25 October 2015

Subhas Chandra Bose: Stalin’s Prisoner?

Was Netaji sent to the Gulag? The Subhas Chandra Bose files might reveal many hidden truths

The Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry into the death of Subhas Chandra Bose has provided the Indian Government with singularly credible evidence that there was no plane crash at Taihoku (Taipei) airfield in Taiwan between 16 and 20 August, 1945. And that there was no record of the allegedly mortal remains of Bose being cremated in Taipei. The recent release of 64 classified ‘Bose Files’ on 17 September also show that the government of West Bengal was keeping tabs on the entire Bose family for almost 25 years after his alleged death in the plane crash.

All this points to an attempt to bluff the public about Bose’s death. It shows the government of the day thinking it vitally important to be informed if there was any communication between Bose and his family even though he was officially dead!

A 'Crash Landing': The Slow and Painful Death of India's Air Force

October 22, 2015

The Obama Administration is gearing up to sell eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Pakistan, the New York Times reports. Those jets will add to Pakistan’s fleet of seventy-six existing “Vipers” as the type is colloquially known. Meanwhile, its arch-nemesis India’s air force shrinks by the day as planes age out and squadron are disbanded.

Assuming Pakistan completes the sale, the eight F-16s would help boost that country’s fleet of eighteen existing advanced Block 52+ Vipers. The rest of the Pakistani F-16 fleet consists of modified A-model jets that have been upgraded to Block 15 MLU standard, which bring those aircraft nearly up to the same capability as the newest Block 52+ jets.

Pakistan is also buying more than 150 Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu JF-17 Thunder fighters. According to Flight International’s World Air Forces Directory 2015—Pakistan currently has forty-nine of the aircraft in service with 100 more on order. The JF-17 ultimately originates as an extensive redesign of the Chendu F7, which was originally a license-built MiG-21 derivative. Powered by a Russian-made Klimov RD-93—which is a version of the MiG-29’s engine—the JF-17 provides decent capability at low prices. It is likely that the JF-17 will replace Pakistan’s geriatric fleet of Chengdu F-7s, Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs.

Publishing Official Military Histories

October 16, 2015

This commentary seeks to bring to attention a peculiar and undesirable practice being adopted by the Ministry of Defence in the writing and publication of official war histories.

Offices of government are created not to satisfy the whims of bureaucracy but to fulfill official requirements. The Indian defence establishment has one of the oldest history divisions in any ministry of the Government of India. The reason is simple. It has long been known that the armed forces have a closer and stronger relationship with history than almost any other state institution. Not only do military institutions use history as a means of building up morale and esprit de corps, it is also commonly used as a tool for instruction and analyses to educate officers in the intricacies of their profession.

The paradigm of official military history has shifted considerably since the days when its objectives and methodology were mainly geared to meet the needs of the General Staff and its outlook was primarily focused on the didactic study of military operations with a view to facilitate future staff planning. It is now recognised that the complexity of history demands not merely portrayal of events, but also analyses, often employing a multi-disciplinary approach to construct a narrative that caters to a broad readership spectrum. An official history also provides a rationale for the use of state power in defence or offence. It is for this very reason that official war histories are written by professional historians at the behest of the government. The intent is to present an official account of the state’s involvement in a conflict in which it was engaged. The military is normally, and quite naturally, the largest client and most concerned party in any such official narrative dealing with a war history. However, the skewed higher defence organisation in India ensures that the Service Headquarters remain peripheral to the outcome of these endeavours and have very little say in determining when the histories will either be written or published.

A 'Crash Landing': The Slow and Painful Death of India's Air Force

October 22, 2015 

The Obama Administration is gearing up to sell eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Pakistan, the New York Times reports. Those jets will add to Pakistan’s fleet of seventy-six existing “Vipers” as the type is colloquially known. Meanwhile, its arch-nemesis India’s air force shrinks by the day as planes age out and squadron are disbanded.

Assuming Pakistan completes the sale, the eight F-16s would help boost that country’s fleet of eighteen existing advanced Block 52+ Vipers. The rest of the Pakistani F-16 fleet consists of modified A-model jets that have been upgraded to Block 15 MLU standard, which bring those aircraft nearly up to the same capability as the newest Block 52+ jets.

Sindh: Malignant Brew

Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 13, 2015, at least four persons, including two terrorists, were killed in separate incidents of violence in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. In one incident, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) Additional Director, Arshad Hussain, was shot dead near Askari Park in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town. Two terrorists, identified as Zohaib and Mahmood, were killed in two separate Police encounters in the Kalari and Chakiwara areas of Lyari Town. Zohaib, affiliated with the Wasi Lakho Gang, was reportedly involved in killing of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA), Waja Kareem Dad, on August 17, 2011 in the Kharadar area of Saddar Town. Mahmood was associated with the Baba Ladla Gang. In another incident, Police recovered an unidentified dead body from Gulshan-e-Ghazi area of Baldia Town.

On October 8, 2015, two Police Officials, identified as Head Constable Abdul Ghafar and Constable Pervaiz Ali, were shot dead while they were on a routine patrol near Char Minar within the limits of the New Town Police Station in the Bahadurabad area of Gulshan Town. In another incident, a traffic Policeman identified as Rehan Sarwar was killed at his residence in the Aram Bagh area of Saddar Town.

Afghan Special Forces Being Tested As Fighting With Taliban Surges

October 23, 2015

Afghan Special Forces in Firing Line as Fighting Spreads

PATKIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan/KABUL — As Afghan soldiers and police struggle to contain an escalating insurgency that has targeted several cities in recent weeks, the country’s special forces are being tested as never before.

Trained in counter-insurgency tactics at the elite School of Excellence near Kabul, these soldiers led the battle to retake Kunduz, after regular forces fled their posts last month to cede the northern city to militants they easily outnumbered.

“The credit for the Kunduz victory goes to the Afghan special forces of the police and Afghan National Army,” said interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, referring to the government’s recapture of most of Kunduz a few days after it fell to the Taliban in late September.

“They are tough fighters.”

Events surrounding the first capitulation of a provincial capital to the Taliban since they were ousted from power in 2001 underlined the weakness of Afghanistan’s regular army and police and the relative strength of its special forces.

The Growing Power of Pakistan’s Army Chief

Saeed Shah and Adam Entous
October 23, 2015

Powerful General Raheel Sharif Eclipses Pakistan’s Prime Minister

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—President Barack Obama met Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, at the White House on Thursday. But next month, top American officials will hold talks with the man many people say calls the shots on the issues Washington cares most about: Gen. Raheel Sharif.

The chief of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Sharif has eclipsed the authority of the country’s elected leaders on critical security-policy matters, including the fight against Islamic extremists, the Afghan peace process and the country’s nuclear-weapons program, officials and analysts say.

“The civilian entities don’t have the ability to deliver on a few things at this point,” a senior U.S. official said. As for Gen. Sharif, the official said: “He can deliver.”

Gen. Sharif, who isn’t related to the prime minister, has turned himself into a cult hero by battling terrorism and restoring a measure of order in Pakistan’s biggest and most violent city, Karachi. That has bolstered the army’s standing and political power in a country where democracy has struggled to take firm root.

Why does Pakistan keep demanding a civil nuclear deal from the US?

Though Pakistani officials have denied that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will push for an agreement with Barack Obama when he meets him on Thursday, strategists across the border believe Islamabad merits one.

It may be the surest of things in politics: an immediate and strong governmental denial is usually a sign that something is afoot. With Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Washington to meet US President Obama in the White House on Thursday, Pakistani officials have denied that a civilian nuclear deal is being negotiated with the US.

In the small strategic community that works on nuclear issues in Pakistan, however, there is a general insistence that Pakistan fully merits a civilian nuclear deal. However, the terms floated in the US media and analyst community are unlikely to be accepted.

“What the Americans are trying to do is shape how we think about deterrence, but they are a decade behind in their understanding of how on-ground and operational changes have affected deterrence posture,” said Maria Sultan, director general of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, which has close ties to the army.

US Will Sell 8 F-16 Fighter Jets to Pakistan

October 23, 2015

The United States is preparing to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in order to bolster bilateral ties between the two countries senior American officials toldThe New York Times.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif to the White House Thursday. As of now, it is unclear whether the weapon sale was discussed in any detail. So far, no public announcement has been made.

However, the United States Congress can still block the sale. Back in March 2015, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs froze $150 million in foreign military financing and put a hold on the delivery of a number of used U.S. Navy cutter vessels since they were not deemed essential in fighting militants in Pakistan.

“We remain deeply concerned that Pakistan has failed to take meaningful action against key Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory,” the committee’s chairman noted in a letter sent to the U.S. State Department in March.

Can Georgia Care for Its Afghan War Veterans?

By Ryan McCarrel and Bradley Jardine
October 22, 2015

On the same day that U.S. President Barack Obama broke his promise to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work was on the line with America’s longtime allies there. Georgia’s Minister of Defense Tina Khidasheli was eager to answer the call. Immediately after, she announced that Georgia would remain a “devoted partner” to NATO and the U.S. Despite its relatively small size, and the fact that it is not a member of the alliance, Georgia has nonetheless become the second largest troop contributor to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan -with more than 850 soldiers rotated in and out on a continuous basis.

Are We Losing Afghanistan Again?

October 22, 20154

“ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient.

Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.

Time For Southeast Asia to Address its Climate Problem

October 23, 2015

Though transboundary haze pollution and the El Niño phenomenon are often reported these days across Southeast Asia, these issues deserve greater attention from regional leaders.

These are no longer national problems that local politicians can easily address through rhetoric; the situation already demands a stronger action which can be effectively realized through regional cooperation.

The haze has become an annual problem involving Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. This year, the haze is darker and more hazardous than ever; but this time it has reached the skies of south Thailand and some parts ofsouthern Mindanao in the Philippines.

The ‘ground zero’ of the disaster is in Indonesia where forest burning and land clearing operations have worsened the air pollution levels across the region. But equally to blame are Malaysian and Singaporean companies which are financing the expansion of rubber and palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

Six reasons why China's economy is weaker than you think

China's economy is stuttering and the slowdown is set to continue.

The UK has rolled out the red carpet for Chinese president Xi Jinping on his five-day official visit. He is being given the royal treatment, including a stay at Buckingham Palace, a ride in a state carriage along The Mall and several banquets. The trip will also include plenty of time with the British prime minister, David Cameron, who is keen to discuss the trade and investment that the UK hopes to secure from the visit.

Britain’s pivot to China is largely based on its economic strength. And yet there is cause for concern. Having been the locomotive for global growth following the financial crisis in 2008, Chinese growth has now slowed and its economy is looking increasingly fragile. The latest GDP figures came in at just under 7%, significantly down from the astounding annual rate of more than 9% per year between 1990 and 2010.

Why US South China Sea FON Operations Don’t Make Sense

By Sam Bateman
October 22, 2015

Strong calls continue to be made in Washington for the U.S. Navy to increase its freedom of navigation (FON) activities in the South China Sea. This is despite apparent differences of view between the Pentagon and the White House about the wisdom of such action.

The United States has done little in 2015 to ease concerns about whether it knows what it’s doing in the South China Sea. If anything, the rhetoric coming out of the Pentagon, and the U.S. Navy in particular, has become stronger.

While extensive land reclamations in the South China Sea have not helped China’s image, none of its current actions justify deliberate provocations by the United States. It’s not clear just what Washington is protesting in the South China Sea. There are three possibilities, some or all of which may apply.

One explanation may be that the United States is protesting against China’s claim to sovereignty over disputed features. But Washington has repeatedly said that it doesn’t take sides in the island disputes. An authoritative report last year from the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington concluded that “[t]he absence of an unambiguous legal case in any of these disputes reinforces the wisdom of the U.S. policy of not taking a position regarding which country’s sovereignty claim is superior.”

Should the US Fear China’s New Space Weapons?

October 23, 2015

A new report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission offers insights into China’s burgeoning space weapons program designed to attack U.S. satellites and undermine American C5ISR capabilities in the event of a conflict.

The Washington Times obtained a copy of the report, which will be published next month. “China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons,” the report reads.

The People’s Republic’s counterspace capabilities play a pivotal role in the Chinese military’s overall anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) doctrine to counter U.S. conventional superiority based on network centric warfare. The 2014 iteration of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report quotes a Chinese military analyst, who notes that the development long-range precision strike weapons “cannot be separated from space power.”

Get Ready, Asia: China's Military Is Rapidly Catching Up to America

October 22, 2015

In considering Paul Dibb’s analysis on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), I’d recommend anyone interested in the state of China’s military start by reading Roger Cliff’s China’s Military Power: Assessing Current and Future Capabilities. Cliff argues that “…by 2020, the quality of China’s military doctrine, equipment, personnel and training will likely be approaching, to varying degrees, those of the US and other Western militaries.”

Although prevailing weaknesses in organizational structure, logistics and organizational culture will limit the effectiveness of PLA weapons and platforms, “defeating China in these scenarios [Taiwan and South China Sea] could nonetheless be difficult and costly for the United States’ primarily as a result of the geographic advantages that China enjoys, as well as specific systems capabilities.”

Finally, he suggests, “the 2020s are likely to be a time of power transition in East Asia, from a region in which the United States has had the capability to defend its allies against virtually any form of aggression, to one where China has the capability to, at a minimum, contest control of the seas and airspace and where an attempt to oppose a Chinese use of force will be dangerous and costly for any country, including the United States.”

Chen Wenqing: China’s New Man for State Security

October 23, 2015

On October 8, Chinese media confirmed that Chen Wenqing became the party secretary of the Ministry of State Security (MSS), suggesting a transition is underway in the ministry responsible for intelligence and counterintelligence.Rumors in the overseas Chinese press indicated that Chen would be the next MSS chief, and that he would use the party secretary position to transition into running the ministry. The move can be read as another attempt by President Xi Jinping to rein in the security and intelligence apparatus as well as a sign that oversight of the MSS has not yet become institutionalized. Chen’s rise, though novel, brings a seasoned security professional to the MSS leadership and offers a good option for the soon-vacant minister position to guide the MSS through its evolution ahead.

Beijing Bull: The Bogus China Model

October 22, 2015

Daniel A. Bell, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 336 pp., $29.95.

THE IDEOLOGICAL competition between democracy and authoritarianism was supposed to have died with the Cold War. But it has returned with a vengeance, powered above all by the rise of China. Now comes a book by a respected scholar, Daniel A. Bell, that purports to explain the secrets of the China model and to show why it works better than liberal democracy. The book will have wide influence because of Bell’s impressive academic credentials, his accessible writing style, his wide-ranging knowledge of both China and the West, as well as his energetic convening of conferences and symposia.

UK and China Sign No Cyber Economic Spying Pact

Katie Bo Williams
October 22, 2015

UK, China mirror US anti-hacking pact 

China and the UK have inked an agreement similar to a Beijing-U.S. one reached in September forbidding economic espionage against one another’s companies, The Guardian reports.

The two nations have signed a “high-level security dialogue” regarding cybercrime that is intended to halt hacks on companies either to acquire intellectual property or to disable computer systems, according to The Guardian.

The announcement comes just days after an American research firm accused China of breakingits agreement with the U.S. almost immediately.

“The very first intrusion conducted by China-affiliated actors after the joint Xi-Obama announcement at the White House took place the very next day — Saturday, Sept. 26,” CrowdStrike CEO Dmitri Alperovitch wrote in a Monday blogpost.

Seven of the recently hacked companies were technology or pharmaceutical firms, “where the primary benefit of the intrusions seems clearly aligned to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional national-security related intelligence collection, which the agreement does not prohibit,” Alperovitch wrote.

Despite U.S. Airstrikes, ISIS Still Earning $50 Million Per Month From Oil Sales

October 23, 2015

Despite US-led campaign, Islamic State rakes in oil earnings

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State rakes in up to $50 million a month from selling crude from oilfields under its control in Iraq and Syria, part of a well-run industry that U.S. diplomacy and airstrikes have so far failed to shut down, according to Iraqi intelligence and U.S. officials.

Oil sales — the extremists’ largest single source of continual income — are a key reason they have been able to maintain their rule over their self-declared “caliphate” stretching across large parts of Syria and Iraq. With the funds to rebuild infrastructure and provide the largesse that shore up its fighters’ loyalty, it has been able to withstand ground fighting against its opponents and more than a year of bombardment in the U.S.-led air campaign.

The group has even been able to bring in equipment and technical experts from abroad to keep the industry running, and the United States has recently stepped up efforts to close off this support.

Washington has been talking to regional governments, including Turkey, about its concerns over the importing of energy infrastructure into IS-run territory in Syria, including equipment for extraction, refinement, transport and energy production, according to a senior U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the IS oil sector.

Israelis Release Spy Satellite Imagery of Russian Forces in Syria

Barbara Opall-Rome
October 23, 2015

TEL AVIV — Israel’s high-resolution eyes in space are keeping close track of Russian efforts to fortify the flailing regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as evidenced by imagery obtained by Defense News from just one satellite.

Images captured earlier this month from the Eros-B, a dual-use imaging satellite owned and operated by ImageSat International, reveal high operational tempo at Latakia International Airport, where Moscow has based some 12 Su-25 fighters, a similar amount of Su-24 bombers, 16 Mi-35 attack helicopters and a small amount of Su-30 and Su-34 aircraft.

Satellite imagery dated Oct. 3, 2015 shows extensive Russian presence in Latakia International Airport. Four Sukhoi-34 advanced strike fighters on taxiway. (Photo: ImageSat International)

Outsized Antonov 124 and Ilyushin Il-76 cargo aircraft are seen offloading additional cargo, all of which is protected by at least one SAM-22 surface-to-air missile system.

In an image dated Oct. 10, support vehicles and open cockpit canopies indicate high levels of alert while another image taken on the same day shows a foursome of Su-30 attack fighters in so-called fast launch positions at the end of the runway.

Turkish President Says Syrians and Kurds Behind Ankara Terrorist Bombing

October 23, 2015

Turkey’s Erdogan sees Syrian and Kurdish hands in Ankara attack

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Syrian intelligence and Kurdish militants, not just Islamic State, were behind a double suicide bombing in Ankara which killed more than 100 people, the worst attack of its kind in Turkey’s modern history.

Erdogan said Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, the Syrian “mukhabarat” secret police and the Syrian Kurdish PYD militia had worked together with Islamic State in the bombing on Oct. 10.

Turkish authorities have focused their investigation on a home-grown Islamic State cell, but the government has been more ambiguous about assigning blame, concerned, its critics say, about how the fallout might impact a general election on Nov. 1.

“This incident shows how terror is implemented collectively. This is a completely collective act of terror and it includes ISIS (Islamic State), PKK, the mukhabarat, and the terrorist group PYD from north of Syria,” Erdogan said.

“They carried out this act all together,” he said in a speech broadcast live on Turkish television at the annual meeting of a labor union in Ankara. Erdogan has often cast threats to Turkey or his own authority as foreign-backed plots.


OCTOBER 22, 2015

It is hard to know whether the United States is serious about defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Forward air controllers, no-fly zones, and safe zones aside, the U.S. Congress remains uninterested in passing a dedicated Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL. This is a travesty of American leadership obscured by the banality of congressional inaction. The growing consensus in Washington holds that President Obama’s current path is unlikely to defeat ISIL any time soon. This view is warranted, but as pressure mounts to “do more” against the group, we should be very wary of a course of action that asks American men and women to take risks with their lives while members of Congress refuse even to risk a debate and vote about using force against the group.

The United States is currently waging a low-level war against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria. It includes airstrikes,material support to allied groups, and the occasional special operations raid. Congress has never specifically authorized this war; rather, President Obama has claimed the authority to fight ISIL under the post-9/11 AUMF passed in 2001 to grant authority to confront al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Senior administration officials also claim they have legal authority under the 2002 AUMF passed for the invasion of Iraq.


OCTOBER 22, 2015

Eliot Cohen is frustrated. He views President Obama as not able to take advice on foreign affairs. In making his case, Cohen offers his view on how the Obama administration and the president in particular see the current crisis in the Middle East:

We would do well to have nothing to do with the Middle East.

The Bush Administration idiotically got us deeply involved in 2003 — the mistake from which most of our troubles have flowed. Our real interests, and in particular our economic interests, lie in Asia. The Europeans will have to learn to handle refugee flows on their own. Admittedly, many Middle Eastern terrorists would like to attack us, but they have their hands full with local enemies, and for those who want to target North America we have drones and special operators.

Will Kyrgyzstan Go Russian on NGOs?

By Cholpon Orozobekova
October 22, 2015

At a meeting of the Presidential Council for Human Rights on October 1, Russian President Vladimir Putinpromised to rewrite the foreign agents law with more precise definitions. Adopted in 2012, the bill requires all Russian NGOs to register as foreign agent and to disclose any overseas financing.

The announcement came after criticism from Lyudmila Alekseyeva, one of Russia’s oldest human rights activists and head of the Moscow Helsinki group. Alekseyeva asked the president to cancel the controversial law:

“You said many times that this law is executed incorrectly. It means it’s written incorrectly, and it’s unlikely it can be corrected. [You should] abolish this harmful law. The non-government organizations that fall under the definition of a foreign agent use all the funds they receive from abroad for the benefit of Russia and its citizens. Don’t suspect us in something we are not guilty [of]. Our organizations are founded and operated by Russian citizens, and we are labelled as a foreign agents by own government, which is shameful for us.”

Japan’s Nuclear Energy Choices

By Kathleen Araújo
October 22, 2015

As Japan recovers from recent torrential flooding, concerns about nuclear safety are never far from people’s minds. During the flooding, bags of contaminated debris were swept away from cleanup sites associated with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Japan also restarted commercial operation of domestic nuclear generation last month under more rigorous, post-accident rules. Amidst these developments, questions linger over whether the country should (or even is ready to) expand its nuclear operations. For this, answers may lie in fuller public engagement.

In August, news broadcasts showed the control room of Japan’s Sendai No. 1 Reactor renewing initial operations. Among those protesting the restart was former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who held office during the Fukushima accident. Shortly after the reactor’s restart, five cracked tubes were discovered in the reactor’s cooling system, requiring new mitigation measures.

To put the experience into broader context, Japan is highly seismic and volcanic in nature. It is home to 110 active volcanoes and has 1,500 earthquakes of varying magnitudes each year. In August, the Japanese Meteorological Agency warned of larger-than-usual risks (prompting evacuation) in conjunction with volcanic eruptions at Mt. Sakurajima. Based roughly 30 miles from the restarted Sendai plant, the volcano is one of the most active in Japan, with volcanic sediment from previous flow found three miles from the plant.

The Many Problems of a Hillary Clinton Candidacy for President

October 22, 2015

Now that Vice President Joe Biden has decided against running for president, everyone seems to think that Hillary Clinton has a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination. It’s probably true, but it represents nonetheless a truly remarkable development in American politics. No votes have been taken. No ordinary Democrat has trudged to a caucus or a primary to give vent to his or her sentiment on who should represent the party in the fall election campaign. In our new system, it seems, voters are superfluous. The winnowing begins long before those poor saps are invited into the process. In the meantime, the process belongs to pollsters, cable commentators, and money men—all operating on the basis of early debates.

And so, if conventional wisdom prevails, the Democrats will get a candidate considered by most Americans to be dishonest and untrustworthy, who is under investigation by the FBI, and whose favorability rating in polls invariably runs well below her unfavorability rating. What kind of a party elevates such a person to such a position?

The answer: a cynical one. Democrats across the country cheered at last week’s debate when Vermont senator Bernie Sanders declared that voters are “sick and tired” of Clinton’s email scandal and want instead discussion on major issues. Clinton herself laughed uproariously and shook her opponent’s hand in appreciative glee. The message: Democrats don’t care about such trivial matters; they will just ignore this scandal, and it will go away.

Presidential Judgment and Unpredictable Outcomes

October 22, 2015

Right up until Joe Biden announced that he is not running for president, mainstream media deemed to be of significance the advice that he had given President Obama about whether to attempt the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. This was seen as a measure of the relative judgment that he and another adviser to the president at the time, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, exhibited. Clinton has received kudos for reportedly being firmly in favor of an operation that achieved its immediate objective and is widely regarded as a major success; the advice Biden gave evidently is more uncertain. But whether each one voted yes or no while this operation was being discussed by the president's senior advisers in the Situation Room—with our giving more points in hindsight for a “yes” than a “no”—tells us much less about the presidential level of judgment that each was demonstrating than many seem to think it does. Using an episode such as this as a gauge of fitness for high office is another instance of the all too common practice of rating leaders in large part for events that are outside their control, rather than reserving praise or blame for things that are more in their control and that are better measures of good or bad judgment.

Based on what we know about the decision to go after bin Laden—and some journalists have been telling us that we may not know as much as we thought we knew—there were important things that the president himself and his advisers evidently did not know, beginning with whether bin Laden was for certain in the house that would be raided. The decision was not a straightforward matter of applying good judgment to known facts but instead a matter of taking a risk. Insofar as a president needs to take some risks to get things done, Mr. Obama deserves credit for being willing to take this one, but that evaluation should not depend on the particular outcome that the operation happened to have.

Hillary Was Right: Rogue Nukes Are a Serious Threat

October 23, 2015

What is the greatest threat to national security? According to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the first Democratic debate of the 2016 election season, it is the threat of nuclear weapons and material falling into the wrong hands. Former President George W. Bush said the same thing in a previous presidential debate. No matter your opinion of their politics, they are right. Both terrorists and smugglers have expressed interest in such a transfer, and we should consider ourselves lucky that one has yet to occur.

How might a terrorist acquire a nuclear bomb or enough nuclear material to create a crude weapon? The most likely scenario involves a terrorist group purchasing or stealing highly enriched uranium (HEU) and developing an improvised nuclear device. With just 25 kilograms of HEU, which could easily fit in a shoebox or backpack, terrorists could make a nuclear weapon capable of inflicting the same devastation as the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With less nuclear material, terrorists could lace conventional explosives with radiological material to create a dirty bomb that would disperse radiological material upon detonation. The results would be devastating: in addition to casualties from the explosion, concerns of radiological fallout would create panic and economic disruption.

America Still Needs To Invest In Tunisia's Future

October 23, 2015

Tunisia’s democratic success is back in the international spotlight following the Nobel Peace Prize announcement. The prize is well deserved—the National Dialogue Quartet achieved a remarkable feat by putting Tunisia’s transition back on track while maintaining the respect of the Tunisian political class and the public. However, today Tunisia’s transition remains fragile and will require the full support of the international community—including the United States—to ensure the forces working against democracy in Tunisia do not succeed.

As the darling of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has generally enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. Thus, it was surprising that Senate appropriators approved a foreign aid bill in July that would give Tunisia 35 percent less than the $134.4 million requested by the administration and approved by the House. The House bill includes an increase in Economic Support Funds (ESF) from $30 million in FY15 to $55 million in FY16 and an increase in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) from $25 million to $62.5 million. The Senate, conversely, would increase ESF only slightly (to $45 million) and FMF even less (to $30 million), despite Tunisia’s two recent terror attacks (in March at the Bardo Museum and in June at a resort in Sousse).

U.S.Plan to Launch Attack on ISIS Capital of Raqqa in Syria Already Strewn With Miscues and Mistakes

Liz Sly
October 22, 2015

U.S. plans to capture the Islamic State’s capital already go awry

AIN ISSA, Syria — In this abandoned desert town on the front line of the war against the Islamic State in Raqqa, local fighters are fired up by announcements in Washington that the militants’ self-proclaimed capital is to be the next focus of the war.

But there is still no sign of the help the United States has delivered ostensibly for the use of the Arab groups fighting the Islamic State, nor is there any indication it will imminently arrive, calling into question whether there can be an offensive to capture Raqqa anytime soon.

Fifty tons of ammunition air-dropped by the U.S. military last week and intended for Arab groups has instead been claimed by the overall command of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is fighting alongside Arab units but overwhelmingly dominates their uneasy alliance, according to Kurdish and Arab commanders.

The question of whether Arab or Kurdish fighters get the weapons is crucial, in part because of Turkish sensitivities surrounding America’s burgeoning relationship with the Syrian Kurds. Turkey accuses the YPG of affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, designated a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington, and has already lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Ankara that the YPG was the recipient of the weapons intended for Arabs.

Pentagon Provides Latest Numbers on the Wars in Iraq and Syria

Cheryl Pellerin
October 22, 2015

Inherent Resolve Spokesman Updates Iraq, Syria Operations

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2015 — Since operations began against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets in Syria and Iraq, the coalition has conducted 7,603 airstrikes, an Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman in Baghdad told Pentagon reporters today via video teleconference.

Army Col. Steve Warren said 4,933 of the strikes have taken place in Iraq, and 2,670 have been conducted in Syria.

In Iraq, Iraqi forces have regained most of the Beiji oil refinery and are clearing small pockets of enemy resistance, Warren said, noting that coalition forces have conducted four airstrikes in Beiji over the last week. The Iraqi air force has been flying in direct support of ground forces at Beiji, flying more than 40 missions over the last three days, he added.

“The ability of the Iraqi air force to fly close air support missions and support their own ground forces marks a key milestone … in capability that we are helping the Iraqi security forces develop,” Warren said.

Clearing IEDs

Declassified Papers Show Disastrous Buster Crabbe UK Cold War Spying Operation Provoked Crisis in MI5-MI6 Relations

Richard Norton-Taylor
October 23, 2015

Disastrous cold war operation provoked row over MI6 responsibility 

A disastrous MI6 operation that resulted in the headless body of a navy frogman being washed up in Chichester harbour provoked a furious row over who should be responsible for Britain’s secret intelligence service, hitherto classified filesshow.

Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb was asked by MI6 to inspect the propeller and hull of a new Soviet cruiser, the Ordzhonikidze, which was moored at Portsmouth during Nikita Khrushchev and Marshal Nikolai Bulganin’s official visit to Britain in 1956. But Crabb vanished, and a coroner later ruled that a headless body found in June 1957 was his.

The operation had gone ahead “against my orders”, noted an angry Anthony Eden, the prime minister, papers show. MI6 claimed that the Foreign Office was informed beforehand, but it denied this. The head of MI6, Sir John Sinclair, resigned and was replaced by Sir Dick White, the head of MI5.

An official inquiry attacked MI6 for “errors in tradecraft”, describing as “criminal folly” the decision by Bernard Smith, the officer in charge of the operation, to sign his real name and address in the register of the Sally Port hotel, where he stayed the night with Crabb before the operation. It also noted that the 47-year-old Crabb had not done any diving for six months. An inquest jury on Crabb recorded an open verdict.

Controversial Cybersecurity Bill Advances in Senate

October 23, 2015

Cybersecurity: Senate takes initial step to bill’s passage

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is set to pass a bill aimed at improving cybersecurity by encouraging the sharing of threat information among companies and the U.S. government.

A procedural vote of 83-14 on Thursday represented a healthy endorsement of a bill opposed by companies such as Apple and Dropbox, who said it lacks key privacy protections and may result in personal information ending up in the government’s hands.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who said it was critical to limit increasingly high-profile cyberattacks, such as one suffered by Sony Pictures last year.

“This is a good bill. It is a first step. It’s not going to prevent all cyberattacks or penetrations, but it will allow companies to share information about the cyber threats they see and the defensive measures to implement to protect their networks,” Feinstein said. She said the same tactics are used repeatedly against different targets, which shouldn’t happen.


OCTOBER 23, 2015

One of the more charming and frustrating aspects of American life is the endless pursuit of perfection. We tend to believe, as a people, that things can always be improved. For many aspects of life ­— science, medicine, transportation safety, etc. — this is a worthwhile approach. But for other aspects of life this pursuit is really a chimera; an illusory, unattainable goal. Indeed, pursuing such improvements may be even more costly than not pursuing them at all.

One of those areas where we should perhaps step back from the endless quest for perfection is intelligence analysis. Note that we said “perhaps.” We believe the issue is open to debate and is a debate worth having.

Since 2001, the intelligence community has been pilloried repeatedly for its “failed analysis.” Critics point to the 9/11 attacks, the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the unpredicted Arab Spring. We do not deny that these were analytic failures, but we also believe that it is important to look at the larger record of intelligence analysis and ask some fundamental questions: Is this as good as intelligence analysis gets? And, if so, is it good enough?