1 January 2016

Why Adrian Levy’s Scary Claims on India’s Nuclear Security

Kapil Patil,  Research Associate at the Indian Pugwash Society, New Delhi. 30 Dec, 2015
Are Adrian Levy’s reports on India’s nuclear safety and security practices based on facts or are they merely promoting sensationalism?

A well-known British journalist Adrian Levy recently published a series of reports with the US-based non-profit media organisation called Centre for Public Integrity, which levelled allegations of laxity and misconduct in India’s nuclear safety and security practices. Such was the impact of Levy’s report on uranium mining in India that the country’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took a suo motu cognisance of the issue.
Besides, it also called for reports within two weeks from concerned agencies such as the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) and the government of Jharkhand. In a statement issued by the NHRC, Justice D. Murugesan, observed that-
….the contents of the press report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of rights to health of the workers and residents, besides damage to the environment, flora and fauna….
India’s nuclear agencies were quick to issue rebuttals and rebuffed Levy’s allegations as a ‘deliberate distortion of facts’. Nevertheless, the gravity of Levy’s claims calls for a serious dismantling of the uneasy propositions over India’s nuclear power programme. To begin with, the assertions made by Levy in his reports are devoid of any factual or scientific accuracy and rigour.

For instance, Levy’s contentions regarding the impact from uranium mining on the public and environment are deeply flawed, as they ignore years of scientific research conducted in these areas. A large number of validated and peer-reviewed studies have been published on public health and the environmental impact of uranium mining in India.
At Jaduguda mines, there have been at least four separate health surveys conducted by experts, including physicians and scientists, many of them from outside the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). These studies have repeatedly confirmed that workers and residents near these facilities are almost as healthy as the general population in the region. The same is also true for people residing near the nuclear plants in the country.

A report by doctors and specialists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), UCIL, the government of Bihar and Tata Main Hospital in 1998 concluded that the disease pattern prevailing in the local population cannot be ascribed to exposure to low levels of radiation. The health survey of Chatkidih and Dungridih villages, which are close to the UCIL tailing ponds, conducted in 2001-02, observed no genetic abnormalities caused by radiation. Similarly, another health survey in three different villages around the tailing ponds found the health status of the people to be almost normal.

Given the large variety of other factors that cause cancer and congenital anomalies, including malnutrition and poor socio-economic conditions in tribal areas, the impact of low-level radiation on health is statistically insignificant for villages around Jaduguda.

** 3-D Printing Will Disrupt the World in Ways We Can Barely Imagine

T.X. Hammes, December 28, 2015

In the last few years, additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, has transformed from an interesting hobby to an industry producing a wide range of products. It is on the path to causing major disruptions in global trade — and changing the international security environment. The explosion of additive manufacturing means it is virtually impossible to provide an up-to-date list of materials that can be printed, but a recent top ten list includes: metals, such as stainless, bronze, steel, gold, nickel steel, aluminum, and titanium; carbon fiber and nano-tubes; stem cells; ceramics; and food. Researchers are exploring the application of 3-D printing to fields from agriculture and biology to design and manufacturing. MIT developed a $7,000 multi-material printer than can print ten materials in the same object during a single fabrication process. As businesses learn to use these multi-material printers, the range of products they will be able to print will expand exponentially.

Through it all, the products produced by additive manufacturing will increase in both quality and complexity. In February 2015, Australian researchers printed a jet engine. But don’t think metal printing is only for major corporations — Michigan Tech designed a 3-D metal printer for that can be built for $1200. Creative people worldwide will be able to develop and produce metal products.
Nor does size seem to be a limit for additive manufacturing. It can produce products from nano-scale to tens of meters. IBM developed a 3-D printer capable of printing microchips with nanometer resolution at a fraction of the cost of current manufacturing systems. At the other end of the size spectrum, large printers are producing cars, houses, and even five-story buildings. Further, 3-D printing is efficient because material wastage is near zero. It may be cheaper to make a part from titanium using additive manufacturing than from steel using traditional machining.

The Best Books We Read In 2015

Swarajya Staff, 31 Dec, 2015

If you’ve been reading our articles, we recommend you read these books too (if you haven’t already done so).
The eve of a brand new year is as much about looking ahead as it’s about looking back. We take stock of what we did through the 365 days that just went past, and silently vow to do so much better in the coming 365. (Well, except maybe those that have had such sweet success that they might as well sleep through the next year; we are not fond of those types).

The same set of emotions governs us when it comes to books: what did we read over the last one year, and what are we going to read next. But because we are dealing with books and reading, there is a somewhat more troublesome and annoying subset every one of us has to deal with: Did I read enough? Did I read the ‘right’ books? Was I able to keep abreast of whatever is roiling the world of ideas and opinions? Did I manage to finish any one of the classics I always claim I’ve read but actually haven’t? As we said, these are annoying and troublesome questions.

Here at Swarajya, we’ve beaten the yearend blues to compile a list that might help you in addressing some of the questions above. If you’ve been reading our articles, we recommend you read these books too (if you haven’t already done so).
1) Why India Is Not A Great Power (Yet) by Bharat Karnad
With a note of seeming warning in the title, this seems an odd book to begin with. But if the end of a year is about taking a long, honest look at the where, why and how we tend to fall short, then there cannot be a better place to start than Karnad’s book. The book acts as a primer of the shortcomings and lopsided ideas that have marred decision-making in various sectors of government, and then suggests ways one can redress them.
2) The Emergency: A Personal History by Coomi Kapoor

Anniversaries, as a rule, tend to inspire a rush of titles. The 40th anniversary of the Emergency – the gravest crisis to India’s democratic ethos – was an exception, but that is not the only reason Coomi Kapoor’s book is included here. It is a treasure trove of anecdotes from an individual who was part of the press corps, the institution that bore the brunt of the Emergency’s excesses, and an invaluable chronicling of the times, especially for the youth who were not around then to see the events unfold.
3) The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and his Empire of Truth by Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh Chakrabarty resurrects historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar from the margins, using the material from the correspondences between him and his friend and collaborator Rao Bahadur GS Sardesai, and Sarkar’s five-volume history of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. This book is significant for anyone interested in the origins of systematic historical research in India, as well as to understand how the criticism and condescension by the Allahabad school of history eventually eclipsed Sarkar’s contributions.
4) Rearming Hinduism by Vamsee Juluri

An intellectual and philosophical argument to counter the calumnies spread against Hindu beliefs and practices by western academics and media as well as members of the Indian left, or what Vamsee Juluri refers to as ‘Hinduphobia’. In an easy and approachable style, the writer delineates the civilisational roots of this ancient religion, and how it impacts the ordinary day-to-day existence of Indians.
5) The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War by Yasmin Khan

2015 was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Yasmin Khan looks at how the war impacted the lives of Indians, all two and a half million of them (soldiers, sailors and non-combatants) who offered their services. The war was not just about far-flung theatres: we learn that the average Indian sepoy wanted more Lux soaps but fewer Bengali gramophone records, that medical treatment got tiered with the best arranged for British military officers while the Indian civilian population scrounged at the bottom and how the preparation for aerial bombing led to panic in urban areas.
6) Rebooting India: Realising a Billion Aspirations by Nandan Nilekani & Viral Shah

Based on their experiences in launching Aadhar, Nilekani and Shah offer low-cost technology-based solutions to some of the most intransigent problems facing India: from speedy delivery of justice to mending the social safety net to transitioning to a paperless banking experience. In a geographically disparate and culturally diverse country, technology can prove to be the great leveller, the book contends. Provided, of course, the government adopts the methods and mentality of a start-up.
7) The Turn of the Tortoise: The Challenge and Promise of India’s Future By TN Ninan

Penguin says: It is said of India that it is the country of the future—and will remain so In The Turn of the Tortoise, the distinguished journalist T.N. Ninan addresses a range of contemporary questions as only he can—looking at why the economy lost steam, the emerging trends in politics, the Chinese shadow over India, and the relationship between the state and the citizen.

He asks whether manufacturing can be made a success story, what is the size of the neo-middle class, who really is the aam aadmi, and if it is possible to put an end to extreme poverty now. And, finally—what are the fears that should keep us awake at night? This wide-ranging book is an attempt to understand, through data and analyses, where India stands today, why it has emerged the way it has, and what the next ten years might bring. For anyone interested in India and its future, this is essential and enlightening reading.
8) Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. Roger Scruton

In his seminal 1985 book Thinkers of the New Left, writer-academic Roger Scruton had analysed the grip left-wing ideologues have on intellectual discourse, with specific focus on front-ranking Marxist writers and philosophers. In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (2015), Scruton revisits the issue, which retains as much contemporary relevance as ever. Scruton shows how Leftist intellectuals have consistently chosen empty rhetoric over careful analysis, and blatant nonsense over respectable logic.
9) Half A Billion Rising: The Emergence Of The Indian Woman, Anirudha Dutta

A phenomenal and inspiring study of the growing empowerment of women in India over the last decade. India is home to 17% of all women in the world.

Sandipan Deb: Half A Billion Rising combines extensive ground reportage with keen analyses of statistical data, and a worldview that sweeps across space and time, to document the trend that has the potential to transform India’s destiny in the 21st century: the changing roles, boundaries, aspirations and status of Indian women.
10) Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A dialogue By Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

From the publisher: In this dialogue between a famous atheist and a former radical, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz invite you to join an urgently needed conversation: Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism? The authors demonstrate how two people with very different views can find common ground.

*** The coolest military tech coming in 2016

by David Nye - Dec 29, 2015

America’s troops have cool gear coming their way in 2016. Here’s a look at some of it:
1. The first Ford-Class supercarrier will take to the seas

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Aidan P. Campbell

The PCU Ford will join the fleet in 2016. It will be the largest and most expensive warship to ever float and features a number of technological improvements over its predecessors. Electromagnetic catapults allow it to more quickly launch aircraft and it has better generators for powering sensors, weapons, and other necessary systems.
2. Soldiers will get an app for calling in artillery strikes

Photo: Network Integration Evaluation Katie Cain

Nett Warrior, a tablet-based computer system to allow soldiers to keep track of one another on the battlefield, will be getting an app that will allow soldiers to more quickly and accurately call for artillery strikes.
3. Black Hornet drones will reach Army units

Photo: Richard Watt/MOD via Wikipedia

These mini-drones weigh about 18 grams but pack both standard and thermal cameras for reconnoitering enemy positions. U.S. Special Forces tested the drones in 2015 and the British have used them since 2013. PEO-Soldier, the Army office that acquires this kind of gear, is looking to field an unknown number of the drones in 2016.
4. The Navy is getting two new attack submarines

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Casey Hopkins

The submarine fleet will welcome two new Virginia-class fast attack subs, the USS Colorado (SSN 788) and the USS Washington (SSN 787). While new Virginia-class subs typically feature the latest and greatest tech in submarine warfare, everything from improved sensors to better acoustic camouflage, the specifics are classified for obvious reasons.
5. New night-vision goggles will let troops see thermal signatures better

Photo by: US Army Spc. William Lockwood

The Army’s newest night-vision goggles will be fielded to soldiers in 2016. They provide improved thermal detection over a wider area and will be able to communicate with future weapon sights so soldiers can always see the impact point of their weapon, even when firing from the hip or through smoke.

Unfortunately, the weapon sights they work with won’t be ready until at least 2019.
6. New machetes will help prepare the Army for a war in the Pacific

Photo: US Army Sgt. Austin Berner

While new machetes may not be as sexy as drones and submarines, the U.S. Army is part of the pivot to the Pacific and that means preparing for jungle warfare. The Army PEO-Soldier is looking for new machetes with a double-edged blade. One side would be for chopping through vines and the other for sawing through branches.

The Army will also be looking at new materials for uniform items, especially boots, in the coming years for operations in the Pacific.

Why BlackBerry is Exiting Pakistan

11.30.15 / Marty Beard
Since this post, the Government of Pakistan has notified BlackBerry that it has extended its shutdown order from November 30 to December 30. BlackBerry will delay its exit from the Pakistan market until then.

After November 30, BlackBerry will no longer operate in Pakistan. While we regret leaving this important market and our valued customers there, remaining in Pakistan would have meant forfeiting our commitment to protect our users’ privacy. That is a compromise we are not willing to make.
In July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority notified the country’s mobile phone operators that BlackBerry’s BES servers would no longer be allowed to operate in the country starting in December “for security reasons.”

The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic in the country, including every BES e-mail and BES BBM message. But BlackBerry will not comply with that sort of directive. As we have said many times, we do not support “back doors” granting open access to our customers’ information and have never done this anywhere in the world.
Pakistan’s demand was not a question of public safety; we are more than happy to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations of criminal activity. Rather, Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information. The privacy of our customers is paramount to BlackBerry, and we will not compromise that principle.

America’s Longest War Just Got Longer: Obama Extends Afghanistan Mission

October 15, 2015 By Molly O'Toole
Obama halts Afghanistan withdrawal with plans to keep 9,800 troops there through 2016.
 Molly O'Toole
President Barack Obama announced Thursday morning that he will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of his administration, scrapping his withdrawal plan from a war he once declared over and leaving a final drawdown to a successor.
Speaking from a White House podium, Obama told servicemembers that he would not send them into harm’s way lightly.

“But as your commander in chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation,” the president said.
If the Afghan security forces were to fail, “it would endanger the security of us all,” he said. “This modest but meaningful extension of our presence, while sticking to our current, narrow missions, can make a real difference. It’s the right thing to do.”

“This decision is not disappointing,” Obama said, adding that the U.S. was simply adjusting its plans. “This is not the first time those adjustments have been made; it probably won’t be the last.”
Gen. John Campbell, who leads the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, welcomed the decision, saying it “serves notice to our common enemies: their war against the legitimate Afghan Government, the Afghan people, the international community, and our shared values, remains futile. It is time for them to lay down their arms and enter the political process.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also hailed the announcement: “The Afghan security forces continue to carry out their security responsibilities across the country, in a very challenging environment. So it’s crucial that we continue to support them, practically and financially, to preserve the gains we have achieved in Afghanistan through our joint efforts over many years.”
The U.S. will keep its current 9,800 troops there through most of 2016, then draw down to 5,500 at a handful of bases, including Bagram, just north of Kabul; Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south, a senior administration official said before the announcement.

The Long Road to Justice in Bangladesh


Posted by Nuzhat Choudhury on December 11, 2015
On Dec. 15, 1971, a microbus covered in mud came to our home in war-torn Bangladesh and took my father away. Dr. Abdul Alim Choudhury was one of my country's top eye specialists -- a highly respected, much loved man. Three days later, we found his battered, bullet-ridden body in a ditch alongside hundreds of other leading intellectuals. His only crime was that he loved his country and wanted independence for its people.

I was 2 years old back then. Not a single day has passed that my mother, my sister, and I have not asked for justice for this heinous crime. Now, finally, we are beginning to see progress thanks to the trials and convictions of war criminals by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Dhaka. The trials are at long last revealing the tragic truth about the genocide, including the wholesale murder of intellectuals like my father, which occurred during Bangladesh's War of Independence from Pakistan 44 years ago.
The pro-liberation party called the Awami League heeded the popular demand for a war-crimes tribunal in 2009. The League's promise to establish the tribunal was an important reason it won election by an overwhelming majority.

But even since the formation of the tribunal, the path to justice has not been easy. There is no witness protection law in Bangladesh, and supporters of the perpetrators are powerful, wealthy and well connected. Witnesses have been harassed and threatened. A few have been killed. Yet these patriotic people, who had already paid such high price for the country, moved valiantly forward with their eyewitness accounts.
Organized political extremist parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami have been doing their best to help the criminals with a seemingly endless supply of funds from the Middle Eastern countries and Western lobbyists. It seems sometimes that Bangladesh is fighting a lonely battle to bring justice to its war heroes.

China’s New Counterterrorism Law: Playing High Politics At The Expense Of The Low – Analysis

By Geopolitical Monitor December 31, 2015
By Scott N. Romaniuk and Marinko Bobić*
On December 27, 2015 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) passed China’s first counterterrorism law. Its core aim, though broadly articulated, refers to addressing terrorism at home and maintaining global security. The controversial law captured attention of the Obama administration because of its potential for forcing technology firms to support CCP counterterrorism activities including spying. Beijing is seen as having given itself the right to step beyond its state borders and engage in counterterrorism operations overseas, an aspect of US “effectiveness” institutionalized in the U.S. through its military and security doctrines that regard global counterterrorism efforts requiring all relevant US government departments and agencies’ involvement if terrorist organizations and networks are to be “rendered incapable or unwilling to use terrorism to achieve their goals.”

It would be nearly impossible to find a single strategic analyst who would be willing to argue that China is absolutely and universally detached from the strategic security environment that “has become more threatening to US interests due to global access, communications, and finance.” China’s security/military and political officials claim that China is at risk in the face of international terrorist organizations and networks just as much as the U.S. or any other state in the world today. Militants, extremists, and insurgents are located around the borders of China, especially in the area of its Western borders of Xinjiang, but also in other areas to the south.

China’s Military Intelligence System is Changing

Peter Mattis, December 29, 2015
As American families dined on turkey and stuffing, China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) was hard at work in Beijing hammering out military reforms. These reforms were then announced to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by President Xi Jinping, who also serves as the CMC chairman. The proposed organizational changes may make this round of reform the most significant since those of the 1950s, when the PLA transitioned from a revolutionary army to the arm of a party-state. First impressions of the proposals provide mostly descriptive analyses at what Xi Jinping proposed for the PLA, but what the PLA publicized does not tell the whole story. The proposed creation of a separate headquarters for PLA ground forces and reorganization of the military regions will reverberate throughout military intelligence — a subject omitted entirely in Beijing’s propaganda blitz. Once the PLA moves beyond the inevitable organizational growing pains, the Chinese military intelligence system will be better positioned to manage its responsibilities for informing policymakers and supporting military operations.

Current Organization
The PLA’s basic organization of intelligence includes the General Staff Department (GSD), the military regions, and intelligence departments within the PLA’s two services and one autonomous branch — respectively, the PLA Navy (PLAN), PLA Air Force (PLAAF), and the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF).

The focal point of the PLA’s intelligence effort lies within the GSD, giving any substantial change to the general staff potential to shake up the military intelligence system. The GSD’s Second Department (2PLA) manages clandestine and overt human intelligence operations (HUMINT), the latter of which includes defense attachés and at least one think tank, the China Institute for International and Strategic Studies. This department also has some responsibility for China’s satellite imagery and possibly other overhead intelligence assets, but the organizational structure of Chinese space operations is difficult to understand. The GSD Third Department (3PLA) is the national signals intelligence (SIGINT) authority, roughly comparable to the U.S. National Security Agency or the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters. Like its Anglo-American counterparts, the Third Department also has responsibilities for defending Chinese computer networks and securing government communications. The GSD Fourth Department (4PLA) is responsible for electronic intelligence (ELINT) and electronic warfare (EW), and remains the youngest GSD element, dating to sometime between 1977 and 1990, depending on the source.

A Bigger, Bolder China in 2016

Efforts to project country’s economic and military clout around the world set to accelerate
By Jeremy Page Dec. 30, 2015
BEIJING—China’s efforts to project its economic and military clout around the world are set to accelerate as the country fleshes out plans for new trade routes between Europe and Asia in 2016 and tries to consolidate its grasp over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

With Beijing holding the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 nations next year, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to press ahead with his drive to challenge U.S. dominance of the global financial and security order.
That threatens to put Beijing increasingly at odds with Washington, although U.S. President Barack Obama, preoccupied by Russia and the Mideast, is expected to avoid a major confrontation with China in his final year in office.

One potential flash point is the South China Sea, where U.S. officials have said that American navy ships and planes will continue to patrol—roughly twice every quarter—near artificial islands China has built in the last two years.
Since the U.S. resumed those patrols in October, China has repeatedly denounced them as violations of its sovereignty and warned it will take all necessary countermeasures, but it hasn’t tried to physically block or expel U.S. vessels. Its capacity to patrol the area will be enhanced when it finishes much of its construction of airfields, radar stations and other facilities on the artificial islands.

“The islands aren’t growing out any more: They’re now growing up,” Gregory Poling, an expert on Asian maritime security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a recent podcast. “By which I mean China’s focused on building all the infrastructure—the buildings, the ports—that are going to be needed to make these functioning bases,” he said.
The potential for miscalculation is great: An American B-52 bomber, flying through bad weather, unintentionally strayed within two nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands, U.S. officials said this month.
Obama’s ‘Boots on the Ground’: U.S. Special Forces Are Sent to Tackle Global Threats

WASHINGTON — They are taking on a larger combat role in Afghanistan, where the war was supposed to be over. They are headed to Syria to help fight the Islamic State in its stronghold. And President Obama recently ordered nearly 300 of them to Cameroon to assist African troops in their battle against a militant group that has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.
With the Middle East in tumult, radical groups holding swaths of territory in Africa, and a presidential campaign fanning fears of a growing terrorism threat, the White House has steadily expanded the global missions of American Special Operations troops.

Even as Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that he opposes American “boots on the ground” in far-flung parts of the world, his administration continues to carve out exceptions for Special Operations forces — with American officials often resorting to linguistic contortions to mask the forces’ combat role.

The Obama administration long ago showed its inclination to rely on Special Operations troops and clandestine missions as an alternative to large wars of occupation. But the spread of the Islamic State over the past year — from its hubs in Syria and Iraq to affiliates in Africa and South Asia — has led the White House to turn to elite troops to try to snuff out crises in numerous locations.
These deployments, as well as other missions being considered, have upended the Obama administration’s goal of withdrawing from countries that for more than a decade have been crucibles of combat for the American military.

The White House is now considering a Pentagon proposal to maintain at least one base in Afghanistan for years to come, according to American military officials. Senior officials spoke about issues related to Special Operations forces only on the condition of anonymity because most of the specifics of their missions are classified.
This plan would run counter to Mr. Obama’s original pledge to remove all troops from Afghanistan except for a counterterrorism force and the troops guarding the United States Embassy in Kabul. Mr. Obama revised his withdrawal plans in October, saying that about 5,500 troops would remain in the country through the end of his term in early 2017.

Communist China’s Approach to Force: 1962 Lessons for the Senkaku Islands?

December 30, 2015 Alex Calvo
Given the continued tensions in the East and South China Seas, and the constant speculation on whether Beijing may choose to escalate, it can be useful to have a look at how the PRC has traditionally resorted to force, and in particular the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

Professor Brahma Chellaney wrote an interesting summary of Communist China’s approach to war, based on that conflict, which saw the Chinese Army penetrate deeply into India for 32 days, after which “Beijing announced a unilateral ceasefire, and the war ended as abruptly as it had begun. Ten days later, the Chinese began withdrawing from the areas they had penetrated on India’s eastern flank, between Bhutan and Burma, but they kept their territorial gains in the West—part of the original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. India had suffered a humiliating rout, and China’s international stature had grown substantially”. The six principles displayed were:
Surprise. As already advised by Sun Tzu, who wrote that all warfare was “based on deception”.
Concentration, “hitting as fast and as hard as possible”.
First Strike.
Waiting, and choosing the right moment.
Camouflaging offence as defence, engaging in “defensive counterattacks”.
Daring. A tendency to gamble and take risks.
When it comes to the Senkaku Islands, a question is whether these principles may be employed, in the form of an airborne or seaborne landing of troops or a mixed force of military personnel and “activists”, bypassing the Coastguard units shielding them and taking advantage of the lack of land forces.

Middle East still rocking from first world war pacts made 100 years ago

The agreements that shaped the region may be forgotten in the west, but in the Middle East their significance still looms large
Ian Black Middle East editor
Wednesday 30 December 2015
In an idle moment between cocktail parties in the Arab capital where they served, a British and French diplomat were chatting recently about their respective countries’ legacies in the Middle East: why not commemorate them with a new rock band? And they could call it Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration.

It was just a joke. These first world war agreements cooked up in London and Paris in the dying days of the Ottoman empire paved the way for new Arab nation states, the creation of Israel and the continuing plight of the Palestinians. And if their memory has faded in the west as their centenaries approach, they are still widely blamed for the problems of the region at an unusually violent and troubled time.
“This is history that the Arab peoples will never forget because they see it as directly relevant to problems they face today,” argues Oxford University’s Eugene Rogan, author of several influential works on modern Middle Eastern history.

In 2014, when Islamic State fighters broke through the desert border between Iraq and Syria – flying black flags on their captured US-made Humvees – and announced the creation of a transnational caliphate, they triumphantly pronounced the death of Sykes-Picot. That gave a half-forgotten and much-misrepresented colonial-era deal a starring role in their propaganda war – and a new lease of life on Twitter.
Half truths go a long way: the secret agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot in May 1916 divided the Ottoman lands into British and French spheres – and came to light only when it was published by the Bolsheviks.
It also famously contradicted earlier promises made by the British to Sharif Hussein of Mecca before he launched what TE Lawrence called the “revolt in the desert” against the Turks. It did not draw the borders of Arab states – that came later – but it has become a kind of convenient shorthand for western double-dealing and perfidy.

What Twitter Really Means for Islamic State Supporters

Amarnath Amarasingam, December 30, 2015

Abu Ahmad, one of Islamic State’s most active supporters online says he has had over 90 Twitter accounts suspended, but is not planning to slow down. He is a trusted member of what has come to be called the Baqiya family, a loose network of Islamic State supporters from around the world who share news, develop close friendships, and help each other when members get arrested or come under law enforcement surveillance. Abu Ahmad, as with all Baqiya members, agreed to talk to me on the condition that his real name and location not be published.

While Islamic State social media accounts used to flourish, Twitter has now been suspending the accounts of fighters and supporters alike. Scholars and analysts continue to debate whether this is effective and worthwhile.
For over two years now, I have co-directed a study of Western foreign fighters based at the University of Waterloo and have been interviewing — on Skype and various text messaging platforms — several dozen fighters and members of this Baqiya family. A few things are clear: First, while Twitter suspensions certainly disrupt their ability to seamlessly spread information, they have developed innovative and effective ways of coming back online. Second, these youth receive an enormous amount of emotional and social benefits from participating in their online “family.”

This online network is important for spreading the new Twitter accounts of individuals coming back from suspension. Watching Abu Ahmad’s accounts, for instance, I have been amazed at how quickly he is able to re-acquire his followers. At times, his new accounts are only active for a day or two before getting suspended again, but he manages to get most of his 1,000-plus followers back every time. “I follow people, and they follow me back. We do shout outs,” he told me during an interview last month; “we also have secret groups online which don’t get suspended, and we share our new accounts on there.”

Document: ISIL’s rules for how and when to rape enslaved women

The document calls slavery an "inevitable consequence." (Reuters/Ari Jala)
Annalisa Merelli, December 29, 2015

Terror group ISIL has codified the rape of hostages with detailed rules and regulations, according to documents found by US Special Operation Forces in Syria in May, recently released to Reuters.
One document dated Jan. 29 discusses “treatment of the female slaves” (pdf, p.1), and appears to have been issued by ISIL’s “Committee of Research and Fatwas.”

Sex slaves have been held and sold by ISIL since the early days of its declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and the document calls slavery an “inevitable consequence” of the group’s conquest of the region. Once captured, “women and children of infidels” should be bought, sold and treated according to specific rules, it says. Rape is sanctioned, but prepubescent girls, menstruating women and freed slaves are off-limits. So is raping two sisters, sexually sharing a slave within a family, or with a co-owner. As with other kinds of religious extremism, abortion is forbidden.
According to the document, these rules were issued in an effort to curb “violations” of Sharia law in the treatment of captives.

The full text of the document, translated by the US government, is online in English.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here: You Cannot Save the Gray Zone Concept

Adam Elkus, December 30, 2015

In a previous article here at War on the Rocks, I argued that the “gray zone” concept — used to describe the strategic behavior of everyone from the Islamic State to Vladimir Putin — is hopelessly muddled and does not contribute much of value to the defense policy discussion. However, Michael J. Mazzarr thinks that there’s more to the concept than I give credit for. Mazarr concedes the main points of my critique, noting that I am correct to say that the gray zone concept is hopelessly muddled and is not novel. However, Mazarr nonetheless asserts that gray zone campaigns today differ in their “coherence, intentionality, and urgency,” thus justifying them as a “distinct approach to strategy.”

While Mazarr is certainly correct to express concern over enemy strategies — novel or otherwise — I nonetheless remain unconvinced that the gray zone concept is not just another example of the strategic studies community needlessly confusing itself by generating new terminology to replace what is not broken. Specifically, I argue once again that the gray zone concept is neither novel nor useful on its own terms. While Mazarr’s re-articulation of the concept rectifies some of its most egregious flaws, Mazarr ultimately cannot save gray zone theories from their own gaping conceptual holes.

Is the Gray Zone Novel?
I have argued, in part, that the gray zone concept merely puts a new spin on older and more well-understood ideas from political science, military history, and strategic theory about how actors pursue strategic objectives under constraint. A partial taxonomy of various ideas and activities that gray zone concepts encapsulate

Mazarr argues that gray zone campaigns are distinct, novel, and uniquely dangerous because they combine integrated campaigns to achieve objectives in a gradualist fashion with non-military and quasi-military tools, and stay under the enemy’s threshold for retaliation. Mazarr’s definition of the Gray Zone

While Mazarr’s articulation of the concept is certainly more coherent than those of others I have criticized in that it at least bounds the range of “gray” phenomena, it is difficult to see what value it adds. Mazarr states that U.S. rivals and adversaries looking to achieve their objectives will try to coercively do so in a way that: (1) does not trigger retaliation; (2) relies on non-military and/or quasi-military tools; (3) is gradualist in nature; and (4) integrates varying lines of effort. In essence, Mazarr’s “gray wars” concept is simply a more elaborate variant on two kinds of strategies of erosion.

How US and Saudi Arabia surrendered to ISIS and war on terror

Complicity between Washington and Riyadh has allowed Daesh to become the venal threat it is today. 30-12-2015
Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The United States, Russia, Britain and France have been relentlessly bombing Islamic State (ISIS) positions. And yet ISIS is not in retreat. Though the Iraqi army on Monday recaptured Ramadi, provincial capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar region, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains defiant. In a 24-minute audio message released last Saturday, he taunted Western governments: "Your hearts are full of fear from the Mujahideen."
What is needed to defeat ISIS and end the unspeakable brutalities it is inflicting on its victims? The short answer: ground troops.

Aerial bombing has limitations. President US Barack Obama has forbidden US fighter jets from targeting civilian areas in ISIS-held territory. Consider Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital and headquarters. A cluster of buildings in Raqqa houses top ISIS leaders, control centres and a jail. The jail has civilian prisoners from the West as well as from local militias. The US has so far avoided bombing these buildings for fear of loss of civilian life.
Russia has no such compunctions. But it too has not bombed ISIS buildings in Raqqa, instead targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's heavily armed opponents backed by America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Zahran Alloush, leader of one of the most powerful of these groups, Jaysh al-Islam, was killed last week in a Russian air strike.

The key cities under ISIS control are Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. They need to be re-captured if ISIS is to be defeated. The only way to do that is commiting ground troops.
On December 29, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said that "2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh's presence in Iraq will be terminated." He may be underestimating ISIS' resilience.

Mosul: Turkey’s Fulda Gap

H. Akın Ünver,  December 29, 2015
“Our national borders pass through Antioch and span east-ward, containing Mosul, Sulaymaniya, Kirkuk. We say: This, is our national border.”
— Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (December 28, 1919 – National Liberation Speech)

The “National Pact” (Misak-ı Milli) is a six-article manifesto of Turkey’s War of National Liberation, accepted by the defeated, but defiant, Ottoman Parliament in January 1920, outlining the bare minimum of conditions Turkish nationalists agreed upon to end World War I. It was bypassed and ignored by the Ottoman palace, which instead signed the Sevres Treaty in August 1920, creating the great schism between the palace and the nationalists, leading to the eventual triumph of the latter under Mustafa Kemal’s leadership. There were several printed versions of the pact in 1920 that had different interpretations of borders as laid out in the 1918 Mudros Armistice between the Ottomans and the Allied Powers. Ankara’s version, for example, included the Vilayet (Mosul, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniya) as part of Turkish national borders, whereas the Istanbul version was unclear about its status. Since the Mosul Vilayet was still under the control of the Ottoman forces at the time of signing the Mudros Armistice, the nationalist consensus was that these areas had to be incorporated into the new Turkish state. However, following British diplomatic engagements, the Ottoman palace had ordered the 6th Army to withdraw from the Vilayet of Mosul in favor of a British contingent, which occupied the city in November 1918.
The status of Mosul and Kirkuk were unresolved in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which suggested that the matter should be resolved bilaterally between Britain and the Turkish nationalist movement. In May 1924, both sides came together for the Istanbul Conference to resolve the dispute, which failed due to a number of revolts against the British rule in Mosul. Then, the matter was forwarded to the League of Nations, where Turkish nationalists favored a self-determination referendum in Mosul — which was rejected by the British, who asked for a fact-finding mission to determine its status. The League of Nations mission concluded eventually that the Turks had no right to claim Mosul. They awarded the vilayet to the British, amidst intense Turkish protest. Since then, for Turkey, Mosul has been separated from Turkey’s national borders artificially and illegally, without an agreement, but through a fait accompli. This is the reason why, even today, Ankara sees the boundaries of the Ottoman Mosul Vilayet as a part of its natural zone of influence, if not within its real borders.

Since 1994, however, Turkish troops have had a de facto presence in the old Vilayet of Mosul, manning a number of outposts, defensive positions, and training camps. The Ba’ashiqa base, which recently appeared in the headlines following Baghdad’s outrage over Ankara’s decision to reinforce the base, is one of several front-line outposts built by Ankara in the 1990s as a part of its campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Today, in the Mexican standoff between the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Peshmarga, the PKK, and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, these outposts act as forward operating bases (FOBs) for Turkey. They are aimed primarily at holding the PKK in check while providing training to the Peshmerga of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and gathering intelligence on the Islamic State in Mosul. Large PKK access zone (RED) across Turkish-Iraqi-Iranian rugged border. Once PKK penetrates through the green lines within the KRG, it becomes difficult to track or stop them until they reach the red lines.

Bye-Bye ‘No Boots on the Ground’: US to Send Special Ops Troops to Syria

October 30, 2015 By Molly O'Toole Ben Watson
After months of looking at new options, the White House will send in ground forces.
The U.S. will send a few dozen special operations troops into the Syrian maelstrom — likely the first of more ground forces and a tacit acknowledgement of the difficulty of turning perpetual counterterrorism operations into anything other than an endless war

“Fewer than 50 troops” will deploy in coming weeks to be “headquartered” in northeastern Syria with a “wide range of groups,” including Syrian Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds, according to a senior defense official. While the forces will be fully equipped to defend themselves, the official said Friday, their mission is “strictly advise and assist.”
The forces will not be conducting joint operations like last week’s rescue operation that saw the first U.S. servicemember killed in combat in Iraq since 2011. Neither will the special operators be conducting unilateral raids to go after high-value intelligence targets, as first seen in Syria in the spring when a U.S. team killed a high-level ISIS leader, captured his wife, and seized a trove of intel. Nor will they direct close air support or call in airstrikes — at least that’s the current plan, the official said.

The troops will be deployed for less than 60 days at a time, said the official, who declined to specify which groups they will work with, or where they will be located.
“We will not be establishing our own, U.S.-led headquarters … we will go to where they are,” the official said. “Our vision, at least at the outset, is for them to go for small amounts of time and to one location. I don’t anticipate they’ll be moving from place to place with regularity.”

“They are not going to be out and about in advise and assist in the way we are in Iraq. This is to get guys on the ground and get eyes on … to see what more is possible. This is a start,” the official said.
A senior Obama administration official told Defense One in a statement earlier Friday that more F-15 strike fighters and A-10 Warthog close-air-support jets are on the way to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey. The senior defense official said a dozen A-10s are already at Incirlik, and they’re finalizing a package of roughly the same number of F-15s. The aircraft will support an effort to “thicken” air operations in northern Syria and to secure the border between Syria and Turkey.

Investing in Ukraine’s Future

Just over a year ago, President Obama signed into law the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which provided congressional backing to sanctions on Russia following the Kremlin’s illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine. Since then, sanctions have hurt Russia’s economy and prevented individuals in President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle from traveling to the West. The Obama administration should be commended for sustaining a successful sanctions regime.

But Washington must do more than just punish Russia. It must bolster Ukrainians as they struggle to build a new, reform-minded government while continuing to fight to maintain their country’s territorial integrity.
As winter sets in, the continuing war in Ukraine’s east has devolved into an economic siege as Russia leverages gas supplies, coal shipments and debt repayment to attempt to extract concessions from a Ukrainian government that is still battling Russian proxies violating the Minsk II cease-fire. With Ukraine’s economic output having shrunk by a quarter, the currency sharply devalued and a population fearful of an uncertain future, Ukraine is teetering on the brink.

Appropriately funding efforts to improve Ukraine’s stability is a down payment on Europe’s collective security. Russia’s land grab in Crimea violates the very security architecture — including the Helsinki Final Act responsible for establishing the inviolability of Europe’s national borders — that has kept Europe secure since World War II. But the durability of this system depends on the West’s willingness to defend it. Failing to do so signals to both adversaries and allies that agreements among nations simply do not matter.

Brazil’s fall Disaster looms for Latin America’s biggest economy

Jan 2nd 2016 |
AT THE start of 2016 Brazil should be in an exuberant mood. Rio de Janeiro is to host South America’s first Olympic games in August, giving Brazilians a chance to embark on what they do best: throwing a really spectacular party. Instead, Brazil faces political and economic disaster.
On December 16th Fitch became the second of the three big credit-rating agencies to downgrade Brazil’s debt to junk status. Days later Joaquim Levy, the finance minister appointed by the president, Dilma Rousseff, to stabilise the public finances, quit in despair after less than a year in the job. Brazil’s economy is predicted to shrink by 2.5-3% in 2016, not much less than it did in 2015. Even oil-rich, sanction-racked Russia stands to do better. At the same time, Brazil’s governing coalition has been discredited by a gargantuan bribery scandal surrounding Petrobras, a state-controlled oil company. And Ms Rousseff, accused of hiding the size of the budget deficit, faces impeachment proceedings in Congress.
Latin American politics As the B in BRICS, Brazil is supposed to be in the vanguard of fast-growing emerging economies. Instead it faces political dysfunction and perhaps a return to rampant inflation. Only hard choices can put Brazil back on course. Just now, Ms Rousseff does not seem to have the stomach for them.

Dismal Dilma
Brazil’s suffering, like that of other emerging economies, stems partly from the fall in global commodity prices. But Ms Rousseff and her left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) have made a bad situation much worse. During her first term, in 2011-14, she spent extravagantly and unwisely on higher pensions and unproductive tax breaks for favoured industries. The fiscal deficit swelled from 2% of GDP in 2010 to 10% in 2015.

Brazil’s crisis managers do not have the luxury of waiting for better times to begin reform (see article). At 70% of GDP, public debt is worryingly large for a middle-income country and rising fast. Because of high interest rates, the cost of servicing it is a crushing 7% of GDP. The Central Bank cannot easily use monetary policy to fight inflation, currently 10.5%, as higher rates risk destabilising the public finances even more by adding to the interest bill. Brazil therefore has little choice but to raise taxes and cut spending.