7 August 2015

Punjab's WW2 hero colonel Harwant Singh dies at 95

Vishal Rambani
Aug 06, 2015
Colonel Harwant Singh was officer-in-charge of the flag-hoisting ceremony on the first Independence Day in 1947. 

Colonel Harwant Singh (retd), a World War-2 hero decorated with the Military Cross - the highest award of the British Army - died on Tuesday night here at the age of 95. He was officer in charge of the flag-hoisting ceremony on the first Independence Day in 1947.

Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust

British policies killed nearly 4 million Indians in the 1943-44 Bengal Famine

Scorched earth By 1943, hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta and a huge number of them died on the city streets. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 must rank as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government, and yet it gets little more than a passing mention in Indian history books.

Talks, No Talks again Talks, What Pakistan Policy we have?

By Brigadier Arun Bajpai
06 Aug , 2015

Before 26 May 2014 when Modi Government took over the reins of power in Delhi, in last fifteen years we have been following the Pakistan policy of talks at any cost a gesture which Pakistan took as our weakness. After Modi government came on the scene India did take an initial tough stand of no talks till Mumbai attack accused in Pakistan are speedily dealt with and Pakistan sponsored terror is put to an end. However in the recent meeting at Ufa between the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the side-lines of Shanghai group convention in Ufa, Russia, It appears Modi government is also falling in line with the same old Pakistan policy of talks, no talks and again talks. Time we make up our mind how we want to tackle Pakistan.

After Kargil war India decided no talks with Pakistan. However in July 2001 we were again having summit talks with Pakistani President General Musharraf in Agra that failed to produce any results.

Expanding Chinese Naval Power

By Lt Col Avinash Chandra
06 Aug , 2015

After American withdrawal from Philippines a void was created in South-China sea region which gave opportunity to China to seize it and slowly increase and strengthen its naval presence. China is world’s second largest importer of oil and oil constitutes 70% mainstay of Chinese industries, home produced coal accounts for other 30%. Chinese oil passes through Africa and Gulf region and their sea line of communication extends from Chinese mainland to Port of Sudan.

Close to homeland in South-China sea region it is making territorial claims on islands of Japan, Vietnam etc which clearly shows its expansionist tendencies and policies.

Nagaland: a long road to peace

August 6, 2015

It is a 97-year-old struggle. To initiate even the beginnings of closure is a major breakthrough. And to have achieved that by recognising the Naga people’s pride, culture and history crowns the accord with renewed hope

Poignancy, laced with a sense of Naga pride and aspirations, can best describe the responses to the August 3 Naga Peace Accord signed between the NSCN (I-M) and the government of India. This can only be understood by talking to those living in Nagaland. On August 4, I received an early morning phone call from Zunheboto town (Zunheboto in Sumi dialect refers to a flowering shrub) in Nagaland. The sober voice of one of my young Naga friends broke the silence across the miles as she whispered, “Sister, finally, we do have closure, right?” followed by a spell of silence pregnant with meaning. I knew that she was brimming with emotions — pride amidst hurt; dignity amidst insecurity. I recalled Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lines from the movie Selma: “this is a demonstration of our dignity”.

That is what the Naga struggle has meant to me: a demonstration of the Nagas’ pride and dignity as a people. This, notwithstanding the violence and the insurgency, the fear and the insecurity and a life lived in uncertainty. Naga-inhabited areas resonate with a sense of unique history and culture — the National Socialist Council of Nagaland NSCN (Isak-Muivah) represents both.

Where it began

Media is very interesting entertainment for me, says Ajit Doval

4 Aug, 2015

Dubbing the media as a "very interesting entertainment" for him, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval today advised it to keep "national interest" above everything else.

MUMBAI: Dubbing the media as a "very interesting entertainment" for him, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval today advised it to keep "national interest" above everything else. 

"Media is very interesting entertainment for me," Doval said, responding to an audience query about the media, after the late Lalit Doshi memorial lecture here. 

"Maybe what they are advising is right, but then how wrongly can right be projected and people remain disinformed," he said. 

"Probably they (media) also have got their own compulsions. You are writing a newspaper which can sell. You have a TV programme for TRPs. I know my priorities. Why should I try to impose mine on them," he said. 

"My point is that, at some point, national interest is supreme for all of us. Either we stay together or sink together. The day we sink, all this freedom of the press will also sink," Doval said. 

Look Mumbai in the eye

Pakistan has to deal with the 2008 Mumbai mayhem, planned and launched from its soil. This requires facing the truth and admitting mistakes.

Pakistan’s concerns in respect of the botched investigation into the Samjhauta Express bombing and alleged covert support to the Baloch insurgency should not only be highlighted but concrete evidence presented to put a stop to such means of non-kinetic warfare resorted to by sleuths from both sides to further their so-called national interests.


04 August 2015 

Perpetually threatened countries that don’t hang terrorists but are able to keep themselves secure, like Israel and the US, are able to do so because they carry out targeted assasinations instead. India’s anti-death penalty lobby should keep this in mind

Whatever the merits or demerits of 1993 Mumbai bombing convict Yakub Memon’s hanging, the one undeniable victim in the hullabaloo has been a fact-based approach to policy — confusing and conflating just about everything under the sun, other than the horticultural merits of growing mangoes, to the hanging.

One example of this appeared on this writer’s Twitter feed, demanding a more muscular ‘Israeli-style’ policy on everything from hostages to executions to targeted killings. What is curious about this is that Israel, in fact, exemplifies the many shortcomings of ‘muscularity’ and how legality is in fact an extension of ground-based facts rather than some esoteric morality.

Civilian Casualties at Record High in Afghanistan

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are still on the rise, according to a UN report. In the first six months of 2015, the UN documented 4,921 civilian casualties (1,592 dead and 3,329 injured). While the total amount of civilian casualties rose only one percent compared to the same period in 2014, it looks like 2015 will be one of the deadliest years for Afghan civilians on record. Since 2009, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has recorded 52,653 civilian casualties (19,368 dead and 33,285 injured).

The midyear report, prepared by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office, covers January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015. The report says that civilian casualties in 2015 are set to equal or exceed 2014’s record highs. Another recent report, from TOLOnews, reinforces this projection. The TOLOnews report says that civilian casualties in July were 26 percent higher than June numbers.

There are several interesting trends at play. Of the civilian casualties in the first six months of 2015, 70 percent were caused by anti-government elements and 16 percent by pro-government forces. Most of the remaining casualties are difficult to attribute but occurred in ground engagements between pro-government forces and insurgents. Casualties caused by government forces rose 60 percent over last year, an increase linked, in the report, to an increased number of ground engagements conducted by government forces, and particularly increased use of indirect weapons such as mortars, rockets, and grenades.

Singing Omar’s Praises, Staying Silent on Mansour

AUGUST 5, 2015

A joint eulogy that three al Qaeda affiliates issued Wednesday for former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose 2013 death was only recently confirmed, is as notable for what it didn’t say as for what it did.

The statement on behalf of al-Nusra Front in Syria, the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the North African al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, praised Mullah Omar for sheltering Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and refusing to turn him over to the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

It also lauded the former Taliban leader, who is believed to have died two years ago, for allowing Afghanistan to become a school for jihadis “from which lions and thirsty heroes graduated,” according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Yet the statement failed to even mention Mullah Omar’s successor and former deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour — a sign the new leader has so far failed to convince al Qaeda militants of his power.

The Taliban in Pieces

August 3, 2015

The Internal Struggle Behind the Announcement of Mullah Omar's Death

Although rumors of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have circulated for years—rumors that the Afghan National Directorate of Security even confirmed several times, first in classified communications with its allies and then in a December 2014 public statement—it was only on July 29, 2015, that the Afghan and U.S. governments affirmed that he had died. Perhaps even more surprising, this time the Taliban admitted that Omar is dead, after having staunchly rejected the possibility for years.

A group of men detained for suspected Taliban activities are held for questioning at a schoolhouse in the village of Kuhak in Arghandab District, north of Kandahar July 9, 2010. 

The timing appears odd. Kabul and the Taliban have just recently started meeting officially to discuss a peace process, and acknowledging the death of Omar is not going to help things along. The Taliban tried to gloss over the issue by claiming, through Omar’s younger brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, and his son, Mohammad Yakub, that Omar had just died after a long illness. If that had been true, the timing wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but U.S. and Afghan sources still insist that he died a couple of years ago. Sources within the Taliban also claim that Yakub has been telling his close supporters that he knew of Omar’s death years ago but was asked by the leadership to keep mum about it lest the rank and file be demoralized. This is in line with what other Taliban sources have been saying for some time.

China’s Man in the Taliban

AUGUST 3, 2015

Why the death of Mullah Omar is bad news for Beijing.

In a July 30 article in the Global Times, a nationalistic Chinese newspaper, an unnamed analyst warns that Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death will deal a heavy blow to the Taliban. But China may prove to be another loser — Mullah Omar had guaranteed crucial agreements with Beijing in the past, and was seen as providing the best chance that any future peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government would stick. Despite China’s misgivings about the Taliban, Mullah Omar was a man they could do business with, one of the last of the leading political and spiritual authorities in the militant world that was willing to pragmatically accommodate Chinese concerns for stability in the restive, Muslim-minority northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang.

Mullah Omar’s Death Casts Dark Clouds over Afghanistan’s Pakistan-Led, Pakistan-Owned Peace Process

Source Link

The resistance by powerful Afghan Taliban leaders and field commanders to the nomination of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as successor of Mullah Mohammad Omar and his elevation as the new Emir of the Taliban movement has, for now at least, spoiled the elaborate end-game that the Pakistanis had planned in Afghanistan. The talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government have been put on hold and there is no clarity if they will re-start anytime soon, if at all. And even if they do re-start, there are doubts whether these talks will be able to deliver anything close to peace.

One big reason for that is that a large section of Afghan Taliban don’t trust the Pakistanis who have been trying to broker or, if you will, ‘facilitate’, the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. They fear that the Pakistanis will leave them out in the cold. This, despite the fact that Pakistan has given support and sanctuary to the Taliban in their fight against the American-led foreign forces which were backing the Afghan government since November 2001. What the Taliban really think of the Pakistanis was summed up by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the last Taliban ambassador in Islamabad who was unceremoniously and against all diplomatic norms arrested and handed over to the Americans after 9/11. In his autobiography, Mullah Zaeef writes: “Pakistan…is so famous for treachery that it is said they can get milk from a bull. They have two tongues in one mouth, and two faces on one head so they can speak everyone’s language; they use everybody, deceive everybody. They deceive the Arabs under the guise of Islamic nuclear power, saying they are defending Islam and Islamic countries. They milk America and Europe in the alliance against terrorism, and they have been deceiving Pakistani and other Muslims around the world in the name of the Kashmir Jihad. But behind the curtains they have been betraying everyone.”

The Roots of Religious Conflict in Myanmar

By Matt Schissler, Matthew J Walton and Phyu Phyu Thi
August 06, 2015

This article is part of “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” an ongoing series by The Diplomat for summer and fall 2015 featuring exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis. All articles in the series can be found here.

Myanmar has been the site of serious conflicts between Buddhist and Muslim communities, particularly in Rakhine State where at least 146,000 persons have been displaced since the first riots in June 2012. This violence has prompted international organizations dedicated to early warning of mass violence to issue alarms, but the dynamics of this conflict are understood differently in Myanmar. In May, three Nobel laureates called violence and persecution of Muslims in Myanmar “nothing less than genocide.” A few days later, U Zaw Aye Maung, the Rakhine Affairs Minister for Yangon Region, was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying, “if genocide was taking place in Rakhine State, then it was against ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.”

How climate change will impact South Asia – latest IPCC report

Joydeep Gupta 

The summary of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report has a stark warning on how climate change is threatening the world, but also shows the way out – if policymakers are willing to take it

Scientists estimate that over 70,000 people will be displaced from the Sundarbans due to sea level rise by the year 2030 (photo by Greenpeace)

Climate change, if left unchecked, will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems. With these words, the world’s scientists have made an impassioned appeal to the world’s policymakers to combat what has been described as the challenge of our times.

For the Mideast, It’s Still 1979

JULY 29, 2015

I started my career as a foreign correspondent in Beirut in 1979. I didn’t know it at the time, but 1979 turned out to be one of the great vintage years for foreign news — particularly from the Middle East. It set in motion the most important dynamics still shaping that region today. In fact, it’s been 1979 for 36 years. And the big question about the Iran nuclear deal reached this month is, Will it ultimately be a break from the history set in motion in 1979, and put the region on a new path, or will it turbocharge 1979 in ways that could shake the whole world?

What happened in 1979? For starters, there was the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists who challenged the religious credentials of the Saudi ruling family, accusing them of impiety. The al-Sauds responded by forging a new bargain with their religious conservatives: Let us stay in power and we’ll give you a freer hand in setting social norms, relations between the sexes and religious education inside Saudi Arabia — and vast resources to spread the puritanical, anti-women, anti-Shiite, anti-pluralistic Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism to mosques and schools around the world.


August 6, 2015

This week, the countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will assemble for their annual regional forum. Though not on the formal agenda, a hot topic will be a Code of Conduct with China for managing disputes in the South China Sea, which has been sought since the late 1990s but eluded the parties for as long. China’s recent Spratly island building activities have raised a new sense of urgency for codifying rules of behavior among other states in the region. Beijing’s building also suggests that China remains uninterested in crystallizing the territorial status quo in the South China Sea (for more on the South China Sea and why it matters, check out WOTR’s first Around The World podcast!). U.S. policymakers, for their part, have had harsh words for their Chinese counterparts in private and in public as China’s island spree has unfolded. Amidst this substantial pressure, the ASEAN–China Code of Conduct remains Washington’s best hope that the South China Sea disputes can be managed diplomatically. The reasons for continued U.S. interest in this lingering initiative are not difficult to divine.

China Doesn’t Care What You Think About Its Stock Market Bailout

AUGUST 5, 2015

Screw moral hazard. Dire warnings from economists and investors hold little water in a situation that’s completely political.

Like the old Wall Street saying goes, you can’t catch a falling knife — and this is a particularly sharp one. Even after deploying more than $400 billion of public money and enforcing the aid of many private firms, Beijing is having a hard time propping up share prices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. After their initial plunges, stocks are on a roller coaster ride as investors try to anticipate the government’s next buying spree. To outsiders, it seems like chaos. But to China, it makes perfect sense.

Americans are plenty familiar with bailouts after the global financial crisis almost brought down giants like General Motors and AIG. But even if the Chinese bailout worked, and stock prices stabilized above their lows, economists would cry foul. By insulating investors from the ups and downs of an open market, China has essentially created an even greater appetite for risk. Confident that the government has their backs, they’ll trade even less responsibly, taking on more leverage with money they don’t have. This is moral hazard, and China is generating a lot of it.

China now runs 4 of the world's 5 biggest banks

China has become a banking powerhouse.

Four of the five largest banks in the world are Chinese, according to SNL Financial's latest global bank rankings. It's a big change from the past few years when only two Chinese banks made the top five.

Beijing-based Industrial & Commercial Bank of China holds the top spot with assets valued at $3.5 trillion. That means the bank is worth more than the entire value of the British economy.

The only non-Chinese bank remaining in the top five is HSBC, which is headquartered in London. It fell several spots to position No. 4 this year.

The top U.S. bank is JPMorgan Chase (JPM), which ranks sixth with $2.6 trillion in assets. SNL notes that American banks calculate the value of their assets a bit differently from international banks because of U.S. regulations, so it's likely that JPMorgan would rank higher in a true apples to apples comparison.

Turkmen Leader Makes First Visit to Kyrgystan

August 05, 2015

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, president of Central Asia’s most isolated state since 2006, made his first visit to Kyrgyzstan this week. The two leaders signed 15 agreements and spoke warmly of growth in the bilateral relationship. Energy featured in the discussions–especially a gas pipeline through Kyrgyzstan to China and the possibility of Turkmenistan supplying electricity to Kyrgyzstan in the future.

“We have common goals – stability, security and peace not only in the region but around the world,” theBerdimuhamedov said

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev made a state visit to Turkmenistan in November 2014 and plans to make another in 2016. This December, however, Atambayev says he will visit Ashgabat to help Turkmenistan celebrate the 20th anniversary of its neutrality. Turkmenistan is by far the most closed of Central Asia’s states and one of the most authoritarian–joining Uzbekistan at the bottom of nearly every ranking of press, religious and other freedoms. Ashgabat is the only Central Asian capital that requires citizens from all of its regional neighbors to obtain a visa before entering. Kyrgyz citizens must travel to either Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan to obtain a visa for Turkmenistan. Last year, the two countries announced that Turkmenistan would finally be opening an embassy in Kyrgyzstan in the “nearest future” but no date was announced.

The limits of counter terrorism

Daniel L. Byman
August 4, 2015 

Editor's note: Daniel Byman writes in his August 2 post for the Lawfare blog that using counterterrorism as a lens for seeing the Middle East has helped the United States in several of its success against the al-Qaida core, but argues that this filter has also led to an underestimation of the overall impact on terrorism, as well as hindered an adequate response in general.

Using counterterrorism as a lens for seeing the Middle East, as the Obama administration so often does, has helped the United States achieve several important successes against the al-Qaida core and avoided an overreaction to real, but not often existential, dangers to U.S. interests in the region. But this filter has also led the United States to miss threats to broader U.S. interests and underestimate the overall impact of terrorism, and has hindered an adequate response in general.

Building on the post-9/11 efforts of the George W. Bush administration, the Obama administration has constructed an effective machine to identify and disrupt terrorists. Much of the effort is built around an intelligence liaison campaign: partnering with countries around the world to gather information on terrorists and then use it to arrest or otherwise disrupt them. Where the government cannot (or at times will not) arrest the suspected terrorists, the intelligence gathered is used for drone strikes, at times on behalf of a weak allied government and at other times in areas where the government is deemed to have lost its sovereignty.

The War of Words Between AQAP’s Bomb-Maker and Al Jazeera

AUGUST 4, 2015

Ibrahim al-Asiri, an operative for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is internationally recognized as the world’s foremost terrorist bomb-maker. And he isn’t pleased with an Al Jazeera documentary released in June that featured a man describing himself as a former spy inside AQAP alleging that the terrorist group had at times received support from the Yemeni government.

In a statement released late last month, a translation of which was released Tuesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi statements, Asiri attacks the network for what he describes as shoddy journalistic practices. Asiri questions how Al Jazeera, “which claims to be the platform of the free,” could “adopt an entire film from a single source who is an enemy to another party and originally on the ‘intelligence side.’” How, Asiri asks, “is this fair or professional?” The network, Asiri points out, “is not incapable to send someone who can investigate the truth himself.”

The documentary in question, Al Qaeda Informant, is based on the testimony of Hani Mujahid, a Yemeni who claims to have trained in Afghanistan with al Qaeda before 9/11. Facing the ensuing U.S. invasion of Afghanistan a month later, Mujahid says he fled with the terror group to Pakistan, where he claims to have been arrested and interrogated before being released and returning to Yemen. There, he made contact with militants and was eventually recruited as an informant for the government in Sanaa.

A strategy forms to combat the Islamic State

August 4

The U.S. and its allies, after several years of missteps, finally seem to be framing a strategy for combating the Islamic State militarily in Syria, even as they continue to pursue a political settlement with Damascus.

The Syrian nightmare is far from over, and supporters of President Bashar al-Assad continue to insist that the regime will survive the turmoil. But U.S. policy now appears to be working in tandem with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, a rare alignment — although Iran remains a potential spoiler.
David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. 

The biggest change is the U.S.-Turkish agreement on a plan for closing the Syrian border, with a safe zone tens of miles deep that will be secured mainly by Turkish troops. Officials believe this will cut off supplies for theIslamic State’s “capital” of Raqqa, while U.S. and Turkish warplanes pound the group’s fighters from air bases in Turkey.

The border gap that must be closed is a roughly 60-mile stretch from the Euphrates River to Kilis, north of Aleppo. The border area east of the Euphrates, around Kobane, has already been cleared by Syrian Kurdish forces from the “YPG” militia, operating with U.S. air support.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement and Iranian Energy Exports

AUG 4, 2015 

Much of the examination of the Iran nuclear agreement has focused on the funds that would be released once Iran complied with the terms of the agreement. Some estimates of such funding have gone as high as $150 billion—although U.S. experts put the total at $100 billion and note that some $50 billion of this money has already been obligated.

The other side of the story is how relieving sanctions would affect Iran’s oil and gas exports and export income. This will be a function of how soon Iran complies with the terms of the agreement, how the agreement affects the lifting of sanctions, how much capacity Iran can bring back on line at a given time, Iran’s ability to increase future production, the demand for Iran’s exports, and the nature of the world oil market. It will also be affected by the strategic competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia and other crises in countries like Libya and Iraq.

There is no way to predict how these variables will interact in a climate as volatile as today’s Middle East, much less the broader mix of uncertainties that shape the world oil market. It is possible, however, to highlight the key features of the Iran nuclear agreement that will affect the timing of the lifting of sanctions, using work done by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), the CSIS Energy and National Security Program, and other experts on how sanctions have affected Iran’s exports in the past and the possible implications of current trends.

A War With ISIS is a Battle Against Ideologies

July 31, 2015

Time and time again the concept of being at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is echoed in print, the media, and talks throughout Washington, D.C. Granted ISIS, or the Islamic State (IS) as they like to call themselves, is a formidable foe on the frontlines however, when contemplating the issues at hand, we are not “at war” with ISIS. We are “at war” with an ideology.

This poses the questions: how can we be at war with an ideology, what is it that attracts its members, and can an ideology really be combated?

Presently, some intellectuals propose that healing the socio-political issues facing the Middle East will eventually help eradicate the scourge of radical ideologies in the region. Nevertheless, we also heard this theory when al-Qaeda (AQ) was brought to our attention in the 1990s.

Additionally, when the Arab Spring broke out in 2010, it emitted a feeling of hope across nations that perhaps this was the catalyst of socio-political change that would spark a new era where brutal ideologies could not flourish. The hope that truly democratic nations would be formed in Middle East and North African (MENA) nations lead some to believe that it could put a cap on the growth of extremist notions such as those of AQ’s. Yet over two decades later since AQ came on the scene and subsequently the Arab Spring fizzled out, we are still faced with violent ideologies. Furthermore, the ideology of ISIS has beendescribed as more radical than its predecessors. 

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War

AUGUST 4, 2015

Editor's Note: With the war in Syria showing no signs of abating, we republish our Jan. 21, 2014, weekly explaining the complex geopolitics of the conflict.

International diplomats will gather Jan. 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux to hammer out a settlement designed to end Syria's three-year civil war. The conference, however, will be far removed from the reality on the Syrian battleground. Only days before the conference was scheduled to begin, a controversy threatened to engulf the proceedings after the United Nations invited Iran to participate, and Syrian rebel representatives successfully pushed for the offer to be rescinded. The inability to agree upon even who would be attending the negotiations is an inauspicious sign for a diplomatic effort that was never likely to prove very fruitful.

There are good reasons for deep skepticism. As Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces continue their fight to recover ground against the increasingly fratricidal rebel forces, there is little incentive for the regime, heavily backed by Iran and Russia, to concede power to its sectarian rivals at the behest of Washington, especially when the United States is already negotiating with Iran. Ali Haidar, an old classmate of al Assad's from ophthalmology school and a long-standing member of Syria's loyal opposition, now serving somewhat fittingly as Syria's National Reconciliation Minister, captured the mood of the days leading up to the conference in saying "Don't expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis. The solution has begun and will continue through the military triumph of the state."

Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction

by Anup Shah
February 01, 2015

What Is Global Warming And Climate Change?
Global warming and climate change refer to an increase in average global temperatures. Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in “greenhouse” gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2).

An Act of Empathy

AUGUST 5, 2015

Joshua Oppenheimer’s unsettling new film, The Look of Silence, raises questions about the troubling relationship between global capitalism and western complicity.

In 1967, NBC News aired a segment by veteran documentarian Ted Yates depicting what life under Suharto in Indonesia was like. In the footage, tanks rumble across the countryside, firing cannons into the sky, and armed soldiers scatter frenzied, terrified crowds across a city square. The martial sounds and images then give way to a shot of a water tank overlooking a labor compound, the familiar American household name “Goodyear” emblazoned across its side. “Indonesia has a fabulous potential wealth in natural resources. Goodyear’s … rubber empire is an example,” Yates narrates. Next, there are shots of laborers being marched across a plantation by soldiers and being forced to work the rubber at gunpoint. What he and his crew had captured, Yates said, was a “largely unnoticed victory over the communists” — the ouster of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, by Suharto, a military officer, some two years earlier.

And it’s these scenes from Yates’s 1967 news piece that appear at the beginning of director Joshua Oppenheimer’s new documentary, The Look of Silence, which opened in theaters nationwide on July 31. Oppenheimer has been widely praised by critics and activists alike for his searing and humanizing portrayals of abuses under the Suharto government. His 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing, won a slew of international awards and The Look of Silence — which tells the stories of Suharto’s victims and those they left behind — has received similar acclaim.

Is This the End of Ukraine’s Peace Process?

Mykola Azarov’s call for early elections and “total regime change” in Kiev was a bit of a head-scratcher. The ousted Ukrainian prime minister, after all, is deeply unpopular in his homeland and—with the exception of Ukrainian prosecutors who want to put him on trial—largely forgotten.

But in a high-profile press conference in Moscow on August 3 that was carried live on Russian state television, Azarov announced the creation of a Ukraine Salvation Committee that aims to oust the pro-Western government of President Petro Poroshenko.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Moscow has nothing to do with the initiative. But that has about as much credibility as Peskov’s claim that the$620,000 watch he was photographed wearing at his wedding was a gift. In fact, Azarov’s announcement fits into a pattern that suggests that the Kremlin is giving up on the Minsk accords as a means to achieve its objectives in Ukraine and is shifting to other methods of pressuring Kiev.

The scariest part of climate change isn't what we know, but what we don't

What we think we know, don't know and things that might surprise us about climate change and the environment.

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future": so goes a Danish proverb attributed variously to baseball coach Yogi Berra and physicist Niels Bohr. Yet some things are so important – such as projecting the future impacts of climate change on the environment — that we obviously must try.

An Australian study published last week predicts that some rainforest plants could see their ranges reduced 95% by 2080. How can we make sense of that given the plethora of climate predictions?

In a 2002 press briefing, Donald Rumsfeld, President George W Bush’s Secretary of Defence, distinguished among different kinds of uncertainty: things we know, things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t know we don’t know. Though derided at the time for playing word games, Rumsfeld was actually making a good point: it’s vital to be clear about what we’re unclear about.

So here’s my attempt to summarise what we think we know, don’t know, and things that could surprise us about climate change and the environment.

Things we think we know

Want to Smuggle Drugs into Prison? Buy a Drone.

AUGUST 4, 2015

Joyce Mitchell, the New York prison seamstress who helped Richard Matt and David Sweat escape in June, recently pleaded guilty to smuggling hacksaw blades to the two killers in frozen hamburger meat. But who needs a prison patsy when you can use a drone?

That’s what happened at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio on July 29. According to an incident report provided to Foreign Policy by JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 144.5 grams of tobacco, 65.4 grams of marijuana, and 6.6 grams of heroin were dropped onto the prison grounds by an unmanned plane that afternoon. The news was first reported by the Mansfield News Journal.

Here’s what went down, according to Smith’s report: On July 29, at 2:33 p.m., a fight broke out in the prison’s north recreation yard. Security footage reviewed after the incident revealed a drone flew over the yard and dropped its contraband immediately before the melee began. The loot was tossed over a fence into the prison’s south recreation yard by an inmate. The package was later found in an equipment room. It’s still not clear who was operating the aircraft. The report indicates the incident took place on July 27; Smith said it was a mistake, and that it occurred on July 29.

The future of national security technologies in shaping the battlefield of tomorrow

Brendan Orino  
August 4, 2015 

In a wide-ranging conversation hosted by Michael O’Hanlon of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence on Friday, July 31, representatives from some of America’s leading defense and services companies—LMI, Deloitte, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems—each gave their take on the future of national security technologies and their revolutionary role in shaping the battlefield of tomorrow.

3-D printing and agile software were just some of the technologies touched upon by the panel. Jim Joyce of Deloitte highlighted the specific benefits to expeditionary military units, such as special operations forces, who could use additive manufacturing to break from heavy industrial base supply chains to support increased maneuver. At the same time, cognitive software could enhance military systems to the point that service members “come to the field with systems that are inherently adaptable,” said Dave Logan of BAE. Eventually, systems such as radios might respond autonomously to their environments in real time and help mitigate adverse conditions.

Dirty Little Secrets of the Cyber Business

By Sandra I. Erwin 
August 2015 

It is one of the unwritten rules of venture-funded technology companies that they should stay as far away from government contracts as they possibly can.

Unless they are cybersecurity contracts.

In the cyber business, in fact, the federal government can be the ticket to prosperity. Not so much for the amount of money it spends, but because government networks are ground zero for the cyber wars that are being fought on a daily basis and will continue to be waged for years to come.

“No other customer has tougher problems,” says former U.S. Marine turned venture capitalist Nathaniel C. Fick.

“For an early stage cyber company, having government customers is great,” he says. “Nobody is better than the Defense Department and the intelligence community.”

Fick has drawn such conclusions after three years of running Endgame Inc., a 150-employee software company funded by Bessemer Venture Partners, where he remains an operating partner. The firm has bankrolled hundreds of the most successful companies in the United States.

Operating in an Era of Persistent Unmanned Aerial Surveillance

July 31, 2015


In the year 2000, the United States military used Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) strictly for surveillance purposes and the global commercial UAS market was nascent. Today, the combination of countries exporting complex UAS technologies and an expanding commercial UAS market advances the spread of UAS technologies outside of U.S. government control. The propagation of this technology from both the commercial and military sectors will increase the risk of sophisticated UASs becoming available to any individual or group, regardless of their intent or financial resources. Current and future adversaries, including non-state actors, are likely to acquire and integrate UASs into their operations against U.S. forces. However, U.S. forces can reduce the advantages of abundant UAS capability by limiting the massing of resources and by conducting distributed operations with smaller maneuver elements.

Leveraging the Growth in the Commercial UAS Market

How To Avoid All-Out War in Cyberspace

AUGUST 4, 2015

While some fear the Internet will be a primary battlefield for future societies, this alarmism is a bit premature.
Restraint is the strategic underpinning of how many states confront cyber actions. Despite calls for a response to cyber aggression, the U.S. government still has not decided on a viable reaction given limited options. As David Sanger recounts in the New York Times, “in a series of classified meetings, officials have struggled to choose among options that range from largely symbolic responses … to more significant actions that some officials fear could lead to an escalation of the hacking conflict between the two countries.”

Brandon Valeriano is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, and recently published Cyber War versus Cyber Realities on Oxford University Press. Stephen Coulthart is a Senior Lecturer in the National Security Studies Institute at the University of Texas at El Paso.Full Bio

Ryan C. Maness is a Visiting Fellow of Security and Resilience Studies in the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University. Full Bio


August 5, 2015

Sometimes a technology is so awe-inspiring that the imagination runs away with it — often far, far away from reality. Robots are like that. A lot of big and ultimately unfulfilled promises were made in robotics early on, based on preliminary successes.

– Daniel H. Wilson

The F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly.

– Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy

If ever a technology was awe-inspiring, robotics is it. Robots have a long, storied past in literature, dating back at least to the Iliad — and possibly further back depending on your definition of a robot. Robots have long been widely used in the government and commercial sectors — more so now than ever. But as promising as the technology is in a wide range of areas, air combat is not one of them. The Department of Defense’s interest in unmanned weapons and weapons delivery platforms is understandable, but their actual potential for combat operations is the subject of wild hyperbole. 


Denmark has been a stalwart ally of the United States since 1999, participating in operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, and off of the Horn of Africa, and transporting chemical weapons out of Syria. Last September, Denmark reacted quickly and enthusiastically to the American call to join the anti-Islamic State coalition, contributing a C-130 Herculestransport aircraft early on, 7 F-16s, and 120 soldiers to train Iraqi security forces. The Danish parliament overwhelmingly approved these deployments and the new Danish government of Lars Løkke Rassmussen has pledged to extend the mission when its mandate expires in October, but it is unclear whether the Danish military can continue. The ability of this small country to sustain its deployments for years on end has impressed American defense officials, but it is now cracking under the strain of defense cuts and sustained operations.

The latest alarm came from the chief of the Royal Danish Air Force. Recently, Maj. Gen. M.A.L.T. Nielsen said, “We have a group of employees who have undertaken an extraordinary effort. We engaged in Iraq in October 2014 and have flown more than 4,000 hours, more than 410 missions, and have dropped more than 350 bombs.