9 December 2015

U.S. Intel to Obama: ISIS Is Not Contained

A new report stands in stark contrast to earlier White House assurances that ISIS had been ‘contained.’ And it is already spurring changes in how the U.S. grapples with ISIS. 
A new U.S. intelligence report on ISIS, commissioned by the White House, predicts that the self-proclaimed Islamic State will spread worldwide and grow in numbers, unless it suffers a significant loss of territory on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast. 
The report stands in stark contrast to earlier White House assurances that ISIS had been “contained” in Iraq and Syria. And it is already spurring changes in how the U.S. grapples with ISIS, these officials said. 

It’s also a tacit admission that coalition efforts so far—dropping thousands of bombs and deploying 3,500 U.S. troops as well as other coalition trainers—have been outpaced by ISIS’s ability to expand and attract new followers, even as the yearlong coalition air campaign has helped local forces drive ISIS out of parts of Iraq and Syria. 
The White House commissioned the intelligence report prior to last month’s deadly strikes in Paris, and long beforelast week’s terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, three senior U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to describe a confidential document and policy changes. It was also commissioned before President Barack Obama declared ISIS “contained” in Iraq and Syria—just a day before the Paris attacks—but it was delivered to the White House in the weeks afterward. 
After reviewing its grim conclusions, Obama asked Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to come up with new options to beat the group back. 

India And Central Asia: Towards A New Great Game – Analysis


Central Asia has been a strategic concern to India ever since the colonial era. The region rose to an immense significance in the 19th Century due to the Great Game when it was feared that the Russians would invade British India through Central Asia. On the top of this, the unmapped territory of the region added to British fears regarding the extent of Russian inroads into Central Asia. Thus, began the scramble for the Central Asian landmass. By late 19th Century, the Russians had occupied vast swathes of the region and the southern reaches of their conquered territories reached to southern Tajikistan, touching the Wakhan corridor (which borders the present northern borders of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). However, the looming threat of World War I united these hitherto archenemies and the tense situation was defused. Post-World War I, the Central Asian region was well absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did not only mark an end to the Cold War, but it was also a defining moment for Central Asia, whose constituent regions obtained new identities as independent republics. These were namely, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Their frontiers touching the northern areas of Iran and Afghanistan also make their borders very much a part of Central Asia. The new geopolitical and economic potential that was unleashed in the post-Cold War phase suggests that it is now the need of the hour to engage more deeply with Central Asia, and to tap the region’s energy reserves to ensure its economic growth. Also, there is a need to ensure a direct overland access to Central Asia, as the absence of an overland linkage has resulted in sub-optimal benefits for India. On the other hand, China has converted its geographical proximity with Central Asia into a geopolitical and a geo-economic success that will be discussed as a comparative analysis via-a-vis India.

Huge oil-gas reserves and hydroelectricity generation potential are converting the region into an energy hub that has the potential to meet the region’s growing global energy requirements, especially India whose economic engine needs more energy to maintain a stable growth rate.
The article discusses the relations between India and Central Asian republics with a greater focus on the economic, energy and geopolitical linkage that is being manifested as a new “Great Game.” The combination of Central Asia’s geographical positioning along with its energy endowments, pipeline politics and international infrastructure corridors passing through make it a an indispensable region.

A Miracle on the Indus River?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has the potential to transform Pakistan’s economy.
By Ahmad Rashid Malik, December 07, 2015
The Indus River is known as the lifeblood of Pakistan’s economy. Great ancient civilizations were formed along the Indus River, including the Gandhara and Mohenjodaro. Pakistan’s economy will continue to rely on the River Indus but a new dimension has been added. Now the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is bringing a sharp transformation. It is offering the tantalizing prospect of an Indus River miracle to match those on the Yellow River (China) and Han River (South Korea).

Pakistan can also learn much from Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. The government has its sights on becoming the 25th largest economy in the world. The CPEC project has become a full spectrum project. Learning from the Asian miracle economies by sharing experiences is essential if a prosperous new Indus River civilization is to emerge.
First, the flagship project, the CPEC itself, will be the pilot project of China’s massive One Belt, One Road (OBOR) vision initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2013, which will build 21st century maritime and land routes across Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. This is a milestone in global connectivity, building the physical infrastructure for sustainable economic development, encouraging trade and investment and contributing to a more peaceful world. The vision behind the OBOR is admirable.

A number of practical measures for the CPEC are already underway. During his visit to Pakistan Premier Li Keqiang in May 2013 disclosed the CPEC plan. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in July 2013 after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Beijing. Xi paid an historic visit to Pakistan in April this year where he announced $46 billion in investment for the numerous projects of the CPEC, signing as many as 51 MoU with priority given to energy projects – which received $30 billion – and transportation projects. A CPEC Unit was then created within the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Reforms was given the daunting task of rapidly executing CPEC projects in collaboration with its Chinese counterpart, the National Development and Reform Commission.

Prepare for a food crisis - The public distribution system is a hotbed of corruption

Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai
The southwest monsoon started with a bang; the showers on the first day brought 30 per cent more rain than normal. The bounty continued for a while: there was another burst of rain in the fourth week of June. Things were all right till the end of July; rains were not too far below the seasonal average.

And then the monsoon took flight. The deficit grew week by week. By the end of September, rainfall was 14 per cent below normal. The only region in which the deficit is not significant is eastern and northeastern India, where it is 8 per cent. This part of India generally gets more rain even in bad years than its crops require. The shortfall is 17 per cent in northwest India; that too may not matter much because the rainfall was normal till August, by which time the crops would have grown sufficiently not to suffer too much. Besides, the main crop in northwest India is the rabi crop; it does not matter too much if the kharif crop fails.

The deficit in central India is almost as much - 16 per cent. There it is more serious because central India is important for its production of pulses and oilseeds, especially soybean. While soybean gives cooking oil, its cake is exported to China, which uses it to feed its pigs, whose meat is very popular there. And the panic that set in in October when dal price jumped to Rs 200 a kilogram was well founded: traders watched rainfall, feared that the pulse crop was going to be poor, and bid up prices.

An earlier Bharatiya Janata Party government had got into trouble because the onion crop failed; its price in north India tripled within a month in October 1998. The disappearance ofsirke wale pyaaz - little onions soaked in vinegar - which Punjabis prize with their meals made the Vajpayee government extremely unpopular. The BJP was voted out of Delhi; Sheila Dikshit captured it, and held it for 15 years. This time, the BJP has been repulsed in Bihar. That has not been attributed to the price of dal; the love affair between Nitish and Lalu was perhaps more important. There are no elections in store for many months now; next May and June will see five - in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. Will the dal effect last till then? Perhaps not. For gram, the most important pulse, is a rabi crop; and it does not require much rain. But dal prices are unlikely to come down.



In the Second World War, Karachi was a key component in the long logistics chain connecting unoccupied China with the United States. After decolonization and partition, the city retained her significance, at both the economic and political level. Among others, it was and still is the main base for the Pakistani Navy, as well as a shipbuilding centre. Often in the news due to a challenging security situation, no look at naval developments in the Indo-Pacific Ocean Region is complete without Karachi. We have thus interviewed Zoha Waseem, an expert in policing and counterterrorism and PhD candidate at King’s College London.

Calvo.- Is the situation in Karachi considered by the Pakistani Navy as a reason to push for further diversification away from the city, in terms of naval basing and construction?

Waseem.- The situation in Karachi in terms of the ongoing operation is linked with the need of the Military to keep investing in Karachi. The construction of military bases, infrastructure and training centres and accommodation does not appear to be decreasing. Karachi is an ATM machine, and a prime location for any stakeholder to have its assets here. Karachi is an important port, being connected to the Arabian Sea, connecting the city by water to Iran and India. That said, there does exist an alternative Naval base 200 kilometres away from Karachi (Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara, Balochistan). Heavy investments have been made into this base since the Navy came under threat in Karachi.Railway (Karachi Port).

Calvo.- Are the demands of internal security preventing Pakistan from devoting enough funds and political attention to military modernization?

Waseem.- Military modernization is generally regarded not as falling within the domain of political actors but of the military. The Armed Forces appear to be devoting enough funds to military modernisation. Internal security operations take manpower away from the armed forces but their budgetary allocations come from different departments.

Calvo.- Are the Armed Forces, to the detriment of civilian police, seen by most citizens as the mainstay of security?

Waseem.- The general public appears to have bought into the narrative that armed forces are the only bodies capable of dealing with security issues. This is taking focus away from the police, especially in areas where armed forces have acquired policing powers of search and arrest. Nevertheless, there are voices on ground that call for the strengthening of police forces for internal security, law and order.Karachi Port.

Calvo.- What are the prospects for police reform in the mid-term? What are its main aspects, and most significant obstacles?

Waseem.- There were police reforms in 2002 which were reversed in 2011 in Sindh and Balochistan. No serious initiatives appear to be in place at the moment. Main obstacles for this are: political interferences, weak leadership, and corruption. Policing falls under the domain of the provincial governments and there will be no serious reforms implemented till the will of these governments is not present.

Calvo.- Does Beijing trust Islamabad’s promises to severely prosecute groups assisting Xinjiang activists? What about guarantees of better protection of Chinese nationals in Pakistan?


Most discussions of South Asian maritime security are dominated by the balance of power between the Indian Navy and its Chinese counterpart, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). On the one hand, India makes waves with its ongoing work on the Vikrant-class aircraft carrier, the introduction of the Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, and other efforts toward fleet expansion and modernization. On the other hand, PLAN vesselspatrol the Indian Ocean region, which India regards as part of its sphere of influence, ostensibly to ‘combat piracy’. Prior to the 2012 establishment of INS Baaz – an Indian naval airbase in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, viewed by both the Chinese and the Indians as a chokepoint in the Strait of Malacca, the focus in South Asia was on the seemingly interminable Indo-Pakistani rivalry. But the maritime capabilities of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a country that occupies a geopolitically interesting location between South Asia and Southeast Asia, merits some attention.

Facing the Bay of Bengal that separates India from Burma and encompassing the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, Bangladesh certainly has need for a robust maritime force. As an emerging economy listed by Goldman Sachs among the Next Eleven (the list also includes Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam), Bangladesh has the potential for considerable growth if Bangladeshi authorities begin investing wisely. With several procurement projects for the Bangladesh Navy close to maturity, they certainly seem to be moving in the right direction.In 2016, Bangladesh expects to receive two Ming III-class diesel-electric submarines from China. These are heavily improved redesigns of the Romeo-class submarines introduced by the Soviet Union in 1957, each with a

Two Ming III-class submarines (pictured) will join the Bangladeshi fleet in 2016

submerged displacement of approximately 2,110 tonnes. These will be employed principally as training vessels; Bangladesh has not previously boasted a submarine fleet of its own. The apparent intent is to subsequently acquire more advanced diesel-electric submarines from either Russia or South Korea. A likely contender, given the capabilities and size of the Ming III-class, is the Chang Bogo-class submarine, which South Korea-based Daewoo Industries isexporting for use by the Indonesian Navy.

Will ISIS Infect Bangladesh?

The terror group’s inroads into Bangladesh should be associated more with strong brand appeal than with a formal operational presence.
December 8, 2015
In a National Interest piece last August, we argued that ISIS’s prospects in Bangladesh are relatively limited. Pro-ISIS sentiment is weak, we concluded, and the group will have great difficulty establishing a strong foothold there.
Since the article was published, ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in Bangladesh. These include the murder of an Italian and aJapanese expatriate and two separate strikes on Shia Muslims (one on a procession commemorating the Ashura holiday, the other on a mosque). ISIS also took credit for an attack on the Bangladeshi state—a deadly assault on a police checkpoint near Dhaka. According to one count, law enforcement officials in Bangladesh have attributed up to fifteen terror attacks to ISIS.

Amid all these atrocities, last month an article appeared in Dabiq, an ISIS magazine, that vowed to take the fight deep into Bangladesh (which it referred to as Bengal): “The soldiers of the Khilafah will continue to rise and expand in Bengal and their actions will continue,” it warned. Ominously, the article claimed that a new ISIS “regional leader” was in place in Bangladesh, and suggested that local jihadist factions were uniting behind him: “The soldiers of the Khilafah in Bengal . . . unified their ranks, nominated a regional leader . . . and hastened to answer the order from the Islamic State leadership.”
Taking this all into account, one might reasonably conclude that our article back in August was way off the mark.

We beg to differ.
In fact, we predicted that ISIS’s influence in Bangladesh could grow (admittedly, we may have misjudged how quickly this could happen). We pointed to Bangladesh-focused ISIS social media accounts, to several Bangladeshis who allegedly planned to join in Syria and to the arrest of an alleged ISIS recruiter in Bangladesh.
“To successfully forestall possible advances of ISIS into Bangladesh,” we wrote, “the country must be vigilant and proactive in combating any IS attempts” to court members of organizations such as the Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)—a terror group that launched a series of rapid-fire attacks across Bangladesh back in 2005, but has since been less active in Bangladesh thanks to state crackdowns following the assaults that year.


Tuesday, 08 December 2015 | Gwynne Dyer | i
Islamist terrorism has done less harm in the United States in the last 12 months than is being made out to be. More people have died in school shoot-outs

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama spoke about a mass shooting in the United States for the 17th time in the past seven years. (There have actually been 335 mass shootings in the United States already this year, but he only does the big ones.) But this time Mr Obama spoke from the Oval Office.
He's only done that twice before, about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the end of combat operations in Iraq, both in 2010. The shooting in California killed 14 people and wounded 21, so it wasn't even the biggest mass killing of his administration. But it got special treatment because it was a terrorist attack.

He needed to do that because you just have to say the word “terrorist” to send many Americans into a flat panic, and many American politicians into spasms of oratory overkill. A representative example was New Jersey Governor and would-be Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, who said: “We need to come to grips with the idea that we are in the midst of the next World War.”
The next World War? The last one killed at least 40 million people. The next one — the Third World War that we were waiting for when I was growing up — would have killed hundreds of millions, even if it hadn’t caused a nuclear winter and killed billions. With due respect to the victims, the 16 dead in San Bernardino do not add up to a new World War.

Neither do the 130 French (and a few foreigners) killed with guns and suicide bombs in Paris last month, nor the 224 Russians on the plane brought down over Egypt by a bomb at the end of October. Even in Europe, Islamist terrorism kills at the most hundreds per year; in America, it kills almost nobody.
Before this week, only 16 Americans had been killed on home soil by Islamist terrorists in the past 14 years (13 soldiers killed by US Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, and three killed at the Boston Marathon in 2013). That's an average (including the San Bernardino deaths) of two people per year killed in the United States by assorted groups of Muslim terrorists.

Kathmandu nights Constitutional settlements require a measure of statesmanship and generosity missing in Nepal today.

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Published:December 8, 2015 
Where does Nepal go now? The old elites are using nationalism as a ruse to protect their own power.
There is a lot of political activity around the crisis produced by the Madhesi agitation in Nepal. But it is far from clear this is adding up to an enduring solution to a crisis that now goes to the heart of Nepal’s constitutional future. Nepal can have a vibrant and prosperous future but, as is so often the case in South Asia, political alignments often risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The crucial element in the prospects for Nepal will be its internal political dialogue. In the end, a constitution is a social contract between citizens; it has to gain widespread legitimacy. There is plenty of blame to apportion, but Kathmandu made the mistake of denying the Madhesi agitation legitimacy. The agitation arose because the new constitution appeared to renege on three key elements: Proportional representation, allocation of seats on the basis of population, and identity-based federalism. There is agreement on the first two points. On the third, the Madhesis are insisting on a demarcation of state boundaries.

The debate over institutional architecture has now been burdened by layers of distrust and political brinkmanship. The denial of federalism was seen by marginalised groups as a ruse to deny them a legitimate share in power. In Nepal’s case, the demand for federalism is not just about identity, it is also a means of redressing historical marginalisation. The fact that something already promised was taken away led to a sense of betrayal. This sense of betrayal was compounded into polarisation. The Kathmandu political parties, including the Maoists, who are often undercutting each other in their jostling for power, hung together on this, lending credence to the charge that the denial of federalism was a conspiracy to deny marginalised groups their fair share.

The betrayal and polarisation was worsened by the way in which Kathmandu tried to deny the Madhesi movement legitimacy. It played the ultranationalist card: Presenting the agitation as largely an Indian conspiracy. This had a dual effect. On the one hand, it added insult to injury by portraying the Madhesi agitation as the fifth column of the Indian state. On the other hand, it led Kathmandu to miss the point. The main focus of politics in Kathmandu became standing up to India, rather than resolving a home-grown constitutional crisis.

Why China’s Land Grab Is Backfiring on Beijing


Beijing is alarming its neighbors by building artificial islands in the South China Sea. From Tokyo to Jakarta, countries in the region are pushing back hard.

Japan is jettisoning decades of World War II pacifism. Communist Vietnam is buying arms from the United States, its old enemy. The Philippines is inviting U.S. forces back 25 years after kicking them out. Even tiny Singapore is getting in on the action, allowing U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft to use bases on its territory.
The culprit? China, whose expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea are triggering a wary and at times angry response by neighbors from Tokyo to Jakarta. Alarmed at what they see as Beijing’s bid to dominate the strategic waterway, nations there are spending billions on ships, submarines, planes, and other military hardware and actively seeking closer defense ties with Washington and with each other.
That’s good news for the Obama administration, whose vaunted “rebalance to Asia” has been hampered by upheaval in the Middle East. Now, China’s land grab is rejuvenating the American effort, clearing the way for the United States to sell billions of advanced weaponry to China’s neighbors, while spending $250 million of its own money on new hardware like patrol ships, better surveillance, and communications gear.

Here is an interactive map that illustrates why so many countries are worried about China’s actions in the South China Sea. From Hainan Island just off the Chinese coast to militarized outposts in the Spratly and Paracel island groups, China has sketched a triangle of potential domination which could enable air defense zones, aggressive naval patrols, and radar and air defense stations.
This second interactive map shows what China’s neighbors are doing in response to Beijing’s land grab.

Our magical thinking about ISIS, and shallow thinking about the Long War.

Summary: As we lurch in a second phase of our mindless Long War, we lack the excuse of ignorance that led to our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. After 14 years of war, a host of voices — people with a wide range of relevant expertise — explain the folly of our actions. Here is an excerpt from an article well worth reading about the West’s shallow thinking — almost certain to end with our tears.
Excerpt from “Magical Thinking about Isis
Adam Shatz, London Review of Books, 3 December 2015
What most of the jihadis appear to have in common is a lack of any serious religious training: according to most studies, there is an inverse relationship between Muslim piety and attraction to jihad. As Olivier Roy, the author of several books on political Islam, recently said, ‘this is not so much the radicalisation of Islam as the Islamicisation of radicalism.’
By sending a group of French – and Belgian – citizens to massacre Parisians in their places of leisure, IS aims to provoke a wave of hostility that will end up intensifying disaffection among young Muslims.
… France has been using {its} weapons more frequently, more widely, and more aggressively in recent years. The shift towards a more interventionist posture in the Muslim world began under Sarkozy, and became even more pronounced under Hollande, who has revealed himself as an heir of Guy Mollet, the Socialist prime minister who presided over Suez and the war in Algeria.

It was France that first came to the aid of Libyan rebels, after Bernard-Henri Lévy’s expedition to Benghazi. That adventure, once the US got involved, freed Libya from Gaddafi, but then left it in the hands of militias – a number of them jihadist – and arms dealers whose clients include groups like IS. France has deepened its ties to Netanyahu – Hollande has made no secret of his ‘love’ for Israel – and criminalised expressions of support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.​
In one of his last interviews, Tony Judt said:

When Bush said that we are fighting terrorism ‘there’ so that we won’t have to fight them ‘here’, he was making a very distinctively American political move. It is certainly not a rhetorical trope that makes any sense in Europe, [where politicians recognise that] if we begin a war between Western values and Islamic fundamentalism, in the manner so familiar and self-evident to American commentators, it won’t stay conveniently in Baghdad. It is going to reproduce itself thirty kilometres from the Eiffel Tower as well. {From his book Thinking the Twentieth Century.}

This map shows ISIS' expanding reach across Europe

As ISIS loses ground in the Middle East, it has mounted attacks in Europe to convince the world of its strength, experts say.
But ISIS activity in Europe hasn't all been recent - the terrorist group (also known as the Islamic State and ISIL) has long had its sights set on Europe as a recruiting ground and target of attacks.
A new map from the Institute for the Study of War tracks where ISIS has hit, where its plots have been thwarted, where its supporters have been arrested, and where the group has targeted recruits.

The ISW notes that ISIS is "executing a campaign to terrorize and polarize Europe" and that the group has "inspired, resourced, and directed attempted and successful attacks in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Turkey since January 2014."
"ISIS aims to punish countries acting against it in Iraq and Syria," ISW notes. "It also seeks to polarize the West by inspiring state and social backlash against European Muslim communities. ISIS believes increased cultural strife will destabilize Europe and encourage Muslims to join it in Iraq and Syria."

ISIS has an extensive network of recruiters and supporters throughout Europe. These recruiters operate on social media and through in-person meetings to convince Westerners to migrate to ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS also releases propaganda aimed at Western audiences to encourage supporters to attack Europe and the US even without any communication with core ISIS leaders. These calls to action have resulted in several successful attacks.
Here's a look at the map, which notes ISIS-coordinated attacks, ISIS-inspired attacks, ISIS targets, ISIS-linked arrests, heightened threat levels, and sources of foreign fighters who move to ISIS territory:



While we tend to think of the refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian conflict as incidental to the broader conflict with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, this is a dangerous assumption. The creation of refugees is a major component of the Islamic State’s strategy, emerging from the group’s utopian project to “renew” Islamic society. The Islamic State’s refugee-creation is a project of social engineering and its calculated barbarity, far from being a symptom of its radicalism, is a tool used to advance this project.

While analysis of the Islamic State’s instrumental use of violence is not new, undiscussed is the group’s use of violence to move and replace populations within its areas of control and how population movement assists its ability to “remain and expand.” It does this through its policy of extinguishing the “grey zone” of moderate Muslims, encouraging the hijrah of loyalists and expelling and executing dissidents, whose abandoned property is given to new immigrants, a fact confirmed by the report of an Islamic State official to a recent refugee. These points are key to understanding the organization’s end-game. In this vein, we can consider violence a hydraulic force beating the heart of the group: Its extreme systolic pressure sweeps away those caught before the violent flow while its diastolic intake draws a new, vigorous population inward. The end result is the outflow of a large population of potential dissidents, representing future instability, while the influx brings stability in the form of immigrants who become loyal citizens.
We can concretize this metaphor by using a hypothetical village constructed from a template of real villages. Its story shows us not only how the Islamic State plans its colonization efforts, but also how it moves populations out of settled areas and what it gains through their replacement. Our village is constructed from reports by Raqqah Is Being Slaughtered Silently, the Washington Post, and a multi-organization report on the status of minorities in Islamic State-held territory.

Stratfor: will France hand power to a far right government (again)?

Summary: With the polls looking good for the National Front, Stratfor examines the rise of the far Right in France — part of the right-flowing tide sweeping through the developed nations. Memories have faded in Europe; hopes rise that this far right movement differs from the last. The implications are massive for economic policy, for France’s immigration policy, its treatment of its ethnic minorities, and perhaps most important — for its role in the European Union. Did anyone guess that having survived the centrifugal forces of the 2008-09 and 2010-2015 economic crises, Europe would immediately face another and perhaps more difficult one?
In France, Discontent Favors the National Front, Stratfor, 5 December 2015
France is preparing to hold regional elections, and the country’s ruling party is bracing itself for the fallout. At a time of high unemployment levels and sluggish economic growth, French voters will likely look to punish the Socialist Party by backing its center-right and far-right rivals instead. The National Front, which opposes immigration and wants France to leave the eurozone, is already expected to win in at least two of the country’s biggest regions. The Dec. 6 elections will be the last vote held before France’s presidential election in 2017, and every indicator suggests they will mark yet another victory for the Euroskeptic forces gaining strength across Europe.
On Dec. 6, French voters will head to the polls to select the councils of France’s 13 metropolitan regions, as well as some of its overseas territories. In regions where no party manages to garner 50% of the vote, a second electoral round will be held Dec. 13.
The elections will be an important test of popularity for France’s main parties, and they will set the stage for the country’s upcoming presidential vote. The Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris gave a slight boost to French President Francois Hollande’s approval ratings, but his Socialist Party will probably put on a weak performance in the polls nonetheless. Because the Socialists currently control most of France’s regions, they have the most to lose. By comparison, their two main rivals, the center-right Republican Party and the right-wing National Front, will likely see significant gains.


Tuesday, 08 December 2015 | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

Increasingly, the situation in West Asia, with terrorists striking at will, is beginning to look like the 30-year war in Europe, which was a war of immense death and destruction involving convoluted interests and fickle alliances
Within the space of a month, the Islamic State has done something unprecedented pull of major terror attacks on four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. These attacks have invariably brought statements from the leaders of the affected nations to the effect that they will wipe out the scourge of the IS. The question remains: How will this be done, or for that matter can it be done at all?

Increasingly, the situation in West Asia is beginning to look like the 30-year war in Europe, a war of immense death and destruction involving convoluted interests and fickle alliances. The product of that war though was the Westphalian system, that laid the roots of the modern nation-state. Westphalia also gave each sovereign prince the right to enforce religious homogeneity within his domain. In that sense, while the IS rejects the Western notion of the nation-state, it practically follows the Westphalian order on religious matters, imposing homogeneity in the area it controls, even though its methods are far more brutal than those of Europe in the 1600s.

Frequently, people tend to confuse this with the freedom of religion which came much later in the late 1700s largely as a result of industrialisation. Industrialisation required the pooling of resources and especially intensive use of capital. Given Christian restrictions against “simony and usury”, the prime source of capital became the Jews of Europe. Consequently, the emancipation of Jews was necessitated by industrialisation, and the further into that process nations went, the more identity discrimination broke down in order to enable a whole of society approach to building industry. That began the process of religious freedom and a host of other measures such as the abolition of slavery, which was redundant in an industrial society anyway. Essentially, this meant economic feasibility was passed off as virtue.

NATO says won't send ground troops to fight IS: report


NATO has ruled out sending ground troops to fight against Islamic State militants in Syria, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg told a Swiss newspaper, stressing the need to bolster local forces in the conflict. 
"That is not on the agenda of the coalition and the NATO allies," he told the Tages-Anzeiger paper when asked about dispatching ground forces to accompany air strikes. 
"The United States has a limited number of special forces. In the foreground, however, is strengthening local forces. This is not easy, but it's the only option," he added 

Stoltenberg stressed that the conflict was not a war between the West and the Islamic world, but rather against "extremism and terrorism". 
"Muslims are on the front line in this war. Most victims are Muslims, and most of those who fight against the IS are Muslims. We can not carry on this struggle for them," he said. 
Stoltenberg pointed out that NATO would help Turkey improve its air defenses after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet last month. The alliance will adopt a package of measures for Turkey before Christmas, he added. 
He emphasized the need to calm the standoff with Russia after the plane was shot down. 

"Now it is important to de-escalate and to develop mechanisms to prevent similar incidents in the future. We see a significant build-up of the Russian military presence from the far north to the Mediterranean. There, too, we need to avoid similar incidents such as in Turkey," he said. 
He called for Russia to "play a more constructive role in the fight against IS. So far, Russia has attacked other groups and focused on supporting the Assad regime." 

California Attack Has U.S. Rethinking Strategy on Homegrown Terror

WASHINGTON — The day before Thanksgiving,President Obama reassured Americans there was “no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland.” Seven days later came an explosion of gunfire and the deadliest terrorist attack in America since Sept. 11, 2001.
What may be most disturbing is not that Mr. Obama was wrong, but that apparently he was right. By all accounts so far, the government had no concrete intelligence warning of the assaulton Wednesday that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

Swift, ruthless and deadly, the attack appeared to reflect an evolution of the terrorist threat that Mr. Obama and federal officials have long dreaded: homegrown, self-radicalized individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets that can never be fully protected in a country as sprawling as the United States.

“We have moved to an entirely new phase in the global terrorist threat and in our homeland security efforts,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said in an interview on Saturday. Terrorists have “in effect outsourced attempts to attack our homeland. We’ve seen this not just here but in other places. This requires a whole new approach, in my 

Turkey vs. Russia, Really?


06 December 2015,  Written by Frank Li

A major event happened in the Middle East recently: Turkey shoots down Russia warplane on Syria border. What are the true implications? You won't realize what they are by reading the mainstream media! Three examples: 

All three articles are interesting, but none points to the key problem, thanks to theStupid Media! So allow me to add my thoughts ...

1. Nobody messes with Russia!
Over the past 200 years at least, Russia has proven to be extremely resilient to even the most powerful military forces on earth. Two big examples: 

In response to the recent U.S. hostility (e.g. Ukraine), Russian President Putin famously said: Vladimir Putin: Don't mess with nuclear-armed Russia. Is there any truth to Putin's warning? Yes! Here is a concrete example: Russia Now Has More Deployed Nuclear Warheads than the U.S.!
Why, then, was Turkey so daring as to have shot down a Russian jet? Turkey is rolling the dice!

2. Turkey's gamble
Turkey is gambling that by shooting down a Russian jet, it may derail Russia's mission in Syria: keeping Assad in power by destroying all his enemies, including both ISIS and the rebels supported by America!
Like any gamble, it involves both risk and possible reward!
2.1 Reward
Look at the map below:

Not only does Turkey border with both Syria and Iraq, the neighboring territories in Syria and Iraq happen to be controlled by ISIS! In other words, Turkey has been surreptitiously financing ISIS - oil for cash! Although most Americans were oblivious, the rest of the world suspected, if not knew, it, even before any solid evidence was presented (Russia presents proof of Turkey's role in ISIS oil trade)!
It is also widely known that Assad is considered an enemy by Turkish leaders!

How Obama Thinks About Terrorism

The president and his Republican opponents view threats like ISIS in fundamentally different ways.
At the core of Barack Obama’s terrorism speech on Sunday night lay a contradiction. He gave the address to convince an increasingly fearful nation that he takes the terrorist threat seriously. But he doesn’t, at least not in the way his political opponents do.
For George W. Bush, the fight against jihadist terrorism was World War III. In hisspeech to Congress nine days after 9/11, Bush called al-Qaeda “the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century ... they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism.” Many Republicans still see the “war on terror” in these epic terms. After the Paris attacks, Marco Rubio didn’t merely warn that the Islamic State might take over Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East. He warned that it might take over the United States. America, heargued, is at war with people who “literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical Sunni Islamic view of the future.” In his telling, the United States and “radical Islam” are virtual equals, pitted in a “civilizational conflict” that “either they win or we win.”
​ISIS Is Not Waging a War Against Western CivilizationObama thinks that’s absurd. Unlike Rubio, he considers violent jihadism a small, toxic strain within Islamic civilization, not a civilization itself. And unlike Bush, he doesn’t consider it a serious ideological competitor. In the 1930s, when fascism and communism were at their ideological height, many believed they could produce higher living standards for ordinary people than democratic capitalist societies that were prone to devastating cycles of boom and bust. No one believes that about “radical Islam” today. In Obama’s view, I suspect, democratic capitalism’s real ideological adversary is not the “radical Islam” of ISIS. It’s the authoritarian, state-managed capitalism of China.
While Republicans think ISIS is strong and growing stronger, Obama thinks it’s weak and growing weaker. “Terrorists,” he declared on Sunday, now “turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.” In other words, the Islamic State probably can’t do anything to America that we Americans aren’t doing to ourselves all the time, and now largely take for granted.



Inside the $2 billion ISIS war machine

By Jose Pagliery @Jose_Pagliery
How ISIS makes its millions
We know -- in surprising detail -- how ISIS pays for its reign of terror.
ISIS buys bombs and pays fighters with the billions of dollars it makes from the oil fields, mineral mines, and banks under its control. ISIS also imposes taxes on the people living inside its territory in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS raked in $2 billion in 2014 alone.

CNNMoney has interviewed military scholars and financial investigators, and it has reviewed dozens of reports from ISIS, the U.S. Treasury, Defense Department, United Nations, British government, and several terrorism research institutes.
Together, they show why ISIS is so powerful. It ditched Al-Qaeda's old model of relying on rich donors in the Arabian Gulf. Instead, the Islamic State is a self-funded powerhouse.
ISIS subsidizes bread for the public, experts say. Soldiers earn $400 to $1,200 a month, plus a $50 stipend for their wives and $25 for each child, according to the Congressional Research Service. Highly skilled engineers and technicians can make upwards of $1,500 a month, according to an investigative team of UN researchers.

"The Islamic State is certainly the best financially endowed terrorist organization in history. That is particularly due to its ability to govern ungoverned spaces," said Andreas Krieg, a military scholar at King's College London in Qatar.
Here's how ISIS pays for it all.
Taxes: $360 million-plus a year
A huge amount of the money comes from the 8 million civilians who live and work in territory taken over by ISIS soldiers. Everything in the Islamic State is taxed. According to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy:
Income tax: 10% 
Business tax: 10%-15% 
Sales tax: 2% 
All bank cash withdrawals: 5% 
Pharmaceutical drugs: 10%-35% 

CNO Richardson Urges Fast-Track For Cyber, EW & Drones

http://breakingdefense.com/2015/12/cno-richardson-urges-fast-track-for-cyber-ew-drones/By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.on December 07, 2015 

Adm. John Richardson
CAPITOL HILL: The new Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, previewed a Navy “design for maintaining maritime superiority” this morning. The service will roll it out in January, just before the 2017 budget. While Richardson seems a bit more guarded than his predecessor in his public comments — at least, so far — he did tease enough details to build a partial picture of the plan.
Among the goals are a Navy with an acquisition express lane to speed promising unmanned vehicles, cyber weapons, and electronic warfare technologies from the lab to the fleet. The CNO wants to move more and more systems from the sclerotic conventional acquisition system to this high-speed bypass over time. All this high-tech acceleration is driven by anxiety over America’s eroding advantage, especially that over Russia and China.

“It is possible…to come up with kind of an HOV lane, if you will, that can fast track some really mature [examples of] the right types of technologies,” Adm. Richardson told reporters today at the Newseum. “Then once you see that happening — and this has to be done with full transparency, right? — then more and more people can sort of start to gradually move over to this streamlined way of acquiring.”
What sort of systems might lead the way? “The UCLASS [drone] program and other unmanned technologies — undersea, surface — are sort of primed for this kind of approach,” Richardson said. The admiral noted that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is pushing hard, creating new organizations to help nascent unmanned projects cross the funding “valley of death” from the lab to formal program-of-record status.

In general, Richardson said, while high-speed acquisitions probably won’t work for entire warships — he’d prefer bulk-buy arrangements there — the fast track can accommodate the specific payloads those ships carry, “unmanned being one payload.” But unmanned systems aren’t the only example, he said. So will cyber and electronic warfare. “A lot of those electromagnetic types of payloads in particular, as we move into this information age with vigor will be other candidates for this kind of rapid acquisition, rapid prototyping.”

How Mark Zuckerbergs Altruism Helps Himself

06 December 2015
-- this post authored by Jess Eisinger, This story was co-published with The New York Times.
Zuckerberg set up a limited liability company, which has reaped enormous benefits as public relations coup and will help minimize his tax bill.
Mark Zuckerberg did not donate $45 billion to charity. You may have heard that, but that was wrong.

Here's what happened instead: Zuckerberg created an investment vehicle.
Sorry for the slightly less sexy headline.
Zuckerberg is a co-founder of Facebook and a youthful mega-billionaire. In announcing the birth of his daughter, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, declared they would donate 99 percent of their worth, the vast majority of which is tied up in Facebook stock valued at $45 billion today.

In doing so, Zuckerberg and Chan did not set up a charitable foundation, which has nonprofit status. He created a limited liability company, one that has already reaped enormous benefits as public relations coup for himself. His PR return-on-investment dwarfs that of his Facebook stock. Zuckerberg was depicted in breathless, glowing terms for having, in essence, moved money from one pocket to the other.
An LLC can invest in for-profit companies (perhaps these will be characterized as societally responsible companies, but lots of companies claim the mantle of societal responsibility). An LLC can make political donations. It can lobby for changes in the law. He remains completely free to do as he wishes with his money. That's what America is all about. But as a society, we don't generally call these types of activities "charity."

What's more, a charitable foundation is subject to rules and oversight. It has to allocate a certain percentage of its assets every year. The new Zuckerberg LLC won't be subject to those rules and won't have any transparency requirements.
In covering the event, many commentators praised the size and percentage of the gift and pointed out that Zuckerberg is relatively young to be planning to give his wealth away. "Mark Zuckerberg Philanthropy Pledge Sets New Giving Standard,"Bloomberg glowed. Few news outlets initially considered the tax implications of Zuckerberg's plan. A Wall Street Journal article didn't mention taxes at all.

A Global Strategy for Combating al Qaeda and the Islamic State

SWJ Blog Post | December 7, 2015 
A Global Strategy for Combating al Qaeda and the Islamic State by Mary Habeck with James Jay Carafano, Thomas Donnelly, Bruce Hoffman, Seth Jones, Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Thomas Mahnken, and Katherine Zimmerman, American Enterprise Institute

Key Points
Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) are no longer on the run in the Middle East and represent an increasingly serious threat to the United States. However, American leaders still have not recognized the nature of this war and have a dangerous misconception of the threat.
The most important reason for the growth in the reach and power of al Qaeda and ISIS is the decision by the United States to retreat from a direct fight, downgrade our involvement from a wartime to law enforcement effort, and focus narrowly on preventing attacks on the homeland.
To address the probable enemy courses of action and defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, the US must adopt a counterinsurgency strategy that will have ideological, security, diplomatic, economic, and political components and will be carried out on a regional basis. Involvement must be both long-term and continuous.

Supply Chain Security

You would probably be surprised to know what a logistical feat it is to manufacture a smart phone. The base materials are mostly silicon, plastic iron, aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, tin, and nickel. There are also a number of rare earth elements that are present in small amounts but are integral for the phone to function: neodymium, dysprosium, and many lanthanide elements. Once these materials have been collected and processed, they need to be made into the phone itself. After the phone is built, it must be programmed with the software that lets it run. The vast majority of this process takes place outside of the United States—with the assembly and initial programming usually happening in Asia and the base materials coming from all over the world—and it constitutes just a small part of the global supply chain that underlies a huge portion of our information technologies. It is truly an incredible feat of logistics, and every step of the process is vulnerable to events that can damage both the product and the enterprise.

To begin with, the base materials for most modern technologies are mined or in the developing world. This can sometimes lead to companies running afoul of international labor standards. These compliance issues usually result from operators on the ground mistreating workers in the developing world in order to keep costs low. Apple has come under fire for this on several occasions, including after a 2014 BBC report accused Apple’s assembly plants in China of perpetuating inhumane working conditions and its tin suppliers in Indonesia of using child labor. Apple has been able to avoid serious reputational harm from these criticisms, but not every organization will be able to do the same. Ensuring compliance with labor standards is an essential part of managing supply chain risk and protecting one’s business.

There is an even larger problem that can arise from the use of third parties. Third party companies are an intrinsic part of many supply chains, but they represent a considerable point of vulnerability. A given organization may take its cybersecurity very seriously, but if it is working with a third party that does not, then hackers can use the latter to access the former. The Office of Personnel Management hack is an excellent example of this. OPM used a third party contractor, KeyPoint Government Solutions, to manage some of its work processes. The hackers who would eventually breach OPMfirst breached KeyPoint, and by doing so, they gained access to the credentials which allowed them to access information about millions of American citizens. A weakness in the security of any part of a supply chain can ripple the rest of the way down, and organizations need to take that into account in order to properly manage their risk.
For a growing number of military officers, combatting ISIS is a test of national resolve

Several years ago, during a visit to the U.S. Army War College, I was invited to have lunch with some of its instructors. The school teaches Army officers about strategy and its course offerings (“Civil-Military Relations,” “Peace and Stability Operations,” “Irregular Warfare”) reflect that mandate. So, naturally, the lunch discussion focused on strategy, and how to teach it. While I don’t now recall the exact details of that conversation, a statement by one of the war college’s professors has stayed with me. It brought immediate laughter — and unanimous assent. “Just remember,” he said, “that no matter what the question, the answer is always Clausewitz.”

A Prussian army officer with impressive combat experience, Carl von Clausewitz was still young when the Napoleonic wars ended — and with them opportunities for battlefield glory. Even so, and despite his origins as a junior officer from the provinces, Clausewitz had won the esteem of Prussia’s key military leaders, became the military tutor to Prussia’s royal princes, and married one of the highest-ranking noblewoman in Prussia. Throwing his formidable energies into a quest for understanding the lessons of the long, grueling wars that had just ended, Clausewitz evolved into “the Philosopher of War.”

His papers were gathered by his widow, Marie, into ten volumes and published in 1832, the year following his death. The first three volumes of that compilation constitute the famous tome Vom Kriege — On War. After an initial splash in Prussia, Clausewitz’s work seemed to fade into obscurity, before gaining steadily in reputation. A recent biography, Clausewitz, His Life and Work by U.S. Naval War College professor Donald Stoker, catalogues this growing popularity. By the late 1870s On War was required reading even for French military officers. It was translated into English (1873), Japanese (1903), Russian (1905), and Chinese (in 1910). Marx, Engels, and Lenin readOn War, as did Mao; Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, the victor at Dien Bien Phu, kept a copy at his bedside.

Obama Stokes Crypto Debate

'Make it Harder for Terrorists to Use Technology to Escape from Justice,' Obama UrgesMathew J. Schwartz (euroinfosec) • December 7, 2015 
President Obama is once again calling on Silicon Valley to help law enforcement and intelligence agencies monitor encrypted communications as well as for signs of terrorist-related activity, warning that terrorism in the United States "has evolved into a new phase." His Dec. 6 appeal was delivered in a rare address from the Oval Office, and followed last week's shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 people dead and 21 injured.
"I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice," Obama said in his televised speech, thus setting the stage for further debates about whether information security can be meaningfully balanced with weakened cryptography (see Paris Attacks Reignite Encryption Debate).

Authorities have said that the San Bernardino shootings were carried out by a husband and wife, who attacked a holiday party with assault rifles and handguns, before themselves dying just four hours later in a shootout with police. Reacting to those events, and the need to curb radicalization and the flow of extremist ideology in any community, Obama also cautioned against overreach. "Let's not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear," he said.
Obama's call for the technology community to work with the government follows similar entreaties from government officials and lawmakers in both the United States and Europe, following the Nov. 13 terror spree in Paris that killed 130 people. And as part of his administration's approach to combating terrorism - including that perpetrated by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh - Obama noted that the United States, among other strategies, had already "surged merged intelligence sharing with our European allies ... to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online" (see Threat Intelligence Lessons from Paris Attacks).
The Never-Ending Crypto Debate

Social Media as Force Multiplier

December 6, 2015, By Eric Michael Murphy
Recently, James Carafano wrote a though-provoking article based on the premise that American leadership has lost the ability to think deeply and well. This is not an uncommon refrain, nor is the solution he proposes — improved education — but, in elucidating his point, he makes the following argument:
Next, the quality of the education matters. Here both form and content have to be addressed. It might be “deeply unfashionable,” writes Molly Worthen, but emails, Facebook, blog posts, videos and PowerPoint slides aren’t good tools for teaching deep thinking. Daniel Levitin comes to the same conclusion in his book. Deep thinking is stimulated by prolonged attention to a subject that requires activities such as reading books; listening to live, interactive lectures; and experiencing Socratic teaching. If school officials are not building programs around these time-consuming, contemplative and challenging activities, they are just delivering diplomas.

He’s right, of course, but hidden in his truth is a deeply problematic issue regarding “emails, Facebook, [and] blog posts.” Most fundamentally, he misframes the issue as it regards these media, describing an implicit expectation that deep thought and deep learning must come from a single experience and that these activities are not meaningfully additive to the reading of books, interactive engagement, Socratic teaching, etc. And in this regard, he is simply wrong. So, what is the value of these electronic media to those looking to develop deep knowledge?
A Word on Definitions

To begin, and to make sure we’re all on the same argumentative page, what do we mean by social networking? The dictionary, that most reliable of sources, defines it as “the development of social and professional contacts; the sharing of information and services among people with a common interest.” Like many definitions, this doesn’t necessarily clear things up, not least because under this definition prolific and brilliant correspondents such as Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus were a social network. While this is accurate, it also isn’t the focus of the contemporary conversation; one suspects Carafano would read with interest their correspondence and view that reading as deep thinking. These legacy networks all still exist, but there are new technologies that facilitate the creation of new (or if not entirely new then at least new in scale) networks. So, what we’re talking about here are the new, technologically-enabled forms of social networks and social media. But “social media” isn’t much better as a terminology, since the same objections apply. More and Erasmus interacted in a social network via the available social media of letters.