8 February 2016

Palestine’s deepening occupation

February 8, 2016 

Getty Images"According to a survey conducted in Gaza and the West Bank in December by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 66 per cent of Palestinians believe an armed intifada would serve their national interests better than negotiations."

The anger of young Palestinians, most of them from the post-Oslo accord generation, over deepening Israeli occupation in West Bank, Jerusalem and recent actions is understandable. They learn their lessons from history, which tells Palestinians that unless they rise against theoccupation, the status quo won’t be ruptured

Israel being criticised by a serving American diplomat for its treatment of Palestinians is not very common. Usually, American leaders and diplomats defend Israel’s “right to fight terror” or at times express “deep concerns” about Tel Aviv’s excessiveness. But on January 18, while speaking at a security conference in Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that “at times it seems Israel” employs two standards of law in the occupied West Bank, one for Israelis and the other for Palestinians. [Though he apologised later for the timing of his critical comments], Mr. Shapiro was not alone. On the same day, the European Union (EU) foreign affairs council unanimously adopted a resolution, stating that EU agreements with Israel applied only to the State of Israel within the pre-1967 border, not to Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. A week later, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined them. He said the continued settlement activity in the West Bank was “an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”.

The spark

*** Kissinger’s Vision for U.S.-Russia Relations

Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium.
Henry A. Kissinger,February 4, 2016
From 2007 into 2009, Evgeny Primakov and I chaired a group composed of retired senior ministers, high officials and military leaders from Russia and the United States, including some of you present here today. Its purpose was to ease the adversarial aspects of the U.S.-Russian relationship and to consider opportunities for cooperative approaches. In America, it was described as a Track II group, which meant it was bipartisan and encouraged by the White House to explore but not negotiate on its behalf. We alternated meetings in each other’s country. President Putin received the group in Moscow in 2007, and President Medvedev in 2009. In 2008, President George W. Bush assembled most of his National Security team in the Cabinet Room for a dialogue with our guests.
All the participants had held responsible positions during the Cold War. During periods of tension, they had asserted the national interest of their country as they understood it. But they had also learned through experience the perils of a technology threatening civilized life and evolving in a direction which, in crisis, might disrupt any organized human activity. Upheavals were looming around the globe, magnified in part by different cultural identities and clashing ideologies. The goal of the Track II effort was to overcome crises and explore common principles of world order.
Evgeny Primakov was an indispensable partner in this effort. His sharp analytical mind combined with a wide grasp of global trends acquired in years close to and ultimately at the center of power, and his great devotion to his country refined our thinking and helped in the quest for a common vision. We did not always agree, but we always respected each other. He is missed by all of us and by me personally as a colleague and a friend.

I've Rescued Jawans At Siachen. You Never Forget It.

The sad news of ten Army jawans being buried in an avalanche on the Siachen Glacier has once again highlighted the perils and challenges that the Indian Army has been resolutely facing for the past three decades in the highest battlefield of the world.
This writer had the good fortune of supporting the first Army expedition to the Glacier in 1978, a full six years before Op Meghdoot was launched on 13 April 1984, and thereafter again in the mid-'90s while commanding the Siachen Pioneers helicopter unit at Leh. The Glacier had changed, and has continued to change literally every year, but what has not decreased one bit is the commitment of the Indian jawan towards protecting those most inhospitable mountains in the world, where not a blade of grass grows but what is our sacred land.
An Army paltan (battalion) spends three months at a stretch on the Glacier after a very structured acclimatization process. The dangers are many, starting from a bone-jarring -40 degrees celsius to deep crevasses, and from serious medical problems due to the high altitude to avalanches that strike without warning.
I have evacuated many casualties, serious and not so serious, but can never forget the haunting and helpless look of a strapping young Naga lad of around 20 odd years who was suffering from cerebral edema (in which water collects in the brain due to the effects of high altitude). Preparing to go back from Base Camp to Leh one afternoon, we were asked to go for an urgent cas evac (casualty evacuation) to a helipad called 'Golf.' Cas Evac requests override everything else and off we went to 'Golf.' As he was put in our Cheetah helicopter, I asked him above the din of the rotors, "Kaise ho (how are you feeling)?" With great effort, he moved his hand to give me a "thumbs up". 
When we landed at Base Camp, a mere 15 minutes later, that handsome boy who could give our filmi heroes a run for their money, was lifeless. We had lost another hero for a national cause.

Siachen incident tragic but Pak is at a strategic disadvantage and this cannot changeC

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retired)
The news of 11 Army personnel, including a JCO, having buried in an avalanche in Siachen glacier has been tragic. The Prime Minister has expressed grief on their sacrifice and the whole nation salutes these braves with hearts going out to their next of kin in this hour of sorrow. No compensation is enough.
Siachen is the highest battlefield of the world. The conditions are so daunting that the tenure of troops in northern, central and southern glacier are three months, six months and one respectively in descending order. Some coincidence that according to a media report of today, the 7th CPC has recommended risk allowance for troops serving in Siachen to be Rs 31,500 per month while a civil servant serving in Shillong, Guwahati or Leh has been recommended to get a risk allowance of over Rs 54,000 per month - talk of discrimination against the military! But wait, the all bureaucrat review committee appointed by the government may recommend an even higher allowance for the civil servants.
After all such occurrences, debates get going about avoidable casualties, excessive expenditure, so on and so forth. But what about the casualties on account of vagaries of weather; it is not the Siachen area alone that suffers avalanches. Avalanches have been occurring periodically elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the Kargil Sector and along the LoC in the Kashmir Valley. Some time back entire crew of a gun position was buried in an avalanche in Dras area of Kargil. Doesn't mean we should vacate our borders. Again, fiscal expenditure cannot be viewed in isolation and certainly cannot be weighed against national security.

America's Master Plan to Turn India Into an Aircraft Carrier Superpower

Harry J. Kazianis, February 4, 2016
Anyone who has been watching the United States try to pull off its much discussed “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia knows one thing: The challenges of the day, from Russian moves in Eastern Europe and Syria to the threat of ISIS—or even just the steady stream of non-Asia-Pacific problems—always seem to get in the way. However, we must give President Obama credit where credit is due. U.S. relations with India, which shares a common challenge with America in a rising China, have warmed considerably. While certainly not a full-blown alliance, relations have grown to such an extent that U.S. defense officials seem willing to share some of their most prized military technologies with the rising South Asian powerhouse. Indeed, the United States seems ready to share the very symbol of American power projection: the mighty aircraft carrier.

A report from Reuters notes that Washington and New Delhi are discussing options for the joint development of an aircraft carrier for India. In a recent visit to India, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, John Richardson, remarked that “we are making very good progress, I am very pleased with the progress to date and optimistic we can do more in the future. That's on a very solid track.”
Richardson, according to the Reuters report, revealed that one of the crown jewels of American carrier technology—highly coveted electromagnetic launch technology that allows heavier planes to take off from the carrier flight deck—was part of the talks. Richardson offered that “all of those things are on the table, there are possibilities, it’s a matter of pacing, it's very new technology for us."
Considering how difficult it is to build an aircraft carrier—for example, China began in-depth, first-hand analysis of scraped aircraft carriers it purchased back in 1985, taking until 2012 to commission a small rebuilt ex-Soviet carrier—this is nothing short of a coup for India. Up until this point, New Delhi’s best options were, shall we say, less than desirable Russian technology. As frequent National Interest contributor Kyle Mizokami points out:

“In the early 2000s, India faced a dilemma. The Indian navy’s only carrier INS Viraat was set to retire in 2007. . . India’s options were limited. The only countries building carriers at the time—the United States, France and Italy—were building ships too big for India’s checkbook. In 2004, India and Russia struck a deal in which India would receive Admiral Gorshkov. The ship herself would be free, but India would pay $974 million dollars to Russia to upgrade her.
“It was an ambitious project. At 44,500 tons, Admiral Gorshkov was a huge ship. Already more than a decade old, she had spent eight years languishing in mothballs. Indifference and Russia’s harsh winters are unkind to idle ships.”
From here, well, things took an interesting turn:


Academic assessment of the scheme appears far more favourable than evident from the public discourse
Sumit Mishra
Ten years after it was launched, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which promises 100 days of employment to every rural household, is back in the news. More people in rural India are seeking employment through the programme across the country, with job numbers scaling a five-year peak.
Although the MGNREGS seems to be reaching many more rural households than before, urban opinion on the programme is sharply divided, both in the mainstream and social media. Even the Narendra Modi government seems divided on the programme, with the ministry of rural development declaring that the 10th anniversary of the programme was a matter of “national pride” barely a year after Modi had derided the programme as a ditch-digging exercise on the floor of Parliament.
Academic opinion on the MGNREGS, however, appears far more favourable than is evident from the public discourse on the issue. A growing body of research on the MGNREGS suggests that it has helped dent poverty, reduced distress migration and raised the bargaining power of rural labourers, especially among lower castes and women, the biggest beneficiaries of the programme.
The latest UN Development Programme report on human development hailed the programme as a “milestone”, which had raised living standards of the poorest of households by offering them a safety net. In a 2014 paper analysing the impact of the programme, economists Stefan Klonner and Christian Oldiges of the University of Heidelberg found that it had reduced poverty by almost half during the agricultural lean season, by helping smoothen seasonal spikes in the consumption of the poorest families.

Dangerous cult - Why Gandhi should be read by Maoists and militant


Politics and Play- Ramachandra Guha
I have spent much of the past year reading The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. This has been hard work, but always enjoyable, because of the range of themes that Gandhi wrote about, and the clarity of his ideas and his prose. Some remarks that Gandhi made were of their time, and place; relevant only to historians and biographers. Other things he said or wrote were of more enduring relevance.

One such, so to say 'timeless', article was published in the first issue of Gandhi's journalYoung India for 1930. It was called "The Cult of the Bomb". In 1928 and 1929, there had been a series of assassination attempts on British officials. The most spectacular of these attempts took place on December 23, 1929, when a special train carrying the viceroy, Lord Irwin, was derailed by bombs just outside New Delhi. Two bogies were detached from the train as a result of the explosion. The viceroy escaped unhurt.

As it turned out, Irwin was returning to New Delhi to meet with Gandhi and some other nationalists. When they met that same afternoon (December 23), Gandhi expressed his 'horror' at the attempt on the viceroy's train. From New Delhi, Gandhi proceeded to Lahore for the annual meeting of the Indian National Congress. Lahore was the home town of Bhagat Singh, then in jail for his part in a bomb attack on the Central Legislative Assembly in New Delhi that past April. Lahore was also a stronghold of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, of which Bhagat Singh and several other Punjabi revolutionaries were members.

What Happened to ISIS’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Province?

A year after its founding, the Islamic State’s Khurasan province remains a notional entity.
By Arif Rafiq, February 02, 2016
The so-called Islamic State’s Khurasan province (ISIS-Khurasan), which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains a notional entity a year after its establishment. It consists mainly of peripheral Afghan and Pakistani Taliban defectors who have fused with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and are clustered in remote portions of northeastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan.
While ISIS-Khurasan has engaged in some high-profile attacks over the past year, it has lost a strategic window of opportunity to absorb local jihadist networks amid the fractious leadership transition following the announcement of the death of Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The loss of this opportunity is due to ISIS-Khurasan’s ideological inflexibility as well as efforts by a loose “consortium” – the U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani governments, and the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e Taiba – to obstruct its rise.

** Why Firepower Alone Can't Destroy Jihadism

from STRATFOR -- this post authored by Scott Stewart

In last week's Security Weekly, we discussed how the renewed Western and regional military intervention in Libya should be able to degrade the Islamic State's capabilities and reduce its ability to hold and govern territory. But we also noted that cobbling together a stable and viable government to rule Libya would be a far more difficult task. In general, it is much easier to break things than to build them.
There is something about the Islamic State in Libya that is important to recognize: It is not just a terrorist group. It is a militant organization that uses terrorism, guerrilla warfare and hybrid warfare tactics in its fight to overthrow the country's existing order. In other words, it is an insurgency. The group's stated goal is to assume power and establish an Islamist polity of its own design - something it has already begun to do in the city of Sirte. Of course, both the Islamic State and al Qaeda are trying to achieve the same goal at the regional and transnational levels, too, and both are waging global insurgencies with the eventual aim of bringing the entire world under the rule of a global caliphate. Given their agendas, we must examine them through the lens of insurgency theory rather than just through the lens of terrorism.
Global Ambitions, Local Scope

When the United States and its regional and European allies launch their campaign to weaken and destroy the Islamic State's Libyan wilayat, or province, their efforts must be linked to the counterinsurgency efforts in the greater Sahel and Saharan regions, as well as those in Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also have to be conducted with local and regional counterinsurgency principles in mind, instead of being limited to targeted counterterrorism operations designed to kill only a few Islamic State leaders and fighters.

How China’s Power Runs Through a Peaceful Afghanistan

Raffaello Pantucci,  2 February 2016
China is playing a positive role in Afghanistan, but needs to take a greater ownership and direction of the potential peace process. As a partner with positive relations in both Kabul and Islamabad, Beijing is well placed to play this role.
The latest round of the Quadrilateral Group (Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the USA) is being held in Islamabad this week. This round builds on an effort instigated by Beijing earlier in 2015 and has been one of the hallmarks of Afghan President Ghani's presidency. The question, however, is whether China has the power to be a decisive player in Afghanistan that it has been increasingly hinting at with its role in these talks. 

China has long been playing a productive role in the country. Whilst Beijing maintains awkward relations with Washington across the Pacific Ocean, on land, it is undertaking joint training programmes with the United States for Afghan diplomats and officials. It has helped facilitate discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan and has helped soothe relations between Islamabad and Delhi. Most significant, however, has been the official diplomatic track that it has helped open between the government in Kabul and the Taliban. Though unofficial contacts existed previously, President Ghani’s ascent to power in September 2014 gave the relationship renewed impetus. This included a focus on a key role for China in the Afghan peace process, a point highlighted by Ghani’s first formal overseas trip being to Beijing. 

This was not the first time discussions between the government in Kabul and the Taliban had been mooted. Previous dialogue tracks through institutes like Pugwash, in Chantilly, France or through the Taliban Doha office had not appeared move very far forwards with little evidence that the Taliban were taking the negotiations seriously. In contrast, the track opened with Beijing’s support appeared to draw its influence directly from the heart of the Taliban in Pakistan. Consequently, there appeared to be greater confidence that those talking were able to deliver what they were discussing. This was a key aspect to make the talks genuinely useful.

How China's 'Belt and Road' Compares to the Marshall Plan

Should we think of “One Belt, One Road” as China’s Marshall Plan?
By Simon Shen,February 06, 2016
The concept of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) continues to be at the center of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s travels abroad whether to the 2015 G20 and APEC conferences or to the Middle East. Despite the enthusiasm demonstrated by China for this grand strategy, however, the strategic goals of OBOR are interpreted diversely by individuals. Recently, international relations scholars have compared OBOR with the U.S.-led Marshall Plan in the post-World War II era, but scholars from China argue that the OBOR and Marshall Plan are not comparable.
OBOR is still a conception which lacks tangible strategy. However, predicting the hidden strategic goals of OBOR is not complicated – they can be inferred by combining Chinese official discourse and strategic arrangements in response to the U.S. rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. Those goals can be summarized in the following five points – which are actually quite similar to the strategic aims of the Marshall Plan, as outlined by Melvyn P. Leffler in his 1988 article “The United States and the Strategic Dimensions of the Marshall Plan” (published in the journal Diplomatic History).

Boosting exports
In the ending phase of World War II, the United States was a strong manufacturing country equipped with high industrial capacity. However, the saturation of the domestic market and a failure to export excess capacity caused economic growth to stagnate. In order to cope with the post-war economic transformation and the problem of overcapacity, the United States was forced to seek oversea markets for their products. The terms of the Marshall Plan stated that European countries being aided should accept U.S. investment and import U.S. goods. By providing aids toward various countries, the United States simultaneously underwent an economic transformation.

China in the Caucasus

For Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, China is an important investor and possible regional stabilizer.
By Emil Sanamyan,February 06, 2016
On his first visit to Beijing, then-Armenian defense minister Vazgen Sargsyan is said to have thrown the hosts into a state of mild confusion when he remarked that (paraphrased) “as we say in Armenia, together with the Chinese there is more than a billion of us.” Jokes and linguistic barriers aside, the comment reflected the main motivating factor behind Armenia’s outreach to China. When dealing with larger and often hostile neighbors, it is only natural for small countries to seek out support or, as a paper published by the Armenian government’s think tank put it, a “special partnership,” externally.
The Caucasus, hemmed in by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, is particularly rife with conflicts. Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in low-intensity attrition warfare with non-existent bilateral relations. Turkey has largely sided with Azerbaijan and kept its economic ties with Armenia to a minimum. This leaves Armenia reliant on Georgia, itself in conflict with Russia, and Iran, which until recently faced international sanctions. While Azerbaijan is in much less restricted geopolitical position, its relations with Iran, as well as Russia, have also been quite testy.

Religious and Theological Underpinning of Global Islamist Terror: Full Text of Speech at International Counter Terrorism Conference 2016 in Jaipur

Radical Islamism and Jihad (05 Feb 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)
By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam, 3 February 2016
The ease and swiftness with which the so-called Islamic State and the self-declared khilafat of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has attracted over 30,000 Muslims from 100 countries around the globe in just one year has surprised many. But this should not have come as a surprise to us in India. From Indian subcontinent alone, less than a hundred years ago, at least 18,000 Muslims had left their homes, even government jobs and marched off to fight for the last Ottoman Khilafat. This was madness, pure and simple. Most ruined their lives and some died. But they are considered ghazis and martyrs. Important clerics including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad issued fatwas calling for Jihad or Hijrat (emigration) from British India, which was considered Darul Harb (Land of conflict, ruled by infidels), as a religious duty.

So, for a large section of Muslims the lure of a Khilafat that would rule the world, eliminate all other religions, particularly all forms of idolatry, establish the truth of Islam, is nothing new. When Baghdadi announced his khilafat, it was welcomed in many Muslim newspapers in India. An influential cleric from Nadwatul Ulama, went so far as to post a letter to the so-called Khalifa on his Facebook page, addressing him as Ameerul Momineen, spiritual leader of all Muslims. He faced no protest, not even from Nadwa or Darul uloom Deoband.
With the so-called Islamic State proudly broadcasting its monstrous brutalities and inhuman practices like sex slavery, the community is embarrassed and support is now muted. But this can only be described as hypocrisy. India’s most popular Islamic preacher and Ahl-e-Hadithi televangelist Zakir Naik has been saying for years, that “Allah has made halal for Muslims sex with slaves and women captured in war.” Muslim religious leaders have never protested. But when ISIS takes these fatwas and Wahhabi/Salafi teachings to their logical conclusion, actually kidnaps and makes Yazidi, Christian and Shia women sex slaves, the community is embarrassed and some clerics start saying Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.

Of course, Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. It is a spiritual path to salvation, not a political ideology for dominating the world. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was a mystic who was eventually appointed a messenger of God. There are innumerable verses in the Quran that call for peace at all costs, even going to the extent of saying that murder of one innocent person amounts to genocide of humanity and protection given to one innocent amounts to saving humanity (Quran 5:32). The same is also true of narrations of Prophet’s supposed sayings, Ahadith, (pl. of Hadith). Prophet’s own conduct (Seerat) shows that he accepted peace even at the cost of justice and fairness for Muslims in the famous treaty of Hudaibiya. To avoid bloodshed in the Battle of the Trench, he secured the city of Medina behind a ditch he dug along with his companions around Medina. He declared a general Amnesty for all Meccans after conquering it without bloodshed, when Meccans were apprehending a general massacre as was the prevailing custom of those times. So not only does Quran specifically forbid all violence against innocents and repeatedly warns against aggression, but the Prophet himself avoided violence as much as possible in the most trying times of Islam’s infancy.

The Islamic State is still on the rise


By David Ignatius Opinion writer February 4 
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates should be able to agree on one stark foreign policy reality: The tide hasn’t turned in the war against the Islamic State. In the 18 months that the United States has been working to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group, it has grown to become a global force that can strike targets in Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
The self-declared “caliphate” that in June 2014 was localized in Iraq and Syria now has nearly 50 affiliates or supporting groups in 21 countries. It has declared 33 “official provinces” in 11 of those countries.
Though it has lost about 25 percent of the territory it held at its peak in Iraq and Syria, it has meanwhile established an international presence, on the ground and in cyberspace.
“Follow ISIS and you will see the huge momentum that the group has harnessed across the globe,” says Rita Katz, co-founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, using a common shorthand for the Islamic State. “The government’s first step in fighting ISIS must be to stop dismissively characterizing the jihadists as a mere gang of guys in pickup trucks. It should be called what it is: a threat to global security.”



As the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gains momentum in Iraq, the focus has returned to Mosul, a key ISIL stronghold. Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi has affirmed that security preparations are being made, to include training thousands of different paramilitary fighters as part of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The United States has offered to increase its battlefield support to the ISF — at Baghdad’s request — to include deploying Apache attack helicopters and advisors, in addition to training and equipping Iraqi troops at the division level and coalition airstrikes.
Still, half of the battle for Mosul will be a political one that takes place before the fighting commences. Key local and regional stakeholders continue to disagree over who should take the lead and be involved in the Mosul offensive. Liberating Mosul is also tied to determining “who gets what” in a post-ISIL settlement; the nature of boundaries, resources, security, and local governance. A successful U.S. military strategy cannot resolve these issues; however, it should account for the underlying political nature of the campaign and the necessary Iraqi deal-making that will drive the timeline, participants, and its potential outcome.

Liberating Mosul is more difficult than the recent Ramadi offensive largely due to demographics, geography, and politics. Known by Iraqis as the “city of a million officers,” Mosul retains the large presence of Saddam Hussein’s former Ba’athist generals and officers. These influences are Sunni Arab, Iraqi nationalist, anti-Iranian, and divided between secularist and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups. Mosul also has mixed urban and tribal groups, as well as minorities (especially Yezidis, Assyrians, and Kurds) in the city and outlying areas. It is over three times the size of Ramadi and has nearly 700,000 civilians still living inside the city, making the use of coalition airstrikes (which were critical to Ramadi’s success) a less likely option. Further, Mosul’s proximity to Syria means that local populations need to be assured that ISIL will not return. If the Syrian border and outlying areas are not secured, then people will not volunteer to fight or support anti-ISIL efforts, even discreetly.

Russian Air Force Conducted Simulated Nuclear Strike on Sweden

  1. Damien Sharkov, Newsweek, February 4, 2016

    Russia’s air force has practiced a nuclear strike against Sweden, according to a report by NATO’s secretary general.The Russian training mission, which took place in March 2013 by the eastern edge of the Stockholm archipelago, attracted a great deal of media attention and some Swedish media outlets speculated the maneuvers resembled what a Russian aerial attack on Sweden would look like.The incident involved a rapid deployment of Russian bomber and fighter aircraft at Sweden’s aerial border, prompting an embarrassingly slow response from the Swedish air force. Unable to mobilize its own air force in time, Stockholm had to ask NATO to send jets to deal with the possible threat.
    Two Danish NATO jets arrived to shadow the exercise. But the incident still demonstrated the level of Sweden’s vulnerability, as Russian aircraft with nuclear capabilities came within striking range of its capital city.According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s annual report, the move was indeed a simulated nuclear strike against Sweden and part of a worrying trend of Russian aggression in Northern Europe.
    Sweden and Finland, both non-aligned with NATO but frequent partners to its military exercises, have complained of airspace violations by Russian aircraft in recent months. Over the course of 2014 and 2015, NATO’s Baltic Air Police scrambled a record number of jets to deal with incoming Russian military aircraft.The report, which was released last week but only attracted the attention of Scandinavian news outlets on Wednesday, speculated that the likely targets of such an attack would be Smaland in southern Sweden and the National Defence Radio Establishment, Sweden’s military intelligence hub, just outside Stockholm. The report confirmed that the group of planes consisted of four Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers as well as two Sukhoi Su-27 jets.

The New Hegemon in the Middle East

January 27, 2016, By L. Todd Wood

There's a new sheriff in town in the Middle East -- and it's not the United States of America, who just spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of soldiers in two different wars in the region. The new hegemon in the Levant and the Fertile Crescent is a rising axis of Russian, Iranian, and Syrian power.
Beginning with the Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani's trip to Moscow in July 2015 -- where together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he planned the Russian and Iranian offensive that has preserved the Assad regime until now -- the Russian-Iranian partnership has blossomed in myriad ways.
Russia has backed the Assad family regime in Syria since the 1970's, when Nikita Khrushchev founded the Russian naval base in the Mediterranean at Tartus on the Syrian coast. It was always highly doubtful that the Kremlin would allow such a long-term ally to be shredded in the maw of the Arab Spring. Therefore it was only natural that the Syrian regime's biggest Shiite benefactor, the Islamic Republic of Iran, would be a natural ally for the Russian Federation.

Is America Great? How the United States Stacks Up

February 1, 2016
Defeat in Iowa aside, whether or not Donald Trump secures theRepublican presidential nomination, his campaign has certainly captured the deep disillusionment among many voters about America’s place in the world. “This country is in big trouble,” he said in the first GOP debate, a theme he has repeated in countless speeches since. “We don't win anymore. We lose to China. We lose toMexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.”
Trump isn’t the only candidate to make this point. Scratch below the surface of either the Republican or Democratic presidential contests, and it is clear that much of the debate is over the United States’ economic standing in the world, and what it will take, in Trump’s words, to “make America great again.” The important word being “again.” Trump’s rhetoric—and much of that from Democratic insurgent Bernie Sanders—longs for an earlier time in which the United States was the strongest and most productive economy in the world and faced little in the way of global competition. It is no coincidence that both candidates find common ground in rejecting trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would intensify the competition.
But nostalgia isn’t a good guide for policy. Strategies designed without an appreciation for where the United States actually stands could end up undermining its strengths without fixing any of the weaknesses.

*** The Antonescu Paradox

Hitler’s Romanian ally led an utterly barbaric regime — that while often protecting Jews inside Romania’s borders, murdered them indiscriminately just outside those borders.
The Jewish cemetery of Jassy, in northeastern Romania, occupies one of the highest spots in the city. It is quite literally vast, crowded with graves for hundreds of yards in different directions.
This army of gravestones — wide rows and rows of them — marked the burial sites of local Jewish military heroes who died fighting for Romania in World War I. Adjacent were four long rows of massive cement slabs with Stars of David, symbolically marking the graves of the victims of the Jassy pogrom, which took place in late June 1941 and left thousands dead. As a plaque read: The victims were starved and suffocated in the “train of death” and elsewhere “butchered” by frenzied Iron Guardsmen and others: “… the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed.” (Isaiah 24:23) Also nearby, amid the assemblage of mottled and weather-stained tombs of a whole Jewish civilization going back centuries here, was a monument of more recent vintage: to the 36 Jews — 15 men, nine women, and 12 children — murdered in the nearby Vulturi forest, during the same pogrom.
When I visited in late 2013, I was almost completely alone among the graves. An old woman with a dirty ball cap, who seemed a bit deranged, guarded the cemetery, helped out by a gang of dogs. It was so overgrown with weeds that, except for certain areas, it left a scandalously derelict and frightening impression. There are Jewish cemeteries, like the one in Prague, that are constantly celebrated and memorialized by virtue of them being on the international tourist circuit. Others, like the synagogues and Jewish graveyards of the Kazimierz district of Krakow in Poland, are now undergoing intensive restorations. But this towering and ruined city, at least at the time of my visit, still demanded its just recognition. With few survivors left, life in the once great Jewish magnet of Jassy had been reduced to silence.

What happens next in Aleppo will shape Europe’s future

If there were any doubts about Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Syria, the recent Russian military escalation around this city must surely have set them aside
‘The aftershocks of the Aleppo bombardment will be felt far and wide. If there is one thing Europeans have learned in 2015, it is that they cannot be shielded from the effects of conflict in the Middle East.’
Friday 5 February 2016
If Aleppo falls, Syria’s vicious war will take a whole new turn, one with far-reaching consequences not just for the region but for Europe too. The latest government assault on the besieged northern Syrian city, which has caused tens of thousands more people to flee in recent days, is also a defining moment for relations between the west and Russia, whose airforce is playing a key role. The defeat of anti-Assad rebels who have partially controlled the city since 2012 would leave nothing on the ground in Syria but Assad’s regime and Islamic State. And all hope of a negotiated settlement involving the Syrian opposition will vanish. This has been a longstanding Russian objective – it was at the heart of Moscow’s decision to intervene militarily four months ago.

Russian bombs triggering mass Aleppo exodus, Syria conference told
It is hardly a coincidence that the bombardment of Aleppo, a symbol of the 2011 anti-Assad revolution, started just as peace talks were being attempted in Geneva. Predictably, the talks soon faltered. Russian military escalation in support of the Syrian army was meant to sabotage any possibility that a genuine Syrian opposition might have its say on the future of the country. It was meant to thwart any plans the west and the UN had officially laid out. And it entirely contradicted Moscow’s stated commitment to a political process to end the war.

** Why Russian-Turkish Hostility Makes Sense

Feb. 5, 2016 Tensions between the two countries have heightened again, although this is not surprising when viewed in historical context.
By George Friedman
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Feb. 4 that Turkey is planning an invasion of Syria. He said that images from one spot on the Turkish-Syrian border showed an expansion of transportation infrastructure that could be used to move military equipment and troops. This was in addition to a variety of other charges made yesterday. The Turks responded, with an unnamed official from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office telling Reuters that the Russians were “simply diverting attention from their attacks on civilians as a country already invading Syria.” The hurling of accusations by both sides has become a routine matter. The charges and counter-charges are less important than the fact that they have become routine. Until the Russian intervention in Syria, the Turks and Russians had cooperative relations centered around energy and other trade. It’s therefore useful to try to understand what went wrong.
Turkey’s relations with the Russians actually began their descent in the early stages of the Ukrainian crisis, which began in late 2013. The immediate issue for Turkey was the status of the Tatars in Crimea, with whom the Turks have ethnic and religious links and therefore had to make what was at least a pro forma expression of concern and send some observers. The Russians didn’t welcome this, since at the time the Americans and Europeans were attacking them for their actions in Crimea. The Russians had no special relationship with Turkey, but they had enough mutual interests that they would have hoped the Turks handled it differently.
The Turks, of course, had a deeper concern. The events in Crimea gave the Russian fleet in Sevastopol greater freedom to maneuver, theoretically. Previously, Ukraine had given Russia the right to access the naval base in the city. That involved a degree of oversight, slight though it might have been. With the annexation of Crimea, the base was Russian territory. The Turks understood the Russian interest in Ukraine and they understood that it gave the Russians greater freedom of action in the Black Sea. What they did not know was how the Russians planned to use that freedom.

DNI Says Cyberwar Bigger Threat Than Terrorism

Aaron Boyd, Federal Times, February 4, 2016

Cybersecurity is a critical component of national security — as the leaders of the national defense have said multiple times over the last year. However, as of just a few years ago, cyber issues have become the top threat to U.S. security, according to the government’s top intelligence official.The cyber threat is real, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told midshipmen during a speech for the Naval Academy’s Cyber Lecture Series on Jan. 29, and has surpassed terrorism as the No. 1 threat facing the nation.Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made a similar point during a keynote speech at CyberCon in November, naming cybersecurity as a top priority alongside counterterrorism. Clapper took it a step further.
“A lot of people find this surprising in our post-9/11 world but in 2013 ‘cyber’ bumped ‘terrorism’ out of the top spot on our list of national threats,” he said. “And cyber has led our report every year since then.”Clapper said that trend will continue, with cyberattacks as the biggest threat to national security for the year ahead, as well.While cyberattacks on critical infrastructure could have dire effects — even fatal — the director said he is more concerned with the constant trickle of smaller intrusions and attacks happening every day.

Twitter Says It Is Now in the Counterterrorism Business

February 6, 2016
Twitter moves to actively seek out terrorist supporters
Associated Press, February 5, 2016
WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter is now using spam-fighting technology to seek out accounts that might be promoting terrorist activity and is examining other accounts related to those flagged for possible removal, the company announced Friday.
The announcement demonstrated efforts by Twitter to automatically identify tweets supporting terrorism, reflecting increased pressure placed by the U.S. government for social media companies to respond to abuse more proactively. Child pornography has previously been the only abuse that was automatically flagged for human review on social media, using a different kind of technology that sources a database of known images.
Twitter also said Friday it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, mainly related to Islamic State militants, in the last eight months. Social media has increasingly become a tool for recruitment and radicalization that’s used by the Islamic State group and its supporters, who by some reports have sent tens of thousands of tweets per day.
Tech companies are dedicating increasingly more resources to tracking reports of violent threats. Twitter said Friday that it has increased the size of its team reviewing reports to reduce their response time “significantly.” The San Francisco-based company also changed its policy in April, adding language to make clear that “threatening or promoting terrorism” specifically counted as abusive behavior and violated its terms of use.

What Is In Hillary’s Emails That Allegedly Is Top Secret?

February 6, 2016
Agencies Battle Over What Is ‘Top Secret’ in Hillary Clinton’s Emails
Steven Lee Myers and Mark Mazzetti
New York Times, February 6, 2016
WASHINGTON — Some of the nation’s intelligence agencies raised alarms last spring as the State Department began releasing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, saying that a number of the messages contained information that should be classified “top secret.”
The diplomats saw things differently and pushed back at the spies.
In the months since, a battle has played out between the State Department and the intelligence agencies — as well as Congress — over what information on Mrs. Clinton’s private server was classified and what was the routine business of American diplomacy, according to government officials and letters obtained by The New York Times. 
At the center of that argument, the officials said, is a “top secret” program of the Central Intelligence Agency that is anything but secret. It is the agency’s long effort to track and kill suspected terrorists overseas with armed drones, which has been the subject of international debates, numerous newspaper articles, television programs and entire books. 
The Obama administration’s decision to keep most internal discussions about that program — including all information about C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan — classified at the “top secret” level has now become a political liability for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Some of the skirmishes over Mrs. Clinton’s emails reflect the disagreements in a post-9/11 era over what should be a government secret and what should not. Nonetheless, 22 emails on Mrs. Clinton’s server were held back from a tranche made public last week. Those 22 emails were deemed so highly secret that State Department officials in this case agreed with the intelligence agencies not to release them even in redacted form.

The emails are included in seven distinct chains that comprise forwarded messages and replies, and in most cases involved discussions of the C.I.A. drone program, government officials said.

Silicon Valley Should Join the War on Terrorism

6 FEB 5, 2016 By John McCain
Islamic State and other terrorist groups espouse a primitive ideology and rely on medieval tactics, but they use distinctly modern tools: social media and communications platforms designed to evade our most advanced efforts to fight terrorism.
By taking advantage of widely available encryption technologies, terrorists and common criminals alike can carry out their agendas in cyber safe havens beyond the reach of our intelligence agency tools and law enforcement capabilities. This is unacceptable. Americans of course need access to technology that keeps our personal and business communications private, but this must be balanced with concerns over national security.
Some technologists and Silicon Valley executives argue that any efforts by the government to ensure law-enforcement access to encrypted information will undermine users’ privacy and make them less secure. This position is ideologically motivated and profit-driven, though not without merit. But, by speaking in absolute terms about privacy rights, they bring the discussion to a halt, while the security threat evolves. Top cryptologists have reasonably cautioned that “new law enforcement requirements are likely to introduce unanticipated, hard to detect security flaws,” but this is not the end of the analysis. We recognize there may be risks to requiring such access, but we know there are risks to doing nothing.

Concern Grows in U.S. Over China’s Drive to Make Chips

Advanced weapons like the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile interceptor unit use semiconductors made with a little-known but increasingly important material called gallium nitride. China is said to want the technology to make gallium nitride chips. 
HONG KONG — China is spending billions of dollars on a major push to make its own microchips, an effort that could bolster its military capabilities as well as its homegrown technology industry.
Those ambitions are starting to be noticed in Washington.
Worries over China’s chip ambitions were the main reason that United States officials blocked the proposed purchase for as much as $2.9 billion of a controlling stake in a unit of the Dutch electronics company Philips by Chinese investors, according to one expert and a second person involved with the deal discussions.
The rare blockage underscores growing concern in Washington about Chinese efforts to acquire the know-how to make the semiconductors that work as the brains of all kinds of sophisticated electronics, including military applications like missile systems.