghanistan to Bengal but did not go very much below the Godavari in the South. The Imperial India of the British incorporated all of today’s India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was the British who, for the first time, brought Assam under Imperial India in 1826, when they defeated Burma and formalised the annexation with the treaty of Yandabo.

It was only in 1886 that the British first forayed out of the Brahmaputra Valley when they sent out a punitive expedition into the Lohit Valley in pursuit of marauding tribesmen who began raiding the new tea gardens. Apparently, the area was neither under Chinese or Tibetan control for there were no protests either from the Dalai Lama or the Chinese Amban in Lhasa.

The next important year was 1913, when the Tibetans declared independence after the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of a Republic in China under Sun Yat Sen. They attacked and drove the Chinese garrisons in Tibet into India over the Nathu La. Also, in 1913, the British convened the Simla Conference to demarcate the India-Tibet border. The British proposed the 1914 McMahon Line, as we know it. The Tibetans accepted it. The Chinese Amban however initialed the agreement under protest. But his protest seemed mostly about the British negotiating directly with Tibet as a sovereign state and not over the McMahon Line as such.

Things moved on then. In 1935, at the insistence of Sir Olaf Caroe ICS, then deputy secretary in the foreign department, the McMahon Line was notified. In 1944, JP Mills, ICS, established British Indian administration in North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), but excluding Tawang which continued to be administered by the Lhasa appointed head lama at Tawang despite the fact that it lay well below the McMahon Line. This was largely because Henry Twynam, the Governor of Assam lost his nerve and did not want to provoke the Tibetans. In 1947, the Dalai Lama wrote to the newly independent India laying claim to some of the areas around Tawang. The Chinese delight in reminding us of this.

On October 7, 1950, the Chinese attacked the Tibetans at seven places on their frontier and made known their intention of reasserting control over all of Tibet. As if in response on February 16, 1951 Major Relangnao ‘Bob’ Khating of the IFAS raised the Indian tricolor in Tawang and took over the administration of the tract. The point of this narration is to bring home the fact that India’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh doesn’t rest on any great historical tradition or cultural affinity. We are there because the British went there. But then the Chinese have no basis whatsoever to stake a claim, besides a few dreamy cartographic enlargements of the notion of China among some of the hangers-on in the Qing emperor’s court. The important thing now is that we have been there for over a hundred years and that should settle the issue.

Arunachal Pradesh has a very interesting population mix. Only less than 10 per cent of its population is Tibetan. Indo-Mongoloid tribes account for 68 per cent of the population. The rest are migrants from Nagaland and Assam. As far as religious affinities go Hindus are the biggest group with 37 per cent, followed by 36 per cent animists, 13 per cent Buddhists. Recent census figures suggest a spurt in Christianity, possibly induced by pocketbook proselytising. In all, there are 21 major tribal groups and over 100 ethnically distinct sub-groupings, speaking over 50 distinct languages and dialects. The population of about a million is spread out over 17 towns and 3,649 villages. With the exception of a few villages of Monpas, who live north of the McMahon Line, it is an ethnically compact and contiguous area. In fact, in future boundary negotiations India could make a case for inclusion of the few Monpa villages left behind north of the McMahon Line.

It is true that historically Imperial India never had a direct border with Tibet till the British took Kumaon and Garhwal from Nepal in 1846, and extended its domain over Arunachal in 1886. On the other hand, the formidable Himalayas were always culturally and traditionally a part of India and formed a natural barrier against ingress from the north, whether Tibetan or Chinese. The Himalayas may no longer be the barrier they once were. As China and India emerge as the world’s great economies and powers, can India possibly allow China a strategic trans-Himalayan space just a few miles from the plains?

The view from the Chinese side about what exactly constitutes China is no less confused. Apparently like the British, the Manchu’s who ruled China from the 17th to the early 20th century had a policy of staking claim to the lands that lay ahead of their frontiers in order to provide themselves with military buffers. In a recent article in the China Review magazine, Professor Ge Jianxiong, director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography at Fudan University in Shanghai writes: “to claim that Tibet has always been a part of China since the Tang dynasty; the fact that the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau subsequently became a part of the Chinese dynasties does not substantiate such a claim.”

Prof. Ge also notes that prior to 1912 when the Republic of China was established, the idea of China was not clearly conceptualised. Even during the late Qing period (Manchu) the term China would on occasion refer to the Qing state including all the territory that fell within the boundaries of the Qing Empire. At other times it would be taken to refer to only the 18 interior provinces excluding Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Sinkiang.

Prof. Ge further adds that the notions of “Greater China” were based entirely on the “one-sided views of Qing court records that were written for the courts self-aggrandisement.” Prof. Ge criticises those who feel that the more they exaggerate the territory of historical China the more “patriotic” they are. The mandarins in the Beijing would do well to take heed to Prof. Ge’s advice: “If China really wishes to rise peacefully and be on solid footing in the future, we must understand the sum of our history and learn from our experiences.” It makes equally good sense to us.

The writer held senior positions in government and industry, and is a policy analyst studying economic and security issues. He also specialises in the Chinese economy.

The key is technology, not money


If self-reliance in defence is the stated goal, FDI is no solution. India must apply the same tools it did so successfully in space and nuclear science to acquire and develop military technology.

India’s notorious dependence on imported military hardware and the near moribund state of large parts of its public sector defence industry represent a full-blown crisis crying for a solution. India is the world’s largest arms importer and, with at least two decades of not replacing or upgrading obsolescent equipment through either purchases or indigenous manufacture, is on course now to spend around $30 billion in the next few years, and $200 billion in the medium term. For some years now, from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government in 2001 onwards, the government has been veering towards increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing as a solution to the defence crisis.

The present Bharatiya Janata Party government, despite its rallying ‘Make in India’ cry, has further increased the FDI limit in defence, with 49 per cent now permitted under the automatic route, 75 per cent where technology transfer is involved, and up to 100 per cent in cases involving significant new technology. While some Indian companies are wary of the entry of foreign players, most favour opening up the sector with an eye to the potentially lucrative business opportunities they see opening up.

For and against FDI

The arguments in favour of FDI in defence are familiar. First, public sector companies in defence, Research and Development and allied industries have consistently failed to meet the requirements of the armed forces, especially given the global revolution in military technology. Second, the superior management culture of the private sector will ensure better adherence to budgets and timelines. Third, the country is compelled into repeated imports without any technology transfer (despite contractual obligations) because the military is always urgently in need of the technology. Therefore, the argument goes, encouraging foreign companies to invest in Indian defence and set up industries here will mean that money will be spent within the country, generating jobs and bringing in new know-how, with the possibility of exports.

“ All the liberalised provisions since 2001 have led to a meagre inflow of only $4.8 billion, in an overall FDI inflow of around $334 billion.”In my opinion, none of these arguments address the specific and unique needs of the defence sector in India. Whatever else these measures might achieve, they will not help accomplish what must surely be the main goal, namely to build self-reliance in advanced military technology and reduce India’s debilitating dependence on foreign suppliers in the area of national security.

The FDI inflow itself tells a tale. All the liberalised provisions since 2001 have led to a meagre inflow of only $4.8 billion, in an overall FDI inflow of around $334 billion. It may be argued that it is too early to judge, but there are actually good reasons why defence companies do not and will not find FDI in another country attractive, and why there are few such examples across the world.

FDI means a long-term presence in India, and good returns on investment are possible only if repeat orders or contracts for newer models are assured. But, unlike cars or white goods, that will not always happen in military equipment. There may be gaps of many years or even decades between orders. For instance, India bought the Mirage 2000 in the 1980s and has clinched the Rafale deal this year, both from Dassault of France. In France itself, however, Dassault is reasonably assured of continuous business from regular domestic and European orders, as well as from staggered exports. Foreign subsidiaries or substantial FDI will, thus, always put pressure on India for repeat orders. Would dependence on a Lockheed Martin (India) or a Bharat Boeing be really very different from dependence on the U.S. principals?

Yes, more of India’s money will be spent in India rather than in other countries. But the Defence Procurement Policy anyway mandates 30 per cent offsets (50 per cent in high-value contracts). In other words, the supplier must spend 30 per cent of the contracted value within India through local manufacture and services. On the other hand, even if manufacture were by an Indian subsidiary, some specialised technology or components will always need to be imported. As is the case in car manufacture by Korean or Japanese subsidiaries in India, where numerous models that sell in smaller volumes are only assembled in India with imported components. FDI may, therefore, not be so different from offsets in terms of local manufacture, jobs, or money spent.

Where is the technology?

It is often simplistically assumed, unfortunately by policymakers too, that FDI will bring in technology. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All foreign defence majors have protested continually against offsets, and have pressured India into diluting offset requirements one way or another. While they might cite logistical or other issues, the real anxiety is about sharing and losing control over technology, especially if the offset partner in India is a public company whose bargaining power would be greater than that of a private sector junior partner. The delay over finalising the Rafale deal was reportedly over disputes about the role of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

“ It is often simplistically assumed, unfortunately by policymakers too, that FDI will bring in technology.”India’s confidence in FDI draws a facile equation between foreign investment, local manufacturing and technology inflow. The key, however, is not money but technology. Technology transfer is elusive. It requires not just a clause in a contract, but in the recipient taking determined measures to ensure acquisition and absorption of technology. India has been singularly poor at that, some conspiracy theorists say, deliberately so. Further, domestic manufacturing has not in itself enabled it either. India has a long history of licensed manufacture of defence hardware, from the heydays of the self-reliance credo, the import substitution drives, and the famous “be Indian, buy Indian” slogan. In aircraft, for example, the famous Gnat fighter, the MiG series, the Jaguar, and various French helicopters were made here. In each case, the degree of indigenisation kept rising, sometimes reaching 90 per cent by value, but critical components or materials continued to be imported. India never achieved the stated goal of acquiring the capability to make the next upgrade or new model on its own. True indigenisation cannot happen just through local manufacture, India has to make it happen, but has not yet done so.

The present offsets policy is similarly not being used purposefully to acquire technology. Offsets are viewed in financial terms — money spent locally and jobs created. Instead, offset projects should be studied strategically — Indian scientists and companies acquiring the capability to independently develop and manufacture sophisticated military hardware. To rephrase, the goal should be ‘Made by India’, not merely ‘Make in India’. This is true for all technology, but crucial in defence. India has done it in space and nuclear technology. Why not in defence?

FDI in defence is an incorrect answer to wrong questions, a false solution to problems not posed properly. If self-reliance can be achieved in the strategic fields of space and nuclear technology, through dogged pursuit and by creating institutions of excellence with political support, there is no reason why it cannot be done in the equally strategic area of military hardware. India even has a Minister of State for Defence Production but nobody seems to know what the office is meant to do.

No self-respecting nation of India’s size and technological capability can or should accept dependence on foreign manufacturers for defence requirements, whether directly through imports or indirectly through FDI. This is not just about national prestige but a matter of vital national interest.

(D. Raghunandan is with the Delhi Science Forum and is President, All India People’s Science Network. E-mail: raghunandan.d@gmail.com)

How we failed Ambedkar


Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Published on:April 15, 2015 

India seems to have more history wars than a genuinely historical consciousness. Representing the past is fraught with controversy. This is even more so when the contemporary political stakes of history are high. We often engage with history to construct a pedigree for ourselves, not to come to terms with the past. Some of thecurrent opening of historical questions has been overdue. The simplistic versions of history that the Congress peddled, that narrowing of icons it encouraged, needed to be challenged. And the culture of secrecy created by undue denial of access to documents has licensed conspiracy theories about the past. It is also the case that, as socialundercurrents shift, so will the sense of the past.

The BJP’s big push to appropriate B.R. Ambedkar, beginning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ubiquitous references to him in 2014, is understandable. It exposes the Congress’s own fraught relationship with the past. Even if motivated by opportunism, the BJP’s move is a signal that the normative horizons of our democracy have shifted.

Political parties need to acknowledge the importance of Dalits. And they need to acknowledge the Constitution, with all its tensions, as the ultimate touchstone. The issue is not whether a political party can appropriate this or that icon. Reaching out tonew constituencies, or even reinvention, is fair game in a democracy. It would be a churlish exercise of undue proprietary rights over leaders to suggest otherwise. It is also never a persuasive objection to say that a leader has been selectively appropriated. It is an unhistorical imagination that thinks icons can be used only whole, not piecemeal. After all, Nehru himself took Gandhi’s moral authority as he rejected his ideas, and the BJP conveniently forgets Syama Prasad Mookerjee on free speech. The issue is not the fact or partiality of the appropriation. It is whether it has been done with conviction and credibility, in service of worthy ideals.

Transforming our cities: On water, Singapore shows the way


Written by Isher Judge Ahluwalia | Updated: April 15, 2015 

Most Indian cities suffer from acute shortages and poor quality of water. Singapore, a country whose water challenge was perhaps the worst faced by any country in theworld in the mid-1960s, has transformed its water scenario. We often dismiss outside experience as being irrelevant for India’s development efforts. With a water crisis staring urban India in the face, perhaps it is time we understood how Singapore turned its water story around.

Singapore imported 55 per cent of its water for consumption from Johor, in the neighbouring state of Malaysia, in August 1965. By proclaiming that “every other policy has to bend at the knees for our water survival,” Lee Kuan Yew, the iconic leader and first prime minister of Singapore who passed away recently, communicated to his people and to the world in no uncertain terms his government’s commitment to water sustainability. Singapore has successfully combined simple conventional means to capture and storerainwater and treat used water with innovative solutions, such as producing recycled used water and desalinated water to address the water challenge within a financially sustainable framework.

Singapore has neither much groundwater nor many natural freshwater bodies, and though its rainfall is adequate, its compact 710 square kilometres landmass poses a major challenge for storing rainwater. Up to the mid-1970s, rivers were not suitable catchments as rainwater would quickly get contaminated by the large amounts of sewage and pollutants that they carried. With only 5 per cent of land area as “protected catchment”, Singapore started demarcating a large number of “partly-protected catchments” where prior treatment of wastewater is mandatory before discharging it to the streams. Waterways were cleaned up to act as water catchments. The cleaning up of the highly polluted Singapore River, Stamford Canal and the Kallang basin, over the period of 1977 to 1987, made it possible later to use the river as a key urban catchment that fed into the Marina reservoir.The Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore has been in charge of all elements of the watermanagement system: water catchment network, drainage and sewerage system, water treatment and distribution, production of clean recycled used water, and desalination. The basic philosophy is that “every drop of rain that can be captured, should be captured, and every drop of wastewater that can be safely reclaimed, should be reclaimed.”

A savage new world of terrorism


APIraqi security forces launch rockets against Islamic State extremist positions in Tikrit.

Counterterrorism agencies should not be lulled into complacency by assertions that India is insulated from the growing virus of radical terrorism.

The Islamist terror network has grown into a hydra-headed phenomenon. This has consequences far beyond the current arc of terrorist violence, which for the moment is confined to the regions of Asia and North Africa. But countries like India are already feeling the heat. Hence, counterterrorism agencies should not be lulled into complacency by assertions that India and Indian Muslims are insulated from, and therefore unlikely to be affected by, the new virus.

Like other viruses, this one too has several variants. The core theology remains the Saudi theologian, Abdul Wahab’s doctrinaire teachings, combined with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood icon, Syed Qutub’s nihilistic fanaticism. Previously, a liberal dose of Salafism had contributed to the lethal violence that characterised 20th century terrorism. Now, it is the advent of a new radical Islamist breed that is committed to the supremacy of faith, and a belief in exclusionist Islamic puritanism, that is likely to result in 21st century terrorism being remembered for the savagery it practices.

AV Singh slams army for distorting recommendations on new promotion policy

By Manu Pubby, ET Bureau 
14 Apr, 2015, 

Slamming the army for distorting and manipulating his recommendations on a new promotion policy that is now at the center of a widening rift within the service, former bureaucrat AV Singh has said that a section of officers have been unfairly favoured against the spirit of the committee report that he had drafted. 

Singh, who led the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) that looked into lowering the age profile of commanding officers in the Army after the Kargil war, has broken his silence on th .. 

Transforming India from a Balancing to a Leading Power

April 14, 2015 

"Securing the commons will be a key step in not only shaping global security but also in taking the partnership with India to the next level."

Although India’s economic story has been the subject of much discussion in the United States in the past decade, its foreign policy has not received similar attention. This has something to do with the consensus in Washington about India’s hesitancy in the exercise of realpolitik.

Last month, however, India’s newly appointed foreign secretary and leading strategist Subrahmanyam Jaishankar delivered an attention getter. In a major speech, Jaishankar emphasized that India was intent on playing the role of a “leading” instead a “balancing” power in Asia. This statement comes as a significant shift to the prevailing perceptions concerning India’s reluctance to actualize its role as a great power.

Until recently, India was seen as a power that could serve as a counterweight to China and help the United States in balancing China’s rise. However, Jaishankar’s statement suggests that India’s role could be far more strategic.

Reform Efforts in Afghanistan Run Up Against Opposition From War Lords

By Sudarsan Raghavan
April 13, 2015

Afghanistan’s defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen

MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan — A massive portrait of a middle-aged man towers over the Ferris wheel and giant mushrooms at an amusement park here. At night, the image is bathed in an ethereal light, visible from a quarter-mile away.

His admirers call him “Ustad,” or “Teacher.” His critics call him the King.

For more than a decade, Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh province, has controlled this northern region with an iron hand, imbued with the authority of the freedom fighter he was and the ultra-rich businessman he has become. Guns, militias and guile, as well as his ability to provide security, have made him one of the country’s most formidable strongmen.

To many war-weary Afghans, former warlords such as Noor — who are accused of human rights abuses yet rule with impunity — have to be marginalized for the nation to move into a new era. To their supporters, these former warlords remain a bulwark against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and, possibly, the Islamic State, more vital than ever as the U.S. military mission edges to a close.

“If Ustad Atta is ever replaced as governor, there will be chaos here, and it will spread to other provinces,” declared Haji Abdul Wahab, a close friend who manages the park, which Noor built. “He’s got a special place in the hearts of Afghan people.”

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

The international military presence in Afghanistan has shrunk dramatically, and even with a slower pace of troop withdrawal, the country's security situation has already worsened. Iraq's chaos provides a chilling precedent. After fifteen years of involvement in Afghanistan, the United States has a strong interest in a stable future for the fragile democracy. Whether or not it further alters its planned troop withdrawal, the United States should encourage Indian efforts to assist Afghanistan in areas of Indian expertise: democracy, economics, and civilian security. India has been an important economic assistance partner for Afghanistan, and can help in other fields to prevent destabilization. Although Pakistan may object, Washington should make it clear to Islamabad that Indian support for Afghanistan's stability—especially without "boots on the ground"—poses no threat to Pakistani interests and should not be disrupted. 
A Wary Eye to India's Northwest 

International combat operations in Afghanistan ended in December 2014. From a 2012 peak of 140,000 troops, the international presence now numbers around 12,000 to support and advise Afghan forces. By the end of 2016 that presence will draw down to several hundred U.S. soldiers staying mainly to protect U.S. facilities. President Obama has decided to slow the pace of troop withdrawal this year, but this change does not restore higher troop levels. Nor will there be a return to anything close to half their peak strength. Afghan forces now have responsibility for security. 

Lee Kuan Yew and Henry Kissinger

April 13, 2015 

The world is filled with foreign policy challenges. How better to think about such problems than to seek council from the two most impressive strategists of the post World War II era.
As the debates rage along the Potomac regarding the Iran nuclear framework, ISIS, the Ukraine crisis, the rise of Chinese power and a half dozen other important U.S. foreign policy challenges, how better to think about these problems than to seek council from the two most impressive strategists of the post World War II era – the late Lee Kuan Yew and Henry Kissinger.

Lee and Kissinger were born a few months apart in 1923, Lee in Singapore and Kissinger in Furth, Germany. Both had deeply traumatic experiences in their teenage years. At 18, about to enter University, Lee watched Japan invade Malaya and conquer Singapore in less than two months, ending the myth of British Imperial invincibility and of white men’s genetic superiority over Asians.

He lived under brutal Japanese occupation for four years. The Japanese introduced the system of "Sook Ching,” "purge through purification" in Chinese, to get rid of those deemed to be anti-Japanese. The Sook Ching Massacre claimed the lives of between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaya. These men were rounded up, taken to deserted locations around the island and systematically killed.

An opportunity for China

APR 12, 2015

After four disappointing years, Chinese economists have realized that slowing GDP growth — from a post-crisis peak of 12.8 percent in 2010 to about 7 percent today — is mainly structural, rather than cyclical. In other words, China’s potential growth rate has settled onto a significantly lower plateau. While the country should be able to avoid a hard landing, it can expect annual growth to remain at 6-7 percent over the next decade. But this may not necessarily be bad news.

One might question why GDP in China, where per capita income recently surpassed $7,000, is set to grow so much more slowly than Japan’s did from 1956 to 1970, when the Japanese economy, with per capita income starting from about $7,000, averaged 9.7 percent annual growth. The answer lies in potential growth.

Whereas, according to Japan’s central bank, Japanese labor productivity grew by more than 10 percent annually, on average, from 1960 to 1973, Chinese productivity has been declining steadily in recent years, from 11.8 percent in 2001-2008 to 8.8 percent in 2008-2012, and to 7.4 percent in 2011-2012. Japan’s labor supply (measured in labor hours) was also growing during that period, by more than 3 percent annually. By contrast, China’s working-age population has been shrinking, by more than three million annually, since 2012 — a trend that will, with a 4-6-year lag, cause labor-supply growth to decline, and even turn negative.

Report accuses China of more than a decade of cyber espionage across Asia

on April 12, 2015 

The security firm FireEye revealed ongoing and sustained cyber attacks 

A single cyber threat group has been accused of more than a decade's worth of digital espionage and targeted attacks across Southeast Asia and India, TechCrunch reports. The findings come from a report released today by the security firm FireEye that chronicles the sustained operations of group it calls APT30 (the "APT" stands for "advanced persistent threat").

FireEye says "regionally focused" cyber attacks in areas like Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Singapore, and Indonesia targeted both government and commercial outlets. Such attacks revealed the group's intimate knowledge of important military, economic, and political information about the targeted areas. The report says APT30 is notable because of the advanced style of its attacks and the sheer length of its operations:

FireEye Report: China Has Run 10-Year Cyber Espionage Campaign Against Asian Countries, Especially Southeast Asia and India

Newley Purnell
April 13, 2015

China’s Hackers Run 10-Year Spy Campaign in Asia, Report Finds

SINGAPORE—State-sponsored hackers in China are likely behind a sophisticated, decadelong cyberespionage campaign targeting governments, companies and journalists in Southeast Asia, India and other countries, a U.S. cybersecurity company said in a report released Monday.

FireEye Inc. says the attacks have been designed to glean intelligence, likely from classified government networks and other sources, pertaining to political and military issues such as disputes over the South China Sea.

Beijing’s claims in the contested South China Sea overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally. Recently released satellite images show a dramatic expansion in China’s construction of artificial islands on disputed reefs, intensifying concerns about Beijing’s territorial ambitions.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based FireEye said the hacking efforts are remarkable because of their duration—noting some elements have been in place since 2005—and stand out because of their geographic focus.

Some of the cyberattacks have taken the form of specially crafted emails, written in recipients’ native languages, with documents that appear legitimate but contain malware, the report said.

China’s Growing Cyberwar Capabilities

By Marcel A. Green
April 13, 2015

A recent attack on GitHub highlights China’s growing expertise – and aggression – in cyberspace. 
With recent news suggesting that the recent massive denial-of-service attacks against online hosting and code-sharing site GitHub was either sponsored or encouraged by Chinese authorities, the spotlight has once again been turned on China’s intentions in cyberspace and whether or not its activities pose a threat to worldwide, and especially U.S. cybersecurity.

China is one of the most active nations in cyberspace. Moreover, China has made no secret that President Xi Jinping’s “new model of great power relations” policy means that it will not be afraid to challenge the U.S. and the rest of the world in areas it considers a core interest, such as cyberspace.

A Really Bad Idea: A 'Limited' War with Iran

"The main fallacy in the professed hawkish case for limited war is that America would be in complete control of the escalation process. Iran could greatly escalate the military confrontation."
American hawks are fuming about the agreed framework regarding Iran’s nuclear program. 

The public announcement of the diplomatic breakthrough had barely occurred when the usual suspects mounted a new campaign to undermine the accord. Bill Kristol, editor of the flagship neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard immediately published a “special editorial” urging Congress to kill the agreement.

Outspoken congressional hawks, including GOP Senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham, made it clear that this was their objective as well. 

Kristol, Cotton, and Graham are not reticent about the alternative they prefer. Unless Tehran is willing to capitulate on the nuclear issue, renouncing any right to uranium enrichment and dismantling all aspects of its nuclear infrastructure, those hawks and their ideological allies favor resorting to military action.

Iran's Unfolding China Dilemma

April 13, 2015 

On Thursday April 2, the political framework for a final comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was finally agreed to. In anticipation of potential future sanctions relief, China took a number of immediate steps to secure its trade and energy interests in Iran. While Iran welcomes this, it is still wary of Beijing’s efforts.

As European and US sanctions were tightened, Iran increasingly turned to Asia to weather their impact. Despite efforts to coax Beijing away from Tehran, Washington was forced to repeatedly renew US sanctions waivers for China as Beijing continued to import oil from Iran. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, Chinese purchases of crude oil in January 2014 boosted Iranian exports to 1.32 million barrels per day; 32% above the limit allowed by the November 2013 agreement with the P5+1. Clearly, China was anticipating more permanent sanctions relief and wanted to be ahead of the curve.

Iran is at the heart of a number of key Chinese strategic interests, including greater and more diversified supplies of energy, building a “Silk Road” connecting the Middle East to China via Central Asia, and increasing its influence in the region.

The Iran deal and the two Koreas

Apr 13,2015

There are both good and bad precedents for the Korean talks if they were to resume.

The interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is shaping up as one of the defining foreign policy battles of Obama’s presidency. The problems are not only with Iran but on the home front as Congress decides what to do about the deal. Will it have implications for the long-stalled six-party talks?

The Iran negotiations show both similarities and differences to the Korean talks. The similarities start with a history of deception. The second nuclear crisis with North Korea was triggered by revelations about its clandestine efforts to enrich uranium. In Iran, the discovery of a previously unknown enrichment facility at Fodrow and continued suspicions about a weapons program set off alarms. In both cases, trust is extremely low and intrusive inspections will be key.

The Iranian negotiations have also been multilateral, and with six parties as well: the five permanent members of the Security Council - the U.S., China, Russia, France and Britain - as well as Germany. In the U.S., Congressional critics have talked as if the negotiations with Iran are bilateral, with the U.S. calling the shots. But on the Korean Peninsula, keeping Russia and China on the same page has been challenging.

As on the Korean Peninsula, the grand bargain ultimately rests on trading constraints on Iran’s nuclear program for a lifting of sanctions and a re-engagement with the international community. And in both cases, the question of how much of a nuclear program will remain intact is key

Yemen’s President: The Houthis Must Be Stopped


Riyadh — My country, Yemen, is under siege by radical Houthi militia forces whose campaign of horror and destruction is fueled by the political and military support of an Iranian regime obsessed with regional domination. There is no question that the chaos in Yemen has been driven by Iran’s hunger for power and its ambition to control the entire region.
The Houthi attacks are unjust acts of aggression against the Yemeni people and the constitutional legitimacy of my government, as well as an assault on Yemen's sovereignty and security.

The Houthi rebels are puppets of the Iranian government, and the government of Iran does not care for the fate of ordinary Yemenis; it only cares about achieving regional hegemony. On behalf of all Yemenis, I call on the agents of chaos to surrender and to stop serving the ambitions of others.

It is not too late to stop the devastation of my nation. The Houthis belong at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield terrorizing their fellow citizens.

Iraq Now: Brutal Sectarianism and Iranian Domination

April 13, 2015

Once again in the Middle East, short term gains are trumping long term interests. As the ink dries on the Iran nuclear deal, the bodies are piling up in neighbouring Iraq. Many of them are the bodies of Sunni civilians, killed by Shiite militias backed by Iran and allied to the Iraqi Government in the battle against ISIS.

Reports of reprisal attacks against Sunnis by Shiite militias are mounting. Human Rights Watch issued a report in February claiming 'Residents have been forced from their homes, kidnapped, and in some cases summarily executed'. HRW is investigating allegations of a massacre of some 72 civilians in the town of Barwana by militias and SWAT forces. Disturbing videos have circulated on social media of what appear to be Shiite militia members brutalising and torturing apparently Sunni adversaries in response to ISIS attacks.

In the battle against ISIS, Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Shiite militias including the Badr Organization and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq are provided US air cover and billions of dollars in military hardware via the Iraqi Government. That puts the US in de facto alliance with Iran and its proxies, who are accused of war crimes rivaling those of ISIS.

In the predominantly Sunni city of Tikrit, Shiite militias, along with Iranian advisers and even religious imams, led the fight to win back the city earlier this month. The US largely sat that one out, providing air cover to the militias at the end of the battle. Tikrit was previously the scene of the single worst massacre in the current Iraq war, when ISIS militants summarily executed around 1000 Shiites last year. Now in the hands of government forces, it is the scene of renewed accusations of war crimes and executions by mostly Shiite members of the Popular Mobilization Forces against those they accuse of backing ISIS.

Iran's Supreme Leader Gets to No

APR 12, 2015

Here’s the thing about agreements. The parties that enter into them have to actually, you know, agree.

Take the Iran framework agreement, for instance. President Barack Obama says he has one on the basics of the nuclear deal with Iran. He doesn't. How do we know this? Because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran -- the only person who decides on this matter -- says he hasn't agreed to the most important elements of the deal as laid out in the White House fact sheet.

Negotiations like this are always messy. But the disagreement between Khamenei and Obama gets to the heart of whether this is a good or a bad deal. Obama says the sanctions on Iran would be relieved over time and could be snapped back. This gives the U.S. and its allies leverage if Iran defies inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency or goes back on its word, as it has on previous arms control agreements. Here’s how the White House fact sheet released the day the framework agreement was announced on April 2 describes that mechanism: "U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place."

Khamenei says he will only agree to a deal if all the sanctions are lifted up front, upon Iran's signature. In Khamenei's version of events, the only realistic leverage the U.S. and the west would have against Iran would be to bomb its nuclear facilitie

How America Would Wage War against Iran

April 12, 2015

Battlelines have certainly formed over the last week, as debate over the Iran framework agreement heats up. Some love the deal; some hate the deal; others essentially say “no deal” and would presumably start bombing Iran now if they could. But one thing is crystal clear: we are a long way until June, when Iran and the P5+1 will need to craft a concrete deal on paper. John Kerry and Javid Zarif better start getting some extra z’s now, as they might not be sleeping much in the days approaching the final deadline.

As I noted last week, even if a deal is reached on Tehran’s nuclear program, America and Iran will still be at odds in many areas of the Middle East. Yes, in the short term, both nations have common cause in Iraq against ISIS, but what happens when that cause disappears at some point down the road? Both nations will once again be vying for sway in Iraq. So while the short-term trends in the relationship do have promise, the long game is the one that bears watching—no matter how excited the media gets about the deal.

Over the long term, Washington needs to be prepared to confront Iran in many areas of possible competition across the Middle East. Hopefully, competition with Tehran in the Middle East for influence and sway stays peaceful.

Obama’s the Partisan on Iran, Not the GOP


President Obama had a response ready after Senator John McCain said Secretary of State John Kerry was “delusional” when he had the bad manners to point out that Iran was making it clear that they had no intention of agreeing to much of what the U.S. was saying was part of the nuclear deal it had struck with the Islamist regime. Speaking yesterday in Panama, the president praised Kerry and said that for McCain and other Republicans to treat the secretary’s statements about the deal as “somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the supreme leader of Iran, that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries.” But the problem with that argument is that you don’t have to be a Republican to understand that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei genuinely means what he says while the administration is obfuscating the truth about the Iran deal. Though calling Republicans partisans makes an easy sound bite, the truth is, it’s been Obama that’s been playing the partisan card throughout the debate about Iran.

The claim of partisanship has been an essential part of the administration’s game plan on Iran. Instead of relying on his less than convincing arguments justifying his indefensible concessions to the Islamist regime, the president made the very smart tactical decision to play offense instead of defense. That worked pretty well when it allowed him to make Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress on the Iran nuclear threat seem more like a Republican initiative rather than a wake-up call on an issue of paramount importance. And it may work again as he fends off complaints about the nuclear deal he has truck with Iran that Tehran keeps telling us won’t constrain their ambitions in the way Kerry and Obama claim it will.

Where Are the Anti-War Democrats on Iran?

Liberal doves need to find candidates who can bring Congress's foreign policy into line with the desires of the American people. 

Many in Congress want the chance to kill the Iran deal. President Obama doesn't want to give them that opportunity. I'm torn.

Like many liberals, I think America is generally better off when Congress has more oversight over foreign policy. It's no coincidence that the greatest foreign policy disaster of the twentieth century, Vietnam, occurred near the height of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "The Imperial Presidency." And the greatest foreign policy disaster of the twenty-first century occurred when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney created another imperial presidency after 9/11. Seeking unaccountable presidential power is a bipartisan affliction, and so even progressives who sympathize with Barack Obama's foreign policy should be worried by his efforts to deny Congress a voice over something as big as a nuclear deal with Iran.

On the other hand, although the legislative branch's constitutional prerogatives don't depend on whether Congress reflects public opinion, it's worth noting on that on Iran, it most certainly does not. Since last Thursday's framework agreement, polls from both The Washington Post/ABC News and Reuters/Ipsos have shown that a small plurality of Republican voters actually support the Iran deal. Yet it's likely that every single Republican senator will oppose it. Democrats, the polls show, back the agreement by margins of three or five to one. Yet key Senate Democrats are skeptical of the deal, and few have endorsed it enthusiastically.

This deal leads to war

APRIL 12, 2015 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, centre, arrives with US Secretary of State John Kerry,...

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and former Marine Corps Sgt. Amir Hekmati represent the essence of what makes America American — yet today all three are unjustly imprisoned in Iran. 

That these individuals languish in jail while their captors repeatedly dine with America's secretary of state is of course repugnant. But such commentary would be rejected as short-sighted by the defenders of the Obama administration's negotiations with Tehran. They would no doubt tell us to look at the bigger picture and approach international diplomacy with the detached realism that necessitates sacrificing a few for the many. 

But given the values they represent, might the unjust incarceration of these three American citizens — a pastor, a journalist and a Marine — inform our larger understanding of striking a deal with the Islamic Republic?

Don't Call It a Shakeup

Why the Nuclear Deal Won't Change U.S. Regional Politics

DALIA DASSA KAYE is the Director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy and a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

An Iranian girl carries an anti-U.S. placard in Tehran, January 13, 2012. (Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters)

In interviews following the announcement of the framework agreement in Geneva, U.S. President Barack Obama suggested that a final nuclear deal could be the start of a new relationship between the United States and Iran. Iran’s regional neighbors are worried about a deal for exactly these reasons—that a deal could tilt the regional balance of power in Iran’s favor.

Yet fears that a deal will lead to a major readjustment in U.S. regional strategy are overblown. Even if the administration is interested in reorienting its regional policies, there are a number of obstacles that will stand in the way. In other words, as significant as a final nuclear agreement would be, it may not prove transformative—at least not without considerable effort.

New Pentagon Plan Emphasizes Buying Adaptive Weapons

April 9th, 2015 

The Defense Department’s top weapons buyer said future systems must take advantage of rapidly evolving commercial technology.

Designing modular systems with more open architectures will not only help control costs and speed development, it will also help the U.S. military maintains a technological superiority over potential adversaries, according to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Technological superiority is not assured,” he said, echoing a warning he has made in the past. “It is not something that we should take for granted.”

Kendall and Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work held a press conference Thursday at the Pentagon to unveil the Pentagon’s new buying strategy, dubbed Better Buying Power 3.0, which seeks to improve how the Defense Department acquires weapons.

The 35-page document calls for removing “barriers to commercial technology utilization” in acquisition programs, among other recommendations.