9 October 2015

Saudi Arabia’s Yemen Intervention: A High Risk Gamble?


Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 20

October 2, 2015 

Saudi Arabia’s ongoing armed intervention in Yemen, which began overtly in March with airstrikes in support of Yemen’s internationally-recognized president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, has since become a coalition effort, although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as Saudi Arabia’s major military partner in the intervention. On balance, the coalition campaign to oust the predominately Zaydi Shi’a Ansar Allah (Partisans of God—a.k.a. the Houthis) movement and their allies, which include forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, has made strong progress. Saudi Arabia’s daily air strikes on the Houthis and their allies in the country’s capital of Sana’a and in other Houthi-dominated areas in Yemen’s western highland region are degrading the Houthi alliance’s conventional military forces (al-Arabiya, September 28; al-Arabiya, September 5).

Concurrently, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait have landed troops in the southern city of Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, and are using the city to assist local, southern tribal militias organized under the broad network of al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya (Popular Resistance Committees). This has succeeded first in pushing the Houthis and their allies back from the city and pressuring Houthi-held areas around the city of Taiz in the country’s southwest and in the mainly desert region of Mareb, to the west of Sana’a (The National, September 7; YouTube, July 3; YouTube, June 17; YouTube, June 8;YouTube, June 5; YouTube, May 31; Khabar News Agency [Taiz], April 21; YouTube, April 21; al-Arabiya, March 26).

Border Troubles

In spite of these successes, Houthi and allied forces continue to maintain strong control over northern Yemen, including Sana’a, and Houthi forces have launched consistent attacks on several areas of southwestern Saudi Arabia that border Yemen, particularly in Najran and Jizan Provinces (YouTube, June 9; YouTube, May 29; YouTube, May 5). For instance, on September 18, two Bangladeshis were killed when mortars fired from Yemen struck a hospital in Samtah, a town in the Saudi Red Sea coastal province of Jizan that is only a few miles from the Yemen border (Daily Star [Dhaka], September 19). Earlier, on September 14, Saudi Arabia announced that one soldier had been killed in an attack on a border post in Jizan, (SPA, September 14). A day earlier, four soldiers had been killed in another cross-border attack in Najran (SPA, September 13). This stream of attacks, while not seriously jeopardizing Saudi control of the area, is nonetheless almost constant, placing considerable pressure on civilian populations in the region, particularly through the Houthis’ use of indiscriminate rocket attacks.

As India stays away

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has implications for India’s integration with the world economy.
Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Published:October 9, 2015 
If regulatory harmonisation is increasingly becoming the norm, it will have huge implications for India.

Trade is almost never just about trade. Trade has always been about geopolitics. Trade also defines the nature of states. The recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), if ratified, could potentially be a milestone in the way trade shapes global politics. Sceptical economists suggest that the economic gains of the TPP are not as dramatic as its proponents suggest. There are other criticisms: In legal matters, it seeks to enhance the power of corporations against that of states. The secrecy with which these agreements are negotiated raises questions over their democratic legitimacy. They eventually have to be ratified. There is a difference between a process that is somewhat participatory and one where democratic publics are handed a fait accompli. But there is no question that the TPP will have huge ramifications. India will ignore its consequences at its own peril.

India has been complacent about the TPP. Various numbers crunched argue that its effects on Indian trade will be relatively small. Projections of effects on trade tend to be sensitive to minor changes in assumptions. This is a debate trade economists can carry out. But looking at this just in terms of contingent numbers is to take a narrow perspective. What is at stake is the terms of the global order itself, and the prospects of India’s integration into the world economy.

India’s Energy Crisis


Can India modernize its manufacturing economy and supply electricity to its growing population without relying heavily on coal—and quite possibly destroying the global climate?
By Richard Martin on October 7, 2015

An old man wakes on the floor of a hut in a village in southern India. He is wrapped in a thin cotton blanket. Beside him, music wails softly on a transistor radio. A small wood fire smolders on the floor, filling the space with a light haze; above it,the bamboo timbers of the hut’s roof are charred to a glossy black.

The man’s name is Mallaiah Tokala, and he is the headman of Appapur village, in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana state. On his forehead he wears the vibhuti, the sacred daub of white ash. He is uncertain of his exact age, but he is well into his 10th decade. He has lived in this village his whole life, a period that encompasses the tumultuous 20th-century history of India: the rise of Gandhi, the Salt March, the end of the Raj and the coming of independence, Partition and the bloodshed that followed, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the dawning of a new era of sectarian violence and terrorism. And now he has lived long enough to witness the coming of electricity to Appapur, in the form of solar-powered lights and TVs and radios.

On the wall of the hut a single LED lightbulb glows softly, connected through the roof to a black cable that stretches to a 100-watt solar panel on the roof of a concrete house nearby. It is a direct outcome of the policies of the central government, a thousand miles to the north in Delhi. Appapur is a “solar village,” one of the showcases for the government’s drive to bring solar power to small, unelectrified villages across India.

Miners extract coal at one of the many mines in the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya.

Why America is cozying up to the Indian army

Kevin Knodell, October 6, 2015

Gunfire rang out violently. Indian and American troops stormed a compound in Leschi Town, a mock city soldiers use for urban combat training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The soldiers hauled ladders to scale the walls while a machine-gun team laid down suppressing fire from a nearby ridge.

The soldiers hurriedly scurried over the wall shouting instructions at each other. The American and Indian troops occasionally struggled to understand each others' accents — and vocabularies. The Indian troops' English had different words for tactics and formations.
But the soldiers ultimately figured out how to communicate fairly quickly — often through gestures — as they worked together to take the facility. Mixed teams worked together to breach doorways and clear out buildings.

It's part of Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2015, the 11th iteration of an annual exercise between the U.S. and Indian militaries. The two militaries trained together for two weeks in September while also breaking for social functions like going to the beach and tailgating at a Mariners game.
India and the United States have been seeking closer ties in the 21st century, and this exercise is just one part of that effort. As the U.S. broadens its engagement in the Pacific and continues operations in Central Asia, military relations between Washington and New Delhi are growing.
"Both the armies have very common concerns, we have very similar interests, and we have similar kinds of challenges to face," said Indian Army Lt. Col. J.S. Ulshai, an officer with the Kumaon Regiment. "We know that the U.S. has got its interests in the Pacific and the areas around the Indian Ocean, so it is important because in their future the U.S. is going to work with India in a broader perspective."

"They want what we want," said political scientist Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow and India expert at the Brookings Institution. However, he told War Is Boring that while Washington and New Delhi are seeking closer ties and have cooperated in the past, it's a stretch to call them allies. "There's no formal [military] agreement between the two."
Lt. Col. Teddy Kleisner, the commander of the 1-2 Stryker Brigade's 23rd Infantry Regiment, said that though this exercise is mostly tactical rather than strategic, any interaction between between the United States and India is obviously important.

"On our end we're keenly aware that our two countries are having conversations," Kleisner explained. "What we're doing here is making good on that dialogue."

Pakistan: Too Big to Fail

October 7, 2015, By Kevin Hulbert

As U.S. counterterrorism successes mount in eliminating terrorists in Pakistan, the al-Qaeda “glue” that holds the U.S.-Pakistan security relationship together has seemed to weaken. What is the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship? Tired and worn out by our long-running engagements in far away lands since 9/11, there is real temptation to wash our hands of the region. But one should heed the lessons learned from our experience washing our hands and leaving. Doing so in Iraq created a political and security vacuum into which the Islamic State surged, threatening world order and creating an all-new nightmare for the U.S. to confront. 

We left Pakistan alone before, remember, back in 1989 after our extensive and well-choreographed U.S.-Saudi-Pakistan effort to train and supply the mujahedeen was successful in dislodging the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. We all celebrated as the last Soviet forces rolled across the Afghan-Uzbek Bridge on their retreat. Soon after, the U.S. was only too happy to wind down its very close engagement with Pakistan and move on to other challenges. That’s the way we are with our foreign policy. With a limited attention span, we almost always move along too quickly once we think a challenge has been met. The U.S. is like a cat playing with a ball of string—at first, the string fascinates us and occupies all of our attention, but after a while, just like the cat, we tire of things, and so we leave the ball of string on the floor and walk away. 

The good news on Pakistan is that al-Qaeda’s core in Pakistan’s troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is largely destroyed. The U.S. government has decimated al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in the FATA, and it is telling that none of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s named successors are located in Pakistan. It is also telling that in order to stay alive, Zawahiri has isolated himself to the point of being irrelevant. He cannot communicate with his followers, he provides no command and control, and it takes him weeks, sometimes months, to respond in any meaningful way to current events. 

Kunduz Latest Example of Failed Afghan Government’s Ability to Rule Country

For Afghans in Kunduz, Taliban Assault Is Just the Latest Affront

Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, October 8, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — From the early days of his presidency last year, President Ashraf Ghani knew he faced a national security threat in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. He installed a new governor, a new police chief and a new head of intelligence, and spoke of turning Kunduz into an example of what better governance could accomplish. Instead, it has become a sobering testament to the cost of failed governance.

The fall of the provincial capital, Kunduz City, to the Taliban nine days ago was partly born of years of disgust with and distrust in the main representatives of the central government there: a succession of corrupt or ineffective governors and aides, and a horde of Afghan Local Police militiamen who were more often abusive than responsible.

Interviews with officials and residents of Kunduz indicate that despite Mr. Ghani’s vow to improve things, frustrations in the province had been boiling even before the Taliban’s recent assault.
Most of those interviewed described feeling abandoned by the government, and left at the mercy of local strongmen and militia leaders — including the Afghan Local Police — and, in recent months, to the steady advance of the Talibantoward the city.

Increasingly, that distrust has manifested in ethnic and factional divisions that carry uncomfortable echoes of the Afghan civil war. Deeply disillusioned by the government’s and the security forces’ failure in Kunduz, many residents are simply leaving. Others are looking for help from ethnic militias, or even the Taliban.
Compounding skepticism toward the government was the absence of the provincial governor, Omar Safi, when the city fell. Mr. Safi, who was appointed governor by Mr. Ghani, had already been accused of being corrupt and out of touch. He surfaced in Kabul, the capital, earlier this week but declined requests for an interview Wednesday. Also missing from the fray were many members of the Afghan Local Police, who when faced with a Taliban assault decided not to fight.

The China Factor

In an interview with The Cipher Brief, Andrew Small, an expert on Chinese policy in South Asia for The German Marshall Fund, discussed the evolving China-Pakistan relationship. He said that ties between the two countries are “deepening,” as China becomes more engaged with Pakistan’s economy and security.

The Cipher Brief: What is the state of the China-Pakistan relationship? Where do you see it heading?

Andrew Small: For decades, China’s relationship with Pakistan has been based on mutual security cooperation, with India their shared rival. As militancy in the region escalated, counter-terrorism started to play a significant role too, and Beijing grew increasingly concerned about the long-term stability of the country that is arguably its closest friend.

Now, plans for a $46 billion “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” are finally adding a serious economic dimension to the relationship. While it’s unlikely that all of the investment plans will be realized, the potential is there for the scheme to have a transformative impact. From Beijing’s perspective, there are certainly commercial motivations – including funneling money to Chinese industries that are having to cope with a domestic downturn – but there is also a broader strategic agenda. China is trying to find ways to stabilize its western periphery and sees the large-scale influx of economic resources as a way to change the balance of incentives for actors in the region. These calculations may prove to be misplaced, but they are resulting in a more serious Chinese commitment to investments in Pakistan than we’ve seen in the past.

A further effect is to bring the China-Pakistan relationship a little further out of the shadows: ties between the two sides had been managed almost exclusively by a small political, military and intelligence elite; now they are becoming the subject of a much broader public debate. China remains extremely popular in Pakistan, and the relationship is deepening, but in the coming years some of the mythologies around it are likely to fade, as the daylight creeps in.

TCB: What risks does the China-Pakistan relationship pose for the U.S.?

AS: Generally, the United States has been welcoming of this evolution in Sino-Pakistani ties. It wants to see Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure situation improve and has tried to help marshal the resources for similar plans – on a more modest scale – in the past. China and the United States have also been working closely together on trying to forge a political settlement in Afghanistan, in which Pakistan occupies a central role. The level of alignment and coordination on these issues is unusual as Beijing and Washington’s relationship is otherwise heading in a more strategically competitive direction. The United States has longstanding concerns about Sino-Pakistani proliferation practices, and there are some risks resulting from Beijing’s plans to use Pakistan’s naval facilities as a base for power projection in the Indian Ocean. These concerns would magnify if Sino-U.S. ties were to become more adversarial. For now though, the China-Pakistan relationship is more an area of cooperation than contention.

Revealed: Japan's Secret Weapon to Destroy China's J-20 and J-31

Dave Majumdar,  October 6, 2015 

Japan is set to acquire four Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes airborne early warning aircraft that would nullify the threat of Chinese stealth fighters and afford it a potent missile defense capability. The new aircraft is equipped with a powerful hybrid mechanical/electronically scanned UHF-band radar that will be able to tie into the U.S. Navy’s state-of-the-art Naval Integrated Fire Control—Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network.

Japan’s purchase of the E-2D is significant because the capabilities of those two key features. The E-2D’s Lockheed Martin AN/APY-9 UHF-band radar is the central feature of the Advanced Hawkeye. Both friend and foe alike have touted UHF radars as an effective countermeasure to stealth technology. One early public example of that is a paper prepared by Arend Westra that appeared in the National Defense University’s Joint Forces Quarterly academic journal in the 4th quarter issue of 2009. “It is the physics of longer wavelength and resonance that enables VHF and UHF radar to detect stealth aircraft,” Westra wrote in his article titled Radar vs. Stealth.

UHF-band radars operate at frequencies between 300MHz and 1GHz, which results in wavelengths that are between 10 centimeters and one meter long. Typically, due to the physical characteristics of fighter-sized stealth aircraft, they must be optimized to defeat higher frequencies in the Ka, Ku, X, C and parts of the S-bands.
There is a resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft—such as a tail-fin tip— is less than eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. That omnidirectional resonance effect produces a “step change” in an aircraft’s radar cross-section. Effectively what that means is that small stealth aircraft that do not have the size or weight allowances for two feet or more of radar absorbent material coatings on every surface are forced to make trades as to which frequency bands they are optimized for.

Sokov on Russian Cruise Missiles


BY JEFFREY | 25 AUGUST 2015 | 
I was discussing reports of a new Russian sea-launched cruise missile with my colleague, Nikolai Sokov. He has a number of thoughts about what is going on, so I was delighted when he offered to write them up. There are a lot of really interesting things in Nikolai’s piece.

One comment — I remain undecided about the idea that the alleged Russian INF violation arises from a ground-based test of a sea-launched cruise missile. The new information, though, does seem to bolster that case, at least a bit, but my intuition is that it is a new ground-launched cruise missile. In any event, its a discussion worth having. And this is a really great start.

Bill Gertz, New Russian SLCM, and the True Nature of Challenge to US and NATO
Nikolai Sokov

A few days ago Bill Gertz alerted the public to a new Russian sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM), SS-N-30A, known in Russia as Kalibr. The new supersonic missile, he said, was tested last month and is ready for deployment. It could reach targets across Europe and represents a threat akin to SS-20 intermediate-range missiles, which the Soviets deployed in the late 1970s – early 1980s and which were eliminated under the 1987 INF Treaty. “A cruise missile variant also is being developed that officials said appears to violate the 1987 Intermediate­ Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty”, he added.
The disclosure is very interesting, but not particularly informative. The missile is not new – it has been in testing mode for seven years, if not longer, and is based on an even older SLCM. It is not exactly supersonic. The quote above is misleading: all versions of Kalibr are cruise missiles; Gertz probably meant a test flight from land-based launcher, which is the likely reason for the American accusation that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty. And, although the reported capacity of Kalibrs to reach targets across Europe from submarines is a concern, he missed a significantly greater challenge stemming from the recent versions of that missile.
One Happy Kalibr Family

The history of Kalibr is complicated and designations in Russian open sources are contradictory. Here is a short, simplified version.



OCTOBER 8, 2015
Israel may feel abandoned by Washington, but Moscow is not the antidote. If anything, Russia’s growing influence in Syria does not bode well for Israel.
On September 21, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a meeting that focused on staying out of each other’s way in Syria. According to statements by both leaders, it seems the meeting went well. Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s main concerns in Syria, namely arms shipments to Hezbollah and Iran opening a new front against Israel in southern Syria. Putin gave his own analysis of the situation, stressing that the Assad regime is weak. Both sides agreed on forming a joint committee to coordinate their military activities in Syria.

Watching from the sidelines, some analysts in Israel posited that this meeting — and Russia’s increased involvement in Syria — is a net positive for Israel. Giora Eiland, who was the national security advisor under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told me in a conversation that the new alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah can deescalate tensions between this axis and Israel. For example, Eiland claimed that Hezbollah will need to take into account the Russian interest of maintaining peace with Israel and might therefore avoid provoking the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Curtailing the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s advance toward western Syria will be another benefit, according to former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. While these statements might make Israelis optimistic about Russia stepping up, they do not tell the full story. Overall, it appears that Russia’s involvement will be a net negative for Israel.

In recent years, Israel has worked very hard to prevent any advanced weapons systems from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, which is currently Israel’s most potent adversary. As early as January 2013, Israel drew a redline: It would not allow Syria and Iran to exploit the chaos in Syria to boost deliveries of sophisticated weaponry — advanced anti-ship missiles such as the Yakhont, or advanced surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17 and SA-22 — to Hezbollah. On multiple occasions, the Israeli air force targeted these shipments and destroyed the weapons systems. This, it was hoped, would change the risk calculations of the parties involved.




Once again, Russia has turned to the counterterrorism card to seek a way out of its precarious situation at home and in the international arena. During his address to the UN General Assembly, President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of fighting against terrorism: “Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism.” Two days later, Russian forces in Syria began airstrikes against a panoply of anti-Assad groups. While Russian strikes have targeted the Islamic State and Putin continues to justify the campaign on the basis of fighting that group, most strikes have hit other rebel groups that had been advancing on the Alawite heartland.

The timing of the strikes could not have worked better. Floods of Syrian refugees in Europe, growing contradictions among anti-Assad groups, and the indecisiveness of Western powers have allowed Putin the upper hand. At the United Nations, the Russian president pointed out the gross miscalculations of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. Referring to the transfer of weapons between the Syrian oppositional groups, Putin declared: “It is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists.”

Predictably, Putin offered his own solution for resolving the situation in Syria. In his vision, Russian airstrikes will continue until the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are ready to once again go on the offensive. Triumphantly, the Russian government declared that unlike the actions of the anti-Islamic State coalition, the Kremlin’s response fully adheres to international norms. Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvyenko explained that “interference into the territory of a sovereign state can only be carried out on authorization of UN Security Council or on request of official legitimate authorities.” Accordingly, Russia is acting in response to President Assad’s letter requesting help. Lastly, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously voted in favor of Putin’s initiative to further legitimize the involvement of the Russian forces, just as it did in 2014 in Crimea.

A Handy Guide to Who’s Who in Syrian Opposition Groups

Syrian Opposition Guide

Institute for the Study of War, October 7, 2015

This reference guide provides a baseline for identifying Syrian opposition groups. The guide aims to permit researchers to track how groups realign as the Russians commence operations. It seeks to inform the development of policies that aim to protect Syrian rebels willing to cooperate with the U.S. in order to defeat ISIS and marginalize al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

The chart characterizes each group’s relative strength, its areas of operation, its participation in multi-group operations, and its sources of external financing (derived from other experts’ studies). The document carefully identifies those groups that are separable from Jabhat al-Nusra, drawing a sharp distinction between the al-Qaeda affiliate’s subcomponents and those groups that have a more transactional relationship. Whereas the Russian military actions will likely drive these groups together, diminishing the influence of al-Qaeda actually requires breaking the groups apart. Targeting rebel groups writ large through military strikes is therefore counterproductive and will lead to entrenchment of al-Qaeda in Syria.

Russia’s Impact on the Opposition

Russian air operations in Syria impose new pressures on Syrian rebel groups on the ground. Although the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian airstrikes focused on ISIS, local reports and the U.S. official statement indicate that the strikes have primarily targeted Syrian opposition groups in areas far from core ISIS-held terrain. Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated rebel groups that receive support from the U.S. are among those that Russian warplanes have hit.

Russian attack helicopters to be moved to military base in Tajikistan


October 07, 12:57 UTC+3
The newly formed air group will be deployed at the Hissar district of Tajikistan at the Aini airfield 30 km from the capital Dushanbe

A Mi-24 helicopter

MOSCOW, October 7. /TASS/. Russia will move the Mil Mi-24P and Mi-8 MTV helicopters to the 201st military base in Tajikistan, spokesman for the Central Military District, Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin reported on Wednesday.

"The newly formed air group will be deployed at the Hissar district of Tajikistan at the Aini airfield 30 km from the capital Dushanbe. The unit will comprise the Mi-24P attack helicopters and Mi-8 MTV combat transport helicopters," he said.

Roshchupkin said that the helicopters would be engaged in the transportation of cargoes, covering troops’ convoys and support of assault landing operations, putting minefield obstacles, evacuation of the sick and wounded, conduct aerial engineer terrain intelligence.
The 201st military base is Russia’s largest military facility outside the country. Its units are located in Dushanbe, Kurgan-Tube and Kulyab. The military contingent will be deployed in Tajikistan at least until 2042.

China's inroads into the West


September 2015, Volume 71, Number 5

Dr Nicola Casarini is Senior Fellow for Asia at the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome and non-resident Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC

Beijing is rolling out an ambitious plan to create trade routes that stretch to the heart of Europe. This will bring much-needed investment to the countries in its path, but threatens to change the balance of power between rising Asia and the Old Continent
This year, China and the European Union celebrate the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Once marginal, their partnership has become one of the world’s most important. Trade between Beijing and Brussels now exceeds €1.2 billion a year. Their level of interdependence is such that China’s market meltdown this summer was felt in Europe immediately. 

The two sides are currently discussing ways to link China’s ‘one belt, one road’ (OBOR) initiative with the European Commission president Jean-Paul Juncker’s plan for jobs and growth to boost two-way investment and commerce.
Closer Sino-European relations, however, risk weakening the transatlantic bond which was strained in March by the decision of Britain to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member despite United States pressure to stay out. Germany, France and Italy were quick to follow the British lead. 
The state visit by Xi Jinping to Britain in October – the first by a Chinese president in 10 years – will be watched closely by the US and other EU states to see whether London will be able to send a reassuring message to Washington, while reaping the benefits of growing links with Beijing. 

China’s market turmoil hits Europe

Why Putin Has Gone to War in Syria

President at Eurasia Group


Oct 7, 2015 
As if Syria weren’t complicated enough, tempers have now flared between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member on the edge of the Middle East’s most violent conflicts. Early this week, Istanbul accused Moscow of deliberately breaching Turkish air space en route to bombing missions in Syria, its first military action outside the former Soviet Union since the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Russia’s aggressive approach sends a signal that it has returned as a major player on the international stage. Some argue that’s the main reason Russia entered the Syrian war in the first place. The truth is a bit more complicated than that, but it’s a good place to start. These five facts explain Putin’s various calculations for joining the fight in Syria. This piece has been repurposed from my column inTIME.

Putin’s Popularity

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for more than 15 years now; it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t the strongman we know today. But when Putin was first appointed prime minister in 1999, he had an approval rating of 31 percent. A full 37 percent of Russians didn’t even know who he was. Less than a year later, a series of mysterious apartment bombings rocked Moscow, Buynaksk and Volgodnsk. Quick to blame Chechen rebels, Putin’s approval rating skyrocketed to 84 percent. Putin is nothing if not politically savvy, and he clearly learned something from the experience. When Russia launched its war in Georgia in August 2008, Putin’s poll numbers jumped 5 percent despite the death of 67 Russian servicemen and few tangible benefits for Russia beyond a reminder for the neighbors of who’s boss. Over the following year, Putin’s PR campaign against Georgia was so effective that his popularity held firm in the upper 70s despite Russia’s 8 percent GDP plunge in the wake of the global financial crisis.

India, China React to Nepal's Constitutional Crisis

As Nepal’s constitutional crisis continues, New Delhi’s response could present an opportunity for China. 

By Ankit Panda, October 08, 2015

As The Diplomat has reported recently, Nepal’s constitutional crisis shows no signs of abating any time soon. After the promulgation of a constitution that was seen as unrepresentative by around half of the Nepalese population, primarily the Madhesis and Tharus of the Terai (southern plains), the country appeared to be on the brink of a schism. Nepal’s latest constitution is its sixth attempt at a national guiding document and is the result of a Constituent Assembly that was first convened in 2008.

The new constitution takes the place of the 2007 interim constitution, which was adopted after Nepal moved away from decades of monarchy. The controversy over the current constitution stems from its crystallization of the advantages of Nepalese elites based in Kathmandu and the “hills” of the north while disenfranchising the historically disadvantaged Madhesis and Tharus of the Terai. Critics say that under the new constitution, these groups would remain underrepresented in the national legislature.
India, traditionally an influential power in Nepal and a “big brother” of sorts to previous governments in Kathmandu, most prominently the former kings when the country was a monarchy, reacted by expressing its disapproval of the new constitution. Nepali disapproval of India’s reaction intensified when New Delhi imposed an unofficial blockade of critical goods and supplies across its border with Nepal. India maintains the blockade is unofficial and truck drivers are simply hesitant to cross the border into the unstable and turbulent Nepali plains.

Does China Approve of Russia’s Airstrikes in Syria?

http://thediplomat.com/CHINA POWER

An explosion in the Kobani district in Syria on October 22, 2014.

China may be sympathetic to Russia’s motives, but it’s not sold on the idea of military intervention. 

By Shannon Tiezzi, October 08, 2015

Russia has stepped up its military operations in Syriathis week, with its navy now joining the air force in targeting forces opposing the rule of embattled leader Bashar al-Assad. Russia insists it is only targeting the Islamic State and terrorist groups; the United States believes Moscow is actually targeting non-IS rebels, especially those backed by American training and weapons. Rebel groups themselves, meanwhile, have accused Russia of occupying Syria and targeting civilians.

What does China think about all this?

The situation is Syria is a geopolitical mess (and a humanitarian disaster). There’s no good solution, regardless of your perspective, and China is no exception. China’s tangled interests in the Syria situation include a number of factors, some of which would seem to suggest Chinese support for Russia’s recent moves and others that pull Beijing in the opposite direction.
China has a general interest in supporting Russia, which has strong ties to Assad, on international issues, with the expectation that Moscow will return the favor. Warming ties between Moscow and Beijing since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 have intensified such cooperation, though it was evident under Hu Jintao as well. On the Syria issue, this has led to China and Russia acting in concert to veto four separate UN Security Council resolutions since 2011. China was also unwilling to criticize Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which went against China’s long-standing insistence on the inviolable nature of national sovereignty.

When Womenomics Meets Reality

The Japanese government can make structural changes, but cultural attitudes are proving stubborn.
By Emily S. Chen,  October 06, 2015

“Abenomics is womenomics,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reasserted at the 2015 World Assembly for Women in Tokyo in August. Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has been pursuing a strategy that aims to revive Japan’s stagnant economy by promoting the participation and advancement of women in the Japanese workplace.

Nearly three years later, is womenomics working in Japan? The latest data released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests progress on at least some fronts. The statistics have shown that Japan’s female labor force participation rate in 2014 has risen to 66 percent, its highest level in 15 years. The female unemployment rate has also dropped to a low of 3.5 percent. Indeed, Abe’s cabinet has introduced policies to address two structural issues that hold Japanese women back from working: lack of government and company support to balance career with motherhood, and the absence of a women-friendly work environment. The OECD data show that the government’s strategies have helped improve gender equality in Japan.

However, Abe’s womenomics is still bumping up against the stubborn realities. Social expectation of gender roles in patriarchal Japanese society remains a strong reason why women stay out of the workforce, and is likely to compromise the effectiveness of the government’s policy.

Structural Reforms

At the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, Abe pledged to increase women’s participation in the workforce by creating a favorable environment for balancing motherhood with career, and to eradicate biases about the traditional female roles that exist in society. Abe’s statement points to the structural and cultural factors that both discourage Japanese women from working. Recognizing this, his administration has focused on two pronounced structural problems that prevent Japanese women from working.

t The Human Cost of War

And How to Assess the Damage
By John Tirmanhttps://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-10-08/human-cost-war 
The wars that the United States has waged in the Middle East have generally led to yet more interventions. There was the support for themujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1990s and the hot pursuit of Osama bin Laden in 2001. Then came the Iraq wars in 1991 and 2003 and, now, support for theforces seeking to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Among the many reasons for the record of poor outcomes is the United States’ failure to account for the human costs of war.

Washington and the broader policy world are often quick to analyze the failures and occasional successes of U.S. armed conflicts. But rarely do they look at how war affects local populations—from the scale of destruction and the severity of injuries to the reasons why millions of the displaced never return to their old towns or homes. Nor do policymakers consider how many were killed directly by war’s violence or indirectly through privation, disease, and other causes.

As retired U.S. Army General Tommy Franks once remarked, “We don’t do body counts.” (Although the military does sometimes count casualties that result from U.S. action, just not from the war as a whole.) But this sentiment has given an impression that the U.S. military callously disregarded civilian life in Afghanistan and, later, in Iraq. And, indeed, there was a chronic absence of sympathy for the fate of civilians in Iraq. Thus, as General David Petraeus acknowledged in his rewrite of

The Iraqi Quagmire and Baghdad’s Shift Towards Moscow

Iraq: A Stalemate In Search Of A Solution

strategypage.com, October 7, 2015

The Russian intervention in Syria has caused Iraq to openly accuse the United States of being ineffective and unwilling to do what it takes to defeat ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant). Iraqi leaders pointed out that over a year ago the U.S. and its Arab allies promised sufficient air support and other military assistance to defeat ISIL. That has not worked. Iraq believes the United States lacks the will to get the job done while Iran and Russia do have what it takes. Iraq also announced that it had established an intelligence sharing arrangement with Iran, Syria and Russia and invited the United States to join. Finally Iraq was considering asking Russia to extend its bombing campaign to attacks on ISIL in western Iraq and Mosul. This would involve allowing Russia to operate from Iraqi air bases. What is meant here but not being said is that Iraq disagrees with the American ROE (Rules of Engagement) which puts more emphasis on protecting civilians than in destroying the enemy. ISIL uses lots of human shields to protect its men and facilities from air attack. Russia and Arab air forces will bomb a target even if there are human shields present. Another unspoken issue here is the high level of corruption in Iraq. The Russians, Iranians and other Arab states tolerate that while the West, and especially the Americans, do not. The Western experience is that, in the long term killing your own people and tolerating corruption is not a good thing. Thus it is a cultural thing, with the leaders of Iraq, Iran, Russia and most other Arab states more concerned with the short term and thus more tolerant of what the West sees as self-destructive behavior. 

Another unspoken issue here is the very real and very dangerous religious war that is driving a lot of the violence, especially on the part of ISIL. Westerners, and non-Moslems in general, are generally unfamiliar with this growing religious showdown between Arab led Sunni Moslems and Iran led Shia Moslems. These two factions have been arguing, and often fighting over their theological differences for over a thousand years. During that time most Moslem rulers felt it was best to play down these religious differences. But in the last half century the struggle, fueled by all that unexpected oil wealth in Moslem nations, has allowed the Sunni-Shia conflict to heat up. 

On the Sunni side we have oil money funding Islamic conservatives (the predominant kind of Moslem in Arabia) and giving rise to Islamic terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL. None of the Sunni Arab governments wants these groups, although some have used them, as much as they could, against their enemies. But with ISIL this movement has spiraled completely out of control. ISIL espouses an “end of days” doctrine (every religion has one) in which the faithful must mobilize and convert the entire world to Islam so that ultimate purpose of Islam (world domination) can be achieved. The Shia have their own (less devastating) version with Shia in charge. The Sunni have the edge in numbers, as over 80 percent of Moslems are Sunni. But in the Middle East the Shia have an advantage as this is where most Shia live and the Shia are led by Iran. That’s important because for thousands of years the more enterprising and inventive Iranians have been the regional superpower. The Arabs know that, the Iranians know that and some other former superpowers in the area (like Russia and Turkey) know that as well. Everyone should not forget that. 

IP Expo Europe: Don't assume you're safe from the geopolitical cyber-war

October 07, 2015
The new cyber-threat landscape includes the geopolitical dimension which organisations ignore at their peril, said Werner Thalmeier.
Cyber-war coming to a network near you
Werner Thalmeier, director of security solutions for the EMEA and CACI regions at Radware, had words of warning for visitors on the first day of IPExpo. There would be no product slug or advertisement here, he reassured his audience, only a sober briefing of the way cyber-attacks are taking on a geopolitical character in the ongoingcyber-war.
The talk, titled "The Next Cyber War: Geo-political Events and Cyber-attacks", dealt with a phenomenon that has all but failed to keep out of the headlines.

Early this year, the hacktivist group Anonymous declared war on online Islamic fundamentalism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Calling the campaign #opcharliehebdo, the mysterious group crowdsourced like-minded individuals to help hunt for social media accounts, forums and websites known to be popular with radical Islamists and promptly began attacking them.

Their targets, however, had a response. In turn, they launched a campaign called ANONghost, a statement of online Jihad, and with it, they attacked thousands of websites, including many French local government websites, plastering their webpages with pro-Islamic state, pro-radical propaganda. According to Thalmeier, 19,000 websites were affected.

Another such example was Operation Ababil, where online Jihadists once again attacked the networked capabilities of major western institutions. This time, they took aim at the banks, attacking every level of their networked systems and eventually found success attacking blindspots, namely the SSL servers.

Vlad and Yuri: How Putin is applying the lessons of Afghanistan to Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) gives an interview to US journalist Charlie Rose in Moscow, Sept. 20, 2015. 

Vladimir Putin is following in the footsteps of his old KGB boss Yuri Andropov, who took the Soviet Union into Afghanistan in 1979 to shore up a failing client in Kabul. To succeed where Andropov failed, Putin will need to devote considerable resources and manpower to save Bashar al-Assad. But there are also significant differences in the challenges the two faced that favor Putin. Saudi Arabia will be his constant enemy, just as it was Andropov's.

Summary⎙ Print Russian President Vladimir Putin is using his regional allies to create "Alawistan," an enclave isolated from the rest of Syria.

Author Bruce RiedelPosted October 5, 2015

In the fall of 1979, Andropov was the principal advocate in the Kremlin of a Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan to keep the communist Afghan government in power. The Marxist Afghan party was rapidly losing control of the country to the mujahedeen, and KGB chief Andropov warned defeat in Afghanistan would destabilize all of Soviet Central Asia. Andropov convinced an ailing Leonid Brezhnev that it would be an easy and cheap victory. In 1956, Andropov had been the Soviet ambassador in Hungary who called for Soviet intervention there, which had kept Budapest in the Warsaw Pact.

But the Islamic world is not Eastern Europe. The Soviets faced a firestorm of Islamic opposition in Afghanistan. Days after elite Soviet airborne forces secured Kabul (replacing one communist protege with another after a shootout in the presidential palace), Saudi King Fahd promised Pakistan he would fund the mujahedeen resistance to Soviet aggression. Fahd put then-Prince Salman, governor of Riyadh, in charge of raising private funds for the Afghans. Salman raised tens of millions of dollars, initially exceeding the money the CIA and Saudi intelligence provided the mujahedeen and their Pakistani allies. The entire Islamic world was mobilized by Fahd against Moscow.

The Soviets never resourced the war properly. At their peak effort, the Soviets deployed just over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, far too few to pacify the country. Andropov escalated the war considerably when he became party boss, but the number of boots on the ground was never enough. Russia had put double the number of troops into Hungary, a flat plain easy to conquer, and had a huge army in 1979, but the Kremlin never brought enough resources to the fight in the Hindu Kush.

India becoming strategic target for cyber-criminals: report


As the country embarks on ambitious tech projects, more firms likely to exposed to attacks than the global average
India is fast becoming a “strategic target” for cyber-criminals with an estimated 38 per cent of organisations exposed to targeted attacks in the first half of 2015, a report said.

Security solutions firm FireEye’s ‘1H 2015 Regional Advanced Threat Report for Asia Pacific’ found that 38 per cent of organisations in India were exposed to targeted advanced persistent attacks in the first half of the year, a 23 per cent increase from the previous year.

“India is fast becoming a strategic target, in part because of the potentially sensitive information that is expected to be digitised through ambitious and high-profile projects such as Digital India,” it said.
The focus on the country is reflected in the report that ranks India fourth in Asia-Pacific countries exhibiting the most command-and-control (CnC) infection callbacks.

This indicates the presence of compromised systems that are actively communicating with the advanced persistent threat (APT) groups’ command-and-control infrastructure.
“As India embarks on ambitious technology projects, attackers are exploiting gaps to compromise critical networks.
Indian organisations are more likely to be exposed to attacks than the global average,” FireEye Chief Technology Officer (APAC) Bryce Boland said.

In the future, India’s growing economic clout and rising regional influence are likely to make it a more attractive target to threat groups, he added.
“These threat groups seek access to intellectual property, intelligence and critical infrastructure,” Boland said.

In the first half of 2015, FireEye revealed two attacks likely conducted by China-based threat actors on Indian organisations.
‘APT30’ conducted a decade-long cyber-espionage campaign that compromised, among others, an Indian aerospace and defence company, it said.
The ‘Watermain’ campaign targeted India and its neighbouring countries and appeared to target information about ongoing border disputes and other diplomatic matters, it added.

Army U


October 6, 2015


Everyone in the U.S. Army, from top officers to new recruits, gets some kind of training. Soon, many of those trainees will also be in college. Sort of.

They will be in Army University: a soon-to-begin restructuring of the Army’s educational system that will be modeled after traditional civilian universities. The idea is to consolidate the Army’s many educational and training programs, to make them more flexible and adaptable, and to help students get more college credit for their military experience.

A handful of Army institutions, like the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Army War College, already operate as universities and offer accredited degrees. The vast majority of the army's training programs, however -- some 70 different schools that train everyone from cadets to engineers to officers and truck drivers -- are mostly unaccredited and unconnected.

Those programs operate under the purview of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, but “a lot of them are individually owned and operated” by different bodies within the Army, said Col. Michael Harlan, the new vice president for learning systems at Army University. That means innovation may spread slowly or not at all across the schools, and different programs often overlap inefficiently. “If 20 programs use the same curriculum, there could be 20 different people updating it,” he said.

Army University will bring them all under one umbrella. “Really what we will look at is how can we improve the rigor and abilities that are taught to our soldiers,” Harlan said. “We’re not reducing the schools. We’re just looking for way to run them more efficiently.”

How precisely all that will work remains to be seen. Army University is in a developmental “cost-benefit analysis” phase where Harlan and others internally outline and justify the program’s exact structure before submitting it for approval.

But, looking forward, the hope is this change will help address a longstanding problem in Army education. Less than a quarter of TRADOC classes have any kind of accreditation, and many soldiers or veterans find the credits on their military transcript rarely translate to usable credit at traditional civilian colleges.

The American Council on Education, higher education’s umbrella group, has for a long time evaluated Army training programs and provided credit recommendations for service members who complete them. But it’s still ultimately up to individual colleges to decide whether or not to accept them, which they often do not.