28 May 2015

Why the fall of Tikrit is so significant

R Dayakar
May 28 2015

For Iraqi Shias and Iran, taking control of Tikrit has a special meaning. Tikrit was closely identified with Saddam Hussein.

Shi'ite fighters or Hashd-al Shabi look at smoke from an explosives-laden vehicle driven by an IS suicide bomber that exploded during an attack on Tikrit.

TIKRIT, the birthplace and the burial site of Saddam Hussain, has been a fulcrum in the Sunni heartland of Iraq that had fought the US forces from 2003 until their withdrawal in 2011 and since maintained a continuous challenge to the predominantly Shia regime in Baghdad, accusing it of sectarian bias, ill-treatment and vindictiveness. Tikrit also contributed some other top leaders of Iraq in the past. Colonel Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakr, the first President of Baathist Iraq hailed from Tikrit. Izzat brahim Al-Douri, (the sole surviving member of Saddam Husain's inner circle until his reported death last month in Tikrit), who carried on the Baathist legacy under the appellation of Nakshabandi Order that played a role in Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL)'s takeover of Mosul and Tikrit last June, hailed from Al Dour, an outlying town of Tikrit. Saddam Hussain's own brother-in-law Adnan Khairallah who belonged to Tikrit was Defence Minister until his death in a helicopter crash in the late 1980s. Until 2003, Iraq's intelligence chiefs were mostly from Tikrit. Tikrit also happens to be the birthplace of Salahuddin al-Ayoubi, ethnically a Kurd and known to the world as Saladdin, who led the Muslim armies in the 12th century crusades and retook Jerusalem from Christian control. Tikrit was renamed Salahuddin, symbolising the connection with Jerusalem’s conqueror.

Overcoming a resilient Islamic State

May 28, 2015 

In search of home: “Intense U.S. bombing around Ramadi could not contain the Da’esh onslaught.” Picture shows displaced Sunni people from Ramadi on the outskirts of Baghdad. Islamic State fighters captured the city in May.

Long-term antidote to IS is not Arab jails and American jets, but the creation of an honest and wide-ranging political dialogue in the region.

Maps depict names of places seized by the Islamic State (Da’esh) and its al-Qaeda confreres: Syria’s Raqqa, Idlib and Palmyra as well as Iraq’s Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah. Names of places have become associated with massacres. Aerial bombardment by the West seems futile. The West cannot stem the tide of extremism. U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter says that the Iraqi forces have “no will to fight” in Iraq. When confronted by the advance of Da’esh toward Palmyra, the Syrian troops could put up little defence. Confidence in the ability of superior firepower to stop the spread of the black flag of Da’esh seems to be at a low.

Second wave of engagement

Skand Tayal & Sandip Mishra
May 28 2015

For Prime Minster Modi, the visit to the Republic of Korea (RoK) formed an important part of his quest to spur growth in the manufacturing sector. Korea has compelling reasons to respond because in India Chinese companies are giving a stiff competition to its ‘chaebols’ in infrastructure, power and even mobile handsets. China also offers attractive credit and long-term payment facilities in the power sector. It was to meet this challenge that RoK agreed to provide $9 billion as tied credit in infrastructure, including smart cities, railways and power. Korea will also create a separate Economic Development Cooperation Fund of $1 billion.

Moreover, India-ROK trade that had touched $20 billion in 2011 has now slipped to about $18 billion. As the growth in bilateral trade continues to be sluggish, the target of $25 billion trade in 2015 has been abandoned and no numerical target fixed.

Building on strategic reserve

May 28, 2015 

The HinduDifficult task: “Adding 12.5 million tonnes of stockpile would take at least five 5 years to build.” Picture shows a petrol pump in Mumbai.

With the country consuming more than four million barrels of crude a day, the argument for a strategic oil storage project is a no-brainer.

In 1990, as the Gulf war engulfed West Asia, India was in the throes of a major energy crisis. By all accounts India’s oil reserves at the time were adequate for only three days. While India managed to avert the crisis then, the threat of energy disruption continues to present a real danger even today.

To address energy insecurity, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government mooted the concept of strategic petroleum reserves in 1998. Today, with India consuming upwards of four million barrels of crude every day (January 2015 figures), the case for creating such reserves grows stronger. It is unlikely that India’s energy needs will dramatically move away from fossil fuels in the near future. Over 80 per cent of these fuels come from imports, a majority of which is sourced from West Asia. This is a major strategic risk and poses a massive financial drain for an embattled economy and its growing current account deficit.Global and domestic scenes

Narendra Modi's Foreign Policy Year in Review, Part 1

May 26, 2015

Narendra Modi has spent a year in office. How well has he handled India’s foreign policy? 

In his first year in office as prime minister of India, Narendra Modi has infused vitality into India’s engagement with the rest of the world. He has worked to correct the faltering trajectory of India’s relationship with the United States and has attempted to expand economic ties with China while being forthright in his appraisal about challenges in the relationship. He has also attempted to re-engage the smaller states in India’s immediate neighborhood and has reached out to the democracies of East Asia and the West.

As of May 19, 2015 Modi has visited 18 countries in an official capacity, unprecedented for any Indian Prime Minister in so short a time. For some, it may seem surprising that Modi, whose electoral campaign focused heavily on the economy and government corruption, has dedicated as much time as he has on foreign policy matters.

India in League of Nations

by Dr Lanka Sundaram
May 24, 2015 

“India contains 300,000,000 people, and to say that those people should have no representation of their own in the League of Nations would be carrying the logic of the Government representation very far.”

David Hunter Miller in his monumental book, The Drafting of the Covenant, stated with the authority derived from his close association with Woodrow Wilson, that very early at the meetings of the League of Nations Committee in 1919 “it had been agreed that India should be a member of the League. Mr Wilson had acquiesced, and no one else seemed to care.” French opposition to the inclusion of the Dominions within the framework of the League of Nations was resolute but abandoned after a grim struggle in the green rooms of the Peace Conference, with the result that as far as India was concerned, as one commentator put it, there could not have been any difference to the Geneva organization by the addition of one more country, viz., India, to the group of hangers-on to the British Empire, viz., the Dominions which obtained admissions to the League of Nations.

Make ties with Russia matter

May 25, 2015

May 8, 1945, saw the end of World War II in Europe. The Great Patriotic War commemorated in Russia as Victory Day in its War of Liberation from the Nazi regime. A Mahabharat-like saga of national fortitude was projected to the Russians on the Victory Day parade of a strong Mother Russia who has eternally triumphed over all invaders — from Emperor Napoleon and his defeat at Borodino in 1812, to Hitler and the Germans defeated at Leningrad and Stalingrad in 1942.

The Victory Day parade is a super-colossal military event. This year reportedly 80,000 troops participated, along with approximately 150 armoured vehicles, featuring the latest additions to the Russian arsenal.

To the West, and the rest of the world at large, including fractious former republics of the Soviet Union, Russia’s Victory Day parade could also be interpreted as a warning — that Russia might be somewhat down on its luck at present, but was by no means knocked out of the ring. It would rise again.

Who is killing Pakistan’s educated elite?

Pakistani civil society activists hold images of assassinated rights campaigner Sabeen Mahmud during a protest in Karachi on April 30, 2015. 

KARACHI, Pakistan — “We live in a kingdom of fear, fortified by religious extremism and intolerance,” columnist Ghazi Salahiddin recently wrote in The News on Sunday, one of Pakistan’s leading English-language newspapers.

Such hyperbole reinforces stereotypes about Pakistan. But sometimes, stereotypes contain more than a grain of truth.

This port city is Pakistan’s business and media capital. It is also one of the most violent cities in the world. To give you some sense: a recent crime log in The Express Tribune newspaper was headlined “grenade attacks and encounters.”

Taliban Proving Hard to Dislodge From Their New Territorial Gains in Northern Afghanistan

May 26, 2015

Afghan Forces Struggle as Taliban Seeks Northern Stronghold

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents, their ranks swelled by foreign fighters pushed across the border from Pakistan, nearly surrounded this northern Afghan city last month with an offensive that stunned local authorities and raised concerns over their ability to defend the country without U.S. and foreign combat troops.

Under pressure from a yearlong military offensive in neighboring Pakistan, the Taliban and allied militants – some waving the black flags of the Islamic State group – appear to be trying to carve out a new safe haven in northern Afghanistan that could give them access to Central Asia and China, Afghan officials say.

As Afghanistan’s U.S.-trained and equipped forces have struggled to fend off the insurgents – who at one point came within 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) of Kunduz – authorities have increasingly turned to local militias and former warlords, a further indictment of the costly, decade-long U.S. effort to build an effective Afghan military.


May 26, 2015
Yesterday, Americans celebrated Memorial Day to remember and commemorate the millions of men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. For many Americans this is not simply a day to light up the barbecue and quench our thirsts with beer; rather, it is a sacred day. We go to cemeteries and place wreathes and flowers upon the graves of loved ones who served in wars past and present. Those whose family members have returned from theater safely give thanks. American officials at the highest level of government declare their respect for the slain, the wounded, and the families who must manage these varied losses. However, when the government gets back to business on Tuesday, many of these same officials will continue to engage in policies that disgrace the memories of our fallen by aiding and abetting the various countries whose policies are responsible for so many of these deaths over the last thirteen years. One of these countries is Pakistan. And it is well past time for Americans to start paying attention.

A history of deadly appeasement

Why Pakistan is friends with everyone – and no one

By Paula Newberg
May 26, 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front L) shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (front C) as Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala (back 2nd L) and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani (front R) look on at the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Kathmandu, November 27, 2014. REUTERS/Niranjan Shrestha/Pool

Pakistan’s diplomacy has become a high-wire act.

Though Islamabad hasn’t yet ended the domestic terror that rips through its schools, mosques and markets, or sorted out its hostilities with neighboring India, it has embarked on a complicated foreign policy. Seeking to solve its many economic, political and security problems, Pakistan is trying, concurrently, to court four rich and powerful patrons: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States.

India unwanted pawn in US AfPak game

May 25, 2015

Contrary to what the US is telling India’s national security advisers, the payback for Pakistan if it brings home an Afghan-Taliban peace deal is running India out of Afghanistan. That is the primary objective behind discrediting India’s role in Afghanistan. 

Pakistan’s ludicrous charge that India’s spy agency RAW is behind the Karachi attack on the Ismaili community maybe laughed out of court here, given that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the incident at the same time as authorities in Pakistan maintained they had confessions from Indian operatives.

The Pakistani charge has one other flaw — Shias, be they Ahmadis, Ismailis or Bohras are not eliminated for apostasy here. Far more common in Pakistan, where radical Sunni supremacists gun down innocents at the cold-blooded signal “sabko udaa do.”

Pakistan’s sudden raising of the RAW bogey, together with the eruption of separatist violence in Jammu and Kashmir , underscores the new, undeclared state of war between Delhi and Islamabad in the extended AfPak theatre.

Paradise in Peril

MAY 25, 2015

LONDON – With Amal Clooney, the human-rights lawyer who recently married the actor George Clooney, acting as your advocate, you would think that your case would grab headlines. And yet Mohamed Nasheed – the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, who was just sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for unnamed “terrorist offenses” by the military-backed government that overthrew him in 2012 – seems to have fallen off the world’s radar.

This is bad news for the Maldives, where the fate of a fledgling democratic regime is inextricably tied to that of Nasheed. And, with radical Islam gaining traction on the archipelago, it does not bode well for the rest of the world, either.

Nasheed’s predecessor, Maumoon Gayoom, who won the presidency in a 1978 parliamentary vote, adopted an authoritarian style, and subjected the country to three decades of misrule. While Gayoom oversaw the archipelago’s transformation into a popular holiday destination, it was he and his associates – not ordinary citizens – who benefited from the tourist industry’s success.

China Dismisses US Surveillance in South China Sea as ‘Old Tricks’

May 27, 2015
A spokesperson for China’s defense ministry said such operations have been going on for a long time.
Last week, the U.S. military invited CNN on board a surveillance flight in the South China Sea, allowing the news outlet to record Chinese reclamation activities as well as the Chinese military’s warnings that the U.S. plane should “leave immediately.” The U.S. military personnel replied that their aircraft was “conducting lawful military activities acting outside national airspace.”

The incident was especially notable given an earlier report from the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Department of Defense is considering conducting surveillance operations within 12 nautical miles of disputed features — an area that China would claim as territorial waters and airspace. The crux of the issue is that the United States wants to publicly register that it does not believe newly-built islands in the South China Sea can generate territorial claims under international law. The publicity push surrounding last week’s surveillance flight was seen as a step in that direction.

Building the New Silk Road

May 25, 2015


More than two thousand years ago, China's Han Dynasty launched the Silk Road, a sprawling network of commerce that linked South and Central Asia with the Middle East and Europe. Today, the idea of a "New Silk Road," an intertwined set of economic integration initiatives seeking to link East and Central Asia, has taken hold in the United States and China—for very different reasons.

In 2011, the United States launched its vision of greater Central Asian economic and infrastructure integration in the hopes of supporting political stability as it withdrew from Afghanistan. By 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping was assertively articulating his own vision for a China-led Silk Road that would streamline foreign trade, ensure stable energy supplies, promote Asian infrastructure development, and consolidate Beijing's regional influence.

Why Ajit Doval Must Not Make Throwaway Comments on the China Border

Map Showing India Tibet Frontier as Mutually Agreed Upon by the British and Tibetan Plenipotentiaries, 24 March 1914 [North-East frontier, McMahon Line] In his recent Rustamji Memorial Lecture, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval stated that settling the boundary disputewas “critical” for India-China relations. He went on to observe that China’s stance was in “complete contravention of accepted principles”. The Chinese, he added, “have accepted the McMahon Line while settling the border with Myanmar and then they say that the same line is not acceptable in case of India, particularly in Tawang.”

The NSA’s point about the centrality of the dispute is spot on. Not so, his claims about China’s stance on the McMahon Line. This is not a trivial or pedantic point. In many ways, it is central to understanding the history of the dispute as well as the possibilities for its settlement in the future. 

Wrong on Myanmar and China 

Twists And Turns In The India-China Border Saga

It would be illogical for India to open a Cold War style front with China when the potential costs significantly outweigh geopolitical advantages.

The border dispute with China is so old but Indians are yet to come to grips with how this dispute can be resolved. The historical roots of the Sino-Indian frontiers have been narrated in several accounts. Understanding the historical variations and context around how China approaches the dispute has curiously received less attention. A focus on the intricacies of competing claims needs to be embedded in a geopolitical setting, which has been changing since the 1950s.

China links the border issue to its geopolitical environment

Although the Chinese position provides the appearance of continuity, the actual bargaining posture has been one of extraordinary flux often shaped by geopolitical considerations that have little to do with the border itself. Let us explore each of these inflexion points in China's approach to the dispute.

The rangzen myth

May 25, 2015

Young Tibetans are desperate to return, but it should be clear to them that India has too much at stake to take any risks. Urging them to fight with nary a thought of who to fight, how or where is the farthest it will go... 

Listening to speeches at the Internatio-nal Rangzen Confere-nce on “Tibet and India’s Security” over the weekend reminded me of a conversation with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman nearly 50 years ago. That was before Bangladesh. Mujib was visiting London as a Pakistani, and I remember him saying apropos of the future of the two Bengals, “Kavi Guru” (Rabindranath Tagore) “has written that the same hand that writes history also erases it!”

I don’t know whether Tagore ever made that prediction but the hope of rangzen or freedom sustained the Tibetan conference on the 64th anniversary of the signing of the fatal 17-point agreement. Roads, railways and floods of tourists have drastically altered Tibet since then, so that China’s focus has shifted from Aksai Chin to Tawang. The conference ignored this. In fact, India’s security was barely mentioned. Instead, Vijay Kranti, author of a comic book on the Dalai Lama, who chaired the proceedings, set the optimistic ball rolling by saying (not very accurately) that no one could have thought in 1945 that India would become independent in 1947.

Tough Times Ahead in Tajikistan

May 27, 2015
A recent World Bank report has a grim outlook for Central Asia’s poorest state. 

Tajikistan’s economic growth has dropped significantly and is unlikely to return to previous levels in the near or medium term, a recent World Bank report says. GDP growth in the region’s poorest state slowed to 6.7 percent last year from 7.4 percent in 2013 and the World Bank estimates that in 2015 GDP growth will plummet to 3.2 percent.

Why the drop? Tajikistan’s economic story, like that of Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian republics, is linked in large part to Russia. Tajikistan is the world’s most remittance-dependent country. Remittances, 90 percent of which originated in Russia, made up 42.7 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2014. The World Bank notes that “in the first two months of 2015 remittances were about 40 percent lower in U.S. dollar value than in the same period of 2014” and that remittances “are the main channel for transmission of Russia’s slowdown and ruble depreciation to Tajikistan.”

Reflections on Ramadi

May 26, 2015

Editor's Note: This analysis was written by Stratfor's lead military analyst, Paul Floyd, who served in the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, a core component of the United States Army Special Operations Command. He deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan in a combat role.

The Iraqi city of Ramadi has fallen again into the hands of the Islamic State, a group born of al Qaeda in Iraq. That this terrorist organization, whose brutality needs no description, has retaken a city once fought for by American soldiers troubles me. I served two deployments in Ramadi, fighting al Qaeda. Comrades died in that fight. I was shot in Ramadi. My initial reaction, like that of many veterans, is to ask what the hell it was all for, when nothing seems to change. The whole endeavor was a costly bloodletting and it seems the price we paid yielded no actual benefit. Yet, Memorial Day is as much a day for reflection as it is for remembrance and commemoration. And in reflecting, I have had to sit back and define exactly what we are memorializing on this day.

‘Look ... It’s My Name on This’: Obama Defends the Iran Nuclear Deal

In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.

Why Iraq's Military Has No Will to Fight

MAY 25, 2015 

The country’s political dysfunction has undermined all efforts to build an effective fighting force.

The Obama Administration has run out of patience with Iraq’s Army. On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the recent fall of Ramadi, one of Iraq’s major cities, to ISIS. Despite possessing substantial advantages in both numbers and equipment, he said, the Iraqi military were unable to prevent ISIS forces from capturing the city.
“That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”

Carter’s frustrations are shared by his boss. When asked about the war against ISIS in a recent interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, President Obama said that “if the Iraqis are not willing to fight for the security of their country, then we cannot do it for them.”
It’s easy to see why Washington is unhappy with Baghdad. In the eight years the U.S. formally occupied Iraq, the U.S. invested $25 billion in training and equipping the country’s armed forces before withdrawing in 2011. To this day, a much smaller number of American soldiers remain in the country in order to train Iraqi soldiers.


May 26, 2015

In order to neutralize ISIS, it is important to understand what we are confronting. Synthesizing various analyses of the entity appears to provide the following composite picture: ISIS seeks to create a geographically demarcated Islamic political entity that is potentially expansionist. The leadership of the organization is hierarchical and comprises a curious mix of hardline Islamic fundamentalists combined with genuine strategic and operational nous provided by disaffected and radicalized former Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s decimated military.

The core fundamentalist theology of ISIS emphasizes a deity that is punitive, keen on preserving religious purity above else. Consequently outsiders-Muslims who disagree with them; Shia, Christians and other minority groups and their religious symbols-can be disposed of as they are regarded as filth to be cleansed, not parties to a negotiable dispute.

The ominous shadow of the notorious Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looms over Southeast Asia and Australia, judging from the scores of recent arrests throughout the region.


May 26, 2015

Twitter is also increasingly powerful as a command and control system for the leaderless model that Daesh relies upon for its global operations. Recent attacks such as those in Garland, Texas demonstrate how guidance as well as suggested targets and tactics provided via Twitter are playing a role in the launching of Daesh activities outside of their discreet area of operations. In this instance, tweets allegedly by an Australian directly suggested the targeting of the cartoon competition. These were followed by tweets by the two operatives pledging allegiance to Daesh, and tweets from an ‘official’ account accepting this pledge all took place in close proximity to the attack. For an idea of how simply individuals can use Twitter in a sophisticated way, the attackers pre-emptively deployed a hashtag for the attack, providing a coherent stream of related tweets which other users could follow. Daesh intentionally seeks control of and actively shapes the social media coverage of themselves and empowers its supporters to participate via Twitter. This social media campaign is crucial to Daesh’s successful management of its public profile, and to the management of its global operations. Whether tweeting links to the ‘open source Jihad’ sections of Inspire, the Lone Mujāhid Pocketbook, or any of the doctrinal work that justifies and legitimises individual and small cell jihad, the network-and its empowerment-is greatly strengthened by Twitter.

Carter: The US Military Is Training an Iraqi Army That Doesn’t Want To Fight

MAY 25, 2015

The main problem with Iraq's battered and depleted military is the same one facing Iraq as a whole—the country effectively no longer exists as a unified state.

The Obama Administration has run out of patience with Iraq’s Army. On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the recent fall of Ramadi, one of Iraq’s major cities, to ISIS. Despite possessing substantial advantages in both numbers and equipment, he said, the Iraqi military were unable to preventISIS forces from capturing the city.

“That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”

The Salafi war on Sufism


Powerful: “Sufi philosophies provide major sources of resistance to Salafist and other exclusionary ideologies.” Picture shows the Dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer.

A new civil war in Islam is raging between the unarmed Sufis and the Salafis.

Many would read the global war on terror as a Samuel Huntingtonian self-fulfilling prophecy; witnesses would most likely identify it as a tragically wrong hypothesis. There are clearly many fault lines within Islam, some of which are deepening dramatically. One, there are attacks on Muslim intellectuals, attempts to suppress dissent. Two, there is polarisation between the Shias and Sunnis, primarily due to the Sunnification of Islam that has been continuing since the early 20th century.

Japan and Malaysia's New Strategic Partnership

May 27, 2015

The two countries elevate their bilateral relationship 

On Monday, Malaysia and Japan signed a new strategic partnership to elevate their bilateral relationship during Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s three-day visit to Tokyo.

Malaysia and Japan already have a close relationship that goes back decades. As early as 1981, Malaysia’s fourth prime minister Mahathir Mohamad initiated the Look East Policy (LEP), which strengthened economic ties between the two nations. The relationship has since blossomed to include other areas of cooperation as well, such as maritime security, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). Ties reached a stage of “enhanced partnership” in 2010 before being elevated to a “strategic partnership” this week.

Like most documents of its ilk, the Japan-Malaysia strategic partnership, an eight-page document seen by The Diplomat, consists of several parts outlining the areas of cooperation both sides have agreed to focus on. In this case, there are five sections dealing with peace and stability, economics, maritime security, people-to-people ties, and regional and global cooperation.

Meet the Russian Politician Who Thinks That 'Tanks Don't Need Visas'

May 27, 2015
Dmitry Rogozin believes in speaking loudly and carrying a big stick. 

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of the country’s defense industry and an outspoken hawk, has responded to Western concerns over Moscow’s alleged militarization of the Arctic in his customary inflammatory style.

“I’ve always joked about it… so what if they won’t give us visas, put us on sanctions list … tanks don’t need visas,” he told an interviewer on Russian state television last Sunday, according to AFP.

Last year, the former ambassador to NATO and notorious Putin loyalist, was put on a sanctions list of both the U.S. Treasury Department and the European Union, which made Rogozin announce that the Russian defense industry has “many other ways of traveling the world besides tourist visas.”

The Need to Understand and Conduct UW

May 25, 2015

The Need to Understand and Conduct UW

Interview with retired US Army Special Forces Colonel David S. Maxwell.

David S. Maxwell is the Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University. He is a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel with command and staff assignments in Korea, Japan, Germany, the Philippines, and CONUS, and served as a member of the military faculty teaching national security at the National War College. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth and the National War College, National Defense University.

SWJ: Insurgency, counterinsurgency, foreign internal defense, terrorism, counterterrorism - does this spectrum of possibilities fall within the larger framework of Unconventional Warfare (UW)?

How America will collapse (by 2025)

Four scenarios that could spell the end of the United States as we know it -- in the very near future

A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.


May 25, 2015 

Website recounts arrest of alleged Russian soldiers in Ukraine

Vladimir Dergachev, Dmitriy Kirillov in Mariupol, Vladimir Vashchenko, Denis Telmanov, and Andrey Vinokurov, Soldiers of fortune.

Russian Federation Defence Ministry demands that SBU free former Russian military men

Gazeta.ru’s sources in the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] and Donbass militia gave details of the detention of “saboteurs” who, under interrogation, described themselves as GRU [Russian army Main Intelligence Directorate] agents. Kiev is promising to present new evidence of their belonging to the Russian military intelligence service. Moscow admits that they served in the Russian Federation previously and demands their release, while in the LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] the prisoners are being described as members of the people’s militia.

“Saboteurs” seized in combat

10 maps that explain Ukraine’s struggle for independence

Thomas Young
May 21, 2015 

Since the fall of the USSR, Ukraine has been struggling to build an independent and democratic nation. Chrystia Freeland explains this struggle in the latest Brookings Essay, “My Ukraine: A personal reflection on a nation's dream of independence and the nightmare Vladimir Putin has visited upon it.

Here are 10 maps from her essay that explain the political events in Ukraine since it gained independence in 1991: 

Ukraine was at the heart of the Soviet Bloc 

US Army Intelligence Briefing on Cyber Attacks Against Iranian Nuclear Sites

May 26, 2015

The website publicintelligence.net has placed online a 36-page intelligence briefing dated February 15, 2012 that was prepared by the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Intelligence Support Activity (TRISA) entitled Attacks Against the Iranian Nuclear Program. The report details the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers and the cyber attacks (STUXNET) launched against the Iranian nuclear facilities. The report can be accessed here.

Ukraine Is Still Caught between a Hammer and an Anvil

MAY 26, 2015

For most of the 20th century, Ukraine was the victim of two equally malevolent empires—Germany and Russia. Germany's contribution to Ukraine's devastation was the two World Wars; Russia's was the imposition of Soviet rule and the concomitant destruction of Ukraine's peasantry and elites. Unsurprisingly, one of the most constant images in 20th-century Ukrainian commentary is that of their country being caught between a hammer and an anvil. 

The 21st century may be witnessing a fundamental break with Ukraine's tragic geopolitical position. While Russia is acting according to its historical script, post-Holocaust, post-unification Germany appears to be emerging as Europe's benevolent hegemon. As such, Germany has no choice but to exercise its clout and take a lead in Europe. But given its awful past and the continued importance of that past in shaping German foreign policy behavior, Germany also has no choice but to eschew the kind of crude realpolitik that produced two World Wars and took the lives of millions.

Why Mariupol Will Not be the Next Frontline

MAY 21, 2015

Alexander Zakharchenko (C), separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, visits the Kholodnaya Balka mine in Makiivka, outside Donetsk on October 29, 2014. Zakharchenko warned that separatists will take Mariupol if Ukrainian forces continue their “aggression.” REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Analysts and journalists have begun to ask where the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will go next now that the second ceasefire agreement has failed. Skirmishes on the frontline in Shyrokyne, less than ten miles from Mariupol's city limits, have raised concerns that Mariupol will be the next target. Geographically and commercially speaking, Mariupol makes sense. It's the busiest commercial marine hub on the Azov Sea and considered a must-have for Russia if a land corridor to Crimea is ever to be realized. Mariupol would also be a symbolic coup for the separatists. Ukrainian President PetroPoroshenko named the city the provisional capital of the Donetsk region in 2014. The separatists have also threatened to take the city. Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the Donetsk People's Republic, warned that separatists will take Mariupolif Ukrainian forces continue their "aggression." 

The losing war against ungoverned spaces

by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross ,Nathaniel Barr 
April 28, 2015 

We are now living in an era where ungoverned spaces, long the accomplice in jihadistactivity, are playing a starring role.

One of the biggest counterterrorism concerns for the United States and its allies since the attacks of September 11, 2001, has been managing the dangers posed by ungoverned spaces. While al-Qaeda stars as the primary villain in The 9/11 Commission Report, the U.S.’s definitive account of those attacks, ungoverned spaces feature as a critical henchman. We are now living in an era where ungoverned spaces, long the accomplice in jihadist activity, are playing a starring role.At this point, it can be definitively said that ungoverned spaces that jihadist groups can exploit have multiplied exponentially, that this growth is largely (though not entirely) a phenomenon of the post-Arab Spring world, and that there are no quick fixes to this predicament. For a long time to come, the world will see jihadist groups exploiting geographic spaces where internationally -recognised governments are unable to extend their writ, and utilising these spaces to hone their militant capabilities, spread chaos into surrounding regions, and sometimes impose their hardline version ofsharia (Islamic law).

Transport infrastructure – Engine or hand brake for global supply chains?

PwC, in cooperation with the European Business School, recently conducted a RealTime Delphi survey of 104 panellists in 29 countries. Our latest publication "Transportation & Logistics 2030 Volume 2: Transport Infrastructure – Engine or hand brake for global supply chains?" draws upon the results of this survey, as well as incorporating the insights of PwC specialists from around the world. The report provides a global perspective on the status-quo of transport infrastructure and its development and how it is set to reshape the transportation & logistics industry. We address four discrete issues for transport infrastructure ─ supply and demand prospects, finance mechanisms, regional competitiveness and sustainability ─ and look at how each area might evolve, as well as how they interconnect.

Here are some of the key findings that should inform decision-makers in the T&L industry until 2030: 

The quantity of goods needed to serve the world's rapidly growing global population will increase over the next twenty years. And the demand for transport infrastructure is unlikely to be fully met in this period – if ever. 

Overt impact of covert acts

May 25, 2015

Hersh’s story should be a tutorial for all those in India who reacted with a high degree of exuberance after the Abbottabad raid, that the US would rap very hard Pakistan’s knuckles for giving refuge to the greatest terrorist in the world. 

Immediately after Independence we had a police chief in the old Bombay state who was very fond of sports hunting. Police officers soon learnt that the best way to please him was to arrange a hunt. During one such shoot they managed to locate a tiger in a forest, which was successfully shot by him. However, his detractors spread the story that the tiger was very old and blind and was chased by the local policemen to fall into a dry well where it was ceremoniously shot by the chief.

Seymour Hersh’s sensational 10,000-word investigative report in the London Review of Books on how the US special forces had killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, rhymes with this old Bombay police story: “While Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false”. Hersh claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies had captured Osama in 2006 from the Hindu Kush. He was kept a prisoner with Saudi Arabian support till 2010, when they decided to use him to bargain with the United States for resuming military aid and for a “freer hand in Afghanistan”.

Violence in Macedonia Danger or distraction?

After a long political ferment, a short burst of fighting May 16th 2015

SOME things are clear. What happened this month in Kumanovo, Macedonia’s second city, was the worst violence in the Balkans since 2004—and indeed the worst in that fissile country since it teetered on the edge of inter-ethnic war in 2001. Over May 9th and 10th, police made a full-scale military assault on what they called “Albanian terrorists”. Eight policemen were killed, as were 14 Albanians. Fear of a new Balkan conflict rippled across the region.

But for anybody trying to work out what it all means, there are more questions than answers. According to the authorities, the alleged terrorists, many of whom came from neighbouring Kosovo, were starting a battle for a “Greater Albania” comprising Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. A quarter of Macedonia’s 2m people are Albanian; since war was averted 14 years ago, power has been shared uneasily by coalitions representing both the ethnic majority, who are Orthodox Christian and speak a Slavic language, and the mainly Muslim Albanians.