26 August 2015

Red rags and preconditions: An opportunity lost between India and Pakistan

By Monish Gulati
24 Aug , 2015

Pakistan on Saturday night called off the first-ever NSA-level talks, with its Foreign Office saying that the proposed talks between the NSAs of the two countries would not serve any purpose, if held as per the two conditions laid down by the Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj. What became a red rag for New Delhi was the invitation by the Pakistan High Commission to Hurriyat leaders to meet Sartaj Aziz ahead of the talks, which had been agreed upon in Ufa in Russia in July during the meeting between the two prime ministers. India responded stating that it had not set any preconditions and that Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate.

PLA: new radars on the Roof of the World

By Claude Arpi
25 Aug , 2015

On August 24, The People’s Daily Online reported that three more unattended radars were soon to be installed in Tibet.
The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party reminds us that China’s “first unattended radar station has stood eight years on the top of Ganbala Mountain, with a height of 5,374 meters above the sea level on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.”

The People’s Daily admits that in October 1965, China had already completed the construction of Kampa-la radar station: “then the highest manned radar station in the world.”

Now, the website affirms that “another three unattended radars were going to be installed in order to form a radar network with the previous one.”

As mentioned on this blog in 2012, Kampa-la (Ganbala in Chinese) is located in Nagartse County of Lhoka/Shannan Prefecture.

A Seismic Shift in India’s Pakistan Policy

August 25, 2015

The much-hyped National Security Adviser (NSA)-level talks between India and Pakistan scheduled for this week may have collapsed even before they could formally start. But the Modi government managed to convey the message that it has been successful in reshaping the terms of New Delhi’s engagement with Islamabad, perhaps forever. This is a seismic shift in India’s Pakistan policy and should be recognized as such.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met in Ufa, Russia on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit last month. They issued a joint statement in which they “condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate the menace of terrorism from South Asia.” It would have been an ordinary meeting but for the fact that the two leaders were meeting for the first time since May 2014 and their meeting came after increased border hostilities in the past few months and the backdrop of India having cancelled secretary-level talks last year. When Modi held his first meeting with Sharif in Delhi soon after becoming the Prime Minister in May 2014, the two decided to hold secretary-level talks which were scheduled for August 2014. But those talks were cancelled by India after Pakistan’s engagement with Kashmiri separatists. So after more than ten months, the Modi government’s decision to re-engage Pakistan was seen by some as New Delhi’s “on again, off again” inconsistent approach towards Pakistan while others hyped it as being a “gamechanger” and a “breakthrough.”

A welcome shake-up of the banking sector

Payments banks along with digital outreach will disrupt the status quo. But they will also serve the unbanked better

One of the key public policy objectives in India is that economic growth should be inclusive, provide opportunities for higher income and better standards of living, and percolate down to the bottom of the pyramid.

Banking and formal financial services play a critical role in this process. As of August 2015, more than 174 million accounts have been opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. The government intends to use the combination of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile) to achieve the national agenda of inclusiveness.

Emergence of smartness

There are several areas where technology can be leveraged to further financial inclusion. Let us look at three such areas.

Extending reach and delivery: Reaching out to the remotest corners across India to open bank accounts is a challenging task and requires innovative channels for delivery of financial services. Financial services delivery via business correspondents’ model is an effective tool and can be made successful by utilising digital tools like smartphones, tablets, bluetooth printers, etc. The scope of expansion is huge as India is currently the second largest smartphone market and number of smartphones is expected to increase manifold to 650 million in the next four years.

Pakistan's NSA Sartaj Aziz blames India for cancellation of talks

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz on Monday blamed India for the cancellation of talks between him and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval. Aziz said that no dialogue could take place between the two countries until New Delhi agreed to discuss the Kashmir issue with Islamabad. Aziz said India needed to be sensitive to Pakistan's priorities, adding that the Indian government was forgetting that Pakistan was a nuclear power as well. “Modi’s India acts as if they are a regional superpower,” Aziz was quoted saying by a Pakistani newspaper. He also called on New Delhi to hold a referendum in Kashmir to let the state’s residents decide their legal status. The talks between the two NSAs were called off by Pakistan on Saturday after India refused to allow Aziz to meet with Kashmiri separatist groups during his visit to New Delhi.

General Hamid Gul: The Bin Laden In Boots

General Hamid Gul was the military equivalent of Osama bin Laden who died with his boots on and blood of the innocents on his hands.
Lieutenant General (retired) Hamid Gul passed away this past weekend. He was perhaps the most vocal Pakistani jihadist general after his former boss General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, with whom he shared his Islamist zealotry and now shares the month of death. Both were equally verbose and fanatical but General Gul's boisterous bravado contrasted sharply with General Zia-ul-Haq's sly viciousness.

General Gul epitomised everything that is wrong — or right depending on which side of a suicide bomber's vest one's loved ones are on- with using jihadist terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. He did not make jihadism the cornerstone of Pakistan's Afghan and India policy but he certainly was its most outspoken advocate and practitioner. His 1987-1989 stint as the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI) was the high-water mark of his otherwise lackluster military career. And even for those two "golden years" he could only show a crushing military defeat at Jalalabad and blatant political subversion and massive jihadist blowback at home.

Losing the plot on India-Pakistan ties?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during a meeting at UFA in Russia on July 10, 2015.

A diplomatic engagement requires a common script, more so the complex India-Pakistan relationship. Somewhere along the way, from Ufa to the cancelled talks in Delhi, it was clear that the plot was lost sight of and the management of the process was reduced to a rhetorical tit for tat

The non-event of talks between the National Securtiy Advisors (NSA) of India and Pakistan, Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz, has generated a fair amount of heat but does it also throw any light on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy towards Pakistan? Crafting a credible Pakistan policy has been a challenge for every Indian Prime Minister since Independence, and each one of them, from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru onwards, has tried to put his or her own personal stamp on it. Yet, it remains a complex relationship, saddled with the bitter legacy of Partition and four inconclusive wars, and mired in hostility which tends to flare up from time to time.

Man Who Finds Massive Fraud, Waste & Abuse in U.S. Government Spending in Afghanistan Has Made Lots of Enemies

Ron Nixon
August 24, 2015

Critiquing U.S. Spending in Afghanistan, to Dramatic Effect

WASHINGTON — When the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an American government watchdog, requested information in June about health clinics in that country funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the aid agency handed over a database with the locations of more than 600 facilities.

But investigators quickly noticed something strange about the data: Coordinates for 13 of the clinics were not even in Afghanistan, and others were off by miles.

The findings were the latest in a series of reports and letters that the special inspector general has released over the past year and a half that have documented waste, abuse and fraud in government-sponsored programs in that country, often to dramatic effect.

Among them were aircraft bought by the United States that the Afghans cannot fly or maintain, troop rosters that cannot be verified and a $335 million taxpayer-supported electrical plant that is rarely used.

India, Pakistan: Why NSA Talks Failed?

Ayesha Tanzeem 
August 23, 2015 

Pakistan finally blinked in what some observers called an absurd game of diplomatic chicken with its rival India. The two countries were to hold National Security Adviser-level talks in New Delhi on Sunday and Monday and had wavered on the meeting for days before Pakistan called them off Saturday night. 

At issue was the agenda of what the NSAs would discuss. India was adamant that the talks would be about terrorism and terrorism alone. Pakistan wanted a broader agenda that included a territorial dispute over Kashmir. 

Each side blamed the other for trying to re-interpret an understanding made in Ufa, Russia last month when India and Pakistan's prime ministers met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. 

But that meeting, and the joint communiqué based on it were “ill conceived” and bound to be “disastrous,” according to Mani Shankar Ayer, an Indian politician and former diplomat who has served in Pakistan. 

Asia's Next Crisis Is Here: North and South Korea Lurch Towards Trouble

August 24, 2015

The South Korean injuries incurred on August 4 from land mines allegedly planted by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has set off an inter-Korean rollercoaster ride punctuated by rising tensions: the first South Korean propaganda broadcasts toward the North in over a decade beginning on August 10. Then, an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ on August 22, an ultimatum from the North demanding that South Korea stop the broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. on August 24 or face all-out war, and finally an agreement hours in advance of the North’s deadline to pursue over thirty hours (thus far) of marathon talks, led by senior military and civilian officials of the two governments at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom.

Whither Regional Cooperation in Southeast Asia's Refugee Crisis?

By Penelope Matthew
August 24, 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.

Prior to being eclipsed by the Syrian refugee crisis, Asia was the region hosting the highest number of refugees. Yet few countries in this region are party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and/or the 1967 Protocol. Sovereignty, sensitivity concerning ethnic minorities, and different levels of economic development are among the reasons for this situation. However, without a commitment to a principled bottom line, it will be difficult to achieve regional cooperation on refugee issues with those states, like Australia, which may have a greater capacity to protect refugees. As it is, even states parties to the Refugee Convention are quite willing to forego the opportunity to cooperate for better outcomes for refugees. In this short piece, I sketch some of the history of refugee protection in the region and discuss why cooperation is lacking and advocate for one good idea that governments should explore.

What’s Driving Change in Central Asia’s Car Industry?

By Bradley Jardine and Greindl Sibylle
August 25, 2015

In Central Asia, local car production is scarce while car import markets have provided a vital source of income and mobility to the population. Now, new customs blocs are changing the rules of the game, largely to the detriment of the region. The automobile industry provides an interesting case study for analysts to explore this compendium of problems and choices affecting local markets, governments, and the general population.

Turkmenistan, Surprises at Customs

Since January, customs officers have refused to allow black cars to enter the country. Furthermore, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced that all government officials must exchange their black cars for white Mercedes-Benz E300 vehicles.

On Display: China's Master Plan to Sink the U.S. Navy

August 24, 2015

Look out, China military watchers. Beijing seems to have displayed some of its most impressive missile technology—technology that would be used to keep the U.S. Navy at bay in the event of a military conflict. And if all works out, we might just get an up-close look in the days to come.
According to a report in China’s Global Times, Beijing displayed some of its most deadly military hardware during a warm-up for its September 3rd World War II commemorations and parade.

Get your cameras and cell phones ready. Logic would suggest such weapons will be displayed in the actual celebrations.

According to various accounts, several types of missiles were paraded, among them some of the most lethal in China’s arsenal.

“The latest weaponry-the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile that could reach a major U.S. base in Guam in the western Pacific, and the most potent missile, the DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile, were seen in the rehearsal,” explained Shao Yongling, a senior colonel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery Command College.

Time for a U.S. Military Strategy to Stop China in the South China Sea

August 24, 2015

As any close observer knows, the South China Sea is a rapidly evolving—and increasingly perilous—strategic arena. China’s assertion that almost the entire sea is “indisputably” Chinese territory has been backed by a rapid buildup of maritime military power and an audacious series of land grabs. The most dramatic of these has been the construction of multiple artificial islands. The military utility of these formations has hardly been disguised. On Fiery Cross Reef, for example, a long military runway with attendant radars is being constructed.

Reactions among Southeast Asian claimants to maritime tensions in the South China Sea have varied along a spectrum of alarm, fear, anger, defiance, and resignation. There is no indication that Beijing regards any of these countries—Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines—as a serious impediment to Chinese ambitions over the near to medium term. 

The only nation seen as capable of seriously constraining China is the U.S. But from Beijing’s standpoint, America has no business “interfering” in a region far from its shores and where its interests are secondary compared to China’s. For Beijing, Washington’s insistence on maintaining a military presence in the South China Sea is provocative, destabilizing and illegitimate. A distinguished Chinese professor speaking at a recent conference in Washington described America as acting like a “gangster boss” in the South China Sea.

Is China’s Soft-Power Bubble about to Burst?

August 25, 2015

In Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Joseph Nye emphasizes the importance of utilizing noncoercive means for achieving desirable strategic outcomes. For great powers, reliance on persuasion, attraction and co-optation are ultimately more sustainable means of maintaining hegemony than outright demonstration and exercise of force. After all, as the Harvard academic correctly points out, great powers will have “to set the agenda and attract others in world politics, and not only force them to change by threatening military force or economic sanctions.” This is the essence of authoritative leadership.

Historically, as Edward Luttwak shows in The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, soft power was an essential element of the Byzantine Empire’s remarkable (millennium-old) staying power, despite the fact that it was, in military and economic terms, only a shadow of the Roman Empire under the rule of Trajan, Hadrian, Pius and Aurelius (AD 98-180). Throughout its repeated cycles of rise and decline, soft power was also at the heart of Imperial China’s enduring tributary system in East Asia, which reached its zenith under the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907). In Day of Empire, Amy Chua shows how it was primarily China’s civilizational prestige and gigantic economic resources that undergirded its status as the preeminent power in the region until the advent of European colonialism.

Are China’s GDP Numbers Believable?

By Eric Tegler
August 24, 2015

Almost immediately after the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics released its second quarter GDP growth estimate of 7 percent in mid-July, a group of China watchers were crying foul. China officially targeted full-year growth of around 7 percent in 2015, a number matched exactly by its reported GDP figures for the first half of the year.

Last week, Forbes ran a piece by hedge fund manager Jay Somaney, who argued that China’s growth is significantly lower. Somaney cited as evidence data points from the precipitous drop in the Chinese stock market and an 8.3 percent drop in exports to a glut in the country’s real estate market and the devaluation of the renminbi (RMB) by Chinese monetary authorities. Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of the commodity trading and mining firm, Glencore, speculated that China’s crackdown on corruption has stalled infrastructure projects, slowing growth well below 7 percent. As this piece was written, the median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg put China’s GDP at 6.3 percent.

Why China Is Its Own Worst Nightmare

August 24, 2015

For all the complexity of China’s interaction with the outside world as it has grown to be a larger geopolitical and economic player over the last three decades, the fundamental principles on which it operates are straightforward and dependable enough. From the time of Deng Xiaoping, China has sought one quality above all in its main partners, be they the United States, the EU, Russia, or China’s neighboring countries – and that is stability and predictability. The mindset of Chinese leaders is that of a victim; they see China as vulnerable, making up for time lost during the “century of humiliation,” and taking its moment to rectify the injustice of this modern history of imbalance. The two decade-long period of strategic opportunity that Jiang Zemin referred to in 2000, which is now three-quarters of the way over, refers precisely to this process of rectification.

Europe’s Impossible Task of Trying to Monitor Thousands of Terrorism Suspects

Adam Nossiter
August 24, 2015

Europe Facing New Uncertainty in Terrorism Fight

PARIS — Two days after a young Moroccan man was thwarted from an apparent plan to cause carnage on a Paris-bound express train, European officials confronted the deepening quandary of what additional steps they could take in the face of such attacks on soft targets, short of paralyzing public spaces or even more intrusive surveillance.

Enhanced security and surveillance measures had already filtered out the young man, Ayoub El Khazzani, 26. But he was one of thousands of Europeans who had come on the radar of authorities as potential threats after traveling to Syria.

The sheer number of militant suspects combined with a widening field of potential targets have presented European officials with what they concede is a nearly insurmountable surveillance task. The scale of the challenge, security experts fear, may leave the Continent entering a new climate of uncertainty, with added risk attached to seemingly mundane endeavors, like taking a train

In fact, the authorities in at least two countries already knew quite a lot about Mr. Khazzani before he surged into notoriety on Friday afternoon: He was on a French list as a security threat, and Spanish officials told news media there that he had traveled to Syria — not in itself an offense, unless he went there for jihad. Had he been living in France, a tough new surveillance law, approved at the end of July by France’s constitutional council, would have likely turned up even more on him.

French Train Gunman Doesn’t Understand Why He Is Being Called a Terrorist

August 24, 2015

France train gunman ‘dumbfounded’ by terrorism allegations

A heavily-armed gunman previously flagged by intelligence services who was overpowered by passengers in a crowded train said he was “dumbfounded” by accusations of terrorism levelled against him, his lawyer said Sunday.

The alleged attacker, named as 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, on Friday evening boarded a high-speed train in Brussels bound for Paris armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Luger automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter.

Witnesses say he opened fire, injuring a man before being wrestled to the floor by three American passengers and tied up, until the train stopped in the northern French city of Arras where he was taken into police custody.

Khazzani has denied any intention of waging a jihadist attack, saying he had merely stumbled upon a weapons stash and decided to use it to rob passengers, according to Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to his case at the beginning of his detention in Arras.

Iraq: Conflict Alert

24 Aug 2015

A wave of protests has brought Iraq to the edge of yet more serious conflict. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has introduced sweeping reforms to halt the deterioration but in a manner that may make things worse. An important course correction is needed if he is to survive politically and Iraq is to avoid what could become in effect a military takeover.

The country has seen protests over the systemic inadequacy of service delivery before, but this crisis lays bare two overriding problems: massive, deeply entrenched corruption and growing militarism heightened by the war against the Islamic State (IS). The power grid’s failure during extreme summer heat was the trigger that turned general discontent into anger about governance and the political class. An ineffectual effort to overcome the crisis and start addressing fundamental problems could turn that anger into fury, precipitating a breakdown of the post-2003 order.

The protests tie into an intra-elite power struggle that opposes the prime minister, a year in office, to Iran-backed Shiite militia commanders whose credibility has been burnished by the war against IS and who seek to capitalise on popular disenchantment to assert control.

We Asked Paula J. Dobriansky: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 25, 2015

The purpose of American power, which includes military, economic, diplomatic, ideological, legal and cultural components, is to protect the entire range of our national-security interests. While we face many pressing domestic challenges, America cannot afford to focus on them alone. Americans cannot be secure and prosperous without a stable, rule-driven international order. Terrorism, refugee flows, pandemic diseases, pollution, cyberattacks, economic decay, nuclear proliferation and military aggression can directly threaten our security and prosperity even when they arise overseas.

We cannot handle these threats successfully in an ad hoc fashion. American power must be continuously applied to maintain political, military and economic international institutions and alliances that, with effective U.S. leadership, can safeguard global stability, economic growth and the rule of law. This does not mean that every foreign dispute or fight concerns us. But we must counter fundamental assaults on the existing global liberal order.

We Asked Yoichi Funabashi: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 25, 2015

The future of American power must be a long-term game of strategic rebalancing—both in the Asia-Pacific region and at home. A momentous shift in economic, military and political power is rapidly taking place in Asia, with global repercussions. The great drama of the twenty-first century will be the trajectory of China’s rise. The challenge posed by China is twofold. An ascendant China is a rival to U.S. power and a potential threat to the post–World War II liberal international order, of which China has been a beneficiary. If Beijing seeks to undermine the existing order and establish an alternative system based on its own Sinocentric strategic vision, then the organizing principles that have laid the foundation for unprecedented peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific are at risk of being overturned.

We Asked Robert W. Merry: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

August 25, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is part of TNI’s special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? You can find all of their answers here. You can also find our exclusive interview with Henry Kissinger here.
America is the most powerful nation in the world, perhaps the most powerful nation in world history. Thus, it has a major global role to play. But foreign policy must focus above all on the interests of the nation itself, and its people. That means, first, protecting vital American interests at home and in our region. It means, second, maintaining the country’s position in the world so that it can successfully execute the first requirement. It means, third, avoiding messy military involvements that undermine America’s global position and sap its resources. If the first job of U.S. foreign policy is to ensure the well-being of the American people, then any action that undermines that well-being, without justifiable longer-term returns, is foolhardy. The hurts and wants of unfortunate peoples caught in the vortex of history don’t come into this equation, as sad as that is.

Spy Satellite and Drone Surveillance in the U.S.

Jeffrey T. Richelson (ed.)
August 24, 2015

Washington, D.C., August 24, 2015. - “FBI spy plane zeroes in on Dearborn
area” was the headline in The Detroit News on August 5, 2015. The story,
which broke the news that the FBI had conducted at least seven surveillance
flights recently over downtown Detroit, also raised a broader issue. It
illustrated the fact that along with the controversy concerning electronic
surveillance activities focused on telephone and e-mail records of United
States citizens there exists a corresponding source of controversy - the use
of satellites and assorted aircraft (manned and unmanned) to collect imagery
and conduct aerial surveillance of civilian targets within the United

Today, the National Security Archive posts over forty documents, many
appearing online for the first time, related to the domestic use of
overhead imagery and the controversy it has generated. Among those documents

- Annual activity reports of the Civil Applications Committee, created in
1975 to provide a forum for interaction between the Intelligence Community
and civil agencies wanting information from “national systems” (Document 2,
Document 4, Document 6, Document 13, Document 16).

Military Situation in the Ukraine and Other Russian Military News

August 24, 2015

Dangerous, Absurd And Very Real

Ukrainian military intelligence has been warning of another offensive in eastern Ukraine (Donbas) and it was supposed to start today, which is the Ukrainian Independence Day. While there were recent major movements of Russian armored vehicles and artillery into Donbas and an increase in ceasefire violations by pro-Russian forces there, the offensive has not happened. At the same time Ukraine is trying to get its constitution changed to offer Donbas a special status that might satisfy Russia and stop the war there. If the Ukrainian president can get the constitutional amendment enacted an offer can be made to Russia to call off their undeclared invasion in return for an autonomous Donbas and a lifting of sanctions. This is a long shot but Ukrainian leaders see the alternative as years (or decades) of this state of war, which has been very expensive for Russia and Ukraine. But the Russian leadership appears split on the idea of any sort of compromise. The Russians have justified this war by convincing the Russian people that NATO attacked Russia first by scheming to take control of Ukraine and make it part of NATO, as was already done in Poland and the Baltic States. Westerners are appalled at the absurdity of this idea but Russia’s East European neighbors have heard it many times in the past as it is the traditional Russia excuse for invading its neighbors. All in the name of self-defense of course. Most Western leaders and news editors don’t know enough about Russian history to appreciate what is going on here. The new NATO members in East Europe are trying very hard to educate their Western friends but it is slow going because this Russian attitude seems so unbelievable. Many aspects of Russian history and culture seem absurd to Westerners, but these things are very real and very dangerous. 

Ukraine believes over 6,800 have died since the Russian aggression in Donbas began in April 2014. In addition to the violence Ukrainian intelligence officials have found evidence of Russia funding Ukrainian opposition parties (which tend to be leftist one, including current or former communists) in order to gain more influence on the government. 

Russia Engages in Military Drills on Europe’s Doorstep

August 25, 2015

Russia and its military partners across Asia have been busy practicing. While the Russian Navy is engaging in exercises with China in the Sea of Japan (which The Diplomat’s Franz-Stefan Gady covered here), its air force has been exercising with units from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)’s Rapid Reaction force (CRRF) is also engaging in exercises. While the CSTO exercises are an annual event, this year’s location has drawn increased attention.

Cooperation 2014 unfolded in Kazakhstan, attended by over 3,000 soldiers from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, focused on “psychological and cyber warfare for the first time.”

Obama’s Disingenuousness on Iran

By David J. Karl
August 24, 2015

Depending on one’s perspective, President Obama’s address at American University earlier this month was either a rousing defense of the Iran nuclear agreementor an egregious instance of political demagoguery. But one thing the speech underscores with certainty is that Mr. Obama’s earlier vows that he was prepared to use military force to prevent Tehran’s atomic ambitions were disingenuous.

These were pledges Obama issued with regularity as the multilateral negotiations with Iran got underway. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he stated that “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” In a media interview shortly afterwards, he emphasized that he was not bluffing about the military option and that “when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” “I don’t bluff,” he emphatically insisted. The president then followed this up by delivering a hard-hitting address to the American Israel Political Action Committee, an influential lobbying group in Washington, stressing that “when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.”

US Military Base in Japan Rocked by Explosion

August 24, 2015

A blast that shattered the U.S. Army’s Sagami General Depot in the city of Sagamihara, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo, causing a fire that burned through the night but injuring no oneAFP reports.

First reports that a bomb had gone off in the warehouse proved inaccurate. “I thought the American military facility came under a terrorist attack,” a security guard told local media. ”Orange sparks were rising quite high. I couldn’t see smoke but smelled something like gunpowder,” an eye witness noted.

The blast occurred at 12:45am on Monday local time and was extinguished at 7:09am by the local fire department, which dispatched 13 trucks to the site of the explosion, according to the Wall Street Journal

There was some confusion what exactly was stored at the depot. “We coordinated with U.S. fire units, and did not spray water as we waited for information related to what was inside,” a Sagamihara fire department official told AFP.

In the US, computer science is (unfortunately) a privilege

Students from lower income backgrounds are less likely to have computers at home or any type of computer science instruction. Which explain why Silicon Valley is so homogenous.

There’s a reason why Silicon Valley has a reputation for being the land of young, white, privileged brogrammers.

If you look at the makeup of students today, white children who grow up in higher-income households with educated parents are more likely to have a computer at home and access to computer science classes, according to a new survey from Gallup that was commissioned by Google. (The report surveyed 1,673 students in seventh to 12th grades, 1,685 parents, 1,013 teachers, 9,693 principals, and 1,865 school district superintendents.)

Hans Morgenthau and Hannah Arendt: An Intellectual Passion

August 25, 2015

IN THE late 1940s, Leo Strauss left the New School for Social Research in New York to take a position at the University of Chicago. Hans Morgenthau, who was a professor in the Political Science Department and on his way to establishing himself as the father of realism, was instrumental in securing the post for Strauss, and the two men, whose life experiences were so very similar, immediately formed a close bond. Morgenthau told an associate that he learned more from Strauss “in a few minutes’ conversation than from hours with other political scientists.” Strauss was equally admiring of Morgenthau. Yet that initial compatibility masked deeper incompatibilities—both in outlook and personality—that weren’t long in coming to the surface and scotched whatever element of sympathy existed between the two men.

Some years later, Hannah Arendt came to Chicago. She and Strauss never got along (though they had known each other since their student days in Germany when, it is said, Strauss courted her). But her relationship to Morgenthau was very different, and also very different from Strauss’s relationship to Morgenthau. In contrast to the Strauss-Morgenthau connection, there always remained a quality of sympathy between Arendt and Morgenthau—colored, it should be said, by an element of the erotic.

New Report on Intelligence Contractor Oversight

Steven Aftergood
August 24, 2015

Intelligence Contractor Oversight, and More from CRS

Effective oversight of intelligence community contractors is a particularly difficult exercise since the reliability of official data on contractor activities is uncertain and most of it is classified and inaccessible to outsiders, a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

“Contractors have been and are an integral part of the intelligence community’s (IC’s) total workforce (which also includes federal employees and military personnel). Yet questions have been raised regarding how they are used, and the size and cost of the contractor component.”

The new CRS report “describes several initiatives designed, or used, to track contractors or contractor employees. [It also] addresses the questions of whether IC contractor personnel are performing inherently governmental functions and whether the IC’s acquisition workforce is equipped to monitor contractors performing critical functions….”

Seriousness of the OPM Data Breach Disputed

August 23, 2015

Intelligence experts agree that redlines need to be drawn but disagree on where to draw them
Catherine Lotrionte (l), director, Institute for Law, Science, and Global Security, Georgetown University and Robert Knake, fellow, Council on Foreign Relations. They discussed the cyberattack on OPM at the Atlantic Council, Aug. 19. (Gary Feuerberg/ Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—On April 15, 2015, officials of the Office of Personnel Management realized they had been hacked and the records of 4.2 million of current and former employees had been stolen. Later investigations by OPM determined in early June that the number affected is 21.5 million, for whom sensitive information, including Social Security Numbers (SSNs), was stolen from the background investigation databases.

This was the biggest breach of United States government data in history. Reports point to China as the source of the breach, but the Administration has not formally accused China.

Remember the Pentagon’s Pacific Pivot? It’s Still On

AUGUST 21, 2015

A new strategy document outlines Chinese activities in the South China Sea and the planned US responses to them. 

The U.S. will continue sending new weapons and equipment to the Asia-Pacific region to counter China, U.S. Defense Department officials say. And in a new strategy document, the Pentagon said it would continue ignoring Beijing’s claims that reclaimed land in the South China Sea constituted sovereign territory.

Marcus Weisgerber is the global business reporter for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for nearly a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of ...Full Bio

Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing had halted land reclamation in the South China Sea. A senior defense official said it was unclear whether that was so.

Philippines, Malaysia Hold Joint Naval Exercises Amid Security Concerns

August 25, 2015

The Philippines and Malaysia are holding naval drills this week as both countries seek to deepen their cooperation in maritime security and transnational crime.

The four-day naval drills, codenamed MTA MALPHI LAUT 18/5, are the 18th iteration of an annual bilateral training exercise between the two Southeast Asian states since a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation was concluded in 1994.

According to Rear Admiral Primitivo Gopo, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) which is hosting the five-day Maritime Training Activity (MTA), the exercises will be held ashore and afloat in Zamboanga City and in the Moro Gulf and focus on maritime security and transnational crime. They will run up to August 28.

The exercises, Gopo added, would consist of three phases and involve 157 sailors from the Philippine Navy (PN) and 136 sailors from the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN). The first phase, the harbor phase, will take place from August 24 to 25 and would involve various activities including courtesy calls, subject matter expert exchange lectures, special operations activities and naval aviation training. The second phase, at sea trials, will occur from August 26 to 27 and involve combined ship maneuvers to address various contingencies at sea. The third and last phase from August 27 to 28 will involve a sports cup activity and other recreational activities before the departure of RMN ships.

Back from the Brink: How the Koreas Made Up

August 25, 2015

The ‘August Crisis’ between South Korea and North Korea appears to have come to a close. As my colleague Franz-Stefan Gady reported, Pyongyang has agreed to apologize for its provocative behavior and, in return, Seoul will cease propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two countries. Seoul resumed broadcasts for the first time in more than a decade after two South Korean soldiers suffered injuries from a North Korean land mine, the first North Korean provocation to result in South Korean casualties since Kim Jong-un took over the Hermit Kingdom.

For long-time observers of the Koreas, it always seemed slim that this period of escalating rhetoric and action would be the one to thrust the Korean peninsula back into all-out war. What may have been less obvious, before the inter-Korean talks kicked off at Panmunjom, were the actions both sides could take to return to the status quo, before the land mine incident. For both states, a resolution that did not allow their leadership to save face would have been intolerable. Fortunately, neither Seoul’s actions nor Pyongyang’s seemingly brazen series of provocations caused a scenario where both Koreas had their backs to the wall. Room for a face-saving compromise was possible as long as Seoul responded to Pyongyang’s provocations carefully.

Confirmed: North and South Korea Reach Agreement to Deescalate Tensions

August 25, 2015

South Korea will get an apology from Pyongyang for its recent military provocations and Seoul will stop broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers into the North, according to an interim-agreement reached by both sides Yonhap News Agency reports.

The negotiations that were taking place in the “truce village” of Panmunjom, inside the demilitarized zone, purportedly ended at 00:55 local time on Tuesday after 40 hours of talk, according to the BBC. Kim Kwan-jin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s national security adviser, lead the South Korean delegation, whereas Hwang Pyong-so, a top military aide to Kim Jong-un represented the North during the negotiations.

In the interim-agreement, to be officially announced soon, Pyongyang will allegedly offer “regrets” over the August 4 incident, in which two South Korean soldiers were severely injured by a landmine explosion and for which the North has been held responsible by the South.