25 September 2015

*** Europe’s new geography

WASHINGTON – A vast crumbling can be heard across Europe, coupled with an ennui that is the ironic upshot of being stunned by too many disparate crises. The Mediterranean, it turns out, is not the southern border of Europe: Rather, that border lies somewhere in the Sahara Desert from where African migrants coalesce into caravans headed north. And as they have throughout history, the Balkans still form a zone of human migration from the Near East.

For decades, the dream of the European Union was to become a post-national paradise of prosperity and the rule of law, and gradually, through various association agreements, extend the bounties of civil society to contiguous regions. Now the process is being reversed: The contiguous regions are exporting their instability into Europe itself. Eurasia, a supercontinent of historic exoduses, is starting to reintegrate Europe.

This tumultuous process occurs as the social welfare state — the moral answer of European elites to the carnage of the 20th century — has become nearly impossible to sustain at its current level in some countries. The prolonged multi-year stagnation, exacerbated by bad monetary policy, has begot populist movements that will turn against the latest wave of refugees once the initial bout of public compassion runs its course.

UNSC Reforms: India must make most of the momentum

By Chayanika Saxena
24 Sep , 2015

With the baggage of a moribund predecessor to tow around, the inception of United Nations was seen as a moment when initiatives geared at creating and sustaining international security could be reclaimed. Claiming to have learnt from a past that was bridled with many moments of delinquency, inefficiency and indifference, the creation of the UN was treated as yet another, but a conclusive step towards installing a global society, albeit of a kind that was to be led by some leaders. Acknowledging that the realization of a harmonious order would inevitably demand the placation of those who were ruling the roost of nation-states at that moment, the United Nations was created with a beefed-up and more powerful Security Council that was to be at the helm of all its binding affairs.

This major power vested in the P5 in the UNSC is well-known and is contained in a small, but powerful word – Veto.

Drones: The Game Changers in Future Wars

By S Gopal
22 Sep , 2015

High operational reliability is an essential prerequisite for UAVs. A good engine is the most difficult aspect in the designing of a UAV. Designers have to make sure that the engine can support the airframe and the UAV has a low signature through low vibration. It should be able to support long-endurance missions over the target. Another area of operational reliability for a UAV comes from its airframe, which should be able to support the mission in all types of conditions, especially rough weather. There is a flipside to the development of the drones globally. A recent report by the Rand Corporation warned that, in the future, terrorist groups might be able to buy small, armed drones, “Smaller systems could become the next IEDs – low-cost, low-tech weapons that are only of limited lethality individually but can cause considerable attrition when used in large numbers over time.”

In all, 87 nations in the world today possess drones and conduct surveillance…

What’s New in the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

September 23, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015.

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker co-convened, with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of State Nirmala Sitharaman, the new U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue(S&CD). India and the United States have been convening astrategic dialogue since 2010, so the change this year elevated discussion of economic and commercial issues to the cabinet level alongside the central matters of security and global diplomatic concerns. 

Economic issues were always part of the previous strategic dialogues with India—I staffed three of them from 2011 to 2013 so can attest—but in raising this set of bilateral issues to the cabinet level, and by including the commercial agencies on both sides, the new structure signals a higher level of importance for economic and commercial matters. It also, notably, revises the structure of the dialogue to parallel the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. That change was lost on no one, and Minister Swaraj expressly invoked it during the press conference which followed the dialogue. The U.S.-India economic relationship may be one-sixth the size of U.S.-China, but the dialogues now look similar. 

Declassification of all Netaji files is the only way to stop propagation of fantasies as fact

These files do not contain anything of real substance about Netaji and could only reveal a few dishonourable things done by some senior officials in post-Independence governments, writes his grand nephew.

I received a touching email from a young academic friend offering me profuse apologies. He had discovered to his horror from recently declassified files that his grandfather-in-law, a high-ranking police officer in the years after Independence, had been conducting surveillance on my father Sisir Kumar Bose from the Kolkata Intelligence Branch and relaying that information to New Delhi. Sisir had driven his uncle Subhas Chandra Bose during the great escape of 1941 from Calcutta to Gomoh and suffered imprisonment in Presidency Jail, the Red Fort, the Lahore Fort and Lyallpur Jail between 1942 and 1945. I wrote back appreciating my friend’s sentiment and assuring him that neither he nor his wife was responsible for his grandfather-in-law’s deeds. It was the tragedy of colonial rule that the British were able to use Indian agents against Indian freedom-fighters. The post-Independence government unfortunately continued that awful practice. My father became a renowned paediatrician after Independence and also set up the Netaji Research Bureau in 1957. The surveillance on him continued until 1972.

OWAISI POLITICS IN SECULAR INDIA – A Replica of Pre-Independence Islamism?

By R.Upadhyay

Asaduddin Owaisi, president of All India Majlish-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) who has of late gained national audience is now trying his luck in BIHAR Assembly election in the four districts where Muslims are the deciding factor.

His religion based representative politics for Muslims in secular India and controversial statement that “everyone is born a Muslim and then he is converted to other religions” might have satisfied the Islamists lobby within Indian Muslim society but such politics is apparently a repeat of the separatist politics of Jinnah. Instead of advancing the cause of people’s interest, his politics exclusively for the Muslims reminds the people of Pakistan Movement.

Suffering from the delusion of the DNA of his party rooted to the pre-Independence Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen which believed that “the ruler throne (Nizam) is the symbol of the political and cultural rights of the Muslim community .... and this status must continue for ever”( party politics in Andhra Pradesh by Vadakattu Hanumantha Rao, 1983, page 163) and also in the turbulent and communal politics of the country in general and in the former Princely State of Hyderabad in particular, Owaisi is still carrying the baggage of his parent organisation which “proclaimed Muslims as the monarchs of Deccan with Nizam as only the symbolic expression of their political sovereignty” (State Government and Politics – Andhra Pradesh by Reddy and Sharma, 1979, page 392). He is therefore; now found trying to replicate the pre-Independence politics of Muslimism the concept for the Muslims, of the Muslims and by the Muslims in other states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh by arousing the sense of communal discrimination and anxiety among the youths of the community with provocative politics.

Indo-Naga peace process: Why a blanket ban on the NSCN(K) is not the way forward

Hint: Neighbouring Myanmar has something to do with it.

On September 16, the Indian government banned the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) or NSCN(K) under the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act for five years for its role in the June 4 ambush in Manipur which killed 18 Indian security personnel.

Since abrogating the cease-fire with the government of India on March 27, the NSCN(K) has repeatedly targeted Indian security forces, the latest being the showdown on September 12 in Nagaland’s Koki village on the India-Myanmar border.

Russia’s Calibrated Strategic Pivot to Pakistan

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia’s strategic pivot to Pakistan is not an aberration arising from India’s growing proximity to the United States but a well calibrated long-term strategic gamble that Russia has resorted to, hoping that in concert with China’s over-sized strategic investments in Pakistan, strategic and economic dividends could accrue to Russia also.

This becomes abundantly discernible from a lengthy article in a premier Russian think-tank by Andrew Korybko entitled “Pakistan is the ‘Zipper’ of Pan-Eurasian Integration” published on September 15, 2015. In this lengthy article the author covers in two parts the geoeconomics and geopolitics gains that are likely to accrue to Russia of its geostrategic reach to Pakistan. In the second part, the author dwells in fair detail on the analysis of Russia’s imperatives to move strategically closer to Pakistan.

It is not the intention in this Paper to dissect each and every facet that the Russian author advances in support of Russia’s strategic pivot to Pakistan. It would suffice to quote excerpts from his lengthy article to give the Indian policy establishment and the strategic community the thinking that has gone into Russia’s strategic pivot to Pakistan in 2015, though it had been in the works for nearly a decade.

Nepal: New Constitution Promulgated: What Next?

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

As scheduled, President Ram Baran Yadav formally and officially promulgated the new constitution on 20 September, 2015. 

The Government declared both 20th and 21st September as holidays to enable the people to celebrate the ushering in of the new constitution. Kathmandu was generally in a festive mood and some formal celebrations have been planned both by the Prime Minister as well as by the Party leaders. Both the Nepali Congress and the UML had urged the people to celebrate the occasion as a “Diwali”

With the promulgation of the new constitution, the interim assembly will convert itself into a regular legislature under Article 296 of the old constitution. Nepal would get a new set of leaders at the top. As agreed to informally by the three top political parties who are running the show, the UML will select one of its leaders as Prime Minister. K. P.Oli who is waiting to become the Prime Minister will have to wait for some more time until current PM Sushil Koirala returns from New York after attending the UNGA anniversary meeting.

The Nepali Congress would choose its President ( most likely the current PM Sushil Koirala) and the Speaker’s post will go to the Maoists. 

Why Chinese Nationalism Could Impact the East and South China Seas VERY Differently

September 24, 2015

Not surprisingly, China’s neighbors, particularly Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, have strenuously objected to these moves. So far Washington has avoided being directly dragged into such confrontations. However, should shots be fired over Asia’s troubled waters America will be find it difficult not to get involved.

There is a great deal at stake in both the East and South China Seas, not only for those competing over these spaces, but also for the United States. It is crucial to understand why the situation there has become so fraught: In both cases it is widely recognized that the key driver for conflict is the rise of nationalism, particularly in China. But, such a view is incomplete, and as a result misleading.

How Obama Can Deter China

September 23, 2015

When Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Washington next week, will U.S. President Barack Obama again miss an opportunity to permanently deter conflict with China over Taiwan, as he and his predecessors have repeatedly done?

Obama is proud of accomplishing things no other president could achieve: health care reform, recognizing the Communist government of Cuba, and negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. 

A Landmark Decision

During Xi‘s visit, the president can unilaterally announce a landmark decision that won't require either the concurrence of the U.S. Congress (which would support him on this issue in any event) or reciprocal action by the government of China. On his own, Obama could declare publicly that the United States will defend Taiwan against aggression or coercion from China.

Can China keep its new city dwellers healthy and happy?

21 September 2015 

Earlier this year, I told the story of Xiao Zhang, an ordinary Chinese woman who witnessed the village where she grew up morph into a huge, modern city, and her fortunes transform. But the effects of China's lightning-fast urbanisation has left those in charge with formidable challenges.

China has tens of thousands of stories like White Horse Village, the settlement where Xiao Zhang was born. The country's urbanisation is the biggest and fastest in history and it's by no means over. By 2030, China's cities will house close to a billion people, that's 70% of the population.

The speed of this transition is also breathtaking. In just 30 years, China has gone from 20% urbanisation to 54%, a journey that took Britain 100 years and the US 60 years. Already there are more than 100 cities in China with a population of more than one million people, compared with only nine in America.

The U.S.-China Summit: Can Obama and Xi Find Common Ground?

September 23, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington offers both perils and opportunities for U.S.-China relations.

The principal challenge for Xi and President Obama is to address the areas of disagreement candidly while seeking common ground on those and other important issues. As a first step in that process, Obama needs to disregard mounting calls from those who advocate a blustering, hardline policy toward Beijing. A confrontational approach would accomplish nothing and could do lasting damage to the bilateral relationship.

Unfortunately, many of the GOP candidates seeking the presidency are attempting to outdo each other in bashing China. Donald Trump scorns the existing features of the trade relationship and emphasizes that he would drive much harder bargains with Beijing. Carly Fiorina is even broader in her advocacy of confrontation, including wanting to go nose to nose with China over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Marco Rubio and now former candidate Scott Walker make Trump and Fiorina look like Sinophiles. Walker urged President Obama to cancel the invitation to Xi.

Chinese Hackers Now Believed to Have Stolen Over 5 Million Fingerprints of US Government Employees

September 23, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of people applying for or receiving security clearances whose fingerprint images were stolen in one of the worst government data breaches is now believed to be 5.6 million, not 1.1 million as first thought, the Office of Personnel Management announced Wednesday.

The agency was the victim of what the U.S. believes was a Chinese espionage operation that affected an estimated 21.5 million current and former federal employees or job applicants. The theft could give Chinese intelligence a huge leg up in recruiting informants inside the U.S. government, experts believe. It also could help the Chinese identify U.S. spies abroad, according to American officials.

The White House has said it’s going to discuss cybersecurity with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits President Barack Obama later this week.

The Obama administration has not publicly blamed China or taken any public action in retaliation for the hack. Intelligence officials have called the data a fair intelligence target, one the U.S. would pursue if it had the chance.

OPM says the ability of an adversary to misuse fingerprint data is limited, though an agency statement acknowledged that “this probability could change over time as technology evolves.”

China’s Military: Mighty Dragon or Paper Tiger?

September 22, 2015 

Beijing's growing military power is a concern for Washington. But just how worried should America be? 

Chinese president Xi Jinping will arrive in Washington on Thursday for his first official visit as president of the People’s Republic of China. On Friday he will be accorded full state honors including a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn and a formal banquet at the White House. This will not be because China is an American ally or because the United States respects and accepts China’s repressive political system, but because China is a world power.

Military power is still the sine qua non for stature in the international system and, according to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, China’s defense spending is now the second-highest in the world after the United States. Based on SIPRI estimates, in 2014 China spent more on defense than Russia, Britain, and France combined. As the massive military parade in Beijing on September 3 demonstrated, China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, has been modernizing rapidly over the past two decades. What was once a peasant army is now equipped with tanks, airplanes, and missiles that are in many cases comparable to those of the world’s most advanced military powers.

How Long Can China Stay on the Sidelines in the War on ISIS?

September 23, 2015

Recent news that a Chinese citizen has been taken hostage by ISIS shows that China is being drawn into the complex politics of the Middle East, and will need to re-evaluate its policy of non-interference. 

One of the foundations of China's foreign policy since Mao Zedong put forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence is non-interference in the domestic politics of other states. In the late 1990s China moved towards a 'New Security Order' emphasizing mutually beneficial economic relations between states. More recently Chinese foreign policy statement have emphasized China's 'peaceful rise' or 'peaceful development', promoting China as a responsible international actor and reassuring neighbors that its rise is not a threat. Yet through it all, non-intervention has remained a cornerstone of China's foreign policy. 

When it comes to the Middle East, China has adopted a two-pronged approach.

The Real Reason America Needs to Engage with Iran

September 24, 2015

In the aftermath of the nuclear agreement with Iran, indications from both Washington and Tehran are that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is strictly an arms control deal. U.S. policy makers argue America should prioritize implementation of the agreement, reassuring Israeli and Gulf partners, and countering Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East. But if the United States focuses exclusively on mitigating the risks of the agreement and does not test opportunities for collaboration with Iran, it may close off a historic opportunity to reshape relations with the Islamic Republic.

When it comes to Iranian intentions and actions, there is much to be skeptical about. A naïve policy that seeks to turn Iran into an ally and ignores its provocative actions will not work. In many arenas, American and Iranian interests are fundamentally at odds. Iran supports and arms the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq. Only last week, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated that Israel will not exist in twenty-five years.

5 Russian Weapons of War ISIS Should Fear

September 24, 2015

As of last week, Russia may have decided to join the fight against ISIS. The deployment of Russian air and ground forces to Syria probably has more to do with the survival of the Assad regime (and by extension, the survival of Russian influence in the Middle East) than it does with stopping the ISIS horror show. Nevertheless, given the threat that ISIS poses to Assad, it seems likely that Russians will come into direct conflict with the armed fighters of the Islamic State.

So, what is Russia sending to Syria, and how might it affect the course of the battle against ISIS?


The Su-25 “Frogfoot” remains one of the world’s premier attack aircraft. Numerous Frogfoots have already served in the fight against ISIS, flying in the Iraqi and Iranian air forces. The Frogfoot, once considered the Warsaw Pact equivalent of the A-10, is a subsonic aircraft with the capacity to carry a large load of missiles and bombs. In addition, the Frogfoot carries a 30mm cannon for close air support duties.

Is Iran's Strategy in Iraq Adrift?

September 22, 2015

Russia may have thrown Iran a lifeline in Syria, but Putin’s aid only obscures larger problems for Tehran’s policies in the region. In particular, Iran’s policy in Iraq and its strategy against the Islamic State (ISIS) is under severe pressure. It is not clear the Islamic Republic has a good way forward.

Tehran’s activities and policies in Iraq and the Levant remain largely under Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani’s direction. Soleimaini had been riding high ever since the fall of Mosul to ISIS in June 2014. His photographs spread over social media and he waslauded in Iranian and regional press for his role in leading a hybrid IRGC advisory and Shia militia force to fight ISIS in Iraq and President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents in Syria.

This past spring, however, the commander began to disappear from view amid speculation of dissatisfaction in Tehran with his campaigns in both theaters. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reportedly promised Secretary of State John Kerry that concluding the nuclear agreement would allow Zarif to discuss regional issues, possibly mitigating Soleimani’s influence. Others speculated that retired former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei donned his uniform again at the behest of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to keep an eye on Soleimani.

The Collapse of Iraq and the Rise of ISIS: Made in America?

September 23, 2015

Chaos is spreading from the Middle East outward as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pour into Europe. Over the last decade millions of Iraqis and Syrians have fled their homes. Western governments are proving far better at assigning blame than finding solutions.

The Republican meme is that every problem, including in the Middle East, is Barack Obama’s fault. Although emphasizing independence and self-reliance for America, they deny responsibility and accountability for their party. According to the GOP, George W. Bush left America and the world secure. The feckless Obama administration allowed the collapse of Iraq and rise of the Islamic State.

For instance, Jeb Bush defended his brother’s policies. He cited the “brilliant, heroic, and costly” success of the Iraqi troop surge, asking “why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?” He complained that “now we have the creation of ISIS.” In contrast, he contended, “had we kept the 10,000 troop commitment that was there for the President to negotiate and to agree with, we probably wouldn’t have ISIS right now.” Bush declared that “The one thing about my brother: he kept us safe.”

Can China Stay Out of the ISIS Fight?

September 23, 2015

Recent news that a Chinese citizen has been taken hostage by ISIS shows that China is being drawn into the complex politics of the Middle East, and will need to re-evaluate its policy of non-interference. 

One of the foundations of China's foreign policy since Mao Zedong put forward theFive Principles of Peaceful Co-existence is non-interference in the domestic politics of other states. In the late 1990s China moved towards a 'New Security Order' emphasising mutually beneficial economic relations between states. More recently Chinese foreign policy statement have emphasised China's 'peaceful rise' or 'peaceful development', promoting China as a responsible international actor and reassuring neighbours that its rise is not a threat. Yet through it all, non-intervention has remained a cornerstone of China's foreign policy. 

When it comes to the Middle East, China has adopted a two-pronged approach.

Islam’s Tragic Fatalism

SEPT. 23, 2015 

Istanbul — Earlier this month, on the Muslim holy day of Friday, a horrible accident took place in Mecca near Islam’s holiest site — the Kaaba. A huge crane fell on the mosque that encircles the cube-shaped shrine, killing 118 pilgrims and injuring almost 400. This tragedy was the deadliest crane collapse in modern history, and thus it begged for an investigation. Yet, in a highly religious country, the technicians that operated the crane, the Saudi Binladen Group, had an easy way out. One of them spoke to the press and simply said: “What happened was beyond the power of humans. It was an act of God.”

To their credit, the Saudi authorities did not buy this argument. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud immediately suspended the company from work, ordered an investigation, and offered compensation for the families of victims. The investigators soon concluded that the company was responsible for the accident, because it did not “respect the rules of safety” and violated the manufacturers’ operating instructions.

While this factual investigation is a step forward, we must still ask why the technicians publicly absolved themselves of responsibility, and probably in their own minds as well, by evoking “fate.”

Russia’s Moral Framework and Why It Matters

September 24, 2015

Russia’s moral framework, particularly as it applies to contemporary Russian foreign policy, differs markedly from that of the West.

While post-Soviet Russia has no guiding ideology, it does argue that certain values, if adopted as shared principles of behavior, are more congenial to international order than others. Russia would like to see such principles of behavior be more widely adopted, but, recognizing that each nation’s cultural development is unique, it very much opposes efforts to promote any one set of ethical values beyond its borders. Hence, the only time that the international community may legitimately appeal to transnational ethical norms, is when such are sanctioned by the United Nations. This is a high bar, but, Russia argues, it has been set high on purpose, to avoid abuse.

Obama's Islamic State War Czar Stepping Down

SEPT 22, 2015

President Barack Obama is about to lose the man he hand-picked to build the war effort against the Islamic State. Retired General John Allen will be stepping down as envoy to the global coalition this fall, and the White House is searching for a replacement to be the face of America’s flailing effort to destroy the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

Allen will leave government service in the coming weeks, four administration officials told us. State Department officials said they were not ready to officially announce Allen’s departure, but he has notified his superiors he will give up his job in early November, after serving just over one year. His chief of staff, Karin von Hippel, will also depart, to join a British think tank.

The timing of Allen’s departure could not be worse for the Obama administration. The incoming Marine Corps Commandant, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, testified last month that the war is at a “stalemate.” Last week, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, testified that of the 54 Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. military, only “4 or 5” were still in the fight. And now the Pentagon is investigating allegations by dozens of intelligence analysts that their reporting on the progress in the war effort was altered before being given to top officials.

Russia's Next Big Weapons Sale: Is the Lethal Su-30 Fighter Iran Bound?

September 22, 2015

Iran is interested in acquiring Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers for its air force. An Iranian delegation discussed the matter with Russian officials at the MAKS airshow outside Moscow last month, according to Iranian state media.

“We are discussing the purchase of Sukhoi fighter planes,” Iranian defense minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan told the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen news network according to Iran’s Press TV on Aug. 30.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was apparently present for the discussions as was Iranian vice president for science and technology affairs Sorena Sattari according to a report from the IranianFARS News agency. It is not clear which version of the Su-30 Iran is interested in, but presumably it would be one of the advanced variants similar to the aircraft operated by India, Malaysia, Algeria and Russia itself.

However, it is also possible that Iran could opt for a variant of the more basic Su-30M2, which is also in service with the Russian Air Force. That variant is somewhat less expensive, which might make more sense considering Iran’s economic situation.

American F-22s and B-2 Bombers vs. Russia's S-300 in Syria: Who Wins?

September 22, 2015

Russia is deploying advanced air defense systems to Syria as part of its military build up inside the war-torn country. While it is currently deploying point defense missiles, it’s possible Russian forces could deploy more capable area air defense systems like the much-feared Almaz-Antey S-300 to the region. If Russia does deploy their latest surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to Syria, the areas protected by these systems would become no-go zones for most allied aircraft save for the F-22 Raptor and B-2 Spirit—and the F-35, if that warplane was genuinely operational.

Russian forces have already deployed two to three SA-22 Greyhound—more properly called the Pantsir-S1—point defense systems around their base in Latakia, Syria, along with as many as 28 fighters and strike aircraft. The highly mobile Pantsir-S1 is primarily designed to protect a small area against a threat with a pair of 2A38M 30mm cannons and a dozen 57E6 surface-to-air missiles.According to its manufacturer, it has a 12-mile range and can engage targets as high a 60,000ft.

The Russian Military Presence: An Analysis

September 23, 2015

Syria: Russia To The Rescue

Russia admits that it has indeed suddenly increased its military aid to Syria since August and is going to break the UN embargo and supply the Assad government with new weapons. Satellite and ground level photos show more Russian personnel and military equipment in Syria. This increase in Russian military aid to Syria solves several problems for Russia. For one, it prevents the looming collapse of the Assad government, which has been losing territory at an accelerating rate in 2015 and is facing a collapse in morale among its forces and civilian supporters. Iran cannot provide more aid, mainly because despite the July agreement to lift sanctions on Iran that does not go into effect until early 2016 and until then Iran is as broke as ever. 

It gets worse. The Iran backed Hezbollah militia has been providing thousands of fighters inside Syria but this has been increasingly unpopular among Hezbollah members and even more unpopular with Lebanese in general. That’s because Syria considers Lebanon a “lost province” and has always treated Lebanon badly. Hezbollah had to fight in Syria for the hated (by most Lebanese) Assad government because Iran has long been the main financial and military support for Hezbollah and demanded that Hezbollah send fighters to Syria. But Hezbollah leaders have been warning Iran that the Hezbollah operations in Syria were causing serious damage to the unity and effectiveness of Hezbollah in general. In fact, once it became clear that Russia was putting substantial combat forces in Syria, Hezbollah quietly informed Iran and the Assads that by the end of the month Hezbollah would cease offensive operations in Syria and confine their participation to fighting Syrian rebel (especially al Qaeda and ISIL groups) attempts to get into Lebanon. This sort of thing is very popular with most Lebanese and especially welcome by Hezbollah fighters, who always thought they had signed up to defend Lebanon in general and the Shia minority of Lebanon in particular. Guarding the border is doing just that and will repair the damage to morale done because of combat operations inside Syria (and several thousand casualties suffered as a result). 


SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

Instead of closing the book on defense reform, Congress and the Pentagon need to lean forward.

Everyone seems to support defense reform, but what does it mean? Defense reform is one of those phrases that simultaneously means a lot and absolutely nothing. At its most meaningless, it’s a buzz phrase used to advance a pet project. At its best, defense reform is about building a better military for today and the future.

Skeptics point out that political leaders always talk about acquisition reform, yet the acquisition system never seems to improve. Others express concern that defense reform is really an attempt to provide national security on the cheap. Both of these concerns have an element of truth, but defense reform is nonetheless a vital project.

Although the defense budget has been significantly cut in recent years, the Department of Defense remains the third largest government organization by budget authority and the largest by employment. Improvements and efficiencies can always be found in an enterprise so large. Defense reform might not fix sequestration or buy back Army end strength, but improving how the Department of Defense does business is always a worthy project.

CIA’s New Cyber Directorate Opens for Business on October 1, 2015

Michael Cooney
September 23, 2015

CIA details agency’s new digital and cyber espionage focus

It seems like it might be about 10 years too late to the party but come October 1, the Central Intelligence Agency will ad a new directorate that will focus on all things cyber and digital espionage.

The CIA’s Deputy Director David Cohen to a Cornell University audience last week that once the new Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) is up and running “it will be at the center of the Agency’s effort to inject digital solutions into every aspect of our work. It will be responsible for accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all our mission areas—human intelligence collection, all-source analysis, open source intelligence, and covert action.”

“On October 1st, ten new CIA Mission Centers will cover every issue we face—six focused on regions, like Africa and the Near East; and four focused on functional issues, such as terrorism and weapons proliferation. Each center will pull together all the tremendous talents and skills previously stove-piped into separate groups, promoting collaboration among Agency specialists in operations, collection, analysis, technical capabilities, and support,” Cohen stated. 


Sep. 22 2015

There is something disquieting and unwholesome about telecoms feeding our communications to government agencies. It was headline news, again, last month when we learned that AT&T has had a longstanding partnership with the National Security Agency. Unfortunately, this form of private-public intelligence collusion is neither new nor, in my view, illegal. Whether it is immoral is an entirely separate question.

U.S. communications carriers first became partners in the intelligence game shortly after World War I. Diplomatic and military affairs transmitted via telegram to home countries were intercepted and decrypted by the Black Chamber, the NSA’s precursor. Obtaining telegrams then was eerily similar to how communications are obtained today: The government simply asked.

The Western Union Telegraph Company and the Postal Telegraph Company allowed intelligence officers to copy telegrams, and this partnership persisted in peacetime. In 1929, however, Secretary of State Henry Stimson defunded the Black Chamber. His concise, and seemingly naïve, rationalereportedly being: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Refugee crisis in EU - Militarisation of response

By Monish Gulati
22 Sep , 2015

Even as divisions deepen amongst EU member states on how to respond to the rising refugee influx, three narratives have dominated the refugee crisis in Europe. One, that Europe has been part of the causal factors of the problem in the conflict zone countries (of which the refugee crisis is symptomatic), hence it must do its bit to be part of the solution; two, Europe must abide by the ‘tradition’ of hosting refugees and migrants, which is rooted in its culture and history if one looks far back as the last century; and the third relates to the EU and its obligation to humanitarianism and upholding of human values.

The Syrian war and the mass exodus of refugees from the Middle East, according to some analysts, has continued largely due to the US decision to restrain its influence over these matters and in the process ceding space to Iran, Turkey, Russia.

The Soviet Union's Lethal MiG-25 Foxbat: A Business Jet?

September 23, 2015

The Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat was one of the most famous fighters of the Cold War. A big, powerful, twin-engine interceptor that could fly faster than Mach 3 and 70,000 feet, the Foxbat set several speed and altitude records in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The MiG-25 shocked Western nations accustomed to thinking of Soviet jets as cheap, expendable and inferior. Indeed, the MiG-25 spurred the development of a new generation of American fighters such as the F-15 (not to mention inspiring a bad Clint Eastwood movie).

But had things turned out differently, instead of carrying guns and missiles, the MiG-25 would have carried stewardesses, vodka, and some lucky passengers on the ride of their life. In the early 1960s, the MiG design bureau proposed turning the MiG-25 into the world's first supersonic business jet.

Instead of rude Aeroflot flight attendants on decrepit Russian airliners, passengers could zoom 6,000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok in a few hours. The project never got beyond the drawing board, but authors Yefim Gordon and Sergey Komissarov document it in their book "Unflown Wings: Unbuilt Soviet/Russian Aircraft Projects Since 1925”.


SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

Turkey is collectively losing its mind and may be facing its most dangerous period in decades.

Once heralded as a beacon of stability and democratic promise in a region where both have been short in supply, Turkey is now making the headlines as a land of uncertainty and pessimism. Make no mistake: Turkey has never been perfect with respect to its record on democracy, freedom of speech, and human rights, but until very recently it offered something it cannot easily offer now: hope.

Just check latest online news and commentaries about Turkey in the global media and you will see a pattern of doom and gloom scenarios. The domestic political discourse is even worse.

That the country is becoming more polarized across political and ethnic lines is not news anymore. What is more troubling is that different segments of the society now have their own version of “reality” and are utterly uninterested in hearing what others have to say. Sustaining these contradictory realities no longer requires logic or facts. If you challenge the validity of a group’s version of “what is really happening in Turkey,” then you must be with “them,” an instant enemy to be demonized, or at best a fool. Turkey is losing its mind.


SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

There are clear applications for massed landpower in Europe and Korea – not so in the Middle East.

Following the Gulf War, the United States entered a long containment phase for Iraq, relying heavily on two no-fly zones (NFZs) to limit the regime’s ability to threaten Kuwait or Iraqi Kurdistan. In retrospect, these air operations were not only significantly less costly than the massive ground operations that followed, but they obtained better results. The contrast between the air-only containment efforts and the ground-heavy invasions is stark. Air campaigns were successful in containing Iraq, protecting Kurdish and Shia civilians, and unseating the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Civilian casualties were minimal and sporadic. As I have discussed here at War on the Rocks and a recent article in Air Force Magazine, these air operations were far more economical than the ground-heavy approach taken in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, had a much lower footprint, and were well-supported by existing bases. Air operations could be successful again at containment, as Operation Inherent Resolve is proving to be.


SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

Next week, Marine General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford will take over as the 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford will be only the second marine to hold the job, replacing Army General Martin Dempsey who has held the position for the past four years. As the nation’s senior-most uniformed officer and principal military advisor to the president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs oversees a domain that includes virtually every imaginable global threat and national security problem. Dunford will inherit many of the challenges that Dempsey faced, as well as unforeseen crises and challenges that will inevitably arise. He will take charge of a military struggling to transition from two prolonged land wars that must become adaptable enough for a very different future.

Era of Manned Reconnaissance Aircraft Is Almost Over, CIA Official

Richard Whittle
September 22, 2015
Bye Bye U-2: CIA Legend Allen Predicts End Of Manned Reconnaissance 

WASHINGTON: “The world of manned reconnaissance is gone, and soon manned reconnaissance itself will be gone.” So says Charles E. Allen, whose opinion on such matters carries more weight than most.

Charlie Allen joined the CIA in 1958 and spent the last seven of his 40 years there as assistant director of central intelligence for collection. He was chairman of the National Intelligence Collection Board, coordinating all secret intelligence gathering by the CIA and a dozen or so other agencies. Allen also served as director of the CIA’s National Warning Staff. He predicted Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. He also pushed the CIA to use a Predator drone to find Osama bin Laden in 2000 and argued for using an armed Predator to kill himbefore 9/11.

Manned reconnaissance aircraft, especially Lockheed’s high-altitude U-2s and SR-71s, have “a tremendous history and rich history, but those are the historic days of manned aircraft,” Allen told Breaking Defense. “In the future, the history will be made by unmanned.”

We asked because U-2 maker Lockheed Martin recently revealed a concept for the storied plane’s successor, a concept the company now calls the TR-X. Lockheed has a slightly different view from Allen on the manned vs. unmanned question, said Scott Winstead, strategic business manager for the U-2 at Lockheed’s Skunk Works — and a former U-2 and Global Hawk pilot who also worked for Allen at one time. “We’re still on the fence with that one,” Winstead said, “There are options for completely unmanned and optionally manned. When you’re looking at the next generation platforms, you need to keep all your options open,” for the TR-X, he said,