14 August 2015

Operation Safed Sagar

By Air Vice Marshal Satish K Jain
12 Aug , 2015

In the aftermath of Lahore, Feb 99, India was looking forward to easing of tensions with Pakistan. Various confidence building measures were being toyed with. There was hope.

The phoney peace was shattered rudely within a few months. The Pakistani intrusions detected by the Army in the Batalik sector initially seemed like not something extraordinary. The numbers suspected to have intruded were initially thought to be very small, and the task of evicting them was also assessed as relatively easy. It was in this context that the Indian Air Forces (IAF) was asked by the Army on 11 May 99 to send in a few attack helicopters to rocket the intruders. Assessments were made. It was clear that attack helicopters of the class held would not be able to operate in the area reported. Even until much later in May 99, the full nature and extent of the intrusion remained unclear. The IAF also opined that if the intrusions were serious, adequate force with use of properly equipped fixed wing aircraft would have to be used as part of a well orchestrated, thoroughly prepared operation across the frontier. The IAF had also taken note of the large losses taken by helicopters to ground fire in the Vietnam and Afghan wars.

Op Safed Sagar

The (Non)Free Exercise of Religion

AUGUST 10, 2015

As Pakistan marks National Minorities Day, there are a few glimmers of tolerance in a country rife with religious and sectarian violence.

As their nation celebrates National Minorities Day on Tuesday, August 11, many Pakistanis will recall these memorable words:

“You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship….You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

On August 11, 1947, Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, proclaimed that message of acceptance of religious minorities in a historic speech to his country.

Sixty-one years later, in November 2008, Pakistan witnessed another historic event — a Christian being sworn in to its cabinet.

On that day, the new official eloquently echoed that message:

Al Qaeda-Led Syrian Rebel Forces Advance Into Assad Regime’s Heartland in Northwestern Syria

August 11, 2015

To Avoid Losses, Syrian Army Retreats in Key Region: Army Source

BEIRUT — A Syrian military source said on Tuesday the army had retreated to new defensive lines in a region of vital strategic importance to President Bashar al-Assad, seeking to avoid losses at the hands of advancing rebels.

The insurgent advance into the Sahl al-Ghab plain in northwestern Syria has brought rebels including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front to the eastern edge of mountains that form the historical heartland of Assad’s Alawite people.

The rapid advance so close to an area of such importance to Assad underscores the difficulties facing the army and the manner in which Syria is splintering: Assad said last month the army faced a manpower shortage and had given up some areas in order to defend others of greater significance.

The rebels, well supplied and attacking in large numbers, had seized high ground in Sahl al-Ghab in an attack that began some two weeks ago, increasing the risk posed by rebel artillery and guided anti-tank missiles, the military source said.

“The army - to avoid losses and to avoid exposure to artillery and missiles from these areas - has taken up a second defensive line … It has strengthened its positions in this second defensive line,” the source said.

An Assessment of the Military Situation in Afghanistan

August 11, 2015

Afghanistan: The Terminal Phase

The Taliban have been particularly active lately with suicide bomb attacks. Less frequent are attacks meant to take control of territory. This is a sign of frustration, and defeat. The Taliban no longer have the numbers (of gunmen) and cohesion (many factions want to make peace) to fight for territory. Moreover the Taliban found that the post-NATO departure (in 2014) Afghan security forces were more formidable than predicted. That should not have been a surprise, but that is the downside to believing your own propaganda. After all the Afghan security forces consist of Afghans who think like Afghans, can fight like Afghans but have had Western combat training and know how to outfight Afghans. Worst of all, years of terrorizing civilians and the spread of cell phone service have resulted in a situation where the Taliban are much hated and very vulnerable to a telephone call to the local police, army unit or tribal militia leader (out to kill some Taliban for some past atrocity). With the Americans and other foreigners officially gone the most frequently mentioned “foreign enemy” is Pakistan not some Western nation. The Americans are seen as useful allies, although they are too obsessed with curbing corruption and other traditional forms of Afghan hospitality and self-help (like domestic violence and sex with children). 

To further complicate matters there are a growing number of Islamic terror groups switching allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and becoming even more violent and reckless. This is particularly true of some Taliban and al Qaeda groups who feel restrained by defeat or growing calls for peace from many long-time Islamic terrorists. Going ISIL means more suicidal violence and less regard for killing Moslem women and children (traditionally something Afghan warriors avoided). If Islamic terrorism is a disease ISIL appears to be the terminal phase. 

Malik Ishaq and Pakistan’s Sectarian Violence

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

On July 29, 2015, Malik Ishaq, co-founder and current leader of the banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, his two sons Usman and Haq Nawaz, and 11 other militants were killed during a shootout after gunmen attacked a police convoy in which they were being transported, police said. The authorities added: “Malik Ishaq and his sons were arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) a week ago. Following their latest arrest, the police had interrogated them and had subsequently taken them to Shahwala in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district to aid the police in recovering weapons and explosives.”

A CTD spokesman said that 12 to 15 terrorists attacked the police convoy. The subsequent gun battle left at least six police injured. A large cache of weapons and ammunition was recovered from the gunmen and an investigation is underway, the police said.

Pakistan’s Deadly Double Game

Tufail Ahmad
4 August 2015

Tufail Ahmad is a former journalist with the BBC Urdu Service and Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC 

Western journalists are talking of ISIS planning an Armageddon in India. That’s pure exaggeration fed by the ISI

Indian policemen take their positions as their colleagues watch next to a police station during a gunfight in Gurdaspur on 27 July, 2015 (Photo: REUTERS / Munish Sharma) 

After the 27 July terror attacks in Gurdaspur district, India's celebrated former counter-terrorism police officer KPS Gill said: "We need to keep Pakistan aside – now, the attention should actually be on ISIS. I feel Pakistan's state is subservient to ISIS – and the terror attacks in Punjab have undoubtedly been carried out by ISIS." Around the time the terrorists were battling Indian cops in Gurdaspur, American journalist Sara A. Carter was in possession of a 32-page Urdu document supposedly from the Islamic State and penned these words: "(ISIS) has grand ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and triggering a war in India to provoke an Armageddon-like end of the world." Without disrespect to KPS Gill for his extraordinary counter-terrorism service in the 1980s, his claim must be trashed immediately. Both the interpretations by Gill and Carter are false, but India does face a darker threat.

Pakistan Tests Modi's Mettle With Gurdaspur Terror Attack


MUMBAI -- When it was obvious that Narendra Modi would become India's prime minister, Pakistan grew alarmed. Modi's party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is the party that gave India its nuclear status. Indians voted for Modi and the brave India he promised in hopes that his government would not indulge Pakistani predations, and punish them instead.

Pakistan has developed one core strategy in dealing with India over the decades: deploy Islamist militants to attack India while seeking cover from retaliation under its nuclear weapons. It should be noted that while Pakistan is most notorious for supporting Islamist terrorists, it also supports religious and ethnic insurgencies within India as well. Pakistan not only seeks to use terrorism to illegitimately acquire territory in Indian Kashmir, it also wants to resist India's rise in the international system. Until the Modi administration, Pakistan has remained fairly confident that India will not respond militarily to punish Pakistan for its state-sponsored terrorism or to deter it from doing so in the future.

Asia’s Growth Far From Finished

August 12, 2015

China’s slowdown may have rattled markets, but Asia is still expected to remain the world’s economic growth engine through the end of the decade, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
In a July 29 presentation, Duncan-Innes Ker, EIU regional editor for Asia, said Asia stood out as the only economic region recording fast rates of growth, in stark contrast to the Eurozone’s woes, conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and stagnation in much of Latin America.

According to the EIU, South Asia is expected to lead the pack with an average of around 7 percent annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth through to 2019, followed by China (over 6 percent) and ASEAN at 5 percent. In contrast, Latin America is forecast to post around 2.5 percent GDP growth, slightly ahead of the United States at over 2 percent and exceeding the Eurozone’s 1.5 percent. Russia props up the tail of its forecasts, at a predicted 0.5 percent expansion.

In 2015, China alone could increase GDP by some $700 billion based on its forecast growth rate of 6.8 percent, compared to the over $400 billion rise predicted for the world’s largest economy, the United States and under $200 billion for India.

The South China Sea Crisis Threatens to Boil Over


While it has fallen off of the front pages in the West, a slow-motion crisis in the South China Sea sparked by Beijing’s determination to create a series of naval base and airstrip-capable islands in the middle of a disputed island chain has not abated. The Chinese may have taken a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook; they have stealthily provoked a conflict in their neighborhood and prosecuted it at a pace just slow enough to bore Western observers into complacency. But as the summer wanes, that simmering conflict in the Pacific threatens once again to boil over.

On July 20, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) announced a series of snap naval drills would begin within two days off the coast of the Hainan Island, near the disputed Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea. During those exercises, no other vessel would be allowed into the zone that China declared would be its area of operations. The People’s Republic of China insisted that their annual exercises were purely defensive and routine, but Vietnam, which disputes China’s claim to the Parcels and the waters surrounding the islands, bitterly condemned the provocation. The defense ministry in Hanoi insisted that the PRC should conduct “military exercise that [do] not target any other country.” Within 24 hours of China’s decision to hold naval exercises, “a strange iron-clad Chinese ship” reportedly targeted and gave chase to two Vietnamese fishing vessels off the equally disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese ship allegedly fired water cannons at one of the Vietnamese vessels and eventually collided with it. Two days later, another Vietnamese ship was rammed by what may have been the same Chinese boat.

Private Lending in China: Out of the Shadows?

By Susan Finder
August 12, 2015

As I wrote in June, the Chinese courts are flooded with private (or “shadow”) lending cases, involving increasingly large amounts of money. The law on shadow lending is particularly unclear and fluid, causing uncertainty for debtors, lenders, and judges. Government recognition of internet lending and P2P lending, now at an early stage, means that many more shadow lending disputes are destined for the already stressed court system.

On August 6 the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) issued what it calls a “judicial interpretation” to set out basic rules for private lending. This private lending judicial interpretation, which will become effective on September 1, applies to P2P internet platforms but not internet platforms operated by entities regulated by financial regulators.

China Promises More Investment in 'Post-Ebola' West Africa

August 12, 2015

From August 8 -10, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited to Sierra Leona, Liberia, and Guinea – the three countries most devastated by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As of the latest World Health Organization figures, the outbreak, which was officially reported in March 2014, had resulted in over 27,000 cases and 11,281 deaths.

As The Diplomat reported previously, China mounted an historic response to the Ebola crisis. Beijing sent aid and medical teams to the affected countries, marking the first time China offered such aid to combat a foreign health crisis. The People’s Liberation Army has been particularly active in offering aid and assistance, breaking new ground in its drive to take on “new historic missions.” Xinhua reports that China’s total aid to affected countries was worth $120 million.

Is Indonesia Really Open to Joining the TPP?

August 12, 2015

Last week, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economics Sofyan Djalil said that Indonesia is now open to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement following the Trade Promotion Authority victory U.S. President Barack Obama secured in Congress last month (See: “Finishing the TPP: It’s Not Just About the US Congress”).

“Many policymakers in Asia didn’t believe that President Obama will get the mandate,” Djalil told Reuters in an interview last Friday. “TPP is now getting closer and closer to reality, and now the option is to join it or you’re left out.”

“Of course we have to look at it, we have to study it comprehensively… But, in principle, we don’t have any problem,” Djalil said. He added that Indonesia was now studying the potential impact of TPP on its foreign trade.

This Is Why a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea Can't Wait

August 11, 2015

At regional meetings in Kuala Lumpur recently, China attempted to reassure regional nations of its peaceful intentions and deflect attention from its destabilizing activities in the Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea. Speaking to reporters, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing had halted dredging sand to build artificial islands. “China has already stopped. You just take an airplane to take a look,” he maintained.

But Wang said nothing about ongoing construction and militarization of several land features. A 10,000-foot runway is nearly complete on Fiery Cross Reef, and according to Pacific Commander Harry Harris, the Chinese appear to be building hangars for tactical fighters. Satellite imagery also suggests that China may be getting ready to build a second runway on nearby Subi Reef. Early warning radar stations, military barracks, helipads, and lookout towers have been installed on several features and harbors large enough to receive tankers and major surface combatants are being built.

Wang Yi’s remarks were timed to coincide with a series of high level meetings in Malaysia this week led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in which the United States participates. Pressure has been building on China to exercise self-restraint and engage in purposeful dialogue aimed at lowering tensions in the South China Sea.

Get Ready: China-Japan Tensions Set to Flare over East China Sea

August 12, 2015

China has been raising blood pressures for some time over its actions in the South China Sea. From its aggressive advocacy of territorial and jurisdictional claims to its expansive land reclamation activities, there are “serious questions about Chinese intentions,” says Adm. Harry Harris, Commander of United States Pacific Command.

However, the attention given to events in the South China Sea may soon shift north, as China and Japan slowly ramp up pressure on each other in the East China Sea. Three recent developments have the potential to escalate tensions between these Asian powers—and due to its alliance commitments to Japan, the United States as well.

Beijing and Tokyo’s territorial dispute over the Senkakus (Diaoyu in Chinese) is nothing new. China disputes Japan’s claim that, in the closing days of the Sino-Japanese War, the islands wereterra nullius—no man’s land—and Tokyo had the right to incorporate them. Tensions over the islands have grown in recent years, after a Chinese fishing trawler intentionally rammed two Japan Coast Guard vessels in 2010, and Tokyo purchased some of the islands from their private owners in 2012. An outburst of provocative Chinese military and coast guard activity in the skies and waters around the islands followed these events. These activities have since become commonplace. In other words, a tense new normal was established, but it is increasingly stressed by three developments.

AUG 11, 2015

A few days ago, I spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the politics of the Iran deal (you can find the full interview here), and at one point in our conversation I put to Kerry what I thought was—to be honest—something of a gimme question: “Do you believe that Iranian leaders sincerely seek the elimination of the Jewish state?”

Kerry responded provocatively—provocatively, that is, if you understand Iranian leaders, and in particular the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the way I understand them: as people theologically committed to the destruction of Israel. Quotes such as this one from Khamenei help lead me to this conclusion: “This barbaric, wolflike, and infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” The supreme leader does not specialize in nuance. (Here is a long list of statements made by Iranian leaders concerning their desire to bring about an end to Jewish sovereignty in any part of the ancestral Jewish homeland.)

Kerry’s stated understanding of the regime’s anti-Semitism is somewhat different from mine. He told me, “I think they have a fundamental ideological confrontation with Israel at this particular moment. Whether or not that translates into active steps, to quote, ‘Wipe it,’ you know …”

Kyrgyzstan’s Risky Open Borders Experiment

By Samuel Ramani
August 11, 2015

Last week, Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Askar Beshimov announced that Kyrgyzstan would open its borders to other Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member states, once Kazakhstan’s president ratifies Kyrgyzstan’s membership in the trade bloc. While this announcement occurred under the radar of the Western press, Kyrgyzstan’s decision is a significant step towards turning Putin’s customs union into an institution that resembles the EU in its free movement of human capital.

Open borders in the EEU will be economically beneficial as they can facilitate intra-regional trade. If Kyrgyzstan can break down trade barriers with Kazakhstan, it will take an important step towards reducing its dependence on remittances from a sanctions-hit Russian economy. Supporters of an open borders policy also highlight the humanitarian benefits. Amnesty International implored Central Asian countries during the 2010 unrest in Southern Kyrgyzstan to open their borders to Uzbeks fearing persecution. The lack of consensus on this issue prevented Kyrgyzstan’s borders from opening fully and had a demonstrably negative humanitarian impact.

Debunked: Why 5 Criticisms of the Iran Deal Are Wrong

August 12, 2015

As the U.S. Congress debates the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran, public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the agreement. Meanwhile, many analysts and politicians have levied strident critiques against the deal, warning of nightmarish scenarios if the agreement goes though. It is thus more important than ever to carefully consider such critiques, both in terms of their logic and the relevant historical evidence that bears on their plausibility.

This piece considers five of the most common criticisms of the agreement. Likemany other observers, I conclude that most of these criticisms are weak, either logically or when viewed through the lens of history. The deal is highly unlikely to (1) increase the odds of Iran going nuclear, to (2) undermine U.S. nonproliferation credibility, to (3) set off a nuclear domino effect, or (4) to lead to full-scale U.S-Iranian accommodation. While the deal might embolden Iran to some extent, this emboldenment would likely be less than would occur if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, an outcome the deal will help prevent. The deal is without a doubt much stronger than most of its critics would have you believe.

1. The deal increases the odds of Iran ultimately acquiring nuclear weapons.

Will Turkey Drag America Into Its Kurdish War?

August 12, 2015

Even the best metaphor fails to describe the insanity of Turkey’s attack on the militant Kurdish group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) along with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham). From 1984 until 2013, the Turkish state fought the PKK in an inconclusive conflict that claimed 40,000 lives. Although the new cycle of violence is a replay of the same dumb conflict, Turkey, much like in Albert Einstein’s definition, expects different results.

Fighting the PKK at the same time as ISIS is not only crazy, it is also detrimental to the interests of Turkey and the United States.

Turkey’s latest horror show started on July 20th when an ISIS suicide bomber killed 32 youth activists and injured another 104 in the Turkish town of Suruç. The young folks were headed to the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane for aid work. The PKK accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and their Justice and Development Party (AKP) of harboring sympathies for ISIS, and began attacking Turkish military and police forces.

How the Iran nuke deal gives India room in the Greater Middle East

Written by C. Raja Mohan
July 15, 2015

Iran’s rise as a regional actor will also open new options for India in Afghanistan amidst the current gloom about New Delhi’s declining capacity to influence the events in the country.

The historic nuclear accord between Iran and the international community unveiled in Vienna on Tuesday helps remove a number of recent constraints on Indian foreign policy. As they facilitate a larger Indian role the Greater Middle East, the consequences of the nuclear agreement also present New Delhi with a number of new geopolitical challenges.

Over the last decade, the deepening tensions between Washington and Tehran had threatened India’s prospects for reconciliation with the global nuclear order, prevented it from an effective pursuit of energy security, limited its options in stabilising Afghanistan, and weakened its ability to cope with violent religious extremism.

The accord, which blocks Iran’s pathways to assembling a nuclear weapon on short order in return for lifting most of the sanctions on Tehran, vindicates New Delhi’s prudent strategy that acknowledged the problems with the Iranian nuclear programme, called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, and focused on India’s own liberation from atomic sanctions.

White House Blocks Pentagon Report on Russian Treaty Breach

BY: Bill Gertz 
August 11, 2015

The White House is blocking the release of a Pentagon risk assessment of Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to a senior House leader.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, disclosed the existence of the Pentagon assessment last month and said the report is needed for Congress’ efforts to address the problem in legislation.

“As we look to the near-term future, we need to consider how we’re going to respond to Russia’s INF violations,” Rogers said in an Air Force Association breakfast July 8. “Congress will not continue to tolerate the administration dithering on this issue.”

Rogers said the assessment was conducted by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and noted that it outlines potential responses to the treaty breach.

However, Rogers noted that the assessment “seems to stay tied up in the White House.”

Boko Haram Reverting Back to Strategy of Suicide Attacks

August 11, 2015

‘Strategy rethink needed’ as Boko Haram shifts to suicide attacks

A west African regional force set up to fight Boko Haram will need “local intelligence” to root out Islamic insurgents forced on the run by national army offensives, security experts say.

“With Boko Haram reverting to acts of terrorism and hit-and-run armed raids… Nigeria and her allies will need to secure a reliable and extensive local intelligence network,” said Ryan Cummings of security firm Red24.

Nigeria’s neighbours Chad, Cameroon and Niger, which have all suffered attacks by Boko Haram, launched a regional force earlier this year to end a conflict that has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 2009.

But the Joint Multinational Intervention Force (MNJTF), which also includes Benin and is expected to number some 8,700 troops and police, has yet to go into action.

Meanwhile, national armies have succeeded in scattering Boko Haram militants to remote, inaccessible areas.

Many of the insurgents are hiding out in Lake Chad, a shallow, marshy water body dotted with hundreds of islets, and in Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest near the border with Cameroon.

US Navy Ships to Move to Vietnam for Asia’s Largest Annual Humanitarian Mission

August 11, 2015

From August 17-28, U.S. Navy ships will be in Vietnam for the annual U.S.-led Pacific Partnership mission, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pacific Partnership, led by the U.S. Navy in partnership with other like-minded countries and non-governmental organizations, sees the combined force visiting several host nations every year and engaging in a variety of local outreach efforts to improve boost capabilities, build relationships and bolster collective ability to respond to natural disasters. It began in 2006 following the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia.

Vietnam is one of the seven host nations on the list for this year’s Pacific Partnership in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. According to the U.S. Navy, the inclusion is intended to underscore the deepening relationship between both countries, including in the maritime realm. This year marks the sixth time a Pacific Partnership mission has visited Vietnam, with the country also involved last year.

US-Thailand Relations on a Razor’s Edge

August 11, 2015

Could a further postponement of elections in Thailand trigger a more punitive U.S. response to last year’s democracy-suspending coup and subsequent heavy-handed military rule? Recent reports indicate the ruling junta’s roadmap to elections could be delayed from September 2016 to April 2017 if the military-appointed National Reform Commission rejects next month a draft constitution that aims to reorder the country’s turbulent politics. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha vowed upon seizing power in mid-2014 to restore democracy by late 2015, but as delays mount that narrative seems more geared to ease international pressure than reinstate civilian rule.

The U.S. has been a consistent critic of the coup and its authoritarian aftermath, a position the State Department has advanced on democratic principle to the detriment of the wider strategic relationship. U.S. envoys have doggedly emphasized the need to quickly hold new polls to restore normal ties, including a full resumption of now suspended high-level strategic dialogue, downgraded joint military exercises and trainings, and curtailed sales of certain types of weaponry and defense equipment.

Jailed Tajik Opposition Politician Given Additional Time

August 12, 2015

Zaid Saidov, a would-be Tajik opposition candidate and former businessman, has had three years added to his 26-year prison sentence, Asia-Plus reports. Saidov has been serving a 26-year term in prison since his December 2013 conviction in Tajikistan for fraud, bribery, rape and polygamy in a trial human rights organizations and Saidov’s supporters say was politically motivated.

Originally, prosecutors wanted to add 25 years to Saidov’s existing sentence and the court decided on 20 years for the new charges. The new charges were for forgery, abuse of office, embezzlement, and tax evasion and the case nominally revolved around construction of the Dushanbe-Plaza Center and alleged illegal privatization of a joint-stock company in conjunction with Saidov’s time as the Tajik Minister of Industry from 2002 to 2007. But, according to Asia-Plus, Tajik legislation limits the overall period of imprisonment to 30 years. By adding three years to Saidov’s existing sentence he will serve 29 years in prison.

America's Pivot Faces a Credibility Crisis

By Richard Javad Heydarian
August 12, 2015

In response to Beijing’s massive reclamation activitiesacross the Spratly Islands, giving birth to a sprawling network of military bases and advanced facilities on a string of disputed features, the United States hasstepped up its reconnaissance missions in the area, presenting a more-than-just-symbolic challenge to Chinese assertion of sovereignty in international waters.
Diplomatically, the Obama administration has stood by its Southeast Asian allies, with the latest ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) — and the Shangri-La Dialogue before that — showcasing a verbal tusslebetween Washington and Beijing. While China hubristically adopted a “don’t even mention it” position vis-à-vis the South China Sea disputes, the U.S. reiterated the relevance of addressing the maritime spats for international security.

In the end, the ASEAN found enough encouragement to not only reiterate its “serious concern” over the troubling trajectory of the disputes, but the Malaysian leader Najib Razak also went so far as declaring it was time for the region to “take a more active role” in resolving the South China Sea disputes.

Watch Out, China: America Sends Most Advanced Bombers to Asia-Pacific

August 12, 2015

The United States sent three of its most advanced bombers to the Guam base this week, according to the U.S. Air Force.
In a press release published on its website on Monday, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command said that “Three B-2 bombers and approximately 225 Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug. 7 to conduct familiarization training activities in the Pacific region.”

The statement added: “This training deployment demonstrates continuing U.S. commitment to regular, global strategic bomber operations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

No other details were provided in the statement, however, it is likely that the bombers were on a routine training mission. Indeed, in early August 2014, three B-2s deployed to Guam from Whiteman Air Force Base as part of an Air Force Global Strike Command training exercise.

The United States has hosted a bomber fleet at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam since 2004, according to The Aviationist. These normally stationed bombers, however, usually consist of the less advanced B-1 and B-52 bombers.

This is Why Russia's T-80 Tank Is a Total Disaster

August 11, 2015

The T-80 is a glaring lesson in why heavily-armored tanks can hide major weaknesses. Once considered a premium tank by the Russian military establishment, T-80s suffered savage losses to lightly armed guerrillas during the First Chechen War. The tank’s reputation never recovered.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The T-80 was the last main battle tank to come out of the Soviet Union. It was the first Soviet tank to mount a gas turbine engine, giving it a top road speed of 70 kilometers per hour and an efficient power-to-weight ratio of 25.8 horsepower per ton.

This made the standard T-80B one of the most nimble tanks to come out of the 1980s.

The Chechen rebels’ combat prowess–and poor Russian tactics–was more responsible for the T-80’s losses than the inherent design. Though, it did have one major flaw. But in the end, it was too expensive and guzzled too much fuel. The Russian military grew to favor the more economical T-72 series instead.

Beware Ukraine's Rising Right Sector

August 12, 2015

As tensions continue to rise under the fragile ceasefire in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the central government must now redirect its energy to a domestic issue in the west.

On July 11, violence broke out in Mukachevo, just east of the Slovakian and Romanian borders. The dispute began when local police accused the ultranationalist Right Sector group of smuggling cigarettes. Right Sector members are no ordinary citizens—they have military-grade weapons and serve independently on the front lines against Russian-backed rebels. The conflict remains unresolved, with Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh accusing Kiev of attacking its own, rather than focusing on the war in the east. As Right Sector surfaces once again, it is helpful to revisit the group’s origins to examine the impact the group may have on the conflict in the Donbas.

America: Oil's New Swing Producer

August 12, 2015

A new system now dominates global oil markets. Part of it rests on enhanced North American production capabilities. Just as important is how cash needs among other suppliers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, force them to sell just about all the oil they have just about all the time, almost regardless of price. This combination of circumstances has thrust North American operations into the position of what the industry calls the “swing producer,” effectively the source that varies to balance global supply with demand. The structure is still relatively new, but it promises the world fewer violent price moves than during the past half century. There are, however, circumstances in which it will break down.

Puerto Rico's Debt Dilemma: America's Little Greece?

August 11, 2015

Puerto Rico distills 70 percent of the rum consumed in the United States. We might surmise that both borrowers and lenders were imbibing too much if they failed to foresee the island territory’s recent default. Puerto Rico has been in a recession for a decade with little sign of emergence. A chronic budget deficit, a bloated public sector, an economy in shambles and highly tax-advantaged bonds that encouraged investors to stay too long were all warning signs to observers.

The Puerto Rican labor force has declined 10 percent from its peak in 2000 (from over 1 million in 2000 to 900,000 as of June 2015). A quarter of all people employed on the island work for the government—either “state” or local. A declining labor force is symptomatic of a negative trend in the overall population for the island, with a more than a 7-percent decline since the 2004 peak. The GDP has followed population and the labor force lower, exacerbating the debt/GDP ratio in the process.

What Nehru wanted from new Google CEO Sundar Pichai and how IIT (sort of) forgot him

How many Satyam Shivam Sundaram jokes can the world take?
The Indian Institutes of Technology have another feather in their cap, and this one's particularly impressive. Sundar Pichai, born P Sundarajan, was on Tuesday appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of search engine and tech behemoth Google. Pichai takes over from Larry Page, co-founder of Google, and will officially be overseeing everything from the ubiquitous search engine to the equally omnipresent Android operating system for phones to YouTube.

In getting there, Pichai has managed to rack up one of the most impressive resumes of all. So impressive that it's giving a complex to those who were around him in his earliest years: his Wikipedia page has turned into something of a battleground with people fighting over which Chennai school he actually went to.

Weapons of maths destruction: are calculators killing our ability to work it out in our head?

Smartphones double as calculators and are attached to our hip 24/7. Does the ubiquitous access to calculators affect our ability to do maths in our heads like we used to?

Since the 1980s we have had access to calculators of various types. Today, we can include computers and smartphones – which are attached to our hip 24/7. So does this ubiquitous access to calculators affect our ability to do maths in our heads like we used to?

Thirty years ago calculators promised immense opportunity – opportunity, alas, that brought considerable controversy. The sceptics predicted students would not be able to compute even simple calculations mentally or on paper. Multiplication, basic facts, knowledge would disappear. Calculators would become a crutch.

What has nuclear physics ever given us?

It's not just about weapons, nuclear science has changed practically everything around us - for the better.
This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the birth of nuclear physics, when Ernest Rutherford, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden’s experiments at the University of Manchester led them to conclude that atoms consist of tiny, positively-charged nuclei orbited by negatively-charged electrons.

This year is also the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb, dropped on Hiroshima. Though their discoveries led to the harnessing of nuclear energy as a weapon, it should not be forgotten that the purpose of Rutherford, Geiger and Marsden’s experiments, as with much of scientific research, was simply to understand nature. And in this they succeeded, handing us an understanding that has changed forever how we see the fabric of the world, and one which had led to much good, too.

Nuclear physics, a window on the world

Compiling a Comprehensive Database of IP Addresses Containing Malware And Informing the Public

Maria Korolov
August 11, 2015

New IP address blacklist based on Web chatter

Traditionally, blacklists of malicious IP addresses are assembled using honeypots and intrusion detection systems but a new approach, analyzing chatter on the dark and open Web, can find malicious addresses that would have been otherwise missed.

According to Recorded Future, an analysis of 700,000 Web sources resulted in 67,563 IP addresses associated with at least one type of malware – and 1,521 particularly dangerous IP addresses that were associated with at least two types of malware.

Of these addresses, 91 percent of the smaller list and 98 percent of the larger list were new to security researchers, and did not show up on existing blacklists.

One major difference between the new list and traditional lists is the higher percentage of “outbound” malicious addresses.

“An inbound address is when someone is attacking your system from an external address, trying to get in,” said Staffan Truvé, chief scientist and co-founder at Recorded Future. “An outbound address is when an intruder is already in your systems, and is trying to connect to the outside world to exfiltrate data.”

PBOC's Move: Not a Currency War, But Not a Good Sign

August 12, 2015

The People’s Bank of China announced on Tuesday morning that it would initiate a “one-off depreciation” the renminbi by just under 2 percent. It justified the move by saying that this would ensure a more market-based rate for China’s currency—after weeks of bad economic news out of China, all signs have pointed toward a downward adjustment in the yuan. The move marks the biggest single-day move for the renminbi since 2005, when China let the renminbi float within a managed range, ending its days a fixed-rate currency pegged to the dollar. (A move that was, at the time, welcomed by the Bush administration.)

The reasons why the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, chose to devalue the renminbi at this time are more complex than they may appear on first glance. On first glance, it’s difficult to–and indeed unwise–to not read this move by the PBOC in light of the recent volatility in the Chinese stock market. The Shanghai Composite index saw its biggest drop since 2007 last month, casting doubt on the health of the Chinese economy overall. As China transitions from the investment-driven growth model that propelled it to the top of the global economic food chain to a demand-driven model, based on consumer spending, these sorts of growing pains were perhaps inevitable.

How Drones Can Find And Hack Internet-Of-Things-Devices (IoT) From The Sky; Hackers Can Take Over Door Locks, Alarm Systems, And Any Devices Connected To The IoT

August 9, 2015 ·

How Drones Can Find And Hack Internet-Of-Things-Devices (IoT) From The Sky; Hackers Can Take Over Door Locks, Alarm Systems, And Any Devices Connected To The IoT

Mohit Kumar, writing in the August 7, 2015 edition of TheHackerNews.com, notes that “security researchers have developed a Flying Drone with a custom-made tracking tool — capable of sniffing out data from the devices connected to the Internet — better known as the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Under its — Internet of Things Map Project, a team of researchers at the Texas-based firm — Praetorian — wanted to create a searchable database that will be the Shodan search engine for SCADA devices.”

Located More Than 1,600 Devices Using a Drone

“To make it possible, the researchers devised a drone with their custom built connected-device tracking appliance,and flew it over Austin, Texas in real-time. During an 18-minute flight,” Mr. Kumar wrote, “the drone found nearly 1,600 Internet-connected devices, of which 453 IoT devices are made by Sony; and, 110 by Philips.”

How Did They Locate Internet-Of-Things Devices?